Oct. 2020 News

 

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

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

 

Oct. 31

Top Headlines


Virus Victims, Reponses

 

U.S. Elections, Politics

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

 Trump Watch


 Media News

 

World News

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Records Its Worst Week Yet for Coronavirus Cases, Lauren Leatherby, Oct. 31, 2020 (print ed.). Cases, hospitalizations and deaths across much of the country are the highest they have been during the pandemic. It’s not just a few areas driving the surge: Half of U.S. counties saw new cases peak during the past month.

Tamerican flag upside down distresshe outlook for the pandemic continues to worsen, and many areas of the United States are experiencing their worst weeks yet. The country reported a record of more than 500,000 new coronavirus cases in the past week.

It’s not just a few areas driving the surge, as was the case early on. Half of U.S. counties saw new cases peak during the past month. Almost a third saw a record in the past week.

In the Upper Midwest and Mountain West, records are being smashed almost daily, and in some counties as much as 5 percent of the population has tested positive for the virus to date.

Some records come with an asterisk. With less widespread testing capacity in the spring, cases went undercounted then compared with now.

And in some less populous places, a record number is not necessarily a very high one. Orleans County, Vt., for example, saw eight cases in the past week — a record for the rural county of about 27,000 people on the Canadian border, but hardly a severe outbreak.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The Trumps don’t seem to understand that their supporters are dying from the coronavirus, Philip Bump, Oct. 31, 2020 (print ed.). Six in 10 deaths at this point are happening in red counties.

For two consecutive nights, as President Trump was barnstorming swing states, his two eldest sons appeared on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News program, where they dismissed the threat posed by the coronavirus.

On Wednesday, Eric Trump made his appearance. His interview was centered on the unfounded claim that social media companies were “censoring” conservatives.

“The one thing you don’t want to do to Americans is take away their free speech. It’s our First Amendment right for a reason,” he said, conflating Twitter’s efforts to stem disinformation with government censorship of speech.

“I’m telling you,” he added, “people aren’t happy about it. I think it’s probably become the number one issue in politics in the last couple of weeks.”

A claim that social media companies adding warnings to false claims by the president (which is really the recent spur for this frustration) is the number one issue in politics is unquestionably ridiculous. That the son of the president, someone who has been on the campaign trail stumping for his father, would say this with sincerity during a period when deaths from the coronavirus are on the rise is simply callous.

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just gave away the game, Bill Palmer, right, Oct. 31, 2020. Looking and sounding worn down today, Donald Trump said this at his rally: “If we win on Tuesday or — bill palmerthank you very much, Supreme Court — shortly thereafter…” In so doing, Trump just gave away the game. He doesn’t think he has any chance of winning the popular vote or the Electoral College, and his only hope of victory is if the court bails him out.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump seems to be severely overestimating the Supreme Court’s willingness to throw away its own viability in order to save him if the election isn’t close. If the deciding swing state comes down to 500 votes or something (like in 2000), then yeah, the Supreme Court will probably hand it to him. But even this Supreme Court knows it can’t pull off throwing out millions of ballots. Millions of people would be in the streets. There wouldn’t really be a government or a country anymore.

Even the Justices who lean toward Trump understand this. Trump is fantasizing if he thinks that’ll happen. We’ve already seen two of Trump’s own Supreme Court appointees go against him on his tax returns, because they wanted to make sure they remained viable in a post-Trump world. Yet Trump still thinks the court is going to magically bail him out no matter what. But then narcissists like Trump always do confuse their transactional allies for fawning loyalists.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP shifts from challenging rules to preparing to challenge ballots, Rosalind S. Helderman, Emma Brown and Beth Reinhard, Oct. 31, 2020 (print ed.). After largely failing to limit access to mail-in voting, GOP now looks to contest votes already cast. Republicans shift from challenging rules to preparing to challenge individual ballots.

In Nevada, the Trump campaign filed a lawsuit this week seeking images of the signature of every registered voter in Democratic-leaning Clark County — a potential first step toward challenging individual votes on grounds that the signed ballots don’t match the signatures on file.

In Texas, Republican officeholders and candidates sued this week to have more than 100,000 votes invalidated in the Houston area because they were cast at drive-through voting centers the GOP has asked a judge to declare illegal.

And in Minnesota and Pennsylvania, election officials will set aside any mail-in ballots that arrive after Election Day — even if they were mailed before the polls closed — to facilitate potential court challenges.

For months, Republicans have pushed largely unsuccessfully to limit new avenues for voting in the midst of the pandemic. But with next week’s election rapidly approaching, they have shifted their legal strategy in recent days to focus on tactics aimed at challenging ballots one by one, in some cases seeking to discard votes already cast during a swell of early voting.

“It’s not just the rules anymore,” said Myrna Pérez, director of the Voting Rights and Elections Program at the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice. “It’s individual voters.”

Republicans said they are just trying to make sure the process runs smoothly and the rules are applied fairly, arguing that Democrats have loosened election rules in ways that could confuse voters and invite fraud.

But Democrats said there is no evidence that expanded mail balloting and other pandemic-related changes lead to fraud. They accused Republicans of targeting valid votes in Democratic strongholds in a blatant bid to gain an electoral advantage.

washington post logoWashington Post, In historic early turnout, more than 90 million ballots cast as of Saturday, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Holly Bailey and Barry Yeoman, Oct. 31, 2020. The massive early turnout is roughly 65 percent of the 139 million votes cast in 2016, and it essentially guarantees that, for the first time in history, a majority of ballots will be cast before Election Day. The turnout has upended the presidential campaigns’ expectations of which states would be pivotal to their path to victory.

More than 91 million Americans have already cast their ballots for the general election with three days left until Election Day, a historic early turnout that underscores voters’ intense desire to be heard in a divisive election despite the voting challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
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The massive early turnout is roughly 65 percent of the 139 million votes cast in 2016, and it essentially guarantees that, for the first time in history, a majority of ballots will be cast before Election Day. The early turnout puts the country on pace for record voter participation not seen in more than a century, and if the current rate holds, more than 100 million ballots will have been cast before Tuesday.

Democrats have had an edge in early voting, but that gap has narrowed in some key battleground states in recent days, including in Florida, North Carolina and Georgia, according to data maintained by the U.S. Elections Project, a nonpartisan early-voting tracker. President Trump has urged his voters to cast their ballots on Election Day, and his campaign is hoping that his supporters take heed and show up in full force to close that gap.

washington post logoWashington Post, Major delays slow mail voting in swing states, USPS data shows, as strict deadlines loom, Jacob Bogage and Christopher Ingraham, Oct. 31, 2020 (print ed.). The delays loom large over 28 states that require ballots to reach election officials by Election Day to be counted.

us mail logoAbsentee ballots are taking longer to reach election offices in key swing states than in the rest of the country, new data shows, as the U.S. Postal Service rushes to deliver votes ahead of strict state deadlines.

Over the past five days, the on-time rate for ballots in 17 postal districts representing 10 battleground states and 151 electoral votes was 89.1 percent — 5.9 percentage points lower than the national average. By that measure, more than 1 in 10 ballots are arriving outside the Postal Service’s one-to-three-day delivery window for first-class mail.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

ny times logoNew York Times, Covid-19 Live Updates: U.S. Caps Worst Week With More Than 99,000 New Daily Cases, a Global Record, Staff reports, Oct. 31, 2020. More than 500,000 new cases were reported in the past week, with two dozen states breaking records.

Nearly two dozen states are reporting weekly records for new cases — and none are recording improvements. Catch up on the latest.

The United States, after battling the coronavirus for eight months, recorded over 99,000 new cases on Friday, a global record. Two dozen states reported their worst weeks for new cases; none showed any improvement.

Fourteen states reported single-day records for new cases on Friday: Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Montana, Illinois, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Oregon, Kansas, Ohio, Colorado and Maine. And three states hit record deaths: Tennessee, Montana and New Mexico.

At least 1,200 counties — a full third of the country — now qualify as a virus hot spot, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said in private a call with governors on Friday. But on the same day, President Trump once again sought to play down the severity of the coronavirus. At a campaign rally in Michigan, he ridiculed a reporter for wearing a mask, claimed that “doctors get more money if somebody dies from Covid” and implied that deaths from the virus were artificially inflated.

The outbreaks look different across the country, with the surge cresting at varying levels in different clusters of states.

In the Great Plains, North Dakota and South Dakota have recorded extremely high numbers of cases for weeks: The Dakotas are ranked first and second nationally in cases per capita. Officials in North Dakota reported a single-day record on Friday for the second day in a row. The neighboring states of Montana and Wyoming also hit single-day records for new cases on Friday.

In the Midwest, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan are experiencing swift, alarming rises in case counts. In Illinois, new cases have increased 70 percent in two weeks, with more than 8,010 new cases on Friday, the second single-day record in a row. Ohio reported 3,845 new cases on Friday, the second single-day record in a row. And Michigan has been averaging more than 2,800 cases per day for the past week, an increase of 91 percent from the average two weeks ago.

In the Northeast, though numbers in states like New Hampshire and Maine remain low, they are backsliding after long periods of stability. Maine in particular has seen three of the four highest single-day totals this week. Rhode Island limited gatherings to 10 people on Friday, after a single high school party led to five positive coronavirus cases in the state and 1,000 people in quarantine.

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

  • World Cases: 45,921,698, Deaths: 1,193,909
  • U.S. Cases:     9,316,297, Deaths:    235,159

washington post logoWashington Post, First, coronavirus infections increased. Then, hospitalizations. Now, deaths are on the rise, Joel Achenbach, Brittany Shammas and Jacqueline Dupree, Oct. 31, 2020 (print ed.). Coronavirus infections soared this week to record levels, hospitalizations are up in almost every state, and now — predictably, but slowly — deaths are rising, too.

The nation passed another milestone Friday with 9 million confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic, including more than 98,000 new cases, a daily record. More than 1,000 deaths in the United States from the novel coronavirus were reported each day Wednesday and Thursday, according to health data analyzed by The Washington Post, continuing an upward trend that began two weeks ago.
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All signs indicate that this isn’t a blip but rather a reflection of a massive surge in infections that, without a dramatic effort to reverse the trend, will drive up the death toll for weeks to come. At least 229,000 people in the United States have died of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.

washington post logoWashington Post, Government scientists are attempting a comeback after being pushed aside, Laurie McGinley, Lena H. Sun, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Josh Dawsey, Oct. 31, 2020 (print ed.). Health agency scientists are resisting the administration’s agenda in ways small and large.

After months of being sidelined or outright attacked by President Trump, a growing number of government scientists and physicians are pushing back against the president’s political agenda when it comes to the pandemic.

The Food and Drug Administration issued beefed-up safety standards for a vaccine in September, making the president’s push for a vaccine before Election Day all but impossible. After initially acquiescing to the White House, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reversed controversial guidelines that had called for less testing for individuals exposed to the novel coronavirus who showed no symptoms.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: The coronavirus emergency is worsening by the second. We must take immediate action, Editorial Board, Oct. 31, 2020 (print ed.). Every second you are reading this, another American is infected with the coronavirus. Every 107 seconds , someone in the United States is dying. Once again, under the feeble stewardship of President Trump, the nation is plunging into an abyss of unnecessary suffering and loss. Election or not, strong measures are required now to brake the virus from killing an additional 100,000 people or more in the next few months.

In nearly all 50 states, plus D.C., new covid-19 cases are increasing; test positivity rates are above 5 percent in more than 30 of them. Hospitalization has jumped nearly 58 percent since Sept. 19. The surge in new cases may soon top 100,000 a day. Hospitals are nearing capacity in some cities; health-care workers and first responders are exhausted.

This is not a situation in which diagnostic testing, contact tracing and isolation can contain the virus; rather, this is an out-of-control wildfire, a five-alarm emergency. Selective and temporary but severe restrictions will be necessary to build firewalls. The word “lockdown” evokes impatience, frustration and fatigue. Face masks have been politicized. But to be realistic, these are the tools at hand that work, until an effective vaccine or drug therapy is widely available. There is no other answer. The virus is transmitted person to person in close contact and more easily in enclosed spaces and when people are talking, eating, drinking, shouting and singing. Either a determined battle is waged now — meaning in November and not January or February — or the virus will spread exponentially. European leaders, also confronting a surge, are showing they understand the imperative of a strong and rapid response, imposing closures and curfews. These are not popular, but they are essential.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: America’s upended rituals, Trump and a day of cosmic decisions, Colbert I. King, right, Oct. 31, 2020 (print ed.). On Saturday, much of the country will be caught up in the uniquely American observance of Halloween. On Sunday, many will celebrate All Saints’ Day. That will be followed two days colbert king 2003later by America’s elections. A trilogy of national proceedings turned upside down by the out-of-control coronavirus pandemic.

Trick-or-treating door-to-door, crowded costume parties and haunted houses are all on hold this year. The more than 228,000 people in the United States killed by the coronavirus since February, along with other saintly departed, will be remembered in prayer, but under conditions that will limit covid-19 exposure risks. The voting process, democracy’s essential ingredient, is entangled in coronavirus-induced confusion.

This badly damaged extended weekend is unlike any the country has ever seen. It didn’t have to be this way. But ’tis what it is because Donald Trump is in the White House.

The president didn’t create the coronavirus. But Trump, through his incompetence and utter self-regard, enabled the disease to wreak coast-to-coast havoc.

It began when Trump betrayed his sworn oath to “preserve, protect and defend” as he lied, time after time, about the pandemic’s severity. He betrayed the country when he declared that covid-19 would disappear. He undercut the guidance of his top scientific advisers and public health leaders by deriding the wearing of masks and social distancing, and with his infantile mocking of those who did either.

He even played down the disease after it floored him, his family and others in the White House.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

538.com, Snake Chart U.S. Election Prediction: As previously, Biden is favored to win the election, Nate Silver, Oct. 31, 2020. States that are forecasted to vote for one candidate by a big margin are at the ends of the path, while tighter races are in the middle. Bigger segments mean more Electoral College votes. Trace the path from either end to see which state could put one candidate over the top.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has somehow managed to leave his rally goers stranded in the cold AGAIN, Bill Palmer, Oct. 31, 2020. It's happened again. Earlier this week Donald Trump and his shambolic campaign managed to leave thousands of Omaha rally attendees stranded in the freezing cold after dark after the event ended, and several of them ended up in the hospital with hypothermia. Not content to merely endanger his supporters in Nebraska, Trump has now done basically the same thing to his fans in Pennsylvania.

bill palmer report logo headerCNN correspondent DJ Judd ended up tweeting this tonight: “Trump has finished and left, but there’s thousands of supporters who have been let loose into the night with no sign of the shuttles they’ve been told will take them back to parking. People are filling the street, blocking the road for ambulances and police.” He included photos of Trump fans wandering around lost in the dark, and pointed out that it was 41 degrees outside at the time.

This comes amid a new Stanford study that says roughly seven hundred people have died from coronavirus as a direct result of Donald Trump’s campaign rallies. Not content to give them the plague, Trump is now also trying to freeze them to death. His endgame just keeps getting more bizarre – and deadly.

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World Crisis Radio, Opinion: Polling Inspires Cautious Optimism That Would-Be Dictator Can Be Defeated, Webster G. Tarpley, right, Oct. 31, 2020. Persons of webster tarpley 2007Good Will Must Devote Every Waking Hour to Defense of Democracy with Biden; 91 Million Americans Have Now Voted.

Record 100,000 Covid Cases and 1,000 Deaths on Friday Give the Lie to Trump’s Mantra That US Has Turned the Corner.

Trump Machine Prepares Legal Obstructions to Negate the Will of the People, with Focus on Attacking Blue Wall of PA, MI, WI; US Postal Service Thoroughly Sabotaged by GOP Stooge DeJoy.

djt maga hatDon’s Mouthpieces Will Work in Tandem with Gangs of Fascist Hooligans Encouraged to Harass and Intimidate Voters while Posing as Poll Watchers; Fascists Planning to Attack Elections in Oregon, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania; National Guard Deployed in Philadelphia; Democratic Governors and Mayors Must Not Hesitate to Deploy Guard if Riots Erupt; Any Riot Now S a Pro-Trump Riot, Allowing Him to Impose His Brand of Martial Law to Stop Voting; Oath Keeper Honcho Blusters His Phalanxes Will Arrest Deep State if Biden Wins.

boris johnson tieDeclaring “No Alternative,” Trump Clone BoJo (Boris Johnson, right) Institutes Lockdown Light with Schools Open in England and Across UK, Citing Threat to NHS Hospital System; Promises 80% of Wages Will Be Paid; Move Follows Similar Restrictions by Italy, Spain, France, and Germany.

A Mirror for Kushner and Kayleigh: France’s Marshal Pétain Worked During 1930s to Weaken France, and Helped Impose Surrender in 1940: He Knew Fascists Were an Unpopular Minority Which Could Take Power Only in Wake of Huge National Defeat; After 1940 Crushing of France, Pétain Ended Democratic Republic and Set Up Vichy Fascist Regime as German Puppet State; Same Pattern Can Be Seen with Covid Today.

Breaking: Friedman of New York Times Calls on Biden to Form National Unity Government to Include Top Republicans after Trump Defeat; But Long Overdue US Party Re-Alignment Requires That GOP Quickly Follow Federalists, Whigs, and Knownothings into Oblivion; GOP as Party of Trump Enablers Has Earned Extinction, So Let’s Be Sure They Get It This Year; Incorrigible Republicans Cannot Be Salvaged or Break Habits of Plutocracy and Sabotage of Public Interest.

washington post logoWashington Post, In campaign’s waning days, both candidates turn focus to Latino voters, Jose A. Del Real, Amy Gardner and Jenna Johnson, Oct. 31, 2020 (print ed.). Polls show that Latinos could be a decisive constituency in battleground states across the country — not only where they are recognized as a burgeoning political force, but also in places like Michigan and North Carolina, where they are a growing part of the electorate.

ny times logoNew York Times, Americans Surge to Polls: ‘I’m Going to Vote Like My Life Depends on It,’ Nick Corasaniti and Stephanie Saul, Oct. 31, 2020. Anxious but determined, U.S. voters are pushing through challenges like the pandemic and long lines to cast their ballots. About 85 million people have voted already, and the country is on course to surpass 150 million votes for the first time.

An unnerved yet energized America is voting with an urgency never seen before in the approach to a presidential election, as a record 85 million people have cast ballots despite an array of challenges: a pandemic, postal delays, long lines and court rulings that have tested faith in the country’s electoral system.

In Texas and Hawaii, turnout has already exceeded the total vote from 2016, with three days of early voting remaining and more absentee ballots to be returned. Ten other states, including major battlegrounds like Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Arizona and Nevada, have surpassed 80 percent of the turnout from the last presidential election. Over all, the early turnout has set the country on course to surpass 150 million votes for the first time in history.

The impact of this huge surge in turnout is one of the most unpredictable facets of the election, as strategists in both parties parse early returns for signs of any advantage. Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee, is counting on a strong early vote to help him flip states like Florida and Arizona that President Trump carried in 2016. But Republicans are banking on their voters to turn out in bigger numbers on Election Day and deliver battleground wins, as they did in key states in 2016.

Though Democrats have maintained an edge in early turnout in nearly every state that has seen record participation, Republicans have been closing the gap. In Florida, for example, 40 percent of the ballots returned came from registered Democrats, and 37.9 percent from registered Republicans, and in heavily Democratic Miami-Dade County, a higher percentage of registered Republicans have voted than have Democrats. Included in those returns are millions of ballots marked no party affiliation, with no indication whether Mr. Biden or Mr. Trump is leading.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fueled by Cash, Health Care and Trump’s Woes, Democrats Aim for Senate Control, Carl Hulse, Oct. 31, 2020. Republicans are battling to hold off losses by warning of the risks of unified Democratic power in Washington, but they concede their majority is in peril.

In Montana and in crucial battleground states across the country, Republicans are playing defense in a struggle for control of the Senate. Dragged by President Trump’s struggles even in conservative states and confronting a phalanx of Democratic opponents who have raked in extraordinary sums of cash to challenge them, Republicans privately acknowledge that their majority is hanging by a thread.

The Montana race, described by strategists for both parties as a coin flip, is one of a handful of contests that will determine control of the Senate and the ability of the next president to pursue his agenda, fill a cabinet and win the judicial confirmations suddenly at the forefront of the nation’s political dialogue. Democrats have other narrow paths to Senate power, but a Bullock victory would essentially assure it and signal Democratic gains elsewhere.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The true depth of Donald Trump’s darkness, Robert Harrington, right, Oct. 31, 2020. I think there are two kinds of career criminals. The kind that robert harrington twitterknow they are doing wrong and have a certain sense of embarrassed moral regret about it, and the kind that are entitled and angry — even murderously so — when a prospective victim thwarts that criminal from stealing from them or doing them harm. Donald Trump is the latter kind. Trump becomes remorselessly vindictive when anyone objects to his crimes or thwarts or exposes him when he’s committing those crimes. Trump isn’t just a criminal, he’s the worst kind of criminal. Trump thinks he’s entitled to his crimes and we should praise him while he commits them and endure them while he harms and destroys all of us.

bill palmer report logo headerThis is the true depth of Donald Trump’s darkness: his unlimited ego, his undiluted envy, and his absolute belief — without cognitive dissonance — in his right to do unto others what he would self-righteously condemn if those very same things were done unto him. This, in short, is the life of the malignant narcissist who also happens to be a criminal who also happens to be president of the United States.

It is important to understand that not all narcissists are criminals. In fact, some of them use the law as a kind of self-righteous cudgel with which to beat other people, to prove that they are morally superior to them.

Unfortunately, malignant narcissists who are also criminals often do the same thing. The difference is, of course, in the hypocrisy. Malignant narcissists who are also law-breakers — like Donald Trump — see no inconsistency with believing that they should be allowed to break the law with impunity while at the same time accusing innocent people of breaking those very same laws.

Such people would be easy to spot and safely isolate were it not for the single most dangerously problematic thing about the criminal narcissist. They are often surrounded by a network of codependents and sycophants, and that network can be as large as a crowd of MAGA-hatted lickspittles and as powerful as the United States Senate. That network can, in fact, be as large as a third of the population of the United States of America.

It is out of the depth of the well of this human depravity that crawls a man like Trump who can say with a straight face that the current pandemic is over. Meanwhile America has just passed nine million cases and 235,000 deaths, and coronavirus is surging alarmingly in 47 out of 50 states, and another thousand Americans have gone to the great beyond since last I visited with you, brothers and sisters.

But because Trump has surrounded himself with the largest collection of feral subhumans ever to gather at the White House at a single time, his crimes continue to be laundered and sanitized by these water-carrying, codependent, glassy-eyed flunkies. And the lies they tell in defense of Trump are readily — even eagerly — still swallowed whole, untasted and lizard-like, by millions of Trump supporters from one end of America to the other.

We live in a world of celebrity cultism, fifteen minutes of fame so potentially toxic that Andy Warhol would barely recognize it today. Not only are celebrities worshipped, they are imitated — including their flaws. With a man like Trump, composed of nothing but flaws, this presents a very big problem. Not only do his toxic base of supporters worship him, many of them also imitate him.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Day After Election Day: Current and former Trump administration officials are worried about what might happen on ron suskindNov. 4., Ron Suskind, right, Oct. 31, 2020 (print ed.). Many of the officials I spoke to came back to one idea: You don’t know Donald Trump like we do. Even though they can’t predict exactly what will happen, their concerns range from the president welcoming, then leveraging, foreign interference in the election, to encouraging havoc that grows into conflagrations that would merit his calling upon U.S. forces.

Because he is now surrounded by loyalists, they say, there is no one to try to tell an impulsive man what he should or shouldn’t do.

“That guy you saw in the debate,” a second former senior intelligence official told me, after the first debate, when the president offered one of the most astonishing performances of any leader in modern American history — bullying, ridiculing, manic, boasting, fabricating, relentlessly interrupting and talking over his opponent. “That’s really him. Not the myth that’s been created. That’s Trump.”

Still another senior government official, who spent years working in proximity to Mr. Trump, put it like this: “He has done nothing else that’s a constant, except for acting in his own interest.” And that’s how “he’s going to be thinking, every step of the way, come Nov. 3.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s biggest debt has come due, TR Kenneth, Oct. 30, 2020. The unendurable thought has now crossed Trump’s mind that, yes, indeed, he might lose. And with losing comes the awful realization that people will be after him like New York Attorney General James. His overseas debts will come due without the power of the Presidential Office to settle them. His family will be rounded up and criminally charged. He and his family have broken so many laws in the last four years, there’s no way Donald will last long enough to see all the prosecutions.

bill palmer report logo headerRight now, with his latest Twitter meltdown, he’s realizing it’s too late. He’s losing in a landslide, at least according to the polls, and all that money he and his family grifted from the RNC has been squandered on his personal vanities instead of being thrown into vital swing states in a last gasp effort. A second term is looking out of reach and the timing is terrible for him, especially when he just figured out that he had to place loyalists in the Civil Service because according to US laws, civil servants are supposed to be loyal to the Constitution, not him. This took Trump’s narcissistic dictator-wanna-be rotting brain four years to figure out. But now it won’t matter what he does. Biden will be coming in and cleaning out the Trumpy rat’s nest.

Trump is no doubt pondering where to go on the run from prosecution. His son, Don Jr., is non-stop whining on Fox News and the fear in his eyes is as real as whatever he’s allegedly putting up his nose. The American people have been insulted, assaulted and lied to for four long years, and on November 3rd these profane criminals will have to pay the bill. It’s a powerful thing to see the American people rise up and vote. Don’t ever take it for granted. Make sure everyone you know gets to the polls by November 3rd so we can remove the garbage from the White House and begin fumigation.

ny times logoNew York Times, He’s a Rare House Republican in a District Trump Lost. Can He Hold On? Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Oct. 31, 2020. Representative John Katko has managed to keep his seat in Central New York by distancing himself from the president. Will that be enough this year? Two years ago, a pair of House Republicans in Central New York became prime targets for the Democratic Party, which had hoped to unseat them in the midterm elections by exploiting voters’ unhappiness with President Trump.

The strategy partially worked: Claudia Tenney, a staunch Republican defender of Mr. Trump, was defeated by Anthony Brindisi, a Democrat. But Representative John M. Katko, a more moderate Republican, managed to hold off his Democratic challenger, Dana Balter.

All four candidates are back this year, and Mr. Trump seems even more of a divisive force now than in the midterm elections — a factor that Democrats hope will push Ms. Balter to victory in the 24th Congressional District this time around.

The district, anchored in the city of Syracuse and dotted with farmlands and university towns, was one of the few House districts in the country whose voters favored Hillary Clinton in 2016, but which Republicans still hold.

538.com, Analysis: Live Updates: We’re Tracking The Vote And Voting Problems, Staff reports, Oct. 31, 2020. Reader Question: What Happens If A Voter Dies? This is a dark (but totally valid) question that pops up in arcane corners of election law from time to time. And like so many of the other great questions we’ve been getting from readers, the answer is … it depends.

According to a recent tally from the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 12 states direct election officials to count absentee ballots cast by eligible voters who die between when they vote and Election Day. Florida, for example, explicitly says that as long as a valid ballot (meaning the voter’s signature is verified) is postmarked or received by election officials before the voter’s death, the ballot will count.

Another 15 states expressly prohibit officials from counting these ballots, and the remainder don’t specifically address it. In many of those states, such as North Carolina, an absentee ballot can be challenged on the grounds that the person who cast it died before Election Day.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Texas, More Have Voted Early Than the State’s Entire 2016 Turnout, Staff reports, Oct. 31, 2020 (print ed.). More than 9 million people have voted early in Texas. Polls show a near dead-heat in the state, with a slight edge for President Trump.

Mr. Trump canceled plans to appear at Trump International Hotel for an election night party. The candidates head to swing states today. Here’s the latest.

Texas, a 2020 jump-ball state once considered a layup for Republicans, is shattering turnout records, with the number of early in-person and mail-in ballots now exceeding the total number of votes cast in the 2016 election.

texas mapThe Texas secretary of state’s office reported Friday morning — the last day for early voting in the state — that 9,009,850 people had voted by mail, dropped their ballots in boxes or showed up at polling sites during the early voting period. Four years ago, a record-breaking 8,969,226 Texans voted in the election, according to state statistics.

The increase has been fueled by huge turnout in urban, Democratic areas, like Harris County, home to Houston, but rural counties that have traditionally voted Republicans have also seen significant boosts in participation.

Polls show a near dead-heat in the state, the nation’s second most populous, with a slight edge for President Trump.

Though Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, is making a late swing through the state today, with visits to Houston, McAllen and Fort Worth, the Biden campaign has not put significant time or money into the state, arguing that it is a bad investment for them: Texas has multiple expensive media markets and it’s not an essential stop on their path to 270 electoral votes.

Early-voting patterns, especially in big cities like San Antonio and Austin, suggest that the underlying dynamics of the race are less like 2016, when Mr. Trump won by 9 percentage points, than the 2018 midterms, when Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican, narrowly beat Representative Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat.

“There’s no doubt that it’s a real race,” Mr. Cruz said earlier this week.

The huge spike in turnout comes despite efforts by Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, a Trump ally, to limit the number of drop boxes in each county to one, an order that greatly advantages low-population Republican strongholds.

washington post logoWashington Post, Interior official cited white supremacist to support an opinion, Darryl Fears, Oct. 31, 2020 (print ed.). Jeremy Carl, who has called Black Lives Matter a racist organization, cited an opinion by a leading alt-right figure who said Black people destroy any civilization they control. Weeks after the Interior Department halted diversity training to comply with an executive order from President Trump, a top assistant at the agency is under scrutiny for defending Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager accused of fatally shooting two people and injuring a third during a Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha, Wis.

 

Trump Watch

ny times logoNew York Times, How a Century of Real-Estate Tax Breaks Enriched Donald Trump, Jesse Drucker and James B. Stewart, Oct. 31, 2020 (print ed.). The real estate industry has long enjoyed uniquely favorable tax treatment — thanks in part to Mr. Trump’s actions before and after he became president. Twenty-five years before he was elected president, Donald J. Trump went to Capitol Hill to complain that Congress had closed too many tax loopholes. He warned that one industry, in particular, had been severely harmed: real estate.

The recent demise of real estate tax shelters, part of a landmark 1986 overhaul of the tax code, was “an absolute catastrophe for the country,” Mr. Trump testified to Congress that day in November 1991.

“Real estate really means so many jobs,” he said. “You create so many other things. They buy carpet. They buy furniture. They buy refrigerators. They buy other things that fuel the economy.”

Mr. Trump was sounding a theme that has made real estate perhaps the tax code’s most-favored industry.

Legislators lapped it up. Mr. Trump and his fellow real estate investors got much of what he wanted, including the ability to fully deduct losses — sometimes only on paper — against other income.

Mr. Trump’s low taxes over the years were largely a product of his businesses hemorrhaging money, according to federal tax records obtained by The New York Times. But the records also show that so-called depreciation losses and other benefits for the real estate industry have helped Mr. Trump reduce his federal income taxes. In 2016 and 2017, he paid $750.

From the beginning, the real estate industry, with its claim to be a bedrock of the American way of life and its formidable lobbying power and lavish campaign contributions, has held disproportionate sway over how tax laws are written.

Tax breaks for real estate have been embedded in the federal income tax law for a century. New benefits sprouted up every few years. Even when lawmakers cracked down on business-friendly tax treatment, they often made special exceptions for real estate.

“The real estate industry has enjoyed the most lucrative tax breaks for decades,” said Victor Fleischer, a tax law professor at the University of California, Irvine, and former chief tax counsel for the Senate Finance Committee. The industry “thinks of the tax code as a basket of goodies to feast on rather than a financial obligation of doing business.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The State Department wouldn’t reveal its payments to Mar-a-Lago. Here’s how we found them, David A. Farenthold, Oct. 31, 2020 (print ed.). Legislators lapped it up. Mr. Trump and his fellow real estate investors got much of what he wanted, including the ability to fully deduct losses — sometimes only on paper — against other income.

Mr. Trump’s low taxes over the years were largely a product of his businesses hemorrhaging money, according to federal tax records obtained by The New York Times. But the records also show that so-called depreciation losses and other benefits for the real estate industry have helped Mr. Trump reduce his federal income taxes. In 2016 and 2017, he paid $750.

From the beginning, the real estate industry, with its claim to be a bedrock of the American way of life and its formidable lobbying power and lavish campaign contributions, has held disproportionate sway over how tax laws are written.

Tax breaks for real estate have been embedded in the federal income tax law for a century. New benefits sprouted up every few years. Even when lawmakers cracked down on business-friendly tax treatment, they often made special exceptions for real estate.

“The real estate industry has enjoyed the most lucrative tax breaks for decades,” said Victor Fleischer, a tax law professor at the University of California, Irvine, and former chief tax counsel for the Senate Finance Committee. The industry “thinks of the tax code as a basket of goodies to feast on rather than a financial obligation of doing business.”

We now know about the $3 for water, and other charges taxpayers picked up at President Trump's properties, but it took going around the State Department to report that.

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr tells friends he would like to remain attorney general if Trump is reelected, Matt Zapotosky, Oct. 31, 2020 (print ed.). The assertion from the president’s top law enforcement official might otherwise be unsurprising, if not for the public pressure President Trump has put on Barr in recent months to deliver results from an investigation Barr specially commissioned to review the FBI’s 2016 probe of possible coordination between Russia and Trump’s campaign.

Attorney General William P. Barr — who has recently faced criticism from President Trump for not prosecuting his political rivals — has told friends and advisers in recent weeks that he hopes to stay on for some time in the next term, if Trump wins the election.

The assertion from the president’s top law enforcement official might otherwise be unsurprising, if not for the public pressure Trump has put on Barr in recent months to deliver results from an investigation Barr specially commissioned to review the FBI’s 2016 probe of possible coordination between Russia and Trump’s campaign.

Trump also has openly discussed with advisers firing FBI Director Christopher A. Wray after Election Day, even though Wray is only a little more than three years into what is normally a 10-year appointment. Barr has generally sought to shield Wray from Trump’s wrath, though his friends believe he would not resign in protest were the FBI director ousted, people familiar with the matter said. Like others, they spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the politically sensitive topic.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump rolled back more than 125 environmental rules and policies. Here’s how, Juliet Eilperin, Brady Dennis and John Muyskens, Oct. 31, 2020 (print ed.). The administration has accelerated its push to deregulate in the weeks before the election and has 40 more rollbacks underway.

President Trump has spent the run-up to next week’s election touting himself as the finest steward of the nation’s air and water in generations. “Who would have thought,” he boasted during one stop in Florida, “Trump is the great environmentalist?”

But over the course of nearly four years, his administration has steadily loosened oversight of polluting industries, eroded protections for endangered wildlife and stymied Obama-era efforts to address the globe’s most daunting environmental threat: climate change.

A Washington Post analysis has found that as Trump’s first term winds to a close, he has weakened or wiped out more than 125 rules and policies aimed at protecting the nation’s air, water and land, with 40 more rollbacks underway.

The administration has accelerated its push to deregulate in the weeks before the election, to ease requirements on power plants that leak waste into waterways, weaken efficiency standards for dishwashers, scale back oversight of mine safety and approve seismic drilling in an Alaska wildlife refuge.

washington post logoWashington Post, As a divisive election arrives, the National Guard prepares for unrest and softens descriptions of a new unit, Dan Lamothe, Oct. 31, 2020 (print ed.). An initial investigation of the Guard’s deployment in D.C. in June found fault with the deployment of helicopters. The unit, which also could be used to respond to natural disasters and other missions, was formed in September and initially described as a rapid-reaction force. National Guard officials now refer to them as “regional response units."

 

Media News

sean connery cropped

ny times logoNew York Times, Sean Connery, Who Embodied James Bond and More, Dies at 90, Aljean Harmetz, Oct. 31, 2020. To legions of fans who have watched a parade of actors play Agent 007, none played the part as magnetically or as indelibly as Mr. Connery, shown above left and at right as "James Bond."

Sean Connery, the irascible Scot from the slums of Edinburgh who found international fame as Hollywood’s original James Bond, dismayed his fans by walking away from the Bond franchise and went on to have a long and fruitful career as a respected actor and an always bankable star, died on Saturday. He was 90.

His death was confirmed by Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, on Twitter. “Our nation today mourns one of her best loved sons,” she wrote. She did not say where he died.

“Bond, James Bond” was the character’s familiar self-introduction, and to legions of fans who have watched a parade of actors play the role — otherwise known as Agent 007 on Her Majesty’s Secret Service — none uttered the words or played the part as magnetically or as indelibly as Mr. Connery.

Tall, dark and dashing, he embodied the novelist Ian Fleming’s suave and resourceful secret agent in the first five Bond films and seven over all, vanquishing diabolical villains and voluptuous women alike beginning with “Dr. No” in 1962.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, No longer just cartels: Criminal groups seek control of Mexican territory, Alexa Juliana Ard, Sarah Hashemi, Luis Antonio Roja, Oct. 31, 2020 (print ed.) (video report). Criminal groups in Mexico are expanding their territorial control, infiltrating local governments and preying on ordinary citizens.

 

Oct. 30

Top Headlines


Virus Victims, Reponses

 

More On U.S. Elections, Politics

 

World News

 

U.S. Law, Courts


Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Hits the 9-Million Mark as Infections Keep Surging, Mitch Smith, Oct. 30, 2020 (print ed.). Some public health experts are backing Biden’s “national mask mandate” idea. The virus is threatening to bring Europe’s health care systems to the brink of collapse; Los Angeles schools will probably stick with remote learning until at least January; Across Europe, hospitals are filling up at an alarming pace that harks back to the darkest hours of the first wave of the pandemic. Here’s the latest.

american flag upside down distressWith daily reports of coronavirus cases in the United States surging to previously unseen heights, averaging more than 75,000 a day over the last week, the country on Thursday crossed the threshold of nine million known infections since the pandemic began.

More total cases have been identified in the United States than in any other country, though some nations have had more cases in proportion to their populations.

“There is no way to sugarcoat it: We are facing an urgent crisis, and there is an imminent risk to you, your family members, your friends, your neighbors,” said Gov. Tony Evers of Wisconsin.

More than 200 coronavirus deaths have been announced over the last week in Wisconsin, and as case numbers explode, hospitals have been under increasing strain.

Wisconsin, home to eight of the country’s 15 metro areas with the highest rates of recent cases, was among the first states to lose control of the virus this fall. But the surge that started in the Upper Midwest and rural West has now spread far beyond, sending infection levels soaring in places as disparate as El Paso, Chicago and Rexburg, Idaho.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. Election Live Updates: Trump, Biden to crisscross Midwestern battleground states as Texas crosses its 2016 total of votes counted, djt biden smiles resizedJohn Wagner, Oct. 30, 2020. President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden plan to crisscross Midwestern battleground states on Friday, with each staging three events across the critical region. Both plan to appear in Minnesota and Wisconsin, while Biden is also touching down in Iowa and Trump is also traveling to Michigan.

Meanwhile, Vice President Pence is seeking to shore up support in Arizona, while the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), tries to expand the map in Texas, a state Trump easily won four years ago.

More than 9 million people have voted early in Texas, surpassing the total number of ballots cast in the state in 2016, according to the Texas Secretary of State.

Coronavirus cases are surging in every competitive state, offering irrefutable evidence against Trump’s closing argument that the pandemic is nearly over and restrictions are no longer necessary.

Under a federal appeals court panel decision, Minnesotans must return mail-in ballots by Tuesday to ensure they are counted, upending plans that the state had advertised to keep counting absentee ballots postmarked by Election Day for another week.

Biden leads Trump by 10 percentage points nationally, 53 percent
to 43 percent, according to an average of national polls since Oct. 12.

washington post logoWashington Post, In campaign’s waning days, both candidates turn focus to Latino voters, Jose A. Del Real, Amy Gardner and Jenna Johnson, Oct. 30,2020 (print ed.). Polls show that Latinos could be a decisive constituency in battleground states across the country — not only where they are recognized as a burgeoning political force, but also in places like Michigan and North Carolina, where they are a growing part of the electorate.

washington post logoWashington Post, As Election Day nears, Trump ponders becoming one thing he so despises: A loser, Toluse Olorunnipa, Oct. 30, 2020 (print ed.). In unscripted remarks, the president laments a potential defeat and complains about the pandemic’s impact on his political fortunes.

Trailing in the polls and with little time left to change the trajectory or closing themes of the presidential race, President Trump has spent the final days of the campaign complaining that the coronavirus crisis is getting too much coverage — and openly musing about losing.

Trump has publicly lamented about what a loss would mean, spoken longingly of riding off into the sunset and made unsubstantiated claims that voter fraud could cost him the election. He has sarcastically threatened to fire state officials if he doesn’t win and excoriated his rival Joe Biden as someone it would be particularly embarrassing to lose to.

“If I lose, I will have lost to the worst candidate, the worst candidate in the history of presidential politics,” Trump said at an Oct. 17 campaign rally in Janesville, Wis. “If I lose, what do I do? I’d rather run against somebody who’s extraordinarily talented, at least, this way I can go and lead my life.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Facing Gap in Pennsylvania, Trump Camp Tries to Make Voting Harder, Nick Corasaniti and Danny Hakim, Oct. 30, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump and his campaign are pursuing a strategy that would effectively suppress the mail-in vote in the critical battleground state.

President Trump’s campaign in the crucial battleground of Pennsylvania is pursuing a three-pronged strategy that would effectively suppress mail-in votes in the state, moving to stop the processing of absentee votes before Election Day, pushing to limit how late mail-in ballots can be accepted and intimidating Pennsylvanians trying to vote early.

Election officials and Democrats in Pennsylvania say that the Trump effort is now in full swing after a monthslong push by the president’s campaign and Republican allies to undermine faith in the electoral process in a state seen as one of the election’s most pivotal, where Mr. Trump trails Joseph R. Biden Jr. by about six percentage points, according to The Upshot’s polling average.

Mail-in votes in Pennsylvania and other swing states are expected to skew heavily toward Democrats. The state is one of a handful in which, by law, mail-in votes cannot be counted until Election Day, and the Trump campaign has leaned on Republican allies who control the Legislature to prevent state election officials from bending those rules to accommodate a pandemic-driven avalanche of absentee ballots, as many other states have already done.

At the same time, the campaign has pushed litigation to curtail how late mail-in votes can be accepted, as part of a flurry of lawsuits in local, state and federal courts challenging myriad voting rules and procedures. On Wednesday evening, the Supreme Court refused to hear a fast-tracked plea from Pennsylvania Republicans to block a three-day extension of the deadline for receiving absentee ballots. But Kathy Boockvar, a Democrat who is Pennsylvania’s secretary of state, advised counties to segregate ballots received after 8 p.m. on Election Day, as the issue remains before the court.
The Trump campaign has also dispatched its officials to early voting sites, videotaped voters and even pressed election administrators in the Philadelphia area to stop people from delivering more than one ballot to a drop box.

The Trump campaign’s on-the-ground efforts in Philadelphia have already drawn a rebuke from the state attorney general, who warned that the campaign’s foot soldiers risked being charged with voter intimidation. But the Trump campaign has defied local leaders and is running a similar operation in Delaware County, one of the suburban “collar” counties around Philadelphia that have become increasingly Democratic since the 2016 election.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

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

  • World Cases: 45,481,790, Deaths: 1,188,290
  • U.S. Cases:     9,216,50, Deaths:     234,218

washington post logoWashington Post, As pandemic raged and thousands died, government regulators cleared most nursing homes of infection-control violations, Debbie Cenziper, Joel Jacobs and Shawn Mulcahy, Oct. 30, 2020 (print ed.).  Despite promises of ‘aggressive enforcement,’ over 40,000 residents died in homes that received a clean bill of health.

At the outset of a looming pandemic, just weeks after the first known coronavirus outbreak on U.S. soil, the woman responsible for helping to protect 1.3 million residents in America’s nursing homes laid out an urgent strategy to slow the spread of infection.

In the suburbs of Seattle, federal inspectors had found the Life Care Center of Kirkland failed to properly care for ailing patients or alert authorities to a growing number of respiratory infections. At least 146 other nursing homes across the country had confirmed coronavirus cases in late March when Seema Verma, below right the seema verma officialadministrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, vowed to help “keep what happened in Kirkland from happening again.”

The federal agency and its state partners, Verma said, would conduct a series of newly strengthened inspections to ensure 15,400 Medicare-certified nursing homes were heeding long-standing regulations meant to prevent the spread of communicable diseases. It was another key component of a national effort, launched in early March, to shore up safety protocols for the country’s most fragile residents during an unprecedented health emergency .

But the government inspectors deployed by CMS during the first six months of the crisis cleared nearly 8 in 10 nursing homes of any infection-control violations even as the deadliest pandemic to strike the United States in a century sickened and killed thousands, a Washington Post investigation found.

Those cleared included homes with mounting coronavirus outbreaks before or during the inspections, as well as those that saw cases and deaths spiral upward after inspectors reported no violations had been found, in some cases multiple times. All told, homes that received a clean bill of health earlier this year had about 290,000 coronavirus cases and 43,000 deaths among residents and staff, state and federal data shows.

That death toll constitutes roughly two-thirds of all covid-19 fatalities linked to nursing homes from March through August.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Republicans are trapped by Trump’s insane ideas about how to win this election, Paul Waldman, Oct. 30, 2020. With just a few days before the election, Republicans everywhere — whether they’re running for office this year or not — are prisoners of President Trump. His delusions are theirs, his failures are theirs, his campaign message is theirs, and the blowback he produces will affect them, too.

They checked themselves into that prison willingly. But even if they wanted to find their way out, it’s too late.

To understand what this looks like, consider this moment from a rally the president held in Tampa on Thursday, at which he revealed that he’s being urged not to waste his remaining campaign time talking about Hunter Biden and the media:

"They don’t call him out on, where’s Hunter? They don’t call him out. Where’s Hunter? Where’s Hunter? Is Hunter in the crowd? They don’t call him out. They don’t call him out on, where’s Hunter? It’s crazy. It’s crazy. You know, some people said — I get a call from all the experts, right? Guys that ran for president six, seven, eight times. Never got past the first round, but they’re calling me up, “Sir, you shouldn’t be speaking about Hunter. You shouldn’t be saying bad things about Biden because nobody cares.”

Think about what is actually the most important issue in this campaign: the pandemic that has killed 228,000 Americans and is gaining strength in nearly every state in the country. There are any number of ways the president might be talking about it right now, but what he has chosen to say is that it’s pretty much over, and anyone who says otherwise — journalists, public health experts, the families of those who have died — is just trying to undermine him.

That message then gets repeated in conservative media and quickly becomes an official line that other Republicans are expected to toe. So they wind up looking as irresponsible, uncaring, and downright stupid as he does.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

538.com, Snake Chart U.S. Election Prediction: As previously, Biden is favored to win the election, Nate Silver, Oct. 30, 2020. States that are forecasted to vote for one candidate by a big margin are at the ends of the path, while tighter races are in the middle. Bigger segments mean more Electoral College votes. Trace the path from either end to see which state could put one candidate over the top.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Texas, More Have Voted Early Than the State’s Entire 2016 Turnout, Staff reports, Oct. 30, 2020. More than 9 million people have voted early in Texas. Polls show a near dead-heat in the state, with a slight edge for President Trump.

Mr. Trump canceled plans to appear at Trump International Hotel for an election night party. The candidates head to swing states today. Here’s the latest.

Texas, a 2020 jump-ball state once considered a layup for Republicans, is shattering turnout records, with the number of early in-person and mail-in ballots now exceeding the total number of votes cast in the 2016 election.

The Texas secretary of state’s office reported Friday morning — the last day for early voting in the state — that 9,009,850 people had voted by mail, dropped their ballots in boxes or showed up at polling sites during the early voting period. Four years ago, a record-breaking 8,969,226 Texans voted in the election, according to state statistics.

The increase has been fueled by huge turnout in urban, Democratic areas, like Harris County, home to Houston, but rural counties that have traditionally voted Republicans have also seen significant boosts in participation.

Polls show a near dead-heat in the state, the nation’s second most populous, with a slight edge for President Trump.

Though Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, is making a late swing through the state today, with visits to Houston, McAllen and Fort Worth, the Biden campaign has not put significant time or money into the state, arguing that it is a bad investment for them: Texas has multiple expensive media markets and it’s not an essential stop on their path to 270 electoral votes.

Early-voting patterns, especially in big cities like San Antonio and Austin, suggest that the underlying dynamics of the race are less like 2016, when Mr. Trump won by 9 percentage points, than the 2018 midterms, when Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican, narrowly beat Representative Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat.

“There’s no doubt that it’s a real race,” Mr. Cruz said earlier this week.

The huge spike in turnout comes despite efforts by Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, a Trump ally, to limit the number of drop boxes in each county to one, an order that greatly advantages low-population Republican strongholds.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Trump and Biden, a Choice of Teetotalers for President, Adam Nagourney, Oct. 30, 2020. For the first time in modern history, both major party candidates for the White House are teetotalers. President Trump and Joe Biden both say they’ve never had a drink.

A presidential election that has driven a nation to drink is being fought to the bitter end by two men who do not.

For the first time in modern history, both major party candidates for the White House are teetotalers. President Trump and his Democratic opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., have not had an alcoholic drink over the course of their lives, by their own accounts.

This Teetotaler Campaign, and the fact that this circumstance has drawn so little notice, is to some extent evidence of how the once hard-drinking culture of politics is changing. Candidates, campaign aides and reporters are drinking less, aware of the scrutiny that comes in the age of cellphones and Twitter, not to mention the nonstop demands of a round-the-clock campaign.

ny times logoNew York Times Magazine, Florida Could Decide the Election, and Counting Is Already Underway, Emily Bazelon, photos by Dina Litovsky, Oct. 30, 2020. About 50 million Americans have already voted by mail. Here’s what processing those ballots looks like in a crucial swing state.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Biden Hopes to Fight Autocracy Abroad. He’ll Have to Start at Home, Michelle Goldberg, right, Oct. 30, 2020. America has to be a michelle goldberg thumbfunctioning democracy before it can be an exemplary one.

Biden wants to withdraw America from the informal axis of authoritarians that Trump has joined, to re-establish it as a democratic beacon. “The triumph of democracy and liberalism over fascism and autocracy created the free world,” Biden wrote in a Foreign Affairs essay in January titled “Why America Must Lead Again.” “But this contest does not just define our past. It will define our future, as well.”

America, however, has to be a functioning democracy before it can be an exemplary one. Biden acknowledged as much in Foreign Affairs; his piece has a long section on “Renewing Democracy at Home.” American leaders once realized that segregation discredited them in the ideological struggle of the Cold War. Today deep injustices — some created by Trump and some merely exacerbated by him — discredit America again.

washington post logoWashington Post, How Trump waged war on his own government, Lisa Rein, Tom Hamburger, Juliet Eilperin and Andrew Freedman, Oct. 30, 2020 (print ed.). Career employees have come under siege as a president and his political appointees have attacked bureaucrats they view as resistant.

Early in the new administration, the White House wanted a big win for President Trump on one of his top campaign promises — getting rid of poor performers at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Scott Foster got the order from his boss, a senior political appointee: Draw up a list of underachievers and give “your best 10” so the president could announce their firing at a signing ceremony for a law allowing fast dismissals at VA.

Foster, a seasoned personnel official, balked. The employees still had the right to due process, he argued. Within weeks, his boss tried to sack him.

It was one of the first shots in what became an unwavering four-year war on the civil servants who have operated as the backbone of the federal government for more than a century. Career employees from diplomats to budget analysts have come under siege as they carry out the laws of Congress, attacked by a president with no government experience and portrayed as a “deep state” trying to undermine him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: Trump doesn’t get it. Civil servants shield taxpayers from a politicized government, Joe Davidson, Oct. 30, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump is a big fan of Andrew Jackson. The nation’s seventh president enslaved African Americans, oppressed Native Americans and infected the federal service with a spoils system that allowed him to favor cronies.

Now, almost two centuries later, a stunning Trump executive order would effectively convert thousands of federal civil servants into political staff members who could be fired if they did not demonstrate fealty to him instead of the people they swore to serve.

With his zeal to fire feds faster and under the rubric of “effective performance management of employees,” Trump’s order could hurt taxpayers more than the employees he targets.

His Oct. 22 order creating a new class of federal employees without workplace protections beckons images of the spoils system the civil service was designed to defeat. Although the civil service system, with its due process rights, protects government workers from unjust management actions, it also shields taxpayers from a politicized government that can provide or deny services based on political loyalty.

This is not the first time Trump has weakened federal employee rights. Three executive orders in 2018 severely hindered the ability of federal labor organizations to represent workers, including those who are not union members.

For years, Republicans and sometimes Democrats have pushed for restrictions on federal workplace protections. But Trump’s move is just the latest from a president who has broken boundaries that guard agencies, including scientific offices, against inappropriate, politically motivated actions.

Reaction to Trump’s order was swift and harsh, from various points on the political spectrum.

“Imagine what happens when virtually every senior mission job . . . is filled by political appointees whose loyalty is to an Administration, and not to the U.S. Constitution and the American people,” Jeff Neal, a former top personnel officer in the Department of Homeland Security and the Defense Logistics Agency, wrote in his ChiefHRO blog.

“A government where a loyalty test becomes more important than qualifications. And where anyone who dares to disagree is summarily dismissed. A government of sycophants and political hacks is exactly what President Theodore Roosevelt believed the career civil service was essential to prevent.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Jon Ossoff attacks Sen. Perdue on pandemic: ‘You’re attacking the health of the people that you represent,’ Tim Elfrink, Oct. 30, 2020 (print ed.). In the final 10 minutes of a blistering debate in the waning days of a tight race, Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) on Wednesday night took aim at his Democratic opponent, Jon Ossoff, for his fundraising haul from out-of-state donors. “They want this radical socialist agenda,” Perdue said.

jon ossoff CustomIn response, Ossoff, right, unleashed on Perdue over the GOP’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, a topic the challenger spent most of the hour-long debate relentlessly hammering.

“Perhaps Senator Perdue would have been able to respond properly to the covid-19 pandemic if you hadn’t been fending off multiple federal investigations for insider trading,” said Ossoff, referencing probes into Perdue’s stock trades. The senator’s campaign says he has been cleared david perdue headshotof wrongdoing. “It’s that you’re attacking the health of the people that you represent.”

The heated exchange, which went viral in a Twitter clip that was viewed more than 3 million times as of early Thursday, illustrates a central challenge faced by vulnerable GOP senators forced to follow President Trump’s lead in arguing that the pandemic is improving even as case numbers again significantly rise nationally.

Recent polls have found Perdue, left, a 70-year-old former business executive serving his first Senate term, running neck-and-neck with Ossoff, the 33-year-old head of a media firm, in a race that would go to a runoff if neither candidate hits 50 percent of the vote. Libertarian candidate Shane Hazel is on the ballot, as well.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump cancels his Election Night party, Bill Palmer, right, Oct. 30, 2020. When Donald Trump had a Twitter meltdown last night that lasted until nearly three in the bill palmermorning, it was notable for a couple reasons. First, he’s clearly too worried to sleep. Second, his rant about the Supreme Court suggested that he doesn’t think the election will be close enough for them to even try to bail him out. Now today we’re seeing a perhaps even more telling sign.

bill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump was planning to hold an election night party at his Trump International Hotel in Washington DC, but now the New York Times says he’s canceling the party. We know this isn’t about the pandemic, because he’s currently holding multiple super spreader rallies every day. Also, Trump would have personally profited from this party. The only reason for him to cancel it is if he doesn’t expect election night results to go his way, and he doesn’t want to be embarrassed in front of his associates. In fact we see this kind of thing fairly regularly from candidates who don’t expect to win.

Some observers are suggesting that Donald Trump is canceling his party because he doesn’t expect there to be a winner named on election night one way or the other. But it was always extraordinarily unlikely that Trump would be named the winner on election night; in the unlikely scenario where Trump did win, it would be a close race, and it would take days to sort it out. So if this were his logic, we don’t think he would have scheduled the party to begin with.

We’re taking this as a sign that Donald Trump now fears that by the end of election night, he’ll either have been declared the loser, or the election will be tilting far enough away from him that everyone will know he’s on track to lose. Of course that doesn’t mean Trump is correct. It’s our job to spend these final days driving voter turnout, and make sure Trump loses.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The real reason Arizona will turn blue this year, Fernanda Santos (journalism professor at Arizona State University and the author of “The Fire Line: The Story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots"), Oct. 30, 2020 (print ed.). In a state that has voted for a Democratic presidential candidate only once since 1952, polls have consistently favored Joe Biden.

In our much-watched Senate race, former astronaut Mark Kelly leads Republican incumbent Martha McSally by a comfortable margin. If Kelly wins, the state would send its first all-Democratic Senate delegation to Washington in 67 years.

Talking heads have plenty of explanations for this shift. It’s Latinos! It’s suburbanites! It’s moderate Republicans! These answers make for convenient sound bites. But the desire to explain Arizona through different voter blocs, with a lot of the focus on the increasing Latino population, misses what’s actually happening in Arizona. The key to understanding the state’s leftward shift isn’t identity politics: It’s the issues and ideas that shape daily reality for the people who live and work here.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The single biggest reason Donald Trump is unfit to be President of the United States, Robert Harrington, right, Oct. 30, 2020. As I write this, of robert harrington twitterthe more than 9 million Americans who have contracted coronavirus, 234,177 have died. That’s almost 20 percent of the world’s deaths from Covid-19 from a country with only 4.2% of the world’s population. A recent study from Columbia university found that 210,000 of those American deaths could have been avoided. There was only one person in America who had the power to avoid those deaths. Donald Trump. So if Donald Trump had done his job, 24,000 Americans would have died from COVID-19 instead of 234,177.

bill palmer report logo headerBut Donald Trump is no Jacinda Ardern. Jacinda Ardern is the Prime Minister of New Zealand. She took coronavirus seriously from the beginning and enacted a nationwide lockdown and the widest ranging and toughest border restrictions of any country in the world. But even more than this, she earned the respect of her citizens because she was compassionate and caring and concerned with one thing and one thing alone, saving the lives of her people. That is why only 25 of her citizens (as I write this) have died from coronavirus. Adjusted for population, that is the equivalent of 1,650 Americans. Clearly, Ms. Ardern outdid the Columbia university study.

Meanwhile the White House science office has listed “ending Covid-19” as one of the top achievements of the Trump administration’s first term. I don’t think anyone would be surprised to learn that this pronouncement came directly from Donald Trump. That it came at the peak of a pandemic that is getting worse by the day is, of course, a metric of how completely divorced from reality this toxic psychopath Trump is. The first question that comes to mind is, if “ending the pandemic” is a great Trump achievement, why is “operation Warp Speed” still desperately seeking a vaccine that is supposed to be “coming any day now”?

This glaring inconsistency is endemic to a White House that not only lies all the time but does it badly. For example, recently the White House announced that the 525 children in cages were separated from their immigrant parents because their parents didn’t want them any more. But how did the White House know that those parents didn’t want their children if they couldn’t find those parents in the first place? Is it a measure of how contemptuous this White House is of the constituency that they tell these transparent lies, or are they simply too lazy and incompetent to think it through? Maybe both.

This out-of-control incompetence has had deadly effect on the American populace. It’s estimated that at least 150,000 more Americans will needlessly die between now and noon on January 20th when Donald Trump is, hopefully, finally out of office. I think that number is low. I hope not. In any case it is an infuriating frustration that there isn’t a single thing any of us can do about it. The carnage of fifty more 9/11 deaths will occur between now and January and none of us can stop it.

What we can do is vote, and make sure this diseased juggernaut of death and sorrow is removed from the White House as soon as humanly possible.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Beware of hacks bearing journalism, Wayne Madsen, left, Oct. 30, 2020. Glenn Greenwald quit his job as a columnist for The wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallIntercept, a website he co-founded in 2014.

wayne madesen report logoThe editors of that Pierre Omidyar-financed operation, which is suspicious in its own right, did not censor Greenwald. They merely refused to publish a load of Republican political garbage about the son of the Democratic presidential candidate that was rife with salacious untruths and manufactured documents.

jared ivanka kushner

Palm Beach Post, Lincoln Project brings edgy anti-Trump billboards to Mar-a-Lago this weekend, Christine Stapleton, Oct. 30, 2020. Just in time for Election Day, President Donald Trump's last South Florida rallyand expectations the first lady will cast her vote locally, the Times Square billboards showing Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner seemingly delighting in the death and suffering caused by the coronavirus pandemic will be floating near Mar-a-Lago this weekend.

The billboards are the latest salvo fired by The Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump group of mostly Republicans, that has inundated the Internet with snarky, sarcastic ads targeting Trump and other Republican candidates.

On one billboard, shown above, Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and a senior White House adviser, gestures like a game show hostess to statistics about Covid-19 deaths. The image was taken from a photo she originally posted showing her cradling a can of Goya beans in response to Goya facing a boycott.

On the billboard, the can is no longer in the photo. Instead, it's the national coronavirus death toll.

Kushner, a senior White House adviser, smiles from an adjacent billboard lined with orange and white body bags. The image has a quote attributed to him in a Vanity Fair article, in which he reportedly said New Yorker's will suffer during the pandemic and “that’s their problem.”
The Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump group of mostly Republicans is bringing billboards it erected in Times Square to south Florida. The billboards, fitted on a barge, will float near Mar-a-Lago the weekend before the Nov. 3, 2020 election.

"This falls into our psychological warfare — to take them off message," said Ron Steslow, one of the founders of the project. "We hit the bull's eye with these."

The billboards spurred a Trumpian reaction from the couple’s lawyer, Marc E. Kasowitz, who called them “false, malicious and defamatory," and threatened to sue The Lincoln Project. Kasowitz denied Kushner made the comments.

“If these billboard ads are not immediately removed, we will sue you for what will doubtless be enormous compensatory and punitive damages,” Kasowitz wrote.

The Lincoln Project didn't blink. Not only do the billboards remain in Manhattan this weekend — and will be coming to Mar-a-Lago, too.

A lawyer for The Lincoln Project wrote: “Please peddle your scare tactics elsewhere. The Lincoln Project will not be intimidated by such empty bluster...Your clients are no longer mere Upper East Side socialites, able to sue at the slightest offense to their personal sensitivities. Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump are public officials...Sue if you must.”

The arrival of the Times Square billboards in Palm Beach resurrects the Trump billboard wars that began in the fall of 2017 along the presidential motorcade route on Southern Boulevard. The route is traveled by the president when going to and from Mar-a-Lago and Palm Beach International Airport as well as Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach.New York Times,

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump Killed the Pax Americana, Paul Krugman, right, Oct. 30, 2020 (print ed.). There are, I suppose, some people who still imagine paul krugmanthat if and when Donald Trump leaves office we’ll see a rebirth of civility and cooperation in U.S. politics. They are, of course, hopelessly naïve. America in the 2020s will remain a deeply polarized nation, rife with crazy conspiracy theories and, quite possibly, plagued by right-wing terrorism.

But that won’t be Trump’s legacy. The truth is that we were already well down that road before he came along.

Trump’s lasting legacy, I suspect, will come in international affairs. For almost 70 years America played a special role in the world, one that no nation had ever played before. We’ve now lost that role, and I don’t see how we can ever get it back.

You see, American dominance represented a new form of superpower hegemony.

Our government’s behavior was by no means saintly; we did some terrible things, supporting dictators and undermining democracies from Iran to Chile. And sometimes it seemed as if one of our main goals was to make the world safe for multinational corporations.

But we weren’t a crude exploiter, pillaging other countries for our own gain. The Pax Americana arguably dated from the enactment of the Marshall Plan in 1948; that is, from the moment when a conquering nation chose to help its defeated foes rebuild rather than demanding that they pay tribute.

And we were a country that kept its word.

To take the area I know best, the United States took the lead in creating a rules-based system for international trade. The rules were designed to fit American ideas about how the world should work, placing limits on the ability of governments to intervene in markets. But once the rules were in place, we followed them ourselves. When the World Trade Organization ruled against the United States, as it did for example in the case of George W. Bush’s steel tariffs, the U.S. government accepted that judgment.

We also stood by our allies. We might have trade or other disputes with Germany or South Korea, but nobody considered the possibility that America would stand aside if either country was invaded.

Trump changed all that.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump and Bill Barr caught in major scandal involving Turkey, Daniel Cotter, Oct. 30, 2020. It turns out Turkish President Erdogan pushed his puppet Donald Trump into having Bill Barr meddle in yet another investigation. According to the New York Times story (Turkish Bank Case Showed Erdogan’s Influence With Trump):

bill palmer report logo header“For months, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey had been pressing President Trump to quash the investigation, which threatened not only the bank but potentially members of Mr. Erdogan’s family and political party. When Mr. Berman sat down with Mr. Barr, he was stunned to be presented with a settlement proposal that would give Mr. Erdogan a key concession.

Mr. Barr pressed Mr. Berman to allow the bank to avoid an indictment by paying a fine and acknowledging some wrongdoing….Mr. Berman didn’t buy it.”

This should be shocking and it shows again that Trump Barr should be investigated and prosecuted post-election for criminal conduct. We as Americans must stay focused, vote like our lives depend upon it, and turn the White House and Senate blue. We can then make sure Trump Family and associates pay the price.

ny times logoNew York Times, Turkish Bank Case Showed Erdogan’s Influence With Trump, Eric Lipton and Benjamin Weiser, Oct. 30, 2020 (print ed.). New details of the Justice Department’s handling of the accusations against Halkbank reveal how Turkey’s leader pressured the president, prompting concern from top White House aides. ​

The president’s apparent eagerness to please Mr. Erdogan has drawn scrutiny for years. So has the scale and intensity of the lobbying effort by Turkey on issues like its demand for the extradition of one of Mr. Erdogan’s political rivals, a Turkish religious leader living in self-imposed exile in the United States. Mr. Erdogan had a big political stake in the outcome, because the case had become a major embarrassment for him in Turkey.

At the White House, Mr. Trump’s handling of the matter became troubling even to some senior officials at the time.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Federal judge rules Donald Trump’s tweets incited violence, Bill Palmer, Oct. 30, 2020. We’ve all spent years watching Donald Trump posts tweets that were obviously and explicitly intended to incite violence – and we’ve spent years watching that violence play out across the nation in deadly fashion. Now a federal judge agrees with this assessment, in a new ruling in a civil case.

bill palmer report logo headerVarious entities in Oregon have taken the Department of Homeland Security to court with a civil case which alleges that federal agents acted in violent and improper fashion during the DHS invasion of Portland earlier this year. The overall case is still playing out, but the judge in the case granted a preliminary injunction this evening, immediately restricting what federal agents can and can’t do to protesters. Specifically, ABC News says (via AP report here) that the judge found that Donald Trump’s tweets helped incite the violence and improper behavior of the federal agents in question.

This is a remarkable ruling. The case against the federal government and not against Donald Trump personally, and it’s a civil case not a criminal case. Yet a federal judge just decided that Trump incited violence, which under any normal circumstances would make him liable – in a civil and criminal sense – for the violence that he caused. This ruling could set precedent for the kinds of legal penalties Trump will start to face if he loses the election.

 

U.S. Law, Courts

 

amy coney barrett djt white house swearing in

Buzzflash, Investigation: Amy Coney Barrett Got Thousands of Tainted GOP Mail-In Ballots Counted in Florida in 2000, Invaluably Helping Bush to Steal Election, Staff report, Oct. 30, 2020. Amy Coney Barrett set the tone for her role as a party hack on the Supreme Court as she willingly posed maskless with Donald j. Trump for campaign photo-ops on the night of her nomination on Monday (shown above in a White House photo).

Amy Coney Barrett set the tone for her role as a party hack on the Supreme Court as she willingly posed maskless with Donald j. Trump for campaign photo-ops on the night of her nomination on Monday. (The White House)

Amy Coney Barrett, that icon of judicial integrity — as Trump and the DC Republicans would have you believe — may soon commit gross hypocrisy if she rules on Team Trump’s efforts to have Democratic votes invalidated in the 2020 election. In fact, the SCOTUS dissenters in allowing Pennsylvania to allow three extra days for the state to count ballots postmarked by November 3 but delivered up to three days later, indicate they may consider retroactively tossing out the votes.

Barrett didn’t vote on the Florida and North Carolina cases because, according to the Court, she did not have the time to read up on them, but she will likely rule on Trump retroactive voter suppression and theft of the election legal efforts after the election unless Biden wins with an irreversible lead.

A clear argument can be made that she allowed herself to be used as a pawn for Trump’s reelection with two White House appearances and a photo-op on the Truman balcony. A stronger case can be made because she helped implement a legal strategy in 2000, working through a law firm for the Bush campaign, that allowed the counting of thousands of Republican absentee ballot requests with missing information to be taken out of a Republican-run county election office and filled out by local Republican operatives at another location.

As Mother Jones on October 11:

Republicans sought to count mail ballots that were disputed by Democrats because of evidence that Republican operatives had altered incomplete absentee ballot request forms. That position stands in sharp contrast to Trump’s current assault on mail voting. But there’s a certain consistency here: Republicans will take whatever stance on mail ballots maximizes their electoral chances. And Barrett’s work in 2000 suggests she might be willing to play along.

Election Law Blog added:

After county officials allowed the GOP to take the forms back and fill in the missing information, a Democratic voter sued, saying ballots cast by those voters should be tossed out. The county canvassing board, the Florida Republican Party and the Bush campaign argued that the votes should still count.

Barrett’s work on the case serves as a reminder of how aggressively the Republican Party has sought to harness mail voting for years, in contrast to President Trump’s relentless attacks on the practice….

Request forms sent by the party to Republican voters mistakenly omitted their voter registration numbers, leading those requests to be set aside by the Martin County elections office. The county elections supervisor allowed a local Republican Party official to take the incomplete request forms [out of the office], add the missing numbers and return them the following day, according to court filings. GOP voters who had used the request forms to seek absentee ballots were then able to receive them….

Democrats sued that neither the Marin County or nearby Seminole County, which had up to 25,000 absentee ballot irregularities “corrected,” should not have these “tainted” votes counted, which Barrett and her legal colleague argued for the counting of the ballots. A state court ruled with Barrett’s argument and the Bush Campaign, and Bush “won” Florida by 537 votes until the Supreme Court anointed him president by a 5-4 vote, while it forbade a recount that would have made Al Gore president.

The state and county Democrats said that the process had been so tainted and in violation of Florida Election law (Democrats absentee ballot requests were not corrected and the Democrats were not notified that their absentee ballot requests were not processed), including allowing Republican operatives to break the chain of vote custody by taking the ballot requests out of the election office. But the Gore campaign curiously did not join the suit, and so the state Democrats lost the case.

An October 10 Washington Post article confirms these details of Barrett’s role in an article entitled, “How Amy Coney Barrett Played a Role in Bush v. Gore — and Helped the Republican Party Defend Mail Ballots.”

Meanwhile, just recently in Iowa, according to CBS News:

Iowa's highest court upheld a state directive Wednesday that was used to invalidate tens of thousands of absentee ballot requests mailed to voters pre-filled with their personal information.

The Iowa Supreme Court issued its ruling in favor of President Donald Trump's campaign and Republican groups as Trump held an evening rally in Des Moines.

The court rejected a Democratic challenge that argued the directive issued by Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate was unconstitutional.

In a similar vein, Brett Kavanaugh, who was coming off his recent role as top aide to the Ken Starr inquisition of Bill Clinton, was also aiding the Bush Campaign in 2000 to argue for what Trump would call fraudulent mail-in votes to be counted. According to The Intellectualist:

However, in Bush v. Gore — the Supreme Court decision that handed the presidency to a man who lost the popular vote — a younger Kavanaugh argued it would be unfair if ballots received after election day were not counted.

Kavanaugh was on the legal team that “argued during that contested election that ballots arriving late and without postmarks, which were thought to benefit Bush, must be counted in Florida,” Salon noted on Tuesday.

In 2001, The New York Times laid out how Bush’s team went about ensuring his presidential win….

Now, Kavanaugh — as well as a slew of Republicans, including President Donald Trump — argue that ballots received after Election Day should not be counted, claiming it opens the door to fraud and will cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election results.

As Salon noted,

Whatever the reasons behind Kavanaugh’s performance on Monday, he has given the nation another legitimate reason to fear that this election may end with a Bush v. Gore–like disaster for American democracy, but even worse than the original.

On Monday night, Kavanaugh debased the dignity of the Supreme Court in parroting Trump in claiming a presidential winner should be announced on November 3, because it would be unfair to count votes, even if they arrived before that day, because it would be unfair to the candidate leading on November 3. These were the ludicrous claims of a party hack, not a Supreme Court justice.

Justice Elena Kagan took snarling Kavanaugh to the woodshed:

Justice Kagan: Justice Kavanaugh alleges that “suspicions of impropriety” will result if “absentee ballots flow in after election day and potentially flip the results of an election.” Ante, at 7. But there are no results to “flip” until all valid votes are counted. And nothing could be more “suspicio[us]” or“improp[er]” than refusing to tally votes once the clock strikes 12 on election night. To suggest otherwise, especially in these fractious times, is to disserve the electoral process.

Finally, remember that John Roberts, below, is a third lawyer on the Supreme Court who worked on legal strategy for the theft of the 2000 election by George W. Bush.

john roberts djt state of union

 

Oct. 29

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Reponses

 

Law, Elections, Politics

 

More On U.S. Elections, Politics


World News

 

U.S. Crime

 

Media News

 

Top Stories

djt looking up

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: U.S. Hits the 9-Million Mark as Infections Keep Surging, Mitch Smith, Oct. 29, 2020. Some public health experts are backing Biden’s “national mask mandate” idea. The virus is threatening to bring Europe’s health care systems to the brink of collapse; Los Angeles schools will probably stick with remote learning until at least January; Across Europe, hospitals are filling up at an alarming pace that harks back to the darkest hours of the first wave of the pandemic. Here’s the latest.

With daily reports of coronavirus cases in the United States surging to previously unseen heights, averaging more than 75,000 a day over the last week, the country on Thursday crossed the threshold of nine million known infections since the pandemic began.

More total cases have been identified in the United States than in any other country, though some nations have had more cases in proportion to their populations.

“There is no way to sugarcoat it: We are facing an urgent crisis, and there is an imminent risk to you, your family members, your friends, your neighbors,” said Gov. Tony Evers of Wisconsin.

More than 200 coronavirus deaths have been announced over the last week in Wisconsin, and as case numbers explode, hospitals have been under increasing strain.

Wisconsin, home to eight of the country’s 15 metro areas with the highest rates of recent cases, was among the first states to lose control of the virus this fall. But the surge that started in the Upper Midwest and rural West has now spread far beyond, sending infection levels soaring in places as disparate as El Paso, Chicago and Rexburg, Idaho.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump minimizes threat of pandemic, mocks masks, while Biden blasts president’s recklessness, Anne Gearan, Amy B Wang and John Wagner, Oct. 29, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump pushed ahead Wednesday with a strategy for the closing days of the campaign that minimizes the threat from the coronavirus pandemic, misstates his record in confronting it and mocks Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s caution in campaigning amid a disease that has killed more than 225,000 Americans.

american flag upside down distressBiden, during remarks in Delaware, blasted Trump for what he characterized as recklessness in handling the pandemic as Trump held crowded rallies in Arizona.

With five days to go before Election Day on Nov. 3, the two candidates have crystallized opposing messages on a pandemic that has affected most aspects of American life, including voting.

Biden holds small, carefully staged events where he typically wears a mask and asks attendees to stand far apart. He blames Trump for failing to check the spread of the virus and calls the election a referendum on Trump’s leadership during the crisis.

washington post logoWashington Post, Millions of mail ballots have not been returned as window closes for USPS delivery, Derek Hawkins and Jacob Bogage, Oct. 29, 2020 (print ed.). Election officials said many may belong to those who requested them early, then decided to vote in person. Amid a record surge in early voting, millions of mail ballots remained unreturned Wednesday, prompting a flurry of warnings from election officials that ballots sent via the U.S. Postal Service at this point may not arrive in time to be counted.

us mail logoWith Election Day less than a week away, more than 42 million out of the 92 million mail ballots requested by voters nationally had not yet been returned as of Wednesday afternoon, according to data from the U.S. Elections Project, a nonpartisan site tracking early voting.

In the 20 states where party affiliation data was available, more than 11 million of the outstanding ballots had been requested by Democrats, nearly 8 million by Republicans and about 10 million by unaffiliated voters, according to the Elections Project.

Tuesday marked the last day that postal and election administration experts said ballots could be mailed to ensure delivery in time for Election Day, based on national first-class mail service.

NBC News, Investigation: How a fake persona laid the groundwork for a Hunter Biden conspiracy deluge, Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny, Oct. 29, 2020. A 64-NBC News logopage document that was later disseminated by close associates of President Donald Trump appears to be the work of a fake "intelligence firm."
Hunter Biden speaks at the World Food Program USA's annual awards ceremony in Washington in April 2016.

One month before a purported leak of files from Hunter Biden's laptop, a fake "intelligence" document about him went viral on the right-wing internet, asserting an elaborate conspiracy theory involving former Vice President Joe Biden's son and business in China.

The document, a 64-page composition that was later disseminated by close associates of President Donald Trump, appears to be the work of a fake "intelligence firm" called Typhoon Investigations, according to researchers and public documents.

The author of the document, a self-identified Swiss security analyst named Martin Aspen, is a fabricated identity, according to analysis by disinformation researchers, who also concluded that Aspen's profile picture was created with an artificial intelligence face generator. The intelligence firm that Aspen lists as his previous employer said that no one by that name had ever worked for the company and that no one by that name lives in Switzerland, according to public records and social media searches.

One of the original posters of the document, a blogger and professor named Christopher Balding, took credit for writing parts of it when asked about it and said Aspen does not exist.

Despite the document's questionable authorship and anonymous sourcing, its claims that Hunter Biden has a problematic connection to the Communist Party of China have been used by people who oppose the Chinese government, as well as by far-right influencers, to baselessly accuse candidate Joe Biden of being beholden to the Chinese government.
Inside the false conspiracy theory being pushed about the Bidens
Oct. 23, 202004:43

The document and its spread have become part of a wider effort to smear Hunter Biden and weaken Joe Biden's presidential campaign, which moved from the fringes of the internet to more mainstream conservative news outlets.

An unverified leak of documents — including salacious pictures from what President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and a Delaware Apple repair store owner claimed to be Hunter Biden's hard drive — were published in the New York Post on Oct. 14. Associates close to Trump, including Giuliani and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, have promised more blockbuster leaks and secrets, which have yet to materialize.

The fake intelligence document, however, preceded the leak by months, and it helped lay the groundwork among right-wing media for what would become a failed October surprise: a viral pile-on of conspiracy theories about Hunter Biden.
Behind Typhoon

The Typhoon Investigations document was first posted in September to Intelligence Quarterly, an anonymous blog "dedicated to collecting important daily news," according to its "about" section. Historical domain records show the blog was registered to Albert Marko, a self-described political and economic adviser, who also lists the blog on his Twitter bio. When asked about the provenance of the document, Marko said he received it from Balding.

Balding, an associate professor at Fulbright University Vietnam who studies the Chinese economy and financial markets, posted the document on his blog on Oct. 22, seven weeks after it was initially published.

"I had really not wanted to do this but roughly 2 months ago I was handed a report about Biden activities in China the press has simply refused to cover. I want to strongly emphasize I did not write the report but I know who did," Balding said in an email.

Balding later claimed to NBC News that he wrote some of the document.

"I authored small parts of the report and was involved in report preparation and review. As a researcher, and due to the understandable worry about foreign disinformation, it was paramount that the report document activity from acknowledged and public sources," Balding said. "Great care was taken to document, cite, and retain information so that acknowledged facts could be placed in the public domain."

martin aspen deep fakeA viral dossier about Hunter Biden was written by "Martin Aspen," left, a fake identity whose profile picture was created by artificial intelligence.TyphoonInvesti1 / via Twitter

Balding said Aspen is "an entirely fictional individual created solely for the purpose of releasing this report." Balding did not name the document's main author, saying "the primary author of the report, due to personal and professional risks, requires anonymity."

Balding claimed that the document was commissioned by Apple Daily, a Hong Kong-based tabloid that is frequently critical of the Chinese government. Apple Daily did not respond to a request for comment.

In addition to posting the document to his blog, Balding also promoted it in far-right media, appearing on Bannon's podcast and on "China Unscripted," a podcast produced by The Epoch Times, a pro-Trump media outlet opposed to the Chinese government.

Balding, an American who taught economics at China's Peking University HSBC Business School until 2018, is often critical of the Chinese government. He made news this year as a source uncovering a global bulk data collection operation by the Chinese company Shenzhen Zhenhua Data Technology.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

anthony fauci graphic Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Fauci expresses support for national mask mandate, Staff reports, Oct. 29, 2020. Angela Merkel takes aim at ‘lies and disinformation’ ahead of a ‘difficult winter;’ Wisconsin ICUs are nearing capacity as coronavirus cases surge, Milwaukee mayor says; Trump’s $250 million coronavirus ad campaign to ‘defeat despair’ excluded celebrities critical of him or his policies.

Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert (shown above in a photo from last spring), said for the first time Wednesday that the United States needs a nationwide mask mandate to combat the rising tide of coronavirus infections. In interviews with CNBC and the Journal of the American Medical Association, Fauci expressed regret that masks haven’t been adopted more widely and suggested that doing so would be key to avoiding another round of shutdowns.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis of Trump’s closing arguments on covid-19, Salvador Rizzo, Oct. 29, 2020. The United States is not “rounding the turn.” Virus cases are spiking across the country. But the president keeps arguing the opposite.

In the final days of the campaign, President Trump continues to flood the zone with false and misleading claims about the coronavirus pandemic.

Cases have been spiking across the country, while Trump insists “we’re rounding the turn.” The president continues to assert that U.S. infections are rising “because we do more testing than anybody else,” when experts say the main reason is the spreading disease.

In recent interviews, Trump has responded with denials and attacks when journalists Savannah Guthrie of NBC and Lesley Stahl of CBS fact-checked his claims on camera. The president tells crowds that media coverage of the pandemic is meant to damage him politically and “should be an election law violation.”

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

  • World Cases: 44,774,241, Deaths: 1,179,224
  • U.S. Cases:     9,120,751, Deaths:    233,130

european union logo rectangle

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: European Hospitals Are Filling at an Alarming Pace, Staff reports, Oct. 29, 2020. Authorities in Europe are scrambling to slow the spread of a virus that threatens to bring ailing health care systems to the brink of collapse; Singapore is easing restrictions on hundreds of thousands of migrant workers; Covid-19 death rates have fallen as understanding of the disease improved, researchers say; Trump’s closing argument on the virus clashes with science, and voters’ lives. Here’s the latest.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. economy grew by a record 7.4 percent from July to September, Rachel Siegel and Andrew Van Dam, Oct. 29, 2020. The U.S. economy grew at a record 7.4 percent between July and September and has recovered two-thirds of the ground it lost during the first half of the year. But economists remain wary, as the figures come just as the country is entering a period of rising coronavirus cases.

The data released Thursday morning by the Bureau of Economic Analysis was in line with expectations and stands in sharp contrast to the historic and devastating second-quarter plunge of 9 percent because of pandemic closures. As state shutdown measures eased over the summer and businesses brought people back to work, the economy and consumer spending looked vastly different, and much healthier, than they did between April and June.

But that doesn’t mean the economy has entirely healed, or that the pace at which the economy recovered in the third quarter will keep up in the final stretch of 2020, especially given a surge in cases of the novel coronavirus and a hazy timeline on whether another stimulus bill may be passed.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: The American Economy Was Hit by a Bus. It’s Healing, but Slowly, Neil Irwin, Oct. 29, 2020. Here’s why the G.D.P. numbers out today can mislead.

washington post logoWashington Post, Weekly unemployment claims dip slightly in last report before election, Eli Rosenberg, Oct. 29, 2020. Another 751,000 people applied for jobless claims last week, down about 40,000 from the week before, in what is the final unemployment report released before the election.

Claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, for gig and self-employed workers, went up slightly, to 359,000.

All told, there were about 22.6 million people claiming some form of unemployment insurance for the week ending Oct. 10, the most recent week of statistics for that measurement.

The data represents what economists say is a disconcertingly high number of new jobless claims that persist seven months into the pandemic. Economists continue to warn about the effect to the economy from the White House and Congress’ inaction on another round of stimulus.

The economy has begun to flash more warning signs in recent weeks. Companies announcing layoffs in recent weeks include aerospace giant Raytheon, financial services company Charles Schwab, and Disney World. On Wednesday, the stock market saw one of its biggest drops in months.

An increasingly large group of people are transitioning off regular state unemployment insurance to ​the a temporary federal program for people whose state benefits have expired — a sign of the growing duration of joblessness for many.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pelosi reveals that she and Mnuchin were miles apart in stimulus talks, Erica Werner, Oct. 29, 2020. A letter shows the White House and Democrats had remained far apart despite House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s repeated expressions of optimism about getting a deal. Speaker cites litany of differences in letter to Treasury secretary days ahead of election

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How the idiocy of Trump and Jared Kushner let the pandemic loose, Paul Waldman, Oct. 29, 2020 (print ed.). “The most dangerous people around the president are overconfident idiots,” said Jared Kushner to Bob Woodward, in just-released audiotapes of conversations the two had in April and May.

Kushner’s comments reveal something important about both him and the president. We know their handling the pandemic was dictated by politics, and that’s a big part of the reason it was such an unmitigated disaster.

But even more infuriating is that it was dictated by bad politics.

They could have done the right thing for the wrong reasons, taking steps that would save lives solely to benefit President Trump’s reelection campaign. Instead, they did the wrong thing for the wrong reasons. They minimized the pandemic and undermined efforts to contain it because they thought doing so would be a political gold mine. And this has all but guaranteed Trump’s defeat.

djt smiling fileIn the tapes, Kushner explains why the administration never developed a national testing strategy, and why Trump made a point of attacking governors who moved aggressively to limit the social interactions that would spread the virus in their states. This is from a conversation on April 18:

"The states have to own the testing," Kushner said. "The federal government should not own the testing. And the federal government should not own kind of the rules. It's got to be up to the governors, because that's the way the federalist system works."

He went on: “But the President also is very smart politically with the way he did that fight with the governors to basically say, no, no, no, no, I own the opening. Because again, the opening is going to be very popular. People want this country open. But if it opens in the wrong way, the question will be, did the governors follow the guidelines we set out or not?”

Kushner and Trump thought it was important to start a fight with governors so the president could “own the opening,” because “the opening is going to be very popular.”

The result was that Trump politicized every public health measure necessary to control the virus, convincing millions of his supporters that the way to show their loyalty to him was to refuse to wear a mask, gather together in groups to breathe the same air and complain about how their “freedom” was under assault.

 

Law, Politics, Threats

ny times logoNew York Times, How to Fix the Supreme Court (Opinion Forum): Pack the Courts, Larry Kramer (right, former dean of Stanford Law School), Oct. 29, 2020 (print ed.). Democracy depends on norms larry kramer stanfordas well as law, and respecting established norms is essential in a diverse society. The norms that get layered on top of laws are what enable groups with fundamentally different ideas and objectives to live and work together. And if the past decade has taught us anything, it is that a politics of abandoning norms to win today’s battle is mutilating our democracy.

So, yes, Republicans had the legal power to refuse a hearing to Judge Merrick Garland even though he was nominated nearly eight months before the 2016 election, just as they had the legal power to ram Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination through the Senate Judiciary Committee two weeks before the Nov. 3 election.

And yes, they had the legal power to do so even while offering disgracefully hypocritical justifications: denying Judge Garland a hearing because, they said, legitimacy required waiting for an election that was close in time, while rushing through a last-minute appointment for Judge Barrett lest they lose an election that’s much, much closer.

But both acts betrayed a ruthless willingness to politicize judicial selection in extreme ways that upended long-established norms.

Liberals say that if Joe Biden wins the election, Democrats should answer by adding justices to the Supreme Court. Republicans respond with faux outrage that this would politicize the judiciary.

But they have already politicized the judiciary. The question is whether only one side should play that game. Besides, not only is enlarging the Supreme Court legal, its size has changed seven times over its history.

Adding judges would be a political response to a political act. But the extreme

s to which Republicans have been willing to go leave the Democrats no other choice. Not for revenge or because turnabout is fair play, but as the only way back to a less politicized process.

This is a lesson we learned decades ago from economists and game theorists: Once cooperation breaks down, the only play to restore it is tit-for-tat. It’s the only way both sides can learn that neither side wins unless they cooperate.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: In Voting Cases, Chief Justice Roberts Is Alone but in Control, Adam Liptak, right, Oct. 29, 2020. In a little over a week, the Supreme adam liptakCourt issued five sets of orders in election cases. In three of them, Democrats prevailed.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote an opinion in only one of the cases, and it was only a paragraph long. It sketched out a distinction that no other justice endorsed. But that distinction can explain every one of the court’s orders.

The distinction pressed by the chief justice was this: Federal courts should not change voting procedures enacted by state legislatures, and they also should not step in when state courts or agencies change those procedures.

The something-for-both-sides approach is broadly similar to Chief Justice Roberts’s recent record, in which he voted with the court’s liberals in cases on gay rights, immigration and abortion; joined the court’s conservatives in major cases on religion; and wrote the majority opinions in cases on subpoenas seeking President Trump’s financial records that rejected his broadest claims but did not require immediate disclosures.
Chief Justice Roberts’s deft judicial work last term meant that he was in the majority in divided decisions at a higher rate than any chief justice since at least 1953. Scholars debated whether that was evidence of principle or pragmatism, noting that the chief justice has tried hard to shield the court from charges that it is a political body.

In the election cases, too, the chief justice’s rationale staked out a middle ground, one that was consistent with conservative ideas about federalism even as the court’s other members seemed to take all-or-nothing approaches. The court’s more liberal members said the right to vote was important enough to justify letting federal judges alter state election rules. And its more conservative ones said the Constitution prohibits all changes to voting rules enacted by state legislatures, even ones supported by state courts or state officials.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Supreme Court Should Stay Out of State Election Law, Akhil Reed Amar, Vikram David Amar and Neal Kumar Katyal, right (The neal katyal oauthors are law professors), Oct. 29, 2020 (print ed.). Allowing federal courts to muck around with state election laws is dangerous and destabilizing.

Just as they did in the infamous Bush v. Gore litigation in 2000, Republican lawyers are trying to get the Supreme Court to undermine state court rulings protecting voting rights under state law. Their theory? That state courts, by relying in part on state constitutions, are wrongly exercising power that belongs to state legislatures.

This idea that state constitutions are irrelevant, and that all that matters is what state legislatures say, is preposterous. Yet recent events suggest this wrongheaded theory may have some traction among the justices.

And this theory has huge consequences. It would mean that many of the decisions you are reading about, where state judges are applying state constitutions to protect the right to vote (say, by finding that ballots postmarked by Election Day will be counted, or that onerous witness requirements will be relaxed because of Covid-19) would now be fair game for the Supreme Court to reverse — even though these decisions are interpretations of state law by state courts.

So far, partisan attempts to involve the federal judiciary have failed, and rightly so. Early last week, the Supreme Court rejected an effort by Pennsylvania Republicans to overturn a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision that votes postmarked by Election Day but received a few days later must be counted. The court deadlocked 4-4, letting the state court decision stand, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court’s three Democratic appointees in voting to leave undisturbed what the state court had done.

Now the Republican challengers are trying to bring the case back before the court, hoping to win support from its newest member, Amy Coney Barrett. We may see a similar push to overturn a second Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling issued last Friday, also protecting state voters’ rights — this time to have their votes counted notwithstanding technical signature glitches in mail-in or absentee ballots.

Federal courts have no business interfering in state-law matters. As the three of us wrote back in 2000, the effort of several justices to hijack state law in Bush v. Gore was a disgrace. These justices asserted that the “Florida Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Florida election laws impermissibly distorted them beyond what a fair reading required.” Of course, “fair reading” meant how these justices read state law, not how Florida’s expert judges saw the matter.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Vermont Secretary of State goes after Brett Kavanaugh, Bill Palmer, Oct. 29, 2020. When the Supreme Court ruled against extending the period for counting mail-in ballots in Wisconsin, Brett Kavanaugh tacked on an opinion that read like a series of Trump tweets strung together. He falsely claimed that states want to know the results on election night, and he also made a bizarre number of factually false statements which read like he’d been drinking too much beer.

bill palmer report logo headerThe Vermont Secretary of State isn’t too happy with one of Brett Kavanaugh’s errors in particular:

It’s almost like Kavanaugh isn’t even trying at this point. If he was hoping to get his stance adopted by the other conservative justices, he should have at least written something coherent enough to give them cover. Instead Kavanaugh appears to be solely trying to make Donald Trump happy – which makes you wonder if he’s trying to get Trump to pardon him for perjury on his way out the door.

ny times logoNew York Times, Kavanaugh Fixes Error in Election Opinion After Vermont Complaint, Maria Cramer, Oct. 29, 2020. Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh on Wednesday corrected an error in an opinion issued as part of a Supreme Court ruling that barred Wisconsin from counting mail-in ballots that arrive after Election Day.

Though not unheard-of, such revisions are rare, experts said, adding that Justice Kavanaugh’s change highlighted the court’s fast pace in handling recent challenges to voting rules.

In the opinion, which was issued on Monday and alarmed Democrats worried about mail ballots being counted, Justice Kavanaugh wrote that while some states had changed their rules around voting in response to the pandemic, others had not.

“States such as Vermont, by contrast, have decided not to make changes to their ordinary election rules, including to the election-day deadline for receipt of absentee ballots,” he wrote in his original concurring opinion, which was attached to the 5-to-3 ruling against the deadline extension in Wisconsin.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

National Journal, Opinion: Don't expect a contested election, Charlie Cook, Oct. 29, 2020. The cone of uncertainty has narrowed considerably. Now, the question seems to be whether we'll see a "skinny" Biden win or a landslide.

Joe Biden’s path to 270 electoral votes seems pretty straightforward: Hold all 20 states (plus the District of Columbia) that Hillary Clinton carried four years ago, which total 232 electoral votes, just 38 short of the majority threshold of 270. Then win each of the three states that Clinton lost by eight-tenths of a point or less: Michigan (0.2 percentage points) Pennsylvania (0.7), and Wisconsin (0.8). That gives him 278 electoral votes, eight more than needed. Biden will likely also carry two congressional districts that eluded Clinton in 2016, Nebraska’s 2nd District and Maine’s 2nd, giving him 280 electoral votes. That would represent a “skinny” Biden win.

A big Biden win would bring in Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina, and might also include one or two states from the next tier, mostly likely Georgia or Iowa, although don’t count out Ohio or Texas. Generally speaking, Trump is underperforming his 2016 pace by 3 to 8 points, depending upon the state or district.

I believe his actual lead is more like 9 or 10 points, based on the higher-quality, live-telephone-interview national polls conducted since the first debate, as well as the gold standard of online polling, the Pew Research Center’s mammoth poll of 11,929 voters released two weeks ago.

Any way you slice it, these are pretty good leads, considerably higher than the 3.2-point national margin that Hillary Clinton had over Trump in the RCP average on Oct. 29, 2016.

The Senate is increasingly less a case of whether Democrats will take a majority, but how large will it be. The chances of the GOP keeping its losses down to a seat or two are dropping; I am thinking that a five- or six-seat gain is becoming highly possible.

What I am wondering is if this will be one or the rarest species of national elections—a wave election in a presidential year ending in a zero, meaning it will reverberate for a decade thanks to the coming redistricting. There are not a dozen Republican Senate seats that could fall, as Democrats suffered in 1980, but Joe Biden may well replicate Ronald Reagan’s 10-point victory over President Carter. The odds are it will be a bit less, perhaps in the 53 to 44 percent range, with 3 percent going to independents and write-ins, half of the number from four years ago.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s attacks on adversaries often followed by threats to their safety, Greg Miller and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Oct. 29, 2020 (print ed.).  Public officials are increasingly forced to take extraordinary security precautions after vitriolic words by the president

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The 3 most likely paths to victory for Biden and Trump, in maps, Aaron Blake, Oct. 29, 2020. Below are three scenarios that work out in President Trump’s favor and three in former vice president Joe Biden’s favor. Given polling shows Biden is the clear favorite, let’s start with the ones that would deliver a surprise: A Trump win.

washington post logoWashington Post, Millions of mail ballots have not been returned as window closes for USPS delivery, Derek Hawkins and Jacob Bogage, Oct. 29, 2020 (print ed.). Election officials said many of the outstanding ballots may belong to those who requested them early but later decided to vote in person.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Judge Emmet Sullivan drops the hammer on Donald Trump’s Post Office antics, Bill Palmer, right, Oct. 28, 2020. With just five days until the end bill palmerof the election, experts across the board are now warning that it’s too late to put your ballot in the mail. If you haven’t already mailed it, you’ll need to drop it off at a ballot box, or vote early in person, or vote in person on election day. But what about those ballots that have already been mailed?

bill palmer report logo headerIt turns out there’s good news on that front. Judge Emmet Sullivan – yes, the same Judge Emmet Sullivan who succeeded in blocking Bill Barr from letting Michael Flynn off the hook – has now intervened in the Post Office debacle. He’s unilaterally reversed all the changes that Trump’s guy Louis DeJoy made, and he’s ordered the Post Office to provide him with daily updates about the progress of the corrective action.

emmet sullivan 2012In other words, Judge Sullivan, right, has essentially taken over the Post Office. Because he’s ordering Post Office workers to follow his instructions, they’re likely to do so, as they’d otherwise be facing contempt of court. This does a lot to neuter DeJoy’s ability to keep trying to screw with the election. It will also help get other essential mail services, such as prescription drug deliveries, back on track

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden leads Trump narrowly in Michigan, significantly in Wisconsin, Scott Clement, Dan Balz and Emily Guskin, Oct. 29, 2020 (print ed.). Strong support among women powers former vice president Joe Biden’s advantages in both states, while rising coronavirus concerns in Wisconsin are hampering President Trump, according to a pair of Washington Post-ABC News polls.

joe biden 2020 button CustomFormer vice president Joe Biden continues to outpace President Trump in two crucial Midwest battlegrounds, currently holding a slight lead over the president in Michigan while showing a much more substantial advantage in Wisconsin, according to a pair of Washington Post-ABC News polls.

The surveys show Biden narrowly ahead of Trump among likely voters in Michigan by 51 percent to 44 percent, with Libertarian Party nominee Jo Jorgensen at 3 percent. In Wisconsin, likely voters favor Biden by 57 percent to 40 percent, with Jorgensen at 2 percent. Among all registered voters, Biden’s edge in Michigan is five points, while he leads by 17 points in Wisconsin.

rudy giuliani borat bedroom Rudy Giuliani was caught in compromising position (shown above) in new 'Borat' film; The prank is one of the notable moments in the Sacha Baron Cohen sequel out Friday. Details: NBC News, Rudy Giuliani caught in compromising position in new 'Borat' film.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Down goes Rudy Giuliani, Robert Harrington, right, Oct. 29, 2020. My life intersected briefly with Rudy Giuliani’s on November 2nd, 1997. He addressed 30,000 of us in his capacity as mayor at the start of the New York City marathon. I don’t recall what he said (I was distracted by four hours and seventeen robert harrington twitterminutes of discomfort ahead of me, as it turned out) but I do recall my impression of him at the time. The trim, intelligent-sounding man who stood before me, 23 years ago to the day on Monday, commanded respect and got a certain amount of it, even from some of the notoriously cynical New Yorkers in my midst.

That memory is difficult to harmonize with the raging, day-drunk wreck of a man Rudy Giuliani has become. I have since seen him embarrass himself on Fox News and other places. I even endured the juvenile absurdities of the new Borat movie to watch him attempt to seduce a young woman who he thought was 15 years old. She was in fact “of age” but that’s beside the point, he thought she was 15. His performance with her was every inch as repellent, creepy and stomach-churning as he has become. Rudy Giuliani has, finally, self-immolated.

bill palmer report logo headerRudy reached another low with Fox News host Lisa Kennedy. This time he was full of fake outrage that she would dare ask any tough questions about, or demand evidence for, Rudy’s obviously fabricated narrative about the Hunter Biden laptop “scandal.” If anyone caught the parallel between Rudy’s rage at Ms. Kennedy and Donald Trump’s rage at 60 Minutes’ Lesley Stahl then, yeah, I noticed that too. In Trumpworld women aren’t supposed to ask tough questions or demand evidence. I mean really. The indignities these poor men must endure in the presence of these uppity women.

Rudy is pedalling a story nobody wants, not even Fox News. Trump’s endless tweets about how the story is being “suppressed” by the “fake news lame stream media” is his latest mania du jour, replacing the runaway corruption of mail-in ballets and how “Sleepy Joe” is “hiding in his basement.” (Meanwhile another thousand Americans died of coronavirus since you and I last spoke, brothers and sisters.)

There will, of course, be plenty of time to decide who has and who has not been a criminal once the Department of Justice has been restored by Joe Biden to its rightful owners: the American people. Meanwhile the “scandal” of what role Joe Biden played in any corrupt dealings with Ukraine can be summarized in a single word: none. Or, to put it less succinctly, as it was put in an 87-page report released jointly by the Senate Homeland Security and Finance Committees, that report said that there is no evidence that Joe Biden improperly manipulated American policy toward Ukraine or committed any other misdeed. In fact investigators heard testimony that completely rebutted those charges. End of story.

Rudy Giuliani has become a sad, disgusting, creepy little man who insists on committing public suicide on a daily basis. He is another monument to how far and how fast people are willing to fall in the blind service of a man as shabby and unworthy as Donald Trump.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Biden’s team is selling responsible, sober and steady foreign policy, Jennifer Rubin, right, Oct. 29, 2020. Antony Blinken, senior foreign jennifer rubin new headshotpolicy adviser to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, characterized the pillars of Biden’s foreign policy in a Zoom call with reporters on Wednesday as “leadership, cooperation and democracy.” He made the case that with the United States in “full retreat” under President Trump, the world “does not organize itself” and the vacuum gets filled by either bad actors or “chaos.”

In a refreshing embrace of a theme that has fallen out of favor with Republicans, Blinken declared, “Democracy is at the heart of everything we do.” That means sustaining our own democracy and calling out thugs around the world, unlike Trump, whom Blinken says too often “suited up for the other side.”

During the call, I asked Blinken about where Biden stands on returning to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, better known as the Iran deal.

Blinken began by putting the current state of affairs — “not in a good place” — in context. Trump’s decision to pull out of the JCPOA and engage in a “maximum pressure” campaign has been a spectacular failure, as I and some Republicans who previously criticized the JCPOA predicted. Naturally, Iran restarted its nuclear program, reducing the amount of time needed to develop nuclear weapons from more than a year to three months.

Iran FlagMeanwhile, we have isolated ourselves from allies and pushed China and Russia (two of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council) into Iran’s arms. We’ve been humiliated for failing to get enough support to continue the United Nations’ arms embargo against Iran (even without a veto from China or Russia) and for claiming to enact "snapback sanctions” for a deal we announced we were no longer part of.

Blinken pointed that out that of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s 12 conditions for the United States to resume negotiations with Iran, not a single one has been met. Iran has not ceased its support for terrorist groups, and it has so invested itself in aiding pro-Iranian groups in Iraq that we have been forced to contemplate shutting down our embassy there.

As Blinken dryly put it, “We are in a challenging place.” So what now? Blinken offered a two-step approach: The United States will return to the JCPOA if Iran returns to its terms as well. Then, he said, a Biden administration would “work to lengthen and strengthen” the deal in concert with our allies. (“We are in better shape to push back,” he argues, when the United States is on the same side as our allies.)

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Fascist leaders endorse Trump for re-election, Wayne Madsen, Oct 28, 2020. Budapest, Brasilia, Manila, Banja Luka, Ljubljana, Bogota. A group of the world's fascist leaders has taken the undiplomatic step of endorsing Donald Trump's re-election.

There has not been such an overt attempt by foreign fascists to interfere in a U.S. presidential election since 1940, when the German embassy in Washington, working with the Republican Party, launched the "Keep America Out of War" campaign.

Nazi German propagandists worked closely with the GOP's National Committee to Keep America Out of Foreign Wars, headed by Representative Hamilton Fish of New York, to ensure that the party platform of Republican presidential candidate, Wendell Willkie of Indiana, was as non-interventionist and neutralist in the war in Europe as possible.

Trump and his Republicans have never turned down foreign assistance in their campaigns.

 

Media News

 

djt profile balding big head palmer

Palmer Report, Opinion: Fox News just cut off Donald Trump and aired Joe Biden instead, Bill Palmer, Oct. 29, 2020. Earlier this week Donald Trump publicly expressed his frustration after Fox News aired President Obama’s campaign speech. Trump still seems to believe that Fox was propping him up all this time because it liked him, when in reality these decisions are always about ratings and maintaining relative credibility with your audience.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump is sure to be even more upset when he gets word that Fox News cut him off mid-speech today in favor of airing Joe Biden’s rally speech in full. Trump always counted on getting an unfair amount of cable news airtime in 2016, particularly from Fox, and it’s a contribution factor as to why he’s in office.

fox news logo SmallBut at this point Fox News appears to have concluded that Donald Trump is likely to lose, and that Joe Biden is a better ratings draw, even for its right-leaning audience. Whether Fox viewers like Biden or not, many of them expect him to be the next President, so they’re interested in what he has to say and what he’s going to do.

If Trump was hoping Fox would keep propping him up until the bitter end, he’s about to learn the hard way that his relationship with Fox has always been transactional. Trump is loyal to no one, so it’s fitting that Fox is finally being less loyal to him during his time of need.

glenn greenwald intercept anniversary poster april 16 2019

Better Times: Shown above is a promotional photo for The Intercept, showing Editor Betsy Reed at left. Next to her is shown co-founder and columnist Glenn Greenwald, who resigned on Oct. 29.

ny times logoNew York Times, Glenn Greenwald Leaves The Intercept, Claiming He Was Censored, Katie Robertson, Oct. 29, 2020. Mr. Greenwald will join other high-profile journalists who have left major media outlets to work largely on their own at Substack.

The journalist Glenn Greenwald said on Thursday that he was leaving The Intercept, the news website he helped found, claiming that it had refused to publish an article he wrote on Joseph R. Biden Jr. unless he removed sections that were critical of the Democratic presidential nominee.

Mr. Greenwald, who is best known for his role in making public the National Security Agency documents leaked by Edward Snowden in 2013, said in a statement that he would continue to publish his work at Substack, a digital platform for subscription newsletters.

He announced his decision to leave The Intercept in a Substack post, writing that the “final, precipitating cause” was that “The Intercept’s editors, in violation of my contractual right of editorial freedom, censored an article I wrote this week, refusing to publish it unless I remove all sections critical of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, the candidate vehemently supported by all New-York-based Intercept editors involved in this effort at suppression.”

Betsy Reed, the editor in chief of The Intercept, disputed Mr. Greenwald’s claim that he had been censored.

“Glenn Greenwald’s decision to resign from The Intercept stems from a fundamental disagreement over the role of editors in the production of journalism and the nature of censorship,” she wrote in a statement.

Ms. Reed added that his post about his departure was “teeming with distortions and inaccuracies — all of them designed to make him appear a victim, rather than a grown person throwing a tantrum.”

The statement included some qualified praise.

“We have the greatest respect for the journalist Glenn Greenwald used to be, and we remain proud of much of the work we did with him over the past six years,” the editor wrote. “It is Glenn who has strayed from his original journalistic roots, not the Intercept.”

In a phone interview, Mr. Greenwald said he had received a “story memo” from The Intercept outlining what the publication would allow and not allow in his article. “My arrangement with The Intercept since it began is my opinion pieces are not edited by anyone,” he said.

In his resignation post, Mr. Greenwald referred to “the Hunter Biden materials,” suggesting that the disputed article was about digital data taken from a laptop computer said to belong to the candidate’s son.

The Intercept was founded in 2013 by Mr. Greenwald, the filmmaker Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill, with backing from the eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar.

Substack, Personal Opinion: My Resignation From The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald, Oct. 29, 2020. The same trends of repression, censorship and ideological homogeneity plaguing the national press generally have engulfed the media outlet I co-founded, culminating in censorship of my own articles. Today I sent my glenn greenwald firstlookintention to resign from The Intercept, the news outlet I co-founded in 2013 with Jeremy Scahill and Laura Poitras, as well as from its parent company First Look Media.

The final, precipitating cause is that The Intercept’s editors, in violation of my contractual right of editorial freedom, censored an article I wrote this week, refusing to publish it unless I remove all sections critical of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, the candidate vehemently supported by all New-York-based Intercept editors involved in this effort at suppression.

The censored article, based on recently revealed emails and witness testimony, raised critical questions about Biden’s conduct. Not content to simply prevent publication of this article at the media outlet I co-founded, these Intercept editors also demanded that I refrain from exercising a separate contractual right to publish this article with any other publication.

I had no objection to their disagreement with my views of what this Biden evidence shows: as a last-ditch attempt to avoid being censored, I encouraged them to air their disagreements with me by writing their own articles that critique my perspectives and letting readers decide who is right, the way any confident and healthy media outlet would. But modern media outlets do not air dissent; they quash it. So censorship of my article, rather than engagement with it, was the path these Biden-supporting editors chose.

The censored article will be published on this page shortly. My letter of intent to resign, which I sent this morning to First Look Media’s President Michael Bloom, is published below.

As of now, I will be publishing my journalism here on Substack, where numerous other journalists, including my good friend, the great intrepid reporter Matt Taibbi, have come in order to practice journalism free of the increasingly repressive climate that is engulfing national mainstream media outlets across the country.

This was not an easy choice: I am voluntarily sacrificing the support of a large institution and guaranteed salary in exchange for nothing other than a belief that there are enough people who believe in the virtues of independent journalism and the need for free discourse who will be willing to support my work by subscribing.

I began writing about politics fifteen years ago with the goal of combatting media propaganda and repression, and — regardless of the risks involved — simply cannot accept any situation, no matter how secure or lucrative, that forces me to submit my journalism and right of free expression to its suffocating constraints and dogmatic dictates.

ny times logoNew York Times, Chris Christie Makes Cameo Video For Montana Democrat (By Mistake), Jonah Engel Bromwich and Ezra Marcus, Oct. 29, 2020.  Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor, on Thursday became the latest Republican politician to be fooled into making a campaign video on behalf of a Democrat.

Mr. Christie is one of many of Mr. Trump’s current and former associates available for hire on Cameo, an app that allows users to commission personalized videos from minor — and increasingly major — celebrities.

The video, which cost $200, was framed as a jovial message to a person named Greg, who Mr. Christie was prompted to encourage to return to New Jersey, Greg’s former home.

What Mr. Christie did not know was that the video was meant for Greg Gianforte, the Republican nominee in Montana’s governor’s race. It was commissioned by the campaign of Mr. Gianforte’s opponent, Mike Cooney.

Mr. Cooney’s staff ordered up the Cameo video on Wednesday, and Mr. Christie turned the assignment around quickly, delivering it that evening. (The celebrities available for hire on Cameo are told who to address in their video, but usually do not know the identity of the recipient.)

“Think about everything we got back here,” Mr. Christie says in the video, cajoling “Greg” to return to New Jersey. “We got Taylor ham. We’ve got Bruce Springsteen. We’ve got Jon Bon Jovi. We’ve got the Jersey Shore. We’ve got the boardwalks.”

“We’ve got all that stuff back here that is waiting for you, but more than anything else, Mike and your whole family, they want you back here,” he added.

Then he jokingly threatened to retrieve the addressee himself, if he wouldn’t return willingly. “I don’t think that’s what you want, Greg,” Mr. Christie said.

On Thursday, Mr. Cooney posted the video on Twitter, framing it as a “special message” for his opponent.

Mr. Christie responded by telling NJ Advance Media that he had been hoodwinked, and he tweeted about the incident, emphasizing that he was on Cameo for the benefit of a New Jersey-based charity.

“Shame on @CooneyforMT,” he said in his tweet, stating his support for Mr. Gianforte. (With five days to go, the Montana governor’s race is tight; in a poll released on Wednesday, Mr. Cooney and Mr. Gianforte were tied.)

The idea to prank Mr. Christie originated with Mr. Cooney’s campaign manager, Brad Elkins, who spotted the former governor on Cameo. The move was meant to emphasize a message that Mr. Cooney’s campaign has been pushing: that Mr. Gianforte — who was born in California and spent his early adulthood in New Jersey — is an outsider, with outsider values.

“It’s been a fun day,” said Matt Fidel, a campaign spokesman.

Other Trump associates have been susceptible to pranks like the one organized by Mr. Cooney’s staff. In the last several months, Rob Flaherty, the digital director of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidential campaign, has commissioned Cameo videos from one of Mr. Trump’s former campaign managers, Corey Lewandowski, and Sebastian Gorka, a former White House adviser, as well as the president’s longtime friend Roger Stone.

Each video was made to pump up “Joey” (Mr. Biden) before his debates with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Flaherty tweeted the first clip, from Mr. Lewandowski, on Sept. 29; the one from Mr. Gorka, on Oct. 15; and the final one, from Mr. Stone, on Oct. 22. (The second debate was canceled after a disagreement over Covid-19 safety protocols.)

In the first video, Mr. Lewandowski lamented to “Joey” that “some people out there” are “spreading some nasty rumors about you.”

“Don’t let ’em get to you,” Mr. Lewandowski advised. “Take the fight right to them.”

Mr. Gorka chose what he called “an old Latin saying” to get his point across.

“Nil carborundum illegitimi, don’t let the bastards grind you down,” he said. “We have a republic to save, keep doing what you do. God bless America, MAGA.”

And Mr. Stone encouraged “Joey” to talk trash about his opponents, using a ruder word. “Good luck to you Joey,” he said.

Mr. Flaherty was inspired by Caitlin Legacki, a former campaign press secretary for the New Hampshire senator Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat. Ms. Legacki had previously pranked Mr. Lewandowski, commissioning a pep talk from him for Ms. Shaheen and one of her spokesmen, Josh Marcus-Blank.

But Steve Bullock, the current governor of Montana, was even earlier to the trend than Ms. Legacki. In the fall of 2019, he posted a Cameo featuring the former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci.

“We support you, Steve B. I know you’ve got a tough race ahead of you, but you’ve done this before. You know how to win,” says Mr. Scaramucci in the video, unwittingly addressing Gov. Bullock — who was then campaigning to be president — and referring to himself as “the Mooch.” “I’m behind you 100 percent. See you at the finish line.”

In response to the prank, Mr. Scaramucci teased Mr. Bullock about his fund-raising capacity, said that the money he made would go to charity, and wished the Montana governor a Happy Halloween.

 

U.S. Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, How a ‘diabolical’ former DEA staffer conned the intelligence community, Rachel Weiner, Oct. 29, 2020 (print ed.). Garrison Courtney, a onetime Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman who pretended to be in the CIA as part of a years-long scam, was sentenced to seven years in prison.

In the fall of 2015, the head of Air Force intelligence got an odd pitch from a supposed deep cover operative.

The man said he was going undercover at various companies to ferret out would-be leakers and spies. He wanted the Air Force involved.

Then-Lt. Gen. Robert Otto said the man, who had gotten in touch through another high-ranking Air Force official, spouted “all kinds of names and facts” and claimed other powerful people were on board.

Otto was skeptical.

“It just sounded — the technical term is ‘fishy,’ ” he said.

The military leader started asking around. By the time he met with the man a few months later, Otto was wearing a wire for the FBI. He had concluded that the program was a fraud.

garrison courtneyGarrison Courtney, right, who conducted a years-long scheme by pretending to be working undercover in a government program, was sentenced to seven years in prison. (DEA)

That meeting helped unravel a years-long scheme by Garrison Courtney, a onetime spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration who managed to burrow into the intelligence community, roping in more than a dozen public officials and as many defense contractors along the way.

Pretending to be with the CIA, Courtney convinced contractors to hire him as cover for a ­top-secret program; he promised government reimbursement for his salary and a chance at lucrative contracts. By the time the scheme was uncovered in the spring of 2016, he had gotten a government procurement job that positioned him to make good on those promises. Prosecutors say that beyond the $4.5 million he fleeced over four years, he had a list of $3.7 billion in contracts he hoped to influence.

“If you’re extremely brazen and arrogant . . . and diabolical, there is a lot you can get away with,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “It’s a huge teachable moment for the government.”

On Wednesday, the 44-year-old Tampa man apologized for the “fear and chaos” as he was sentenced in federal court in Alexandria, Va., to seven years in prison for a single count of wire fraud.

 

Oct. 28

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Reponses

 

Trump Money Watch

 

Law, Elections, Politics

 

U.S. Political Scandal / Media News

 

More On U.S. Elections, Politics

 

World News

 

U.S. Crime, Cults

 

Media News

 

Top Stories

djt bo palmer

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: In scathing speech, Obama embraces his inner Trump troll, Aaron Blake, Oct. 28, 2020 (print ed.). In remarks Tuesday in Orlando, the former president went after President Trump in strikingly personal terms.

Former presidents generally stay out of the spotlight — particularly when it comes to attacking their successors. No president wants their actions to be second-guessed by those who preceded them. Those former presidents would also often very much like to avoid getting dragged into the kinds of political fights that they have been subjected to for four or eight years, so there’s something of an unwritten rule and self-reinforcing cycle about how things should be handled.

Barack Obama, though, apparently believes that the moment calls for something else entirely — and he upped the ante significantly Tuesday.

Obama and his wife, former first lady Michelle Obama, have stepped away from this protocol in recent months, particular at the Democratic National Convention last month, in which both went after Trump in very direct ways.

Obama’s speech Tuesday in Orlando moved the ball even further. In many ways, Obama seemed to be making a concerted effort to troll the troller-in-chief president. He attacked Trump in very personal ways, with his comments often dripping with incredulity. He seemed to want to elicit a reaction from his successor — a reaction he soon got.

“What’s his closing argument? That people are too focused on covid. He said this at one of his rallies: ‘Covid covid covid,’ he’s complaining,” Obama said, referring to Trump’s regular complaints about the media’s focus on the coronavirus. “He’s jealous of covid’s media coverage.”

Obama pointed to the twin outbreaks in the White House, the first apparently stemming from the announcement of Amy Coney Barrett as Trump’s Supreme Court pick last month, and the second this week inside Vice President Pence’s office.

“I lived in the White House for a while,” Obama said with a smile. “You know, it’s a controlled environment. You can take some preventive measures in the White House to avoid getting sick. Except this guy can’t seem to do it. He’s turned the White House into a hot zone."

Obama went on to go after Trump for his April comments about whether disinfectants could be injected into people — which Trump maintains was a joke but during which his demeanor suggested otherwise.

“Last week, when Trump was asked if he’d do anything differently, you know what he said? He said: Not much, not much. Really!? Not much? You can’t think of anything that you might be doing differently, like maybe you shouldn’t have gone on TV and suggested we might inject bleach to cure covid?” Obama said. “That’s not something you said, you know, maybe I shouldn’t have said that?"

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Biden leads Trump narrowly in Michigan, significantly in Wisconsin, Scott Clement, Dan Balz and Emily Guskin, Oct. 28, 2020. Strong support among women powers former vice president Joe Biden’s advantages in both states, while rising coronavirus concerns in Wisconsin are hampering President Trump, according to a pair of Washington Post-ABC News polls.

Former vice president Joe Biden continues to outpace President Trump in two crucial Midwest battlegrounds, currently holding a slight lead over the president in Michigan while showing a much more substantial advantage in Wisconsin, according to a pair of Washington Post-ABC News polls.

The surveys show Biden narrowly ahead of Trump among likely voters in Michigan by 51 percent to 44 percent, with Libertarian Party nominee Jo Jorgensen at 3 percent. In Wisconsin, likely voters favor Biden by 57 percent to 40 percent, with Jorgensen at 2 percent. Among all registered voters, Biden’s edge in Michigan is five points, while he leads by 17 points in Wisconsin.

joe biden

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden imagines a post-Trump nation, president steps up attacks, Sean Sullivan, Anne Gearan and Felicia Sonmez, Oct. 28, 2020 (print ed.). Joe Biden launched a closing argument promising to heal the country in the spirit of FDR, while President Trump attacked Democrats, mail-in ballots and virus testing.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump to strip protections from Tongass National Forest, one of the biggest temperate rainforests, Juliet Eilperin, Oct. 28, 2020. President Trump will open up all 16.7 million acres of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest to logging and other forms of development, according to a notice posted Wednesday, stripping protections that had safeguarded one of the world’s largest intact temperate rainforests for nearly two decades.

As of Thursday, it will be legal for logging companies to build roads and cut and remove timber throughout more than 9.3 million acres of forest — featuring old-growth stands of red and yellow cedar, Sitka spruce and Western hemlock. The relatively-pristine expanse is also home to plentiful salmon runs and imposing fjords. The decision, which will be published in the Federal Register, reverses protections President Bill Clinton put in place in 2001 and is one of the most sweeping public lands rollbacks Trump has enacted.

For years, federal and academic scientists have identified Tongass as an ecological oasis that serves as a massive carbon sink while providing key habitat for wild Pacific salmon and trout, Sitka black-tailed deer and myriad other species. It boasts the highest density of brown bears in North America, and its trees — some of which are between 300 and 1,000 years old — absorb at least 8 percent of all the carbon stored in the entire Lower 48′s forests combined.

miles taylor screenshot

ny times logoNew York Times, Miles Taylor, a Former Homeland Security Official, Reveals He Was ‘Anonymous,’ Michael D. Shear, Oct. 28, 2020. Mr. Taylor’s criticisms of President Trump in a New York Times Op-Ed article and subsequent book roiled Washington. He resigned from the administration last year.

Miles Taylor, shown above in a screenshot, the former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security, was the anonymous author of The New York Times Op-Ed article in 2018 whose description of President Trump as “impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective” roiled Washington and set off a hunt for his identity, Mr. Taylor confirmed Wednesday.

Mr. Taylor was also the anonymous author of A Warning, a book he wrote the following year that described the president as an “undisciplined” and “amoral” leader whose abuse of power threatened the foundations of American democracy. He acknowledged that he was the author of both the book and the opinion article in an interview and in a three-page statement he posted online.

us dhs big eagle logo4Mr. Taylor resigned from the Department of Homeland Security in June 2019, and went public with his criticism of Mr. Trump this past summer. He released a video just before the start of the Republican National Convention declaring that the president was unfit for office and endorsed Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee.

But Mr. Taylor, who had repeatedly denied being Anonymous, did not reveal himself to be the author of the opinion article and book at the time. Confronted with Mr. Taylor’s public criticism in August, the president wrote on Twitter that he was a “DISGRUNTLED EMPLOYEE named Miles Taylor, who I do not know (never heard of him).”

The Op-Ed pages of The Times are managed separately from the news department, which was never told of Anonymous’s identity.

Mr. Taylor served for two years as a top aide to Kirstjen Nielsen, Mr. Trump’s third homeland security secretary, and wrote in The Times that he was part of a cadre of officials around Mr. Trump who were quietly working to “frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”

As a senior administration official, Mr. Taylor often interacted with the president at the White House, particularly on issues related to immigration, cybersecurity and terrorism. He left government after Ms. Nielsen was fired and later became the head of national security relations for Google. He has been on personal leave from the company for the past several months after endorsing Mr. Biden and has been organizing other Republicans to campaign against Mr. Trump’s re-election.

The disclosure of Mr. Taylor’s identity is likely to renew the debate over his motives and raise questions about whether his position in the Trump administration was senior enough to justify the decisions by The Times’s Opinion desk and the book’s publisher to keep his identity secret.

Mr. Taylor’s essay has had less impact over time as an array of onetime Trump administration officials have come forward with names attached to publicly criticize the president’s leadership and character, among them the former defense secretary, Jim Mattis, and Mr. Trump’s third national security adviser, John R. Bolton.

In the book, Mr. Taylor said he decided to remain anonymous because he believed revealing his identity would have allowed Mr. Trump and his allies to distract attention from the substance of the critique he leveled against the president.

 

david correia djt

Law & Crime, Lev Parnas’s Business Associate David Correia, Fraud Guarantee Co-Founder with Giuliani Ties, Will Plead Guilty, Adam Klasfeld, Oct 28, 2020. David Correia, above left, a business associate of impeachment figure Lev Parnas who did business with Rudy Giuliani in the company Fraud Guarantee, plans to plead guilty on Thursday morning on unspecified charges.

Federal prosecutors declined to comment on what counts of his indictment Correia plans to plead guilty to or whether he intends to cooperate in the prosecution of Parnas, his co-defendants, or potentially others who have not been named. Correia, however, has been charged with the two key conspiracies that prosecutors hope to prove at trial next year: illegally funneling foreign money into U.S. elections and duping people to invest in Fraud Guarantee, a company that reportedly paid $500,000 to Giuliani.

At least seven alleged victims invested in Fraud Guarantee, putting in hundreds of thousands of dollars for a total of more than $2 million. Prosecutors say that’s because Parnas and Correia misled them about how much they had contributed to the company and how much money the company had raised overall.

“We couldn’t say it better ourselves — the behavior alleged today is indeed fraudulent — guaranteed,” FBI Assistant Director William Sweeney said when prosecutors unveiled those charges in September.

Parnas’s attorney Joseph Bondy declined to comment. Correia’s attorney William Harrington, from the firm Goodwin Procter, did not immediately respond to phone and emails requests for comment. Neither did Giuliani through his spokeswoman Christianné Allen.

A South Florida man who had partnered with Parnas on a marijuana business, Correia has been an ancillary figure in a case tied to President Trump’s impeachment. He kept a low profile as his co-defendant Parnas shared thousands of files that the House Intelligence Committee used to build a case that Trump abused his office to manufacture dirt on his political rival, former vice president Joseph Biden. Parnas’s name appeared in the House Impeachment Report more than 100 times. His associate Igor Fruman’s popped up more than a dozen times. Correia’s name did not come up once on the document.

If Correia becomes the government’s first cooperating witness, his public profile could rise in this closely watched prosecution. He is charged with six of seven counts of the indictment, including falsifying records, soliciting campaign contributions from a foreign national, conspiring to defraud the United States, and attempting to commit wire fraud. Prosecutors claim Correia was involved in a $325,000 contribution that Parnas and Fruman made to the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action via their company Global Energy Producers. The indictment also places Correia inside an alleged conspiracy to funnel money from the still-unidentified “Foreign National-1,” with whom prosecutors claim Parnas, Fruman, Correia and a fourth man Andrey Kukushkin planned to open a marijuana business in the fall of 2018.

Related story below: Igor Fruman, top left, and Lev Parnas, two Soviet-born associates of Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney at bottom of a Wall Street Journal graphic above by Laura Kammermann, appear to be deeply involved in the Ukraine scandal.

Trump Counsel Rudolph Giuliani, left, with businessman Lev Parnas last month at the Trump International Hotel shortly before the arrest of Parnas and his colleague Igor Fruman while boarding a flight to Vienna from Dulles International Airport.

Bloomberg, Giuliani Associates’ Co-Defendant to Enter New Plea Thursday, Christian Berthelsen, Oct. 28, 2020. A co-defendant of two associates of Rudy Giuliani who has denied laundering foreign money into U.S. political campaigns is scheduled to change his plea in the case, according to a court filing.

The co-defendant, David Correia, was charged along with Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman in 2019 with a wide-ranging scheme to solicit campaign donations from foreign investors and use them to advance business ventures in the U.S.

While most of the focus has been on the role Parnas and Fruman played in helping Giuliani and President Donald Trump in Ukraine, which figured in Trump’s impeachment, other charges involving Correia included laundering donations from a foreign backer to launch a marijuana business in Nevada.

If Correia pleads guilty to any of the charges, it would constitute the first admission of guilt by any of the defendants in the case.

djt resized joe biden

Palmer Report, Opinion: Joe Biden slams Donald Trump for stranding his supporters out in the cold in Omaha, Bill Palmer, Oct. 28, 2020. Last night Donald Trump and his campaign stranded hundreds (or thousands, depending on the reporting) of his own supporters in the freezing cold after his Omaha rally. The campaign was supposed to provide buses back to the airport, but that didn’t happen, and several of them ended up in the hospital with hypothermia.

bill palmer report logo headerEither Donald Trump and his campaign are so broke they couldn’t afford the buses, or so negligent they couldn’t be bothered to take care of their own supporters, or some combination of both. It’s not something that a competent and legitimate presidential campaign would have let happen, and even if it did happen, it would have been addressed immediately instead of dragging on for hours as the police tried to sort it out.

During his speech in Wilmington today, Joe Biden slammed the incident for being an “image that captures President Trump’s whole approach to this crisis.” Biden is right. Trump literally leaving his supporters out in the cold fits right in with how he’s left everyone to die in the pandemic, and how he keeps trying to take away people’s health care. Related stories below.

 

Virus Victims, Reponses.

djt council to reopen america fox

ny times logoNew York Times, Covid-19 Live Updates: A Record-Breaking Week for U.S. Virus Cases, Staff reports, Oct. 28, 2020 (print ed.). The country has averaged at least 71,000 new coronavirus cases a day over the past week, the most in any seven-day stretch of the pandemic. Russia imposes a nationwide mask mandate to stem rising virus cases.

  • As the virus reaches nearly every corner of the U.S., 3 counties still have not reported a case.
  • Protesters in Italy and Spain clash with police as they call for ‘freedom’ from virus restrictions.
  • Last hopes for virus relief before the election fade as Senate adjourns.
  • Eli Lilly said its antibody treatment does not work on patients hospitalized with Covid-19.

washington post logoWashington Post, President Trump declares coronavirus is ‘ending’ as virus rates spike and financial markets dip, Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey, Oct. 28, 2020 (print ed.). The pandemic remains the central issue of campaign one week before Election Day, as Joe Biden blistered the president for his handling of the pandemic.

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

  • World Cases: 44,390,071, Deaths: 1,174,096
  • U.S. Cases:     9,042,969, Deaths:    232,147

 

ny times logoNew York Times, As Cases Surge in Europe, Countries Weigh Sweeping Lockdowns, Staff reports, Oct. 28, 2020. After trying to slow the spread of a second wave of infections, France and Germany are expected to announce broader measures amid rising cases. U.S. hospitals are straining under an influx of virus patients. Here’s the latest.

  • A 46 percent spike in Covid-19 patients strains the capacities of hospitals in the U.S.
  • ‘I can never do enough’: I.C.U. workers record their anguish as the coronavirus surges.
  • U.S. reports a record 500,000 new cases in the past week, as the Trump administration says it is ending the pandemic.
  • Some college towns that were virus hot spots are cooling down.
  • In Australia, the lockdown that felt like it might last forever has finally ended.
  • The pandemic is Issue No. 1 on the campaign trail.
  • New Jersey’s largest city shuts down again as virus cases surge.
  • Drugmakers pledge 200 million doses of a potential vaccine to an international group seeking equal access.
  • A player was pulled from Tuesday’s World Series game after testing positive.
  • Thieves in Florida steal 6 million medical gloves headed for hospitals fighting the pandemic.

ny times logoNew York Times, Stocks Drop as Pandemic Restrictions Loom: Live Updates, Staff reports, Oct. 28, 2020. Stocks on Wall Street slid on Wednesday, erasing any remaining gains for October, and European shares sank to their lowest levels in months as investors began to worry about the measures governments might take to control the coronavirus pandemic’s new wave.

Leaders in France and Germany are weighing far more severe shutdowns to curb the virus’s spread after localized efforts seem to have failed. In the United States, New Jersey's largest city, Newark, has imposed a curfew and reinstated some limits on gatherings to control an outbreak there, while other local governments are considering similar steps.

The echoes of the pandemic’s early days, when the shutdowns took a heavy toll on the economy, are not lost on financial markets.

The S&P 500 fell as much as 3 percent Wednesday, bringing its decline for this week to about 5 percent and erasing its gains from the first three weeks of October. The Stoxx Europe 600 index tumbled 3 percent to its lowest level since May. Britain’s FTSE 100 index also fell more than than 3 percent, to its lowest since April.

Highlighting the economic concern, oil prices fell more than 5 percent. 

 

Trump Money Watch

donald trump money palmer report Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Trump’s company billed the government for at least $2.5 million. Here are the key charges, David A. Fahrenthold, Oct. 28, 2020 (print ed.). New records detail how the president’s visits drove government spending to his businesses, which charged for expenses as small as the water he drank.

President Trump has visited his own properties more than 280 times since he took office — hosting summits at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida, taking summer breaks at his club in Bedminster, N.J., and pausing international trips to visit his golf resorts in Scotland and Ireland.

These visits brought the president to familiar places, full of friends, family and political supporters.

They also brought his company money, from American taxpayers.

The Washington Post has obtained federal spending records showing that — while Trump was visiting his properties — his company was benefiting from payments from the U.S. government.

The total: at least $2.5 million in taxpayer funds. Much of that spending was triggered by Trump’s travel, or the travel of his family and aides.

These were some of the notable charges:

When Trump hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago in April 2017, Trump hosted a formal dinner at the club — and, over dessert, told Xi that the United States had fired missiles into Syria, he said. Trump later said the dessert was: “The most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen.”

Trump’s club later charged the government $7,000 for the 30-person dinner, including charges for wine, floral arrangements and decorative potted palm trees. The bill appears to include Trump’s own meal.

$17,000 per month for a cottage

Trump’s club in Bedminster, N.J., charges the Secret Service $17,000 a month, every month, from May to November each year. The reason: the Secret Service uses a cottage on the club grounds, near the cottages that Trump and his daughter Ivanka use.

These rental charges — which are unusually high for homes in the area — continue whether Trump or his family are present or not. The reason: A former administration official said that, because Trump’s travels are unpredictable, the Secret Service needed to have a place reserved just in case.

“If he came in the Oval on, let’s say, on a Wednesday and said, ‘I want to go this weekend,’ you have to be ready,” the former administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe internal administration matters.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: The President’s Taxes: How Trump Maneuvered His Way Out of Trouble in Chicago, David Enrich, Russ Buettner, Mike McIntire and Susanne Craig, Oct. 28, 2020 (print ed.). When his skyscraper proved a disappointment, Donald Trump defaulted on his loans, sued his bank, got much of the debt forgiven — and largely avoided paying taxes on it.

The financial crisis was in full swing when Donald J. Trump traveled to Chicago in late September 2008 to mark the near-completion of his 92-floor skyscraper.

The fortunes of big companies, small businesses and millions of Americans — including the Trumps — were in peril. But the family patriarch was jubilant as he stood on the terrace of his gleaming glass tower.

djt rnc“We’re in love with the building,” Mr. Trump gushed. “We’re very, very happy with what’s happened with respect to this building and how fast we put it up.”

He and his family hoped the Trump International Hotel & Tower would cement their company’s reputation as one of the world’s marquee developers of luxury real estate.

Instead, the skyscraper became another disappointment in a portfolio filled with them. Construction lagged. Condos proved hard to sell. Retail space sat vacant.

Yet for Mr. Trump and his company, the Chicago experience also turned out to be something else: the latest example of his ability to strong-arm major financial institutions and exploit the tax code to cushion the blow of his repeated business failures.

The president’s federal income tax records, obtained by The New York Times, show for the first time that, since 2010, his lenders have forgiven about $287 million in debt that he failed to repay. The vast majority was related to the Chicago project.

How Mr. Trump found trouble in Chicago, and maneuvered his way out of it, is a case study in doing business the Trump way.

When the project encountered problems, he tried to walk away from his huge debts. For most individuals or businesses, that would have been a recipe for ruin. But tax-return data, other records and interviews show that rather than warring with a notoriously litigious and headline-seeking client, lenders cut Mr. Trump slack — exactly what he seemed to have been counting on.

irs logoBig banks and hedge funds gave him years of extra time to repay his debts. Even after Mr. Trump sued his largest lender, accusing it of preying on him, the bank agreed to lend him another $99 million — more than twice as much as was previously known — so that he could pay back what he still owed the bank on the defaulted Chicago loan, records show.

Ultimately, Mr. Trump’s lenders forgave much of what he owed.

Those forgiven debts are now part of a broader investigation of Mr. Trump’s business by the New York attorney general. They normally would have generated a big tax bill, since the Internal Revenue Service treats canceled debts as income. Yet as has often happened in his long career, Mr. Trump appears to have paid almost no federal income tax on that money, in part because of large losses in his other businesses, The Times’s analysis of his tax records found.

Alan Garten, the Trump Organization’s chief legal officer, said the company and Mr. Trump appropriately accounted for and paid all taxes due on the forgiven debts.

“These were all arm’s length transactions that were voluntarily entered into between sophisticated parties many years ago in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis and the resulting collapse of the real estate markets,” Mr. Garten said.

On television back in those heady Chicago days, the future president was playing a wildly successful real estate developer, and the shimmering new skyscraper became part of that mystique.

It was the biggest thing Mr. Trump ever built. It was also the last.

The Money Behind the Project

Since at least the 1990s, Mr. Trump had dreamed of erecting a skyscraper in the Windy City. “I had hoped to build something fantastic in Chicago for some time,” Mr. Trump would later write in The Chicago Tribune.

He selected a riverside plot of land that was home to the squat, seven-floor Sun-Times building. In 2001, he unveiled plans for what would be the tallest high-rise built in the United States since the 110-story Sears Tower was completed in Chicago in 1973.Top Stories

The condos, some priced at more than $4 million, would have sweeping views of Chicago and Lake Michigan. Rooms in the hotel, occupying lower floors of the building, would be for sale, too. Mr. Trump’s company would make money from selling the units (and parking spaces) and operating the building.

To pay for the construction, Mr. Trump arranged for two of his L.L.C.s, 401 North Wabash Venture — named for the project’s address — and its parent company, 401 Mezz Venture, to borrow more than $700 million.

Mr. Trump went to his longtime lender, Deutsche Bank, for the bulk of the money. Since 1998, he had borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars from the German bank. It had been so eager to establish a foothold in the United States that it had overlooked his history of defaults.

This time, Mr. Trump assured Deutsche Bank officials, including Justin Kennedy, the son of the now-retired Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy, that the Chicago development was a guaranteed moneymaker. In a sign of the Trump family’s commitment to the project, Mr. Trump told his bankers that his daughter Ivanka would be in charge. (Mr. Trump also appointed the 2004 winner of “The Apprentice” as the development’s “president.”)

Deutsche Bank agreed to lend $640 million to 401 North Wabash Venture. Mr. Trump agreed to personally guarantee $40 million of the loan. If his L.L.C. were to default, Deutsche Bank could collect that money directly from Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump also went to Fortress Investment Group, a hedge fund and private equity company, for $130 million. This was a so-called mezzanine loan, which meant that it would be repaid only after the Deutsche Bank debt had been satisfied. Because of the greater risk, the Fortress loan came with a double-digit interest rate. The agreement with Fortress also required Mr. Trump’s 401 Mezz Venture to pay a $49 million “exit fee” when it repaid the loan.

If Mr. Trump defaulted, his lenders could seize the building.

Deutsche Bank and Fortress both planned to chop up the loans and sell at least some of the pieces. Deutsche Bank sold them mostly to American, European and Asian banks, Fortress mostly to private equity and hedge funds, including Dune Capital Management, which had recently been co-founded by Steven Mnuchin, the future Treasury secretary.

The loans were due in May 2008. By then, the proceeds from selling condos, hotel units and parking spaces were projected to generate enough cash for Mr. Trump to repay what he owed.

Using a thick black pen, Mr. Trump signed the loan agreements on Feb. 4, 2005. A month later, construction began.

Work on the project went more slowly than planned, and the residential portion was still under construction as the loans came due.

With the financial crisis enveloping the world, finding buyers for multimillion-dollar apartments suddenly became much harder. In the spring of 2008, Mr. Trump asked Deutsche Bank to delay the loan’s due date. The bank gave him an extra six months.

In mid-September, the crisis crescendoed with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers. Financial markets went haywire. The economy was on the precipice of a depression.

About a week later, Mr. Trump showed up in Chicago for the ceremony to mark the skyscraper’s near-completion.

After addressing the small crowd, Mr. Trump and three of his adult children — Ivanka, Donald Jr. and Eric — placed their hands in wet cement rectangles to commemorate the day. “I don’t want to tell you what that feels like,” Mr. Trump cracked, before waving his cement-caked hands for the cameras.

At that point, at least 159 units in the building were still unsold, and many more were under contract but hadn’t closed, according to New York court records. That meant hundreds of millions of dollars that Mr. Trump and his family had counted on to repay Deutsche Bank and Fortress hadn’t yet materialized. And the loans were due in barely six weeks.

Mr. Trump sought another extension. This time, Deutsche Bank said no.

Mr. Trump’s company still owed Deutsche Bank about $334 million in principal and interest, and Fortress $130 million, not including interest and fees.

Mr. Trump went on the offensive. In a letter to Deutsche Bank on Nov. 4, he accused it of helping ignite the financial crisis. This was important, because Mr. Trump went on to claim that the crisis constituted a “force majeure” — an act of God, like a natural disaster — that entitled him to extra time to repay the loans.

A few days later, Mr. Trump and his companies sued Deutsche Bank and Fortress, along with the other banks and hedge funds that had purchased pieces of the loans.

The suit accused Deutsche Bank of engaging in “predatory lending practices” against Mr. Trump. He sought $3 billion in damages.

Turning Unpaid Debt Into Canceled Debt

Why didn’t the lenders seize the building?

Going to court to take over the unfinished skyscraper promised to be a costly, yearslong process, especially given Mr. Trump’s reputation for using the legal system to drag out fights and grind down opponents. It seemed simpler to resolve the dispute.

On July 28, 2010, lawyers for Mr. Trump, Deutsche Bank and Fortress notified the court that they had reached a private settlement. The terms weren’t disclosed.

But Mr. Trump’s federal tax returns, as well as loan documents filed in Cook County, Ill., provide clues to what happened: Mr. Trump was let off the hook for about $270 million. It was the type of generous financial break that few American companies or individuals could ever expect to receive, especially without filing for bankruptcy protection.

 

More On U.S. Law, Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Former U.S. attorneys — all Republicans — back Biden, saying Trump threatens ‘the rule of law,’ Tom Hamburger and Devlin Barrett, Oct. 28, 2020 (print ed.). Twenty former U.S. attorneys — all of them Republicans — on Tuesday publicly called President Trump “a threat to the rule of law in our country,” and urged that he be replaced in November with his Democratic opponent, former vice president Joe Biden.

“The President has clearly conveyed that he expects his Justice Department appointees and prosecutors to serve his personal and political interests,” said the former prosecutors in an open letter. They accused Trump of taking “action against those who have stood up for the interests of justice.”

The letter, signed by prosecutors appointed by every GOP president from Eisenhower to Trump, is the latest instance of Republicans backing Biden. In August, dozens of GOP national security experts signed a full-page newspaper ad endorsing Biden over Trump.

“He has politicized the Justice Department, dictating its priorities along political lines and breaking down the barrier that prior administrations had maintained between political and prosecutorial decision-making,” their letter says.

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Rejects Bid to Shield Trump From Carroll Lawsuit, Alan Feuer and Benjamin Weiser, Oct. 28, 2020 (print ed.). A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that President Trump can be personally sued for defamation in connection with his denial while in office of a decades-old rape allegation.

The judge, Lewis A. Kaplan of Federal District Court in Manhattan, rejected the Justice Department’s attempt to step into the case and defend the president, and his ruling means that, for the moment, a lawsuit by the writer E. Jean Carroll can move forward against Mr. Trump, in his capacity as a private citizen.

e jean carrollMs. Carroll (shown at left and in a file photo below right) has accused Mr. Trump of raping her in a department store dressing room in the 1990s. Her lawsuit claims he harmed her reputation when he denied the attack last year and branded her a liar.

Last month, the Justice Department abruptly intervened on Mr. Trump’s behalf in the suit, which had been filed in state court in New York, citing a law designed to protect federal employees against litigation stemming from the performance of their duties.

e jean carroll twitterUnder that law, the Federal Tort Claims Act, the department sought to move Ms. Carroll’s suit to federal court and to substitute the United States for Mr. Trump as the defendant — a move that would have likely led to the dismissal of the charges.

While the Justice Department has used the law to shield members of Congress from being sued for defamation over things they have said, the department has rarely, if ever, used it to grant immunity to a president.

Judge Kaplan, however, ruled against the department’s maneuver, saying Mr. Trump was not acting in his official capacity when he denied the accusation. “His comments concerned an alleged sexual assault that took place several decades before he took office, and the allegations have no relationship to the official business of the United States,” the judge wrote.

ny times logoNew York Times, Kavanaugh’s Opinion in Wisconsin Voting Case Raises Alarms Among Democrats, Jim Rutenberg and Nick Corasaniti, Oct. 28, 2020 (print ed.). The Supreme Court justice’s suggestion that ballots arriving after Election Day could “flip the results” left voting rights activists concerned about how the court might rule in postelection fights.

The Supreme Court decision on Monday barring the counting of mail-in ballots in Wisconsin that arrive after Election Day was not a surprise for many Democrats, who had pressed for it but expected to lose.

But a concurring opinion by Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh set off alarms among civil rights and Democratic Party lawyers, who viewed it as giving public support to President Trump’s arguments that any results counted after Nov. 3 could be riddled with fraudulent votes — an assertion unsupported by the history of elections in the United States.

The decision also unnerved Democrats and local election officials in Pennsylvania, where Republicans are asking the Supreme Court to weigh in again on whether the state can accept ballots received up to three days after Election Day. While Democrats in Wisconsin had been appealing for an extension, the current rules in Pennsylvania allow for ballots to arrive three days after the election. Any change could threaten the more than 1.4 million absentee ballots not yet returned.

In his opinion, attached to the 5-to-3 ruling against the deadline extension in Wisconsin, Justice Kavanaugh wrote that Election Day mail-in deadlines were devised “to avoid the chaos and suspicions of impropriety that can ensue if thousands of absentee ballots flow in after Election Day and potentially flip the results of an election.”

He added, “Those states also want to be able to definitively announce the results of the election on election night, or as soon as possible thereafter.”

Justice Kavanaugh’s statement mirrored in some ways Mr. Trump’s efforts to suggest that only ballots counted by Election Day should decide the result, and more generally to push unfounded claims about widespread voter fraud.

Earlier on Monday, the president had posted on Twitter that election officials “must have final total on November 3rd,” alleging without evidence that there are “big problems” with mail-in ballots. Twitter labeled the tweet “misleading.”

The Wisconsin ruling was the latest in a series of court decisions setting the rules for how voters in different states can cast their ballots during the coronavirus pandemic and when the cutoff is for receiving them.

The Wisconsin ruling revealed a stark divide among the justices in their understanding of the role of the courts in protecting the right to vote during a pandemic and left voting rights activists concerned about how the court’s conservative majority would rule in any postelection fights.

 

U.S. Political Scandal / Media News

Politico, MAGA scrambles to repair the Hunter Biden narrative, Tin Nguyen, Oct. 28, 2020. Instead of publishing the more salacious allegations, conservative media has been more focused on covering alleged suppression of the story.

Weeks ago, when Rudy Giuliani first threw the contents of Hunter Biden’s alleged laptop online, he promised a trove of even more damning information 10 days before the election.

Yet with less than a week to go, Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, is still moving down the conservative media food chain, looking for takers.

The Wall Street Journal and Fox News have both reported finding no evidence that former Vice President Joe Biden benefited from the Hunter Biden business dealings that have drawn scrutiny.

More explicitly pro-Trump media outlets — OAN, Breitbart, Newsmax — have mostly shied away from publishing fresher, more salacious allegations. And conservative talking heads — pundits, politicians and loud MAGA Twitter personalities alike — have been more focused on the meta narrative around the laptop, arguing that mainstream media, social media companies and the deep state are conspiring to prevent President Donald Trump’s reelection by suppressing the story.

When Breitbart did touch on new revelations, it preemptively distanced itself, carefully framing a fresh trove of emails as an independent investigation by Peter Schweizer, author of Clinton Cash, the 2015 look into the Clinton family’s extensive foreign financial ties that made several overstated or inaccurate claims.

So the story has gone elsewhere. Videos apparently showing Hunter Biden in compromising positions, allegedly obtained from the laptop, have been uploaded to a Chinese website owned partially by Steve Bannon, the former Trump aide who has been helping Giuliani. The explicit photos ended up on Gateway Pundit, a site known for promoting conspiracy theories about various Democratic figures. An email allegedly tying Hunter Biden to a Kazakh oligarch ended up in the British tabloid The Daily Mail, with only a passing mention of Biden. Other details have been published by outlets connected to prominent conservative super PACs.

Ultimately, the bulk of fresh allegations have been reduced to public statements from Tony Bobulinski, Hunter Biden’s former business partner, who found a willing partner in Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Tuesday night. Bobulinski got an extensive, 45-minute segment to lay out his case to Carlson’s millions of viewers. Yet elsewhere, Giuliani has groused on his podcast, “Common Sense,” that the public can only find out the truth from him, “because I'm not allowed on main television to tell you these things.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Trump’s hunt for red October, Robert Harrington, right, Oct. 28, 2020. What kind of Republican presidential candidate holds rallies (of the robert harrington twitterNuremberg-variety) in October of an election year where he brags about the kind of poll numbers he’s getting from West Virginia and Utah? What kind of presidential candidate is still obsessed with crowd size from his inauguration three and one half whole years after the inauguration ended?

What kind of presidential candidate complains about a worldwide pandemic, sarcastically saying, “COVID! COVID! COVID!,” in the midst of a rally, as if the death of 232,084 Americans (as I write this, with more than a thousand deaths in the last 24 hours) is becoming tedious?

bill palmer report logo headerI’ll tell you what kind. Donald Trump. And he’s losing.

Donald Trump’s desperate hunt for red October is a pathetic signal that he’s losing and he knows it. The stale slogan to “Make America Great Again” is redolent of an outsider looking in. But Trump is no longer the outsider. He’s been in charge for almost four years and every one of those four years have been unique disasters.

In 2017 Trump showed us who he loves when sided with white supremacists at Charlottesville. In 2018 he showed us who he’s working for when he betrayed America’s intelligence communities by siding with Vladimir Putin at Helsinki. In 2019 he showed us to what depths he was willing to sink when he tried to steal the 2020 election by collusion with Ukraine — and he got impeached for his efforts. In 2020 Trump has shown us that he’s tired of the pandemic and prefers to declare an unearned victory over it rather than do any actual work. Meanwhile the United States has twenty percent of the world’s pandemic deaths with only 2.4 percent of the world’s population.

Meanwhile a religious fascist has been confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States, meanwhile another person of color has been summarily executed by “peace officers” in Philadelphia, meanwhile one thousand and thirty-nine Americans have died in the last 24 hours from COVID-19. Donald Trump’s biggest worry these days is that Leslie Stahl didn’t sufficiently coddle him with softball questions like the ones she gave Joe Biden, whom she didn’t even interview. As usual, everything is about Donald Trump. For Trump the presidency has been one continuous appeasement of his ego, and he clearly doesn’t give a crap about anything else.

 

Law, Politics, Threats

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s attacks on adversaries often followed by threats to their safety, Greg Miller and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Oct. 28, 2020. Public officials are increasingly forced to take extraordinary security precautions after vitriolic words by the president.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Jeering sign-wavers. Caravans of honking trucks. Voter intimidation or free speech? Abigail Hauslohner, Oct. 28, 2020 (print ed.). Amid the charged political rhetoric ahead of Election Day, some confrontations at polling sites seem on the cusp of violence. But much of it is protected campaigning, and legal.

Some of the loud displays, often from supporters of President Trump and particularly frustrating to Democrats, have prompted local law enforcement agencies to station officers near polling places to keep the peace. In some locations, they have sparked allegations of voter intimidation and fears of tinderbox confrontations on the cusp of escalation in the run-up to Election Day next week.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: No one mocks Trump like Barack Obama, Jennifer Rubin, right, Oct. 28, 2020. Former president Barack Obama is traveling to swing jennifer rubin new headshotstates to make the case for the Democratic presidential ticket, but his most effective contribution is in exposing and mocking President Trump’s inanities. Obama does not deploy goofy slurs or conspiracy theories; instead, he reminds us that what we are seeing is ridiculous, abnormal and unacceptable.

In Orlando on Tuesday, Obama told the crowd, “Our current president, he whines that ’60 Minutes’ is too tough,” he said referring to Trump’s walking out of an interview last week with CBS News’s Lesley Stahl. “You think he’s going to stand up to dictators? He thinks Lesley Stahl’s a bully.” He does not need to say Trump is a “crybaby” or “weak”; he lets Trump indict himself with his own conduct.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump campaign reportedly leaves supporters stranded in the cold after Omaha rally, several hospitalized, Bill Palmer, Oct 28, 2020. New polling suggests that Donald Trump’s recent campaign rallies, which involve few masks and no social distancing, are actually driving his poll numbers down. That reaction may be about to get even more negative, based on what’s reportedly playing out after Trump’s Omaha rally tonight.

bill palmer report logo headerAccording to the Twitter account monitoring the Omaha police scanner, the Trump campaign bused thousands of people from the airport to the rally, but didn’t make any arrangement to have them bused back. As a result some of them have been standing out in the freezing weather or trying to make the nearly four mile trek back to the airport in the dark. At last count thirty of them were in bad enough shape to need some form of medical attention, and seven of them have been taken to the hospital.

This tweet from the Omaha scanner sums up the chaos that the Trump campaign’s negligence has created: “Waterloo Medic 811 enroute to Lil’ Creighton Code 2 with a 68 y/o male who’s initial complaint was possible hypothermia and altered mental status … Officers picking up people wandering in the cold unable to locate their vehicles and are taking them to various parking lots.”

So the Trump campaign bused people from the airport to his Omaha rally but never bused them back, literally left them out in the cold, and now some of them are in the hospital. Keep in mind this is happening in a pandemic. Trump is literally killing his own supporters.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s Nebraska nightmare, Bill Palmer, Oct. 28, 2020. If you really want to know how a presidential campaign is going in the final days, look at where the candidates are visiting. Joe Biden campaigned in the traditionally red state of Georgia on Tuesday, a reminder of just how many states are currently in play for him. Donald Trump, on the other hand, campaigned in Nebraska.

bill palmer report logo headerIt’s not that Trump is going to lose Nebraska in full. It’s a deep red state; that’s not happening. It’s that Nebraska splits its electoral votes by district, and Biden is ahead in one of those districts. In fact the polls suggest that Trump has very little chance of winning that district. Yet if Trump loses that particular electoral vote, his mathematical path to winning the electoral college significantly narrows.

So here’s Donald Trump wasting time in Nebraska of all places, chasing a single electoral vote that he probably can’t win anyway, with just a week to go in the election, because Trump is in just that bad of a position. He’s playing defense. This is a nightmare scenario for him. Now is the time for us to play offense by working to achieve the highest voter turnout possible, and finish Trump off once and for all.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Week Before Election Day, More Than Half the 2016 Vote Is Already In, Staff report, Oct. 28, 2020 (print ed.). The pandemic, the fear of postal delays and the passions inspired by the presidential candidates have led to a record early vote of 69.5 million so far.

President Trump again attacked Michigan’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, at a rally in the state. Here’s the latest.

Joe Biden campaigned in Georgia, which Democrats have not carried since 1992, while President Trump held rallies in Wisconsin, Michigan and Nebraska. The Trump campaign’s website was temporarily defaced by hackers. A judge blocked an order by Michigan’s top elections official banning the open carrying of firearms at polling sites.

joe biden kamala harrisWith a week left until Election Day, the flood of people moved to cast their ballots early has grown so strong that the early vote has already exceeded half of the number of votes that were counted during the entire 2016 presidential election, according to data compiled by the United States Elections Project.

The coronavirus pandemic, the fear of postal delays and the passions inspired by the presidential candidates, both pro and con, have all contributed to the record early vote. As of Tuesday afternoon more than 69.5 million Americans had already mailed in their ballots or voted early in person, according to the data compiled by the project. That is 50.4 percent of the total number of votes that were counted during the entire 2016 election.

The early vote is even more dramatic in a number of key battleground states, including several that polls have suggested are unusually close this year. Texas has already received nearly 87 percent of the votes it counted in the 2016 election, Florida has already received more than two-thirds, North Carolina has received 72 percent and Georgia 71 percent. Wisconsin and Michigan are both approaching the halfway mark.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: ‘Fat and Happy’ With the Court, Did Republicans Lose Their Winning Issue? Jeremy W. Peters, Oct. 28, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump and his party pushed Justice Barrett’s confirmation through in record time. But they could find that satisfied voters, who no longer fear the specter of a liberal court, are also complacent.

The confirmation on Monday of Justice Amy Coney Barrett all but ensures a durable conservative majority on the Supreme Court for years to come and provides the capstone on the Trump administration’s broader effort to push the entire federal judiciary solidly to the right.

Its work has been so fast and so effective that there is only one vacancy now in the appellate courts: the seat left open by Justice Barrett’s promotion.

But President Trump and Republicans risk becoming victims of their own success. Without the specter of a liberal court to motivate conservative voters anymore, they may find themselves without the issue that played a crucial role in Mr. Trump’s unexpected victory four years ago and has fortified his political base throughout a tumultuous first term.

“It’s like the dog catching the car,” said Charlie Cook, editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, which handicaps elections and is forecasting a difficult environment for Republicans up and down the ballot.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Race Enters Last Week, Campaigns’ Strategies Show in Travel Choices, Staff reports, Oct. 28, 2020 (print ed.). The best way to tell which states President Trump and Joe Biden think are in play is to track their campaign travel. Burgess Owens, a Republican House candidate in Utah, accepted at least $135,000 in illegal donations.

Trips are being announced just a few days in advance, and the operative word is tentative. Candidates will make last-minute adjustments to their schedules based on the latest information from overnight polls (or prodding from worried supporters).

Case in point: Mr. Biden paid a quick trip to Pennsylvania on Monday. This is one of the most contested states on the map, which the president narrowly won last time and where polls now show Mr. Biden ahead. Mr. Trump has traveled so often to the state in recent days that it seems only a matter of time until Pennsylvania starts hitting him up for its resident income tax.

Mr. Biden heads to Georgia on Tuesday and to Iowa later in the week, two states Mr. Trump won in 2016 that are on the edge of the Democrats-have-a-chance map. It’s an aggressive move. Should Mr. Biden lose next Tuesday, expect the second-guessing brigade to inspect his decision to play offense when perhaps the game called for defense, and to invoke the trip Hillary Clinton made to Arizona at the end of the 2016 campaign.

But he is also going to Tampa, signaling how important Florida is, and how Democrats have put the president on the defensive in a state that he needs to win. (If early returns show Mr. Biden winning Florida next week, watch Democrats begin to pop the champagne.) And he is also heading to Wisconsin, as he tries to nail down the three Rust Belt states — the other two are Pennsylvania and Michigan — that lifted Mr. Trump over the 270 electoral vote hurdle four years ago.

Mr. Trump is spending a lot of time on defense this week, heading to states that he won in 2016 and where he is struggling today: Arizona and, of course, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Assuming Mr. Trump can hold on to the rest of his 2016 map (and that may be a big assumption), he needs to hold just one of the three key Midwestern states to win re-election.

538.com, Analysis: Live Updates: We’re Tracking The Vote And Voting Problems, Staff reports, Oct. 28, 2020. Reader Question: What Happens If A Voter Dies? This is a dark (but totally valid) question that pops up in arcane corners of election law from time to time. And like so many of the other great questions we’ve been getting from readers, the answer is … it depends.

According to a recent tally from the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 12 states direct election officials to count absentee ballots cast by eligible voters who die between when they vote and Election Day. Florida, for example, explicitly says that as long as a valid ballot (meaning the voter’s signature is verified) is postmarked or received by election officials before the voter’s death, the ballot will count.

Another 15 states expressly prohibit officials from counting these ballots, and the remainder don’t specifically address it. In many of those states, such as North Carolina, an absentee ballot can be challenged on the grounds that the person who cast it died before Election Day.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Trump's lies to seniors and veterans, Wayne Madsen, Oct. 28, 2020. Here in the heart of Florida's retirement community, Donald Trump's promises to senior citizens and veterans have never produced any results. The laissez-faire public health policies enacted by Trump, aided and abetted by Florida's incompetent Republican Governor, Ron DeSantis, have resulted in needless deaths among seniors and veterans.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Argentina locked down early and hard. Now cases are exploding, Terrence McCoy, Ana Vanessa Herrero, Heloísa Traiano and Maite Fernández Simon, Oct. 28, 2020 (print ed.). Masks are required everywhere, and gatherings remain limited to 10 or fewer people. But more people are flouting the rules.

When the coronavirus first reached Argentina, Andrés Bonicalzi steeled himself for the sacrifices to come. A lawyer in Buenos Aires, he started working from home, canceled his weekly visits with his parents and vowed to keep his son inside. The government announced one of the world’s strictest lockdowns. The next few weeks would be difficult.

But those hard weeks have turned into seven months, and much of Argentina’s quarantine, believed to be the world’s longest, is still dragging on.

So much sacrifice, Bonicalzi sometimes thinks, and for what? The South American country has become one of the coronavirus’s most explosive breeding grounds. In early August, fewer than 200,000 Argentines had contracted the virus. That number has since surged to 1.1 million — 1 out of every 44 people — and 28,000 are dead.

 

U.S. Crime, Cults

Law & Crime, Therapist Shot Her Twin 7-Year-Old Daughters While They Were Sleeping, Then Killed Herself: Deputies, Alberto Luperon, Oct 28, 2020. A therapist in Washington state shot and killed her twin 7-year-old daughters while they were sleeping, said the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office on Monday. The woman, 55-year-old Michele Boudreau Deegan, then died by suicide, according to authorities.

Authorities said that a roommate at the multi-level home reported finding his landlord and her children dead in an upstairs bedroom.

Investigators suggested this crime happened on Friday evening. They say preliminary findings show that the suspect was in a custody dispute in connection to the children. That looks like the primary motive, deputies said.

The girls were identified as Mairy Anneleise Deegan and Katie Elizabeth Deegan, according to The Bellingham Herald.

Boudreau was a psychotherapist. Posts on her Facebook page often concerned abuse. A spate of these were put up on Friday, with headlines “Why Survivors of Malignant Narcissists Don’t Get the Justice They Deserve,” and “Depression and Suicidal Thoughts Caused by Narcissistic Relationships.” In one post Friday morning, the post author wrote, “Abuse is forever,” over a link that featured the headline, “The Narcissist – From Abuse to Suicide.”

A sheriff’s office spokesperson told the Herald that deputies had not responded to the residence within a year for 911 calls in connection to matters including domestic violence or mental health. A source, described as a “a person who knows the family situation,” told KIRO7 that others looked out for the girls, and contacted child welfare. This individual said the mother was troubled.

keith raniere hbo

ny times logoNew York Times, Leader of Nxivm Sex Cult Is Sentenced to 120 Years in Prison, Nicole Hong and Sean Piccoli, Oct. 28, 2020 (print ed.). In the courtroom, more than a dozen victims gave wrenching testimony about how the group’s leader, Keith Raniere, shown above in an HBO documentary, manipulated and sexually abused them.

Keith Raniere promised a path to happiness, seducing wealthy people who felt they lacked a higher purpose in life. His company, Nxivm, offered self-improvement workshops that became popular in Hollywood and business circles.

But beneath the surface, Mr. Raniere was a puppet master controlling a cultlike criminal enterprise, prosecutors revealed at his trial. Some women in Nxivm were sexually abused by Mr. Raniere, and even branded with his initials in a secret ceremony.

On Tuesday, Mr. Raniere, 60, was sentenced to 120 years in prison for sex trafficking and other crimes, effectively a life sentence. The judge also ordered him to pay a $1.75 million fine.

The sentencing capped a remarkable downfall for a man who was once idolized by his followers, but has since been exposed as a fraudster who exploited Nxivm’s adherents for money, sex and power.

Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of Federal District Court in Brooklyn determined the punishment after hearing hours of wrenching testimony from 15 victims, many of whom described how Mr. Raniere had left them traumatized and brainwashed from his pseudoscientific teachings.

Mr. Raniere’s lawyer, Marc Agnifilo, said he would appeal the sentence. “I salute the people who came in and spoke,” he said.

The first to speak was a woman identified only as Camila, who in a trembling voice recalled that Mr. Raniere started sexually abusing her when she was 15 and he was 45. She had previously declined to cooperate with prosecutors on the advice of a lawyer who was recommended to her by Mr. Raniere’s counsel.

During their 12-year relationship, Camila said, Mr. Raniere expected her to be available for sex at all hours. He ordered her to weigh less than 100 pounds and directed her to get an abortion. She said she attempted suicide once.

“I want to move on, but he has damaged me in so many ways,” Camila said.

When he wanted to replace Camila, prosecutors have said, he directed his inner circle to find another “young virgin successor” for him.

Camila’s mother, brother and a sister also spoke on Tuesday, telling the judge that Mr. Raniere destroyed their once close-knit family. The father and oldest daughter in the family — who had a child with Mr. Raniere — are still supporters of him. Mr. Raniere had a sexual relationship with all three sisters in the family.

In a speech before the court, Mr. Raniere, wearing blue prisoner clothes, maintained his innocence and said some of the victims were lying. He said he was “deeply sorry,” arguing that he did not mean to cause so much pain and anger.

“Where I am is caused by me,” Mr. Raniere said. “This is all my doing.”

As Mr. Raniere waffled between apologizing and blaming the women, one of his victims and ex-girlfriends, Toni Natalie, buried her head in her hands.

After the victims’ statements, Mr. Raniere’s lawyer, Mr. Agnifilo, argued that his client never intended to hurt any women, saying he was in love with them and simply had trouble dealing with breakups. In a stunning moment, Judge Garaufis interrupted Mr. Agnifilo in the middle of his speech, yelling, “No!”

During a back-and-forth in which the two men shouted through face masks, Judge Garaufis spoke forcefully about how intent did not matter when a 45-year-old man sexually abuses a child.

“It’s an insult to the intelligence of anyone who listens,” the judge said.

Mr. Agnifilo did seem to acknowledge tensions with his client, saying that he had refused to file a motion claiming evidence tampering by the government even though Mr. Raniere asked him to. In recent months, Mr. Raniere has spearheaded a campaign to overturn his conviction, directing his supporters to create a podcast about his case and set up a contest to find errors in his prosecution in exchange for a $25,000 cash prize.

Another victim, India Oxenberg, told the court that Mr. Raniere tried to poison her relationship with her mother, the actress Catherine Oxenberg, whose efforts to extricate her daughter from the organization were part of a recent HBO documentary series about Nxivm called “The Vow.”

India Oxenberg said Mr. Raniere expected her to wait naked for him, like a piece of meat. She became so thin under his manipulation that she stopped getting her period, she said.

“You are a sexual predator, and you raped me,” India Oxenberg said. “When you touched me, I recoiled.”

Former Nxivm (pronounced NEX-ee-um) members said Mr. Raniere preyed on insecure people who hoped that immersing themselves in expensive self-help classes would unlock the key to fulfillment. Even highly educated people became trapped inside Mr. Raniere’s system, which he sold as the only way to overcome their fears, shaming anyone who tried to quit.

At Mr. Raniere’s trial, a primary focus was a secretive women-only group inside Nxivm. During a videotaped initiation ceremony, the women lay naked on a table, saying, “Master, please brand me,” as a cauterizing pen seared their skin without anesthesia.

Some of those women testified that they thought they were joining a women’s mentorship group, only to discover that they were directed to have sex with Mr. Raniere.

The women, referred to as “slaves,” were regularly required to hand over collateral like sexually explicit videos, which they constantly feared would be released. Prosecutors called it extortion.

washington post logoWashington Post, How a ‘diabolical’ former DEA staffer conned the intelligence community, Rachel Weiner, Oct. 28, 2020. Garrison Courtney, a onetime Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman who pretended to be in the CIA as part of a years-long scam, was sentenced to seven years in prison.

In the fall of 2015, the head of Air Force intelligence got an odd pitch from a supposed deep cover operative.

The man said he was going undercover at various companies to ferret out would-be leakers and spies. He wanted the Air Force involved.

Then-Lt. Gen. Robert Otto said the man, who had gotten in touch through another high-ranking Air Force official, spouted “all kinds of names and facts” and claimed other powerful people were on board.

Otto was skeptical.

“It just sounded — the technical term is ‘fishy,’ ” he said.

The military leader started asking around. By the time he met with the man a few months later, Otto was wearing a wire for the FBI. He had concluded that the program was a fraud.
Garrison Courtney, who conducted a years-long scheme by pretending to be working undercover in a government program, was sentenced to seven years in prison. (DEA)

That meeting helped unravel a years-long scheme by Garrison Courtney, a onetime spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration who managed to burrow into the intelligence community, roping in more than a dozen public officials and as many defense contractors along the way.

Pretending to be with the CIA, Courtney convinced contractors to hire him as cover for a ­top-secret program; he promised government reimbursement for his salary and a chance at lucrative contracts. By the time the scheme was uncovered in the spring of 2016, he had gotten a government procurement job that positioned him to make good on those promises. Prosecutors say that beyond the $4.5 million he fleeced over four years, he had a list of $3.7 billion in contracts he hoped to influence.

“If you’re extremely brazen and arrogant . . . and diabolical, there is a lot you can get away with,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “It’s a huge teachable moment for the government.”

On Wednesday, the 44-year-old Tampa man apologized for the “fear and chaos” as he was sentenced in federal court in Alexandria, Va., to seven years in prison for a single count of wire fraud.


Media News

Associated Press via Texarkana Gazette, Both newspapers in Utah's capital plan to cease daily publication, Oct. 28 2020. Salt Lake City will go from two daily ap logoprinted newspapers to none after both of its major publications cut print days to once a week in unusual moves for a large city that could portend more struggles for the country's newspaper industry.

The 170-year-old Deseret News in the state capital said Tuesday it will stop publishing daily starting next year, a disclosure that came a day after the Salt Lake Tribune made a similar announcement.

It's an unusually deep cutback in print days, even in an era of steeply declining revenue, media analyst Ken Doctor said.

"To go from seven to one just like that and to have it done by both papers in the same city shows us how deep the reckoning is for the American newspaper industry going into 2021," said Doctor, who writes the Newsonomics blog.

The newspaper industry has been in crisis, with The Associated Press finding in 2019 that some 1,400 cities and towns across the U.S. had lost a newspaper over the past 15 years. Much of that has come in smaller markets, though papers in cities such as New Orleans and Pittsburgh have also cut print days less deeply.

Youngstown, Ohio, became the largest U.S. city without a daily newspaper last year — before the nation's economy was thrown into turmoil by the pandemic.

In Salt Lake City, both newspapers will continue to publish breaking stories online every day. The Salt Lake Tribune, which won the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting in 2017, is not cutting newsroom staff. There were some journalist layoffs at the Deseret News.

The two publications have a joint-operating agreement that wi3ll end later this year.

Both papers will offer a weekly print publication. The Deseret News will also have a monthly magazine.

Deseret News Editor Doug Wilks said in an op-ed that the publication owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will continue its "national leadership role as the watchdog of the family and of faith in the public square."

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall tweeted that it's a significant change for the city.

"It's hard to believe we'll no longer have a daily print paper in SLC," she wrote. "Local journalism is essential to democracy I look forward to reading online, but I'll miss both papers dearly."

The Deseret News will lay off six journalists and give severance packages to 18 staffers in visual editing and sales departments. About 160 people associated with the two newspapers' joint print operations will also be laid off.

The Deseret News is named after the territory's early title. The newspaper was born three years after pioneers arrived in 1847.

The newspaper has worked to expand its digital offerings for a decade, appealing to church members and others outside the state, and now 70% of its digital users come from outside the state, said Jeff Simpson, its president and publisher.

Daily Howler, Opinion: Who is Associate Justice Barrett? Bob Somerby, Oct. 28, 2020. Who is Amy Coney Barrett? And why didn't anyone ask? Barrett, of course, is now an associate justice on the United States Supreme Court. She'll be on the Court for the next thirty years—but who was Amy Coney Barrett in the 48 years before that?

ap logoThe question arises because of an AP news report which only broke last week. As it appeared in the Washington Post, the AP report started like this, headline included:

SMITH AND BIESECKER (10/21/20): Barrett was trustee at private school with anti-gay policies:

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett served for nearly three years on the board of private Christian schools that effectively barred admission to children of same-sex parents and made it plain that openly gay and lesbian teachers weren’t welcome in the classroom.

The policies that discriminated against LGBTQ people and their children were in place for years at Trinity Schools Inc., both before Barrett joined the board in 2015 and during the time she served.

The three schools, in Indiana, Minnesota and Virginia, are affiliated with People of Praise, an insular community rooted in its own interpretation of the Bible, of which Barrett and her husband have been longtime members. At least three of the couple’s seven children have attended the Trinity School at Greenlawn, in South Bend, Indiana.

The AP spoke with more than two dozen people who attended or worked at Trinity Schools, or former members of People of Praise. They said the community’s teachings have been consistent for decades: Homosexuality is an abomination against God, sex should occur only within marriage and marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

The AP report continued from there. We remain puzzled by the (extremely) late emergence of this information.

Barrett testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on October 13 and 14. She was never asked about this matter, possibly because no one knew about it.

Arguably, it was an abomination against democratic procedure when Barrett received a lifetime appointment to the nation's highest court without this matter being reported or discussed. One wonders where Democrats were in recent years, but also the national press.

Has opposition research suddenly ceased to exist? Barrett was known to (possibly) be "next in line" for at least the past three years. It's hard to know how a matter like this could come to light only after it was too late to make any conceivable difference in any conceivable way.

The AP report on this matter came and went last week. Perhaps understandably at this juncture, it provoked very little discussion.

That said, the chronology of this revelation remains a mystery to us. Who is Associate Justice Barrett? And why was no one able to ask her about this part of her personal history?

As we mentioned in real time, we spent two full days watching Barrett testify. As we mentioned, we were struck by how amazingly little we knew about her by the time the two days were done.

Democrats insisted on asking the types of questions they knew she wouldn't answer. A week later, we learned that no one had asked her about this part of her past.

Today, warnings are emerging across the press about the ways the Supreme Court could intervene in the aftermath of an apparent win by Candidate Biden. Was Barrett a "Manchurian nominee," one who might tip the balance toward a judicial assault on the electoral process?

We don't know how the Court might handle legal challenges to an apparent Biden win. But who is Amy Coney Barrett, and why didn't anyone ask?

We had two major reactions to Barrett's two days of testimony:

First, we noted the fact that Barrett was amazingly telegenic. Also, Democratic questioning struck us as amazingly pointless and daft.

One week later, up jumped the AP report. In our view, the fire trucks had arrived at the scene puzzlingly late.

What the heck ever happened to oppo? We can't answer that question.

New York Magazine, Tucker Carlson Reports He Lost the Only Copy of Documents That Nail Biden, Jonathan Chait, Oct. 28, 2020. The Trump campaign and its right-wing media messengers have devoted the final stretch of the election to insisting they had uncovered proof of deep corruption by the Biden family, along with demands that the mainstream media cover their allegations. (“Cover” means float insinuations of guilt, rather than nailing down the truth of the charges.)

There have been several fishy aspects to the accusations, however. For one, incriminating information supposedly located on a Hunter Biden laptop left in a Delaware computer shop had in fact been circulating in Ukraine well before it was reportedly turned over to Rudy Giuliani’s lawyer. Over the weekend, Time reported that the Hunter Biden emails and photos were being shopped in Kiev last fall by somebody who “wanted to sell it to Republican allies of President Trump.” Several days later, Politico reported the “Hunter Biden laptop” material was being shopped around by a “Ukrainian oligarch looking for help with a potential legal jam” as early as spring of 2019.

Another oddity in the timing, as Andrew Prokop noticed, is that the star witness for Fox News and Trump, Tony Bobulinski, claimed he only came forward because he was outraged at the response to the New York Post story first reporting the email hacks. But Ben Smith reported in the New York Times that Bobulinski was working with Trump’s campaign to pitch the story to the Wall Street Journal, before they settled for giving it to the New York Post. (The Journal duly reported that they had no evidence of wrongdoing by Joe Biden.)

On Wednesday night’s show, Tucker Carlson reported that his team had acquired incriminating documents. However, they sent them from Washington to Los Angeles, and the documents disappeared. And they neglected to make any copies. So now the only copy of the documents that would nail the probable next President of the United States are gone:

That just shows how desperate Biden is to make this story disappear and in no way reflects poorly on the credibility of the sources of this alleged scandal.

 

Oct. 27

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Reponses

 

Law, Crime, Courts

 

More On U.S. Elections, Politics

 

U.S. Racial Issues

 

U.S. Wildfires, Climate Change

 

World News

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate confirms Barrett to Supreme Court, cementing its conservative majority, Seung Min Kim, Oct. 27, 2020 (print ed.). The U.S. Senate voted 52-48 to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court on Oct. 26. (The Washington Post)

amy coney barrett headshot notre dame photoA bitterly divided Senate confirmed Amy Coney Barrett as the 115th justice to the Supreme Court on Monday, elevating just the fifth woman to the court in its 231-year history and one who further cements its conservative shift — a legacy that will last even if Republicans lose power in next week’s elections.

The vote was 52-48 for Barrett, President Trump’s third nominee to the Supreme Court. The 48-year-old jurist solidifies a judicial legacy for the White House and Senate Republicans that also includes dozens of younger and more ideologically conservative judges to the federal appeals courts. An acolyte of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, Barrett is certain to diverge dramatically from the woman she will succeed: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Sept. 18 and was for decades an enduring icon for liberals.

The battle to confirm Barrett — whose installation occurred as more than 60 million people had already cast their ballots for president — also plunged a Senate already bruised by years of tit-for-tat skirmishes in the judicial wars into deeper partisan acrimony. Incensed Democrats charged Republicans with hypocrisy for blocking President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee for eight months in 2016 and repeatedly pointed out that no justice has been confirmed this close to a presidential election.

supreme court buildingBut Republicans asserted their raw power, muscling Barrett’s nomination through in just over four weeks and with no bipartisan support — the first time that has occurred for a Supreme Court nominee in generations and a reflection of the politicized atmosphere around judicial fights.

“The reason we were able to do what we did in 2016, 2018 and 2020 is because we had the majority,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday shortly before the Senate confirmed Barrett. “No rules were broken whatsoever. So all of these outlandish claims are utterly absurd, and the louder they scream, the more inaccurate they are.”

The White House planned an outdoor ceremony after the vote Monday to celebrate her confirmation and Justice Clarence Thomas was expected to administer the constitutional oath. Supreme Court justices take two oaths — one to protect and uphold the Constitution, and another about judicial conduct.

The battle to confirm Barrett — whose installation occurred as more than 60 million people had already cast their ballots for president — also plunged a Senate already bruised by years of tit-for-tat skirmishes in the judicial wars into deeper partisan acrimony. Incensed Democrats charged Republicans with hypocrisy for blocking President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee for eight months in 2016 and repeatedly pointed out that no justice has been confirmed this close to a presidential election.

ny times logoNew York Times, Missing From Supreme Court’s Election Cases: Reasons for Its Rulings, Adam Liptak, right, Oct. 27, 2020 (print ed.). In a series of unsigned adam liptakorders, the court has been deciding many election disputes on its “shadow docket” without a murmur of explanation, our correspondent writes.

At least nine times since April, the Supreme Court has issued rulings in election disputes. Or perhaps “rulings” is too generous a word for those unsigned orders, which addressed matters as consequential as absentee voting during the pandemic in Alabama, South Carolina and Texas, and the potential disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of people with felony convictions in Florida.

Most of the orders, issued on what scholars call the court’s “shadow docket,” did not bother to supply even a whisper of reasoning.

“This idea of unexplained, unreasoned court orders seems so contrary to what courts are supposed to be all about,” said Nicholas Stephanopoulos, a law professor at Harvard. “If courts don’t have to defend their decisions, then they’re just acts of will, of power. They’re not even pretending to be legal decisions.”

The orders were responses to emergency applications, and they were issued quickly, without full briefing or oral arguments (hence the “shadow docket”).

 ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Defiantly Mimics Rose Garden Ceremony, With More Masks, Peter Baker, Updated Oct. 27, 2020. President Trump hosted a nighttime event on the White House lawn to swear in Amy Coney Barrett as the next Supreme Court justice.

President Trump, who loves to boast of doing anything his predecessors have never done, pulled off such a historic first on Monday. He won confirmation of a Supreme Court justice only eight days before a presidential election, rushing his choice through the Senate before voters decide whether to give him four more years or kick him out of office.

Mr. Trump then did something else no other president has done. He hosted a nighttime ceremony on the White House lawn to swear in Justice Amy Coney Barrett in a virtual do-over of the superspreader event blamed for infecting multiple people with the coronavirus a month ago to the day, including the president himself, who was forced to spend three nights in the hospital.

To Mr. Trump, the first history-maker outweighed the second, a chance to celebrate a landmark political victory regardless of the risk. It was, in effect, the triumph of defiance over experience, a stubborn gesture by a president who refuses to acknowledge the continuing threat of a pandemic that has killed more than 225,000 people in the United States even after it has swept through his own circle of aides, advisers and allies. Undaunted and unbowed, Mr. Trump hosted the event even as five people working for Vice President Mike Pence have tested positive in recent days.

This time, at least, the White House made some concessions to the virus. Unlike the Rose Garden event on Sept. 26 when Mr. Trump announced his nomination of Justice Barrett, apparently leading to a raft of infections, the ceremony on Monday night marking her confirmation was held on the roomier South Lawn, with folding chairs seated several feet apart and guests required to wear masks.

  djt amy coney barrett resized white house 10 26 20

President Trump and Justice Amy Coney Barrett at the White House on Monday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: There’s no more doubt: Democrats have to expand the Supreme Court, Paul Waldman, Oct. 27, 2020. Keep this image in your mind: Justice Amy Coney Barrett, standing with President Trump on a balcony at the White House, smiling in satisfaction as the crowd below them whoops and hollers with joy after Barrett was sworn in to the Supreme Court.

Barrett no longer needs to pretend that she’s anything other than what she is: a far-right judge, installed on the Supreme Court by a president who got fewer votes than his opponent and confirmed by a Republican majority that represents fewer voters than their Democratic colleagues, whose job it will be to do everything in her power to maintain minority GOP rule while carrying out a conservative judicial revolution.

That picture of Barrett and Trump reveling in their mutual triumph was so vivid that the Trump campaign literally turned it into an ad for the president’s reelection. A different person might have said, “Mr. President, it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to participate in such a nakedly political event.” But Barrett wasn’t concerned. She didn’t shout “MAGA 2020!” but she might as well have.

So now it is up to Democrats to recalibrate their understanding of just what is and isn’t appropriate — starting with expanding the Supreme Court as soon as they have the opportunity, which could come in January 2021.

This may be the single most important thing they have to remember: Their actions must not be determined by whether Republicans will complain.

Unfortunately, that’s how Democrats usually see things. If Republicans raise a stink — or even if they just assume Republicans might raise a stink — then Democrats shrink back in fear, lest the action they’re contemplating be considered inappropriate.

But by now they should understand that Republicans will say that everything they do, no matter how by-the-book it might be, is an egregious violation of propriety and good conduct. That’s how Republicans operate, precisely because they know Democrats are deeply concerned with whether processes are conducted in fair and reasonable ways.

But Democrats should listen to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Here’s part of what the Senate Majority Leader said Monday during the floor debate on Barrett’s nomination:

Our colleagues cannot point to a single Senate rule that’s been broken. They made one false claim about committee procedure which the parliamentarian dismissed.

The process comports entirely with the Constitution.

We don't have any doubt, do we, that if the shoe was on the other foot, they would be confirming this nominee. And have no doubt if the shoe was on the other foot in 2016, they would have done the same thing. Why? Because they had the elections that made those decisions possible. The reason we were able to make the decision we did in 2016 is because we had become the majority in 2014.

The reason we were able to do what we did in 2016, 2018, and 2020 is because we had the majority. No rules were broken whatsoever.

To clarify, the dates McConnell refers to are when he and Republicans refused to hear President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland (2016), changing the size of the court from nine to eight justices and then back again; the nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh (2018); and Barrett’s nomination (2020).

“The reason we were able to do what we did … is because we had the majority.” It’s the rule McConnell has lived by: Whatever Republicans can do, they will do, if it gives them an advantage.

And he’s right that neither the Constitution nor the rules of the Senate were violated in any of those cases. Nor would it violate the Constitution for Democrats to say that just as Republicans changed the size of the court in 2016 (and as happened many times in the country’s early years), Democrats will now change the size of the court again.

They should do this not only to restore balance after the extraordinary actions McConnell and Republicans undertook, but also as part of a desperately needed effort to stop America’s slide into minority rule and restore something resembling democratic responsiveness to the entire system.

That goes along with eliminating the filibuster so the majority of senators can pass the agenda voters elected them to enact; granting statehood to the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico so the millions of Americans who live in those places can have representation in Congress; and passing a new Voting Rights Act that prevents GOP efforts to disenfranchise voters.

Whenever Democrats waver in their willingness to do what needs to be done to safeguard democracy, they should remember that McConnell is almost daring them to do it, precisely because he thinks they don’t have the guts.

“A lot of what we’ve done over the last four years will be undone, sooner or later, by the next election,” he said Sunday about Barrett’s nomination. “But they won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.”

But they can, and they should, no matter how much Republicans whine about it. If voters give them the White House and the Senate, they’ll have the legal right and the moral obligation to do so. Without it we won’t have a real democracy.

 

Virus Victims, Reponses.

djt council to reopen america fox

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Covid-19 Live Updates: A Record-Breaking Week for U.S. Virus Cases, Staff reports, Oct. 27, 2020. The country has averaged at least 71,000 new coronavirus cases a day over the past week, the most in any seven-day stretch of the pandemic. Russia imposes a nationwide mask mandate to stem rising virus cases.

  • As the virus reaches nearly every corner of the U.S., 3 counties still have not reported a case.
  • Protesters in Italy and Spain clash with police as they call for ‘freedom’ from virus restrictions.
  • Last hopes for virus relief before the election fade as Senate adjourns.
  • Eli Lilly said its antibody treatment does not work on patients hospitalized with Covid-19.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump Tells Coronavirus, ‘I Surrender,’ Paul Krugman, right, Oct. 27, 2020 (print ed.). The president plays the climate-denial playbook on a paul krugmanpandemic.

Coronavirus cases keep hitting records — among other things, five aides to Vice President Mike Pence have tested positive. Hospitalizations, which lag behind cases, are soaring. And deaths, which lag even further behind, are starting to rise, too. Put it this way: Just between now and Election Day, we’re likely to lose almost twice as many Americans to Covid-19 as died on 9/11.

So how is the Trump administration responding? Actually doing anything about the pandemic is apparently off the table. What we’re getting instead is a multilevel public relations strategy: We’re doing a great job. Anyway, there’s nothing anyone can do. And besides, doctors are faking the numbers so they can make more money.

These are, of course, inconsistent stories, and the smearing of health care workers who put their lives on the line to save others is just vile. But none of this should surprise us.

This is, after all, Donald Trump. Also, we’ve seen this combination of denial, declared helplessness and conspiracy theorizing before: Trump and company are following the same strategy on Covid-19 that the right has long followed on climate change.

By now, almost everyone is familiar with the way Trump keeps moving the goal posts to claim success no matter how bad things get. Back in February he predicted zero cases “within a couple of days.” In the spring he said that it would go away when the weather got warmer. Lately he’s been claiming triumph because the coronavirus hasn’t killed 2.2 million people.

Was there ever a chance that Trump would take the pandemic seriously? Probably not. After all, he has always been a die-hard, conspiracy-theorizing denier of climate change, and his coronavirus response has come straight out of the climate-denier playbook.

In any case, we can predict with high accuracy what he will do if the polls are wrong, and he wins a second term. He will do nothing at all to fight the pandemic; he will, however, try to suppress the truth about what’s happening. And many, many more Americans will die.

mike pence bites lip Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, White House gives up on trying to slow virus’s spread, Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Amy B Wang, Oct. 27, 2020 (print ed.). An outbreak in the vice president's office undermines the argument President Trump has been making that the U.S. is “rounding the turn.”

The outbreak around Pence, above, who chairs the White House’s coronavirus task force, undermines the argument Trump has been making to voters that the country is “rounding the turn,” as the president put it at a rally Sunday in New Hampshire.

Further complicating Trump’s campaign-trail pitch was an extraordinary admission Sunday from White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows that the administration had effectively given up on trying to slow the virus’s spread.

washington post logoWashington Post, President Trump declares coronavirus is ‘ending’ as virus rates spike and financial markets dip, Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey, Oct. 27, 2020. The pandemic remains the central issue of campaign one week before Election Day, as Joe Biden blistered the president for his handling of the pandemic.

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

  • World Cases: 43,875,034, Deaths: 1,166,123
  • U.S. Cases:     8,964,331, Deaths:    231,129

ny times logoNew York Times, With ‘Nothing Off-Limits,’ Colleges Slash Budgets in the Pandemic, Shawn Hubler, Oct. 27, 2020 (print ed.). Some universities are making deep and possibly lasting cuts by laying off employees, delaying graduate admissions and even eliminating majors. Liberal arts departments, graduate student aid and even tenured teaching positions are targets as the coronavirus causes shortfalls.

Ohio Wesleyan University is eliminating 18 majors. The University of Florida’s trustees this month took the first steps toward letting the school furlough faculty. The University of California, Berkeley, has paused admissions to its Ph.D. programs in anthropology, sociology and art history.

cdc logo CustomAs it resurges across the country, the coronavirus is forcing universities large and small to make deep and possibly lasting cuts to close widening budget shortfalls. By one estimate, the pandemic has cost colleges at least $120 billion, with even Harvard University, despite its $41.9 billion endowment, reporting a $10 million deficit that has prompted belt tightening.

Though many colleges imposed stopgap measures such as hiring freezes and early retirements to save money in the spring, the persistence of the economic downturn is taking a devastating financial toll, pushing many to lay off or furlough employees, delay graduate admissions and even cut or consolidate core programs like liberal arts departments.

The University of South Florida announced last week that its college of education would become a graduate school only, phasing out undergraduate education degrees to help close a $6.8 million budget gap. In Ohio, the University of Akron, citing the coronavirus, successfully invoked a clause in its collective-bargaining agreement in September to supersede tenure rules and lay off 97 unionized faculty members.

washington post logoWashington Post, IRS makes final push to get stimulus checks to millions, Michelle Singletary, Oct. 27, 2020 (print ed.). There’s still time for parents receiving federal benefits to claim the extra $500 stimulus payment. The IRS has extended deadline to use the non-filers tool to Nov. 21.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump appointee resigns over the president’s order removing job protections for many civil servants, Eric Yoder, Oct. 27, 2020 (print ed.). In his letter of resignation from the Federal Salary Council, Ronald Sanders called the order “a smoke screen for what is clearly an attempt to require the political loyalty of those who advise the President.”

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s conservative imprint on the judiciary gives Democrats a playbook — if they win, Seung Min Kim, Oct. 27, 2020 (print ed.). The president’s first-term judicial legacy, primarily engineered by Sen. Mitch McConnell and his singular focus on the courts, culminates Monday with the expected confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

President Trump’s first-term record on the federal judiciary — which will reach its apex Monday with the expected confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett as his third Supreme Court justice — will be difficult to roll back even if Democrats win both the White House and the Senate majority.

But the pipeline of conservative judges and the fast-track procedures used by Republicans to confirm them gives a potential President Joe Biden and a Democratic-led Senate a rough playbook to try to install their own stream of liberal nominees.

The judicial legacy set by Trump but engineered primarily by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) includes several significant milestones, including the trio on the Supreme Court and the fact that for the first time in 40 years, there are no openings on the circuit courts. That has been a monumental achievement for a majority leader whose mantra has been “leave no vacancy behind” and a president who simply just likes to win.

For the first time in more than four decades, there are no vacancies on the circuit court level, where approximately 30 percent of those sitting on the bench have been nominated by Trump. Only President Jimmy Carter had more circuit court judges, as well as a larger share of the entire federal appellate bench, confirmed in his first term, and that was before the number of seats in the circuit courts was expanded.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Republicans have already packed state supreme courts, Marin K. Levy, Oct. 27, 2020 (print ed.). Norms against changing the size of courts for partisan reasons are selectively upheld.

The Senate’s bare Republican majority is poised to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to a seat on the Supreme Court. But the controversy sparked by her nomination will continue, and Democrats are already discussing whether and how to “pack” the court by creating new seats. That debate, though, and especially the Republican rhetoric against court-packing, is missing an important development: numerous recent efforts across the country, the majority of them spearheaded by Republicans, to pack (and unpack) state courts.

Republican leaders have consistently described changing the size of the Supreme Court (which varied until 1869, when it reached its modern total of nine seats) in dire terms. At the Barrett hearings, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said such a move would “do great political harm to our government.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) stated that expanding the court would be "an abuse of power.” And Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) went one step further, calling court-packing a “partisan suicide bombing.”

But such “bombings” have frequently been attempted at the state level, where courts collectively decide the vast majority of the country’s civil and criminal cases. In 2018, more than 33 million such cases were initiated in state courts, compared with 376,000 in federal district courts. State courts decide cases with at least as much importance to individual lives and national policies alike as federal courts do, including crucial matters, such as partisan gerrymandering, that the federal courts have tended to avoid.

That makes the attempts to pack — or unpack — state courts especially important. In the past decade alone, lawmakers in 11 states have introduced at least 20 bills to expand or contract the size of their state supreme courts. The vast majority of these efforts were made by Republicans, often for apparent partisan advantage. That is, many of these lawmakers appear to have attempted to change the size of their highest state court to affect its ideological composition — and two of these attempts have succeeded.

Marin K. Levy is a professor of law at Duke Law School and author of "Packing and Unpacking State Courts," published in the William & Mary Law Review earlier this year.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Raging Trump wants the Supreme Court to save him. Here’s why it probably won’t, Greg Sargent, right, Oct. 27, 2020. Here’s the rub: To greg sargentdo so, they’d have to contradict a principle that Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh articulated in his Wisconsin opinion. He argued that Wisconsin couldn’t extend the period for accepting ballots because this constituted “changing state election rules too close to an election.”

Kavanaugh described this as an affront to the democratic process, because it constituted a change when “an election is imminent.”

But if the Supreme Court now nixes the extended deadline in Pennsylvania, this would also constitute changing election rules when "an election is imminent.”

That’s because untold numbers of Pennsylvanians have shaped their voting schedule around the expectation that ballots arriving after Election Day might be accepted — because the high court previously deadlocked, which means the court itself allowed this schedule to proceed.

ny times logoNew York Times, Kavanaugh’s Opinion in Wisconsin Voting Case Raises Alarms Among Democrats, Jim Rutenberg and Nick Corasaniti, Oct. 27, 2020. The Supreme Court justice’s suggestion that ballots arriving after Election Day could “flip the results” left voting rights activists concerned about how the court might rule in postelection fights.

The Supreme Court decision on Monday barring the counting of mail-in ballots in Wisconsin that arrive after Election Day was not a surprise for many Democrats, who had pressed for it but expected to lose.

But a concurring opinion by Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh set off alarms among civil rights and Democratic Party lawyers, who viewed it as giving public support to President Trump’s arguments that any results counted after Nov. 3 could be riddled with fraudulent votes — an assertion unsupported by the history of elections in the United States.

The decision also unnerved Democrats and local election officials in Pennsylvania, where Republicans are asking the Supreme Court to weigh in again on whether the state can accept ballots received up to three days after Election Day. While Democrats in Wisconsin had been appealing for an extension, the current rules in Pennsylvania allow for ballots to arrive three days after the election. Any change could threaten the more than 1.4 million absentee ballots not yet returned.

In his opinion, attached to the 5-to-3 ruling against the deadline extension in Wisconsin, Justice Kavanaugh wrote that Election Day mail-in deadlines were devised “to avoid the chaos and suspicions of impropriety that can ensue if thousands of absentee ballots flow in after Election Day and potentially flip the results of an election.”

He added, “Those states also want to be able to definitively announce the results of the election on election night, or as soon as possible thereafter.”

Justice Kavanaugh’s statement mirrored in some ways Mr. Trump’s efforts to suggest that only ballots counted by Election Day should decide the result, and more generally to push unfounded claims about widespread voter fraud.

Earlier on Monday, the president had posted on Twitter that election officials “must have final total on November 3rd,” alleging without evidence that there are “big problems” with mail-in ballots. Twitter labeled the tweet “misleading.”

The Wisconsin ruling was the latest in a series of court decisions setting the rules for how voters in different states can cast their ballots during the coronavirus pandemic and when the cutoff is for receiving them.

The Wisconsin ruling revealed a stark divide among the justices in their understanding of the role of the courts in protecting the right to vote during a pandemic and left voting rights activists concerned about how the court’s conservative majority would rule in any postelection fights.

john roberts djt state of union

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: It’s up to John Roberts to save his court, Dana Milbank, Oct. 27, 2020 (print ed.). Monday’s Senate confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, preceded by a pell-mell scramble to seat her before next week’s election and followed by an unseemly campaign-style celebration at the White House, shreds whatever remained of the high court’s integrity and independence.

Whether the court regains its independence or cements itself as a third partisan branch of government is now largely up to Chief Justice John Roberts, above left. If he does not act, and fast, to mitigate the court’s politicization, Democrats will be fully justified in expanding the court’s membership to restore balance — and indeed will face a public outcry if they don’t.

The Barrett spectacle could not have been uglier. It began with a superspreader event at the White House after which a dozen people, including President Trump, contracted covid-19. Trump insisted on naming a replacement even before Ruth Bader Ginsburg was in her grave, and he belittled the late justice’s granddaughter for conveying the women’s rights icon’s dying wish that Trump not replace her. (Mercifully, the White House shelved a plan to have Vice President Pence, whose staff is having a covid-19 outbreak, preside over Monday evening’s confirmation vote.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge rules Va. governor can remove Lee statue in Richmond, but not immediately, Laura Vozzella,Oct. 27, 2020. Gov. Ralph Northam can remove this city's towering tribute to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, a circuit court judge ruled Tuesday. But the judge also halted the governor from acting immediately, allowing the group trying to preserve the statue to mount an appeal.

Circuit Judge W. Reilly Marchant found that Virginia is not bound by the terms of covenants dating from 1870 and 1890, in which the state agreed to forever protect the statue.

Northam (D) ordered the monument on state-owned land removed in June, as the statue became a focus of social justice protests in the onetime capital of the Confederacy. But before the work could commence, one person sued to stop it and a judge issued an injunction tying the governor’s hands. That case was later dismissed, but a group of residents living on or near Monument Avenue soon brought their own suit and the injunction was continued.

Trial will determine fate of Northam’s effort to remove Richmond statue of Robert E. Lee

“The Lee monument was built to celebrate the Confederacy and uphold white supremacy,” Northam said in a statement after the ruling. “This victory moves Virginia forward in removing this relic of the past — one that was erected for all the wrong reasons.”

Attorney General Mark Herring (D), whose office represented Northam in the case, said the statue “does not represent who we have become as Virginians and it sends the wrong message to the rest of the world that we continue to venerate an individual who fought to maintain the enslavement of human beings.”

Lawyer Patrick McSweeney, who represents the residents who brought the case, said they will appeal.

state dept map logo SmallDaily Beast, U.S. Embassy Staffer Drugged & Molested Women on Video: Feds, Justin Rohrlich, Updated Oct. 27, 2020. Investigators found hundreds of photos and daily beast logovideos of unconscious women on Brian Jeffrey Raymond’s devices. Warning: This story contains descriptions of sexual assault.

A “naked, hysterical woman desperately screaming for help” from the balcony of an apartment leased by the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City has led to allegations that an embassy staffer is a serial molester who drugged and sexually assaulted at least 23 victims over the past decade.

Investigators uncovered sickening photos and footage of unconscious women in Brian Jeffrey Raymond’s bed. In some, a man holds open their eyelids, waves their limp arms and legs, or puts his fingers in their mouth to show they are unconscious, prosecutors said. Raymond can be seen nude and aroused in some of the images, they said.

Prosecutors allege that Raymond continued using dating apps to meet women—one of whom who says she has only hazy memories of having sex with him—even after he knew he was under investigation.

The 44-year-old was arrested Oct. 9 in La Mesa, California, where he had been staying with his parents after abruptly quitting his job. Ten days later, a federal judge deemed Raymond a flight risk as well as a danger to the community and ordered him detained pending trial.

Court documents do not specify Raymond’s position at the Mexico City embassy, where he had been posted since 2018, and there are few traces of him on the internet. Prosecutors note that he speaks both Spanish and Mandarin Chinese and worked in at least six different countries over more than two decades of federal service that Raymond’s defense lawyer described as “exemplary.” At least nine of the alleged attacks took place in Raymond’s official residence, according to authorities.

There are photographs and videos of three unconscious women in his bed, two in late-March 2020 and one on May 30, 2020, at the height of the COVID crisis.
— Prosecution memo

The Department of State declined to comment or provide further details, referring The Daily Beast to the Department of Justice, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

At the moment, the 44-year-old globe-trotter is charged with with one count of coercion and enticement, but the feds are certain there are more victims out there, having unearthed “numerous” chats between the suspect and various women who appear to be apologizing for blacking out, asking Raymond if they had sex, or saying they had no memory of the previous evening. Prosecutors anticipate bringing additional charges, they said in a motion to deny Raymond bail.

Since 2011, Raymond has “exerted power and control over unconscious women,” says the motion. Yet, everyone who knew him seemed completely unaware of his behavior, which authorities describe as “evidence of his unique ability to portray a very different public face.”

The first domino for Raymond fell this past May, when Mexico City police responded to reports of the naked woman in distress on the balcony of Raymond’s apartment, according to the detention memo filed by prosecutors. She appeared to be extremely intoxicated, couldn’t walk on her own, and was taken by ambulance to the hospital, it says.

There, doctors found “injuries consistent with vaginal and anal penetration,” including lacerations to the woman’s rectum that were consistent with “the introduction of a hard object with blunt edges.” She also had bruises to her forearm, elbow, and knee, and a laceration on the inside of her cheek.

The woman had no recollection of any physical contact with Raymond, and couldn’t remember calling for help. She did, however, remember how she ended up in his apartment.

They met on Tinder, the woman explained, and had gotten together at an outdoor shopping center. Raymond brought a bottle of wine, which they drank out of coffee mugs, and eventually decided to continue their conversation at Raymond’s apartment. There, after some light snacks and another glass of wine, she suddenly blacked out.

Raymond, who claimed the encounter was consensual, was detained by Mexican police. He returned to the U.S. the next day, presumably avoiding local charges due to diplomatic immunity. After quarantining for two weeks in Northern Virginia, Raymond agreed to be interviewed by federal investigators and again insisted the sex in Mexico City had been consensual.

The agents seized his personal and work phones and what they found landed him behind bars. A forensic search of Raymond’s phones, laptop, and iCloud account turned up hundreds of photos and videos of naked, unconscious women being abused in both Mexico City and the Washington, D.C., metro area. Some of the women were snoring audibly. The “vast majority” of the images, which dated back to 2011, were linked to Raymond by metadata as well as bedding and furniture seen in them that matched his own.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Linda Lopez denied Raymond bail, handing the “experienced sexual predator” over to the U.S. Marshals Service. He is now being held at a federal lockup in San Diego. Raymond’s parents and Kirby did not respond to requests for comment.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: This final sprint explains why Trump is heading for defeat, Jennifer Rubin, right, Oct. 27, 2020. With just days until voting ends (let’s stop jennifer rubin new headshotcalling Nov. 3 “Election Day,” since well more than 60 million Americans have already cast ballots), Donald Trump has reminded his critics why his presidency and his campaign are crashing.

First, Trump has refused to understand that without a strategy to control the spread of the novel coronavirus, we will not enjoy a sustained economic recovery.

In addition to the big-picture policy failure, Trump is doing a bang-up job highlighting his personal failings. He stalks out of an interview with CBS News’s Lesley Stahl (which he hyped in advance) because she promised to ask tough questions and refused to allow his lies to go unchecked. We see not only Trump’s fragile connection to reality and personal weakness, but also his inability to deal with strong women. Instead of projecting strength and competence to suburban women, he comes across as the quintessential bully whose obnoxious conduct ineptly tries to cover for a weak, cowardly personality.

Then there is Trump’s lack of a cohesive argument against Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Instead of a sane policy critique, Trump laughably resorts to leading “Lock him up!” chants at dangerous, mask-less rallies. And for what? Such a pathetic and juvenile attack underscores why Trump feared a Biden nomination, which he could neither derail with his extortion of Ukraine nor a last-minute, unintelligible Hunter Biden “scandal.”

In other words, Trump is heading for a potentially brutal defeat because he failed to address the most acute domestic challenge in our lifetime, never came up with a message to counter Biden, offended women voters and resorted to blatant racism. This has only made his problem with suburban, college-educated and female voters even worse.

Associated Press via ABC News, If Trump wanted people to avoid '60 Minutes,' it didn't work, David Bauder, Oct. 27, 2020. Angry about his interview with Lesley Stahl of “60 Minutes,” President Donald Trump released an unedited version of the talk on Facebook three days before the broadcast.

President Donald Trump can still be a potent television draw, although in the case of “60 Minutes” this past week, it probably wasn't what he intended.

The 17.4 million people who watched the CBS newsmagazine, featuring interviews with Trump and Democratic opponent Joe Biden, was the show's biggest audience in more than two years, the Nielsen company said. This was despite an angry president releasing an unedited version of his talk with Lesley Stahl on Facebook three days in advance because he didn't like the questions.

Since “60 Minutes” had been averaging 10.3 million viewers so far this season, clearly some people wanted to see the broadcast after hearing about the controversy, or saw the full tape and were curious about how CBS edited it.

Stahl made one reference to the dispute in her introduction, saying “we had prepared to talk about the many issues and questions facing the president, but in what has become an all-too-public dust-up, the conversation was cut short.”

It was the biggest “60 Minutes” audience since March 25, 2018, another episode that Trump surely didn't want people to see since it featured an interview with adult film star Stormy Daniels. She alleged she had an affair with Trump, who denied it.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Week Before Election Day, More Than Half the 2016 Vote Is Already In, Staff report, Oct. 27, 2020. The pandemic, the fear of postal delays and the passions inspired by the presidential candidates have led to a record early vote of 69.5 million so far.

President Trump again attacked Michigan’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, at a rally in the state. Here’s the latest.

Joe Biden campaigned in Georgia, which Democrats have not carried since 1992, while President Trump held rallies in Wisconsin, Michigan and Nebraska. The Trump campaign’s website was temporarily defaced by hackers. A judge blocked an order by Michigan’s top elections official banning the open carrying of firearms at polling sites.
With a week left until Election Day, the flood of people moved to cast their ballots early has grown so strong that the early vote has already exceeded half of the number of votes that were counted during the entire 2016 presidential election, according to data compiled by the United States Elections Project.

The coronavirus pandemic, the fear of postal delays and the passions inspired by the presidential candidates, both pro and con, have all contributed to the record early vote. As of Tuesday afternoon more than 69.5 million Americans had already mailed in their ballots or voted early in person, according to the data compiled by the project. That is 50.4 percent of the total number of votes that were counted during the entire 2016 election.

The early vote is even more dramatic in a number of key battleground states, including several that polls have suggested are unusually close this year. Texas has already received nearly 87 percent of the votes it counted in the 2016 election, Florida has already received more than two-thirds, North Carolina has received 72 percent and Georgia 71 percent. Wisconsin and Michigan are both approaching the halfway mark.

washington post logoWashington Post, Republicans could suffer from Chinese company’s failure to buy Montana beef, David J. Lynch, Oct. 27, 2020. The apparent collapse of a deal touted during President Trump’s 2017 visit to Beijing may affect the tight U.S. Senate race in Montana.

The deal seemed like great news for Montana ranchers: Chinese retailer JD.com had promised to buy $200 million worth of beef and spend an additional $100 million building a slaughterhouse in the state.

steve bullock plaid shirt campaignBut nearly three years after the accord was announced on the sidelines of President Trump’s first official trip to Beijing, the big orders have yet to materialize and there’s no sign of any new meatpacking plant.

The project’s apparent collapse has surfaced in the state’s U.S. Senate race, one of several contests that could determine whether the Republicans retain control of the chamber or surrender it to the Democrats. The vanishing beef deal shows how the souring of the U.S.-China relationship is reshaping U.S. politics, making a liability of once-beneficial ties and placing a premium on hard-edge rhetoric toward Beijing.

In Montana, Gov. Steve Bullock, above eft, the Democratic challenger, has criticized Republican Sen. Steve Daines, who claimed credit for brokering the beef deal, for being too cozy with the Chinese government.

Daines worked in China for several years in the 1990s as an executive with Procter & Gamble and spent a decade managing Asia-Pacific sales for a software company. To promote U.S. beef as a senator, he carted a cooler full of Montana steaks to Beijing for a 2017 meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and later hosted Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai at an agricultural forum in Montana.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis Four Pinocchios for Trump ad that takes Biden’s comments on taxes out of context, Glenn Kessler, Oct. 27, 2020 (print ed.). Joe Biden has consistently said he would raise taxes on people making more than $400,000, so this ad clips out the number over and over.

The Trump presidential campaign is the master of the mischievous clip job. Time after time, the president’s campaign has released ads that snip and clip Biden’s speeches and remarks to make the former vice president appear to say the opposite of what he was saying.

President Donald Trump officialBiden says he will not ban fracking — so Trump runs ads that say he will ban fracking.

Biden says he will not defund police departments — so Trump runs ads saying he will defund them.

Now here comes an ad in which Biden is seen saying three times he will raise everyone’s taxes, even though Biden’s stated policy is that anyone making less than $400,000 a year will not face a tax increase. “An economy in ruins. That’s what Joe Biden’s tax increase means for you,” the ad declares.

Snip, snip, snip. Each time, Biden’s remarks are taken out of context.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Supreme Court ruled that Wisconsin could not extend its deadline for mailed ballots, Adam Liptak, Oct. 27, 2020 (print ed.). In April, the court had assumed an extension was permissible, though it insisted that ballots be mailed and postmarked before Election Day.

The Supreme Court refused on Monday to revive a trial court ruling that would have extended Wisconsin’s deadline for receiving absentee ballots to six days after the election.

The vote was 5 to 3, with the court’s more conservative justices in the majority. As is typical, the court’s brief, unsigned order gave no reasons. But several justices filed concurring and dissenting opinions that spanned 35 pages and revealed a stark divide in their understanding of the role of the courts in protecting the right to vote during a pandemic.

The ruling was considered a victory for Republicans in a crucial swing state, which polls have shown Mr. Trump trailing in after winning by about 23,000 votes in 2016.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin immediately announced a voter education project to alert voters that absentee ballots have to be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 3. “We’re dialing up a huge voter education campaign,” Ben Wikler, the state party chairman, said on Twitter. The U.S. Postal Service has recommended that voters mail their ballots by Oct. 27 to ensure that they are counted.

ny times logoNew York Times, Voters in Battleground States Are Driving Record Early Turnout, Denise Lu and Karen Yourish, Oct. 27, 2020. More than 64 million Americans have already cast their ballots, with about half of them in states that will ultimately decide who wins the Electoral College.

Possibly even more significant, early votes in these battlegrounds account for more than half of those states’ total votes in 2016. Nationally, voters have already cast about 46 percent of the total vote counted in 2016, according to the United States Elections Project.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, many states have changed voting rules, allowing millions to vote by mail for the first time, and many others have voted in person early to avoid an anticipated crush of voters on Election Day. Voter enthusiasm for and against President Trump has also fueled record-level early turnout across the country.

Democrats appear much more eager about early voting. In the five battleground states that report party registration, nearly two million more registered Democrats have voted than Republicans so far.

In Pennsylvania — a state Mr. Trump narrowly won in 2016 — more than three times as many Democrats have voted than Republicans. The party breakdown is more even in Florida and North Carolina.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Race Enters Last Week, Campaigns’ Strategies Show in Travel Choices, Staff reports. Oct. 27, 2020. The best way to tell which states President Trump and Joe Biden think are in play is to track their campaign travel. Burgess Owens, a Republican House candidate in Utah, accepted at least $135,000 in illegal donations.

Trips are being announced just a few days in advance, and the operative word is tentative. Candidates will make last-minute adjustments to their schedules based on the latest information from overnight polls (or prodding from worried supporters).

Case in point: Mr. Biden paid a quick trip to Pennsylvania on Monday. This is one of the most contested states on the map, which the president narrowly won last time and where polls now show Mr. Biden ahead. Mr. Trump has traveled so often to the state in recent days that it seems only a matter of time until Pennsylvania starts hitting him up for its resident income tax.

Mr. Biden heads to Georgia on Tuesday and to Iowa later in the week, two states Mr. Trump won in 2016 that are on the edge of the Democrats-have-a-chance map. It’s an aggressive move. Should Mr. Biden lose next Tuesday, expect the second-guessing brigade to inspect his decision to play offense when perhaps the game called for defense, and to invoke the trip Hillary Clinton made to Arizona at the end of the 2016 campaign.

But he is also going to Tampa, signaling how important Florida is, and how Democrats have put the president on the defensive in a state that he needs to win. (If early returns show Mr. Biden winning Florida next week, watch Democrats begin to pop the champagne.) And he is also heading to Wisconsin, as he tries to nail down the three Rust Belt states — the other two are Pennsylvania and Michigan — that lifted Mr. Trump over the 270 electoral vote hurdle four years ago.

Mr. Trump is spending a lot of time on defense this week, heading to states that he won in 2016 and where he is struggling today: Arizona and, of course, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Assuming Mr. Trump can hold on to the rest of his 2016 map (and that may be a big assumption), he needs to hold just one of the three key Midwestern states to win re-election.

ny times logoNew York Times, Michael Bloomberg funded a last-minute advertising blitz for Joe Biden in Texas and Ohio, Alexander Burns, Oct. 27, 2020. The billionaire former New York City mayor has concentrated largely on Florida in the general election. But his private polling found President Trump vulnerable in two of the country’s biggest red states.

michael bloomberg2Michael R. Bloomberg, right, is funding a last-minute spending blitz to bolster former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. in Texas and Ohio, directing millions toward television advertising in two red states that have shifted away from President Trump in the general election.

A political adviser to Mr. Bloomberg said the billionaire former mayor of New York City would use his super PAC, Independence USA, to air intensive ad campaigns in all television markets in both states. The cost of the two-state campaign is expected to total around $15 million.

The decision by Mr. Bloomberg reflects just how much the electoral landscape appears to have shifted in the final few months of the presidential race, as Mr. Trump’s mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic has intensified his unpopularity and further alienated crucial voting groups like women and suburbanites.

Mr. Biden’s campaign has treated Ohio as a competitive battleground for some time, even though Mr. Trump carried it by a wide margin in 2016, and more recently, the Democratic ticket has been putting some time and money into Texas. Senator Kamala Harris of California, Mr. Biden’s running mate, is planning to visit the state on Friday.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘A disgrace to democracy’: Dozens of ballots destroyed in suspected arson of a Boston drop box, Tim Elfrink, Oct. 27, 2020 (print ed.). The fire started early Sunday morning inside a ballot drop box in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood. By the time firefighters doused the fire by filling the inside of the box with water, dozens of ballots inside had been destroyed.

Now, the FBI and Boston police are searching for a suspect in the alleged arson, an act that local authorities decried as an attack on democracy itself.

“What happened in the early hours of this morning to the ballot dropbox in Copley Square is a disgrace to democracy, a disrespect to the voters fulfilling their civic duty, and a crime,” said a joint statement from Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (D) and Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin (D).

The incident is at least the second alleged arson attack this month on ballot drop boxes, which have emerged as a popular option for the record numbers of Americans voting remotely to avoid polling places during the coronavirus pandemic. In Southern California last week, as many as 100 ballots were endangered when a drop box was set on fire.

Hunter Biden (shown in a Zoom video of remarks at the 2020 Democratic National Convention)

Hunter Biden (shown in a Zoom video of remarks at the 2020 Democratic National Convention)

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Joe Biden, Hunter Biden and the politics of unconditional love, Monica Hesse, Oct. 27, 2020 (print ed.). What the vice president’s relationship with his son tells us.

The finish-line strategy of the Trump campaign has landed, convolutedly, on the narrative that Hunter Biden is an inconvenient son. That he is trailed by a fug of damaging allusions: Burisma. Ukraine. “His son didn’t have a job for a long time,” President Trump taunted Joe Biden in Thursday evening’s debate. “Cocaine use,” he’d jeered in the first.

Donald Trump Jr., tapping in for his dad in the proxy battle of large adult sons, has said that Hunter is a “crackhead” and has complained to Sean Hannity that if he, Don Jr., had done what he’s accusing Hunter Biden of doing — a web of shadowy misdeeds allegedly uncovered by a Delaware computer technician, Rudolph W. Giuliani and the New York Post — “I would be phoning in from Rikers Island.”

Clearly, there is a lot to unpack here.

But as a starting place, we might note that Joe Biden’s response to all of this has been to love his son.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Weakened Hold on Long Island Puts 2 G.O.P. House Seats at Risk, Sarah Maslin Nir, Oct. 27, 2020 (print ed.). Peter King is leaving Congress, and Lee Zeldin could be vulnerable. The elections in the two districts will be “a referendum on Trump,” a strategist said.

In Suffolk County, the Republican incumbent, Representative Lee Zeldin, is an ardent supporter of the Trump administration; the district just to the west is held peter kingby Peter T. King, left, a 14-term Republican who counts himself among the president’s closer friends.

But Democratic leaders believe that this November’s election may present a rare opportunity for them to seize one or both of the House seats. The two contests are on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Red to Blue program, with Democrats pointing to three factors that could lead to possible victory: President Trump’s deepening unpopularity; the growing number of Democrats in the area; and the fact that Mr. King, the longest-serving Republican in New York’s congressional delegation, is not seeking re-election.

“I do think that to some extent these candidates’ fortunes rise and fall with the president,” said Chapin D. Fay, a Republican strategist who ran Mr. Zeldin’s 2014 congressional primary campaign, but is no longer involved.

“This is going to be a referendum on Trump,” he added. For the Democrats on Long Island, “That is the strategy they’re left with,” he said, “and it may work if the poll numbers are accurate and they get worse.”

The challenge for Mr. Zeldin and, to a lesser extent, Andrew Garbarino, a Republican state assemblyman vying to succeed Mr. King, is to gauge how much they should tether their campaigns to Mr. Trump before doing so becomes a liability.

538.com, Analysis: Control Of Redistricting Is Up For Grabs In 2020. Here Are The Races To Watch, Nathaniel Rakich and Elena Mejía, Oct. 27, 2020. Most of the attention on the 2020 election is focused on who will sit in the White House for the next four years. But the 2020 election could also help decide who controls the House of Representatives for the next decade.

This is the last election before data from the census is released, so whoever emerges from this year holding power on the state level will have the power to redraw their state’s congressional maps — and maybe even give their side an unfair advantage in future elections. (Although this is not true everywhere, as some states have independent or bipartisan commissions draw their maps.)

Without question, Texas is the biggest redistricting prize up for grabs this year; accounting for population growth, it is expected to have 39 congressional districts next decade. While Republicans currently control all three stakeholders in the congressional redistricting process — the state Senate, state House and governorship — the state House is competitive this year. Democrats need a net gain of just nine seats to take control of the chamber — and there are 22 districts that the party thinks it can flip, including nine that Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke carried in 2018. If Democrats flip the House, they would gain the ability to block GOP-proposed maps, forcing either Republicans to compromise or a court to draw the lines.

New York is projected to have 26 House seats next decade, but it has relatively new and complex redistricting rules under which a bipartisan commission proposes maps, but the state legislature and governor decide whether to approve them.

Cleveland Scene, Right-Wing Fraudsters Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman Have Now Been Indicted in Cuyahoga County for Robocall Scheme, Vince Grzegorek, Oct. 27, 2020. After already having been indicted in Michigan for a robocall scheme to intimidate urban-area voters with misinformation, the fabulously inept duo of Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman have now been indicted in Cuyahoga County for the same scheme.

Congresswoman Marcia Fudge was among those who noted after the Michigan case was unveiled that similar calls had been reported in Cleveland.

Wohl and Burkman face eight counts of telecommunications fraud and seven counts of bribery and a possible 18 years in prison. (Bribery in this context refers to 3599.01(A)(2) in the Ohio Revised Code: “Attempt by intimidation, coercion, or other unlawful means to induce such delegate or elector to register or refrain from registering or to vote or refrain from voting at a primary, convention, or election for a particular person, question, or issue.")

The calls, one of which you can listen to below, said “If you vote by mail, your personal information will be part of a public database that will be used by police departments to track down old warrants and be used for credit card companies to collect outstanding debts. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) is even pushing to… track people for mandatory vaccines.”

Similar robocalls were made in areas with “significant minority populations” in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said earlier this month.

In all, the duo made more than 65,000 robocalls. Cuyahoga County prosecutors say at least 10% of those were targeted to Cleveland and East Cleveland.

“The right to vote is the most fundamental component of our nation’s democracy. These individuals clearly infringed upon that right in a blatant attempt to suppress votes and undermine the integrity of this election. These actions will not be tolerated. Anyone who interferes with others’ right to vote must be held accountable,” Prosecutor Michael O’Malley said in a statement.

Wohl and Burkman have been removed from social media sites for making bogus claims, including manufacturing sexual-assault allegations against former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg and special counsel Robert Mueller. They also falsely claimed Elizabeth Warren had a sexual relationship with an ex-Marine male escort.

djt lesley stahl

New York Daily News, Lesley Stahl gets security protection after death threat over Trump ‘60 Minutes’ interview: report, Kate Feldman, Oct. 27, 2020. CBS has reportedly hired full-time security for “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl after a family member received a death threat over her interview with President Trump.

An unidentified suspect called Stahl’s home Thursday, just hours before the president released his own copy of the interview on Facebook, and threatened her and her family and “said something about neo-Nazis,” TMZ reported Tuesday.

The Los Angeles Police Department would not confirm whether an investigation has been launched. Stahl, 78, now reportedly has security guards at her home and with her whenever she goes out in public.

 

U.S. Racial Issues

ny times logoNew York Times, Black Senate Candidates in South Tell Democrats to ‘Meet the Moment,’ Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, Oct. 27, 2020 (print ed.). Several Black Democrats are running competitively against white opponents in conservative states, and they are doing so by talking explicitly about race.

Mike Espy and Jaime Harrison, two of the five Black Senate candidates in the South this year, may belong to different political generations, but they both came up in a Democratic Party where African-American politicians didn’t talk directly about race in campaigns against white opponents.

But there was Mr. Harrison this month, speaking before more than 250 cars at a drive-in rally in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, explicitly urging a mix of white and Black supporters to right the wrongs of the state’s past.“The very first state to secede from the union,” Mr. Harrison said to a cacophony of blaring horns, “because we will be the very first state in this great country of ours that has two African-American senators serving at the very same time — and you will make that happen.”

A day later, speaking to an equally diverse audience in northern Mississippi, Mr. Espy called his Republican opponent, Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, “an anachronism.”

“She is someone who believes in going back to the old days,” he said, lashing his Republican rival for hailing the Civil War-era South and refusing to take a stand in the debate over Mississippi’s state flag, which until this summer included the Confederate battle emblem. “We need a Mississippi that’s more inclusive, that’s more diverse, more welcoming.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Superintendent of VMI resigns after Black cadets describe relentless racism, Ian Shapira, Oct. 27, 2020 (print ed.). Retired Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III quits after allegations of racism surface.

The superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute resigned Monday morning after Black cadets described relentless racism at the nation’s oldest state-ralph northam file headshotsupported military college, and Gov. Ralph Northam (D), left, ordered an independent probe of the school’s culture.

Retired Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III, 80, shown at right in a file photo, has been superintendent of the 181-year-old school since 2003. During the retired four-star general’s binford peay.JPEGtenure, multiple accounts of racist incidents have surfaced at VMI.

Most recently, The Washington Post documented how one Black student filed a complaint against a White adjunct professor who reminisced about her father’s Ku Klux Klan membership last year in the middle of class. In 2018, a White sophomore told a Black freshman during Hell Week he would “lynch” his body and use his “dead corpse as a punching bag” — but was suspended, but not expelled.

At VMI, Black cadets endure lynching threats, Klan memories and Confederacy veneration

After The Post’s story was published, Northam (D), a 1981 VMI graduate, ordered an independent investigation into the school, which received $19 million in state funds in fiscal 2020. In a letter announcing the inquiry, Northam and other state officials said they had “deep concerns about the clear and appalling culture virginia military institute logoof ongoing structural racism” at the school.

John Boland, the president of VMI’s Board of Visitors, rejected that description, saying that “systemic racism does not exist here and a fair and independent review will find that to be true.”

Peay also emailed the VMI community last week saying he did not believe systemic racism is present at the school.

In Boland’s letter Monday announcing Peay’s resignation, he said that he accepted it with “deep regret.” He said Peay was a “great American, patriot, and hero. He has profoundly changed our school for the better in all respects.”

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, How Trump and Bolsonaro Broke Latin America’s Covid-19 Defenses, David D. Kirkpatrick and José María León Cabrera Oct. 27, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump and Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro drove out doctors, blocked assistance and pushed false cures. The two presidents djt smiling filedrove out 10,000 Cuban doctors and nurses. They defunded the region’s leading health agency. They wrongly pushed hydroxychloroquine as a cure.

The coronavirus was gathering lethal speed when President Trump met his Brazilian counterpart, Jair Bolsonaro, on March 7 for dinner at Mar-a-Lago. Mr. Bolsonaro had canceled trips that week to Italy, Poland and Hungary, and Brazil’s health minister had urged him to stay away from Florida, too.

jair bolsonaro brazilBut Mr. Bolsonaro, left, insisted, eager to burnish his image as the “Trump of the Tropics.” His grinning aides posed at the president’s resort in green “Make Brazil Great Again” hats. Mr. Trump declared he was “not concerned at all” before walking Mr. Bolsonaro around the club shaking hands.

Twenty-two people in Mr. Bolsonaro’s delegation tested positive for the virus after returning to Brazil, yet he was not alarmed. Mr. Trump had shared a cure, Mr. Bolsonaro told advisers: a box of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, the unproven treatment that Mr. Trump was then promoting as a remedy for Covid-19.New York Times, U.S. Virus Outlook Worsens With Record-Breaking Week, Oct. 27, 2020 (print ed.). The country has averaged at least 71,000 new coronavirus cases a day over the past week. Russia mandated masks nationwide. Here’s the latest.

washington post logoWashington Post, Airstrikes on camp for Turkish-backed rebels in Syria kill dozens, Sarah Dadouch and Kareem Fahim, Oct. 26, 2020. Rebels say Russian warplanes attacked a training site in northwest Syria, escalating tensions between Turkey and Russia.

 

U.S. Wildfires, Climate Change

washington post logoWashington Post, California sees new wildfires ignite near Los Angeles amid powerful Santa Ana winds, Andrew Freedman, Oct. 27, 2020 (print ed.). Winds gusting above 100 miles per hour with humidity in the single digits are raising fears of a firestorm. Fast-moving fire in Orange County prompts at least 60,000 to evacuate Irvine.

 

Oct. 26

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Reponses

 

Law, Crime, Courts

 

U.S. Racial Issues

 

 More On U.S. Elections, Politics

 

U.S. Media News


World News

 

U.S. Wildfires, Climate Change

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Infection of Pence Aides Raises New Questions About Virus Response, Michael D. Shear, Annie Karni, Maggie Haberman and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Oct. 26, 2020 (print ed.). The third outbreak to strike the White House was a reminder of the Trump administration’s cavalier approach to the worst health crisis in a century.'

“Covid, Covid. Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid,” President Trump groused at a rally in North Carolina on Saturday, expressing dismay that the deadly coronavirus pandemic had come to dominate the final days of his struggling re-election campaign. He made up a scenario: “A plane goes down, 500 people dead, they don’t talk about it. ‘Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid.’”

But just seven hours later, the White House made its own Covid headlines when officials acknowledged that another coronavirus outbreak had struck the White House, infecting Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff and four other top aides — and raising new questions about the Trump administration’s cavalier approach to the worst health crisis in a century.

“We’re not going to control the pandemic,” Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday morning, essentially offering a verbal shrug in response to any effort to prevent an outbreak in the top echelon of the nation’s leaders. “We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigations, because it is a contagious virus — just like the flu.”

Mr. Trump made no reference to the new cases during campaign rallies in New Hampshire and Maine on Sunday. But for voters, the new wave of infections at the White House just over a week before Election Day was a visceral reminder of the president’s dismissive and erratic handling of the virus, even in one of the most secure spaces in the country. And it comes just as the United States suffers its third surge in infections across the nation, with a record number of daily new cases on Friday and a death toll that has risen to almost 225,000.

Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee, said Sunday that the statement by Mr. Meadows was “an acknowledgment of what President Trump’s strategy has clearly been from the beginning of this crisis: to wave the white flag of defeat and hope that by ignoring it, the virus would simply go away. It hasn’t, and it won’t.”

“It’s sadly no surprise then that this virus continues to rage unchecked across the country and even in the White House itself,” said the former vice president, who has sought to make the administration’s handling of the coronavirus the centerpiece of his campaign.

From the beginning, Mr. Trump has downplayed the threat of the virus, initially insisting that it would just “go away” and failing to ramp up testing that might have helped slow its spread. Mr. Trump clashed with his own scientists, pressuring officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to change their restrictive recommendations about how and when to reopen businesses and schools.

The president organized his pandemic response around his political ideology, warring with “blue state” governors while praising the hands-off approach of Republican leaders. And he publicly sided with people frustrated with restrictions and shutdowns, demanding on Twitter that the governor of Michigan, among others, “liberate” her state.

 djt brett kavanaugh amy coney barrett

ny times logoNew York Times, Barrett Set to Be Confirmed to the Supreme Court, Neil Vigdor, Nicholas Fandos and Sydney Ember, Oct. 26, 2020 (print ed.). Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation today will give conservatives six of the court’s nine seats, and reverberations will be felt far and wide. The vote comes a day after Democrats in the Senate unsuccessfully tried to filibuster the nomination in protest.

As the presidential race enters its final week — the stakes of which have been magnified by a Supreme Court vacancy — Republicans in the Senate are poised on Monday to bring to a quick close their hastened confirmation of President Trump’s nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

The vote, expected in the evening, comes a day after Democrats in the chamber unsuccessfully tried to filibuster the nomination to protest a decision they say should be left to the winner of the presidential election.

The addition of Judge Barrett to the court would give conservatives six of the court’s nine seats, which Democrats have made a focus of the campaign this fall after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. They say it threatens women’s reproductive rights and protections for millions of Americans under the Affordable Care Act.

It also immediately calls into question whether Judge Barrett would recuse herself from ruling on lawsuits over the election, a scenario that has seemingly become more likely each time Mr. Trump has tried to cast aspersions on the integrity of voting.

“We’ve made an important contribution to the future of this country,” Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, said in a speech just after the filibuster vote on Sunday. “A lot of what we’ve done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election. They won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Enlarging the Supreme Court is the only answer to the right’s judicial radicalism, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, Oct. 26, 2020 (print ed.). There is only one good thing ej dionne w open neckthat can come from the power-mad Republican rush to jam Amy Coney Barrett onto the Supreme Court before Election Day: Of a sudden, as the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to say, Americans in the tens of millions now know that our country faces a crisis of democracy triggered by the right wing’s quest for unchecked judicial dominance.

Barrett’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and President Trump’s comments before nominating her, brought home just how dangerously disrespectful of democratic norms the enlarged conservative majority on the court threatens to be.

Amy Coney Barrett (2018 photo via Rachel Malehorn via Creative Commons and Wikimedia)Her silence on the most basic issues of republican self-rule tells us to be ready for the worst. She wouldn’t say if voter intimidation is illegal, even though it plainly is. She wouldn’t say if a president has the power to postpone an election, even though he doesn’t.

She wouldn’t even say that a president should commit himself to a peaceful transfer of power, telling Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) that “to the extent that this is a political controversy right now, as a judge I want to stay out of it.”

What, pray, is controversial in a democratic republic about the peaceful transfer of power? It’s hard to escape the conclusion that she was nodding to the president who nominated her. He said he wanted a friendly judge on the court to deal with electoral matters, and he continues to signal that one the most hallowed concepts of a free republic is inoperative when it comes to himself.

American System Radio, Opinion: Barrett Confirmed for Supreme Court by 52-48 Vote in Senate, Webster G. Tarpley, right, Oct. 26, 2020. Ultra-Reactionary webster tarpley 2007Majority of Republican Legal Positivists Takes Shape on High Court; GOP Orgy of Rule Breaking Must Set Stage for Reform of Hijacked Court, Adding Justices; New Extremist Majority Is Designed to Enable a Trump November Coup and Resulting Dictatorship; Perversion of Judiciary Was Key Feature of Fascist Regimes Like Italy in 1920s and Germany in 1930s; Expect Atrocities against Constitution and General Welfare within Days!

More Plans for Second Term Dictatorship: Trump Wants to Fire Esper of Pentagon, Wray of FBI, and Haspel of CIA; Replacements Are Guaranteed to Be Worse; Don Plans Purge of Federal Civil Service and Removal of Safeguards against Partisan Thuggery; Ronald Sanders, a Trump Appointee on Civil Service Commission, Resigns in Protest

FBI logoEurope and US Face Exponential Growth of Pandemic, as Spain and Italy Implement New Countermeasures; White House Chief of Staff Meadows Admits US Defeat in Pandemic That Trump Cannot Control; Herd Immunity Rules; On Campaign Trail, Trump Again Suggests that Contagion Is Political Hoax against Him That Will Disappear on November 4; US Deaths Pass 225,000.

Biden to Campaign in Georgia, Visiting Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Polio Treatment Center at Warm Springs.

Note to Media: Stop Helping GOP by Calling Them Conservatives! Most Are Reactionaries, with Not a Few Fascists! Breaking: In Harbinger of Horrors to Come, pre-Barrett Supreme Court Stops Wisconsin from Counting Mail-In Ballots Arriving after Election Day.Virus Victims, Reponses.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House gives up on trying to slow virus’s spread, Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Amy B Wang, Oct. 26, 2020. An outbreak in the vice president's office undermines the argument President Trump has been making that the U.S. is “rounding the turn.”

mark meadows SmallThe outbreak around Pence, who chairs the White House’s coronavirus task force, undermines the argument Trump has been making to voters that the country is “rounding the turn,” as the president put it at a rally Sunday in New Hampshire.

Further complicating Trump’s campaign-trail pitch was an extraordinary admission Sunday from White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, left, that the administration had effectively given up on trying to slow the virus’s spread.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The media never held Trump responsible for a mass atrocity, Jennifer Rubin, right, Oct. 26, 2020. The mainstream media have fallen short jennifer rubin new headshotin covering President Trump in many respects — from playing along as if he were sane and coherent, to perpetuating false moral equivalences between Trump and his opponents, to refusing to call his lies “lies.” That’s how we get coverage of the final presidential debate that praises Trump for not interrupting rather than making clear that Trump showed indifference to the deaths of more than 222,000 Americans because of covid-19. Somehow that accurate, verifiable statement is verboten in straight news coverage.

The most extraordinary failure in presidential history — the attempt to disguise and downplay the deaths of more Americans than all the U.S. military deaths from World War I, the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined — has not been laid at Trump’s feet. Put aside criminal law for now; this is a moral crime of unimaginable dimensions that should never be erased from the records of Trump and his enablers. What’s more, it is still going on.

Trump’s refusal to tell the American people that the novel coronavirus was a deadly airborne virus far worse than the flu, as he told The Post’s Bob Woodward, followed by his effort to goad governors into opening their states’ economies early, his disdain for masks and social distancing, and his recklessness in holding rallies and unmasked events needlessly exposed Americans to death and illness.

Mike PenceIn the closing days of his campaign, Trump is still holding mass rallies that have left a trail of infection. We now learn a coverup was underway to conceal the extent of an outbreak among Vice President Pence’s staff. The New York Times reports, “Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, portrayed an outbreak among Vice President Mike Pence’s close advisers as a matter of medical privacy that White House officials were right to try to keep from the public.” Meadows’s excuse that Pence was engaged in “essential” work and therefore exempt from health guidelines is false.

washington post logoWashington Post, President Trump declares coronavirus is ‘ending’ as virus rates spike and financial markets dip, Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey, Oct. 26, 2020. The pandemic remains the central issue of campaign one week before Election Day, as Joe Biden blistered the president for his handling of the pandemic.

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

  • World Cases: 43,447,461, Deaths: 1,160,544
  • U.S. Cases:     8,890,481, Deaths:    230,512

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Some U.S. Hospitals Are Reaching Their Limits, Staff reports, Oct. 26, 2020. With the virus spreading out of control in many places, experts say it is only a matter of time before hospitals reach a breaking point. The country has seen a 40 percent increase in the past month in the number of hospitalized Covid-19 patients. Here’s the latest.

With the coronavirus spreading out of control in many parts of the United States and daily case counts setting records, health experts say it is only a matter of time before hospitals start to reach the breaking point.

In some places, it is already happening.

There are more than 41,000 Covid-19 patients hospitalized in the United States, a 40 percent rise in the past month. And unlike during the earlier months of the pandemic, more of those patients are being cared for not in metropolitan regions but in more sparsely populated parts of the country, where the medical infrastructure is less robust.

In Utah last week, hospital administrators sent a grim warning to Gov. Gary Herbert that they would soon be forced to ration access to their rapidly filling intensive-care units, and requested approval for criteria to decide which patients should get priority, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

washington post logoWashington Post, Dow plunges 650 points as coronavirus cases flare up, stimulus hopes fade, Taylor Telford and Hamza Shaban, Oct. 26, 2020. U.S. markets slumped Monday as investors grappled with uncertainty about economic stimulus negotiations and soaring coronavirus cases around the country.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 650 points, or 2.3 percent, to 27,686. The S&P 500 index tumbled nearly 1.9 percent to 3,401, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index dropped 1.6 percent, to 11,359. The sell-off erased all of the blue-chip index’s gains for October.

The United States hit a record high in new coronavirus cases Friday, with more than 83,700 reported, according to data from Johns Hopkins. The resurgence is compounding volatility in the countdown to the presidential election, according to Craig Erlam, an analyst with OANDA.

CNN, Minnesota reports three Covid-19 outbreaks related to Trump campaign events in September, Nadia Kounang, Oct. 26, 2020. The Minnesota Department of cnn logoHealth is reporting three Covid-19 outbreaks related to Trump campaign events held in the state in September.

At least 23 cases have been traced to outbreaks occurring at rally events in Bemidji on September 18, a speech held by Vice President Mike Pence on September 24 in Minneapolis, and another rally held by President Donald Trump on September 30 in Duluth, the department said in an email to CNN.

Minnesota defines an outbreak as "two or more cases of illness related by time and place in which an epidemiologic investigation suggests either person-to-person transmission occurred" or some other vehicle, such as contaminated water, is implicated. Public health experts say it is difficult to pinpoint any one event to overall changes in trends in light of the fact that there is overall increased community transmission. But experts also agree that holding such events in this
climate is not a best practice for public health.
Trump's Bemidji rally took place in an airport hanger. According to a CNN producer who attended the event, at least 2,000 people were in attendance. Based on contact tracing by the state Department of Health, at least 16 cases, including two hospitalizations, were identified among attendees.

In the month preceding the rally, the seven-day average of new cases in Beltrami County, where Bemidji is located, was 2.85 new cases a day, according to Johns Hopkins University. On the day of the rally it had climbed up slightly to 3 new cases a day. But four weeks after, the average rate of new cases in the county had increased more than fourfold, reaching an average of 14.57 new cases a day.

On September 24, Pence and the President's daughter, Ivanka Trump, held a "Cops for Trump" listening event indoors at the InterContinental Hotel in Minneapolis-St. Paul. The state Department of Health has found three event attendees with Covid-19 infections.

In the month before the event, the seven-day average was just under 180 new cases in Hennepin County and had dropped to an average of 169 new cases on the day of the vice president's visit, according to Johns Hopkins. A month later on October 24, that daily new case average was over 266 new cases a day.

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Courts

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Right-wing SCOTUS justices: Impeach them, Wayne Madsen, Oct. 26, 2020. There is a constitutional method for ridding wayne madesen report logothe U.S. Supreme Court of its two far-right justices, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. It borrows a page from the right-wing in the 1960s. C

If a serious and concerted effort to impeach and remove Kavanaugh and Barrett is launched, along with an ethics probe of Clarence Thomas's blatant political activity and conflicts-of-interest involving his far-right wife, the progressives could be looking at six seats on the court, matching the number enjoyed by the Warren Court.

washington post logojennifer rubin new headshotWashington Post, Opinion: Four big constitutional fixes we need, thanks to Trump, Jennifer Rubin, Oct. 26, 2020. If eight days from now former vice president Joe Biden wins the White House and Democrats secure House and Senate majorities, a plethora of reforms will come front and center — from depoliticization of the Justice Department to restoration of the pre-clearance function in the Voting Rights Act to statehood for Washington, D.C.

For now, however, let’s consider four issues that reveal gaps in our constitutional structure regarding presidential power and transparency.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How to safeguard progressive legislation against the Supreme Court: Poison pills, Aziz Huq and Darrell A.H. Miller, Oct. 26, 2020. It’s a less-confrontational approach than court-packing.

Conflict between a Supreme Court hostile to progressive legislation and a Congress eager for reform appears very likely next year: Amy Coney Barrett will soon be on the court, creating an all-but-impregnable 6 to 3 conservative majority. Meanwhile, after the election, the Democratic Party may well control both chambers of Congress and the presidency. The prospect of years — maybe decades — of court rejection of significant legislation has caused some in the Democratic coalition to urge Congress to play hardball — perhaps by “packing” the court.

Yet Congress has a more innovative and less radical option at its disposal — one that takes into account the very doctrines that conservative justices are inclined to use to invalidate progressive legislation. Call it the “poison pill” — borrowing the name for a shareholder provision designed in the 1980s to prevent hostile corporate takeovers. A financial poison pill works this way: If one shareholder buys beyond a certain fraction of the company’s stock, contractual mechanisms kick in to make the takeover unattractive.

Likewise, Congress can add provisions to statutes that might lead to distasteful results for justices otherwise inclined to strike them down through ideologically driven judicial review.

Congressional “poison pills” could come in one of two flavors: The first type would hitch constitutionally vulnerable items to provisions that a conservative court would be loathe to invalidate. The second would trigger a fallback measure — if one part of the legislation is struck down — that would be highly obnoxious to an ideological bench, but beyond its power to invalidate.

 

keith raniere nxivm

ny times logoNew York Times, Sex Cult Leader, Facing Life Sentence, Regrets Nothing, Nicole Hong, Oct. 26, 2020. Several victims are expected to testify when Keith Raniere, the founder of Nxivm, is sentenced this week for sex trafficking, extortion and other crimes.

Keith Raniere, the leader of a self-help organization called Nxivm, had been revered by throngs of loyal followers who promoted him as the smartest man in the world. They called him “Vanguard,” believing that his teachings would bring about peace and even influence elections.

Mr. Raniere, 60, is now sitting in jail, convicted at trial as a con man who was exploiting Nxivm to enrich himself financially and recruit sexual partners, leading to its current reputation as a “sex cult.”

He will return to court on Tuesday for his sentencing, facing the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison. His sentencing is expected to include hours of statements from victims.

Still, Mr. Raniere carries no remorse and will not be seeking forgiveness, his lawyers said. He has accused the judge of corruption and demanded a new trial.
“He is not sorry for his conduct or his choices,” his lawyers wrote in a court filing last month, adding that he “intends to fight this case with all of his might, confident that he will one day be vindicated.”

Mr. Raniere’s sentencing in federal court in Brooklyn will be the culmination of a legal saga that brought down an organization whose expensive self-empowerment courses were taken by Hollywood celebrities, professional athletes and top business school graduates. Many people joined Nxivm (pronounced NEX-ee-um) hoping it would help them overcome their insecurities and give them a sense of purpose.

But Mr. Raniere also created a secret women-only group within the company in 2015. Those women, who were called “slaves,” were branded with his initials near their pelvises and assigned to have sex with him. They adhered to strict diets, restricted to as low as 500 calories a day. They were required to hand over collateral, including photos of their genitals that they feared would be released if they disobeyed orders.

A wave of Nxivm members fled the organization after learning about the branding ceremony, leading to a criminal investigation and the arrests of Nxivm’s top leaders.

A jury convicted Mr. Raniere last summer after a six-week trial. Prosecutors charged him with racketeering, applying a statute that had been used to dismantle the major Mafia families in New York. The jury found him guilty of crimes that included child pornography, forced labor, sex trafficking, identity theft and obstruction of justice.

 

U.S. Racial Issues

ny times logocharles blow customNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s Army of Angry White Men, Charles M. Blow, right, Oct. 26, 2020 (print ed.). This group will continue to fight for Trump and he knows that.

At the moment, Joe Biden is leading in the polls, but the fact that Trump is even close — and still has a chance, however slim, to be re-elected — is for a person like me, a Black man, astounding. I assume that there are many women, Muslims, immigrants, Mexicans and people from Haiti and African nations he disparaged who feel the same way.

djt economist cover aug 19 2017Trump is the president of the United States because a majority of white people in this country wanted him to be. Perhaps some supported him despite his obvious flaws, but others undoubtedly saw those flaws as laudable attributes. For the latter, Trump’s racism was welcome in the coven.

Still, according to the latest Quinnipiac poll, more white people support Trump than Biden. This is primarily a function of white men who prefer Trump over Biden 57 percent to 36 percent. Most white women support Biden, which is a reversal from the last election, when a plurality voted for Trump.

The white racist, sexist, xenophobic patriarchy and all those who benefit from or aspire to it are in a battle with the rest of us, for not only the present in this country but also the future of it.

The Republican Party, which is now without question the Party of Trump, has become a structural reflection of him. They see their majorities slipping and the country turning brown with a quickness, and they are becoming more tribal, more rash, more devious, just like him.

Like Trump, the Republican Party sees a future in which the only way they can win is to cheat. That is why they are stacking the courts. That is why they openly embrace tactics that are well known to result in voter suppression. That is why they gerrymander. That is why they staunchly oppose immigration.

Trump’s base of mostly white men, mostly without a college degree, see him as the ambassador of their anger, one who ministers to their fear, consoles their losses and champions their victimhood. Trump is the angry white man leading the battle charge for angry white men.

washington post logoWashington Post, A Florida man stole a bulldozer, knocked down a fence and stole Biden signs, police said, Jaclyn Peiser, Oct. 26, 2020. Residents in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Haines City, Fla., knew something was off on Saturday when they saw a young White man driving a bulldozer on the street. As he made his way down the block, the man began running over every lawn sign in sight supporting Joe Biden.

gop upside down resized logo“This man came onto my property, took the two Joe Biden signs I had in my yard and then came back with a bulldozer to run down my fence,” Adam Burgess, a local homeowner, told Bay News 9.

The man, later identified by police as 26-year-old James Blight, was charged with grand theft auto and trespassing, according to the outlet.

The incident in Florida is the latest example of increased tensions days before the election, as yard signs and other public proclamations of support for either presidential candidate have become a point of contention — and have occasionally led to violence.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Wait, Jared Kushner said WHAT about Black people? Bill Palmer, Oct. 26, 2020. Donald Trump is on track to lose the African American vote in 2020 about as badly as he lost it in 2016. That’s not a surprise, considering Trump’s racist words, behavior, and policies. But apparently the Trump campaign is making a last minute push to win over Black voters, by sending Jared Kushner to the plate. It’s not going well.

bill palmer report logo headerJared Kushner went on Fox News and said this: “One thing we’ve seen in a lot of the Black community, which is mostly Democrat, is that President Trump’s policies are the policies that can help people break out of the policies that they’re complaining about, but he can’t want them to be more successful more than they want to be successful.”

In other words, Kushner is relying on the old racist trope that says Black people are only struggling and impoverished because they don’t want to succeed, or they’re lazy. This is the kind of nonsense that wealthy privileged white people tell themselves, as an excuse for not wanting to properly reform things. It’s not at all surprising that Kushner feels this way; it’s just stunning that he thinks saying it out loud is a good campaign strategy to win over Black voters.

In that same interview, Jared Kushner also made a point of attacking people for having dared to speak up about George Floyd’s murder, insisting they were merely “virtue signaling” – a phrase that crappy people use to try to dismiss the behavior of decent people. Kushner then accused Black athletes of trying to “polarize” the country. This interview was a disaster for him.

Law and Crime, Jacob Wohl, While Representing Himself in Civil Court, Likely Says Incriminating Things as Criminal Case Looms, Colin Kalmbacher, Oct 26, 2020.  Right-wing activists, hoaxers and alleged fraudsters Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl, right, gave testimony in a civil case on Monday morning. And some of what was said might have less than positive implications for their upcoming criminal trial in Michigan.

jacob wohl aug 2020The decidedly bumbling duo was sued in New York federal court in late October by the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP), a self-described and decades-old “nonpartisan civil rights and racial justice organization,” for allegedly violating the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871.

According to the nonprofit groups’s 23-page complaint, Burkman, Wohl and their associated political and lobbying firms are behind a racist “disinformation campaign” that operates “by bombarding lawfully registered voters with robocalls containing blatant lies about mail-in voting in order to intimidate those voters into not exercising their right to vote in the November 3, 2020 election.”

“Throughout history…bad actors have sought to employ deceptive election practices, intimidation, coercion and threats in an effort to infringe on the rights of citizens to vote,” the lawsuit notes. “Defendants here have orchestrated one such scheme: the use of widely-disseminated robocalls—i.e., automated telephone calls with a recorded message—spreading fraudulent information and preying on deep-rooted fears and racial stereotypes to suppress votes.”

Citing private causes of action in both of those landmark statutes passed to address the enduring American legacies of chattel slavery, anti-Black de jure and de facto racism, Jim Crow legal regimes, and white racist vigilantism, the NCBCP sued for declaratory relief and attorney’s fees–as well as an injunction barring the haphazard conservative pair from engaging in further robocall schemes and for (often costly) compensatory and punitive damages.

The civil wrongs alleged are substantially similar to recent criminal charges filed by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D). Again the lawsuit at length:

During Monday’s hearing, Wohl served as his own attorney and openly answered questions that he was asked, according to journalist Zachary Petrizzo, who listened in on the proceedings.

Burkman and Wohl reportedly struggled over “basic” factual issues–especially when asked to account for their documented and voluminous history of hoaxes and smears. The duo was also forced by the judge to account for whether or not they targeted specific areas with their robocalls.

“The anti-vaccine movement is a diverse movement,” Wohl told the judge at one point. This comment was apparently uttered in service of an effort to defend the claim in one of his robocalls that voters’ private information might be used to facilitate forced vaccination—a possibly racist trope in context of the allegation that Burkman and Wohl were targeting Black voters for suppression in particular.

“Stating that the CDC will use vote by mail information to conduct mandatory vaccination efforts is likely to intimidate voters who do not trust government medical programs,” the NCBCP lawsuit notes. “Such trust is especially low in the Black community due to a history of racist experimentation and discriminatory practices in such programs, like the Tuskegee Syphilis Study.”

Aside from the answers given by the reportedly befuddled defendants, lawyers were quick to criticize the strategy of even appearing for the civil hearing in the first place–much less answering questions without an actual attorney present.

“Wohl is not only defending himself, but he is answering questions in a civil case even though he has been charged in a criminal case,” noted former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst Renato Mariotti via Twitter. “What he says in this civil case can and will be used against him! Normally defendants request a ‘stay’ that pauses the civil case.”

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump is crashing and burning, Shirley Kennedy, Oct. 26, 2020. We are just over a week away from the November 3rd election, and little has changed.

The Republican Senate continues to ram Amy Coney Barrett through and down our throats, Joe Biden continues to lead, and “president” Donald Trump remains in denial. USA Today reported that Trump held a rally in Lumberton, NC for the Lumbee Tribe, the “largest Native American tribe and one of the largest East of the Mississippi.” Why any Native American would support Trump defies logic, but that is a discussion for another day. Trump’s rally was about anything but the Lumbee. All he could talk about was the media being “too focused” on Covid. Someone should be.

bill palmer report logo headerCases are again trending up as 12 states set new records. Yet, Trump claims “we’re rounding the turn.” We are rounding a turn alright — a turn to illness and death as the virus continues to rage out of control. As Joe Biden said in the debate last week, “We are learning to die with it.” Even as Trump cried “Covid, Covid, Covid,” as the media’s focus, Forbes was crying “China, China, China.”

In 2015, Donald Trump took Forbes on a tour of Trump Tower, telling them, “I have the best tenants in the world in this building.” One of his best tenants is the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, which pays approximately $1.9 million per year in rent. Trump would have us believe that he divested from his businesses, but Forbes reported that he retains ownership of Trump Tower by holding a 100% interest in Trump Tower Commercial, LLC, which in turn controls Trump Tower. Trump thus maintains control of Trump Tower, and China owns 70% of his Chinese bank tenant. In addition, The New York Times reported that Trump has a bank account in China. He denies this, but he is lying, just as he lies about virtually everything. If you cannot smell the rot, you have lost your sense of smell.

When this information is taken together and you consider Trump continuing to downplay coronavirus, you might think he is in office for the specific purpose of destroying and/or selling out the U.S. As outlandish as that might sound, where is the evidence that might refute it? Trump, according to Forbes, has made over $5.4 million from the Chinese since taking office, yet he accuses Joe Biden of taking money from China. The man is a buffoon, a liar, and a danger, and he must lose next month.

We are almost at the proverbial finish line. Turnout in early voting has gone well and looks good for Democrats but take nothing for granted. A new poll released Sunday shows Biden up by 3 points in Texas, primarily because he has increased his Hispanic support from 30% to 48%. The polling averages now show a tie race in Texas. Forty percent of voters in Texas have already voted, and if Biden wins Texas, it is over. But we must take nothing for granted. We cannot stop until we reach our goal of getting Trump out of the people’s White House.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Iowa Republicans are only pivoting toward the center to save their hold on the state, Lyz Lenz (journalist and the author of “God Land: A Story of Faith, Loss, and Renewal in Middle America”), Oct. 26, 2020. After Iowa Republicans rejected incumbent U.S. congressman and notorious racist Steve King in last June’s primary, GOP consultant David Kochel told me he was breaking out the booze. A fellow Republican operative tweeted a video of Kochel squirting something from a flask into his mouth with the comment, “King Slayer @ddkochel drinks blood after the kill.”

Kochel himself appended several clapping emojis to a Democrat’s tweet that said, “Steve King continues to honor the Confederacy by getting just destroyed on his home turf.”

Iowa Republicans were celebrating. Forget that Kochel used to donate to King. Forget that, just months earlier, two GOP rivals for another congressional seat, Bobby Schilling and Mariannette Miller-Meeks, shared a stage with neo-Nazi Nick Fuentes. And never mind that Fuentes was there by an invitation from a Schilling staffer.

No, they said, they were a new party now.

But the truth is, Iowa Republicans are changing only because the party stands on the verge of losing its current chokehold on the state. Republicans turned against King not because of his racism, which they tend not to comment on, but because he wasn’t an effective congressman.

Their change of tone is indicative of how desperately Republicans are trying to pivot in case Democratic nominee Joe Biden wins the presidency and/or Democrats take back the Senate.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s Carrier deal fades as economic reality intervenes, David J. Lynch, Oct. 26, 2020. Jobs that were saved are dwarfed by others that leftThe Carrier plant in Indianapolis is where outsourcing was supposed to have stopped.

Within days of winning the 2016 election, President-elect Donald Trump persuaded the company — in return for $7 million in Indiana state incentives and some presidential goodwill — to keep in the United States most of the 1,100 jobs it had planned to ship to Mexico.

“Companies are not going to leave the United States anymore without consequences. It’s not going to happen,” Trump told cheering Carrier employees when he visited the plant. “We’re not going to have it anymore.”

Trump advertised Carrier’s Dec. 1, 2016, announcement that it would preserve about 800 jobs in Indianapolis as a decisive break from decades of U.S. executives capitalizing on lower labor costs overseas at the expense of blue-collar workers at home.

Four years later, it has proved to be nothing of the sort.

This year alone, Indiana employers have sent more jobs to Mexico, China, India and other foreign countries than were saved at Carrier. Without headlines or presidential notice, at least 17 companies — names like Vibracoustic, Molnlycke Health Care, Allura, Altex, Stanley Black & Decker, Dometic, Johnson Controls and Horizon Terra — have closed plants or otherwise reduced employment in Indiana and moved jobs abroad, according to U.S. Department of Labor filings.

  • postal service old logoWashington Post, As virus cases surge, these states refuse to loosen rules on voting by mail, Elise Viebeck and Arelis R. Hernández, Oct. 26, 2020.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats Hope 2020 Is the Year They Flip the Texas House, Manny Fernandez and Reid J. Epstein, Oct. 26, 2020 (print ed.). Republicans have controlled the state government since 2003. An anti-Trump surge could give Democrats a crucial boost.

Deep in the suburbs northeast of Fort Worth, Democrats trying to win the Texas House for the first time in years have been getting help from a surprising source.

Republicans.

For 16 years, until he left office in 2013, Todd A. Smith was a Republican representing these suburbs in the Texas House of Representatives. His district covered a fast-growing hub of middle-class and affluent communities next door to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

When it came time to decide whom he would support for his old seat, Mr. Smith said he had no hesitation — he threw his endorsement to the Democrat in the race, Jeff Whitfield.

“This is no longer my Republican Party,” Mr. Smith said last week while sitting outside his house, which has a “Republicans For Biden 2020” sign on the front lawn.

Hunter Biden (shown in a Zoom video of remarks at the 2020 Democratic National Convention)

Hunter Biden (shown in a Zoom video of remarks at the 2020 Democratic National Convention)

Raw Story via Salon, Fox News investigation crushes Hunter Biden smear: Network "found no role for Joe Biden," David Edwards, Oct. 26, 2020. The admission was made by Fox News reporter Griff Jenkins.

A Fox News investigation "found no role for Joe Biden" in the business dealing of his son, Hunter, the network said on Sunday.

The admission was made by Fox News reporter Griff Jenkins. Jenkins explained that the news organization had been provided documents by Tony Bobulinski, Hunter Biden's former business partner.

"You're talking about a business venture with the Chinese energy company in 2017 at a time when Joe Biden was not vice president," Jenkins explained. "But Fox's review of Bobulinski's documents, which were given to us, found no role for Joe Biden in that business venture."

"There's another former business partner who says he knows of no involvement by Joe Biden," Fox News host Howard Kurtz added. "The Wall Street Journal says it also reviewed the text messages and emails, saying, they don't show either Hunter Biden or James Biden — the brother — discussing a role for Joe Biden."

Kurtz added: "My problem with this is these emails are from 2017. At that time, Joe Biden is out of office. So while it may have been unseemly — if it was true that Joe Biden was even acquiescing in a potential deal with China — he no longer has the power of the White House behind him at that time."

CounterPunch, Opinion: Whatever Happened to Left Solidarity? Howie Hawkins (Green Party candidate for U.S. President), Oct. 26, 2020. In 2004, a number of prominent progressives issued statements calling on people to vote for Democrat John Kerry in the close states and the Green Party candidate in the so-called safe states where the outcome would not be close.

In 2020, many of these same people have moved further to the right and call for a vote for Biden without any support for a Green vote in the so-called safe states.In 40 states, the vote for the Green presidential ticket determines whether the Green Party retains or gains ballot line for the next election cycle. In most states, it’s 1%, 2%, 3%, or 5%. But there is no support for the Green Party this year from these progressives. What happened to left solidarity?

After this election if the Green Party is eliminated from many state ballots, the question may not be whatever happened to left solidarity, but what happened to the left, period.

CounterPunch, Opinion: Trump Out Now, Paul Street, Oct. 26, 2020. I am an author, political commentator, teacher, and historian who prefers in “normal times” to spend most of my time researching, writing, and teaching. This summer and fall, however, I’ve been out protesting with "Refuse Fascism," raising the demand “Trump-Pence Out Now” – out immediately.

That’s because these are not “normal” times. The deadly coronavirus that has been spread by the pandemo-fascist Trump administration has already killed 220,000-plus Americans and will likely 200,000 to 300,000 more by Inauguration Day (January 20th) next year. The United States is in the middle of a related and attempted rolling coup being carried out by a White House that knows it cannot win a second term in conventional fashion. With a long list of enemies and groups on its hit list, the Trump administration seeks unchallenged dominance but lacks enough voter support to prevail without subverting what’s left of democracy in the elections system. It is therefore undertaking a multi-level assault on the American electoral process.

The cable news talking heads keep scratching their heads on how Trump is talking only to his base and not trying to broaden his voter support beyond his 43-45%. They might want to reflect that Trump and the GOP’s main plan this summer and fall has been to cripple and steal the election, not to win it in a “normal”/conventional fashion.

This attack is what ought to be expected from a regime whose relentless pathological criminality (see point # 2, below) has defied our capacity for belief and processing malevolent evil. “The enormity and variety of Mr. Trump’s misdeeds,” The New York Times’ Editorial Board observed two Sundays ago, “can feel overwhelming. Repetition has dulled the sense of outrage, and the accumulation of new outrages leaves little time to dwell on the particulars.” (“A Man Unworthy of His Office,” New York Times, October 17, 2020, Sunday Review, p.2).

Why have there not been millions in the streets engaged in non-violent protest every day this fall to demand the immediate removal of a vicious regime that has violated numerous civilizational and democratic norms and is doing its best to sabotage an election?

We are up against seven narratives that stand in the way of the mass action required. In what follows I briefly counter of each of these anti-mobilizing story lines.

+1. “There’s an election coming up, so chill.” Yes, we know about the election. The polling data looks promising for Joe Biden (like it did for Hillary Clinton this time in 2016). Most of the electorate rejects this evil president. But voting to remove Trump, while necessary, is insufficient. The incumbent president, vice-president, and attorney general have made it clear that they intend to use both constitutional and extra-constitutional means to cripple and steal the contest.

+2. “A sitting American president wouldn’t actually steal an election. That’s just too much. That wouldn’t happen here.” Really?

 +3. “The people, the Democrats, and the government will rise up to remove Trump if and when he tries to steal the election.” That’s good to know, if true, but there’s not much “if” about it and it may be too late to stop the crime if we wait until after Election Day. The Democrats’ track record on resisting stolen elections in this century is not good. They laid down in face of the right-wing assault on the decisive Florida ballot count in 2000-2001 and did nothing to challenge the theft of the 2004 election.

+4. “Trump is a symptom of an authoritarian, corporate-dominated, and bipartisan system that went off the rails of democracy long ago.” That is 100% correct[1]. But Trump and Trumpism are malignant fascistic tumors that must be cut out for a gravely sick patient, American democracy, to be re-born.

+5. “We’ll face violent repression if we protest the attempted coup.” Perhaps, but we will face even more repression in a second (and third?) white-nationalist Trump term.

+6. “I am too focused on my specific cause to get focused on the distant matter of who is sitting in the White House.” Your cause matters a great deal but, yes, comrade, you are indeed overly focused on your specific cause. In a second Trump term, something certain to be much worse than the first one, Black lives won’t matter, LatinX and immigrant lives won’t matter, women’s lives won’t matter, gay and transgendered lives won’t matter, livable ecology won’t matter, public health won’t matter, consumer rights won’t matter, civil and human rights won’t matter, health insurance be shredded, won’t matter, workers and economic justice won’t matter, and – this is the threat most specific to Trump – efforts to fight to make all these just and beautiful causes will face unprecedented repression.

 

U.S. Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump Had One Last Story to Sell. The Wall Street Journal Wouldn’t Buy It, Ben Smith, Oct. 26, 2020 (print ed.). Inside the White House’s secret, last-ditch effort to change the narrative, and the election — and the return of the media gatekeepers.

By early October, even people inside the White House believed President Trump’s re-election campaign needed a desperate rescue mission. So three men allied with the president gathered at a house in McLean, Va., to launch one.

The host was Arthur Schwartz, a New York public relations man close to President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Jr. The guests were a White House lawyer, Eric Herschmann, and a former deputy White House counsel, Stefan Passantino, according to two people familiar with the meeting.

Mr. Herschmann knew the subject matter they were there to discuss. He had represented Mr. Trump during the impeachment trial early this year, and he tried to deflect allegations against the president in part by pointing to Hunter Biden’s work in Ukraine. More recently, he has been working on the White House payroll with a hazy portfolio, listed as “a senior adviser to the president,” and remains close to Jared Kushner.

The three had pinned their hopes for re-electing the president on a fourth guest, a straight-shooting Wall Street Journal White House reporter named Michael Bender. They delivered the goods to him there: a cache of emails detailing Hunter Biden’s business activities, and, on speaker phone, a former business partner of Hunter Biden’s named Tony Bobulinski. Mr. Bobulinski was willing to go on the record in The Journal with an explosive claim: that Joe Biden, the former vice president, had been aware of, and profited from, his son’s activities. The Trump team left believing that The Journal would blow the thing open and their excitement was conveyed to the president.

The Journal had seemed to be the perfect outlet for a story the Trump advisers believed could sink Mr. Biden’s candidacy. Its small-c conservatism in reporting means the work of its news pages carries credibility across the industry. And its readership leans further right than other big news outlets.

Its Washington bureau chief, Paul Beckett, recently remarked at a virtual gathering of Journal reporters and editors that while he knows that the paper often delivers unwelcome news to the many Trump supporters who read it, The Journal should protect its unique position of being trusted across the political spectrum, two people familiar with the remarks said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How to Talk to Friends and Family Who Share Conspiracy Theories, Charlie Warzel, Oct. 26, 2020 (print ed.). Fringe movements will persist long after Election Day. Here’s how to help.

Increasingly, friends, colleagues and readers share the same story with me: Online, somebody they know and love has stumbled into the treacherous world of online conspiracy theories and, in some cases, might not even know it. I’m often asked: How do you talk to people you care about who might be on the precipice of or headed down the conspiratorial rabbit hole?

It’s a question without an easy answer, but one we need to ask with increasing urgency. I decided to ask some scholars and researchers about best practices. Their answers are helpful — but more than that, they illustrate the depth of the problem. Conspiracy theories (like Pizzagate and now QAnon, anti-vaccine claims, disinformation around the coronavirus suggesting the virus was engineered in a laboratory) are a chronic condition that will long outlive the 2020 election. Given our reliance on social platforms to connect and process news, we need a way to manage their inevitable presence in our lives, rather than naïvely hold out hope for a magical cure.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fox News anchors are quarantining after coronavirus exposure on debate flight, Sarah Ellison, Oct. 26, 2020. Eight days out from a presidential election, the president of Fox News and key members of the network’s election team have been told to quarantine after they were exposed to someone who tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

fox-news-logo Small.pngUntil they test negative for the virus three times in a row, the anchors will be broadcasting their shows from home, according to two people with knowledge of the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private health matters.

The infected person was on a flight chartered to transport Fox News employees returning to New York from the Thursday night presidential debate in Nashville. The person tested negative before departing Nashville and positive after returning.

Those on the flight included Jay Wallace, the network president; Bret Baier, the chief political anchor; Martha MacCallum, anchor of Fox’s nightly news show “The Story”; as well as two other members of the network’s election team, Juan Williams and Dana Perino, who are co-hosts of “The Five.”

 

Sacha Baron Cohen, as

Sacha Baron Cohen, as "Borat," with co-star Maria Bakalova (Amazon Studios photo).

 ny times logoNew York Times, Kazakhstan, Reversing Itself, Embraces ‘Borat’ as Very Nice, Joel Stein, Oct. 26, 2020. After banning the first Sacha Baron Cohen satire, the country has created tourism ads adopting its catchphrase.

In 2005, Dennis Keen, a high school junior in Los Angeles, was applying for a summer exchange program. After not much deliberation, he decided it would be punky and funny to forgo France and Spain and go to Kazakhstan. “People didn’t know where it was,” Mr. Keen said. “In Kazakhstan, there’s pre-Borat and post-Borat.”

He was referring, of course, to “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” the Sacha Baron Cohen comedy that hit theaters a year later, in 2006. In the movie, Mr. Cohen pretends to be a television reporter visiting America from the former Soviet republic, whose people supposedly drink horse urine, consider women property and celebrate an anti-Semitic version of the running of the bulls. (The bulls are replaced by Jews.) The authoritarian Kazakh government banned the film, threatened to sue Mr. Cohen and took out a four-page advertisement in this newspaper defending the country’s honor.

And so when Mr. Cohen released a trailer on Sept. 29 for a “Borat” sequel, which he developed in secret and which debuted on Friday on Amazon, the satirist was prepared for another fight with the Kazakh government.

It never came. “It was like, ‘Oh, again?’” said Kairat Sadvakassov, the deputy chairman of Kazakhstan’s tourism board, who has a master’s degree in tourism management from New York University. The board was determined to avoid overreacting and letting Mr. Cohen make it look foolish once again. “The decision was made to let it die its natural death and not respond,” Mr. Sadvakassov said.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Pope Francis Appoints First African-American Cardinal, Jason Horowitz, Oct. 26, 2020 (print ed.). Wilton Pope FrancisGregory, the archbishop of Washington, who led the Roman Catholic Church’s response to the sexual abuse crisis in the early 2000s, was among 13 new cardinals named on Sunday.

Pope Francis said on Sunday that Wilton Gregory — the archbishop of Washington and an architect of the U.S. Roman Catholic Church’s wilton gregoryzero-tolerance policy in response to its clerical sexual abuse crisis — would be elevated to cardinal, making him the first African-American to hold such a position.

The elevation of Archbishop Gregory, the first American named as a cardinal since 2016, comes as demonstrations for racial justice and debates over how to address the legacy of slavery and racism have dramatically shifted the conversation about race in the United States. In recent months, Archbishop Gregory has urged the church’s leaders to improve race relations, recalling his time as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Chicago, and how important it was for young Black Catholics to see a bishop who looked like them.

 

U.S. Wildfires, Climate Change

washington post logoWashington Post, California faces highest fire risk of 2020 with 70-plus mph winds, record dry conditions, Andrew Freedman and Diana Leonard, Oct. 26, 2020 (print ed.). The state is bone dry and faces howling winds that will add up to "extremely critical" fire danger.

In the San Francisco Bay and areas from Sacramento northward, high winds of up to 80 mph are expected in higher elevations, with gusts to 50 mph possible even in downtown San Francisco.

The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center has designated much of Northern California’s fire risk as “extremely critical,” the most severe level on its scale.

It’s not just Northern California facing high fire danger, either. Red flag warnings and high wind warnings are also in effect for expected offshore winds in Southern California, where these winds are locally known as Santa Ana events. Any new fire ignitions here will spread quickly, as well, the Weather Service warns.

 

Oct. 25

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Reponses

 

U.S. Elections, Race, Politics


World News

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

Media News

 

Top Stories 

djt wind jim watson afp getty

washington post logoWashington Post, How Trump abandoned his vow to ‘drain the swamp,’ Josh Dawsey, Rosalind S. Helderman and David A. Fahrenthold, Oct. 25, 2020 (print ed.). A Washington Post review found that the president has largely failed to fulfill the pledges he made in 2016 to curtail the influence of lobbyists and special interests in Washington.

On a Friday evening in late September, President Trump huddled with high-dollar donors, lobbyists and corporate executives in a private room at the hotel he owns in Washington, where attendees took turns pitching the president on their pet issues.

Trump was there to raise big money for his reelection effort. The price of admission: as much as $100,000 per person to get in the door.

For his guests, it was a chance to make the most of what has emerged as a signature feature of Trump’s Washington: the ability of wealthy donors to directly lobby the president.

One attendee’s plea on behalf of an obscure railway project in Alaska in need of federal approval appeared to get immediate results.

donald trump twitterJust after midnight, mere hours after the campaign fundraiser, Trump tweeted that it was his “honor to inform you that I will be issuing a Presidential Permit for the A2A Cross-Border rail.”

“Congratulations to the people of Alaska & Canada!” he added, noting that the state’s congressional delegation was supportive of the move. The presidential permit was officially issued three days later.

Trump’s rapid action after the Sept. 25 fundraiser — one of dozens of high-dollar donor events he has headlined while in office — emblemizes how much he has abandoned his 2016 pledge to “DRAIN THE SWAMP.”

But during his four years in office, Trump has taken few steps to clean up Washington. He has instead presided over a norm-shattering expansion of private interests in government. he government has had to spend money at Trump’s private hotels as his family has traveled around the globe. Trump sidestepped rules that had been designed to prevent nepotism, allowing his son-in-law to serve in a top government role. He has touted companies run by supporters and allies who received government contracts. His administration has allowed former lobbyists to serve in jobs in which they have oversight of policies that affect their former employers.

Among the five pledges Trump made to “drain the swamp” and curtail the influence of lobbyists in a major campaign speech in October 2016, a Washington Post review found that he sought to address only two, through an executive order in January 2017 — which contained a major loophole.

Craig Holman, a lobbyist for the government watchdog group Public Citizen, had initially expressed cautious optimism about Trump’s ethics pledge in 2017. He now says the president has worsened Washington’s profiteering culture in nearly every way.

washington post logoWashington Post, After a bruising campaign, Biden emerges more popular as he closes in on job he has wanted for decades, Matt Viser, Oct. 25, 2020 (print ed.). Events have pushed the election in the former vice president’s direction and away from a president who fuels fears and speaks of carnage. But can he win?

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has endured a long and bruising campaign, with repeated attacks on his policies, his family, his mental faculties — and, often, sustained doubts even from those inside his own party.

joe biden oDemocrats spurned him in the early primary season contests and worried throughout the fall in a general election that began with Biden under fire for campaigning mostly from his basement. Party factions feared Biden would fail to shore up the Democratic base or that he had lost a step because of his age. Allies fretted he would stumble in debates with President Trump and that his gaffes would give ample material to his tenacious opponent.

But the circumstances of this campaign — a pandemic and an economic collapse costing millions of jobs and making even the still-employed feel vulnerable — have pushed the race in the direction of Biden’s strong suits and against his deficits, shining a bright light on his empathy and sober experience and casting his flaws into the shadows.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Barrett nomination clears Senate hurdle, putting her on course to confirmation to Supreme Court, Seung Min Kim, Oct. 25, 2020.The Senate is poised to vote on the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett on Monday night. Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court broke through djt smiling fileone more hurdle ahead of her all-but-assured confirmation to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as Democratic senators ramped up their criticism of the conservative judge.

The vote to end a filibuster on her nomination, which occurred around 1:30 p.m. Sunday, was 51-48. Two GOP senators — Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — voted with Democrats to oppose Barrett’s nomination from advancing, although Murkowski plans to support the federal appeals court judge on the confirmation vote on Barrett’s merits.Democratic-Republican Campaign logos

The final confirmation vote for Barrett is expected sometime Monday night, putting her in position for a first full day as a justice as early as Tuesday and as the court continues to hear election-related legal challenges ahead of Nov. 3.

Axios, 1 big thing ... Scoop: Trump's post-election execution list, Alayna Treene and Jonathan Swan, Oct. 25, 2020. If President Trump wins re-election, he'll move to FBI logoimmediately fire FBI Director Christopher Wray, right, and also expects to replace CIA Director Gina Haspel and Defense Secretary Mark Esper, two people who've discussed these officials' Michael Wrayfates with the president tell Axios' Jonathan Swan and me.

The big picture: The list of planned replacements is much longer, but these are Trump's priorities, starting with Wray.

• Wray and Haspel, below left, are despised and distrusted almost universally in Trump's inner circle. He would have fired both already, one official said, if gina haspel screenshotnot for the political headaches of acting before Nov. 3.

Why it matters: A win, no matter the margin, will embolden Trump to ax anyone he sees as constraining him from enacting desired policies or CIA Logogoing after perceived enemies.

• Trump last week signed an executive order that set off alarm bells as a means to politicize the civil service. An administration official said the order "is a really big deal" that would make it easier for presidents to get rid of career government officials.

• There could be shake-ups across other departments. The president has never been impressed with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, for example. But that doesn't carry the urgency of replacing Wray or Haspel.

Department of Defense SealThe nature of top intelligence and law enforcement posts has traditionally carried an expectation for a higher degree of independence and separation from politics.

Be smart: While Trump has also privately vented about Attorney General Bill Barr, he hasn't made any formal plans to replace him, an official said.

• Trump is furious that Barr isn't releasing before the election what Trump hoped would be a bombshell report by U.S. Attorney John Durham on the Obama administration's handling of the Trump-Russia investigation. • Durham's investigation has yet to produce any high-profile indictments of Obama-era officials as Trump had hoped.

Axios, Trump 2.0 would bring more loyalty tests, Alayna Treene, Oct. 25, 2020. Chris Liddell, Trump's deputy chief of staff for policy coordination, is heading the djt old looking resized headshotWhite House’s transition effort, including vetting potential new Cabinet officials, two White House officials told Axios.

• He's working closely with White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Johnny McEntee, who runs the Office of Presidential Personnel and has been conducting "loyalty tests" to weed out "Never
• In 2016, Trump famously blew up his own transition process. The officials said Liddell is determined to avoid a repeat. Liddell declined to comment.
• Politico first reported on Trump's transition team.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason Vladimir Putin just threw Donald Trump under the bus, Bill Palmer, Oct. 25, 2020. Donald Trump couldn’t be any more of a Kremlin puppet. He kisses Vladimir Putin’s backside. He sabotages U.S. policy in a manner that helps Putin. His advisers and allies are mixed up with Putin in too many ways to count. Putin would certainly prefer that Trump win reelection. So why is Putin suddenly refuting Trump and defending Joe Biden?

bill palmer report logo headerPutin appeared on Russian state television today and made a point of debunking the phony conspiracy theories that Donald Trump has been spinning about Joe and Hunter Biden.

According to Reuters, Putin said “It doesn’t concern us … I don’t see anything criminal about this.” To be clear, Putin can’t be trusted. But this isn’t some underhanded attempt at helping Trump. In fact this at least marginally hurts Trump, because it further delegitimizes the claims that Trump is making, at a time when Trump is betting big on this narrative.

vladimir putin o wSo what is Putin up to?

Putin, right, knows how to read the polls as well as anyone. He must have concluded that Trump is very likely to lose badly, and that there’s nothing he can do to help Trump win, and so now he’s trying to curry favor with Joe Biden, whom he expects to be the next President of the United States.

Of course Putin could be betting wrong. While Trump is highly likely to lose, there is no guarantee that Trump will lose. It’s our job to turn out to vote in record-setting numbers, in order to make sure Trump loses. But this should serve as added motivation: imagine having a President of the United States like Joe Biden who’s so strong, Putin seems to be afraid of being on his bad side.

 

Virus Victims, Reponses.

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

  • World Cases: 43,058,009, Deaths: 1,156,240
  • U.S. Cases:     8,831,449, Deaths:    230,086

ny times logoNew York Times, Top Pence Aides Test Positive for Coronavirus, Maggie Haberman, Oct. 25, 2020 (print ed.). Members of Vice President Mike Pence’s inner circle, including his chief of staff, tested positive for the virus, people briefed on the matter said. Six states reported record virus numbers, and Dr. Anthony Fauci suggested the U.S. might need a national mask mandate.

Mike PenceAt least three top advisers to Vice President Mike Pence, right, have tested positive for the coronavirus in the last few days, people briefed on the matter said, raising fresh questions about the safety protocols at the White House, where masks are not routinely worn.

Devin O’Malley, a spokesman for Mr. Pence, who leads the White House coronavirus task force, said that the vice president’s chief of staff, Marc Short, had tested positive. A person briefed on the diagnosis said it was received on Saturday.

“Vice President Pence and Mrs. Pence both tested negative for Covid-19 today, and remain in good health,” Mr. O’Malley said. “While Vice President Pence is considered a close contact with Mr. Short, in consultation with the White House Medical Unit, the vice president will maintain his schedule in accordance with the C.D.C. guidelines for essential personnel.”

The statement did not come from the White House medical unit, but instead from a press aide. Two people briefed on the matter said that the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, had sought to keep news of the outbreak from becoming public.

ny times logoNew York Times, Professional Sports Came Back in 2020. Now Comes the Hard Part, Matthew Futterman and Marc Stein, Oct. 25, 2020. Aggressive coronavirus testing made the restart of sports possible, but the financial pain of empty arenas lingers and plans for next year are up in the air.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House signals defeat in pandemic as outbreak roils Pence’s office, Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Amy B Wang, Oct. 25, 2020. With Nov. 3 just nine days away and coronavirus cases surging in many states, the outbreak around the vice president, who chairs the White House’s coronavirus task force, undermines the argument Trump has been making to voters that the country is “rounding the turn,” as the president put it at a rally Sunday in New Hampshire.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: With a resounding victory, Democrats can protect us from the next Trump, Jennifer Rubin, right, Oct. 25, 2020. President Trump won in jennifer rubin new headshot2016 by the narrowest of margins in three states (Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania), against a candidate with rotten personal ratings in an election influenced by Russia and by an over-eager FBI director. It was the quintessential black swan event — an aberration possible only in unique circumstances.

Many Democrats and ex-Republicans remained mystified — even sickened — by the notion that even 40 percent of the electorate could support a racist candidate who is utterly untethered to reality. Sadly, there is a segment of Americans, bigger than their decent and patriotic countrymen have imagined, who actually believe what Trump is saying. Removed from the freakish events of 2016, however, it seems they cannot construct a governing (or electoral college) majority — even with the help of voter suppression and a Kremlin propaganda pipeline.

The goal of a new administration and Congress must be to restore democratic (small “d”) legitimacy and secure its future so that the United States — as it is now, and as it will be in future generations, in all its racial, ethnic and religious diversity — is not deprived of the opportunity for self-government. The range of reforms is vast, from voting and court reform to increasing the size of the House of Representatives to depoliticization of the Justice Department to increasing financial transparency for officeholders and the criminal penalties on receipt of foreign election assistance.

The goal is simple: Never again should a thin stratum of hateful Americans be able to game the system and threaten the basic tenets of democracy.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Trump Can’t Take Red Counties in North Carolina for Granted, Annie Karni, Oct. 25, 2020. President Trump’s trip to Gastonia, N.C., reflects his need to energize as much of his base as he can since there are few undecided voters left. Republicans in Gaston County still have pictures from the last time a presidential candidate visited here during a general election: They are sun-stained images from 1992, when President George H.W. Bush’s Spirit of America train tour made a stop in the town of Ranlo.

When residents heard that President Trump was planning a rally in Gastonia, they reacted with a mix of small-town pride and general confusion. He won the county in 2016 with 64 percent of the vote; have things gotten so bad for Mr. Trump in the suburbs of America that he needed to spend time here two weeks before Election Day?

In this final sprint of the campaign, Mr. Trump is now holding up to three rallies a day to try to “juice” his base, in the words of advisers, as he bleeds support among the suburban voters who helped fuel his victory in 2016. His trip to this bedrock Trump county, and to Wisconsin and Ohio suburbs and exurbs on Saturday where his once-solid support is sliding, reflect his need to energize as much of his base as he can since many swing voters are now behind former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and there are few undecided voters left.

djt mary trump resized

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Psychiatrists know what’s wrong with my uncle. Let them tell voters, Mary L. Trump, Oct. 25, 2020 (print ed.). Muzzling its members is a dereliction of duty by the American Psychiatric Association. 

In 1964, Fact magazine published an unscientific survey asking psychiatrists whether they thought the Republican nominee, Barry Goldwater, was psychologically fit to serve as president of the United States. The problem wasn’t that professionals felt the need to share their views of what they considered Goldwater’s dangerous ideas; it was the irresponsible and often bizarre analyses that were in some cases based entirely on rank speculation.

“Goldwater is basically a paranoid schizophrenic” who “resembles Mao Tse-tung,” one offered. Another said that he “has the same pathological make-up as Hitler, Castro, Stalin and other known schizophrenic leaders.” A third said that “a megalomaniacal, grandiose omnipotence appears to pervade Mr. Goldwater’s personality.”

Embarrassed, the American Psychiatric Association (APA), in reaction to this debacle, established the “Goldwater Rule,” which barred its members from diagnosing public figures. It concluded that “it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.” That’s fair, as far as it goes.

But in March 2017, shortly after my uncle, Donald Trump, was inaugurated, the APA didn’t just reaffirm the rule — it expanded it past the point of coherence. Not only were members prohibited from diagnosing public figures, now they could no longer offer a professional opinion of any sort, no matter how well supported or evidence-based, even if they believed that a public figure posed a threat to the country’s citizens or national security.

djt quizzical uncredited palmer CustomThis is absurd on its face and has potentially serious consequences for the safety of the American people. While psychiatric diagnosis is a technical process, it is entirely within bounds to draw conclusions based on observable behavior. It is one thing to declare definitively that a person has anti-social personality disorder (a specific diagnostic term); it is another to point to behaviors — such as deliberately putting other people in harm’s way for no discernible reason (for example, abandoning our Kurdish allies) beyond one’s own self-interest — and express the general conclusion that it is dangerous to have somebody in the Oval Office who is incapable of empathy.

The APA has also stated that “psychiatrists are medical doctors; evaluating mental illness is no less thorough than diagnosing diabetes or heart disease.” That’s true — but what might a cardiologist say if a public figure kept having heart attacks? Would he need to be subjected to a “thorough” diagnostic regimen for a doctor to speculate that there might be an underlying heart condition? If the person who kept having heart attacks was a pilot who refused to seek medical attention, wouldn’t it be malpractice not to speak out?

It is not an exaggeration to say that Donald has exhibited pathological behavior that is equally alarming — as evidenced most recently by his callous disregard for his own health and the well-being of those around him when he left Walter Reed hospital while still shedding coronavirus, or when he holds rallies and encourages thousands of people to attend without wearing masks or social distancing in order to prop up his ego.

Mary L. Trump, author of "Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man," holds a Ph.D. from the Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies and taught graduate courses in trauma, psychopathology and developmental psychology. She lives with her daughter in New York. 

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats Hope 2020 Is the Year They Flip the Texas House, Manny Fernandez and Reid J. Epstein, Oct. 25, 2020. Republicans have controlled the state government since 2003. An anti-Trump surge could give Democrats a crucial boost.

Deep in the suburbs northeast of Fort Worth, Democrats trying to win the Texas House for the first time in years have been getting help from a surprising source.

Republicans.

For 16 years, until he left office in 2013, Todd A. Smith was a Republican representing these suburbs in the Texas House of Representatives. His district covered a fast-growing hub of middle-class and affluent communities next door to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

When it came time to decide whom he would support for his old seat, Mr. Smith said he had no hesitation — he threw his endorsement to the Democrat in the race, Jeff Whitfield.

“This is no longer my Republican Party,” Mr. Smith said last week while sitting outside his house, which has a “Republicans For Biden 2020” sign on the front lawn.

djt impeachment graphic

Palmer Report, Opinion: Why I hate Republicans, Robert Harrington, right, Oct. 25, 2020. I’ve never had a problem with any loyal opposition. As a competitive distance runner in my youth I reveled in the magnanimous esprit de corps of the sport. We might have been the fiercest competitors on the track but we were also the best of robert harrington twitterfriends off the track. But I hated anyone who cheated.

The same goes for politics. In a fair contest of differing ideals, let the best person win. But when that party can only win by depriving me of my mandate and tricking me with lies, that party becomes my mortal enemy. Such people should be banned from participating in politics for life, and many should be jailed.

bill palmer report logo headerFor example, Republican Texas governor Greg Abbott decreed that for the 2020 presidential election there will be only one ballot drop box per county. That works well for small counties where Republicans are a majority, but what about heavily Democratic Harris County, with an area the size of Rhode Island and with a population of 2.4 million eligible voters? One drop box for them? Really?

Recently California Republicans admitted placing illegal ballot drop boxes around the state. Donald Trump thinks that’s just fine. But why would they do that if they didn’t intend throwing out votes they didn’t like?

In white privileged Georgia the average time it takes to vote is fifteen minutes. In the poorer parts of Georgia where people of color are the majority constituent the average time it takes to vote is eight hours.

Republican voter suppression has become so rampant that even a serial pathological liar like Donald Trump doesn’t try to deny it. Trump doesn’t want lots of people voting, and he even said “that if you’d ever agreed to it you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

Voter suppression is the political equivalent of EPO for athletes. It gives the less talented suppressor a clear and unfair statistical edge, and such cheating is strictly a Republican strategy.

Voter suppression is theft. I may disagree with your politics but I believe in your right to differ. But the minute you steal from me by trying to steal my vote you are no longer the loyal opposition. You are my enemy. I hate people who steal from me. Thieves are not welcome in a free society, nor is the thief they elected president of the United States. If you think winning by theft is acceptable you are not an American, you are a thief.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pelosi says she will seek another term as House speaker, Cat Zakrzewski, Oct. 25, 2020. Her commitment underscores Democrats’ confidence that they will retain the House majority after Election Day.

Hollywood PoliTrivia: Opinion: Progressive comedians are just funnier than their right-wing counterparts, Wayne Madsen, left, Oct 25, 2020 (with video). Donald Trump wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallwasted little time in criticizing British actor Sasha Baron Cohen's recently-released sequel to his 2006 comedy, "Borat," titled, "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan."

Trump, whose Central Asian-level of corruption is implied in the new film's title, was quick to criticize the new movie, which features Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani in a sexually compromising scene with 24-year old Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova.

Cohen replied to Trump in a tweet: "Donald — I appreciate the free publicity for Borat! I admit, I don’t find you funny either. But yet the whole world laughs at you. I’m always looking for people to play racist buffoons, and you’ll need a job after Jan. 20. Let’s talk!"

Axios, Election night in Trumpworld, Alayna Treene, Oct. 25, 2020. A luxe election-night watch party at the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue is being planned for President Trump's donors, friends and advisers — but Trump's hand in it is minimal because he's "very superstitious" — people familiar with the plans tell me.

The big picture: This "mecca for all things MAGA," as one adviser described it, is one of three hubs where they say Trumpworld will watch returns. The others are the war room at campaign HQ in Rosslyn, Virginia, and the White House residence, where Trump and the first lady will gather close family and advisers before heading to the hotel later that night, the sources said.

• Early talk of an election-night party in Florida at Mar-a-Lago was scrapped, another Trump adviser said.
• The Trump campaign declined to comment.

The intrigue: "Trump is very superstitious," one Trump adviser tells me. "He doesn't like the idea of planning a victory party, he didn't like it in 2016, either."

What we're hearing: Since the massive use of mail-in ballots this year means the election may not be called on Nov. 3, Trump revelers may toast each state that goes in the win column, then go home to wait for more answers.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Despite Fears of Election Chaos, Bolivia Enjoys a Smooth Vote, Julie Turkewitz, Oct. 25, 2020 (print ed.). The presidential race concluded quietly, allowing Bolivians to hope that a year of turmoil and threats to democracy may be behind them.

“Democracy won in Bolivia,” said Fernanda Wanderley, director of the socioeconomic institute at the Universidad Católica Boliviana.

Exit polls on Sunday showed one candidate, Luis Arce, clearly taking the lead. His main opponent, Carlos Mesa, conceded the next day. On Friday, Bolivia’s electoral tribunal confirmed that Mr. Arce would indeed be the next president of Bolivia, matching the exit polls and voters’ expectations. In the end, Mr. Arce won 55 percent of the vote, and Mr. Mesa had just under 29 percent, a win far bigger than Mr. Arce’s advisers had predicted.

evo moralesMr. Arce is the chosen candidate of the former president, Evo Morales, right, a towering figure of Bolivia politics. Mr. Morales is a socialist who transformed the country, lifting hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty and prioritizing Indigenous and rural communities in a nation that had been run for centuries by a mostly white elite.

The numbers indicate clear voter interest in continuing with Mr. Morales’s political project, and his party, Movimiento al Socialismo, or MAS.

But voters and analysts also say the election signals a promising moment for a democratic system that had been slipping under Mr. Morales, who bypassed the rules in his government’s own constitution to run for a third and then a fourth term, and was criticized for persecuting opponents, harassing journalists and stacking the judiciary in his favor.

washington post logoWashington Post, France recalls ambassador from Turkey after Erdogan says Macron needs ‘mental’ treatment, James McAuley and Kareem Fahim, Oct. 25, 2020. The French foreign ministry said Sunday it was recalling its ambassador to Turkey, a day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sharply criticized French President Emmanuel Macron’s response to the beheading of a teacher who had shown students pictures of the prophet Muhammad, strictly prohibited by the Muslim faith.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the country was withdrawing Ambassador Herve Magro from its NATO ally because of a “hateful and slanderous propaganda against France, testifying to a desire to stir up hatred against us and our heart” as well as “direct insults against the President of the Republic, expressed at the highest level of the Turkish state.”

In the week since the attack in the Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, Macron’s government has ordered a crackdown on Muslim organizations it accuses of fomenting terrorist violence, and defended the caricatures of Muhammad as emblematic of the French values of secularism and free expression, even if they’re deeply offensive to many of France’s own Muslim citizens, among its largest minority populations.

History teacher Samuel Paty, 47, was teaching a lesson on free speech when he shared the images with his class. As France mourned his death, it projected the caricatures onto government buildings in cities including Toulouse and Montpellier.

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Courts

ny times logoNew York Times, In a reversal, Senator Lisa Murkowski said she would vote to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, Nicholas Fandos, Oct. 25, 2020 (print ed.). Senator Lisa Murkowski, right, the Alaska Republican who has vocally opposed filling the vacant seat on the Supreme Court so close to an election, said on Saturday that she would nonetheless vote to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett next week.

lisa murkowski o“While I oppose the process that has led us to this point,” Ms. Murkowski said in a speech on the Senate floor, “I do not hold it against her as an individual who has navigated the gauntlet with grace, skill and humility.”

Her unexpected turnabout gave a boost to Senate Republicans looking to quiet intraparty dissent in the face of unified Democratic opposition. They already had the votes they needed to confirm Judge Barrett, President Trump’s third Supreme Court nominee, but Ms. Murkowski’s support means that only one Republican — Senator Susan Collins of Maine, below left — is likely to defect when the roll is called on Monday.

The development came as a divided Senate slogged through another day of debate over Judge Barrett, 48, an appeals court judge whose confirmation would lock in a 6-to-3 conservative majority on the court. Democrats again turned to parliamentary tactics to draw out the Susan Collinsprocess and needle Republicans for confirming a justice so close to Election Day.

Amid the scripted partisan theatrics, Ms. Murkowski’s 16-minute speech stood out as a rare moment of suspense. An iconoclast willing to occasionally buck her party, Ms. Murkowski had been one of the lone voices in her party joining Democrats last month to push back against the decision to quickly fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Ms. Murkowski repeated those concerns on Saturday, warning that the rush by her fellow Republicans to fill the seat would “reinforce the public perception about political influence on the court.” She lamented decades of partisan escalation in the Senate over judicial nominations.

Ms. Murkowski, who is up for re-election in Alaska in 2022, has frequently broken with Republicans on significant votes in the last four years. She was the only member of her party in 2018 to oppose Mr. Trump’s last nominee to the Supreme Court, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, earning her the vitriol of the president and some of his staunchest supporters.

 

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, How The Epoch Times Created a Giant Influence Machine, Kevin Roose, Oct. 25, 2020 (print ed.). Since 2016, the Falun Gong-backed newspaper has used aggressive Facebook tactics and right-wing misinformation to create an anti-China, pro-Trump media empire.

For years, The Epoch Times was a small, low-budget newspaper with an anti-China slant that was handed out free on New York street corners. But in 2016 and 2017, the paper made two changes that transformed it into one of the country’s most powerful digital publishers.

The changes also paved the way for the publication, which is affiliated with the secretive and relatively obscure Chinese spiritual movement Falun Gong, to become a leading purveyor of right-wing misinformation.

epoch timesFirst, it embraced President Trump, treating him as an ally in Falun Gong’s scorched-earth fight against China’s ruling Communist Party, which banned the group two decades ago and has persecuted its members ever since. Its relatively staid coverage of U.S. politics became more partisan, with more articles explicitly supporting Mr. Trump and criticizing his opponents.

Around the same time, The Epoch Times bet big on another powerful American institution: Facebook. The publication and its affiliates employed a novel strategy that involved creating dozens of Facebook pages, filling them with feel-good videos and viral clickbait, and using them to sell subscriptions and drive traffic back to its partisan news coverage.

In an April 2017 email to the staff obtained by The New York Times, the paper’s leadership envisioned that the Facebook strategy could help turn The Epoch Times into “the world’s largest and most authoritative media.” It could also introduce millions of people to the teachings of Falun Gong, fulfilling the group’s mission of “saving sentient beings.”

Today, The Epoch Times and its affiliates are a force in right-wing media, with tens of millions of social media followers spread across dozens of pages and an online audience that rivals those of The Daily Caller and Breitbart News, and with a similar willingness to feed the online fever swamps of the far right.

falun gong nazi symbol demonstrationIt also has growing influence in Mr. Trump’s inner circle. The president and his family have shared articles from the paper on social media, and Trump administration officials have sat for interviews with its reporters. In August, a reporter from The Epoch Times asked a question at a White House press briefing.

It is a remarkable success story for Falun Gong (whose supporters have portrayed their movement at times with Nazi-like symbolism, as at left), which has long struggled to establish its bona fides against Beijing’s efforts to demonize it as an “evil cult,” partly because its strident accounts of persecution in China can sometimes be difficult to substantiate or veer into exaggeration. In 2006, an Epoch Times reporter disrupted a White House visit by the Chinese president by shouting, “Evil people will die early.”

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Investigation: Watch Porn? You Might Think Twice After Reading This, Laura Arman,Oct. 25, 2020. The world’s most popular X-rated site, Pornhub, averages 70 million daily visits, ranking 11th in global traffic ranking, according to Traffic Junky. Two other porn “tube” sites are close behind: Redtube at #85 and YouPorn at #120.

Of the tens of millions of free porn videos available online (Pornhub alone claims to have more than 13 million selections), most feature lawful activity between consenting adults. But critics say it’s not unusual on Pornhub and other sites to find clips of minors, rapes (real or simulated), or videos posted without consent of the participants.

Pornhub “is blatantly enabling and profiting from the rape, trafficking, assault and abuse of women and children,” said Laila Mickelwait, founder of Traffickinghub. The organization wants to shut down X-rated sites like Pornhub, saying they encourage sex trafficking and fail to remove illegal videos.

“There was recently a case of a 15-year-old girl in Florida who was missing for a year and she was located in 58 videos on Pornhub being exploited and raped for profit,” Mickelwait told WhoWhatWhy.

“She was part of a program … where Pornhub earns 35 percent of the revenue from video sales.” According to a published report, the girl’s mother found almost 60 porn videos of her on Pornhub, Periscope, Modelhub, Snapchat, and other video sharing sites.

On September 15, an Alabama man, Michael Williams, was arrested after an 18-year-old told police about a 2018 video on Pornhub that showed her performing sexual acts with the suspect when she was 16. Williams had an account, apparently verified through the site’s ModelHub program, which allowed Pornhub to earn 35 percent of each sale, according to Michael Dinsmore of the anti-trafficking campaign Exodus Cry.

“Any commercial sex act involving a minor is by definition sex trafficking according to the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act,” Dinsmore said. “The monetized child pornography video was up for two years with over 2,000 views.”

Earlier this year, “the BBC reported that 14-year-old Rose Kalemba was taken at knifepoint, raped for 12 hours and the videos of her torture were uploaded to Pornhub,” Mickelwait said. The horrific event took place in the summer of 2009 in a small town in Ohio.

A spokesman for Pornhub, who refused to be identified, told WhoWhatWhy that he was familiar with Kalemba’s claims, but said there was no evidence that her videos had been posted on the site: “We have a very detailed record of videos that have existed on Pornhub dating back to its inception, and Rose has said what the titles of videos were, and there are no videos that matched those titles or anything close to it that ever appeared on Pornhub.”

He acknowledged that prohibited videos are sometimes uploaded to Pornhub, but said the problem is far greater on other non-porn websites, especially social media. Twitter, for example, said it had banned 244,188 unique users for child sexual abuse material during the first six months of 2019.

He accused critics of trying to disguise their true goal: banning pornography entirely. “Just because Traffickinghub says these things, doesn’t make them true,” he said.

 

Oct. 24

Top Headlines

 

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Virus Victims, Reponses

 

Trump Watch

 

U.S. Elections, Race, Politics


U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

World News

 

Top Stories  djt i dont take responsibility at all

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. hits highest daily number of cases since pandemic began, William Wan and Jacqueline Dupree, Oct. 24, 2020 (print ed.). Friday’s tally is the first time the United States has seen more than 80,000 cases reported in one day, and surpasses the previous record set during a summer surge of cases across the Sun Belt. It comes as many states are seeing rising hospitalizations.

America on Friday hit its highest daily number of coronavirus case since the pandemic began, recording at least 82,600 new infections and surpassing the previous record set during the summertime surge of cases across the Sun Belt.

The rising numbers put the nation on the precipice of what could be its worst stretch to date in the pandemic with some hospitals in the West and Midwest already overwhelmed and deaths counts beginning to rise.

american flag upside down distressThe current surge is considerably more widespread than the waves from last summer and spring. The unprecedented geographic spread of the current surge makes it more dangerous, with experts warning it could lead to dire shortages of medical staff and supplies. Already, hospitals are reporting shortfalls of basic drugs needed to treat covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

And it’s not simply a matter of increased testing identifying more cases. Covid-19 hospitalizations increased in 38 states over the past week and are rising so quickly that many facilities in the West and Midwest are already overwhelmed. The number of deaths nationally has crested above 1,000 in recent days.

The last time the country hit a new daily record for coronavirus cases — 76,533 on July 17 — just four states accounted for more than 40,000 of those cases: Arizona, California, Florida and Texas, according to a Washington Post analysis.

On Friday, 11 states accounted for that same lion’s share of cases. And in the past two weeks, 24 states have broken their records for single-day highs of cases.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Trump Administration Shut a Vaccine Safety Office Last Year. What’s the Plan Now? Carl Zimmer, Oct. 24, 2020 (print ed.). The office was dedicated to the long-term safety of vaccines. Experts say plans to track coronavirus vaccines are fragmented and “behind the eight ball.”

As the first coronavirus vaccines arrive in the coming year, government researchers will face a monumental challenge: monitoring the health of hundreds of millions of Americans to ensure the vaccines don’t cause harm.

Purely by chance, thousands of vaccinated people will have heart attacks, strokes and other illnesses shortly after the injections. Sorting out whether the vaccines had anything to do with their ailments will be a thorny problem, requiring a vast, coordinated effort by state and federal agencies, hospitals, drug makers and insurers to discern patterns in a flood of data. Findings will need to be clearly communicated to a distrustful public swamped with disinformation.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump isn’t the only sociopath, Robert Harrington, Oct. 24, 2020. There is a deadly pandemic amok throughout the land. And no, I’m not talking about COVID-19, though there is unquestionably that. I’m speaking of sociopathy, extreme antisocial indifference to the pain and suffering of others. This callous disregard can be found among voters for whom the bottom line is the bottom line, for whom caged children, a quarter million dead Americans and the reputations of innocent people are of no consequence compared to their quarterly balance sheets, and Donald Trump is their patron saint and the chief exponent of their indifference.

bill palmer report logo headerThe reaction among many voters to the so-called “sedate debate,” the final presidential debate Thursday night, is a chilling reminder of this deadly sociopathic pandemic. The debate may have been “civilized” in its toned down volume, but the content was still jaw-dropping horrific. We watched as the man who is the alleged leader of the free world responded with practical indifference to American deaths from COVID, dismissing with a shrug a tragedy that has (so far) claimed 75 times the number of American lives than were lost on September 11th, 2001.

djt rncWe watched as the man who is supposed to lead by compassionate example, dismiss the caging of 545 children, heartlessly wrenched from their parents and justified with the cold-blooded lie that they’re being treated well. That they’re not being treated well, that they’re being treated appallingly, is finally beside the point. Their parents are hopelessly lost to them, ground up in a system that should have never separated them in the first place, and many voters couldn’t care less.

We watched as this heartless bastard Trump murdered the reputation of Hunter Biden without a shred of evidence or regret. Trump’s miraculously and suddenly resurrected “outrage” at the “Burisma scandal” that lay dormant for months without mention has suddenly become the hot topic of the moment, superseding Trump’s pearl-clutching, counterfeit horror about the potential for “rampant voter fraud” from mail-in ballots, and these bottom line voters are just fine with it.

It’s time to take a long, hard look at your Trump-loving uncle, your wayward brother-in-law, your Trump-supporting parent, and start calling them what they are: sociopaths. They may not be the hard-bitten, serial-murdering variety sociopaths you see occasionally in the movies, but they are definitely on the spectrum.

 

Virus Victims, Reponses.

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

  • World Cases: 42,599,884, Deaths: 1,150,939
  • U.S. Cases:     8,755,569, Deaths:    229,363

ny times logoNew York Times, Virus Surge Shadows Trump and Biden Campaign Events After Final Debate, Shane Goldmacher, Thomas Kaplan and Annie Karni, Oct. 24, 2020.  President Trump and Joe Biden made their cases as hundreds of thousands of people jammed long lines to vote in New York, Florida and elsewhere.

A day after the nation hit a new high for coronavirus cases, President Trump returned to the campaign trail for a series of rallies and again sought to minimize the surging pandemic, mocking his rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr., for following the social distancing recommendations of public health officials.

In the face of spiking numbers, Mr. Trump on Saturday continued to lean into the idea that the news media and his critics were obsessing about the virus, even as polls show widespread public concern. A recent New York Times/Siena College poll found that a slim majority of voters — including half of independents — believed the worst of the pandemic was yet to come.

“That’s all I hear about now. That’s all I hear, turn on television,” Mr. Trump said at a campaign event in Lumberton, N.C. “Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid,” he added, a refrain he recited in the state as well on Wednesday.

With 10 days left until the election and hundreds of thousands of voters expected to cast their ballots as long lines marked the first weekend of early in-person voting in Florida, New York, Wisconsin and other states, Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden presented sharply divergent cases, both in words and actions, for how they would handle the virus crisis still gripping the country.

 

Trump Watch

donald trump money palmer report Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Trump’s Philanthropy: Tax Write-Offs and Claims That Don’t Always Add Up, Susanne Craig, Russ Buettner and Mike McIntire, Oct. 24, 2020 (print ed.). Tax records reveal that the vast bulk of President Trump’s charitable giving came from simply agreeing not to develop land, helping offset his income.

In President Trump’s telling, he is a committed philanthropist with strong ties to many charities. “If you don’t give back, you’re never ever going to be fulfilled in life,” he wrote in “Trump 101: The Way to Success,” published at the height of his “Apprentice” fame.

And according to his tax records, he has given back at least $130 million since 2005, his second year as a reality TV star.

But the long-hidden tax records, obtained by The New York Times, show that Mr. Trump did not have to reach into his wallet for most of that giving. The vast bulk of his charitable tax deductions, $119.3 million worth, came from simply agreeing not to develop land — in several cases, after he had shelved development plans.

Three of the agreements involved what are known as conservation easements — a maneuver, popular among wealthy Americans, that typically allows a landowner to keep a property’s title and receive a tax deduction equal to its appraised value. In the fourth land deal, Mr. Trump donated property for a state park.

The New York attorney general is investigating whether the appraisals on two of Mr. Trump’s easement donations were improperly inflated to win larger tax breaks, according to court filings.

irs logoMr. Trump’s pronouncements of philanthropic largess have been broadly discredited by reporting, most notably in The Washington Post, that found he had exaggerated, or simply never made, an array of claimed contributions. His own charitable foundation shut down in 2018 amid allegations of self-dealing to benefit Mr. Trump, his businesses and his campaign.

But the tax data examined by The Times lends new authority and far greater precision to those findings. The records, encompassing his reported philanthropic activity through 2017, reveal not only its exact dimensions; they show that much of his charity has come when he was under duress — facing damage to his reputation or big tax bills in years of high income.

Of the $7.5 million in business and personal cash contributions reported to the Internal Revenue Service since 2005, more than 40 percent — $3.2 million — came starting in 2015, when Mr. Trump’s philanthropy fell under scrutiny after he announced his White House bid. In 2017, his first year in office, he declared $1.9 million in cash gifts. In 2014, by contrast, he contributed $81,499.

And his first two land-easement donations were made in what the tax records show was a period of significant taxable income — 2005 and 2006, prime time for his reality TV fame.

djt lincoln project golf

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Loan payments loom as Trump fights for his future in politics and in business, David A. Fahrenthold, Jonathan O'Connell and Joshua Partlow, Oct. 24, 2020 (print ed.). As Trump fights to save his political career, another key part of his life — his business — is also under growing stress. If President Trump is reelected, his loan-saddled properties could present a conflict of interest: He will owe enormous sums to banks that his government regulates, and national security experts say his debts and foreign deals may constitute security risks.

At President Trump’s hotel in Chicago, the most recent board meeting began with bad news. This year’s numbers were awful. Revenue had plunged. The hotel was just 24 percent occupied.

And worse: The hotel expected next year to be bad, too.

In fact, the hotel’s managing director, Gabriel Constantin, said the coronavirus pandemic had hurt the Trump hotel so deeply — reducing business travel and forcing the cancellation of Chicago conferences — that it might be nine years before their business returned to 2019 levels.

“The most optimistic [date] would be 2024,” Constantin said, according to an account of the meeting obtained by The Washington Post. He had a warning about the hotel’s future, if the pandemic’s economic effects didn’t ease: “It’s going to be very, very tough to keep the boat afloat.”

In the next four years, Trump faces payment deadlines for more than $400 million in loans — just as the pandemic robs his businesses of customers and income, according to a Washington Post analysis of Trump’s finances. The bills coming due include loans on his Chicago hotel, his D.C. hotel and his Doral resort, all hit by a double whammy: Trump’s political career slowed their business, then the pandemic ground it down much further.

deutsche bank logoIf Trump is reelected, these loan-saddled properties could present a significant conflict of interest: The president will owe enormous sums to banks that his government regulates. National security experts say Trump’s debts to Deutsche Bank, a German company, and foreign deals may constitute security risks if they make him vulnerable to influence by foreign governments.

Trump said at a televised town hall event Oct. 15 that his debts are “a tiny percentage of my net worth.”

“I’m very under-levered, fortunately. . . . I have a very, very small percentage of debt,” he said.

“Four-hundred million compared to the assets that I have, all of these great properties all over the world,” he added.

Trump owns his businesses while in the White House, though he says he has given day-to-day control to his sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric. Eric Trump declined to answer detailed questions about the company’s finances and loans and instead sent a written statement. Trump’s financial disclosure form said that he took in at least $446 million last year, up from at least $434 million in 2018, although it does not reflect profits or losses.

“We had one of the best years in the history of the company in 2019. I am very proud of the fact that we remain seriously under leveraged and maintain very low levels of debt,” Eric Trump said in the statement. “We have an unbelievable company that continues to achieve great success even under all of the scrutiny that we face on a daily basis.”

The White House did not respond to questions.

Two lenders

The loans coming due for President Trump in the next four years are from two lenders, according to Trump’s financial disclosures and loan documents.

Trump took out at least $55 million in loans on Trump Tower and a condo building in Manhattan from a New York firm called Ladder Capital Finance. And he owes Deutsche Bank for loans on Doral, the D.C. hotel and the Chicago hotel. The Deutsche Bank loans were originally worth about $364 million, according to publicly available loan documents.

The Deutsche Bank loans all carry personal guarantees from Trump, according to the New York Times, meaning that the bank could go after Trump’s other assets if he defaults. A Deutsche Bank spokesman declined to comment.

Trump’s three properties carrying loans from Deutsche Bank appear to have been badly hit by the pandemic.

djt tump int hotelTrump’s D.C. hotel, left, for instance, had only been running a little over half-full in recent years, according to documents obtained by The Post. But this September, as the novel coronavirus curtailed business travel nationwide, the hotel was only about 5 percent full on some nights, according to one person familiar with the hotel’s operations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share private financial information.

One recent bright spot, the person said, was a three-day period in which Trump’s actions as president brought his allies to the hotel. Trump held a fundraiser at the hotel for his 2020 reelection campaign and held a White House ceremony to introduce Amy Coney Barrett as his Supreme Court nominee, drawing political allies from out of town. The hotel surged to more than half-full for three nights, the person said, then dropped down again.

At Doral, where business had already dropped sharply after Trump entered politics, the resort closed for more than a month this spring because of local lockdown measures. It furloughed more than 560 employees and laid off 250 of them for good, according to filings with the state.

One member of Doral said that on a recent visit, the vast lobby was almost empty — and the golf course even more so.

“We . . . played an entire round without seeing any other players on the course until we finally reached some players on the 14th Hole,” the member said in an email message, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid risking his membership. “Imagine, someone playing on our private course!”

The New York Times recently reported that Doral and Trump’s D.C. hotel had lost a combined $217 million before the coronavirus struck. The Times report cited data from Trump’s tax filings; Trump called their reporting “fake news” without challenging any specific details of it.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s historic assault on the civil service was four years in the making, Lisa Rein, Josh Dawsey and Toluse Olorunnipa, Oct. 24, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump’s extraordinary directive allowing his administration to weed out career federal employees viewed as disloyal in a second term is the product of a four-year campaign by conservatives working from a ­little-known West Wing policy shop.

Soon after Trump took office, a young aide hired from the Heritage Foundation with bold ideas for reining in the sprawling bureaucracy of 2.1 million came up with a blueprint. Trump would hold employees accountable, sideline their labor unions and give the president more power to hire and fire them, much like political appointees.

The plan was a counterweight to the “deep state” Trump believed was out to disrupt his agenda. Coordinating labor policy for the White House’s Domestic Policy Council, James Sherk presented his bosses with a 19-page to-do list titled “Proposed Labor Reforms.” A top category was “Creating a government that serves the people.”

The result this week threatens to be the most significant assault on the nonpartisan civil service in its 137-year history: a sweeping executive order that strips job protections from employees in policy roles across the government. Exactly which roles would be affected will be up to personnel officials at federal agencies, who were tasked on Friday with reviewing all of their jobs and deciding who would qualify.

The order, a year in the making after delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic, came less than two weeks before Trump will ask voters for a second term. Still, it was not a last-minute idea or presidential whim. Rather, the wonky-sounding “Executive Order on Creating Schedule F in the Excepted Service” is a crowning achievement of conservative policy on the civil service.

Civil service experts and union leaders have assailed the order as an effort to impose political loyalty tests on a nonpartisan workforce. The directive likely would not survive if Joe Biden is elected president.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Trump’s newest executive order could prove one of his most insidious, Editorial Board, Oct. 24, 2020 (print ed.). The directive from the White House, issued late Wednesday, sounds technical: creating a new “Schedule F” within the “excepted service” of the federal government for employees in policymaking roles, and directing agencies to determine who qualifies.

Its implications, however, are profound and alarming. It gives those in power the authority to fire more or less at will as many as tens of thousands of workers currently in the competitive civil service, from managers to lawyers to economists to, yes, scientists. This week’s order is a major salvo in the president’s onslaught against the cadre of dedicated civil servants whom he calls the “deep state” — and who are really the greatest strength of the U.S. government.

The administration grounds its action in the need to rid itself of “poor performers.” Certainly, there’s room for reform to the cumbersome process required to remove those who fall short of standards. But this president’s criteria for determining satisfactory performance begin and end with personal loyalty. The White House admitted last winter to seeking to purge from payrolls those deemed insufficiently reliable — the “bad people,” in Mr. Trump’s words. The protections for career civil servants currently in place at least put some roadblocks on that path, hence this legally dubious plan to erase those protections with a touch of organizational sleight of hand. Not only will politically motivated firing become easier, but it will also be easier to hire those who meet Mr. Trump’s standards: obsequiousness and, more often than not, a lack of qualifications. With no competitive process in place, leaders can appoint whom they please — or rather, who pleases them.

The order is so vaguely written it is unclear exactly who would fall into the category it conjures up. It is clear, though, that the targets are the cream of the civil service crop — precisely those who have frustrated the administration in its attempts to impose its agenda over ethics, evidence and good sense. Think of the Federal Aviation Administration employee evaluating whether an airliner is safe to fly, or the federal prosecutor deciding in a sensitive case whether to seek an indictment. Think of the Food and Drug Administration employee evaluating the efficacy of a vaccine.

This scheme, if it stands up in court, would transform a substantial portion of the professional federal workforce into a political federal workforce. Evidence-based decision-making would fall to cronyism; expertise would go out the window and patronage would fly in. The repository of knowledge that distinguishes our nation’s government, ready to be furnished no matter who sits in the Oval Office, would drain away. This is, of course, what today’s occupant of the Oval Office has wanted all along. The deadline for agencies to complete their review is Jan. 19, the day before the inauguration — which means Mr. Trump will try to realize his sad vision in his second term, unless voters are wise enough to stop him.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has a whole new Twitter problem, Ron Leshnower, Oct. 24, 2020. In 2016, Donald Trump made a lot of noise about the importance of taking cybersecurity seriously as President of the United States. He electrified his base with relentless chants of “Lock her up!” as he tried to warn that Hillary Clinton’s alleged gross negligence when using technology would create major security risks for America. In the meantime, an alarming hack just came to light that reminds us how Trump is the real security threat.

bill palmer report logo headerVictor Gevers, a Dutch security researcher, announced that he hacked into Trump’s @realDonaldTrump Twitter account earlier this month with unusual ease, according to a report from de Volkskrant. By simply guessing the password (“maga2020!”), Gevers managed to gain full access without anyone’s knowledge or permission. This put Gevers in the position of being able to impersonate the President of the United States by changing Trump’s profile, accessing his direct messages (DMs), and even tweeting in a way that could cause confusion and chaos.

After trying for days to alert the White House about this serious security loophole, Gevers was finally contacted by the Secret Service. His efforts apparently triggered a change in Trump’s password and the adoption of Twitter’s highly recommended two-factor authentication. Despite the reports, White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere told The Verge on Thursday that Gevers’ hacking claim story was “absolutely not true” while noting that he can’t comment on presidential security measures.

Gevers, in the meantime, was smart enough to take a screenshot to prove his access, which you can view here, courtesy of Vrij Nederland. The fact that the President of the United States’ Twitter account was so vulnerable to hacking is bad enough. But even crazier is the fact that Gevers hacked into Trump’s account four years ago (just before the 2016 election)—and when alerting authorities about that earlier hack, he suggested “maga2020!” as a new password. According to TechCruch, Gevers “did not expect” to use that very password to hack back into the account years later, after Trump became President.

This hack exposes the alarmingly sloppy way Trump has treated his Twitter account’s security since taking office, using obvious passwords and being too lazy to turn on two-factor authentication. Fortunately, the hack was achieved by a researcher and not an enemy of the United States aiming to cause serious harm. The incident is yet another reminder that Trump is a hypocrite and a sloth who can’t be trusted to safeguard anything. Let’s plug this unacceptable security breach once and for all by electing Biden-Harris on November 3.

MaxNews Today, 'We Do Not Live in Javankastan," Nathan Max, Oct. 24, 2020. The Lincoln Project has vowed to give Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner a "civics lesson."

Steve Schmidt is one of the founding members of the Lincoln Project. He is a communications and public affairs strategist who has worked on several Republican campaigns, including John McCain's 2008 bid for the White House, and he is now a regular political contributor to MSNBC.

On Friday, attorneys for Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump threatened to sue the Lincoln Project if it did not remove two billboards in Times Square that highlight the Trump administration's gross mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic. Schmidt responded to this threat on his Twitter account Saturday over a series of five tweets.

MaxNewsToday has assembled these tweets and reprinted them as one easy-to-read op-ed for our ongoing segment, Schmidt Storm. It has been edited for grammar and clarity.

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America reads: Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

WE DO NOT LIVE IN TRUMPISTAN or JAVANKASTAN.

The billboards will remain because they light the night sky as a beacon of accountability and truth. The unqualified child of Trump and her husband were given jobs at the highest level of government and charged with life-and-death responsibilities.

They have engorged themselves for four years like pigs at the public trough. They have abused the taxpayers, flouted ethics and conflict-of-interest guidelines, rules and laws.

They have enriched themselves with lucrative deals from foreign countries, while they were perched in the West Wing. They are both important architects and agents of this American catastrophe.

For the hundreds of thousands of dead Americans that should be alive but for the stupidity, incompetence, negligence, malfeasance and callous indifference of Trump and his regime of fools, to the caged children who may never see their parents again, we will fight.

LINCOLN PROJECT STATEMENT

The level of indignant outrage Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have shown towards The Lincoln Project for exposing their indifference for the more than 223,000 people who have lost their lives due to their reckless mismanagement of COVID-19 is comical. While we truly enjoy living rent free in their heads, their empty threats will not be taken any more seriously than we take Ivanka and Jared.

It is unsurprising that an administration that has never had any regard or understanding of our Constitution would try to trample on our First Amendment rights, but we fully intend on making this civics lesson as painful as possible. Jared and Ivanka have always been entitled, out-of-touch bullies who have never given the slightest indication they have any regard for the American people. We plan on showing them the same level of respect.

The billboards will stay up. We consider it important that in Times Square, the crossroads of the world, people are continuously reminded of the cruelty, audacity and staggering lack of empathy the Trumps and Kushners have displayed towards the American people.

 

U.S. Elections, Race, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden keeps focus on pandemic as Trump seeks momentum from debate, Annie Linskey, Philip Rucker and Sean Sullivan, Oct. 24, 2020 (print ed.). As President Trump made a push to change the campaign’s dynamic, Joe Biden reiterated warnings about Trump’s “failed leadership.”

djt biden smiles resizedAn upbeat President Trump moved swiftly Friday to capitalize on what his campaign saw as a well-executed debate performance, cutting an ad that includes Biden stumbling over energy policy, touting a record day of digital fundraising and considering adding events to his schedule in the campaign’s final days.

“I thought I did great,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosJoe Biden and his allies took a different tack, seeking to refocus the conversation on the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which the campaign believes is overwhelmingly the most important issue to voters.

In a speech in Wilmington, Del., Biden hardly mentioned the debate and instead talked about Trump’s handling of the contagion, saying, “The president quit on you.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Harris’s supporters say mispronouncing ‘Kamala’ is sometimes a message, not an accident, Chelsea Janes, Oct. 24, 2020 (print ed.). Even late in the campaign, Kamala Harris’s opponents continue to mispronounce her first name. Allies say it’s an effort to signal that she is somehow foreign or un-American.

kamala harris debate june 27 2019 fileDavid Perdue has served three years in the Senate with Kamala D. Harris. They worked on the budget committee together, and they have signed their names to some of the same legislation.

But when Perdue (R-Ga.) stood in front of a crowd of Trump supporters at a Georgia rally last weekend and called her “Ka-mal-a, Comma-la, Ka-Mala-mala-mala,” he was signaling that he didn’t know how to pronounce her name and it didn’t matter anyway. “Whatever,” he concluded before moving on, as some in the audience applauded appreciatively.

Mocking Harris’s first name — which means lotus in Sanskrit — is not original to Perdue. President Trump has eschewed the correct pronunciation of her name, “Comma-la,” for “Ka-MAL-a” at rallies for months now.

When a guest corrected Fox News host Tucker Carlson on his pronunciation of the vice-presidential nominee’s name, Carlson seemed affronted at the suggestion that mispronouncing it showed disrespect. After a few more attempts, he, too, brushed it aside with a “whatever.”

rudy giuliani borat bedroom Rudy Giuliani was caught in compromising position (shown above) in new 'Borat' film; The prank is one of the notable moments in the Sacha Baron Cohen sequel out Friday. Details: NBC News, Rudy Giuliani caught in compromising position in new 'Borat' film.

India Express, Review: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm review: An audacious, riotously funny sequel, Kshitij Rawat, Oct. 24, 2020. Sacha Baron Cohen’s return as Borat could not be more timely. The sequel to 2006’s mockumentary Borat is overtly political and has released only a few days before the US Presidential election.

In the first film, Borat went to the US to shoot a documentary so that his own country, Kazakhstan, can learn from the greatest country in the world. The sequel has him becoming a reviled figure for bringing shame to his homeland. After undergoing penal servitude for some time, he is sent to the US so the ‘Premiere’ Trump would acknowledge Kazakhstan’s president as one of his strongmen friends.

Sacha Baron Cohen elicited laughs in the first Borat film by interacting with real people who did not know they were part of a movie. They just thought he is a foreigner who is unaware of American norms and etiquette. In these conversations, Cohen laid bare their prejudices. He did that by making his character even more bigoted than the ones he was talking to. Those people felt comfortable enough to talk about their private beliefs with him because, despite his outlandishness, he was simply an extreme version of them.

This time, they are even more upfront, no longer bothering to hide their chauvinistic and reactionary views. This is Trump’s America, after all, where white supremacists feel emboldened and unashamed of who they are, and Cohen knows it.

Since the first film, Borat has become a known figure in America and people recognise him in the streets. In a meta way, this forces him to adopt disparate identities. If you read news reports about a disguised Cohen turning up in American right-wing rallies, speeches and events in the last couple of years, they all were for this movie.

 Sacha Baron Cohen, as

Sacha Baron Cohen, as "Borat," with co-star Maria Bakalova (Amazon Studios photo).

RogerEbert.com, Review: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Matt Zoller Seitz, Oct. 23, 2020 (May contain spoilers). Sacha Baron Cohen's "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm" is a deliciously unstable comedy. This new installment in the misadventures of Cohen's ignorant yet fearless Kazakhstani journalist Borat Sagdiyev is filled with risqué (and just plain risky) jokes.

Some land. Others explode in the film's own face like a baggy-pants comedian's prop cigar. That's all true to the spirit of Borat, for better and worse. Even gags that leave a troubling afterimage fit the star's wise-ass, id-monster persona. You can't open a comedic Pandora's box and expect the results to be orderly and reassuring.

The story begins with Borat's release from prison, where he spent 14 years atoning for his shenanigans in the previous film, "Borat: Cultural Learnings of American to Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan." Borat is blamed for the country's political and financial collapse (file footage shows a stockbroker trying to kill himself by jumping from the country's tallest skyscraper, a second-floor office in a muddy village). Like a noncombatant pervert cousin of John Rambo, Borat is given a mission that will redeem and pardon him if it succeeds: he must journey to the United States in order to...

ny times logoNew York Times, Sacha Baron Cohen Duped Them. Here’s What They Did Next, Sarah Bahr, Oct. 24, 2020 (print ed.).  Rudy Giuliani is just the latest in a long line of people pranked by Baron Cohen.

What differentiates Sacha Baron Cohen, a master of the “Gotcha,” from your run-of-the-mill prankster is his knack for catching notable names in compromising moments.

Now it’s Rudolph W. Giuliani who has been filmed with his hand down his pants after an interview with an actress posing as a conservative TV news reporter (Giuliani has said he was tucking in his shirt).

The scene takes place in Baron Cohen’s new movie, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” out Friday. But Baron Cohen has for years been posing as outlandish fictional characters (Borat is a moronic, mustachioed Kazakh journalist) to lure the unsuspecting into ridiculous, potentially embarrassing situations.

Of course, the charades are not always successful (interviews with Donald J. Trump before he was president and Bernie Sanders have both fallen flat). But other efforts have resulted in a resignation, lawsuits and, in one case, by Baron Cohen’s telling, trouble in the marriage of Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock.

In 2018, Baron Cohen persuaded Roy S. Moore, a former Republican Senate candidate from Alabama, to grant him an interview for what he claimed was an Israeli television network, but which was actually his Showtime satire series, “Who Is America?” Baron Cohen posed as an Israeli antiterrorism expert before whipping out a device he claimed was a pedophile detector, which began chirping when he waved it in front of Moore. (Moore had been accused by several women during his unsuccessful Senate campaign of making sexual advances toward them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s.) Moore became angry — “Maybe Israeli technology hasn’t developed properly,” he said — and walked out of the interview.

Moore sued Baron Cohen, Showtime and CBS for $95 million in damages for defamation, fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He argued that his signature on the release was obtained through fraud and was not valid. As of this month, the suit is still pending. But as Baron Cohen’s previous track record in court demonstrates, it can be tough to win a lawsuit against him — even if the assertions are true. (Experts have said that subjects who sign a release before the interview without reading the fine print — as Moore did — have little legal ground to stand on.)

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Courts

Palmer Report, Opinion: Bill Barr just blew it again, Bill Palmer, Oct. 24, 2020. Over the past week Donald Trump has repeatedly whined in public about how Attorney General Bill Barr isn’t taking any of the big swings he wants him to take. Trump, for instance, thinks Barr should have somehow magically arrested Joe Biden and Barack Obama by now. The thing is, Barr keeps proving that he can’t even pull off the small-time henchman work.

bill palmer report logo headerMonths ago, Trump gave Barr, right, one simple task: get Michael Flynn off the hook. Barr responded by forcing the DOJ to announce that it was dropping the criminal case against Flynn, even though Flynn had already pleaded guilty, cut a cooperating plea deal, and confessed in detail. william barr new oBarr apparently thought this was going to work. But the judge in the case, and the appeals court judges above him, felt differently.

Months later, the Flynn case is still in court. Now Barr and his remaining loyalists in the DOJ have been reduced to submitting FBI agent notes that they say prove Flynn was somehow framed. The trouble: they’ve been caught altering some of the documents in questions. Now the judge is threatening perjury charges against the DOJ representatives if they keep up the antics.

Meanwhile, Michael Flynn is still on track to go to prison. Donald Trump can try pardoning him, but if Trump loses the election, the next iteration of the DOJ will likely just bring the remainder of the criminal charges against Flynn that he avoided with his original plea deal, which he’s since voided. Bill Barr was supposed to get Flynn off the hook. Now it’s just an embarrassing mess. Barr really isn’t very good at this.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump family friend Ken Kurson charged in New York stalking case, Shayna Jacobs, Oct. 24, 2020 (print ed.). The political consultant and author, who used to edit a weekly newspaper owned by Jared Kushner, is accused of stalking a doctor and harassing her colleague and the colleauge’s spouse.

Ken Kurson, a friend and associate of President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was arrested Friday in a federal stalking case, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn.

The political consultant and author, who for four years edited a weekly newspaper owned by Kushner, is accused of stalking a doctor at Manhattan’s Mount Sinai Hospital and harassing her colleague and the colleague’s spouse, according to a person familiar with the matter. The alleged incidents date back to 2015, when Kurson was going through a divorce, this person said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the case’s political sensitivity.

Kurson surrendered to authorities and made an initial court appearance Friday afternoon in the Eastern District of New York. His bail was set at $100,000.

New York Observer ‘revisiting’ coverage after top editor acknowledges ‘input’ for key Trump political speech

Kurson has made multiple appearances at the White House during Trump’s time in office, posting photos of himself on social media from events he’s attended there. The Trump administration sought in 2018 to install him as a board member of the National Endowment for the Humanities, but he withdrew from consideration during his background check, the New York Times reported at the time.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, When Trump tries ‘Sleepy Joe’ dig with Sudan deal, Israeli leader demurs, Miriam Berger, Oct. 24, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if Joe Biden would have found a way to reach an Israel-Sudan accord. But Trump may not have received the response he expected.

Israel FlagPresident Trump spoke by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday to discuss a U.S.-backed agreement between Israel and Sudan that charts the start of normalized relations between the two former enemies.

Sudan is the third Arab country in recent weeks to establish ties with Israel under U.S. auspices. But the conversation took a turn when Trump pivoted from the day’s diplomatic development to ask Netanyahu if “Sleepy Joe” — the president’s nickname for his Democratic rival Joe Biden — would have achieved a similar result.

Judging by Trump’s reaction, he may not have received the response he expected from Netanyahu, one of the president’s most fervent global allies, less than two weeks ahead of the presidential election.

“Do you think Sleepy Joe could have made this deal, Bibi, Sleepy Joe,” the president asked from his desk in the Oval Office. He inched forward to lean over the phone receiver. “Do you think he would have made this deal? Somehow I don’t think so.”

A pause ensued. Trump looked down at his clasped hands.

“Well, Mr. President,” Netanyahu began as Trump raised his gaze, “one thing I can tell you is that we appreciate the help for peace from anyone in America, and we appreciate what you’ve done enormously."

polish flag waving

washington post logoWashington Post, Polish president tests positive for coronavirus as European cases surge, Loveday Morris, Oct. 24, 2020 (print ed.). Polish President Andrzej Duda has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, his spokesman announced on Saturday, the latest in a string of world leaders to be infected.

Duda is doing “fine,” Blazej Spychalski, secretary of state in the president’s chancellery, posted on Twitter.

“We are in constant contact with the relevant medical services,” he added.

The 48-year-old president, an ally of the ruling populist Law and Justice party, narrowly won reelection in a tightly fought race in July. While his role is largely ceremonial, the president has the power to veto laws and plays a part in formulating foreign policy.

Duda’s positive test comes as Poland, like much of Europe, faces a surge in coronavirus cases. The entirety of the country was classed domestically as a “red zone” as of Saturday, putting all its 40 million citizens under the highest level of restrictions. Bars and restaurants have been instructed to close.

 

Oct. 23

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Reponses

 

More U.S. 2020 Election News

 

U.S. Courts, Law, Crime

 

World News

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump and Biden Lay Out Starkly Different Visions of America, Staff reports, Oct. 23, 2020 (print ed.). At Final Debate, Candidates Clash on djt biden smiles resizedHealth Care and Virus Response. Joe Biden said he would build on the Affordable Care Act, which President Trump called “socialized medicine.”

The men sparred over election interference and foreign entanglements, with Mr. Trump trying to bait Mr. Biden over his son’s business activities.
“Release your tax return or stop talking about corruption,” Mr. Biden said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump, Biden disagree on why stimulus bill failed, debate federal minimum wage, Staff reports, Oct. 23, 2020 (print ed.). Trump, pressed on stimulus deal, blames Pelosi; Fact Checker: Trump’s false claim on pre-existing conditions; Biden: ‘He thinks he’s running against somebody else;’ Fact Checker: Biden is wrong on trade deficit with China; Trump again claims he has a health-care plan better than Obamacare, again has no specifics; Candidate spar over relationship with North Korea.

Politico, Investigation: ‘Warning flare’: New swing-state data shows massive Democratic early-vote lead, Marc Caputo and Zach Montellaro, Oct. 23, 2020.  Democrats have opened up a yawning gap in early voting over Republicans in six of the most crucial battleground states — but that only begins to tell the story of their advantage heading into Election Day.

In a more worrisome sign for Republicans, Democrats are also turning out more low-frequency and newly registered voters than the GOP, according to internal data shared with POLITICO by Hawkfish, a new Democratic research firm, which was reviewed by Republicans and independent experts.

The turnout data does not mean Donald Trump will lose to Joe Biden. Both sides are bracing for a close race and a giant wave of Republicans to vote in person on Nov. 3. Yet the turnout disparity with new and less-reliable voters has forced Republican political operatives to take notice.

“It’s a warning flare,” said veteran Republican strategist Scott Reed.

“Some Republicans are stuck in a model that we always run up the score on Election Day to make up the difference,” Reed said. “I think running an election in a superpolarized electorate, you want to win early voting. Let’s go. Let’s stop talking and making excuses.”

The GOP caught an encouraging glimpse in Florida on Tuesday, when more Republicans began casting in-person, early ballots than Democrats in Trump’s must-win state. But Democrats have dominated voting by mail and on Thursday held a historic lead in total pre-Election Day ballots cast of 463,000, or 10 percentage points, according to the state’s Division of Elections. Gov. Ron DeSantis this week urged Republicans to vote early in person, a message Trump plans to echo on Saturday, when he’s expected to call on his base to get to the polls.

At a glance, the top-line Democratic margins also look huge in Arizona (16 percentage points), Michigan (24 points), North Carolina (14 points), Pennsylvania (46 points), and Wisconsin (22), according to the analysis from Hawkfish, which is funded by billionaire Michael Bloomberg, a Trump foe.

Though the numbers look good for Democrats, they're not cause for complacency for Hawkfish’s CEO, Josh Mendelsohn, who echoes Republicans in saying that he expects high-propensity Trump voters to increasingly show up in force. Compared with Republicans, Democrats are exhausting far more of their high-propensity voters and the margins are expected to start tightening, as they have in Florida.

In a worrisome sign for Republicans, Democrats are also turning out more low-frequency and newly registered voters than the GOP.

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 47 million Americans have already voted, surpassing the total number of early ballots cast in 2016, Brittany Renee Mayes, Kate Rabinowitz and Lenny Bronner, Oct. 23, 2020 (print ed.). Early-voting counts show a record level of civic participation before Election Day. The tens of millions of ballots already cast show highly enthusiastic voters are making sure their votes are counted amid a pandemic.

Democrats hope this energy leads to a decisive victory on Nov. 3. Registered Democrats are outvoting Republicans by a large margin in states that provide partisan breakdowns of early ballots. Republicans, however, are more likely to tell pollsters they intend to vote in person, and the GOP is counting on an overwhelming share of the Election Day vote going to Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Man linked to far-right Boogaloo Bois charged after allegedly firing AK-47 at Minneapolis police precinct, Holly Bailey, Oct. 23, 2020. According to a federal criminal complaint made public Friday, Ivan Harrison Hunter, a 26-year-old from Bourne, Texas, traveled to Minneapolis after George Floyd’s death and was captured on video May 28 firing 13 rounds from an AK-47 into the precinct building.

A Texas man who claims to be a member of the Boogaloo Bois, a far-right anti-government extremist group intent on starting a second civil war, is facing a riot charge, federal prosecutors said Friday, alleging that the man opened fire on Minneapolis’s 3rd Precinct police station in an attempt to stir up civil unrest during the May protests over George Floyd’s death.

According to a federal criminal complaint filed Monday and made public Friday, Ivan Harrison Hunter, a 26-year-old from Boerne, Tex., traveled to Minneapolis after Floyd’s death and was captured on surveillance video May 28 firing 13 rounds from an AK-47 into the precinct building as it was overtaken by protesters. According to the complaint, Hunter fired his gun and allegedly shouted, “Justice for Floyd!”

Hunter was charged with traveling across state lines to participate in a riot and made his first court appearance Thursday in San Antonio, where he was arrested on Wednesday, according to Erica MacDonald, the U.S. attorney for the District of Minnesota, whose office is handling the case.

The Boogaloo Bois have been spotted at right-wing and left-wing protests, often heavily armed and wearing Hawaiian shirts. Members of the loosely organized group have espoused a range of ideologies, including pro-gun, anti-government and white supremacist views. In some cases, they have been found to purposefully sow confusion by impersonating left-wing activists in an effort to fuel movement toward civil war.

washington post logoWashington Post, A 19-year-old with a van full of guns and explosives plotted to assassinate Biden, federal officials say, Timothy Bella, Oct. 23, 2020. According to federal officials, Alexander Hillel Treisman ended up at a Wendy’s within four miles of Joe Biden’s home in Delaware and penned a checklist that ended with one word: “execute.”

As it was becoming clear in March that Joe Biden would be the Democratic presidential nominee, Alexander Hillel Treisman started to map out his plot to assassinate the former vice president, federal authorities say.

“Should I kill Joe Biden?” Treisman wrote in a caption to a meme he posted in April.

It didn’t appear to be an idle threat, the feds say.

The 19-year-old searched online for Biden’s home address and for night-vision goggles, and purchased an AR-15 in New Hampshire, according to federal court documents first reported Thursday by WBTV. At one point in May, Treisman ended up at a Wendy’s within four miles of Biden’s home in Delaware. And when he was arrested later that month in North Carolina, police searching his van found four rifles, a 9mm handgun, explosive materials, books on bomb making, and $509,000 in cash that’s believed to be his inheritance.

Those revelations all come in an order that a federal magistrate judge filed earlier this month outlining why Treisman, who was indicted by a federal grand jury in September on child pornography charges, should remain in custody.

It’s unclear whether Treisman will face additional charges related to the alleged plot.

News of the arrest is the latest violent threat against the former vice president to be broken up by authorities. A 42-year-old Maryland man was charged Wednesday for allegedly writing a letter in which he threatened to kill Biden and Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.).

 

Virus Victims, Reponses

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Nears Record, With More Than 75,000 Virus Cases, Staff reports, Oct. 23, 2020. The tally is the second-highest daily total since the pandemic began, as eight states set single-day case records. Here’s the latest.

  • Here’s where Europe’s second wave is filling up hospitals.
  • On college campuses, virus cases keep climbing.
  • Poland comes close to a national lockdown with additional restrictions.
  • ‘We are not going to lie down’: A coronavirus revolt in England.
  • Istanbul has 40 percent of Turkey’s virus cases, a top official reports.
  • North Korea warns that dust storms from China may carry the virus.
  • Nepal suspends access to Mount Everest after a local virus case is detected.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Oct. 23, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

  • World Cases: 42,117,676, Deaths: 1,144,445
  • U.S. Cases:     8,664,365, Deaths:    228,423

ny times logoNew York Times, OSHA Criticized for Lax Regulation of Meatpacking in Pandemic, Noam Scheiber, Oct. 23, 2020 (print ed.). Critics say the agency has applied scant oversight and negligible penalties despite outbreaks at many plants in the spring.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Worst Virus Outbreaks in the U.S. Are Now in Rural Areas, Lauren Leatherby, Oct. 23, 2020 (print ed.). Rural counties of fewer than 10,000 people are seeing more coronavirus cases than at any other time during the pandemic.

The coronavirus was slow to come to Foster County, N.D., a community of just over 3,000 people in the eastern part of the state. When virus cases surged in the Northeast in the spring, the county recorded just one positive case. When national case counts peaked in mid-July, it had recorded just two more.

But by Tuesday, about one in every 20 residents had tested positive for the virus. More than half of those cases were reported in the past two weeks.

Most of the worst outbreaks in the United States right now are in rural places like Foster County. Where earlier peaks saw virus cases concentrated mainly in cities and suburbs, the current surge is the most geographically dispersed yet, and it is hitting hard remote counties that often lack a hospital or other critical health care resources.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How Many Americans Will Ayn Rand Kill? Paul Krugman, right, Oct. 23, 2020 (print ed.). Liberty doesn’t mean freedom to infect paul krugmanother people. A long time ago, in an America far, far away — actually just last spring — many conservatives dismissed Covid-19 as a New York problem. It’s true that in the first few months of the pandemic, the New York area, the port of entry for many infected visitors from Europe, was hit very hard. But the focus on New York also played into right-wing “American carnage” narratives about the evils of densely populated, diverse cities. Rural white states imagined themselves immune.

But New York eventually controlled its viral surge, in large part via widespread mask-wearing, and at this point the “anarchist jurisdiction” is one of the safest places in the country. Despite a worrying uptick in some neighborhoods, especially in religious communities that have been flouting rules on social distancing, New York City’s positivity rate — the fraction of tests showing presence of the coronavirus — is only a bit over 1 percent.

Even as New York contained its pandemic, however, the coronavirus surged out of control in other parts of the country. There was a deadly summer spike in much of the Sunbelt. And right now the virus is running wild in much of the Midwest; in particular, the most dangerous places in America may be the Dakotas.

But why does this keep happening? Why does America keep making the same mistakes?

Donald Trump’s disastrous leadership is, of course, an important factor. But I also blame Ayn Rand [the late libertarian author] — or, more generally, libertarianism gone bad, a misunderstanding of what freedom is all about.

If you look at what Republican politicians are saying as the pandemic rips through their states, you see a lot of science denial. Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, has gone full Trump — questioning the usefulness of masks and encouraging potential super-spreader events. (The Sturgis motorcycle rally, which drew almost a half-million bikers to her state, may have played a key role in setting off the viral surge.)

But you also see a lot of libertarian rhetoric — a lot of talk about “freedom” and “personal responsibility.”

 

More U.S. 2020 Election News

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Biden wins instant polls after final debate, Nate Cohn, Oct. 23 2020. Trump faces daunting deficit in campaign’s final 11 days. The final presidential debate was President Trump’s last, best chance to reshape the race in his favor. The post-debate instant-reaction polls suggest that he didn’t get what he needed.

Instant Poll Surveys of Who Won the Debate

  • CNN: 53% Biden, 39% Trump
  • Data for Progress (Dem. Pollster): 52% Biden, 41% Trump
  • YouGov: 54% Biden, 35% Trump

What’s an instant poll? As we discussed after the first debate, instant-reaction or instapolls are a little quirky, but they’re useful. They usually represent only people who watched the debate, who aren’t the same as the overall electorate. The people who participate probably aren’t even very representative of people who did watch the debate, since they agreed to participate in a survey multiple times — and followed through. Pollsters try to deal with these potential biases in different ways, potentially yielding very different results. Nonetheless, a candidate who decisively wins in the instant polls usually gains in the traditional survey results that follow.

Double-digit Biden win in instant polls. This time, the instant polls had a consistent and clear story: Mr. Biden won the debate by a double-digit margin.

If the results in the chart look familiar, that’s because they’re reminiscent of many national survey results we’ve seen over the last month. You could interpret that to mean that the debate was more or less a draw on the merits, with most Biden supporters concluding that Mr. Biden won, and vice versa for the Trump supporters. Indeed, the CNN/SSRS poll didn’t find that either candidate improved his favorability rating compared with interviews conducted before the debate.

Not the huge win Trump needed. For Mr. Trump, even a draw would have been a blow to his chances. He trails by nearly 10 percentage points in national surveys, and although he still has a chance in the most crucial battleground states, like Florida and Pennsylvania, his path to an Electoral College victory remains narrow. With just 11 days to go, there aren’t many obvious opportunities remaining for him to change the attitudes of voters.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump did what he came to do in Nashville, but Biden was ready, Dan Balz, Oct. 23, 2020. With time running out and trailing in the polls, President Trump needed the strongest possible showing in his final debate against Joe Biden. But in the face of a series of attacks, the former vice president parried the president with a strong performance that is likely to leave the presidential campaign little changed from where it was at the start.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has completely delusional Twitter meltdown after losing the debate to Joe Biden, Bill Palmer, right, Oct. 23, 2020. Donald bill palmer report logo headerTrump lost bill palmerthe debate, and it wasn’t even close. CNN’s poll says 53% of respondents think Joe Biden won, and just 39% think Trump won. It gets even worse with CNN’s undecided voter focus group, with nine people thinking Biden won, two people thinking it was a tie, and zero people thinking Trump won. But don’t tell that to Trump, who’s firmly in la la land.

Donald Trump just tweeted five Twitter polls in a row which show that he won by 90% or more of the vote. If you’re not familiar with what a Twitter donald trump twitterpoll is, literally anyone on Twitter can simply tweet a poll, and the results are likely to be a function of how that person’s followers lean.

For instance, if Palmer Report posted a Twitter poll asking who won the debate, we’d probably get results showing that 90% of respondents think Biden won. It wouldn’t make it any more legitimate than the nonsense that Trump is tweeting. This is just embarrassing for him. He’s got no response to the fact he lost.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Cash Crunch Constrains His Campaign at a Critical Juncture, Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman, Oct. 23, 2020 (print ed.). With far less republican elephant logomoney than anticipated, President Trump’s campaign is scrambling to address a severe financial disadvantage against Joe Biden. The financial pinch has produced something of an internal blame game, according to current and former campaign and administration officials.

ny times logoNew York Times, Susan Collins Hasn’t Changed Much, but Maine Has, Jonathan Martin, Oct. 23, 2020. Democrats are angry with her. Republicans see her as disloyal to President Trump. “I don’t know if people respond as well to that anymore,” said her G.O.P. predecessor in the Senate.

Susan CollinsA Republican running for re-election in a difficult year for her party, Ms. Collins, right, was opposed by a well-funded Democrat with a political base in vote-rich Southern Maine who was hoping to capitalize on the unpopularity of the Republican in the White House. But in that 2008 race, even as the G.O.P. presidential nominee lost Maine by 17 percentage points, Ms. Collins won re-election by over 20 points, carrying every county in the state.

That was then.

washington post logoWashington Post, Review: The mute button was a godsend. It also amplified the candidates’ differences, Robin Givhan, Oct. 23, 2020. It came down to muting the president. That’s what it took to stage a reasonably civil debate between President Trump and former vice president Joe Biden. That’s not normal and that’s nothing to be pleased about. But at least it worked.

Trump was so rude and boorish during the first debate, constantly interrupting Biden, that the Commission on Presidential Debates sought to muzzle the president like a constantly barking dog. The Trump family was too stubborn to wear face masks during the previous debate so this time the commission threatened to forcibly remove anyone who refused to wear one from Belmont University’s Curb Event Center arena. People behaved.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump issues sweeping order for tens of thousands of career federal employees to lose civil service protections, Lisa Rein and Eric Yoder, Oct. 23, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump this week fired his biggest broadside yet against the federal bureaucracy by issuing an executive order that would remove job security from an estimated tens of thousands of civil servants and dramatically remake the government.

The directive, issued late Wednesday, strips long-held civil service protections from employees whose work involves policymaking, allowing them to be dismissed with little cause or recourse, much like the political appointees who come and go with each administration.

washington post logoWashington Post, Union leaders have Biden’s back on fracking. In Pa., members aren’t so sure, Sean Sullivan, Oct. 23, 2020. Joe Biden’s occasionally muddled message on fracking, combined with President Trump’s relentless attacks, has created suspicion of the Democratic presidential nominee.

Days before the election, Biden is fighting to protect his narrow Pennsylvania lead in the face of Trump’s relentless attacks over fracking, an economic and cultural touchstone across Western Pennsylvania that has become a vulnerability for the former vice president, according to interviews with local officials.

Tensions flared at the final debate Thursday night, with Biden asserting that he never said he opposed fracking and angrily rebuking the president’s claim that there was video evidence that he had. And conservatives seized on Biden’s comment that he would “transition from the oil industry,” which he later sought to underscore would happen gradually.

Biden has been warmer toward fracking than many in his party, assuming a stance his team hoped would neutralize attacks from the right. His position helped him secure endorsements from a roster of influential labor unions, including two that joined him on a recent whistle-stop train tour through the region.

But their support is not always trickling down to union members themselves. Local leaders say Biden’s occasionally muddled message on fracking, combined with Trump’s broadsides and suspicion about the Democratic Party’s energy and climate priorities, has created obstacles for the former vice president.

washington post logoWashington Post, A Colorado landlord allegedly threatened to double rents if Biden is elected: ‘If Trump wins, we all win,’ Katie Shepherd, Oct. 23, 2020. The apparent attempt to persuade the trailer park’s residents to vote for President Trump is hardly the only spat between landlords and renters over the election.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Now it begins, Bill Palmer, Oct. 23, 2020. In his final at-bat on the major league national stage, Donald Trump struck out. He needed to use the final presidential debate to win over additional voters, and instead his incoherent conspiracy theory-laden ranting might have actually cost him a few votes. But now it really begins.

bill palmer report logo headerIf Trump hasn’t already figured out that the debate went poorly for him, he’ll figure it out once he hears everyone in the media (except Fox News) saying as much. That’s when he’s going to realize that he’s now basically lost the election, unless he can find a way to really shake things up.

Keep in mind that Trump’s definition of “shaking things up” consists of sending a stooge like John Ratcliffe out there to give a confusing statement that has everyone scratching their heads about what’s even going on. It’s not as if Trump has some kind of secret evil genius magic wand up his sleeve, and now he’s just going to wave it and get back into contention.

But we’re about to see the truly stupid part of the election play out. Donald Trump is eleven days away from losing an election that will result in his assets being seized, his family being torn apart, and him being locked in prison for the rest of his life – and he knows it. We’ll see even more unhinged conspiracy theories, even more half baked stunts, even more idiocy.

 

U.S. Courts, Law, Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, N.Y. appeals court upholds dismissal of Manafort’s mortgage-fraud case, Shayna Jacobs, Oct. 23, 2020. The case is widely viewed as a bid to ensure Paul Manafort, President Trump's ex-campaign chairman, would face a hefty prison sentence should President Trump pardon his former campaign chair.

paul manafort mugManafort, 71, right, faced charges in New York Supreme Court that too closely mirrored his 2018 federal bank-fraud case for which he was serving prison time before his compassionate release in May because of the coronavirus pandemic, the appellate court ruled on Thursday.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office had argued “fresh elements” in its investigation overcame the burden needed to proceed with a case for the same conduct for which Manafort was previously prosecuted. The district attorney’s case was widely viewed as a bid to ensure Manafort would face a hefty prison sentence should Trump pardon him.

The appeals court upheld a December ruling by a trial court judge, which said the charges in the state court indictment were too similar to the federal case.

New York prosecutors appeal in Manafort case seen as a backstop if Trump pardons him

“It is undisputed that the federal charges of which [the] defendant has already been convicted involve the same fraud, against the same victims, as is charged in his New York indictment,” the two-page decision by the Appellate Division’s First Judicial Department read.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judiciary Committee approves Trump’s pick for Supreme Court, Seung Min Kim, Paulina Firozi and Donna Cassata, Oct. 23, 2020 (print ed.). The Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday approved the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, clearing the way for the full Senate to vote next week on President Trump’s choice.

us senate logoDemocratic senators boycotted the committee proceedings to protest Republicans’ fast-tracking the nomination of the 48-year-old amy coney barrett resized headshotconservative jurist, right, within days of the Nov. 3 election. They argue that the president elected next month should fill the court vacancy.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the full Senate will vote Monday on the Barrett nomination. Republicans have the votes to install her on the court.

Amy Coney Barrett secured committee approval with only Republican votes, as Democratic senators boycotted the proceedings. The approval clears the way for Senate confirmation next week.

ny times logoNew York Times, Goldman Sachs Malaysia Arm Pleads Guilty in 1MDB Fraud, Matthew Goldstein and Emily Flitter, Oct. 23, 2020 (print ed.). Goldman Sachs admitted its Malaysian subsidiary “knowingly and willingly” conspired to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act because some former employees paid bribes to officials in connection with the looting of a sovereign wealth fund, a scandal that toppled that country’s leader and triggered criminal cases that spanned the globe.

The subsidiary pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge on Thursday in Brooklyn federal court, and the bank itself entered into a three-year deferred prosecution agreement to resolve one of the biggest scandals in the Wall Street giant’s long history.

Separate from the penalties the bank will pay, the board of Goldman Sachs said it was taking steps to withhold or recoup $174 million in compensation from current and former executives — including its chief executive, David Solomon, and his predecessor, Lloyd Blankfein — either in lost pay or the return of money already paid.

In a statement, Mr. Solomon said Goldman “fell short” in overseeing its employees.

All told, Goldman will pay billions in penalties and disgorgement in Malaysia, the United States and Hong Kong for its role in the looting of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad fund. The scandal ultimately brought down the government of Malaysia’s prime minister at the time, Najib Razak, and turned a financier with expensive tastes named Jho Low into an international fugitive.

More than $2.7 billion raised for the fund in bond offerings arranged by Goldman financed lavish lifestyles for powerful Malaysians, including friends and family of Mr. Najib. The money bought paintings by van Gogh and Monet, a mega-yacht docked in Bali, a grand piano made of clear acrylic that was given to a supermodel as a gift, and a king’s ransom in jewelry. Pilfered money also financed a boutique hotel in Beverly Hills, a share of the EMI music publishing portfolio and the Hollywood movie “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Goldman Sachs earned $600 million in fees to arrange the bond sales.

ICE logowashington post logoWashington Post, Migrant parents could face fateful choice: Be separated from their children or stay together in jail, Nick Miroff, Oct. 23, 2020. The federal judge who oversees long-running litigation about the treatment of migrant children in U.S. custody ordered the government Friday to finalize its procedures for providing parents a fateful choice: allow their children to be released to a designated guardian, or remain together in immigration jail.

Such a decision, known informally as binary choice, potentially could transform the family migration dynamics that have confounded the Trump administration and the Obama administration before it, as successive waves of Central American families crossed the border and overwhelmed U.S. capacity to process their humanitarian claims.

Most important, it would dramatically shift the nature of the decision about whether to separate children from their families at the border. Instead of it being up to the government, as it is now, it would be up to the migrant parents themselves.

The parents of 545 children separated at the border still haven’t been found. The pandemic isn’t helping.

Judge Dolly Gee, who oversees the legal case dating back to 1997 known as the Flores Settlement Agreement, told the government and the attorneys who represent migrant children to hammer out the framework for advising parents of their rights, as well as the procedures for implementing the binary choice model.

“It’s incumbent on both sides to come up with procedures that are appropriate and thoughtful and effectuate the rights contained in the agreement that doesn’t cause children to be lost,” Gee said.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Investigation: $80 million dark money group tied to Trump Supreme Court advisor, Leonard Leo, Robert Maguire, Oct. 23, 2020. A close informal advisor to President Trump who has been deeply involved in all three of his Supreme Court nomination battles is the sole trustee of a mysterious group that brought in more than $80 million in 2018, according to a previously unreported tax return uncovered by CREW. The filing vastly expands the amount of money known to be flowing into the growing constellation of dark money groups tied to Federalist Society co-chairman Leonard Leo and provides new details about his role in a secretive firm that was responsible for one of the largest donations received by President Trump’s inaugural committee.

What makes Rule of Law Trust (RLT) particularly interesting is that despite its $80 million haul, the group seems remarkably hollow. It claimed it had no employees and no volunteers in its first year and listed what appears to be a virtual office in Virginia as its main address. Its stated mission is “to advance conservative principles and causes through communications, research, strategy and assistance to other organizations,” but there’s no apparent public information to demonstrate what that work entails, not even a website.

In an unusual financial arrangement, the group also appears to have channeled nearly all of its $2.7 million in expenditures through the BH Group — an enigmatic firm that, the filing reveals, is partly owned by Leo. The company has long been known to be tied to Leo, but the nature of his role was unknown until now. Just months after it was formed in 2016, the BH Group gave $1 million to President Trump’s inaugural committee — though the only known funds that it has received during that time came from other dark money groups allied with Leo. The ultimate source of the money remains unknown to this day.

“The filing vastly expands the amount of money known to be flowing into the growing constellation of dark money groups tied to Federalist Society co-chairman Leonard Leo.”

The only other people linked to RLT in the sparse filing are either longtime Federalist Society officials-turned-consultants like Leo, or operatives with a long history working behind the scenes on dark money groups tied to Leo. For example, RLT’s single largest payment in 2018 was a $1.5 million consulting fee paid to Jonathan Bunch, a former vice president of the Federalist Society who has been involved in a number of entities tied to Leo. Bunch is now the president of CRC Advisors, a firm formed by Leo this past January. RLT paid an additional $300,004 to a firm called YAS, LLC for consulting. According to DC government records, the firm is registered to Maria Marshall, a former director of operations at the Federalist Society who currently serves as the vice president of CRC Advisors.

The records for RLT are maintained by Neil Corkery — who, along with his wife, Ann, is a longtime ally of Leo’s and has been tied to some of the largest conservative dark money groups in the country for more than a decade. Neil Corkery’s most notable connection is to two groups called the Wellspring Committee and Judicial Crisis Network (JCN), both 501(c)(4) social welfare groups like RLT. For ten years, from 2008 until its termination in 2018, Wellspring served as little more than a passthrough for anonymous money into politically active nonprofits that spent tens of millions of dollars on elections around the country and, in the case of JCN, judicial nominations. Leo has never personally held a formal position at either group, but he is reportedly closely involved in the fundraising for both groups.

As of last year, JCN operated out of an office on the same hallway as the Federalist Society in downtown Washington, DC. For years, JCN has been funded almost entirely by the Wellspring Committee — which was in turn funded by massive seven- and eight-figure contributions from anonymous donors. In 2016, JCN spent millions to pressure senators to not consider President Obama’s last Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland. The following year, it poured millions into the fight to confirm President Trump’s first nominee, Justice Neil Gorsuch, to fill the same seat on the bench. The group’s president, Carrie Severino, tweeted a picture from Gorsuch’s swearing-in in the White House Rose Garden.

In 2018, the cycle repeated for Justice Kavanaugh’s nomination, and now JCN is pouring millions into the fight to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the seat opened by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Throughout these confirmation contests, Wellspring and JCN have funneled millions of dollars into the BH Group. Leo’s ties to the firm were first identified after he listed it as his employer on a contribution reported to the Federal Election Commission, but the nature of his role in the BH Group has been unclear for years. The Rule of Law Trust filing offers some new details, though. In a note buried deep in the return, RLT reports having reimbursed the BH Group for more than $4.3 million in expenditures that it describes as “independent contractor expenses incurred on behalf of Rule of Law Trust” and notes that BH Group is “more than 35% owned by Leonard Leo.”

But even as the note provides new details, it raises new questions. In particular, it explains that the more than $2.7 million that RLT spent in 2018 was funneled through the BH Group. In other words, it appears that a firm partly owned by the sole trustee of RLT paid all of RLT’s expenses, including $1.8 million in consulting payments to two former Federalist Society associates who now work at a consulting firm founded by the trustee, and then RLT reimbursed that firm for the expenses.

Another question looms even larger, though, stemming from the fact that RLT ended 2018 with more than $78.2 million on hand. What did it actually do with all its money? It’s not clear, and because of the lag in filings for nonprofit groups like this, no 2019 tax return is currently available. The group likely won’t file a 2020 tax return until late 2021. The same goes for the growing number of dark money groups tied to Leo in recent years.

A picture is emerging, but it will take years to sort out. One thing is clear, though: Leo and his allies have amassed a massive war chest of anonymous donations for their fight to remake the federal judiciary.

 

More On U.S. Presidential Debate

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Who Won? Political Observers Weigh In, Staff opinions, Oct. 23, 2020. Political experts said President Trump did not hurt himself. But they said neither did Joe Biden, and that may be all that matters so late in the game.

Linda Chavez: A draw — neither candidate lost points; Trump may have stopped the hemorrhaging. Trump was more disciplined than in the previous debate and managed not to dig himself into a deeper hole over his handling of the pandemic. Biden was at his best when he got emotional over the 545 children separated from their parents at the border that remain in U.S. custody, because the Trump administration has lost track of their parents.

Melanye Price: Best moment was when Biden called Trump Abraham Lincoln. The humor of it only highlighted how ridiculous Trump was for making the comparison.

Charlie Warzel: The president’s response to reports that his administration cannot find the parents of 500-plus children separated at the border was that the facilities are very clean and the children are “so well taken care of.” There were plenty of low points this evening, but this one stood out.

Palmer Report, Opinion: This is a disaster for Donald Trump, Robert Harrington, right, Oct. 23, 2020. Joe Biden didn’t have to do Thursday night’s debate. Biden was already so far ahead in the polls that he had robert harrington twitternothing to lose by bowing out. He could have even done so with a minimum loss of face. After all, refusing a debate with a chronic late night hate-tweeter, liar, rapist and racist is hardly something that requires much justification. Donald Trump is an awful man, and I wouldn’t blame anyone for not wanting to be in the same room with him.

But a point Joe Biden kept making during the debate — possibly the most valuable point Biden made the whole night — was that he doesn’t see blue states and red states, he sees American states. If elected Biden plans to be, in stark contrast to the late night hate-tweeting toddler, the President of the United States of America.

In order to win Biden just had to show up and make no major mistakes. He did better than that. He demolished Donald Trump and showed him up to be the liar and cheater that we all know him to be.

My only major frustration was that Biden didn’t chase Trump down on the question of Trump’s tax returns. It’s baffling to me that no one does. Biden pointed out that he released 22 years of his own tax returns and Donald Trump won’t release even one year of his. Trump resorted to the same tired lie he always falls back on to justify the breaking of his promise, the one where he said if elected he will release his returns. Trump said he will release them “soon” but that he can’t because he’s still under audit.

That’s a lie, and we know it’s a lie because the head of the Internal Revenue Service said so, under oath. The IRS chief said that Trump can release his returns whether or not he’s under audit. The one has nothing to do with the other. Why no one holds Trump’s feet to the fire over this is the perennial question.

Trump’s comment that “kids in cages are very well taken care of” may have been the tonedeaf statement of the evening. First of all, the kids who were separated from their asylum-seeking parents are being treated abysmally. Second, that they are still in cages is an ongoing crime against humanity, one so dire that, as soon as the American criminal justice system is done with Trump for his economic malfeasance and other crimes, he should be put on trial for crimes against humanity at The Hague.

gop upside down resized logoTrump’s claim that America is going to flatten the curve on coronavirus this winter and that there will be a vaccine soon are lies. Those two statements are contradicted by both by the current statistical reality and Trump’s own previous words on those subjects.

As I write this, 228,381 Americans are now dead from coronavirus, almost a thousand more than I reported in my Thursday article. And we know that Trump has drastically understated the peril from coronavirus because he told Bob Woodward as much.

Trump said he’s been “congratulated by the heads of many countries” because of his response to coronavirus, an obvious lie. What head of any country in his or her right mind would congratulate a leader of a nation with 4.2% of the world’s population but more than 20% of the world’s coronavirus deaths? Not one, and it’s no accident that Trump didn’t name any of the congratulating “many.”

Trump’s baseless, conspiracy theory-laden lies about Joe Biden and his “corrupt family” certainly did him no good and possibly may have done him harm. The only people who lapped it up were people who were going to vote for him anyway.

 

U.S. Media / Politics

rudy giuliani borat bedroom Rudy Giuliani was caught in compromising position (shown above) in new 'Borat' film; The prank is one of the notable moments in the Sacha Baron Cohen sequel out Friday. Details: NBC News, Rudy Giuliani caught in compromising position in new 'Borat' film.

ny times logoNew York Times, Rudy Giuliani Denies He Did Anything Wrong in New ‘Borat’ Movie, Glenn Thrush and Neil Vigdor, Updated Oct. 23, 2020. President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, has become caught up in Sacha Baron Cohen’s new “Borat” satire, shown in an edited scene following an actress impersonating a reporter into a bedroom and at one point reclining on the bed and putting his hands in his pants in what he later said was an attempt to adjust his clothing.

rudy giuliani recentStill photos and descriptions of the scene from Mr. Cohen’s new Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, released on Friday, were posted on social media early Wednesday after The Guardian reported that the movie contained “a compromising scene” featuring Mr. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor.

Late Wednesday, Mr. Giuliani called into WABC radio in New York to say that he had been tucking in his shirt after removing microphone wires. He chalked the scene’s early release up to a scheme to discredit his recent attempts to push corruption accusations against Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son Hunter Biden.

“The Borat video is a complete fabrication,” Mr. Giuliani, 76, tweeted after he got off the air. “At no time before, during, or after the interview was I ever inappropriate. If Sacha Baron Cohen implies otherwise he is a stone-cold liar.”

A clip that surfaced on social media, heavily edited to fit the actor’s signature mockumentary format, begins with Mr. Giuliani seated on a couch, answering questions. Soon after, the actress, who speaks with a heavy Eastern European accent, asks the former mayor if they can continue their discussion in the bedroom. Mr. Giuliani agrees, and is then shown sitting on a bed, as she appears to take his microphone off and he appears to pat her.

President Trump’s personal lawyer has become caught up in Sacha Baron Cohen’s new satire.

The scene ends with Mr. Cohen, dressed in an outlandish pink costume, bursting into the room and shouting that the woman, played by the actor Maria Bakalova, was 15 years old (she is 24, according to IMDb).

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, 13 Iranian Women Accuse Renowned Artist of Sexual Misconduct, Farnaz Fassihi, Oct. 23, 2020 (print ed.). The #MeToo movement has hit a nerve among Iran’s women. Now accusations against a politically connected celebrity artist are testing the movement in a sexually conservative society dominated by men.

Iran FlagThe movement’s reach inside Iran gained momentum in late August after allegations aired on Iranian social media against more than 100 men, including a giant e-commerce company’s former star manager, a prominent sociology professor and the owner of a popular bookstore.

But the highest-profile person to face such allegations so far is a nearly 80-year-old, internationally acclaimed artist with ties to the ruling elite. Thirteen women, in interviews with The New York Times, accused the artist, Aydin Aghdashloo, of sexual misconduct over a 30-year span. Most are former students, and some are journalists who have reported on art and culture.

The willingness by women who say they were victims to share their stories more openly is a groundbreaking shift in Iran’s conservative society, where discussing sex is culturally prohibited, sex outside marriage is illegal, and the burden of proof for victims of sexual crimes is onerous. A raped woman often gets the blame.

ny times logoNew York Times, Poland Court Ruling Effectively Bans Legal Abortions, Monika Pronczuk, Oct. 23, 2020 (print ed.). The decision, which cannot be appealed, halts pregnancy terminations for fetal abnormalities, virtually the only type currently performed in the country.

A constitutional tribunal in Poland ruled on Thursday that abortions for fetal abnormalities violate the country’s Constitution, effectively imposing a near-total ban in a nation that already had some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe.

polish flag wavingThe debate over a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy, a divisive issue in a staunchly Roman Catholic country, mirrors the bitter polarization of a society caught between traditional religious values and more liberal ideas.

In the ruling, the tribunal’s president, Julia Przylebska, said that allowing abortions in cases of fetal abnormality legalized “eugenic practices with regard to an unborn child, thus denying it the respect and protection of human dignity.”

She added that because the Polish Constitution guarantees a right to life, terminating a pregnancy based on the health of the fetus amounted to “a directly forbidden form of discrimination.”

 

Oct. 22

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Virus Victims, Reponses

 

U.S. Courts, Law, Crime

 

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U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The last debate is the final straw, Jennifer Rubin, right, Oct. 22, 2020. The good news is that we likely will never be forced to endure jennifer rubin new headshotanother debate featuring President Trump.

The better news is that even before the Thursday night event, Trump sabotaged himself by pre-releasing an interview for “60 Minutes” with CBS News’s Lesley Stahl in which he declared flatly that he hoped the Supreme Court would invalidate the Affordable Care Act. "I hope that they end it. It’ll be so good if they end it,” Trump said. This is what they call in soccer an “own goal.” Former vice president Joe Biden could not have asked for more going into a debate. But as a bonus, Trump not only displayed his whiny, thin-skinned demeanor, but he also let on that he has no replacement health-care plan for Obamacare.

Nothing that occurred during Thursday night’s debate increases the chances we will have to endure four more years of the unhinged, know-nothing narcissistic president. Voters who made it through the 90-minute event saw a sharper, more fact-filled Biden than they have seen in previous performances. Meanwhile, the meandering, mean-spirited president was forced to resort to a flood of lies.

First, Trump appeared subdued at the onset. Deprived of the opportunity to interrupt by the mute button, he rambled and repeated self-congratulations during his time allotments. He insisted he could raise as much money as Biden has (claiming incorrectly that Biden’s had received the bulk of his money from Wall Street), but chose not to. Trump is plainly sensitive that he was clobbered in the money race. He has never learned what matters to voters. When Biden argued that we should talk about real issues affecting American families, Trump mocked him. Rarely has a politician showed such contempt for voters. Never has a president bragged that a dictator liked him more than his predecessor. Trump’s reticence was short-lived as he embarked on long-winded and often incoherent riffs filled with ludicrous accusations.

Second, Trump still has not come up with a realistic plan to fight covid-19. He has yet to develop any sense of compassion, and he remains unable to take responsibility for the crisis. “I take full responsibility," he said during the debate, before adding: “It’s not my fault that [the virus] came here.” Most galling, he insisted we are “learning to live with” the pandemic. Biden pounced to reiterate that more than 220,000 Americans have died from the disease. Once more, Trump was illogical and nonsensical: “We have the best testing in the world by far — that’s why we have so many cases!"

Third, Trump was so intent on spinning strange and convoluted conspiracy theories that it is doubtful anyone outside the loony-tunes world of right-wing media understood what he was talking about. (At one point, Trump said something about Biden selling pillows and sheets.) All Biden had to do was smile and suppress a laugh. He also effectively brought up Trump’s refusal to release his taxes, taunting him to make them public.

Fourth, Biden was strongest on health care, reminding us that Trump has no plan and has never had one. He reiterated his support for a public option, not for Medicare-for-all. His best line may have been: "Ten million people now have pre-existing conditions because of the president’s handling of covid. What are they going to do?” As Trump insisted Biden wanted to destroy private health insurance, Biden responded, "He’s a very confused guy. He thinks he’s running against someone else. He’s running against me, Joe Biden.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump weighs firing FBI director after election as frustration with Wray, Barr grows, Devlin Barrett and Josh Dawsey, Oct. 22, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump and his senior aides have been disappointed that FBI DIrector Christopher A. Wray and Attorney General William P. Barr have not done what Trump had hoped — indicate that Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden, or other Biden associates are under investigation.

WrayPresident Trump and his advisers have repeatedly discussed whether to fire FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, right, after Election Day — a scenario that also could imperil the tenure of Attorney General William P. Barr as the president grows increasingly frustrated that federal law enforcement has not delivered his campaign the kind of last-minute boost that the FBI provided in 2016, according to people familiar with the matter.

The conversations among the president and senior aides stem in part from their disappointment that Wray in particular but Barr as well have not done what Trump had hoped — indicate that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden or other Biden associates are under investigation, these people say. Like others, they spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose internal discussions.

In the campaign’s closing weeks, the president has intensified public calls for jailing his challenger, much as he did for Hillary Clinton, his opponent in 2016. Trump has called Biden a “criminal” without articulating what laws he believes the former vice president has broken.

Government Executive, ‘Stunning’ Executive Order Would Politicize Civil Service, Erich Wagner, Oct. 22, 2020. President Trump signs directive that would potentially pull thousands of federal employees in "policy-making" positions out of the competitive service, making them at-will employees.

President Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order creating a new classification of “policy-making” federal employees that could strip swaths of the federal workforce of civil service protections just before the next president is sworn into office.

The order would create a new Schedule F within the excepted service of the federal government, to be composed of “employees in confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating positions,” and instructs agency heads to determine which current employees fit this definition and move them—whether they are members of the competitive service or other schedules within the excepted service—into this new classification. Federal regulations stating that employees hired into the competitive service retain that status even if their position is moved to the excepted service will not apply to Schedule F transfers.

Positions in the new Schedule F would effectively constitute at-will employment, without any of the protections against adverse personnel actions that most federal workers currently enjoy, although individual agencies are tasked with establishing “rules to prohibit the same personnel practices prohibited” by Title 5 of the U.S. Code. The order also instructs the Federal Labor Relations Authority to examine whether Schedule F employees should be removed from their bargaining units, a move that would bar them from being represented by federal employee unions.

cdc logo Custom“The [1883] Pendleton Act is clearly in the sights of this executive order,” said Donald Kettl, the Sid Richardson professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. “It wants to undo what the Pendleton Act and subsequent civil service laws tried to accomplish, which was to create a career civil service with expertise that is both accountable to elected officials but also a repository of expertise in government. The argument here is that anyone involved in policymaking can be swept into this new classification, and once they’re in they’re subject to political review and dismissal for any reason.”

Kettl said that the order could be far reaching in scope. Not only would high profile employees who publicly disagree with a president be targeted for removal, but lower level employees tasked with collecting the data and evidence underlying much of what the federal government does could be affected.

“If you think about examples of how this could play out, Dr. [Anthony] Fauci (left) could be fired, as well as individuals at the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] anthony fauci Customwho are producing analysis about the spread of the coronavirus, social distancing and the importance of masks,” Kettl said.

“You could have people within the State Department raising questions about the administration’s expansion of efforts to engage in crackdowns and change other policies who could be fired," Kettl continued. "The people counting the number of immigrant children who cannot be reunited with their parents could be fired. There’s no end to it because the biggest risk is that anyone who says anything that would be in opposition to the administration’s policy could be viewed as in a policy-making position, put in Schedule F and fired.”

“Except as required by statute, the civil service rules and regulations shall not apply to removals from positions listed in Schedules A, C, D, E, or F, or from positions excepted from the competitive service by statute,” the order states.

The order sets a swift timetable for implementation: Agencies have 90 days to conduct a “preliminary” review of their workforces to determine who should be moved into the new employee classification—a deadline that coincides with Jan. 19, the day before the next presidential inauguration.

The White House argued that the executive order is a necessary reform to ensure that federal officials can more efficiently remove “poor performers.”

But federal employee groups and government observers described the executive order as a “stunning” attempt to politicize the civil service and undermine more than a century of laws aimed at preventing corruption and cronyism in the federal government.

American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley said in a statement on Thursday that the executive order is “the most profound undermining of the civil service system in our lifetimes.”

“This executive order strips due process rights and protections from perhaps hundreds of thousands of federal employees and will enable political appointees and other officials to hire and fire these workers at will,” Kelley said. “Through this order, President Trump has declared war on the professional civil service by giving himself the authority to fill the government with his political cronies who will pledge their unwavering loyalty to him — not to America.”

American System Network, Opinion: Biden and Trump Meet for Final Debate; Meeting May Mark Trump’s Swan Song, Webster G. Tarpley, right, Oct. 22, 2020.Falling webster tarpley 2007Short of Their Pre-Debate Hype, Trump Surrogates Fail Again to Deliver the Hunter Biden Scandal Material They Have Been Touting; Trump’s Guest and Star Witness Tonight Is Disgruntled China Trade Veteran Bobulinsky, Who Claims to Have Been a Business Associate of Hunter Biden.

Result: So Far, Virtually No Exhibits or Documents Regarding the Alleged Corruption or Turpitude of the Bidens Are Available in the Public Domain; So Where’s the Beef?

Trump’s Rage and Bluster Suggest Increasing Nervous Tension in Light of Pessimistic Polls; White House Handlers Fear Don May Show Up in Guise of Yosemite Sam.

Biden Should Ignore the Fascist Clown Show and Hammer Mass Traction Economic Issues: Trump GOP Wants to Destroy Entire Obamacare-Affordable Care Act, with Devastating Consequences for 190 Million Americans; Trump’s Attack on Social Security Payroll Tax Would Bankrupt Pensions and Medicare During Next Presidential Term; Trump’s Refusal to Support an Anti-Pandemic Mobilization Has Caused Tens of Thousands of Needless Deaths; 80% of Trump’s December 2017 Tax Scam Has Gone to Plutocrats and Predatory Corporations, Not Working Families; $15 National Minimum Wage Is Long Overdue; Moscow Mitch Is Still Blocking Pelosi’s $3.2 Trillion HEROES Act, Needed to Support State Governments and Public Health Measures.

 

djt bo palmer

washington post logoWashington Post, Obama makes his debut on 2020 campaign trail with blazing critique of Trump, David Nakamura, Oct. 22, 2020 (print ed.). Former president Barack Obama delivered a lacerating critique of President Trump in his debut on the 2020 campaign trail Wednesday, denouncing his successor’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and ridiculing him for being unable to even “protect himself” from covid-19.

Speaking at a drive-in rally for Joe Biden in South Philadelphia, Obama attacked Trump on a wide range of issues — including his personal tax payments, embrace of conspiracy theories, handling of the economy and efforts to gut the Affordable Care Act — as he implored Democrats to avoid complacency and turn out at the polls.

“We’ve got to turn out like never before. We cannot leave any doubt in this election,” Obama said, warning that Trump has suggested he won’t accept the results if he loses.

Though polls have showed Biden holding a steady lead in Pennsylvania, Obama cautioned: “I don’t care about the polls. There were a bunch of polls last time, and it didn’t work out. . . . Not this time. Not this election.”

washington post logoWashington Post, OxyContin maker pleads guilty to criminal charges, agrees to $8.3 billion settlement, Meryl Kornfield, Oct. 22, 2020 (print ed.). The Justice Department said in a news release that its resolution of the case “includes the largest penalties ever levied against a pharmaceutical manufacturer.”

The Justice Department announced Wednesday it reached an $8.3 billion settlement with OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma, as a result of criminal and civil investigations by federal prosecutors into the company’s marketing and distribution of opioid painkillers.

The Justice Department said in a news release that its resolution of the case “includes the largest penalties ever levied against a pharmaceutical manufacturer.”

purdue pharma logoPurdue Pharma agreed to plead guilty in federal court in New Jersey to three felony counts for defrauding the United States and violating the anti-kickback statute from 2009 to 2017.

Federal prosecutors alleged the company, which manufactured millions of opioid pills during the height of the epidemic, marketed and offered incentives to doctors who prescribed the painkillers.

“The kickback effectively put Purdue marketing department in the exam room with their thumb on the scale at precisely the moment doctors were making critical decisions about patient health,” District of Vermont U.S. Attorney Christina E. Nolan said at the Justice Department briefing.

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 47 million Americans have already voted, surpassing the total number of early ballots cast in 2016, Brittany Renee Mayes, Kate Rabinowitz and Lenny Bronner, Oct. 22, 2020. Early-voting counts show a record level of civic participation before Election Day. The tens of millions of ballots already cast show highly enthusiastic voters are making sure their votes are counted amid a pandemic.

Democrats hope this energy leads to a decisive victory on Nov. 3. Registered Democrats are outvoting Republicans by a large margin in states that provide partisan breakdowns of early ballots. Republicans, however, are more likely to tell pollsters they intend to vote in person, and the GOP is counting on an overwhelming share of the Election Day vote going to Trump.

 

Virus Victims, Reponses

ny times logoNew York Times, Covid-19 Live Updates: Virus Has Cost More Than 2.5 Million Years of Potential Life, Study Finds, Oct. 22, 2020.A Harvard researcher added up the number of years that Americans who died from Covid-19 might have lived had they reached a typical life expectancy. Other news:

  • Puerto Rico’s 911 call centers close after employees test positive.
  • Forgotten on the presidential campaign: schools in crisis.
  • OSHA is under fire over its regulation of meatpacking plants.
  • Wikipedia and the W.H.O. join forces to combat Covid-19 misinformation.
  • Germany reports more than 10,000 cases in a day, and other news around the world.
  • Trump in North Carolina: ‘All you hear is Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid.’
  • New state unemployment claims in the U.S. fell below 800,000 last week.
  • The Pandemic’s Real Toll? 300,000 Deaths, and It’s Not Just From the Virus.

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New York Times, The Worst Virus Outbreaks in the U.S. Are Now in Rural Areas, Lauren Leatherby, Oct. 22, 2020. Rural counties of fewer than 10,000 people are seeing more coronavirus cases than at any other time during the pandemic.

The coronavirus was slow to come to Foster County, N.D., a community of just over 3,000 people in the eastern part of the state. When virus cases surged in the Northeast in the spring, the county recorded just one positive case. When national case counts peaked in mid-July, it had recorded just two more.

But by Tuesday, about one in every 20 residents had tested positive for the virus. More than half of those cases were reported in the past two weeks.

Most of the worst outbreaks in the United States right now are in rural places like Foster County. Where earlier peaks saw virus cases concentrated mainly in cities and suburbs, the current surge is the most geographically dispersed yet, and it is hitting hard remote counties that often lack a hospital or other critical health care resources.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Oct. 22, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

  • World Cases: 41,597,361, Deaths: 1,137,953
  • U.S. Cases:     8,587,119, Deaths:    227,428

washington post logoWashington Post, Live updates: White House classifies 31 states as ‘red zones’ for infection, Antonia Noori Farzan, Jennifer Hassan, Rick Noack, Ruby Mellen, Marisa Iati and Lateshia Beachum, Oct. 22, 2020 (print ed.). A new White House task force report classifies 31 states as “red zones” because their positivity rates exceed 10 percent.

Nearly 60,000 new infections were reported in the United States on Tuesday, and at least 8,239,000 have been reported since February. Nearly 300,000 more people died in the United States between February and September than would be expected in a typical year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The official U.S. coronavirus toll passed 220,000 deaths on Tuesday.

The already dismal prospects for a new coronavirus relief bill are looking even dimmer after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) revealed that he has warned the White House not to make a deal with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) before the November presidential election. Six months have passed since Congress last approved any economic relief, and an estimated 8 million Americans have fallen into poverty in the interim.

A new White House task force report classifies 31 states as “red zones” because their positivity rates exceed 10 percent. Nearly 60,000 new infections were reported in the United States on Tuesday, and at least 8,239,000 have been reported since February

California’s plan to allow some outdoor sports stadiums to reopen met with backlash on Tuesday, as county officials declared that the venues should stay shut.

The Miami Police Department is investigating complaints of voter intimidation after a uniformed officer was photographed at a polling site wearing a “Trump 2020” mask.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate Republicans fume as Mnuchin gives ground to Pelosi in search of deal, Erica Werner and Jeff Stein, Oct. 22, 2020. Pelosi cites progress in talks with Mnuchin, but Republicans say Mnuchin is capitulating to the Democratic leader. Senate Republicans are growing increasingly frustrated with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin as he makes what they see as unacceptable compromises in his quest for a stimulus deal with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, multiple people familiar with the talks said Thursday.

Mnuchin has already committed to a top-line figure of around $1.9 trillion, much too high for many Senate Republicans to swallow. This includes at least $300 billion for state and local aid, also a non-starter for many in the GOP.

The Treasury secretary is also giving ground on multiple specific policy issues, for example reducing payments that Republicans wanted to go to farmers so that some of the money would go for food boxes instead, according to two people involved in the talks who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the developments. He has left open the possibility of allowing even more money to flow to states and localities via Community Development Block Grants sought by Democrats.

 

U.S. Courts, Law, Crime

ICE logowashington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Let’s not mince words. The Trump administration kidnapped children, Editorial Board, Oct. 22, 2020 (print ed.). The Trump administration’s immorality, cruelty and bureaucratic malpractice in tearing migrant toddlers, tweens and teens away from their parents in 2017 and 2018 were the work of many co-conspirators, most of them faithfully carrying out the wishes of the president himself.

A draft report by the Justice Department’s inspector general has made that clear. Perhaps even more shocking is that policy’s present-day legacy: More than 500 children who, having been wrenched from their families by U.S. government officials with no plan or mechanism ever to reunite them, remain separated.

President Donald Trump officialThat is the case despite years of efforts to track down parents who were, in many cases, deported after their children were seized and placed with family sponsors in the United States. For all intents and purposes, these children were kidnapped by the U.S. government.

In fact, it has not even been the U.S. government that has tried to reunite these sundered families. That has been the work of a court-appointed body organized by the American Civil Liberties Union, a nongovernmental organization. The ACLU, in effect, was put in charge of trying to fix what the Trump administration shattered — the lives of hundreds of children and families. Even now, the parents of 545 separated children cannot be located, despite the efforts of lawyers and advocates, according to a new court filing.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judiciary Committee approves Trump’s pick for Supreme Court, Seung Min Kim, Paulina Firozi and Donna Cassata, Oct. 22, 2020. The Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday approved the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, clearing the way for the full Senate to vote next week on President Trump’s choice.

us senate logoDemocratic senators boycotted the committee proceedings to protest Republicans’ fast-tracking the nomination of the 48-year-old amy coney barrett resized headshotconservative jurist, right, within days of the Nov. 3 election. They argue that the president elected next month should fill the court vacancy.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the full Senate will vote Monday on the Barrett nomination. Republicans have the votes to install her on the court.

Amy Coney Barrett secured committee approval with only Republican votes, as Democratic senators boycotted the proceedings. The approval clears the way for Senate confirmation next week.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: What Does Amy Coney Barrett Mean for the Supreme Court? Linda Greenhouse, Oct. 22, 2020. We know who her allies are, and we know how to read what she’s written or signed.

ny times logoNew York Times, Election Live Updates: On Court Packing, Biden Would Create a Panel to Study Changes, Staff reports, Oct. 22, 2020. Joe Biden said in a new interview that if elected, he would establish a bipartisan commission of scholars to study overhauling courts. Here’s the latest. Joseph R. Biden Jr., who for weeks has declined to clarify his position on expanding the Supreme Court, said in an interview that if elected, he would establish a bipartisan commission of scholars to study a possible court overhaul more broadly.

“I will ask them to, over 180 days, come back to me with recommendations as to how to reform the court system because it’s getting out of whack,” the Democratic presidential nominee told CBS News’s Norah O’Donnell, according to an interview excerpt that is expected to be broadcast in full Sunday on “60 Minutes.”

“The way in which it’s being handled, and it’s not about court packing, there’s a number of other things that our constitutional scholars have debated and I’ve looked to see what recommendations that commission might make.”

Mr. Biden, the former vice president who served for decades as a U.S. senator from Delaware, has previously opposed expanding the Supreme Court.

But amid the current battle over Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination by President Trump just before the election — and calls from some Democrats to expand the court to counteract the last-minute addition of a conservative justice — Mr. Biden has declined to take a clear position, though he acknowledged earlier this month that he was “not a fan” of court packing.

 

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, Deposition of Ghislaine Maxwell, Charged in Epstein Case, Is Revealed, Benjamin Weiser, Amy Julia Harris and Alan Feuer, Oct. 22, 2020.  Ms. Maxwell, who fought to keep the deposition secret, repeatedly denied that she helped Jeffrey Epstein recruit, groom and sexually abuse teenage girls.

For years, Ghislaine Maxwell has been a central but silent figure in a scandal involving Jeffrey Epstein’s long history of abusing teenage girls.

On Thursday, however, Ms. Maxwell’s voice was heard for the first time as a four-year-old deposition was released containing her response to the swirl of claims surrounding Mr. Epstein: a series of evasions and denials.

Stubborn and elusive by turns, Ms. Maxwell rejected almost every allegation of wrongdoing in the 465-page document, denying that she helped Mr. Epstein recruit, groom and ultimately sexually mistreat dozens of young women and teenage girls. At one point, she was asked 10 times in a row if she believed Mr. Epstein had abused any children — and each time ducked the question.

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI: ‘Nothing to add’ to Ratcliffe remarks about Hunter Biden, Devlin Barrett, Oct. 22, 2020 (print ed.). The FBI notified Congress late Tuesday that it has “nothing to add at this time” to a statement made by President Trump’s director of national intelligence disputing the idea that Russia orchestrated the discovery of a computer that may have belonged to Joe Biden’s son.

FBI logoFBI Assistant Director Jill C. Tyson sent the letter to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), a Trump ally and chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, in response to his demand for more information about the computer following a series of reports by the New York Post detailing its purported contents.

The Washington Post has been unable to verify the authenticity of any of the emails published by the New York Post, and the Biden campaign has disputed the New York Post’s claims about what the emails show.

Since the publication of those stories, questions have been raised by Democrats and former intelligence officials about whether the laptop or its email contents were an election-interference effort similar to the one carried out by Russian government operatives in 2016, when prominent Democrats’ email accounts were hacked and made public.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Republicans’ antitrust lawsuit misses the real problems with Google’s power, Editorial Board, Oct. 22, 2020 (print ed.). The merits of the Justice Department’s case suggest a rush job.

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court grants Alabama’s request for ban on curbside voting, Robert Barnes, Oct. 22, 2020 (print ed.). Lower courts had said that local jurisdictions that want to offer accommodation to the elderly and disabled should be able to do so.

 

Climate Change

OpEdNews, Opinion: There's Nothing Sacred about Nine Justices; a Livable Planet, on the Other Hand . . ., Bill McKibben, The Republican-controlled Senate, by any measure, is acting dishonorably as it moves to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett for the high court: having previously declared that Presidents in their last year in office should not be able to nominate a new Justice, it reversed this "McConnell rule" when it served them to do so. The Trump years have been so ugly that this hypocrisy doesn't stand out as sharply as it should, but it is an ignoble thing to have done and, in Barrett's case, to have gone along with.

Still, it's not the most remarkable thing about the moment. For me, anyway, that came when Senator John Kennedy, of Louisiana, asked Barrett if she had an opinion on climate change. "I've read things about climate change," she said. "I would not say I have firm views on it."

It's hard to imagine that an intelligent and highly educated person, such as Barrett, would not have reached a conclusion on the key questions facing the future of life on earth: Is global warming dangerous, and is it caused by humans?
Neither of these positions is controversial among the scientific community, nor, for that matter, in the Catholic community where Barrett makes her spiritual home. Pope Francis's lengthiest and most important encyclical, "Laudato Si," takes on the climate crisis with a philosophical and sociological depth that few others have even attempted. The Pope's newest encyclical, "Fratelli Tutti," released this month, covers much the same ground, and he has helpfully produced a ted talk that makes the point in much sharper terms. "We must act now," he said, which is what every scientist studying the crisis has said, too.

My guess is that Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, of Rhode Island, probably explains such evasiveness best. After years of tracking the influence of dark money on the courts (as he demonstrated at Barrett's hearings), he was one of nine Senate Democrats who last week released a vital report. Titled "What's At Stake: Climate and the Environment," it explains the legal doctrines that the courts will likely use to make the regulation of greenhouse gases more difficult (unitary executive theory and the non-delegation doctrine chief among them, which Abbie Dillen discusses in an interview below). Whitehouse's bête noire is Charles Koch, who has reportedly spent millions of dollars backing Barrett's nomination, and who is among the nation's biggest oil and gas barons. His Americans for Prosperity group has been ridiculing clean energy for years -- back in 2008, it offered free balloon rides over crucial states as part of a "Hot Air" tour attacking solar and wind energy. (As the Pope pointed out in his recent encyclical, "often the voices raised in defense of the environment are silenced or ridiculed, using apparently reasonable arguments that are merely a screen for special interests.")

It is clear, first, that regulation is going to be essential to bring greenhouse gases under control, and, second, that it's going to have to happen fast. The world's climate scientists have stated plainly that the next decade represents the critical time frame: without fundamental transformation by 2030, the chances of meeting the Paris accord's climate targets are nil. Given Barrett's performance at her hearings, it seems doubtful that she'll let America play its role -- if you're not even clear that climate change is real, how much latitude will you give government agencies to attack it? As with so many things about climate change, the problem is ultimately mathematical. Joe Biden, should he be elected, acting not out of anger but out of sorrow at Republican gamesmanship, could make sure that the will of the people, not just the will of Charles Koch, is represented the bench.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Cash Crunch Constrains His Campaign at a Critical Juncture, Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman, Oct. 22, 2020. With far less republican elephant logomoney than anticipated, President Trump’s campaign is scrambling to address a severe financial disadvantage against Joe Biden. The financial pinch has produced something of an internal blame game, according to current and former campaign and administration offici

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason President Obama did what he just did, Bill Palmer, right, Oct. 22, 2020. Even in a pandemic, President Obama was always going bill palmerto come out of the bullpen and start throwing strikes for Joe Biden near the end of the election. But why did Obama choose yesterday in particular? Why not five days sooner, or three days later?

bill palmer report logo headerGiven the timing, it doesn’t feel like coincidence that President Obama spent all day trying to get under Donald Trump’s skin the day before the final presidential debate. Think about it: Obama didn’t just promote Biden, or criticize Trump. He eviscerated Trump on a personal level, going after him for having a secret Chinese bank account. Obama went so far as to stand in the street with a megaphone at one point yesterday.

Of course the main point was to get people in Philadelphia to turn out and vote for Joe Biden. But the timing suggests there was a secondary goal: to get Donald Trump so irritated, he ends up attacking Obama during the debate instead of attacking Biden. Considering how overwhelmingly popular Obama is, Trump would hurt himself by doing so.

Our guess is Obama just took his best shot at baiting Trump into walking into this particular trap. After Trump lost the first debate to Joe Biden, and somehow lost the second debate to Savannah Guthrie, wouldn’t it be something if Trump loses the final debate to Barack Obama?

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump and Biden’s Final Debate: What to Watch For, Adam Nagourney, Oct. 22, 2020. Does President Trump dial back his aggression? How will Joe Biden lay out his closing argument? We’ll be covering the debate live at 9 p.m. with real-time analysis.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Democrats Are Celebrating Biden’s Polling Lead: With Abject Dread, Sarah Lyall, Oct. 22, 2020. No one is happy in this strange and awful time. But there is a particular circle of unhappiness reserved for people still reeling from unexpected loss in 2016.

djt doesnt listen

Palmer Report, Opinion: Let’s get rid of this evil called Trump, Robert Harrington, Oct. 22, 2020. Somewhere in the midst of ten thousand lakes in Minnesota lives my personal guardian angel named Nancy, who jealously and tirelessly stands vigil over my sacred Constitutional rights.

She faithfully executed her office at Democrats Abroad and, without prompting from me, rang me on my mobile phone four times and sent me four hyperlinks to help me cast my vote in the 2020 election. To her I must have been one of ten thousand Americans living abroad, one for each of her lakes. To me she was my only lifeline in a Rube Goldbergian process that finally ended Wednesday in victory.

bill palmer report logo headerSince my last permanent, legal residence in the United States of America was, briefly, the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, it was particularly urgent that I vote. Pennsylvania is a notorious battleground state, made all the more notorious (to me) by how difficult it is to vote there from abroad.

I’m not saying they made it deliberately hard. I follow Hanlon’s razor and look for incompetence before I look for evil intrigue. Difficult it was, though, and it nearly defeated me. But I sealed my envelope, filled according to tortuous instructions, and finally delivered it to the post office Wednesday afternoon, franked by them and acknowledged with an official Proof of Posting. My vote, for Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. and Kamala Devi Harris as President and Vice President of the United States respectively, has finally been cast.

My emails to the Northampton County Election Office, each succeeding one more urgent and shrill than the previous, were finally acknowledged. That was when the difficulty began. I won’t drag you through the details — I’d just as soon forget them — but I expect they are all too familiar to others in my position. But my personal experience gives the lie to Donald Trump’s repeated claim of how easy it is for foreign entities and illegal agents to cheat this election. Since it’s very difficult to vote from abroad legitimately — or at least it was, anecdotally for me — I honestly don’t know how anyone could do it by deliberate deceit.

In any case it is done. I have exercised the only Constitutionally prescribed power available to me to unseat the most evil man who ever darkened the sacred house of the president of the United States. The remainder of my reliance rests with my passive faith in the Constitution, Due Process and the good will of most of the citizens of the country of my birth.

It is inconceivable to me that there’s even a chance that Donald Trump could be given a second term. I cannot understand why anyone would vote for a man so overtly evil.

This is a man credibly accused of rape, including child rape, a man who openly supported Vladimir Putin in defiance of the warnings of seventeen different American intelligence agencies, a man who cages children and separates them permanently from their parents just because they lawfully came to America seeking sanctuary, a man who steals from children’s cancer charities, a “businessman” whose standing corporate policy is to destroy family businesses through nonpayment of legitimate good faith contracts, a man who incessantly tweets insults about people who don’t adequately feed his ego, a man who mocked a disabled reporter and a Gold Star Family, a man who calls for the arrest of political opponents on charges without evidence, a man who still neglects a pandemic that has claimed the lives (as I write this) of 227,409 Americans, a man who lets Russia put out contracts on American soldiers serving in Afghanistan without complaint or protest, a man who refuses to actively discredit white supremacists, a “tough guy” with five deferments, including one that fraudulently alleged bone spurs, in order to get out of serving in Vietnam, a man who bankrupted six businesses, a money launderer, a man with a bank account in China worth millions, a tax cheat, a “man’s man” who wears makeup and spends two hours a day on a triple combover to hide the fact that he’s bald, a thief, a conman, a pathological liar, a weak, whiny, stupid, deliberately ignorant, petty, arrogant, elitist, spoiled, vindictive, hateful, thoroughly repulsive man of absolutely no redeeming value whatsoever.

It is beyond incredible that one American would vote for this thoroughly despicable man, let alone millions.

But they do vote. So we must vote too. We must rescue America from Donald Trump, for the children in cages, for the innocent dead, for the precinct workers named Nancy, for the destroyed family businesses, for his rape victims, for the voiceless, the powerless, the forgotten. Let’s get rid of this evil called Trump. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

FiveThirtyEight, Analysis: Where The Presidential Race Stands Before The Last Debate, Nathaniel Rakich, Oct. 22, 2020. As President Trump and Joe Biden prepare to take the stage tonight for the final presidential debate, Trump has just a 12 in 100 chance of winning the presidency, while Biden has an 88 in 100 chance, according to our presidential forecast.1 And according to national polls, Biden leads Trump by an average of 9.9 percentage points.

This is lower than Biden’s peak 10.7-point lead as of Monday, but still higher than his 7.1-point lead over Trump before their first debate on Sept. 29. In the last few days, national polls have tightened a bit, something our forecast was anticipating in the home stretch. But, to be clear, Biden is still well ahead overall in our forecast.

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: A Democratic senator proposed a top-shelf national health care system: in 1949, Wayne Madsen, Oct. 22, 2020. The year was 1949 wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smalland the senator was Hubert Humphrey, who was later to serve as Vice President and the 1968 Democratic presidential candidate.

Writing in The New York Times, Senator Humphrey, a member of the new Senate Subcommittee on Health, wrote that the primary goal of a wayne madesen report logonational health insurance program was to bring adequate medical care to all of the people of the United States. President Franklin D. Roosevelt pushed for such a program in 1939, but Republican opposition and World War II derailed his plans.

 

Media News

Government Executive, ‘Stunning’ Executive Order Would Politicize Civil Service, Erich Wagner, Oct. 22, 2020. President Trump signs directive that would potentially pull thousands of federal employees in "policy-making" positions out of the competitive service, making them at-will employees.

President Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order creating a new classification of “policy-making” federal employees that could strip swaths of the federal workforce of civil service protections just before the next president is sworn into office.

The order would create a new Schedule F within the excepted service of the federal government, to be composed of “employees in confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating positions,” and instructs agency heads to determine which current employees fit this definition and move them—whether they are members of the competitive service or other schedules within the excepted service—into this new classification. Federal regulations stating that employees hired into the competitive service retain that status even if their position is moved to the excepted service will not apply to Schedule F transfers.

Positions in the new Schedule F would effectively constitute at-will employment, without any of the protections against adverse personnel actions that most federal workers currently enjoy, although individual agencies are tasked with establishing “rules to prohibit the same personnel practices prohibited” by Title 5 of the U.S. Code. The order also instructs the Federal Labor Relations Authority to examine whether Schedule F employees should be removed from their bargaining units, a move that would bar them from being represented by federal employee unions.

“Except as required by statute, the civil service rules and regulations shall not apply to removals from positions listed in Schedules A, C, D, E, or F, or from positions excepted from the competitive service by statute,” the order states.

The order sets a swift timetable for implementation: Agencies have 90 days to conduct a “preliminary” review of their workforces to determine who should be moved into the new employee classification—a deadline that coincides with Jan. 19, the day before the next presidential inauguration.

The White House argued that the executive order is a necessary reform to ensure that federal officials can more efficiently remove “poor performers.”

“Effective performance management of employees in confidential, policy-determining, policy-making or policy-advocating positions is of the utmost importance,” the order states. “Unfortunately, the government’s current performance management is inadequate, as recognized by federal workers themselves. For instance, the 2016 Merit Principles Survey reveals that less than a quarter of federal employees believe their agency addresses poor performers effectively.”

But federal employee groups and government observers described the executive order as a “stunning” attempt to politicize the civil service and undermine more than a century of laws aimed at preventing corruption and cronyism in the federal government.

“The [1883] Pendleton Act is clearly in the sights of this executive order,” said Donald Kettl, the Sid Richardson professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. “It wants to undo what the Pendleton Act and subsequent civil service laws tried to accomplish, which was to create a career civil service with expertise that is both accountable to elected officials but also a repository of expertise in government. The argument here is that anyone involved in policymaking can be swept into this new classification, and once they’re in they’re subject to political review and dismissal for any reason.”

American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley said in a statement on Thursday that the executive order is “the most profound undermining of the civil service system in our lifetimes.”

“This executive order strips due process rights and protections from perhaps hundreds of thousands of federal employees and will enable political appointees and other officials to hire and fire these workers at will,” Kelley said. “Through this order, President Trump has declared war on the professional civil service by giving himself the authority to fill the government with his political cronies who will pledge their unwavering loyalty to him—not to America.”

Kettl said that the order could be far reaching in scope. Not only would high profile employees who publicly disagree with a president be targeted for removal, but lower level employees tasked with collecting the data and evidence underlying much of what the federal government does could be affected.

“If you think about examples of how this could play out, Dr. [Anthony] Fauci could be fired, as well as individuals at the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] who are producing analysis about the spread of the coronavirus, social distancing and the importance of masks,” Kettl said. “You could have people within the State Department raising questions about the administration’s expansion of efforts to engage in crackdowns and change other policies who could be fired. The people counting the number of immigrant children who cannot be reunited with their parents could be fired. There’s no end to it because the biggest risk is that anyone who says anything that would be in opposition to the administration’s policy could be viewed as in a policy-making position, put in Schedule F and fired.”

washington post logoWashington Post, The first debate was a horror. The second was scrapped. Now it’s up to NBC News rising star Kristen Welker, Jeremy Barr, Oct. 22, 2020. Welker, a rising star at NBC News and the youngest of the 2020 debate moderators, has her work cut out for her in the last Trump-Biden faceoff. The NBC White House correspondent has the herculean challenge of refereeing the last significant media moment for the candidates before Election Day.

djt lesley stahl

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump breaks agreement with CBS News by releasing his own video of ‘60 Minutes’ interview, Jeremy Barr and Elahe Izadi, Oct. 22, 2020. President Trump followed through on his threat, or promise, to release video of his interview with CBS News journalist Lesley Stahl before it is set to air on “60 Minutes” on Sunday night.

Trump was interviewed by Stahl at the White House on Tuesday but abruptly ended the interview after 45 minutes, declining to participate in a scheduled walk-and-talk that would have included Vice President Pence. Later that day, he said on Twitter that he was “considering” posting the White House’s copy of the video interview, “so that everybody can get a glimpse of what a FAKE and BIASED interview is all about."

Then, on Thursday morning, after he again teased a release of the video (“the vicious attempted ‘takeout’ interview of me”), a 37-minute clip of the interview appeared on the president’s Facebook page.

In posting the interview, Trump and the White House violated an agreement with CBS News that the White House was taping the interview “for archival purposes only,” said a network source with knowledge of the interview.

CBS, for its part, posted a 90-second-long preview of the Trump interview on social media on Thursday morning, with “More Sunday on @CBS.” (The show will also include an interview of Joe Biden by Norah O’Donnell.)

On Thursday afternoon, the network decried the president’s decision to post the interview. “The White House’s unprecedented decision to disregard their agreement with CBS News and release their footage will not deter ’60 Minutes’ from providing its full, fair and contextual reporting which presidents have participated in for decades,” the network said. "'60 Minutes', the most-watched news program on television, is widely respected for bringing its hallmark fairness, deep reporting and informative context to viewers each week. Few journalists have the presidential interview experience Lesley Stahl has delivered over her decades as one of the premier correspondents in America and we look forward to audiences seeing her third interview with President Trump and subsequent interview with Vice President Pence this weekend.”

In the clip posted by CBS, Stahl challenges Trump when he says that his administration “created the greatest economy in the history of our country.” Stahl retorts, “You know that’s not true. No.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: None of the October surprises seem to be going Donald Trump’s way, Bill Palmer, Oct. 22, 2020. What’s remarkable is how badly Trump keeps swinging and missing when it comes to the “October surprises” he’s been trying to manufacture. The phony Hunter Biden laptop story went nowhere. His dueling town hall stunt went nowhere. Last night’s John Ratcliffe press briefing stunt went nowhere. His 60 Minutes feud/leak isn’t helping him any. It’s a reminder that he’s never been particularly effective at any of this kind of stuff.

bill palmer report logo headerThe President of the United States is such an ill tempered fool, they literally have to put a mute button on him tonight. If this were happening with the President of another country, everyone in America would be laughing at him.

These headlines about Derek Chauvin are misleading. He’s still facing second degree murder charges. The judge merely dismissed the weird “third degree murder” charge that Chauvin was originally hit with. Today is a win for prosecutors, because the most serious charges were upheld.

Trump is now threatening to fire his own people if they don’t do enough to make him win the election. I don’t think he’s really thought this plan through.

rudy giuliani amazon prime borat

The Guardian, Rudy Giuliani faces questions after compromising scene in new Borat film, Catherine Shoar, Oct. 22, 2020 (print ed.). Trump’s personal attorney, above, has indiscreet encounter with actor playing Borat’s daughter in hotel room during pandemic. This article contains spoilers about 'Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.'

The reputation of Rudy Giuliani could be set for a further blow with the release of highly embarrassing footage in Sacha Baron Cohen’s follow-up to Borat.

In the film, released on Friday, the former New York mayor and current personal attorney to Donald Trump is seen reaching into his trousers and apparently touching his genitals while reclining on a bed in the presence of the actor playing Borat’s daughter, who is posing as a TV journalist.

Following an obsequious interview for a fake conservative news programme, the pair retreat at her suggestion for a drink to the bedroom of a hotel suite, which is rigged with concealed cameras.

After she removes his microphone, Giuliani, 76, can be seen lying back on the bed, fiddling with his untucked shirt and reaching into his trousers. They are then interrupted by Borat who runs in and says: “She’s 15. She’s too old for you.”

rudy giuliani borat bedroomRepresentatives for Giuliani have not replied to the Guardian’s requests for comment.

Word of the incident first emerged on 7 July, when Giuliani called New York police to report the intrusion of an unusually-dressed man. “This guy comes running in, wearing a crazy, what I would say was a pink transgender outfit,” Giuliani told the New York Post. “It was a pink bikini, with lace, underneath a translucent mesh top, it looked absurd. He had the beard, bare legs, and wasn’t what I would call distractingly attractive.

“This person comes in yelling and screaming, and I thought this must be a scam or a shakedown, so I reported it to the police. He then ran away,” Giuliani said. The police found no crime had been committed.

Giuliani continued: “I only later realised it must have been Sacha Baron Cohen. I thought about all the people he previously fooled and I felt good about myself because he didn’t get me.”

Viewers may be less convinced that Baron Cohen, reprising his role as the bumbling reporter Borat Sagdiyev, and Maria Bakalova, who plays his daughter, Tutar, had no success.

In the film, Borat is dispatched by the Kazakh government back to the US to present a bribe to an ally of Donald Trump in order to ingratiate his country with the administration. After the monkey earmarked for the gift is indisposed, Borat’s supposedly underage offspring becomes the replacement present.

rudy giuliani recentEven before he reaches into his trousers, Giuliani does not appear to acquit himself especially impressively during the encounter. Flattered and flirtatious, he drinks scotch, coughs, fails to socially distance and claims Trump’s speedy actions in the spring saved a million Americans from dying of Covid. He also agrees – in theory at least – to eat a bat with his interviewer.

Giuliani has become a key figure in the late stages of the US presidential election after obtaining a laptop hard drive purportedly belonging to Hunter Biden and left at a repair shop in Delaware.

His efforts to unearth political dirt on Trump’s rival for the White House mean that the film’s mortifying footage can be seen as an attempt to undermine Giuliani’s credibility. The film, released on Amazon Prime less than a fortnight before the election, ends with an instruction for viewers to vote.

Although unfortunate, the circumstances of the setup appear consensual, with Giuliani led to believe he was being courted. Bakalova, 24, is highly plausible in the sting, despite also having to pretend, for the benefit of viewers, to be a feral child posing as a far-right journalist.

As with the first film, which made $262m on release in 2006 and won a Golden Globe for Baron Cohen, the most troubling scenes are those which reveal deep-seated prejudice among the American people.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Pope Francis calls for civil union laws for same-sex couples, Chico Harlan and Michelle Boorstein, Oct. 22, 2020 (print ed.). The pontiff’s remarks came in a new documentary and were quoted by the Catholic News Agency. They represent his clearest stance to date on a contentious issue inside the Roman Catholic Churc

pope francis 2013 SmallIn a new documentary, Pope Francis has called for the creation of civil union laws for same-sex couples, in remarks that break from the Catholic Church’s official teaching and mark his clearest support to date for the issue.

In the documentary, according to the Catholic News Agency, Francis, right, says same-sex couples should be “legally covered.”

“What we have to create is a civil union law,” he said.

Francis has long expressed an interest in outreach to the church’s LGBT followers, but his remarks have often stressed general understanding and welcoming — rather than substantive policies.

Priests in some parts of the world bless same-sex marriage, but that stance — and Francis’s new remarks — are a departure from official church teaching.

The documentary, “Francesco,” is premiering this week in Rome and later in the United States. The pope gave an interview to the filmmaker, Evgeny Afineevsky, saying that “homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Poland Court Ruling Effectively Bans Legal Abortions, Monika Pronczuk, Oct. 22, 2020. The decision, which cannot be appealed, halts pregnancy terminations for fetal abnormalities, virtually the only type currently performed in the country.

A constitutional tribunal in Poland ruled on Thursday that abortions for fetal abnormalities violate the country’s Constitution, effectively imposing a near-total ban in a nation that already had some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe.

The debate over a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy, a divisive issue in a staunchly Roman Catholic country, mirrors the bitter polarization of a society caught between traditional religious values and more liberal ideas.

In the ruling, the tribunal’s president, Julia Przylebska, said that allowing abortions in cases of fetal abnormality legalized “eugenic practices with regard to an unborn child, thus denying it the respect and protection of human dignity.”

She added that because the Polish Constitution guarantees a right to life, terminating a pregnancy based on the health of the fetus amounted to “a directly forbidden form of discrimination.”

washington post logolebanon resized flagWashington Post, Lebanon names Saad Hariri as prime minister, almost one year after he resigned, Sarah Dadouch, Oct. 22, 2020. After a year of economic collapse, the coronavirus and calls for change, Lebanon brings back its old prime minister. 

 

Oct. 21

Top Headlines

 

Trump Watch

 Virus Victims, Reponses

 

Media News

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

  

U.S. Law, Crime, Courts

 

World News

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The U.S. has already hit 70 percent of total 2016 early voting, Brittany Renee Mayes, Kate Rabinowitz and Lenny Bronner, Oct. 21, 2020 (print ed.). At least 33.0 million have voted nationwide, and there are still 14 days until Election Day. It looks like a record number of ballots will be cast ahead of Election Day, with voters taking advantage of early voting and expanded absentee options. The number of ballots already cast is a sign of highly enthusiastic voters adapting to an election taking place amid a pandemic.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Key swing states vulnerable to mail slowdowns, data show, Jacob Bogage and Christopher Ingraham, Oct. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Battlegrounds that may decide the presidential race have some of the nation’s most erratic mail service, which has particular implications for states with firm ballot deadlines.

us mail logoKey swing states that may well decide the presidential race are recording some of the nation’s most erratic mail service as a record number of Americans are relying on the U.S. Postal Service to deliver their ballots, agency data shows.

Consistent and timely delivery remains scattershot as the agency struggles to right operations after the rollout, then suspension, of a major midsummer restructuring. In 17 postal districts covering 10 battleground states and representing 151 electoral votes, first-class mail service is down 7.8 percentage points from January benchmarks and nearly two percentage points below the national average. By that measure, roughly 16 in 100 items will not arrive within the Postal Service’s one-to-three-day delivery window; in January, it was fewer than 10.

 

Virus Victims, Reponses

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: 7 Countries Report at Least 100,000 New Coronavirus Cases in Past Week, Staff reports, Oct. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Argentina, Brazil, Britain, France, India, Russia and the U.S. have helped push the global total to more than 40.7 million. Here’s the latest.

In many cases, these countries are seeing numbers that are much higher than they were during the height of the pandemic in the spring. At that point most countries locked down, stopping movement and much interpersonal contact. Strategies have changed, and today local lockdowns are the way forward for most. There is more testing, giving a clearer picture of the pandemic. But the numbers continue to grow.

Over the past week in the United States, there have been 421,114 new cases, illustrating that the long-predicted fall wave of the virus is well underway. Midwestern and Rocky Mountain states are struggling to control major outbreaks. And the national trajectory is worsening by the day, as the cooler weather drives more people to stay indoors where the virus spreads easily. In some states, hospitals are almost full.

India reported 411,718 over the past seven days, but numbers have been falling since mid-September. On Monday, the country recorded fewer than 50,000 cases, the lowest number since July, the government said. But the lower numbers, which would seem at first glance to be good news, have raised questions. The government recently approved the use of rapid coronavirus testing based on gene-editing technology, hoping to increase its testing capabilities. But experts question the reliability of rapid tests.

In France, which has added 174,273 cases in the past seven days, a curfew has been implemented in Paris and eight other regions. Still, more than 11,000 virus patients are hospitalized, and 2,000 are in intensive care, a threshold that had not been reached since May. (The country currently has 5,800 intensive care beds.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why Mitch McConnell is trying to kill a big stimulus before the election, Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent, Oct. 21, 2020. There’s a frenzy underway in Washington over whether we’ll get another round of stimulus spending to help Americans still struggling from the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. But a lot of it seems disconnected from reality, with regular statements of optimism emanating from key players as they insist a deal could be on its way.

So let’s cut through all that and focus on this unfortunate reality:

Mitch McConnell will do all he possibly can to kill any big stimulus bill before the election. And he’ll probably succeed

If President Trump wins reelection on Nov. 3, there will probably be a sizable stimulus passed shortly after, with the Senate majority leader’s support.

If Joe Biden wins and Republicans hold the Senate, McConnell will do all he can to strangle the Biden presidency by preventing any big stimulus from passing, no matter how bad the economic misery from the recession gets.

If Biden wins and Democrats take the Senate, we’ll get a big stimulus in the new year.

If you were just following the intense negotiations between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, you might think a deal could be reached within 48 hours, or this week. Pelosi’s office just announced that the two sides have edged ever closer.

But all that may mean very little, because McConnell simply doesn’t want to pass a big stimulus. He allowed a $500 billion bill to come to a vote Wednesday, knowing that Democrats would all vote against it and it would fail, which it did.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate Democrats block slimmed-down relief bill as Capitol Hill rancor worsens, Erica Werner, Oct. 21, 2020. Pelosi says she’s still ‘optimistic’ about reaching agreement with Mnuchin, but acknowledges Senate action might come after Nov. 3.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday downplayed chances of Congress passing a big new economic stimulus bill before the election, even as Democrats voted to block a slimmed-down GOP relief measure in the Senate.

democratic donkey logoThe vote in the Senate was 51-44, well short of the 60 votes that would have been needed to advance the approximately $500 billion measure. It was the same outcome as last month, when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) tried to advance a nearly identical bill in the Senate.

McConnell and Senate GOP leaders largely oppose a giant new spending bill in the range of $2 trillion which President Trump has been demanding and Pelosi has been negotiating with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

McConnell warns White House against making stimulus deal with Pelosi before election

They argued that their approximately $500 billion bill was the appropriate response, and would have provided at least some help to needy Americans who’ve been waiting months for more relief from Congress as layoffs mount and coronavirus cases rise. The bill includes new money for small businesses, schools, health care systems and the unemployed, but omits Democratic priorities such as state and local aid -- as well as $1,200 stimulus checks for individuals supported by Trump.

The legislation “would move us past Speaker Pelosi’s all-or-nothing obstruction and deliver huge support right now for the most pressing needs of our country,” McConnell said ahead of the vote.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) called the vote a political stunt that was designed to fail, saying the legislation “leaves so many Americans behind.”

At the same time, Pelosi (D-Calif.) voiced optimism about her continued talks with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on the much larger measure sought by Trump. But -- a day after McConnell disclosed he had counseled the White House not to strike a deal with Pelosi before the election, partly because it might interfere with the Senate’s planned confirmation next week of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court -- the House speaker acknowledged that final passage might have to wait until after Nov. 3.

“We obviously want to have a deal by Nov 3rd. That really is going to be up to whether the president can convince Mitch McConnell to do so," Pelosi said in an interview on Sirius XM radio. "I think Mitch McConnell might not mind doing it after the election.”

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘It Has Hit Us With a Vengeance’: Virus Surges Again Across the U.S., Sarah Mervosh and Lucy Tompkins, Updated Oct. 21, 2020. Earlier surges were defined by concentrated outbreaks in the Northeast and South. But the virus is now simmering across nearly the entire country. The nation is now averaging 59,000 new cases a day, and is on pace to record the most new daily cases of the entire pandemic in the coming days.

As the coronavirus races across the country, it has reached every corner of a nursing home in Kansas, infecting all 62 residents inside. There are so few hospital beds available in North Dakota that patients sick with the virus are being ferried by ambulance to facilities 100 miles away. And in Ohio, more people are hospitalized with the virus than at any other time during the pandemic.

After weeks of warnings that cases were again on the rise, a third surge of coronavirus infection has firmly taken hold in the United States. The nation is averaging 59,000 new cases a day, the most since the beginning of August, and the country is on pace to record the most new daily cases of the entire pandemic in the coming days.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Volunteers to Be Infected With Coronavirus in Vaccine Study, Staff reports, Oct. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Researchers in London are planning the first effort to study how people immunized with different vaccines respond to the virus; Ireland became the first European country to reimpose a lockdown. Here’s the latest.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Oct. 21, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

  • World Cases: 41,121,174, Deaths:1,131,010
  • U.S. Cases:     8,521,465, Deaths:    226,204

ny times logoNew York Times, Worried About Covid-19 in the Winter? Alaska Provides a Cautionary Tale, Mike Baker, Oct. 21, 2020. The state is seeing record case numbers, adding to evidence that the virus is poised to thrive as the weather grows colder. Over the summer months, Alaska’s restaurants filled up, the state invited tourists to come explore and fisheries workers arrived by the thousands to live in crowded bunkhouses. And yet the coronavirus remained largely in check.

Of course, Alaska had the benefit of isolation and wide-open spaces. But officials had also developed a containment effort unlike any other in the country, doing more testing than almost every other state and then tracking every person who came back positive with an army of contact tracers, following up with daily phone calls for those infected and all their close contacts.

It paid off: Even with the extensive search for possible infections, Alaska was recording some of the fewest coronavirus cases per capita in the nation.

Now, as temperatures begin dipping back below freezing and sunset arrives with dinner, the state’s social gatherings, recreational activities and restaurant seating have started moving back indoors — and the virus has seized new opportunities. With new case clusters emerging throughout the state, the acclaimed contact tracing system has grown strained.

On Friday, the weekly case average in Alaska reached its highest point of the year. The percentage of people testing positive has doubled in recent weeks. In parts of the state, tribal villages have been forced into lockdown.

Across the country, cases have been surging toward new highs since the onset of fall, with more than 59,000 new cases identified on Tuesday. At least 12 states have added more cases in the past week than in any other seven-day stretch — many of them northern states such as the Dakotas, Wisconsin and Illinois.

ny times logoNew York Times, Three Tests, a Private Jet and a New Rule: How Saban Made It to Kickoff, Alan Blinder and Katherine J. Wu, Oct. 21, 2020. University of Alabama resources and Southeastern Conference policy helped Nick Saban coach football days after a positive coronavirus test.

 

Trump Watch

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Trump Records Shed New Light on Chinese Business Pursuits, Mike McIntire, Russ Buettner and Susanne Craig, Oct. 21, 2020 (print ed.). As he raises questions about Joe Biden and China, President Trump’s taxes reveal details about his own activities there, including a previously unknown bank account.

President Trump and his allies have tried to paint the Democratic nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr., as soft on China, in part by pointing to his son’s business dealings there.

Senate Republicans produced a report asserting, among other things, that Mr. Biden’s son Hunter “opened a bank account” with a Chinese businessman, part of what it said were his numerous connections to “foreign nationals and foreign governments across the globe.”

But Mr. Trump’s own business history is filled with overseas financial deals, and some have involved the Chinese state. He spent a decade unsuccessfully pursuing projects in China, operating an office there during his first run for president and forging a partnership with a major government-controlled company.

And it turns out that China is one of only three foreign nations — the others are Britain and Ireland — where Mr. Trump maintains a bank account, according to an analysis of the president’s tax records, which were obtained by The New York Times. The foreign accounts do not show up on Mr. Trump’s public financial disclosures, where he must list personal assets, because they are held under corporate names. The identities of the financial institutions are not clear.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason Donald Trump’s secret Chinese bank account is such a nightmare for him, Bill Palmer, Oct. 21, 2020.  On Tuesday evening the New York Times revealed that one of Donald Trump’s companies has a secret bank account in China, and that in 2017 someone deposited $17 million into that account, of which Trump then took $15 million for himself. The fact that Trump kept this from the public serves to underscore the notion that this money was in fact a foreign bribe. But there’s an even uglier aspect to this.

bill palmer report logo headerChinese banks are under the control of the Chinese government. Considering how much the government of China has at stake when it comes to dealing with the United States, it’s difficult to imagine that it didn’t know Donald Trump’s Chinese bank account existed. If so, there’s no doubt that the government of China knows where that $17 million came from, and knows that Trump took $15 million of it for himself.

In fact China has likely known about this compromising information for the past three years – nearly the entire time it’s been negotiating with “President” Donald Trump on trade and other international matters. Do we really think China didn’t use this dirt as leverage against Trump when it came to negotiating with the United States?

What about all that praise that Trump publicly heaped on the Chinese government while it was dishonestly mishandling the early stages of the coronavirus? What about Trump’s subsequent decision to change course and begin using racial slurs like “China virus” every other day? Did Trump’s secret Chinese bank account, and the leverage available to anyone who know about it, play a role in Trump’s shifts in behavior? Did Americans die because of Trump’s personal financial relationship with China?

We don’t know the answers to these questions. But we know that the answers are going to keep coming out. And if Donald Trump loses the election, he’s going to end up in prison for all of this. All we have to do is turn out and vote in record numbers, and Trump is about to be in a world of hurt.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: How the ‘Spygate’ Attacks Fizzled, Kevin Roose, Oct. 21, 2020 (print ed.). The baseless espionage narrative, which fueled right-wing conspiracy theories for years, has quietly faded from view.

For years, it was the subject of countless Fox News segments, talk radio rants, and viral right-wing tweets and Facebook posts. It spawned Congressional hearings, Justice Department investigations, and investigations of those investigations. President Trump called it “the biggest political crime in the history of our country,” and suggested that its perpetrators deserved 50-year prison sentences.

Now, weeks before the election, “Spygate” — a labyrinthine conspiracy theory involving unproven allegations about a clandestine Democratic plot to spy on Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign — appears to be losing steam.

The theory still commands plenty of attention inside the right-wing media sphere. But Mr. Trump’s quest to turn Spygate into a major mainstream issue in this year’s campaign may be coming up short. Data from NewsWhip, a firm that tracks social media performance, shows that stories about Spygate and two related keywords — “Obamagate” and “unmask/unmasked/unmasking”— received 1.5 million interactions on Facebook and from influential Twitter accounts last month, down from about 20 million interactions in May.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Government and Tech Firms Push Back on Russia (and Trump), David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth, Oct. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Their aggressive campaign is intended to send a clear message that whatever Russia is up to in the last weeks before Election Day, it is no hoax.

Over the past two weeks, United States Cyber Command and a group of companies led by Microsoft have engaged in an aggressive campaign against a suspected Russian network that they feared could hold election systems hostage come November.

Russian FlagThen, on Monday, the Justice Department indicted members of the same elite Russian military unit that hacked the 2016 election for hacking the French elections, cutting power to Ukraine and sabotaging the opening ceremony at the 2018 Olympics. And in Silicon Valley, tech giants including Facebook, Twitter and Google have been sending out statements every few days advertising how many foreign influence operations they have blocked, all while banning forms of disinformation in ways they never imagined even a year ago.

It is all intended to send a clear message that whatever Russia is up to in the last weeks before Election Day, it is no hoax. The goal, both federal officials and corporate executives say, is to disrupt Russia’s well-honed information-warfare systems, whether they are poised to hack election systems, amplify America’s political fissures or get inside the minds of voters.

But behind the scenes is a careful dance by members of the Trump administration to counter the president’s own disinformation campaign, one that says the outcome on Nov. 3 will be “rigged” unless he wins.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analyst Who Reported the Infamous Trump Tape Rumor Wants to Clear His Name, Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman and Jonah M. Kessel, Oct. 21, 2020. The Steele dossier’s main source explained where its most notorious claim came from — and called Republicans’ accusations that he is a Russian agent “slander.” When the publication of a dossier of unproven rumors about Donald J. Trump and Russia rocked American politics in early 2017, one salacious claim jumped out: Russia intelligence services supposedly had a video showing Mr. Trump cavorting with prostitutes in Moscow’s Ritz-Carlton hotel.

Mr. Trump denied it all, no evidence emerged supporting the existence of any tape, and other claims in the so-called Steele dossier were disproved. But talk of a purported tape became a lingering touchstone of an era awash in conspiracy theories and misinformation — tantalizing Mr. Trump’s critics and enraging his supporters.

The claim came from Igor Danchenko, a Russia analyst who gathered leads about possible Trump-Russia links for what turned out to be Democratic-funded opposition research. In an interview, Mr. Danchenko described hearing rumors from two sources about a possible sex tape involving Mr. Trump and the Ritz-Carlton, then obtaining more nebulous information from two hotel employees he took as corroborative.

Acknowledging that the material was too thin to amount to proof and saying that he himself remained skeptical, Mr. Danchenko defended the integrity of his work.

He said he was assigned simply to gather “raw intelligence” for his employer, Christopher Steele, and passed along claims that raised a potential “red flag.” He noted that he was not responsible for how Mr. Steele portrayed that information in the dossier, nor for making it public.

“Even raw intelligence from credible sources, I take it with a grain of salt,” Mr. Danchenko said. “Who knows, what if it’s not particularly accurate? Is it just a rumor or is there more to it?”

Mr. Danchenko said he wanted to clear his name after his identity was revealed in July.

Threats and harassment followed, he said, escalating when Attorney General William P. Barr declassified the fact that Mr. Danchenko was himself scrutinized in a counterintelligence investigation a decade ago. The F.B.I. closed it in 2011 without charging him, but Mr. Trump’s allies, like Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, began calling him a “Russian agent.”

Mr. Danchenko — who made his name as a Russia analyst by exposing indications that the dissertation of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia contained plagiarized material — accused the senator of smearing him.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Campaign Coffers Shrink to $63 Million in Race’s Final Weeks, Shane Goldmacher, Oct. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Facing cash troubles, President Trump flew to California last Sunday for a fund-raiser with just over two weeks until Election Day. Here’s the latest.

President Trump’s re-election campaign committee ended September with only $63.1 million in the bank even after canceling some television buys late last month, leaving him badly outmatched financially against Joseph R. Biden Jr. in the final stretch of the campaign.

New filings with the Federal Election Commission showed the extent of Mr. Trump’s cash troubles, which caused the president to fly to California last Sunday for a fund-raiser with just over two weeks until Election Day. The president ended September with just over half as much money as he had at the beginning of the month.

While Mr. Trump’s campaign and its shared committees with the Republican National Committee have raised $1.5 billion since the start of 2019, the disclosures late Tuesday showed that his main re-election committee had only a small slice remaining. That account must pay for many of the race’s most important costs, including television ads.

All told, Mr. Trump’s campaign and its shared committees with the R.N.C. had $251.4 million entering October, compared to Mr. Biden’s campaign and its joint committees with the Democratic National Committee, which had $432 million in the bank.

“The Trump campaign has all the resources we need going into the homestretch of this election,” said Samantha Zager, a spokeswoman for Mr. Trump.

She added, “As Hillary Clinton proved when she outspent us 2-to-1 in 2016, no amount of money can buy the presidency.”

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative commentary: Proud Boys: Garden variety neo-Nazi trash, Wayne Madsen, left, Oct. 21, 2020. Like the Brownshirts of Nazi wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallGermany, on which they pattern themselves, the far-right group known as the Proud Boys has been intimidating Florida Democratic Party voters with threatening e-mails that warn them of dire consequences if they fail to vote for Donald Trump. The emails received by voters in Florida contain the same language:

"[Voter name inserted here] we are in possession of all your information. You are currently registered as a Democrat and we know this because we have access into the entire voting infrastructure. You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you. Change your party affiliation to Republican to let us know you received our message and will comply. We will know which candidate you voted for. I would take this seriously if I were you. [Voter's home address inserted here] good luck.”

The threatening emails contain no personal information that cannot be found in public databases of voters' names, addresses, and party affiliation. Furthermore, there is no way for a voter's ballot choices to be known to anyone but the voter. The Proud Boys' tactics are taken directly from the playbooks of the Nazis and Ku Klux Klan.

Many of the recipients of the emails in Gainesville are students and faculty members at the University of Florida. Daytona Beach voters have also received the threatening correspondence. Residents, including retirees, in Melbourne and Melbourne Beach, Florida, also reported receiving the emails. There were reports of threatening Proud Boys emails being sent to voters in Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Alaska. The email originated from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., the web site for which went off-line after the emails were reported to election and law enforcement authorities.

During his first debate with Joe Biden, Trump told the Proud Boys to "Stand Back and Stand By" for orders to commit acts of violence in support of Trump.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Rudy Giuliani has total meltdown after getting caught with his hand down his pants, Bill Palmer, Oct, 21, 2020. Earlier today the news broke that Rudy Giuliani stuck his hand down his pants and started playing with himself while in a hotel room with a young female reporter, who was actually an actress hired by Borat star Sacha Baron Cohen. To that end, an image surfaced of Rudy clearly lying in bed with his hand down his pants while in the company of a much younger woman.

bill palmer report logo headerNow Rudy is firing back on Twitter, insisting that we didn’t see what we thought we saw: “The Borat video is a complete fabrication. I was tucking in my shirt after taking off the recording equipment. At no time before, during, or after the interview was I ever inappropriate. If Sacha Baron Cohen implies otherwise he is a stone-cold liar.”

Wait, really? He had to lie down in bed in order to tuck his shirt in? Are we really supposed to believe any of this? Of course Rudy is playing the victim, insisting that Borat somehow targeted him because he uncovered the (imaginary) Hunter Biden laptop scandal: “We are preparing much bigger dumps off of the hard drive from hell, of which Joe Biden will be unable to defend or hide from.”

Uh, the last thing Rudy Giuliani should be doing right now is promising “much bigger dumps” than what we just saw today. This all just keeps getting even weirder.

rudy giuliani borat bedroomNBC News, Rudy Giuliani caught in compromising position in new 'Borat' film, Daniel Arkin, Oct. 21, 2020. Rudy Giuliani caught in compromising position (shown above) in new 'Borat' film; The prank is one of the notable moments in the Sacha Baron Cohen sequel due out Friday.

Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, fell for an embarrassing Sacha Baron Cohen prank in the soon-to-be-released movie sequel to "Borat."

In the film, a copy of which was obtained by NBC News, Giuliani and a young woman posing as a reporter, who was part of Cohen's sting, can be seen going into a hotel bedroom for drinks — at the woman's invitation — after completing what Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, apparently believed to be a real interview about the coronavirus pandemic and Trump's response to it.

The incident occurred as Giuliani, 76, was trying to remove his microphone, with the help of the actress, which had been used as part of the movie's "interview" with him.

The film, which is being released Friday on Amazon Prime Video, shows Giuliani reclining on a bed and then putting his hand down his pants and moving it around for what appears to be a few seconds while the actress playing Borat's teenage daughter, Maria Bakalova, 24, who is pretending to be a television reporter, stands in front of him.

NBC News obtained an advance copy of the film, which is titled "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan."

Giuliani and the woman, recorded by what seem to be hidden cameras, are eventually interrupted by Cohen, who bursts into the bedroom in his Borat persona, shouting: "She's 15. She's too old for you!"

Giuliani quickly sits up and appears startled by the presence of Cohen, who wears a pink outfit that resembles lingerie.

Giuliani asks him: "Why are you dressed like this?"

Cohen-as-Borat responds: "She's my daughter. Please, take me instead."

"I don't want you," Giuliani replies. He then makes his way out of the hotel suite.

Giuliani, who in the context of the film had no reason to believe the fictional interviewer was underage, did not immediately respond to text messages requesting comment.

 washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. government concludes Iran was behind threatening emails sent to Democrats, Ellen Nakashima, Amy Gardner, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Craig Timberg, Oct. 21, 2020. The deceptive campaign made use of an Internet domain associated with the far-right Proud Boys.

U.S. officials on Wednesday night accused Iran of targeting American voters with faked but menacing emails and warned that both Iran and Russia had obtained voter data that could be used to endanger the upcoming election.

The disclosure by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe at a hastily called news conference marked the first time Iran was known to have targeted specific voters in a bid to undermine democratic confidence — just four years after Russian online operations marred the 2016 presidential vote.

The claim that Iran was behind the email operation, which became news Tuesday as Democrats in several swing states reported receiving emails demanding that they vote for President Trump, came without specific evidence, and other U.S. officials, speaking privately, stressed that Russia still remained the major threat to the 2020 election.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Not a fair fight’: In Kansas, GOP frustrated as money rolls in for Democrat and Senate race tightens, Annie Gowen, Oct. 21, 2020. In any other year, Rep. Roger Marshall would have been a slam dunk to fill this state's open Senate seat, held by Republicans since 1932.

Marshall, 60, is an obstetrician, the first in his family to go to college and a military veteran who served seven years as a captain in the Army Reserve. He espouses the antiabortion, fiscally conservative views that appeal to many in this mostly red Midwestern state, and he survived a tough primary challenge by a well-known conservative in August.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, there was little hope for Democrats to turn blue the open seat vacated by the retiring Sen. Pat Roberts. But the resulting health crisis and recession, as well as left-leaning anger about Republicans’ attempt to push through a Supreme Court nominee days before an election, has made this once sleepy race a close contest.

Marshall’s Democratic opponent, Barbara Bollier, 62, a state senator who only recently left the Republican Party, is also a physician and has centered her platform on pandemic response and expanding health care for needy Kansans. She has racked up a record third-quarter fundraising haul of $13.5 million and has raised a total of $20 million. Marshall raised $2.7 million in the third quarter and has a total of $5 million.

Marshall is still favored to win — the Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan tip sheet, has continued to rate the contest as “leaning” Republican — but internal polls on both sides show a tight race.

American System Network, Opinion: Clumsy Pro-Trump October Surprise Ploy via New York Post Slanders Falling Flat, Webster G. Tarpley, right, Oct. 21, 2020. ; webster tarpley 2007NY Times Reports Fox News Refused to Serve as Vehicle for Unproven Stories about Mystery Laptop; NY Post Reporter Who Finally Wrote Story Allegedly Refused to Let His Name Be Used in Byline; Leading True Believer Is Notorious Stooge Ratcliffe of ONI.

On Fox, Dana Perino Repeats Warning to Campaign Spokesman Murtaugh That Trump in Any Case Cannot Hope to Build Election Momentum Based on Totally Unsubstantiated Allegations against Hunter Biden; But Trump Keeps Trying Anyway.

John john brennan twitterBrennan (left), James Clapper, Michael Hayden, Leon Panetta and Other Intelligence Veterans Condemn New York Post’s Alleged Hunter Biden Email Revelations as Having “All the Classic Earmarks of a Russian Disinformation Operation” and Being “Consistent with Russian Objectives” of Creating Political Chaos in the US, Deepening Political Decisions, Undermining Biden Campaign, and Helping Trump Get Elected.

Reports Surface of Months of Preparation for Current Phony Laptop Op; Key Role of Giuliani Points to Dirty Pro-Trump Faction of FBI; Where, Finally, Are Supposedly Incriminating Tapes?

 

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Department Files Antitrust Suit Against Google, David McCabe and Cecilia Kang, Oct. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Most Aggressive Move Against Tech Giants in Decades

The Justice Department accused Google of maintaining an illegal monopoly over search and search advertising, in the government’s most significant legal challenge to a tech company’s market power in a generation.

google logo customIn a lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, the agency accused Google, a unit of Alphabet, of using several exclusive business contracts and agreements to lock out competition.

Such contracts include Google’s payment of billions of dollars to Apple to place the Google search engine as the default for iPhones. By using contracts to maintain its monopoly, the suit says, competition and innovation has suffered.

Attorney General William P. Barr, left, who was appointed by Mr. Trump, has played an unusually active role in the investigation. He pushed career Justice william barr new oDepartment attorneys to bring the case by the end of September, prompting pushback from lawyers who wanted more time and complained of political influence. Mr. Barr has spoken publicly about the inquiry for months and set tight deadlines for the prosecutors leading the effort.

The lawsuit may stretch on for years and could set off a cascade of other antitrust lawsuits from state attorneys general. About four dozen states and jurisdictions have conducted parallel investigations and are expected to bring separate complaints against the company’s grip on technology for online advertising.

A victory for the government could remake one of America’s most recognizable companies and the internet economy that it has helped define since it was founded by two Stanford University graduate students in 1998.

But Google has long denied accusations of antitrust violations and is expected to fight the government’s efforts by using a global network of lawyers, economists and lobbyists. Alphabet, valued at $1.04 trillion and with cash reserves of $120 billion, has fought similar antitrust lawsuits in Europe.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Justice Department is suing Google — but it’s the government’s power to police big tech that’s on trial, Tony Romm, Oct. 21, 2020. At Justice Department log circularstake in the lawsuit is no less than the power and political willingness of Washington to watch over Silicon Valley, putting to the test whether century-old federal antitrust rules are sufficiently powerful to keep the country's technology giants in check.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Five takeaways from the Google antitrust lawsuit, Heather Kelly, Oct. 21, 2020 (print ed.). What the federal action has to say about Apple, Amazon and the problems with being the most popular search engine.

In the 64-page complaint, the Justice Department lays out its case against Google’s alleged search monopoly by focusing on one part of its business. It looks at all the deals Google has struck to be the path of least resistance for most consumers. Years of partnering with other companies, expanding its own line of products and user complacency have made it the default search engine on everything from our laptops to smartwatches.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: It’s Google’s World. We Just Live In It, Brian X. Chen, Oct. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Googling something was all we once did with Google. Now we spend hours a day using its maps, videos, gadgets and more, our columnist writes.

About 20 years ago, I typed Google.com into my web browser for the first time. It loaded a search bar and buttons. I punched in “D.M.V. sample test,” scrolled through the results and clicked on a site.

Wow, I thought to myself. Google’s minimalist design was a refreshing alternative to other search engines at the time — remember AltaVista, Yahoo! and Lycos? — which greeted us with a jumble of ads and links to news articles. Even better, Google seemed to show more up-to-date, relevant results.

And the entire experience took just a few seconds. Once I found the link I needed, I was done with Google.

google logo customTwo decades later, my experience with Google is considerably different. When I do a Google search in 2020, I spend far more time in the internet company’s universe. If I look for chocolate chips, for example, I see Google ads for chocolate chips pop up at the top of my screen, followed by recipes that Google has scraped from across the web, followed by Google Maps and Google Reviews of nearby bakeries, followed by YouTube videos for how to bake chocolate chip cookies. (YouTube, of course, is owned by Google.)

It isn’t just that I am spending more time in a Google search, either. The Silicon Valley company has leveraged the act of looking for something online into such a vast technology empire.

The Guardian, Rudy Giuliani faces questions after compromising scene in new Borat film, Catherine Shoar, Oct. 21, 2020. Trump’s personal attorney has indiscreet encounter with actor playing Borat’s daughter in hotel room during pandemic. This article contains spoilers about 'Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.'

The reputation of Rudy Giuliani could be set for a further blow with the release of highly embarrassing footage in Sacha Baron Cohen’s follow-up to Borat.

In the film, released on Friday, the former New York mayor and current personal attorney to Donald Trump is seen reaching into his trousers and apparently touching his genitals while reclining on a bed in the presence of the actor playing Borat’s daughter, who is posing as a TV journalist.

rudy giuliani amazon prime boratFollowing an obsequious interview for a fake conservative news programme, the pair retreat at her suggestion for a drink to the bedroom of a hotel suite, which is rigged with concealed cameras.

After she removes his microphone, Giuliani, 76, can be seen lying back on the bed, fiddling with his untucked shirt and reaching into his trousers. They are then interrupted by Borat who runs in and says: “She’s 15. She’s too old for you.”

rudy giuliani borat bedroomRepresentatives for Giuliani have not replied to the Guardian’s requests for comment.

Word of the incident first emerged on 7 July, when Giuliani called New York police to report the intrusion of an unusually-dressed man. “This guy comes running in, wearing a crazy, what I would say was a pink transgender outfit,” Giuliani told the New York Post. “It was a pink bikini, with lace, underneath a translucent mesh top, it looked absurd. He had the beard, bare legs, and wasn’t what I would call distractingly attractive.

“This person comes in yelling and screaming, and I thought this must be a scam or a shakedown, so I reported it to the police. He then ran away,” Giuliani said. The police found no crime had been committed.

Giuliani continued: “I only later realised it must have been Sacha Baron Cohen. I thought about all the people he previously fooled and I felt good about myself because he didn’t get me.”

Viewers may be less convinced that Baron Cohen, reprising his role as the bumbling reporter Borat Sagdiyev, and Maria Bakalova, who plays his daughter, Tutar, had no success.

In the film, Borat is dispatched by the Kazakh government back to the US to present a bribe to an ally of Donald Trump in order to ingratiate his country with the administration. After the monkey earmarked for the gift is indisposed, Borat’s supposedly underage offspring becomes the replacement present.

Even before he reaches into his trousers, Giuliani does not appear to acquit himself especially impressively during the encounter. Flattered and flirtatious, he drinks scotch, coughs, fails to socially distance and claims Trump’s speedy actions in the spring saved a million Americans from dying of Covid. He also agrees – in theory at least – to eat a bat with his interviewer.

Giuliani has become a key figure in the late stages of the US presidential election after obtaining a laptop hard drive purportedly belonging to Hunter Biden and left at a repair shop in Delaware.

His efforts to unearth political dirt on Trump’s rival for the White House mean that the film’s mortifying footage can be seen as an attempt to undermine Giuliani’s credibility. The film, released on Amazon Prime less than a fortnight before the election, ends with an instruction for viewers to vote.

Although unfortunate, the circumstances of the setup appear consensual, with Giuliani led to believe he was being courted. Bakalova, 24, is highly plausible in the sting, despite also having to pretend, for the benefit of viewers, to be a feral child posing as a far-right journalist.

As with the first film, which made $262m on release in 2006 and won a Golden Globe for Baron Cohen, the most troubling scenes are those which reveal deep-seated prejudice among the American people.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

ny times logojoe biden oNew York Times, Voters Prefer Biden Over Trump on Almost All Major Issues, Poll Shows, Oct. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Joe Biden holds a nine-point lead over President Trump, a New York Times/Siena College poll shows, amid concern about the coronavirus.

ny times logoNew York Times, A deadlocked Supreme Court lets stand a Pennsylvania ruling allowing extra time for mail-in voting, Adam Liptak and Nick Corasaniti, Oct. 20, 2020 (print ed.). The Supreme Court on Monday let stand a ruling by Pennsylvania’s highest court that allowed election officials to count some mailed ballots received up to three days after Election Day. The state is a key battleground in the presidential election.

The Supreme Court’s action was the result of a deadlock. It takes five votes to grant a stay, and the Republicans who had asked the court to intervene could only muster four: Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh. On the other side of the divide were Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the court’s three-member liberal wing: Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Neither side gave reasons. The result suggested that Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, could play a decisive role in election disputes if — as Republicans hope — she joins the court before the election.

She is expected to be confirmed by the Senate next week.

The ruling in the Pennsylvania case is a major victory for Democrats in the state who have been pushing to expand access to voting in the pandemic, and for a party that has been requesting absentee ballots at far greater numbers than Republicans. As of Friday, Democrats in Pennsylvania had requested 1,755,940 ballots, and Republicans had requested 672,381, according to data from the Pennsylvania secretary of state’s office.

Of course, the extra time could result in further delays in reporting results; Pennsylvania is already expected to be one of the last states to have voting results, since a state law prevents election officials from beginning to process ballots until Election Day, and Republicans in the state legislature have indicated that they will not be offering any relief to give them more time.

The Supreme Court decision also removes one more legal hurdle related to elections in Pennsylvania, a key battleground state with numerous voting-related lawsuits still undecided, including one about whether election officials will have to perform signature matching on absentee ballots.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Republicans, it’s time to choose between autocracy and a republic, Stuart Stevens, Rick Wilson, Steve Schmidt and Reed Galen, Oct. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Republicans Reed Galen, Steve Schmidt and Rick Wilson are co-founders of the Lincoln Project. Stuart Stevens is a senior adviser to the Lincoln Project.

This is for the many men and women in Washington with whom we have worked over the past 30-plus years. Some of you hold elected office. Some are officials in the Trump administration. Many of you are members of the consultant and lobbyist class.

joe biden oIn two weeks, the most consequential election of our generation will come, and your time for choosing will arrive. As Republicans, will you stand with President Trump, or will you stand with, and stand up for, America? Will you protect democracy or protect a single person and his family?

We’re not merely talking about your vote.

We’re talking about what comes next.

Never before in U.S. history has an incumbent president refused in advance to accept the outcome of an election. In the days ahead, your party may call upon you to support efforts by a White House that refuses to transfer power after a loss at the polls. The weapons won’t be tanks but thousands of lawyers backed by an attorney general who works for the president, not the people.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s attack on the debate commission is an attack on the election itself, John C. Danforth, Oct. 21, 2020 (print ed.). John C. Danforth, a Republican, represented Missouri in the U.S. Senate for three terms and has served on the Commission on Presidential Debates since 1994.

Like all members of the Commission on Presidential Debates, I have maintained a strict vow of silence regarding my personal feelings about the current presidential campaign. Now, however, that President Trump and some of his ardent supporters have attacked the commission’s integrity, I feel compelled to respond.

The president’s apparent strategy is to challenge the validity of the election should he lose. We saw this strategy initially in his claims that mail-in ballots are the tools for massive election fraud. Now we see it as well in his assertion that the debates have been rigged by the commission to favor former vice president Joe Biden.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s stooge Mark Meadows melts down as finance scandal gets even uglier, Bill Palmer, Oct. 21, 2020.  For awhile now we’ve mark meadows small customwondered why Mark Meadows gave up his seat in Congress just to preside over the Donald Trump administration’s funeral. Since joining Trump’s team, Meadows, right, has ruined what little was left of his reputation, exposed himself to coronavirus, guaranteed he’ll never get his seat in Congress back, and seemingly has nothing to show for it.

bill palmer report logo headerBut even as Meadows was melting down on television today, insisting that Donald Trump’s secret Chinese bank account isn’t weird because lots of regular Americans supposedly operate out of secret Chinese bank accounts, something particularly ugly was surfacing – about Meadows.

This morning, Salon published an expose into Mark Meadows’ campaign finance history which reveals that he’s apparently been spending all kinds of his House campaign money on personal expenses over the years – and that’s the kind of felony you go to prison for.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump goes berserk about FBI Director Christopher Wray, Bill Palmer, Oct. 21, 2020. Tonight’s joint press conference, in which Trump stooge John Ratcliffe insisted that Iran is somehow plotting against Donald Trump in the election, and respected FBI Director Christopher Wray pointed out the fact that Russia has been meddling in the election all along, was a tipoff that something strange was going on behind the scenes.

bill palmer report logo headerOur educated guess is that Trump told Ratcliffe to hold a press conference that helped him, and Ratcliffe felt he needed Wray on board, but Wray was only willing to do it if he got to speak up about Russian meddling. Now a Washington Post report suggests that there is indeed something afoot.

Donald Trump just leaked that he’s considering firing Chris Wray after election day, if he doesn’t take action against Joe Biden before election day. This is a pretty weird threat. If Trump loses, he’ll have no real remaining leverage during the transition period; if Trump then fires him, Biden could turn around and re-hire him for all we know.

But weird and poorly thought out threats are a hallmark of a failing corrupt leader, so it’s not surprising to see Donald Trump making the threat that he’s making. There’s no reason to expect that Trump’s flaccid threats will have any real impact on anything. But it’s yet another reminder that we need to turn out and vote in historic numbers, so that none of these antics matter.

Des Moines Register, Iowa Supreme Court upholds GOP-backed law adding steps to absentee ballot request process, Stephen Gruber-Miller, Oct. 21, 2020. The Iowa Supreme Court has upheld a new law making it harder for county auditors to process absentee ballot requests with missing or incomplete information, days before Iowa's deadline to request a ballot for the 2020 election.

The court issued a decision Wednesday evening upholding a Republican-supported law that prevents auditors from using the state's voter registration database to fill in any missing information or correct errors when a voter requests an absentee ballot. The law instead requires the auditor's office to contact the voter by telephone, email or physical mail.

The League of United Latin American Citizens and Majority Forward, a Democratic-aligned nonprofit organization that supports voter registration and turnout efforts, sued Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, seeking to have the law declared unconstitutional. They said auditors have used the database to correct errors in the past and that the law burdens Iowans' right to vote.

 

Law, Crime, Courts

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Law enforcement’s problems could get even worse, Phillip Atiba Goff ( professor of African-American studies and psychology at Yale University and co-founder and C.E.O. of the Center for Policing Equity), Oct. 20, 2020. Since this spring, when Americans watched George Floyd take his last breaths as Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck, we’ve borne witness to the worst that this country’s criminal justice system has to offer: continued extrajudicial killings, failure to hold officers accountable and state-sponsored violence against those standing up for justice.

It’s hard to imagine that things could get worse. But draft recommendations from a Trump-appointed policing commission prove that they could.

In October 2019, President Trump signed an executive order to establish a commission that Attorney General William P. Barr explained was intended to make the police “trusted and effective guardians of our communities.” From the beginning, its membership — made up entirely of law enforcement — spoke volumes about its intentions. A lawsuit brought by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund argued that the commission makeup violated federal law and this month, a federal judge agreed. He ordered the commission to halt its proceedings, including the release of the report, until it can meet the Federal Advisory Committee Act’s requirement that demands “fairly balanced” viewpoints aired in publicly noticed, open meetings.

But the recommendations drafted before this month’s ruling, first reported by Reuters, nonetheless provide a frightening window into the administration’s vision for law enforcement. I say this without exaggeration: The president’s commission was considering recommendations that could transform this nation into a dystopian police state.

In May, my colleagues at the Center for Policing Equity and I were asked to give testimony to the commission. We wrote that a more equitable system of policing can be built only when the police are worthy of trust, not fear. We emphasized the need for more transparency and robust data, not less. And we explained why politicizing law enforcement is dangerous: If communities fear that their safety is contingent on their political beliefs, the trust required for public safety is irreparably harmed.

To be clear, some live under those conditions now. But a federal push further in that direction would pour lighter fluid on those burning problems.

The recommendations could not destroy public trust more efficiently if they were designed solely for that purpose. Reuters reports that they would limit prosecutors’ power to put in place bipartisan, long-needed reforms such as declining to charge low-level drug offenses and eliminating cash bail. Rolling back that progress would be bad enough. Worse still, hamstringing change-minded officials would curtail the power of voters who cast ballots for them.

The recommendations would also make the avenues to accountability for law enforcement so narrow that even the most egregious cases of police violence would have a harder time finding their way to just resolutions. Officers accused of wrongdoing would be granted access to body camera footage before speaking to internal investigators, allowing them to shape legally valid explanations for otherwise incriminating actions. Even more ominously, the U.S. Department of Justice would support “qualified immunity,” a legal precedent that protects officers from civil lawsuits. That would turn the federal agency charged with maintaining the rule of law into a personal defense firm for officers accused of violating

But the recommendations calling for the destruction of privacy protections are perhaps the most alarming. The commission recommends providing America’s roughly 18,000 law enforcement agencies, from small town departments to the New York Police Department, with more money for facial recognition technologies. Because federal agencies can set the reporting requirements and selection criteria for funding to local law enforcement, they often require data sharing. In this case, that could result in data collected at the local level being entered into a national database.

The commission also recommends that police departments be granted back door access to encrypted cellphones. This would make it easier for the authorities to access the most intimate details of your life. Whom you spend time with, your private messag

washington post logoWashington Post, Schumer says he had a ‘serious talk’ with Feinstein, Paul Kane, Oct. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Some liberal groups called for the ouster of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) from the Senate Judiciary Committee over her handling of the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett last week.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday that he has had a “serious talk” with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) after some liberal groups criticized her handling of last week’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings and requested she step aside as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.

Schumer, who has also faced doubts about his strategic moves from the most liberal activists, declined to say what steps he would take but acknowledged the problem had prompted a discussion about Feinstein holding such an important post.

“I’ve had a long and serious talk with Senator Feinstein. That’s all I’m going to say about it right now,” Schumer told reporters at his weekly Tuesday news conference.

Feinstein, 87, is the oldest senator and would be poised to chair the committee should Democrats win the majority in November’s election, putting her in charge of shepherding the potential Biden administration’s most critical nominees to the Justice Department and federal courts. The Senate panel also has jurisdiction over immigration legislation, gun laws and other hot-button issues.

Guardian, Revealed: ex-members of Amy Coney Barrett faith group tell of trauma and sexual abuse, Stephanie Kirchgaessner, Oct, 21, 2020. People of Praise hire lawyers to investigate historical sexual abuse allegations as former members speak of ‘emotional torment.’ 

Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the supreme court has prompted former members of her secretive faith group, the People of Praise, to come forward and share stories about emotional trauma and – in at least one case – sexual abuse they claim to have suffered at the hands of members of the Christian group.
'It instilled such problems': ex-member of Amy Coney Barrett's faith group speaks out.

In the wake of the allegations, the Guardian has learned that the charismatic Christian organization, which is based in Indiana, has hired the law firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan to conduct an “independent investigation” into sexual abuse claims on behalf of People of Praise.

The historic sexual abuse allegations and claims of emotional trauma do not pertain specifically to Barrett, who has been a lifelong member of the charismatic group, or her family.

But some former members who spoke to the Guardian said they were deeply concerned that too little was understood about the “community” of People of Praise ahead of Barrett’s expected confirmation by the Senate next week, after which she will hold the seat formerly held by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Two people familiar with the matter say that more than two dozen former members of the faith group, many of whom say they felt “triggered” by Barrett’s nomination, are participating in a support group to discuss how the faith group affected their lives.

“The basic premise of everything at the People of Praise was that the devil controlled everything outside of the community, and you were ‘walking out from under the umbrella of protection’ if you ever left,” said one former member who called herself Esther, who had to join the group as a child but then left the organization. “I was OK with it being in a tiny little corner of Indiana, because a lot of weird stuff happens in tiny little corners in this country. But it’s just unfathomable to me – I can’t even explain just how unfathomable it is – that you would have a supreme court justice who is a card-carrying member of this community.”

Barrett was not asked about her involvement in People of Praise during her confirmation hearings last week, and has never included her involvement with the group in Senate disclosure forms, but has in the past emphasized that her religious faith as a devout Catholic would not interfere with her impartiality.

People of Praise is rooted in the rise of charismatic Christian communities in the late 1960s and 1970s, which blended Pentecostal traditions like speaking in tongues and prophecy with Catholicism. It is an ecumenical group – meaning it accepts members of different Christian churches – though its members are mostly Catholic. Proponents say charismatic Christians are bound together by members’ shared personal presence of Christ, and “empowerment through the Holy Spirit.”

Its handbook emphasizes an insular view of the world, stressing obedience and devotion to other members, and communal living.

Barrett’s father has served as a leader in the community. Barrett was also listed as a “handmaid” in a 2010 directory, or female leader, served as a trustee at a school associated with the group, and has been featured in People of Praise magazines that were removed from the group’s website following her appointment as an appeals court judge in 2017.

The Guardian has confirmed that Barrett lived in a household led by one of the founders of the People of Praise, Kevin Ranaghan, while she was a law student at Notre Dame, and lived with another People of Praise family – Barbette and William Brophy – in Virginia after she graduated.

Proponents of the faith community have said in other press reports that they are misunderstood, and that it is a close-knit community that seeks to support other members “financially and materially and spiritually”.

But former members paint a different picture. Allegations and concerns center on claims of the intense subjugation of women by the community leaders; control of members’ lives and decisions, including marriage, living arrangements, and child rearing; and in one case, the mishandling of allegations of sexual abuse. Members who admit to having gay sex are expelled from the group, which staunchly opposes same-sex marriage.

For Sarah (Mitchell) Kuehl, a 48-year-old former member who grew up in the community, discussions about Barrett’s possible nomination prompted her – after years of trying to figure out how to address it – to send an email on 23 September to Craig Lent, the current head of People of Praise who also works as a professor at Notre Dame. In it, Kuehl claimed she had been sexually abused decades earlier by a “household member”, a male member of “the community” who had lived with the Mitchell family as part of the group’s communal living practices. Single people were expected to be celibate and live in family households which were expected to provide an example of married life, former members say.

After her alleged abuser – who along with her family was technically a member of a precursor group called Servants of the Light/Lord that merged in 1984 with People of Praise – admitted to her father that he had been molesting Kuehl, he was moved to another household and eventually had a marriage “arranged” for him, she said. She was four years old when the abuse began and it lasted for two years. At the time, her family also lived with other single men and women.

“I have struggled for years on whether to hold PoP accountable for what they knew, when they knew it and their attempt to hide and cover up. Like the Catholic church, who covered up and moved priests around, PoP has had a history of these same behaviors,” Kuehl alleged in her email to Lent.

Letters provided to the Guardian by Kuehl dating back to the late 1980s and early 1990s substantiate claims of abuse and attempts by her parents to address the issue with senior leaders of People of Praise. The documents include references to a psychological evaluation of the alleged abuser and confirmation that he did abuse Kuehl. The documents also revealed there were additional victims and that other minors were at risk.

Years later, when Kuehl sought to discuss the issue with her “handmaid” – a female guide and senior member of the organization, when she was at college – she said she was discouraged from talking about it.

“She told me NOT to talk about it with anyone because it could ‘hurt the reputation of the community’,” Kuehl wrote in her letter to Lent.

Weeks later, on 5 October, Lent responded to Kuehl’s email. He wrote: “I am just reaching out to you to let you know that we take this matter very seriously.”

He added: “We very much want to look into this. To that end we have contracted with Diane Doolittle of Quinn Emanuel, who specializes in exactly this sort of investigation. (This took some time to arrange.) I want to stress that, although she is a lawyer, her role is not to defend PoP, but rather she is very much in the role of an independent investigator. We thought that better than trying to investigate it directly ourselves. We want to know the truth of the matter. She will be talking to other people as well.”

Doolittle’s online bio states that she is a Silicon Valley-based trial lawyer who is involved in “high-stakes complex commercial, intellectual property and white collar cases”. She is also listed as having been engaged in “sensitive #MeToo cases, including by conducting corporate internal investigations”.

But People of Praise’s choice is also noteworthy because of Quinn Emanuel’s ties to the White House. William Burck, who serves as Quinn Emanuel’s co-managing partner in Washington DC, has counted Steve Bannon as a client, among others, and was a friend and associate of supreme court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. During Kavanaugh’s controversial confirmation hearings, it was Burck – a “Washington super-lawyer” – who was charged with culling Kavanaugh’s documents for review before the Senate hearing.

There is no evidence that Burck has been personally engaged in the People of Praise investigation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Study finds no crime increase in ‘sanctuary’ cities, despite Trump claims, Nick Miroff, Oct. 21, 2020. Cities that have adopted “sanctuary” policies did not record an increase in crime as a result of their decision to limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities, according to a new Stanford University report. The findings appear to rebut the Trump administration’s rhetoric about the policies’ dire effects on public safety.

The study is one of the first to measure those effects by looking at data on violent crime and property crime. Researcher David K. Hausman compared statistics across more than 200 sanctuary counties and jurisdictions between 2010 and 2015, when the policies were adopted in many U.S. cities with a large number of residents living in the country illegally.

washington post logoWashington Post, The parents of 545 children separated at the border still haven’t been found. The pandemic isn’t helping, Teo Armus, Oct. 21, 2020. Months before the Trump administration rolled out its “zero-tolerance” policy on the U.S.-Mexico border, hundreds of migrant children were already being separated from their families with little fanfare. As those children were shuttled around the country in late 2017, their parents were swiftly detained or deported, with few records taken by the government about where they went or how to contact them.

It was only in 2019, after a federal judge ordered officials to hand their names over to immigration lawyers, that the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups tried in earnest to begin reuniting them.

On Tuesday, those lawyers submitted a court filing with a grim update: They have not yet been able to reach the parents of 545 separated children. About two-thirds of those parents are believed to be somewhere in Central America — without their children.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Here comes the Ghislaine Maxwell bombshell, Bill Palmer, Oct. 21, 2020. In the latest reminder that the court system tends to move at a glacial pace even when the outcome is not in doubt, the battle over Ghislaine Maxwell’s sealed testimony transcripts is still going on, months after it became clear that it would eventually end up being released. The good news is that we’re finally at the finish line – and in fact it’s set to come on Thursday morning.

Even as we wait for Ghislaine Maxwell’s criminal trial to take place months from now, there has been a separate but related court battle over testimony that Maxwell gave about Jeffrey Epstein in a civil suit a few years ago. Maxwell has sought to block these transcripts from being released, which strongly suggests that they incriminate her, Epstein, and/or others involved.

Now that the appeals have gone by the wayside, the courts have ruled that the transcript will be released at 9am eastern time on Thursday. One key thing to watch for: it’s already been established that Epstein first recruited Maxwell while at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago. How much more about Trump’s involvement is in these transcripts? We’re about to find out.

 

World News

washington post logoFrench FlagWashington Post, France mourns slain teacher Samuel Paty as government mobilizes against Muslim groups, James McAuley, Oct. 21, 2020. Some have questioned whether the government is going too far with its crackdown — conducting raids, threatening deportations and targeting organizations with tenuous connections to Paty’s beheading.

In 2015, the rallying cry was "Je suis Charlie." Now, it is "Je suis Samuel."

Samuel Paty, the middle school history teacher who was beheaded for having shown his students caricatures of the prophet Muhammad during a lesson on free expression, was to be posthumously granted France’s highest award, the Légion d’Honneur, and commemorated in a national ceremony at the Sorbonne University in Paris on Wednesday.

His gruesome killing in the Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine has revived the nation’s horror at the 2015 attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo. And just as France stood by the satirical newspaper then, it is rallying around its teachers.

“Today, with you, we are all teachers,” first lady Brigitte Macron, a former theater teacher, wrote in Le Parisien. “To be a teacher ... is to develop the critical spirit [of students] to make them free.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Nigerian protesters say security forces fired on them amid growing global outrage, Danielle Paquette, Oct. 21, 2020. Several people died and Nigerian flagdozens were wounded after Nigerian security forces opened fire at a protest against police brutality Tuesday night in Lagos, witnesses and human rights groups said, sparking global outrage as videos of the violence swept social media.

The clash that shocked Africa’s most populous nation followed two weeks of largely peaceful demonstrations, which led to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari dissolving an undercover squad that critics have long blasted as abusive. But thousands of protesters who saw that action as hollow pledged to stay in the streets this week after several major cities imposed curfews.

 

Oct. 20

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Reponses

 

Media News

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Courts

 

World News

 

Top Stories

djt virus news conference nyt photo Custom

Donald Trump last spring regularly gathered health officials for photo ops like that shown above at the White House but the team is now reportedly fractured in dissension over what approaches to use against the pandemic.

washington post logoWashington Post, Den of dissent: Discord besets White House task force as coronavirus surges, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Robert Costa, Oct. 20, 2020 (print ed.). The U.S. response is increasingly plagued by distrust, infighting and lethargy, as experts predict cases could surge this winter and deaths could reach 400,000 by year’s end. Discord on the coronavirus task force has worsened since the arrival in late summer of Atlas, whom colleagues said they regard as ill-informed, manipulative and at times dishonest.

scott atlas resized As summer faded into autumn and the novel coronavirus continued to ravage the nation unabated, Scott Atlas, right,a neuroradiologist whose commentary on Fox News led President Trump to recruit him to the White House, consolidated his power over the government’s pandemic response.

Atlas shot down attempts to expand testing. He openly feuded with other doctors on the coronavirus task force and succeeded in largely sidelining them. He advanced fringe theories, such as that social distancing and mask-wearing were meaningless and would not have changed the course of the virus in several hard-hit areas. And he advocated allowing infections to spread naturally among most of the population while protecting the most vulnerable and those in nursing homes until the United States reaches herd immunity, which experts say would cause excess deaths, according to three current and former senior administration officials.

Atlas also cultivated Trump’s affection with his public assertions that the pandemic is nearly over, despite death and infection counts showing otherwise, and his willingness to tell the public that a vaccine could be developed before the Nov. 3 election, despite clear indications of a slower timetable.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump calls Fauci a ‘disaster’ and shrugs off the virus as infections soar, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Maggie Haberman and Noah Weiland, Oct. 20, 2020 (print ed.). With two weeks remaining in his re-election campaign, President Trump made the coronavirus his message and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci his foil, dismissing scientific advisers as “these idiots.”

The broadside, during a conference call with campaign staff just two weeks before Election Day, was hardly the closing message Trump advisers were looking for. It threatened to focus the electorate squarely on the president’s coronavirus response and pitted him against Dr. Fauci, who as the nation’s top infectious disease expert is a career government scientist the public likes and trusts far more than Mr. Trump.

In increasingly vocal terms, Dr. Fauci has been separating himself from the White House and warning Americans to “hunker down” and brace for a difficult winter — a message at odds with Mr. Trump’s repeated, if false, assurances that the nation is “rounding the corner” on a pandemic that has claimed about 220,000 American lives.

“People are tired of Covid,” Mr. Trump complained on the call, which several reporters were invited into. “I have the biggest rallies I’ve ever had. And we have Covid. People are saying: ‘Whatever. Just leave us alone.’ They’re tired of it.”

He added, “People are tired of hearing Fauci and these idiots, all these idiots who got it wrong.”

Later Monday, at a campaign rally in Prescott, Ariz., Mr. Trump invoked Dr. Fauci as a way of ridiculing the coronavirus plan of his Democratic opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr.

“Biden wants to lock it down. He wants to listen to Dr. Fauci,” the president said, referring to coronavirus-related restrictions on the economy. (Dr. Fauci, addressing a group of pathologists last week, said no one wants to “shut down the country again.”)

The Biden campaign, which has been emphasizing a promise to listen to science over politics, responded with relish: “Mr. President, you’re right about one thing: The American people are tired. They’re tired of your lies about this virus.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Exposed: secret bank account exposes money trail from China to Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Oct. 20, 2020. Once Donald Trump’s tax returns surfaced, Palmer Report predicted that they would end up being a roadmap to uncovering his sordid financial dealings, and that plenty more dominoes would start falling.

Sure enough, a new revelation helps reveal why Trump has been trying so hard lately to falsely paint his rival Joe Biden as being a Chinese financial puppet: Trump is in fact a Chinese financial puppet.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How early voting deters GOP voter suppression, Jennifer Rubin, right, Oct. 20, 2020. We should stop calling Nov. 3 “Election Day” and jennifer rubin new headshotinstead to refer to it as “the End of Voting Day.” As of Tuesday, more than 33 million votes had already been cast either by mail or in person. In all of 2016, 57.2 million people voted early.

Pollsters and analysts are still debating whether the early vote is cannibalizing Election Day turnout or whether we are looking at a historic increase in voter participation, but we do know that early voting both by mail and in person is skewing heavily Democratic. NBC News reports: “Nearly half of those votes — almost 14.2 million ballots — have come from Democrat-affiliated voters. Republican-affiliated voters have returned almost 10.1 million ballots. And while not every Democrat will vote for former Vice President Joe Biden and not every Republican will vote for President Donald Trump, Democrats currently have a 14-point edge in returned ballots.” Even if those votes take away from Democrats’ turnout on Nov. 3, this is still a huge worry for Republicans.

The large number of early mail-in votes suggests that the warnings from Democrats about returning ballots early to avoid postal delays have resonated. By contrast, the rate of return from Republicans is lagging. The New York Times reports: “Ballot return data from heavily Democratic cities like Pittsburgh; Chapel Hill, N.C.; and Tampa, Fla., and the long lines of cars waiting at a Houston arena to drop off ballots, are signs that many voters have followed through on their intentions to cast ballots well ahead of Nov. 3. There is still time for Republicans to catch up in many places, and they are expected to vote in strong numbers in person on Election Day. . . . But in states that have begun accepting absentee ballots, Democrats have built what appears to be a sizable advantage, after years when Republicans were usually more likely to vote by mail.”

The advantage of “banking” votes early cannot be underestimated. The potential burden of long lines (often the result of Republicans’ refusal to provide an adequate number of polling places) could fall disproportionately on Republican voters, some of whom may give up rather than wait in line for hours. In addition, Republican poll “observers” will have fewer ballots from Democrats on Election Day to challenge (e.g., on signature discrepancies). In addition, elderly voters who thought they would vote on Nov. 3 may eventually decide not to show up given the surge of the coronavirus in states such as Wisconsin. And lastly, any efforts to intimidate and harass voters on Nov. 3 will find fewer Democratic voters. (Federal law and state law in all 50 states prohibit voter intimidation, but such behavior can be often difficult to identify and prevent.)

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Prosecutors Charge Russian Intelligence Officers in Cyberattacks, Michael S. Schmidt and Nicole Perlroth, Oct. 20, 2020 (print ed.). The Justice Department announced on Monday indictments of six Russian military intelligence officers in connection with worldwide cyberattacks, including hacked elections in France and the 2018 Winter Olympics. The Justice Department on Monday announced indictments of six Russian military intelligence officers in connection with major hacks worldwide, including of the Winter Olympics and elections in France as well as an attack in 2017 aimed at destabilizing Ukraine that spread rapidly and was blamed for billions of dollars in damage.

Prosecutors said the suspects were from the same Russian unit that conducted one of the Kremlin’s major operations to interfere in the 2016 American election: the theft of Democratic emails. They attacked the 2017 French presidential elections; targeted British authorities investigating the poisoning of a Russian former intelligence operative and the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea; and hacked the Ukrainian Parliament, finance ministry and electrical grid, according to court documents.

The case was another effort by Trump administration officials to punish Russia for its meddling in other countries’ affairs, even as President Trump has adopted a more accommodating stance toward Moscow. The charges did not address 2020 election interference; American intelligence agencies have assessed that Russia is trying to influence the vote in November.

“No country has weaponized its cybercapabilities as maliciously or irresponsibly as Russia, wantonly causing unprecedented damage to pursue small tactical advantages and to satisfy fits of spite,” said John C. Demers, the assistant attorney general for national security.

In a dig at President Vladimir V. Putin’s claims that he is restoring Russia to greatness, Mr. Demers added, “No nation will recapture greatness while behaving in this way.”

Prosecutors said the suspects worked for Unit 74455 of the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate, commonly referred to as the G.R.U. Known among cybersecurity analysts as Sandworm, the unit worked hand in hand with another G.R.U. unit, known as Fancy Bear, to leak Democrats’ stolen emails during the 2016 election, embarrassing Hillary Clinton’s campaign in the final stretch.

One of the suspects charged in the newly unsealed indictments, Anatoliy Sergeyevich Kovalev, was indicted two years ago on charges announced by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, over his suspected role in the 2016 election meddling.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Is the Trump Campaign Colluding With Russia Again? Michelle Goldberg, right, Oct. 20, 2020 (print ed.). Giuliani’s dirty tricks are the michelle goldberg thumbscandal, not Hunter Biden’s hard drive.

The Treasury Department last month imposed sanctions on four people linked to Russia for attempting to influence the presidential election, including a Ukrainian parliamentarian named Andriy Derkach, who has worked with Donald Trump’s consigliere Rudy Giuliani to smear Joe Biden. According to the Treasury, Derkach has been “an active Russian agent for over a decade, maintaining close connections with the Russian intelligence services.”

The Treasury said Derkach had worked covertly to cultivate “false and unsubstantiated narratives concerning U.S. officials in the upcoming 2020 presidential election” — an obvious reference to Biden. Derkach had released “edited audiotapes and other unsupported information” and managed to push his “unsubstantiated narratives” into Western media.

According to The Washington Post, U.S. intelligence agencies warned the White House last year that Giuliani, then searching in Ukraine for dirt about Biden and his son Hunter, was the target of a Russian influence operation. “The Russians have been cultivating Rudy Giuliani as an asset for over a year,” Chris Murphy, a Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told me. “Any information proffered by Rudy Giuliani is likely compromised.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump, who withdrew from the last debate, seeks changes to the one scheduled for Thursday, Michael M. Grynbaum, Oct. 20, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump’s withdrawal from the second presidential debate led to the event’s cancellation. Now, three days ahead of the final debate, Mr. Trump’s campaign is demanding changes to the format and accusing the organizers of bias toward Joseph R. Biden Jr.

In a letter on Monday marked by exaggeration and partisan invective, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, asked the Commission on Presidential Debates to refocus Thursday’s debate on the subject of foreign policy, rather than the six subjects announced last week by the moderator, Kristen Welker of NBC. They are “fighting Covid-19,” “American families,” “race in America,” climate change, national security and leadership.

Mr. Stepien — who mockingly referred to the nonpartisan commission as the “Biden Debate Commission” in a tweet — said it had “promised” that the debate would be about foreign policy and accused the group of “pro-Biden antics” that “have turned the entire debate season into a fiasco.”

It is true that in some campaign years, the third presidential debate has focused on foreign policy. But the debate organizers did not announce such a plan in 2020, saying that the third debate would mirror the format of the first, with six subjects selected by the moderator.

djt biden smiles resizedThe president’s campaign is keen to attack Mr. Biden on Thursday over foreign business deals arranged by one of his sons, Hunter Biden, and Mr. Stepien’s letter suggested that the lack of a foreign policy focus would “insulate Biden from his own history.” The debate format was announced weeks before a recent spate of stories in The New York Post that have made unverified claims about Hunter Biden.

Members of the debate commission were deliberating on Monday about potential rule changes to Thursday’s event, in light of the chaos that ensued last month at the first debate, in Cleveland, when Mr. Trump frequently interrupted Mr. Biden and the moderator.

The debate commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A Biden spokesman, T. J. Ducklo, said that Mr. Stepien had sent the letter “because Donald Trump is afraid to face more questions about his disastrous Covid response.”

“The campaigns and the commission agreed months ago that the debate moderator would choose the topics,” Mr. Ducklo said in a statement.

In his letter, Mr. Stepien also repeated several of Mr. Trump’s longstanding criticisms of the debate commission, including its decision not to add, at the last minute, an additional debate to the 2020 schedule, and the baseless claim that “the president’s microphone was oscillated” during his first debate in 2016.

Notably, Mr. Stepien’s letter did not repeat Mr. Trump’s recent baseless accusations that Ms. Welker, the moderator and a respected White House correspondent, was biased toward Democrats. Mr. Trump’s aides, including a top adviser, Jason Miller, have previously spoken warmly about Ms. Welker, calling her “a very good choice” to oversee Thursday’s debate.

American System Network, Opinion: Brennan, Clapper, Hayden, Panetta and Other Intelligence Veterans Condemn New York Post’s Alleged Hunter Biden Email Revelations webster tarpley 2007as Having “All the Classic Earmarks of a Russian Disinformation Operation,” Webster G. Tarpley, right, Oct. 20, 2020.

Reports Surface of Months of Preparation for Current Phony Laptop Op; Key Role of Giuliani Points to Dirty Pro-Trump Faction of FBI; Where  Are Supposedly Incriminating Tapes?

Would-Be Dictator Is Losing It as Election Defeat Approaches: He Bluntly Orders Barr to Start Witch Hunt against Bidens; Still No Word about What Crime, If Any, Might Be Charged; Meadows Tells Federal Judge That Trump Tweets Have No Legal Standing, Meaning They Are Just Random Demagogy.

Fate of US May Depend on Very Bad Weather for November 3: As Democrats Bank Large Proportions of Mail in Votes and Early Votes, Trump GOP Becomes More Dependent on Votes Cast on Traditional Election Day: Rainstorms and Blizzards at That Time Could Be Decisive Factors for Turnout.

NYT-Siena Poll Gives Biden 9 Point Lead; Finds Americans Favor a New $2 Trillion Pandemic Relief and Stimulus Package, 72-21; But Moscow Mitch Chooses This Moment to Order Trump Not to Compromise with Pelosi! 

 

Virus Victims, Reponses

ny times logoNew York Times, A Viral Theory Cited by Health Officials Draws Fire From Scientists, Apoorva Mandavilli and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Updated Oct. 20, 2020. A manifesto urging reliance on “herd immunity” without lockdowns was warmly received by administration officials. But the strategy cannot stem the pandemic, many experts say.

As the coronavirus pandemic erupted this spring, two Stanford University professors — Dr. Jay Bhattacharya and Dr. Scott W. Atlas — bonded over a shared concern that lockdowns were creating economic and societal devastation.

Now Dr. Atlas is President Trump’s pandemic adviser, a powerful voice inside the White House. And Dr. Bhattacharya is one of three authors of the so-called Great Barrington Declaration, a scientific treatise that calls for allowing the coronavirus to spread naturally in order to achieve herd immunity — the point at which enough people have been infected to stall transmission of the pathogen in the community.

While Dr. Atlas and administration officials have denied advocating this approach, they have praised the ideas in the declaration. The message is aligned with Mr. Trump’s vocal opposition on the campaign trail to lockdowns, even as the country grapples with renewed surges of the virus.

The central proposition — which, according to the declaration’s website, is supported by thousands of signatories who identify as science or health professionals — is that to contain the coronavirus, people “who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal” while those at high risk are protected from infection.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Oct. 20, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

  • World Cases: 40,747,420, Deaths: 1,124,480
  • U.S. Cases:     8,459,967, Deaths:    225,269

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why Biden Will Need to Spend Big, Paul Krugman, right, Oct. 20, 2020 (print ed.). What should Joe Biden’s economic policy be if he wins paul krugman(and Democrats take the Senate, so that he can actually pass legislation)?

I’m pretty sure I know what his economists think he should do, but I’m not equally sure that everyone on his political team fully gets it, and I’m worried that the news media will experience sticker shock — that is, they may not be ready for the price tag on what he should and probably will propose.

So here’s what everyone should understand: Given the current and likely future state of the U.S. economy, it’s time to (a) spend a lot of money on the future and (b) not worry about where the

washington post logoWashington Post, McConnell warns White House against making stimulus deal before election, sources say, Jeff Stein and Erica Werner, Oct. 20, 2020. 
Suggests Pelosi is not negotiating in good faith and could disrupt Supreme Court nomination

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump urges stimulus package bigger than $2.2 trillion as Senate GOP readies slimmed-down measure, Jeff Stein and Erica Werner, Oct. 20, 2020. Pelosi and Mnuchin up against Tuesday night deadline for deal that could become law before election.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were locked in last-ditch negotiations on Tuesday aimed at reaching an approximately $2 trillion economic relief package days before the Nov. 3 election, as Senate Republicans prepared to advance a much narrower measure this week.

In a Bloomberg interview on Tuesday, Pelosi said she has insisted that the White House and Democrats bring forward their best offers by the end of the day so they can examine key differences for a final phase of negotiations.

She also said that if they are going to vote on a deal by the end of next week, they need to agree on specific language by the end of this week. She described herself as “optimistic” but said key differences remain, particularly on business liability protections and state aid.

Trump, for his part, has brushed aside complaints from Senate Republicans and said they will ultimately back a package if he tells them to.

washington post logoWashington Post, Wichita man arrested for allegedly threatening to kidnap and kill mayor over city’s mask mandate, police say, Timothy Bella, Oct. 20, 2020 (print ed.). When Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple was told about the series of text messages sent to another city official last week, the Democrat said he noticed that the man, frustrated by the city’s mask mandate to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, had spelled out a graphic, specific threat to kidnap and kill him.

“He said he was going to kidnap me and slash my throat and he needed my address because I needed to see the hangman — me and everyone who, something about tyranny,” Whipple told the Wichita Eagle. The mayor indicated to the New York Times that the man also said he wanted to turn him into fertilizer.

The Wichita Police Department confirmed that Meredith Dowty, 59, was arrested Friday night on a charge of criminal threat for allegedly sending the frightening texts directed at Whipple. An investigation is underway and the case is expected to be presented to the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office sometime this week, police said in a news release.

The arrest in Kansas’s largest city follows a disturbing trend of alleged abduction plots involving elected officials nationwide. Federal and state officials revealed this month that they had thwarted an alleged plot by 13 people to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D). Last week, an FBI agent said that some of those charged in the plan to kidnap Whitmer had also discussed “taking” Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D).

Since July, Wichita has enforced an ordinance requiring people to wear masks in public. Even though the mandate was extended last month, some in Wichita strongly questioned the need to wear masks in public. At a Sept. 8 City Council meeting, more than 100 people spoke for close to seven hours in opposition to the mandate. Many said they believed that the order is a violation of their religious beliefs or constitutional rights, the Eagle reported.

Whipple, 38, told the Eagle that the order appeared to enrage Dowty, a retired firefighter who pointed to “masks and tyranny” as a source of his anger. Dowty was allegedly upset at Whipple over what the mayor described as “not being able to see his mother because of covid restrictions on elderly homes.” In Sedgwick County, which includes Wichita, there have been nearly 10,000 cases and 121 deaths, according to county data.

ny times logoNew York Times, Surprising Results in Initial Virus Testing in N.Y.C. Schools, Dana Rubinstein and J. David Goodman, Oct. 20, 2020 (print ed.). The absence of outbreaks, if it holds, suggests that the city’s efforts to return children to classrooms could be an influential model for the nation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Voter confusion rattles officials in Pa.; deadline to register looms, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Elise Viebeck, Oct. 20, 2020 (print ed.). Elections officials in the critical swing state are being inundated with complaints from first-time and absentee voters having difficulty registering to vote or requesting a mail ballot, fueling anxiety just as today’s 5 p.m. deadline approaches.

 

 

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside the ‘Malarkey Factory,’ Biden’s war room designed to fight online misinformation, Matt Viser, Oct. 20, 2020 (print ed.). Joe Biden’s campaign has quietly built a multimillion-dollar operation with dozens of people monitoring the Web and deploying countermeasures.

Joe Biden’s campaign has quietly built a multimillion-dollar operation over the past two months that’s largely designed to combat misinformation online, aiming to rebut President Trump while bracing for any information warfare that could take place in the aftermath of the election.

The effort, internally called the “Malarkey Factory,” consists of dozens of people around the country monitoring what information is gaining traction digitally, whether it’s resonating with swing voters and, if so, how to fight back. The three most salient attacks the Malarkey Factory has confronted so far are claims that Biden is a socialist, that he is “creepy” and that he is “sleepy” or senile.

In preparation for misinformation spreading as voters head to the polls, especially a stretch around Election Day when Facebook will not let campaigns buy new ads, the campaign has partnered with dozens of Facebook pages associated with liberal individuals or groups that have large followings. The campaign has also enlisted 5,000 surrogates with big social media platforms who can pump out campaign messages.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Taunts Lesley Stahl of ‘60 Minutes’ After Cutting Off Interview, Michael M. Grynbaum and Maggie Haberman, Oct. 20, 2020. Two weeks from Election Day, the president picked a fight with the country’s most popular television news program.

President Trump abruptly cut off an interview with the “60 Minutes” star Lesley Stahl at the White House on Tuesday and then taunted her on Twitter, posting a short behind-the-scenes video of her at the taping and noting that she had not been wearing a mask in the clip.

Mr. Trump then threatened to post his interview with Ms. Stahl ahead of its intended broadcast time on Sunday evening, calling it “FAKE and BIASED.”

The spectacle of a president, two weeks from Election Day, picking a fight with the nation’s most popular television news program began on Tuesday after Mr. Trump grew irritated with Ms. Stahl’s questions, according to two people familiar with the circumstances of the taping.

One person briefed on what took place said that Mr. Trump had spent more than 45 minutes filming with Ms. Stahl and her CBS News crew, and that the taping had not wrapped up when the president’s aides had expected it to.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. held secret talks with Syria over missing American journalist, sanctions and U.S. military presence, Syrian newspaper reports, Sarah austin tice CustomDadouch, Oct. 20, 2020 (print ed.). Two senior U.S. officials visited Damascus in August for secret talks about the fate of missing American journalist Austin Tice, sanctions and the U.S, military presence in Syria, in rare high-level negotiations, according to a newspaper aligned with the Syrian government.

According to the report in Al Watan newspaper, U.S. Ambassador Roger Carstens, an envoy for hostage affairs, and Kash Patel, a top White House counter-terrorism advisor, met with Ali Mamlouk, the head of Syria’s intelligence agency, in his office in Damascus.

The visit, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, comes as the White House has been pressing Syria to release Tice, right, a freelance journalist abducted in Syria in 2012 and believed to be held there by the Syrian government or allied forces.

Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh is shown as President Trump awarded him a Presidential Medal of Freedom on Feb. 4 at the State of the Union address.

Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh is shown as President Trump awarded him a Presidential Medal of Freedom on Feb. 4 at the State of the Union address.

washington post logoWashington Post, Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh says his lung cancer is terminal, Marisa Iati, Oct. 20, 2020. Conservative talk radio giant Rush Limbaugh told his listeners Monday that the advanced lung cancer he announced this year is terminal.

Limbaugh, whose program is nationally syndicated, said he received lung scans last week that showed “some progression of the cancer” after it was previously reduced to a manageable level.

“You measure a happy life against whatever medication it takes. And at some point you decide, you know, this medication may be working, but I hate the way I feel every day,” Limbaugh, 69, said on the air. “I’m not there yet. But it is part and parcel of this. It’s tough to realize that the days where I do not think I’m under a death sentence are over.”

“We all know that we’re going to die at some point,” he added, “but when you have a terminal disease diagnosis that has a time frame to it, then that puts a different psychological and even physical awareness to it.” Limbaugh announced his cancer in February with few details other than that he had been diagnosed by two doctors after experiencing shortness of breath on his birthday, Jan. 12. He said at the time that he would soon begin treatment.

About 600 radio stations carry Limbaugh’s program, which since 1988 has influenced mainstream Republican thought and attracted a loyal following of listeners who call themselves “Dittoheads” to express their agreement with him. His program often criticizes feminists — whom he has called “feminazis” — environmentalists, the media and Democrats.

ny times logoNew York Times, New Yorker Suspends Jeffrey Toobin After Zoom Incident, Johnny Diaz and Azi Paybarah, Oct. 20, 2020. In a statement, the magazine said it was investigating a matter involving the author and CNN legal analyst.

jeffrey toobinnew yorker logoThe New Yorker said on Monday that it had suspended the staff writer Jeffrey Toobin after he exposed himself during a Zoom call last week with employees of the magazine and WNYC radio, according to two people familiar with the call.

Staff writers at The New Yorker and employees from WNYC, which jointly produce the magazine’s podcast, were on a video call prepping for election night coverage, according to Vice, which first reported the episode.

During a pause in the call for breakout discussions, Mr. Toobin switched to a second call that was the video-call equivalent cnn logoof phone sex, according to the two people familiar with the call, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Asked Monday afternoon about reports that he had exposed himself, Mr. Toobin said in a statement: “I made an embarrassingly stupid mistake, believing I was off-camera. I apologize to my wife, family, friends and co-workers.”

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

538.com, Analysis: Democrats Win Full Control Of More State Governments Than Republicans? Nathaniel Rakich, Oct. 20, 2020.
According to the FiveThirtyEight forecast,1 Democrats have a 72 percent chance of winning a federal government trifecta: that is, control of the presidency, Senate and House. But the 2020 election could also usher in a number of new trifectas on the state level.

Single-party control of the governor’s office, state Senate and state House can enable that party to pass its agenda unencumbered, as Democrats showed after the 2018 midterms. The party used the six state-government trifectas it gained that year to pass major liberal legislation like funding full-day kindergarten in Colorado, raising the minimum wage in Illinois and setting ambitious renewable-energy goals in New Mexico. Democrats also broke up total Republican control of four other states, allowing them to take a hard line in negotiations with the GOP and bend legislation to their will.

However, thanks to their dominance of state-level elections during the Obama administration, Republicans still enjoy more state-government trifectas than their rivals: They have full control of 21 state governments, while Democrats have full control of 15. Going by population, that means roughly 40 percent of Americans live in states under complete Republican control, while 37 percent live in Democratic trifecta states.

Which party controls state government?

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Our Rankings of Election Readiness in 7 Battleground States, Nick Corasaniti and Reid J. Epstein, Oct. 20, 2020 (print ed.). Short on money and under pressure, many swing states are still trying to shore up a process challenged by court cases, new laws and surges in the virus.

In Georgia, the state’s voting machines have malfunctioned in three consecutive elections this year alone.

In Pennsylvania, election officials are staring down possibly the biggest ballot processing backlog in the country, with no means of even touching the ballots until polls open on Election Day.

And in North Carolina, thousands of submitted absentee ballots are currently in purgatory, neither rejected nor accepted but “under review,” amid a back-and-forth court battle over so-called ballot curing.

Short on money, overworked and under enormous pressure, many battleground states are still in the process of standing up their electoral systems, a building-a-plane-midflight reality for a democratic process that is being challenged daily by court cases, new laws and surges in the coronavirus.

The New York Times assessed the readiness of seven battleground states, and will continue to do so up to Nov. 3. Each of these states was won by Donald J. Trump in 2016; Joseph R. Biden Jr. is now ahead or effectively tied with Mr. Trump in most polls in all seven.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How Could Your Ballot Be Rejected? Let Us Count the Ways, Stuart A. Thompson, Oct. 20, 2020 (print ed.). (Part of a visual series on how the election could go wrong). Pay attention to these five things when you vote.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump’s attack on Fauci makes no sense, Aaron Blake, Oct. 19, 2020. With two weeks to go in the 2020 election, President Trump has apparently decided to turn scientists into his electoral bogeymen. At a rally Sunday, he attacked Joe Biden by saying he “will listen to the scientists” on things like locking down the country, saying such a thing would’ve led to a “massive depression.” Then Trump on Monday took his sharpest aim to date at Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infection-disease specialist.

After Fauci’s “60 Minutes” interview, Trump called him a “disaster” and said that if Fauci were in charge, we would have seen as many as 800,000 deaths already — far more than the 219,000 we currently have.

Trump’s claim has absolutely no basis in reality, though.

On a phone call with supporters, which some journalists were able to listen to, Trump said that if he had listened to Fauci, 500,000 people would have died.

“People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots, all these people that have gotten it wrong,” Trump said. “Fauci is a nice guy. He’s been here for 500 years. He called every one of them wrong.”

djt maga hatTrump at another point upped the numbers, reportedly saying, “Fauci — if we listened to him, we’d have 700,000 [or] 800,000 deaths.”

Such counterfactuals are prone to abuse. How can you disprove something like that? There’s no way of knowing what would have happened if Trump followed the private advice of someone whose private advice we’re not completely privy to.

But this one’s pretty easy to debunk.

The first thing we can say is that the level of death Trump described was at least theoretically possible — but mostly in a scenario that went against what we know about Fauci’s advice.

The famous Imperial College model from the spring suggested as many as 2.2 million deaths in the United States. Trump has since used that to suggest that he prevented 2 million deaths. The model, though, dealt with a scenario in which there was precisely zero mitigation. In other words, Trump is taking credit for avoiding a complete worst-case scenario.

Palmer Report, Opinion: This is turning into pandemonium, Bill Palmer, Oct. 20, 2020. There is less reason than ever to believe that Donald Trump will win the election. He’s running out of time. He’s running out of last ditch schemes. He’s also running out of marbles. But Trump’s deteriorating behavior means there’s more reason than ever that we must vote Trump out of office.

djt hands up mouth open CustomIn the past twenty-four hours alone, Donald Trump has publicly confessed to a campaign quid pro quo with Exxon, which Exxon now insists never happened. He’s called a reporter a “criminal” for refusing to report on his latest phony conspiracy theory. He’s condemned the Attorney General for not arresting his adversaries. He’s called Dr. Fauci an “idiot” and mocked him for how he throws a baseball. And that’s just the short list.

This man is blatantly unraveling in front of our eyes. We can talk about whether it’s the stress, or if he’s on drugs, or what. But the bottom line is that his behavior is shifting further away from rational by the hour. If he took off his clothes and went naked crowd surfing at his next rally, you’d only be half surprised.

Now that the Supreme Court and the debate commission have both just ruled against Donald Trump on major election-related matters, you have to wonder if this bad news will only further accelerate his spiraling. This is turning into pandemonium – and all we can do is drive voter turnout in historic numbers to make sure the madness ends soon.

ny times logoNew York Times, A deadlocked Supreme Court lets stand a Pennsylvania ruling allowing extra time for mail-in voting, Adam Liptak and Nick Corasaniti, Oct. 20, 2020 (print ed.). The Supreme Court on Monday let stand a ruling by Pennsylvania’s highest court that allowed election officials to count some mailed ballots received up to three days after Election Day. The state is a key battleground in the presidential election.

The Supreme Court’s action was the result of a deadlock. It takes five votes to grant a stay, and the Republicans who had asked the court to intervene could only muster four: Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh. On the other side of the divide were Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the court’s three-member liberal wing: Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Neither side gave reasons. The result suggested that Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, could play a decisive role in election disputes if — as Republicans hope — she joins the court before the election.

She is expected to be confirmed by the Senate next week.

The ruling in the Pennsylvania case is a major victory for Democrats in the state who have been pushing to expand access to voting in the pandemic, and for a party that has been requesting absentee ballots at far greater numbers than Republicans. As of Friday, Democrats in Pennsylvania had requested 1,755,940 ballots, and Republicans had requested 672,381, according to data from the Pennsylvania secretary of state’s office.

Of course, the extra time could result in further delays in reporting results; Pennsylvania is already expected to be one of the last states to have voting results, since a state law prevents election officials from beginning to process ballots until Election Day, and Republicans in the state legislature have indicated that they will not be offering any relief to give them more time.

The Supreme Court decision also removes one more legal hurdle related to elections in Pennsylvania, a key battleground state with numerous voting-related lawsuits still undecided, including one about whether election officials will have to perform signature matching on absentee ballots.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Voters don’t need a definitive number to know that the Trump family is fleecing taxpayers, Editorial Board, Oct. 20, 2020. The State Department has reported that it has about 450 pages of records detailing its spending at properties owned by President Trump. The public has a right to this information. The State Department, responding to a public records lawsuit brought by The Post, said in August it would try to produce 300 of the pages by Oct. 15.

Want to guess how many pages it actually coughed up that day? Two — that’s right, a paltry two pages. No explanation was provided and, in a further thumb in the eye to the public’s right to know, the State Department signaled it has no plans to release more until mid-November. That is, of course, after the election that will decide whether Mr. Trump gets another four years in office. The State Department’s stonewalling is part of an overall effort by the president and his administration to keep secret how much public money has gone to his businesses, again raising troubling questions of what Mr. Trump is hiding. It’s also a sign of how he is infecting the entire government with his contempt for the law and the public.

The repeated refusal by federal and Trump Organization officials to provide information about government spending benefiting Mr. Trump’s properties — and often underwriting the travel of his adult children — prompted The Post to undertake an effort, led by reporter David A. Fahrenthold, to compile its own tally by using Freedom of Information Act requests and a lawsuit to obtain receipts one at a time. So far, The Post has found more than $1.2 million in federal money paid to Mr. Trump’s company, largely for hotel rooms and other expenses for aides and Secret Service agents when Mr. Trump visits — which he does with frequency — his own properties.

The lawsuit filed by The Post in June alleged that the State Department had improperly withheld all records responsive to eight public record requests submitted over the previous three months. Under the law, federal agencies are required to respond to requests in 20 business days, followed by prompt delivery of documents. Of the 450 documents the State Department catalogued as responsive to The Post’s requests, it produced just two documents showing $8,316 paid to the Trump Organization’s Doonbeg golf club in Ireland for a visit of Trump’s daughter-in-law and campaign adviser Lara Trump. Redacted from the records was the rate per room the organization charged federal taxpayers. Good guess it wasn’t the bargain rate Mr. Trump’s son Eric Trump once claimed is all the organization charges the government.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The case against Trump, in 600 ALL-CAPS WORDS AND 35 EXCLAMATION POINTS! Dana Milbank, right, Oct. 20, 2020. When dana milbank CustomPresident Trump was in the hospital battling covid-19 two weeks ago, he devoted one morning to making the case for his reelection in a series of 15 all-caps tweets.

Now, less than two weeks from Election Day, Americans are voting in almost every state. At least 33 million have already cast their ballots. What better time to borrow Trump’s literary device and deploy it against him? Here goes:

LETTING 220,000 AMERICANS DIE FROM COVID-19 — WORST IN WORLD. VOTE!

LOSING 3.9 MILLION JOBS IN FOUR YEARS — WORST IN RECORDED HISTORY. VOTE!

 

Law, Crime, Courts

Ghislaine Maxwell, left, Donald Trump and future First Lady Melania Trump

Ghislaine Maxwell, left, Donald Trump and future First Lady Melania Trump

Prince Andrew, Virginia Roberts and Ghislaine Maxwell, 2001Ghislaine Maxwell, background right, is photographed also with Virginia Giuffre and Prince Andrew. Giuffre claims Maxwell told her to have sex with the prince, an allegation both Andrew and Maxwell have denied. Giuffre was a teen at the time. Courtesy of Virginia Giuffre

Miami Herald, Ghislaine Maxwell loses fight to keep her Jeffrey Epstein testimony sealed, Kevin G. Hall and Ben Wieder, Oct. 20, 2020 (print ed.). A federal appeals court dealt Ghislaine Maxwell, the alleged madam to disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, twin blows late Monday by declining to consolidate her appeals in numerous overlapping cases and striking down her effort to thwart release of a controversial deposition she gave in a now-settled civil lawsuit.

The three-judge Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held more than two hours of oral arguments last week, and issued a succinct Monday afternoon order holding that a lower court judge did not err in order the release of a 418-page deposition from April 2016 that could shed new light on the Epstein empire.

perversion of justice miami herald logo“We have reviewed all of the arguments raised by Defendant-Appellant Maxwell on appeal and find them to be without merit,” the judges wrote, also turning away a request for consolidation with Maxwell’s criminal case in the Southern District of New York. “We DENY the motion to consolidate this appeal with the pending appeal in United States v. Maxwell.”

The ruling affirmed a decision over the summer by U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska to release hundreds of documents from a 2015 civil suit involving Maxwell and Epstein accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre.

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Dept. Says Trump’s Denial of Rape Accusation Was an Official Act, Benjamin Weiser and Alan Feuer, Oct. 20, 2020 (print ed.). The government lawyers were defending the decision to intervene in a defamation lawsuit filed against President Trump by E. Jean Carroll, below left.

e jean carrollThe Justice Department said on Monday that President Trump should not be sued personally for having denied a rape allegation because he made the statement while acting in his official capacity as president.

Lawyers for the government made the argument as they defended Attorney General William P. Barr’s decision to intervene in a defamation lawsuit filed in a New York court against President Trump by E. Jean Carroll, the writer.

Ms. Carroll has said that Mr. Trump raped her in a department store two decades ago and then falsely denied the attack, branding her a liar and harming her reputation.

But Justice Department lawyers say that even though the allegation concerns an incident that occurred decades before Mr. Trump became president, his denial was still an official act because he “addressed matters relating to his fitness for office as part of an official White House response to press inquiries.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court to review challenges to Trump’s border wall funding, ‘remain in Mexico’ policy, Robert Barnes, Oct. 20, 2020 (print ed.). The Trump administration had asked the court to intervene after receiving adverse decisions in lower courts.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge strikes down Trump plan to slash food stamps for 700,000 unemployed Americans, Spencer S. Hsu, Oct. 20, 2020 (print ed.). A federal judge on Sunday formally struck down a Trump administration attempt to end food stamp benefits for nearly 700,000 unemployed people, blocking as “arbitrary and capricious” the first of three such planned measures to restrict the federal food safety net.

beryl howellIn a scathing 67-page opinion, Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell of D.C., right, condemned the Agriculture Department for failing to justify or even address the impact of the sweeping change on states, saying its shortcomings had been placed in stark relief amid the coronavirus pandemic, during which unemployment has quadrupled and rosters of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program have grown by more than 17 percent, with more than 6 million new enrollees.

The rule “at issue in this litigation radically and abruptly alters decades of regulatory practice, leaving States scrambling and exponentially increasing food insecurity for tens of thousands of Americans,” Howell wrote, adding that the Agriculture Department “has been icily silent about how many [adults] would have been denied SNAP benefits had the changes sought . . . been in effect while the pandemic rapidly spread across the country.” The judge concluded that the department’s “utter failure to address the issue renders the agency action arbitrary and capricious.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Virginia governor calls for VMI investigation after Black cadets describe relentless racism, Ian Shapira, Oct. 20, 2020 (print ed.). Gov. Ralph Northam (D), a Virginia Military Institute graduate, said the “culture is unacceptable for any Virginia institution in the 21st century, especially one funded by taxpayers.”

ralph northam file headshotVirginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) ordered an investigation into the culture at the Virginia Military Institute on Monday after Black cadets and alumni described relentless racism at the nation’s oldest state-supported military college.

The governor, who graduated in VMI’s Class of 1981, co-wrote a letter to the college’s Board of Visitors informing it that the state will fund an independent probe into the school’s treatment of its Black students.

His action followed a Washington Post story detailing a lynching threat, Klan reminiscences and Confederacy veneration at the Lexington school, whose cadets fought and died for the slaveholding South during the Civil War.

The letter — signed by Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D), and several House and Senate leaders, including Del. Lamont Bagby (D-Henrico), the chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus — said the state is directing an “independent, third-party review” of what officials called “the clear and appalling culture of ongoing structural racism at the Virginia Military Institute.”

  • Washington Post, Opinion: Joe Biden has a better option than court-packing: Legislating, Steve Pearlstein, Oct. 20, 2020.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Top Palestinian official in critical condition with covid-19, Steve Hendrix, Oct. 20, 2020 (print ed.). Saeb Erekat, the longtime public face of senior Palestinian leadership, tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this month. He is on a ventilator in an Israeli hospital.

Saeb Erekat, a top Palestinian leader who tested positive for the novel coronavirus earlier this month, was placed on a ventilator Monday and is in critical condition at an Israeli hospital, the facility said in a statement.

Erekat, well known to diplomats as the Palestinians’ chief negotiator and the leader most frequently quoted by Western media, was rushed his from West Bank home to a hospital in Tel Aviv on Sunday, then transferred to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Karem Medical Center.

The 65-year-old has a history of respiratory illness and underwent a lung transplant in 2017. Erekat is also currently fighting a bacterial infection, the hospital said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: McMaster says Trump’s Taliban deal is Munich-like appeasement, Josh Rogin, Oct. 20, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump’s Afghanistan policy is confusing and unclear, even for his own officials. His top general and his national security adviser are publicly battling over U.S. troop withdrawals in the country.

And now H.R. McMaster, a retired Army lieutenant general and former national security adviser, has publicly said that Trump’s Afghanistan policy is a “travesty,” and that his deal with the Taliban constitutes appeasement similar to Europe’s accommodation with Adolf Hitler in the Munich agreement of 1938.

McMaster, doing a publicity tour for his new book, sounded off about the Trump administration’s recent approach to Afghanistan during an online event hosted Thursday by the Alexander Hamilton Society, a nonprofit foreign policy network that operates on college campuses across the country. McMaster told the audience that, during his term as national security adviser, the U.S. commitment in Afghanistan had been on track to be sustainable and effective. But in making a deal with the Taliban, he said, Trump has now betrayed the mission and undermined U.S. security.

McMaster said that Trump repeated and then exceeded all of the flaws of the Obama administration’s approach to Afghanistan by seeking to bring the Taliban into the Afghan government and pressuring the Afghan government to go along. Trump, he said, apparently forgot that the Taliban are the enemy, and that they are intertwined with terrorist groups.

 

Oct. 19

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Reponses

 

Media News

 

World News

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Courts

 

Trump Watch

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Millennials are the poster children for government fiscal failure, Catherine Rampell, right, Oct. 19, 2020 (print ed.). For months, catherine rampellRepublicans have dragged their feet on additional stimulus. Even the “skinny” fiscal relief bills that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has begrudgingly scheduled votes on this coming week seem unlikely to pass, because Republicans apparently think the economy is recovering more or less fine on its own.

We millennials have been unusually unlucky. We’ve experienced two once-in-a-lifetime recessions within the first decade of our careers, and we still haven’t recovered from the first one.

Even before anyone knew the enduring consequences of the Great Recession, economists had ample evidence that graduating into a bad job market has long-term (perhaps lifetime) scarring effects on income and other measures of well-being.

Millennials are less likely to be married than earlier generations were at the same age, or to have children. And the stereotypes of basement-dwelling are true: We’re more likely to still live with our parents.

Millennials’ failure to launch is not due to any alleged predilection for avocado toast. It’s the result of a sharp economic contraction, followed by the federal government’s decision to withdraw fiscal support (including to states and cities) too soon, which let poor hiring conditions fester for longer than necessary.

In the years after the financial crisis, successive classes of unlucky students kept graduating into a stagnant job market. The same phenomenon threatens to repeat because, once again, Congress refuses to act aggressively on fiscal aid, and the young are residual claimants on such government failures.

The Class of 2020, just like the Classes of 2008 to 2012 or so, has already fallen victim to a severe recession.

ny times logoNew York Times, Flush With Cash, Biden Eclipses Trump in the War for the Airwaves, Nick Corasaniti, Weiyi Cai and Denise Lu, Oct. 19, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump is being vastly outspent by Joseph R. Biden Jr. in television advertising in the general election battleground states and elsewhere, with the former vice president focusing overwhelmingly on the coronavirus as millions of Americans across the country begin casting early votes.

joe biden 2020 button CustomMr. Biden has maintained a nearly 2-to-1 advantage on the airwaves for months. His dominance is most pronounced in three critical swing states — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — where he spent about $53 million to Mr. Trump’s $17 million over the past month largely on ads assailing the president’s handling of the virus as well as the economy and taxes, according to data from Advertising Analytics, an ad tracking firm.

In Pennsylvania alone, Mr. Biden ran 38 different ads during a single week this month, a sign of how comprehensive his effort there has been.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump and Pelosi haven’t spoken in a year as grave crises grip the nation, Paul Kane, Oct. 19, 2020 (print ed.). History is littered with fractious relationships between leaders of the executive and legislative branches, but they often found a way to work together. 

President Trump stormed into the White House meeting with congressional leadership on Oct. 16, 2019, and launched into a diatribe loosely connected to a discussion of the Syrian civil war.

djt smiling fileTrump said he had not invited any of the Democrats, but several were present and he quickly belittled House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), calling her a “third-grade politician.”

“I wish you were a politician,” Pelosi shouted back, as she retold the story later that day at the Capitol.

Palmer Report, Opinion: This just keeps getting stranger, Bill Palmer, Oct. 19, 2020. Here’s a list of things that Donald Trump has done at his rallies within the past few days: Threatened to never visit several states again if he loses them. Threatened to fire the Governor of Florida, which he can’t do, if he loses the state. Danced like a fool. Threatened to shave his head. Threatened to leave the country if he loses.

bill palmer report logo headerHere’s the thing: if you ask people like Michael Cohen, they’ll tell you that Donald Trump doesn’t have a sense of humor. He’s always been eccentric, but he’s not one to joke around. Yet the longer he’s been out on the campaign trail since abruptly leaving the hospital, the more of a vaudeville act he’s developing. But he hasn’t become funny in a self aware way. Instead he’s coming off like what you might expect Donald Trump to be like if he were on laughing gas, or his brain were deprived of oxygen.

joe biden kamala harrisThere’s no precedent for how weird this is getting – not even in the movies. He’s not going on some Bulworth truth-telling binge. He’s not carrying out some darkly deranged but coherent plan like the Joker. Instead we’re seeing a guy, who’s never come close to feeling or understanding human emotion, who’s coming up against the end of things and whose mind seems to be splintering before us.

One thing is for sure: over these next two weeks, Trump’s behavior will only get stranger. Our job is to vote him out in overwhelming numbers, so he stops being our problem.

Virus Victims, Reponses

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washington post logoWashington Post, Pelosi sets Tuesday deadline for reaching stimulus deal with White House, Erica Werner, Oct. 19, 2020 (print ed.). House speaker indicates lack of agreement by then would mean no relief before election. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Sunday that an economic stimulus deal must be struck within 48 hours in order for Congress to pass legislation before Election Day, but she noted that significant differences still divide her and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

“Well that depends on the [Trump] administration,” Pelosi said on ABC’s “This Week” when asked if it was still possible to get relief to Americans ahead of the election barely two weeks from now.

Pelosi’s on-again-off-again talks with Mnuchin over a deal costing between $1.8 trillion and $2.2 trillion have been dragging on for months without producing results. The window for action is narrowing fast. For the first time, Pelosi put a deadline on them, indicating that if no agreement can be struck by Tuesday, it will not be possible to produce a new relief deal by the election. Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke for 75 minutes on Saturday and agreed to speak again on Monday.

“The 48 only relates to if we want to get it done before the election — which we do,” Pelosi said. “But we’re saying to them we have to freeze the design on some of these things, are we going with it or not, and what is the language.”

Tuesday’s deadline is exactly two weeks before the Nov. 3 elections.

The White House and Pelosi appeared to be at odds more over the substance of the package and not the dollar amount. In an interview broadcast Saturday with a Milwaukee television station, Trump said he would approve a spending package that was larger than even the $2.2 trillion that Democrats had sought.

“Nancy Pelosi doesn’t want to approve anything because she wants to bail out poorly run Democrat states,” Trump said in the interview. “And we don’t want to do that.”

Pelosi has called for more money for states and cities, but Republican local leaders are among those who have asked for more aid, not just Democrats.

Pelosi has not spoken with President Trump in over a year, but reiterated Sunday that she’s negotiating through his emissaries and there’s little point in talking directly with the president because he’s not truthful.

“You want to meet with him, you meet with him,” she told host George Stephanopoulos. “As far as I’m concerned, the speaker of the House must be respected in terms of what the purpose of the meeting is, what the preparation is for and what the likelihood of success would be.

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

  • World Cases: 40,372,513, Deaths: 1,119,544
  • U.S. Cases:     8,388,013, Deaths:    224,732

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Out of Control’: When Schools Opened in a Virus Hot Spot, Kate Taylor, Oct. 19, 2020 (print ed.). In a suburban Salt Lake City district, cases spiked as students returned to their classrooms. The fallout offers a cautionary tale.

On a Friday in mid-September, Sunny Washington got a text from another mother at her daughter’s high school in an affluent suburb of Salt Lake City. Three weeks into the school year, the number of coronavirus cases at the school was rising, and the district was considering shifting to online instruction. The text urged parents to beg the school board to keep classrooms open.

Ms. Washington ignored the text — she thought the school should be taking advice from public health experts, not parents. But other parents flooded the board with messages, and the school stayed open. Within a week, the number of cases had nearly quadrupled. A teacher was hospitalized and put on a ventilator. When the board finally closed the school temporarily, 77 students and staff members, including Ms. Washington’s daughter, had tested positive.

Her daughter’s school, Corner Canyon High School, experienced one of the biggest coronavirus outbreaks at a school in Utah, and possibly the country, with 90 cases within two weeks — most likely an undercount, since not all students and staff who were exposed or symptomatic got tested.

And Corner Canyon was not the only school in the district to have an outbreak. By Sept. 28, Canyons School District, with roughly 33,000 students, had temporarily closed three high schools and a middle school, telling about 8,000 students to learn from home.

The story of Canyons is an object lesson in what can happen when schools reopen in communities that are failing to contain the virus. In the two weeks before the district reopened, Salt Lake County had roughly 187 new cases per 100,000 people, a level at which some experts have advised against high schools opening in person; that level is two and a half times higher than the standard Washington State uses to recommend distance learning for all students.

gary herbertSince then, with schools and colleges open, things have only worsened, as both the county and Utah have become hot spots. In the two weeks that ended Thursday, Salt