June 2021 News (Part 2)

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Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative June, 2021 news and views (Part 2); The month's news prior to June 17 is in Part 1 of this report.

 

 

June 30

Top Headlines

 

Jan. 6 Pro-Trump Insurrection 


Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Governance, Politics, Elections

 

Heat Wave, Climate Change

 

Inside DC

 

Education, Civil Rights, Media News

 

Florida Condo Collapse 

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

World News

 

Top Stories 

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wsj logoWall Street Journal, Trump Organization and CFO Allen Weisselberg Expected to Be Charged Thursday, Corinne Ramey, Updated June 30, 2021. The Manhattan district attorney’s first charges in three-year probe will focus on alleged tax-related crimes at former president’s company.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office is expected to charge the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer with tax-related crimes on Thursday, people familiar with the matter said, which would mark the first criminal charges against the former president’s company since prosecutors began investigating it three years ago.

allen weisselberg croppedThe charges against the Trump Organization and Allen Weisselberg, right, the company’s longtime chief financial officer, are a blow to former President Donald Trump, who has fended off multiple criminal and civil probes during and after his presidency. Mr. Trump himself isn’t expected to be charged, his lawyer said. Mr. Weisselberg has rejected prosecutors’ attempts at gaining his cooperation, according to people familiar with the matter.

The defendants are expected to appear in court on Thursday afternoon, the people said.

The Trump Organization and Mr. Weisselberg are expected to face charges related to allegedly evading taxes on fringe benefits, the people said. For months, the Manhattan district attorney’s office and New York state attorney general’s office have been investigating whether Mr. Weisselberg and other employees illegally avoided paying taxes on perks—such as cars, apartments and private-school tuition—that they received from the Trump Organization.

If prosecutors could show the Trump Organization and its executives systematically avoided paying taxes, they could file more serious charges alleging a scheme, lawyers said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Security in Afghanistan Is Decaying, U.S. General Says as Forces Leave, Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Eric Schmitt, Updated June 30, 2021. “Civil war is certainly a path that can be visualized,” said Gen. Austin S. Miller, commander of the U.S.-led forces. “That should be a concern for the world.”

The commander of the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan warned on Tuesday that the country could be on a path to chaotic civil war as American and other international troops prepare to leave in the coming weeks.

His assessment, in a rare news conference at the headquarters of U.S. and NATO command in Kabul, will likely be one of the last publicly delivered by an American four-star general in Afghanistan, where recent events have included a Taliban offensive that has seized around 100 district centers, left dozens of civilians wounded and killed, and displaced thousands more.

nato logo flags name“Civil war is certainly a path that can be visualized if it continues on the trajectory it’s on,” the commander, Gen. Austin S. Miller, told reporters during the news conference. “That should be a concern for the world.”

With some intelligence estimates saying that the Afghan government could fall in six months to two years after a final American withdrawal, General Miller’s comments were a window into recent tension between the White House and the Pentagon.

For months, Pentagon leaders argued for some sort of lasting American military presence in Afghanistan, citing counterterrorism concerns and the need to provide a check on the Taliban’s advance. President Biden’s response, in April, was final: All American forces except for an embassy garrison will be gone by Sept. 11.

Speaking from a garden adjacent to the circle of flagpoles that once displayed the flags of the 36 countries that contributed to the U.S.-led NATO mission — now reduced to Turkey, Britain and the United States — General Miller said the troop withdrawal was reaching a point where he would soon end his command, which began in September 2018, and in turn, say goodbye to Afghanistan.

“From a military standpoint it’s going very well,” General Miller said of the U.S. withdrawal. He did not offer a timeline for when the withdrawal will be complete. The Taliban, for the most part, have not attacked U.S. or international forces as they have departed, instead focusing the brunt of the violence on the Afghanistan security forces and the civilians caught in the crossfire.

Devastated Miami condo (Photo by Amy Beth Bennett of the Associated Press).

Devastated Miami condo (Photo by Amy Beth Bennett of the Associated Press).

washington post logoWashington Post, Grand jury will examine Surfside condominium collapse, prosecutor says, Lori Rozsa, Kim Bellware, Mark Berman and Griff Witte, June 30, 2021 (print ed.). Miami's top prosecutor pledged Tuesday to have a grand jury examine last week's collapse of an oceanfront high-rise, suggesting that even as the search continues for survivors, the focus was quickly shifting to accountability for a disaster likely to go down as one of the country's worst.

The announcement by Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle did not address whether criminal charges could ultimately be filed, as they have been in other mass-casualty events that were found to be a result of negligence or incompetence.

But while Fernandez Rundle raised the prospect of “potential criminal investigations,” she said the grand jury inquiry would be used to determine “what steps we can take to safeguard our residents.”

“[T]his is a matter of extreme public importance, and as the State Attorney elected to keep this community safe, I will not wait,” she said in a statement.

washington post logoWashington Post, Condo board’s head warned damage was ‘accelerating’; death toll rises to 12 as Biden makes plans for visit, Rebecca Tan, Beth Reinhard and Tim Craig, June 30, 2021 (print ed.).  New documents show the Champlain Towers South condo building was badly damaged and needed millions of dollars in repairs to fix problems that continued to worsen in the months before last week's collapse of the 40-year-building.

In an April letter, the president of the Champlain Towers South condo association warned residents that damage to the structure's concrete support system was "accelerating" and "would begin to multiply exponentially" in coming years. The letter, written by president Jean Wodnicki, also offered a broad explanation of why residents were being asked to fund more than $15 million in repairs.

“When you can visually see the concrete spalling [cracking], that means that the rebar holding it together is rusting and deteriorating beneath the surface,” Wodnicki wrote. “Please note that the original scope of work in the 2018 report has expanded. The concrete deterioration is accelerating.”

In related news: 

ny times logoNew York Times, Security in Afghanistan Is Decaying, U.S. General Says as Forces Leave,Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Eric Schmitt, Updated June 30, 2021. “Civil war is certainly a path that can be visualized,” said Gen. Austin S. Miller, commander of the U.S.-led forces. “That should be a concern for the world.”

The commander of the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan warned on Tuesday that the country could be on a path to chaotic civil war as American and other international troops prepare to leave in the coming weeks.

His assessment, in a rare news conference at the headquarters of U.S. and NATO command in Kabul, will likely be one of the last publicly delivered by an American four-star general in Afghanistan, where recent events have included a Taliban offensive that has seized around 100 district centers, left dozens of civilians wounded and killed, and displaced thousands more.

“Civil war is certainly a path that can be visualized if it continues on the trajectory it’s on,” the commander, Gen. Austin S. Miller, told reporters during the news conference. “That should be a concern for the world.”

With some intelligence estimates saying that the Afghan government could fall in six months to two years after a final American withdrawal, General Miller’s comments were a window into recent tension between the White House and the Pentagon.

For months, Pentagon leaders argued for some sort of lasting American military presence in Afghanistan, citing counterterrorism concerns and the need to provide a check on the Taliban’s advance. President Biden’s response, in April, was final: All American forces except for an embassy garrison will be gone by Sept. 11.

Speaking from a garden adjacent to the circle of flagpoles that once displayed the flags of the 36 countries that contributed to the U.S.-led NATO mission — now reduced to Turkey, Britain and the United States — General Miller said the troop withdrawal was reaching a point where he would soon end his command, which began in September 2018, and in turn, say goodbye to Afghanistan.

“From a military standpoint it’s going very well,” General Miller said of the U.S. withdrawal. He did not offer a timeline for when the withdrawal will be complete. The Taliban, for the most part, have not attacked U.S. or international forces as they have departed, instead focusing the brunt of the violence on the Afghanistan security forces and the civilians caught in the crossfire.

 

Jan. 6 Pro-Trump Insurrection 

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Day of Rage: An Investigation of How a Mob Stormed the Capitol, Staff Report, June 30, 2021 (video). We spent six months reviewing thousands of videos to reconstruct the most complete picture of the Capitol riot, finding at least eight places where rioters broke in. Our 40-minute visual investigation maps out what else happened — and why. Watch it here, and scan through some of our key findings.

In the six months since an angry pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, immense efforts have been made not only to find the rioters and hold them accountable, but also — and perhaps more important — to dig into the details of Jan. 6 and slowly piece together what actually happened that day.

Congressional committees have looked into police and intelligence failures. The Justice Department has launched a nationwide investigation that has now resulted in more than 500 arrests. And while Republicans in Congress blocked the formation of a blue-ribbon bipartisan committee, House Democrats are poised to appoint a smaller select committee.

Even now, however, Republican politicians and their allies in the media are still playing down the most brazen attack on a seat of power in modern American history. Some have sought to paint the assault as the work of mere tourists. Others, going further, have accused the F.B.I. of planning the attack in what they have described — wildly — as a false-flag operation.

The work of understanding Jan. 6 has been hard enough without this barrage of disinformation and, hoping to get to the bottom of the riot, The Times’s Visual Investigations team spent several months reviewing thousands of videos, many filmed by the rioters themselves and since deleted from social media. We filed motions to unseal police body-camera footage, scoured law enforcement radio communications, and synchronized and mapped the visual evidence.

What we have come up with is a 40-minute panoramic take on Jan. 6, the most complete visual depiction of the Capitol riot to date. In putting it together, we gained critical insights into the character and motivation of rioters by experiencing the events of the day often through their own words and video recordings. We found evidence of members of extremist groups inciting others to riot and assault police officers. And we learned how Donald J. Trump’s own words resonated with the mob in real time as they staged the attack.

Here are some of the major revelations: 

  • Multiple Points of Attack
  • A Delay Turns Deadly
  • The Makeup of the Mob

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump went to the border to attack Biden — but he mainly talked about himself, Tyler Pager, June 30, 2021. The former president did not fully ignore the issue of immigration during djt hands up mouth open Customhis trip to the U.S.-Mexico border — he just mainly focused on himself.

Former president Donald Trump traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border here Wednesday for a trip billed as an opportunity to assail President Biden on immigration — an issue core to Trump's political identity and one Republicans view as a weakness for Democrats.

But Trump often got sidetracked from the day’s message, instead launching into grievance-filled rants.

He tried to re-litigate the results of the 2020 election. He questioned whether Biden would pass the mental acuity test that he has often used to boast about his own mental fitness.

And he introduced and provided commentary on most of the more than two dozen House Republicans who traveled to see him at the border, often touting the electoral significance of his endorsements of them. He complimented the physical appearance of Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), the medical acumen of Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Tex.) — his former White House doctor — and the auctioneering abilities of Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.), with Trump asking him to put them on display by jokingly selling the border wall.

CNN, DHS raises alarms over potential for summer violence pegged to August conspiracy theory, Zachary Cohen and Geneva Sands, June 30, 2021. 'The FBI was involved': Reporter pushes back on Trump supporter's wild claim.

Department of Homeland Security officials are warning that the same sort of rhetoric and false narratives that fueled the January 6 attack on the US Capitol could lead to more violence this summer by right-wing extremists.

A growing belief among some Donald Trump supporters that the former President will be reinstated in August, coupled with relaxed Covid-19 restrictions, has DHS officials concerned that online rhetoric and threats could translate into actual violence in the coming months as more people are out and in public places.

The August theory is essentially a recycled version of other false narratives pushed by Trump and his allies leading up to and after January 6, prompting familiar rhetoric from those who remain in denial about his 2020 election loss. But the concern is significant enough that DHS issued two warnings in the past week about the potential for violence this summer.

In a closed-door meeting last Wednesday, DHS officials briefed lawmakers on the role that misinformation and disinformation play in creating circumstances for people to act violently, according to a congressional source familiar with the briefing.

On Monday, DHS issued an intelligence bulletin to state and local law enforcement partners about the increasing opportunities for violent extremist attacks this summer, including concerns that QAnon conspiracy theorists continue to promote the idea that Trump will return to power in August, according to a source familiar.

This latest series of warnings reflects an effort by DHS to be more proactive in sharing information about domestic extremist threats since pro-Trump rioters stormed the US Capitol on January 6, but it also comes as the department is still grappling with tough truths about its own role in the security breakdowns that occurred nearly six months ago.
The department has "no evidence" of a threat associated with the supposed date of Trump's return to office, but historically some domestic violent extremists "have conducted violence in furtherance of conspiracy theories," the bulletin said.

The bulletin also assessed the possibility that domestic terrorists might seek to exploit the easing of Covid-19 restrictions in order to attack a range of potential targets. The bulletin and briefing were first reported by Politico.

"You're going to have more people out. You're going to have more people in public places. And you increase the opportunities for individuals or groups of individuals who are interested in conducting attacks," a senior DHS official told CNN.

Some Trump supporters alluded to that possibility over the weekend during a rally in Ohio, where they were blunt in their assessment of what would happen if the former President were not reinstated later this summer.

"We are going to be in a civil war," one Trump supporter told CNN's Donie O'Sullivan.
Those concerns have prompted the department to ramp up its efforts working with state and local law enforcement and nongovernment entities to detect potential threats and mitigate them, the senior DHS official said.

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, On narrow vote, Supreme Court leaves CDC ban on evictions in place, Robert Barnes, June 30, 2021 (print ed.).  The Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 on Tuesday night to leave in place the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s ban on evictions, imposed to combat the coronavirus pandemic and prevent homelessness.

cdc logo CustomThe ban has just been extended another month, until the end of July, and the Biden administration said it will end then.

A group of landlords, real estate companies and real estate trade associations in Alabama and Georgia convinced U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich in the spring that the CDC lacked authority to impose the moratorium.

But Friedrich stayed her order to allow appeals to continue. A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit kept it in place, saying it believed the government was likely to prevail.

washington post logoWashington Post, 180.7 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 30, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 154.9 million people (46.7 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 54.4 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

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

World Cases: 182,663,043, Deaths: 3,955,540
U.S. Cases:     34,527,493, Deaths:     619,980
India Cases:     30,362,848, Deaths:    398,484
Brazil Cases:    18,513,305, Deaths:    516,119

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Elections

ICE logo

washington post logoWashington Post, South Dakota governor sending National Guard to Mexico border on mission funded by GOP megadonor, Alex Horton, June 30, 2021 (print ed.).  A billionaire is funding the military mission in what experts have described as an unethical breakdown of civilian-military affairs.

kristi noemSouth Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem (R), right, will deploy up to 50 National Guard troops to the southern U.S. border, her office said Tuesday, with a highly unusual caveat — the mission will be funded by a “private donation” from an out-of-state GOP megadonor billionaire.

The Guard members will deploy in response to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s plea to augment border security with law enforcement resources from other states, Noem’s office said in a statement.

Like Abbott (R), Noem is a close ally of former president Donald Trump, whose focus on illegal immigration spurred his controversial deployment of military personnel to the U.S.-Mexico border and remains a pillar of the Republican Party’s political platform. In a statement, she blasted the Biden administration over its immigration policies, which Trump and pogo logo squarefellow conservatives have denounced as weak and ineffective.

Privately funding a military mission is an affront to civilian oversight of the armed forces, said military and oversight experts, describing the move — a Republican governor sending troops to a Republican-led state, paid for by a Republican donor — as likely unprecedented and unethical.

“You certainly don’t want our national security priorities up to the highest bidder,” said Mandy Smithberger, a defense accountability expert at the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit government watchdog.

About 3,600 service members are already on the border supporting Department of Homeland Security operations, the vast majority of whom are National Guard troops carrying out federal orders, defense officials said. Abbott’s request, and Noem’s fulfillment, is for a separate state-led mission overseen by Texas officials.

washington post logoWashington Post, House votes to remove statues of Confederate leaders from U.S. Capitol, John Wagner and Eugene Scott, June 30, 2021 (print ed.). The House on Tuesday passed legislation to remove statues of Confederate leaders from the U.S. Capitol and replace the bust of Roger B. Taney, the U.S. chief justice who wrote the 1857 Supreme Court decision that said people of African descent are not U.S. citizens.

The vote was 285 to 120, with 67 Republicans joining Democrats in backing the measure. A similar bill passed the House last year on a 305-to-113 vote but did not advance in the Senate, then controlled by Republicans.

Upon reintroducing the bill this year, House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), right, pointed to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, during which some supporters of then-President Donald Trump carried Confederate flags.

james clyburn“There are still vestiges that remain in this sacred building that glorify people and a movement that embraced that flag and sought to divide and destroy our great country,” Clyburn said. “This legislation will remove these commemorations from places of honor and demonstrate that as Americans we do not celebrate those who seek to divide us.”

The legislation directs the Architect of the Capitol “to remove all statues of individuals who voluntarily served the Confederate States of America.” It specifically mentioned three men who backed slavery — Charles B. Aycock, John C. Calhoun and James P. Clarke.

The legislation would replace the bust of Taney, which sits outside the old Supreme Court chamber on the Capitol’s first floor, with one of Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court justice.

The legislation faces challenges in the evenly divided Senate, where it would have to overcome the 60-vote filibuster threshold.

ny times logoNew York Times, Board of Elections ‘Discrepancy’ Puts Mayoral Primary Vote in Disarray, Katie Glueck, June 30, 2021 (print ed.).  After the Board of Elections released a preliminary ranked-choice tally in the New York City mayoral race, it acknowledged an issue with its findings.

The New York City mayor’s race plunged into chaos on Tuesday night when the city Board of Elections released a new tally of votes in the Democratic mayoral primary, and then removed the tabulations from its website after citing a “discrepancy.”

eric adamsThe results released earlier in the day had suggested that the race between Eric Adams, right, and his two closest rivals had tightened significantly.

But just a few hours after releasing the results, the elections board issued a cryptic tweet revealing a “discrepancy” in the report, saying that it was working with its “technical staff to identify where the discrepancy occurred.”

The board would not elaborate on the nature of the discrepancy; Valerie Vazquez-Diaz, a spokeswoman for the board, said only that it was related to the “difference in votes cast” between what was disclosed on primary night and on Tuesday.

By late Tuesday evening, the tabulations had been taken down, replaced by a new advisory that the ranked-choice results would be available “starting on June 30.”

The extraordinary sequence of events seeded further confusion about the outcome, and threw the closely watched contest into a new period of uncertainty at an enormously consequential moment for the city.

For the Board of Elections, which has long been plagued by dysfunction and nepotism, this was its first try at implementing ranked-choice voting on a citywide scale, and skeptics had expressed doubts about the board’s ability to pull off the process despite its successful use in other cities.

Under ranked-choice voting, voters can list up to five candidates on their ballots in preferential order. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of first-choice votes in the first round, the winner is decided by a process of elimination: As the lower-polling candidates are eliminated, their votes are reallocated to whichever candidate those voters ranked next, and the process continues until there is a winner.

The Board of Elections ran its ranked-choice voting software on Tuesday, tabulating the results from ballots cast in person during early voting or on Primary Day. It released a preliminary, unofficial tally by mid-afternoon, showing that Mr. Adams — who had held a significant advantage on primary night — was narrowly ahead of Kathryn Garcia. Maya D. Wiley, who came in second place in the initial vote count, was close behind in third place.
A few hours later, the board disclosed its unspecified discrepancy, and it was not at all clear Tuesday night how accurate the most recent tally was, or if it was accurate at all.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Andrew Yang Went from Front-Runner to Fourth Place, Dana Rubinstein, June 30, 2021.  He seemed on a path to be New York’s next mayor, but a parade of self-inflicted wounds and a refocusing of the city’s priorities doomed his chances. For months, Andrew Yang, right, seemed like he was exactly what New York City was looking for in a mayor.

andrew yang twitterHe was relentlessly positive at a time when the city, still locked down during the pandemic, was somber. While other candidates were stuck in a loop of online mayoral forums, he seized attention by holding in-person events, capitalizing on his star power as a 2020 presidential candidate.

He leapt to the top of polls, drawing the affection of wealthy donors and envy from the race’s more established candidates. But as the race’s sudden front-runner, Mr. Yang began to draw more scrutiny from the news media and his rivals, and bit by bit, he lost ground.

Eric Adams was the first to pass him, and others would follow. By primary night, Mr. Yang was the first candidate to concede, far back in fourth place.

His collapse was a result of an accumulation of factors: self-inflicted wounds, a perception that he was out of his depth, and the city’s changing environment.

The pall that had fallen over New York had started to lift: Mr. Yang had campaigned on reopening the city, but the city had reopened without him. And now New Yorkers seemed far more worried about crime, an ideal scenario for Mr. Adams, a former police captain and the current Brooklyn borough president.

See below for related coverage:

.ny times logoNew York Times, How Weird Is the Heat in the Pacific Northwest? Off the Charts, Aatish Bhatia, Henry Fountain and Kevin Quealy, June 30, 2021 (print ed.). Four decades of records suggest that the heat smothering Portland, Seattle and Vancouver has little precedent. Despite a wave of ocean air that provided some relief, the “heat dome” in the Pacific Northwest will linger for days.

TheHill.com, Trump's Alabama rally canceled over partisan political concerns, Olafimihan Oshin, June 30, 2021 (print ed.). Former President Trump's upcoming rally in Alabama has been canceled over partisan political concerns, NBC News affiliate WMTV reported Tuesday. USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park commission chairman Bill Tunnell told the NBC News affiliate that the Republican party contacted them worried about the patriotic event turning into a “partisan political event” instead.

“After the request was made, then there was contact with the Republican Party, they contacted us and then it became apparent that it was going to be a partisan political event, rather than just a patriotic event planned for that evening,” Tunnell told WMTV.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) sent a letter saying the park is "available for all political parties and candidates on an equal basis,” adding that there wasn’t enough time for a formal opinion on it, WMTV reported.

Tunnell also said that former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum using the park for his campaign in 2012 was the reason why the commission has abstained from partisan political events.

“Rick Santorum was the ... straw that broke the camel's back. And that's when the commission went to the no partisan politics open to the public," he said.

The news comes as Trump last week returned to the rally stage for the first time since he lost November’s election to President Biden.

 

Heat Wave, Climate Change

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Hard to comprehend’: Experts react to record 121 degrees in Canada, Jason Samenow, June 30, 2021. The all-time high of 121 degrees set in British Columbia on Tuesday has left weather and climate experts all over the world shocked, speechless and deeply concerned about the future of the planet.

The scorching temperature set in the village of Lytton obliterated Canada’s previous national temperature record, established before this week’s heat wave, by 8 degrees.

Lytton, located about 60 miles northeast of Vancouver, broke that previous all-time record of 113 on three straight days, soaring to 116 on Sunday, 118 on Monday and finally 121 on Tuesday. Before this siege, it had stood since 1937.

“To break a national heat record by more than 8F over three days … words fail,” tweeted Bob Henson, a meteorologist and freelance journalist.

The 121-degree record stands out as extraordinary on numerous counts:

  • It’s hotter than any temperature recorded in the Lower 48 states outside the Desert Southwest. Only four states have seen a higher temperature. It’s even 4 degrees above Las Vegas’s all-time high of 117 and just one degree from Phoenix’s all-time high of 122.
  • It’s hotter than any temperature observed in Europe or South America, according to world weather records expert Maximiliano Herrera. Only 26 countries on the planet have been as hot or hotter, he wrote.
  • It is the most extreme high temperature observed north of 45 degrees latitude, according to Herrera.It was the highest temperature in North America on Tuesday, tied with Death Valley, Calif., notorious for holding the record for the planet’s most extreme heat.Lytton’s average high temperature at this time of year is a mere 77 degrees, meaning Tuesday’s record high was nearly 45 degrees above normal.

How could it get so hot in Canada? As we explained in an article Tuesday, weather systems and winds aligned to maximize heat over the region, while climate change intensified the effect.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: No one was prepared for the Northwest heat wave — especially not the animals, Tove Danovich, June 30, 2021.There are no systemic fixes for all the wildlife, trees and plants that have made this region what it is — or what it was.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

Palmer Report, Opinion: What will be left of Donald Trump when this week’s indictment dust settles? Bill Palmer, right, June 30, 2021. Palmer Report has been dutifully covering the Manhattan District Attorney’s bill palmercriminal case against Donald Trump and the Trump Organization since it first became public knowledge in late 2019. Heading into the 2020 election it was clear that if Trump lost reelection his life would be shattered, he’d be bankrupted, and he’d be on a path for prison. For whatever combination of reasons, this criminal case was only sporadically covered by most of the media, and largely ignored – until recently.

This is worth pointing out because, even though the media cavalry has finally caught up with the New York criminal probe, it hasn’t necessarily been doing the public any favors. For instance, now that Allen Weisselberg and the Trump Organization are being indicted in the initial round of indictments, a number of media pundits are trying to scare us into staying tuned in by insisting that this will be the only round of indictments.

bill palmer report logo headerBut when the Manhattan DA’s office partnered with the New York Attorney General, Letitia James, right, and empaneled a grand jury for the specific purpose of bringing indictments, it was empaneled for up to six months – an unusually long amount of time. That was just about a month ago.

Does anyone really believe that the DA went to all the trouble to empanel a special grand jury for an extra long amount of time, just to turn around and quickly issue two indictments and then call it a day? Of course not.

letitia james o headshotBut while it’s rather obvious that this week’s indictments will merely be the first round of indictments, it’s worth examining what these indictments alone are likely to do. Weisselberg’s arrest will get eyeballs for sure. But the Trump Organization indictment will force the general public to realize that Donald Trump is indeed a career criminal whose entire financial empire has always been a fraud. It won’t just be anti-Trump people calling Trump a criminal anymore; it’ll be a lengthy criminal indictment documenting all of it.

Or maybe it won’t be all of it. Given that this is obviously just round one of indictments, this week could have a more narrow focus, with more to come later. Either way, it’ll still begin the process of exposing Donald Trump as the crook he’s always been.

Indicting the Trump Organization should also rather quickly cause it to fall apart financially, given what a house of cards it is to begin with. Donald Trump’s creditors could begin calling in his remaining loans, seizing his buildings, perhaps even taking the “Trump” name off the buildings, within a short amount of time. Trump could quickly be left with no money, no assets, no ability to pay his fancy lawyers to drag things out in court, and no ability to keep people like potential plea deal targets like Weisselberg on the payroll.

And that’s just what could happen to Donald Trump when the dust settles from this week’s indictments. That’s before getting to what will happen once prosecutors keep putting the squeeze on Weisselberg to flip, and word surfaces of who will be targeted in the next round of indictments.

keith raniere nxivm

TheHill.com, 'Smallville' actress Allison Mack sentenced to 3 years in prison over NXIVM sex cult case, Olafimihan Oshin, June 30, 2021. Actress Allison Mack on Wednesday was sentenced to three years in prison for her role in the NXIVM sex cult, according to The Associated Press.

During her sentencing hearing, Mack, shown in a file photo at right, told the judge that devoting herself to NXIVM group leader Keith Raniere was "the biggest mistake and greatest regret of my life.” She also apologized to the victims she lured into the cult.

allison mack“I made choices I will forever regret,” Mack said in the AP report. She also told the judge she was filled with “remorse and guilt.”

The "Smallville” actress originally faced a sentence of 14 to 17-and-a-half years in prison, but her defense team argued that probation or home confinement would be more appropriate, and prosecutors agreed that any prison term should be below lower due to her cooperation.

Mack, 38, pleaded guilty to charges of manipulating women into becoming sex slaves for NXIVM’s spiritual leader. She was once a part of the inner circle of NXIVM, a cult that marketed itself as a self-help program that counted millionaires and celebrities among its members, according to the AP.

Mack shared with authorities how Raniere, 60, used “demeaning and derogatory language” to humiliate slaves, and provided recordings of her and Raniere discussing the branding of the slaves, according to government documents.

Prosecutors also said that Mack was the "master" of the slaves, ordering them to “perform labor, take nude photographs, and in some cases, to engage in sex acts with Raniere.”

Raniere, whom authorities arrested in March 2018, was convicted and sentenced to 120 years in prison on sex trafficking charges in 2020, the AP noted.

ny times logoNew York Times, Facebook Messages Lead to Sexual Assault Charge in 2013 Case, Johnny Diaz, June 30, 2021. A woman said she spent years trying to get the authorities to investigate a 2013 rape allegation, but a break in the case came only after she found a series of Facebook messages last year that had been sent to her by the man she said had attacked her.

“So I raped you,” one of the messages said.

The woman, Shannon Keeler, showed those messages to the authorities in Adams County, Pa., where she had been a student at Gettysburg College at the time of the reported attack. For Ms. Keeler, 26, the messages were just the latest in a series of leads that her lawyer said she had shared with investigators, including the names and accounts of witnesses.

On Wednesday, the Adams County district attorney, Brian R. Sinnett, said his office had obtained an arrest warrant for Ian Thomas Cleary, 28, of Saratoga, Calif., who he said had been charged with sexual assault.

Mr. Sinnett said that he would make no further statements until Mr. Cleary was taken into custody. “Efforts are being made to locate the defendant,” he said.

In a statement issued by the office of Ms. Keeler’s lawyer, Laura L. Dunn, Ms. Keeler said, “While I am moved to tears by this result, which I have waited for over seven years, I am mindful that this moment came because I went public with my story, which no survivor should have to do in order to obtain justice.” Through her lawyer, Ms. Keeler declined to comment further.

According to an affidavit of probable cause, Ms. Keeler reported a sexual assault to the Gettysburg Police Department on the night of Dec. 15, 2013, after she and some friends went to a party on the Gettysburg College campus to celebrate the end of finals.

Ms. Keeler told the police that Mr. Cleary, who was also a student at the college, had followed her and a friend from the party to her dorm room. The friend who escorted her home said that Mr. Cleary had offered $20 to leave him alone with Ms. Keeler. The friend told Mr. Cleary “to go away” and he did, the affidavit said.

About 10 minutes after her friend left, Ms. Keeler told the police, she heard a knock on her door and opened it without looking through the peephole, according to the affidavit. Mr. Cleary then walked into the apartment and began to kiss Ms. Keeler and then had sex with her without her consent, according to the affidavit.

Afterward, he apologized and fled, and Ms. Keeler texted her friend, “OMG please Help me,” the affidavit says.

In an interview with The Associated Press last month, Ms. Keeler said that the authorities had told her when she reported the assault that it was difficult to prosecute cases when the victim had been drinking. She also said that she learned last year that the rape kit from the police investigation was destroyed after the case was initially closed.

Roll Call, Lawmakers weigh in on proposals to change the Supreme Court, Todd Ruger, June 30, 2021 (print ed.). White House commission on Supreme Court to hold first meeting Wednesday. Several members of Congress wanted to make sure the White House commission on the Supreme Court heard their views ahead of the first public hearing Wednesday on the debate over expanding the court beyond its current nine members and other potential overhauls.

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and Republican Rep. Dusty Johnson of South Dakota submitted a comment to the commission that Congress has exclusive authority to change the Supreme Court’s structure.

The letter also seeks “to remind you of the growing congressional momentum” for their bills for a constitutional amendment to keep the court at nine justices, with 18 senators and 173 representatives as cosponsors.

“Despite the President’s inability to alter the Supreme Court, President Biden established your commission to pacify the far left,” Cruz and Johnson wrote.

Those proposed amendments respond to calls from some liberal advocacy groups and members of Congress to expand the court.

Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward J. Markey and three Democratic members of the House — Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler and Rep. Mondaire Jones, both of New York, and Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson — have introduced a bill to increase the number of justices from nine to 13.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has cast serious doubts on the chances of the bill, pointing instead to the work of the commission that will examine high-profile ideas such as whether justices should have term limits instead of life tenure on the Supreme Court.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York sent the commission the series of reports the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee published in May 2020 titled, “Captured Courts: The GOP’s Big Money Assault on The Constitution, Our Independent Judiciary, and the Rule of Law.”

sheldon whitehouseA bill Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, left, championed and Republicans opposed — which has a provision to require advocacy groups to disclose donors if they run ads around judicial nomination fights — is in Democrats’ elections, campaign finance and ethics overhaul bill that stalled in the Senate during a procedural vote this month.

“Among many other serious problems, this big-money assault on our courts has resulted in voters waiting for hours in long lines to exercise their right to vote; special interests flooding our airwaves with political ads; worker discrimination cases being thrown out of court; communities being left powerless to regulate gun violence; polluters enabled to pollute our air and water without consequence; and access to health care under constant attack,” Schumer wrote.

“I believe that the problems identified in these reports should inform the work of the Commission, and I ask that you share the reports with all of your fellow commissioners,” Schumer wrote.

Whitehouse, in a letter to the commission with fellow Democratic Sens. Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, as well as Hank Johnson, suggested a dozen areas the commission should study that includes the issue of dark money influence on the Supreme Court.

“This set of interwoven problems connected by secret funding is likely the primary driving force behind the degradation of confidence that necessitated this Commission’s formation,” the Democratic members wrote.

That includes the role of dark money nonprofit groups that have held sway over the judicial confirmations process, whether Congress should have a role in cleaning up Supreme Court decisions that rely on factual errors, disclosure requirements for outside groups that file briefs in a Supreme Court case, and the disclosure requirements for justices.

Earlier this month, Whitehouse and Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy asked the Justice Department for travel records of the justices as part of a broader congressional look at financial disclosure standards for the receipt of gifts, travel and other financial gains by senior government officials.

The commission's public meeting, conducted virtually online, will last all day. The commission will hear four panels with five people on each, tackling topics of Supreme Court reform, the court’s role in the constitutional system, how the court selects cases and transparency at the court.

One witness, Amy Howe of SCOTUSblog, will testify that the justices should continue with live audio of oral arguments when they return to in-person arguments in the courtroom.

The Supreme Court held arguments over the telephone since the onset of the pandemic, which were broadcast online and television by C-SPAN and other outlets. But it is unclear if the Supreme Court will continue to allow livestreams of oral arguments when the next term starts in October.

Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a bipartisan bill would require the Supreme Court to permit television coverage of all open sessions in almost all cases. Supreme Court justices have long resisted calls for more audio and video access to its work.

The commission also intends to hold panels at its July meeting, tentatively planned for July 20.

 

Florida Condo Collapse

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Majority of Florida condo board quit in 2019 amid conflicts over repair plans, Beth Reinhard, Tik Root, Brady Dennis and Jon Swaine, June 30, 2021. The president of the board of the Florida condominium that collapsed last week resigned in 2019, partly in frustration over what she saw as the sluggish response to an engineer’s report that identified major structural damage the previous year.

Anette Goldstein was among five members of the seven-member board to resign in two weeks that fall, according to minutes from an Oct. 3 meeting, at a time when the condo association in Surfside was consumed by contentious debate about the multimillion-dollar repairs.

“We work for months to go in one direction and at the very last minute objections are raised that should have been discussed and resolved right in the beginning,” Goldstein wrote in a September 2019 resignation letter. “This pattern has repeated itself over and over, ego battles, undermining the roles of fellow board members, circulation of gossip and mistruths. I am not presenting a very pretty picture of the functioning of our board and many before us, but it describes a board that works very hard but cannot for the reasons above accomplish the goals we set out to accomplish.”
Debate over the cost and scope of the work, along with turnover on the volunteer board, dragged out preparations for the repairs for three years, according to previously unpublished correspondence, condo board minutes and other records kept by the homeowners association.

Concrete restoration work had not yet begun when the building partially collapsed June 24. Identifying the cause of the catastrophe is expected to take many months, and it is not clear whether the problems identified in 2018 played a role. At least 18 people were killed in the catastrophe, and 145 remain missing.

 

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Stephen Breyer, and why Thursday is a huge day for the future of the Supreme Court, Aaron Blake, June 30, 2021.  Relatively few people are talking about it right now, but Thursday (and perhaps the days to come) could be one of the most pivotal moments in recent Supreme Court history.

Yes, that pertains to the key decisions that are set to be handed down on Thursday, the final day of the court’s current term. The long-awaited cases include key rulings on the Arizona GOP’s election laws and the role of so-called “dark money” in politics.

Stephen BreyerBut history suggests it’s also quite possibly the time when we get some clarity about the future makeup of the court — and particularly the all-important question about whether Justice Stephen G. Breyer, right, will retire.

Conservatives built a historic majority on the court during the Trump presidency thanks to the timing of a retirement (Anthony M. Kennedy) and a non-retirement (Ruth Bader Ginsburg) along with some bare-knuckle political gamesmanship (Antonin Scalia). Ginsburg’s refusal to heed calls to retire when Democrats controlled her replacement process, in particular, has led to a more forceful “Breyer retire” movement.

washington post logoWashington Post, 35 million tax returns not yet processed, watchdog says, Jeff Stein, June 30, 2021. The Internal Revenue Service closed the most recent filing season with more than 35 million in unprocessed tax returns, as the agency’s backlog grew markedly amid a crush of challenges related to the pandemic and economic relief efforts, a government watchdog said Wednesday.

Erin Collins, the National Taxpayer Advocate, said in her report that about 17 million paper tax returns are still waiting to be processed and approximately 16 million additional returns have been placed on hold because they require further review manually. Another 2.7 million amended tax returns have not been processed.

This backlog represents a fourfold increase from 2019 — the most recent year before the coronavirus pandemic — when the IRS closed its filing season with 7.4 million unprocessed returns, according to the report. These numbers reflect the IRS backlog as of May, and the agency may have made progress reducing it since then. The IRS backlog amounted to 11 million at the end of the 2020 filing season, fewer than a third of the current number of unprocessed returns.

washington post logoWashington Post, House votes largely along party lines to create select committee to investigate Jan. 6 attack on U.S. Capitol, Karoun Demirjian, June 30, 2021. Most Republicans voted against the proposal, arguing it would establish a partisan investigation. Democrats said the panel is needed to fully investigate the attack.

The House voted Wednesday to form a select committee tasked with investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, with nearly all Republicans opposing the legislation — a sign of the political challenges that face Democrats as they attempt to probe why thousands of President Donald Trump’s supporters swarmed the building and tried to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election.

The 220-to-190 nearly party-line vote stands in contrast to a vote in May, when 35 House Republicans joined Democrats to back the creation of an independent commission to examine the root causes of the attack. While that group of House Republicans was willing to embrace an outside panel of experts evenly weighted between GOP and Democratic appointees, most were wary of a select committee that would be firmly in the control of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s handpicked participants.

Pelosi, who has described the select committee as her second choice to the independent panel modeled on the 9/11 commission that Senate Republicans blocked last month, defended its creation as necessary.

washington post logoWashington Post, Amazon seeks recusal of FTC Chair Khan, a longtime company critic, Jay Greene and Rachel Lerman, June 30, 2021. The e-commerce giant said in a motion that the agency’s new chair can’t operate with an ‘open mind’ regarding the company

Amazon moved to bar the head of the Federal Trade Commission from overseeing antitrust matters regarding the e-commerce giant, citing her long-running criticism of the company.

New FTC Chair Lina Khan is unable to oversee matters regarding Amazon with “an open mind,” the company alleged in a filing to the commission. It asked that Khan recuse herself from issues involving the company.

Khan’s public criticism of Amazon started when she was a Yale University law student, where she wrote a 2017 paper, “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox,” that argued a new antitrust standard needed to be applied to the company. She subsequently served as legal director for the Open Markets Institute, an advocacy group that has called for Amazon’s breakup. And Khan worked as counsel for the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, investigating anti-competitive behavior from Amazon and other tech giants.

The FTC declined to comment. But Khan noted in her confirmation hearing before the Senate that she had “none of the financial conflicts or personal ties that are the basis of recusal under federal ethics laws.”

“I would be approaching these issues with an eye to the underlying facts and the empirics and really be following the evidence,” she said in response to Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) asking if her work on an extensive House investigation into the monopoly power of Facebook, Apple, Google and Amazon would be a basis for recusal.

washington post logoWashington Post, House debates $715 billion transportation and water bill, making its pitch on infrastructure, Ian Duncan and Michael Laris, June 30, 2021. The bill is designed to modernize the nation’s roads, transit networks and pipes while tackling climate change.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats win meager GOP support for post-Trump effort to shield inspectors general, Karoun Demirjian, June 30, 2021. The House passed a comprehensive package of reforms Tuesday to protect inspectors general from being fired or otherwise prevented from doing their jobs, a measure inspired by President Donald Trump’s pattern of ousting the agency watchdogs who carolyn maloney ochallenged him.

The 221-to-182 vote fell almost completely along party lines, heralding a long and difficult road ahead for congressional Democrats as they attempt a variety of initiatives to prevent future presidents from silencing their critics and punishing their enemies with as much impunity as Trump did.

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), right, chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, summarized the package Tuesday as an effort to “protect IGs from being fired simply for doing their jobs” and a needed antidote to how “the previous administration bullied, sidelined and retaliated against multiple IGs.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Inspector general at federal housing agency resigns, months after report alleges she abused her authority, Rachel Siegel, June 30, 2021. It was unclear whether the Biden administration would remove Laura Wertheimer following other leadership changes at the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

The inspector general overseeing the Federal Housing Finance Agency resigned Tuesday, two months after a scathing watchdog report alleged that she abused her authority, retaliated against employees and blocked an investigation into her conduct.

In April, an investigation by a special panel — known as the Integrity Committee — sent a report to the White House about Laura Wertheimer, the inspector general overseeing FHFA, who was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2014. The report noted years of complaints against Wertheimer and other staff members, and it ultimately concluded that “misconduct of this nature warrants consideration of substantial disciplinary action, up to and including removal.”

The report found that Wertheimer “showed a disdain and resistance” toward oversight from Congress and the Integrity Committee and that she fostered “a culture of witness intimidation through a pattern of staff abuse and fear of retaliation.” The report said that Wertheimer wrongfully refused to cooperate with investigators from the Integrity Committee by denying them complete access to office staff and documents.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: McCarthy dials back early pledge to rein in Republicans who cross the line as Gosar, others go unpunished, Paul Kane, June 30, 2021. Early in his tenure, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) took decisive action against a Republican who embraced racist views.

Kevin McCarthy“I’ve watched on the other side that they do not take action when their members say something like this. Action will be taken,” McCarthy, left, said in a January 2019 interview on CBS, outlining his plan to strip Steve King, an Iowa Republican, of his committee assignments.

Two-and-a-half years later, McCarthy has ceded that moral high ground in policing his own caucus. Instead, he has adopted something best called whataboutism: Anytime a Republican paul gosardoes something wrong, he points to a Democrat who’s gone unpunished by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

This week, he had a chance to reprimand Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) for his association with Nicholas Fuentes, a political activist who has defended racial segregation and minimized the Holocaust. After Gosar, right, served as the keynote speaker at a Fuentes event this year, the lawmaker’s image appeared on a fundraising invitation with the far-right activist.

By Tuesday evening, the GOP leader called Gosar into his office and, after the Arizonan denied that the event was happening, McCarthy washed his hands of the matter.

  

U.S. Education, Civil Rights, Media News 

Mediaite, Ed Henry Sues Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott, Alleging She Covered Up Affair Between Network President and Employee, Josh Feldman, June 30, 2021. Former Fox News anchor Ed Henry, who was fired from the network after being accused of rape, is suing Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott, accusing her of defaming him “as a sex criminal.”

Henry’s suit also alleges that Scott accused him of sexual misconduct while covering up an affair between the president of Fox News and a subordinate.

Henry was fired from the network in 2020 following an allegation of rape by a former network staffer. At the time, Scott and Fox News president Jay Wallace put out a statement saying, “On Thursday, June 25, we received a complaint about Ed Henry from a former employee’s attorney involving willful sexual misconduct in the workplace years ago… Based on investigative findings, Ed has been terminated.”

fox news logo SmallHenry’s lawsuit claims that Scott “sandbagged” him with her statement and “lending credence to the false allegations because she was trying to save her own career and burnish her image as a tough, no nonsense female executive who cleaned up Fox News.”

It accuses Scott of being “an instrument to cover up the existence of sexual misconduct at Fox News” and charges that she “had such a well-known history of whitewashing actual instances of ‘willful sexual misconduct’ by Fox News employees, including a widely-known affair between a subordinate and Fox News President Jay Wallace, i.e. the same Jay Wallace who co-signed the public statement that defamed Mr. Henry.”

Henry alleges that Wallace was investigated over “an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate” but it was “covered up by Ms. Scott.”

Henry was fired “in order to divert attention from Ms. Scott’s long history of covering up actual misconduct,” the lawsuit claims. He even accuses the network of an “unabashed focus on money, at the expense of legitimate news stories.”

Henry has vehemently denied the allegations of sexual misconduct.

UPDATE Fox News has responded to the lawsuit.

In a statement obtained by Mediaite, a Fox News Media spokesperson said, “As we stated one year ago, FOX News Media conducted a thorough independent investigation into Ed Henry immediately after we were made aware of a serious misconduct claim against him by a former employee. Based on the results of those findings, we promptly terminated Mr. Henry’s employment for willful sexual misconduct and stand by the decision entirely. We are fully prepared to vigorously defend against these baseless allegations as Mr. Henry further embarrasses himself in a lawsuit rife with inaccuracies after driving his personal life into the ground with countless extramarital affairs in a desperate attempt for relevance and redemption.”

Regarding both Scott and Wallace:

Under the leadership of CEO Suzanne Scott, FOX News Media has worked tirelessly to transform the company culture, implementing annual, mandatory in-person harassment prevention training, creating an entirely new reporting structure, more than tripling the size of our HR footprint, conducting quarterly company meetings and mentoring events, as well as executing a zero tolerance policy regarding workplace misconduct for which we engage outside independent firms to handle investigations. No other company has enacted such a comprehensive and continuous overhaul, which notably, earned FOX News Media recognition as a “Great Place to Work” for the first time in its existence, a testament to the many cultural changes that Ms. Scott has instituted during her incredibly successful tenure as CEO.

FOX conducted a full and independent investigation of the claims against Jay Wallace — he was cleared of any wrongdoing and the allegations are false.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: I fought for years in court for my basic rights as a trans kid. It shouldn’t have been this hard, Gavin Grimm, June 30, 2021. Gavin Grimm graduated from Gloucester High School in Virginia in 2017.

I was a high school freshman when I first spoke at the Gloucester County School Board and said, “I deserve the rights of every other human being.”

It was 2014. The year when I first told my mom I was transgender, when I first used the boys’ restroom at school, and when the school board voted to deny me the right to use the same restroom as any other boy.

My school initially had no problems with my living as a boy. I was promised by administrators that I’d be referred to exclusively as “he” and “him,” and by my name, Gavin. At first, I avoided the boys’ restroom — I was too scared my peers might harass me or reject my presence. Instead, I used the bathroom in the nurse’s office. But my school was big, and having to book it from one side of the school to the other and back every time I needed to use the restroom quickly became unrealistic.
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So I got the green light from my principal to use the boys’ restroom. That was when word started to spread. My peers began treating me differently, putting an uncomfortable distance between us, getting up from the lunch table when I sat down next to them. Within two months I became a top agenda item at the school board meeting, where parents directed vitriol at me and constantly misgendered me.

Now, over six years and several court decisions later, the Supreme Court has finally affirmed what should have been a simple request to live like any other kid, rejecting an appeal by the school board and allowing a lower-court decision in my favor to stand. It’s the third time in recent years the court has refused to take up a challenge to a legal triumph by trans youth whose constitutional rights were violated.

At last, my victory feels final. But I shouldn’t have had to fight this hard.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge blocks Florida law that would penalize social media companies blocking politicians’ posts, Cat Zakrzewski, June 30, 2021.  A federal judge on Wednesday blocked a Florida law that would penalize social media companies for blocking a politician’s posts, a blow to conservatives’ efforts to respond to Facebook and other websites’ suspension of former president Donald Trump.

The law was due to go into effect Thursday, but in issuing a preliminary injunction, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle of the Northern District of Florida suggested that the law would be found unconstitutional.

“The plaintiffs are likely to prevail on the merits of their claim that these statutes violate the First Amendment,” Hinkle wrote. “There is nothing that could be severed and survive.”

The law laid out fines for tech companies that suspended political candidates in the run-up to an election.

Florida legislators approved the law after Facebook, Twitter and YouTube suspended Trump’s accounts for violating their policies following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), a potential 2024 presidential candidate and key Trump ally, touted the law as a stand against alleged censorship of conservatives when he signed it in May.

washington post logoWashington Post, UNC board approves tenure for journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones after uproar over inaction on job protection, Nick Anderson and Susan Svrluga, June 30, 2021.  Trustees of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill voted Wednesday to grant tenure to Nikole Hannah-Jones, after weeks of controversy over why the university initially chose to hire the award-winning journalist as a professor without that level of job protection.

The board’s 9-to-4 vote in favor of tenure came after a lengthy closed-session meeting on the final day of the terms of several members of the public university’s board of trustees. It also came a day before Hannah-Jones had originally been set to start working for UNC.

“Not only do we support academic freedom, but we believe that a university — that our university — is the very place that the most important issues of our time should be debated,” R. Gene Davis Jr., vice chair of the board, said in announcing the vote. The public portion of the meeting was shown online through a live video feed.

Hannah-Jones is best known for conceiving the 1619 Project for the New York Times, an initiative to reexamine American history and the consequences of slavery from the year enslaved African people arrived in colonial Virginia.

Last year Hannah-Jones won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary for the essay she wrote for the project. She has won numerous other professional honors, including a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant. She holds a master’s degree from the UNC journalism school and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The 1619 Project has come under fire from critics, including prominent Republicans, who believe it gives slavery and racial discrimination too much weight in the American story. Some historians have also called certain parts of the Hannah-Jones essay inaccurate. The Times clarified one passage but stood by her work.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, China marks a century of its Communist Party with pageantry, propaganda and an iron grip, Lily Kuo, June 30, 2021The centennial gives the Chinese government a chance to display its power and reach. And bathe the country in red.

  • Washington Post, Letters from Hong Kong’s jails: From behind bars, some activists and politicians try to break the silence
  • Washington Post, After a year of Hong Kong’s national security law, here’s how China has consolidated control

washington post logoWashington Post, China building more than 100 silos for ICBMs in what could signal an expansion of nuclear abilities, analysts say, Joby Warrick, June 30, 2021. China has begun construction of what independent experts say are more than 100 new silos for intercontinental ballistic missiles in a desert near the northwestern city of Yumen, a building spree that could signal a major expansion of Beijing’s nuclear capabilities.

Commercial satellite images obtained by researchers at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, Calif., show work underway at scores of sites across a grid covering hundreds of square miles of arid terrain in China’s Gansu province. The 119 nearly identical construction sites contain features that mirror those seen at existing launch facilities for China’s arsenal of nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles.

The acquisition of more than 100 new missile silos, if completed, would represent a historic shift for China, a country that is believed to possess a relatively modest stockpile of 250 to 350 nuclear weapons. The actual number of new missiles intended for those silos is unknown but could be much smaller. China has deployed decoy silos in the past.

washington post logoWashington Post, North Korea’s Kim warns of ‘grave incident’ in fight against coronavirus, but details remain sparse, Simon Denyer, June 30, 2021 (print ed.). North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un has chastised ruling party officials for failures in their anti-virus work that created what he called a "grave incident" that caused a "huge crisis" in the country's battle against covid-19, state media reported Wednesday.

But health experts said information was too sketchy to draw any immediate conclusions about whether the coronavirus had entered the country.

North Korea has gone to extraordinary lengths to keep covid-19 at bay, closing its border with China to people and most goods shortly after the pandemic broke out last year, clearly fearing that a serious outbreak could overwhelm the country’s ailing health care system.

It has not announced any confirmed cases of covid-19, a claim backed by the World Health Organization (WHO) but questioned by U.S. and South Korean officials.

washington post logosouth africa flag after 1994Washington Post, Jacob Zuma, former president of South Africa, handed 15-month sentence for contempt of court, Lesley Wroughton and Max Bearak, June 30, 2021 (print ed.). Zuma had repeatedly refused to attend court proceedings for a sprawling probe into government corruption.

washington post logoeuropean union logo rectangleWashington Post, Europe faces ‘chaos’ at airports without coordinated vaccine certificate rollout, travel groups warn, Erin Cunningham, June 30, 2021 (print ed.). The certificate, designed to show a traveler’s vaccination or infection status, will be available for all European Union member states beginning July 1.

But a “worrying patchwork of approaches” by various governments threatens to cause long delays during the peak summer months, according to a joint letter sent by industry groups and seen by the Reuters news agency.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jubilant Tigray Capital Greets Insurgents After Ethiopian Retreat, Declan Walsh, June 30, 2021 (print ed. with video). The capture of the capital, Mekelle, by Tigrayan forces was a major blow to Ethiopia’s leader, eight months into a war that has resulted in widespread famine and one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

ny times logoNew York Times, I miss home’: The war spawned a wave of displacement, Abdi Latif Dahir, June 30, 2021.  Almost 2 million people were forced to become migrants because of the war in Tigray. Tens of thousands went to Sudan, and are hoping that the latest news means they can return home.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Expected to Be Demure, Japan’s Girls Face Steep Hurdles to Athletic Dreams, Motoko Rich and Hikari Hida. The Tokyo Olympics offer a chance to crown a new set of heroes to inspire budding female athletes. But once the spotlight dims, Japan’s rigid gender norms will still limit opportunities.

Kurumi Mochizuki is the kind of skilled soccer player who can roll a ball from between her shoulder blades to the top of her head and onto her right foot, keeping it aloft for more than a dozen kicks. She makes it look so easy.

Yet when she practices with her local club team in southeastern Tokyo, her coaches sometimes advise her to take longer breaks than her teammates, and warn her not to pick up heavy bags of balls when clearing equipment from the field.

All because she is a girl.

Kurumi, 13, is the only girl on her team. She plays with boys because there are no girls’ club teams near her neighborhood and no girls’ team at her middle school. Finding a team in high school will be difficult, too. Only one of the 14 schools in Kurumi’s area offers a girls’ team. Her older brother, who plays soccer at his high school, has had no such trouble — almost all the high schools in the district have boys’ soccer teams.

 “Boys have it easier,” she said. “I am envious of that.”

Such is the state of sports for girls and women in Japan, where female athletes often have to go to great lengths to pursue their dreams. Opportunities are limited by the rigid gender norms of Japanese society, which shape women’s lives not only on the playing field, but also in the home and workplace.

  • New York Times, As the Virus Rages, Putin Pushes Russians to Get a (Russian) Vaccine

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: The land was worth millions. A Big Ag corporation sold it to Sonny Perdue’s company for $250,000, Desmond Butler, Graphics by John Muyskens; Videos by Joy Sharon Yi and Erin Patrick O'Connor, June 29, 2021. It was a curious time for Sonny Perdue to close a real estate deal.

In February 2017, weeks after President Donald Trump selected him to be agriculture secretary, Perdue’s company bought a small grain plant in South Carolina from one of the biggest agricultural corporations in America.

Had anyone noticed, it would have prompted questions ahead of his confirmation, a period when most nominees lie low and avoid potential controversy. The former governor of Georgia did not disclose the deal — there was no legal requirement to do so.

sonny perdueAn examination of public records by The Washington Post has found that the agricultural company, Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM), sold the land at a small fraction of its estimated value just as it stood to benefit from a friendly secretary of agriculture.

Perdue did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the real estate deal. Jackie Anderson, a spokeswoman for Chicago-based ADM, denied that the company sold the property at a discount, saying that ADM began negotiations with Perdue’s former company, AGrowStar, in 2015 — well before Trump was elected — and could not find another buyer.

“This was nothing more than a business decision to sell a significantly underperforming asset,” she said.

Danny Brown, the former president of AGrowStar, confirmed negotiations began in late 2015. But Brown said ADM wanted $4 million for the plant — 16 times what Perdue’s company ultimately paid for it.

The timing of the sale just as Perdue was about to become the most powerful man in U.S. agriculture raises legal and ethics concerns, from the narrow question of whether the secretary followed federal financial disclosure requirements to whether the transaction could have been an attempt to influence an incoming government official, in violation of bribery statutes, ethics lawyers say.

“This stinks to high heaven,” said Julie O’Sullivan, a Georgetown University law professor and former federal prosecutor. “It deserves a prosecutor’s attention,” she added. “Only a prosecutor with the powers of the grand jury can find out, in fact, whether there was a quid pro quo that existed at the time of the deal.”

Devastated Miami condo (Photo by Amy Beth Bennett of the Associated Press).

Devastated Miami condo (Photo by Amy Beth Bennett of the Associated Press).

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Condo President Warned Residents in April of Worsening Damage, Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura, Campbell Robertson and Patricia Mazzei, June 29, 2021. Families of the missing cope face an agonizing wait amid the grinding search near Miami. 

Less than three months before the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condo complex in Surfside, Fla., the president of the condominium association warned in a letter that the damage in the building had “gotten significantly worse” since it was highlighted in a 2018 inspection.

The letter was written to residents by Jean Wodnicki, president of the association’s board of directors, explaining why a list of extensive construction projects were worth a $15 million special assessment that residents were being asked to pay.

Along with the 2018 inspection, which warned of “major structural damage,” the letter, a copy of which The New York Times obtained, adds to a growing body of evidence that engineers had raised alarms about serious flaws in the building months and even years before the catastrophic building failure, which killed 11 people and left 150 unaccounted for.

Ms. Wodnicki could not immediately be reached for comment.

That 2018 inspection warned that concrete damage would “multiply exponentially” in the coming years, Ms. Wodnicki wrote in the letter, which was first reported by USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. The engineer who prepared that initial report, Frank Morabito, carried out “a much more detailed survey of the property” and found signs that this acceleration was indeed already happening. “When you can visually see the concrete spalling (cracking), that means that the rebar holding it together is rusting and deteriorating beneath the surface,” Ms. Wodnicki wrote.

Less than three months before the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condo complex, the president of the condominium association warned in a letter that the damage in the building had “gotten significantly worse” since it was highlighted in a 2018 inspection.
Read Document

She explained that these signs of growing damage were why the estimated costs of repair had jumped by some 60 percent since that 2018 inspection. “The concrete deterioration is accelerating. The roof situation got much worse,” she wrote adding: “New problems have been identified.”

“A lot of this work could have been done or planned for in years gone by,” she wrote in the letter. “But this is where we are now.”

In related news: 

ny times logoNew York Times, Juul to Pay $40 Million to Settle N.C. Vaping Case, Sheila Kaplan, June 29, 2021 (print ed.). The settlement is the first in a stream of lawsuits against the company, which has been accused of deceptive marketing practices that contributed to a wave of nicotine addiction in teenagers.'

juulJuul Labs has agreed to pay North Carolina $40 million to settle the first of a spate of lawsuits brought by states and localities claiming the e-cigarette company’s marketing practices fueled widespread addiction to nicotine among young people and created a new public health problem.

The settlement, which was announced on Monday morning, allows the company to avoid a jury trial this summer as the Food and Drug Administration is deciding whether its vaping products can stay on the market.

The company had urgently sought the settlement, but the deal removes just one of numerous legal actions pending against it. Thirteen other states, including California, Massachusetts and New York, as well as the District of Columbia, have filed similar lawsuits. The central claim in each case is that Juul knew, or should have known, that it was hooking teenagers on pods that contained high levels of nicotine.

Nearly 2,000 other cases filed by cities, counties, school districts and other plaintiffs in federal courts have been combined into multi-district litigation overseen by a single federal judge, similar to what’s been done with cases against prescription opioid makers, distributors and retailers.

washington post logoWashington Post, Court dismisses FTC antitrust complaint against Facebook, says agency can refile, Cat Zakrzewski and Rachel Lerman, June 29, 2021 (print ed.). A district court in D.C. said the Federal Trade Commission failed to offer enough facts to prove Facebook has monopoly power, immediately sparking calls for a rewrite of antitrust law.

ftc logoThe court also dismissed a similar lawsuit brought by a group of state attorneys general against the company that challenged the company’s acquisitions of photo-sharing service Instagram and messaging app WhatsApp. The court ruled that the states waited too long to challenge Facebook’s acquisition of the companies in 2012 and 2014, respectively.

It was a major victory for Facebook, which has long argued that it was just one option in a burgeoning universe of social media companies, citing the rise of such services as TikTok, facebook logowhich claims 50 million daily users in the United States.

In its complaint, the FTC alleged that Facebook controls more than 60 percent of the social media market. The commission argued that “no other social network of comparable scale exists in the United States,” citing a redacted figure of the daily and monthly users on the company’s flagship service. The FTC alleged that Facebook has had monopoly power since at least 2011, but it defined the market it said Facebook monopolizes very narrowly, excluding professional social networks like LinkedIn and video streaming players such as YouTube

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Climate

ny times logoNew York Times, Board of Elections ‘Discrepancy’ Puts Mayoral Primary Vote in Disarray, Katie Glueck, June 29, 2021.  After the Board of Elections released a preliminary ranked-choice tally in the New York City mayoral race, it acknowledged an issue with its findings.

The New York City mayor’s race plunged into chaos on Tuesday night when the city Board of Elections released a new tally of votes in the Democratic mayoral primary, and then removed the tabulations from its website after citing a “discrepancy.”

eric adamsThe results released earlier in the day had suggested that the race between Eric Adams, right, and his two closest rivals had tightened significantly.

But just a few hours after releasing the results, the elections board issued a cryptic tweet revealing a “discrepancy” in the report, saying that it was working with its “technical staff to identify where the discrepancy occurred.”

The board would not elaborate on the nature of the discrepancy; Valerie Vazquez-Diaz, a spokeswoman for the board, said only that it was related to the “difference in votes cast” between what was disclosed on primary night and on Tuesday.

By late Tuesday evening, the tabulations had been taken down, replaced by a new advisory that the ranked-choice results would be available “starting on June 30.”

The extraordinary sequence of events seeded further confusion about the outcome, and threw the closely watched contest into a new period of uncertainty at an enormously consequential moment for the city.

For the Board of Elections, which has long been plagued by dysfunction and nepotism, this was its first try at implementing ranked-choice voting on a citywide scale, and skeptics had expressed doubts about the board’s ability to pull off the process despite its successful use in other cities.

Under ranked-choice voting, voters can list up to five candidates on their ballots in preferential order. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of first-choice votes in the first round, the winner is decided by a process of elimination: As the lower-polling candidates are eliminated, their votes are reallocated to whichever candidate those voters ranked next, and the process continues until there is a winner.

The Board of Elections ran its ranked-choice voting software on Tuesday, tabulating the results from ballots cast in person during early voting or on Primary Day. It released a preliminary, unofficial tally by mid-afternoon, showing that Mr. Adams — who had held a significant advantage on primary night — was narrowly ahead of Kathryn Garcia. Maya D. Wiley, who came in second place in the initial vote count, was close behind in third place.
A few hours later, the board disclosed its unspecified discrepancy, and it was not at all clear Tuesday night how accurate the most recent tally was, or if it was accurate at all.

See below for related coverage:

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Florida has become the Republic of Gilead, Wayne Madsen, left, June 29, 2021, In signing into law a requirement that all professors, students, and staff of Florida public wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smalluniversities to register their political beliefs with the state, Florida's Trumpist governor, Ron DeSantis, right, has transformed the state into a veritable Republic of Gilead.

ron desantis oConceived by author Margaret Atwood in her novel, "The Handmaid's Tale," Gilead is a dystopian Christo-theonomic dictatorship that comes to power after a right-wing terrorist group called the "Sons of Jacob" stages a false flag attack on the U.S. government that kills the president and most of the members of Congress and Supreme Court. The U.S. government and Constitution are abolished and replaced by a male-only "Committee" that rules with an iron fist over Gilead. The popular television series, "The Handmaid's Tale," is based on Atwood's novel.

DeSantis, a Roman Catholic with strong ties to the Catholic fascist sect Opus Dei, has his eyes set on a run for the White House in 2024. DeSantis's frontal attack on the First Amendment of the Constitution has ramifications far beyond the state that he has turned into a Central America-style "banana republic" with himself as a tin horn dictator.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: What Underlies the G.O.P. Commitment to Ignorance? Paul Krugman, right, June 29, 2021 (print ed.). Recently, a prominent left-wing media figure attacked Gen. Mark Milley, the paul krugmanchairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declaring, “He’s not just a pig, he’s stupid.”

Oh, wait. That was no leftist, that was Fox News’s Tucker Carlson. What set Carlson off was testimony in which Milley told a congressional hearing that he considered it important “for those of us in uniform to be open-minded and widely read.”

The problem is obvious. Closed-mindedness and ignorance have become core conservative values, and those who reject these values are the enemy, no matter what they may have done to serve the country.

The U.S. military has traditionally leaned Republican, but the modern officer corps is highly educated, open-minded and, dare I say it, even a bit intellectual — because those are attributes that help win wars.

.ny times logoNew York Times, How Weird Is the Heat in the Pacific Northwest? Off the Charts, Aatish Bhatia, Henry Fountain and Kevin Quealy, June 29, 2021. Four decades of records suggest that the heat smothering Portland, Seattle and Vancouver has little precedent. Despite a wave of ocean air that provided some relief, the “heat dome” in the Pacific Northwest will linger for days.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The country is on fire, and the biggest obstacle to action is the GOP, Paul Waldman, right, June 29, 2021. In the Pacific Northwest, where high temperatures this time of year are paul waldmanusually in the 70s, residents who never had much need for air conditioning are suffering through an almost apocalyptic heat wave: On Monday it reached 107 in Seattle, 115 in Portland, Ore., and 117 in Salem, Ore.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, D.C., members of both parties came together to hammer out a bipartisan infrastructure deal. But to get Republicans to agree to it, President Biden and the Democrats had to set aside almost everything they have proposed to do about climate change.

That’s about as clear a summation of American climate politics in 2021 as you could ask for: the effects of climate change becoming more vivid all the time, Democrats eager to move aggressively on the crisis, and the Republican Party working hard to make sure the federal government does as little as possible.

Kevin McCarthyThat isn’t to say that the politics are simple. Not every Republican is a deranged climate denier bringing snowballs to the Senate floor to try to prove that climate change is a hoax. The GOP has a diversity of opinion on climate. But while some individual Republicans want to do something, they butt up against a party consensus that emphatically rejects meaningful action, and incentives that push ambitious members of their party toward the most retrograde positions.

The infrastructure debate is still unresolved, and even if the bipartisan bill contains only a few provisions that would help alleviate climate change, the more ambitious agenda Biden has laid out could still be a part of whatever Senate Democrats pass via a simple majority reconciliation vote. That could include a new clean electricity standard for power companies, tax incentives for renewables, new research money to develop clean technology, funds to retrofit buildings and phasing out fossil fuel subsidies.

A reconciliation bill won’t just copy and paste everything Biden has proposed. Since there are no Democratic votes in the Senate to spare, it will ultimately be up to Sen. Joe Manchin III — a Democrat from the coal state of West Virginia, who once aired an ad in which he fired a bullet through a cap-and-trade bill — to decide what the bill does and doesn’t contain.Advertisement

But the real impediment to action is still the Republican Party.

That’s despite the fact that there are Republicans who sincerely want to devise a climate agenda. There’s now a Conservative Climate Caucus in the House (though it wants to make sure that fossil fuels are "a major part of the global solution”). House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), left, has a climate agenda, though it too seems mostly focused on continued use of fossil fuels while doing things like planting trees to mitigate emissions produced by the continued burning of oil and gas.

That means there may be common ground on some things; it’s not as though liberals will object to planting trees.

But in the meantime....

HuffPost, Kathryn Garcia Gains Ground In Unofficial NYC Mayoral Results, Daniel Marans, June 29, 2021. Kathryn Garcia trails Eric Adams by a narrow margin in New York City’s Democratic mayoral primary after the city’s board of elections ran results through the ranked-choice voting system, eliminating candidates until only two were left.

Following 11 rounds of elimination, Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, leads Garcia, the former sanitation commissioner, 51.1% to 48.9%.

The results remain unofficial, because they do not account for the roughly 125,000 absentee ballots that Democrats have submitted.

A week after Election Day though, there is something positive for both Adams and Garcia to highlight in these preliminary returns: Adams retains his lead, but Garcia surges from third place to within striking distance of Adams.

On election night, before the start of the ranked-choice elimination process, Adams had 31.7% of first-choice votes, compared with 22.2% for civil rights attorney Maya Wiley, and 19.5% for Garcia.

Wiley, who appears to have lost ground since election night, released a statement suggesting that she is waiting for official results that account for absentee ballots.

“I said on election night, we must allow the democratic process to continue and count every vote so that New Yorkers have faith in our democracy and government,” she said. “And we must all support its results.” Related story below:

ny times logoNew York Times, Eric Adams’s Lead in Mayor’s Race Shrinks After First Ranked-Choice Tally, Katie Glueck, June 29, 2021.  After voters’ ranked choices were tabulated, Mr. Adams led Kathryn Garcia by less than two percentage points in preliminary results, with nearly 125,000 absentee ballots still to be counted.

A new tally of votes in the New York City Democratic mayoral primary suggested that the race between Eric Adams, the primary night leader, and his two closest rivals had tightened significantly, plunging the closely watched contest into a period of fresh uncertainty.

A week after Mr. Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, notched a substantial lead among those who voted in person last Tuesday or during the early voting period, a preliminary counting of ranked-choice preferences released on Tuesday showed him ahead by a much narrower margin in the city’s first ranked-choice mayoral election.

According to Tuesday’s unofficial tally, Mr. Adams leads Kathryn Garcia by just 15,908 votes, a margin of less than two percentage points, in the final round. Maya Wiley, who came in second place in the initial vote count, was in third place after the elimination rounds were completed.

But those numbers could be scrambled again as the city’s Board of Elections tabulates outcomes that will include more than 124,000 Democratic absentee ballots, with a fuller result not expected until mid-July.

Some Democrats, bracing for an acrimonious new chapter in the race, are concerned that the incremental release of results may stir distrust of ranked-choice and sow divisions and confusion when the outcome of the election is ultimately announced, even though the timeline for counting absentee ballots is not a function of the ranked-choice process.

And while Mr. Adams has said he would accept the results of the election, he and his allies have long been critical of ranked-choice voting. In the final days of the race, surrogates for Mr. Adams — whose candidacy was embraced by many working-class Black and Latino voters — claimed without evidence that an apparent ranked-choice alliance between two of his opponents could amount to voter suppression, and Mr. Adams used heated language on the subject himself, signs of ugly possible tensions to come.

This year is the first time that New York City’s mayoral primaries are using ranked-choice voting, which allows voters to rank as many as five choices in preferential order. If no contender wins more than 50 percent of the first round of votes, the winner must be decided by examining voters’ secondary choices.

The winner of the Democratic primary, who is almost certain to become the city’s next mayor, will face off against Curtis Sliwa, the founder of the Guardian Angels. 

According to the tabulation released Tuesday, Ms. Wiley, a former counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio, nearly made it to the final round. She netted 29.3 percent of the vote, just 4,000 votes behind Ms. Garcia, before being eliminated in the 10th round.

The release of Ms. Wiley’s supporters heavily benefited Ms. Garcia in the final tally; either candidate would be New York’s first female mayor, and Ms. Wiley would be the city’s first Black female mayor.

Half of Ms. Wiley’s votes went to Ms. Garcia, 19 percent went to Mr. Adams, and the remainder was not allocated to either.

Ms. Wiley ran well to the left of Ms. Garcia on a number of vital policy matters, including around policing and on some education questions. But Mr. Adams, a former police captain and a relative moderate on several key issues, is a non-starter for many deeply progressive voters who may have preferred Ms. Garcia and her technocratic focus on competence.

Ms. Garcia was also the biggest beneficiary of a late-stage apparent alliance with Andrew Yang, a former mayoral candidate, in the results released Tuesday, followed by Mr. Adams. In the final days of the race, Ms. Garcia and Mr. Yang campaigned together across the city, especially in neighborhoods that are home to sizable Asian American communities, and appeared together on campaign literature.

Ms. Garcia collected 29.4 percent of Mr. Yang’s votes; Mr. Adams won 24.8 percent, and Ms. Wiley took 10.2 percent.

Mr. Adams had carved out a lead of 9.4 percentage points over Ms. Wiley among those who voted in person last Tuesday or during the early voting period, and he was ahead of Ms. Garcia by about 12 percentage points.

Preview Last Fall?

ny times logoNew York Times, Inside Decades of Nepotism and Bungling at the N.Y.C. Elections Board, Brian M. Rosenthal and Michael Rothfeld, Oct. 26, 2020. Some staffers read or watch Netflix at the office, while others punch in and then go shopping or to the gym, current and former employees said.

The official who oversees voter registration in New York City is the 80-year-old mother of a former congressman. The director of Election Day operations is a close friend of Manhattan’s Republican chairwoman. The head of ballot management is the son of a former Brooklyn Democratic district leader. And the administrative manager is the wife of a City Council member.

As the workings of American democracy have become more complex — with sophisticated technology, early voting and the threat of foreign interference — New York has clung to a century-old system of local election administration that is one of the last vestiges of pure patronage in government, a relic from the era of powerful political clubhouses and Tammany Hall.

Already this year, the New York City Board of Elections failed to mail out many absentee ballots until the day before the primary, disenfranchising voters, and sent erroneous general election ballot packages to many other residents, spreading confusion.

Now, the agency is facing perhaps its biggest challenge yet: a heated general election, during a pandemic, under a president who has fomented distrust in the legitimacy of the vote — including by pointing to the problems in New York as evidence of widespread fraud, an unfounded claim.

It is also the first presidential election in New York with early voting, which began Saturday with tens of thousands of residents flooding polling places.

“I expect the B.O.E. to pull this off — there’s no other option. It’s the most important election of our lifetime,” said Scott Stringer, the city comptroller. “But we shouldn’t have to hold our breath because of their gross incompetence.”

New York is the only state in the country with local election boards whose staffers are chosen almost entirely by Democratic and Republican Party bosses, and the board in New York City illustrates the pitfalls. In recent years, the board has made increasingly high-profile blunders, from mistakenly purging 200,000 people from rolls ahead of the 2016 election to forcing some voters to wait in four-hour lines in 2018.

“It is really hard to have co-workers who are incapable of performing what they need to do,” said Charles Stimson, a trainer assistant who has worked at the board on and off since 1992.

Mr. Stimson was one of more than a dozen current and former employees who told The Times that the agency has a culture where ineptitude is common and accountability is rare. Some staffers read or watch Netflix at the office, the employees said. Others regularly fail to show up for work, with no fear of discipline. Several employees said some staffers punch in and then leave to go shopping or to the gym.

Under board rules, almost every job must be duplicated, with a Republican and Democrat each performing the same function.

“The agency is chronically dysfunctional,” said Mr. Stimson, who said he has complained internally and to a city watchdog.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden heads to Wisc. to pitch infrastructure deal, John Wagner, June 29, 2021. Jill Biden to appear at sports-themed vaccination events in Texas; Biden heading to Wisconsin to pitch bipartisan infrastructure deal.

President Biden plans to head to La Crosse, Wis., on Tuesday to pitch a nearly $1 trillion infrastructure deal struck by a bipartisan group of senators, as the White House seeks to navigate divisions among Democrats on Capitol Hill about how to proceed toward passage.

Behind the scenes, aides to the president are working to resolve differences between liberals and moderates in his party about whether to pass the bipartisan bill in tandem with a more sweeping bill focused on other Democratic priorities.

Here’s what to know:

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) introduced legislation that would create a select committee to probe the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, and an aide suggested that she may include a Republican among her appointees.
  • Attorneys for the Trump Organization met with New York prosecutors to argue that former president Donald Trump’s company should not be criminally charged over its business dealings.
  • Arizona’s Maricopa County announced that it will replace voting equipment that was turned over to a private contractor for a GOP-commissioned review of the presidential election, concerned that the process compromised the security of the machines.

 

Probes of U.S. Elections, Politicians

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: New York prosecutors must follow the facts as far as they go, Jennifer Rubin, right, June 29, 2021. Given that the Justice Department seems to have no intention of prosecuting jennifer rubin new headshotDonald Trump for any of his possible crimes during his presidency, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. may be the only prosecutor in the country daring enough to follow the facts and wield the law against the former president.

The New York Times reported this weekend that Vance is considering filing charges against the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg. The first — but likely not the last — set of charges concerning Trump’s financial dealings may come as early as this week. These opening charges appear to center on the organization’s alleged failure to pay taxes on fringe benefits, a seemingly mild offense.

However, the reaction from Trump’s lawyers suggests they understand the peril their client may face. The Times reports: “At a meeting with senior officials with the Manhattan district attorney’s office and the New York State attorney general’s office, defense lawyers pointed to the harm that the business, the Trump Organization, could face if it were indicted, including damage to its relationships with banks and business partners, the people said.” Whatever the initial charges, any felony charge against a corporation may produce extreme financial complications, which is exactly why Trump’s lawyers are so frantic to stave off any charges.

Moreover, if one understands that the opening suit is an attempt to ratchet up pressure on Weisselberg to cooperate with investigators, the charges in and of themselves may be less significant than what follows. A recent Brookings Institution report details how this may pan out, identifying an array of serious charges that, depending on the evidence, could ensnare Trump. This could include any alleged falsification of business records (such as hush-money payments made to Stormy Daniels, with whom Trump had an affair), tax fraud, bank and insurance fraud, and enterprise fraud (a sort of RICO charge for involvement in a criminal enterprise).

There is another factor that should compel Vance to consider the full range of available charges: The Justice Department has shown zero interest in holding Trump accountable for any offense — whether that is the attempted obstruction of justice laid out in the Mueller report; his effort to pressure Georgia election officials to “find” just enough votes to flip the state’s results; or his incitement to riot or commit insurrection on Jan. 6. Though Attorney General Merrick Garland may want to appear above the fray and avoid accusations of prosecutorial abuse, the refusal to bring meritorious charges against a former president sets a terrible precedent, encouraging future presidents to engage in misconduct.

In sum, the potential New York financial charges could be the only ones ever to be brought against Trump. The principle that no one is above the law therefore depends entirely on the judgment of New York state and city prosecutors. Building a case brick by brick may take time, but in laying the foundation with initial charges against Weisselberg and the Trump Organization, Vance preserves the opportunity to hold Trump accountable.

ny times logoNew York Times, Pelosi May Include a Republican on a Committee to Investigate Jan. 6, Nicholas Fandos, June 29, 2021 (print ed.).  Speaker Nancy Pelosi moved on Monday to create a House select committee to investigate the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, introducing a measure laying out a proposed 13-member panel while an aide suggested she might include a Republican among her appointees.

With a vote on the committee’s creation expected this week, the resolution laid out the parameters for a broad inquiry into “the facts, circumstances and causes relating to the Jan. 6, 2021, domestic terrorist attack” by a pro-Trump mob. The panel would have full subpoena power and a mandate to look deep into the web of disinformation and partisan animus that fueled the attack, as well as institutional failures that hampered the law enforcement response.

“Jan. 6 was one of the darkest days in our nation’s history,” Ms. Pelosi, Democrat of California, said in a statement. “It is imperative that we establish the truth of that day and ensure such an attack cannot again happen.”

The speaker said she was proceeding reluctantly after Senate Republicans blocked the creation of an independent commission that would have moved an investigation of the attack outside the politically charged halls of Congress. After months of pushing for such a body, Ms. Pelosi said there was “no prospect for additional votes from Republican senators,” whom she accused of putting their party’s interests above the country’s.

Ms. Pelosi and her leadership team expect the select committee measure to pass this week with almost all Democratic votes. Only 35 House Republicans voted to create a bipartisan independent commission, which their leaders portrayed as a partisan attack on Mr. Trump meant to kneecap the party in the 2022 elections. Even fewer are likely to embrace a panel with a Democratic majority.

Representative John Katko of New York, an outspoken Republican supporter of an independent commission, embodied the shift. On Monday, he said he would not only vote against the select committee but also probably refuse to serve on it if asked.

Under Ms. Pelosi’s proposal, Democrats would fill eight of the panel’s seats with appointees of their choice and select another five “after consultation with the minority leader,” Representative Kevin McCarthy of California. Mr. McCarthy has not said whether he will recommend members, though last week, he told police officers injured in the attack that he would take the appointment process seriously.

bennie thompson headshotMs. Pelosi would also name the committee’s chairman. Representative Bennie Thompson, right, Democrat of Mississippi and the head of the Homeland Security Committee, is considered a leading contender.

Ms. Pelosi appeared to be making preparations in case Mr. McCarthy recommended the appointment of lawmakers who had tried to downplay or deny the attack, which sent the vice president and members of Congress fleeing for their lives, left several people dead and injured 140 police officers.

One of her aides said she was considering picking a Republican who has taken the attack seriously for one of her eight slots. Though the aide did not say who the speaker had in mind, speculation immediately turned to Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a former member of House Republican leadership who was removed from her post after she pushed the party to hold itself and former President Donald J. Trump responsible for fomenting the violence with false claims that the 2020 election had been stolen.

The appointment of someone like Ms. Cheney could lend some bipartisan credibility to the select committee, and to the report and recommendations it ultimately files. As Democratic leaders know well, high-profile select committees in the House are often vilified by the minority party and viewed as partisan by the public.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Here comes Donald Trump’s week from hell, TR Kenneth, June 29, 2021.  Tucker Carlson is paranoidly declaring the NSA is spying on him. The facts are that the NSA can only legally monitor you if the person you are emailing/texting is an agent of a hostile foreign power or a FISA court has determined you are. Neither of these are good scenarios for Tucker. If he’s making this up in an attention-seeking victim way, then one is forced to conclude that he’s very afraid of that leaked information. Which, of course, makes us all want to know what it is. We suspect target letters are flying out of the DOJ like Mardi Gras beads.

bill palmer report logo headerRepublican Governor Kristi Noem, meanwhile, is hiring out her state’s National Guard to Texas as privately funded mercenaries. The predicate is that those criminal “illegals” headed north to Texas will keep on trucking all the way to that land of miracles, South Dakota, and create a crime wave. And somehow, of course, it’s all Joe Biden’s fault. Nonetheless, this has the stink of illegality all over it and we suspect it will be stopped by the courts.

But nothing tops the crazy that is sure to be going on within Trump & Co. Wesselberg is counting the minutes before an indictment pops up, along with an indictment of his children. According to Michael Cohen, they’re being told by Trump that the investigation is nothing, stay loyal and he’ll take care of it. If they were wise, they’d heed Cohen’s example as a warning, among the thousands of others Trump has ditched in their hour of need.

But these folks like Wesselberg and the Trump children, know no god but The Donald. They cannot conceive of their Trump bubble exploding. So, get the popcorn, pop the champagne and settle in. If Don Jr.’s unhinged social media posts are any indication, it’s going to be a bumpy week.

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Vaccine Mandates Are Coming. Good, Aaron E. Carroll (right, chief health officer for Indiana University), June 29, 2021 (print ed.). It would be nice if the United States could reach herd immunity with just vaccination incentives like tickets to ballgames and free beer. Americans don’t like to be told what to do, and public officials would almost always rather hand out cash than have aaron carrollto punish.

Some even view vaccine mandates as un-American, but they are part of our foundational fabric. During the Revolutionary War, inoculation against smallpox was common in Europe. Because of this, the British Army was largely safe from the disease, but the colonists’ army was not.

Gen. George Washington recognized that mandated mass inoculation was necessary to win the war, though, and told Congress so in 1777. Although he met resistance, his mandate worked. While smallpox outbreaks were common over the next few years and massively affected those who were susceptible to infection, no revolutionary regiments were incapacitated by the disease during the southern campaign, and the mandate arguably helped win the yearslong war.

Today, vaccination rates are stalling in many areas of the United States, and now nearly all Covid-19 deaths are among the unvaccinated. In Indiana, where I live, only half of people 18 or older are fully vaccinated.

Some states, including neighboring Ohio, have engaged in lotteries or prize giveaways in an attempt to entice people to get vaccinated. Those are carrots, or positive behavioral nudges. When it comes to incentives, most people like carrots. Sometimes, though, people need sticks.

When the United States was fighting smallpox long ago, it took mandates to get enough people vaccinated. To eradicate polio, the same was true. Nearly all major infectious diseases in the country — measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis, diphtheria and more — have been managed through vaccine mandates by schools. The result is that the vast majority of children are vaccinated, and in time, they grow into adults who are vaccinated. That’s how the country achieves real herd immunity.

But this process can take decades. Covid-19 is an emergency, and we don’t have that much time.

The mRNA vaccines, made by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, will likely get full approval for use from the Food and Drug Administration soon, which may be necessary for broader vaccine mandates. Although the vaccines are already known to be safe and effective, after being given to hundreds of millions of people, with full approval, more groups will begin mandating that their employees get vaccinated. It’s unlikely the United States can overcome the pandemic without such actions.

The U.S. experience with diseases for which vaccination isn’t mandated is also instructional: In those cases, vaccination rates have remained much lower than desired. The human papillomavirus vaccine approved in the United States, for example, protects against an extremely widespread and often asymptomatic sexually transmitted disease that can lead to cancer. Despite calls to mandate HPV vaccination, it is required for school only in a few states; Washington, D.C.; and Puerto Rico and has never been mandated outside the school environment, where it would do more good.

Although the vaccine was approved in 2006, only about half of teens are currently covered. What’s worse, only 22 percent of 18- to 26-year-olds, who are most at risk for infection, are fully vaccinated. Influenza vaccination is another that has rarely been mandated, and the United States has never achieved anywhere near the rates of protection that health experts would like, even during pandemics.

When it comes to herd immunity, community matters. The rate of vaccination at the national or state level is less important than the rate among people you live or interact with. This means that smaller groups can still take action to protect themselves and those around them from Covid-19. A number of hospitals and health care settings have mandated vaccination because those settings involve higher risk.

Some colleges and universities have also required students, professors and other staff members to be vaccinated before returning to campus. The schools want to return to full classrooms, busy dining halls and a vibrant campus life. They want students to be able to go to football games, events and even parties without fear of outbreaks. The only way to do that is to achieve significant levels of immunity. The only way to do that quickly and safely is through vaccination.

More than 500 colleges and universities in the United States have mandated Covid vaccination so far. My school, Indiana University, where I am the chief health officer, is one of them. Schools like ours believe that the only way to get to the level of safety we need to reopen without outbreaks or worse is to get nearly everyone immunized.

Some private companies have done the same. Many of our health care systems in Indiana have mandated vaccination.

There will be pushback against mandates. (Some students have filed a lawsuit against Indiana University, for example.) But it’s important to understand that mandates don’t mean people will be held down and given shots against their will. The mandate for the Affordable Care Act was a tax. Other mandates, such as those imposed by cruise ship companies, mean you will be unable to take certain vacations this year without vaccination.

And there must be exemptions to vaccine mandates. Some people can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons. Others have religious objections, and such exemptions are protected by law as well as custom. We should all be comfortable with that. To get to herd immunity, even to eradicate diseases, we don’t need vaccination rates of 100 percent. We just need to get to high enough levels that those who are immune protect those who aren’t. And in much of the country, we’re not even close.

When vaccination is the default, most people will get vaccinated. Mandates still aren’t popular; few public health measures are. But they work.

ny times logoNew York Times, Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines May Offer Lasting Protection, Study Finds, Staff Reports, June 29, 2021 (print ed.).  The two mRNA shots’ effects could last for years, a detailed pfizer logolook at immune responses suggested. Here’s the latest pandemic news.moderna logo

  • Thousands of inmates sent home because of Covid may have to return to prison. 
  • Two start-ups reaped billions in fees on loans aimed at helping small businesses.
  • Young adults are among the biggest barriers to mass immunity.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Young Adults Are Among the Biggest Barriers to Mass Immunity, Mitch Smith, Giulia Heyward and Sophie Kasakove, June 29, 2021. Many are foregoing Covid-19 vaccines for a complex mix of reasons. Health officials are racing to find ways to change their minds.

washington post logoWashington Post, 179.9 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 29, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 154.2 million people (46.4 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 54.2 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

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

World Cases: 182,276,265, Deaths: 3,947,630
U.S. Cases:     34,511,636, Deaths:    619,595
India Cases:    30,316,897, Deaths:    397,668
Brazil Cases:    18,448,402, Deaths:   514,202

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, NCAA leaders recommend allowing athletes to profit off their personal brands, Chuck Culpepper, June 29, 2021 (print ed.).  The NCAA Division I Board of Directors is expected to adopt the policy Wednesday. The NCAA’s Division I Council recommended Monday that the organization cease its long-held amateurism rules regarding name, image and likeness rights, a seismic shift in long-ncaa logostanding policies that prohibited college athletes from benefiting financially from their talents and fame.

The 24-member NCAA Division I Board of Directors will review that historic recommendation Wednesday, the eve of the July 1 date that athletes rights advocates have been pointing toward with anticipation for months.

On that day, eight of the 21 states that have passed laws enabling athletes the NIL option will see those laws go into effect. The eight are Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky (by executive order from Gov. Andy Beshear), Mississippi, New Mexico, Ohio and Texas. A ninth state, Arizona, has a law passed and going into effect on July 23.

Twelve more states have laws going into effect in 2022, 2023 and 2025, but some might move to bring those laws closer to the present.

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court will not hear Va. dispute on transgender bathroom rights, a win for student, Robert Barnes, June 29, 2021 (print ed.). The Supreme Court declined to hear a legal battle over the rights of transgender students, handing a victory to Gavin Grimm over the Virginia school board that denied him access to the boys’ restroom.

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a legal battle over the rights of transgender students, handing a victory to Gavin Grimm over the Virginia school board that denied him the right to use the boys’ restroom.

As is its custom, the court did not say why it was rejecting the appeal of the Gloucester County school district. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. said they would have accepted the case.

The court’s decision not to take up the case does not establish a national precedent, nor does it necessarily signal agreement with the lower court that sided with Grimm.

But gay- and transgender-rights activists cheered the high court’s decision to stay out of the long-running dispute. It let stand a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit that was a resounding victory for Grimm, who has become a well-known figure in the transgender-rights movement.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. forces come under fire in Syria hours after airstrikes targeted Iran-backed militias, Louisa Loveluck, John Hudson and Alex Horton, June 29, 2021 (print ed.).  Multiple rockets targeted a facility housing U.S. troops near al-Omar oil field in northeast Syria, an official said. No casualties were reported.

The Iraqi government condemned the U.S. airstrike against Iranian-linked militias on Iraqi soil early Monday, underscoring how combustible the situation has become. Iraq described the overnight strike as a “blatant” violation of national sovereignty that breached international conventions.

  

June 28

Top Headlines

 

Probes of U.S. Elections, Politicians

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Governance, Politics, Climate

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

More On Miami Condo Collapse

 

World News

 

Top Stories

Devastated Miami condo (Photo by Amy Beth Bennett of the Associated Press).

Devastated Miami condo (Photo by Amy Beth Bennett of the Associated Press).

ny times logoNew York Times, Possible Failure Point Emerges in Florida Building Collapse, James Glanz, Anjali Singhvi and Mike Baker, Updated June 28, 2021. Some engineers are now focusing near the bottom of the 13-story condo tower, where an initial failure could have triggered a structural avalanche.

The investigation into what may be the deadliest accidental building collapse in American history has just begun, but experts who have examined video footage of the disaster outside Miami are focusing on a spot in the lowest part of the condominium complex — possibly in or below the underground parking garage — where an initial failure could have set off a structural avalanche.

Called “progressive collapse,” the gradual spread of failures could have occurred for a variety of reasons, including design flaws or the less robust construction allowed under the building codes of four decades ago, when the complex was built. But that progression could not have occurred without some critical first failure, and close inspections of a grainy surveillance video that emerged in the initial hours after the disaster have given the first hints of where that might have been.

“It does appear to start either at or very near the bottom of the structure,” said Donald O. Dusenberry, a consulting engineer who has investigated many structural collapses. “It’s not like there’s a failure high and it pancaked down.”

The early examinations came as rescuers on Sunday spent a fourth day pushing through the enormous heap of debris created when half the 13-story building, Champlain Towers South, fell away early on Thursday. The death toll climbed to nine as additional remains were found, and more than 150 people remained unaccounted for.

While a number of bridges, overpasses and buildings under construction fail each year, the catastrophic collapse of an occupied building — absent a bomb or an earthquake — is rare, and investigators are struggling to understand how it could have come with so little urgent warning.

The search for an explanation comes with a sense of urgency not only for sister buildings near the complex but also for a broad part of South Florida, where a necklace of high-rise condos, many of them decades old, sits on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, enduring an ever-worsening barrage of hurricane winds, storm surge and sea salt. 

ny times logoNew York Times, Juul to Pay $40 Million to Settle N.C. Vaping Case, Sheila Kaplan, June 28, 2021. The settlement is the first in a stream of lawsuits against the company, which has been accused of deceptive marketing practices that contributed to a wave of nicotine addiction in teenagers.'

Juul Labs has agreed to pay North Carolina $40 million to settle the first of a spate of lawsuits brought by states and localities claiming the e-cigarette company’s marketing practices fueled widespread addiction to nicotine among young people and created a new public health problem.

The settlement, which was announced on Monday morning, allows the company to avoid a jury trial this summer as the Food and Drug Administration is deciding whether its vaping products can stay on the market.

The company had urgently sought the settlement, but the deal removes just one of numerous legal actions pending against it. Thirteen other states, including California, Massachusetts and New York, as well as the District of Columbia, have filed similar lawsuits. The central claim in each case is that Juul knew, or should have known, that it was hooking teenagers on pods that contained high levels of nicotine.

Nearly 2,000 other cases filed by cities, counties, school districts and other plaintiffs in federal courts have been combined into multi-district litigation overseen by a single federal judge, similar to what’s been done with cases against prescription opioid makers, distributors and retailers.

 

Probes of U.S. Elections, Politicians

ny times logoNew York Times, Pelosi May Include a Republican on a Committee to Investigate Jan. 6, Nicholas Fandos, June 28, 2021. Speaker Nancy Pelosi moved on Monday to create a House select committee to investigate the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, introducing a measure laying out a proposed 13-member panel while an aide suggested she might include a Republican among her appointees.

With a vote on the committee’s creation expected this week, the resolution laid out the parameters for a broad inquiry into “the facts, circumstances and causes relating to the Jan. 6, 2021, domestic terrorist attack” by a pro-Trump mob. The panel would have full subpoena power and a mandate to look deep into the web of disinformation and partisan animus that fueled the attack, as well as institutional failures that hampered the law enforcement response.

“Jan. 6 was one of the darkest days in our nation’s history,” Ms. Pelosi, Democrat of California, said in a statement. “It is imperative that we establish the truth of that day and ensure such an attack cannot again happen.”

The speaker said she was proceeding reluctantly after Senate Republicans blocked the creation of an independent commission that would have moved an investigation of the attack outside the politically charged halls of Congress. After months of pushing for such a body, Ms. Pelosi said there was “no prospect for additional votes from Republican senators,” whom she accused of putting their party’s interests above the country’s.

Ms. Pelosi and her leadership team expect the select committee measure to pass this week with almost all Democratic votes. Only 35 House Republicans voted to create a bipartisan independent commission, which their leaders portrayed as a partisan attack on Mr. Trump meant to kneecap the party in the 2022 elections. Even fewer are likely to embrace a panel with a Democratic majority.

Representative John Katko of New York, an outspoken Republican supporter of an independent commission, embodied the shift. On Monday, he said he would not only vote against the select committee but also probably refuse to serve on it if asked.

Under Ms. Pelosi’s proposal, Democrats would fill eight of the panel’s seats with appointees of their choice and select another five “after consultation with the minority leader,” Representative Kevin McCarthy of California. Mr. McCarthy has not said whether he will recommend members, though last week, he told police officers injured in the attack that he would take the appointment process seriously.

bennie thompson headshotMs. Pelosi would also name the committee’s chairman. Representative Bennie Thompson, right, Democrat of Mississippi and the head of the Homeland Security Committee, is considered a leading contender.

Ms. Pelosi appeared to be making preparations in case Mr. McCarthy recommended the appointment of lawmakers who had tried to downplay or deny the attack, which sent the vice president and members of Congress fleeing for their lives, left several people dead and injured 140 police officers.

One of her aides said she was considering picking a Republican who has taken the attack seriously for one of her eight slots. Though the aide did not say who the speaker had in mind, speculation immediately turned to Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a former member of House Republican leadership who was removed from her post after she pushed the party to hold itself and former President Donald J. Trump responsible for fomenting the violence with false claims that the 2020 election had been stolen.

The appointment of someone like Ms. Cheney could lend some bipartisan credibility to the select committee, and to the report and recommendations it ultimately files. As Democratic leaders know well, high-profile select committees in the House are often vilified by the minority party and viewed as partisan by the public.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s firm faces deadline to persuade prosecutors not to file charges, Shayna Jacobs, Josh Dawsey and David A. Fahrenthold, June 28, 2021 (print ed.). The Monday deadline for attorneys of the Trump Organization signals that charges are being considered as part of an investigation into the dealings of the former president’s company.

Prosecutors in New York have given former president Donald Trump’s attorneys a deadline of Monday afternoon to make any final arguments as to why the Trump Organization should not face criminal charges over its financial dealings, according to two people familiar with the matter.

That deadline is a strong signal that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (D), above right, and New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) — now working together, after each has spent more than two years investigating Trump’s business — are considering criminal charges against the company as an entity.

Earlier this year, Vance convened a grand jury in Manhattan to consider indictments in the investigation. No entity or individual has been charged in the investigations thus far, and it remains possible that no charges will be filed.

Prosecutors have shown interest in whether Trump’s company used misleading valuations of its properties to deceive lenders and taxing authorities, and in whether taxes were paid on fringe benefits for company executives, according to court documents and people familiar with the investigations.

The two people familiar with the deadline set for Trump’s attorneys spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose private conversations. Under New York law, prosecutors may file charges against corporations in addition to individuals.

Last Thursday, lawyers working for Trump personally and for the Trump Organization met virtually with prosecutors to make the case that charges were not warranted. Meetings like these are common in financial investigations, allowing defense attorneys a chance to present evidence before prosecutors make a decision on whether to seek charges.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump lashes out at Barr after he speaks dismissively of election fraud claims, John Wagner, June 28, 2021. Former president Donald Trump lashed out on Sunday at former attorney general William P. Barr, repeatedly calling him a “RINO” in a statement that followed the release of a book excerpt in which Barr spoke dismissively of Trump’s claims of election fraud.

In interviews with ABC News’s Jonathan Karl for an upcoming book, Barr said he doubted many of the baseless allegations that Trump was making in the aftermath of the election that he lost to Biden.

“My attitude was: It was put-up or shut-up time,” Barr reportedly told Karl, according to an excerpt published in The Atlantic. “If there was evidence of fraud, I had no motive to suppress it. But my suspicion all the way along was that there was nothing there.”

Barr then used profanity to describe Trump’s allegations.

In a statement, Trump took aim at Barr, describing him as a RINO — Republican in name only — and saying “he came in with a semi-bang but out with a whimper.”

“RINO Attorney General Bill Barr failed to investigate election fraud, and really let down the American people,” Trump said. “It’s people in authority like Bill Barr that allow the Crazed Radical Left to succeed.”

In the remainder of his statement, Trump repeated several allegations of voter fraud that have not been substantiated by evidence.

 

djt michael cohen

Palmer Report, Opinion: Looks like this is why the entire Trump Organization is being criminally indicted, Bill Palmer, right, June 28, 2021. Last night the Washington Post revealed that New York bill palmerprosecutors had given the Trump Organization until today to make the case that it shouldn’t be criminally indicted. This means the indictment will all but certainly happen very soon, and could potentially happen as soon as tonight or tomorrow. It also helps answer the question of what that indictment might be all about.

Last night’s WaPo article specifically referenced not just Allen Weisselberg’s failure to pay personal taxes on massive fringe benefits – which would feel more like a charge specifically against him – but also Trump Organization’s fraudulent use of misleading property values.

This feels like a clue that the initial criminal indictment against the Trump Organization this week could be related to those property values. After all, this wouldn’t bill palmer report logo headermerely be a crime personally committed by Weisselberg or any one person. It would be a crime that the Trump Organization’s top executives, by virtue of all knowing about it, would all be collectively guilty of. Michael Cohen (above left) testified to Congress years ago that Donald Trump was guilty of this practice, setting off the New York criminal investigation to begin with. Now it looks like everyone in the Trump Organization might go down for it.

A criminal indictment of the Trump Organization would shatter its ability to do business, likely resulting in near-instant bankruptcy and dissolution. It would also spell out to Donald Trump and his kids that they’re on track to be individually criminally indicted for these financial crimes, which could prompt them to begin trying to throw each other under the bus. We’re now just days, and maybe even just 24 hours, away from finding out what the chaotic fallout is going to look like.

Mother Jones, Investigation; Documents Show Ivanka Trump Didn’t Testify Accurately in Inauguration Scandal Case, David Corn, June 28, 2021. She said she played no role in planning inaugural events. These records suggest otherwise.

The Trump family has trouble with depositions. In 2007 testimony, Donald Trump was repeatedly shown to be a liar. In February, Donald Trump Jr. was deposed in the Trump inauguration scandal lawsuit, and on several key points, under oath, he provided false testimony. A review of documents filed in that case and other material obtained by Mother Jones shows that Ivanka Trump, left, also ivanka trump long hair filetestified inaccurately during her deposition in this lawsuit.

karl racineThe inauguration probe was launched last year by Karl Racine, right, the attorney general of Washington, DC. He has alleged that Trump’s inauguration committee misused charitable funds to enrich the Trump family.

As Racine put it, the lawsuit maintains “that the Inaugural Committee, a nonprofit corporation, coordinated with the Trump family to grossly overpay for event space in the Trump International Hotel… The Committee also improperly used non-profit funds to throw a private party [at the Trump Hotel] for the Trump family costing several hundred thousand dollars.” In short, the attorney general accused the Trump gang of major grifting, and he is seeking to recover the money paid to the Trump Hotel so those funds can be used for real charitable purposes.

During a December 1 deposition—in which she swore to tell the truth—Ivanka Trump, the eldest daughter of Donald Trump who was an executive at the Trump Organization before becoming a White House adviser to her father, was asked if she had any “involvement in the process of planning the inauguration.”

She replied, “I really didn’t have an involvement.” Ivanka testified that if her “opinion was solicited” regarding an inauguration event, she “would give feedback to my father or to anyone who asked my perspective or opinion.” And that was as far as her participation went.

But this wasn’t accurate, according to the documents, which indicate she was part of the decision-making for various aspects of the inauguration, including even the menus for events.

Palmer Report, Commentary: Ivanka Trump caught giving false testimony under oath in Washington DC Attorney General probe, Bill Palmer, June 28, 2021. Even as the criminal probe being carried out by bill palmerthe Manhattan District Attorney and the New York Attorney General is set to get big headlines this week due to impending criminal indictments, a separate civil probe by the Washington DC Attorney General just took a sharp turn in an ugly direction.

The Washington DC Attorney General has been investigating financial fraud and abuses in relation to the Trump inaugural fund. Ivanka Trump is not known to be a target of that investigation, but she was called as a witness. Now Mother Jones has pieced together that her testimony was false. This is a big deal, because she was under oath at the time.

bill palmer report logo headerThere are a couple ways the Washington DC Attorney General’s office can go from here. If it believes that Ivanka Trump’s false testimony was intended to deceive and that it can get a conviction against her, it can bring perjury charges against her. This would result in her arrest and trial. Even in a civil probe like this one, false testimony can result in criminal charges, because the civil case is being brought by the government and not by a private party.

On the other hand, if the AG’s office isn’t sure whether Ivanka’s false testimony is egregious enough to get a perjury conviction, it can simply demand that she come back and tell the truth and become a really helpful witness in the inaugural fund probe, in exchange for not charging her. In other words, she’d have to give up everyone else. She might be willing to do this, rather than take her chances with perjury charges that just might stick.

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

washington post logoWashington Post, Spread of delta variant prompts new coronavirus restrictions worldwide, Erin Cunningham, June 28, 2021 (print ed.). The new curbs on travel and daily life stretched from Australia and Bangladesh to South Africa and Germany. The World Health Organization urged faster deployment of coronavirus vaccines.

Here are some other developments:

  • australian flag wavingAustralia is on the verge of a national coronavirus outbreak just as most other developed economies are emerging from restrictions, with the delta variant of the virus seeding new clusters across the continent.
  • Italy on Monday lifted its outdoor mask mandate as cases drop and vaccinations rise, marking a major milestone for one of the earliest and hardest-hit hotbeds of the pandemic.
  • Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, who had taken time off to recuperate from fatigue, will be off-duty for a few more days than planned. The Tokyo 2020 Games begin in 25 days, and infections have started rising again in the Japanese capital.
  • Bogus vaccination certificates are booming in Russia as Moscow orders 60 percent of workers who interact with the public to get inoculated or get different jobs. The capital on Sunday logged a record 144 covid-19 deaths in 24 hours.
  • The United States is providing Honduras with 1.5 million doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted Sunday. The nation of about 10 million has one of the lowest inoculation rates in Latin America, with fewer than 1 percent of the population fully inoculated.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines May Offer Lasting Protection, Study Finds, Staff Reports, June 28, 2021. The two mRNA shots’ effects could last for years, a detailed pfizer logolook at immune responses suggested. Here’s the latest pandemic news.moderna logo

  • Thousands of inmates sent home because of Covid may have to return to prison. 
  • Two start-ups reaped billions in fees on loans aimed at helping small businesses.
  • Young adults are among the biggest barriers to mass immunity.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Young Adults Are Among the Biggest Barriers to Mass Immunity, Mitch Smith, Giulia Heyward and Sophie Kasakove, June 28, 2021. Many are foregoing Covid-19 vaccines for a complex mix of reasons. Health officials are racing to find ways to change their minds.

washington post logoWashington Post, 179.3 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 28, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 153 million people (46.1 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 54 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

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

World Cases: 181,946,305, Deaths: 3,940,743
U.S. Cases:     34,494,677, Deaths:     619,424
India Cases:    30,279,331, Deaths:     396,761
Brazil Cases:   18,420,598, Deaths:     513,544

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Climate

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Political Updates: Biden hosts Israel’s president at White House, John Wagner, June 28, 2021. Biden welcomed Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to the White House on Israel FlagMonday as the two countries seek to recalibrate their relationship under new governments.

As president, Rivlin has a largely ceremonial figurehead role, less powerful than the prime minister.

In other news: On Capitol Hill, the House is preparing for some high-profile votes this week, including one on a resolution to create a select committee to look into the violent Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Heat wave crushes records in Pacific Northwest, Jason Samenow and Ian Livingston, June 28, 2021 (print ed.). / Extreme heat leads to health scares, delays at U.S. track and field trials. Portland and Seattle set all-time highs of 112 and 104 degrees Sunday. Canada saw a temperature of 116, the highest ever observed.

President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, center right, areshown in a file photo attending church, which they frequently do.

President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, center right, are shown in a file photo attending church, which they frequently do.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Catholic bishops’ anti-Biden project is backfiring, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, June 28, 2021 (print ed.). A majority of the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops didn’t ej dionne w open neckseem concerned that by uncritically fusing the vicious culture wars of our secular politics with the church’s sacrament of the Eucharist, they will drive more people away from faith and a transcendent sense of life.

The decision of right-wing Catholic bishops to begin drafting a statement that many of them said was aimed at President Biden and his reception of communion was not just a rebuke to him and to other Catholic Democrats. It was also an attack on Pope Francis, who had made clear that he did not want them to go down this divisive road. And it reinforced the suspicions of the church among progressive-leaning young people already alienated from Christian institutions that champion extreme forms of conservative politics.
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A group of angry men (they are all men) seemed to want nothing to do with their brothers and sisters who believe that social justice and a radical concern for “the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged,” as Francis put it in 2018, should be at the heart of Catholic teaching.

No, they would relegate all this to an inferior status in comparison with opposition to abortion. Which is a shame because, in its day-to-day life, the church does a great deal to fight poverty, injustice and exclusion.

It’s the anti-Francis majority of American bishops, not liberals or Francis defenders, who would put politics ahead of faith, ideology ahead of theology, and partisanship ahead of fellowship. The 75 percent of bishops who voted on June 17 to prepare the statement are importing the worst aspects of American politics into the life of the church.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Two Start-Ups Reaped Billions in Fees on Small Business Relief Loans, Stacy Cowley and Ella Koeze, June 27, 2021.  Blueacorn and Womply processed one-third of all Paycheck Protection Program loans this year, stepping in when big lenders wouldn’t.

washington post logoWashington Post, Mike Gravel 1930–2021: Senator from Alaska with theatrical flair dies at 91, Chris Power, June 28, 2021 (print ed.). Former U.S. senator Mike Gravel, an Alaska Democrat with a flair for the theatrical who rose from obscurity to brief renown by reading passages of the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record in an effort to end the Vietnam War and who ran quixotic campaigns for the presidency in 2008 and 2019, died June 26 at his home in Seaside, Calif. He was 91.

The cause was multiple myeloma, said his daughter, Lynne Mosier.

mike gravel offical photoBorn into a working-class Massachusetts family of French Canadian immigrants, Mr. Gravel (pronounced gruh-VELL) was drawn to politics at a young age but sensed that he would be hindered by his lack of connections and polish. After graduating from college, he set out for Alaska in 1956 — three years before it became a state — hoping to find greater political opportunities in a place with no entrenched establishment.

Within a few years, Mr. Gravel was prospering in real estate development and won election to the state House of Representatives, rising to the position of speaker in 1965. Buoyed by his telegenic looks, and what he presented as his support for the Vietnam War in a relatively hawkish state, he narrowly unseated an incumbent octogenarian U.S. senator in 1968.

“I said what I said” about Vietnam, he told NPR decades later, “to advance my career.”

In Washington, he reversed his stance and became known among the chamber’s more traditional denizens as a gadfly. He was by his own admission “too abrasive” for backroom persuasion and enjoyed filibustering. His legislative preoccupations, besides ending U.S. involvement in Vietnam, included opposing the Nixon administration’s war on drugs and abolishing the draft.

Wayne Madsen Report, Commentary: Mike Gravel: fond recollections, Wayne Madsen, left, June 28, 2021. Last week, when I received an email from former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel's wife, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallWhitney, I figured the news would not be good.

Mike, whose longshot presidential campaign I supported after he announced his candidacy for the 2008 Democratic nomination on April 17, 2006, had been transferred to hospice care in California. Sadly, Mike succumbed on June 26 to multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood plasma cells. Mike's family and I were hoping he would, at least, make it to June 29 -- tomorrow -- the 50th anniversary of his reading of the then-classified Pentagon Papers in the Senate and, thus, into the Congressional Record.

wayne madesen report logoMany times, Mike and I found ourselves at some of the same early evening meetings and other social events in DC and Arlington. Sometimes, Mike would give me a ride back to my apartment in Arlington. On one occasion in 2007, while he was still a candidate for president, he told me before I got out of his car that if he were elected, he wanted me to be his CIA director. While flattered, I told Mike that if that were to occur, two things would happen in quick succession....

Today, the nation not only mourns the passing of a great and fearless political leader, proponent of democracy, and representative of the people, but I lament the passing of a good friend. Borrowing from Dwight Eisenhower's 1952 and 1956 "I Like Ike" campaigns, "I like Mike" became an often-used slogan in the 2008 Gravel campaign. I, for one, will always "like Mike."

The Guardian, Revealed: neo-Confederate group includes military officers and politicians, Jason Wilson, June 28, 2021. Leaked membership data from the neo-Confederate Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) organization has revealed that the organization’s members include serving military officers, elected officials, public employees, and a national security expert whose CV boasts of “Department of Defense Secret Security Clearance”.

But alongside these members are others who participated in and committed acts of violence at the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and others who hold overlapping membership in violent neo-Confederate groups such as the League of the South (LOS).

The group, which is organized as a federation of state chapters, has recently made news for increasingly aggressive campaigns against the removal of Confederate monuments. This has included legal action against states and cities, the flying of giant Confederate battle flags near public roadways, and Confederate flag flyovers at Nascar races.

Last Monday, the Georgia division of SCV commenced legal action against the majority-black city of Decatur with the aim of restoring a Confederate memorial obelisk which was removed in June 2020, and later replaced with a statue of the late congressman and civil rights activist, John Lewis.

Last year, in a widely criticized move, the University of North Carolina’s board of governors proposed creating a $2.5m charitable trust which would pay the state’s SCV organization to maintain a Confederate “Silent Sam” statue which had been removed from the campus.

That deal fell apart in recent weeks. But critics – including former members – alleged that the SCV commander for the state, Kevin Stone, associated with extremists and other “scary” individuals who had been recruited to the group.

Stone, who who also co-founded the SCV Mechanized Cavalry, a motorcycle club associated with the SCV, reportedly led a takeover of the branch which pushed out anti-racist members.

College of Charleston historian, Adam Domby, whose book, The False Cause, details the history of the neo-Confederate movement, said in a telephone conversation that “throughout its history, the SCV has been linked with white supremacist groups, and historically it has avowedly supported white supremacist groups”.

The national membership data was provided to the Guardian by a self-described hacktivist whose identity has been withheld for their safety.

The data reveals the names, addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses of almost 59,000 past and present members of the organization, including 91 who used addresses associated with government agencies for their contact email, and 74 who used addresses associated with various branches of the armed forces.

They noticed that the organization’s website had been misconfigured, allowing access to membership rolls, recruiting data, and other information about the internal workings of the group. The website has had the security issue for a number of years, according to the hacktivist.

The membership data shows members’ names, addresses, telephone numbers, whether they are active or not, and their email addresses.

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: An Accusation Blew Up a Campaign. The Media Didn’t Know What to Do, Ben Smith, June 28, 2021 (print ed.). Handling a delicate allegation of sexual scott stringer campaign resizedmisconduct is a lot more challenging than covering a horse race, Ben Smith, our media columnist, writes.

Two days after coming in fifth in the election night count of votes for New York mayor last week, Scott Stringer, right, was sitting in a high-polish diner in TriBeCa, drinking his second bottle of Sprite and trying to figure out what had happened.

He held up his iPhone to show me a text message he had received on Election Day from one of the progressive elected officials who had endorsed him and then dropped him after a woman accused him of sexually assaulting her more than 20 years ago. In the text was a photograph of the official’s ranked-choice ballot. Mr. Stringer was ranked first.

“This profile in courage,” he began, half laughing. “You can’t make this up. Who does that?”

Mr. Stringer, the 61-year-old New York City comptroller, isn’t the only one trying to puzzle out what happened over a few days in April in the campaign. Mr. Stringer, a geeky fixture in Manhattan politics, had been among the leading candidates when the woman, Jean Kim, accused him of touching her without her consent in the back of taxis. Suddenly he, the media covering him, his supporters and Ms. Kim were all reckoning with big questions of truth, doubt, politics and corroboration.

As much as the exposure of police brutality has been driven by cellphone video, the #MeToo movement was powered by investigative journalism, and courageous victims who chose to speak to reporters.

Crucially, reporters honed the craft of corroboration, showing that an accuser had told a friend, a relative or a therapist at the time of the episode and that the accuser wasn’t simply relying on old memories. The reporters also looked for evidence that the accuser’s account was part of a pattern, ruling out a single misunderstanding.

Those technical aspects of the stories weren’t always widely understood. But the landmark investigations were, even in this divided moment, unifying. There was no serious partisan division over any of those men’s guilt because the journalistic evidence was simply so overwhelming. But not every allegation — and not every true allegation — can meet that standard. Not every victim is able to talk about it immediately; not every bad act is part of a pattern.

In the case of Mr. Stringer and Ms. Kim, observers were left simply with his claim their relationship was consensual, and hers that it wasn’t.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats pushed hard last year to rein in police. A rise in murders is prompting a shift, Sean Sullivan, Marianna Sotomayor and Jacqueline Alemany, June 28, 2021 (print ed.).  A year ago, a majority of the Minneapolis City Council pledged to disband the police department. At protests around the country, left-wing activists chanted, “Defund the police!” And in New York City, an insurgent liberal who embraced that slogan ousted a joe biden black background resized serious filelongtime Democratic congressman.

But now, President Biden is inviting local governments to use federal money to fund police departments and hire more officers. The Democratic mayor of Minneapolis wants to replenish his city’s police force. And a former policeman running on a law-and-order platform is leading as votes are counted in the Democratic primary for New York mayor.

democratic donkey logoThirteen months after the police killing of George Floyd sparked an impassioned movement in the Democratic Party to rein in police departments, a surge in homicides has prompted a shift in the opposite direction. Democrats are scrambling to make new investments in policing and seeking to project toughness on crime, even as they continue pushing for police reforms and alternative means of deterring crime.

Now in control of the White House, Congress and most big cities, Democrats have struggled to contain the deadly violence this year, which is expected to worsen as the summer progresses. They are facing a barrage of criticism from Republicans, who are portraying Democrats as soft on crime as part of cheri bustos ha coordinated strategy for next year’s midterm elections.

These trends have alarmed Democrats at all levels — from the White House, where Biden recently delivered his first major speech on fighting crime; to voters, who are rallying behind crime-focused candidates in early primaries; to U.S. House members who are bluntly warning liberal colleagues to tone down their attacks on law enforcement.

“ ‘Defund police’ is a phrase that I wish had never been uttered,” said Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), right, who ran the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee when Republicans picked up 13 House seats over the two-year 2020 election cycle. “We’ve got to do a better job of talking about what we do want to do.”

ny times logoNew York Times, An Unmarried Catholic Schoolteacher Got Pregnant. She Was Fired, Tracey Tully, June 28, 2021. A lawsuit that she filed in New Jersey is testing the First Amendment limits of religious freedom.

When a Catholic school art teacher was asked to take on extra responsibilities, she requested a raise, explaining that she was about to have a baby.

Weeks later, she was fired from her New Jersey elementary school. The principal, a Roman Catholic nun, told her she was being terminated “because she was pregnant and unmarried,” court records show.

The woman sued. Her daughter is now 7, but the lawsuit remains in limbo, caught in a yearslong back-and-forth between New Jersey’s trial and appellate courts.

An appeals court has twice sided with the ex-teacher, Victoria Crisitello. But last month, the state’s highest court, acting on an appeal by the school, agreed to hear the case, signaling a willingness to wade into the highly charged debate over the relationship between the government and religion.

Its decision comes less than a year after the United States Supreme Court upheld the rights of church-run schools to terminate lay teachers, one of a string of recent decisions by a court far more likely to rule in favor of religious rights than not.

The archdiocese that oversees the New Jersey school, St. Theresa in Kenilworth, has framed its legal argument as a must-win fight for the “fundamental freedom of religion.”

“Sex out of wedlock violates a fundamental Catholic belief that the school in this instance felt it could not overlook,” lawyers for St. Theresa’s wrote in a petition to the state Supreme Court.

Ms. Crisitello’s lawyer, Thomas A. McKinney, says the case is as much about gender discrimination and sexual double standards as it is about First Amendment rights.

The principal acknowledged in depositions that she made no effort to determine if other staff members, including men, were engaged in extramarital sex, court records show.

Because the school’s only proof of a violation of its morals code was the pregnancy itself, “only a woman could be punished, not a man,” Mr. McKinney said. “If you’re going to punish someone for doing something,” he said, “it has to be applied equally and evenly.”

Ms. Crisitello, who attended St. Theresa School as a child, was fired in 2014 and no longer works as a teacher. Her daughter was later baptized in the Catholic church that runs the prekindergarten-to eighth-grade school.

Last July, the Supreme Court ruled that federal employment discrimination laws do not apply to teachers at church-run schools whose duties include religious instruction. In doing so, it expanded the scope of employees deemed outside the reach of employment discrimination protections — known as the “ministerial exception” to workplace bias laws.

It is no longer only trained or ordained ministers and religious leaders who may be excluded from work bias protections; the federal court ruled that lay employees involved in promoting church doctrine were also exempt from federal employment discrimination laws.

The broadened definition could arguably be applied to nearly any employee of a religious school, significantly altering job protections, even in a state like New Jersey, where workers have traditionally enjoyed strong legal safeguards, said Stacy Hawkins, a Rutgers Law School professor who teaches employment law.

washington post logoWashington Post, NCAA leaders recommend allowing athletes to profit off their personal brands, Chuck Culpepper, June 28, 2021. The NCAA Division I Board of Directors is expected to adopt the policy Wednesday. The NCAA’s Division I Council recommended Monday that the organization cease its long-held amateurism rules regarding name, image and likeness rights, a seismic shift in long-ncaa logostanding policies that prohibited college athletes from benefiting financially from their talents and fame.

The 24-member NCAA Division I Board of Directors will review that historic recommendation Wednesday, the eve of the July 1 date that athletes rights advocates have been pointing toward with anticipation for months.

On that day, eight of the 21 states that have passed laws enabling athletes the NIL option will see those laws go into effect. The eight are Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky (by executive order from Gov. Andy Beshear), Mississippi, New Mexico, Ohio and Texas. A ninth state, Arizona, has a law passed and going into effect on July 23.

Twelve more states have laws going into effect in 2022, 2023 and 2025, but some might move to bring those laws closer to the present.

washington post logoWashington Post, Court dismisses FTC antitrust complaint against Facebook, says agency can refile, Cat Zakrzewski and Rachel Lerman, June 28, 2021.  A district court in D.C. said the Federal Trade Commission failed to offer enough facts to prove Facebook has monopoly power, immediately sparking calls for a rewrite of antitrust law.

The court also dismissed a similar lawsuit brought by a group of state attorneys general against the company that challenged the company’s acquisitions of photo-sharing service Instagram and messaging app WhatsApp. The court ruled that the states waited too long to challenge Facebook’s acquisition of the companies in 2012 and 2014, respectively.

facebook logoIt was a major victory for Facebook, which has long argued that it was just one option in a burgeoning universe of social media companies, citing the rise of such services as TikTok, which claims 50 million daily users in the United States.

In its complaint, the FTC alleged that Facebook controls more than 60 percent of the social media market. The commission argued that “no other social network of comparable scale exists in the United States,” citing a redacted figure of the daily and monthly users on the company’s flagship service. The FTC alleged that Facebook has had monopoly power since at least 2011, but it defined the market it said Facebook monopolizes very narrowly, excluding professional social networks like LinkedIn and video streaming players such as YouTube.

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court will not hear Va. dispute on transgender bathroom rights, a win for student, Robert Barnes, June 28, 2021. The Supreme Court declined to hear a legal battle over the rights of transgender students, handing a victory to Gavin Grimm over the Virginia school board that denied him access to the boys’ restroom.

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a legal battle over the rights of transgender students, handing a victory to Gavin Grimm over the Virginia school board that denied him the right to use the boys’ restroom.

As is its custom, the court did not say why it was rejecting the appeal of the Gloucester County school district. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. said they would have accepted the case.

The court’s decision not to take up the case does not establish a national precedent, nor does it necessarily signal agreement with the lower court that sided with Grimm.

But gay- and transgender-rights activists cheered the high court’s decision to stay out of the long-running dispute. It let stand a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit that was a resounding victory for Grimm, who has become a well-known figure in the transgender-rights movement.

 

More On Miami Condo Collapse

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Hope for Survivors is Quickly Fading at Collapsed Florida Condo, Giulia Heyward, Richard Fausset, Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura, Madeleine Ngo and Christina Morales. Updated June 28, 2021. Despite working round-the-clock, rescuers have found only a few bodies and scattered remains amid the wreckage. Four days after the accident near Miami, the death toll had climbed to nine. But there were still more than 150 people unaccounted for.

ny times logoNew York Times, Surveillance Video Shows Miami Condo Collapse, Christina Kelso and Nailah Morgan, Updated June 28, 2021. Video annotated by The New York Times describes the stages of a deadly building collapse in Surfside, Fla., on Thursday. The video, which captures the southern side of the building, appears to be a recording of a screen playing the surveillance footage.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. forces come under fire in Syria hours after airstrikes targeted Iran-backed militias, Louisa Loveluck, John Hudson and Alex Horton, June 28, 2021. Multiple rockets targeted a facility housing U.S. troops near al-Omar oil field in northeast Syria, an official said. No casualties were reported.

The Iraqi government condemned the U.S. airstrike against Iranian-linked militias on Iraqi soil early Monday, underscoring how combustible the situation has become. Iraq described the overnight strike as a “blatant” violation of national sovereignty that breached international conventions.

ny times logoSyria FlagNew York Times, U.S. Carries Out Airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, Eric Schmitt, Updated June 28, 2021. The attacks were against facilities used by Iranian-backed militias that the Pentagon said had conducted strikes against American personnel in Iraq.

ny times logoNew York Times, Crossing the Red Line: Behind China’s Takeover of Hong Kong, Chris Buckley, Vivian Wang and Austin Ramzy, Updated June 28, 2021. One year ago, the city’s freedoms were curtailed with breathtaking speed. But the clampdown was years in the making, and many signals were missed.

hong kong flagHong Kong’s march toward an authoritarian future began with a single phrase in a dry policy paper. Beijing, the document declared, would wield “comprehensive jurisdiction” over the territory.

The paper, published in June 2014, signaled the Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s determination to tame political defiance in the former British colony, which had kept its own laws and China Flagfreedoms. But the words were dismissed by many as intimidating swagger that the city’s robust legal system and democratic opposition could face down.

Hong Kong now knows Mr. Xi’s ambitions with a stunned clarity. The paper marked the opening of a contest for control in the city, culminating in the sweeping national security law that few saw coming.

Since that law took force one year ago, Beijing has unleashed a stampede of actions to bring Hong Kong into political lock step with the Chinese Communist Party: arresting activists, seizing assets, firing government workers, detaining newspaper editors and rewriting school curriculums.

 

June 27

Top Headlines

 

Probes of U.S. Politics

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Governance, Politics

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

World News

 

Top Stories

Devastated Miami condo (Photo by Amy Beth Bennett of the Associated Press).

Devastated Miami condo (Photo by Amy Beth Bennett of the Associated Press).

ny times logoNew York Times, Engineer Warned of ‘Major Structural Damage’ at Florida Condo, Mike Baker and Anjali Singhvi, June 27, 2021 (print ed.). An engineer in 2018 urged the managers of the Champlain Towers South condominium complex near Miami to repair cracked columns and crumbling concrete.

Repair work was finally about to begin when the building collapsed on Thursday, killing at least four people and leaving scores of residents undeway when the building collapsed.

Three years before the deadly collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium complex near Miami, a consultant found alarming evidence of “major structural damage” to the concrete slab below the pool deck and “abundant” cracking and crumbling of the columns, beams and walls of the parking garage under the 13-story building.

The engineer’s report helped shape plans for a multimillion-dollar repair project that was set to get underway soon — more than two and a half years after the building managers were warned — but the building suffered a catastrophic collapse in the middle of the night on Thursday, trapping sleeping residents in a massive heap of debris.

The complex’s management association had disclosed some of the problems in the wake of the collapse, but it was not until city officials released the 2018 report late Friday that the full nature of the concrete and rebar damage — most of it probably caused by years of exposure to the corrosive salt air along the South Florida coast — became chillingly apparent.

“Though some of this damage is minor, most of the concrete deterioration needs to be repaired in a timely fashion,” the consultant, Frank Morabito, wrote about damage near the base of the structure as part of his October 2018 report on the 40-year-old building in Surfside, Fla. He gave no indication that the structure was at risk of collapse, though he noted that the needed repairs would be aimed at “maintaining the structural integrity” of the building and its 136 units.

Kenneth S. Direktor, a lawyer who represents the resident-led association that operates the building, said this week that the repairs had been set to commence, based on extensive plans drawn up this year.

washington post logoWashington Post, Anxiety spreads that other buildings near collapsed condo could also be in danger, Steven Mufson, Lori Rozsa and Meryl Kornfield, June 27, 2021 (print ed.). Engineer warned of ‘major structural damage’ years before building fell; Video timeline: How the building collapsed; FAQ: What you need to know.

Surfside officials worried about the potential for new disasters ordered inspections of buildings near the collapsed Champlain Towers South on Saturday, as fires at the disaster site smoldered and hopes of finding survivors faded.

Rescue workers, armed with sonar and cameras, found three more sets of remains, bringing the total to five people dead and 156 others missing inside a haphazard heap of concrete and steel rebar. Officials warned that picking apart the heavy sandwiched apartments was a delicate and dangerous task and that progress would be slow.

Officials said DNA samples collected from relatives of the missing would help in the speedy identification of those found.

ny times logoNew York Times, Rescue workers are pressing on for a third day. No survivors were found Friday. James C. McKinley Jr., June 27, 2021 (print ed.). As the sun rose on Saturday, rescue workers entered the third day of an increasingly desperate search for anyone who might still be alive within the giant pile of broken concrete and twisted metal that once was a condominium building north of Miami Beach.

Four people have been confirmed dead, but the fate of 159 others remained unknown, and their family members clung to thinning threads of hope.

Not a single survivor was found on Friday or early Saturday in the smoking debris of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Fla., and the families of the missing wrestled with growing dread. At least seven children were among those still unaccounted for.

ny times logoNew York Times, Infrastructure Deal Is Back on Track After Biden’s Assurances, Nicholas Fandos, June 27, 2021. A fragile bipartisan infrastructure deal appeared to be moving forward once again on Sunday, as moderate Republicans said they had been reassured that President Biden would not hold it hostage while Democrats simultaneously work on a larger, partisan economic package.

After 48 hours of chaos, the statements by leading Republicans prompted a sigh of relief for the White House, where Mr. Biden and top aides had worked through the weekend to keep the eight-year, $1.2 trillion investment to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure from falling apart. G.O.P. negotiators even suggested that they could now begin drafting the bill and said they believed it would win enough Republican votes to pass the Senate next month.

transportation dept logo“The waters have been calmed,” said Senator Mitt Romney, left, Republican of Utah.

mitt romney wStill, the whole episode underscored just how precarious a path the president and his allies face in the months ahead, as they try to steer the two separate and costly spending plans into law. They have laid out a complex strategy in which the success of each bill hinges on the other and the balancing of priorities between not only Republicans and Democrats, but within the Democratic Party itself.

While the bipartisan bill can be passed through regular order if it retains enough Republican support, Democrats plan to use a fast-track budget process known as reconciliation to bypass the 60-vote filibuster threshold and unilaterally enact the rest of Mr. Biden’s proposal, which includes tax increases, sweeping climate plans, health care provisions and investments in child care. If they can pull off both, Mr. Biden could burnish his reputation as a bipartisan deal maker and ensure that much of his economic agenda is locked in place.

The immediate cause for Republican concern came on Thursday, just hours after the president and lawmakers from both parties unveiled with great fanfare their plan to invest in crumbling roads, bridges, high-speed internet and green projects. Speaking with reporters later that day, Mr. Biden said he would not sign the bipartisan deal without Congress passing a much more expensive set of tax cuts and spending programs that conservatives loathe.

Republicans, who doubt Democrats can secure the votes needed to pass the second partisan package, balked. They said that they never would have signed onto a deal strictly conditioned on the success of policies they oppose, and Mr. Biden’s team was forced to clean up the comments. After a series of private phone calls, the president issued a lengthy statement on Saturday clarifying that he never meant to threaten a veto and conceding that Republicans were “understandably upset.”

“I was very glad to see the president clarify his remarks because it was inconsistent with everything we had been told along the way,” Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, said on ABC’s “This Week.” “I’m glad they’ve now been de-linked and we can move forward with a bipartisan bill that is broadly popular not just among members of Congress but the American people.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden says he’ll sign bipartisan infrastructure deal even if he doesn’t get separate bill that includes Democratic priorities, Annie Linskey, June 27, 2021 (print ed.). Biden said Thursday he would sign the compromise only if Congress also passed a Democrats-only bill with more social spending. He softened that stance Saturday.

transportation dept logoPresident Biden on Saturday reversed a stand he had taken forcefully just two days earlier, saying he will sign a roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package even if he is unable to bring his party together for a separate bill that includes other Democratic spending priorities.

On Thursday, Biden declared that he would sign the two bills together only. “If this is the only thing that comes to me, I’m not signing it,” Biden said of the bipartisan compromise. “It’s in tandem.” But on Saturday, he said, “I gave my word to support the infrastructure plan, and that’s what I intend to do. . . . I fully stand behind it without reservation or hesitation.”

Biden’s switch came after Republicans bitterly complained that he had made it appear that they’d effectively signed off on a strategy that allowed the president to have a bipartisan infrastructure measure along with a much bigger Democrats-only spending package that he refers to as the American Families Plan.

 

Probes of U.S. Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Deceptive Campaign Fund-Raising Often Ensnares Older People, Shane Goldmacher, June 27, 2021 (print ed.). The dirty little secret of online political fund-raising is that the most aggressive ways to raise money are most likely to trap unsuspecting seniors. A Times analysis of donation refunds from 2020 offers a rare window into how disproportionately old the universe of donors who receive them is.

William W. Vaughan Jr. was a senior atmospheric scientist at NASA during the space race and later an accomplished academic, but as with so many aging Americans, time and technology had sapped him of some of his savvy, especially online.

Computers made him feel “like a duck out of water,” his son Steve Vaughan said. So when Steve was sorting through the elder Mr. Vaughan’s papers after his death at 90 in December, he was unsettled by what he found on his father’s final credit card bill.

The first item was familiar: $11.82 at the local Chick-fil-A in Huntsville, Ala. But every other charge on the first page, and there were dozens of them, was to the firm that processes online Republican campaign contributions, WinRed. Over four months last year, Mr. Vaughan had made 400 donations totaling nearly $11,500 — to Donald J. Trump, Mitch McConnell, Tim Scott, Steve Scalise and many others.

The sum was far beyond the realm of his financial ability, his son said, and sure enough, he soon discovered handwritten notes outlining what appeared to be his father’s call disputing the charges with his credit card company. He is still seething at the avalanche of charges and “what they did to a 90-year-old” just before his death.

“If it happened to him,” he said, “I have to figure it happened to other people.”

It has.

Older Americans are critical campaign contributors, both online and offline. More than half of all the online contributions processed by WinRed in the last cycle, 56 percent, came from people who listed their occupation as “retired,” federal records show.

Digital operatives in both parties deploy an array of manipulative tactics that can deceive donors of all age groups: faux bill notices and official-looking correspondence; bogus offers to match donations and hidden links to unsubscribe; and prechecked boxes that automatically repeat donations, which are widely seen as the most egregious scheme.

But some groups appear to specifically target older internet users, blasting out messages with subject lines like “Social Security” that have particular resonance for older people, and spending disproportionately on ads for an older audience. In many cases, the most unscrupulous tactics of direct mail have simply been rebooted for the digital age — with ruthless new precision.

“Everybody knows what they’re doing: They’re scamming seniors to line their own pockets and to raise money for campaigns,” said Mike Nellis, a Democratic digital strategist who is critical of deceptive practices.

donald trump money palmer report Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Legal expert says upcoming Trump Organization indictments are just the start of things, Bill Palmer, right, June 27, 2021. If the bill palmerreporting from the New York Times is correct, then the Manhattan District Attorney’s office will criminally indict the Trump Organization this upcoming week. But that’s not the same thing as indicting Donald Trump and his family members individually. So what’s really going on?

bill palmer report logo headerFormer Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Signorelli believes that the criminal indictments will end up being for much more serious matters than mere untaxed fringe benefits. He also says that it’s “likely that the initial indictment will not be the final indictment” – a sentiment that Palmer Report has been driving home all weekend. Multi-tiered criminal investigations nearly always start at the bottom and work their way up.

As for where the New York criminal case is heading, Signorelli says that “There is no question in my mind that Trump himself, along with his vile adult children, are the ultimate targets.”

This lines up with what Palmer Report has been saying about the New York criminal case from the start: the DA’s office didn’t make this much noise just to nail a peon like Allen Weisselberg for a financial violation and then call it a day. This massive, years-long criminal case was always about taking down Donald Trump and potentially his family members. It’s now becoming clear just how far along the DA’s office is in this process – but the real fireworks are still yet to come after the initial indictments.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, 178.5 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 27, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 150.8 million people (45.7 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 53.8 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

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

World Cases: 181,647,175, Deaths: 3,934,960
U.S. Cases:     34,490,134, Deaths:   619,343
India Cases:     30,233,183, Deaths:   395,780
Brazil Cases:   18,386,894, Deaths:   512,819

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, How Two Start-Ups Reaped Billions in Fees on Small Business Relief Loans, Stacy Cowley and Ella Koeze, June 27, 2021.  Blueacorn and Womply processed one-third of all Paycheck Protection Program loans this year, stepping in when big lenders wouldn’t.

djt maga hat speech uncredited Custom

ny times logoNew York Times,Trump, Seeking to Maintain G.O.P. Sway, Holds First Rally Since Jan. 6, Jeremy W. Peters June 27, 2021 (print ed.). The former president’s speech in Ohio, made on behalf of a challenger to a Republican congressman who voted to impeach Mr. Trump, reflected both his power over the party and his diminished status.

Former President Donald J. Trump returned to the rally stage on Saturday evening after a nearly six-month absence, his first large public gathering since his “Save America” event on Jan. 6 that resulted in a deadly riot at the Capitol.

On Saturday, the same words — “Save America” — appeared behind Mr. Trump (shown above in a file photo) as he addressed a crowd of several thousand at a county fairgrounds in Wellington, Ohio, about 35 miles southwest of Cleveland.

anthony gonzalez oHe repeated familiar falsehoods about fraudulent 2020 votes. He attacked Republican officials for refusing to back his effort to overturn the election results — including Representative Anthony E. Gonzalez of Ohio, right, who voted to impeach Mr. Trump, and whose primary challenger, Max Miller, was the reason for Mr. Trump’s visit. The former president praised Mr. Miller as they appeared onstage together.

djt maga hatMr. Trump remains the most powerful figure in the Republican Party, with large numbers of G.O.P. lawmakers parroting his lies about a stolen 2020 election and fearful of crossing him, and many in the party waiting to see whether he will run again for the White House in 2024.

Yet in the audience and on the stage, the scene in Ohio on Saturday was reflective of how diminished Mr. Trump has become in his post-presidency, and how reliant he is on a smaller group of allies and supporters who have adopted his alternate reality as their own. One of the event’s headliners was Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, the far-right Republican who has promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Mr. Trump’s speech — low-key, digressive and nearly 90 minutes long — fell flat at times with an otherwise adoring audience. Scores of people left early as he bounced from topic to topic — immigration, Israel, Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s protective mask.

“Do you miss me?” Mr. Trump asked in one of his biggest applause lines. “They miss me,” he declared.

In interviews, many in the crowd expressed steadfast belief in Mr. Trump’s election falsehoods, and indulged his rewriting of history on the Capitol mob attack.

Daily Beast, The Ugly War Between a White Police Chief and a Black Mayor in the Deep South, Andrew Boryga, June 27, 2021. Tarrant, Alabama, has been gripped by a saga that some say reflects the rise of a ruthless politician and others see as the last gasp of a white power structure that won’t let go.

daily beast logoWayman Newton found out last week about the warrant for his arrest in the town that elected him its first Black mayor, he wasn’t surprised.

Ever since Newton, 40, took office after winning his election in Tarrant, Alabama—population 7,000—by nearly 40 percentage points last year, a small minority of mostly white residents and city leaders have had it out for him, he told The Daily Beast.

They’ve blocked him from making what he and some locals describe as needed changes to the police department in a city mostly comprised of Black and Latino residents, he said.

Newton said the opposition reached its apex last week, when Dennis Reno, the white former chief of police in Tarrant, accused the mayor of assaulting him during a conversation in Newton’s office a day after his swearing-in back in November.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: A bipartisan deal, an angry GOP reaction and the long road ahead for Biden’s agenda, Dan Balz, June 27, 2021 (print ed.). Republicans cried foul over President Biden’s linkage of the bipartisan infrastructure plan and a big Democratic reconciliation package — and Biden tried to walk it back. More bumps lie ahead.

mark warner“Usually you get one day of celebration before the first bump appears,” Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) said Friday morning in a tone of resignation. “We got two hours.”

The “bump” Warner was talking about was the unexpected statement from President Biden, two hours after he appeared outside the White House on Thursday to declare that he and a bipartisan group of senators had reached an agreement on an infrastructure package valued at about $1.2 trillion over eight years.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosThursday’s announcement of a bipartisan deal came only after weeks of difficult, tedious negotiations before the senators and White House officials settled on a framework for the bipartisan package. It then took only a few words by the president to alarm the Republican negotiators about his commitment to the deal just struck. It took two more days — and a presidential walk-back — to try to put things back in place. What that foreshadows for the rest of the summer is a period of intensive, legislative politicking.

Thursday’s scene on the White House driveway was a rarity in this divided and divisive age, a symbol that Republicans and Democrats could occasionally find common ground on something substantial, albeit on an issue that long has enjoyed support from lawmakers in both parties, even if compromise had eluded them for years.

washington post logoWashington Post, Mike Gravel 1930–2021: Senator from Alaska with theatrical flair dies at 91, Chris Power, June 27, 2021 (print ed.). Former U.S. senator Mike Gravel, an Alaska Democrat with a flair for the theatrical who rose from obscurity to brief renown by reading passages of the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record in an effort to end the Vietnam War and who ran quixotic campaigns for the presidency in 2008 and 2019, died June 26 at his home in Seaside, Calif. He was 91.

The cause was multiple myeloma, said his daughter, Lynne Mosier.

mike gravel offical photoBorn into a working-class Massachusetts family of French Canadian immigrants, Mr. Gravel (pronounced gruh-VELL) was drawn to politics at a young age but sensed that he would be hindered by his lack of connections and polish. After graduating from college, he set out for Alaska in 1956 — three years before it became a state — hoping to find greater political opportunities in a place with no entrenched establishment.

Within a few years, Mr. Gravel was prospering in real estate development and won election to the state House of Representatives, rising to the position of speaker in 1965. Buoyed by his telegenic looks, and what he presented as his support for the Vietnam War in a relatively hawkish state, he narrowly unseated an incumbent octogenarian U.S. senator in 1968.

“I said what I said” about Vietnam, he told NPR decades later, “to advance my career.”

In Washington, he reversed his stance and became known among the chamber’s more traditional denizens as a gadfly. He was by his own admission “too abrasive” for backroom persuasion and enjoyed filibustering. His legislative preoccupations, besides ending U.S. involvement in Vietnam, included opposing the Nixon administration’s war on drugs and abolishing the draft.

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: An Accusation Blew Up a Campaign. The Media Didn’t Know What to Do, Ben Smith, June 27, 2021. Handling a delicate allegation of sexual misconduct is a lot more challenging than covering a horse race, Ben Smith, our media columnist, writes.

Two days after coming in fifth in the election night count of votes for New York mayor last week, Scott Stringer was sitting in a high-polish diner in TriBeCa, drinking his second bottle of Sprite and trying to figure out what had happened.

He held up his iPhone to show me a text message he had received on Election Day from one of the progressive elected officials who had endorsed him and then dropped him after a woman accused him of sexually assaulting her more than 20 years ago. In the text was a photograph of the official’s ranked-choice ballot. Mr. Stringer was ranked first.

“This profile in courage,” he began, half laughing. “You can’t make this up. Who does that?”

Mr. Stringer, the 61-year-old New York City comptroller, isn’t the only one trying to puzzle out what happened over a few days in April in the campaign. Mr. Stringer, a geeky fixture in Manhattan politics, had been among the leading candidates when the woman, Jean Kim, accused him of touching her without her consent in the back of taxis. Suddenly he, the media covering him, his supporters and Ms. Kim were all reckoning with big questions of truth, doubt, politics and corroboration.

As much as the exposure of police brutality has been driven by cellphone video, the #MeToo movement was powered by investigative journalism, and courageous victims who chose to speak to reporters.

Crucially, reporters honed the craft of corroboration, showing that an accuser had told a friend, a relative or a therapist at the time of the episode and that the accuser wasn’t simply relying on old memories. The reporters also looked for evidence that the accuser’s account was part of a pattern, ruling out a single misunderstanding.

Those technical aspects of the stories weren’t always widely understood. But the landmark investigations were, even in this divided moment, unifying. There was no serious partisan division over any of those men’s guilt because the journalistic evidence was simply so overwhelming. But not every allegation — and not every true allegation — can meet that standard. Not every victim is able to talk about it immediately; not every bad act is part of a pattern.

In the case of Mr. Stringer and Ms. Kim, observers were left simply with his claim their relationship was consensual, and hers that it wasn’t.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats pushed hard last year to rein in police. A rise in murders is prompting a shift, Sean Sullivan, Marianna Sotomayor and Jacqueline Alemany, June 27, 2021 (print ed.). A year ago, a majority of the Minneapolis City Council pledged to disband the police department. At protests around the country, left-wing activists chanted, “Defund the police!” And in New York City, an insurgent liberal who embraced that slogan ousted a joe biden black background resized serious filelongtime Democratic congressman.

But now, President Biden is inviting local governments to use federal money to fund police departments and hire more officers. The Democratic mayor of Minneapolis wants to replenish his city’s police force. And a former policeman running on a law-and-order platform is leading as votes are counted in the Democratic primary for New York mayor.

democratic donkey logoThirteen months after the police killing of George Floyd sparked an impassioned movement in the Democratic Party to rein in police departments, a surge in homicides has prompted a shift in the opposite direction. Democrats are scrambling to make new investments in policing and seeking to project toughness on crime, even as they continue pushing for police reforms and alternative means of deterring crime.

Now in control of the White House, Congress and most big cities, Democrats have struggled to contain the deadly violence this year, which is expected to worsen as the summer progresses. They are facing a barrage of criticism from Republicans, who are portraying Democrats as soft on crime as part of cheri bustos ha coordinated strategy for next year’s midterm elections.

These trends have alarmed Democrats at all levels — from the White House, where Biden recently delivered his first major speech on fighting crime; to voters, who are rallying behind crime-focused candidates in early primaries; to U.S. House members who are bluntly warning liberal colleagues to tone down their attacks on law enforcement.

“ ‘Defund police’ is a phrase that I wish had never been uttered,” said Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), right, who ran the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee when Republicans picked up 13 House seats over the two-year 2020 election cycle. “We’ve got to do a better job of talking about what we do want to do.”

Alabama Political Reporter, Rep. Will Dismukes indicted on felony theft charge, Dismukes said he will not resign, but if convicted, he would be automatically removed from office, Eddie Burkhalter, Updated June 27, 2021. Alabama state Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Pratville, on Tuesday was indicted by a Montgomery County grand jury and charged with felony theft.

Dismukes is charged with first-degree theft of property, a Class B felony, according to court records. The theft allegedly occurred at Dismukes’ former place of employment, Weiss Commercial Flooring Inc., between the years 2016 and 2018, according to court records.

The indictment states that Dismukes is charged with stealing more than $2,500 in flooring and construction materials.

“I will tell you that the alleged amount is a lot more than that,” said Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey in a press briefing in August after an arrest warrant had been issued for Dismukes.

APR’s attempts to contact Dismukes on Friday weren’t immediately successful, but Dismukes told WSFA 12 News that he does not plan to resign.

“We feel really good moving forward, and we know my innocence will come to light in the trial,” Dismukes told the station. “I will not be resigning from my House seat because I have done nothing wrong.”

Dismukes faced calls to resign in June 2020 after posting to Facebook an image of himself attending a birthday celebration for the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, Nathan Bedford Forrest.
Criticism increased as word spread that Dismukes attended the celebration on the same weekend that the late Congressman and Civil Rights hero, Rep. John Lewis, was honored in Selma, where Lewis was beaten during the 1965 across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Dismukes in a statement at the time said his attendance at the gathering was in no way meant to disrespect the passing of Lewis.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Matt Gaetz just gave away his desperation, Robert Harrington, June 27, 2021. One of the more unfortunate phrases we on the left ever came up with was “defund the police.” It’s an expression so inadequate as to cry out for clarification every time it’s used, and it has largely been abandoned as a liberal battle cry for that very reason.

“Defund,” as we were using it, did not mean to abolish. Instead the movement sought to demilitarize police departments and reallocate funding to trained mental health workers and social workers to reduce unnecessary police violence. “Defund police violence” would have been an improvement. “Educate the police in the effective use of non-violence” would have been even better.

Republicans who use the phrase “defund the police” as a club to beat us already understood this. They insisted that what we really meant was to stop paying people to be cops and let violence and lawlessness reign in the streets, which is absurd. The smarter ones know it’s absurd but they carefully misunderstand us anyway.

bill palmer report logo headerBut I’m going to go out on a limb here and say when on the 23rd of June Matt Gaetz tweeted, “If Democrats want to defund the police they should start with the FBI,” he meant exactly what he falsely claims we mean. He meant that the FBI should lose all of its funding and go out of business.

Now I hasten to add he didn’t really mean that. I’m not going to play the Republican game and whipsaw someone with their own words when I know what they actually meant. He meant it with a kind of bitter jocularity. He meant the FBI was owed some kind of smackdown, and why not defund them while we’re in the defunding business?

matt gaetz officialGaetz, right, deleted the tweet within seconds after posting it. He finally figured out what the rest of us would have known instinctively, that the tweet was ill-advised and shouldn’t have been posted in the first place.

But it isn’t the literal expression that is revealing. Like I said, I’m not playing that game. It’s the impulse that made him post it in the first place that’s revealing. The last thing an innocent person under investigation by the FBI would want is to defund them. Innocent people who are thinking clearly would want their investigation to be thorough and well funded. Thorough and well funded investigations usually get to the bottom of things, they usually get to the truth. The impulse to defund them is a Freudian one, and in using it, even in jest, Gaetz is proclaiming what he knows he is, a guilty man.

I happily leave the presumption of innocence to the officers of the court of which I am not one. I believe Matt Gaetz is guilty as soon-to-be-charged, and his guilt is obvious beyond a reasonable doubt. He is an unpleasant, vicious, twisted and hateful little man, a man who makes it very easy to believe he’s capable of statutory rape, drug abuse, obstruction of justice, sex trafficking, and all manner of unsavoury practices.

Matt Gaetz’ willingness to take up the latest Republican performative outrage about critical race theory to disgracefully attack America’s military is another vestige of his impulse to distract us. He’s desperate to distract us. He’s willing, like Trump, to lay waste to America’s institutions, the FBI, the military, the Constitution, anything to preserve his festering and deplorable neck.

World News

ny times logoFrench FlagNew York Times, In France’s Military, Muslims Find a Tolerance That Is Elusive Elsewhere, Norimitsu Onishi and Constant Méheut, June 27, 2021 (print ed.). In a nation wary of the growth of Islam, the military has embraced and integrated its Muslim soldiers by facilitating their religious practice.

 

June 26

Top Headlines

 

Pro-Trump Election Lies, Jan. 6 Insurrection Day

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Governance, Politics

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

Science, UFOs, Media, 

 

World News

 

Top Stories

Devastated Miami condo (Photo by Amy Beth Bennett of the Associated Press).

Devastated Miami condo (Photo by Amy Beth Bennett of the Associated Press).

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Rescue workers are pressing on for a third day. No survivors were found Friday. James C. McKinley Jr., June 26, 2021. As the sun rose on Saturday, rescue workers entered the third day of an increasingly desperate search for anyone who might still be alive within the giant pile of broken concrete and twisted metal that once was a condominium building north of Miami Beach.

Four people have been confirmed dead, but the fate of 159 others remained unknown, and their family members clung to thinning threads of hope.

Not a single survivor was found on Friday or early Saturday in the smoking debris of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Fla., and the families of the missing wrestled with growing dread. At least seven children were among those still unaccounted for.

george floyd derek chauvin

washington post logoWashington Post, Derek Chauvin sentenced to 22.5 years in killing of George Floyd, Holly Bailey, June 26, 2021 (print ed.). The former Minneapolis police officer, above right, was convicted by a jury in April on charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

A Minnesota judge on Friday sentenced Derek Chauvin to 22½ years in prison for the murder of George Floyd, above left, a Black man whose desperate gasps for air beneath the knee of the White officer captured on a viral video changed the American conversation on race and justice.

Chauvin, right, who was fired after the killing and convicted by a jury in April on charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, had faced up to 40 years in prison.

In rendering his sentence, Hennepin County District Judge Peter A. Cahill, who oversaw Chauvin’s trial, offered brief remarks, saying it was not the time to be “profound or clever” from the bench. He said he had based the sentence on the facts of the case and not “public opinion.”

derek chauvin mug Custom“The sentence is not based on his emotion or sympathy. But at the same time, I want to acknowledge the deep and tremendous pain that all the families are feeling, especially the Floyd family,” Cahill said. “You have our sympathies, and I acknowledge and hear the pain that you’re feeling.”

The killing on May 25, 2020, captured on a gruesome Facebook video, shook the nation and forced a painful reckoning on issues of race and police brutality that continues to play out across a divided America. Chauvin’s conviction, a rarity in a country roiled by multiple high-profile cases of Black people being killed by police, was praised by Floyd’s family and activists as a historic moment of justice and a potential sign of change.

Before the sentencing, Floyd’s 7-year-old daughter, Gianna, spoke in a small, singsong voice of how her daddy used to help her brush her teeth and play with her. “I miss him,” she said.

A woman off-camera asked Gianna if she wished her father were still alive. “Yeah, but he is,” Gianna said.

“Through his spirit?” the woman asked.

“Yes,” the little girl replied.

In the courtroom, Chauvin, who sported a freshly shaved head and wore a light gray suit, appeared to watch the video, occasionally blinking but otherwise unemotional. As three other Floyd family members approached a podium inside the socially distanced courtroom, the former officer turned his head to listen to them speak but otherwise had no reaction.

Brandon Williams, Floyd’s nephew, asked the judge to sentence Chauvin to the maximum punishment. “Although Chauvin will be sentenced today and spend time in prison, he will have the luxury of seeing his family again, talking to them,” Williams told the court. The Floyd family had been “robbed” of that luxury, he said. “No more birthday parties, no graduations, holiday gatherings … No opportunities to simply say I love you.”

The family members were not allowed to address Chauvin directly, but Floyd’s brother, Terrence, looked toward him and posed questions that have flummoxed even those who know Chauvin. “Why? What were you thinking? What was going through your head when you had your knee on my brother’s neck when you knew he posed no threat anymore?” he said, as tears rolled down his face.

Philonise Floyd, who testified at the trial and who has become the public face of the family’s push for justice, told the court of the anguish of having to relive his big brother’s death again and again through the video of his killing, of the “nightmares” he has on a regular basis.

“I have had to sit through each day of Derek Chauvin’s trial and watch the video of George dying for hours, over and over again for an entire year,” he said. “I had to relive George being tortured to death every hour of the day … not knowing what a good night’s sleep is.”

Shortly before being sentenced, Chauvin approached a court lectern and spoke briefly, offering his condolences to the Floyd family. But he declined to speak at length, citing other “legal matters” he is facing. He did not apologize for his role in Floyd’s death.

“I do want to give my condolences to the Floyd family,” Chauvin said, briefly glancing back toward Floyd’s siblings and nephew. “There’s going to be some other information in the future that would be of interest. And I hope things will give you some peace of mind.”

Before Chauvin spoke, his mother, Carolyn Pawlenty, appealed to Cahill for leniency, describing her son as a “selfless” public servant who had always tried to help others. She said prosecutors and the media had depicted her son as an “aggressive, heartless and uncaring person … a racist.”
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“I can tell you that is far from the truth,” Pawlenty said. “My son is a good man.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Organization Could Face Criminal Charges in D.A. Inquiry, William K. Rashbaum, Ben Protess and Jonah E. Bromwich, June 26, 2021 (print ed.). The Manhattan district attorney’s office has informed former President Trump’s lawyers that it is considering criminal charges against his family business. 

The Manhattan district attorney’s office has informed Donald J. Trump’s lawyers that it is considering criminal charges against his family business, the Trump Organization, in connection with fringe benefits the company awarded a top executive, according to several people with knowledge of the matter.

The prosecutors had been building a case for months against the executive, Allen H. Weisselberg, as part of an effort to pressure him to cooperate with a broader inquiry into Mr. Trump’s business dealings. But it was not previously known that the Trump Organization also might face charges.

If the case moves ahead, the district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., could announce charges as soon as next week, the people said. Mr. Vance’s prosecutors have been conducting the investigation along with lawyers from the office of the New York State attorney general, Letitia James.

Any indictment would be the first to emerge from the long-running investigation and would raise the startling prospect of a former president having to defend the company he founded, and has run for decades, against accusations of criminal behavior.

Prosecutors recently have focused much of their investigation into the perks Mr. Trump and the company doled out to Mr. Weisselberg and other executives, including tens of thousands of dollars in private school tuition for one of Mr. Weisselberg’s grandchildren, as well as rents on apartments and car leases.

They are looking into whether those benefits were properly recorded in the company’s ledgers and whether taxes were paid on them, The New York Times has reported.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers met on Thursday with senior prosecutors in the district attorney’s office in hopes of persuading them to abandon any plan to charge the company, according to several people familiar with the meeting. Such meetings are routine in white-collar criminal investigations, and it is unclear whether the prosecutors have made a final decision on whether to charge the Trump Organization, which has long denied wrongdoing.

“In my more than 50 years of practice, never before have I seen a district attorney’s office target a company over employee compensation or fringe benefits,” said Ronald P. Fischetti, a personal lawyer for Mr. Trump. “It’s ridiculous and outrageous.”

Several lawyers who specialize in tax rules have told The New York Times that it would be highly unusual to indict a company just for failing to pay taxes on fringe benefits. None of them could cite any recent example, noting that many companies provide their employees with benefits like company cars.
Still, an indictment of Mr. Trump’s company could deal a blow to the former president just as he has started to hold rallies and flirt with a return to politics. The Trump Organization is inseparable from Mr. Trump, acting as the corporate umbrella for a portfolio of hotels, golf clubs and other real estate, most of which are branded with his name.

It is unclear whether Mr. Trump will ultimately face charges himself. The investigation, which began three years ago, has been wide-ranging, examining whether the Trump Organization manipulated the value of its properties to obtain favorable loans and tax benefits, people with knowledge of the matter have said.

The inquiry is also examining the organization’s statements to insurance companies about the value of various assets and any role that its employees — including Mr. Weisselberg — may have played in hush-money payments to two women during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Palmer Report, Opinion: This is why you read Palmer Report, Bill Palmer, right, June 26, 2021. Over the past few days we’ve seen a remarkable series of political developments, from major movement in bill palmerCongress, to ground shifting developments in the takedown of the Trump cartel. If you’ll allow me a moment of indulgence, I’d like to point out a pattern in all of these developments.

A few weeks ago, when most of the media was implying that there would be no congressional investigation of the Capitol attack, Palmer Report pointed out that Nancy Pelosi would nancy pelosi horizontal uncredited older Customrather obviously appoint a 1/6 select committee if the 1/6 bipartisan commission failed. Sure enough, this week Pelosi did precisely that.

When most media pundits were suggesting that President Biden would never get his infrastructure deal, or that he was going to “cave” to the Republicans on a much smaller deal, Palmer Report pointed out that Biden is much more savvy than this, and that he’d likely find a way to eventually get most or all of what he wanted. Sure enough, a two track infrastructure plan was unveiled this week that appears to have the votes.

Even as most of the media spent the entire first half of 2021 insisting that Donald Trump and his associates were going to get away with all of their criminal antics, Palmer Report instead kept documenting the advancements in the legal proceedings against them. Sure enough, this week Rudy Giuliani was suspended from practicing law, and that ended up being a warm-up act for yesterday’s news that the Trump Organization will be criminally indicted as soon as this upcoming week.

bill palmer report logo headerThese are all instances in which Palmer Report spent weeks or months factually explaining why a given thing was likely or certain to happen, even as most of the media tried to scare you into staying tuned in by pretending like those things were never going to happen. This is part of a larger, consistent pattern going back years. If you’ve been reading Palmer Report long enough, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you’re new here, you’re probably starting to get the gist of it as well.

I’m not Nostradamus. I don’t have ESP. I don’t generally work with inside information. Instead, I just look at the facts, and the way politics tends to work, and I explain what’s likely or obviously going to end up happening. It’s how the entire media should operate. Sadly, too much of the media likes to play dumb on what it knows is coming down the pike, so it can play ratings games in the meantime. Then the media acts like it’s some shocking surprise when the obvious thing that was always going to happen, ends up happening.

If you read Palmer Report, you tend to know what’s going to happen days or weeks or even months before anyone else does. 

 washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Fox News polling shows majority approval for Biden — not that you’ll hear about it much on Fox News, Philip Bump, June 26, 2021 (print ed.). The exclusive polling was buried in the network's online and on-air coverage. Some good news for President Biden from an unexpected source this week: Polling from Fox News put his approval rating at 56 percent. That’s fox news logo Smallabove the president’s current average, as calculated by FiveThirtyEight, and, while not historically jaw-dropping, it is noteworthy in a deeply polarized political moment.

It’s largely a function of three things. The first is overwhelming support from Democrats, 60 percent of whom approve of him strongly and more than 9-in-10 who approve at least somewhat. The second is that a majority of independents at least somewhat approve of his performance. The third, and perhaps most unexpected, is that a fifth of Republicans say they at least somewhat approve — including 13 percent of those who also say they voted for former president Donald Trump last year.

Those are striking results in the details. But if you are an avid consumer of Fox News’s programming and online content, you’d be forgiven for not having heard about them.

 

Pro-Trump Election Lies, Jan. 6 Insurrection Day

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. to file lawsuit against state of Georgia over new voting restrictions, David Nakamura, June 26, 2021 (print ed.). The Justice Department will file a federal lawsuit Friday against the state of Georgia for its efforts to enact new voting restrictions that federal authorities allege discriminate against Black Americans, according to people familiar with the matter.

Justice Department log circularThe legal challenge takes aim at Georgia’s Election Integrity Act, which was passed in March by the Republican-led state legislature and signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp (R). The law imposes new limits on the use of absentee ballots, makes it a crime for outside groups to provide food and water to voters waiting at polling stations, and hands greater control over election administration to the state legislature.

georgia mapWashington Post, Here’s where Republican lawmakers have passed new voting restrictions around the country

Attorney General Merrick Garland and Kristen Clarke, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, will make the announcement later Friday alongside others who worked closely on developing the lawsuit, including Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta and Principal Deputy Assistant Pamela Karlan, the people familiar with the matter said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the action has not been formally made public.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been briefed on the matter.

The action is the first major voting rights case the Justice Department has filed under the Biden administration and comes as Republican-led state governments across the country have been seeking to impose broad new voting restrictions in the wake of President Biden’s victory over Donald Trump last November. Trump has spent months waging a baseless effort to discredit the result, making false and untrue allegations of widespread voter fraud.

  djt handwave file

washington post logoWashington Post, Arizona poised to enact new election restrictions, strip power from Democratic secretary of state, Elise Viebeck, June 26, 2021 (print ed.). Democrats and voting rights advocates accused Republicans of crafting policies based on false claims that the 2020 election was tainted by fraud.

katie hobbsThe Arizona House approved new election restrictions late Thursday — including language intended to curb the power of Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs — in budget legislation that will soon head to the governor’s desk.

The Republican measure seeks to stop Hobbs, right, from playing a role in litigation related to state election rules and allows third parties designated by the legislature to flag ineligible voters for removal from the rolls. The bill also imposes new ballot printing requirements and provides funds for election security and post-election recounts.

The restrictions drew swift criticism from Democrats and voting rights advocates, who accused Republicans of crafting policies based on conspiracy theories and former president Donald Trump’s false claims that he lost the 2020 election because of massive fraud. Arizona is among the 18 states that have enacted new voting restrictions in the wake of last year’s election, along with Florida, Georgia and Iowa.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Aides Prepared Insurrection Act Order During Debate Over Protests, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, June 26, 2021 (print ed.). President Donald Trump never invoked the act, but fresh details underscore the intensity of his interest last June in using active-duty military to curb unrest.

Responding to interest from President Donald J. Trump, White House aides drafted a proclamation last year to invoke the Insurrection Act in case Mr. Trump moved to take the extraordinary step of deploying active-duty troops in Washington to quell the protests that followed the killing of George Floyd, two senior Trump administration officials said.

The aides drafted the proclamation on June 1, 2020, during a heated debate inside the administration over how to respond to the protests. Mr. Trump, enraged by the demonstrations, had told the attorney general, William P. Barr, the defense secretary, Mark T. Esper, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley, that he wanted thousands of active-duty troops on the streets of the nation’s capital, one of the officials said.

Mr. Trump was talked out of the plan by the three officials. But a separate group of White House staff members wanted to leave open the option for Mr. Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act to call in the military to patrol the streets of the capital.

They decided it would be prudent to have the necessary document vetted and ready in case the unrest in Washington worsened or the city’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, declined to take measures such as a citywide curfew, which she ultimately put in place.

According to one former senior administration official, Mr. Trump was aware that the document was prepared. He never invoked the act, and in a statement to The New York Times he denied that he had wanted to deploy active-duty troops. “It’s absolutely not true and if it was true, I would have done it,” Mr. Trump said.

But the new details about internal White House deliberations on a pivotal day in his presidency underscore the intensity of Mr. Trump’s instinct to call on the active-duty military to deal with a domestic issue. And they help to flesh out the sequence of events that would culminate later in the day with Mr. Trump’s walk across Lafayette Park to St. John’s Church so he could pose in front of it holding a Bible, a move that coincided with a spasm of violence between law enforcement and protesters camped near the White House.

ny times logoNew York Times, Officer Injured in Capitol Riot Asks McCarthy to Disavow Lies About It, Luke Broadwater, June 26, 2021 (print ed.). Officer Michael Fanone, who was injured by the mob, said he came away disappointed from his meeting with Kevin McCarthy, the top House Republican.

For weeks, Michael Fanone, a Washington police officer who was seriously injured during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, had asked to meet privately with Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the top House Republican, to discuss the assault, to no avail.

So on Friday, when Officer Fanone finally got his session with Mr. McCarthy at the Capitol, he had a clear request at the ready: for the minority leader to publicly denounce the lies Republican lawmakers have been telling about the deadly attack. He wanted Mr. McCarthy to push them to stop downplaying the storming of the building, blaming left-wing extremists for an assault carried out by former President Donald J. Trump’s right-wing supporters and spreading the baseless conspiracy theory that the F.B.I. secretly planned it.

He came away disappointed.

“He said he would address it at a personal level, with some of those members,” Officer Fanone told reporters after the roughly hourlong meeting. “I think that as the leader of the House Republican Party, it’s important to hear those denouncements publicly.”

Mr. McCarthy, who phoned Mr. Trump during the riot to plead with him to call off the mob and days later said the president bore responsibility for the rampage, has since swung wildly in the other direction. He later said Mr. Trump was not to blame, led the charge to purge Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming from the party leadership for speaking out against the former president and rallied his party to oppose the formation of an independent commission to investigate the assault.

Aides to Mr. McCarthy did not respond to repeated requests for comment about the meeting, or Officer Fanone’s weekslong effort to arrange it. Mr. McCarthy said on Wednesday that the officer, who has been speaking openly since last month about his desire to sit down with the top House Republican, had “unfortunately” neglected to “follow up” to schedule it — an assertion that Officer Fanone dismissed as untrue, using a barnyard epithet for emphasis.

Santa Cruz Sentinel via San Jose Mercury News, FBI raids Santa Cruz County home of entrepreneur linked to Rudy Giuliani, Jessica York, June 26, 2021. The home of a local entrepreneur with ties to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was the subject of an FBI raid this week.

George E. Dickson III, founder of Seismic Warning Systems and CEO and co-founder of Continuity Capital Group in Scotts Valley, did not respond to a call requesting comment Friday.

For hours on Tuesday evening, FBI agents converged on Dickson’s Meadow Ranch Estates home in Aptos “to conduct court-authorized law enforcement activity,” an FBI spokesperson confirmed Thursday.

The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office was notified that the FBI would be conducting an operation, said department spokesperson Ashley Keehn, but did not participate in the raid.

Dickson, 64, who heads numerous businesses with mailing addresses listed at the same Scotts Valley Drive office park, was linked in a May 28, 2020 Mother Jones news investigation to efforts by Giuliani to raise some $10 million to produce a documentary related to Hunter Biden, son of President Joe Biden. Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, was reportedly recruiting investors for his project with the help of Dickson and California Republican fundraiser Tim Yale. The Sentinel was unable to confirm whether or not Tuesday’s search of Dickson’s home was related to his dealings with Giuliani.

“We cannot comment further due to the ongoing nature of the investigation,” FBI San Francisco public affairs representative Katherine Zackel emailed in response to a Sentinel inquiry.

Giuliani’s New York City home and office also was the subject of an FBI search and seizure of his personal electronics on April 28, according to national media reports. On Thursday, Giuliani was suspended from practicing law in the state of New York. A state supreme court backed its decision, writing in a ruling that Giuliani had “communicated demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers and the public at large in his capacity as lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump and the Trump campaign in connection with Trump’s failed effort at reelection in 2020.”

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Where Did the Coronavirus Come From? What We Already Know Is Troubling, Zeynep Tufekci (Dr. Tufekci is a contributing Opinion writer who has extensively examined the Covid-19 pandemic.), June 26, 2021 (print ed.). There were curious characteristics about the H1N1 influenza pandemic of 1977-78, which emerged from northeastern Asia and killed an estimated 700,000 people around the world.

For one, it almost exclusively affected people in their mid-20s or younger. Scientists discovered another oddity that could explain the first: It was virtually identical to a strain that circulated in the 1950s. People born before that had immunity that protected them, and younger people didn’t.

But how on earth had it remained so steady genetically, since viruses continually mutate? Scientists guessed that it had been frozen in a lab. It was often found to be sensitive to temperature, something expected for viruses used in vaccine research.

It was only in 2004 that a prominent virologist, Peter Palese, wrote that Chi-Ming Chu, a respected virologist and a former member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told him that “the introduction of this 1977 H1N1 virus” was indeed thought to be due to vaccine trials involving “the challenge of several thousand military recruits with live H1N1 virus.”

For the first time, science itself seemed to have caused a pandemic while trying to prepare for it.

Now, for the second time in 50 years, there are questions about whether we are dealing with a pandemic caused by scientific research.

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New York Times, Indonesia’s Doctors Got Vaccinated With Sinovac, and Got Sick, Hannah Beech and Muktita Suhartono, June 26, 2021 (print ed.). Facing increased cases and a deadly variant, the Indonesian health system is under strain, as doctors become patients.

washington post logoWashington Post, 178.5 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 26, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 150.8 million people (45.7 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 53.8 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

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

World Cases: 181,269,620, Deaths: 3,927,175
U.S. Cases:     34,482,672, Deaths:    619,152
India Cases:    30,183,143, Deaths:    394,524
Brazil Cases:   18,322,760, Deaths:    511,272

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, What Does Eric Adams, Working-Class Champion, Mean for the Democrats? Katie Glueck, June 26, 2021. Mr. Adams, right, who ran a campaign focused on appealing to blue-collar Black and Latino voters, said America did not want “fancy candidates.”

eric adamsHe bluntly challenged left-wing leaders in his party over matters of policing and public safety. He campaigned heavily in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, often ignoring Manhattan neighborhoods besides Harlem and Washington Heights. And he branded himself a blue-collar candidate with a keen personal understanding of the challenges and concerns facing working-class New Yorkers of color.

With his substantial early lead in the Democratic mayoral primary when votes were counted Tuesday night, Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, demonstrated the enduring power of a candidate who can connect to working- and middle-class Black and Latino voters, while also appealing to some white voters with moderate views.

Mr. Adams is not yet assured of victory. But if he prevails, it would be a triumph for a campaign that focused more heavily on those constituencies than any other winning New York City mayoral candidate in recent history.

As the national Democratic Party navigates debates over identity and ideology, the mayoral primary in the largest city in the United States is highlighting critical questions about which voters make up the party’s base in the Biden era, and who best speaks for them.

ny times logoNew York Times, Progressives’ Urgent Question: How to Win Over Voters of Color? Lisa Lerer, June 26, 2021. A yearslong challenge for the left was starkly illustrated this week in the New York mayor’s race. 

Can progressives win broad numbers of the Black and brown voters they say their policies will benefit most?

That provocative question is one that a lot of Democrats find themselves asking after seeing the early results from New York City’s mayoral primary this past week.

In a contest that centered on crime and public safety, Eric Adams, who emerged as the leading Democrat, focused much of his message on denouncing progressive slogans and policies that he said threatened the lives of “Black and brown babies” and were being pushed by “a lot of young, white, affluent people.” A retired police captain and Brooklyn’s borough president, he rejected calls to defund the Police Department and pledged to expand its reach in the city.

Black and brown voters in Brooklyn and the Bronx flocked to his candidacy, awarding Mr. Adams with sizable leading margins in neighborhoods from Eastchester to East New York. Though the official winner may not be known for weeks because of the city’s new ranked-choice voting system, Mr. Adams holds a commanding edge in the race that will be difficult for his rivals to overcome.

His appeal adds evidence to an emerging trend in Democratic politics: a disconnect between progressive activists and the rank-and-file Black and Latino voters who they say have the most to gain from their agenda. As liberal activists orient their policies to combat white supremacy and call for racial justice, progressives are finding that many voters of color seem to think about the issues quite a bit differently.

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Palmer Report, Opinion: “I need a drink” – Officer Fanone has absolutely had it with Kevin McCarthy’s antics, Sheree McSpadden, June 26, 2021. DC Police Officer Michael Fanone, who still suffers from injuries received while defending the Capitol on Jan. 6th, finally had his meeting with House minority leader Kevin McCarthy on Friday, who had been avoiding him for weeks after opposing a bipartisan commission to investigate the attack, MSNBC reported Saturday. Fanone emerged from the meeting disappointed, saying “I need a drink.”

Fanone and Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn asked McCarthy to publicly denounce the 21 House Republicans who voted against awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to officers who defended the Capitol, as well as the lies Washington Republicans have been spreading about the attack. They specifically asked McCarthy to condemn Rep. Andrew Clyde, who compared the insurrection to a “normal tourist visit,” and to condemn conspiracy theories that the FBI was behind the attack. (Clyde had refused to shake Fanone’s hand on a prior visit.) They also expressed the need for a full investigation of the attack, determining why and how it happened and all those responsible.

bill palmer report logo headerWhile the officers expressed that they had “meaningful discussions,” the meeting was “emotional” and they were disappointed by McCarthy’s resistance to making any public denouncements. “As the leader of the House Republican Party, it’s important to hear those denouncements publicly,” said Fanone. “We want accountability and justice,” added Dunn. “That’s what we’re looking for — and recognition for every officer that day.”

A spokesperson for Nancy Pelosi described McCarthy’s resistance to publicly condemning his members as “troubling,” and that his behavior was “just the latest example of House Republicans’ growing contempt for police and law enforcement officers who keep us safe.” Fanone had been a Trump supporter prior to revelations surrounding the Jan. 6th attack. He has since become friendly with Don Lemon of CNN and made several appearances on his show describing the horrors officers faced that day and continue to struggle with, totally contradicting Republicans’ attempts to downplay it.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Bipartisan infrastructure deal could make it harder for tax cheats to elude IRS, Yeganeh Torbati, June 26, 2021. $40 billion in new funding would be directed at stepping up enforcement, something experts believe would lead to boost in tax collection.

The bipartisan deal on new infrastructure spending that President Biden reached this week with a group of moderate Democrats and Republicans in the Senate represents a significant us senate logoachievement for the White House, and not only for the roughly $1 trillion it would direct to public works projects if passed into law.

The deal would also secure a boost in the budget of the Internal Revenue Service after a decade of cuts, which independent experts say is critical to ensuring businesses and the wealthiest Americans pay what they owe in taxes. As agreed, the deal would provide $40 billion in new funding for the IRS, which has seen its budget shrink by one-fifth between 2010 and 2018.

Though five moderate Republican senators signed off on the deal, its path is still uncertain in Congress, where there is strong GOP skepticism of the IRS. Republicans renewed their attacks on the agency this month after the investigative news outlet ProPublica published a story based on a vast trove of leaked confidential tax data for the richest Americans.Advertisement

And the agreement for new funding is not expected to include new reporting requirements for banks, which the Biden administration has proposed in its effort to close the long-persistent “tax gap,” or the difference between the taxes that Americans owe and what they pay.

“What we don’t want is an over-intrusive IRS getting into small businesses and causing inappropriate burdens,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who helped secure the deal, in describing what Republicans were trying to prevent as part of their agreement on IRS enforcement.

Infrastructure deal rewards Biden's faith in bipartisanship - for now

IRS funding from Congress fell 20 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars between 2010 and 2018, according to a report last year by the Congressional Budget Office. The cuts resulted in a 22 percent decline in the number of IRS staff.

The number of employees in the enforcement division — the part of the IRS that goes after unpaid taxes — declined by 30 percent, with even steeper drops among the highly specialized workers who handle the most complex cases.Advertisement

As a result of the cuts, the number of IRS examinations dropped by 40 percent between 2010 and 2018, even as the number of tax returns filed increased by 5 percent, the CBO found. The audit rate for returns with more than $1 million in income dropped even further, by 63 percent. And while nearly all corporations with assets of $20 billion or more were audited in 2010, just half were audited in 2018, the CBO found.

“The big corporations and the wealthiest taxpayers can take advantage of a very complicated tax code and take very aggressive positions . . . and the IRS cannot dispute them,” said Janet Holtzblatt, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center. “The IRS with its depleted resources is not in a strong position to dispute the argument that this is avoidance and not evasion.”

Nina Olson, executive director of the Center for Taxpayer Rights and the former U.S. National Taxpayer Advocate, said the IRS needs “significant resources” to improve its employees’ skills and modernize its technology.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP senators furious over Biden vow to tie infrastructure bill to spending, Jeff Stein and Seung Min Kim, June 26, 2021 (print ed.).  A number of senators accused the White House of a bait-and-switch after the president pledged to reject a bipartisan infrastructure deal unless Congress also approves a Democratic spending package.

Congressional Republicans erupted on Friday after President Biden pledged to reject a bipartisan infrastructure deal unless Congress also approves a broader Democratic spending package.

While touting a major breakthrough on bipartisan infrastructure negotiations, Biden said Thursday that he would not sign the $973 billion measure unless lawmakers also sent him a separate “reconciliation” bill expected to include Democratic priorities such as child care, education funding and climate action.

“If this is the only thing that comes to me, I’m not signing it,” Biden said of the bipartisan deal. “It’s in tandem.”

Republicans said Friday that the White House’s stance came as a surprise to them and could unravel the entire bipartisan agreement. The sudden discord marked a major reversal from the day before, when Democrats and Republicans appeared outside the White House and boasted of a revived spirit of bipartisanship.

Congressional Republicans erupted on Friday after President Biden pledged to reject a bipartisan infrastructure deal unless Congress also approves a broader Democratic spending package.

While touting a major breakthrough on bipartisan infrastructure negotiations, Biden said Thursday that he would not sign the $973 billion measure unless lawmakers also sent him a separate “reconciliation” bill expected to include Democratic priorities such as child care, education funding and climate action.

“If this is the only thing that comes to me, I’m not signing it,” Biden said of the bipartisan deal. “It’s in tandem.”

Republicans said Friday that the White House’s stance came as a surprise to them and could unravel the entire bipartisan agreement. The sudden discord marked a major reversal from the day before, when Democrats and Republicans appeared outside the White House and boasted of a revived spirit of bipartisanship.

The 11 Republicans who had endorsed the framework, including Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah) and Jerry Moran (Kan.), had a separate call Friday morning, where multiple members discussed their frustration with Biden’s comments. Some of them wanted to put out a statement clarifying that they had not agreed to condition the bipartisan plan on a partisan reconciliation package, according to two people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

  • Washington Post, What’s in the White House, Senate bipartisan infrastructure package

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden executive order aims to further equity, inclusiveness in federal hiring, Joe Davidson, June 26, 2021 (print ed.). Order calls for “a government-wide, comprehensive plan” to address such things as harassment, equity for LGBTQ+ employees and people with disabilities, and access to leadership roles.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Harris visits southern border, facing criticism from both sides on Biden immigration policies, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., June 26, 2021 (print ed.). Vice President Harris on Friday made her first visit to the U.S. southern border since her inauguration, facing sharp criticism from Republicans who claim White House immigration policies are too lax as well as critiques from liberal kamala harris debate june 27 2019 fileadvocates who argue President Biden is continuing the harsh policies of his predecessor.

Harris’s 4½ hours in this border city (El Paso) are likely to do little to blunt the complaints that have followed her as she tries to manage the assignment Biden gave her in March to address the root causes of illegal immigration from south of the border.

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White House Chronicle, Commentary: Kamala Harris Has Reputation for Asking, but Not Taking, Questions, Llewellyn King, June 26, 2021. Kamala Harris, above, shone in the Senate when she was asking questions in hearings. That is where the idea that she might have presidential possibilities flourished. Democrats, observing her surefootedness, were led to think, “Here is the next Barack Obama.”

But the shine is off Harris and the tarnish is setting in.

Whereas Obama appeared not to think of himself as being of color, Harris clings to it. Her journey intrigues her; Obama’s didn’t intrigue him. He traveled it with purpose and dignity.

Now it must worry the president to learn, as the rest of us have, that Harris seems to have no ideas. Her public remarks are flip at worst and off-the-shelf liberal at best.

What does she see as the future for America? This isn’t laid out or even discernable. We need to know her vision because she is vice president to an old man – the metaphorical heartbeat away.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Limits Suit on False Terrorism Ties on Credit Reports, Adam Liptak, June 26, 2021 (print ed.).  In a 5-to-4 decision, the court said only people who had suffered “concrete harm” from being associated with terrorism had the right to sue.

The Supreme Court on Friday limited the scope of a class-action lawsuit against TransUnion, the credit reporting company, for errors in identifying consumers who might be on terrorism watch lists. In a 5-to-4 decision, the majority said some of the members of the class whose credit reports falsely tied them to wrongdoing had not suffered concrete injuries giving them standing to sue, notwithstanding a federal law authorizing such lawsuits.

Justice Clarence Thomas, breaking with his usual allies, wrote a spirited dissent that was joined by the court’s three liberal members.

The case started when Sergio Ramirez visited a Nissan showroom in California to buy a car. After he negotiated the price, the dealership ran a credit check and found that his TransUnion credit report said his name matched one on a Treasury Department watch list of terrorists, drug traffickers and other criminals.

It is generally unlawful to do business with people on the list, and the dealership refused to sell the car to Mr. Ramirez. His wife bought it in her name.

Mr. Ramirez filed a class action, saying the credit agency had violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which authorizes lawsuits when agencies fail to “follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy” in their reports.

TransUnion had done no more than to match first and last names, meaning that people with common names were often falsely associated with criminal conduct. Even after an earlier suit over a similar incident, Justice Thomas wrote, the company did not take obvious steps to ensure the accuracy of its reports.

“It did not begin comparing birth dates,” he wrote. “Or middle initials. Or citizenship. In fact, TransUnion did not compare any new piece of information. Instead, it hedged its language saying a consumer was a ‘potential match’ rather than saying the person was a ‘match.’”

Mr. Ramirez represented a class of 8,185 people whose credit reports included misleading information. A jury awarded the class more than $60 million, a sum reduced to $40 million by a federal appeals court.

Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, writing for the majority on Friday, said that only the 1,853 class members whose credit reports were actually provided to businesses were entitled to sue. The others, he wrote, had not suffered the required “concrete harm.”

The smaller group, Justice Kavanaugh wrote, had suffered an injury akin to defamation.

“Under longstanding American law, a person is injured when a defamatory statement ‘that would subject him to hatred, contempt or ridicule’ is published to a third party,” he wrote quoting a 1990 libel decision. “We have no trouble concluding that the 1,853 class members suffered a concrete harm.”

But, he wrote, the other 6,332 had not been injured.

“The mere presence of an inaccuracy in an internal credit file, if it is not disclosed to a third party, causes no concrete harm,” Justice Kavanaugh wrote. “In cases such as these where allegedly inaccurate or misleading information sits in a company database, the plaintiffs’ harm is roughly the same, legally speaking, as if someone wrote a defamatory letter and then stored it in her desk drawer. A letter that is not sent does not harm anyone, no matter how insulting the letter is. So too here.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Britney Spears’s Courtroom Plea Spurs Questions for Her Lawyer, Joe Coscarelli, Liz Day and Samantha Stark Updated June 25, 2021. The singer said she had not known she needed to petition the court to be released from her conservatorship, placing a focus on the court-appointed counsel who has represented her for 13 years.

So when Ms. Spears, shown in a Twitter photo, said this week that, under the arrangement, she had been forced to perform, take debilitating medication and remain on birth control, among other claims, she drew attention to the question of whether Mr. Ingham had done enough to educate and support his client, as the law requires.

Britney Spears Twitter“I didn’t know I could petition the conservatorship to be ended,” Ms. Spears, 39, told the judge during a live feed of the hearing. “I’m sorry for my ignorance, but I honestly didn’t know that.” She added, “My attorney says I can’t — it’s not good, I can’t let the public know anything they did to me.”

“He told me I should keep it to myself, really,” the singer said.

Mr. Ingham did not respond to requests to comment Thursday on how his client’s portrayal of him in court corresponded with his own view of his counsel, and it is unknown what discussions the two have had about whether or how Ms. Spears could ask to end the conservatorship. But the dramatic courtroom moment illustrated their frayed relationship, and the inherent conflicts that exist in a conservatorship system in which Ms. Spears has been forced to pay a lawyer she did not choose for herself.

“It’s certainly troubling that this has gone on for so long if she has wanted to end it,” said Rebekah Diller, a professor at the Cardozo School of Law and an expert on guardianships. “It’s hard to know exactly what’s gone on behind closed doors, but in general one would hope she has been told that throughout the years, because it’s a critical right she was entitled to.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Why U.S. Police Have Been Quitting in Droves in the Last Year, Neil MacFarquhar, June 25, 2021 (print ed.). Asheville, N.C., has been among the hardest hit by departures in the wake of racial justice protests. About a third of the force quit or retired. Public outrage and low pay were compounded by a demoralizing sense that the city itself did not back its police force, officers said.

The Police Department in Asheville, N.C., has lost upward of 80 officers. “A lot of our experience is walking out the door,” Chief David Zack said.

As protests surged across the country last year over the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police, Officer Lindsay C. Rose in Asheville, N.C., found her world capsized.

Various friends and relatives had stopped speaking to her because she was a cop. During a protest in June around Police Headquarters, a demonstrator lobbed an explosive charge that set her pants on fire and scorched her legs.

She said she was spit on. She was belittled. Members of the city’s gay community, an inclusive clan that had welcomed her in when she first settled in Asheville, stood near her at one event and chanted, “All gay cops are traitors,” she said.

By September, still deeply demoralized despite taking several months off to recuperate, Officer Rose decided that she was done. She quit the Police Department and posted a sometimes bitter, sometimes nostalgic essay online that attracted thousands of readers throughout the city and beyond.

 

Science, UFOs, Education, Cultural Wars

ny times logoNew York Times, Skull Found in China Could Be New Species of Ancient Human, Carl Zimmer,June 26, 2021 (print ed.). A laborer discovered the fossil in China and hid it for 85 years. Scientists say it could help sort out the human family tree and how we emerged.

Scientists on Friday announced that a massive fossilized skull that is at least 140,000 years old is a new species of ancient human, a finding that could potentially change prevailing views of how — and even where — our species, Homo sapiens, evolved.Sign up for Science Times: Get stories that capture the wonders of nature, the cosmos and the human body.

The skull belonged to a mature male who had a huge brain, massive brow ridges, deep set eyes and a bulbous nose. It had remained hidden in an abandoned well for 85 years, after a laborer came across it at a construction site in China.

The researchers named the new species Homo longi and gave it the nickname “Dragon Man,” for the Dragon River region of northeast China where the skull was discovered.

The team said that Homo longi, and not the Neanderthals, was the extinct human species mostly closely related to our own. If confirmed, that would change how scientists envision the origin of Homo sapiens, which has been built up over the years from fossil discoveries and the analysis of ancient DNA.

But a number of experts disputed this conclusion, published in three papers that provided the first detailed look at the fossil. Nevertheless, many still thought that the find could help scientists reconstruct the human family tree and how modern humans emerged.

All the experts who reviewed the data in the studies said it was a magnificent fossil.

“It’s a beautiful thing,” said John Hawks, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “It’s very rare to find a fossil like this, with a face in good condition. You dream of finding this stuff.”

In 1933, a laborer working at a bridge construction site in the city of Harbin discovered the peculiar skull. It’s likely that the man — whose name has been withheld by his family — recognized that he had found a scientifically important specimen. Just four years earlier, researchers had found another humanlike skull, nicknamed Peking Man, near Beijing. It appeared to link the people of Asia to their evolutionary forerunners.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Has No Explanation for U.F.O.s and Does Not Rule Out Aliens, Julian E. Barnes,June 26, 2021 (print ed.). The government released a new report about aerial phenomena that is likely to fuel theories of otherworldly visitations.

The government still has no explanation for nearly all of the scores of unidentified aerial phenomena reported over almost two decades and investigated by a Pentagon task force, according to a report released on Friday, a result that is likely to fuel theories of otherworldly visitations.

A total of 143 reports gathered since 2004 remain unexplained, the document released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said. Of those, 21 reports of unknown phenomena, involving 18 episodes, possibly demonstrate technological capabilities that are unknown to the United States: objects moving without observable propulsion or with rapid acceleration that is believed to be beyond the capabilities of Russia, China or other terrestrial nations. But, the report said, more rigorous analysis of those episodes is needed.

There is no evidence that any of the episodes involve secret American weapons programs, unknown technology from Russia or China or extraterrestrial visitations. But the government report did not rule out those explanations.

The nine-page document essentially declines to draw conclusions, announcing that the available reporting is “largely inconclusive” and noting that limited and inconsistent data created a challenge in evaluating the phenomena.

The report said the number of sightings was too limited for a detailed pattern analysis. While they clustered around military training or testing grounds, the report found that that could be the result of collection bias or the presence of cutting-edge sensors in those areas.

Government officials outlined a plan to develop, if additional funding is available, a better program to observe and collect data on future unexplained phenomena.

The failure to reach a conclusion on the unexplained episodes raised questions about how seriously the government has taken them until now and whether it had assembled adequate scientific expertise to examine them.

Too little data exists to draw a conclusion about many of the episodes, officials said. But both scientific experts and enthusiastic amateurs have advanced explanations ranging from the mundane to the otherworldly and the report did little to substantiate or dismiss their theories.

Government officials on Friday were reluctant to acknowledge the potential that the phenomena could be extraterrestrial craft, a signal of how unlikely they view that explanation.

There was no affirmative evidence that the unexplained phenomena are alien spacecraft in the report. But because the government has offered no explanation for so many of the episodes, the new report is sure to fuel the enthusiasm of those who believe they could be.

Among the unexplained incidents are three high-profile videos of aerial phenomena taken by the U.S. Navy and witnessed by pilots in recent years.

The report released on Friday is an interim report, which is how former officials involved in the Pentagon examination had predicted the government would initially handle the requirement by Congress to submit an unclassified report on what it knows about U.F.O.s.

The government intends to update Congress within 90 days on efforts to develop an improved collection strategy and what officials are calling a technical road map to develop technology to better observe the phenomena, senior government officials told reporters on Friday. Officials said they would provide lawmakers with periodical updates beyond that.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: I Created ‘The X-Files.’ Here’s Why I’m Skeptical of the New U.F.O. Report, Chris Carter (a screenwriter and director who created the TV series “The X-Files”), June 25, 2021 (print ed.). When we were dressing the original set for Agent Mulder’s office on “The X-Files,” I came up with the poster with a U.F.O. on it that reads “I Want to Believe.” And I think that’s where most people come down on the whole extraterrestrial business. Not quite there yet, but waiting for a sign.

The universe is just too vast for us to be alone in it. Carl Jung wanted to believe, as did Carl Sagan. Both wrote books on the subject. Now videos from Navy aircraft tracking unidentified aerial phenomena (as they’ve been relabeled) suggest that maybe we have seen them. Based partly on the videos, a much-anticipated government study on the topic landed in Congress on Friday. Answers were promised. But answers are always promised.

I have never seen a U.F.O. or an alien, as much as I’d like to. But as a result of “The X-Files” I’ve met many people who claim they have. I have seen grainy videos of gray aliens on someone’s back patio. I know an award-winning movie director who told me straight-faced he’d seen a U.F.O. when he was in college. Annie Jacobsen, the author of the terrific book “Area 51,” introduced me to a man who worked at that top secret facility for many years and saw strange craft coming and going on the air base. For a decade I became a magnet for this stuff.

The plot of “The X-Files” was built on a conspiracy theory: The government is lying to you about the existence of U.F.O.s and extraterrestrials. Do I believe the government lies to us? Absolutely. I’m a child of Watergate. Do I believe in conspiracies? Certainly. I believe, for example, that someone is targeting C.I.A. agents and White House officials with microwave radiation, the so-called Havana syndrome, and your government denied it.

Can the new report, or any government report, give us clear answers? I’m as skeptical now as I’ve ever been.

In 1996 I was invited to the clinic of the Harvard psychiatrist John Mack to witness the regression hypnosis of a self-professed alien abductee. I first met Dr. Mack, who studied and ultimately believed in alien abduction, when he came to Fox Studios to discuss his work. I had used a Roper survey he was involved in (a poll of 6000 Americans on their belief in the existence of extraterrestrials) to sell “The X-Files” as a TV show in 1992, and later read his book, “Abduction.” So I knew something about what I was going to see. I went in doubtful, unprepared for the drama of a woman sitting next to me in tears and in terror over the encounter with aliens that she described, on a beach in Mexico. The experience turned out to be powerful and not a little unsettling.

Years later I attended a conference in San Mateo, Calif., that focused on a purported underground government program. Attendees believed that this program used, among other things, reverse-engineered technology from captured U.F.O.s to weaponize space. By outward appearances, these were respectable and accomplished professionals, including former government officials and lawyers. Some of them also believe that the military has hidden bases on the dark side of the moon and meet secretly there with reptilian aliens.

This radical element has bedeviled high-minded “ufologists” for decades and colored the public’s perceptions of the phenomena. Many people are afraid to admit they believe for the real fear of being laughed at. (Fear itself may be the reason some of us refuse to believe that aliens exist at all.)

We are living in times of uncertainty, where truth may be unknowable. I don’t have to tell you this has bred a universe of rampant conspiracy theories. From the Covid conspiracy documentary “Plandemic” to the idea that we’re living in a black hole created by the CERN’s Large Hadron Collider when we discovered the Higgs boson. Darin Morgan, a writer on “The X-Files,” calls this the “Post Conspiracy Era.” PoCo — the industrialization of conspiracy theories. Rigorous science and scientists are castigated and vilified. Rigorous journalism is decried as fake news.

“The Truth Is Out There,” “Trust No One,” “Deny Everything” went the provocative catchphrases on “The X-Files,” but that was in the ’90s, when we had a relatively shared reality. The slogans are now a fact of life.

In addition to the Navy videos, the reason U.F.O.s are getting their big moment is due to a bombshell 2017 article in this paper. The piece exposed a secret program inside the Department of Defense searching for the truth about U.F.O.s. The combined evidence engendered the government’s recent report.

But for me, the report on U.F.O.s was D.O.A. Ordered up by a bipartisan group of legislators during the Trump administration, the interim report revealed nothing conclusive about U.F.O.s or their extraterrestrial origins. And the portions that remain classified will only fuel more conspiracy theories.

This is “X-Files” territory if there ever was any. But it’s also cause for some important questions.

How did the Defense Department keep a budgeted project — sponsored principally by Senator Harry Reid in 2007 — secret for 10 years? Why, when Mr. Reid sought even higher security — and asked to see physical evidence of U.F.O.s — was he denied? And why only a $22 million budget when looking for answers about sentient life visiting us from worlds far away? (That’s roughly the cost of three episodes of the Netflix series “Stranger Things.”)

Ardent disbelievers have explained the latest Navy videos as tricks of the eye — even though the fighter pilots describe the unidentified aerial phenomena, or U.A.P., in great detail as having no flight surfaces, no exhaust plumes, and the ability to perform impossible maneuvers at hypersonic speeds. This opposition, scientific and not, dates back to the 1940s, when a pilot, Kenneth Arnold, saw nine “flying disks” over Mount Rainier.

But the prosecution raises a good question: Where is the Deep Throat of the U.F.O. world? Why no credible deathbed confessions? As Enrico Fermi’s famous paradox asked, if aliens are out there, why haven’t we seen them? Could the government actually be telling the truth that it really doesn’t know what to make of the phenomena? Or is the truth above top secret?

Curiously, Barack Obama, who once joked sarcastically about U.F.O.s on late night TV, is now admitting there are objects in the sky that can’t be explained. Even Donald Trump, under whose aegis the latest study was cooked up, admits there may be something to it.

I think in all likelihood this report will come and go, and with it the mainstream chatter around U.F.O.s, until definitive proof is exposed. A planet that can’t come together on climate change or a global pandemic might not pay much attention even if wreckage or an alien corpse is discovered. The culture wars alone might eclipse it, so rabidly are we in their grips.

But what if we had direct contact? With actual alien beings from an exoplanet who’ve traveled light years to seek us out? Who have answers to every question we’ve ever asked?

The result would unquestionably change the course of mankind. But would it change us?

I want to believe.

ny times logoNew York Times, Indonesia’s Doctors Got Vaccinated With Sinovac, and Got Sick, Hannah Beech and Muktita Suhartono June 26, 2021 (print ed.). Facing increased cases and a deadly variant, the Indonesian health system is under strain, as doctors become patients.

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Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Biden's hypocrisy on press freedom, Wayne Madsen, left, June 25, 2021. President Biden condemned China on June 24 for exerting pressure on Hong Kong to wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallclose down the special region's only remaining pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily.

In a comment that underscores Biden's complete hypocrisy when it comes to press freedom, he said, "Journalists are truth-tellers who hold leaders accountable and keep information flowing freely . . . The act of journalism is not a crime.”

If true, why did Biden's Attorney General, Merrick Garland, wait six months before vacating Trump Justice Department subpoenas for the phone records of journalists with The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, and USA Today?

In fact, four of Biden's Cabinet members -- Garland, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo -- have overseen press censorship actions against foreign news websites, something that places them in the same category as the Beijing government, the military junta in Myanmar, Belarus's dictator Alexander Lukashenko, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Palmer Report, Opinion: This is not just “crazy liberal stuff,” Shirley Kennedy, June 25, 2021. The time has come to address yet another elephant in the room: Critical Race Theory (“CRT”). CNN seemed like a prognosticator when it predicted that CRT would become one of the most talked about issues. That day has arrived, and we should dismantle exactly what it means. According to CNN, CRT is “a concept that’s been around for decades and that seeks to understand and address inequality and racism in the US.” It is not a “Marxist ideology that is a threat to the American way of life,” nor is it “divisive, anti-American propaganda,” as Donald Trump referred to it during his unsuccessful campaign for reelection.

CRT seeks to tell America’s history — its true history — which seems to upset some. We cannot pretend that slavery, Jim Crow, and all other forms of racial discrimination never existed because they did. Trying to bury those facts in history does not make them go away. To get at the heart of what CRT is and what it purports to do, CNN spoke with one of the founders, Kimberlé Crenshaw, a law professor at UCLA and Columbia University. Crenshaw’s definition of CRT is: “Critical race theory is . . . an approach to grappling with a history of White supremacy that rejects the belief that what’s in the past is in the past, and that the laws and systems that grow from that past are detached from it.” Those beliefs are obviously not in the past, and we can learn from them. When we are not taught about every aspect of our country and how it derived, we remain ignorant. Perhaps some prefer to stay that way, and because they do, Republicans are now using CRT as their new battle cry.

CRT does not exist to make people feel guilty, and in fact, it is not specifically taught in many school systems at all. Yet, Republican governors — Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott come to mind — have banned it from their curriculums even though it is not taught. How ignorant is that? CRT is not “crazy liberal stuff,” as the Florida Commissioner of Education called it during his speech to a conservative, private university. It is knowledge, and knowledge is and always has been power. Choosing to ignore that knowledge or pretend it does not exist is not only ignorant, but also willfully ignorant.

Our children deserve the truth about our nation, both good and bad. No one is saying the United States is inherently racist, though racism obviously exists. The worst aspect of racism is its connection to ignorance, and while some may want their children ignorant, others do not. Just like any other class in a school’s curriculum, this type of course needs to be available. Make it an elective if you are afraid of it, but do not continue to pander to ignorance by labeling CRT as something “bad,” which Republicans are using to browbeat their supporters into submission through fear. It will, unfortunately, work on some, but we can always hope that enough of them will see what Republicans are doing and refuse to fall for it.

 

World News

Reuters via Voice of America, Iran Says Nuclear Deal Salvageable but ‘Will Not Negotiate Forever,’ Staff Report, June 26, 2021  Iran said Saturday it believes a reinstatement of its 2015 nuclear deal with major world powers is possible but warned that Tehran “will not negotiate forever.”

"Out of a steadfast commitment to salvage a deal that the U.S. tried to torpedo, Iran has been the most active party in Vienna, proposing most drafts," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Twitter, referring to talks aimed at reviving the nuclear deal.

voice of america logoIran and the United States have been holding indirect talks on reviving the 2015 agreement between Tehran and six powers that imposed restrictions on Tehran's nuclear activities in exchange for lifting international sanctions.

Then U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from the agreement in 2018, but President Joe Biden has been seeking to revive it. Officials on all sides have said there are major issues to resolve before the deal can be reinstated.

"Still believe a deal is possible, if the U.S. decides to abandon Trump's failed legacy. Iran will not negotiate forever," Khatibzadeh tweeted.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog Friday demanded an immediate reply from Iran on whether it would extend a monitoring agreement that expired overnight. An Iranian envoy responded that Tehran was under no obligation to provide an answer.

The Vienna talks, which began in April, are now in a pause that had been expected to last until early July, but failure to extend the monitoring accord could throw those negotiations into disarray.

ny times logoNew York Times, 1+1=4? Latin America Confronts a Pandemic Education Crisis, Julie Turkewitz, Photographs by Federico Rios, June 26, 2021. With economies struggling and millions cut off from the classroom, Latin America’s students are leaving school in alarming numbers, experts say.

ny times logoFrench FlagNew York Times, In France’s Military, Muslims Find a Tolerance That Is Elusive Elsewhere, Norimitsu Onishi and Constant Méheut, June 26, 2021. In a nation wary of the growth of Islam, the military has embraced and integrated its Muslim soldiers by facilitating their religious practice.

  

June 25

Top Headlines

 

Pro-Trump Election Lies, Jan. 6 Insurrection Day

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

U.S. Media, Race, Education, Cultural Wars

 

World News

 

Top Storiesnancy pelosi horizontal uncredited older Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Pelosi announces a select committee will investigate Jan. 6 attack on Capitol, Felicia Sonmez and Karoun Demirjian, June 25, 2021 (print ed.). The decision by the House speaker (shown above in a file photo) comes after Senate Republicans blocked the creation of an independent commission.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Thursday that the House will form a select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, one month after Senate Republicans blocked an effort to form an independent, bipartisan commission.

“This morning, with great solemnity and sadness, I’m announcing that the House will be establishing a select committee on the Jan. 6 insurrection,” Pelosi said at a news conference Thursday morning.

Senate Republicans last month blocked the creation of an independent commission, despite 35 House Republicans having already endorsed the effort. That commission would have been modeled after a similar panel formed in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and charged with producing an objective account of what fueled the day’s violence.

U.S. House logoAbout 10,000 people laid siege to the Capitol on Jan. 6, and nearly 800 of them broke into the Capitol building.

The events of the day resulted in five deaths, and nearly 140 officers were assaulted during the attack, as they faced rioters armed with ax handles, bats, metal batons, wooden poles, hockey sticks and other weapons, authorities said.

In recent weeks, a smattering of House and Senate panels have been looking into the events of Jan. 6, holding public hearings with law enforcement and military officials and, in one case, even publishing a comprehensive report examining why authorities were unable to control the pro-Trump crowd.

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Infrastructure deal rewards Biden’s faith in bipartisanship — at least for now, Annie Linskey and Tyler Pager, June 25, 2021 (print ed.). The president’s announcement of an infrastructure agreement with GOP support suggests he has found a way to work in a polarized Washington.

If passed by Congress, the $973 billion bipartisan agreement to fund roads, bridges, pipes, transmission lines and broadband over five years will be the largest package of spending on the country’s infrastructure in modern history.

transportation dept logoIt also would show that Biden has found a way to bridge a divided Washington — at least on the popular issue of spending money on construction — and achieve an agreement that eluded his predecessor, whose frequent promises to focus on infrastructure became a running joke in Washington. One of Biden’s central campaign pledges was that he could make the country’s legislative system work again, a claim that was mocked as either naive or hopelessly out of touch, even by some of his own supporters.

But now Biden is poised to deliver legislation that would rid the country of dangerous lead pipes carrying drinking water, fund thousands of construction jobs and pour money into transit — including his beloved Amtrak — all with at least a handful of Republican votes. Biden also has pledged to sign a separate measure, likely to be passed only with Democratic support, that includes liberal priorities such as subsidizing health-care workers, extending direct child-care payments to families and bringing down college costs.

Infrastructure deal would boost investments in transportation

Both measures would need to be passed for Biden’s optimism to be vindicated. But the president took a minute Thursday to savor victory nonetheless.

“I know there are some in my party who discouraged me from seeking agreement with our Republican colleagues — who said that we should go bigger and go alone,” Biden said at a separate news conference Thursday afternoon to discuss the deal. “To them I say this: I’ve already shown in my young presidency I’m prepared to move the country forward. . . . We can find common ground.”Advertisement

  • Biden claims a bipartisan win
  • Deal would boost investments in rail and transit

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Politics Updates: Biden Agrees to Bipartisan Group’s Infrastructure Plan, Saying ‘We Have a Deal,’ Staff Reports, June 25, 2021 (print ed.). The plan is expected to increase federal spending by nearly $600 billion but leave many of President Biden’s economic proposals, including investments in child care and much of his climate agenda, for a future bill.

Lawmakers have yet to release legislative language, but White House officials laid out the funding breakdown in a fact sheet that detailed proposed allocations for some of pillars of the plan, which would be phased in over eight years.

Here are some key highlights of the $579 billion framework — and some of the elements that didn’t make it through the negotiations.

  • $66 billion in rail projects and $49 billion for public transit. Mr. Biden, speaking to reporters, said Republicans had agreed to funding for many of his transportation proposals, albeit at reduced levels — and touted the inclusion of a $7.5 billion investment in charging stations for electric vehicles.
  • $109 billion in road and bridge projects. The framework includes an additional $25 million to upgrade airports and $16 billion for improvements at the nation’s cargo ports and waterways.
    o$201 billion in water, sewer, power and environmental remediation projects. The plan includes $55 billion for water infrastructure, $21 billion for environmental projects, and $73 billion for power grid imliprovements.
  • $65 billion for broadband infrastructure. Mr. Biden has said his goal is to provide “universal” broadband access, an initiative that is especially popular with Republican senators from states with large rural and exurban populations.
  • No new taxes on the wealthy or on corporations. Gone is the rollback of President Donald J. Trump’s tax cuts or Mr. Biden’s plan to raise the rates paid by corporations, a core selling point of the plan for progressives. But gone too are the proposals by Republicans, including a gas tax, which Mr. Biden viewed as new taxation on the middle and working classes.
  • A $47 billion down payment on “resilience” projects to cope with climate change. The agreement includes billions slated for weatherproofing, upgrades to coastal infrastructure and projects intended to mitigate against severe weather.
  • Stepped-up tax collection by the I.R.S. The proposal is expected to include heightened enforcement efforts by the Internal Revenue Service to reduce tax evasion by corporations and high earners. One of the lawmakers who worked on the deal, Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, said the package would pump around $40 billion into enforcement to produce a net gain in tax revenues of $100 billion.
  • No major funding for housing. Mr. Biden lamented that he was unable to secure commitments for big new investments in affordable housing, but said he would keep pushing.

Biden’s big “human infrastructure” plan is gone — at least from this measure.

The bipartisan proposal appears to leave out much of the president’s initial $2 trillion blueprint — which included massive spending to combat climate change and subsidize child care, education and other types “human infrastructure” spending. That could make it a hard sell for many progressives in the House, who could easily scuttle any plan if they choose to buck the White House.

Democrats are pushing inclusion of many of those programs in a second piece of legislation that could be passed without Republican support using a fast-track legislative process called reconciliation. Mr. Biden said the bills should be passed “in tandem.” “If this is the only thing that comes to me,” he said about the bipartisan bill, “I’m not signing it.”

miami condo amy beth bennett ap

ny times logoNew York Times, Death Toll Rises to 4 in Condo Collapse Near Miami, Staff Reports, June 25, 2021. Officials said three bodies had been pulled from the rubble overnight, bringing the known death toll to four, with 159 people unaccounted for. An intense search operation with dogs and sonar looking for any signs of life continued into Friday after the partial collapse of the Champlain Towers. Photo at above by Amy Beth Bennett of the Associated Press.

  

Pro-Trump Election Lies, Jan. 6 Insurrection Day 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: They Posed as Democratic Activists but Were Really Conservative Spies, Mark Mazzetti and Adam Goldman, June 25, 2021 (print ed.). Operatives infiltrated progressive groups across the West to try to manipulate politics and reshape the electoral map, even targeting moderate Republicans.

The young couple posing in front of the faux Eiffel Tower at the Paris hotel in Las Vegas fit right in, two people in a sea of idealistic Democrats who had arrived in the city in February 2020 for a Democratic primary debate.

dnc square logoLarge donations to the Democratic National Committee — $10,000 each — had bought Beau Maier and Sofia LaRocca tickets to the debate. During a cocktail reception beforehand, they worked the room of party officials, rainbow donkey pins affixed to their lapels.

In fact, much about them was a lie. Mr. Maier and Ms. LaRocca were part of an undercover operation by conservatives to infiltrate progressive groups, political campaigns and the offices of Democratic as well as moderate Republican elected officials during the 2020 election cycle, according to interviews and documents.

republican elephant logoUsing large campaign donations and cover stories, the operatives aimed to gather dirt that could sabotage the reputations of people and organizations considered threats to a hard-right agenda advanced by President Donald J. Trump.

At the center of the scheme was an unusual cast: a former British spy connected to the security contractor Erik Prince, a wealthy heiress to the Gore-Tex fortune and undercover operatives like Mr. Maier and Ms. LaRocca, right, who used Wyoming as a base to insinuate themselves into the political fabric of this state and at least two others, Colorado and Arizona.

In more than two dozen interviews and a review of federal election records, The New York Times reconstructed many of the operatives’ interactions in Wyoming and other states — mapping out their associations and likely targets — and spoke to people with whom they discussed details of their spying operation. Publicly available documents in Wyoming also tied Mr. Maier and Ms. LaRocca to an address in Cody used by the former spy, Richard Seddon.

What the effort accomplished — and how much information Mr. Seddon’s operatives gathered — is unclear. Sometimes, their tactics were bumbling and amateurish. But the operation’s use of spycraft to manipulate the politics of several states over years greatly exceeds the tactics of more traditional political dirty tricks operations.

sofia larocca beau maierIt is also a sign of how ultraconservative Republicans see a deep need to install allies in various positions at the state level to gain an advantage on the electoral map. Secretaries of state, for example, play a crucial role in certifying election results every two years, and some became targets of Mr. Trump and his allies in their efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

The campaign followed another effort engineered by Mr. Seddon. He aided a network of conservative activists trying to discredit perceived enemies of Mr. Trump inside the government, including a planned sting operation in 2018 against Mr. Trump’s national security adviser at the time, H.R. McMaster, and helping set up secret surveillance of F.B.I. employees and other government officials.

erik princeMr. Prince, left, had set Mr. Seddon’s work in motion, recruiting him around the beginning of the Trump administration to hire former spies to train conservative activists in the basics of espionage, and send them on political sabotage missions.

By the end of 2018, Mr. Seddon secured funding from the Wyoming heiress, Susan Gore, according to people familiar with her role. He recruited several former operatives from the conservative group Project Veritas, where he had worked previously, to set up the political infiltration operation in the West.

Project Veritas has a history of using operatives with fake names to target liberal organizations and make secret recordings to embarrass them.

The endeavor in the West appears to have had two primary goals: penetrate local and eventually national Democratic political circles for long-term intelligence gathering, and collect dirt on moderate Republicans that could be used against them in the internecine party battles being waged by Mr. Trump and his allies.

Nate Martin, the head of Better Wyoming, a progressive group that was one of the operation’s targets, said he suspected that its aim was to “dig up this information and you sit on it until you really can destroy somebody.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Aides Prepared Insurrection Act Order During Debate Over Protests, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, June 25, 2021. President Donald Trump never invoked the act, but fresh details underscore the intensity of his interest last June in using active-duty military to curb unrest.

Responding to interest from President Donald J. Trump, White House aides drafted a proclamation last year to invoke the Insurrection Act in case Mr. Trump moved to take the extraordinary step of deploying active-duty troops in Washington to quell the protests that followed the killing of George Floyd, two senior Trump administration officials said.

The aides drafted the proclamation on June 1, 2020, during a heated debate inside the administration over how to respond to the protests. Mr. Trump, enraged by the demonstrations, had told the attorney general, William P. Barr, the defense secretary, Mark T. Esper, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley, that he wanted thousands of active-duty troops on the streets of the nation’s capital, one of the officials said.

Mr. Trump was talked out of the plan by the three officials. But a separate group of White House staff members wanted to leave open the option for Mr. Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act to call in the military to patrol the streets of the capital.

They decided it would be prudent to have the necessary document vetted and ready in case the unrest in Washington worsened or the city’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, declined to take measures such as a citywide curfew, which she ultimately put in place.

According to one former senior administration official, Mr. Trump was aware that the document was prepared. He never invoked the act, and in a statement to The New York Times he denied that he had wanted to deploy active-duty troops. “It’s absolutely not true and if it was true, I would have done it,” Mr. Trump said.

But the new details about internal White House deliberations on a pivotal day in his presidency underscore the intensity of Mr. Trump’s instinct to call on the active-duty military to deal with a domestic issue. And they help to flesh out the sequence of events that would culminate later in the day with Mr. Trump’s walk across Lafayette Park to St. John’s Church so he could pose in front of it holding a Bible, a move that coincided with a spasm of violence between law enforcement and protesters camped near the White House.

washington post logoWashington Post, Georgia judge dismisses most of lawsuit that alleged fraudulent absentee ballots in Fulton County, Amy B Wang, June 25, 2021 (print ed.). A Georgia judge on georgia map 2Thursday dismissed most of a lawsuit that alleged there were fraudulent mail-in ballots in Fulton County from the 2020 presidential election, dealing a potential blow to a group of local voters that has pushed to inspect all 147,000 absentee ballots cast in the state’s largest county last November.

Superior Court Judge Brian Amero on Thursday dismissed seven of the lawsuit’s nine claims against Fulton County officials on the basis of Georgia’s sovereign immunity laws. Amero did not dismiss two counts in the lawsuit that sought digital images of the mail-in ballots through the state’s open records law.

Fulton County election officials and local representatives have repeatedly asserted that there has been no evidence of fraud in the 2020 election, a claim perpetuated by former president Donald Trump, who has continued to baselessly allege that the election was stolen from him. President Biden won Georgia by fewer than 12,000 votes, the first time the state had gone for a Democrat since 1992.

Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani repeatedly and falsely claimed massive election fraud in 2020 elections depriving his client of victory. The photo above was from a press conference with fellow Trump attorneys Sidney Powell, left, and Jenna Ellis making similar claims, shown also during the news conference on Nov. 19, 2020.

Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani repeatedly and falsely claimed massive election fraud in 2020 elections depriving his client of victory. The photo above was from a press conference with fellow Trump attorneys Sidney Powell, left, and Jenna Ellis making similar claims, shown also during the news conference on Nov. 19, 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Giuliani disgraced his profession — and his country — by defending the indefensible, Ruth Marcus, right, June 25, 2021 (print ed.). “We conclude that there is ruth marcus twitter Customuncontroverted evidence that [Giuliani] communicated demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers and the public at large in his capacity as lawyer for former president Donald J. Trump and the Trump campaign in connection with Trump’s failed effort at reelection in 2020,” the judges overseeing the disciplinary proceedings wrote in a 33-page ruling.

djt rudy giuliani Custom“These false statements were made to improperly bolster respondent’s narrative that due to widespread voter fraud, victory in the 2020 United States presidential election was stolen from his client. We conclude that respondent’s conduct immediately threatens the public interest.”

Bravo.

It ordinarily takes quite a bit — stealing client money, or obstructing justice — to get yourself disbarred, and even more to have your license to practice law suspended pending resolution of the proceedings. As a practical matter, Giuliani doesn’t have a booming legal practice; at this point, any client would be a fool to have him for a lawyer. And he has bigger problems than losing a law license he doesn’t really use, including a criminal investigation into his activities by the office he used to oversee.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pence defends his Jan. 6 actions in speech that also likened Trump to Reagan, Amy B Wang, June 25, 2021 (print ed.). Former vice president Mike Pence on Thursday defended his actions on Jan. 6, telling a Republican crowd that it would have been unconstitutional to reject electoral votes already certified by the states, as former president Donald Trump had falsely suggested Pence had the power to do.

mike pence bites lip CustomIn a speech Thursday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., Pence (shown in a file photo) said he was proud that Congress reconvened the night of Jan. 6 to certify Joe Biden’s win even after the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, which left five people dead. Many in the pro-Trump mob that overran the Capitol that day had chanted “Hang Mike Pence!” on the misguided belief that Pence could have stopped Congress from certifying Biden’s victory.

“Now, there are those in our party who believe that in my position as presiding officer over the joint session that I possess the authority to reject or return electoral votes certified by the states,” Pence said, without specifying that Trump had been the most high-powered driver of that belief. “The Constitution provides the vice president with no such authority before the joint session of Congress.”

Pence added, to applause: “And the truth is, there’s almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president. The presidency belongs to the American people and the American people alone.”

The remarks were Pence’s most extensive comments yet justifying his decision not to interfere with the election certification, as the former vice president continues to walk the line between staying in the good graces of Trump — and Trump loyalists — and decrying the violence that occurred on Jan. 6 in Trump’s name. Earlier this month, Pence acknowledged that he and Trump may never “see eye-to-eye” about what happened on Jan. 6, in another speech that nevertheless was largely pro-Trump.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Reports: More U.S. States Try Lotteries to Tackle Vaccine Hesitancy, Staff Reports, June 25, 2021. Louisiana, where vaccinations have lagged, is among the latest to dangle cash prizes and scholarships in return for getting a shot. Israel, a world leader in fighting the virus, is grappling with a new outbreak. Here’s the latest on the pandemic.

washington post logoWashington Post, 1785 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 25, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 150.8 million people (45.7 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 53.8 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 25, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 180,845,468, Deaths: 3,917,897
U.S. Cases:     34,464,956, Deaths:    618,685
India Cases:    30,134,445, Deaths:    393,338
Brazil Cases:   18,243,483, Deaths:    509,282

ny times logobrazil flag wavingNew York Times, Brazil Passes 500,000 Covid Deaths, a Tragedy With No Sign of Letup, Ernesto Londoño and Flávia Milhorance, Photographs by Mauricio Lima, June 25, 2021 (print ed.). With 2.7 percent of the world’s population, Brazil has suffered 13 percent of the Covid-19 fatalities, and the pandemic there is not abating.

Roll Call, 3 House Republicans fined for not wearing mask on floor, Chris Marquette, June 25, 2021. Violations came before mandate was lifted for vaccinated people.

Three House Republicans each must pay $500 fines imposed by the sergeant-at-arms for being warned and then failing to wear a mask on the House floor.Reps. Brian Mast of Florida, Beth Van Duyne of Texas and Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Iowa were all fined, according to an announcement released on Friday by the House Ethics Committee.

The three were among 10 Republicans who defied House rules in May requiring the wearing of masks on the floor at the time. Warnings were issued, with the rules providing for fines in the event of a second offense.

Mast and Van Duyne unsuccessfully appealed and Miller-Meeks did not file an appeal to the Ethics panel over the infractions. Unless a majority of the bipartisan 10-member committee agrees to the appeal, it is rejected.

Subsequent offenses come with a $2,500 fine.

Although several members have publicly announced their defiance of the House mask mandate, the three are the first to be announced by the Ethics Committee.

They might be the only ones to face such fines. As of June 11, the Office of the Attending Physician, led by Brian P. Monahan, announced that people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 need not wear masks in the House chamber.

Mast noted in his appeal that he “was in full compliance with Center[s] for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance,” adding that he is “fully vaccinated and followed the science.” This is a reference to updated CDC guidance issued in May that fully vaccinated people need not social distance or wear a mask.

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How Did a Socialist Triumph in Buffalo? Michelle Goldberg, right, June 25, 2021 (print ed.). On Tuesday night, just after the polls closed, The Buffalo News ran an michelle goldberg thumbupdate about the city’s Democratic mayoral primary, which pit the four-term incumbent mayor, Byron Brown, against a socialist challenger, India Walton. “Those handicapping the race are not betting whether Brown will win, but by how much,” the paper said. “Will a 10-point landslide suffice? Or could he post a larger tally?”

An hour and a half later, with almost all of the votes in, Walton, a 38-year-old political newcomer, wasn’t just ahead. She was ahead by a lot: 52 percent to Brown’s 45 percent. Buffalo is an overwhelmingly Democratic city — there won’t even be a Republican on the general election ballot — so Walton will almost certainly become the india waltonfirst socialist mayor of a major city in more than 50 years, and the first woman to lead Buffalo, where politics is such an old boys’ club that the city council is entirely male.

Walton didn’t just upend expectations among local political observers. She also complicated a narrative that’s set in since the 2020 election: that surging crime has made progressive politics toxic.

This narrative was strengthened when Eric Adams, a former cop, came out ahead in the initial count of New York City’s ranked-choice mayoral primary, whose final results are still being calculated. “The Democrats’ Wake-Up Call,” said an Axios headline about Adams’s strong lead and the political danger of the defund-the-police movement.

democratic donkey logo

That danger is real. Polls reveal that both Black and white voters reject the slogan “Defund the police.” Yet Walton has shown that even in a city where shootings have surged a staggering 116 percent so far this year, a socialist promising police reform can win.

When I asked her how, her answer was simple: “Organizing.” But it’s a little more than that. Walton is a woman with a working-class background and an inspiring personal story who knows how to make progressive ideas sound like common sense. “The challenge of the left is that we use our jargony activist language and don’t take time to fully explain what we mean to those who may not be as ‘woke’ as we are,” she told me., Buffalo is a blue-collar city, and Walton, who grew up on the chronically neglected East Side, can relate to the problems of her beleaguered fellow citizens. There are actually similarities between her trajectory and Eric Adams’s — both had hardscrabble backgrounds followed by struggles to master institutions that had frightened and alienated them. For Adams, that was the Police Department. For Walton, it was the medical establishment.

She had her first child at 14, and gave birth to extremely premature twins at 19. Feeling ignored and disrespected in the newborn intensive care unit inspired her to become a nurse. “I wanted to go to nursing school so that I could return to the NICU and be an example for another young mother who may be in a time of crisis similar to what I experienced,” she told me.

When she decided to run for office, her core support didn’t come from the Black working class. “The early adopters were definitely white progressives,” she said. She was embraced by national left-wing groups, including the Working Families Party, which sent people to help professionalize her campaign, and the Democratic Socialists of America.

In some ways, Walton epitomizes the winning formula for left-wing candidates. Today’s left is basically a coalition between well-educated liberal professionals and working-class people of color. Often those best able to unite these groups are people of color with radical ideals and working-class ties. Look at the leftists who’ve been elected to Congress in recent years: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was a bartender. Jamaal Bowman was a principal in the Bronx. Cori Bush, like Walton, was a nurse.

ny times logoNew York Times, What Did New York’s Primaries Mean for Progressives? It’s Complicated, Lisa Lerer, June 25, 2021 (print ed.). Progressives cheered the results in down-ballot races and in Buffalo, even as the outcome of the mayoral primary appeared less rosy.

They may not win Gracie Mansion, but there’s always Buffalo. And Rochester, too.

For progressives in New York State, primary elections on Tuesday night brought a number of victories, even as the biggest apple of them all — New York City’s mayoralty — may elude their grasp.

eric adamsThough Eric Adams, right, amassed a sizable lead over Maya D. Wiley, his top rival, in first-choice votes, liberal candidates celebrated victories in down-ballot races in New York City and in the state’s second and third largest cities, wins that they argue demonstrate their ascendancy at the grass-roots level even as they are struggling to flex their power in Washington.

In perhaps the biggest upset of the night, India B. Walton, a democratic socialist, defeated a four-term incumbent in the Democratic mayoral primary in Buffalo and cast her victory as a threat to the longtime party establishment.

Ms. Walton had promised to safeguard undocumented immigrants, place a moratorium on new charter schools and cut millions from the Police Department budget by ending the role of officers in most mental health emergency calls.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

ny times logoNew York Times, Chauvin to Be Sentenced Today for Murder of George Floyd, Tim Arango, June 25, 2021. Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer, may choose to speak at his hearing. He could face decades in prison.

For the past two months, Derek Chauvin has been held in solitary confinement as lawyers and investigators have been busy with the next phase of his case: determining the length of his punishment for the murder of George Floyd.

derek chauvin mug CustomOn Friday afternoon, Mr. Chauvin, 45, right, will return to the courthouse in downtown Minneapolis where he was convicted in April to learn his fate. Prosecutors are asking that Mr. Chauvin face 30 years in prison, while his defense team has requested probation. The maximum sentence allowed by law is 40 years.

The sentencing hearing is expected to last at least an hour and to include statements from members of Mr. Floyd’s family, who may speak about his life and how his death has affected them. The gruesome killing of Mr. Floyd as Mr. Chauvin, a former police officer, held a knee on his neck for more than nine minutes was captured on cellphone video and drew millions of Americans to the streets to protest against racial injustice and police brutality toward Black people.

Mr. Chauvin, who is white, did not testify at his six-week trial in March and April; he spoke only once, outside the presence of the jury, to invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to take the stand.

Mr. Chauvin will be permitted to speak at his sentencing hearing on Friday, but legal experts said it was unlikely he would choose to do so. Any remarks, they said, could be considered in future federal court proceedings, where Mr. Chauvin faces additional charges, and might complicate an appeal of his state conviction.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: This is what Derek Chauvin’s sentence should be, Paul Butler, June 25, 2021 (print ed.). Eighteen years.

That would be the most appropriate sentence for Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer convicted of second-degree murder in the death of George Floyd in one of the most high-profile criminal trials in U.S. history.

Some Black Lives Matter activists, and probably Floyd’s family, hope Chauvin receives the 40-year maximum that Minnesota law establishes for Murder 2. (Chauvin was also convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter but, under state law, his sentence is based only on the most severe offense.)

To be sure, Chauvin’s crime was heinous. As the whole world knows, he kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds — including, most egregiously, for at least two minutes after he became aware that Floyd had no pulse. While the presumptive sentence in Minnesota for a second-degree murderer with no previous criminal convictions is between 12 and 15 years, Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill ruled in May that there are “aggravated” factors that allow him to at least double that time. They include that Chauvin abused his position as a law enforcement officer, that he acted with particular cruelty and that he committed his crimes in front of children. The prosecution is seeking 30 years.Advertisement

Chauvin’s defense attorney, on the other hand, is asking for probation. This is patently poor lawyering because, besides being an insult to the memory of George Floyd, it demonstrates profound disrespect for the jury’s verdict.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why U.S. Police Have Been Quitting in Droves in the Last Year, Neil MacFarquhar, June 25, 2021 (print ed.).  Asheville, N.C., has been among the hardest hit by departures in the wake of racial justice protests. About a third of the force quit or retired. Public outrage and low pay were compounded by a demoralizing sense that the city itself did not back its police force, officers said.

The Police Department in Asheville, N.C., has lost upward of 80 officers. “A lot of our experience is walking out the door,” Chief David Zack said.

As protests surged across the country last year over the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police, Officer Lindsay C. Rose in Asheville, N.C., found her world capsized.

Various friends and relatives had stopped speaking to her because she was a cop. During a protest in June around Police Headquarters, a demonstrator lobbed an explosive charge that set her pants on fire and scorched her legs.

She said she was spit on. She was belittled. Members of the city’s gay community, an inclusive clan that had welcomed her in when she first settled in Asheville, stood near her at one event and chanted, “All gay cops are traitors,” she said.

By September, still deeply demoralized despite taking several months off to recuperate, Officer Rose decided that she was done. She quit the Police Department and posted a sometimes bitter, sometimes nostalgic essay online that attracted thousands of readers throughout the city and beyond.

ny times logoNew York Times, Wildfires Threaten Urban Water Supplies, Long After the Flames Are Out, Henry Fountain, June 25, 2021 (print ed.). When wildfires blaze across the West, as they have with increasing ferocity as the region has warmed, the focus is often on the immediate devastation — forests destroyed, infrastructure damaged, homes burned, lives lost.

But about two-thirds of drinking water in the United States originates in forests. And when wildfires affect watersheds, cities can face a different kind of impact, long after the flames are out.

After a forest burns, the resulting erosion can contaminate drinking water supplies for up to a decade.

 

U.S. Media, Race, Education, Cultural Wars

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Economics in a Post-Truth Nation, Paul Krugman, right, June 25, 2021 (print ed.). If we have a rapidly expanding economy but much of the electorate refuses to paul krugmanacknowledge it, is the country experiencing a boom?

Despite some growing pains, the U.S. economy is clearly on a vaccine-and-stimulus-fueled tear, with just about every measure indicating rapid recovery from the pandemic slump.

Yet according to the long-running University of Michigan survey of consumers, on average self-identified Republicans assess the economic situation much less positively now than they did before the 2020 elections.

You may be tempted to say that this was only to be expected. After all, almost two-thirds of Republicans believe, completely falsely, that the presidential election was stolen, and around a quarter agree that the world is run by Satan-worshiping pedophiles. Why be surprised to see the post-truth state of mind extend to the economy, too?

But claims about election fraud and the QAnon cult are conspiracy theories, assertions about secret actions by cabals. The state of the economy, by contrast, is right out there in the open. People, you might think, can judge it by their own experience or that of their friends and families.

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Biden's hypocrisy on press freedom, Wayne Madsen, left, June 25, 2021. President Biden condemned China on June 24 for exerting pressure on Hong Kong to wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallclose down the special region's only remaining pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily.

In a comment that underscores Biden's complete hypocrisy when it comes to press freedom, he said, "Journalists are truth-tellers who hold leaders accountable and keep information flowing freely . . . The act of journalism is not a crime.”

If true, why did Biden's Attorney General, Merrick Garland, wait six months before vacating Trump Justice Department subpoenas for the phone records of journalists with The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, and USA Today?

In fact, four of Biden's Cabinet members -- Garland, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo -- have overseen press censorship actions against foreign news websites, something that places them in the same category as the Beijing government, the military junta in Myanmar, Belarus's dictator Alexander Lukashenko, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Palmer Report, Opinion: This is not just “crazy liberal stuff,” Shirley Kennedy, June 25, 2021. The time has come to address yet another elephant in the room: Critical Race Theory (“CRT”). CNN seemed like a prognosticator when it predicted that CRT would become one of the most talked about issues. That day has arrived, and we should dismantle exactly what it means. According to CNN, CRT is “a concept that’s been around for decades and that seeks to understand and address inequality and racism in the US.” It is not a “Marxist ideology that is a threat to the American way of life,” nor is it “divisive, anti-American propaganda,” as Donald Trump referred to it during his unsuccessful campaign for reelection.

CRT seeks to tell America’s history — its true history — which seems to upset some. We cannot pretend that slavery, Jim Crow, and all other forms of racial discrimination never existed because they did. Trying to bury those facts in history does not make them go away. To get at the heart of what CRT is and what it purports to do, CNN spoke with one of the founders, Kimberlé Crenshaw, a law professor at UCLA and Columbia University. Crenshaw’s definition of CRT is: “Critical race theory is . . . an approach to grappling with a history of White supremacy that rejects the belief that what’s in the past is in the past, and that the laws and systems that grow from that past are detached from it.” Those beliefs are obviously not in the past, and we can learn from them. When we are not taught about every aspect of our country and how it derived, we remain ignorant. Perhaps some prefer to stay that way, and because they do, Republicans are now using CRT as their new battle cry.

CRT does not exist to make people feel guilty, and in fact, it is not specifically taught in many school systems at all. Yet, Republican governors — Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott come to mind — have banned it from their curriculums even though it is not taught. How ignorant is that? CRT is not “crazy liberal stuff,” as the Florida Commissioner of Education called it during his speech to a conservative, private university. It is knowledge, and knowledge is and always has been power. Choosing to ignore that knowledge or pretend it does not exist is not only ignorant, but also willfully ignorant.

Our children deserve the truth about our nation, both good and bad. No one is saying the United States is inherently racist, though racism obviously exists. The worst aspect of racism is its connection to ignorance, and while some may want their children ignorant, others do not. Just like any other class in a school’s curriculum, this type of course needs to be available. Make it an elective if you are afraid of it, but do not continue to pander to ignorance by labeling CRT as something “bad,” which Republicans are using to browbeat their supporters into submission through fear. It will, unfortunately, work on some, but we can always hope that enough of them will see what Republicans are doing and refuse to fall for it.

washington post logoWashington Post, A high school valedictorian began a speech about his queer identity and mental health. Then his mic cut out, Katie Shepherd, June 25, 2021. The teen said his Eastern Regional High School principal walked up to the podium to grab the microphone and replace the paper copy of his speech with a new one.

When 18-year-old Bryce Dershem stepped up to the lectern at his New Jersey high school’s graduation ceremony last week, he wanted to share how his battle with mental health was made even more difficult in a senior year marred by the coronavirus pandemic.

The class valedictorian, wearing maroon robes and a pride flag draped around his shoulders, began with the customary “thank you” for the parents, teachers and friends in the audience. Then, he launched into his own story.

“After I came out as queer freshman year, I felt so alone. I didn’t know who to turn to,” he said, before his microphone suddenly cut out.

Eastern Regional High School’s principal walked up to the lectern to grab the microphone, grabbing a paper copy of Dershem’s speech and directing him to read a new one that had been rewritten without any mention of the teenager’s queer identity or mental health struggles, Dershem told The Washington Post. When the principal pointed Dershem to the new speech at the lectern, he “said I was to read that and nothing else,” the teen told The Washington Post.

“I don’t know why just a reference to who I was warranted being cut off,” Dershem said. “I was on the verge of tears; I didn’t know what to do.”

He decided on the spot to finish his speech from memory.

Dershem told his classmates about how the pandemic, which forced him to take remote classes until May, had exacerbated his own mental health struggles. During senior year, Dershem said he spent six months getting treatment for anorexia and suicidal thoughts. The teen said he hoped sharing his story would inspire his classmates to believe in their ability to achieve, despite the challenge of working through a remote school year during a pandemic that has killed more than 600,000 Americans.

“Part of our identity, our year, our struggle is 2021,” Dershem told his classmates from the stage. “We’re still here though. We adapted to something we never thought possible.”

He said he wanted to share a message of positivity, hope and inclusion, “letting every single person in that audience know that they are enough and that their identities don’t deserve to be marginalized or criminalized or oppressed.”

Dershem said he believes school administrators intentionally cut his microphone to try to force him to give the speech they had written for him. He said those efforts began in the week leading up to graduation when the principal asked Dershem to rewrite the speech multiple times.

“They start saying things like, ‘This speech is not my therapy session,’ ” Dershem said.

He said the administrators ordered him to work with the head of the school’s English department to rewrite the speech, which he did. Even after those edits, he said, the administration was not satisfied. But Dershem decided to give his own speech anyway.

“I thought, ‘I have worked this hard and I deserve to be able to tell my story and give this message of inclusivity,' because I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it,” he said.

Robert Cloutier, the superintendent of Eastern Camden County Regional School District, told NBC Philadelphia that administrators always work with students to edit their graduation speeches.

“Every year, all student speakers are assisted in shaping the speech, and all student speeches — which are agreed upon and approved in advance — are kept in the binder on the lectern for the principal to conduct the graduation ceremony,” Cloutier told the station.

He also denied that Dershem had been asked to remove references to his queer identity before the ceremony. “No student was asked to remove their personal identity from any speech before or during graduation,” Cloutier told NBC News.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Afghan government could fall within six months of U.S. military withdrawal, intel assessment says, Dan Lamothe and Shane Harris, June 25, 2021 (print ed.).  A new U.S. intelligence assessment says that the Afghan government could fall within six months of the American military departing, according to U.S. officials familiar with the information.

The assessment, distributed among U.S. officials within the past week, highlights an increasingly stark picture as the U.S. military sends home troops and equipment: The Taliban continues to take control of districts across the country, and Afghan military units are either laying down their arms or are being routed in bloody clashes.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. to Move Afghans Who Aided Troops to Other Countries, Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt, June 25, 2021 (print ed.).  Interpreters and others who worked with departing American forces will go somewhere safe until visas for them to enter the United States are processed.

The Biden administration is preparing to relocate thousands of Afghan interpreters, drivers and others who worked with American forces to other countries in an effort to keep them safe while they apply for entry to the United States, senior administration officials said.

With the American military in the final phases of withdrawing from Afghanistan after 20 years of war, the White House has come under heavy pressure from lawmakers and military officials to protect Afghan allies from revenge attacks by the Taliban and speed up the lengthy and complex process of providing them special immigrant visas.

On Wednesday, administration officials started notifying lawmakers that they will soon begin what could be a wholesale move of tens of thousands of Afghans. Officials said the Afghans would be moved out of Afghanistan to third countries to await the processing of their visa requests to move to the United States.

The officials declined to say where the Afghans would wait.

washington post logoWashington Post, Hundreds of unmarked graves found at another former residential school in Canada, Michael E. Miller and Amanda Coletta, June 25, 2021 canadian flag(print ed.). The Cowessess First Nation said it made the “horrific and shocking” find at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan. The number of graves could eclipse the 215 that were found on the grounds of a former residential school in British Columbia last month.

 

June 24

Top Headlines

 

Pro-Trump Election Lies, Jan. 6 Insurrection Day


Virus Victims, Responses

   

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

U.S. Media, Education, Cultural Wars

 

World News

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Politics Updates: Biden Agrees to Bipartisan Group’s Infrastructure Plan, Saying ‘We Have a Deal,’ Staff Reports, June 24, 2021. The plan is expected to increase federal spending by nearly $600 billion but leave many of President Biden’s economic proposals, including investments in child care and much of his climate agenda, for a future bill.

Lawmakers have yet to release legislative language, but White House officials laid out the funding breakdown in a fact sheet that detailed proposed allocations for some of pillars of the plan, which would be phased in over eight years.

Here are some key highlights of the $579 billion framework — and some of the elements that didn’t make it through the negotiations.

  • $66 billion in rail projects and $49 billion for public transit. Mr. Biden, speaking to reporters, said Republicans had agreed to funding for many of his transportation proposals, albeit at reduced levels — and touted the inclusion of a $7.5 billion investment in charging stations for electric vehicles.
  • $109 billion in road and bridge projects. The framework includes an additional $25 million to upgrade airports and $16 billion for improvements at the nation’s cargo ports and waterways.
    o$201 billion in water, sewer, power and environmental remediation projects. The plan includes $55 billion for water infrastructure, $21 billion for environmental projects, and $73 billion for power grid imliprovements.
  • $65 billion for broadband infrastructure. Mr. Biden has said his goal is to provide “universal” broadband access, an initiative that is especially popular with Republican senators from states with large rural and exurban populations.
  • No new taxes on the wealthy or on corporations. Gone is the rollback of President Donald J. Trump’s tax cuts or Mr. Biden’s plan to raise the rates paid by corporations, a core selling point of the plan for progressives. But gone too are the proposals by Republicans, including a gas tax, which Mr. Biden viewed as new taxation on the middle and working classes.
  • A $47 billion down payment on “resilience” projects to cope with climate change. The agreement includes billions slated for weatherproofing, upgrades to coastal infrastructure and projects intended to mitigate against severe weather.
  • Stepped-up tax collection by the I.R.S. The proposal is expected to include heightened enforcement efforts by the Internal Revenue Service to reduce tax evasion by corporations and high earners. One of the lawmakers who worked on the deal, Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, said the package would pump around $40 billion into enforcement to produce a net gain in tax revenues of $100 billion.
  • No major funding for housing. Mr. Biden lamented that he was unable to secure commitments for big new investments in affordable housing, but said he would keep pushing.

Biden’s big “human infrastructure” plan is gone — at least from this measure.

The bipartisan proposal appears to leave out much of the president’s initial $2 trillion blueprint — which included massive spending to combat climate change and subsidize child care, education and other types “human infrastructure” spending. That could make it a hard sell for many progressives in the House, who could easily scuttle any plan if they choose to buck the White House.

Democrats are pushing inclusion of many of those programs in a second piece of legislation that could be passed without Republican support using a fast-track legislative process called reconciliation. Mr. Biden said the bills should be passed “in tandem.” “If this is the only thing that comes to me,” he said about the bipartisan bill, “I’m not signing it.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: What President Biden is really doing with this infrastructure deal – and why he apparently just won big, Bill Palmer, right, June 24, 2021.  Earlier today President Joe Biden announced bill palmerthat he’s reached a bipartisan infrastructure deal with five Republican Senators. This confused a number of people, both because the deal is much smaller than what Biden and the Democrats originally proposed, and because five Republican Senators isn’t enough to pass anything. But the details reveal that this is part of a bigger picture.

bill palmer report logo headerIt turns out the Senate is looking to pass this bipartisan deal with sixty votes and a broader infrastructure package with fifty votes through reconciliation. The two bills, combined, will roughly add up to Biden’s original infrastructure plan. In essence, this allows wavering Senate Republicans to vote “yes” on things like roads and bridges, while voting “no” on everything else in Biden’s plan, even as both parts end up being passed into law via different methods.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced today that she’s not willing to pass the bipartisan deal in the House until after the Senate passes the reconciliation deal. But that’s fine, because Joe Manchin confirmed today that the reconciliation deal is going to be “inevitable” because it’s the only way to pay for the full plan.

This still means that another five Republican Senators will have to get on board with the bipartisan deal, so it passes with sixty votes. There’s no guarantee this will happen. But the five Senate Republicans who cut this deal surely did it with at least five other Senate Republicans in mind who would be willing to get on board with the terms that have been negotiated.

In other words, it appears that President Biden and the Democrats are going to more or less get their full infrastructure package after all, just in two parts. This allows Manchin to save face, after he previously insisted that any infrastructure package be bipartisan in nature. It allows Biden to get roughly what he wanted to begin with. And it’s a win for the American people.

Keep in mind that due to the complex manner in which this is all coming together today, there’s understandably quite a bit of confusion among observers, who may have initially thought that Biden “caved” with a smaller deal, and are probably just now starting to realize that there are actually going to be two infrastructure deals. But unless something falls through from here, this is shaping up to be a huge win for Biden and the Democrats.

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats Show New Urgency on Crime, Signaling a Shift, Alexander Burns, June 24, 2021 (print ed.). A strong showing by Eric Adams, right, in the New York mayoral race and President Biden’s announcement of a new crime-fighting agenda signal a shift by Democrats toward themes of public safety.

eric adamsFacing a surge in shootings and homicides and persistent Republican attacks on liberal criminal-justice policies, Democrats from the White House to Brooklyn Borough Hall are rallying with sudden confidence around a politically potent cause: funding the police.

In the nation’s capital on Wednesday, President Biden put the weight of his office behind a crime-fighting agenda, unveiling a national strategy that includes cracking down on illegal gun sales and encouraging cities to use hundreds of billions of dollars in pandemic relief money for law-enforcement purposes. His speech represented the most muscular response so far from his administration to a rise in crime that has stricken the country’s major cities.

democratic donkey logoIn New York City, the country’s largest metropolis and a Democratic stronghold, it was Adams, a former police officer who is Black, who rode an anti-crime message to a commanding lead in the initial round of the Democratic mayoral primary on Tuesday.

The back-to-back developments signaled a shift within the Democratic Party toward themes of public safety. Senior Democrats said they expected party leaders to lean hard into that issue in the coming months, trumpeting federal funding for police departments in the American Rescue Plan and attacking Republicans for having voted against it.

“This is not a time to turn our backs on law enforcement or our communities,” Mr. Biden said in his speech.

washington post logoWashington Post, Colleges want students to get coronavirus shots, but there’s a stark red-blue divide, Nick Anderson, Susan Svrluga, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Lauren Lumpkin and Maria Aguilar, June 24, 2021 (print ed.). Students and staff members at Indiana University in Bloomington and its other campuses will be required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

More than 500 colleges and universities plan to require vaccination for at least some students and employees, mostly in states won by Joe Biden in 2020.

Indiana University, a flagship institution in a staunchly Republican state, will require its more than 100,000 students and employees to get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus as it turns the page on a strange pandemic school year. “This is saving lives, it’s as simple as that,” said university President Michael A. McRobbie. “And it will enable us to have a normal fall semester.”

Purdue University, also prominent in Indiana, is strongly encouraging vaccination for students and employees but avoiding mandates. A campaign for personal choice and responsibility, Purdue President Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. said, will get better public health results than requirements that “might come across as ham-handed and dictatorial.”

Two public universities, two divergent approaches, one race to a common goal: Maximize vaccination before college students return for the fall. Colleges and universities everywhere face daunting challenges, logistical and political, as they try to create safe campus spaces for living and learning in a nation weary of the coronavirus and divided over masks and vaccines.

  • Washington Post, Indiana University students sue over coronavirus vaccine mandate

washington post logoWashington Post, Nearly 900 Secret Service members were infected with the coronavirus. A watchdog blames Trump, Timothy Bella, June 24, 2021 (print ed.).  Almost 900 Secret Service members have tested positive for the coronavirus since March 2020, according to a watchdog report, and many of those infected had protection assignments that included the safety of the president and vice president.

The nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington published a report Tuesday detailing how 881 Secret Service employees had tested positive between March 1, 2020 and March 9, 2021. The data, which came from a Freedom of Information Act request to the Secret Service, found that 477 members of the special agent division had been infected. Described by the Department of Homeland Security as “the elite agents you see protecting the President and Vice President,” special agents are also responsible for a number of safety assignments overseas and in the United States, such as protecting the president and vice president’s families, presidential candidates and visiting foreign leaders.

CREW said it’s unclear “whom the special agents who tested positive were assigned to protect or when, exactly, they tested positive.”
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While the data does not give a breakdown of coronavirus infections between the two administrations during this period, the watchdog placed much of the blame on President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence for holding “large-scale rallies against public health guidelines.”

The group also slammed the Trump family’s regular travel during the pandemic and Trump’s photo op last year outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center “in a car with secret service agents while being treated for covid, further putting agents in danger.”

“It’s impossible to overstate the risk the Trump administration put on Secret Service agents,” CREW wrote.

The report is the latest window into how the spread of the coronavirus disrupted the security team during the Trump administration and Trump campaign events where many attendees did not wear masks.

The Post previously reported that more than 130 Secret Service officers — roughly 10 percent of the agency’s core security team — who helped protect the White House and Trump when he traveled had been ordered to isolate or quarantine because they tested positive for the coronavirus or had close contact with infected co-workers. Trump’s insistence on holding public events — such as his Tulsa rally — while the pandemic was in full force last year left the Secret Service dealing with coronavirus cases in the aftermath of his travel blitz.

“Never before has the Secret Service run up against a president so intent on putting himself first regardless of the costs, including to those around him,” Ned Price, a national security expert and former CIA analyst, said to The Post in August.

President Biden, who was assigned Secret Service protection in March 2020, also had campaign stops last year, but the events were restricted to much smaller numbers compared with Trump’s rallies.

Joseph Cuffari, the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, blocked investigations proposed by career Secret Service staff last year to scrutinize the spread of the coronavirus in its ranks. Cuffari, a Trump appointee who is the chief federal watchdog for the Secret Service, ultimately shelved a probe into whether the agency flouted federal protocols put in place to detect and reduce the spread of the coronavirus within its workforce, according to records obtained by the Project On Government Oversight, a nonprofit watchdog group, and shared with The Post.

The nonprofit also reflected on Pence’s ski trip to Vail, Colo., in December that reportedly put “at least 48 agents at risk of infection” and cost taxpayers more than $750,000 in Secret Service protection.

ny times logoNew York Times, 99 Still Unaccounted for in Condo Collapse Near Miami Beach, Jenny Gross, Patricia Mazzei, William P. Davis, Daniel Politi and Ernesto Londoño, June 24, 2021 (print ed.). Search teams waged a desperate effort on Thursday afternoon to find and rescue survivors still trapped in the rubble of a high-rise condo building that collapsed in the dark of early morning in the oceanfront town of Surfside, Fla., just north of Miami Beach.

miami condo amy beth bennett apOfficials have accounted for 102 people who lived in the building, but 99 people remained unaccounted for by midafternoon, said Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County. Ms. Johnson stressed that the numbers continued to shift as the authorities figure out how many people were actually in the building overnight.

At least one person was killed in the collapse that survivors described as being “hit like a missile,” the authorities said. With so many people unaccounted for on Thursday, many more fatalities were feared.

At least one person was killed, and the authorities feared many more fatalities. Photo at right by Amy Beth Bennett of the Associated Press.

  

Pro-Trump Election Lies, Jan. 6 Insurrection Day 

 

djt rudy giuliani Custom

huffington post logoHuffPost, Rudy Giuliani Suspended From Practicing Law In New York, Ryan Grenoble, June 24, 2021. It’s a drastic fall from grace for the former New York City mayor and federal prosecutor, shown above left in a file photo.

Rudy Giuliani has been suspended from practicing law in the state of New York. Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and the former head prosecutor for the federal Southern District of New York, was suspended for making “false and misleading statements” about the election loss of his client, former President Donald Trump.

In a ruling sought by New York’s Attorney Grievance Committee, the state Supreme Court implemented an interim suspension of Giuliani’s law license, pending further AGC proceedings.

The ruling, issued Thursday, takes effect immediately.

“There is uncontroverted evidence that respondent communicated demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers and the public at large in his capacity as lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump and the Trump campaign in connection with Trump’s failed effort at reelection in 2020,” the court wrote in its decision.

“These false statements were made to improperly bolster respondent’s narrative that due to widespread voter fraud, victory in the 2020 United States presidential election was stolen from his client. We conclude that respondent’s conduct immediately threatens the public interest and warrants interim suspension from the practice of law.”

This is a breaking news story.

ny times logoNew York Times, Michigan Republicans published an unsparing debunking of voter fraud claims in the state, Reid J. Epstein June 23, 2021. A committee led by Michigan Republicans on Wednesday republican elephant logopublished an extraordinary debunking of voter fraud claims in the state, delivering a comprehensive rebuke to a litany of accusations about improprieties in the 2020 election and its aftermath.

The 55-page report, produced by a Michigan State Senate committee of three Republicans and one Democrat, is a systematic rebuttal to an array of false claims about the election from supporters of former President Donald J. Trump. The authors focus overwhelmingly on Michigan, but they also expose lies perpetuated about the vote-counting process in Georgia.

michigan mapThe report is unsparing in its criticism of those who have promoted false theories about the election. It debunks claims from Trump allies including Mike Lindell, right, the mike lindell screengrabchief executive of MyPillow; Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former president’s lawyer; and Mr. Trump himself.

Yet while the report eviscerates claims about election fraud, its authors also use the allegations to urge their legislative colleagues to change Michigan’s voting laws to make absentee voting harder and limit the availability of drop boxes for absentee ballots, as Republicans have done in other swing states as they try to limit voting.

“This committee found no evidence of widespread or systematic fraud in Michigan’s prosecution of the 2020 election,” the authors wrote, before adding: “It is the opinion of this committee that the Legislature has a duty to make statutory improvements to our elections system.”

Michigan Republicans, who control the state’s Legislature, have for weeks debated a series of new voting restrictions. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, has said she will veto the legislation, but Michigan law allows citizens to circumvent the governor by collecting 340,047 signatures. 

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation, Papa Gaetz putting the squeeze on potential witnesses against his son, Wayne Madsen, left, June 24, 2021. Former Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, below right, the wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallbillionaire father of U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz, is, according to WMR's sources in Matt Gaetz's congressional district, brandishing carrots and sticks when it comes to potential witnesses against his son, Matt Gaetz, in the event he is indicted for a number of federal crimes by a grand jury in Orlando.

don gaetzDon Gaetz, in addition to offering political and business favors to those who stay on side when it comes to testifying against his son, is also threatening others with the ruination of their businesses and livelihoods if they cooperate with federal prosecutors.

Matt Gaetz is currently being investigated for trafficking underage girls across state lines, a violation of the federal Mann Act, as well as money laundering, wire fraud, and racketeering.

Don Gaetz, who currently holds no political office, runs the Florida Panhandle from Pensacola on the Florida-Alabama border to Tallahassee, the state capital in the same take-no-prisoners manner that Leander Perez ran the Gulf coast of Louisiana from his political base in Plaquemines Parish during the mid-20th century. Don Gaetz will do anything to protect his son from federal prosecutors, investigative reporters, and political opponents.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Indiana Woman Is First Person to Be Sentenced in Capitol Riot, Alan Feuer, June 24, 2021 (print ed.). Anna Morgan-Lloyd, who will serve no prison time, said she realized that she and others who breached the Capitol may have helped encourage the violence by other Trump supporters.

The first person to be sentenced in connection with the riot at the Capitol — a 49-year-old woman from Indiana — will serve no time in prison after reaching an agreement with the government and pleading guilty on Wednesday to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge.

At an unusual hearing where she admitted guilt and was immediately sentenced by a judge, the woman, Anna Morgan-Lloyd, expressed remorse for her role in the attack of Jan. 6. She apologized to the court, her family and the “American people,” saying it was wrong to have entered the Capitol even though she hurt no one, broke nothing and was inside for only about 10 minutes.

Ms. Morgan-Lloyd said she had gone to Washington to hear former President Donald J. Trump speak and was “ashamed it became a savage display of violence.”

“I would have never been there if I had known it would turn out that way,” she added.

At the hearing, the presiding judge, Royce C. Lamberth, made scathing remarks from the bench attacking the handful of Republican politicians who have labeled the assault on the Capitol the work of mere tourists, calling that position “utter nonsense.”

“I don’t know what planet they’re on,” Judge Lamberth said. “Millions of people saw Jan. 6.”

Ms. Morgan-Lloyd’s light penalty, three years of probation, was not only the first punishment handed down against any of the nearly 500 people charged in the attack, but is also likely to serve as a bellwether for scores of other rioters who committed no violence on Jan. 6 and were accused of only minor crimes.

Under the terms of her deal with the government, Ms. Morgan-Lloyd also agreed to pay restitution of $500, her small part in defraying the estimated $1.5 million in damage done to the Capitol during the attack.

Two other Capitol Hill defendants also pleaded guilty on Wednesday at separate hearings. One of them, Robert Reeder, of Maryland, acknowledged committing a misdemeanor, disorderly conduct, by illegally entering the Capitol after chanting, “Fight for Trump!” Under the terms of his plea, he faces up to six months in prison.

The other defendant, Graydon Young, of Sarasota, Fla., admitted to conspiring to breach the building as part of a military-style “stack” made up of members of the Oath Keepers militia and disrupt the certification of the Electoral College vote. As part of his deal with the government, Mr. Young agreed to cooperate with prosecutors — the second member of the Oath Keepers to provide assistance to investigators. He faces an estimated 63 to 78 months in prison.

owen shroyer willard fire resized2 amazon

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Spread of delta variant renews danger to regions with low vaccination rates, Ariana Eunjung Cha, Karla Adam, Ben Guarino and Lenny Bernstein, June 24, 2021 (print ed.). The rapid spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus is poised to divide the United States again, with highly vaccinated areas continuing toward post-pandemic freedom and poorly vaccinated regions threatened by greater caseloads and hospitalizations, health officials warned this week.

The highly transmissible variant is taxing hospitals in a rural, lightly vaccinated part of Missouri, and caseloads and hospitalizations are on the rise in states such as Arkansas, Nevada and Utah, where less than 50 percent of the eligible population has received at least one dose of vaccine, according to data compiled by The Washington Post.

One influential model, produced by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, predicts a modest overall surge in cases, hospitalizations and deaths this fall. Scott Gottlieb, a former head of the Food and Drug Administration, said Sunday that a fall surge could occur even if 75 percent of the eligible population is vaccinated.

  • Washington Post, Analysis: Even the world’s most successful vaccination programs are hitting hurdles, June 24, 2021 (print ed.).

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal health officials cite ‘likely association’ between coronavirus vaccines and rare heart issues in teens, young adults, Lena H. Sun, June 24, 2021 (print ed.). They say the benefits far outweigh risks, and ‘strongly encourage’ vaccination for those 12 and older.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The benefits of vaccination in young adults far outweigh the risks, including for myocarditis, Leana S. Wen, M.D., right, June 24, 2021 (print ed.). Advisers to the Centers of leana wenDisease Control and Prevention met on Wednesday to discuss the possible link between myocarditis — inflammation of the heart muscle — and the two coronavirus vaccines that use mRNA, Pfizer and Moderna. They determined that while there is an association between the vaccines and myocarditis, all age groups eligible to receive them should continue to, including adolescents 12 and over.

This was the right decision based on a thoughtful weighing of risks and benefits. While myocarditis and an associated condition, pericarditis (inflammation of the lining around the heart), could be serious, the likelihood of this occurring is low and most cases are mild. By comparison, the risk of severe and lasting outcomes from covid-19 are much higher and can be prevented through vaccination.

Here’s what the CDC reported: Of the more than 300 million doses of the mRNA vaccines administered in the United States, there have been 323 documented cases of myocarditis, pericarditis or both, in those under 30. Most occurred after the second of the two-dose vaccination. The median age for those diagnosed with the conditions after the second dose was 24 years old, and 79 percent occurred in males. Symptoms generally started within three to four days. Of these 323 reports, nearly 80 percent are known to have recovered from their symptoms at this time. Nine are still hospitalized and two are in intensive care. No one has died.

Leana Wen, M.D., is a visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of the forthcoming book "Lifelines: A Doctor's Journey in the Fight for the Public's Health." 

washington post logoWashington Post, 177.9 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 24, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 150.8 million people (45.4 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 53.6 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 24, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 180,450,521, Deaths: 3,909,314
U.S. Cases:     34,449,004, Deaths:   618,294
India Cases:     30,082,778, Deaths:   392,014
Brazil Cases:   18,170,778, Deaths:    507,240

ny times logobrazil flag wavingNew York Times, Brazil Passes 500,000 Covid Deaths, a Tragedy With No Sign of Letup, Ernesto Londoño and Flávia Milhorance, Photographs by Mauricio Lima, June 24, 2021. With 2.7 percent of the world’s population, Brazil has suffered 13 percent of the Covid-19 fatalities, and the pandemic there is not abating.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Sydney Outbreak Prompts Travel Ban and Mask-Wearing, Staff Reports, June 24, 2021. A Covid-19 cluster in Sydney has grown to 49 cases, prompting a travel ban for the city’s five million residents. Here’s the latest on the pandemic.

  • The International Monetary Fund has a proposal to rescue poor countries from the pandemic.
  • The White House plans to send 3 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine to Brazil on Thursday.
  • Angela Merkel tells Europeans to ‘remain vigilant,’ and other news from around the world.
  • San Francisco will require all city employees to be vaccinated.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Coronavirus Epidemic Hit 20,000 Years Ago, New Study Finds, Carl Zimmer, June 24, 2021. A few dozen human genes rapidly evolved in ancient East Asia to thwart coronavirus infections, scientists say. Those genes could be crucial to today’s pandemic.

Researchers have found evidence that a coronavirus epidemic swept East Asia some 20,000 years ago and was devastating enough to leave an evolutionary imprint on the DNA of people alive today.
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The new study suggests that an ancient coronavirus plagued the region for many years, researchers say. The finding could have dire implications for the Covid-19 pandemic if it’s not brought under control soon through vaccination.

“It should make us worry,” said David Enard, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Arizona who led the study, which was published on Thursday in the journal Current Biology. “What is going on right now might be going on for generations and generations.”

Until now, researchers could not look back very far into the history of this family of pathogens. Over the past 20 years, three coronaviruses have adapted to infect humans and cause severe respiratory disease: Covid-19, SARS and MERS. Studies on each of these coronaviruses indicate that they jumped into our species from bats or other mammals.

Four other coronaviruses can also infect people, but they usually cause only mild colds. Scientists did not directly observe these coronaviruses becoming human pathogens, so they have relied on indirect clues to estimate when the jumps happened. Coronaviruses gain new mutations at a roughly regular rate, and so comparing their genetic variation makes it possible to determine when they diverged from a common ancestor.

The most recent of these mild coronaviruses, called HCoV-HKU1, crossed the species barrier in the 1950s. The oldest, called HCoV-NL63, may date back as far as 820 years.

But before that point, the coronavirus trail went cold — until Dr. Enard and his colleagues applied a new method to the search. Instead of looking at the genes of the coronaviruses, the researchers looked at the effects on the DNA of their human hosts.

Over generations, viruses drive enormous amounts of change in the human genome. A mutation that protects against a viral infection may well mean the difference between life and death, and it will be passed down to offspring. A lifesaving mutation, for example, might allow people to chop apart a virus’s proteins.

But viruses can evolve, too. Their proteins can change shape to overcome a host’s defenses. And those changes might spur the host to evolve even more counteroffensives, leading to more mutations.

When a random new mutation happens to provide resistance to a virus, it can swiftly become more common from one generation to the next. And other versions of that gene, in turn, become rarer. So if one version of a gene dominates all others in large groups of people, scientists know that is most likely a signature of rapid evolution in the past.

In recent years, Dr. Enard and his colleagues have searched the human genome for these patterns of genetic variation in order to reconstruct the history of an array of viruses. When the pandemic struck, he wondered whether ancient coronaviruses had left a distinctive mark of their own.

He and his colleagues compared the DNA of thousands of people across 26 different populations around the world, looking at a combination of genes known to be crucial for coronaviruses but not other kinds of pathogens. In East Asian populations, the scientists found that 42 of these genes had a dominant version. That was a strong signal that people in East Asia had adapted to an ancient coronavirus.

But whatever happened in East Asia seemed to have been limited to that region. “When we compared them to populations around the world, we couldn’t find the signal,” said Yassine Souilmi, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Adelaide in Australia and a co-author of the new study.

The scientists then tried to estimate how long ago East Asians had adapted to a coronavirus. They took advantage of the fact that once a dominant version of a gene starts being passed down through the generations, it can gain harmless random mutations. As more time passes, more of those mutations accumulate.

Dr. Enard and his colleagues found that the 42 genes all had about the same number of mutations. That meant that they had all rapidly evolved at about the same time. “This is a signal we should absolutely not expect by chance,” Dr. Enard said.

They estimated that all of those genes evolved their antiviral mutations sometime between 20,000 and 25,000 years ago, most likely over the course of a few centuries. It’s a surprising finding, since East Asians at the time were not living in dense communities but instead formed small bands of hunter-gatherers.

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Cindy McCain to be nominated as ambassador to U.N. food and agriculture programs, Tyler Pager, June 23, 2021. President Biden announced Wednesday that he will nominate Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), for an ambassadorship to the United Nations’ food and agriculture programs.

cindy mccain 2018If confirmed, Cindy McCain, right, who crossed party lines to endorse Biden in the general election, will head to Rome as the envoy to the United Nations Agencies for Food and United NationsAgriculture, which encompasses three U.N. agencies.

Biden also tapped Claire Cronin, a state representative in Massachusetts, to serve as ambassador to Ireland, a significant posting in the Biden administration given the president’s Irish heritage. Cronin is the majority leader in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and she is the first woman to hold that role.

Biden often talks about his Irish roots, whether sharing stories about his ancestors’ journey to the United States in coffin ships or professing his love for Irish poets.

ny times logoNew York Times, Can Maya Wiley or Kathryn Garcia Still Beat Eric Adams? Yes, but …, Andy Newman, June 23, 2021. Under ranked-choice voting, it is mathematically possible for the second- and third-place finishers in Tuesday’s Democratic primary to overtake the front-runner — but it will be tough.

It was the city’s first mayoral race using ranked-choice voting, and there was no incumbent running.

After the first round of vote tallying, a relatively conservative male Democrat with a long history in elected office led the pack by nine percentage points, with two female candidates ranked second and third.

In the end, the second-place finisher came from behind to score a narrow victory.

It happened in Oakland, Calif., in 2010. Whether it can happen in New York City in 2021 is a question that has taken on great urgency.

eric adamsWith partial results in on Wednesday afternoon, Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, has 32 percent of first-place votes. He leads Maya Wiley, a former City Hall counsel, by 9 points, and Kathryn Garcia, a former sanitation commissioner, by 12 points.

Because Mr. Adams has almost no chance of garnering more than 50 percent of first-place votes, the ranked-choice playoff process will begin. It is a series of rounds in which the candidate with the fewest first-place votes is eliminated and those votes are transferred to whomever the voter listed in the next slot, until only two candidates remain — at which point the leader wins.

Ms. Wiley’s supporters hope that she can close the gap by picking up enough votes from voters who preferred her to Mr. Adams but did not rank her first. Ms. Garcia’s supporters are hoping for something similar.

democratic donkey logoBut both candidates face steep challenges to overcoming Mr. Adams’s commanding lead. Here is a brief explainer:
Can Wiley or Garcia still win?

Mathematically, yes. Ms. Wiley could win if she makes it to the final round and is ranked ahead of Mr. Adams on around 60 percent of all ballots where neither is ranked first. Ms. Garcia’s threshold in the same situation is a few points higher.

What’s the likelihood of that?

Low. Mr. Adams would have to be enormously unpopular among voters who did not rank him first, and one of the few polls done late in the race showed broader support for him than for Ms. Wiley or Ms. Garcia.

The poll of 800 likely Democratic voters, conducted by Citizen Data and FairVote, a national organization that promotes ranked-choice voting, found that Mr. Adams was the only candidate in the race who was a top-three choice of more than half the voters.

The poll tracks fairly closely with the actual first-round results reported so far: It showed Mr. Adams with 32 percent and Ms. Wiley and Ms. Garcia both with 18 percent. It was conducted before the race’s chaotic final weekend, when Mr. Adams was criticized for asserting that Ms. Garcia and Andrew Yang, a former presidential candidate, were trying to weaken Black candidates by campaigning together.

That episode may have damaged Mr. Adams and helped Ms. Garcia, but not much, said Rob Richie, FairVote’s president.

“My assumption is that the last three days didn’t change the fundamentals enough to actually change the outcome,” he said.

How often does a trailing candidate in a ranked-choice election end up winning?

Very rarely. In 128 ranked-choice races in the United States since 2004 where there was no first-round winner, there have been only three occasions where someone trailing by more than eight points after the first round ended up the victor, according to FairVote.

No one trailing by 10 points has ever won, though in the 2018 San Francisco mayoral race, Mark Leno very nearly came from 12 points down to overtake London Breed. Ms. Breed wound up winning by less than a percentage point.

ny times logoNew York Times, Senators will meet with President Biden Thursday after a potential breakthrough on an infrastructure bill, June 23, 2021. A bipartisan group of centrist senators will head to the White House on Thursday to brief President Biden on their infrastructure framework after lawmakers said they had signed off on an outline for how to fund and finance billions of dollars for roads, bridges and other public-works projects.

After two lengthy meetings with White House officials on Wednesday, multiple senators said they had struck an agreement on the overall framework for an infrastructure plan and would personally update Mr. Biden as they worked to finalize some details. Lawmakers and staff declined to offer any details about the apparent breakthrough, but a previous outline drafted by the group of senators — five Republicans and five Democrats — would provide for $579 billion in new spending as part of an overall $1.2 trillion package spent over eight years.

susan collins o“There’s a framework of agreement on a bipartisan infrastructure package,” Senator Susan Collins, left, Republican of Maine, told reporters as she left negotiations in the Capitol. “There’s still details to be worked out.”

The bipartisan group previously released a statement announcing an agreement on a framework that the White House had not yet backed. Mr. Biden sent aides to Capitol Hill on Tuesday and Wednesday for further discussions.

“The group made progress toward an outline of a potential agreement,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said in a statement Wednesday evening after what she described as “two productive meetings” with White House officials.

The group has been scrounging for ways to pay for billions of dollars in new spending that would be a critical part of a potential compromise plan to invest in roads, broadband internet, electric utilities and other infrastructure projects.

“We just kept working at it, I’m serious,” Ms. Collins said. “Each of us brought in different ideas that we had researched with our staffs.”

ny times logoNew York Times, What Did New York’s Primaries Mean for Progressives? It’s Complicated, Lisa Lerer, June 24, 2021. Progressives cheered the results in down-ballot races and in Buffalo, even as the outcome of the mayoral primary appeared less rosy.

They may not win Gracie Mansion, but there’s always Buffalo. And Rochester, too.

For progressives in New York State, primary elections on Tuesday night brought a number of victories, even as the biggest apple of them all — New York City’s mayoralty — may elude their grasp.

Though Eric Adams amassed a sizable lead over Maya D. Wiley, his top rival, in first-choice votes, liberal candidates celebrated victories in down-ballot races in New York City and in the state’s second and third largest cities, wins that they argue demonstrate their ascendancy at the grass-roots level even as they are struggling to flex their power in Washington.

In perhaps the biggest upset of the night, India B. Walton, a democratic socialist, defeated a four-term incumbent in the Democratic mayoral primary in Buffalo and cast her victory as a threat to the longtime party establishment.

Ms. Walton had promised to safeguard undocumented immigrants, place a moratorium on new charter schools and cut millions from the Police Department budget by ending the role of officers in most mental health emergency calls.

ny times logoNew York Times, India Walton, a socialist candidate, stuns longtime incumbent in Buffalo mayor’s race, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, June 23, 2021. A progressive challenger running her first campaign was poised on Tuesday to beat Buffalo’s four-term Democratic mayor in a primary upset that would upend the political landscape in New York’s second-biggest city and signal the strength of the party’s left wing.

The challenger, India B. Walton, is a former nurse and community activist who ran with the support of the Democratic Socialists of America and the Working Families Party. She was leading Byron Brown, a longtime member of the Democratic establishment, by 7 percentage points, or about 1,500 votes, as of midnight with all of the in-person ballots counted, according to unofficial results.

Should Ms. Walton, 38, win the primary and then triumph in the general election November — a likely result in heavily Democratic Buffalo — she would be the first socialist mayor of a major American city since 1960, when Frank P. Zeidler stepped down as Milwaukee’s mayor. She would also be the first female mayor in Buffalo’s history.

democratic donkey logoMs. Walton celebrated her victory in a jubilant call to her mother that was captured on video, yelling, “Mommy, I won. Mommy, I’m the mayor of Buffalo. Well, not until January, but, yeah.”

Mr. Brown, who once led the state’s Democratic Party and is a close ally of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, declined to concede despite the margin separating him from Ms. Walton.

“We’re going to make sure every single vote is counted,” he said. (Ms. Walton’s campaign estimated that there were about 1,500 absentee ballots outstanding.)

Ms. Walton showed no such hesitation in declaring victory, highlighting what she said were the race’s national ramifications. She said the stunning outcome would “resound here in Buffalo and throughout the nation, showing that a progressive platform that puts people over profit is both viable and necessary.”

“Tonight’s result proves that Buffalonians demand community-minded, people-focused government, and we’re ready to serve them,” Ms. Walton said in a statement. “For too long, we’ve seen our city work for politicians, for developers, for the police union, but not for ordinary working families. In our city, everyone will have a seat at the table.”

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

Associated Press via Voice of America, Judge Threatens to Toss DEA Agent's Plea in Corruption Case, Staff Report, June 24, 2021. A Tampa federal judge Wednesday threatened to throw out the guilty ap logoplea of a veteran U.S. narcotics agent who conspired with a Colombian cartel money launderer — an unexpected twist that could derail one of the most egregious misconduct cases in the history of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

U.S. District Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell was expected to sentence the disgraced agent, Jose I. Irizarry, but refused to do so over what she called a "totally unacceptable" legal dispute.

"I have never seen anything like this," Honeywell said, postponing the sentencing indefinitely. "I'm not even sure at this point I'm going to accept this plea."

voice of america logoThe heated hearing in Tampa federal court came nine months after Irizarry admitted parlaying his expertise in money laundering into a life of luxury that prosecutors said was bankrolled by millions of dollars he diverted from DEA control. The spoils included a $30,000 Tiffany diamond ring for his wife, luxury sports cars and a $767,000 home in the Caribbean resort city of Cartagena — on top of residences in south Florida and Puerto Rico.

At issue is a disagreement over whether the money Irizarry raided from undercover DEA accounts amounted to a misuse of government funds, as Irizarry contends, or the laundering of drug proceeds — a more serious offense that could add a decade to what was already expected to be a lengthy prison sentence.

Irizarry pleaded guilty last year to 19 counts, including conspiracy to commit money laundering and bank fraud, admitting he filed false reports and ordered DEA staff to wire money slated for undercover stings to international accounts he and associates controlled.

The case is the latest black eye for the DEA, which has seen repeated cases of agent misconduct in recent years. Just last week, longtime DEA agent Chad Scott was taken into federal custody after a jury in New Orleans convicted him of taking property from criminal suspects, adding to an earlier conviction on corruption charges.

But it's unclear what lessons the DEA has learned from Irizarry's scheme and whether other agents assigned to the Miami field office where his criminal activity began were involved. His guilty plea also leaves many unanswered questions about the level of supervision he received during his career, in which he had been entrusted with the government's use of front companies, shell bank accounts and couriers to combat international drug trafficking.

Irizarry's defense attorney contended in recent court filings that the accounts in question amounted to a profit-producing "slush fund" for official and personal travel of federal law enforcement, U.S. prosecutors and confidential sources. https://www.voanews.com/usa/judge-threatens-toss-dea-agents-plea-corruption-case

"They were going to dinners, drinks and doing all sorts of things with this money," attorney Humberto Dominguez said in court Wednesday. "It was all documented."

The DEA did not respond to a request for comment on that claim.

But prosecutor Joseph Palazzo argued that Irizarry's actions could only have had one purpose regardless of whether the international wire transfers were channeled through DEA-controlled accounts.

"Once drug proceeds, always drug proceeds," he said. "The defendant was in a better position than anyone to know the source of these funds and where these funds were going."

The case could also have long-lasting implications on the DEA's undercover money-laundering operations. Irizarry was accused of sharing sensitive law enforcement information with co-conspirators, including a Colombian customs official and an alleged drug trafficker and money launderer.

The Colombian official, Omar Ambuilla, was arrested in April on a U.S. warrant accusing him of transferring to the U.S. proceeds from the conspiracy for the purchase of a 2017 Lamborghini Huracan Spyder in Florida.

The other alleged co-conspirator has not been identified in court filings except as a Colombian citizen who was the target of a DEA drug trafficking investigation before becoming the godfather to Irizarry's twin children in 2015.

U.S. law enforcement officials told The Associated Press last year that the unnamed conspirator is Diego Marin, describing him as Colombia's contraband king for his role helping launder drug dollars through the importation of containers full of electronics and other goods. Irizarry and his attorney referred to the alleged co-conspirator in court on Wednesday as a longtime U.S. government informant named "Diego."

Marin has not been charged. A U.S. attorney who has represented Marin in the past declined to comment.

Before he resigned in 2018, Irizarry's ostentatious habits and tales of raucous yacht parties had become legendary among DEA agents. Beginning around 2011, prosecutors said, Irizarry used the cover of his badge to file false reports and direct DEA personnel to wire funds reserved for undercover stings to accounts in Spain, the Netherlands and elsewhere — accounts that he controlled or were tied to his wife and his co-conspirators.

In all, Irizarry and his informants handled at least $9 million in drug proceeds that should've been carefully tracked by the DEA as part of undercover money laundering investigations, prosecutors said.

The indictment details at least $900,000 paid out from a single criminal account opened by Irizarry and an informant using the name, passport and Social Security number of a third person who was unaware their identity was being stolen.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘I Just Want My Life Back,’ Britney Spears Tells Judge, Joe Coscarelli, Updated June 24, 2021. In a rare public appearance in court, the singer gave an impassioned speech about her treatment under the conservatorship that controls her life, telling the judge she would like it to end.

Britney Spears told a Los Angeles judge on Wednesday that she has been drugged, compelled to work against her will and prevented from removing her birth control device over the past 13 years as she pleaded with the court to end her father’s legal control of her life.

Britney Spears Twitter“I’ve been in denial. I’ve been in shock. I am traumatized,” Ms. Spears, 39, said in an emotional 23-minute address by phone that was broadcast in the courtroom and, as she insisted, to the public. “I just want my life back.”

It was the first time that the world had heard Ms. Spears, shown at right with her Twitter homepage photo, address in detail her struggles with the conservatorship granted to her father, James P. Spears, in 2008, when concerns about her mental health and potential substance abuse led him to petition the court for legal authority over his adult daughter.

Ms. Spears called for the arrangement to end without her “having to be evaluated.” “I shouldn’t be in a conservatorship if I can work. The laws need to change,” she added. “I truly believe this conservatorship is abusive. I don’t feel like I can live a full life.”

The struggle between one of the world’s biggest pop stars and her father has become a long-running saga that has spawned a “Free Britney” movement around the world among her fans and fellow celebrities.

Outside the courtroom, Ms. Spears’s voice silenced a crowd of roughly 120 supporters who had rallied on her behalf but paused to listen to her words on their phones.

The striking development came after Ms. Spears’s court-appointed lawyer, Samuel D. Ingham III, asked at her request in April that she be allowed — on an expedited basis — to address the judge directly. Confidential court records obtained recently by The New York Times revealed that Ms. Spears had raised issues with her father’s role in the conservatorship as early as 2014, and had repeatedly asked about terminating it altogether, though Mr. Ingham had not filed to do so.

 britney spears james spears resized ap

ny times logoNew York Times, Is the Forced Contraception Alleged by Britney Spears Legal? Jan Hoffman, June 24, 2021. The United States has a dark history of court-sanctioned sterilization, but more recent rulings and legislation suggest it would violate a basic right.

Among the stunning assertions that the pop star Britney Spears, above right in an AP photo, made to a Los Angeles probate judge this week, as she sought to end her protracted conservatorship, was one that shook experts in guardianship law and reproductive rights deeply. She said a team led by her father, James, above left in an AP photo, who is her conservator, prevented her from having her IUD removed because the team did not want her to have more children.

“Forcing someone to be on birth control against their will is a violation of basic human rights and bodily autonomy, just as forcing someone to become or stay pregnant against their will would be,” said Ruth Dawson, a principal policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports reproductive rights.

Court-condoned compelled contraception is rare in conservatorship. But the specter it raises — forced sterilization — does have a grim, extensive history in the United States, especially against poor women, women of color and inmates. In the early 20th century, the state-sanctioned practice was upheld by the United States Supreme Court.

Although the court moved away from that position in the 1940s, and consensus arose through the growing canon on informed consent that forced sterilization was inhumane, the practice continued to be quietly tolerated.

Finally, by the end of the 1970s, most states had repealed laws authorizing sterilization, although allegations of forced hysterectomies and tubal ligations on women in immigrant detention centers continue to be raised. It wasn’t until 2014 that California formally banned the sterilization of female inmates without consent.

The scant law on the question in conservatorship indicates what an outlier the Spears case may be. In 1985, the California Supreme Court denied the petition of guardian parents of a 29-year-old woman with Down syndrome who wanted her to undergo a tubal ligation.

Typically, a conservator has temporary control over the finances and even medical care of an incapacitated person. Experts underscored that Ms. Spears’s assertion is unverified. But if it’s accurate, they said, the most likely rationale, however suspect, might be that Jamie Spears, her father, wants to protect her finances from a baby’s father, potentially her boyfriend, who is reportedly at odds with Mr. Spears.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why U.S. Police Have Been Quitting in Droves in the Last Year, Neil MacFarquhar, June 24, 2021. Asheville, N.C., has been among the hardest hit by departures in the wake of racial justice protests. About a third of the force quit or retired. Public outrage and low pay were compounded by a demoralizing sense that the city itself did not back its police force, officers said.

The Police Department in Asheville, N.C., has lost upward of 80 officers. “A lot of our experience is walking out the door,” Chief David Zack said.

As protests surged across the country last year over the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police, Officer Lindsay C. Rose in Asheville, N.C., found her world capsized.

Various friends and relatives had stopped speaking to her because she was a cop. During a protest in June around Police Headquarters, a demonstrator lobbed an explosive charge that set her pants on fire and scorched her legs.

She said she was spit on. She was belittled. Members of the city’s gay community, an inclusive clan that had welcomed her in when she first settled in Asheville, stood near her at one event and chanted, “All gay cops are traitors,” she said.

By September, still deeply demoralized despite taking several months off to recuperate, Officer Rose decided that she was done. She quit the Police Department and posted a sometimes bitter, sometimes nostalgic essay online that attracted thousands of readers throughout the city and beyond.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Defense secretary backs removing sexual assault prosecutions from military justice system, Dan Lamothe and Alex Horton, June 24, 2021 (print ed.). Senior military officials have been reluctant to surrender the oversight of disciplinary matters within the ranks, a long-standing military tradition.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, above, said Tuesday that he will work with Congress to remove sexual assault prosecutions from the military justice system, marking a dramatic about-face for the Department of Defense SealPentagon, which for years has not meaningfully confronted an epidemic believed to affect thousands of personnel every year.

The acknowledgment came one day after Austin received recommendations and a comprehensive report from an independent commission that reviewed the issue, he said. Senior military officials have been resistant to the idea because oversight of disciplinary matters within the ranks is a long-standing military tradition that few are willing to surrender.

Austin said that within days he will present to President Biden recommendations for change, which will require amendments to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but that already he has seen enough to announce his intentions. The commission’s work “provides us real opportunities to finally end the scourge of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military,” the defense secretary said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Wildfires Threaten Urban Water Supplies, Long After the Flames Are Out, Henry Fountain, June 24, 2021. When wildfires blaze across the West, as they have with increasing ferocity as the region has warmed, the focus is often on the immediate devastation — forests destroyed, infrastructure damaged, homes burned, lives lost.

But about two-thirds of drinking water in the United States originates in forests. And when wildfires affect watersheds, cities can face a different kind of impact, long after the flames are out.

After a forest burns, the resulting erosion can contaminate drinking water supplies for up to a decade.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge halts Black farmers’ debt-relief program, Laura Reiley, June 24, 2021 (print ed.). A Florida federal court issued a preliminary injunction Wednesday, delivering a legal blow to a key part of the Biden administration’s federal stimulus relief package that forgave agricultural debts to farmers of color.

Black and other minority farmers were dealt a new legal blow on Wednesday when a Florida federal court issued a preliminary injunction halting a key part of the Biden administration’s federal stimulus relief package that forgave agricultural debts to farmers of color.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard halted loan forgiveness payments and debt relief for disadvantaged farmers anywhere in the United States, according to the Middle District Court of Florida ruling. The lawsuit was filed by White farmer Scott Wynn of Jennings, Fla., who also has farm loans and has faced financial hardship during the pandemic. He said the debt relief program discriminates against him by race.

Howard wrote that in crafting this debt program benefiting farmers based on race that “Congress also must heed its obligation to do away with governmentally imposed discrimination based on race.” She added that “it appears that in adopting Section 1005’s strict race-based debt relief remedy Congress moved with great speed to address the history of discrimination, but did not move with great care.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Pentagon linguist sentenced to 23 years for exposing U.S. sources in Iraq to Hezbollah in rare terrorism espionage case, Spencer S. Hsu, June 24, 2021 (print ed.).  A linguist for a U.S. Special Operations task force in Iraq was sentenced Wednesday to 23 years in prison in a rare terrorism espionage case, after she admitted she turned over names of informants and other classified data to a Lebanese man with ties to the militant group Hezbollah.

Mariam Taha Thompson, 63, formerly of Rochester, Minn., pleaded guilty on March 26 to delivering national defense information to aid a foreign government. Prosecutors alleged that she passed the information to a man with whom she fell in love, believing it would assist Lebanese Hezbollah, designated by the United States as a terrorist group.

Department of Defense SealProsecutors said Thompson, who was born in Lebanon and became a U.S. citizen in 1993, risked the lives of U.S. sources and troops because she hoped the man would marry her.

“Thompson’s sentence should stand as a clear warning to all clearance holders that violations of their oath to this country will not be taken lightly, especially when they put lives at risk,” John C. Demers, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s national security division, said in a statement.Advertisement

In court, Assistant U.S. Attorney John M. Cummings Jr. argued that turning over terrorist targeting information “posed real threats to U.S. troops and allies, and for those reasons she deserves a 30-year sentence.”

While Thompson’s defense requested seven years, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates said he knew of no espionage case in which a defendant was sentenced to less than 15 years for divulging the identities of human sources — much less to a terrorist organization in an active area of operations.

The judge cut the sentence short, however, saying Thompson was a sympathetic individual with an otherwise inspiring life story who served her adopted country alongside U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The judge also acknowledged that the government request was tantamount to a life sentence.

 

U.S. Media, Education, Cultural Wars

washington post logoWashington Post, In push against ‘indoctrination,’ DeSantis mandates surveys of Florida students’ beliefs, Caroline Anders, June 24, 2021 (print ed.). After successfully banning public schools from teaching “critical race theory” two weeks ago, Florida is reshaping civics lessons and addressing what its governor says parents worry about when they send their children to college — indoctrination.

ron desantis oGov. Ron DeSantis (R), right,  says he is concerned about the free flow of ideas on campus and whether higher education stifles free speech from conservatives. Under the law he signed Tuesday, which goes into effect July 1, public universities must assess “viewpoint diversity” on campus each year through a survey developed by the State Board of Education, a requirement that a free-speech expert predicted as a model for other conservative-led states.

What is critical race theory, and why do Republicans want to ban it in schools?

Although the Florida law does not address penalties for schools where the survey finds low levels of “intellectual freedom” and “viewpoint diversity,” DeSantis has hinted at the potential for budget cuts at universities that don’t pass muster.

The bill defines those two terms as the exposure to — and encouragement or exploration of — “a variety of ideological and political perspectives.”

“We want our universities to be focused on critical thinking and academic rigor. We do not want them as basically hotbeds for stale ideology,” DeSantis said at a news conference Tuesday. “That’s not worth tax dollars and not something we’re going to be supporting moving forward.”


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washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court sides with high school cheerleader in free-speech dispute over profane Snapchat rant, Robert Barnes, June 24, 2021 (print ed.). The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled for a Pennsylvania cheerleader (shown above in an ACLU photo) whose profane off-campus rant cost her a spot on the squad, saying the punishment violated her First Amendment rights.

The court ruled 8 to 1 that the punishment was too severe, although it declined to say schools never have a role in disciplining students for off-campus speech.

“It might be tempting to dismiss B. L.’s words as unworthy of the robust First Amendment protections discussed herein,” Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote in his 11-page majority opinion.

“But sometimes it is necessary to protect the superfluous in order to preserve the necessary.”

Brandi Levy — now an 18-year-old college student — was a frustrated ninth-grader when she lamented being passed over for the varsity cheerleading squad at Mahanoy Area High School. On a spring Saturday in her freshman year, she posted on Snapchat a photo of herself and a friend with upraised middle fingers and this rant:Advertisement

“F--- school, f--- softball, f--- cheer, f--- everything.” It was sent to about 250 friends, including fellow cheerleaders at her school.

It was supposed to disappear in 24 hours, but her cheerleading coaches were alerted to it, and Levy was suspended from cheerleading for a year — but not from school.

A cheerleader’s Snapchat rant leads to ‘momentous’ Supreme Court case on student speech

In a statement Wednesday, Levy said: “Young people need to have the ability to express themselves without worrying about being punished when they get to school. I never could have imagined that one simple snap would turn into a Supreme Court case, but I’m proud that my family and I advocated for the rights of millions of public school students.”

ny times logoNew York Times, John McAfee, Software Pioneer Turned Fugitive, Dies in Spanish Prison, William P. Davis, Mary Williams Walsh and Coral Murphy Marcos June 23, 2021. Mr. McAfee, who has not been associated with the company that bears his name for more than two decades, was fighting extradition to the United States.

John David McAfee, the founder of the antivirus software maker bearing his name, died in a prison in Spain on Wednesday, after a Spanish court said he could be extradited to the United States on tax-evasion charges.

His death was confirmed by his lawyers. He was 75.

After selling his pioneering virus-fighting firm in 1994 and losing most of his fortune during the 2008 financial crisis, Mr. McAfee led a peripatetic life that included a turn to paranoia and a string of arrests around the globe. That all culminated in his detention in Spain in 2020 after prosecutors in the United States accused him of not filing tax returns for several years.

The indictment filed by the Justice Department said Mr. McAfee had earned millions from “promoting cryptocurrencies, consulting work, speaking engagements and selling the rights to his life story for a documentary,” and had tried to avoid taxes by using cryptocurrency and channeling the money through bank accounts. He could have faced prison time if convicted.

Mr. McAfee said he had been arrested despite paying “millions of dollars in taxes” and resisted extradition, claiming he faced political persecution for denouncing corruption in the Internal Revenue Service and opposing the fiat money system, in which central banks like the Federal Reserve control the money supply. But on Wednesday, the Spanish court released its decision to allow the Justice Department’s request to extradite him, saying there was “no supporting evidence that such a thing could be happening.”

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. to Move Afghans Who Aided Troops to Other Countries, Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt, June 24, 2021. Interpreters and others who worked with departing American forces will go somewhere safe until visas for them to enter the United States are processed.

The Biden administration is preparing to relocate thousands of Afghan interpreters, drivers and others who worked with American forces to other countries in an effort to keep them safe while they apply for entry to the United States, senior administration officials said.

With the American military in the final phases of withdrawing from Afghanistan after 20 years of war, the White House has come under heavy pressure from lawmakers and military officials to protect Afghan allies from revenge attacks by the Taliban and speed up the lengthy and complex process of providing them special immigrant visas.

On Wednesday, administration officials started notifying lawmakers that they will soon begin what could be a wholesale move of tens of thousands of Afghans. Officials said the Afghans would be moved out of Afghanistan to third countries to await the processing of their visa requests to move to the United States.

The officials declined to say where the Afghans would wait.

washington post logoWashington Post, Hundreds of unmarked graves found at another former residential school in Canada, Michael E. Miller and Amanda Coletta, June 24, 2021 canadian flag(print ed.). The Cowessess First Nation said it made the “horrific and shocking” find at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan. The number of graves could eclipse the 215 that were found on the grounds of a former residential school in British Columbia last month.

 

June 23

Top Headlines

 

Jan. 6 Insurrection Day, White Nationalist Watch

 

Virus Victims, Responses

   

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

World News

 

Top Stories

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washington post logoWashington Post, Senate Republicans block debate on elections bill, dealing blow to Democrats’ voting rights push, Mike DeBonis, June 23, 2021 (print ed.). Senate Republicans banded together Tuesday to block a sweeping Democratic bill that would revamp the architecture of American democracy, dealing a grave blow to efforts to federally override dozens of GOP-passed state voting laws.

The test vote, which would have cleared the way to start debate on voting legislation, failed 50-50 on straight party lines — 10 votes short of the supermajority needed to advance legislation in the Senate.

It came after a succession of Democrats delivered warnings about what they said was the dire state of American democracy, accusing former president Donald Trump of undermining the country’s democratic system by challenging the results of the 2020 election in a campaign that prompted his supporters in numerous state legislatures to pass laws rolling back ballot access.

“Are we going to let reactionary state legislatures drag us back into the muck of voter suppression? Are we going to let the most dishonest president in history continue to poison our democracy from the inside?” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), shown above, said before the vote. “Or will we stand up to defend what generations of Americans have organized, marched, fought and died for — the sacred, sacred right to vote?”

Mitchell_McConnellBut Republicans stood firmly together in opposition, following the lead of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), left, who on Tuesday lambasted the Democrats’ bill, known as the For the People Act, as “a transparently partisan plan to tilt every election in America permanently in [Democrats’] favor” and as “a recipe for undermining confidence in our elections.”

Although many Democrats and liberal activists insist the fight is not over — pledging to launch a final, furious push over the coming weeks to change the Senate’s rules to pass the bill — they face long odds as key lawmakers have insisted that they are not willing to eliminate the chamber’s supermajority rule to override Republican opposition.

Republicans, however, exhibited little discomfort in their blanket opposition to the Democratic voting bill — which was largely written before the 2020 election and goes well beyond standard provisions for election access to federally dictate rules on campaign financing, government ethics, congressional redistricting and much more. The House passed the bill this year.

republican elephant logoMcConnell and other Republicans have taken aim at numerous provisions in the Democratic legislation, including a proposal to publicly finance congressional campaigns, potential new disclosure requirements for political donors and a realignment of the Federal Election Commission meant to break partisan gridlock in enforcing election laws.

This year, 18 states have enacted more than 30 laws described as “anti-voter” by the nonpartisan Voting Rights Lab, which tracks developments in state election rules. The restrictions affect roughly 36 million people, or 15 percent of all eligible voters, the group stated in a report last week.

The state laws impose changes including restricting access to mail voting, creating new hurdles to voter registration, establishing new voter ID requirements and expanding the definition of criminal behavior by voters, election officials and third parties.

Democrats have united in opposition to those laws, which were passed after Trump challenged his loss in the 2020 election and rallied his supporters behind an effort to overturn the result — a campaign that also resulted in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Democrats did win a small victory Tuesday in persuading Manchin to vote to start debate on the voting rights bill, with the understanding that senators would then vote to make his compromise proposal the new baseline for further amendments. Democratic leaders wanted to keep their caucus united in a symbolic show of force against the GOP blockade, and Manchin ultimately obliged.

washington post logoWashington Post, Nearly 900 Secret Service members were infected with the coronavirus. A watchdog blames Trump, Timothy Bella, June 23 2021. Almost 900 Secret Service members have tested positive for the coronavirus since March 2020, according to a watchdog report, and many of those infected had protection assignments that included the safety of the president and vice president.

The nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington published a report Tuesday detailing how 881 Secret Service employees had tested positive between March 1, 2020 and March 9, 2021. The data, which came from a Freedom of Information Act request to the Secret Service, found that 477 members of the special agent division had been infected. Described by the Department of Homeland Security as “the elite agents you see protecting the President and Vice President,” special agents are also responsible for a number of safety assignments overseas and in the United States, such as protecting the president and vice president’s families, presidential candidates and visiting foreign leaders.

CREW said it’s unclear “whom the special agents who tested positive were assigned to protect or when, exactly, they tested positive.”
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While the data does not give a breakdown of coronavirus infections between the two administrations during this period, the watchdog placed much of the blame on President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence for holding “large-scale rallies against public health guidelines.”

The group also slammed the Trump family’s regular travel during the pandemic and Trump’s photo op last year outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center “in a car with secret service agents while being treated for covid, further putting agents in danger.”

“It’s impossible to overstate the risk the Trump administration put on Secret Service agents,” CREW wrote.

The report is the latest window into how the spread of the coronavirus disrupted the security team during the Trump administration and Trump campaign events where many attendees did not wear masks.

The Post previously reported that more than 130 Secret Service officers — roughly 10 percent of the agency’s core security team — who helped protect the White House and Trump when he traveled had been ordered to isolate or quarantine because they tested positive for the coronavirus or had close contact with infected co-workers. Trump’s insistence on holding public events — such as his Tulsa rally — while the pandemic was in full force last year left the Secret Service dealing with coronavirus cases in the aftermath of his travel blitz.

“Never before has the Secret Service run up against a president so intent on putting himself first regardless of the costs, including to those around him,” Ned Price, a national security expert and former CIA analyst, said to The Post in August.

President Biden, who was assigned Secret Service protection in March 2020, also had campaign stops last year, but the events were restricted to much smaller numbers compared with Trump’s rallies.

Joseph Cuffari, the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, blocked investigations proposed by career Secret Service staff last year to scrutinize the spread of the coronavirus in its ranks. Cuffari, a Trump appointee who is the chief federal watchdog for the Secret Service, ultimately shelved a probe into whether the agency flouted federal protocols put in place to detect and reduce the spread of the coronavirus within its workforce, according to records obtained by the Project On Government Oversight, a nonprofit watchdog group, and shared with The Post.

The nonprofit also reflected on Pence’s ski trip to Vail, Colo., in December that reportedly put “at least 48 agents at risk of infection” and cost taxpayers more than $750,000 in Secret Service protection.

ny times logoNew York Times, Saudi Operatives Who Killed Khashoggi Received Paramilitary Training in U.S., Mark Mazzetti, Julian E. Barnes and Michael LaForgia, June 23, 2021 (print ed.). The training, approved by the State Department, underscores the perils of military partnerships with repressive governments.

Four Saudis who participated in the 2018 killing of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, right, received paramilitary training in the United States the previous year under a contract approved by jamal khashoggi march 2018 croppedthe State Department, according to documents and people familiar with the arrangement.

The instruction occurred as the secret unit responsible for Mr. Khashoggi’s killing was beginning an extensive campaign of kidnapping, detention and torture of Saudi citizens ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, left, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, to crush dissent inside the kingdom.

mohammad bin salman cropped file smallThe training was provided by the Arkansas-based security company Tier 1 Group, which is owned by the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management. The company says the training — including “safe marksmanship” and “countering an attack” — was defensive in nature and devised to better protect Saudi leaders. One person familiar with the training said it also included work in surveillance and close-quarters battle.

There is no evidence that the American officials who approved the training or Tier 1 Group executives knew that the Saudis were involved in the crackdown inside Saudi Arabia. But the fact that the government approved high-level military training for operatives who went on to carry out the grisly killing of a journalist shows how intensely intertwined the United States has become with an autocratic nation even as its agents committed horrific human rights abuses.

It also underscores the perils of military partnerships with repressive governments and demonstrates how little oversight exists for those forces after they return home.

Such issues are likely to continue as American private military contractors increasingly look to foreign clients to shore up their business as the United States scales back overseas deployments after two decades of war.

The State Department initially granted a license for the paramilitary training of the Saudi Royal Guard to Tier 1 Group starting in 2014, during the Obama administration. The training continued during at least the first year of former President Donald J. Trump’s term.

Louis Bremer, a senior executive of Cerberus, Tier 1 Group’s parent company, confirmed his company’s role in the training last year in written answers to questions from lawmakers as part of his nomination for a top Pentagon job during the Trump administration.

The administration does not appear to have sent the document to Congress before withdrawing Mr. Bremer’s nomination; lawmakers never received answers to their questions.

In the document, which Mr. Bremer provided to The New York Times, he said that four members of the Khashoggi kill team had received Tier 1 Group training in 2017, and two of them had participated in a previous iteration of the training, which went from October 2014 until January 2015.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Defense secretary backs removing sexual assault prosecutions from military justice system, Dan Lamothe and Alex Horton, June 23, 2021. Senior military officials have been reluctant to surrender the oversight of disciplinary matters within the ranks, a long-standing military tradition.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, above, said Tuesday that he will work with Congress to remove sexual assault prosecutions from the military justice system, marking a dramatic about-face for the Pentagon, which for years has not meaningfully confronted an epidemic believed to affect thousands of personnel every year.

The acknowledgment came one day after Austin received recommendations and a comprehensive report from an independent commission that reviewed the issue, he said. Senior military officials have been resistant to the idea because oversight of disciplinary matters within the ranks is a long-standing military tradition that few are willing to surrender.

Austin said that within days he will present to President Biden recommendations for change, which will require amendments to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but that already he has seen enough to announce his intentions. The commission’s work “provides us real opportunities to finally end the scourge of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military,” the defense secretary said.

washington post logoWashington Post, For military’s top man, navigating the Trump-Biden transition is his biggest test yet, Missy Ryan, June 23, 2021 (print ed.). Days after cameras captured him walking alongside President Donald Trump across a square near the White House that had been violently cleared of protesters, Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sat in his office across the Potomac assessing the fallout.

mark milley army chief of staffPeople whom Milley respected had issued scathing condemnations of his role in the president’s June 2020 photo op, saying it represented a military endorsement of Trump’s suppression of peaceful protests, and a chorus of commentators called for the general to resign. Friends urged Milley — a gruff, ebullient and sometimes impulsive career soldier — to stay on for the good of the country.

Milley, right, tried to explain that the episode had caught him off guard, that he hadn’t known Trump’s intentions when they walked into an area where just minutes earlier authorities had used tear gas to disperse protesters. Milley also knew that to the cold gaze of history, it might not matter.

From the moment Milley became chairman in September 2019, he and Pentagon leaders were consumed by crises generated by Trump. Those included the president’s intervention in the Navy’s handling of a SEAL accused of war crimes and his greenlighting of a Turkish offensive in Syria, which endangered U.S. allies and necessitated a pullback so rushed that U.S. pilots had to bomb their own base.

 

Jan. 6 Insurrection Day, White Nationalist Watch

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Proof via Substack, Investigative Report and Commentary: A Fire Set on January 5 Outside the Willard Hotel May Have Helped Spark the Bloody Events of January 6, Seth Abramson, left, June 22-23, 2021. seth abramson graphicThe outcry from insurrectionists Owen Shroyer and David Harris at Proof's report on the setting of a fire outside the Willard on January 5 underscores that the previously unreported event is critical.

Introduction: A deliberately set, accelerant-aided fire outside the Willard Hotel on Insurrection Eve has revealed itself to be noteworthy for several reasons.

seth abramson proof logoNot only was it a dangerous, visually spectacular, and illegal Proud Boy-linked event that occurred during a period of 48 hours in which the seat of the American government came under armed assault by that particular white supremacist organization; not only did it feature a small gang of notable insurrectionists, including at least one Proud Boy later arrested by the FBI for breaching the U.S. Capitol on January 6; but it’s been acknowledged by Trumpists as a dramatically invigorating event that occurred just twenty minutes before a near-riot at Black Lives Matter Plaza in D.C. on January 5.

The next day, incited and led—respectively—by the very entities behind the Willard Hotel fire, InfoWars and the Proud Boys, armed insurrectionists brutally attacked and overran the Capitol building.

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Analysis: The many-tentacled Kraken of present-day fascism, Wayne Madsen, left, author, columnist and former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst, June 23, 2021. Counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism analysts make a dangerous wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallmistake when they lump all of the present-day fascist movements -- of which there are several -- under one monolithic description. The manifestation of fascism within American politics, with the Republican Party now clearly espousing fascist and anti-democratic principles, has resulted in wayne madesen report logovarious fascist factions vying for political control of both the party and national, state, and local government.

The first major fascist faction and one that is currently dominant is Trumpism. Bannonism is a more internationalist form of fascism embraced by former Trump political strategist Steve Bannon.

Michael Flynn Harvard 2014There is a more traditional military fascist tendency by retired Army Lieutenant General and Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn, right. In December 2020, Flynn called for military martial law and a military regime re-running the 2020 election to benefit Trump and the Republicans. Flynn later agreed that the United States would be better off with a Myanmar-style military coup that would restore the White House to Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Merrick Garland is the wrong man for the job, Jennifer Rubin, June 23 2021. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Tuesday made clear that he has decided to let bygones be bygones. I can only imagine the reaction from the scores of former Justice Department lawyers who spent four years writing pleas to their ex-colleagues to eschew partisan corruption, who demanded accountability for attorneys failing to live up to their oaths and who decried the damage to the department’s stature.

The New York Times reports: “Answering questions from reporters at the Justice Department on Tuesday, Mr. Garland said that reviewing the previous administration’s actions was ‘a complicated question.’” Afraid of being accused of partisanship, he chooses not to do his job.

The report continues:

“We always look at what happened before,” he said. But he stopped short of saying that he would undertake a comprehensive review of Trump era Justice Department officials and their actions, in part to keep career employees from concluding that their work would be judged through changing political views.

“I don’t want the department’s career people to think that a new group comes in and immediately applies a political lens,” Mr. Garland said.He also invoked the investigations by the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, noting that they spoke to the question of whether Mr. Trump had improperly used the

Attorneys who did their jobs professionally would have nothing to worry about in a top-to-bottom review of the department’s conduct. Investigating wrongdoing, rooting out unethical behavior and getting to the bottom of the politicization of the department are central to restoring the Justice Department’s reputation. In allowing miscreants to escape accountability (unless Horowitz snares them in his inquiries), Garland has effectively told his department that there are no consequences for unethical or even illegal conduct.

Moreover, in refusing to examine what occurred in the last administration, he is not protecting career attorneys; he is protecting former attorney general William P. Barr and his political hacks who intervened in prosecutions, looked the other way when a whistleblower revealed the disgraced former president’s attempt to extort Ukraine, played along with phony accusations of election fraud and likely misrepresented facts in the census case that was before the Supreme Court. In a sense, Garland is also sheltering former president Donald Trump from investigation, since the only way to understand the extent of his effort to subvert the election is to examine in minute detail his interactions with the Justice Department.

It seems Garland is not the right person for his job, which requires determination to clean house and reestablish the highest standards for the department. That requires the ability to absorb political attacks from those who object to his mission to root out misbehavior. If he cannot explain to critics that a thorough investigation is not partisan, but an essential part of reasserting legal norms, he is not up to the challenge before him.

Garland is not going to quit or be fired anytime soon — although after a year of service, he might consider “spending more time with his family.”

Whatever he does, Congress must fulfill its oversight responsibilities to examine department wrongdoing in the Trump era. The House and Senate judiciary committees could hire a respected attorney — e.g., Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York; former acting attorney general Sally Yates; former impeachment counsel Dan Goldman — to conduct the legwork and handle questioning in open hearings. Lawmakers can also call up Garland and his senior staff to question them as to the lack of initiative on protecting voting rights.

washington post logoWashington Post, Officer in Colorado killed in ‘ambush’ by man who ‘expressed hatred’ of law enforcement, officials say, Paulina Firozi and Reis Thebault, June 23, 2021 (print ed.). A veteran police officer and a bystander were gunned down in a Denver suburb on Monday in what authorities now describe as a targeted attack by someone who “expressed hatred” for members of law enforcement.

The episode in Arvada, a city of more than 120,000 people, was at least the third high-profile shooting in Colorado during the past three months. The investigation into the incident is still ongoing, but Police Chief Link Strate said Tuesday that the officer, Gordon Beesley, “was targeted because he was wearing an Arvada police uniform and a badge.” He was a 19-year veteran of the department.

“Officer Beasley was ambushed by someone who expressed hatred of police officers,” Strate said at a news conference.

The shooting was “a deliberate act of violence,” Strate added, but officials “believe this is an isolated incident.” He identified the second victim as 40-year-old John Hurley and described him as a “good Samaritan” who intervened in the violence.

Police have released few additional details and did not name the suspect, who was also shot and killed. The Denver Post reported that the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office identified him as 59-year-old Ronald Troyke.

Palmer Report, Opinion: It’s all happening at once now, Bill Palmer, June 23, 2021. Last night all fifty Democrats voted to advance HR1 voting rights legislation – a reminder that Chuck Schumer really does know what he’s doing – but the measure failed, a reminder that this battle is still just getting started. Also last night, Nancy Pelosi announced she’s appointing a select committee to investigate the January 6th Capitol attack. So here we go.

These two major ongoing congressional battles are now reaching a fever pitch, even as the Manhattan District Attorney’s office revealed this week that it’s going after the families of Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg and Trump Organization COO Matthew Calamari, in order to get one or both of them to flip on Donald Trump and his family. This comes amid the news that the FBI is now poking around at everyone from Roger Stone to members of Congress, as part of the criminal investigation into the Capitol attack.

This is an era in which so many major political narratives are happening at once, it’s difficult to keep track of them all. And now several of these major narratives are threatening to boil over all at once.

These things were all going to come to a reckoning eventually. Once Trump lost the election, he and the GOP were never going to just magically get away with it all. Nor was anyone simply going to move on. Now it’s all happening at once. This is a time for activism and awareness. We’ve made it this far. Let’s keep fighting and see how much more we can win.

washington post logoWashington Post, Indiana grandmother set to be first defendant sentenced in Capitol riots, Spencer S. Hsu and Rachel Weiner, June 23, 2021. The day after taking part in a mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol to stop the peaceful transition of power, prosecutors say, a 49-year-old Indiana grandmother exulted.

“That was the most exciting day of my life,” Anna Morgan-Lloyd told the friend and hairdresser who had joined her that day, according to court filings. “I’m so glad we were there. For the experience and memory but most of all we can spread the truth about what happened and open the eyes of some of our friends.”

Now Morgan-Lloyd says her eyes have been opened to a different truth. The registered Democrat-turned-Trump supporter is set to plead guilty Wednesday and become the first person sentenced in the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

In a letter to the judge who will decide her punishment, Morgan-Lloyd said she was “ashamed that something meant to show support for the President had turned violent.”

“At first it didn’t dawn on me, but later I realized that if every person like me, who wasn’t violent, was removed from that crowd, the ones who were violent may have lost the nerve to do what they did,” she wrote. “For that I am sorry and take responsibility. It was never my intent to help empower people to act violently.”

With the help of her attorney, she said she has also been learning “what life is like for others in our country,” particularly Black, Jewish and Native Americans. She wrote to the judge about reading the books “Just Mercy” and “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” and watching the movies “Schindler’s List” and “Slavery by Another Name.”

“I’ve lived a sheltered life and truly haven’t experienced life the way many have,” Morgan-Lloyd wrote. “I’ve learned that even though we live in a wonderful country things still need to improve. People of all colors should feel as safe as I do to walk down the street.”

A sprawling investigation: What we know so far about the Capitol riot suspects

A guilty plea is not official until it is accepted by the court, but Morgan-Lloyd’s defense submitted a sentencing request stating that she will plead guilty at a combined plea hearing and sentencing at 2:30 p.m.

  

Virus Victims, Responses

Roll Call, White House concedes it will fall short of Biden’s July 4 vaccination goal, Ariel Cohen and Niels Lesniewski, June 23, 2021 (print ed.). Younger adults' slow approach to vaccination raises risks. The White House will fall short of its goal of getting at least 70 percent of the adult population partially vaccinated by July 4, White House officials announced Tuesday, largely because younger adults are refusing the COVID-19 shot.

The administration has hit its 70 percent partially vaccinated target for Americans ages 30 and older and is expected to reach that threshold for Americans ages 27 and older by July 4, said Jeff Zients, jeffrey zients o obama national economic councilright, the head of the White House COVID-19 response team. But it will take a few more weeks to get Americans ages 18 to 26 up to that level.

“The reality is, many younger Americans have felt like COVID-19 is not something that impacts them and have been less eager to get the shot,” Zients told reporters on Tuesday. NBC News first reported the delay.

The White House still is planning a celebration for the holiday weekend featuring health care workers and members of the military. Zients said President Joe Biden will host about 1,000 people on the White House lawn.

Members of the administration have been crisscrossing the country to promote the vaccination campaign. On Tuesday, first lady Jill Biden is scheduled to join Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., for a tour of a vaccination site in Jackson, Miss. Then the first lady will head north to Nashville, Tenn., for a similar event with country music star Brad Paisley at the Ole Smokey Distillery.

Vaccine clinics at places like breweries and distilleries, as well as incentives for getting the vaccines, have had some success, but the White House plans to double down on its efforts to reach younger populations.

“We are not stopping at 70 percent, and we are not stopping on July 4,” Zients said.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said the ultimate goal is “crushing the outbreak completely in the United States.” This will require an intense focus on convincing unvaccinated younger people to get the shot.

Fauci said highly contagious virus variants could spread rapidly among unvaccinated individuals. But Fauci also predicted that any resurgence this fall will be limited to regional pockets where vaccination rates are low.

The country is now averaging 10,350 new COVID cases per day over the past week, a decrease of nearly 18 percent over the prior seven-week average. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said that deaths also continue to decrease, averaging 270 per day.

Young adults in Generation Z have been among the most vaccine-hesitant groups in America and, unlike people in other age groups, their reluctance to get the shot has increased over time.

The young and healthy were not prioritized for vaccinations in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many young adults said they didn’t see a need to rush as they watched case numbers fall, mask restrictions let up and life begin to return to normal.

The Biden administration recently began to take notice of the younger generation’s reluctance, and Biden encouraged young adults to get the shot.

“For young people who may think this doesn’t affect you, listen up, please: This virus, even a mild case, can be with you for months. It will impact on your social life,” Biden said earlier this month. “It could have long-term implications for your health.”

Public health experts caution that even though younger adults have a lower risk of contracting serious disease from COVID-19, remaining unvaccinated could have serious consequences for those who have lingering effects, known as “long COVID.”

The unvaccinated also further the spread of the virus and fuel new variants.

“If we get vaccinated now, it's hard for the new strains to get in here, but if they're in here and ... really are easy to transmit, then there's more of a risk,” said Arthur Caplan, a professor of bioethics at New York University Langone Medical Center.

The highly contagious delta variant, which first originated in India, has infected many young people, but Amesh Adalja, a physician and a Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security senior scholar, says this is because more young people are unvaccinated, not because the variant specifically targets young people’s immune systems.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Jill Biden tours the South to encourage vaccination as cases among the young mount, Katerina Ang, June 23, 2021. First lady Jill Biden headed to two Southern states on Tuesday to encourage vaccination, as the White House scrambles to raise inoculation levels in a region where relatively few people have received their shots.

Biden’s visits to Mississippi and Tennessee, both states where under 35 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, come as health experts warn that young people in the South are increasingly being hospitalized because of the coronavirus. There are fears that the more virulent delta variant could become the dominant strain this summer.

In Mississippi, the seven-day average of people 18 to 29 years old hospitalized for covid has quadrupled in the month to June 19, federal government data show. In Arkansas, the figure has more than doubled in the same time period. In other news:

  • Tokyo bans alcohol at Olympic games following outcry
  • Israel struggles to get children vaccinated as delta variant spreads

washington post logoWashington Post, Dozens of Texas health workers quit, fired after refusing to get vaccinated, Dan Diamond, June 23, 2021 (print ed.). Houston Methodist — one of the first health systems to require the coronavirus shots — parted ways with 153 workers Tuesday, a spokeswoman said. She declined to specify how many were in each category.

The hospital system announced April 1 that staffers would need to be vaccinated to keep their jobs. While 24,947 workers did get vaccinated by earlier deadlines, Houston Methodist suspended 178 workers who had failed to do so on June 7, giving them an additional two weeks to prove they had been immunized. Twenty-five of those employees did get vaccinated, Smith said.

washington post logoWashington Post, 177.9 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 23, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 150.8 million people (45.4 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 53.6 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 23, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 179,997,274, Deaths: 3,899,731
U.S. Cases:     34,434,803, Deaths:   617,875
India Cases:     30,028,709, Deaths:   390,691
Brazil Cases:   18,056,639, Deaths:    504,897

washington post logoWashington Post, Coronavirus cases surge in Cornwall, England, after G-7 summit, sparking fury, Miriam Berger, June 23, 2021 (print ed.).Coronavirus cases are rising in Cornwall — but Downing Street says the Group of Seven summit held in the British town earlier this month is not to blame.

The seven-day case rate in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has soared from 4.9 per 100,000 people in early June to 130.6 per 100,000 people on June 16, the Guardian reported. Rates g7 logo uk 2021of infections are particularly high in Carbis Bay, where the summit was held, and several nearby areas where delegates to the gathering of world leaders stayed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesperson on Monday denied any direct causation between the G-7 summit — with its influx of journalists, police officers and support staff — and the rise in coronavirus infection rates.

“We are confident that there were no cases of transmission to the local residents,” the unidentified spokesperson told the Guardian. “All attendees were tested, everyone involved in the G-7 work were also tested during their work on the summit.”

 

 U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Adams Leads in N.Y.C. Mayoral Primary as First Results Stream In, Staff Reports, June 23, 2021 (print ed.).Yang Concedes; Final Race Call Is Not Expected for Weeks.

eric adamsEric Adams, right, was leading in early returns of the Democratic primary for New York mayor, with Maya Wiley and Kathryn Garcia behind him. Andrew Yang, a former front-runner, dropped out after a disappointing finish. Curtis Sliwa won the G.O.P. primary.

The embattled mayor of Rochester, who had been under indictment, loses handily. Lovely Warren, the scandal-plagued mayor of Rochester, N.Y., who is under indictment and has faced repeated calls for her resignation, was defeated by a wide margin on Tuesday night in the Democratic primary. The victor was Malik Evans, a city councilman, who was declared the winner by The Associated Press.

ny times logoNew York Times, Can Maya Wiley or Kathryn Garcia Still Beat Eric Adams? Yes, but …,Andy Newman, June 23, 2021. Under ranked-choice voting, it is mathematically possible for the second- and third-place finishers in Tuesday’s Democratic primary to overtake the front-runner — but it will be tough.

It was the city’s first mayoral race using ranked-choice voting, and there was no incumbent running.

After the first round of vote tallying, a relatively conservative male Democrat with a long history in elected office led the pack by nine percentage points, with two female candidates ranked second and third.

In the end, the second-place finisher came from behind to score a narrow victory.

It happened in Oakland, Calif., in 2010. Whether it can happen in New York City in 2021 is a question that has taken on great urgency.

With partial results in on Wednesday afternoon, Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, has 32 percent of first-place votes. He leads Maya Wiley, a former City Hall counsel, by 9 points, and Kathryn Garcia, a former sanitation commissioner, by 12 points.

Because Mr. Adams has almost no chance of garnering more than 50 percent of first-place votes, the ranked-choice playoff process will begin. It is a series of rounds in which the candidate with the fewest first-place votes is eliminated and those votes are transferred to whomever the voter listed in the next slot, until only two candidates remain — at which point the leader wins.

Ms. Wiley’s supporters hope that she can close the gap by picking up enough votes from voters who preferred her to Mr. Adams but did not rank her first. Ms. Garcia’s supporters are hoping for something similar.

But both candidates face steep challenges to overcoming Mr. Adams’s commanding lead. Here is a brief explainer:
Can Wiley or Garcia still win?

Mathematically, yes. Ms. Wiley could win if she makes it to the final round and is ranked ahead of Mr. Adams on around 60 percent of all ballots where neither is ranked first. Ms. Garcia’s threshold in the same situation is a few points higher.

What’s the likelihood of that?

Low. Mr. Adams would have to be enormously unpopular among voters who did not rank him first, and one of the few polls done late in the race showed broader support for him than for Ms. Wiley or Ms. Garcia.

The poll of 800 likely Democratic voters, conducted by Citizen Data and FairVote, a national organization that promotes ranked-choice voting, found that Mr. Adams was the only candidate in the race who was a top-three choice of more than half the voters.

The poll tracks fairly closely with the actual first-round results reported so far: It showed Mr. Adams with 32 percent and Ms. Wiley and Ms. Garcia both with 18 percent. It was conducted before the race’s chaotic final weekend, when Mr. Adams was criticized for asserting that Ms. Garcia and Andrew Yang, a former presidential candidate, were trying to weaken Black candidates by campaigning together.

That episode may have damaged Mr. Adams and helped Ms. Garcia, but not much, said Rob Richie, FairVote’s president.

“My assumption is that the last three days didn’t change the fundamentals enough to actually change the outcome,” he said.
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To give a sense of Mr. Adams’s strength, in a final-round matchup between Mr. Adams and Ms. Wiley based on the voter rankings in the FairVote poll, Ms. Wiley inherited 47 percent of Ms. Garcia’s first-place voters and Mr. Adams inherited 35 percent, but he still beat her by more than 10 points. In a similar matchup between Mr. Adams and Ms. Garcia, she inherited more than 60 percent of Ms. Wiley’s first-place votes but still lost.

Nevertheless, an undaunted Ms. Wiley said on Wednesday that she expected to significantly outpace Mr. Adams in collecting second- and third-choice votes and said she had no plan to concede, “because I’m winning.”
How often does a trailing candidate in a ranked-choice election end up winning?

Very rarely. In 128 ranked-choice races in the United States since 2004 where there was no first-round winner, there have been only three occasions where someone trailing by more than eight points after the first round ended up the victor, according to FairVote.

No one trailing by 10 points has ever won, though in the 2018 San Francisco mayoral race, Mark Leno very nearly came from 12 points down to overtake London Breed. Ms. Breed wound up winning by less than a percentage point.

washington post logoWashington Post, Cindy McCain to be nominated as ambassador to U.N. food and agriculture programs, Tyler Pager, June 23, 2021. President Biden announced Wednesday that he will nominate Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), for an ambassadorship to the United Nations’ food and agriculture programs.

If confirmed, Cindy McCain, who crossed party lines to endorse Biden in the general election, will head to Rome as the envoy to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture, which encompasses three U.N. agencies.

Biden also tapped Claire Cronin, a state representative in Massachusetts, to serve as ambassador to Ireland, a significant posting in the Biden administration given the president’s Irish heritage. Cronin is the majority leader in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and she is the first woman to hold that role.

Biden often talks about his Irish roots, whether sharing stories about his ancestors’ journey to the United States in coffin ships or professing his love for Irish poets.

ny times logoNew York Times, Senators will meet with President Biden Thursday after a potential breakthrough on an infrastructure bill, June 23, 2021. A bipartisan group of centrist senators will head to the White House on Thursday to brief President Biden on their infrastructure framework after lawmakers said they had signed off on an outline for how to fund and finance billions of dollars for roads, bridges and other public-works projects.

After two lengthy meetings with White House officials on Wednesday, multiple senators said they had struck an agreement on the overall framework for an infrastructure plan and would personally update Mr. Biden as they worked to finalize some details. Lawmakers and staff declined to offer any details about the apparent breakthrough, but a previous outline drafted by the group of senators — five Republicans and five Democrats — would provide for $579 billion in new spending as part of an overall $1.2 trillion package spent over eight years.

“There’s a framework of agreement on a bipartisan infrastructure package,” Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, told reporters as she left negotiations in the Capitol. “There’s still details to be worked out.”

The bipartisan group previously released a statement announcing an agreement on a framework that the White House had not yet backed. Mr. Biden sent aides to Capitol Hill on Tuesday and Wednesday for further discussions.

“The group made progress toward an outline of a potential agreement,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said in a statement Wednesday evening after what she described as “two productive meetings” with White House officials.

The group has been scrounging for ways to pay for billions of dollars in new spending that would be a critical part of a potential compromise plan to invest in roads, broadband internet, electric utilities and other infrastructure projects.

“We just kept working at it, I’m serious,” Ms. Collins said. “Each of us brought in different ideas that we had researched with our staffs.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Michigan Republicans published an unsparing debunking of voter fraud claims in the state, Reid J. Epstein June 23, 2021. A committee led by Michigan Republicans on Wednesday published an extraordinary debunking of voter fraud claims in the state, delivering a comprehensive rebuke to a litany of accusations about improprieties in the 2020 election and its aftermath.

The 55-page report, produced by a Michigan State Senate committee of three Republicans and one Democrat, is a systematic rebuttal to an array of false claims about the election from supporters of former President Donald J. Trump. The authors focus overwhelmingly on Michigan, but they also expose lies perpetuated about the vote-counting process in Georgia.

The report is unsparing in its criticism of those who have promoted false theories about the election. It debunks claims from Trump allies including Mike Lindell, the chief executive of MyPillow; Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former president’s lawyer; and Mr. Trump himself.

Yet while the report eviscerates claims about election fraud, its authors also use the allegations to urge their legislative colleagues to change Michigan’s voting laws to make absentee voting harder and limit the availability of drop boxes for absentee ballots, as Republicans have done in other swing states as they try to limit voting.

“This committee found no evidence of widespread or systematic fraud in Michigan’s prosecution of the 2020 election,” the authors wrote, before adding: “It is the opinion of this committee that the Legislature has a duty to make statutory improvements to our elections system.”

Michigan Republicans, who control the state’s Legislature, have for weeks debated a series of new voting restrictions. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, has said she will veto the legislation, but Michigan law allows citizens to circumvent the governor by collecting 340,047 signatures.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Voting reform cannot die. The future of democracy is at stake, Editorial Board, June 23 2021. Senate Republicans on Tuesday torpedoed the For the People Act, the Democrats’ sprawling election reform bill that would have made voting easier and fairer, but that came with so many other controversial provisions that it never had much chance of passage. With Republican legislatures in state after state ratifying new voting restrictions and politicizing election administration, this cannot be the end of the effort to reform federal voting standards.

The optimistic view is that Democrats have hardly begun trying to attract Republican support for a voting bill, and that the field is wide open for further negotiations that might result in at least 10 Republicans agreeing to new, filibuster-proof legislation. In a recent compromise proposal, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) floated a national voter ID standard, a long-sought GOP goal, and other Democrats indicated they were willing to concede on that issue if it enabled them to pass a broader package. Democrats could seek to find other policies on which they would be willing to compromise.

In return, Democrats could press standards that no one committed to democracy could legitimately oppose. These include simple measures to promote access to the ballot box, such as requiring early voting, making Election Day a holiday or allowing people to cast provisional ballots if they show up to the wrong precinct. Democrats could also pursue important reforms that they did not put into the For the People Act, but that the 2020 election showed were necessary. These include rewriting the archaic Electoral Count Act to ensure that Congress may not overturn free and fair voting results. Another idea is to erect safeguards against meddling in election results by state officials or state legislatures.

ny times logoNew York Times, India Walton, a socialist candidate, stuns longtime incumbent in Buffalo mayor’s race, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, June 23, 2021. A progressive challenger running her first campaign was poised on Tuesday to beat Buffalo’s four-term Democratic mayor in a primary upset that would upend the political landscape in New York’s second-biggest city and signal the strength of the party’s left wing.

The challenger, India B. Walton, is a former nurse and community activist who ran with the support of the Democratic Socialists of America and the Working Families Party. She was leading Byron Brown, a longtime member of the Democratic establishment, by 7 percentage points, or about 1,500 votes, as of midnight with all of the in-person ballots counted, according to unofficial results.

Should Ms. Walton, 38, win the primary and then triumph in the general election November — a likely result in heavily Democratic Buffalo — she would be the first socialist mayor of a major American city since 1960, when Frank P. Zeidler stepped down as Milwaukee’s mayor. She would also be the first female mayor in Buffalo’s history.

Ms. Walton celebrated her victory in a jubilant call to her mother that was captured on video, yelling, “Mommy, I won. Mommy, I’m the mayor of Buffalo. Well, not until January, but, yeah.”

Mr. Brown, who once led the state’s Democratic Party and is a close ally of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, declined to concede despite the margin separating him from Ms. Walton.

“We’re going to make sure every single vote is counted,” he said. (Ms. Walton’s campaign estimated that there were about 1,500 absentee ballots outstanding.)

Ms. Walton showed no such hesitation in declaring victory, highlighting what she said were the race’s national ramifications. She said the stunning outcome would “resound here in Buffalo and throughout the nation, showing that a progressive platform that puts people over profit is both viable and necessary.”

“Tonight’s result proves that Buffalonians demand community-minded, people-focused government, and we’re ready to serve them,” Ms. Walton said in a statement. “For too long, we’ve seen our city work for politicians, for developers, for the police union, but not for ordinary working families. In our city, everyone will have a seat at the table.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Far-right activist Ammon Bundy is running for Idaho governor, tapping an anti-establishment trend, Paulina Villegas, June 23, 2021. The conservative figure held a rancher protest against the Bureau of Land Management in Nevada and led an armed takeover of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon.

ammon bundyAmmon Bundy, left, has carried a small copy of the U.S. Constitution in his front pocket for the past seven years. He does so to remind himself of what the government is supposed to do to serve the people without abusing its authority, he said.

The far-right activist known for his armed occupation of federal land in Oregon rejects the “anti-government label” but is happy to swap it for a catchier one: “I am definitely anti-corrupt-government, anticronyism,” he said in an interview with The Washington Post, adding that he has never rallied for a revolution to overthrow the government.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

ny times logoNew York Times, Man Awaiting Trial for Covid-19 Bank Fraud Does It Again, Authorities Say, Azi Paybarah, June 23, 2021. A Pennsylvania man who was awaiting trial on charges that he fraudulently received more than $2.5 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans filed an application last month seeking an additional $500,000 in Covid-19 relief money, the authorities said.

In February, federal authorities seized four of the man’s bank accounts where that money had been deposited, saying the loan applications were fraudulent. In March, the man submitted a fifth application for a P.P.P. loan, intended to help struggling businesses during the pandemic, and received more than $1.3 million. In April, he was arrested and charged with bank fraud and money laundering.

While he was out on bond, federal officials said, he submitted a sixth loan application.

On Monday, the man, Randy A. Frasinelli, 65, of Carnegie, Pa., was arrested again and charged with another count of bank fraud.

As the coronavirus disrupted the global economy, officials raced to send billions of dollars to businesses on the verge of collapsing, hoping to keep them and their employees afloat. Some saw that as an opportunity to enrich themselves by seeking loans for businesses that did not exist.

Prosecutors in California, Texas and Florida charged three men in separate cases with taking millions of dollars in pandemic relief funds to buy, among other things, Lamborghini luxury vehicles. But even in those cases, the defendants did not continue to pursue federal money for pandemic relief while facing charges of inappropriately taking pandemic relief funds.

Justice Department log circularMr. Frasinelli used the federal relief funds to buy a Mustang, a BMW, a Porsche, two Mercedes-Benz S.U.V.s, gold bars, silver coins and other luxury items, according to a pair of affidavits submitted to the U.S. District Court in Western Pennsylvania by a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The agent, Sean Langford, wrote that “none of the PPP funds appear to have been used for business expenses or to maintain payroll.”

Efrem M. Grail, a lawyer for Mr. Frasinelli, said on Tuesday evening he had not had an opportunity to review the charges in depth.

The affidavits in Pennsylvania lay out a curious series of events, with loan applications being filed well after law enforcement officials suspected the man filing the loan was doing so fraudulently.

Mr. Frasinelli began his efforts in May 2020 when, according to the affidavits, he began filing four loan applications to the Paycheck Protection Program to help his four companies: Grant-Williams Associates, Grant-Williams Global, Grant-Williams International and Grant-Williams Associates Corporation.

In his LinkedIn profile, which is cited in the affidavits, Mr. Frasinelli described himself as a high-level technology adviser for “advanced technology companies on a global basis working on the development and release of classified technology products that are developed and sold to major defense contractors and defense department in the US, UK, Israel and other (friendly) countries across the globe.”

In response to those loans, two banks gave Mr. Frasinelli a total of $2,545,082, according to the affidavits.

 

 

brandi levy aclu photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court sides with high school cheerleader in free-speech dispute over profane Snapchat rant, Robert Barnes, June 23, 2021. The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled for a Pennsylvania cheerleader (shown above in an ACLU photo) whose profane off-campus rant cost her a spot on the squad, saying the punishment violated her First Amendment rights.

The court ruled 8 to 1 that the punishment was too severe, although it declined to say schools never have a role in disciplining students for off-campus speech.

“It might be tempting to dismiss B. L.’s words as unworthy of the robust First Amendment protections discussed herein,” Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote in his 11-page majority opinion.

“But sometimes it is necessary to protect the superfluous in order to preserve the necessary.”

Brandi Levy — now an 18-year-old college student — was a frustrated ninth-grader when she lamented being passed over for the varsity cheerleading squad at Mahanoy Area High School. On a spring Saturday in her freshman year, she posted on Snapchat a photo of herself and a friend with upraised middle fingers and this rant:Advertisement

“F--- school, f--- softball, f--- cheer, f--- everything.” It was sent to about 250 friends, including fellow cheerleaders at her school.

It was supposed to disappear in 24 hours, but her cheerleading coaches were alerted to it, and Levy was suspended from cheerleading for a year — but not from school.

A cheerleader’s Snapchat rant leads to ‘momentous’ Supreme Court case on student speech

In a statement Wednesday, Levy said: “Young people need to have the ability to express themselves without worrying about being punished when they get to school. I never could have imagined that one simple snap would turn into a Supreme Court case, but I’m proud that my family and I advocated for the rights of millions of public school students.”

ny times logoNew York Times, A Mother and Son Are Found Murdered, Deepening a Mystery in South Carolina, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, June 23, 2021.  Officials opened a new investigation into an unsolved 2015 death as a result of information gleaned after two members of a prominent family were killed.

When residents across a broad swath of South Carolina’s rural low country first elected a chief prosecutor 101 years ago, they turned to Robert Murdaugh, elevating him from a one-man law practice to one of the region’s most powerful law enforcement offices. It was the beginning of a legal dynasty: For more than eight decades, until 2006, three generations of the Murdaugh family prosecuted crime across five counties and 3,200 square miles.

But the influential family is now at the center of a gruesome mystery after Alex Murdaugh — a lawyer who is the great-grandson of the first elected prosecutor — found his wife and son shot to death earlier this month at their home in Islandton, an obscure hamlet of 70 people about 65 miles west of Charleston.

The police have made no arrests and have not identified a suspect or a motive, but the killings have fueled speculation about whether the family’s long and tangled history in the region could have a connection to the crime. The case has also put renewed attention on two previous deaths over the past six years, which investigators are reviewing to determine if they are connected to the double homicide.

The son who was killed, Paul Murdaugh, a 22-year-old college student, had been out on bail after being charged in 2019 with drunkenly crashing a boat in an accident that left a 19-year-old passenger dead. And the state police agency that is investigating the Murdaugh killings said this week that the police had learned something — they won’t say what — that prompted them to open a new inquiry into yet another case, the 2015 death of a 19-year-old man. That man, Stephen Smith, was found along a road 10 miles from the Murdaugh home, his death never fully explained.

ny times logoNew York Times, John McAfee, Software Pioneer Turned Fugitive, Dies in Spanish Prison, By William P. Davis, Mary Williams Walsh and Coral Murphy Marcos June 23, 2021.  Mr. McAfee, who has not been associated with the company that bears his name for more than two decades, was fighting extradition to the United States.

John David McAfee, the founder of the antivirus software maker bearing his name, died in a prison in Spain on Wednesday, after a Spanish court said he could be extradited to the United States on tax-evasion charges.

His death was confirmed by his lawyers. He was 75.

After selling his pioneering virus-fighting firm in 1994 and losing most of his fortune during the 2008 financial crisis, Mr. McAfee led a peripatetic life that included a turn to paranoia and a string of arrests around the globe. That all culminated in his detention in Spain in 2020 after prosecutors in the United States accused him of not filing tax returns for several years.

The indictment filed by the Justice Department said Mr. McAfee had earned millions from “promoting cryptocurrencies, consulting work, speaking engagements and selling the rights to his life story for a documentary,” and had tried to avoid taxes by using cryptocurrency and channeling the money through bank accounts. He could have faced prison time if convicted.

Mr. McAfee said he had been arrested despite paying “millions of dollars in taxes” and resisted extradition, claiming he faced political persecution for denouncing corruption in the Internal Revenue Service and opposing the fiat money system, in which central banks like the Federal Reserve control the money supply. But on Wednesday, the Spanish court released its decision to allow the Justice Department’s request to extradite him, saying there was “no supporting evidence that such a thing could be happening.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden administration to back bid to end disparity in drug sentencing, Sean Sullivan and Seung Min Kim, June 23, 2021 (print ed.). The move on crack and powder cocaine reflects how the president’s attitude on drug laws has shifted over his long tenure in elected office.

joe biden black background resized serious fileThe Biden administration plans to endorse legislation that would end the disparity in sentences between crack and powder cocaine offenses that President Biden helped create decades ago, according to people with knowledge of the situation — a step that highlights how Biden’s attitudes on drug laws have shifted over his long tenure in elected office.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, Regina LaBelle, the acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, plans to express the administration's support for the Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law Act, or Equal Act. The legislation, which sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), would eliminate the sentencing disparity and give people who were convicted or sentenced for a federal cocaine offense a resentencing.

Associated Press, Prosecutors say Colorado father killed son because of photos, Staff Report. June 22, 2021. A Colorado father killed his 13-year-old son in 2012 over photographs that triggered a fatal rage, prosecutors argued in court Monday.

Mark Redwine stands trial in the killing of his son Dylan, who disappeared in November 2012 in the Vallecito area near Durango during a court-ordered visit over Thanksgiving break. Redwine told investigators he left Dylan alone at home to run errands and returned to find him missing.

Fred Johnson, special deputy district attorney, suggested that on the night he was killed, Dylan may have mentioned or shown his father “compromising photographs” of Redwine dressed in women’s underwear and eating feces from a diaper, The Denver Post reported.

“A damaged relationship, exposed with compromising photographs, photographs in the hands of a 13-year-old who is disgusted by it, which triggered a violent rage in the defendant,” Johnson said.

Redwine, who has pleaded not guilty, was arrested after a grand jury indicted him in July 2017, accusing him of second-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death. He faces up to 48 years in prison if he’s found guilty of his son’s death.

Redwine’s public defender John Moran argued that text messages show Dylan had previously confronted his father about the photographs during a cross-country trip without suffering any harm.

The case drew nation attention when Redwine and the boy’s mother, Elaine Hall, leveled accusations at each other during appearances on the syndicated “Dr. Phil” television show in 2013. TV host Nancy Grace also did a show Dylan’s disappearance.

Redwine’s day in court was postponed in 2020 and a judge granted several mistrials because of COVID-19 restrictions. The trial is expected to continue through mid-to-late July. Testimony will begin Tuesday.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Ethiopia Killed 80 at Market, Then Barred Ambulances, Officials Say, Simon Marks and Abdi Latif Dahir June 23, 2021. The attack hit a busy market in Tigray, where there has been fierce fighting as Ethiopian forces have pursued the region’s former leaders.

Dozens of people were killed when a government airstrike slammed into a busy market in northern Ethiopia, medics and witnesses said, as fighting intensified in the restive Tigray region where federal forces are struggling to contain a broadening insurgency.

The airstrike appeared to be one of the deadliest single incidents of the eight-month civil war that has sullied the international reputation of Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize winning leader, Abiy Ahmed. The attack was on Tuesday in Togoga, 15 miles west of the Tigrayan regional capital, Mekelle.

A day later, on Wednesday, Tigrayan rebels struck back against the government when fighters shot down an Ethiopian Air Forces C-130 transport plane as it approached Mekelle, causing it to smash into a field about 15 miles south of the city, according to the rebels and witnesses.

It pointed to an intensifying fight in Tigray, where fighters led by Ethiopia’s one-time ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, captured areas south of Mekelle that until recently were controlled by soldiers from Eritrea. The rebels say they have captured several thousand Ethiopian soldiers and were holding them as prisoners of war.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. seizes websites linked to Iranian government propaganda, Devlin Barrett and Kareem Fahim, June 23, 2021. The Justice Department moved Tuesday to seize more than 30 Web domains linked to Iranian state media, as American officials continued their efforts to counter what they say is Iranian propaganda and disinformation at a time of simmering tensions between the two countries.

A number of the domains, including some used by English-language Press TV, an Iranian state-owned news channel, posted notices Tuesday indicating they had been taken down by U.S. authorities. The websites for Al-Alam TV, another Iran-owned news channel that broadcasts in Arabic, and the website for Al-Masirah, a Beirut-based outlet that serves as a mouthpiece for an Iranian-allied rebel group in Yemen, posted similar notices.

Thirty-three websites used by the Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union, and three websites operated by Kataib Hezbollah, were seized, the Justice Department said in a release. The United States imposed sanctions in late 2020 on IRTVU for what it has called the Iranian government’s interference with the U.S. election through disinformation aimed at U.S. voters. Tuesday’s seizures were aimed at those Web domains owned by a U.S. company, which means that the outlets’ webpages operating on non-American domains are still functioning.

ny times logospain flag CustomNew York Times, Spain Pardons Jailed Catalan Separatist Leaders, Nicholas Casey, June 23, 2021 (print ed.). Spain approved pardons for the group’s involvement in a failed attempt to form a breakaway state in Catalonia, a major olive branch in the conflict. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Australia’s runaway mouse plague targets prisons, forcing mass evacuation, Jennifer Hassan, June 23, 2021 (print ed.). The mice aren’t just causing chaos in homes, farms and hospitals. Australia has a mouse problem. A plague, in fact. A mass invasion occurs every decade or so, wreaking havoc across communities and destroying the crops and stock of farmers who are worried about what the future holds for their livelihoods.

australian flag wavingUntold numbers of the critters are running rampant along the country’s Eastern grain belt, demolishing crops, sabotaging homes and forcing concerned farmers to create makeshift traps to slow down the rodents, which are able to reproduce at an alarming rate.

 

June 22

Top Headlines

 

Jan. 6 Insurrection Day Trump Watch

 

Justice Dept. Accountability

 

Virus Victims, Responses

   

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

 

World News

 

U.S. Jobs, Economy, Race

 

Top Stories

Destroyed Murtha federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995 (Photo via ABC News).

Destroyed Murtha federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995 (Photo via ABC News).

washington post logoWashington Post, In Oklahoma, the 1995 bombing offers lessons — and warnings — for today’s fight against extremism, Hannah Allam, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). Many Oklahomans are alarmed to see terrorist Timothy McVeigh’s far-right ideology spread in the state he attacked, while a political class that is increasingly dominated by those who rarely speak against extremism or, worse, promote it.

Talking about political violence is especially fraught this year, as Oklahoma faces its long-buried history of racial bloodshed. This is the centennial of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, when a White mob razed a prosperous Black district in what President Biden called “an act of hate and domestic terrorism.”

An hour outside of Tulsa, Leonardo DiCaprio and other Hollywood stars are filming a movie about the “Reign of Terror,” when wealthy Osage Native Americans were killed in the 1920s.

Many Oklahoma educators, activists and politicians view this moment as an opportunity to confront historical violence in an unflinching way that serves as a national model. The same goes, they said, for sharing lessons from the Oklahoma City bombing, which is getting renewed attention under Attorney General Merrick Garland, who oversaw the criminal investigation and is now leading a reinvigorated fight against domestic terrorism at the Justice Department. In a speech this month, Garland cited the Tulsa and Oklahoma City attacks as inspiration for the Biden administration’s revamped domestic terrorism strategy.

“The people who live in Oklahoma City have a special obligation to figure out what are the paths out of that type of extremism, because we know where it leads,” said Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt, an anti-Trump Republican. “Ultimately, it leads to violence.”

Vice News, Ex-Marine and Neo-Nazi Told Followers How to Shoot Truckers to Dismantle Supply Chain, Ben Makuch, June 22, 2021. The four-year military veteran, who recently encouraged his followers to move to Maine to start a white ethnostate, said his comments were showing a hypothetical scenario where 25 shooters could bring the U.S. “to its knees.”

The ex-Marine who is attempting to lead a mass migration of neo-Nazis to Maine to create a white ethnostate, a project he described in peaceful terms, once told followers how to target and shoot truckers in sniper operations.

The streamed video, obtained by VICE News through an antifascist researcher, shows Chris Pohlhaus, 34, a four-year veteran of the Marine Corps, sitting behind a Confederate flag describing in detail how his followers could undertake the operation that could theoretically and easily disrupt the United States’ supply chain.

“It’s easy to stop trucks. You don’t need anybody; you barely need anyone. Twenty-five dudes,” Pohlhaus said in the video from August 2020. “Twenty-five dudes trained with a (rifle).”

“Each one of those guys shoots and moves and hides, shoots two truckers a day. That’s 50 truckers (shot) every day.”
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Pohlhaus commands a Telegram channel of thousands of followers. He often presses people to arm themselves and adheres to the violent political ideology of accelerationism, which preaches terrorism to hasten the collapse of world governments and is widely adopted by a hardcore stratum of the far-right that believes in a fantasy race war.

Pohlhaus denied telling followers to shoot truckers and said the full context of the video was discussing historical hypotheticals involving whether epic figures like Genghis Khan or Alexander the Great could conquer the modern world. He said the trucker analogy was meant to show that it’s easy to attack a society he considers on the brink of demise.

“The illustration was meant to show the fragility of the system currently because only 2 percent of people actually produce food and the supply lines are entirely too long and overly complicated,” he said in a text exchange with VICE News. “This system is incredibly fragile, and what I did was show a way 25 men could bring it completely to its knees. And I am right, as always. They could.

“It is only a matter of time before something happens and this fragile little world falls apart. You need to come to terms with this reality and prepare for the absolute hell that is coming for us.”

In recent months, Pohlhaus coordinated a national counterprotest on the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder and has been calling for followers to move to Maine, an overwhelmingly white state with favorable gun laws, to arm up and prepare for the “collapse” of society. (He told VICE News that his planned migration is simply him “trying to build a community of family men.”)

While hyper-violent neo-Nazi terrorist groups like The Base and Atomwaffen Division have always believed in accelerationism as a founding doctrine, in recent years the ideology has bled further into the mainstream among neo-Nazis like Pohlhaus, who operate openly. It also is yet another example of a military veteran, with soldiering tradecraft and years of training from the U.S. military, sharing their knowledge with like-minded individuals online. The mob attack on Capitol Hill in January, for example, consisted of many veterans and active-duty soldiers.

washington post logoncaa logoWashington Post, Justices rule against NCAA limits on some school perks for student-athletes, Robert Barnes and Molly Hensley-Clancy, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). The NCAA had contested a lower-court ruling that would allow colleges to offer greater academic-related perks to Division I football and men’s and women’s basketball players.

  • Washington Post, High school sports will feel impact of athlete branding changes. For some, that’s cause for concern.

ny times logoNew York Times, Saudi Operatives Who Killed Khashoggi Received Paramilitary Training in U.S., Mark Mazzetti, Julian E. Barnes and Michael LaForgia, June 22, 2021. The training, approved by the State Department, underscores the perils of military partnerships with repressive governments.

Four Saudis who participated in the 2018 killing of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, right, received paramilitary training in the United States the previous year under a contract approved by jamal khashoggi march 2018 croppedthe State Department, according to documents and people familiar with the arrangement.

The instruction occurred as the secret unit responsible for Mr. Khashoggi’s killing was beginning an extensive campaign of kidnapping, detention and torture of Saudi citizens ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, left, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, to crush dissent inside the kingdom.

mohammad bin salman cropped file smallThe training was provided by the Arkansas-based security company Tier 1 Group, which is owned by the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management. The company says the training — including “safe marksmanship” and “countering an attack” — was defensive in nature and devised to better protect Saudi leaders. One person familiar with the training said it also included work in surveillance and close-quarters battle.

There is no evidence that the American officials who approved the training or Tier 1 Group executives knew that the Saudis were involved in the crackdown inside Saudi Arabia. But the fact that the government approved high-level military training for operatives who went on to carry out the grisly killing of a journalist shows how intensely intertwined the United States has become with an autocratic nation even as its agents committed horrific human rights abuses.

It also underscores the perils of military partnerships with repressive governments and demonstrates how little oversight exists for those forces after they return home.

Such issues are likely to continue as American private military contractors increasingly look to foreign clients to shore up their business as the United States scales back overseas deployments after two decades of war.

The State Department initially granted a license for the paramilitary training of the Saudi Royal Guard to Tier 1 Group starting in 2014, during the Obama administration. The training continued during at least the first year of former President Donald J. Trump’s term.

Louis Bremer, a senior executive of Cerberus, Tier 1 Group’s parent company, confirmed his company’s role in the training last year in written answers to questions from lawmakers as part of his nomination for a top Pentagon job during the Trump administration.

The administration does not appear to have sent the document to Congress before withdrawing Mr. Bremer’s nomination; lawmakers never received answers to their questions.

In the document, which Mr. Bremer provided to The New York Times, he said that four members of the Khashoggi kill team had received Tier 1 Group training in 2017, and two of them had participated in a previous iteration of the training, which went from October 2014 until January 2015.

 

Trump Watch

Proof via Substack, Investigative Report and Commentary: A Fire Set on January 5 Outside the Willard Hotel May Have Helped Spark the Bloody Events of January 6, Seth Abramson, left, June 22, 2021.  seth abramson graphicThe outcry from insurrectionists Owen Shroyer and David Harris at Proof's report on the setting of a fire outside the Willard on January 5 underscores that the previously unreported event is critical.

Introduction: A deliberately set, accelerant-aided fire outside the Willard Hotel on Insurrection Eve has revealed itself to be noteworthy for several reasons.

seth abramson proof logoNot only was it a dangerous, visually spectacular, and illegal Proud Boy-linked event that occurred during a period of 48 hours in which the seat of the American government came under armed assault by that particular white supremacist organization; not only did it feature a small gang of notable insurrectionists, including at least one Proud Boy later arrested by the FBI for breaching the U.S. Capitol on January 6; but it’s been acknowledged by Trumpists as a dramatically invigorating event that occurred just twenty minutes before a near-riot at Black Lives Matter Plaza in D.C. on January 5.

The next day, incited and led—respectively—by the very entities behind the Willard Hotel fire, InfoWars and the Proud Boys, armed insurrectionists brutally attacked and overran the Capitol building.

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Sues N.Y.C. for Ending Golf Course Contract After Capitol Riot, Jonah E. Bromwich, June 22, 2021 (print ed.).  The Trump Organization, which had a 20-year contract to operate a public golf course in the Bronx, claims it was unfairly targeted.

washington post logo

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Trump's connection to the KGB highlighted in full-page ads in 1987, Wayne Madsen, left (author and former Navy Intelligence officer and NSA analyst), June 21, 2021. Donald Trump's role as an intelligence asset for the wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallSoviet Committee for State Security (KGB) and Czechoslovak State Security (StB) in the 1970s and 80s was revealed in WMR's August 19, 2020 article, "Trump likely a KGB/Czechoslovak StB intelligence asset as early as 1976."

wayne madesen report logoFurther information revealed to The Guardian of the UK by former KGB agent Yuri Shvets indicates that the Trump Organization's full-page ad run in the September 2, 1987 editions of The New York Times, Washington Post and Boston Globe was actually crafted and paid for by the KGB.

At a critical time for U.S. foreign policy, with the Soviet bloc showing significant signs of unraveling and Iran posing a threat to shipping in the Persian Gulf, Trump's full-page ad was titled "There's nothing wrong with America's Foreign Defense Policy that a little backbone can't cure."

The current probe of the Trump Organization's finances, particularly the firm's longtime chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, by the Manhattan District Attorney's office, may yield information on Trump's receipt of KGB financing for the three newspaper ads and other purposes via a KGB business front on Fifth Avenue, Joy-Lud electronics store, run by Soviet Ukrainian emigré Semyon Kislin, a "spotter agent" or recruiter for the KGB.

 

Justice Dept. Accountability

washington post logoWashington Post, Garland tries to untangle the Trump legacy at Justice Dept., Devlin Barrett, June 22, 2021 (print ed.. Merrick Garland has been criticized by some Democrats over recent legal decisions, but the new attorney general insists he is plotting a straight course.

merrick garlandThree months into his new job, judge-turned-attorney general Merrick Garland, who inherited a demoralized and politicized Justice Department, is facing criticism from some Democrats that he is not doing enough to quickly expunge Trump-era policies and practices.

On a host of issues ranging from leak investigations to civil and criminal cases involving former president Donald Trump, Garland has been beset by a growing chorus of Justice Department log circularcongressional second-guessers, even as he insists he is scrupulously adhering to the principles of equal justice under the law.

How he charts his way through the current controversies and still-unresolved politically sensitive cases is likely to determine how much of a long-term impact the Trump presidency has on the Justice Department.

“It’s a difficult situation to navigate. The Department of Justice is an institution like an ocean liner — it doesn’t turn around easily,” said Ronald Weich, who served as an assistant attorney general in the early days of the Obama administration.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

Roll Call, White House concedes it will fall short of Biden’s July 4 vaccination goal, Ariel Cohen and Niels Lesniewski, June 22, 2021. Younger adults' slow approach to vaccination raises risks. The White House will fall short of its goal of getting at least 70 percent of the adult population partially vaccinated by July 4, White House officials announced Tuesday, largely because younger adults are refusing the COVID-19 shot.

The administration has hit its 70 percent partially vaccinated target for Americans ages 30 and older and is expected to reach that threshold for Americans ages 27 and older by July 4, said Jeff Zients, jeffrey zients o obama national economic councilright, the head of the White House COVID-19 response team. But it will take a few more weeks to get Americans ages 18 to 26 up to that level.

“The reality is, many younger Americans have felt like COVID-19 is not something that impacts them and have been less eager to get the shot,” Zients told reporters on Tuesday. NBC News first reported the delay.

The White House still is planning a celebration for the holiday weekend featuring health care workers and members of the military. Zients said President Joe Biden will host about 1,000 people on the White House lawn.

Members of the administration have been crisscrossing the country to promote the vaccination campaign. On Tuesday, first lady Jill Biden is scheduled to join Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., for a tour of a vaccination site in Jackson, Miss. Then the first lady will head north to Nashville, Tenn., for a similar event with country music star Brad Paisley at the Ole Smokey Distillery.

Vaccine clinics at places like breweries and distilleries, as well as incentives for getting the vaccines, have had some success, but the White House plans to double down on its efforts to reach younger populations.

“We are not stopping at 70 percent, and we are not stopping on July 4,” Zients said.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said the ultimate goal is “crushing the outbreak completely in the United States.” This will require an intense focus on convincing unvaccinated younger people to get the shot.

Fauci said highly contagious virus variants could spread rapidly among unvaccinated individuals. But Fauci also predicted that any resurgence this fall will be limited to regional pockets where vaccination rates are low.

The country is now averaging 10,350 new COVID cases per day over the past week, a decrease of nearly 18 percent over the prior seven-week average. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said that deaths also continue to decrease, averaging 270 per day.

Young adults in Generation Z have been among the most vaccine-hesitant groups in America and, unlike people in other age groups, their reluctance to get the shot has increased over time.

The young and healthy were not prioritized for vaccinations in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many young adults said they didn’t see a need to rush as they watched case numbers fall, mask restrictions let up and life begin to return to normal.

The Biden administration recently began to take notice of the younger generation’s reluctance, and Biden encouraged young adults to get the shot.

“For young people who may think this doesn’t affect you, listen up, please: This virus, even a mild case, can be with you for months. It will impact on your social life,” Biden said earlier this month. “It could have long-term implications for your health.”

Public health experts caution that even though younger adults have a lower risk of contracting serious disease from COVID-19, remaining unvaccinated could have serious consequences for those who have lingering effects, known as “long COVID.”

The unvaccinated also further the spread of the virus and fuel new variants.

“If we get vaccinated now, it's hard for the new strains to get in here, but if they're in here and ... really are easy to transmit, then there's more of a risk,” said Arthur Caplan, a professor of bioethics at New York University Langone Medical Center.

The highly contagious delta variant, which first originated in India, has infected many young people, but Amesh Adalja, a physician and a Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security senior scholar, says this is because more young people are unvaccinated, not because the variant specifically targets young people’s immune systems.

washington post logoWashington Post, 177.6 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 22, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 150.4 million people (45.3 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 53.5 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 22, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 179,635,172, Deaths: 3,890,556
U.S. Cases:     34,419,838, Deaths:    617,463
India Cases:    29,977,861, Deaths:    389,302
Brazil Cases:   17,969,806, Deaths:    502,817

washington post logoWashington Post, Book offers fresh details about chaos, conflicts in Trump pandemic response, Dan Diamond, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). At one point, the president mused about transferring infected American citizens in Asia to Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, as White House officials debated whether to bring infected Americans home for care, President Donald Trump suggested his own plan for where to send them, eager to suppress the numbers on U.S. soil.

“Don’t we have an island that we own?” the president reportedly asked those assembled in the Situation Room in February 2020, before the U.S. outbreak would explode. “What about Guantánamo?”

“We import goods,” Trump specified, lecturing his staff. “We are not going to import a virus.”

Aides were stunned, and when Trump brought it up a second time, they quickly scuttled the idea, worried about a backlash over quarantining American tourists on the same Caribbean base where the United States holds terrorism suspects.

Such insider conversations are among the revelations in Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic That Changed History, a new book by Washington Post journalists Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Paletta that captures the dysfunctional response to the unfolding pandemic.

The book offers new insights about Trump as the president careened between embracing miracle coronavirus cures in his quest for good news, grappling with his own illness — which was far more serious than officials acknowledged — and fretting about the outbreak’s implications for his reelection bid.

CNNCNN, A coronavirus outbreak hit a Florida government building. Two people are dead but a vaccinated employee wasn't infected, Jamiel Lynch, June 22, 2021. Two people are dead and four of their coworkers were hospitalized after a Covid-19 outbreak swept through a government building in Manatee County, Florida.

The outbreak began in the IT department, according to Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes, who is also an epidemiologist. Another person who worked on the same floor but in a different department also tested positive for coronavirus last week.

The only exposed employee in the IT office who was vaccinated did not get infected, Hopes said.

"The clinical presentation gives me concern that we're dealing with a very infectious variant that is quite deadly," Hopes told Burnett.

The government building was closed on Friday as a precaution. It reopened Monday but officials didn't implement a mask requirement, instead keeping them optional.Hopes said he's encouraging workers who aren't vaccinated to wear a mask and the county is making them available to employees and visitors.

"Clearly masks work, but the vaccine is more important at this point," Hopes said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Philippines’ Duterte threatens to arrest anyone refusing to get vaccinated, Regine Cabato, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). While vaccinations remain voluntary in the country, the president’s spokesman said that could change.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to arrest anyone who refuses to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, as the country grapples with both vaccine hesitancy and a lack of supplies.

rodrigo duterte philippines president“I will order their arrest,” Duterte, left, said late Monday. “To protect the people, I have to sequester you in jail. Now choose — get vaccinated, or I’ll lock you up in a cell.”

“If you don’t want to be vaccinated, I’ll have you arrested and have the vaccine shot into your [buttocks],” he said, using a vulgar term.

philippines flagHe also expressed impatience with any kind of anti-vaccine sentiment, suggesting that if people felt that way, they should leave.

“If you don’t get vaccinated, leave the Philippines. Go to India if you want, or somewhere, America,” he added.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra clarified Tuesday that refusing vaccination was not against the law.

washington post logoWashington Post, Wuhan lab’s classified work complicates search for pandemic’s origins, Eva Dou, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). The Wuhan lab has drawn global scrutiny because of its research on bat coronaviruses in the city where the pandemic began. The events have shined a light on a research niche that — in China, the United States and elsewhere — operates with heightened secrecy because of the national security risks of handling deadly pathogens.

washington post logoWashington Post, Coronavirus cases surge in Cornwall, England, after G-7 summit, sparking fury, Miriam Berger, June 22, 2021. Coronavirus cases are rising in Cornwall — but Downing Street says the Group of Seven summit held in the British town earlier this month is not to blame.

The seven-day case rate in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has soared from 4.9 per 100,000 people in early June to 130.6 per 100,000 people on June 16, the Guardian reported. Rates of infections are particularly high in Carbis Bay, where the summit was held, and several nearby areas where delegates to the gathering of world leaders stayed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesperson on Monday denied any direct causation between the G-7 summit — with its influx of journalists, police officers and support staff — and the rise in coronavirus infection rates.

“We are confident that there were no cases of transmission to the local residents,” the unidentified spokesperson told the Guardian. “All attendees were tested, everyone involved in the G-7 work were also tested during their work on the summit.”

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

djt bible doug mills nyt june 1 2020 st johns

Then-President Trump shown on June 1, 2020 outside the parish rectory of St. John’s Episcopal Church, which was damaged during a night of unrest near the White House (Photo Credit: Doug Mills/The New York Times). “He did not pray,” said Mariann E. Budde, the Episcopal bishop of Washington. “He did not mention George Floyd, he did not mention the agony of people who have been subjected to this kind of horrific expression of racism and white supremacy for hundreds of years.”

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. judge tosses most claims against Trump in clearing of Lafayette Square, Spencer S. Hsu, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). Dabney L. Friedrich of Washington called allegations that federal officials conspired to enable a photo op of President Donald Trump holding a Bible too speculative.

A U.S. judge on Monday dismissed most claims filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of D.C., Black Lives Matter and others in lawsuits that accused the Trump administration of authorizing an unprovoked attack on demonstrators in Lafayette Square last year.

dabney friedrich nbcThe plaintiffs asserted the government used unnecessary force to enable a photo op of President Donald Trump holding a Bible outside of the historical St. John’s Church. But U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich of Washington, right, called allegations that federal officials conspired to make way for the photo too speculative.

The judge’s decision came in a 51-page opinion after the Justice Department requested she toss four overlapping lawsuits naming dozens of federal individual and agency defendants, as well as D.C. and Arlington police, in the June 2020 incident.

Friedrich also ruled that federal defendants such as then-Attorney General William P. Barr and then-acting Park Police chief Gregory T. Monahan are immune from civil suits and could not be sued for damages, and that Black Lives Matter as a group could not show it was directly injured by actions against individual demonstrators.

The judge did allow litigation to go forward challenging federal restrictions on protests and other First Amendment activity at Lafayette Square across from the White House, and against local D.C. and Arlington County police agencies that supported the operation.

The lawsuits stem from confrontations last June when military personnel along with federal and local law enforcement officers forcibly cleared the square. Officials used batons, clubs and spray and fired projectiles as more than 1,000 largely peaceful demonstrators gathered to protest the killing of George Floyd. Images of violence before Trump made his way to the church drew a national backlash and the nation’s top military official later apologized for walking with Trump before television cameras that day.

washington post logoWashington Post, Appeals court blocks federal judge’s ruling to overturn California’s assault weapons ban, Timothy Bella, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). A three-judge panel in a one-page order on Monday issued a stay of the June 4 order from U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez of the Southern District of California, in which he likened an AR-15 rifle to a Swiss Army knife.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has blocked a federal judge’s ruling overturning California’s longtime ban on assault weapons, in which he likened an AR-15 to a Swiss Army knife.

A three-judge panel in a one-page order on Monday issued a stay of the June 4 order from U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez of the Southern District of California, in which the judge ruled that sections of the state ban in place since 1989 regarding military-style rifles are unconstitutional.

Senior Circuit Court Judge Barry G. Silverman, Circuit Judge Jacqueline H. Nguyen and Circuit Judge Ryan D. Nelson wrote that the stay will remain in place pending the outcome of another case challenging the ban. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden administration to back bid to end disparity in drug sentencing, Sean Sullivan and Seung Min Kim, June 22, 2021. The move on crack and powder cocaine reflects how the president’s attitude on drug laws has shifted over his long tenure in elected office.

joe biden black background resized serious fileThe Biden administration plans to endorse legislation that would end the disparity in sentences between crack and powder cocaine offenses that President Biden helped create decades ago, according to people with knowledge of the situation — a step that highlights how Biden’s attitudes on drug laws have shifted over his long tenure in elected office.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, Regina LaBelle, the acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, plans to express the administration's support for the Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law Act, or Equal Act. The legislation, which sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), would eliminate the sentencing disparity and give people who were convicted or sentenced for a federal cocaine offense a resentencing. 

djt michael cohenPalmer Report, Opinion: New York prosecutors are now closing in on Donald Trump from all sides, Bill Palmer, June 22, 2021. When it comes to the criminal justice proceedings in New York that are now playing out against Donald Trump and the Trump Organization, it’s important to keep two things in mind as a baseline. First, Michael Cohen (above left)) – who has met with Manhattan prosecutors more than ten times regarding the case – has publicly stated that there’s more than enough evidence to take Trump down whether anyone flips on him or not. Second, the way these kinds of proceedings always work is that prosecutors try to flip as many people as possible, in order to have them pile on for good measure.

It’s within this context that things have suddenly gotten really interesting in the past 24 hours. First came the story about prosecutors closing in on Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg (below right). Then bill palmer report logo headercame the story about prosecutors closing in on Trump Organization COO Matthew Calamari. This one-two punch makes two things clear.

allen weisselberg croppedFirst, Manhattan prosecutors are targeting everyone under Donald Trump in order to try to get one or more of them to flip on Trump. If they’re simultaneously squeezing the CFO and COO of Trump’s company, then they’re surely squeezing everyone in between. And keep in mind that a lower ranking Trump Organization official, Jeff McConney, has already testified to the grand jury. This means that, by legal definition in New York, he got immunity in exchange for testifying to the grand jury. It makes you wonder who else may have jumped at the chance to get automatic immunity by testifying in this case.

Second, the Manhattan criminal probe has clearly reached the point where prosecutors are ready to begin having the grand jury issue criminal indictments against Trump’s underlings who don’t flip. Yesterday’s media blitz feels like a last call for those who want to cut a deal. That doesn’t mean indictments will start coming down tomorrow, or this week. The legal process doesn’t move that swiftly. But it was reported last week that the Weisselberg indictment could come “this summer” – and we are now officially two days into summer.

The upshot is this. Regardless of how much evidence New York prosecutors have amassed against Donald Trump – and Cohen says they have more than enough – they’re in the process of squeezing everyone in Trump’s life in order to build the most bulletproof criminal case possible. They’ve got Cohen, McConney and perhaps others. They want Weisselberg, Calamari, and surely others. They’re going to indict and arrest whoever necessary in order to complete the job of nailing Donald Trump – and they’re closing in on him from all sides.

Associated Press, Prosecutors say Colorado father killed son because of photos, Staff Report. A Colorado father killed his 13-year-old son in 2012 over photographs that triggered a fatal rage, prosecutors argued in court Monday.

Mark Redwine stands trial in the killing of his son Dylan, who disappeared in November 2012 in the Vallecito area near Durango during a court-ordered visit over Thanksgiving break. Redwine told investigators he left Dylan alone at home to run errands and returned to find him missing.

Fred Johnson, special deputy district attorney, suggested that on the night he was killed, Dylan may have mentioned or shown his father “compromising photographs” of Redwine dressed in women’s underwear and eating feces from a diaper, The Denver Post reported.

“A damaged relationship, exposed with compromising photographs, photographs in the hands of a 13-year-old who is disgusted by it, which triggered a violent rage in the defendant,” Johnson said.

Redwine, who has pleaded not guilty, was arrested after a grand jury indicted him in July 2017, accusing him of second-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death. He faces up to 48 years in prison if he’s found guilty of his son’s death.

Redwine’s public defender John Moran argued that text messages show Dylan had previously confronted his father about the photographs during a cross-country trip without suffering any harm.

The case drew nation attention when Redwine and the boy’s mother, Elaine Hall, leveled accusations at each other during appearances on the syndicated “Dr. Phil” television show in 2013. TV host Nancy Grace also did a show Dylan’s disappearance.

Redwine’s day in court was postponed in 2020 and a judge granted several mistrials because of COVID-19 restrictions. The trial is expected to continue through mid-to-late July. Testimony will begin Tuesday.

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Adams Leads in N.Y.C. Mayoral Primary as First Results Stream In, Staff Reports, June 22, 2021. Yang Concedes; Final Race Call Is Not Expected for Weeks.

eric adamsEric Adams, right, was leading in early returns of the Democratic primary for New York mayor, with Maya Wiley and Kathryn Garcia behind him. Andrew Yang, a former front-runner, dropped out after a disappointing finish. Curtis Sliwa won the G.O.P. primary.

The embattled mayor of Rochester, who had been under indictment, loses handily. Lovely Warren, the scandal-plagued mayor of Rochester, N.Y., who is under indictment and has faced repeated calls for her resignation, was defeated by a wide margin on Tuesday night in the Democratic primary. The victor was Malik Evans, a city councilman, who was declared the winner by The Associated Press.

washington post logoWashington Post, New Yorkers vote in primaries for mayor after a race dominated by crime and coronavirus recovery, Jada Yuan and David Weigel, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). Visualize how ranked-choice voting could change the way democracy works

Democrats in America’s largest city will pick a nominee Tuesday to succeed Mayor Bill de Blasio after a campaign shaped by a surge in violent crime and a debate about how the places hardest hit during the coronavirus pandemic can recover.

“New city, new vision, new mind-set,” Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams told voters at a Sunday rally in Inwood, a largely Dominican neighborhood in Manhattan. “We are going to finally end the institutional poverty in our city. We’re going to become a safe, fair, affordable city. We will get the justice we deserve with the safety we need.”

Adams, a 60-year-old retired police captain and former state legislator, has become the dominant figure in a race where sexual misconduct allegations, a campaign staff revolt and even a debate question about real estate prices knocked other candidates off course. In public polls, he has charged ahead of 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang, 46, who has attacked Adams as a corrupt insider who won’t deliver real change.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Only the Women Can Save Us Now, New York, Michelle Goldberg, June 22, 2021. Both men leading the Democratic mayoral primary are disasters. Last week I wrote about michelle goldberg thumbwhy I thought Eric Adams is very marginally preferable to Andrew Yang in New York City’s Democratic mayoral primary. Yang is likable, and I can see why people have gravitated to his sunny vision of a vibrant, business-friendly city.

But electing a totally inexperienced mayor buoyed by hedge fund billionaires and singularly focused on public order seems potentially calamitous. Not because public order isn’t important — everyone wants a safe city — but because it has to be balanced with a commitment to justice.

An Adams mayoralty would likely be pretty terrible. He has a penchant for dishonesty and demagogy, and both were on full display when he accused Yang and Kathryn Garcia of racism because they had the temerity to join forces against him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Politics: Senate to vote on whether to begin debate on voting rights bill, Colby Itkowitz, June 22, 2021. Senate to vote on OPM nominee after GOP senators blocked her over critical race theory and abortion rights stances; Obama throws his weight behind Sen. Manchin’s modified voting rights proposal.

  • The Senate votes Tuesday on whether to advance a sweeping voting rights package, with Republicans poised to use the filibuster to block the legislation. Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), who opposes the bill as it is now, may still support this procedural step to start debating it. Manchin has offered a compromise that has the support of former president Barack Obama. The vote is expected around 5:30 p.m.
  • The White House, meanwhile, continues its behind-the-scenes push to secure a bipartisan deal on infrastructure and plans to invite senators to meet with President Biden to discuss it this week.
  • The president has a meeting in the afternoon with Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell to discuss how the agency is preparing for natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires this summer.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Manchin got Republicans to admit to the ‘big lie.’ Democrats should celebrate, Catherine Rampell, right, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). Credit where due to Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-catherine rampellW.Va.): The media seems to have missed it, but last week he got Republicans to admit to the “big lie.” Whatever his Democratic colleagues’ other beefs with him, they should celebrate this achievement.

Dick ShelbyOn Wednesday, Manchin, left, did something very clever when he offered a compromise on election-reform legislation.

In a memo, Manchin proposed building upon parts of the For the People Act and a narrower bill, known as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, with a few amendments.

His proposal would make Election Day a public holiday, require two weeks of early voting, automatically register voters through motor vehicle departments and eliminate partisan gerrymandering. It’s not everything Democrats want — and has some oversights — but it addresses most of the party’s goals for promoting free and fair elections.Advertisement

Perhaps more important, from a political standpoint: Manchin’s compromise completely undercuts Republicans’ case for blocking reform.

It does this by including new requirements to safeguard election security, which is — or was — the top priority of Republicans concerned by “questions” the 2020 election supposedly raised.

krysten sinema vote thumb

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We have more to lose than gain by ending the filibuster, Krysten Sinema, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). Kyrsten Sinema, shown above voting "thumbs down" against a $15 kyrsten sinema ominimum wage and at right, a Democrat, represents Arizona in the U.S. Senate. 

Arizonans expect me to do what I promised when I ran for the House and the Senate: to be independent — like Arizona — and to work with anyone to achieve lasting results. The best way to achieve durable, lasting results? Bipartisan cooperation.

Since I was elected to Congress, a bipartisan approach has produced laws curbing suicide among our troops and veterans, boosting American manufacturing, delivering for Native American communities, combating hate crimes, and protecting public lands.

It’s no secret that I oppose eliminating the Senate’s 60-vote threshold. I held the same view during three terms in the U.S. House, and said the same after I was elected to the Senate in 2018. If anyone expected me to reverse my position because my party now controls the Senate, they should know that my approach to legislating in Congress is the same whether in the minority or majority.

Once in a majority, it is tempting to believe you will stay in the majority. But a Democratic Senate minority used the 60-vote threshold just last year to filibuster a police reform proposal and a covid-relief bill that many Democrats viewed as inadequate. Those filibusters were mounted not as attempts to block progress, but to force continued negotiations toward better solutions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Kyrsten Sinema accidentally reveals the huge hole in her filibuster defense, Greg Sargent, June 22, 2021. As one of the last Democratic holdouts against filibuster reform, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) is making big news with an op-ed in The Post laying out her rationale. Some of its central pronouncements have already been debunked: Despite her claims otherwise, the filibuster does not facilitate moderation or bipartisan cooperation.

Sinema’s own treatment of these questions inadvertently serves to reveal that a choice must inevitably be made between the two — and that Sinema is choosing the filibuster over defending democracy.

Imagine a world in which legislative majorities could pass voting restrictions over the objections of minorities!

Oh, wait, we already live in that world. In state after state after state, voting restrictions of all kinds are being passed into law by Republican-controlled legislative majorities, over the objections of minorities. Crucially, this is happening almost exclusively on partisan lines.

washington post logoWashington Post, If Republicans block a compromise voting-rights bill, reform the filibuster, Editorial Board, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). Mr. Manchin’s reforms deserve a full hearing and an up-or-down vote. If his proposal does not get its due, Democrats should consider reforming the filibuster.

There is no shortage of ideas about how to adjust the procedural maneuver without abolishing it, such as demanding that minority senators show up to sustain their filibusters; requiring three-fifths of present and voting senators to end a filibuster, rather than three-fifths of all senators; or reducing the number of votes needed to overcome filibusters. These are just a few possibilities.

 

World News

imran khan pakistan pm

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Pakistan is ready to be a partner for peace in Afghanistan, but we will not host U.S. bases, Imran Khan, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). Imran Khan is the prime minister of Pakistan. Pakistan is ready to be a partner for peace in Afghanistan with the United States — but as U.S. troops withdraw, we will avoid risking further conflict.

Our countries have the same interest in that long-suffering country: a political settlement, stability, economic development and the denial of any haven for terrorists. We oppose any military takeover of Afghanistan, which will lead only to decades of civil war, as the Taliban cannot win over the whole of the country, and yet must be included in any government for it to succeed.

In the past, Pakistan made a mistake by choosing between warring Afghan parties, but we have learned from that experience. We have no favorites and will work with any government that enjoys the confidence of the Afghan people. History proves that Afghanistan can never be controlled from the outside.

Our country has suffered so much from the wars in Afghanistan. More than 70,000 Pakistanis have been killed. While the United States provided $20 billion in aid, losses to the Pakistani economy have exceeded $150 billion. Tourism and investment dried up. After joining the U.S. effort, Pakistan was targeted as a collaborator, leading to terrorism against our country from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and other groups. U.S. drone attacks, which I warned against, didn’t win the war, but they did create hatred for Americans, swelling the ranks of terrorist groups against both our countries.

pakistan flag wavingWhile I argued for years that there was no military solution in Afghanistan, the United States pressured Pakistan for the very first time to send our troops into the semiautonomous tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, in the false expectation that it would end the insurgency. It didn’t, but it did internally displace half the population of the tribal areas, 1 million people in North Waziristan alone, with billions of dollars of damage done and whole villages destroyed. The “collateral” damage to civilians in that incursion led to suicide attacks against the Pakistani army, killing many more soldiers than the United States lost in Afghanistan and Iraq combined, while breeding even more terrorism against us. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province alone, 500 Pakistani policemen were murdered.

There are more than 3 million Afghan refugees in our country — if there is further civil war, instead of a political settlement, there will be many more refugees, destabilizing and further impoverishing the frontier areas on our border. Most of the Taliban are from the Pashtun ethnic group — and more than half the Pashtuns live on our side of the border. We are even now fencing this historically open border almost completely.Advertisement

If Pakistan were to agree to host U.S. bases, from which to bomb Afghanistan, and an Afghan civil war ensued, Pakistan would be targeted for revenge by terrorists again. We simply cannot afford this. We have already paid too heavy a price. Meanwhile, if the United States, with the most powerful military machine in history, couldn’t win the war from inside Afghanistan after 20 years, how would America do it from bases in our country?

I believe that promoting economic connectivity and regional trade is the key to lasting peace and security in Afghanistan. Further military action is futile. If we share this responsibility, Afghanistan, once synonymous with the “Great Game” and regional rivalries, could instead emerge as a model of regional cooperation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran’s Raisi says ballistic missiles, regional presence ‘not negotiable’ — and he doesn’t want to meet Biden, Erin Cunningham, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). Iran’s President-elect Ebrahim Raisi, a cleric and former judiciary chief, is a hardline conservative who enjoyed the backing of Iran’s supreme leader and allied security services in last week’s presidential elections.

ebrahim raisi smile facebookIran’s President-elect Ebrahim Raisi, right, is opposed to talks that would limit Tehran’s ballistic missile program or support for regional proxy forces, the new hard line leader said in remarks Monday.

Speaking at his first news conference in the capital, Raisi, who was elected Friday, also said that he is not willing to meet President Biden, even as the two sides work to revive the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

Iran FlagWhen asked by a reporter if he was willing to meet the U.S. president, Raisi simply said: “No.” He added that Iran’s ballistic missiles and regional presence are also “not negotiable.”

Raisi, a cleric and former judiciary chief, is a hard line conservative who enjoyed the backing of Iran’s supreme leader and allied security services in last week’s presidential elections. His victory marks a shift from the more reform-minded presidency of Hassan Rouhani, a moderate pragmatist who favored engagement with the West.

Preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapon is ‘paramount priority,’ national security adviser says.

ny times logospain flag CustomNew York Times, Spain Pardons Jailed Catalan Separatist Leaders, Nicholas Casey, June 22, 2021. Spain approved pardons for the group’s involvement in a failed attempt to form a breakaway state in Catalonia, a major olive branch in the conflict. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Australia’s runaway mouse plague targets prisons, forcing mass evacuation, Jennifer Hassan, June 22, 2021. The mice aren’t just causing chaos in homes, farms and hospitals. Australia has a mouse problem. A plague, in fact. A mass invasion occurs every decade or so, wreaking havoc across communities and destroying the crops and stock of farmers who are worried about what the future holds for their livelihoods.

australian flag wavingUntold numbers of the critters are running rampant along the country’s Eastern grain belt, demolishing crops, sabotaging homes and forcing concerned farmers to create makeshift traps to slow down the rodents, which are able to reproduce at an alarming rate.

 

U.S. Jobs, Economy, Race

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Week Inflation Panic Died, Paul Krugman, right, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). Remember when everyone was panicking about inflation, warning ominously about 1970s-type stagflation? paul krugmanOK, many people are still saying such things, some because that’s what they always say, some because that’s what they say when there’s a Democratic president, some because they’re extrapolating from the big price increases that took place in the first five months of this year.

But for those paying closer attention to the flow of new information, inflation panic is, you know, so last week.

Seriously, both recent data and recent statements from the Federal Reserve have, well, deflated the case for a sustained outbreak of inflation. For that case has always depended on asserting that the Fed is either intellectually or morally deficient (or both). That is, to panic over inflation, you had to believe either that the Fed’s model of how inflation works is all wrong or that the Fed would lack the political courage to cool off the economy if it were to become dangerously overheated.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Lumber Prices Fall, the Threat of Inflation Loses Its Bite, Matt Phillips, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). Lumber prices soared over the past year, frustrating would-be pandemic do-it-yourselfers, jacking up the costs of new homes and serving as a compelling talking point in the debate over whether government stimulus efforts risked the return of 1970s-style inflation.

The housing-and-renovation boom drove insatiable demand for lumber, even as the pandemic idled mills that had already been slowed by an anemic construction sector since the 2008 financial crisis. Lumber futures surged to unprecedented heights, peaking at more than $1,600 per thousand board feet in early May.

But since then, the prices of those same plywood sheets and pressure-treated planks have tumbled, as mills restarted or ramped up production and some customers put off their purchases until prices came down.

It’s a dance of supply and demand that has reassured many experts and the Federal Reserve in their belief that painful price spikes for everything from airline tickets to used cars will abate as the economy gets back to normal.

washington post logoWashington Post, Retail workers are quitting at record rates for higher-paying work, Abha Bhattarai, June 22, 2021 (print ed.).  The retail industry faces a reckoning as workers quit at record rates: "These were never good jobs." Some 649,000 employees gave notice in April, the sector’s largest one-month exodus in over 20 years, a reflection of pandemic-era strains and a strengthening job market

washington post logoWashington Post, Maryland finds more than 500,000 ‘potentially fraudulent’ jobless claims, Ovetta Wiggins, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). Maryland labor officials said Monday that they have found 508,000 “potentially fraudulent” unemployment claims in the past six weeks, the latest response from the Hogan administration as it fends off criticism over the governor’s decision to cut enhanced federal jobless benefits in coming days.

Gov. Larry Hogan, one of at least 25 Republican governors who has decided to end the federal benefits in their state, said Maryland has found 1.3 million fraudulent claims since the beginning of the pandemic. He said numbers have increased in recent weeks as the Labor Department beefed up its security measures and as a July 3 deadline for receiving the benefits draws near.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sen. Whitehouse defends family’s membership in private beach club amid questions about whether it is all-White, Felicia Sonmez, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). The Rhode Island Democrat was asked whether the club has any non-White members. “I think the people who are running the place are still working on that, and I’m sorry it hasn’t happened yet,” he said. 

 

June 21

Top Headlines

 

Trump Watch

 

Justice Dept. Accountability

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

 

U.S. Media News

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Law

 

World News

  

Top Stories 

washington post logoWashington Post, Recovering U.S. economy is drastically changed and it’s not going back, Heather Long, June 21, 2021 (print ed.) A new economic era has arrived, and it features greater worker power, higher housing costs and very different ways of doing business. Policymakers are also contending with inflation and how Americans will react to high rates.

In late February 2020, the unemployment rate was 3.5 percent, inflation was tame, wages were rising and American companies were attempting to recover from a multiyear trade war.

The pandemic disrupted everything, damaging some parts of the economy much more than others. But a mass vaccination effort and the virus’s steady retreat this year has allowed many businesses and communities to reopen.

What Americans are encountering, though, is almost unrecognizable from just 16 months ago. Prices are up. Housing is scarce. It takes months longer than normal to get furniture, appliances and numerous parts delivered. And there is a great dislocation between millions of unemployed workers and millions of vacant jobs.

The post-covid luxury spending boom has begun. It’s already reshaping the economy.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell acknowledged all the uncertainty this week, saying that policymakers had misjudged parts of the recovery and that they aren’t certain what exactly will happen next.

ny times logoNew York Times, Guest Essay: I Am Breaking My Silence About the Baseball Player Who Raped Me, Kat O’Brien (a former journalist and baseball writer for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Newsday), June 21, 2021 (print ed.). I was 22 years old and working as a sports reporter when I was raped by a Major League Baseball player.

major league baseball mlb logoI didn’t tell my best friend, my sister, my mother or my sports editor, who was a woman. For 18 years, I didn’t tell anyone.

I didn’t say it out loud to myself, write it down, speak his name or allow myself to think about it beyond wishing hard that it would not have happened. I spent years willing it to unhappen. Magical thinking became my truth.

That all changed in January.

 

Trump Watch

Proof via Substack, Investigation and Commentary: A Comprehensive Overview of All Five of Donald Trump's January 6 War Rooms, Seth Abramson, June 21, 2021. During Insurrection Week, Trump's seth abramson graphicinsurrectionists had at least five secretive war rooms inside Washington. Here's everything we know about each of them so far.

Research by Proof into the January 6 insurrection reveals that Team Trump opened five “war rooms” during Insurrection Week. Trump lawyer John Eastman was the first to call his own space (of the seth abramson proof logofive) a “war room”; another participant in the same room, Joe Oltmann, called it a “command center”; and at another point Eastman noted that he had been working in a “communications coordination.” The five spaces that answer to such descriptions are summarized below and then discussed in more detail.

#1: The Trump International War Room; Location: Trump Townhouse in Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC; Occupants: 19+.

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

washington post logo

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Trump's connection to the KGB highlighted in full-page ads in 1987, Wayne Madsen, left (author and former Navy Intelligence officer and NSA analyst), June 21, 2021. Donald Trump's role as an intelligence asset for the wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallSoviet Committee for State Security (KGB) and Czechoslovak State Security (StB) in the 1970s and 80s was revealed in WMR's August 19, 2020 article, "Trump likely a KGB/Czechoslovak StB intelligence asset as early as 1976."

wayne madesen report logoFurther information revealed to The Guardian of the UK by former KGB agent Yuri Shvets indicates that the Trump Organization's full-page ad run in the September 2, 1987 editions of The New York Times, Washington Post and Boston Globe was actually crafted and paid for by the KGB.

At a critical time for U.S. foreign policy, with the Soviet bloc showing significant signs of unraveling and Iran posing a threat to shipping in the Persian Gulf, Trump's full-page ad was titled "There's nothing wrong with America's Foreign Defense Policy that a little backbone can't cure."

The current probe of the Trump Organization's finances, particularly the firm's longtime chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, by the Manhattan District Attorney's office, may yield information on Trump's receipt of KGB financing for the three newspaper ads and other purposes via a KGB business front on Fifth Avenue, Joy-Lud electronics store, run by Soviet Ukrainian emigré Semyon Kislin, a "spotter agent" or recruiter for the KGB.

Axios, Scoop: Trump works refs ahead of book barrage, Mike Allen, June 21, 2021. Former President Trump has given at least 22 interviews for 17 different books since leaving office, with authors lining up at Mar-a-Lago as he labors to shape a coming tsunami of Trump tomes, Axios has learned.

axios logoWhy it matters: Trump advisers see the coming book glut as proof that interest in "POTUS 45," as they call him, has never been higher. These advisers know that most of the books will paint a mixed picture, at best. But Trump is working the refs with charm, spin and dish.

Offering Diet Cokes and dressed in suit and tie, Trump spent an average of about 90 minutes with each of the authors, some of whom were invited to stay and eat dinner at Mar-a-Lago (although not with him).

The interviews are mostly on the record, for use when the books publish. So Trump, who has rarely been heard on non-Fox outlets since leaving office, will see himself quoted constantly over the next year.

Between the lines: Sources tell me Trump makes each author feel they're getting something special. And some of them are: Many of the nuggets will definitely make news. But there appears to be quite a bit of overlap in the "scoops" Trump is dishing out.

There's intense jockeying among the authors over several publishing-date logjams in the coming 18 months, with Michael Wolff's Landslide currently in pole position (July 27). The book many Trump insiders are awaiting most is Maggie Haberman's, due next year.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Told you Roger Stone was going down for the January 6th Capitol attack, Bill Palmer, June 21, 2021. Weeks ago, federal prosecutors brought conspiracy charges against two “Oath Keepers” employees of Roger Stone, for their roles in the January 6th Capitol attack. At the time, Palmer Report explained that under these circumstances the main reason to bring conspiracy charges against them was so that conspiracy charges could also be brought against Stone.

bill palmer report logo headerSure enough, Harry Litman of the LA Times tweeted on Sunday night that the Feds are in fact investigating Roger Stone for the Capitol attack. This comes as no real surprise. Video evidence has been circulating for months that showed Stone interacting and plotting with these same Oath Keepers on the morning of the attack. And while that alone wouldn’t be enough to get a criminal conviction against Stone, it was more than enough for the Feds to dig in and uncover the entire evidence trail.

FBI logoWhat stands out is that the Feds are now allowing the media to find out that they’re targeting Roger Stone in the January 6th investigation. The Feds know that this will only place additional pressure on them to bring charges against Stone before too much longer – so this can be taken as a sign that Stone’s indictment likely isn’t too far off. It’s worth asking if this is a sign that one or more of Stone’s Oath Keepers pals may be cutting a plea deal against him.

It’s also worth pointing out that Roger Stone’s pardon from Donald Trump was issued before the Capitol attack, and therefore can’t possibly get him off the hook for it. Stone is fully vulnerable to whatever criminal charges end up being brought against him related to January 6th. Trump’s commutation and pardon were the only thing that kept Stone out of prison the last time around. This time there’s nothing to protect Stone.

 

Justice Dept. Accountability

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: If the Justice Department won’t investigate itself, Congress should, Jennifer Rubin, right, June 21, 2021. Democrats and other critics of the disgraced former president’s reign jennifer rubin new headshotof corruption and politicization over the criminal justice system are losing patience with Attorney General Merrick Garland. Appearing on CBS News’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, spoke out about the Trump Justice Department’s attempt to target his email records:

I had to hear from Apple and not the Justice Department about what had gone on in the last four years. The inspector general is doing an investigation. I talked with the attorney general about going beyond that. I think he really needs to do a wholesale review of all of the politicization of the department over the last four years. What happened to our committee, what happened to members of the press, that’s just a subset.

The direct intervention by the president and the attorney general in specific criminal cases implicating the president, like that of Roger Stone, one of his aides whose sentence was reduced before he was pardoned, [and] Mike Flynn, another presidential national security adviser whose case was made to completely go away. These are gross abuses of the independence of the Justice Department, and we don’t know how far . . . they run. And our new attorney general has to find out.

Several points deserve emphasis. First, we do not know what other victims of Justice Department abuse are out there because we do not know the full scope of the previous administration’s “national security” witch hunts. Second, we do not know who within the Justice Department objected to any direction they found unethical or illegal or who complied with directions they knew were wrong. We therefore lack a full picture of events and have no way of knowing whether any attorney deserves censure, termination or even prosecution. 

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. Garland tries to untangle the Trump legacy at Justice Dept., Devlin Barrett, June 21, 2021. Merrick Garland has been criticized by some Democrats over recent legal decisions, but the new attorney general insists he is plotting a straight course.

Three months into his new job, judge-turned-attorney general Merrick Garland, who inherited a demoralized and politicized Justice Department, is facing criticism from some Democrats that he is not doing enough to quickly expunge Trump-era policies and practices.

On a host of issues ranging from leak investigations to civil and criminal cases involving former president Donald Trump, Garland has been beset by a growing chorus of congressional second-guessers, even as he insists he is scrupulously adhering to the principles of equal justice under the law.

How he charts his way through the current controversies and still-unresolved politically sensitive cases is likely to determine how much of a long-term impact the Trump presidency has on the Justice Department.

“It’s a difficult situation to navigate. The Department of Justice is an institution like an ocean liner — it doesn’t turn around easily,” said Ronald Weich, who served as an assistant attorney general in the early days of the Obama administration.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump and his CFO Allen Weisselberg stay close as prosecutors advance case, Jonathan O'Connell, Shayna Jacobs, David A. Fahrenthold and Josh Dawsey, June 21, 2021. The former president and his trusted lieutenant both head to Trump Tower as prosecutors press Allen Weisselberg to turn on his boss.

If Donald Trump was looking for some good news on his 75th birthday last Monday, it arrived at 8:15 a.m. by way of a blue Mercedes slipping into Trump Tower’s private garage entrance on West 56th Street.

Behind the wheel was Allen Weisselberg, Trump’s longtime confidant and Trump Organization chief financial officer, whom the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has pressed to turn on the former president as they investigate Trump’s business dealings.

Every day that Weisselberg arrives for work at Trump Tower — as he did that day, steering in from his Upper West Side apartment across town — could be seen as a public signal that he is sticking with Trump and deflecting investigators’ advances.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Scientists battle over the ultimate origin story: Where did the coronavirus come from? Joel Achenbach, June 21, 2021 (print ed.). Stanley Perlman, who has been studying coronaviruses for 39 years, got a nasty email June 4: “Dr. Frankenstein just wants more public money and wants to research things he shouldn’t be messing with. THANKS A LOT FOR CORONA LOSER.”

Perlman, a mild-mannered, grandfatherly virologist at the University of Iowa, didn’t know the author of the dyspeptic email and had nothing to do with the emergence of the coronavirus. But he had co-signed a letter to the Lancet in February 2020 saying SARS-CoV-2 was not a bioengineered virus and condemning “conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.”

That remains the consensus of many scientists — but the “lab leak” theory has never gone away and has become louder than ever. It is not a theory so much as a constellation of scenarios that imagine how the virus may have emanated from a laboratory in China, ranging from the accidental to the sinister.

ny times logoNew York Times, Sway Podcast, Kara Swisher Interviews Anthony Fauci, Kara Swisher, right, June 21, 2021. Anthony Fauci doesn’t have a Twitter account. But he does have a lot to say about the kara swisherrecent scrutiny following the release of his emails from 2020 — an especially busy time in his tenure as America’s chief immunologist.

Republicans like Ron DeSantis have used the emails as fodder for criticism, accusing him of “faucism” (yes, that’s a play on fascism). Fauci’s response: “Here’s a guy whose entire life has been devoted to saving lives. And now you’re telling me he’s like Hitler? Come on, folks. Get real.”

[You can listen to this episode of “Sway” on Apple, Spotify, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.]

In this conversation, Kara Swisher and Fauci parse the science from the politics. She presses him on the Wuhan lab leak theory, which critics claim Fauci and the media were too quick to dismiss. They discuss what went wrong with his early mask-wearing guidance and whether there is room for error or evolution of advice when it comes to public health in a social media age. And of course, they dig into some of the 4,000 or so pages of Fauci’s emails, including exchanges with Sylvia Burwell, the former Health and Human Services secretary, and Mark Zuckerberg. (No, he was not asking Zuck for help with his Instagram.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: China passes 1 billion vaccinations amid tightened curbs, questions on shots’ efficacy, Katerina Ang and Miriam Berger, June 21, 2021.  Hundreds of thousands of deaths appear to be missing from India’s coronavirus toll, state figures indicate

China has administered more than 1 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines, a state health body said, marking a milestone for one of the world’s fastest inoculation drives even as questions persist about how much protection against symptomatic infection is provided by Chinese-developed shots.

Beijing has offered other countries tens of millions of doses as part of a “vaccine diplomacy” competition with Washington, although reports have emerged in Brazil of people turning down available Chinese-developed Sinovac shots in hopes of receiving the coronavirus vaccine developed by U.S. firm Pfizer with German partner BioNTech. Hundreds of Indonesian health-care workers were recently infected after being inoculated with Sinovac shots — with dozens requiring hospitalization. Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are also offering Pfizer-BioNTech boosters to many people vaccinated with Chinese-developed Sinopharm doses.

Despite vaccinating millions of people daily, China is still focused on a virus-elimination strategy. International borders remain largely sealed and the economic hub of Shenzhen over the weekend moved to step up enforcement of social distancing measures after a small increase in infections.

In related news:

  • Excess deaths in just two Indian states over the past year are 360,000 above normal levels, suggesting a massive undercount of covid-19 deaths across the country.
  • Olympic organizers will allow spectators at this summer’s Tokyo Games but cap attendance at 10,000 people or 50 percent of a venue’s capacity, whichever is smaller, they announced on Monday.
  • Hong Kong will cut the quarantine period for some vaccinated travelers starting June 30, as the beleaguered semiautonomous Chinese city seeks to keep its place as a global economic hub.
  • Cuba says late-phase trial of its Soberana 2 vaccine showing promising results.

washington post logoWashington Post, Models predict U.S. coronavirus infections could surge this fall if vaccination rates lag, former FDA chief says, Jeanne Whalen, June 21, 2021 (print ed.). Scott Gottlieb also expressed concern about U.K. study showing brain-tissue shrinkage after covid-19.

The transmission of the more contagious delta variant in the United States could spur a fall surge in coronavirus infections if only 75 percent of the country’s eligible population is vaccinated, former Food and Drug Administration chief Scott Gottlieb said Sunday.

Although Gottlieb cited one projection forecasting an increase in infections reaching as high as 20 percent of last winter’s peak, he called that an “aggressive estimate,” saying he doesn’t “think it’ll be quite that dire.” But he said states with low vaccination rates already are showing a concerning rise in cases with the spreading of delta, which is up to 60 percent more contagious than earlier variants.

Delta variant could become dominant strain in U.S. this summer, CDC head says

“So Connecticut, for example, where I am, shows no upsurge of infection, but Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri show very substantial upsurges of infections. That’s based entirely on how much population-wide immunity you have based on vaccination,” Gottlieb said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program.

He urged a renewed vaccination push closer to the fall, as people prepare to return to school and work, when he said they may be more open to the shots.

washington post logoWashington Post, 177.3 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 21, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 150 million people (45.2 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 53.4 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 21, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 179,320,883, Deaths: 3,883,427
U.S. Cases:     34,406,001, Deaths:    617,166
India Cases:    29,935,221, Deaths:    388,164
Brazil Cases:   17,927,928, Deaths:    501,918

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: In trying to pressure Biden, the Catholic bishops forget the lessons of JFK, Karen Tumulty, June 21, 2021 (print ed.). In September 1960, Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy, against the advice of his political consultants, confronted anti-Catholic bigotry head-on in an extraordinary speech before a hostile audience of several hundred Protestant ministers in Houston.

Kennedy’s strong stance on the separation of church and state helped secure the narrow victory that made him the first Catholic president in U.S. history.

A little more than 60 years later, a second Catholic president sits in the White House, and the church’s American bishops appear to have forgotten what it took for one of their own to get there. On Friday, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops — defying a warning from the Vatican — voted to create guidelines for receiving the sacrament of Holy Communion.

What is driving the move is a push by conservative bishops to declare that President Biden, who rarely misses Mass and is arguably the most religiously observant president since Jimmy Carter, should not be allowed to receive the Eucharist. It is also a reaction to the relatively liberal Pope Francis, who espouses a vision of making the church more inclusive.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘We don’t want you here’: Sen. Ron Johnson is booed at Milwaukee’s Juneteenth celebration, Felicia Sonmez,June 21, 2021 (print ed.). The Wisconsin Republican had originally objected to making Juneteenth a federal holiday. He later relented.

ron johnson oThe incident came days after Congress voted to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. Johnson, right, had originally objected to the move on the grounds that taxpayers should not be forced to pay for an additional holiday for federal workers. He relented last week, paving the way for the Senate’s unanimous passage of the bill.

In a statement on the measure Tuesday, Johnson said he supports Juneteenth and noted that resolutions recognizing the significance of the day have passed the Senate unanimously during his time in Congress. But he added: “While it still seems strange that having taxpayers provide federal employees paid time off is now required to celebrate the end of slavery, it is clear that there is no appetite in Congress to further discuss the matter.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Who Are the Billionaires’ Picks for New York Mayor? Follow the Money, Dana Rubinstein, Jonah E. Bromwich and Katie Glueck, June 21, 2021. Ultrawealthy donors have given $16 million to super PACs dedicated to the New York City mayor’s race. Half of that has gone to three moderate candidates. The influx of money comes as the pandemic has illuminated the stark differences between the city’s haves and have-nots.

  • New York Times, Here’s why we may not know who won Tuesday’s mayoral primary before July 12.

 

U.S. Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, Media Commentary: Tucker Carlson Calls Journalists ‘Animals.’ He’s Also Their Best Source, Ben Smith, Updated June 21, 2021. His platform on Fox News made him a big player in Donald Trump’s circle. Off camera, he shapes the coverage of Trump’s world and Fox’s own internal politics.

Mr. Carlson, right, a proud traitor to the elite political class, spends his time when he’s not denouncing the liberal media trading gossip with them. He’s the go-to guy for sometimes-unflattering stories about tucker carlsonDonald J. Trump and for coverage of the internal politics of Fox News (not to mention stories about Mr. Carlson himself). I won’t talk here about any off-the-record conversations I may have had with him. But 16 other journalists (none from The Times; it would put my colleagues in a weird position if I asked them) told me on background that he has been, as three of them put it, “a great source.”

“In Trump’s Washington, Tucker Carlson is a primary supersecret source,” the media writer and Trump chronicler Michael Wolff writes in his forthcoming collection of essays, “Too Famous.” Mr. Wolff, who thanked Mr. Carlson in the acknowledgments of his 2018 book, “Fire and Fury,” explained, “I know this because I know what he has told me, and I can track his exquisite, too-good-not-to-be-true gossip through unsourced reports and as it often emerges into accepted wisdom.”

Mr. Carlson was particularly well positioned to be a source about the Trump administration. His Fox platform, where in May he had a nightly average of three million viewers, made him someone who mattered to Mr. Trump, a close follower of television ratings. He has a former reporter’s eye for detail and anecdote, and his observations can be detected in the lurid tales of Mr. Trump’s chaotic court and Fox’s own tumultuous internal politics.

fox news logo SmallA coming book by the Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender, Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost, includes a moment in which Mr. Carlson sends Mr. Trump’s calls to voice mail after the first presidential debate last fall, when he was criticized for repeatedly interrupting Joe Biden. When Mr. Trump finally reaches the Fox host, the book describes, verbatim, an exchange between the two men that casts Mr. Carlson in a flattering light. (“Everyone says I did a good job,” Mr. Trump tells Mr. Carlson. “I don’t know who told you that was good,” Mr. Carlson says. “It was not good.”) Mr. Bender declined to comment on the sourcing that allowed him to so precisely reconstruct a conversation between the two men.

And Brian Stelter, the host of the CNN program “Reliable Sources,” told me that “you can see Tucker’s fingerprints all over the hardcover” edition of his 2020 book Hoax, which excoriates Fox News for amplifying Mr. Trump’s falsehoods. He said that he “couldn’t stomach” talking to Mr. Carlson, who has grown ever more hard-line, for the updated paperback version that was just released.

Mr. Carlson was born to a world of insiders and story shapers, and makes no secret of it. His father was a reporter in Los Angeles and San Diego before Ronald Reagan appointed him director of the Voice of America, and the son grew up with a generation of elite Washington journalists. “I’ve always lived around people who are wielding authority, around the ruling class,” he said in a 2018 interview.

A former New York Observer media writer, Sridhar Pappu, recalled to me that when he first traveled to Washington to cover the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in the early 2000s, it was Mr. Carlson who asked him, “Do you have an invitation to Tammy’s?” referring to the annual brunch for media insiders co-hosted by Tammy Haddad, the well-connected former MSNBC producer.

Mr. Carlson has said he turned against his fellow elites after the 2008 financial crisis. His political shift also transformed his long journeyman’s career as a magazine writer and MSNBC conservative, and made him Fox’s leading tribune of the pro-Trump masses.

But his decades of Washington relationships have produced a tiresome conversation among Mr. Carlson’s old friends about what he really stands for, whether he’s really a racist or whether he cynically plays one on TV. Who knows, and what does it matter anyway? Mr. Carlson’s recent fixations include suggesting that the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection was, in fact, a provocation staged by the F.B.I. and that making children wear masks is abuse. The Anti-Defamation League recently called for him to be fired from Fox News for warning that Democrats are plotting to “replace” the current electorate with “more obedient voters, from the third world.” The Pentagon rebuked him for a sexist riff on women in the military.

And then there are his stated views on the media. “I just can’t overstate how disgusted I am,” he told the Fox-owned sports media site Outkick in April. “The media is basically Praetorian Guard for the ruling class, the bodyguards for Jeff Bezos. That’s the opposite of what we should have. I really hate them for it, I’ll be honest.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Vance Trimble 1913–2021, Matt Schudel, June 21, 2021. Journalist who won Pulitzer Prize by exposing congressional corruption dies at 107. He wrote about rampant nepotism, hidden payrolls and self-dealing.

Vance H. Trimble, a journalist who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1960 for exposing rampant nepotism, hidden payrolls and financial self-dealing among members of Congress, died June 16 at his home in Wewoka, Okla. He was 107.

The death was confirmed by the Stout-Phillips Funeral Home in Wewoka. The cause was not disclosed.

Mr. Trimble began his career as a cub reporter in the 1920s and was still publishing books in the 21st century. He was 77 when in 1990 he wrote a best-selling biography of Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart.

When Mr. Trimble won his Pulitzer Prize, he was a news editor in the Washington bureau of the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain, working from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. He had previously been the managing editor of the Houston Press, then a fast-growing metropolitan daily in a booming city with more than its share of crime and natural disasters.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, Justices rule against NCAA limits on some school perks for student-athletes, Robert Barnes and Molly Hensley-Clancy, June 21, 2021. The NCAA had contested a lower-court ruling that would allow colleges to offer greater academic-related perks to Division I football and men’s and women’s basketball players.s ago

  • Washington Post, High school sports will feel impact of athlete branding changes. For some, that’s cause for concern.

 djt maga hat speech uncredited Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Two weeks notice, Bill Palmer, right, June 21, 2021. If what the major news outlets are reporting is accurate – and it probably is, given that the sources for the stories are likely the bill palmerprosecutor themselves – then we’re about to enter a remarkable stretch that a lot of people were certain would never happen. We’re talking about the actual takedown of Donald Trump and his most notorious associates.

bill palmer report logo headerThis past week we all learned that federal prosecutors are planning to make a charging decision against Trump lackey Matt Gaetz in “July.” It’s worth pointing out that July begins less than two weeks from now. We also learned this past week that New York prosecutors are looking to indict Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg “this summer.” According to the calendar, summer 2021 officially began yesterday.

So if things remain on the trajectory that prosecutors just finished leaking to the media, then in as little as two weeks from now we could be looking at Gaetz and Weisselberg both in handcuffs. Gaetz has been accused of a wide variety of crimes, some of them truly heinous. It’s not clear what the odds of conviction would be for his worst crimes. But if the reporting is true that he allegedly used campaign funds to pay for it all, then he’ll be nearly a lock for prison, because no one gets away with using campaign funds for anything. And Weisselberg’s financial crimes are the kind that no one skates on either.

So while Gaetz and Weisselberg can decide to go to trial if they want, there’s a good chance they’ll be under indictment on charges they have no chance of beating at trial. Weisselberg’s only way out will be to cut a plea deal against Donald Trump, which is what we all know New York prosecutors want out of him. Gaetz may not even have a way out, depending on the severity of the charges against him. But his only potential shot at leniency would also be to flip on Trump, if the Feds are indeed looking to make a criminal case against Trump.

We don’t know what will happen once Weisselberg and Gaetz are arrested. Flipping or not flipping is a personal choice. But the upshot at this point is that, based on what’s being reported, we could be less than two weeks away from seeing them both in handcuffs. And even if it doesn’t happen quite that quickly, we know we can expect Gaetz to happen sometime in July, and Weisselberg to happen sometime this summer.

There are those defeatists who still think that Donald Trump is going to somehow magically get away with it all no matter what. If anything, since the news surfaced last month that New York was empaneling a grand jury specifically to bring indictments in the criminal case against Donald Trump and the Trump Organization, the defeatists have become more insistent that Trump will skate. We’ll see what they say once the handcuffs start landing on the wrists of Trump’s closest confidantes. Once Trump lost the election, he was never just going to “get away with it all.” These upcoming weeks should help make that more clear.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Taking on racism and crime should be the same fight, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, June 21, 2021 (print ed.). We must fight racism and fight crime at the same time. We must reform ej dionne w open neckpolicing and make policing more effective. And we must battle any demagoguery that casts demands for justice as concessions to criminality.

Harmonizing these goals is morally urgent as the movement for change ignited by police killings of Black Americans runs headlong into public alarm at a wave of murders across the nation.

It’s important in politics, too. A review of why Democrats lost seats in the House last year by Rep. Sean Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, found that Republican attacks against the “defund the police” slogan proved more potent than Democrats had anticipated.

A report by the centrist think tank Third Way, the Collective PAC and Latino Victory concluded that “where Defund the Police had a significant impact, it was as a part of culture-based attack on Democrats that sought to stoke fears among voters about any candidate with a ‘D’ after their name.”

Concerns about crime cross party lines. In New York City, which holds its mayoral primary on Tuesday, a recent NY1/Ipsos poll of likely Democratic primary voters found that crime/public safety should be the top priority for the next mayor, listed by 46 percent. Reopening the economy and affordable housing followed well behind at 30 percent each; stopping the spread of covid-19 drew 24 percent, and battling racial injustice 20 percent.

When you talk to Democratic politicians searching for a principled path forward, one name pops up again and again. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, chair of the House Democratic Caucus, has both personal and political reasons to push for police reform as part of a strategy for restoring order.

washington post logoWashington Post, Unmasking the far right: An extremist paid a price when his identity was exposed online after a violent clash in Washington, Robert Klemko, June 21, 2021 (print ed.). Laura Jedeed, an activist from Portland, Ore., was harassed after filming a group of President Donald Trump’s supporters last year.

In a flash, Laura Jedeed was surrounded by screaming men. The freelance journalist was filming a group of Trump supporters walking the streets of the District after the “Million MAGA March” on Nov. 14 when a man wearing an American flag gaiter mask approached her, stepped on her toes and began yelling.

“What’s up, you stupid b----?” the man shouted, his mask slipping down his face.

Jedeed yelled at the man to stop touching her. A crowd formed around her and another journalist, with unmasked men screaming at them from all directions. Jedeed kept her camera rolling, and when she got away from the crowd, she uploaded video of the incident to YouTube and Twitter, and it went viral.

Reaction was swift.

washington post logoWashington Post, Thieves have been stealing truckloads of nuts, police say. The latest heist was 42,000 pounds of pistachios, Jaclyn Peiser, June 21, 2021. As Touchstone Pistachio Company ran through its routine audit earlier this month, something wasn’t adding up.

The company soon enlisted the sheriff’s office in Tulare County, Calif., for help and on Saturday, law enforcement officials said they had found the missing nuts and arrested the thief. Police said the culprit, Alberto Montemayor, 34, was hiding the pistachios in a tractor trailer parked in a nearby parking lot and then repackaging them to sell.

The case is just the latest heist of pistachio nuts in Central California, where the nuts were a $5.2 billion economic engine tied to more than 47,000 jobs last year, according to studies commissioned by the industry. Last August, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office arrested a 23-year-old man for allegedly stealing two trucks full of pistachios valued at $294,000.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran’s Raisi says ballistic missiles, regional presence ‘not negotiable’ — and he doesn’t want to meet Biden, Erin Cunningham, June 21, 2021. Iran’s President-elect Ebrahim Raisi, a cleric and former judiciary chief, is a hardline conservative who enjoyed the backing of Iran’s supreme leader and allied security services in last week’s presidential elections.

ebrahim raisi smile facebookIran’s President-elect Ebrahim Raisi, right, is opposed to talks that would limit Tehran’s ballistic missile program or support for regional proxy forces, the new hard line leader said in remarks Monday.

Speaking at his first news conference in the capital, Raisi, who was elected Friday, also said that he is not willing to meet President Biden, even as the two sides work to revive the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

Iran FlagWhen asked by a reporter if he was willing to meet the U.S. president, Raisi simply said: “No.” He added that Iran’s ballistic missiles and regional presence are also “not negotiable.”

Raisi, a cleric and former judiciary chief, is a hard line conservative who enjoyed the backing of Iran’s supreme leader and allied security services in last week’s presidential elections. His victory marks a shift from the more reform-minded presidency of Hassan Rouhani, a moderate pragmatist who favored engagement with the West.

Preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapon is ‘paramount priority,’ national security adviser says.

washington post logoWashington Post, Attacks in Mexican border city kill at least 14 people, Paulina Villegas, June 21, 2021 (print ed.). The attacks may have derived from a dispute between rival groups over territorial control of the area and dominance over illicit operations including drug trafficking and human trafficking, an official said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ethiopia’s historic election overshadowed by a cascade of crises and conflict, Max Bearak, June 21, 2021 (print ed.).  Ethiopia is set to hold a twice-delayed national election on Monday in what the government has heralded as a long-awaited emergence into multi-party democracy.

But a cascade of major crises in Africa’s second-most populous country has thrown the vote into disarray, leaving millions unable to vote.

Foremost among them is a disastrous seven-month-old civil war in the northern region of Tigray, where a powerful regional political party is waging a guerilla-style conflict against Ethiopia’s military, which in turn has aligned with forces from neighboring Eritrea and Ethiopia’s Amhara region. All sides have been accused of war crimes, and humanitarian groups say hundreds of thousands in Tigray are experiencing famine conditions.

The election itself has been weakened by widespread insecurity, logistical issues and political disputes. Tigray will not take part in the vote at all, and about a fifth of polling stations in the rest of the country will not open on Monday because of security concerns or improperly printed ballots, according to the country’s election commission. The closed polling stations tend to be in areas where opposition parties claim support. Those closures as well as the jailing of numerous prominent government critics have led some of the country’s biggest opposition parties to boycott the election.

ny times logoNew York Times, War Shatters Nobel Halo of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Declan Walsh, June 21, 2021. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed plunged Ethiopia into a war in the Tigray region that spawned atrocities and famine. On Monday, his country goes to the polls.

abiy ahmed ethiopian pmAs war raged in northern Ethiopia, and the region barreled toward its worst famine in decades, a senior American envoy flew to the Ethiopian capital last month in the hope of persuading Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to pull his country out of a destructive spiral that many fear is tearing it apart.

Not long ago Mr. Abiy, who faces Ethiopian voters on Monday in long-delayed parliamentary elections, was a shining hope for country and continent. After coming to power in 2018 he embarked on a whirlwind of ambitious reforms: freeing political prisoners, welcoming exiles home from abroad and, most impressively, striking a landmark peace deal with Eritrea, Ethiopia’s old foe, in a matter of months.

ny times logoNew York Times, What led Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to conduct a military campaign in the Tigray region, and how has the fighting affected Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa? Declan Walsh and Abdi Latif Dahir, Updated June 21, 2021. Why did Ethiopia’s leader launch an internal war on the Tigray Region? Here’s some background.

 

June 20

Top Headlines

 

Trump-era Justice Abuses, Insurrection

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Law

  

U.S. Politics, Governance, Climate

 

World News

 

U.S. Religion and Media News

 

Top Stories 

ny times logoNew York Times, How Republican States Are Expanding Their Power Over Elections, Nick Corasaniti and Reid J. Epstein, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). With Republican-led states mounting an expansive takeover of election administration, Democratic officials of color have been some of the earliest casualties. Republicans in states like Georgia and Arkansas have also stripped secretaries of state of their power and made it easier to overturn election results.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosLonnie Hollis has been a member of the Troup County election board in West Georgia since 2013. A Democrat and one of two Black women on the board, she has advocated Sunday voting, helped voters on Election Days and pushed for a new precinct location at a Black church in a nearby town.

But this year, Ms. Hollis will be removed from the board, the result of a local election law signed by Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican. Previously, election board members were selected by both political parties, county commissioners and the three biggest municipalities in Troup County. Now, the G.O.P.-controlled county commission has the sole authority to restructure the board and georgia mapappoint all the new members.

“I speak out and I know the laws,” Ms. Hollis said in an interview. “The bottom line is they don’t like people that have some type of intelligence and know what they’re doing, because they know they can’t influence them.”

Ms. Hollis is not alone. Across Georgia, members of at least 10 county election boards have been removed, had their position eliminated or are likely to be kicked off through local ordinances or new laws passed by the state legislature. At least five are people of color and most are Democrats — though some are Republicans — and they will most likely all be replaced by Republicans.

republican elephant logoMs. Hollis and local officials like her have been some of the earliest casualties as Republican-led legislatures mount an expansive takeover of election administration in a raft of new voting bills this year.

G.O.P. lawmakers have also stripped secretaries of state of their power, asserted more control over state election boards, made it easier to overturn election results, and pursued several partisan audits and inspections of 2020 results.

Republican state lawmakers have introduced at least 216 bills in 41 states to give legislatures more power over elections officials, according to the States United Democracy Center, a new bipartisan organization that aims to protect democratic norms. Of those, 24 have been enacted into law across 14 states.

washington post logomichele roosevelt edwardsWashington Post, Investigation: ‘Italygate’ election conspiracy theory was pushed by two firms led by woman who also falsely claimed $30 million mansion was hers, Jon Swaine and Emma Brown, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). Two firms led by Virginia business executive Michele Roosevelt Edwards promoted outlandish claims that an Italian defense contractor conspired with CIA officials to switch votes from Trump to Biden using satellite technology.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The summer that could define the Biden presidency, Dan Balz, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden faces big challenges and hard decisions on infrastructure, voting rights and the pandemic, testing liberals’ loyalty and whether bipartisanship is possible.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Horse deaths and drug violations: The dark side of Bob Baffert’s reign as thoroughbred racing’s top trainer, Gus Garcia-Roberts and Steven Rich, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). In March 2020, horse racing’s most recognizable figure, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, declared that his sport was “in crisis.”

Federal prosecutors had just indicted more than two dozen trainers, veterinarians and others on charges related to doping horses, a seismic event in a sport already reeling from a well-publicized spate of horse deaths and perpetually dwindling revenue.

bob baffertIn an op-ed for The Washington Post, Baffert, right, wrote that reforming racing was not just necessary to the sport’s survival but the only moral path forward. “Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our equine and human athletes,” Baffert wrote, “and nothing impacts their health and safety more than the policies and procedures concerning drugs.”Advertisement

The bold statement appeared to put Baffert on the right side of history: By the end of the year, President Donald Trump had signed into law the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, which promised to reform the sport. But the star trainer’s sudden support belied the fact that Baffert has for years been entangled with the very problems he blamed for his sport’s potential demise: drugs, dead horses and a feckless regulatory system.

At least 74 horses have died in Baffert’s care in his home state of California since 2000, more than all but two of hundreds of trainers in the state, according to a Post analysis of data and public records. But when factoring in the number of races run, Baffert’s horses have died at the highest rate of the 10 trainers who have had the most horse deaths.

 

Trump-era Justice Abuses, Insurrection

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Garland inherited a booby-trapped DOJ. Here’s why it won’t be easy to fix, Joyce White Vance (right, a former U.S. attorney in Alabama, and a professor at the University of Alabama School of Law), June 20, 2021 (print ed.). No Biden U.S. attorneys have been confirmed yet, and there are tens of thousands of investigations to sift through, none of which come with warning stickers

joyce vance smaller photoAttorney General Merrick Garland knew he’d inherit some ticking time bombs when he took charge of the Justice Department. What he didn’t know, apparently, until the New York Times reported it this month, was that one of them was this: Under the Trump administration, the department subpoenaed Apple for information that included accounts belonging to Democratic members of Congress and their staff and families, and concealed that fact from them for almost four years.

That’s a shocking departure from the respect for the separation of powers that prevented even President Richard M. Nixon, with his list of enemies, from investigating members of merrick garlandCongress. We don’t know the story behind the subpoenas — who ordered them or whether the White House was involved.

What’s less shocking is that Garland, left, didn’t know about this case sooner — and may yet not know if there are other Trump-era investigations that were subject to improper White House influence, such as those involving subpoenas for reporters’ communications, for example. The problem cases don’t identify themselves. Files don’t come with bright yellow stickers that say “Warning!” or “Danger!” It will take a top-to-bottom review of the Justice Department to root them out. And it has to happen fast.

The sheer scope of that review will be daunting. The Justice Department has an enormous docket of pending investigations and cases.

In 2020, U.S. attorneys’ offices alone indicted in more than 57,000 criminal cases and handled 92,860 civil matters. That doesn’t include the work in the Justice Department’s seven Washington-based litigation divisions: criminal, civil, national security, civil rights, antitrust, tax, and environment and natural resources. There are lawyers in other components of the department as well, such as the pardon attorney’s office, the office of professional responsibility and the Bureau of Prisons.

Justice Department log circularAnd there are lawyers in the department’s four law enforcement agencies — the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the U.S. Marshals Service — while agents work on matters that have yet to be referred to a prosecutor. To complicate things further, investigations can be international in scope.

It’s an enormous portfolio for a new attorney general to take control of, especially without his full team in place. The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for the head of Garland’s criminal division was only held late last month. There isn’t a single Senate-confirmed U.S. attorney nominated by President Biden in any of the 94 offices across the country.

Garland has tasked his deputy attorney general, Lisa Monaco, with “surfacing potentially problematic matters deserving high level review,” and he has enlisted the department’s inspector general to investigate the subpoena incident. But he will have to go well beyond that, ensuring a comprehensive, painstaking review, if he wants to find any other land mines before they, too, explode on the front pages of the nation’s newspapers — and if he wants to have a hope of restoring trust in the institution.

How will that be possible? One critical step is for Garland to commit to transparency. He can depart from the Justice Department’s culture of reserve, a culture that avoids much in the way of public explanation.

The department can’t publicize the details of investigations in progress because it could compromise them, endanger witnesses or smear the reputations of people who are never charged. Disclosure of grand jury proceedings is prohibited by law. But the department can be transparent about the way it works and its decision-making process. It can openly discuss why it takes certain legal positions, especially when institutional interests are at stake. It can make sure the country learns about any additional problems the department uncovers and how it is fixing them from the attorney general himself, not from investigative reporters.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Told you the Feds would find their way to the insurrectionist Republicans in Congress, Bill Palmer, right, June 20, 2021. Federal investigations into massive criminal conspiracies only bill palmerwork one way, and if some folks don’t understand how such things work, it doesn’t change how those investigations work. The Feds always start by busting the ground level people who physically committed the crimes, then work to flip them on the higher-ups in order to establish a criminal conspiracy. If the FBI probe into the January 6th Capitol attack was going to target insurrectionist Republicans in Congress, this was the only way it was ever going to happen.

Much as I’ve tried to explain this over the past few months, defeatists have instead insisted that because no House or Senate Republicans have been indicted yet, it’ll never happen. This is a logical fallacy on its face, in addition to not being how criminal probes work, yet defeatism always somehow ends up being its own justification for defeatism.

bill palmer report logo headerOf course the defeatists love to insist that insurrectionist House and Senate Republicans must be arrested right this second or else all hope is lost, but that kind of foaming at the mouth ignores two important facts.

The first is that even if the Feds did arrest members of Congress for what they publicly said to the insurrectionists that day, no jury would convict them for it; the only way to nail the U.S. House logoinsurrectionist Republicans is to flip inside witnesses against them.

The second fact here is that, in spite of all the “sky is falling” rhetoric, our democracy has in fact not collapsed into a puddle simply because no insurrectionist Republicans have been indicted yet. We are not five minutes away from the nation collapsing, no matter how many talking heads try to drum up ratings each day by insisting otherwise. And now the inevitable is finally happening in the federal criminal probe into the insurrectionists.

FBI logoMSNBC is now reporting that the FBI is indeed interrogating January 6th suspects about their connections to members of Congress. This is how an investigation into a hierarchal criminal conspiracy works. Now that most of the low-level henchmen are in custody, investigators attempt to leverage them to move up the hierarchy and take down those who were calling the shots.

This doesn’t prove that any members of Congress will go down for January 6th. But it does prove that the federal criminal investigation is headed in that direction. Members of Congress with connections to the attack will be probed, to see if there’s enough evidence there to prove that they were part of a criminal conspiracy. Logically, this was always going to end up happening. It’s literally the only way these kinds of investigations work. But now you have your proof of where this is headed – and as always, the defeatists were just yelling baseless nonsense about insurrectionist House Republicans somehow already magically being off the hook.

  

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, 177.1 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 20, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 149.7 million people (45.1 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 53.3 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 20, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 179,041,697, Deaths: 3,877,237
U.S. Cases:     34,401,712, Deaths:    617,083
India Cases:    29,881,965, Deaths:    386,740
Brazil Cases:   17,883,750, Deaths:    500,868

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why so many Republicans talk about nonsense, Jennifer Rubin, right, June 20, 2021. The latest numbers on vaccination rates are telling: Mississippi has the lowest percentage of vaccinated residents, followed by Alabama, Arkansas, Wyoming, Louisiana, Georgia and Tennessee. All except Louisiana have both Republican governors and legislatures, as do the next seven on jennifer rubin new headshotthe list. Among the 14 U.S. senators representing the bottom seven, only two (both in Georgia) are Democrats. The Post reports, “Ten states, concentrated in the Deep South and rural West, report fewer than 35 percent of residents are fully immunized.”

Health care in these deep-red states is generally dreadful. Among the 12 states that have neither expanded nor voted to expand Medicaid, all but three have GOP governors and in those three (North Carolina, Kansas and Wisconsin), a Democratic governor faces a GOP legislature.

Of the 15 poorest states, all but two (Maine and New Mexico) are also deep red. Among the 30 Senate seats from those states, 27 are held by Republicans.

By these or just about any other measures, Republican states are failing to meet the basic needs of their residents. Among unvaccinated Americans, infection rates are climbing. More will get sick in those places, and some will die. Republicans are unwilling or incapable of meeting the challenge.

This sorry sight is unsurprising given that Republicans have all but given up on the notion of governance. At the national level, they consume themselves with race-baiting (e.g., scaring Americans about immigration and critical race theory), assailing private companies (e.g., corporations that defend voting rights, social media platforms, book publishers) and perpetrating the most ludicrous and dangerous lie in memory — that the 2020 election was stolen.

As Reason Magazine’s Peter Suderman wrote recently for the New York Times, the GOP “no longer has a cognizable theory of government.” They claim to be economic populists but oppose raising any taxes on the rich and corporations, decry union organizing and attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. “Freedom” used to be a central theme, but they are on a crusade to criminalize abortion and compel unwilling women to endure nine months of pregnancy — even in cases of rape or incest. They are also in favor of ordering teachers not to teach unfavorable facts about America.

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Law 

washington post logoWashington Post, Retropolis: As Juneteenth marks the end of slavery, lawmakers turn their focus to forced prison labor, Hannah Knowles, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). The 13th Amendment outlawed slavery “except as a punishment for crime.” That caveat stands today, allowing forced labor in prisons that disproportionately hold people of color.

Days after the official nationwide abolition of slavery in December 1865, Alabama made it illegal for Black farm employees to sell a long list of foods, including corn, rice, cotton and “animal of any kind.”

Another law punished Black people for gathering in a “disorderly way,” one professor said in a Cornell Law Review article. Another for carrying a pistol. And whipping and branding were scrapped as penalties, while a new sentence was added: “hard labor for the county.”

Desperate to keep profiting from Black bondage, Alabama’s leaders were exploiting an exception to the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery in the United States “except as a punishment for crime.” That caveat stands today, allowing forced labor in prisons that disproportionately hold people of color — even as Americans celebrate emancipation with Juneteenth, newly elevated to a federal holiday.

The same day that President Biden signed into law a bill commemorating the date June 19, Democratic lawmakers reintroduced a proposal they say is long overdue to truly end centuries of bondage: a constitutional amendment to remove the “punishment clause.” With key Biden administration priorities such as voting access and changes to policing stalled in Congress, the renewed push to end forced prison work is one of many changes advocates are framing as necessary to back the symbolic embrace of Juneteenth with national action to address racism and inequality.

“We know that the work of making that vision of a just and equal society a reality is unfinished,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said at a Saturday virtual gathering, two days after introducing the proposed “abolition amendment” with Rep. Nikema Williams (D-Ga.). “We know that slavery’s legacy of injustice continues in many ways today.”

Williams said she is “confident” the amendment will pass and noted some states, red and blue, had recently removed similar exceptions from their constitutions.

ny times logoNew York Times, Los Angeles Just Elected a Liberal D.A. He’s Already Facing a Recall Effort, Tim Arango, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). George Gascón is facing an intense backlash for enacting the sorts of policies demanded by protesters after the killing of George Floyd.

From inside the walls of Folsom State Prison, the two inmates, one a convicted murderer, clinked their cups of prison moonshine in a toast to the new district attorney of Los Angeles, George Gascón.

A video of the celebration was released earlier this year by Mr. Gascón’s opponents — and there are many — who used it to attack what is perhaps the most far-reaching plank of his progressive agenda: the review of nearly 20,000 old prison sentences, many for violent crimes like murder, for possible early releases.

Mr. Gascón, a Democrat, has brushed off the video as nothing more than a Willie Horton-style attack by get-tough-on-crime proponents that “plays well on Fox News.” But he doesn’t shy away from his belief that even those convicted of violent crimes deserve a chance at redemption.

“There’s no way we can get to meaningful prison reduction in this country without looking at more serious crimes,” Mr. Gascón, who also supports ending cash bail and eliminating the prosecution of juveniles as adults, said in an interview. “The public stories you hear are the really scary stuff. You’re talking about the violent sexual predator. You’re talking about some sadistic murderer. The reality is those are really a small number of the prison population and violent crime.”

But the prospect of convicted murderers getting out early, or getting lighter sentences than they would have received in a previous era, has fueled an effort to force a recall election next year and remove Mr. Gascón from office. More than a thousand volunteers, as well as dozens of paid workers, are collecting signatures for the recall at gun stores, bail bonds offices, and even outside Mr. Gascón’s home.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Disorder and Chaos’ in N.Y.C. Jails as Pandemic Recedes, Jan Ransom, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). Six people have died, a murder suspect was accidentally released and a captain was charged with homicide. The future of Rikers Island remains unclear.

Violence on Rikers Island is surging. Exhausted guards are working triple shifts. And staffing shortages have triggered lockdowns at some of the jail’s largest facilities.

More than a year after the coronavirus sickened thousands in New York City’s jail system, the Department of Correction has plunged further into crisis as complaints of severe mismanagement, persistent violence and deaths of incarcerated people continue to mount.

Correction officers and incarcerated people alike have described a tumultuous first half of the year: Six detainees have died, including at least two by suicide, compared with seven through all of 2020. Guards have been forced to work triple and occasionally quadruple shifts, staying on duty for 24 hours or longer, to make up for staffing shortages.

Last month, a report by a federal monitor appointed to oversee the troubled jails described a system in a state of disorder, and expressed grave concern about the agency’s ability to change course.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance 

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White House Chronicle, Commentary: The Great Western Drought Will Affect Us All, Llewellyn King, above, June 19-20, 2021. The severe drought gripping the Western states looks set to reach into all lives in the nation and into every pocket.

The unbearable heat for those living in the West, with record-high temperatures stretching from Wyoming to the Mexican border and from the Pacific to the Mississippi, will impact the rest of the country as well.

Scientists have classified this monstrous baking as a megadrought. There hasn’t been regular rain or mountain snow in the West for more than 20 years.

To call it a scorcher is to underestimate a catastrophe that has the possibility of reaching near-biblical proportions. This is big and there is no quick fix. None.

The drought means epic disruptions, merciless rearrangement.

First, of course, there is no water, which means much economic activity may slow or cease. Farmers won’t be able to grow crops or raise livestock. Food prices that are already high from the pandemic’s disruptions will go even higher.

The electricity supply will be strained and may be curtailed because of reduced hydroelectric production. The 13 Western states get more than 22 percent of their electricity from hydropower dams, located mostly in Washington, according to the National Hydropower Association.

In today’s world, farmers depend on electricity to water crops and livestock, milk cows, dry grain, and freeze produce.

The first measurable disruption of the summer will be from breakdowns in the California food supply chain. Prices in supermarkets will reflect the impact of the drought on California, which acts as the nation’s truck farm. If you eat it, it grows in California, but only when there is water for irrigation.

The rivers of the West are running dry. The reserves of water in the great dams on the major rivers, especially the Columbia and the Colorado, which act as the lifelines of much of the West, are way below normal.

Manufactured goods from Western states will be affected if power shortages are extended and widespread. Wildfires will abound and have already started their annual scourge.

Business Insider, Trump Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross made at least $53 million from private companies while serving in government: report, John L. Dorman, June 20, 2021. Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary under former President Donald Trump, raked in at least $53 million from private companies while working in the administration and earning a taxpayer-funded salary, according to a Huffington Post report.

wilbur rossWhile leading the Department of Commerce, Ross reported making a minimum of $53 million to $127 million in outside earnings.

However, according to the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Ross, right, may have "earned significantly more as he was not required to specify certain income totals over $1 million."

"It is impossible to know Ross's exact income because it was reported in broad ranges, but it is clear that while running the agency in charge of promoting economic growth and regulating global trade for the United States, he made tens of millions of dollars," the CREW investigative report noted.

The report added: "Ross became notorious for mixing personal business with his government role."

According to the CREW report, Ross made at least $42 million in 2017, which included "more than $6 million he was paid for giving up unvested restricted Invesco shares and more than $5 million from selling Invesco stock."

The development comes after The Washington Post reported last month that a security unit within the Department of Commerce had morphed into a counterintelligence-like operation "that collected information on hundreds of people inside and outside the department."

Read more: We identified the 125 people and institutions most responsible for Donald Trump's rise to power and his norm-busting behavior that tested the boundaries of the US government and its institutions

The Investigations and Threat Management Service (ITMS) searched workers' offices in the evenings and looked through emails in search of possible foreign influence, according to the Post.

Per the Post report, the Biden administration paused all ITMS investigations in March and suspended its activities last month.

According to Forbes, Ross started a special purpose acquisition company in the Cayman Islands in January while still in his government role.

In 2017, CREW sought a probe into whether he fully divested from the Bank of Cyprus and questioned whether he "violated conflict of interest rules by participating in meetings and policy deliberations involving the United States and China trade matters related to assets he held or holds."

Palmer Report, Opinion: The long hard fall of Mike Pence, James Sullivan, June 20, 2021. Few figures in politics have risen and fallen so quickly as Mike Pence, even after the disastrous scandals that plagued his congressional career and tenure as Indiana governor.

mike pence bites lip CustomHe was once hailed by right-wingers and even some political strategists as the man who single handedly saved Trump’s campaign with his ability to convince evangelicals to come out and vote for Donald Trump in droves, and once championed by Trumpers as the only worthy successor for his boss and the GOP in 2024, who lionized Pence’s knack for terrifying a number of progressives and moderates with his theocratic vision of America.

bill palmer report logo headerNow it seems like forever ago that people dreaded the possibility that Pence could become president if Trump never completed his first term of office – something that made people reluctant to call for the former guy’s impeachment for fear that they could get something much worse. By the end of Trump’s term, Pence was yet another enemy of the people – demonized by his own boss for his failure to overturn the election – which is something the vice president cannot actually do. Rather than officially denounce the former guy, Pence decided to keep that albatross and describe his relationship with Trump as “complicated.”

On Friday, we got a glimpse of just how well that played. The Faith & Freedom Coalition should’ve seemed like a fairly routine place for the former veep to make an appearance and get a standing ovation no matter what he said, but the problem is that Pence took the stage and couldn’t get a word out. Rather than thunderous applause, his speech was drowned out by people screaming “Traitor!” It’s bad news for anyone hoping to be president – and bad news for the GOP in general – since they’re clearly still not over the last election and the loss of their de facto leader. Let’s make sure it stays that way for at least another eight years.'

ny times logoNew York Times, Yang and Garcia Form Late Alliance in Mayor’s Race, Drawing Adams’s Ire, Emma G. Fitzsimmons and Jeffery C. Mays, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). Andrew Yang and Kathryn Garcia campaigned together on Saturday in a show of unity that their top rival, Eric Adams, sought to portray as racially motivated.

andrew yang twitterAndrew Yang and Kathryn Garcia, two leading candidates in the New York City mayor’s race, joined each other on the campaign trail on Saturday, a late alliance that the contest’s front-runner, Eric Adams, left, immediately sought to portray as an attempt to weaken the voice of minority voters.

eric adamsMr. Yang, right, and Ms. Garcia stopped short of an official cross-endorsement, with Mr. Yang urging voters to rank Ms. Garcia second on their ballots but Ms. Garcia refraining from doing the same for him. Still, the two distributed fliers at a rally in Queens that featured their photos and names side by side.

“Rank me No. 1 and then rank Kathryn Garcia No. 2,” Mr. Yang said.

The display of unity, just three days before the Democratic primary scheduled for Tuesday, appeared to be aimed at Mr. Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, who has been leading in the polls. Mr. Yang and Ms. Garcia are centrists in the top tier of candidates who are trying to stop Mr. Adams’s momentum, and theirs was the first major alliance under ranked-choice voting.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Brazil, Besieged by Covid, Now Faces a Severe Drought, Manuela Andreoni and Ernesto Londoño, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). Brazilians are paying more for electricity, dealing with the possibility of water rationing and expecting a destructive fire season in the Amazon.

Crops have shriveled up under searing heat. Immense water reservoirs, which generate the bulk of Brazil’s electricity, are growing alarmingly shallow. And the world’s largest waterfall system, Iguaçu Falls, has been reduced from a torrent to a trickle.

brazil flag wavingAs Brazil approaches 500,000 deaths from Covid-19, a worsening drought is imperiling the country’s ability to jump-start its beleaguered economy, and may set the stage for another intensely destructive fire season in the Amazon rainforest.

Several states in the country are facing the worst drought in at least 90 years. The crisis has led to higher electricity prices, the threat of water rationing and a disruption of crop growing cycles. Agriculture, an economic engine of the nation — which relies heavily on hydropower — is now at risk.

Experts said the arid landscape, which coincided with a rise in illegal deforestation over the past months in the Amazon rainforest, could lead to a devastating fire season. Enforcement of environmental regulations is weak in the rainforest, and fire season traditionally begins in July.

ebrahim raisi smile facebook

ny times logoNew York Times, Iranian Hard-Liner, Ebrahim Raisi, Is Headed to Presidency, Vivian Yee, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). Rivals conceded the election to Mr. Raisi, Iran’s judiciary chief, a close ally of the supreme leader who has a record of human rights violations.

Iran FlagIran’s ultraconservative judiciary chief, Ebrahim Raisi, looked certain to become the country’s next president on Saturday after an election that many voters skipped, seeing it as rigged in his favor.The semiofficial news agency Fars, citing the head of the election commission, said that with 90 percent of the vote counted Mr. Raisi had won 17 million of the 28 million votes tabulated. Two rival candidates have conceded, and President Hassan Rouhani congratulated Mr. Raisi for the victory on Saturday, the semiofficial Mehr news agency reported.

Huge swaths of moderate and liberal-leaning Iranians sat out the election, saying that the campaign had been engineered to put Mr. Raisi in office or that voting would make little difference. He had been expected to win handily despite late attempts by the more-moderate reformist camp to consolidate support behind their main candidate — Abdolnasser Hemmati, a former central bank governor.

There was no immediate word on voter turnout. But if 28 million votes amounted to 90 percent of the ballots cast, then only about 31 million people would have voted. That would be a significant decline from the last presidential election, in 2017.. The number of eligible voters is 59 million, according to Mehr, an official news agency.

 washington post logoWashington Post,, Death of Afghan commander in Taliban massacre highlights country’s struggles and fears, Pamela Constable, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). Col. Sohrab Azimi was among 23 commandos killed as the insurgent group seeks to make gains with the U.S. military leaving the fight.

Col. Sohrab Azimi, a field commander in Afghan special forces that often rescue troops and retake outposts from Taliban attacks, symbolized the country's best hope to fend off an insurgent takeover as U.S. troops began to withdraw from the fight.

Azimi, 31, and his squad of 22 men were massacred Wednesday by Taliban forces while defending a base in northern Faryab province and waiting for reinforcements.

The loss unleashed a flood of emotions across social media — grief, anger and fear that even the nation’s most skilled defenders would be undercut by poor military leadership and the departure of Afghanistan’s major foreign military ally.

washington post logoWashington Post, Israel, Hamas revert to routine of provocation and reprisal, Steve Hendrix, June 20, 2021 (print ed.).  Nearly a month after a cease-fire ended 11 days of intense fighting, neither side is eager for a return to a full air war, according to military and political analysts, although the situation remains volatile.

washington post logoWashington Post, Israel struggles to restore vaccine swap deal after Palestinians reject doses for being too old, Shira Rubin, June 20, 2021. Israeli officials are working to revive talks to deliver vaccine doses to the Palestinian Authority after a deal last Friday was suddenly called off by P.A. officials who said that the vaccines were too close to their expiration date and do not meet their standards.

Some 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are still without sufficient vaccine supplies as shipments from other sources continue to lag even while their neighbor, Israel, is mostly returning to pre-pandemic life.

The announcement and abrupt cancellation of the deal has given rise to conspiracy theories and further damaged the low standing of the Palestinian Authority among its people.

Palestinians cancel vaccine deal with Israel, saying doses are too close to expiration date

On Friday, Israeli officials celebrated the finalization of the three-way deal between the two governments and Pfizer, by which Israel would ship more than 1 million doses of its vaccine to the Palestinian Authority, in exchange for a similar number of doses to be delivered back to Israel later this year.

Hours later, however, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh scrapped the deal, saying that the first shipment of some 100,000 Pfizer doses was due to expire at the end of the month and so too close to their expiration date.

At a news conference Friday evening, Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kaila said health officials who inspected the vaccines found they “did not meet standards and so we decided to return them.”

 

U.S. Religion and Media News 

pope francis eucharist

ny times logoNew York Times, Pope’s Silence Speaks Volumes on Controversial Communion Vote by U.S. Bishops, Jason Horowitz, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). The divergence of the conservative American church from Francis’ agenda is now so obvious as to be unremarkable, even when U.S. bishops ignore a Vatican warning.

Pope Francis (shown above) on Saturday put a founder of the European Union on the track to sainthood, told Roman deacons to take care of the poor and met with a top prelate who once defended him against wild allegations by the Vatican’s former ambassador to the United States.

But the most telling thing he did was stay quiet about the extraordinary vote by America’s Roman Catholic bishops to move ahead — despite the warning of the pope’s top doctrinal official — with the drafting of new guidance that conservatives hope will eventually deny communion to President Biden for his support of abortion rights.

The pope said nothing, church officials and experts said, because there is nothing else to say.

The divergence of the conservative American church from Francis’ agenda is now so apparent as to become unremarkable, and Vatican officials and experts said Saturday that the pope’s silence also underlined just how unsurprising the American vote, made public on Friday, was to the Vatican.

ed litton

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Will Christian America Withstand the Pull of QAnon? Peter Wehner (Mr. Wehner, right, who served in various roles in the three Republican administrations before the Trump administration, is a contributing peter wehnerOpinion writer. He attends McLean Presbyterian Church in McLean, Va.), June 19, 2021 (print ed.).

The scandals, jagged-edged judgmentalism and culture war mentality that have enveloped significant parts of American Christendom over the last several years, including the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, have conditioned many of us to expect the worst. Which is why the annual meeting of the convention this week was such a pleasant surprise.

The convention’s newly elected president, the Rev. Ed Litton, above, barely defeated the Rev. Mike Stone, below left, the choice of the denomination’s insurgent right. Mr. Litton, a soft-spoken pastor in Alabama who is very conservative theologically, has made racial reconciliation a hallmark of his ministry and has said that he will make institutional accountability and care for survivors of sexual abuse priorities during his two-year mike stone twitterterm.

“My goal is to build bridges and not walls,” Mr. Litton said at a news conference after his victory, pointedly setting himself apart from his main challenger. But those bridges won’t be easy to build.

Tensions in the convention are as high as they’ve been in decades; it is a deeply fractured denomination marked by fierce infighting. The Conservative Baptist Network, which Mr. Stone is part of, was formed in 2020 to stop what it considers the convention’s drift toward liberalism on matters of culture and theology.Ruth Graham and Elizabeth Dias of The Times describe the individuals in the Conservative Baptist Network as “part of an ultraconservative populist uprising of pastors” who want to “take the ship.” They are russell moore headshotzealous, inflamed, uncompromising and eager for a fight. They nearly succeeded this time. And they’re not going away anytime soon.

They view as a temporary setback the defeat of Mr. Stone, who came within an eyelash of winning even after allegations by the Rev. Russell Moore, right, the former head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm, that Mr. Stone blocked investigations of sexual abuse at Southern Baptist churches and engaged in a broader campaign of intimidation. (Mr. Stone has denied the charges.

joe biden jill biden church

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden finds himself caught in politics of Catholic Church, Matt Viser, June 19, 2021 (print ed.). Joe Biden (shown above at center foreground with First Lady Jill Biden) is arguably the most observant U.S. president in decades and the nation’s most prominent Catholic politician. He rarely misses Mass, he quotes scripture, and his faith has long been a core part of his identity. He’s also a liberal, and that’s stirring up the U.S. Catholic bishops fighting cultural battles within the church.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Some Catholic Leaders Deserve to Have Biden’s Ear, and Some Do Not, Tom Perriello, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). (Tom Perriello, shown above, the U.S. executive director of Open Society Foundations, is a former diplomat and member of Congress). The efforts by conservative bishops to arbitrate who receives communion reinforce why they so often stand alone.

The last time I took communion was in El Salvador, not long before the pandemic. As a Catholic, I enjoy exploring how Mass is experienced and enriched by different cultures. But I had a more urgent reason for searching out this ritual abroad. It provided my only chance to take the Eucharist, because I quietly decided 10 years ago that I could not in good conscience do so under the auspices of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

While the Catholic Church is far from infallible overseas, I frequently bear witness to Catholic leaders reminding me why my faith called me to a career promoting peace and justice. But back home, the persistent efforts by conservative bishops to arbitrate who among the faithful receives communion, while failing to practice the confession and penance they demand of others, reinforces why the American bishops so often stand alone.

When the bishops met on Friday, they could have voiced their support for today’s economic and racial justice movements. They could have backed Congressional efforts to guarantee dignity for children, parents, the aging and the workers who care for them. Instead, these men who benefit from a lifetime guarantee of housing, health care, and income, voted to back a measure that could be an early step toward limiting communion for President Biden — a man of compassion, empathy and lived but quiet faith.

This is not the first time the bishops have challenged a practicing Catholic who supports abortion rights. Former Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts was targeted by conservative bishops, some of whom even criticized Boston’s archbishop for presiding over former Senator Ted Kennedy’s funeral Mass.

I have worked on peace and justice issues at home and abroad, and I was always struck by the U.S. bishops’ myopic focus. But my experiences with them during my brief time in Congress shocked me. As a representative, I saw them cherry-pick theology to promote partisan ends, favoring a future Supreme Court over their congregations struggling to afford care.

At a time when the Church could model moral accountability for its decades of criminality and corruption, they opt instead for the partisan agenda of their largest donors and the misogyny inherent in their structure. They have opted to model the so-called “cafeteria Catholicism,” of which they accuse reformers. Their statements lack the moral clarity of their Salvadoran brethren in calling out, say, authoritarianism, or Big Tech’s role in spreading hate and lies, or elected officials who obstruct efforts to humanize our economy.

Growing up around Charlottesville, Va., I spent every Sunday hearing priests sermonize about the horrible atrocities committed against innocent civilians — even nuns — in Central America and about our own government’s complicity. We heard about extreme poverty, with a clear message that a failure to devote your life to addressing these injustices might lead to eternal damnation.

Catholic bishops in El Salvador, the country where Saint Óscar Romero was assassinated for standing with the poor and vulnerable, also met recently. They chose to take a courageous position against President Nayib Bukele’s move to consolidate power and create impunity for corruption. They also sent the Biden administration a clear message that “tough talk” on the border only helps the coyotes and gangs extort a higher price from those most at risk.

These are the true Catholic leaders, and the ones I hope serve as the better angels in President Biden’s ear.

I look forward to taking communion again when travel resumes and to being inspired every day by Catholic clergy and their lay colleagues whose faith inspires them to serve. I continue to fall short in my faith and feel guilty, as any Catholic would. I pray this week that the American bishops reflect on Pope Francis’s message that communion “is not the reward of saints, but the bread of sinners.”

Instead of asking whether they think President Biden is worthy of communion from them, I pray that they ask what they must do to rebuild the moral authority that would have them offering communion to any of us.

 

June 19

Top Headlines

 

American Vote Suppression, Nullification

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Law

  

U.S. Politics, Governance, Climate

 

World News

 

U.S. Religion and Media News

 

Top Stories 

ny times logoNew York Times, With Vaccination Goal in Doubt, Biden Warns of Variant’s Threat, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Noah Weiland, June 19, 2021 (print ed.). The U.S. is unlikely to partly vaccinate 70 percent of its adults by July 4. President Biden has ramped up his drive for Americans to get their shots.

joe biden black background resized serious fileWith the United States unlikely to reach his self-imposed deadline of having 70 percent of adults partly vaccinated against the coronavirus by July 4, President Biden on Friday stepped up his drive for Americans to get their shots, warning that those who decline risk becoming infected by a highly contagious and potentially deadly variant.

In an afternoon appearance at the White House, Mr. Biden avoided mentioning the 70 percent target that he set in early May and instead trumpeted a different milestone: 300 million shots in his first 150 days in office. But even as he hailed the vaccination campaign’s success, he sounded a somber note about the worrisome Delta variant, which is spreading in states with low vaccination rates.

“The best way to protect yourself against these variants is to get vaccinated,” the president declared.

His remarks came as his administration begins a final push to reach the July 4 goal over the next two weeks. Vice President Kamala Harris and Xavier Becerra, the health and human services secretary, were both on the road on Friday, trying to drum up enthusiasm for the vaccine. Ms. Harris went to Atlanta, where she noted that less than half of people in Fulton County, where the city is, had at least one shot, and Mr. Becerra to Colorado.

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)

Daily Beast, New Docuseries Suggests Jeffrey Epstein Was a Government Informant, Nick Schager, June 19, 2021. The Plot Thickens. The Peacock docuseries “Epstein’s Shadow: Ghislaine Maxwell” traces the life of the late sex trafficker’s right-hand woman, with victims speaking out about the damage they wrought.

Ghislaine Maxwell has a name that many can’t pronounce and a backstory that’s shrouded in mystery. Epstein’s Shadow: Ghislaine Maxwell seeks to rectify the latter by investigating the life of Jeffrey Epstein’s notorious girlfriend and co-conspirator, who currently resides in a Brooklyn jail awaiting trial for a variety of sex-trafficking charges that were levied against her by the U.S. federal government daily beast logoin 2020. Informative and comprehensive, it paints a portrait of a woman who was groomed at an early age for her eventual role as a madame for her pedophilic partner—a cretin for whom she herself groomed countless underage girls for his perverse sexual pleasure.

Peacock’s three-part docuseries (premiering June 24) is a no-frills non-fiction affair, and all the better for it. A raft of interviews with acquaintances, authors, journalists, and more provide the narrative spine for an archival footage-heavy investigation into Maxwell’s saga, which has ensnared the many rich and powerful people whom she brought into Epstein’s orbit.

Those include, most infamously, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, whose damningly clumsy BBC interview receives some airplay here, as well as Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, and various celebrities—Elon Musk, Mick Jagger, Joan Rivers—whom she was photographed with at one gala event or another. Maxwell was the conduit between Epstein and high society’s cream of the crop, and though this overview presents no new bombshells about her A-list relationships, her intimate ties to dignitaries, politicians, artists, and other notable names is made definitively clear.

Those links are central to Maxwell’s fate, since it’s apparent she and Epstein made secret surveillance videos (and photographs) of visitors to their NYC townhouse home—meaning they potentially have blackmail material on a host of global big shots.

alexander acosta o cropped CustomThese incriminating recordings have been fingered as the reason Epstein received a “sweetheart deal” from U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida (and Secretary of Labor under Trump) Alexander Acosta, right, in 2008, when the feds had Epstein dead-to-rights on sex-trafficking crimes, and yet offered him a plea agreement that put him behind bars for 15 months—he could even come and go during the day from prison—and provided immunity to anyone related to his infractions, at least in Palm Beach. It’s also been suggested that they’re the cause of his much-debated suicide; as the conspiracy theory goes, he may have been murdered by forces that wanted to keep what he knew—and had—from seeing the light of day.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion : Remittances aren’t talked about much in discussions of northern migration. They should be, Colbert I. King, right, June 19, 2021 (print ed.). Dry sounding “workers’ remittances” represent money that migrants colbert king twitterfrom Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador send back home to their families and communities. By any measure, remittances have more transformative economic power in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala than all U.S. aid contributions to those countries combined.

A little context.

Some two-thirds of all emigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean reside in the United States, making this country the largest — and, given our economy and currency, the most reliable — source of remittances for the region. Workers’ remittances — money sent by people working mostly in low-paid jobs in housekeeping, construction, food preparation, etc. — are a crucial source of investment and external financing for the Northern Triangle

washington post logoWashington Post, Heat wave raises fears western U.S. states could face severe fire season, Derek Hawkins and David Suggs, June 19, 2021 (print ed.) The punishing heat wave that baked the western United States this week has intensified fears that the region is heading into another severe wildfire season, pressuring emergency officials and residents still recovering from last year’s historic blazes once again to prepare for the worst.

Record high temperatures and a worsening drought have parched vast tracts of brush, timber and grasses, leaving an abundance of potential fuels for the flames to consume. The vegetation has dried out faster than usual in some places after an early snow melt and months with little precipitation. The triple-digit heat this week has only compounded the problem.

“We’re going into fire season with fuels that are already much drier than we’d expect at this time of year,” said Lenya N. Quinn-Davidson, a fire adviser with the University of California Cooperative Extension. “Everything is kind of primed. If we get those ignitions, everything will be ready to burn easily.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Entire Portland police crowd-control unit quits over fellow officer’s assault charge, Max Hauptman, June 19, 2021 (print ed.). All of the approximately 50 members of a Portland, Ore., police crowd-control unit resigned from their assignment on Wednesday, citing a lack of support from city officials during a year that has seen frequent clashes between protesters and law enforcement.

The mass resignation came one day after a grand jury charged Officer Corey Budworth with one count of assault in the fourth degree, a misdemeanor offense that carries up to a one-year jail sentence, for his actions during an Aug. 18 protest in downtown Portland.

Budworth, who was placed on administrative leave by the department on Tuesday, was filmed repeatedly striking a woman in the head with a baton and knocking her to the ground. There have been few criminal cases filed against police officers for excessive use of force at protests, and the Multnomah County indictment marks the first time a member of the Portland Police Department will face prosecution for such actions.

 

American Vote Suppression, Nullification

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: The administrators of U.S. democracy are under attack, Editorial Board, June 19, 2021 (print ed.). This is an underappreciated threat to U.S. democracy.

A report from New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice this week shows that one-third of election officials feel unsafe, with most saying that social media has made their professions more dangerous. Election workers up and down the ranks have endured death threats, racial slurs and menacing protests outside their homes. One website displayed a state election director’s home address and a photo with crosshairs over it along with a warning: “Your days are numbered.”

katie hobbs headshotThese threats continue long after the height of the 2020 vote dispute: In May, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, right, tweeted, “Earlier today a man called my office saying I deserve to die and wanting to know ‘what she is wearing so she’ll be easy to get.’

It was one of at least three such threats today. Then a man who I’ve never seen before chased me and my staffer outside of our office.” It is only a matter of time before election officials end up hurt — or worse. Even if the point is merely to intimidate, it is toxic for democracy if voting administrators have to fear what one side may do to them if it loses.

 washington post logoWashington Post, McConnell vows to block voting legislation, spurning Manchin’s compromise offer, Mike DeBonis and Vanessa Williams, June 18, 2021 (print ed.). Senate Republicans vowed Thursday to block voting legislation from advancing later this month, rejecting a key Democratic senator’s compromise offer that adopted some GOP ideas in a bid to break partisan gridlock on the issue.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosThe pledge from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) all but guarantees that Republicans will filibuster a sweeping voting bill that Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) is sending to the floor Tuesday.

Mitchell_McConnellParts of the bill are meant to overrule provisions contained in a host of GOP-passed state laws that have placed restrictions on early voting, mail-in voting, ballot drop boxes and other policies that make it easier to cast a ballot, in response to former president Donald Trump’s false claims of a stolen 2020 presidential election.

“I’ve taken a look at all the new state laws — none of them are designed to suppress the vote,” McConnell, left, said Thursday. “There is no rational basis for the federal government to take over all of American elections.”

The only remaining question is whether all 50 Democratic senators will unite in support of debating the bill, known as the For the People Act, and how they will react once Republicans block the legislation.

Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), above, has long withheld support for the sprawling bill, which contains dozens of provisions for disparate voting, campaign finance and elections, citing a lack of GOP support. But this week he circulated a three-page memo outlining potential changes that could win his support, including adopting some traditional Republican priorities such as mandating that voters provide identification and giving state and local elections officials a free hand to maintain their voter rolls.

Manchin outlines demands on voting legislation, creating an opening for potential Democratic compromise

After huddling with his fellow Democratic senators Thursday, Manchin suggested that he would join with them to at least start debating the bill next week. “I would think we all would want to do that,” he said. “You could air your differences that you might have or what your concerns are or what your thoughts may be.”

us senate logoBut McConnell said flatly Wednesday that his party would not be joining in.

“All Republicans, I think, will oppose that . . . if that were to be surfaced on the floor,” he said.

McConnell’s remarks came not long after the Manchin proposal won a notable endorsement from Democratic voting-rights activist Stacey Abrams, who said in a morning CNN appearance that she could “absolutely” support his proposal and called it a “first and important step to preserving our democracy.”

Other Democrats also spoke positively about Manchin’s proposal — and several senators said they could be willing to accept a voter ID mandate as part of a broader package.

raphael warnock“I don’t know anybody who believes that people shouldn’t have to prove that they are who they say they are,” said Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D-Ga.), right, a close ally of Abrams. “But what has happened over the years is people have played with common sense identification and put into place restrictive measures intended not to preserve the integrity of the outcome, but to select certain voters. That’s what I oppose.”

Abrams, a former Georgia state legislative leader and gubernatorial candidate, is an influential figure among Democrats, who credit her efforts with helping deliver Georgia for President Biden in 2020. But she is a reviled figure among the Republican voter base, and McConnell and other GOP leaders immediately used her words of support to cast the Manchin proposal as unacceptable.

In an interview Thursday, Abrams said she did not agree with every piece of Manchin’s proposal but said it “signaled a willingness to engage and to have conversations” about voting legislation. “But this is a process,” she added, “which means others are going to also have a say.”

The most important message Manchin’s engagement has sent, Abrams said, is that the effort to pass federal voting rights legislation still has momentum. And she said the GOP efforts to weaponize her support for the new talks among Democrats did not change the political fundamentals of the partisan clash.

“If I disagreed with it, they were going to oppose it. If I agreed with it, they were going to oppose it,” she said. “There’s nothing in access to the right to vote that will appease Mitch McConnell.”

McConnell gathered about a dozen Republican senators to stand with him in front of reporters Thursday as he lambasted the Democratic voting rights efforts, a show of force that reflected his own long-standing distaste for legislation that puts federal fetters on campaigns and elections as well as the depth of support he has within his caucus for his hard-line approach.

That approach is backstopped by the Senate filibuster — the 60-vote supermajority rule that gives a united minority an effective veto — and the knowledge that Manchin and several other Democratic senators do not currently support changing that rule.

As he rolled out his compromise proposal Wednesday, Manchin simultaneously made clear that he remains unwilling to change Senate rules to pass major legislation with a simple majority. On Thursday, he said he was still hopeful that some Republicans could be convinced to support some type of elections bill.

“McConnell has the right to do whatever he thinks he can do,” Manchin told reporters. “I would hope that there’s enough good Republicans who understand the bedrock of our society is having an accessible, open, fair and secure election.”

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, High Hopes for Johnson & Johnson’s Covid Vaccine Have Fizzled, Noah Weiland, June 19, 2021 (print ed). The “one and done” Janssen vaccine has made up less than 4 percent of the U.S.’s total administered doses so far. Millions of vials will soon expire. The vaccine’s appeal has dropped after several controversies, and experts now say that the U.S. has missed a big opportunity to tackle health disparities.

When Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose coronavirus vaccine was authorized for emergency use in late February, ​it was seen as a breakthrough for reaching vulnerable and isolated Americans, a crucial alternative to vaccines that require two shots weeks apart and fussier storage. It was soon popular on college campuses, in door-to-door campaigns and with harder-to-reach communities that often struggle with access to health care.

johnson johnson logoBut with only 11.8 million doses administered in the United States so far — less than 4 percent of the total — the “one and done” vaccine has fallen flat. States have warned for weeks that they may not find recipients for millions of doses that will soon expire, partly because the vaccine’s appeal dropped after it was linked to a rare but serious blood-clotting disorder and injections were paused for 10 days in April.

The vaccine took another hit last week, when regulators told Johnson & Johnson that it should throw out tens of millions of additional doses produced at a plant in Baltimore because they might be contaminated. The diminished supply and enthusiasm for the shot mean that its role in the United States is fading fast, even though millions of Americans have yet to be vaccinated.

“It’s just not what I think anybody would have hoped it would be when it came out,” said Dave Baden, the chief financial officer of the Oregon Health Authority.

Health officials in a number of other states presented a similarly discouraging picture. The pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, they said, effectively kicked it aside for good; only about 3.5 million doses have been used since the pause was lifted on April 23. Kim Deti, a spokeswoman for the Wyoming Health Department, said the graph of uptake in her state told the vaccine’s story: a significant climb in the early weeks of its rollout, followed by a plateau that began around the pause.

washington post logoWashington Post, 175.9 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 19, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 147.8 million people (44.5 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 53 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

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

World Cases: 178,668,986, Deaths: 3,868,508
U.S. Cases:     34,393,269, Deaths:    616,920
India Cases:    29,823,546, Deaths:    385,167
Brazil Cases:   17,802,176, Deaths:    498,621

ny times logoeuropean union logo rectangleNew York Times, E.U. Recommends Opening to Americans to Rescue the Summer, Monika Pronczuk, June 18, 2021. The European Union recommended its 27 member nations lift a ban on nonessential travel from the United States, but each country will decide for itself. 

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Law 

ny times logoNew York Times, Los Angeles Just Elected a Liberal D.A. He’s Already Facing a Recall Effort, Tim Arango, June 19, 2021. George Gascón is facing an intense backlash for enacting the sorts of policies demanded by protesters after the killing of George Floyd.

From inside the walls of Folsom State Prison, the two inmates, one a convicted murderer, clinked their cups of prison moonshine in a toast to the new district attorney of Los Angeles, George Gascón.

A video of the celebration was released earlier this year by Mr. Gascón’s opponents — and there are many — who used it to attack what is perhaps the most far-reaching plank of his progressive agenda: the review of nearly 20,000 old prison sentences, many for violent crimes like murder, for possible early releases.

Mr. Gascón, a Democrat, has brushed off the video as nothing more than a Willie Horton-style attack by get-tough-on-crime proponents that “plays well on Fox News.” But he doesn’t shy away from his belief that even those convicted of violent crimes deserve a chance at redemption.

“There’s no way we can get to meaningful prison reduction in this country without looking at more serious crimes,” Mr. Gascón, who also supports ending cash bail and eliminating the prosecution of juveniles as adults, said in an interview. “The public stories you hear are the really scary stuff. You’re talking about the violent sexual predator. You’re talking about some sadistic murderer. The reality is those are really a small number of the prison population and violent crime.”

But the prospect of convicted murderers getting out early, or getting lighter sentences than they would have received in a previous era, has fueled an effort to force a recall election next year and remove Mr. Gascón from office. More than a thousand volunteers, as well as dozens of paid workers, are collecting signatures for the recall at gun stores, bail bonds offices, and even outside Mr. Gascón’s home.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Disorder and Chaos’ in N.Y.C. Jails as Pandemic Recedes, Jan Ransom, June 19, 2021. Six people have died, a murder suspect was accidentally released and a captain was charged with homicide. The future of Rikers Island remains unclear.

Violence on Rikers Island is surging. Exhausted guards are working triple shifts. And staffing shortages have triggered lockdowns at some of the jail’s largest facilities.

More than a year after the coronavirus sickened thousands in New York City’s jail system, the Department of Correction has plunged further into crisis as complaints of severe mismanagement, persistent violence and deaths of incarcerated people continue to mount.

Correction officers and incarcerated people alike have described a tumultuous first half of the year: Six detainees have died, including at least two by suicide, compared with seven through all of 2020. Guards have been forced to work triple and occasionally quadruple shifts, staying on duty for 24 hours or longer, to make up for staffing shortages.

Last month, a report by a federal monitor appointed to oversee the troubled jails described a system in a state of disorder, and expressed grave concern about the agency’s ability to change course.

ny times logoNew York Times, Man Pleads Guilty to Threatening to Lynch 2 Members of Congress, Michael Levenson, June 19, 2021 (print ed.). Kenneth R. Hubert, of Marionville, Mo., had threatened Representatives Emanuel Cleaver II after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and Steve Cohen in 2019, prosecutors said.

kenneth hubertA Missouri man pleaded guilty on Thursday to charges that he had threatened to lynch a Black congressman the day after the Jan. 6 siege at the U.S. Capitol and a Jewish congressman in 2019, court records show.

The man, Kenneth R. Hubert, right, 63, Marionville, Mo., was arrested in March after, prosecutors said, he had directed the threats at Representatives Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri and Steve Cohen of Tennessee, both Democrats.

According to a plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Mr. Hubert pleaded guilty to two counts of threatening to assault a United States steve cohenofficial. Each count carries a maximum penalty of six years in prison, the agreement states. It was unclear whether a sentencing date had been set.

Prosecutors, Mr. Hubert’s lawyer and representatives for Mr. Cleaver and Mr. Cohen did not immediately respond to messages on Friday.

In the plea agreement, Mr. Hubert acknowledged that on May 6, 2019, he had called the Washington office of Mr. Cohen, who is Jewish, and told a staff member that he had “a noose with the congressman’s name on it” and planned to “put a noose around his neck” and drag him behind his pickup truck.

Three days later, F.B.I. agents went to Mr. Hubert’s home, where he admitted making the call and said he had done so because he was offended by a comment that Mr. Cohen had made about Donald J. Trump, who was president, the agreement states.

On Jan. 7, a day after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, Mr. Hubert called Mr. Cleaver’s office in Independence, Mo., and, according to the plea agreement, left a voice mail message in which he called Mr. Cleaver, who is Black, a racial slur, and said, “How about a noose around his neck?”

After F.B.I. agents went to Mr. Hubert’s home on Jan. 19, he admitted that he had called Mr. Cleaver’s office, acknowledged that his message was threatening and said he had been upset about a comment that Mr. Cleaver had made in the House of Representatives, the agreement states.

Prosecutors said Mr. Hubert had been upset after Mr. Cleaver had ended the opening prayer on the first day of Congress by saying, “Amen and A-woman.”

Mr. Hubert had a history of making threatening and hostile phone calls, according to prosecutors.

On the morning of Jan. 6, they said, he called the Missouri Democratic Party and left a message saying the party should “stay in hiding. Steal the election, we got something for you.” In a second voice mail later that day, he pointed to the siege at the Capitol and said, “It’s coming your way next,” prosecutors said.

Mr. Hubert had also been investigated by law enforcement officials after he left a hostile message for a federal judge in Montana in 2014 in response to a ruling on same-sex marriage, according to prosecutors. Mr. Hubert had also called the Council on American-Islamic Relations in St. Louis in 2016 and made disparaging and derogatory comments, prosecutors said.

At a hearing in March, Mr. Hubert’s lawyer, David Mercer, said his client had served in the military, had spent most of his life in southern Missouri and had “lived a completely law-abiding life,” The Kansas City Star reported. 

 

chris doworth left matt gaetz joel greenberg resized facebook

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL, at center, former Florida State Rep. Chris Dorworth, left, then of the Ballard Partners lobbying firm, and former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, at right, posed for the photograph above outside the White House in June of 2019.

Palmer Report, Opinion:  The Matt Gaetz scandal is blowing up in Republicans’ faces, Bill Palmer, right, June 19, 2021. Once the Feds gained two cooperating witnesses against Matt Gaetz last month, it was bill palmerpretty clear that he was headed for likely criminal indictment. Earlier today the Feds seemingly tipped off that Gaetz will be indicted and arrested within weeks. This is ugly news for Republicans – and not just the specific Central Florida Republicans who appear to be going down with him.

Because Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy, left, is a tepid idiot who usually just defers to whatever fantasy Donald Trump would like to see play out, McCarthy missed the chance to preemptively make some kind of move to distance his party from Matt Gaetz. There was a window of opportunity where McCarthy could have had the House GOP remove Kevin McCarthyGaetz from committees, so that once Gaetz was indicted, the Republicans could argue that they took action against Gaetz before anyone else did.

bill palmer report logo headerBut now it’s realistically too late for McCarthy and the House GOP to get out ahead of the Gaetz scandal. Congressman Ted Lieu highlighted the trouble that House Republicans are now facing in a tweet today: “Dear Kevin McCarthy: You and your GOP caucus should stop embracing Rep Matt Gaetz and remove him from the Judiciary Committee immediately. Gaetz should not be sitting on the Committee that has oversight over the DOJ that is investigating him for alleged sex crimes & other crimes.”

Lieu’s tweet is a preview of what the Democratic Party will end up saying about every House Republican who faces reelection in 2022: they knew what Matt Gaetz was all along, so why did they try to protect him instead of doing the right thing? At this point Kevin McCarthy is a deer in the headlights – and House Republicans are stuck right there with him.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance 

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White House Chronicle, Commentary: The Great Western Drought Will Affect Us All, Llewellyn King, above, June 19, 2021. The severe drought gripping the Western states looks set to reach into all lives in the nation and into every pocket.

The unbearable heat for those living in the West, with record-high temperatures stretching from Wyoming to the Mexican border and from the Pacific to the Mississippi, will impact the rest of the country as well.

Scientists have classified this monstrous baking as a megadrought. There hasn’t been regular rain or mountain snow in the West for more than 20 years.

To call it a scorcher is to underestimate a catastrophe that has the possibility of reaching near-biblical proportions. This is big and there is no quick fix. None.

The drought means epic disruptions, merciless rearrangement.

First, of course, there is no water, which means much economic activity may slow or cease. Farmers won’t be able to grow crops or raise livestock. Food prices that are already high from the pandemic’s disruptions will go even higher.

The electricity supply will be strained and may be curtailed because of reduced hydroelectric production. The 13 Western states get more than 22 percent of their electricity from hydropower dams, located mostly in Washington, according to the National Hydropower Association.

In today’s world, farmers depend on electricity to water crops and livestock, milk cows, dry grain, and freeze produce.

The first measurable disruption of the summer will be from breakdowns in the California food supply chain. Prices in supermarkets will reflect the impact of the drought on California, which acts as the nation’s truck farm. If you eat it, it grows in California, but only when there is water for irrigation.

The rivers of the West are running dry. The reserves of water in the great dams on the major rivers, especially the Columbia and the Colorado, which act as the lifelines of much of the West, are way below normal.

Manufactured goods from Western states will be affected if power shortages are extended and widespread. Wildfires will abound and have already started their annual scourge.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Brazil, Besieged by Covid, Now Faces a Severe Drought, Manuela Andreoni and Ernesto Londoño, June 19, 2021. Brazilians are paying more for electricity, dealing with the possibility of water rationing and expecting a destructive fire season in the Amazon.

Crops have shriveled up under searing heat. Immense water reservoirs, which generate the bulk of Brazil’s electricity, are growing alarmingly shallow. And the world’s largest waterfall system, Iguaçu Falls, has been reduced from a torrent to a trickle.

brazil flag wavingAs Brazil approaches 500,000 deaths from Covid-19, a worsening drought is imperiling the country’s ability to jump-start its beleaguered economy, and may set the stage for another intensely destructive fire season in the Amazon rainforest.

Several states in the country are facing the worst drought in at least 90 years. The crisis has led to higher electricity prices, the threat of water rationing and a disruption of crop growing cycles. Agriculture, an economic engine of the nation — which relies heavily on hydropower — is now at risk.

Experts said the arid landscape, which coincided with a rise in illegal deforestation over the past months in the Amazon rainforest, could lead to a devastating fire season. Enforcement of environmental regulations is weak in the rainforest, and fire season traditionally begins in July.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Iranian Hard-Liner, Ebrahim Raisi, Is Headed to Presidency, Vivian Yee, June 19, 2021. Rivals conceded the election to Mr. Raisi, Iran’s judiciary chief, a close ally of the supreme leader who has a record of human rights violations.

Iran FlagIran’s ultraconservative judiciary chief, Ebrahim Raisi, looked certain to become the country’s next president on Saturday after an election that many voters skipped, seeing it as rigged in his favor.The semiofficial news agency Fars, citing the head of the election commission, said that with 90 percent of the vote counted Mr. Raisi had won 17 million of the 28 million votes tabulated. Two rival candidates have conceded, and President Hassan Rouhani congratulated Mr. Raisi for the victory on Saturday, the semiofficial Mehr news agency reported.

Huge swaths of moderate and liberal-leaning Iranians sat out the election, saying that the campaign had been engineered to put Mr. Raisi in office or that voting would make little difference. He had been expected to win handily despite late attempts by the more-moderate reformist camp to consolidate support behind their main candidate — Abdolnasser Hemmati, a former central bank governor.

There was no immediate word on voter turnout. But if 28 million votes amounted to 90 percent of the ballots cast, then only about 31 million people would have voted. That would be a significant decline from the last presidential election, in 2017.. The number of eligible voters is 59 million, according to Mehr, an official news agency.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Power of Money: How Autocrats Use London to Strike Foes Worldwide, Andrew Higgins, Jane Bradley, Isobel Koshiw and Franz Wild, June 19, 2021 (print ed.). English courtrooms are a battleground — and a source of strong weapons — in disputes between the tycoons and the politicians of the post-Soviet world.

 

U.S. Religion and Media News 

ed litton

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Will Christian America Withstand the Pull of QAnon? Peter Wehner (Mr. Wehner, right, who served in various roles in the three Republican administrations before the Trump administration, is a contributing peter wehnerOpinion writer. He attends McLean Presbyterian Church in McLean, Va.), June 19, 2021 (print ed.).

The scandals, jagged-edged judgmentalism and culture war mentality that have enveloped significant parts of American Christendom over the last several years, including the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, have conditioned many of us to expect the worst. Which is why the annual meeting of the convention this week was such a pleasant surprise.

The convention’s newly elected president, the Rev. Ed Litton, above, barely defeated the Rev. Mike Stone, below left, the choice of the denomination’s insurgent right. Mr. Litton, a soft-spoken pastor in Alabama who is very conservative theologically, has made racial reconciliation a hallmark of his ministry and has said that he will make institutional accountability and care for survivors of sexual abuse priorities during his two-year mike stone twitterterm.

“My goal is to build bridges and not walls,” Mr. Litton said at a news conference after his victory, pointedly setting himself apart from his main challenger. But those bridges won’t be easy to build.

Tensions in the convention are as high as they’ve been in decades; it is a deeply fractured denomination marked by fierce infighting. The Conservative Baptist Network, which Mr. Stone is part of, was formed in 2020 to stop what it considers the convention’s drift toward liberalism on matters of culture and theology.Ruth Graham and Elizabeth Dias of The Times describe the individuals in the Conservative Baptist Network as “part of an ultraconservative populist uprising of pastors” who want to “take the ship.” They are russell moore headshotzealous, inflamed, uncompromising and eager for a fight. They nearly succeeded this time. And they’re not going away anytime soon.

They view as a temporary setback the defeat of Mr. Stone, who came within an eyelash of winning even after allegations by the Rev. Russell Moore, right, the former head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm, that Mr. Stone blocked investigations of sexual abuse at Southern Baptist churches and engaged in a broader campaign of intimidation. (Mr. Stone has denied the charges.

washington post logoWashington Post, Catholic bishops back document that could limit Communion for Biden, Michelle Boorstein, June 19, 2021 (print ed.). The presidency of the country’s second Catholic president is revealing deep divisions among U.S. bishops. The vote to create guidelines on the meaning of communion could be an early step toward limiting the serving of the eucharist to politicians who support abortion rights.

Catholic bishops on Friday voted to create guidelines on the meaning of Communion, a move that could be an early step toward limiting the serving of the Eucharist to President Biden and other politicians who support abortion rights.

The vote came after a 3½-hour-long emotional discussion Thursday at the annual spring meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Multiple bishops clashed over how, or if, they should single out the church’s teaching on abortion.

The vote on whether to create a draft document about the meaning of the Eucharist, the bread-and-wine rite at the heart of Communion, needed a simple majority. The measure passed 168 to 55, with six abstentions.

Biden’s presidency, the second Catholic to ever hold the position in the nation’s history, is revealing deep divisions among U.S. bishops, and one after another appeared Thursday at their annual meeting to declare their fraternity is at a crossroads..

Embedded in the organization’s agenda this week were explosive, profound differences about theology, pastoring, human nature and a political backdrop that set off a rare public show of division among the bishops . One bishop said the men were meeting at a time of “historic opportunity.” Another said he could not recall a moment like this in 30 years. Yet another said the bishops’ discussion was the most robust discussion in a decade.

Each side said the other was jeopardizing the church’s reputation.

joe biden jill biden church

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden finds himself caught in politics of Catholic Church, Matt Viser, June 19, 2021 (print ed.). Joe Biden (shown above at center foreground with First Lady Jill Biden) is arguably the most observant U.S. president in decades and the nation’s most prominent Catholic politician. He rarely misses Mass, he quotes scripture, and his faith has long been a core part of his identity. He’s also a liberal, and that’s stirring up the U.S. Catholic bishops fighting cultural battles within the church.

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, One America News is the face of the GOP-led Arizona election audit. Its reporter is also helping pay for it, Paul Farhi and Elahe Izadi, June 19, 2021 (print ed.). The right-wing channel’s Christina Bobb, above, is simultaneously covering, promoting and fundraising for the review of the 2020 election results.

One America News correspondent Christina Bobb had some exciting news to share from the scene of the Arizona GOP-led audit of the 2020 presidential vote in Maricopa County: Republican lawmakers from another battleground state had just paid a visit to see if they might replicate it back home.

“If they like what they see, [they’ll] take it back to Pennsylvania,” she told her audience this month from the floor of a massive Phoenix arena where more than 2 million ballots are being removed from boxes and examined by hand.

“I think we can expect to see a lot more key decision-makers coming out to take a look,” she added, hopefully.

Bobb didn’t mention in her report that she had helped raise money to pay for those lawmakers to visit. Nor that she worked with Arizona Republicans last year to find some of the initial, much-disputed evidence they used to justify the audit.

 

June 18

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Jan. 6 U.S. Pro-Trump Insurrection

 

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