Comments

  1. says

    Here’s a link to the May 18 Guardian (support it if you can!) coronavirus world liveblog.

    From their summary:

    India has suffered its deadliest day of the pandemic so far, with 4,329 deaths in 24 hours. The devastating toll comes as India’s case total passes 25 million, according to the health ministry.

    The Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine can be stored at fridge temperature for much longer than previously recommended, according to the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

    Israeli airstrikes have destroyed the only Covid-19 testing laboratory in Gaza and damaged the office of Qatar’s Red Crescent.

    A top medical organisation has thrown its weight behind calls to cancel the Tokyo Olympics, saying hospitals are already overwhelmed as the country battles a sharp rise in coronavirus infections less than three months from the start of the Games.

    George Eustice, the UK’s environment secretary, confirmed that local lockdowns might be needed if the situation were to deteriorate in some areas of England. Bedford’s director of public health said she was “really worried” about the local increase in Covid-19 cases linked to the Indian variant. There were strong words for the UK government from Dr Zubaida Haque, who said ministers should have “stalled” the lifting of restrictions on Monday.

    Tax documents released by his office show that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s contract with publishers for his book about dealing with the coronavirus pandemic was worth $5 million.

    Germany will scrap its Covid vaccine priority list and start offering jabs to all adults from 7 June, the country’s health minister Jens Spahn said.

  2. blf says

    Apropos of nothing per se, and not political, I’d mentioned earlier that here in the village, a longstanding “orientalist” / hippy shop had closed (presumably due to the pandemic), to be replaced a vin shop. That vin shop is now open — they are an “essential” business in France and so not closed by the semi-lockdown (which will be lifted to some extent tomorrow) — and so I wandered around. And found something I’d never seen before, which also turns out to be unique: A French Zinfandel, Domaine de l’Arjolle (PDF). Zinfandel is the California grape, albeit its origins seem to be from Croatia. Zinfandel wines not made in California are unusual, and Domaine de l’Arjolle is apparently the only wineyard in all of France allowed to grow the grape. (Zinfandel is also a wine people tend to have strong opinions about, they either cannot stand the stuff or adore it — I originally couldn’t stand it, but after tasting some high quality Zinfandels, switched to the other side — but you almost never see Zinfandel (or indeed any Californian) wines in France, in my experience.)

  3. says

    Guardian – “Arab states split for first time on refusal to condemn Israel over Gaza”:

    As Israel and Hamas have pressed closer to all-out war, a new battle for the narrative is being fought among Arab states. For the first time in the many clashes between the two foes, regional unity over who is to blame and what should be done to stop the fighting has splintered.

    While some states with Muslim majorities, such as Turkey and Iran, have accused Israel of incitement at the al-Aqsa mosque and committing atrocities in Gaza, other countries that had followed suit during previous flare-ups have this time been more restrained.

    The relative silence has been led by states that made peace with Israel in the last year of the Trump administration and are now standard bearers of the so-called Abraham Accords.

    The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan, which all recently normalised ties with Israel, now find themselves balancing their new relationships against citizens who have been vocal in their anger at Israel’s violence.

    Long-time observers of Israel and Palestine say the divergent reactions to this round of fighting have put some regional powers in a difficult position with their own populations.

    “It is extraordinary, in this denial position of the Emiratis in particular, that they have not uttered hardly a single criticism of what is happening in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories,” said Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU).

    In what appeared to be a state-backed response, the hashtag “Palestine is not my cause” circulated in the UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait over the weekend. It made little dent in region-wide support for Twitter accounts from Gaza and East Jerusalem decrying scenes of violence and the Israeli leadership.

    “[These governments] are on the wrong side of public opinion in how they’re seen and received by the populations of the Arab region,” said Mohanad Hage Ali, research fellow at Carnegie Middle East Centre. “They’re trying to pursue an active foreign policy holding positions that they’ve never had before. They could be seen as synonymous with the Israeli occupation and the Israeli policy in the region. This will have an impact on not only Israel, but their new Arab allies. And this will tarnish their reputation.”…

  4. says

    Guardian – “‘A new Chile’: political elite rejected in vote for constitutional assembly”:

    Chile’s established political elite has been roundly rejected at the polls six months ahead of a pivotal presidential election, as the country turned to a progressive new generation to write the next chapter in its history.

    Resounding victories for leftist and independent candidates saw rightwing politicians crash to a dismal electoral defeats alongside those with links to Chile’s transition to democracy.

    Across two days of voting, Chileans cast votes for the 155 delegates who will write a new constitution to replace Augusto Pinochet’s 1980 document and the neoliberal model it enshrined.

    People also voted for regional governors for the first time ever, as well as for councillors and mayors – with candidates backed by president Sebastián Piñera’s Chile Vamos coalition faring poorly in each case.

    Crucially, with the government coalition’s list securing only 37 seats in the assembly, Chile’s traditional right-wing fell well short of the one-third bloc it had targeted to obstruct the inclusion of progressive articles the constitution.

    Each bill must be approved by two-thirds of the assembly to be included in the document.

    “Many people are saying that yesterday was the day that the transition to democracy finally reached its conclusion,” said Verónica Figueroa Huencho, an academic at the University of Chile’s school of public affairs.

    “The participation of indigenous peoples and independent candidates in a gender-equal constitutional assembly is a launchpad for a new Chile.”

    The 155-member assembly will include 47 independent candidates and 17 representing the country’s 10 indigenous groups, whose participation was guaranteed for the first time in Chile.

    Gender parity had been assured before the vote took place – for the first time ever in a national constitutional project – yet female candidates performed so well that the eventual adjustment ended up favouring men.

    In an address from the presidential palace last night, Piñera recognised that Chile’s “traditional political forces” were “not in tune with people’s demands”.

    “This is the triumph of social and political unity,” declared Santiago’s mayor-elect, Irací Hassler, in the city’s Plaza de Armas, flanked by several of the women who won their elections.

    “This is the beginning of a significant change in the way we do politics. The protest movement, feminist strikes and socio-environmental movements are here to stay.”

    Chileans will vote in presidential and congressional elections in November this year.

    Meanwhile, the constitutional assembly will have a maximum of 12 months to draft a new constitution, which will be ratified at the conclusion of the process by a plebiscite in which voting will be compulsory.

    Until the vote takes place, the 1980 constitution will remain in force.

  5. says

    Rachel Maddow last night on Carol Leonnig’s new book about the Secret Service, Zero Fail:

    “Secret Service Questioned After ‘Astonishing Litany’ Of Screw-Ups”:

    Rachel Maddow reviews some of the blunders by the Secret Service as reported in the new book, “Zero Fail,” by Washington Post reporter Carol Leonnig, and wonders how the Biden administration can have confidence in the competence of their protection and safety.

    “Political Corruption Of Secret Service Made Biden Safety A Concern”:

    Carol Leonnig, Washington Post reporter and author of “Zero Fail,” talks with Rachel Maddow about the compromised state of the Secret Service and the problem of agents openly advocating for Donald Trump and sympathizing with the January 6th insurrection being tasked with protecting President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

  6. says

    Democracy Now! – “Israeli Human Rights Group B’Tselem Blasts Two-Tiered Apartheid Israel, Says Violence Is ‘Inevitable'”:

    As the Palestinian death toll in Gaza nears 200, the leading Israeli human rights group B’Tselem is accusing Israel of committing war crimes by killing blockaded civilians and destroying infrastructure on a massive scale. We are joined in Jerusalem by Hagai El-Ad, executive director of B’Tselem, which is the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. His new piece in The Washington Post is titled “Israel has chosen a two-tiered society. Violence is the inevitable result.” Earlier this year, B’Tselem released a landmark report denouncing Israel as an “apartheid regime.”…

    Interview video and transcript at the link.

  7. blf says

    French chefs / restaurateurs being prime donne (the mildly deranged penguin warns they should not to be confused with the much tastier Prima Donna cheese), French hope bad weather won’t rain out ‘reopening’ as Covid-19 lockdown eased:

    With coronavirus vaccinations accelerating and infections down, the French are looking forward to the loosening of many coronavirus restrictions Wednesday [May 19th], although outdoor lunches at restaurants risk being rained out.

    […]

    Some restaurant owners were already complaining about the limits on hospitality, especially given the risk of rain in what has so far been a wet May.

    Imagine you get the whole machine started again, create a new menu, get all your staff back, but then you have to cancel everything and throw your merchandise away because it’s raining, star chef Philippe Etchebest told the JDD [Sunday newspaper Journal du Dimanch].

    What’s more, less than half of restaurants across France even have space for outdoor dining, he said.

    Impossible, Etchebest concluded, adding that he would wait until the next turn of the ratchet on June 9, when some indoor dining and drinking will be allowed.

    […]

    Guess he’s never heard of patio umbrellas (e.g.), which are more-or-less de rigueur here in S.France, albeit to protect from the Sun (they can do a good good of protecting against light rain and bird shite as well). Some terraces have a retractable roof.

    I’ve no idea how common restaurant terraces are in France, albeit along the Mediterranean coast they are also essentially de rigueur. Very few restaurants in the village lack one — some restaurants offer almost nothing but terrace(s) — and the village itself can help by closing off streets (allowing the terraces to “overflow” into the street). Both the village and Paris (and presumably other places) did that last year in-between lockdowns, but I’ve no idea if either plans to do the same again this year.

    (Locally, rain is only currently forecast for tonight and next Monday: And restaurants aren’t open today, and locally, Mondays are a common day for restaurants to be closed.)

  8. blf says

    In addition to the media (e.g., the building housing Al Jazeera and the AP), Israel has also been attacking MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières)† and the QRCS (Qatar Red Crescent Society)‡, Qatari Red Crescent’s Gaza office targeted by Israeli air attack:

    […]
    An Israeli air raid has hit the Qatari Red Crescent Society (QRCS) office in Gaza, killing two Palestinians and wounding 10 others.

    The organisation tweeted that its offices were attacked “by the Israeli occupation forces” on Monday. [probably not language the ICRC is happy with, despite its accuracy‡ –blf]

    […]

    The attack on Monday came as international rights groups denounced Israel for its indiscriminate attacks against ambulance crews and health facilities, including a Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF) crew.

    “Last night, an MSF clinic in #Gaza where we provide trauma and burn treatment was damaged by Israeli aerial bombardment, leaving a sterilization room unusable and a waiting area damaged. No one was injured in our clinic, but people were killed by the bombing,” MSF said in a tweet.
    […]

      † Disclaimer: I make regular contributions to MSF.

      ‡ QRCS is part of the ICRC (International Red Cross and Red Crescent), so in simpler terms, Israel is attacking the Red Cross.

  9. blf says

    Yeah, the world’s most moral army bombs the QRCS (ICRC) and MSF — see SC@11 and me@12.

  10. says

    France 24 – “Russian lawmakers move to ban Navalny supporters from polls”:

    Russia’s lower house of parliament Tuesday approved legislation in a first reading that would ban members of “extremist” organisations from becoming lawmakers, a move targeting supporters of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

    The vote in the lower house State Duma is part of broader efforts by Russian authorities to snuff out the activities of Navalny, who is serving two-and-a-half years in a penal colony outside Moscow on old fraud charges he says are politically motivated.

    It comes alongside a trial beginning in June to decide whether to add Navalny’s network of regional offices and his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) to a list of “terrorist and extremist” organisations.

    Russia is also due to hold parliamentary elections in September, in which the deeply unpopular ruling United Russia party is expected to struggle.

    The legislation debated Tuesday will bar leaders of extremist groups from standing in parliament elections for five years, said lawmaker Vasily Piskaryov.

    He said it would also block members of the groups and other people involved in their work — including those who helped finance them — for three years.

    Deputies voted 293 in favour of the bill to 45 against with two abstaining.

    The draft legislation would affect not only senior members and activists of Navalny’s political network but tens of thousands of Russians who supported its work with donations.

    It will go through two more readings in the lower house. In steps that are considered formalities, the legislation will then need to be approved by the upper house Federation Council before President Vladimir Putin signs it into law.

    Prosecutors in April requested that Navalny’s regional network and the FBK be given the extremist designation, accusing them of plotting to stage a Western-backed uprising in Russia.

    The FBK routinely publishes investigations into alleged graft by officials at all levels of government.

    Its most notable probes were YouTube reports showing sprawling luxury properties allegedly belonging to Putin and former president and prime minister Dmitry Medvedev. The reports helped spur mass anti-government protests.

    The organisation’s nationwide network of regional offices helped organise Navalny’s Smart Voting elections strategy, which calls for voters to cast their ballots for the candidate most likely to defeat Kremlin-linked opponents.

    The group’s members routinely face police searches and arrests for their activism, with the pressure ballooning since Navalny returned to Russia in January from Germany where he had been recovering from a poisoning attack.

    Most of his top allies have since been placed under house arrest or left the country, with several announcing publicly their were quitting the Anti-Corruption Foundation after prosecutors requested the extremism tag.

  11. says

    blf @ #13, I’m sure you know, but just in case someone reading doesn’t – El-Kurd was being fully sarcastic.

    (For context, he’s the Palestinian writer from Sheikh Jarrah in danger of being ethnically cleansed who was interviewed in US media last week after which the police arrived and forcibly ejected him from his own neighborhood; he later returned.

    He tweeted an hour ago: “IOF snipers have shot over 10 Palestinians in the upper body with live ammunition, within the very first minutes of the protests.”)

  12. says

    It’s hard to describe how profoundly sick the US public is of press conferences by nontransparent local white dude DAs who refuse to recuse and arrogantly shout at the media about how the police were fully justified in killing black people.

  13. says

    The journalists are rightly asking why he’s making claims about the video that don’t appear to be backed up by the video – even by the cherry-picked segments he’s released. Now he’s saying the video won’t be released!

  14. says

    Apologies – #s 16 and 19 refer to this press conference, which is still ongoing: “Now in Elizabeth City: D.A. will announce results of the investigation into Andrew Brown Jr.’s fatal police shooting. Will likely reveal whether any deputies will be criminally charged. Four remain on administrative leave….”

    The DA claimed the killing was justified and that no deputies will be charged. The press saw the same thing I did – even the video/stills he just showed don’t really appear to support his claims about danger to the officers. And now he’s saying that not only will this footage not be released but he won’t even show it again now! His answers make his decisions seem even more suspect than they already did. This is absurd. If the federal government can step in in any way, they should.

  15. says

    Joy Reid:

    Just sitting here at home watching American police descend into a residential neighborhood, armed up like a military unit like it’s a war zone and blow a man away in his car … to affect a … drugs arrest. And the D.A. is saying this is all fine. I feel sick. #AndrewBrown

    When they say the “war on drugs,” apparently they mean literal war. War like it’s Mogadishu in the ‘90s or Baghdad when we invaded in 2003. This is repulsive. Is this the way we want to live???

    Those cops rode into action armed up like they were about to take down a terrorist cell. They jumped out of that truck ready for violence. How can this possibly be justifiable in anything close to a civilized society??

    And lastly, why did they hold back the video for so long, if they think the shooting was perfectly justifiable? Is that the complete, unedited video? Who should we trust on that? The DA? The Zimmerman-loving judge? Give me a break.

  16. tomh says

    Republicans eye new House majority through redistricting
    Reid Wilson – 05/18/21

    The Hill:

    Republican state legislators see this year’s decennial redistricting process as a prime opportunity to gain House seats in next year’s midterms — with some believing those gains alone can help the GOP take back the majority.

    Legislators are preparing for the most public redistricting process in American history. Both Democrats and Republicans stand ready to accuse each other of radical gerrymandering, while advances in technology give each side the chance to draw ideal districts that are both pleasing to the eye and politically favorable.

    Republicans start with an advantage.

    Their party will hold complete power over the redistricting process in 20 states that collectively send 188 members to the House, including Nebraska’s ostensibly nonpartisan state Senate, which is in practice run by Republicans.

    Democrats will control the process in seven states that send 72 members to the House. Districts in 16 other states are drawn either by independent commissions or by divided government. The seven remaining states send only one at-large member to the House.

    The GOP’s level of control, especially in critical battleground states, may be sufficient to gain the five extra seats they would need to reclaim the majority.
    […]

    Democrats, who suffered lasting political defeats in the redistricting process a decade ago, believe the GOP’s advantage has narrowed — but they caution it is still sufficient in big states to put the majority at risk. Democrats are nervously watching Texas, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina — states that will send 92 members to the next Congress, and where Republicans hold complete control of the process.

    “If they draw extreme gerrymanders, by our estimation they could pick up 11 seats which they wouldn’t otherwise have with fair maps,” said Patrick Rodenbush, who heads communications for the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, a group helmed by former Attorney General Eric Holder….

  17. says

    SC in comment 498 in the previous chapter of this thread: Elie Mystal in the Nation – “Marjorie Taylor Greene Is Gunning for AOC—and There’s Only 1 Reason.”

    That’s a good article!

  18. says

    Follow up to SC @20 and 21: 44 seconds. I think that was the amount of time it took police to kill the unarmed black man they were supposed to arrest for a drug offense. Like Joy Reid said, they showed up like soldiers in a war zone, and then they immediately killed a man they did not have to kill.

    I couldn’t listen to the arrogant white guy making excuses and using language like “evasive action.” I had to mute him so I wouldn’t start crying or screaming.

  19. says

    Florida prosecutor: DeSantis couldn’t stop Trump’s extradition to NY

    The fact that officials are even having conversations about how to handle the possible criminal indictment of a former president is extraordinary.

    It’s surreal that this conversation is even underway, but these are apparently the times we find ourselves in.

    Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg said Gov. Ron DeSantis cannot unilaterally block former President Donald Trump from being extradited to New York if he is indicted on criminal charges but said there is room for delay tactics. He responded Sunday on CNN Newsroom to rampant speculation that officials in the Florida county are grappling with the possibility of Trump being indicted by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who is looking into the Trump Organization for possible bank, tax, or insurance fraud.

    Steve Vladeck, a University of Texas law school professor and an MSNBC opinion columnist, noted the other day that there’s “an obscure provision of Florida law that allows the governor, upon receiving an extradition request from another state, to investigate ‘whether the person ought to be surrendered,'” which has led to some speculation that Florida’s Republican governor, a Trump sycophant, could “play hero with the former president’s supporters by dragging his feet” in the event of a Trump indictment.

    On CNN over the weekend, Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg acknowledged “informal conversations” have occurred between local officials “in case an indictment happens.”

    He added, in reference to DeSantis, “So that’s a conversation we’re having: What is the governor’s power? And the governor’s power to stop an extradition is really nonexistent. He can try to delay it, he can send it to a committee and do research about it, but his role is really ministerial, and ultimately the state of New York can go to court and get an order to extradite the former president.”

    In his MSNBC piece, Vladeck came to the same conclusion, explaining, “[…] If Trump is indicted in New York, both the U.S. Constitution and a federal statute dating to 1793 require DeSantis (or the governor of whatever state Trump is in at the time) to hand him over. And if DeSantis still refuses, a 1987 Supreme Court decision makes clear that federal courts can order him to comply. Unlike in cases of international extradition, where treaties often leave significant room for political and diplomatic machinations and maneuvering, the law of interstate extradition is both clear and straightforward.”

    […] As Rachel noted on the show last week, the issue came to the fore in March, when Jane Mayer wrote a piece for the New Yorker, which noted Trump’s willingness to “engage in almost unthinkable tactics to protect himself.” The article added, “Among his social circle in Palm Beach, speculation abounds that Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, an ally, might not honor an extradition request from New York if a bench warrant were issued for Trump’s arrest.”

    It raises the prospect of a former American president being criminally charged — something that has never happened before in our history — and him responding to a possible indictment by trying to hide in Florida, hoping the governor would shield him from having to show up in a New York courtroom.

    […] Common sense suggests that these remarkable circumstances — officials having conversations about how best to handle Trump’s possible criminal indictment — might diminish the twice-impeached former president’s influence, but as things stand, Trump continues to wield power over the contemporary Republican Party.

  20. says

    Bits and pieces of news:

    * We knew Rep. Val Demings (D) would run for statewide office in Florida next year; we just didn’t know which one. NBC News reported this morning that the congresswoman and former chief of the Orlando Police Department has decided to run against Sen. Marco Rubio (R) in 2022. [Good!]

    […] * After drawing Donald Trump’s wrath, Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R) announced yesterday that he won’t seek a second term and will instead try to “change the trajectory of the Republican Party” away from its radical course.

    […] * Montana’s new Republican-imposed voting restrictions are facing a new lawsuit filed yesterday by the ACLU and the Native American Rights Fund. “The legislature knows that Native Americans are very distant from registration opportunities,” said Jacqueline De León, a staff attorney at the Native American Rights Fund. “They know that they have a very limited window to register and vote on the reservation, and they know that so many homes don’t receive residential mail delivery, and so they are again, I think, taking advantage of those barriers and amplifying them.” [All too true.]

    * According to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution report, former appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) “has had to refund millions of dollars in campaign donations, many to people who said they unknowingly signed up to make recurring contributions.” [Grifters caught grifting.]

    * And in New York, Andrew Giuliani this morning kicked off a gubernatorial campaign. The 35-year-old Republican, son of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, has never before sought or held elected office, though he served as a special assistant to the president in Donald Trump’s White House. Despite his lack in qualifications and experience, Andrew Giuliani told the New York Post, “I’m a politician out of the womb.”

  21. says

    Team Biden releases tax returns, adds not-so-subtle dig at Trump

    The White House didn’t just release Joe Biden’s and Kamala Harris’ tax returns. It also got in a not-so-subtle dig at a certain former president.

    Just two weeks before Election Day 2020, Donald Trump and Joe Biden met for the final debate of the election cycle, and the Democratic challenger pressed the Republican incumbent on a sensitive subject.

    “I released all my tax returns. Twenty-two years — go look at them,” Biden said. “You have not released a single solitary year of your tax return. What are you hiding? Why are you unwilling?”

    Trump, turning to a familiar talking point, said he was facing an IRS audit, and therefore had to keep the materials hidden from the public. “I’m going to release them as soon as we can,” he added. “I want to do it.”

    Even at the time, it was a cynical deception. As the Republican knew, all presidents since Watergate have their tax returns automatically audited by the IRS.

    That same policy applies, of course, to President Biden, who released his tax returns to the public yesterday, indifferent to the automatic audit.

    Despite the specter of an IRS audit, President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden on Monday released their 2020 tax returns. The first couple made just over $600,000 in 2020, and paid $157,414 in federal income tax, the return shows. That’s a federal income tax rate of 25.9 percent. The Bidens also paid $28,794 in income tax in their home state of Delaware, reported donating $30,704 to 10 different charities.

    Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Douglas Emhoff, also released their tax returns […]

    At yesterday’s press briefing, a reporter asked whether Biden facing an IRS audit affected the decision regarding the release of the tax materials. “No,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki replied, “I would expect that we will continue to release the president’s tax returns, as should be expected by every President of the United States.”

    Adding to the not-so-subtle messaging, when the White House issued a press release on the disclosure of Biden’s and Harris’ tax returns, the written statement’s first sentence read, “Today, the president released his 2020 federal income tax return, continuing an almost uninterrupted tradition.”

    As for the former president who interrupted the bipartisan tradition, Trump, even now, continues to hide the tax returns he previously vowed to release. That said, Bloomberg News reported yesterday that the former president and congressional Democrats “said in a court filing Monday that they are close to a deal resolving issues surrounding congressional subpoenas of his financial records from Deutsche Bank.”

    The dispute stems from a 2019 subpoena seeking the then-president’s financial records from one of the banks willing to do business with Trump. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Congress has the authority to seek the materials, but Trump has the authority to try to narrow the scope of the subpoena, and the justices left it to lower courts to work out the details.

    Bloomberg’s report added that the old subpoenas expired at the end of the last Congress, but House Democrats are prepared to renew the effort. If the parties reach an agreement, as now appears likely, that would presumably end this part of the dispute.

    All of this is separate, of course, from the criminal investigation launched by a New York prosecutor’s office, which has already obtained the former president’s tax materials.

  22. says

    ‘Imagine being so full of hate’: Video shows man destroying George Floyd memorial in Minneapolis

    A video uploaded to Reddit Sunday has gone viral for its atrocity. In it, a man can be seen destroying Black Lives Matter signs and a memorial in honor of George Floyd. The short video taken outside of the George Floyd Square in Minneapolis begins with a truck pulling into the memorial site, blocks away from where Floyd was killed.

    The pixelated man then begins vandalizing the area by removing barricades, flipping tables, and ripping down Black Lives Matter signs. His violence continues as he retrieves an ax from his truck and targets the Square shed. In the shocking and horrific footage, he can be seen bashing windows, tearing the sign from the front of the “house” and breaking wooden beams.

    He even had the audacity to go inside and remove items from there. In the video, his truck’s lights illuminate the inside of the shed as he works on destroying it. [video is available at the link]

    After going back and forth causing damage, bystanders finally come into the area and are heard shouting at the man. After one questions what he is doing there and yells, “get the fuck out of here!”, the man can be seen running away from the scene.

    Of course, the man had to be a coward for his actions and the fact that he ran away leaving his ax behind is confirmation of just that. Reddit users took to the platform to share their thoughts on the incident, including suspicions that his ax looked like one a firefighter or law enforcement official would use.

    “I bet he is a cop,” one user commented. “Yep, that’s why he took his time. Knew nobody was coming because he forewarned them what he was going to do,” another added.

    According to the Daily Dot, a police report has not yet been filed. But many are confident the man will be apprehended soon because of the ax he left at the scene.

    “I’m guessing off duty firefighter with the fire axe and pickup truck. He left the axe behind hopefully they can pull prints from it,” one Reddit user wrote.

    […] The fact that someone was heartless enough to commit this crime is beyond words. The incident follows days after a jury indictment of Derek Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis police officers on civil rights violations for their roles in the murder of Floyd. According to the three-count indictment, all the former officers were charged with depriving “George Floyd of the right, secured and protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States, to be free from an unreasonable force by a police officer” in addition to failure to act when they saw Floyd “lying on the ground in clear need of medical care.” […]

    Disrespecting his memorial shows why the need for racial justice and police reform is so important. “Imagine being so full of hate you tear down memorials of a man killed by police,” a Reddit user commented.

  23. says

    ‘He’s a well-known racist’: Judge accused of trying to hit Black Lives Matter protesters with SUV

    It took North Carolina officials seven days to take seriously an allegation that a Fayetteville appeals court judge tried to run down Black Lives Matter protesters even though the city had video of the encounter […] Myah Warren, a 23-year-old activist and member of a Fayetteville-Cumberland Human Relations Commission, told both the local newspaper and The Washington Post she twice tried to press charges against Republican Judge John Tyson after he tried to hit her and other protesters with his SUV on May 7 in the town center, the Market House. Civil officers told her she couldn’t and even lied that Tyson was no longer a judge, but when an investigator reviewed footage of the incident, she received word that she had a case against the well-connected judge […]

    “This vehicle circled the market house twice and on the second time veered into activists at approximately 6:28pm!!!” the Fayetteville Activist Movement said in a Facebook post. “He then JUMPED the curb and we approached to get ID info on the car.” Warren said she still had a hard time finding an attorney that would represent her against Tyson. “He’s a well-known racist,” she told The Washington Post. [Video is available at the link]

    Warren cited a murder case in which Tyson wrote a dissent opinion on appeal defending Chad Cameron Copley, a white man who in August 2016 murdered an unarmed Black man after telling 911 dispatchers he was “locked and loaded” and there were “hoodlums” in the area, according to The Associated Press. Responding to the appeal attempt, Judge John Arrowood wrote the majority opinion that Copley, 43, “concealed himself in his darkened garage with a shotgun” and without warning fired his gun, killing 20-year-old Kourey Thomas. Tyson wrote in his dissent obtained by the AP that the trial judge “denied (Copley) of his most fundamental rights to protect and defend himself, his family, and their home.”

    Seemingly taking a cue from the murderer, Tyson also is accused—although charges against him don’t reflect it—of lying to a 911 dispatcher in the incident involving Warren. The Washington Post identified the judge as the person who called police to report about five to 10 protesters blocking traffic, a claim the city video fails to support. It does however show an SUV allegedly driven by Tyson driving in a lane closed to traffic with the words “BLACK LIVES DO MATTER” painted in the center. The lane was a few steps away from the curb protesters held signs on. [more video available at the link]

    […] The Fayetteville Activist Movement is calling for the judge to be removed and all of his past decisions to be reconsidered. “The whole situation sucks because I feel as if he’s going to get away with it,” Warren said. “You were driving a state vehicle, you tried to hit protesters and you lied to 911. There’s only so much I can do.” […]

  24. blf says

    In show of unity, Palestinians go on strike (photo essay):

    […]
    Shops were shuttered across cities in Gaza, the occupied West Bank and in villages and towns inside Israel as Palestinians observed a general strike to protest against occupation and Israel’s ongoing bombardment of the blockaded enclave.

    The strike, which is supported by Hamas, the group running Gaza, and Fatah, the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority, led to the suspension of all economic activity and closure of educational institutions.

    “It’s the first time in decades that we see Palestinians across the political divide take part in such a general strike,” said Al Jazeera’s Nida Ibrahim, reporting from Ramallah.

    At least 212 Palestinians, including 61 children, have been killed and 1,500 wounded since Israel began its offensive on Gaza on May 10. Ten people in Israel have also died, including two children, in rocket attacks from Gaza.

    […]

    Israeli forces have also killed at least 21 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank since last week.

    Collection of images at the link. One thing that struck me about those images is how dignified-looking the people (presumably mostly Palestinians) were in the various protest marches.

  25. says

    “We are witnessing the last vestiges of what has been known as the Arab-Israeli conflict,” Jared Kushner crowed in The Wall Street Journal two months ago.

    He was surveying the results of the Abraham Accords, the ersatz Middle East peace plan he helped negotiate under Donald Trump. At the heart of his supreme self-assurance, and of the accords themselves, was the deadly fiction that the Palestinians were so abject and defeated that Israel could simply ignore their demands.

    “One of the reasons the Arab-Israeli conflict persisted for so long was the myth that it could be solved only after Israel and the Palestinians resolved their differences,” wrote Kushner. “That was never true. The Abraham Accords exposed the conflict as nothing more than a real-estate dispute between Israelis and Palestinians that need not hold up Israel’s relations with the broader Arab world.”

    To circumvent that dispute, the United States set about bribing other Arab and Muslim countries to normalize relations with Israel. The United Arab Emirates got an enormous arms deal. Morocco got Trump to support its annexation of the Western Sahara. Sudan got taken off America’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.

    But the explosion of fighting in Israel and Palestine in recent days makes clear something that never should have been in doubt: justice for the Palestinians is a precondition for peace. And one reason there has been so little justice for the Palestinians is because of the foreign policy of the United States.

    “I don’t think that there’s any way that this occupation and creeping annexation process could have gotten where it is today if the United States had said no,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of the liberal Zionist group J-Street.

    One can condemn Hamas and its rockets and still recognize that this current conflagration began with Israeli overreach born of a sense of impunity. A major flash point was the campaign led by Israeli settlers to evict Palestinian families from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. There was also an Israeli police raid on the Al Aqsa Mosque on the first night of Ramadan, not to prevent violence, but to cut off its loudspeakers lest prayers drown out a speech by Israel’s president.

    Palestinians fear, not without reason, that Israel is trying to push them out of Jerusalem altogether. That, in turn, has let Hamas position itself as Jerusalem’s protector. And Israel seems to consider its right to defend itself from Hamas justification for causing obscene numbers of civilian casualties. So much horror has been born of the delusion […]

    To be fair, this is not something that began with Trump: America has been enabling Israel’s occupation and settlement project for decades. Tareq Baconi, a Ramallah-based senior analyst for the International Crisis Group, argued that in some ways the Trump administration was simply more honest than its predecessors about its disregard for the Palestinians. All the same, he said, Trump’s foreign policy allowed “the Israeli right-wing to understand that they can get away with their most extreme policies.”

    Before Trump, it was common to say that the occupation would eventually force Israel to choose between being a Jewish state and a democratic one. During the Trump years, Israel’s choice became undeniable.

    Israel’s 2018 “nation-state law” enshrined “Jewish settlement as a national value” and undermined the legal equality of Israel’s Arab citizens. As settlements expanded, a two-state solution turned from a distant dream into a fantasy.

    The death of a two-state framework, Baconi said, has strengthened a sense of common destiny between Palestinians in the occupied territories and Arab-Israelis, or, as many refer to themselves, Palestinian citizens of Israel. “The more that we see Israel-Palestine as a one-state reality, where Jews have full rights and Palestinians have different tiers of rights,” the more Palestinians will “understand their struggle as a shared struggle,” he said.

    A unique and harrowing aspect of the violence now shaking the region has been the intercommunal clashes between Jews and Palestinians within Israel proper. In Lod, at least four synagogues and a religious school were burned. “Jewish mobs were seen roaming the streets of Tiberias and Haifa looking for Arabs to assault,” reported The Times of Israel.

    “I’ve lived here for a long time; I’ve never seen it this bad,” Diana Buttu, a former lawyer for the Palestine Liberation Organization, told me by phone from Haifa.

    All this mayhem is overdetermined; nearly every iniquity in the region has an impossibly complicated prehistory. But the United States has underwritten both Palestinian subjugation and the growing power of Jewish ethnonationalism. It’s not enough for Joe Biden to be a little bit better than Trump or to try to restart a spectral “peace process.” If Israel can no longer afford to ignore the demands of the Palestinians, neither can we.

    New York Times link

    The op-ed is by Michelle Goldberg.

  26. says

    Josh Marshall:

    Kevin McCarthy’s turnabout on a Jan 6th Commission proposal that was negotiated by his chosen negotiator and, by all indications, at his direction is a good reminder […] of the reality of bipartisan negotiations in the Trump era. As I noted yesterday, Rep. Katko does not appear to have been freelancing. McCarthy chose him to negotiate on his behalf. And reporting suggests Katko worked from McCarthy’s directives and kept him in the loop. But once the deal was announced McCarthy felt he needed to torpedo it.

    The only plausible explanation here is that McCarthy didn’t really think the negotiations would go anywhere. When the Democrats agreed with most of his demands, he had a hot potato in his hand and didn’t know what to do with it.

    Trump clearly made clear he doesn’t want any commission under any circumstances ever. And I mean … of course he doesn’t. The perp never wants an investigation. That’s obvious. As my colleague Kate Riga has noted a number of times, McCarthy has his own reasons not to want any commission, even over and above Trump’s opposition. McCarthy was on the phone with Trump at the critical moments demanding the then-President do something. McCarthy’s testimony would likely be some of the most illuminating about the President’s state of mind and actions. That’s a nightmare for McCarthy. Of course he wants to avoid it.

    The other possibility, though I find it a bit hard to credit, is that Katko basically sandbagged McCarthy. Perhaps Katko got McCarthy most of what he said he wanted but knew McCarthy would probably not accept any deal. So rather than showing McCarthy the deal which he said he wanted, he just announced it. As I said, that’s a bit hard for me to believe. Members don’t usually cut their leaders off at the knees like that.

    On the other hand, Katko is one of the ten members who voted to impeach President Trump over January 6th. That alone makes me wonder why McCarthy put him in charge of the negotiation. But he did. The whole thing is a mystery.

    The only global reality we can glean from this is one I think we already know: that the leader of the House GOP caucus is Donald Trump. He’s a big factor in the Senate. But he’s not the leader. He’s the leader in the House. McCarthy is most charitably seen as his spokesman.

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/trumps-puppy-speaks

  27. says

    The Hill – “House sends anti-Asian hate bill to Biden’s desk”:

    In a big bipartisan vote, House lawmakers on Tuesday passed legislation aimed at combating the sharp rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans that have occurred since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

    The bill now goes to President Biden, who is expected to sign it into law as soon as Thursday, in the middle of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. The bill passed in a 364-62 vote, with all no votes coming from Republicans. The Senate last month approved the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act on a 94-1 vote, with Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) the lone “no” vote.

    “After a year of the Asian American community crying out for help, today Congress is taking historic action to pass long overdue hate crimes legislation and send the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act to President Biden’s desk,” Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, told reporters before the vote.

    The broad bipartisan vote demonstrates just how much these “daily tragedies of anti-Asian violence have shocked our nation into action,” Chu said.

    “It is a momentous day,” added Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who represents a San Francisco district where multiple anti-Asian hate incidents have occurred, including the death last year of an elderly Thai American man and the stabbing of two Asian American women just this month.

    The legislation, authored by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), would create a position at the Justice Department to expedite a review of COVID-19-related hate crimes; provide grants for states to create hotlines for reporting hate crimes and for law enforcement training on how to prevent and identify hate crimes; and direct federal agencies to work with community organizations to help raise awareness about hate crimes during the pandemic.

    Since the start of the pandemic, in March 2020, there have been more than 6,600 hate incidents against Asian Americans, according to the group Stop AAPI Hate. Nearly two-thirds of those incidents targeted women….

  28. johnson catman says

    re SC @42: I wish all of our government representatives were like Katie Porter. The US would be SO MUCH BETTER if that were so.

  29. tomh says

    New York attorney general adds ‘criminal capacity’ to probe of Trump Organization
    By Sonia Moghe and Kara Scannell
    Tue May 18, 2021

    (CNN)New York Attorney General Letitia James is joining the Manhattan district attorney’s office in a criminal investigation of the Trump Organization, James’ office said Tuesday.

    The attorney general office’s investigation into the Trump Organization, which has been underway since 2019, will also continue as an ongoing civil probe, but the office recently informed Trump Organization officials of the criminal component.

    “We have informed the Trump Organization that our investigation into the organization is no longer purely civil in nature. We are now actively investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal capacity, along with the Manhattan DA,” James’ spokesman Fabien Levy told CNN. “We have no additional comment.”…

    James’ office is working with Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s Office, whose wide-sweeping probe into the Trump Organization has looked into whether the company misled lenders and insurance companies about the value of properties and whether it paid the appropriate taxes….

    Investigators have deposed multiple Trump Organization officials including Eric Trump, the former President’s son, and Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg.

  30. says

    Here’s a link to the May 19 Guardian coronavirus world liveblog.

    From their morning summary:

    India has suffered a world record one-day death toll, surpassing the previous highest toll, recorded in the US. According to the health ministry, 4,529 people were confirmed dead in the last 24 hours. It is the highest daily toll of any country on earth over the course of the pandemic and the first time India has seen a figure over 4,500.

    More than 1,500,017,337 vaccine doses have now been administered in 210 countries and territories, according to an AFP tally. Nearly three-fifths of the total have been given in three countries: China (421.9m), the US (274.4m) and India (184.4m).

    Meanwhile there has been huge confusion in England over mixed messaging from the government over international travel. Ministers appear to be saying that you can go to countries on the “amber” list, but you shouldn’t.

    Ireland hopes to have the vast majority of its adult population fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by the end of September, deputy prime minister Leo Varadkar has said.

    It’s a big day in France as bars, cafés and restaurants are finally allowed to open their terraces for the first time since October last year. President Macron was among those seen having coffee in Paris.

    France will also see the reopening of all shops, cinemas, museums and theatres today. The nationwide curfew remains in place but is pushed back two hours running from 9pm to 6am.

    A manhunt is under way in Belgium for a heavily armed soldier with links to the extreme right who has made threats against a high-profile virologist who backed the country’s Covid lockdowns.

    The whole of Taiwan will move into level three of its four-tier alert system, as the virus spreads to more than half the island’s counties, infecting more than 1,300 people and killing two.

    In Australia more than 1.5m Covid-19 vaccines – one in every four distributed – are sitting unused in clinics across the country, prompting calls for a “major campaign” to tackle vaccine hesitancy

    Tunisia has ended its one-week lockdown, despite having the highest reported deaths per capita of any country in Africa.

    A flaw in Japan’s coronavirus inoculation programme has been exposed barely a day after the government opened a facility in Tokyo designed to speed up the country’s slow vaccine rollout.

    The EU will reportedly be opening up travel to vaccinated travelers from the UK and US.

  31. says

    From Rachel Maddow last night:

    “Ford’s All-Electric Version F-150 Could Be A Game Changer”:

    Rachel Maddow reports on the immense popularity of the Ford F series pick-up trucks, and particularly the F-150, which is set to be released in an all-electric version. If the electric F-150 is a success, its popularity could make the difference in normalizing electric vehicles in the U.S.

    “AZ Republicans Finally Calling Out Shambolic Election Audit Spectacle”:

    Rachel Maddow reports on the growing awareness among Arizona Republicans that not only is the incompetence of their so-called “election audit” making them a laughing stock, but it is likely doing unnecessary damage to public confidence in future elections.

    “‘Enough Is Enough’: Frustrated Official Rails Against Amateur AZ Ballot Circus”:

    Steve Gallardo, a member of the Maricopa County, AZ board of supervisors, talks with Rachel Maddow about growing outrage among county officials that the poorly run “audit” ordered by state senate Republicans is embarrassing the state and undermining confidence in future Arizona elections even though Arizona’s 2020 election was “safe, secure and accurate.”

  32. says

    France 24 – “Myanmar town pleads for help as thousands flee fighting”:

    Desperate residents of a Myanmar town hit by clashes between the military and an anti-junta defence force pleaded for help Wednesday as the UN warned the fighting may have forced thousands to flee.

    Government forces used artillery to flush out rebels from the western town of Mindat after fighting broke out on May 12, a spokesman for a local insurgent group said, and later cut off its water supply.

    One resident who did not want to be named told AFP that most of those who had been trapped in the town by the fighting had now fled, but those left behind faced a grim struggle for basic supplies.

    The fighting around Mindat between the Chinland Defence Force and the Myanmar military has likely displaced “thousands” of civilians, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Tuesday.

    “Access by humanitarian partners to the people fleeing violence or those still in their homes is challenging due to insecurity,” it said, adding it had received reports civilians had been killed in the fighting.

    “We have been constantly helping the people from the town to relocate to the remote villages,” another resident told AFP.

    “They need… a safe zone recognised by international organisations like the UN.”…

  33. raven says

    Uneven vaccination rates across the US linked to Covid-19 case trends, worry experts
    By Deidre McPhillips and Elizabeth Cohen, CNN
    Updated 6:52 AM ET, Wed May 19, 2021

    But vaccination rates across the United States are uneven — a worrisome trend that could obstruct efforts to end the Covid-19 pandemic. Rates range from more than 78% of adults in Vermont with at least one vaccine to less than 45% of adults in Mississippi.

    Ten states have vaccinated less than half of their adult residents with at least one dose, and their average per capita case rate was about 19% higher than those seven states that have already reached the Biden administration’s goal.
    The 10 states that have vaccinated less than half of their adult residents — Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wyoming — reported an average of more than 78 new cases per 100,000 people over the past week.

    This was predicted and predictable.

    States vary a lot in their vaccine uptake.
    The states with low uptake have higher rates of Covid-19 cases.
    The 10 states with the lowest rates are all…Red states.
    Only 4 states have rising rates of Covid-19 cases. They are all Red States, Mississippi, Alabama, Wyoming, and Idaho.

    This is the pattern we will see for the next few months. Clusters of Covid-19 cases in areas with low vaccine uptake.
    Already in many areas, the majority of people in the ICU’s with the virus are Covid-19 virus deniers and antivaxxers.

  34. says

    CNN – “Uneven vaccination rates across the US linked to Covid-19 case trends, worry experts”:

    Tuesday was a “landmark day,” as the United States reached a new Covid-19 vaccine milestone: 60% of adults have now received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, according to the US Centers and Disease Control and Prevention.

    But vaccination rates across the United States are uneven — a worrisome trend that could obstruct efforts to end the Covid-19 pandemic. Rates range from more than 78% of adults in Vermont with at least one vaccine to less than 45% of adults in Mississippi.

    And over the past week, states with higher vaccination rates have generally had lower Covid-19 case rates, a CNN analysis of data from the CDC and Johns Hopkins University found.

    Seven states have already reached the Biden administration’s goal of vaccinating at least 70% of adults with at least one shot by July 4, data from CDC shows: Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Vermont.

    Over the past week, those seven states reported per capita case rates that were about 10% lower on average than those states that haven’t yet vaccinated as many adults, according to JHU data — an average of about 66 new cases per 100,000 people, compared to about 73 cases per 100,000 people.

    And the gap in case rates widens along with disparities in vaccination rates.

    Ten states have vaccinated less than half of their adult residents with at least one dose, and their average per capita case rate was about 19% higher than those seven states that have already reached the Biden administration’s goal.

    The 10 states that have vaccinated less than half of their adult residents — Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wyoming — reported an average of more than 78 new cases per 100,000 people over the past week.

    New Jersey illustrates the power of vaccination.

    Over the course of the pandemic, the Garden State has had one of the highest rates of Covid-19, ranking 12th, with more than 11% of its population infected with the virus at some point. Yet, over the past week, the state had the third lowest rate of new Covid-19 cases, reporting an average of less than 5 cases per 100,000 people per day.

    In mid-December, before the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine was administered in the United States, the Covid-19 case rate in New Jersey was tracking very close to the national average. Now, New Jersey has become a leader in vaccinations. It’s one of the seven states that has already vaccinated more than 70% of adults with at least dose — and the latest 7-day average of new cases in the state is about a third of the national average.

    While New Jersey illustrates the link between higher vaccination rates and lower case rates, there are exceptions….

     Data shows another troubling trend: There are clusters of unvaccinated people in various parts of the country, and the virus could flourish in those areas.

    “Clearly if you have geographic areas that are under-immunized, the virus is going to find them. It will continue to smolder, will continue to make people sick, will continue to send people to the hospital, and will continue to cause deaths,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a member of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

    As the virus spreads through these areas with low vaccination rates, it has many chances to change and become potentially even more dangerous.

    “Every time this virus finds a new person, it multiplies. Every time it multiplies, it creates mutations that can spring off, and those mutations can create a variant that is so different that our current vaccine protection might not work or might not work as well,” said Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

    If a variant is resistant, even to some degree, to the vaccine, that “could be problematic even for those who are vaccinated,” said Dr. Paul Offit, an infectious disease expert at the University of Pennsylvania.

    “I think we need to fix this. We need to impress on people the importance of vaccination to stop the virus,” said Offit, a member of the US Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee. “How many more variants need to be created before this gets their attention?”

    And vaccination rates vary even more widely county to county than they do state to state in the US….

    A new report from the CDC found that vaccination rates in rural counties are particularly low….

    Such unevenness in vaccination rates “is a big concern,” said Dr. Bhavini Murthy, a medical officer at the CDC and lead author of the report. “We need to make sure we have high vaccination coverage in both rural and urban populations so we can keep moving the needle forward toward ending the pandemic.”

    A Kaiser Family Foundation survey in April found that 3 in 10 rural residents said they would “definitely not” get a Covid-19 vaccine or they would get one only if they were required to have it — more than those in urban or suburban areas.

    “We need to continue to ensure vaccination coverage is uniform across the country,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a White House Covid-19 briefing Tuesday. “This will require us to meet people where they are, to listen to their concerns, and to help people make informed decision about vaccination.”

  35. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    A year after the late Tanzanian president John Magufuli denied the existence of coronavirus in the country, the government will start reporting on the prevalence of the disease in the country.

    According to recommendations by a taskforce appointed by president Samia Suluhu to evaluate the prevalence of the disease in the country, the government will draft a new coronavirus treatment guide, ramp up testing for the disease and build capacity to detect other variants of the virus.

    “Government will provide data on Covid-19 disease to the public and the World Health Organization so that citizens can get the correct information from the authorities while respecting agreements and regulations that the country is signatory to,” states the committee report.

    And in a marked departure from the hardline stance taken against the use of vaccines by Magufuli, the country will start administering vaccines approved by the WHO through the Covax facility, first to protect frontline health workers, tourism industry employees, border personnel, religious leaders, pilgrims and those aged 50 and above.

    The committee reports that Tanzania has had two deadly waves of the virus, and a third was likely.

    The task force gave no figures regarding any deaths or hospitalisations resulting from the two waves.

    Tanzania had not provided the WHO with any figures related to Covid-19 since May 2020, when it reported 509 confirmed cases and 21 deaths.

    Since then, a number of high-ranking government officials have died of coronavirus-related complications.

    In February, the WHO reported that some Tanzanians travelling to neighbouring countries had tested positive for coronavirus, prompting Kenya to ban passenger traffic between the two countries in May 2020.

    Despite the new recommendations, the committee insists Tanzanians should continue using “natural remedies and other alternatives that conform to the basics of science.”

  36. says

    NC Policy Watch – “PW special report: After conservative criticism, UNC backs down from offering acclaimed journalist tenured position”:

    In her career in journalism, Nikole Hannah-Jones has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur Fellowship “Genius Grant.” But despite support from the UNC-Chapel Hill chancellor and faculty, she won’t be getting a tenured teaching position at her alma mater. At least not yet.

    As Policy Watch reported last week, UNC-Chapel Hill’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media pursued Hannah-Jones for its Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism, a tenured professorship. But following political pressure from conservatives who object to her work on “The 1619 Project” for The New York Times Magazine, the school changed its plan to offer her tenure — which amounts to a career-long appointment. Instead, she will start July 1 for a fixed five-year term as Professor of the Practice, with the option of being reviewed for tenure at the end of that time period.

    “It’s disappointing, it’s not what we wanted and I am afraid it will have a chilling effect,” said Susan King, dean of UNC Hussman.

    Last summer, Hannah-Jones went through the rigorous tenure process at UNC, King said. Hannah-Jones submitted a package King said was as well reviewed as any King had ever seen. Hannah-Jones had enthusiastic support from faculty and the tenure committee, with the process going smoothly every step of the way — until it reached the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees.

    The board reviews and approves tenure applications. It chose not to take action on approving Hannah-Jones’s tenure.

    “I’m not sure why and I’m not sure if that’s ever happened before,” King said.

    UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz stood up for Hannah-Jones before the board, King said, telling the members she was such a strong candidate that he was willing to bring her on in a fixed-term position with the opportunity to be approved for tenure after five years.

    That’s a departure from the school’s usual practice. Knight Chairs, sponsored by the Knight Foundation, are important and influential journalists who bring their expertise to the classroom at some of the nation’s most respected universities. While continuing their work in journalism, Knight Chairs offer students the perspective they’ve gained through their experience in the industry.

    Not all Knight Chair professors are tenured. But since UNC began working with the foundation in 1980, all of those teaching at the flagship Chapel Hill campus have been. Fixed-term positions, like the one now being offered to Hannah-Jones, do not need board approval.

    “It was a work-around,” a UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees member told Policy Watch this week.

    “This is a very political thing,” the trustee said. “The university and the board of trustees and the Board of Governors and the legislature have all been getting pressure since this thing was first announced last month. There have been people writing letters and making calls, for and against. But I will leave it to you which is carrying more weight.”

    As Policy Watch previously reported, conservative groups with direct ties to the Republican-dominated UNC Board of Governors have been highly critical of Hannah-Jones’s work and the idea of her teaching at UNC-Chapel Hill.

    Last week, a columnist for the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal (formerly known as the Pope Center for Higher Education) wrote that UNC-Chapel Hill’s board of trustees must prevent Hannah-Jones’s hiring. If they were not willing to do so, the column said, the UNC Board of Governors should amend system policies to require every faculty hire to be vetted by each school’s board of trustees.

    The column laid out the playbook that many powerful conservative interests in the state would like to follow, the trustee said.

    “That is the argument we’ve been hearing and that is what some people on the board of governors are expecting, I can tell you that,” said the trustee. “There is already a lot of pressure about oversight from the Board of Governors of trustees at the various schools that are not doing what they believe we should be doing, that are making any decisions they disagree with, really.”

    The Board of Governors has decided not to reappoint certain trustees they felt were not on the right ideological page, the trustee said, and have even engineered the ouster of chancellors with whom they disagreed. They have defunded academic centers and discontinued programs with which they were at political odds. Trustees across the system know that track record when they’re making these kinds of decisions, the trustee said.

    The compromise solution of bringing Hannah-Jones on in a fixed-term position is not ideal, King said. But it was better than losing her altogether.

    “She represents the best of our alumni and the best of the business,” King said. “I don’t want to get into a food fight. I want to make sure that our students have the opportunity to have someone of her caliber here and to learn from her. I think our faculty do as well. I realize this is a fraught era in the state. When I heard that the chancellor and the provost wanted to move to this, it was better than having a battle royale about the theory of academic freedom.”

    “Our job is to expose our students to the great issues of our time,” King said. “This is a fraught time and a time of racial reckoning.”

    “I think the board has to think about what the reputation will be in terms of the larger community of our peers, in terms of attracting great scholars,” King said.

    Faculty members are also worried….

    More atl.

  37. tomh says

    QAnon Shaman’s Lawyer Called Capitol Siege Suspects Brain-Damaged ‘F***ing Short-Bus People.’
    AARON KELLER May 18th, 2021

    Al Watkins, the St. Louis attorney who represents so-called “QAnon Shaman” Jacob Chansley, is defending his use of profane language to describe his own client and a few others similarly charged with playing various alleged roles in the Jan. 6th siege on the U.S. Capitol Complex. In an interview with Talking Points Memo, Watkins said Chansley’s Asperger’s Syndrome left him susceptible to being led astray by President Donald Trump’s so-called “propaganda” efforts.

    “A lot of these defendants…. they’re all fucking short-bus people,” Watkins said….

    [“Short-bus” is a derogatory term that refers to the smaller school bus that transports special-needs children to schools in the US.]

    ….Watkins continued, “These aren’t bad people, they don’t have prior criminal history. Fuck, they were subjected to four-plus years of goddamn propaganda the likes of which the world has not seen since fucking Hitler.”

    The broader TPM article questioned whether such finger-pointing defense tactics will legally work; the piece also brought up Anthony Antonio, whose attorney claimed he suffered from “Fox-itus” and “Fox-mania” after watching Fox News under lockdown while unemployed.

    Two former federal prosecutors told TPM that such defense tactics might convince a judge to go soft at sentencing but would not negate a defendant’s core guilt….

  38. says

    SC @37, and now I see that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has joined Trump and Kevin McCarthy in opposing the January 6 commission. Pathetic, unethical. Also, they are afraid that their own misdeeds will be aired in full before the public.

    As Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said, “Congress was physically under siege in an organized attempt to overthrow democracy itself…. [T]he House just needs to let subpoenas fly.”

  39. says

    Bits and pieces of news:

    * Just a few days after Donald Trump told the public that the entire voter database in Maricopa County “has been DELETED,” the former president’s Republican allies conceded that this wasn’t true.

    * Nevertheless, some reporters at One America News (OAN), the far-right, Trump-aligned network, are reportedly trying to raise money to help fund Arizona’s utterly bonkers election “audit.”

    * In related news, a judge in Michigan yesterday dismissed a lingering lawsuit falsely alleging fraud in the 2020 election. This was one of the cases that the Florida-based Cyber Ninjas outfit was involved with.

    * Republican legislators in Alabama this week approved a ban on curbside voting, which was notable in part because Alabama doesn’t have curbside voting.

    […] * Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto lost in a Democratic primary yesterday to challenger Ed Gainey, a five-term state representative. If Gainey prevails in the general election, he’ll become the city’s first Black mayor.

    * In nearby Unity township, Republican Leslie Baum Rossi won a state legislative special election yesterday. The Pennsylvania GOP candidate is perhaps best known for creating a shrine to Donald Trump along Route 982 in Youngstown, including a 12-foot metal likeness of the former president in the yard. [Oh, FFS.]

    […] * In Georgia, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) has decided to seek re-election, despite the attacks he’s faced from Donald Trump and his cohorts.

    * And on a related note, the former president issued a statement yesterday, encouraging Georgia’s Republican-led legislature to “build up the courage to expose” election conspiracy theories that only exist in his mind. He added that Georgia should “just look at” Arizona as a model to emulate. [Oh, FFS]

    Link

  40. says

    Marjorie Taylor Greene latest to see Jan. 6 rioters as victims

    I wouldn’t say Marjorie Taylor Greene is in good company, but she certainly has plenty of company.

    At face value, the fact that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) is defending the Jan. 6 insurrectionist rioters, and opposes the creation of a bipartisan commission to investigate the attack on the Capitol, is the least surprising story in recent memory. But there is a larger context to this.

    Georgia GOP Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene said supporters of former President Donald Trump who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6 are “being abused” in federal custody as she blasted House calls for a commission to study the insurrection.

    “The people that breached the Capitol on Jan. 6 are being abused,” the right-wing congresswoman said during remarks on the House floor. As proof, the Georgia Republican claimed that some of those who participated in the deadly riot are being held “in solitary confinement.”

    As a rule, Greene’s nonsense is easy to dismiss, since she’s obviously not a serious person. Of course GOP extremist sees the insurrectionists as victims. Of course she’s against an independent examination of the attack.

    What’s more significant is the emergence of a growing Republican contingent that appears desperate to whitewash what transpired on Jan. 6. From just the last week:

    Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) rejected the idea that the insurrectionist violence constituted “an insurrection,” adding that Trump’s rabid mob behaved “in an orderly fashion.” The Georgia Republican went on to say, “[I]f you didn’t know that TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.”

    Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) blasted the Justice Department for “harassing” suspected rioters, whom he described as “peaceful patriots.”

    Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) said, “It was Trump supporters who lost their lives that day, not Trump supporters who were taking the lives of others.”

    “I don’t know who did the poll to say that they were Trump supporters,” Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) said, adding that Trump shouldn’t be blamed for inciting the attack.

    Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) lent his support to his right-wing colleagues late last week, trying to argue that there are worse things than an insurrectionist riot inside the nation’s seat of government.

    Outside the House, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) has also argued that the armed rioters may not have actually been armed, adding soon after that the rioters’ patriotism is worthy of praise. In March, Donald Trump, who played a key role in inciting the violence, got in on the game, insisting that the Capitol attackers posed “zero threat,” and were merely “hugging and kissing the police and the guards.”

    Taken together, there’s a loud and growing Republican faction that seems eager to rewrite the history the world saw unfold on camera just four months ago. […]

  41. says

    Republicans are determined to do whatever causes the most harm, because it does the most harm

    Masks do not limit oxygen. They do not increase the amount of CO2. They don’t “amplify” disease. However, they are effective at preventing transmission of many diseases, including COVID-19. That fact has become even more important with increasing evidence that the spread of SARS-CoV-2 virus is primarily through aerosols that can travel distances greater than 3 or 6 feet, and can linger in the air for prolonged periods.

    Masks are just about the only effective way of protecting unvaccinated people from spreading COVID-19, and even for those who have been fully vaccinated, they remain recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in multiple situations—including facilities where many people may not be vaccinated. It’s a cheap, painless, easily monitored solution that provides protection for everyone with the very minimum of effort.

    Naturally this easy, cheap, and effective solution has been under constant assault from Republicans from the outset of the pandemic because … Honestly, there’s no good way to finish that sentence. Republicans appear to hate masks simply because masks work, and wearing masks represents both an acceptance of scientific facts and a concern for fellow citizens—the two things that the modern Republican Party cannot tolerate.

    Just writing that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order to prevent any locality from issuing a mask mandate seems like a flashback. Because it is. Even though Politico reported on Abbott issuing such an order on Tuesday, it’s not the first time. Abbott is just one of several Republican governors, including Ron DeSantis of Florida and Doug Ducey of Arizona, who previously issued such orders preventing local authorities from taking even this simple, minimal action to protect citizens, only to have to roll back that order when COVID-19 cases predictably surged.

    This comes in spite of a study conducted last fall showing that counties that had a mask mandate showed a 32% slower rate of COVID-19 spread than counties in the same state without a mask mandate. That study included data from counties in Texas. In all of those counties, there was no law or regulation that prevented anyone from choosing to wear a mask. But without a mandate—and without the regular reminder of seeing most other people wearing a masks—people simply didn’t wear a mask.

    […] Right now, 60% of American adults have been vaccinated. That’s 48% of the total population. Though the number vaccinated varies by area, that means that in every store, every restaurant, every shopping center, theater or museum, some portion of the people there are going to be a number of people who are not vaccinated. A mask mandate means those people are protected. […]

    If no one is wearing a mask, then the pressure is there for people who should be wearing a mask—those who are unvaccinated, or those who haven’t yet received two shots, or those still waiting out the period for those vaccines to become effective—feel pressured not to wear a mask. […]

    Wearing a mask when it’s not necessary harms no one. Not wearing a mask when it is necessary harms … well, 33.7 million and counting.

    […] House Republicans chose Tuesday to stage a “rebellion” against the rules that require mask use there. Unsurprisingly, the crew of around a dozen loud and undeservedly proud anti-maskers included Marjorie Taylor Greene and some of the other solidly anti-sense members like Thomas Massie, Louie Gohmert, and Lauren Boebert.

    During this deliberate breaking of House rules—done for the sake of getting a minute’s attention on Newsmax and sending out the daily “look how I owned the libs!” fundraising letter—the members of the Obnoxious Caucus were confronted by Rep. Jaimie Raskin, who told them, “Hey, you guys are just like 21st century Freedom Riders. John Lewis would be so proud.” But considering that Republicans long ago sailed beyond the limits of sarcasm, it’s likely they took the remarks seriously.

    Republicans might have a better point if they would simply admit they had been vaccinated. Which they won’t. Because, just as with masks, they’ve taken a point of public health and turned it into a literally sick bit of political theater. That’s why 100% of Democrats in both the House and Senate confirm that they have been vaccinated, but only 95 out of 212 House Republicans will admit they got a jab.

    Republicans are both complaining that they have to wear masks after the CDC said that the fully vaccinated could remove their masks in most situations, and they are refusing to admit that they’ve been vaccinated. […]

    None of this makes sense. And that is apparently all it takes these days to make it completely Republican.

  42. says

    Viola Fletcher, the oldest living survivor of the Tulsa Race Massacre, testified before Congress on Wednesday seeking “justice” a century after one of the most horrific racist attacks in the nation’s history.

    Fletcher testified before members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, some of whom discussed potential remedies for survivors of the tragedy and their descendants […]

    Fletcher […] was seven years old when white mobs descended on the thriving Black community in Tulsa’s Greenwood District, also known as the Black Wall Street, in 1921, burning it to the ground.

    Fletcher […] described the horrific night during her hearing.

    “The night of the massacre, I was awakened by my family, my parents and five siblings were there. I was told we had to leave, and that was it,” Fletcher said.

    “I will never forget the violence of the white mob when we left our home,” she testified. “I still see Black men being shot, black bodies lie in the street. I still smell smoke and see fire. I still see black businesses being burned. I still hear airplanes flying overhead. I hear the screams.”

    “I have lived through the massacre everyday. Our country may forget this history, but I cannot. I will not, and other survivors do not. And our descendants do not,” she said.

    Fletcher said when her family left Tulsa that she lost her chance of an education and “never finished school past the fourth grade.”

    “I have never made much money and my country, state and city took a lot from me,” she said. “[…] most of my life I was a domestic worker serving white families. […]

    Link

    More at the link, including video.

  43. says

    Follow-up to comments 42 and 43.

    Wonkette:

    Rep. Katie Porter made another Pharma CEO sweat yesterday, during a House Oversight Committee hearing on prescription drug prices. Porter used her “whiteboard of justice” and a few sticky cutouts to dismantle a favorite excuse for high prescription drug pricing in the US: that we have to pay the highest prices in the world to ensure the companies can afford to do research and development of new lifesaving medical miracles. The reality, Porter pointed out, is that Big Pharma spends far more on advertising, executive pay, and enriching stockholders than on R&D.

    Her sacrificial victim for the day was Richard Gonzales, CEO of AbbVie, which makes the world’s top-selling drug, Humira. The Oversight Committee yesterday released a report detailing how much of AbbVie’s profits have been driven by ever-increasing prices on just two medications: Humira, which is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, Crohns, and other autoimmune and gastrointestinal illnesses, and Imbruvica, which is used to treat cancers such as mantle cell lymphoma.

    In January, Fortune reported that AbbVie would be jacking up the price of Humira again, by another 7.4 percent. As the committee report detailed, since Humira was first released in 2003, its price has been increased 27 times, by more than 470 percent. An annual supply of the medication now costs $77,000 in the USA.

    […] After noting that AbbVie spent a total of $2.45 billion on research and development from 2013 to 2018, Porter got to the items that the company spent far more on, like $4.7 billion annually for advertising, and $50 billion for stock buybacks and dividends from 2013 to 2018 […]

    And of course there’s the executive pay; Gonzales figured that comes to a modest $60 million annually, but Porter replied, “Try $334 [million] on for size.”

    In short, Porter summed up,

    You’re spending all this money to make sure you make money rather than spending money to invest in, develop drugs, and help patients with affordable, lifesaving drugs. You lie to patients when you charge them twice as much for an unimproved drug, and then you lie to policymakers when you tell us that R&D justifies those price increases.

    The Big Pharma fairy tale is one of groundbreaking R&D that justifies astronomical prices. But the pharma reality is that you spend most of your company’s money making money for yourself and your shareholders. […] You’re feeding us lies that we must pay astronomical prices to get “innovative” treatments.

    Porter’s grilling of Gonzales reflected the findings of the committee’s report, which was based on 18 years’ worth of internal documents and data from AbbVie and its parent company, Abbott Labs. Ways and Means Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-New York) had to subpoena the documents last year when the company refused a request to turn over the information. The report stated that

    AbbVie pursued a variety of tactics to increase drug sales while raising prices for Americans, including exploiting the patent system to extend its market monopoly, abusing orphan drug protections to further block competition, and engaging in anticompetitive pricing practices.

    In the hearing yesterday, Maloney noted that even as AbbVie raised drug prices in the US, it reduced them in other countries. Gonzales said, “The system you described is how it does work.” And how!

    For instance, as NBC News explains,

    The list price for Humira in countries outside of the U.S. is much lower. The committee found that in 2015, the cost for a 40-milligram syringe of the drug was $1,727 in the U.S. while price range was between about $400 and $970 in Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and South Korea.

    Well yes, but those are all socialist hellholes without any freedom, don’t you see. We need to pay higher prices to subsidize their leeching off all the innovation and R&D here in the USA, even though that actually turns out not to be where the money really goes. It’s a talking point, and pharma’s sticking with it.

    The committee report also pointed out that unlike the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, Medicare is legally prohibited from negotiating drug prices with companies; if it could, taxpayers could save billions annually, but again, if we did that, how would shareholders make any obscene profits? Also too, NBC News notes, the report found that AbbVie “engaged in a series of anticompetitive strategies to block lower-priced biosimilar versions of Humira from entering the U.S. market.”

    All in all, it wasn’t a great day for the cherished myth that’s constantly used to justify the high cost of for-profit healthcare. You might want to bookmark Porter’s tweet with that video, just to have it on hand the next time someone swears to you we have no choice but to pay through the nose for prescription drugs.

    Now, if we could get adequate funding for immediate research on cloning Katie Porter.

    Link

  44. says

    A prosecutor says no to a rape charge, so a college student calls her own grand jury.

    Washington Post link

    Madison Smith will be just a few months out of college when her story is heard this fall by a most unusual Kansas grand jury — one she convened.

    For three years, the local prosecutor has resolutely refused to make her case: that what began as consensual sex in a college dorm room became a rape, and that she was unable to say “stop” because her classmate was strangling her.

    But Smith invoked a vestige of frontier justice that allows citizens in Kansas to summon a grand jury when they think prosecutors are neglecting to bring charges in a crime. […] The 22-year-old graduate is believed to be the first to convene a citizen grand jury after a prosecutor declined to pursue a sex-crime charge.

    “It took me a while to find my voice,” she said recently. “But I have found it, and I am going to use it.”

    […] Unlike Smith, most victims have no way to seek justice when they feel a blind eye is being turned toward a crime. Only five other states, all in the Great Plains or the West, have similar laws still on the books. […]

    […] court records and recordings of conversations reveal, [that the family’s] disagreement with McPherson County Attorney Gregory Benefiel had turned highly contentious.

    “The one person who I believed was supposed to fight for the victim on the legal side has pushed me aside, stalling, and waiting for me to give up,” Smith wrote in one statement to the court. “This is a common tactic used by defense attorneys, but now the prosecution. I won’t ever give up. Ever.”

    Benefiel initially refused to press any charges. He later reversed course, seeking and winning a conviction on felony aggravated battery, the most he thought he could prove in the February 2018 attack.

    Yet Smith has never considered it as anything other than rape.

    It happened at Bethany College, a small Christian liberal arts school in Lindsborg, an hour north of Wichita. She had bumped into a friend, Jared Stolzenburg, while doing laundry in a dorm. They went to his room, talked some, started kissing. They progressed to sex — by mutual consent, she acknowledges.

    Almost immediately, Stolzenburg began slapping her face and strangling her while continuing intercourse, according to court records.

    “I tried to initially pull his hands off of my throat, and he squeezed harder every time,” Smith recounted in one court hearing. “He would strangle me for 20 to 30 seconds at a time, and I would begin to lose consciousness. When he would release his hands from my neck, the only thing I could do was gasp for air.”

    She had told investigators Stolzenburg forced her to perform oral sex and tried to penetrate her anally. “I truly thought that he was going to kill me and the only way I was going to leave that room was in a body bag,” she continued in court.

    The day after the assault, the college freshman stood in the driveway of her parents’ house three blocks from campus. “I was raped last night,” she told them, tugging down the collar on her hoodie to reveal a necklace of purple bruises.

    Her parents called police and drove her to a nearby hospital for a forensic exam. The report noted the bruising and abrasion on her neck, as well as bruising inside her mouth.

    Five weeks later, the family arrived for their first meeting with the prosecutor. Benefiel asked to speak to Madison alone.

    “He told me that the rape I experienced wasn’t rape, it was immature sex because I didn’t verbally say no when I was being strangled,” she recalled in one court hearing. “He then told me he was not filing charges.”

    She walked out of his office in tears.

    In subsequent meetings with the family, which they recorded, the county attorney further explained his position. Because the sex had begun consensually, he said, the issue was whether Stolzenburg had “any knowledge whatsoever of [Madison’s] withdrawal of consent.”

    […] “I couldn’t speak. How can I say ‘no’ if I can’t speak, if I can’t breathe?”

    A former Minnesota prosecutor reviewed Kansas law for the Smiths and concluded that the attack qualified for a rape charge.

    “I would contend that it is clear that if while strangling someone, they are pulling on your hands and gasping for breath, and they are crying, none of that sounds consensual to me,” said Julie Germann, who specialized in sexual assault cases. “I would not have a hard time taking that case to a jury at all.”

    […] To convene the grand jury, the Smiths needed 329 voter signatures — 2 percent of the county’s vote total in the last gubernatorial election, plus 100 — and to have a court approve the legal grounds.

    They drove last May to that Lindsborg parking lot, tied some balloons on their tent and began asking people to sign a petition tersely setting out the facts, including that the county prosecutor refused to file rape charges “because Madison didn’t verbally revoke consent while being strangled.”

    “It was very hard to keep retelling my story to stranger after stranger,” she said this month, “but at the same time I knew that what I was doing was going to make a difference one way or another.”

    The first petition was rejected on a technicality, forcing the family to stage another signature drive. A three-judge panel approved the next effort […]

    In the meantime, the county attorney had charged Stolzenburg with aggravated battery. He pleaded guilty and received two years’ probation, an outcome Madison Smith called inadequate and “bittersweet.”

    “Mr. Benefiel, through all of this, has been the only person to tell me my rape was not rape, and I will not allow him to minimize what I survived,” she said at the sentencing hearing last August. “While I’m grateful that [Stolzenburg] didn’t completely get away with his crimes, I feel angry and re-victimized that he was not charged for the sexual side of this.”

    […] The young woman at the center of the case knows that her grand jury may not return the indictment she wants. Even so, she expects that her advocacy will raise awareness of inadequate charges in sex crimes and appropriate ways to handle victims of sexual trauma.

    “Win or lose, we swung the bat, and we swung it hard,” said Smith, who grew up on the softball field. “We tried everything we could, and we exhausted all our resources. I’ve got to know I tried.” […]

  45. says

    Sen. Republicans Admit They Don’t Want Jan 6. Commission Because It Could Color Midterms

    Senate Republicans are candidly admitting their political calculus in opposing a January 6 commission: they don’t want it to encroach on the 2022 midterms, during which they worry it would be “weaponized politically.”

    In other words, they don’t want voters reminded of the attack their leader and party provoked as they mull over their ballots.

    Sen. John Thune (R-SD), the Senate minority whip, told reporters […] “A lot of our members, and I think this is true of a lot of House Republicans, want to be moving forward and not looking backward,” he said. “Anything that gets us rehashing the 2020 elections I think is a day lost on being able to draw a contrast between us and the Democrats’ very radical left-wing agenda.”

    Up until this point, the 2022 factor has been more tacit in Republicans’ opposition than explicit. A commission of the sort proposed in the House bill encompassing the attack and “influencing factors” — e.g. the conspiracy theories peddled by former President Donald Trump and his GOP allies — would keep focus squarely on the sins of the Republican party. In recent days, Republicans have channeled this concern more through complaints about the commission’s scope, seeking to zoom out so far that Trump’s and their culpability seem insignificant.

    Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) told reporters Wednesday that the midterm knock-on effect was a feature, not a bug, of the bipartisan commission proposal. “[…] That’s Pelosi’s plan,” he said, adding that it would be “Democrats’ dream” to make the midterms all about the Capitol insurrection.

    The commission proposal did not come from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) but from House Homeland Security committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and ranking member John Katko (R-NY) late last week. The legislation, expected to pass the House Wednesday evening, mandates that the commission’s report on its findings be given to Congress and the President by December 31, 2021.

    […] Multiple House GOP members claimed to still be mulling it over, and a last minute whipping effort indicated some nerves from leadership. Some Republican senators expressed openness too, most notably Sen. Mike Rounds (R-UT) who said he supported an independent January 6 commission. Rounds is a mainstream Republican and dependable GOP vote whose receptiveness seemed more indicative of broader caucus feelings than the outliers like Sens. Mitt Romney (R-UT) or Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

    But on Wednesday morning, that momentum was quashed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who expressed his opposition to the commission in a floor speech.

    Soon after, Rounds said he’d changed his mind.

    “It would appear that under the layout that they’ve got this probably could not get started with a staff approved until late this year — that’s way too late, way too long to get the folks in with the appropriate security clearances to go through everything,” he told reporters.

    He said that he’d had an “informal coffee” with McCarthy and about 14 other Republican senators Wednesday morning where he discovered that he was dissatisfied with the partisan nature of the proposal, pointing to the power of the Democratic chair to staff the commission. When a reporter pointed out that the staffing clause was virtually identical to that of the widely-praised 9/11 commission, he said that he wouldn’t be able to identify the “differences or comparisons.”

    […] “I also think it’s important that this be independent and nonpartisan and that means that we should make sure that the work is done this year, and does not go over into the election year,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) told reporters Wednesday afternoon. “There’s plenty of time to complete the work.”

  46. says

    ‘He couldn’t even stand up’: Minnesota nurse alleges jail neglect so rampant it ended a man’s life

    It took more than two years of a Black mother’s repeated and public questioning for Minnesota officials to take seriously an investigation into her son’s death. But Del Shea Perry’s work, bolstered by a nurse practitioner’s gripping account in letters and on NBC-affiliated KARE 11 News, is finally beginning to inform legislative reform in Minnesota that would among other things improve requirements for jails to report neglect. Perry’s 27-year-old son, Hardel Sherrell, was all but left to die at the Beltrami County Jail, and even after nurse practitioner Stephanie Lundblad’s advocacy for the man, he died on Sept. 2, 2018. Jail staffers had accused him of faking paralysis, Lundblad said in her first public interview, held last week with KARE News.

    She is a central witness in an FBI investigation of the Beltrami County Jail, and the level of neglect she described is simply unconscionable. “Felt like I had witnessed a murder,” she told KARE News. Warning: The videos in this story contain disturbing jail surveillance footage that may be triggering to some viewers.

    Lundblad was newly employed with the Beltrami County Jail and still undergoing training when she was told on Aug. 31, 2018, to check on Sherrell. He had been recently transferred to the jail regarding firearm possession charges, and he also was charged with domestic assault in Dakota County, stemming from an incident with an ex-girlfriend […]. When Lundblad encountered Sherrell, she knew immediately he wasn’t faking. He was begging for his life with his mouth drooping, tears on his cheeks, and the scent of sweat and urine thick in the air, the nurse told KARE. Lundblad, an employee of MEnD Correctional Care at the time, checked Sherrell’s vitals, and he had high blood pressure, an elevated heart rate, and low oxygen saturation, she said.

    “He couldn’t even stand up. He could barely talk. He could still cry,” the nurse told KARE. “It looked like a man who was suffering, that was sick. That was dying.” [video is available at the link]

    The day before Lundblad saw Sherrell, jail administrator Calandra Allen refused to allow him to be taken to the hospital and deemed him a flight risk despite a doctor’s recommendation[…]. When Lundblad saw Sherrell, she advised staff members he should be taken to an emergency room […] Lundblad wrote the Minnesota Department of Justice Inspection Unit on Sept. 11, 2018, to report what she described as neglect.

    “The conditions in which I found the inmate were disturbing,” she said in the report KARE obtained. “My report gives all details, including that when I directed that the inmate’s diaper and clothes be changed, the officers refused to help. The RN later had to call her family to bring another set of clothes to the jail for her, as her clothes were full of urine and sweat after we changed the inmate ourselves.”

    Lundblad had earlier written to the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office to describe a man living in fear of guards. “When Hardel was getting changed into clean clothes I remember him saying to please don’t let the officers touch him,” she wrote. The nurse also said she disagreed with Todd Leonard, the doctor who evaluated Sherrell’s case off-site and initially prescribed him over the counter pain killers and an antihistamine. “I told him vital signs and ECGs don’t lie—both of which were consistently abnormal with Hardel,” Lundblad said. She accused the doctor, who founded MEnD Correctional Care and bragged about spending less time in jails on the company’s website, of being more worried about his company than Hardel. She said at one point in the report that Leonard accused Sherrill of “giving himself a blood clot from faking his illness.” “He said it was likely he killed himself or even stuck a sock down his throat,” Lundblad wrote.

    Although the Ramsey County medical examiner initially determined Sherrell died of pneumonia, an independent autopsy later revealed he suffered from a rare but treatable disorder known as Guillain-Barré Syndrome, which can trigger paralysis […] Lundblad sent letters to the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice and the state Board of Nursing, documents that would ultimately lead to an FBI investigation into Sherrell’s death and inform the legislative reform currently being considered by state lawmakers.

    The original opinion given by the Minnesota Department of Corrections, however, found “no violations” in Sherrell’s case. Department of Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell told KARE a previous administration let Lundblad’s letter “slip through the cracks.”

    Perry refused to let her son’s death investigation do the same. She gave powerful testimony in February before a House committee considering legislation named in her son’s honor. She also filed a lawsuit against the Beltrami County Jail, MEnD Correctional Care, and Sanford Health in February. “Unfortunately, he was slowing dying right before their very eyes,” the mother said. “And they just left him there on a cold jail cell floor. Crying out for help for days—not minutes, days. Until he took his last breath.” [More video available at the link.]

    […] Mariani [Democratic Rep. Carlos Mariani] said in his statement: “Everyone who enters a correction facility deserves to be safe and should have hope that as they re-enter society, they can be a successful, contributing member of their community. Today, we heard how our systems are falling short of those objectives. We have the capacity to build a corrections system that both delivers the accountability that comes with wrongdoing, while recognizing the humanity and worth within each and every person.”

  47. says

    Chris Hayes, responding to Steny Hoyer’s response to an AIPAC attack on Ilhan Omar:

    AIPAC is helping to facilitate a trajectory for support of Israel similar to what the NRA facilitated for guns.

    In some ways, the NRA’s approach has been very effective. Gun laws have been rolled back, and gun sales are through the roof. But they’ve also helped polarize the issue and made something that used to be quite bi-partisan and even back burner a highly polarized culture war issue.

    From a strategic perspective, AIPAC and others may be playing this correctly, but it will have, I think, serious unintended consequences and we’re already seeing them show up in the Democratic party and media discourse around the latest violence.

  48. says

    NEWS: MEMBERS of the U.S. Capitol Police have issued a statement to members of Congress expressing ‘profound disappointment’ with McConnell and McCarthy’s positions on the Jan. 6 commission, citing the ‘trauma’ that officers endured that day.”

    Statement atl. The family of one of the officers who took his own life in the aftermath also wrote encouraging them to vote for the commission. AFAIK, McCarthy is still refusing to talk to Officer Fanone.

  49. says

    Oh – update to #68:

    …Statement from USCP on the matter: “A statement is circling on social media, which expresses an opinion about the proposed legislation to create a commission to investigate January 6. This is NOT an official USCP statement.”

    “The Department has no way of confirming it was even authored by USCP personnel. The U.S. Capitol Police does NOT take positions on legislation.”

  50. says

    Update to #69: MSNBC and others are reporting that the statement was released through the office of Rep. Raskin (lead manager in the second impeachment trial), so I assume it’s really from a group of anonymous USCP officers.

  51. says

    Here’s a link to the May 20 Guardian coronavirus world liveblog.

    From there:

    WHO Europe chief: authorised vaccines effective against all variants of concern

    Progress against the coronavirus pandemic remains “fragile” and international travel should be avoided, the World Health Organization’s Europe director warned on Thursday, but stressed that authorised vaccines do work against variants of concern.

    “Right now, in the face of a continued threat and new uncertainty, we need to continue to exercise caution, and rethink or avoid international travel,” Hans Kluge said, adding that “pockets of increasing transmission” on the continent could quickly spread.

    The so-called India variant, which may be more transmissible, has now been identified in at least 26 of the 53 countries in the WHO Europe region, Kluge said during his weekly press conference.

    But, AFP report, he said that authorised vaccines were effective against the new strain.

    “All Covid-19 virus variants that have emerged so far do respond to the available, approved vaccines,” Kluge said, adding that all Covid-19 variants can be controlled with the same public health and social measures used until now.

    So far only 23% of people in the region have received a vaccine dose, with just 11% having had both doses, Kluge said, as he warned citizens to continue to exercise caution.

    “Vaccines may be a light at the end of the tunnel, but we cannot be blinded by that light,” he said.

    Uki Goñi reports for us from Buenos Aires:

    With both the Brazilian and UK variants circulating widely in Argentina, the patients now being seen by intensive care doctor Vanina Edul at the Fernández public hospital in Buenos Aires are dying faster, and younger: one recent victim was just 42 when he died.

    “I am seeing people die in less than a week – young patients unresponsive to treatment. You administer oxygen, do all the mechanics – turn them face down, face up – but it doesn’t work. Then there are other patients whose oxygenation level is not so bad – but they die anyway,” Edul says.

    A devastating second wave of Covid cases has caught Argentina off guard, with relaxed restrictions and a low vaccination rate. Cases have risen from a daily total of about 5,000 in early March to a record 35,000 this week, while deaths surged from 112 at the start of March to a record 744 on Tuesday. On Wednesday daily contagions set a new record, just under 40,000 cases, while deaths dropped to 494….

    Canada is poised to overtake the US in the proportion of population with one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, following early delays in its rollout. But Canada’s success in quickly vaccinating residents has raised questions over what more it can be doing as the pandemic persists in poorer nations.

    For months, Canada has trailed its neighbour in vaccination rates, prompting envy and frustration among residents. In March, the US was vaccinating at a rate three times that of Canada.

    Canada’s initial rollout was hampered by limited supply and confusion: in December, officials in Ontario, the country’s most populous province, apologised for shutting down vaccine clinics for the holidays.

    But with nearly 47% of its population covered by a single dose and new shipments arriving, the rollout has picked up speed.

    Moscow Times – “Coronavirus in Russia: The Latest News”:

    Russia has confirmed 4,974,908 cases of coronavirus and 117,361 deaths, according to the national coronavirus information center. Russia’s total excess fatality count since the start of the coronavirus pandemic is above 460,000.

    [graph at the link shows cases possibly beginning to rise anew after the country opened up again]

    May 20: What you need to know today

    -Russia on Thursday confirmed 9,232 new coronavirus cases and 396 deaths.
    -Russia’s former Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has expressed support for compulsory vaccinations Wednesday as the country grapples with slower-than-hoped-for coronavirus vaccine uptake.
    -Russia has registered cases of a rare and deadly fungal infection afflicting current and former coronavirus patients that has been on the rise in virus-stricken India, the pro-Kremlin Izvestia newspaper reported Monday.
    -42% of Russians refuse to get vaccinated against the coronavirus under any circumstances, the SuperJob[dot]ru job portal said in a survey published Sunday….

  52. says

    Guardian – “‘It’s barbaric’: some US children getting hit at school despite bans”:

    …Years of data have shown that students of color and those with disabilities are disproportionately subjected to corporal punishment, a practice that goes on despite a substantial body of research showing its harmful effects on youth development.

    New Jersey became the first state to ban the practice in schools – in 1867 – and all but 19 have since followed suit.

    Today, a considerable body of research suggests the practice can lead to significant and lifelong harms….

    …One recent report suggests that the roots of corporal punishment in southern schools run deep – with ties to lynching.

    The report, published this year in the journal Social Problems, found that in places where lynching was once routine, schools are more likely to rely on corporal punishment today – especially against Black students. The south has a “distinct history of racialized violence for social control purposes,” researchers noted.

    “As is lynching itself a vestige of slavery, so too is beating and whipping people,” Jackson, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said. Corporal punishment is used in schools on students who educators “believe are either less than deserving of grace or people who you believe need to be controlled, people who you believe need to be kept in line as opposed to being nurtured or educated”.

    Though previous federal efforts have failed to to ban corporal punishment in schools, Rollin, of the National Center for Youth Law, said the Biden administration could combat the practice through the education department’s Office for Civil Rights. Given corporal punishment’s disparate impact on students of color and those with disabilities, she urged the office to investigate districts for discrimination.

    “There’s a reason we don’t go to the Colosseum and watch lions ripping people open,” Jackson said. “At some point, we have to evolve.”

    Much more atl. (It’s ironic and frustrating but unsurprising that phrases like “it’s barbaric” and “we have to evolve” appear here, but a worthwhile article.)

  53. says

    AP – “Gaza’s health system buckling under repeated wars, blockade”:

    The Gaza Strip’s already feeble health system is being brought to its knees by the fourth war in just over a decade.

    Hospitals have been overwhelmed with waves of dead and wounded from Israel’s bombardment. Many vital medicines are rapidly running out in the tiny, blockaded coastal territory, as is fuel to keep electricity going.

    Two of Gaza’s most prominent doctors, including the No. 2 in Gaza’s coronavirus task force, were killed when their homes were destroyed during barrages since fighting between Hamas and Israel erupted 10 days ago.

    Just as Gaza was climbing out of a second wave of coronavirus infections, its only virus testing lab was damaged by an airstrike and has been shut. Health officials fear further outbreaks among tens of thousands of displaced residents crowded into makeshift shelters after fleeing massive barrages.

    The Gaza Strip’s health infrastructure was already collapsing before this latest war, said Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for UNRWA, the U.N. agency that provides vital assistance to the 75% of the enclave’s population who are refugees. “It’s frightening,” he said.

    The sector has been battered by three previous wars between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

    During each of the wars, hospitals and clinics were damaged or destroyed, and medical personnel killed. And after each, authorities had to slowly rebuild, hampered by the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt since Hamas took power in 2007.

    Other turmoil also weighed on the system. More than two years of weekly Friday Palestinian protests at the border with Israel against the blockade produced a constant stream of casualties from Israeli fire — more than 35,000 injured, many with lifelong disabilities and around 100 still awaiting reconstructive surgery and amputations.

    Now health facilities are struggling to handle both the casualties of war and the everyday needs of Gaza’s 2 million people.

    “It’s layer-upon-layer of crisis. And there never is really enough time between each crisis to rebuild,” said Matthias Schmale, the UNRWA director in Gaza. “The (health care) system has gradually been quite significantly weakened. I wouldn’t say it’s on its knees, but getting close.”

    Gaza health officials say at least 227 Palestinians, including 64 children, have been killed in airstrikes and more than 1,600 wounded. Twelve people in Israel have been killed by rockets.

    The bombardment has driven more than 56,000 Gazans from their homes, fleeing into 59 schools run by UNRWA. The U.N. agency is providing them with water and basic hygiene supplies, including face masks. Unknown numbers more have taken refuge with relatives.

    …Israeli attacks this time have damaged at least 18 hospitals and clinics, the World Health Organization said. Nearly half of all essential drugs have run out. Schmale said at least three health care centers have been leveled, including a trauma and burn center run by Doctors Without Borders.

    Among the sites damaged was the main health care clinic, the only site in Gaza where tests detecting COVID-19 can be analyzed, said Dr. Majdi Dhair, head of preventive medicine at the Health Ministry. As a result, coronavirus testing has halted.

    “It’s like a ticking bomb because people are not tested, and those who are infected won’t know that they are infected,” Dhair said.

    As of Monday, when the clinic was damaged, Gaza had recorded more than 105,000 coronavirus infections, including 986 deaths. Some 80 people were in critical condition with the virus.

    Gaza’s COVID-19 vaccination drive, already slow, has stopped, said WHO’s top official in Gaza, Sacha Bootsma.

    Just under 39,000 people, or 2% of Gaza’s population, have received vaccinations. There are only enough doses to vaccinate another 15,000, and those expire in June, raising fears they will be unusable by the time they can be given.

    “In a war, there are responsibilities to protect health institutions and health care workers,” Schmale said.

    He said this week a senior lab technician who works at a main UNRWA health clinic was seriously wounded in an airstrike as he rushed home to help his wife evacuate. He is in intensive care with severe brain damage.

    “The price the civilian population is paying is unbearable and unacceptable, and health care workers are an element of that,” Schmale said.

    “Our staff are as terrified as the rest of the population. They are really afraid to go to work after heavy nights of shelling or bombing.”

    Also urgently needed is fuel. Electricity output in Gaza has dropped some 60%, forcing hospitals to rely more on fuel-thirsty generators, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a statement.

    During one brief opening, UNRWA was able to bring in five fuel trucks, enough to help it run its facilities for a few weeks. But other trucks of food and medicine could not enter, reportedly prevented by ongoing shelling. Two days ago, Egypt sent in a supply convoy that included medical supplies and fuel, but that fuel is expected to run out Thursday.

    If the border stays closed, supplies will begin to run out and “we will need so-called humanitarian corridors open to bring stuff in,” Schmale said.

  54. says

    Vice – “Pro-Trump Conspiracy Theorists Are Taking Over State Republican Parties”:

    The Republican Party chairs of Texas and Wyoming have flirted with secession from the United States. Oklahoma’s Republican chair has called Islam a “cancer.” The Oregon GOP called the Capitol insurrection a “false flag” operation. And at least 19 Republican state chairs—including most of the ones in key swing states—publicly pushed former President Trump’s big lie about the election.

    A VICE News review of public positions of all 50 GOP state chairs shows a significant number are openly pushing conspiracy theories, spouting unhinged rhetoric, and actively undermining voters’ trust in democracy. That includes the chairs of nearly every swing state in the U.S. And the trend is accelerating: Many of the most extreme chairs just won their chairmanships or have been reelected since Trump left office four months ago, a number of them with his explicit endorsement.

    Liz Cheney’s ouster from GOP party leadership showed how much Trump retains his stranglehold on the GOP on the national stage. But the overwhelming wins by Trump loyalists in the first widespread internal Republican elections since Trump left office, albeit in small contests chosen by a hardcore, activist subset of the GOP base, show that his conspiratorial claims about the election run even deeper in the states than in Washington—and will guide the grassroots for years to come.

    “I don’t know why people are sitting around expecting that somehow this is going to fix itself,” said Michael Steele, the Republican National Committee’s national chairman from 2009-2011 and a fierce Trump critic. “It won’t fix itself because Donald Trump won’t allow it to be fixed. And people who back Donald Trump and all the stuff that comes with it, they think they’re right, they think this is working, they think this is what a party should be like.”…

    Much more atl. Kind of a companion piece to this one about Heritage from last week.

  55. says

    SC @76, the Israeli forces are always bragging about their pinpoint accuracy when they fire missiles, so why are they hitting facilities like those run by Doctors Without Borders?

  56. says

    SC @75, I lost count of how many times the police tased the black man before he died. You can hear the tasers in the video, and it sounds like the officers do not always say “taser” first. They even tased Ronald Greene again after he was out of the car and lying prone on the ground.

  57. says

    Lynna @ #78, it’s maddening that they’re still trying to gaslight the entire world, even after they bombed international organizations and press!

    Lynna @ #79, they tortured him.

  58. says

    SC @80, “[…] they tortured him.” Yes. And worse yet, they seemed to enjoy it. And where would be without the persistent AP reporters who finally got their hands on the video tape? The details were being kept secret.

    Bits and pieces of other news:

    * In case the bonkers Arizona “audit” wasn’t already a big enough circus, Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) have scheduled an “America First” event for tomorrow in Mesa.

    […] * As part of the rollout of his new gubernatorial campaign in New York, Andrew Giuliani told reporters this week, when asked about his lack of experience, “I’m the only candidate who spent five different decades in politics or public service.” Andrew Giuliani is 35 years old. [LOL] In a separate interview, the Republican candidate insisted his political experience spans 32 years, which would suggest Giuliani believes his career began when he was literally a toddler.

    Link

  59. says

    After months of hit-or-miss progress on weekly unemployment claims, we’re starting to see relatively consistent blue skies. As CNBC reported this morning, the new report from the Labor Department offers a fresh round of encouraging news.

    The procession of Americans heading to the unemployment line fell last week, with jobless claims totaling a fresh pandemic-era low of 444,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Economist surveyed by Dow Jones had been expecting 452,000 new claims as the jobs picture improves thanks to an accelerated economic reopening across the country.

    […] it was in March 2020 when jobless claims first spiked in response to the COVID-19 crisis, climbing to over 3 million. That weekly total soon after reached nearly 7 million as the economy cratered. For 55 consecutive weeks, the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits was worse than at any time during the Great Recession.

    And now, that’s no longer the case. In fact, today’s report — like the last few weekly reports — was the best since the start of the pandemic. What’s more, the speed of the progress is important: today’s report shows a 51% improvement since January.

    To be sure, it’d be a mistake to see 444,000 jobless claims as good news on its own. Under normal circumstances, this would be an awful total. In the early months of 2020, for example, the U.S. average on unemployment claims was roughly 211,000 — well under half of the total from today’s report.

    But given what Americans have been dealing with throughout the pandemic, these new figures are worth feeling good about.

    Link

  60. says

    Lyz Lenz:

    Just got an email from my kids school. Iowa law now *prohibits* schools from requiring masks. This is just a flagrant disregard for human life and well being.

    Schools can police what young girls wear or boys baggy shorts. But they cannot mandate that children wear masks to protect them and others from a deadly new virus.

    There is a week and a half left of school. Kids are not being vaccinated. There is no need for this.

    Just to make this clear: My kids school has a rule that prohibits girls from wearing leggings without a dress or long top to cover their butts, which they enforce. But the school can now no longer enforce the wearing of a mask to protect from a deadly novel virus.

    The message from the @IowaGOP here are your freedoms, we will force them on you, and hope you absolutely die from them. You have no freedom to choose otherwise.

    Once again, for the people in the back. Welcome to Iowa: A State that Doesn’t Care if You Live or Die

    [WaPo link atl]…

  61. says

    Why did the GOP oppose a resolution on the Atlanta mass shooting?

    When the House approved a measure condemning the mass shooting in Atlanta from March, 180 Republicans voted “no.” It’s worth understanding why.

    It’s not uncommon for Congress to take up symbolic resolutions on major national tragedies, and yesterday was no exception: the House approved a measure on the mass shooting in Atlanta from March. But while these votes tend to be lopsided — no one wants to be seen as pro-tragedy — the Washington Post noted that yesterday’s vote was unusually close.

    The House on Wednesday passed a resolution condemning the Atlanta shooting in March that led to nationwide attention to violence against Asian Americans…. The resolution sought to reaffirm the House’s commitment “to combating hate, bigotry and violence” against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. It came a day after the House passed legislation to aggressively investigate hate crimes, especially those targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, that have increased during the coronavirus pandemic.

    In theory, this seems like the sort of resolution that would pass unanimously. In practice, 180 of the chamber’s 211 Republican members — roughly 85% of the conference — voted against it. Even Georgia Republicans opposed the resolution, and the deadly mass shooting happened in their own state.

    And why, pray tell, did this non-binding measure generate so much GOP opposition?

    Because the resolution included a provision noting that racist rhetoric — including “Kung Flu” and “Wuhan Virus” — contributes to racism and violence against Asian Americans. As Forbes reported, this became a partisan issue.

    Some Republicans took issue with the resolution’s mention of the coronavirus nicknames, and GOP leaders urged members to oppose it, according to a GOP source. Rep. Julia Letlow (R-La.) said in a floor speech she had “hoped” to support it but that it’s “just another vehicle for delivering cheap shots against our former president.”

    In other words, Donald Trump used racist rhetoric; the resolution condemned racist rhetoric (though it did not reference the former president); and most of the House Republican conference felt the need to reject the measure in order to avoid giving the appearance of indirectly criticizing Trump. […]

  62. says

    NBC News:

    Texas became the largest state Wednesday with a law that bans abortions before many women even know they are pregnant, but with a unique provision that essentially leaves enforcement to private citizens through lawsuits against doctors or anyone who helps a woman get an abortion.

    Commentary:

    […] As abortion bans go, this one’s a doozy. Texas has approved a so-called “heartbeat” bill, which bans abortions after roughly six weeks of pregnancy. As the Associated Press’ report noted, there are real, practical problems with such a timeline: many Texas women, at least those who can’t afford to travel to Democratic-led states to terminate unwanted pregnancies, will be required to seek abortions before they know they’re pregnant.

    But while other Republican-led states have approved related measures, the new abortion ban in the Lone Star State goes a little further.

    The Texas Tribune reported, “Instead of having the government enforce the law, the bill turns the reins over to private citizens — who are newly empowered to sue abortion providers or anyone who helps someone get an abortion after a fetal heartbeat has been detected. The person would not have to be connected to someone who had an abortion or to a provider to sue.”

    In other words, if a Texan learns that a neighbor had an abortion seven weeks after getting pregnant, he could file suit against the physician who performed the procedure. And the nurse who was in the room. And the friend who drove the neighbor to the health clinic.

    Whether that litigious Texan has anything to do with the neighbor or her family is, under the state’s new law, irrelevant. The AP report added, “Critics say that provision would allow abortion opponents to flood the courts with lawsuits to harass doctors, patients, nurses, domestic violence counselors, a friend who drove a woman to a clinic, or even a parent who paid for a procedure.”

    […] MSNBC’s Laura Bassett noted an ironic twist: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed the abortion ban just one day after the Republican governor signed a measure banning local government entities, including public schools, from enforcing COVID-19 mask mandates.

    After signing the executive order, Abbott wrote on twitter, “Texans, not [government], should decide their best health practices.”

    So much for that idea.

    Ordinarily, the state’s new abortion ban would face immediate trouble in the courts, but let’s not forget that the U.S. Supreme Court announced this week that it will hear a Mississippi case that threatens to undo Roe v. Wade protections, and perhaps even allow the kind of abortion ban signed into law in Texas yesterday. Watch this space.

    Link

    See SC’s comment 83 for one mother’s personal take on the Iowa state ban on mask mandates for schools.

  63. says

    […] The first tranche of President Biden’s judicial nominees are moving through the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will vote on five of his nominees Thursday.

    Whether Biden will be able to match Trump’s influence on the courts is, in one sense, a game of numbers. Trump was able to put 234 judges on the bench. Biden, currently, has 81 vacancies to fill, with at least another 30 seats on the bench expected to open up in the months to come. So far, Biden has announced 20 nominees.

    “We have so much damage to repair, I would like to see the pace really increase,” said Zinelle October, executive vice president of the progressive legal organization American Constitution Society.

    But for advocates and Democratic senators alike, quality is just as important as quantity.

    “Joe Biden is so focused on distinction and diversity — those are the key qualities,” Senate Judiciary Committee Democrat Richard Blumenthal (CT) told TPM.

    All five nominees being considered by the committee Thursday are people of color. One nominee, Zahid N. Quraishi, who’s been selected for New Jersey’s U.S. district court, will be the federal bench’s first Muslim American judge if he is confirmed. […]

    Link

  64. says

    Pro bono attorneys tasked with reuniting families separated at the southern border by the previous administration said in their latest court filing this week that they’ve located the parents of an additional 54 children, NBC News reports. The number of children whose parents have still not yet been contacted is now at 391 children, down from 445 stated in the previous court filing in April.

    “The effects of the Trump Administration’s cruel policy of separating children from their parents still lingers to this day,” the Congressional Hispanic Caucus tweeted in response to the report. “We commend @POTUS on his commitment to reuniting these children with their families.” […]

    Link

  65. says

    […] In case Republicans had not noticed, several of the groups they are busy offending with stunts such as opposition to the Jan. 6 commission and preference for corporate tax scofflaws are the same people turning out in larger numbers than ever before. TargetSmart, a Democratic data firm, reports that the youth vote, which remains strongly Democratic, increased in 2020 while “voters age 40-49 and 50-64 dropped by a significant margin.” Meanwhile, the groups Republicans aim to appeal to (at the expense of growing segments of the electorate) are declining. Another political data firm, the Catalist, found that “72% of the electorate was white, down 2 percentage points from 2016. This comes almost entirely from the decline in white voters without a college degree, who continue a steady decline (in percentage terms).” Republicans’ prime target, non-college-educated Whites, were a majority of the electorate in 2008. In 2020, they were down to 44 percent.

    The instinct for many is to assume a basic level of competence among Republicans. But that flies in the face of evidence. Remember: They are pledging undying loyalty to the guy who lost them the House, Senate and White House. Their dastardly plots, as infuriating as they might be, are not necessarily working in their favor. Just because, for example, they are creating barriers to voting does not mean that they will improve their chances in 2022. The opposite might be true.

    Kowtowing to the MAGA crowd while unconscionably shirking their oaths of office is no brilliant plot guaranteed to deliver victories in 2022 or 2024. No one should confuse mendacity with competence. In other words, never mistake Republicans for very stable geniuses.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/05/20/republicans-clueless/

  66. says

    Washington Post:

    Rep. Greg Pence (R-Ind.), the brother of former vice president Mike Pence, said in a statement Wednesday that he will vote against the formation of an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. The Indiana congressman was with the vice president during the Jan. 6 attack. They huddled together inside a Capitol office guarded by Mike Pence’s Secret Service detail and later took an unknown evacuation route to a secure room in the Capitol complex.

    Rioters, gathered for a rally and then urged by Donald Trump to go to the Capitol, hunted Vice President Pence during the assault. They chanted, “Hang Mike Pence!”

    Violent people threatened to hang his brother, but Greg Pence isn’t interested in talking about that. He issued a statement: “Hanging Judge Nancy Pelosi is hellbent on pushing her version of partisan justice complete with a hand-picked jury that will carry out her pre-determined political execution of Donald Trump before law enforcement officials have completed their investigation.”

    Is he talking about “hanging”? And is he talking about “political execution”?

    Fact check from Steve Benen:

    The independent commission wouldn’t feature a “jury” whose members are “hand-picked” by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. On the contrary, thanks to bipartisan negotiations, the commission would be evenly divided and Republican leaders would choose half of its participants.

    WTF is wrong with Greg Pence?

  67. says

    “The attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 was an unprecedented assault on our democracy,” Psaki said at a press briefing. “It demands a full and independent investigation into what happened. This is not a political issue in the president’s view, this is a question of how we secure our democracy and the rule of law. So it’s incredibly disappointing to see how many representatives have opted to turn this into a political issue instead of doing what’s right.”

  68. says

    This guy is so clueless that I don’t know he manages to get dressed in the morning.

    Ron Johnson eyes his ‘own investigation’ into Capitol attack

    What’s worse, Ron Johnson’s rhetoric about the pandemic or Ron Johnson’s rhetoric about the Jan. 6 attack? It’s a close call.

    When it comes to taking stock of Sen. Ron Johnson’s (R-Wis.) propensity for peddling nonsense, it’s probably best to rely on separate categories.

    The Wisconsin Republican has, for example, repeatedly made ridiculous and potentially dangerous comments about COVID-19, vaccines, and the threats posed by the pandemic. He’s also been cavalier about his indifference to an FBI warning that he was “a target of Russian disinformation” during the last election cycle. He’s denied ever having “talked about the election being stolen,” despite ample evidence pointing in the opposite direction. There’s also the problem, of course, of the senator relying on ugly rhetoric about immigration when discussing what he sees as efforts to “remake the demographics of America.”

    But one of my favorite categories is Ron Johnson’s nonsense related to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The Hill reported this morning:

    Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) suggested on Wednesday that the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was not an insurrection but a largely “peaceful protest.” … “Even calling it an insurrection, it wasn’t,” Johnson said during an appearance on Fox News’s “Ingraham Angle.”

    No, of course not. All we saw was a violent group of armed radicals storming the seat of the U.S. government in the hopes of blocking the results of an American election and preventing the rightful president from taking office. Why would anyone call that an “insurrection”? Or for that matter, why would anyone have the audacity to describe the deadly riot as anything other than a “peaceful protest”?

    […] Johnson also told Fox News, “I’m doing my own investigation to really accurately recreate what happened on January 6th.” The GOP senator added that the proposed commission, negotiated by Republicans and Democrats, with each party having equal representation on the panel, isn’t “bipartisan” enough for him.

    […] It was just two months ago when Johnson insisted there “was no violence” on the north side of the Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack. That wasn’t at all true.

    […] Two weeks earlier, he praised the rioters’ patriotism and boasted that he was never concerned for his safety on Jan. 6 — though he added he would’ve felt differently if the mob was made up of Black Lives Matter protesters.

    That came on the heels of Johnson appearing at a Senate hearing, reading an item from a right-wing blog, and peddling the ridiculous idea that the pro-Trump forces that launched the attack on the Capitol were secretly made up of “fake Trump protesters.”

    Before that, the Wisconsinite falsely argued that armed insurrectionists may not have actually been armed, reality notwithstanding.

    The overarching point is hardly subtle: Johnson appears desperate to convince people that the most violent attack on our Capitol in two centuries just wasn’t that important. It’s the same line that led to last night’s nonsense.

    The senator wrote a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, which ran with a headline that read, “I Won’t Be Silenced by the Left.” In reality, it’s clear that no one is trying to shut down Johnson’s right to say what he pleases, but it’s equally clear that everyone would benefit if he enjoyed a little quiet time.

  69. says

    Saving the United States Post Office? Maybe.

    Top members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee unveiled a bill to reform the U.S. Postal Service in the wake of the agency’s financial woes in recent years.

    The bill — spearheaded by Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) — would save the post office nearly $46 billion over 10 years by eliminating a pre-funding requirement for postal service retirees and integrating retirees’ health care with Medicare.

    The bill has the support of 10 GOP senators, appearing to give it the support needed to defeat a potential filibuster on the Senate floor and pass if every Democrat backs it.

    […] The bill would also require that the post office deliver mail six days a week, as well as requiring weekly public data on service and reports to Congress every six months.

    The bill comes as U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who attracted controversy last year when he proposed changes to the Postal Service’s operations, has laid out a 10-year reform plan and warned that without changes his agency is in a “death spiral.”

    DeJoy’s plan includes a longer time-frame for first class mail delivery and cuts to hours of operations. […]

    Link

    The USPO was already struggling when Louis Dejoy was appointed by Trump. Dejoy is the kiss of death. I’ll be so glad to see him ousted … hopefully soon.

  70. says

    NOAA predicts another above-average hurricane season

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting an above-average hurricane season, but said it doesn’t expect this year to match the “historic” 2020.

    The agency said in a forecast released on Thursday that there’s a 60 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 30 percent chance of a near-normal season and only a 10 percent chance of a below-normal season.

    This year, NOAA expects there to be between 13 and 20 named storms, six to 10 of which would become hurricanes. Between three and five are expected to be major hurricanes, or those in categories 3, 4 or 5.

    If the prediction is accurate, it will be the sixth consecutive above-average season.

    […] Hurricane season falls between June 1 and Nov. 30.

    Last year’s season produced 30 named storms, the highest number on record. A total of 13 of these became hurricanes and six were major hurricanes.

  71. says

    To clarify #97, Biden is reportedly planning to appoint another man. It was just that I saw the name and thought “I don’t recall any women in that role” and checked and it appears to be the case.

  72. blf says

    Yesterday (Wednesday) France relaxed its pandemic measures, notably allowing restaurant and bar terraces to open. I myself deliberately avoided venturing outside yesterday, a decision seemingly-confirmed by all the noise. Today I did (double-)mask up and wander out… First stop, the closest and also favourite bar… intent was to have an espresso before hunting down a lunch… but wound up with two beers — a last-moment change on my part, then the bar’s owner offering me a second gratis… followed by a long lunch at a favourite restaurant with a pint, a bottle (a nice rogue local vin), and a cognac; then off to to specialist beer bar for a nice local pint, then a stagger to a nearby restaurant for a tasty dinner, with another bottle and a rum, followed by a very stagger back to the lair after (technicality) curfew…
    (Hic, *hic* — sorry, I’m less sober then usual — unusual? — at the moment… and obviously this isn’t political; per se.)

  73. says

    Mike Pence’s brother, Greg Pence, tells some more lies:

    Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Greg Pence (R-Ind.) traded barbs Thursday after Pence, the brother of former Vice President Mike Pence, accused the Speaker of not wanting to bring Congress back into session after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

    Pelosi forcefully rejected the Indiana congressman’s account that she had wanted to delay having the House and Senate certify President Biden’s 2020 election victory hours after the deadly Capitol riot.

    “He completely does not know what he’s talking about,” Pelosi said when told about Pence’s remarks by a reporter from The Hill. “I was a force for coming back from the start, and I was glad it was bipartisan that we all agreed to come back.”

    “But he knows not of what he speaks, and he can ask his brother if he wants to get any information,” she added.

    […] Greg Pence, who was with his brother during the attack and evacuation of the Capitol on Jan. 6, praised the former vice president Thursday for carrying out his duties to certify the election just hours after the assault on the Capitol. The congressman also suggested that Pelosi took the opposite approach that day and had wanted to delay the certification for several days, the first time such an accusation has been leveled at the Speaker.

    Mike Pence “was a hero. He wouldn’t leave. He said, ‘I’m going to gavel back in,’” Greg Pence told reporters in a rare interview in the hallways of the Capitol. “Nancy Pelosi said, ‘We can’t come back for two or three days,’ and [the vice president] said, ‘As soon as the Capitol Police, the heroes, clear the building, I’m gaveling back in.’”

    When the House gaveled back in that day, Pence was among the 138 Republicans who voted to object to the election results in Pennsylvania.

    He also voted on Wednesday against bipartisan legislation that would create an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack, even though some of the perpetrators had been seemingly trying to assassinate his brother. […]

    Link

    Greg Pence has gone out of his way to establish the fact that he is a liar.

  74. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    BioNTech’s chief executive Uğur Şahin said on Thursday the Covid-19 vaccine it developed with Pfizer Inc is expected to be 70% to 75% effective in protecting against infections caused by the coronavirus variant first detected in India, Reuters reports.

    “So far we’ve had the chance to test our vaccine against more than 30 variants of the virus. It has proven effective against mutations so far,” said Şahin in televised comments.

    Tests this week have focused on the India variant, he said. “We expect [our vaccine] to protect against infections by 70% to 75%,” he said after virtually attending the Turkish government’s science council meeting.

    Since the concerning variant, known as B.1.617.2, was first identified in India, it has ravaged that country and spread to at least 26 nations out of the 53 in the World Health Organization’s European Region, the WHO said.

    The WHO’s regional director said on Thursday vaccines being deployed in Europe, including the Pfizer/BioNTech shot, appear able to protect against circulating virus variants that have caused concern because they are more easily transmitted.

    A BioNTech spokeswoman said lab tests show that when the blood of vaccinated people is exposed to the Indian variant, 25% to 30% fewer antibodies were binding to the virus than would have been the case with the original coronavirus.

    That suggests protection against the variant, whether symptomatic or not, is a bit lower but still 70% to 75%. It is about 95% effective against the original version of the virus.

    But how effective is it against symptoms?

  75. says

    Chemtrail Kelli Ward Gonna Arrest Maricopa County Board, That’s What She’s Gonna Do

    We haven’t talked enough about the chickens.

    You see, one of the conspiracy theories surrounding the 2020 election in Arizona — the best one — is that, well, you see, on March 6, there was a big fire at a chicken farm in Maricopa County, specifically a chicken farm owned by the family of one of the Republican members of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. (The board, with its five members, is 80 percent Republican. Always remember that.) Clint Hickman, Republican board member and vice president of Hickman Family Farms, has had no patience for these BS stories about election fraud.

    So, the fire. It killed 160,000 chickens. RIP chickens! But is it also RIP Arizona’s real ballots? Because they were inside the chickens? Did somebody set the chicken coop on fire with the ballots inside the chickens? Were those chickens all “Ain’t nobody here but us chickens AND THESE BALLOTS WE JUST ATE FOR LUNCH?”

    As the Daily Beast reported a couple months ago, a weirdass group called the Arizona Patriot Party had done some amateur investigatin’, and reported in its newsletter that it didn’t smell like no burned up chickens out there, but rather “burned wood or paper.” Was it BALLOTS?!?1!!!111? Joe Hoft, the stupidest brother of the stupidest man on the internet Jim Hoft, reported breathlessly at the time about “mysterious fire” and demanded to know “Did any shred catch fire in the chicken coops?” He meant BALLOT “shred,” like from shredded ballots.

    Inquiring minds needed to know.

    In that spirit, you should know that Chemtrail Kelli Ward, Patron Saint of Batshit and actual chair of the Arizona GOP, went on the One America News Network earlier this week and threatened to arrest the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors (80 percent Republican) for failing to take this very serious audit very seriously.

    […] “There have to be consequences,” Ward said. “There could be arrests of people who are refusing to comply.”
    Local officials who refuse to comply and take Arizona GOP legislators and their fraudit seriously — what with all the obvious bamboo fraud and the chickens with the bellies full of the ballots burning mysteriously in the night! — they might just have to be arrested […]

    (To be clear, we have not heard reporting that the frauditors are personally trying to dissect burnt out chicken carcass to find the missing ballots, but this fraudit is going all summer, so give them a minute.)

    Ward made that threat Monday, the same day the Maricopa board — the one that’s 80 percent Republican — sent idiotass Arizona GOP Senate President Karen Fann that amazing letter […] making fun of their bamboo X-rays. In that letter, they explained with small words and pictures how accusations that the board had deleted the Maricopa County voter database were horseshit. And what do you know, the frauditors admitted it was horseshit on Tuesday. They were just looking for it the wrong way, but now they found it! DERP.

    But the damage had been done, as Donald Trump had already spent the weekend creaming his large golf pants over “DELETED!” and “UNBELIEVABLE ELECTION CRIME!”

    Has anyone told the former president the story about the chickens? Somebody should tell him about the chickens.

    Anyway, also Tuesday, the same day the frauditors admitted they were full of shit about the database, the county board responded to Ward’s threats:

    The Senate President says the dispute over elections isn’t personal. The subpoena, the attempt to hold the Board in contempt w/ possible jail time, and the @ArizonaAudit lie that the county deleted files all suggest otherwise.

    Kelli Ward responded back, and if you want to know what it’s like to sniff bath salts, you can scroll through her Twitter and find it for yourself.

    […] a fun thing we missed from earlier this week. Want to hear an Arizona GOP state senator talk in a normal voice like she doesn’t need to immediately see a neurologist about how cool and wonderful it is that they are scratch ‘n’ sniffing the ballots to find the bamboo? She thinks it is cool and wonderful, just really great.

    Her name is Kelly Rogers, and she is a real person, and she went on some wingnut Seth Leibsohn’s radio show to talk about BAMBOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. [video is available at the link]

    ROGERS: The most fascinating aspect [of getting to see the fraudit firsthand] was the table with cameras that have microscopic ability to look at each ballot to determine if the fibers of the ballot are made of wood or — I know there’s a rumor out there that ballots were shipped in from overseas that were made of bamboo — this process can determine that! […] And it also determines if the bubbles, the ovals, were filled in by a human or not. […]

    The wingnut host was like WHOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA MIND BLOWN.

    Ain’t none of THESE people gonna get BAMBOO-zled! Get it? Get it? Do you get it?

    BAMBOO-zled!

    Seriously, these people are fucking amazing, we would like to give them a medal or a gift certificate for talk therapy in recognition of how good they are at life.

  76. says

    Ted Cruz promotes Russian army recruitment video in order to disrespect the U.S. military

    Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas mostly spends his days saying foolish and easily debunked things out loud and then tweeting out similar witless things. […] On Thursday, Cruz decided to retweet an edited comparison of a purported 2021 Russian military recruitment commercial and the much-fretted about in the right-wingosphere U.S. military advertisement considered too “woke.” He wrote “Holy crap. Perhaps a woke, emasculated military is not the best idea….”

    What passes as clever in right-wing circles is historically lame, and the intention of Cruz and the person that juxtaposed the videos is to show how soft and weak our country’s recruitment advertisements are in comparison to the very manly Russian recruitment video. One video is shot using single-light sources, with darkness and shadows adding dramatic grittiness, while the other video employs animation and bright colors to promise a more inclusive and positive experience. It’s a recruitment video, to be clear. The tweet was so homophobic, so sexist, and so archaic you wouldn’t believe someone could be so backward as to believe it funny. But of course, we are talking about Ted Cruz, the epitome of Republican “manhood.”

    Let me preface this by saying I’m not a fan of military recruitment ad campaigns in general. They give me the jingoistic willies and the use of the military as a funnel for military contractors and siphoning money away from more productive avenues of investment is a never-ending source of consternation for me […] But the idea of a military recruitment video that attempts to attract people who look, and hopefully act, more like people such as Sen. Tammy Duckworth than, say, Sen. Ted Cruz, makes sense. In fact, even if you are going by Cruz’s own old-timey concepts of strength, masculinity, and integrity, Tammy Duckworth is your still your soldier.

    Cruz is a man who let another man accuse Ted’s own father of murder and called Ted’s wife ugly and grotesque. Cruz then made arguably the lamest pantomime of what he clearly considers to be masculinity, which he promptly reversed course on when Donald Trump became president. What makes this cisgender bullshit bit of archaic heteronormativity quadruply pathetic is that the cis male douchebag pushing it so clearly fails in every category that he proclaims to believe proves one’s manhood. This is true of all the right-wing operatives. I’m looking at people like Tucker Carlson, whose shrill cries for things to revert 100 years backward don’t cover up the fact they they are bagmen for wealthier interests.

    Forget the fact that the Russian military ad looks like a video game commercial for a World War II-themed game, and forget the fact that the Russian recruitment video is arguably the single most homoerotic thing you’ll see this year. Is Cruz under the impression that modern warfare consists of pushup contests and poorly lit cage matches? The last Republican president’s idea for a military advertisement used Russian military planes instead of American ones, by the by. The Twitterverse made sure Cruz got to hear the sound of a thunderous ratio. […]

    [Don Moynihan]:

    Getting a little worried that Ted Cruz’s understanding of the CIA and military is entirely based on whatever movie, ad or TikTok video he just watched

    [other comments]:

    I just can’t get over the irony of Ted Cruz calling *anyone else* emasculated.
    —————–
    Perhaps a sitting US senator promoting a fascist country’s military isn’t the best look?

  77. says

    NBC News:

    Israel’s government agreed to what it said was a bilateral cease-fire with Hamas on Thursday to halt nearly two weeks of fighting that has left hundreds dead and parts of the impoverished Gaza Strip reduced to rubble. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Security Cabinet agreed ‘to accept the Egyptian initiative for a bilateral cease-fire, which will take effect at a later date,’ the government said in a statement.

  78. says

    NBC News:

    Former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos must testify in a class-action lawsuit about her handling of student loan forgiveness claims, which involved delays in the administration’s decision-making and ultimate denial of a significant number of the applications, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

  79. says

    AZ SoS Says Maricopa Election Equipment Shouldn’t Be Used Again After Sketchy Audit

    The price of the sketchy, already-expensive Arizona audit may have gotten even higher.

    According to a letter Thursday from Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, Maricopa County — the target of a 2020 recount ordered by the state’s GOP Senate — may need to replace the election equipment it turned over to the auditors under a legislative subpoena.

    […] Hobbs said that, in keeping with guidance from the federal government’s cybersecurity arm, the equipment should not be reused, given the chain-of-custody issues.

    “[M]y Office consulted with election technology and security experts, including at the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, regarding the appropriate next steps, and each unanimously advised that once election officials lose custody and control over voting systems and components, those devices should not be reused in future elections,” she said.

    […] In her letter to the county, Hobbs said her office was “urging” the county not to use any of the equipment it turned over to the audit. She also threatened to decommission the equipment herself, through a process outlined in state law, if the county did choose to redeploy the equipment.

    Her assertion is the latest example of how the controversial “audit” has devolved into an all out debacle. […]

    […] Hobbs’ letter indicated that some but not all of the election equipment the Senate had subpoenaed for a supposed forensic audit had been returned back to the county.

    The Maricopa Elections Department has vowed to not “use any of the returned tabulation equipment unless the county, state and vendor are confident that there is no malicious hardware or software installed on the devices.”

    […] Replacing the equipment could cost as much as $6 million, according to the Arizona Republic.

    […] Fann [Senate President Karen Fann] signed an agreement that the Senate would cover costs for the county to replace or recertify equipment that was “damaged, altered, or otherwise compromised” while in the “Senate‘s custody and control.” Even just the recertification process could cost tens of thousands of dollars, according to the Arizona Republic. […]

  80. says

    Will no one tell emperor Greg Abbott that he’s wearing a birthday suit, before it gets kids killed?

    When Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order this week banning counties and cities from enacting or enforcing mask mandates—and threatening any official who tries to enforce a mandate with a $1,000 fine—it was actually a repeat. One year earlier, Abbott issued another order forbidding local officials from enforcing a mask mandate. Here’s April 2020:

    Abbott’s order … said no local government could issue a civil or criminal penalty to anyone not wearing a mask.

    Here’s Abbott in May 2021:

    Abbott today issued an Executive Order prohibiting governmental entities in Texas — including counties, cities, school districts, public health authorities, or government officials — from requiring or mandating mask wearing.

    Why did Abbott have to repeat himself? It’s because in between, Texas had not one but two massive spikes of COVID-19 cases, with the Lone Star State on several occasions standing alone at the top of the charts for new cases and COVID-19 deaths. Ultimately, Texas brought those spikes under control with, ahem, a statewide mask mandate that Abbott kept in place until the beginning of May. What did Abbott say when he issued his second threat to any official trying to protect the citizens who count on them? “Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices, which is why masks will not be mandated …” Apparently this is true except when the government is Greg Abbott, Rex.

    But there is one big difference between Abbott’s first wrong-headed threat to local officials and this one. It’s that this time, Abbott explicitly extends the threat to Texans who need protection the most: school children.

    […] Schools, according to Abbott, can continue any existing mask mandates until June 4. After that, it’s masks off. Or else.

    The problem here is that the Centers for Disease Control and prevention mask instructions specifically address those who are fully vaccinated. However, the Pfizer vaccine was just made available to those under 16, and no vaccine is available to those under 12. Vaccines are not expected to be available for children until sometime in the fall, and possibly not until around the end of the year.

    By banning schools from issuing mask mandates, Abbott is absolutely guaranteeing that kids—unvaccinated kids—will continue to be exposed to, continue to carry, and continue to suffer from COVID-19. The rate of deaths from COVID-19 among children may be low, but it is not zero. And the rate of kids who end up with serious illness resulting in long-term damage is considerably higher.

    Abbott can proclaim all he wants about Texas making their own decisions, but children are children. Responsible adults are supposed to makes serious decisions about their health for them. That’s the job description that comes with being an adult. […]

  81. says

    I recently read Jeff Goodell’s 2017 The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized [gah] World (it was better than I’d expected), and one part jumped out for obvious reasons.

    Goodell joined Obama’s visit to Alaska in 2015 and interviewed him:

    …I pressed on. “But you know the science – doesn’t it scare the hell out of you sometimes?”

    “Yeah,” he said, simply and flatly.

    “Look, part of my job is to read stuff that terrifies me all the time.”

    I couldn’t help but laugh, the way he said it. “That’s true, I suppose.”

    “I’ve got a chronic concern about pandemics, for example. And the odds are that sometime in our lifetime there’s gonna be something like the Spanish flu that wipes out a lot of people…if we’re not taking care. I do what I can do and as much as I can do and what I don’t want to do is get paralyzed by the magnitude of the thing and what I don’t want is for people to get paralyzed thinking that somehow this is out of our control. And I’m a big believer that the human imagination can solve problems. We don’t usually solve them as fast as we need to. It’s sort of like two cheers for democracy….”

  82. says

    Sen. Whitehouse: “Today, we advanced judicial nominees who reflect American society and the full diversity of the legal community, not a narrow selection of overwhelmingly white men hand-picked by big Republican donors. That felt good.”

  83. says

    Guardian – “‘Brazil is a global pariah’: Lula on his plot to end reign of ‘psychopath’ Bolsonaro”:

    Brazil can be rescued after being turned into a Covid-stricken global outcast by its “psychopath” president Jair Bolsonaro, the politician best placed to defeat him in next year’s presidential election has insisted.

    In an interview with the Guardian, Brazil’s former leftist leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva – who is widely tipped to challenge Bolsonaro for the presidency after regaining his political rights – stopped short of explicitly confirming he would run. But Lula, who rose from rural poverty to become Brazil’s first working-class president, left no doubt he was plotting an extraordinary finale to one of the world’s most enduring and dramatic political careers.

    “I ran eight kilometres before this interview … and I usually run 9km a day, Monday to Friday, because walking around Brazil is going to be very tough, very tiring and I need to get my legs ready to fix this country’s problems,” said Lula, a former shoeshine boy and union leader who was president from 2003 until 2011.

    “I’ll be 77 by [next year’s election]. I thought that was old. But then I saw Biden win the elections at 78 and said, ‘Well, I’m a boy compared to Biden so perhaps I’ll be alright.’”

    Lula said Brazil’s still-raging Covid outbreak and the socioeconomic crisis it had spawned meant it was too early to launch what would be his sixth presidential campaign since 1989. But the Workers’ party (PT) veteran claimed he had the experience and desire to lead Brazil’s “recovery” after the damage inflicted by Bolsonaro’s incompetence, and would do so, if his party and voters wished.

    “Once our party has its candidate and we’re in campaign mode, I want to travel around Brazil, to visit every state, to hold debates, to talk to the people, to visit the favelas, to the recyclers, to LGBT people … I want to talk to Brazilian society so I can tell them: ‘It is possible for us to build a new country … It’s possible to make this country happy again.”

    Surveys suggesting Lula’s ascendancy appear to have spooked Bolsonaro, 66, whose ratings have tumbled to record lows as a congressional inquiry investigates his Covid response. The former paratrooper has tried to rally hardcore supporters in recent weeks, organising pro-government rallies and labeling Lula a “nine-fingered crook” and the “son of Satan”.

    Lula laughed off those insults as the words of a jittery rival. “For the last two or three years Bolsonaro hardly uttered my name because he thought I was out of the game – and now suddenly he realizes I’m holding all the best cards and if this was poker he would already have lost,” the former president said with a grin.

    Lula said he was too old to engage in mudslinging with his adversary: “You’re not dealing with a normal human being. You’re dealing with a psychopath, who lacks the slightest ability to govern.”

    But the leftist icon was scathing about Bolsonaro’s “genocidal” stewardship of a Covid epidemic that has killed nearly 450,000 Brazilians, including Lula’s mother-in-law. “He could have avoided half of these deaths,” Lula claimed, predicting Bolsonaro would eventually be held to account for his anti-scientific sabotage of containment measures such as physical distancing and mask wearing. If that reckoning did not come through impeachment or the congressional inquiry, “I’ve no doubt whatsoever that he won’t escape being judged by the Brazilian people in 2022,” Lula said.

    “Mark my words … it won’t be Lula who defeats Bolsonaro. It won’t be any candidate who defeats Bolsonaro. It will be the Brazilian people who free themselves of Bolsonaro.”…

  84. says

    Guardian – “‘They killed my best friend for supper!’ Gunda, the farmyard film that could put you off eating meat for ever”:

    When Victor Kossakovsky was four, his parents sent him from St Petersburg to stay with his uncle’s family in the countryside. “It was a cold winter,” he says, brrr-ing over Zoom. “Minus 30 degrees.”

    Warmth came from the boy’s friendship with a one-month-old piglet named Vasya. They were inseparable – until she became cutlets for New Year’s Eve supper.

    “When they ate her, for me, it was a total disaster,” says Kossakovsky. “You killed my best friend!” he screamed at his relatives. And so, he jokes, he became the Soviet Union’s first vegetarian.

    Half a century later, Kossakovsky went vegan, as he began production on Gunda, a documentary shot in Norway, Wales and England starring a sow, who gives her name to the title, a couple of ageing cows, and a one-legged chicken.

    Gunda is no ordinary wildlife documentary. There is no narration or soundtrack. Instead, in glorious monochrome, we watch the animals simply exist: they feed, snuffle, snuggle, care for their young, and scamper in fields. It turns out that no digital trickery or anthropomorphic narrative is needed for us to fall in love with them.

    “I see documentary films as an artform, so I didn’t put any words or music there,” says Kossakovsky of the aesthetic. “That is why, when we are talking, I need to express all this because I’m burning.”

    Gunda is not, he says, vegan propaganda. Yet there is no doubt the man himself is an activist as much as an artist. On set, he would gather the crew together every day at 5am and deliver a motivational talk, reminding them why this 20-years-in-the-making passion project was so vital for humanity.

    “The difference between a normal person and a film-maker is that a film-maker can see things a normal person cannot see,” he says. “That’s why cinema exists: not to tell you a story but to show you things that you cannot see, did not want to see, or chose to ignore. Every day, people choose to ignore what they know about how the food came to the table.”

    He is eager not to simply preach to the converted, he says. “I don’t make films for myself. I don’t make films for people who believe in nature, or only for vegetarians. I make films for everyone, even those who do not share my opinions.”

    Still, he loves letters testifying to Gunda’s power to make one renounce eating animals for ever (his own children, he says proudly, have never tasted meat).

    Today, he lives in Berlin, which is a good place for vegan food. When he came over to the UK to shoot the non-porcine portions of Gunda, he was cheered by the number of animal sanctuaries.You can see how such institutions would impress a man for whom direct action is not something to shy away from. When we speak, he is still recovering from a six-day hunger strike in support of the Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny. “It was not a political act,” he says. “It was an act of empathy for his mum, who for me was Gunda. Her child was taken away from her. We stopped because our demand was for him to be visited by a doctor. I was so happy because at least his mum could breathe a sigh of relief. I do not consider myself a hero.”

    The capacity of cinema to win hearts and minds cannot be understated, he says. “We had the industrial revolution, digital revolution, sexual revolution, social revolution and now is time for the empathy revolution.”

    Trailer atl.

  85. says

    Here’s a link to the May 21 Guardian coronavirus world liveblog.

    From there:

    Covid infections in England rise for first time in five weeks

    The prevalence of Covid-19 infections in England has risen after dropping for five straight weeks, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said on Friday.

    The ONS said that an estimated 1 in 1,110 people had the virus in the week ending 15 May, compared to 1 in 1,340 a week earlier, adding that the proportion of people testing positive for coronavirus in the country shows “early signs of a potential increase” although rates remain low.

    Sarah Crofts, head of analytical outputs for the ONS Covid-19 Infection Survey, said:

    This week there is a mixed picture of infection levels across the UK.

    Although we have seen an early indication of a potential increase in England, rates remain low and it is too soon to say if this is the start of a trend.

    A decision in Brussels to add the UK to an EU “white list” of countries from where tourists will be welcome this summer is to be delayed, it is understood, due to concerns over the Covid variant first identified in India.

    EU diplomats were expected to use a new lower threshold of infection cases to extend the list of countries at a meeting on Friday but sources said that the decision will be put back by two weeks.

    While the UK easily meets a newly revised threshold of under 75 cases per 100,000 people over days, allowing it to be added to the list, the strong emergence of the India variant, or B.1.617.2, in the UK, is key to the delay.

    The number of such cases in the UK stands at 3,424 – up 160% from the past week. It is believed to be more transmissible than the dominant variant first identified in Kent although analysis continues.

    “Member states need a bit more time to look into developments regarding the Indian variant”, one diplomat said. “They want to prevent putting countries on and off the list too much. So back on the agenda in two weeks unfortunately.”

    The maintenance of restrictions on non-essential travel will remain the central recommendation from Brussels to the 27 member states, although countries remain free to make their own decisions. British tourists have been allowed to enter Portugal from Monday following an announcement by the Portuguese authorities.

    Earlier this week, the EU did agree on text recommending that fully vaccinated travellers could be safely permitted to travel into the bloc for non-essential reasons, such as holidays.

  86. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    An infectious disease expert and co-opted member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group to the UK government has warned that there is “plenty of space” for the variant of concern first detected in India, B.1.617.2 to grow exponentially in Britain.

    Speaking at an online meeting of the Independent Sage group of experts, professor Ravi Gupta of the University of Cambridge said that despite the UK’s vaccination programme, cases of B.1.617.2 are set to rise.

    “We still have people under the age of 30 not vaccinated, we have many with only one dose, so this virus has plenty of space to expand exponentially and reach very high levels of infection with quite high levels of morbidity overall,” he said.

    His comments come as data from the Covid-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) Consortium reveals that the India variant has been detected in 4,717 positive Covid samples to date, with the India variant found in around a fifth of analysed positive specimens dating to within the past 28 days.

    The rise has also been reflected in case data, which unlike the Cog-UK data does not include potential duplicates, with figures released by Public Health England (PHE) last night revealing there have now been 3,424 confirmed cases of the B.1.617.2 variant in the UK, up from 1,313 cases confirmed by last Thursday.

    Both of these datasets are likely to underestimate the current situation as there is a time lag between samples being collected and the variant in positive tests being determined.

    Christina Pagel, professor of operational research at University College London, who is a member of the Independent sage group of experts said the rise in cases of the India variant is not yet fully reflected in overall Covid case numbers because of the decline in cases of the Kent variant that has been dominating in the UK.

    Anthony Costello, professor of global health and sustainable development at University College London and a former director of maternal and child health at the WHO who is also a member of Independent Sage noted that while Covid vaccines appear to offer protection against the variant, some people can still become very ill with the disease.

    He said:

    I was on a call with a lot of very experienced Indian physicians in Delhi yesterday and many of them on the call had been hospitalised even though they had been fully vaccinated.

    There have been 244 doctors who have died in Delhi during the latest surge and 3% of them were fully vaccinated. Now that is much lower than those that weren’t, but nonetheless, this is a serious virus and that is why we should be suppressing it.

  87. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Interesting rant from Joe Scarborough on Morning Joe telling Trump supporters that they are desecrating democracy with their conspiracy lies about the election, are unworthy of being citizens since they won’t spend 5 minutes to Google the refutation of the lies to find the truth, and they should “love this country or leave it”.

  88. says

    Bits and pieces of news:

    […] * A Democratic National Committee source confirmed this morning that the party raised $15.6 million raised in April, the best off-year April in the DNC’s history. Through the first four months of 2021, the DNC has now raised $63.8 million, while the Republican National Committee has raised $57.6 million.

    * In Wyoming, state Sen. Anthony Bouchard (R), a leading primary challenger to U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R), shared a secret from his past with the Casper Star Tribune: When Bouchard was 18, he impregnated a 14-year-old girl, and married her in Florida when she was 15. They divorced when she was 18 and the unidentified young woman committed suicide at the age of 20.

    * Ahead of an “America First” event in Arizona today featuring Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), the right-wing Floridian bought radio ads to promote the gathering.

    * Speaking of Arizona, Donald Trump is apparently furious with “weak” Republicans who aren’t talking up the bonkers “audit” underway in the Grand Canyon State. (He’s also lashing out at House Republicans who supported the creation of an independent Jan. 6 commission.)

    Yeah, I don’t really care that Trump is furious, nor about what he is furious. He is a semi-retired Florida man who will soon be spending all his time defending himself against various criminal and civil charges. Trump is also still clueless … and he refuses to learn anything.

    * And speaking of the former president, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) suggested this week that Trump should stay out of Senate GOP primaries next year and let “the citizens in that state pick their primary winner.” I have a hunch the Florida senator, who chairs the NRSC, is going to be disappointed. [Trump’s interference may backfire. Think about Georgia. In the recent election, Trump’s stupid interference actually helped the Democratic candidates, Ossoff and Warnock, win.]

    * In Nevada, North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee (R) launched his gubernatorial campaign this week, and hours later, he announced that he’d tested positive for COVID-19. The 65-year-old Republican, a former cancer patient, acknowledged in a written statement that he had not been vaccinated. […]

    Link

  89. says

    Even now, Trump can’t stop trashing Mitch McConnell

    Last month, the Republican National Committee was so eager to curry favor with Donald Trump, it paid the former president to host a party event and invited him to speak at a donor event.

    The result was predictable: Trump not only lied about his 2020 defeat, he also lashed out at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), calling his party’s most powerful lawmaker a “dumb son of a b—-” and a “stone cold loser” as part of a lengthy harangue.

    It came on the heels of a similar condemnation in February, in which Trump said of McConnell, “Mitch is a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack, and if Republican Senators are going to stay with him, they will not win again.”

    Yesterday, as the Washington Post noted, he did it again.

    Former president Donald Trump blasted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as “weak” and “hopeless” in an interview that aired Thursday on the right-wing One America News.

    As part of a tirade that included the former president whining about other Republicans failing to echo his bonkers conspiracy theories, Trump added, “[Democrats] get whatever they want approved. McConnell is hopeless and he can’t stop anything.”

    I’m not generally inclined to defend the Senate minority leader, but there was a degree of irony to Trump’s condemnations: McConnell is actually stopping all sorts of things, usually with the specific intention of helping the former president.

    McConnell shielded Trump from facing consequences in his impeachment trial; McConnell is in the process of shielding Trump again by scuttling an independent Jan. 6 commission; and as President Joe Biden looks for 10 Senate Republicans to help advance key legislative priorities, McConnell has so far prevented this from happening.

    On issues ranging from voting rights to immigration, the White House has low expectations for legislative success, precisely because of McConnell’s unyielding obstructionism.

    Meanwhile, as the Senate minority leader takes advantage of every possible opportunity to stand in Democrats’ way, the Kentucky Republican also lets the public know that he’s “absolutely” prepared to support Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign, should it exist. […]

    So why is it, exactly, that the former president continues to attack the GOP Senate leader? Because McConnell accepted the results of his own country’s elections and criticized Trump for failing to do the same.

    And that alone makes McConnell a villain in Trump’s eyes. The consequence, of course, is the former president continuing to divide his party in order to satisfy his ego.

  90. says

    CBS News:

    Ahead of the votes [to advance Biden’s judicial nominees], Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, claimed GOP senators have been “more deferential about a Democrat president’s ability to pick his judges. […] There can’t be one set of rules for Republicans and another for Democrats.

    Hilarious! Grassley has been in the Senate for 40 years. He must know that he had the facts backasswards. Or perhaps, in his old age, he is practicing delivering deadpan standup comedy routines.

    Not that we really need to be reminded, but after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, Obama picked Merrick Garland to fill the Supreme Court vacancy. Grassley and his fellow Senate Republicans refused to even give Garland a hearing. Deferential?

    Republicans kept the vacancy open for 11 months, and they said they would keep the Supreme Court seat empty for another four years if a Democrat won the 2016 election. (Trump won, so they suddenly became deferential to nominees picked by the president.)

    And that’s not all. Senate Republicans ignored judicial nominees from Obama in 2015 and 2016. This had nothing to do with the qualifications of the nominees. Republicans still controlled the Senate then, so they showed maximum discourtesy to Obama’s nominees.

    Grassley is a hypocrite and a liar.

  91. says

    US to Greenland: With Trump gone, we’re no longer trying to buy you

    Donald Trump sparked an international incident with a plan to try to buy Greenland. The Biden administration is still cleaning up the mess.

    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Greenland this week after attending a meeting of the Arctic Council in Iceland. The American diplomat said the trip reflected the Biden administration’s intention to enhance ties with “our Arctic partners,” including Greenland.

    But because politics in the United States took some unfortunate turns in recent years, Blinken also had to clear up a lingering issue as part of the diplomatic effort. Reuters reported yesterday:

    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday confirmed that the United States does not seek to buy Greenland, after then-President Donald Trump had proposed buying the island, sparking diplomatic fallout. Sitting beside Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod, Greenland’s premier, Mute Egede, and Foreign Minister Pele Broberg during a news conference, Blinken confirmed to a reporter it was “correct” that the United States does not seek to buy the country.

    […] The Wall Street Journal first reported in August 2019, and NBC News confirmed, that the then-Republican president held multiple discussions about the prospects of buying the country of Greenland.

    Miles Taylor, a former Department of Homeland Security chief of staff who became a fierce Trump critic, later told MSNBC that in 2018, the then-president explored the possibility of swapping Greenland for Puerto Rico.

    None of this sat well with Danish officials […]

    Because Trump is Trump, the Republican responded the way he always does: with a tantrum. As the New York Times reported, “Mr. Trump, angered at the Danish response to his idea, abruptly canceled a diplomatic visit to Denmark.” The then-U.S. leader then described Mette Frederiksen, the prime minister of Denmark, as “nasty,” sparking an international incident.

    All of that unpleasantness is now behind us, and Antony Blinken has apparently resolved any lingering ill will. But the fact that the Biden administration is having to deal with such nonsense is a reminder of just how much damage the former president did to the United States’ credibility and stature.

  92. tomh says

    Since leaving office, Trump has charged the Secret Service more than $40,000 to use space at Mar-a-Lago
    By David A. Fahrenthold and Josh Dawsey
    May 21, 2021

    (WaPo) Former president Donald Trump charged the Secret Service more than $40,000 this spring for rooms that Trump’s own protective detail used while guarding him at his Mar-a-Lago Club, according to federal spending records.

    The records show that Trump’s club charged the Secret Service $396.15 every night starting Jan. 20, the day he left the White House and moved full-time into his Palm Beach, Fla., club.

    Those charges, ultimately paid by taxpayers, continued until at least April 30, the spending records show, for a total of $40,011.15. The charges were for a single room used as a workspace by Secret Service agents, according to one person familiar with the payments…The Secret Service released spending records up to April 30.

    While he was president, Trump’s properties charged the U.S. government more than $2.5 million, often so that Secret Service agents could use rooms near him.

  93. says

    I had the stamina to offer to do a Covid 19 Q&A on a nextdoor politics board this weekend. I feel prepared. I did a post to collect questions. I’m including a primer on transcription/translation so mRNA vaccines make sense. I’ve prepared for conflicts. The admin seems good with it so far… I should be ready to start posting tomorrow.

  94. says

    Follow-up to comment 106.

    Why it matters that Ted Cruz endorsed Russian propaganda (again)

    In 2019, Ted Cruz faced some pushback after endorsing Russian propaganda for partisan purposes. In 2021, he’s done it again.

    A couple of years ago, U.S. officials invested a fair amount of time reminding American elected officials about the dangers of promoting Russian disinformation. In fact, the New York Times reported in November 2019 that U.S. intelligence professionals specifically informed senators and their aides that Russia was engaged in a lengthy campaign “to essentially frame” Ukraine for Moscow’s attack against our 2016 elections.

    It was against this backdrop that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), just a couple of weeks after the Times’ report ran, appeared on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” and told Chuck Todd that Ukraine “blatantly interfered” in our elections.

    […] this wasn’t true. But more important was the fact that Cruz thought it’d be a good idea to echo Russian disinformation, on purpose, in order to advance the Trump White House’s twisted partisan agenda.

    In other words, the Kremlin hoped to undermine American interests with bogus claims, and [Cruz] decided to play along because he believed Moscow’s message suited his agenda.

    Two years later, Cruz once again made a conscious choice to promote Russian propaganda. The Washington Post reported this morning:

    The first half of the TikTok video shows a muscular Russian man with a shaved head doing push-ups, jumping out of a plane, and staring down the scope of a rifle. The second half shows a brightly animated U.S. Army ad telling the true story of Cpl. Emma Malonelord, a soldier who enlisted after being raised by two mothers in California and graduating at the top of her high school class. The U.S. Army said its ad showcases the “the deeply emotional and diverse” backgrounds of its soldiers. But to Sen. Ted Cruz, who retweeted the TikTok on Thursday, the contrast with Russia’s campaign instead made American soldiers “into pansies.”

    […] the viewer was supposed to believe that Russian troops are hardened killing machines, while U.S. troops are soft and weak.

    […] So, a couple of things.

    First, it’s a little unsettling to see Cruz endorsing Russian propaganda again. MSNBC’s Brian Williams told viewers last night, “By all accounts, Ted Cruz did not like the nickname ‘Cancun Cruz.’ … He really won’t like being call ‘Kremlin Cruz’ after his latest and remarkably stupid lapse in judgment.”

    And second, if Cruz is looking for actual examples of emasculation, I might suggest the senator look past Cpl. Emma Malonelord and consider the example of a Republican senator who adopted a sycophantic posture toward his party’s president even after he went after the senator’s wife and father.

  95. says

    Brony @124, sounds like excellent work. I, for one, thank you.

    In other news, the Feds have arrested yet another Proud Boy.

    Authorities arrested a Florida man with alleged ties to the Proud Boys who they said shouted “Let’s take the fucking Capitol!” an hour before the Jan. 6 attack, while marching with a swarm of Proud Boys around the building.

    According to charging documents, authorities have identified 28-year-old Daniel Lyons Scott as the Proud Boys member known as “Milkshake,” who was wearing a ballistic vest, goggles and blue “GOD, Guns & Trump” cap that day. It appears he was the same person recorded on a previously released video yelling about taking the Capitol when one of the group’s leaders abruptly scolded him, saying, “Let’s not fucking yell that, alright?”

    Court documents allege that accused Proud Boys leader Ethan Nordean perhaps unintentionally led authorities to Scott, when he was recorded on the livestream moments later saying, “It was Milkshake, man, you know . . . idiot!”

    Reporters and digital sleuths attempting to track the Capitol rioters have known about Scott for months: photos that appear to depict Scott have surfaced on social media, showing him in similar glasses emblazoned with the name “Milkshake” and brandishing what appears to be a tattoo on his bicep that reads “Proud Boy.”

    The Wall Street Journal identified Scott as “Milkshake” in a video it posted on Jan. 26. The Daily Herald in Everett, Washington also wrote about Scott — the Proud Boy who it said “fought police” during the riot in a Jan. 31 article.

    Scott was also identified in court documents as the man seen in footage that ProPublica downloaded from Parler, which shows a man in the same outfit and goggles at the frontlines of a crowd outside the lower west terrace yelling at U.S. Capitol Police. In that footage, Scott can be seen pushing two officers up the steps.

    […] he is dealing with charges of assault on a federal officer, engaging in physical violence on Capitol grounds and obstructing Congress, among other charges.

    […] Scott was arrested Thursday and had an initial court appearance in Tampa, according to the Justice Department.

    Link

  96. says

    COVID-19 numbers are still falling in the United States, but the world is a different story

    […] In the United States cases of COVID-19 may have peaked in the first weeks of January, but around the globe, cases reached an even larger peak in April and are only now starting to drop as case counts in beleaguered India decline.

    India is one of those nations where the official totals are expected to diverge most widely from genuine losses. Total deaths there are still listed at less than 300,000—about half the official total for the United States—but each day of the shocking spike in cases that began at the end of March has produced reports of thousands of uncounted deaths. On some days, local officials reported more deaths in a single city than the official records recorded for the nation. How, or if, all of this will eventually be reconciled is an open question.

    The other thing that needs to be considered is that the pandemic is not over. […] Many countries in Africa had little experience of the disease through the last year. In Asia, a number of nations that appeared to have “beaten COVID-19” are now seeing record levels of cases as world travel increases and new variants are spread.

    Just looking at a few relatively wealthy nations, it’s easy to see that the level of vaccination around the world varies widely. [chart available at the link]

    Across Africa, there are more than two dozen nations where less than 2% of the population has been vaccinated. Many of these nations either have no reserve of vaccine, or may be getting vaccines that are significantly less effective than those being passed around wealthier nations.

    Regardless of how the epidemic of cases shaped up in the U.S., a chart of reported cases around the world shows why this pandemic isn’t anywhere close to over. [chart available at the link]

    New cases of COVID-19 around the world are exceeding half a million. The overall trend in cases remains an upward one. Only a tiny fraction of the world has been vaccinated, and most of that fraction is concentrated in a few wealthy nations. Not only does the potential exist for this pandemic to get much worse across the globe, the huge reservoir created by all these cases provides plenty of raw material for new, more dangerous variants.

    Getting vaccine not just delivered to other nations, but into the arms of the world’s population, is a national security issue for the United States.

    More at the link.

  97. says

    Many see Florida governor Ron DeSantis as the new Trump-in-waiting. To help his ascent to power, the National Review launched a pre-emptive strike against his chief critic.

    Smearing her with irrelevant (and selectively-quoted) looks at her pre-employment history, they tell the story of a state-government whistleblower by…only talking to the people she blew the whistle on!

    Bent on revenge, her former employers now obligingly divulge her personnel file (which the National Review again selectively quotes). If you want the real story, turn to a local Florida PBS channel, which distills it down to two irrefutable sentences — which are backed by actual documents they obtained from the state.

    “Internal emails at the [Florida health] department confirm that her [Rebekah Jones] superiors asked her to remove raw data from the dashboard after new reports showed the disease circulating in Florida as early as January. If she did, no outside party would be able to analyze the data. But Jones refused.”

    The real game here is obvious. The National Review would like everyone to please stop remembering that Governor DeSantis screwed up Florida’s Covid response, because DeSantis is going to be the next Trump. So they want us to start believing DeSantis’s lies without question.[…] in a newer hit piece the National Review even tries splitting hairs about Jones’ latest run-in with Florida’s press secretary.

    But what they can’t hide is the MSNBC clip at the bottom of their story, which clearly shows their reporter finally being challenged over the falsity of his central claim.

    Again and again, the National Review has tried to insist Florida’s numbers were perfect — at one point, Cooke actually called them “kosher!” And their story makes the mind-boggling assertion that really, the only person on planet earth who ever had any questions about DeSantis’s numbers were Rebekah Jones. There’s just one problem: that’s a big lie. MSNBC actually brought on Dave Aronberg, Palm Beach County State Attorney, who lays down the truth, saying:

    Keep in mind, [Rebekah Jones] is not the first to accuse governor DeSantis of a lack of transparency. Months before she was fired by the Department of Health, months before she became a whistleblower, the Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper came out with a scathing expose entitled Secrecy and Spin: how Florida’s Governor Misled the Public on the Covid-19 Pandemic! And they accuse the governor of suppressing data that was unfavorable to his administration, dispensing dangerous information, and promoting the views of political hacks instead of the public health officials. He hid information about the spread of Covid in nursing homes, prisons and hospitals. The state’s calculation of its positivity rate was different than the methods used in most other states, and over-emphasized the negative tests, and thus came up with an artificially low positivity rate compared to other states.
    And then the Press also found that the state knew that they had Covid here as soon as January of 2020 — 175 cases by February of last year. […] All of this stuff deserves scrutiny. And none of it originated with Rebekah Jones […]

    Then there’s the curious case of the medical examiners. They had data that showed that the state’s death total was higher than the state’s data. And so to remedy that discrepancy, the state of Florida ordered the medical examiners to stop publishing their data — I guess under the principle that if you close your eyes, the problem goes away. Well, that was undone because of political pressure. Finally they allowed the medical examiners to publish their information, but not before it was redacted — a lot of parts redacted. And the state’s medical examiner chair said this was a sham […]

    Florida has not been fully transparent, and it’s not just Rebekah Jones who says so. […] there’s a larger issue at play here, and we shouldn’t gloss over it.”

    The real game here is obvious. The National Review would like everyone to please stop remembering that Governor DeSantis screwed up Florida’s Covid response, because DeSantis is going to be the next Trump. So again, they want us to believe DeSantis’s lies without question. And the biggest lie of all is that the questions about Florida’s bad numbers were simply dreamed up in Rebekah Jones’ head, and nobody else in the world ever had a whiff of doubt.

    That isn’t true. And don’t let the National Review try to con you otherwise…

    Link

    Do not fall for rightwing cons emanating from the National Review.

  98. says

    How superrich people avoid paying taxes:

    With taxes due this week, it’s an apt time to consider some of the ways our federal tax code favors America’s wealthiest, and how a subset of those fortunate folks will use every trick in the book to game the system even further to their advantage.

    Much of it revolves around the way the IRS taxes long-term investment profits—a.k.a. capital gains. President Joe Biden is asking people to pay a lot more on these profits. For decades, after all, the tax code has rewarded investors, particularly those at the very top of the nation’s wealth and income distributions, with very favorable rates. This policy is based on the long-debunked notion that the benefits of giving rich people even more money to invest will eventually trickle down and lift up the masses via job creation and so forth. (One report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service found no evidence that reducing tax rates for America’s upper crust increased the size of the nation’s economic pie, […]”)

    When you sell a long-term investment—one you’ve held for 12 months or more—in a stock, for example, or a work of art, or a private equity stake, you are taxed at a maximum of 15 or 20 percent on those profits, depending on your overall earnings. A family that brings in $500,000 in 2021 will pay a maximum 35 percent tax on work income but only 20 percent on capital gains. A household with $400,000 in income will pay up to 32 percent on wages, but only 15 percent on capital gains.

    In other words, the tax code favors passive investment gains over actual work. This stands in opposition to the longstanding—perhaps mythical—American ideal that not only is hard work honorable, something to be encouraged and rewarded, but that all Americans should have equal opportunities. In fact, most Americans own little to no stock, while asset ownership soars as one moves up the wealth and income ladders. A proprietary analysis published by Goldman Sachs last year estimated that, as of late 2019, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans owned a staggering 56 percent of all public and private equity held by US households. Since March 2020, meanwhile, America’s billionaires, despite the pandemic—and also because of it—have seen their collective wealth grow by more than $1.6 trillion.

    The disparity in tax rates for work earnings versus investment earnings, which Biden hopes to eliminate, has been a major factor in the rapid growth of the wealth and income gap in recent decades. The disparity also drives financial behavior by wealthy individuals and corporations alike. It is why, for example, CEOs of large public corporations typically take home twice to three times their base salaries in preferred stock, stock options, and other non-wage compensation.

    Tim O’Reilly, a prominent Silicon Valley publisher […] told me about a conversation he had with a billionaire real-estate investor friend. “You have to understand, raising income taxes on the wealthy doesn’t really make much difference, because most of us avoid income,” O’Reilly recalls the friend saying. The guy had purchased his first building in Manhattan long ago for less than $10 million. Now it was worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Over the years, with the building as collateral, he had borrowed tens of millions to support his lavish lifestyle, which included a private jet. “I never got a penny of income,” he told O’Reilly. “I actually get a deduction for the money I live on.” […]

    Link

    Much more at the link, including a discussion of the “carried interest” loophole, some of the trick’s Wall Streeters have mastered (“basket option”), offshore reinsurance companies, and more.

  99. says

    More than 70 U.S. Capitol Police officers have left the force in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection and the department’s union says that the $1.9 billion supplemental funding package is insufficient to stave off further departures.

    […] Capitol Police union chair Gus Papathanasiou said that officers — facing the prospect of working longer hours for an indefinite period of time and the ongoing trauma of both the January riot and an April incident that left an officer and the suspect dead — are feeling demoralized and looking for a way out.

    “What keeps me awake at night is not the challenge of hiring and training more police officers, but keeping the officers we have right now,” Papathanasiou said in a release disseminated after Thursday’s vote. “We have many officers on the fence about whether to stay with this department.” […]

    Link

  100. says

    Wonkette:

    On Wednesday, the House voted 252 to 175 in favor of establishing a bipartisan commission to look into the events of January 6. It’s probably not going to happen, because in order to get it through the Senate’s filibuster, they need 10 Mitt Romneys, and there are only about seven. Still, in the House, 35 Republicans voted in favor of the commission, and that’s a pretty big deal — especially to certain talking heads who are completely outraged that even that many — 16 percent of the caucus — were willing to support it.

    And they have some theories about why.

    On Newsmax, host and former Trump campaign spokesman Steve Cortes suggested that it was because they simply were not manly enough. He deemed the 35 not-all-male Republicans who voted in favor of the commission the “Eunuch Caucus,” suggesting that they had their testicles removed, allowing them to vote for commissions that would actually benefit them in the long run and also sing in a higher register. […]

    […] “I think people were really surprised to see so many, 35 members of Congress, kowtowing to the agenda of the D.C. contingent, unfortunately. So that’s the reality folks.”

    “There’s a new gang in town, and there’s nothing cool about this group,” he added. “I’m referring, of course, to this new coalition formed on Capitol Hill, 35 House Republican representatives who voted with Nancy Pelosi yesterday to establish a congressional committee to investigate the Jan. 6 riot, 35 political cowards who are handing Adam Schiff, [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] and Jerry Nadler the keys to a high-powered truck, knowing full well that Pelosi and her squad will use that truck to then run them over now.”

    […] Of course, that’s not really the case. If Democrats can’t get a bipartisan commission together, they are free to establish their own select committee to look into January 6 (as Republicans did with Benghazi), without any input from Republicans. It would also mean that one of the big asks Republicans got from Pelosi, to have the commission conclude in 2021 for fear it would impact Republicans running in 2022 elections, would be right out the window. That is a far more high-powered truck than the one the 35 Republicans in the House voted for. Whoops!

    Cortes continued to go on with a bunch of lies about how none of the people who entered the building were armed. At least three participants are now facing gun charges and many of the other insurrectionists carried other kinds of weapons. There are pictures. And videos.

    On Real America’s Voice, the rightwing webcast that is somehow even kookier than Newmax and One America News combined, host Dr. Gina Loudon speculated that these 35 Republicans did it all for the fabulous cocktail parties to which she and Donald Trump and the people who invaded the capitol are not invited. […]

    Transcript:

    Cheney and many of those on that list have been in the swamp for so long that they have no idea what happens outside the DC beltway, and they’ve gotten to the point that they don’t actually care. What they do care about is their big consulting gig that they will get when they leave Congress or maybe that contributor job on some fake news network that pays them enough money to keep their fancy townhouses in DC so they can keep going to their white glove cocktail parties and toasting with their friends who are all on the Left and in the media. And that’s what really happens in Washington DC, folks.

    People like you and me don’t get invited to those cocktail parties, nor will we ever, nor by the way does Donald Trump or anyone who’s ever mouthed the words of Donald Trump in a favorable manner. Because that’s the price you pay. It’s the price of never being invited back to those parties. So whenever you wonder why things don’t make sense in Washington DC, just think about those cocktail parties. Who’s invited, who isn’t, and who cares to be invited and who doesn’t. And it will all just make sense in your head.

    That doesn’t really seem like a thing to me […]

    It seems somewhat more likely that these people figured a bipartisan commission in which Republicans got a say was probably better than a partisan commission in which they did not. It is even possible that they would genuinely like to get to the bottom of why they were being hunted down in the US Capitol by terrifying criminals. […]

    “Dr. Gina” by the way, is a real doctor. She has a doctorate in “human and organization systems” from Fielding Graduate University, an online school. This is mainly relevant because she frequently claims to have a doctorate in psychology, which she does not. That being said, she clearly does have an intuition about people. Not necessarily the people who voted in favor of the commission, but the people that watch her show. You tell them “These other people think they’re better than you! They’re having parties and not inviting you, because of how much you love America! But I think you are better than them!” and they will pretty much go along with anything you say.

    On the especially kooky side of things, some of the folks on our favorite QAnon message board have a theory that, actually, 35 Republicans voting in favor of establishing a bipartisan committee is just “part of the plan.” […]

    Does it matter all they are going to find is Antifa and BLM did all the damage and Trump voters went in because they were invited by the capital police. Then maybe we get the name of the cop that killed Ashli and hopefully he gets charged with murder.

    Apparently when you’re a Republican, anything can be true and anything can be part of “the plan” so long as your imagination and paranoia can take you there. […]

    Link

  101. says

    More re #112:

    This reporter, Emily Wilder, “grew up in an Orthodox community in Phoenix and graduated from Shearim Torah High School.”

    Wilder says that Stanford College Republicans, which started the campaign vs her, is “trying to smear a Jewish person who is proud about her Jewishness … and got her fired from her job — and that’s really what they accomplished at the end of the day”

  102. says

    Amazon suspends work on construction site after seventh noose is found.

    Washington Post link.

    Local and state police, and the FBI, are treating the incidents in Windsor, Conn., as a potential hate crime.

    Amazon has suspended work on a fulfillment center in Windsor, Conn., after numerous nooses were found at the construction site in the past month […]

    The site will remain closed until security measures have been implemented […] The FBI and Connecticut State Police are helping local police with the investigation into the incidents, which are being treated as potential hate crimes. The e-commerce giant is offering a $100,000 reward for information that helps identify the responsible party.

    Windsor police officers had been patrolling the site when the seventh noose was discovered early Wednesday afternoon, the department said in a news release. Employees in the area were interviewed, and the rope collected and taken for analysis at a state lab. The work site has no surveillance cameras, and hundreds of workers for various contractors come and go on-site each day.

    […] Such incidents are not uncommon in the construction industry. In 2020, at least 20 known racist incidents were reported on North American construction sites, according to Construction Dive. Some involved graffiti or verbal abuse, but almost half involved nooses found at worksites from Toronto to Portland.

    Scot X Esdaile, president of the Connecticut NAACP, has been following the situation since the first noose was found April 27. Despite repeated inquiries, Esdaile said the group has not been able to get answers from police, contractors or Amazon as to how many Black workers are on the site and whether the company has checked on their welfare. He said company representatives met with him for the first time Thursday but offered little information. […]

    Work on Windsor Amazon facility began late last year and is supposed to be completed in late 2021. Amazon has said the center will create 1,000 jobs in the next two years, and that employees will be paid a $15 hourly wage, plus benefits. […]

  103. says

    Surviving Covid could be followed by a struggle to survive financially:

    One coronavirus survivor manages her medical bills in color-coded folders: green, red and tan for different types of documents. A man whose father died of the virus last fall uses an Excel spreadsheet to organize the outstanding debts. It has 457 rows, one for each of his father’s bills, totaling over $1 million.

    These are people who are facing the financial version of long-haul Covid: They’ve found their lives and finances upended by medical bills resulting from a bout with the virus.

    […] They are fluent in the jargon of coronavirus medical coding, after hundreds of hours of phone calls discussing the charges with hospitals, doctors and insurers.

    “People think there is some relief program for medical bills for coronavirus patients,” said Jennifer Miller, a psychologist near Milwaukee who is working with a lawyer to challenge thousands in outstanding debt from two emergency room visits last year. “It just doesn’t exist.”

    […] things were supposed to be different for coronavirus patients. Many large health plans wrote special rules, waiving co-payments and deductibles for coronavirus hospitalizations. When doctors and hospitals accepted bailout funds, Congress barred them from “balance-billing” patients — the practice of seeking additional payment beyond what the insurer has paid.

    Interviews with more than a dozen patients suggest those efforts have fallen short. […] the bills can stretch into the tens of thousands of dollars.

    […] Lauren Lueder, a 33-year-old teacher who lives in Detroit, has depleted $7,000 in savings to pay for treatment so far. “You end up with a battery of tests, and every single thing adds up. I don’t have the disposable income to constantly pay for that.”

    For 10 months, The New York Times has tracked the high costs of coronavirus testing and treatment through a crowdsourced database that includes more than 800 medical bills submitted by readers. If you have a bill to submit, you can do so here.

    Those bills show that some hospitals are not complying with the ban on balance billing. Some are incorrectly coding visits, meaning the special coronavirus protections that insurers put in place are not applied. Others are going after debts of patients who died from the virus, pursuing estates that would otherwise go to family members.

    […] Coronavirus patients face significant direct costs: the money pulled out of savings and retirement accounts to pay doctors and hospitals. Many are also struggling with indirect costs, like the hours spent calling providers and insurers to sort out what is actually owed, and the mental strain of worrying about how to pay.

    Ms. Miller, like many other patients, described trying to sort out her complicated medical charges — in her case in color-coded folders — while also battling the mental “brain fog” that affects as many as half of coronavirus long-haul patients.

    “I have a Ph.D., but this is beyond my abilities,” she said. “I haven’t even begun to look at my 2021 bills because we’re still dealing with 2020 bills. When the bills come nonstop, you can only deal with so much.”

    The United States is estimated to have spent over $30 billion on coronavirus hospitalizations since the pandemic began, according to Chris Sloan, a principal at the health research firm Avalere. The average cost of each hospital stay is $23,489. Little research has been published on how much of that cost is billed to patients.

    […] One coronavirus patient in Chicago recounted spending 50 hours trying to get the coding for an M.R.I. scan changed, to show it was related to coronavirus. His insurer will pay the entire bill if that happens — but if not, he is responsible for $1,600. So far, the issue is still unresolved.

    […] Congress mandated that insurers make coronavirus testing free last spring, but never wrote a similar requirement for treatment coverage — in part because insurers were volunteering to waive patient costs, she said.

    Insurers are now starting to wind down those special protections: Aetna, Anthem and UnitedHealthcare — three of the country’s largest health plans — have ended some portion of their waivers this year. They have decided to treat the virus the same as the many other diseases that send patients to doctors’ offices and hospitals.

    […] Some Covid financial long-haulers never became ill themselves, but are overwhelmed by the bills that deceased loved ones left behind.

    Rebecca Gale, 64, lost her husband of 25 years, Michael, to coronavirus last summer. Their insurance fully covered most of the “big stack” of medical bills that Ms. Gale received after his death. But it paid only a small portion of the $50,009 air ambulance bill for Mr. Gale’s transport between hospitals when his condition was deteriorating.

    […] The family’s health insurance plan limits its coverage of air ambulances to $10,000, and the air ambulance company spent months pursuing an additional $40,009 from Mr. Gale’s estate. […]

    Health care companies have discretion over what to do about the debts of deceased patients, sometimes pursuing their estates for reimbursement.

    The air ambulance company, PHI Medical, declined to comment on Mr. Gale’s bill but said in a statement that it “followed the regulatory requirements” for billing coronavirus patients. It did cancel the charges, however, after The Times inquired about the bill. […]

    New York Times link

  104. says

    Reports of the Trump Justice Department’s shady activities keep trickling out. What else is coming?

    The digging-out of all the Trump administration’s dirt and rampant abuses of power continues—and it’s probably nowhere near done. CNN learned on Thursday that the Trump Justice Department had secretly obtained a reporter’s phone and email records, a revelation that came just two weeks after The Washington Post learned that the Trump Justice Department had obtained call records for three of its reporters. In between those two revelations, we learned that the Trump Justice Department had also intervened in Rep. Devin Nunes’ lawsuit against Twitter over the identity of the person behind the “Devin Nunes’ Cow” Twitter account.

    […] The Washington Post reporters’ records were targeted in an effort to find the source of a story about then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ interactions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 presidential campaign. CNN does not know which of Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr’s stories the Trump administration was looking into, but according to the Justice Department (now) her sources, and not Starr herself, were the subject of the investigation. […]

    The Trump administration claimed national security concerns about the leaks the reporters obtained, but let’s be real—we know that they were trying to uncover who was leaking about links between a Trump campaign adviser turned Trump Cabinet secretary and the Russian ambassador. And this effort took place amid a broader pattern of the Trump Justice Department acting as the personal law firm for the Trump family and allies like Nunes.

    ”We are deeply troubled by this use of government power to seek access to the communications of journalists,” the Post’s Cameron Barr told Politico in early May. “The Department of Justice should immediately make clear its reasons for this intrusion into the activities of reporters doing their jobs, an activity protected under the First Amendment.” […]

    while the Biden administration may—emphasis on may—rein in these abuses, without more solid guardrails in place, the next Republican administration is likely to look at what Team Trump got away with and use that information to calibrate just how much further it can go. It won’t take many repetitions of that before freedom of the press is truly a myth, along with the democracy Republicans are trying to simultaneously take out with their sustained attacks on the 2020 elections.

  105. says

    CBC – “Former Canadian ambassador to Israel worked for Black Cube, an Israeli intelligence firm”:

    Vivian Bercovici, Canada’s former ambassador to Israel, worked for the Israeli intelligence firm Black Cube after her diplomatic tenure ended, Radio-Canada has learned.

    Black Cube is a controversial private sector company composed of ex-members of the Mossad and other Israeli intelligence agencies.

    Messages addressed to a potential Black Cube client from Bercovici in 2019, obtained by Radio-Canada/CBC, contain references to her former occupation as an ambassador.

    Black Cube made headlines in 2017 when it was discovered that Hollywood film executive Harvey Weinstein had hired it to dig up information on the women accusing him of sexual assault, and on the journalists pursuing the story.

    In Canada, Black Cube has been criticized by an Ontario court for attempting to discredit a judge by trying to get him to make antisemitic comments in secretly recorded meetings.

    Bercovici was appointed ambassador by then-prime minister Stephen Harper in January 2014. She was removed from her post by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in June, 2016.

    In one of the messages Bercovici sent a potential Black Cube client in 2019, she says she can provide a wide range of services, such as undercover surveillance, finding hidden information about third parties’ personal lives and tracing bank accounts and assets.

    In other messages, she writes that she works for Black Cube, that she would be one of the people personally supervising all operational matters and that Black Cube believes it can help the client achieve their objective. Although she was not ambassador at the time, the messages make it clear she had held that position.

    Radio-Canada/CBC has chosen not to reveal the contents of all the messages to protect the identity of the person who shared them.

    These messages were provided to Radio-Canada/CBC as Bercovici and some of her supporters — including Sen. Linda Frum, a personal friend — were accusing Radio-Canada/CBC of antisemitism in previous reporting on the former ambassador.

    Black Cube has carried out controversial operations in Canada in the past.

    One was an undercover sting operation to discredit a Toronto judge who had ruled against its client, Catalyst Capital Group, a private investment company. Radio-Canada/CBC has no indication that Bercovici participated in this operation.

    Using a false identity, a Black Cube agent met with Judge Newbould and tried to get him to make anti-Jewish comments during secretly recorded meetings.

    “Basically we’re trying to prove that he’s a racist, a depraved anti-Semite, and trying to find information that could paint him in as negative a light as possible,” wrote a Psy Group agent to a Black Cube agent, according to an Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruling that was made public in March 2021.

    “Black Cube is dangerous because it does not abide by ethical rules,” said Avner Barnea, an academic and expert in private-sector intelligence.

    Reached in Israel, Barnea said Black Cube “does not even come close” to the ethical standards established by the international association Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals, which he serves as an advisory board member.

    Bercovici, Sen. Frum and others, including some Jewish organizations, have criticized Radio-Canada/CBC for quoting unnamed sources in its reporting, saying the sources were smearing Bercovici with the antisemitic canard of dual-loyalty.

    Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel than to the interests of their own nations is one aspect of antisemitism cited in the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism, which was adopted by the Government of Canada in 2019.

    However, the concerns raised by the officials Radio-Canada spoke to were related to the nature of some of the former ambassador’s behaviour and decisions, which they said were highly unusual for a senior diplomat. During those interviews, none of the officials demonstrated any antisemitic sentiment.

    More atl.

  106. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    States across India have begun declaring a “black fungus” epidemic as cases of the fatal rare infection shoot up in patients recovering from Covid-19.

    The fungal disease, called mucormycosis, has a 50% mortality rate. It affects patients initially in the nose but the fungus can then spread into the brain, and can often only be treated by major surgery removing the eye or part of the skull and jaw.

    It is usually a rare disease, but more than 7,200 people in India have now been reported with mucormycosis and 219 have lost their lives. The rise in black fungus infections, mostly in patients who had severe cases of Covid-19, has been linked to an overuse of steroids in the treatment of the coronavirus, which can acutely compromise the immune system if taken over a prolonged period.

    The high incidence of diabetes in India has also been blamed, with high blood sugar levels linked to susceptibility. India has the second-highest rate of diabetes in the world.

    It has also been reported in Covid patients who were on ventilators in intensive care units, due to their airways being exposed to humidity and moisture.

  107. says

    Wonkette:

    The San Francisco Chronicle […] has a real shitball of a story about “Solar customers: Why won’t they pay for the wildfires they aren’t causing?”

    The gist is that PG&E, which lights the state on fire semi-regularly when it isn’t exploding actual neighborhoods, is having trouble with its bankruptcy. A hundred billion in wildfires here, there, you might even have to cut shareholder dividends! So PG&E needs a little help […] Which is why California’s AB 1139, which would reduce the value of solar energy that rooftop systems pump back into the grid by 70 to 80 percent, and mandate solar customers pay hundreds of dollars in fees to PG&E for not using its energy, is being marketed as a bill for “fairness” and “for the poor.”

    Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez was previously best known for her sloppy and haphazard guesstimation of “what is freelance” when her AB5 bill insisted that 35 pieces a year would make a freelance writer or artist an employee. […]

    Gonzalez is chair of the Appropriations committee. It’s an important role, and she shouldn’t be “arbitrary.” And in that role, regarding her bill, AB 1139, which would absolutely destroy the solar rooftop market and negate all the strides California is making in clean energy that will help the state be less on fire, she says,

    the idea that she’s trying to destroy the rooftop solar market is “ridiculous” and “a silly argument.” In her mind, AB1139 tries to right-size an unfair burden faced by those who don’t have solar panels.

    You know what really unfair burden is faced by those who don’t have solar panels? When their city is on fire and they can’t afford a motel room as hundreds of thousands of people flee.

    Gonzalez said she has solar panels on her home and believes the current net metering program pays her too much. She said her most recent electric bill was negative, meaning she owed no money and doesn’t have to pay fixed costs for the electric system that her neighbors without solar can’t escape.

    See, her most recent electric bill was negative, because she made energy for her neighbors who don’t have solar.

    This is not a hard concept. But the math sure is. Check out this bullshit.

    First up, solar customers:

    Still, some solar supporters worry that the bill’s passage could motivate regulators to adopt far-reaching changes, including monthly charges of about $70 that utilities have proposed for new solar customers.

    (Those charges are ONLY for solar customers, not for anybody else who also is using the grid.)

    And then, a few paragraphs later, non-solar households:

    Severin Borenstein, an energy economist and an author of the report, said the growth of rooftop solar under current net metering rules was a significant driver of high electric rates, though not the only major factor. He estimates that overhauling net metering could save the average household about $75 per year.

    LOL, so everybody who put solar panels on their roofs will pay $800-ish a year so non-solar families can save $75 a year. Who’s free-riding whom?

    According to the California Solar & Storage Association […] it now takes about 11 years of solar use “net metering” before you earn back the cost of your system — a system that helps society by obviating the need for big natural gas-fired plants out in the desert, and the wires and grid needed to get that energy over dry, combustible hills to people’s homes. Under Gonzalez’s bill, they estimate that 11-year payback for the cost of your solar panels would now take 45 years.

    Solar panels have a life expectancy of 25 or 30.

    Lorena Gonzalez might as well be Wyoming, suing other states for not buying its coal, but in this case, she’s putting the squeeze on people who are adding clean energy to the grid, to pay for PG&E’s bullshit.

    Here’s some astroturf bullshit, if you like astroturf bullshit:

    PG&E, its Southern California utility counterparts and various other groups that want regulators to reform net metering are aligned under a coalition called Affordable Clean Energy for All. One of its arguments is that the benefits afforded by the current program no longer make sense in light of how the costs of solar power technology have plummeted while California’s electric rates have risen.

    Why have California’s electric rates risen? Is it because PG&E keeps setting the state on fire? Well, the $2 billion PG&E spent on shareholder dividends from 2016-2017 should have been spent on “not starting fires,” a judge ruled in 2019, and the CPUC report that recommends the new solar “tariff” also points out that ratepayers are on the hook for $10.5 billion in wildfire payouts, so … yes! And while the state gets a huge share of its energy from renewable resources, about half is still from natural gas. (Only one coal plant remains.)

    Gonzalez is undoubtedly aware that her concern for low-income people getting shafted for rich people’s vanity solar panels is … say it with me! Some bullshit. Per the CSSA, there are 150,000 “income-eligible” people who currently have solar, whom Gonzalez’s bill would be fucking:

    AB 1139 would hurt 150,000 income-eligible CARE consumers who have solar on their home today by retroactively changing their net metering contract, adding fees and reducing compensation for energy exported to the grid on hot summer days. Instead of saving $122-$178 on average monthly bills, monthly savings would be reduced to $37-$56, a 70% reduction of today’s solar savings. This would not be enough to cover the upfront cost of the system, thus harming consumers who were encouraged by the state to embrace clean energy. This kind of retroactive policy is bad for all consumers, but it is especially damaging to working-class solar users.

    And:

    California has invested over $1 billion [or one year of PG&E dividends — Editrix] to incentivize low-income solar adoption through 2030, with net metering as a critical driver of the economic success of those programs. At present, 15% of all net metered solar users (150,000) are on income-eligible CARE rates.

    An additional 30,000 rental units serving over 100,000 people at multifamily affordable housing projects are under development via the Solar on Multifamily Affordable Housing (SOMAH) program. According to a recent Lawrence Berkeley National Labs report, solar adoption among low- and moderate-income households is trending upward, covering 42% in 2019, or 60,000 installations. AB 1139 would reverse this positive trend, leaving solar for only the wealthy, save for a relatively small number of fully subsidized systems. This would have a negative effect on efforts to shut down fossil fuel power plants and reduce persistent air pollution.

    You know who’s most affected by persistent air pollution? It’s the low-income people Gonzalez is claiming this bill is for.

    The Chronicle almost gives this voice of reason the last word:

    “Why would we want to limit rooftop solar right now when the state needs it so much?” said Walker Wright, vice president of public policy at the San Francisco solar company Sunrun. “If anything, we should be doing more for distributed generation right now, and I think that lines up with what the public wants overwhelmingly.”

    But then they didn’t, and ended up with a “utility critic” who’s like “but is it fair to not have to pay for wildfires if you paid for a thing to help stop wildfires?” but he didn’t say it like that, because I guess he hadn’t thought it through very well, and fuck ’em all.

    Disclaimer! Your Wonkette put $20,000 in solar panels on her home in Montana and has been paying DOUBLE the electricity bill ever since, because her local utility still can’t figure out how to run her meter, so this would not affect her anyway and she considers it a gift to her state and the planet but still: That’s some bullshit. Also, Montana’s about to do this same thing as Gonzalez’s terrible bill, because won’t someone think of the coal companies?

    Link

  108. says

    From Abe Streep, writing for The New Yorker, “How Violent Cops Stay in Law Enforcement.”

    Derek Colling was fired from one police department after two fatal shootings and allegations of brutality. Less than a year later, he had a new badge.

    In September, 2009, a card dealer named Evie Oquendo arrived at her apartment, on the far east side of Las Vegas, with groceries for her fifteen-year-old son, Tanner Chamberlain. Tanner, who struggled with bipolar disorder, had stayed home from school that day, and Oquendo wanted to make beef stew, one of his favorite meals. But, before she could start cooking, Tanner became extremely agitated. Not long afterward, she discovered that he had swallowed a handful of her anti-anxiety pills. She wanted to take him to the hospital, but first she called her sister, a former New York City police officer. Her sister told her to call 911. “I said, ‘I’m not calling the police, because I’m afraid they’re gonna shoot him,’ ” Oquendo recalled. “She told me, ‘Evie, don’t be ridiculous. They’ll know how to handle it.’ ”

    Tanner calmed down enough to suggest going to a nearby 7-Eleven for an iced tea, and Oquendo decided against calling the police. But her sister had already asked a family friend in Nevada to call 911, and soon officers from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department pulled up to Oquendo’s apartment building, a stucco complex with a pool and a playground. Among the group was a twenty-eight-year-old officer named Derek Colling, who had been with the department for four years. When Colling and the others approached, Tanner stood behind Oquendo, grasping his mother and holding a folding knife in one hand. Officers instructed him to drop the knife and release his mother, but he did not comply. One of the officers on the scene, who was trained in de-escalating crisis situations involving people with mental illnesses, tried to speak to Tanner. Colling trained his gun on Tanner. “Don’t shoot him!” Oquendo pleaded. Colling shot him in the head.

    This was Colling’s second fatal shooting in three years: in 2006, he had been one of five officers to shoot and kill a man who pulled a gun at a gas station. In both cases, a coroner’s inquest declared the killings justified. “I did what had to be done,” Colling said, during the second inquiry. One of Colling’s childhood friends, Jedadiah Schultz, recalled meeting up with Colling shortly after Tanner’s death, at a baseball game, and asking him about the incident. “The way in which he was telling the story was like his heroic journey,” Schultz said. “I was deeply unsettled.” (Colling did not respond to requests for comment.)

    In 2011, after Colling beat a videographer who was filming police activity in a suburban neighborhood, the footage went viral, and the department launched an investigation. In December, just weeks after the Las Vegas Review-Journal began publishing a series of articles on the use of lethal force by police, Colling was fired for policy violations. The city’s police department, which had a long-standing reputation as one of the most violent in the country, announced that it would be undertaking extensive reforms, in conjunction with the Department of Justice, to improve transparency and accountability.

    No criminal charges were brought against Colling, and the internal investigation that led to the department’s decision was not made public. Still, Oquendo felt some sense of vindication: Colling wasn’t going to jail, but at least he’d lost his badge and his gun. She decided to pursue a civil case against Colling and the department, including a wrongful-death claim, and, in 2013, two years after she’d filed it, a federal district-court judge allowed the case to go forward.

    But, in 2015, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the suit, citing qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that protects law-enforcement officers from civil lawsuits. Shortly afterward, while Oquendo was searching for news stories about Colling on the Internet, she got a hit from a paper in Laramie, Wyoming. Colling hadn’t left law enforcement—he’d just moved home. He was working as a patrol deputy for the Albany County sheriff’s office, which covers a forty-three-hundred-square-mile region of southeastern Wyoming, including Laramie, Colling’s home town. Oquendo was distraught. She started calling journalists and community leaders in Laramie. “I didn’t want him to kill again,” she said.

    Eventually, she reached Debra Hinkel. An athletic woman with white-blond hair and a direct manner, Hinkel had lived in Laramie most of her life. She ran a few businesses in town, including the Ranger, a motel, bar, and liquor store, which her parents had owned. She was well-connected, and she had contacts at all three of the law-enforcement agencies with jurisdiction in Laramie—the police department, the sheriff’s office, and the University of Wyoming’s police department. Her middle child, Robbie Ramirez, had been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder in his early twenties, and, in the years since, Hinkel had come to dedicate much of her time to mental-health advocacy. Oquendo had found Hinkel’s phone number through the Laramie chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, where Hinkel served as president. After explaining her story, Oquendo urged Hinkel to use her standing in the community to agitate for Colling’s dismissal. “She was trying to get ahold of anybody she could,” Hinkel said. “She told me, ‘The guy’s dangerous.’ ”

    Hinkel knew Derek Colling. His father was a highway patrolman, and his mother worked at a local school. Laramie is a college town of about thirty thousand that feels smaller. As boys, Colling and Robbie had played on the same baseball team, the Vigilantes. They had attended high school together; as members of the school choir, they travelled to Carnegie Hall. After graduating, Colling attended college in South Dakota, then explored a career in law enforcement. He got the job in Las Vegas in 2005. Robbie, meanwhile, had never left Wyoming.

    Hinkel and Robbie lived a few blocks apart—she in a ranch house, he in a log-walled apartment owned by two of Hinkel’s brothers. They had a close-knit family, with relatives spread throughout the region. Robbie’s siblings, Randy and Robyn, lived about an hour away; their father, Jimmy Ramirez, lived in a small town across the Snowy Range mountains. Some months, Hinkel saw Robbie regularly. When he felt good, he coached hockey, made ceramic art, and worked at the Ranger. At other times, when he was feeling anxious or depressed, he kept to himself. A fun-loving skater in his younger days, Robbie had become exceedingly careful over the years, and police especially concerned him. After his diagnosis, he had been arrested a few times, and he wanted to avoid any similar encounters. He kept a detailed budget, and family members remember him painstakingly tracking his medications and meal plan. He spent hours tinkering with his Ford Ranger, but he was a tentative driver who rarely left Laramie. He said he needed to stay near home, where he was safe.

    Hinkel decided not to tell her son about Colling, but he found out anyway. Not long after Oquendo’s call, Robbie walked into the Ranger and found his mother standing by the pool table. The Boomerang, Laramie’s daily, had just published an article about Oquendo’s civil case. Robbie sounded matter-of-fact, Hinkel recalled later, when he told her that he’d read about Colling. “He’ll probably shoot me someday,” Robbie said.

    The sheriff of Albany County, David O’Malley, hired Colling in 2012, ten months after he was fired from his job in Las Vegas. Colling had applied to work for the town’s police department, too, but his history disqualified him. “We didn’t even finish his background,” Dale Stalder, the chief of the Laramie Police Department, said. A Laramie law-enforcement veteran told me that, when he heard that Colling was working for O’Malley, he was unsurprised. “The sheriff’s office is kind of a second-chance oasis for cops,” he said.

    O’Malley is widely known for his role investigating the murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay student at the University of Wyoming who was beaten and left to die on the outskirts of Laramie, in 1998. O’Malley, who was then the head of investigations at the Laramie Police Department, worked with a detective from the sheriff’s department to build the case that convicted two men of Shepard’s murder. The story garnered international attention, helped to catalyze a reckoning with anti-gay violence, and inspired a play, “The Laramie Project,” that was produced as a touring show. O’Malley became an outspoken public figure, advocating for national hate-crime legislation and speaking openly about his former anti-gay bigotry. He marched at Pride events, attended drag-queen bingo, and spoke out against a book that cast aspersions on Shepard. He left the police department in 2004 and, in 2010, ran for sheriff as a Democrat, winning by nearly twenty points.

    The American sheriff—especially the Western sheriff—has always occupied a role that is both functional and performative, and O’Malley seemed intuitively aware of the outward-facing aspects of the job. He wore a bushy mustache and snap shirts, and he projected warmth, relying on folksy lingo. He was widely liked, and he easily won reëlection twice. But among law enforcement his department’s reputation was mixed, marred by a handful of cases of alleged misconduct. Stalder, Laramie’s police chief, told me that the expertise of sheriff’s departments varies widely. “There’s a huge disparity,” he said. “Some are very professional. Some are much less professional.” When I asked where O’Malley’s department fit within that spectrum, he said, “I think I’ll leave that one alone.”

    Still, O’Malley’s popularity seemed undimmed, and he appeared confident deflecting scrutiny. A few years after Colling was hired, when local journalists found out about Colling’s history in Las Vegas, O’Malley defended him staunchly. In an interview with a local radio station and news site, he said, “The fact that he was terminated didn’t give me any real pause, because they didn’t move to decertify him as a law enforcement officer.” He added, “If you don’t believe that a person has any business in law enforcement, then you move for decertification. If they had done that, I couldn’t have considered Derek.”

    Like the disbarring of an attorney, or the revocation of a doctor’s license, the decertification of a law-enforcement officer, which is handled by individual states, is meant to prevent bad actors from returning to the profession. (Wyoming, along with a few other states, recognizes decertification elsewhere as immediately disqualifying.) But standards for decertification vary widely. In a handful of states, like California, there is no process at all for removing an officer’s certification; in others, like Nevada, decertification is rare. Even though Colling had been fired following allegations of police brutality, his dismissal did not meet the state threshold for decertification. Kelly McMahill, a deputy chief at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police, who oversaw the internal investigation that led to his firing, told me that, had the state initiated an inquiry, “It wouldn’t even have come close to pulling his certification.”

    In recent years, the very idea of problem officers has become a flashpoint in the public discourse on police violence: when politicians and police chiefs blame the failures of policing on a handful of officers, they seem to be ignoring the systemic issues that plague American law enforcement. But it is widely accepted in the field of decertification studies that a small number of officers account for a large number of civilian complaints; if implemented fairly and consistently, decertification can serve as a vital mechanism for removing the worst actors. “Most professions have a way of getting rid of bad professionals,” Roger Goldman, an emeritus professor at the Saint Louis University School of Law, who is an expert on decertification, told me. “So why not police?”

    In 2014, after a Cleveland police officer named Timothy Loehmann shot and killed Tamir Rice, a twelve-year-old Black child who was holding a toy gun, an investigation revealed that Loehmann had previously been deemed unfit for duty at another Ohio police department. Ohio decertifies law-enforcement officers in the event of felony convictions, but a grand jury declined to indict Loehmann for Rice’s killing. Although he was eventually fired from the Cleveland Police Department, on the grounds that he had falsified his employment history, he remained eligible to work in law enforcement.

    Last year, the legal scholars Ben Grunwald and John Rappaport published a report, “The Wandering Officer,” that provided the first wide-scale analysis of officers, like Loehmann and Colling, who have lost employment at one law-enforcement agency and then found a new job at another. Analyzing data from nearly five hundred Florida police agencies over a thirty-year period, they found that such officers were more likely than their peers “to be fired from their next job or to receive a complaint for a ‘moral character violation.’ ”

    Officers who have previously worked at large metropolitan agencies typically have extensive training, which can make them appealing as prospective hires for smaller departments with less funding, or rural departments with fewer applicants. When Colling attended Wyoming’s law-enforcement academy for basic training—a requirement for most new detention officers—he graduated at the top of his class and was recognized for exemplary physical fitness and marksmanship. The Albany County Sheriff’s Office is well funded—last year, it had $1.8 million in expenditures—but O’Malley said that he had struggled to recruit officers. “In the seventies and early eighties, you had people knocking down the door,” he told me. The last time he posted a job, he said, there were twenty applicants, but only eight showed up for the physical and psychological tests. Of those eight, he said, “We had one that our panel said they would recommend to hire.” Matthew Hickman, a professor of criminal justice at Seattle University, said, “Police departments in rural jurisdictions are just desperate for officers. And that’s where some of these guys end up.”

    Still, O’Malley maintained that his agency had strict hiring procedures. He told me that Colling had been interviewed by a panel, which included representatives from the sheriff’s office, the police department, and the University of Wyoming Police Department. (He declined to share the interviewers’ names, citing the confidentiality of personnel records.) O’Malley also said that Colling had passed a background check: “I had a list of probably sixty people that were supervisory and peers.” He could not tell me exactly how many were interviewed, but he stood by comments he had made in the Boomerang, in 2014, in which he called Colling “the best man for the job.”

    McMahill, a deputy chief in Las Vegas, was alarmed by the circumstances of Colling’s hiring in Wyoming. “I am shocked he got a job with another police agency,” she said. She said that the details from the investigation into Colling that she led, in 2011, were confidential. But she did tell me that Colling was one of a handful of officers who were involved in incidents that prompted the agency to change the way it monitored and supported personnel following use-of-force incidents. “What we realized is that so many of these officers, they’re going to relive their officer-involved shootings time and time and time again,” she told me. McMahill now sits on Nevada’s Peace Officers Standards and Training (post) commission, which certifies and decertifies officers. She told me that she hoped for reforms to the state’s decertification statute, and for more consistency across the country. “I think the answer to that is really, every state—state to state—is going to have to be much more lenient on what it takes to decertify someone.” She added, “We don’t want people like Derek Colling to remain with his post certificate.”

    Debra Hinkel, like many Laramie residents, was unaware of Colling’s presence on the force until well after he had been hired, when the press got the story and Oquendo made calls around town. But she was inclined to trust O’Malley. Her kids had gone to school with his kids. She had once switched parties to vote for him, and they sat together on a mental-health board. She had also seen Robbie’s relationship with local law enforcement improve since he was first diagnosed. In the early years, Robbie and the rest of the family struggled to manage his condition. In 2004, Robbie punched an uncle at a family cabin, and was escorted to the hospital by sheriff’s deputies, who later tackled him to the ground so that a nurse could inject him with an antipsychotic. Robbie resisted, injuring two officers. After the incident, Hinkel became interested in crisis-intervention-team (C.I.T.) programs, which encourage the development of mental-health infrastructure and teach de-escalation techniques to law-enforcement officers. After attending a C.I.T. panel in San Diego, she met with a commander at the Laramie Police Department and representatives from the local hospital. Laramie’s C.I.T. program became among the first in the state.

    Robbie’s final arrest for violent behavior was in 2010, when he punched a man outside of the Ranger. After that, he abided strictly by his court-ordered probation. He picked up skateboarding again, and, after buying a classical guitar while on vacation with his father, in Mazatlán, he started playing music with a local group. In 2016, the Wyoming legislature slashed funding for Medicaid, and Robbie became convinced that he needed to keep his income as low as possible in order to prevent his benefits from changing. He eventually stopped working, and his mental health declined. When Hinkel sold the Ranger, in 2018, he lost another anchor. But he tried to stay active, regularly visiting the Laramie skate park.

    At this point, local law enforcement knew how to handle Robbie when he was in an anxious spell. Stalder, the police chief, told me that, during calls to Robbie’s apartment, officers stood outside the door and talked in a gentle voice until he calmed down. The department had a be-on-the-lookout alert set up for Robbie’s vehicles, so officers would know to respond with calm in the event of a traffic stop. “Because of the officers’ abilities to create that space and that time, things worked out,” Stalder said.

    In November, 2018, Robbie drove his Ranger west on Grand Avenue, a commercial area near the university. He was travelling significantly under the speed limit, and soon a patrol vehicle from the sheriff’s office pulled in behind him. Robbie moved into the left lane, then turned across traffic, flipping on his signal a few seconds late. The patrol car followed. Robbie turned again, this time without a signal. The patrol car flashed its lights, and they both pulled over. Robbie was about a hundred yards from home.

    Derek Colling is trim and muscular, with a blond crew cut that was, that day, covered by a dark beanie. He strode toward Robbie’s car. In college, Colling had been a two-hundred-and-fifteen-pound football player, and he still maintained an athletic build, training regularly in a form of martial arts called Krav Maga, developed for the Israeli military. When he reached the passenger’s side of the car, he told Robbie to roll down the window. Robbie refused, and pointed to his apartment building, which was visible across the street. Colling demanded again, and Robbie’s responses turned agitated. Then he started the car, and pulled away. (For someone fleeing the police, he drove slowly; before turning into his apartment’s parking lot, he used his turn signal.) Colling ran to his cruiser and followed in pursuit, calling for backup. Robbie parked next to his apartment, at the end of the parking lot, and got out. Officers trained in responding to calls involving people experiencing mental-health crises are taught how to speak in a calm voice and maintain distance. Colling pulled up quickly, pinning in Robbie’s truck and leaving him effectively cornered.

    Colling pulled out his Taser and pistol and yelled, “Get your hands up now!” He approached, weapons drawn, closing the space between them. “Get your hands up now,” he repeated. He then deployed the Taser: its barbs stuck in Robbie’s shirt but didn’t appear to take effect. “Don’t shoot at me,” Robbie said. Colling tried again. Robbie covered his head, cursed, and charged. As the men grappled, Colling fired his pistol, and Robbie fell. Colling called for medical assistance, and held Robbie’s body to the ground. (He would later say that he still considered Robbie a potential threat.) With the assistance of a responding officer, he handcuffed Robbie, who lay bleeding. Another officer arrived and administered CPR. Colling had shot Robbie three times, including in the back. An ambulance transported him to a hospital. Hinkel arrived shortly afterward. In the lobby, she was informed that her son was dead.

    Six days later, a vigil for Robbie was held at the Laramie skate park. More than a hundred people came to light candles. Later, at the memorial service, a friend of Robbie’s from the skate park delivered a eulogy, and Hinkel gave a short speech. She thought that more of Robbie’s friends might speak. But, she said, “They just couldn’t. They were just so angry.”

    Hinkel walks quickly, and often wears a grin that conveys preparedness rather than joy. Following Robbie’s death, his older brother, Randy, tried to avoid returning to Laramie. Hinkel left frequently, to escape, but always returned home. “I don’t know how my mom does it,” Randy said. “She can’t go to the grocery store without someone wanting to talk about it.”

    A deeply spiritual person, Hinkel felt that her son’s death had happened for a reason, and that some change should come of it. But she also tended to be trusting of local authorities. In the press, she praised O’Malley and Peggy Trent, the county attorney, with whom she was friendly. She told the Boomerang that her son’s death was the fault of “one police officer and not the whole force.” When the state announced that its Department of Criminal Investigations (D.C.I.) would conduct an inquiry into the shooting, she trusted that the system would deliver justice.

    But others had started to organize around the shooting. After hearing about Robbie’s death, a graduate student named Karlee Provenza decided to start an advocacy group, which came to be called Albany County for Proper Policing (acopp). Twenty-four people showed up to the first meeting, which Provenza held at her house, a one-story home on Laramie’s west side, with a porch decorated by deer skulls. She served deer chili. One of Robbie’s uncles attended; Hinkel did not.

    The week after Robbie’s vigil, Trent arranged a private viewing of Colling’s dash-camera and body-camera footage for Robbie’s family, including Hinkel, Ramirez, and their children Randy and Robyn. O’Malley was there, too. He cried as the tape rolled. “I felt bad for the family,” he told me later. Robyn hugged him and told him that she did not blame him for Robbie’s death. Randy felt different. “You did this,” he said to O’Malley. Hinkel left the room.

    Trent eventually decided to gather a grand jury to determine whether Colling should be charged with a felony. Grand juries almost always convene in the absence of a judge or defense counsel, giving the prosecutor great influence. According to Kate Levine, a law professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, prosecutors often present exculpatory information during cases involving law-enforcement officers. “This is part of that careful, balanced presentation that is absolutely just never done for anyone but police officers,” Levine told me. Prosecutors have an incentive to maintain a good relationship with the police department, since they depend on the coöperation of law enforcement to build other cases, and jurors tend to trust and sympathize with law enforcement. Courts grant officers significant leeway in use-of-force cases: if officers who claim self-defense can demonstrate that they feared for their life or someone else’s, they can almost always avoid conviction. Rachel Harmon, a law professor at the University of Virginia, said that the legal standards “are mostly vague. And so they give a lot of room for officers who perceive a threat to use force.”

    Shortly before the grand jury convened, Hinkel attended a community forum, where she finally met Provenza. They discussed the upcoming grand jury, which would convene under seal, concealing the proceedings from public scrutiny. Provenza was concerned that, if the grand jury declined to indict, it might create the impression that Robbie’s killing had been justified. “Debbie kind of brushed it aside,” Provenza told me. “Then, I think, she watched it happen.”

    The grand jury, which met in January, 2019, was tasked with determining whether to indict Colling on a charge of involuntary manslaughter. Trent presented jurors with evidence that had been gathered by the D.C.I. Prepared by multiple investigators, including Tina Trimble, who was also the president of the Wyoming Fraternal Order of Police, the D.C.I. report provided a menacing portrayal of Robbie, noting that his apartment was extremely dirty and suggesting that he had not been taking his medication. (The report wasn’t released publicly until months later, under pressure from news outlets including the Boomerang and WyoFile, a nonprofit that has covered Robbie’s case extensively. Through a supervisor, Trimble declined an interview request.) The report briefly covered Colling’s two previous shootings, but it failed to mention his firing from the Las Vegas police department.

    In an interview with Colling, which investigators waited to conduct until four days after the shooting, he claimed that he had not recognized Robbie during the encounter. But he also suggested that he had heard enough stories about Robbie’s past to consider him dangerous, providing secondhand accounts of encounters between Robbie and law enforcement that took place years before he joined the sheriff’s office. Only after Colling viewed body-camera footage did he come to the conclusion that Robbie might have been holding a key during their scuffle. “Colling remarked that he never saw the keys,” Trimble wrote, “but that he felt like it was an ‘edged weapon’ after viewing the video.”

    The jurors listened to Colling’s interview, and to testimony from Trimble and from a use-of-force expert who has defended police officers in misconduct cases. One of the members of the grand jury told me that the group was instructed not to consider Colling’s history. (Later, in a press conference, Trent said that presenting the facts of Colling’s prior shootings would have taken away “the relevancy of the facts of the case.”) Much of the testimony, the juror said, “was framed in a way to say that law-enforcement officers had this different standard applied to them because of the parameters of their occupation.” The juror added that, for a charge to stick, “I feel like they have to scream out, ‘I’m going to kill you on purpose and I don’t care.’ And it has to be on camera.” (Trent said that she could not discuss the details of the grand jury, beyond her public comments.)

    After three days of proceedings, the grand jury declined to indict Colling. O’Malley later moved Colling to an investigative role. Hinkel felt betrayed. “The whole good-ol’-boy aspect of protecting somebody who’s done something like that is totally confusing to me,” she said. She reconnected with Provenza, who was trying to get the county commissioners to establish a community oversight board for the sheriff’s office. Hinkel was impressed by Provenza’s persistence in a state where aggressive reform efforts are not the political norm. (In February, a former Albany County attorney wrote to Provenza, in an e-mail, “You should exercise caution in your efforts. The people you are challenging have the power of the entire state government to bring against you.”) Hinkel and Provenza discussed policing issues and decided to start working together on advocacy. In May, Hinkel wrote an op-ed that criticized O’Malley and the law-enforcement system: “Perhaps we need to look at de-certification of these officers so they do not continue to have opportunities to injure or kill citizens.” Provenza soon started gathering signatures on a petition that called for Colling’s decertification.

    In Wyoming, as in many other states, decertification decisions are handled by the state’s post commission. (Most post agencies were established following the civil unrest of the nineteen-sixties, when authorities in cities across the U.S. responded to civil-rights protesters with military tactics.) In January, 2020, Hinkel and Provenza drove seventy-five icy miles north to a diner in Wheatland, where they met Chris Walsh, the director of the state’s post commission. Provenza presented Walsh with a petition for Colling’s decertification, which had nearly thirteen hundred signatures.

    Typically, decertification cases are brought by police chiefs or sheriffs themselves. “The very people deciding whether to hire wandering officers are the people who need to decide whether to discipline them,” Ben Grunwald, the legal scholar, told me. But in Wyoming, citizens can file a grievance directly to the post commission. At the end of the meeting with Walsh, Hinkel filed a written complaint. Walsh began an investigation.

    In April, Provenza announced that she was running as a Democrat for a seat in the legislature. Hinkel helped with the campaign, writing postcards to voters. A few weeks later, George Floyd was killed by Derek Chauvin, a white officer with eighteen prior complaints on his record. Protests erupted across the country, including in Laramie, where they attracted a diverse and durable crowd. Provenza attended, collecting more signatures for the decertification petition. Hinkel struggled to watch the video of Floyd’s death, and the similarity of the officers’ names—Derek Colling, Derek Chauvin—disturbed her. “Too many synchronicities,” she told me.

    She left town to go rafting in Oregon. When she arrived home, in June, hundreds of people were marching in the streets, many of them chanting her son’s name. The marches continued daily. (Laramie police officers later arrested protesters for disorderly conduct and, in one case, “amplified noise,” even as counter-protesters in trucks with modified exhaust systems blasted them with diesel smoke.)

    One law-enforcement veteran in Laramie told me that the events of the summer had shaken his foundational beliefs about his profession. He had started to reëxamine the assumptions that he had been trained to believe. When he had first seen the footage of Robbie’s death, he had thought Colling acted properly. “Now, looking at it through the way society is changing,” he told me, “it makes me question if it was a valid shoot.” For a long time, he had thought that the criminal-justice system was flawed but generally fair. “Having to now look at everything,” he said, “I’m starting to realize that—no, it is not fair. It is very skewed.” Another Laramie law-enforcement officer told me that Robbie’s death had deeply saddened and demoralized many of his colleagues. “With Robbie, it’s deeply personal,” he said. “Because Robbie was us.” He thought about Colling, and said, “Why was he hired?”

    Walsh declined to comment on the specifics of the case, but he outlined a scenario that could hypothetically support decertification: “If a person were hired illegally, against Wyoming state statute, because, let’s say, information from another state is pertinent to their employment here, and through an investigation I found out that something had been overlooked”—that, he said, would be relevant. His investigation is ongoing. A hearing for Colling has not yet been scheduled.

    In August, I met Sheriff O’Malley at the Albany County Courthouse, an impressive stone building on Grand Avenue. Inside, the receptionist greeted me from behind a gleaming one-way mirror. O’Malley came out and offered me a friendly handshake. He walked with his back slightly stooped. As he turned into his office, I could see Colling in a room across the way. O’Malley closed the door.

    Hinkel had recently filed a twenty-million-dollar lawsuit on charges of wrongful death, listing the county, Colling, and O’Malley as defendants. O’Malley declined to discuss Hinkel’s suit directly, but his comments suggested that the public had developed an unfair impression of his office. He offered a quotation from Mark Twain (apocryphal, as it turns out): “No amount of evidence will ever convince an idiot.” He was concerned that the protests in Laramie and around the country were damaging the reputation of law enforcement. “The career, the profession, being associated with racism and excessive force and everything, that’s just—it’s not the case,” he said. “That happens, and there’s people in this profession that need to be out of it.” But Colling, he said, was not one of them. He stood by his decision to hire him. He said he planned to retire soon and move to Florida. “I can fish twelve months a year without cutting a hole in the ice,” he said, chuckling. He added, “I don’t know that I’ll ever come back.” He announced his resignation later that month.

    O’Malley’s successor, Aaron Appelhans, was the first Black sheriff in Wyoming’s history. Appelhans said that he was focussed on improving services for the mentally ill and recruiting from underserved communities. “I’m not really sure law enforcement has put in enough work to really see the change,” he told me. Colling was reassigned to a job at the county detention center. O’Malley moved away; Trent took a job in Kansas. In November, on the anniversary of Robbie’s death, Karlee Provenza won her election by a hundred and sixty votes. Hinkel cried when she heard the news. “It’s not all about justice,” she said. “It’s about a need for a change.”

    Still, Hinkel found herself spending more and more time away from home. She went to Colorado, Santa Fe, Elko. “There’s a heaviness in my heart every time I drive into Laramie,” she said. “I still have to leave periodically to just regroup.” One of her trips took her to Las Vegas, where she looked up Evie Oquendo. When they met, at a restaurant in a video poker lounge, they laughed at their similar statures—both women stand about five feet tall. Since losing the appeal for her case, Oquendo had been unable to work. At her apartment, she kept Tanner’s room as it had been, with his clothes still in the closet. She struggled to sleep, and her dreams were bad. Still, she said, she saw in Hinkel’s lawsuit a glimmer of hope. Maybe, she thought, it would yield a different result from her own.

    Oquendo rarely left Las Vegas, and she was impressed by Hinkel’s adventurous nature. They talked about taking a trip one day. “Kind of a heck of a way to become kindred spirits,” Hinkel said. They finished lunch, and Hinkel started the long drive through Utah and Colorado and into the vast plains of Wyoming. After she arrived, her phone rang. It was Oquendo, calling to make sure she had got home safely.

    New Yorker link

  109. says

    My apologies to everyone. I accidentally clicked the “Post Comment” button before I had chosen only some parts of the text in comment 140 for posting here. I goofed up.

  110. tomh says

    In echo of Arizona, Georgia state judge orders Fulton County to allow local voters to inspect mailed ballots cast last fall
    By Amy Gardner
    May 21, 2021

    (WaPo) A Georgia state judge on Friday ordered Fulton County to allow a group of local voters to inspect all 147,000 mail-in ballots cast in the 2020 election in response to a lawsuit alleging that officials accepted thousands of counterfeit ballots.

    The decision marks the latest instance of a local government being forced to undergo a third-party inspection of its election practices…

    …Superior Court Judge Brian Amero ruled on Friday that the nine plaintiffs and their experts could examine copies of the ballots but never touch the originals, which will remain in the possession of Fulton election officials….

    In this case, filed in December, the plaintiffs are seeking a declaratory judgment that counterfeit balloting occurred in the county. The judge’s ruling Friday was part of the suit’s discovery process and allows the plaintiffs to examine the ballots for evidence of their claim.

    …some experts who have worked on similar efforts on behalf of pro-Trump groups may also participate in the examination in Georgia — including J. Hutton Pulitzer, who has served as a consultant in Maricopa and who some Trump supporters pushed to conduct an audit in Windham, N.H.

    …expects to rely on paper experts to examine the ballot paper itself, as well as image-analysis experts and experienced auditors — including one, David Sawyer, who testified Friday that the state-run audit last year was flawed.

  111. says

    Follow-up to tomh @142, Rachel Maddow looks at different places around the United States where Donald Trump supporters, inspired by the ballot inspection spectacle in Arizona, are using conspiracy theories to insist on more ‘audits’ of the 2020 election results Trump lost, and the growing realization that these Trump supporters are not interested in election integrity so much as sabotaging the credibility of any election that doesn’t produce their desired outcome.

    The video is 4:55 minutes long.

  112. says

    Ex-Trump Campaign Staffers File Lawsuit As Ohio County Continues To Grapple With The Big Lie

    In Stark County, Ohio, 2020 never ended.

    While President Joe Biden presides and former President Donald Trump has been shunted sideways to hold court at Mar-a-Lago, county officials are still awash in court proceedings stemming from Trump’s big election fraud lie.

    And now, the former President’s old campaign aides are getting involved with a new lawsuit alleging misconduct by the county board of elections.

    The mess started back in December, when the county board of elections voted to spend $1.5 million to purchase new voting machines manufactured by Dominion Voting Systems.

    Dominion has become the beleaguered target of peddlers of the election fraud conspiracy theory. The company has fired off a series of defamation lawsuits against such characters in the MAGA-verse as Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, who claim falsely that Dominion machines somehow flipped votes to Biden, or erased those for Trump. In March, Dominion sued Fox News for disseminating those conspiracy theories on air for an eye-popping $1.6 billion. The network filed to dismiss the lawsuit this week.

    In March, the three-member board of Stark County commissioners — all Republicans — voted against providing the money for the 1,450 new machines after being flooded with calls from local Trump supporters.

    “They believe the election was stolen from Trump and we should stand by Trump and the Dominion machines have been known to be hacked,” Commissioner Richard Regula told the Canton Repository. “It’s been the most calls I’ve ever received as a county commissioner. … I had 17 voicemails in one day.” [Oh, FFS.]

    […] “Whenever there exists a potential cloud […] or public perception or concern regarding a vendor’s long-term viability, regardless of the cause or reason, the County must take a vendor’s long-term viability into account,” they wrote. They also questioned the cost of the machines.

    A few weeks later, the county board of elections sued the commissioners in Ohio Supreme Court, pleading for the justices to force the commissioners to cough up the money — and fast. A primary election was coming up in early May. That election came and went, and the Court still didn’t deliver a decision. It still hasn’t, meaning that the county will have to try to make the old machines work for a special election in early August too. By this point, officials are concerned that they won’t have new machines up and running for the November election either.

    […] the county board of elections has been smacked with a lawsuit by a group founded by, of course, former Trump campaign staffers.

    “The process engaged in by the Board of Elections was not transparent and open to the public,” wrote Look Ahead America Executive Director Matt Braynard in a statement. “Right before voting on the contract with Dominion, the board excluded the public for eighteen minutes from their discussion and deliberations.”

    Braynard, who led Trump’s 2016 data operations until he was fired, was nevertheless an eager participant in Trump’s attempts to overthrow the 2020 election.

    […] And so it continues for the embattled board of elections — another lawsuit, another headache, another obstacle to making needed improvements to their voting infrastructure — all because of a fantasy constructed to explain how Trump actually won the 2020 election.

    […] “The Mainstream Media and Radical Left Democrats want to stay as far away as possible from the Presidential Election Fraud, which should be one of the biggest stories of our time,” Trump wrote in a statement over the weekend, following up with a warning about the nonexistent fraud on OAN this week: “It’s being uncovered now.”

  113. says

    Follow-up to comment 144.

    Posted by readers of the article:

    By the time Dominion gets through with their rampage through the courts, they’ll be able to buy Ohio.
    ———————–
    Don’t worry, Joe Manchin is going to end all of this nonsense soon by refusing to reform the filibuster and thereby allowing the GQP to realize their goal of forever rigging our elections processes to give themselves the permanent minority-rules white Christian hegemony they’ve always dreamed of. So stay patient, the euthanasia of democracy may be slow, but it IS inevitable.
    ———————-
    Trump won Ohio! What do they think they’re gonna get, Joe winning?

    This is beyond crazy. It is, however, clear evidence of a conspiricy to destroy Dominion. Go lawsuits!
    ———————–
    It’s about making people distrust our elections.
    ———————–
    Putin couldn’t be happier with how Trump and Republicans are torching our democratic process.
    ———————
    I’m sure Dominion’s lawyers are paying very close attention to the Trumpists’ reference to “any public perception or concern regarding a vendor’s long-term viability, regardless of the cause or reason” as a reason to ditch Dominion. They could hardly have scripted better proof of their claims of harm to Dominion.
    ———————–
    Stark County went 59-41 for Trump, so I’m not opposed to Trump and Co invalidating the results.
    ———————–
    This shit is exhausting. And more State AG’s need to follow PA’s example and pursue frivolous plaintiffs.
    ——————-
    All I hear is lots of noise. Biden is controlling the adult narrative, 80 million Americans still like what he’s doing, pandemic under control, legal system moving forward – w/o obstruction. Republicans are lost, leaderless, and have no real argument to make. Plow forward Democrats.
    —————-
    So Stark County has under 200,000 voters? Well then print out paper ballots and hire some vote counters for the next two elections, or until such time the court hears and rules on the case.
    ——————-
    they normalize and spread this madness.
    ———————–
    Richard also does not seem to be a MAGA type, but he gets carried along with the flow of extremism and fails to defend truth. His words are another version of “many people are saying,” only with the added conclusion that if “many people” are saying a company such as Dominion has problems, then it inherently does have those problems and there is nothing “poor Richard” can do about it, which is a pathetic failure on Richard Regula’s part.
    ———————–
    It’s not even “many people” but more like a van load of loud, stupid people.

  114. says

    CNN: Gaetz’s Ex-Girlfriend To Cooperate With Feds In Sex Trafficking Probe

    […] While it is unclear whether that cooperation has been formalized, a report from CNN on Friday night, describes Gaetz’s ex-girlfriend as a former Capitol Hill staffer who could serve as a valuable witness due to her ties with the Florida Republican which reportedly date back to 2017. Their ties appear to overlap with a period of time that is likely of particular interest to investigators.

    According to CNN, the woman had joined Gaetz on a trip to the Bahamas in 2018, which is reportedly being examined in the probe. She may also be able to help investigators make sense of records that allegedly detail payments that may have been for sex, CNN sources said.

    […] Gaetz is currently under investigation into whether he violated sex trafficking laws and paid the same 17-year-old for sex. The young woman in question was reportedly also among the group who went on the Bahamas trip. Gaetz has repeatedly denied having paid for sex or had sex with anyone underage. Neither Gaetz nor his ex-girlfriend have been charged with any wrongdoing.

    […] CNN reported that federal investigators have been seeking information from new witnesses as recently as this month, but the news of potential cooperation from Gaetz’s former girlfriend could be pivotal in providing a potential key witness as federal authorities consider whether to potentially charge Gaetz.

  115. says

    Regarding the coming fire season:

    […] As this article from Nature reports, some fires in northern regions don’t really disappear in the fall. Instead, they just go into hiding, smoldering below the snow throughout the winter months. Then, when spring returns, these fires are already there, ready to burst forth and spread. It doesn’t take dry lightning, fallen power line, or a dude dropping a cigarette.

    […] these “overwintering fires” can actually outlast a whole fire season. They can continue burning at a very low level until time and conditions are right—like say a record drought that provides lots of dry, ready-to-burn material, and increasingly hot summers—and allow them to flare up and rage. In past years, zombie fires have accounted for over a third of the total area burned in northern forests.

    In this study, researchers from the U.S. and the Netherlands (one of those countries that keeps well-swept forests), modeled past behavior of overwintering fires, along with the conditions that allow those fires to return in the spring, and projected what those models means for the future. it almost goes without saying that what the future promises is … more zombies. More fire zombies. Which doesn’t exactly make the coming fire season any less scary.

    Link

  116. says

    DeJoy forgoes protecting the mail and mail carriers in favor of monitoring social media

    Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is still intent on messing with our U.S. Postal Service (USPS), permanently slowing down delivery of the mail, and undermining the one thing the agency is supposed to do: that whole “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” thing. What USPS has prioritized, however, is its covert operation—entitled Internet Covert Operations Program (subtle, huh)—revealed last month by Yahoo News.

    Investigative reporter Jana Winter followed up that report this week with new disclosures, including that the “the program is much broader in scope than previously known and includes analysts who assume fake identities online, use sophisticated intelligence tools and employ facial recognition software.” It uses the controversial facial recognition technology Clearview AI to spy on Americans’ images scraped from social media posts.

    The analysts searching social media posts use software called Nfusion, which lets users create and maintain untraceable and anonymous accounts on various social media sites. This allows them “to help identify unknown targets in an investigation or locate additional social media accounts for known individuals,” according to materials that Yahoo News has reviewed.

    “The U.S. Postal Inspection Service appears to be putting significant resources into covert monitoring of social media and the creation and use of undercover accounts,” said Rachel Levinson-Waldman, deputy director of the Liberty & National Security Program of the Brennan Center for Justice. “If these efforts are directed toward surveilling lawful protesters, the public and Congress need to know why this is happening, under what authority and subject to what kinds of oversight and protections.”

    […] Respecting the rights of citizens seems not to be the top priority of DeJoy’s Postal Service. Neither does delivering the mail. Take this truly horrendous example: It lost the remains of a Holocaust survivor. Eugenie Yuspeh, one of the oldest survivors of the Holocaust, died at 97 in late April in Milwaukie. She was cremated on May 3, and on May 4 her son entrusted her remains to the USPS—the only delivery service that can legally ship cremated human remains. They were to be sent overnight to New Orleans, where the family was holding her funeral. Finally, on May 15—after the intervention of news outlets and members of Congress and postal service officials—the remains were delivered.

    As of now, it doesn’t look like getting rid of DeJoy is the priority of the board of governors of the Postal Service, even with the new members appointed by President Biden now on board. [WTF! Why aren’t they firing DeJoy?] Both the House and the Senate have introduced legislation to shore up the USPS’ finances.

    That’s a start to restoring it, but it’s not enough. DeJoy’s plan to slow the mail has to be stopped. In fact, DeJoy has to be stopped. He needs to be fired.

  117. says

    Follow-up to comment 148.

    Posted by readers of the article:

    THAT is Dejoy’s goal. Make sure FedEx is faster. (It wasn’t, cost-effectively, just a short time ago) Prove that privatizing is is better than having the USPS. Then the former FedExer and the gang du jour dissolve the PO and split up the billions […] A long-game that DeJoy has seemingly reveled in trying to win on his watch.
    ——————–
    Exactly the Goal; along with No Mail In Ballots for Elections
    ———————-
    Biden needs to find a way to remove DeJoy from his position. Preferably by holding him legally accountable for his deliberate sabotaging of the Postal Service.
    ———————-
    I am still utterly baffled at why the post office would monitor anything online at all?

    What’s the goal? Protect employees? Well who are you monitoring then to accomplish that goal? The employees? That’s just sick 1984 shit.

    Job is to get things from point A to point B. Also. Passports.

    So I was and still am WTF at the news that this is even a thing.

  118. says

    600,000 Americans are dead, and Republicans are still telling people that the pandemic is a hoax

    […] consider this cluster of interviews, from members of the Republican Party who are viewed as national leaders by that party, and who are using that position of leadership to spread what are—at best—harmful lies, if not sick delusions that create genuine danger to other Americans.

    First up, Michael Flynn. Once the National Security Advisor, and before that the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, […] He’s also the man who not only lied to the FBI and got away with it because Bill Barr forced U.S. attorneys to drop the charges, but the man who met with Donald Trump at the White House following Trump’s defeat and urged him to suspend the Constitution while having the military conduct a new election.

    And now … This is Flynn explaining that COVID-19 doesn’t affect other countries, that the entire pandemic is a hoax, and that the virus was created in order to give them a distraction from the election and force people to hand over control of their bodies. Because voluntarily getting a vaccination is just like people being told they can’t control their own reproductive health. [video is available at the link]

    Flynn also seems inclined to believe that COVID-19 only came into existence just before the election, but there’s plenty of delusion in everything else he says […]

    If what Flynn was saying here seems like it might be one of those oddball outliers from the fringes of delusion-land, similar positions were being advanced by numerous Republican officials both before and after the election. Here’s Virginia Rep. Bob Good back in December, right in the middle of the biggest nationwide spike in COVID-19 cases, telling his people how they “get it” by refusing to believe in a “phony” pandemic. [video is available at the link]

    Good also tells his audience that as many people die in car accidents as have died from COVID-19, which is only off by a factor of 10, and that cars are not regulated. Because seat belts, air bags, and safety tests are absolutely not a thing.

    […] Here’s Greene [Marjorie Taylor Greene] explaining how Nancy Pelosi asking members of Congress to wear a mask in the House is exactly like Jews being rounded up during the Holocaust. [video is available at the link]

    And just for bonus points, let Madison Cawthorn explain how America would have lost the Revolutionary War if … if … Sorry, there’s no way to explain. Other than the part where Cawthorn says “the signs are clear, masks don’t work.” Which isn’t just wrong, but dangerously wrong. Which is kind of theme of this whole thing. [video is available at the link]

    Pretty sure the British surrendered to George Washington because they were defeated. Had he shown up to the negotiations wearing a Batman costume, it would have been, well, suspiciously anachronistic … but they still would have surrendered.

    At least 600,000 Americans are dead. The real number is probably somewhere on the high side of 900,000. Out of the top 10 states in terms of cases of COVID-19 per capita, nine are states with Republican governors, and eight are states Donald Trump won in 2020. This is a pandemic not only devastated the nation’s health and economy; it did so right in front of the Republican base.

    But Republicans are still not just refusing to face reality, but gaining money and influence within their party by deliberately denying reality. Which is genuinely funny … just not in a “ha ha” way.

  119. says

    Wonkette: “Let’s Have A History Lesson With Marjorie Taylor Greene And Madison Cawthorn”

    This week, several Republican members of congress were fined $500 for refusing to wear a mask on the House floor — which they have to do because while 100 percent of House Democrats are vaccinated, only 45 percent of their Republican colleagues are.

    Among those “protesting” the mask rule are noted kooks Marjorie Taylor Greene and Madison Cawthorn, both of whom have recently shared some thoughts about why they don’t want to wear masks and why those who want them to wear masks are bad, based on some extremely wrong interpretations of historical people and events.

    In the following clip, Greene claimed that by asking her to wear a mask or suggesting that perhaps unvaccinated House members could sit in a different area so that they only hurt themselves, Nancy Pelosi was this far from pinning a Star of David on her chest and sending her off to a gas chamber. [Video is available at the link]

    Transcript:

    This woman is mentally ill. You know, we can look back in a time in history where people were told to wear a gold star and they were definitely treated like second class citizens, so much so that they were put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany. And this is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about.

    Yep, this nonsense again.

    Perhaps it would surprise Greene to learn that the situation in Nazi Germany had absolutely nothing to do with a pandemic or protecting people from getting sick. There have, indeed, been many situations throughout history where people with contagious diseases were quarantined […] but that was not what happened in the Holocaust. If that is what Marjorie Taylor Greene thinks, then probably nothing can help her.

    Madison Cawthorn brought up another bad historical point that has also frequently been made by anti-maskers — the “George Washington wouldn’t have worn a mask!” theory that is based in absolutely nothing other than their own fevered imaginations. [Video is available at the link]

    Transcript:

    I just want us to imagine, really think to our founding fathers, know that we’re not descended from fearful men. Imagine if you had George Washington when he was trying to get the British to capitulate in Yorktown, except he had a mask on his face. That’s not who we’re descended from, we’re descended from men and women of valor who stood up for their own personal liberty and that’s what my friends and colleagues and I were doing on the House floor yesterday. I genuinely believe that it’s time for us to be leaders on this, let’s, I agree, let’s listen to the science, the science is clear — masks don’t work, we don’t need them it’s time for us to move on.

    Literally nothing in that statement is true, except that George Washington did fight at the siege at Yorktown. And perhaps ironically, one of the reasons why the British lost at Yorktown is because half of Cornwallis’ army died from malaria — while members of the Continental Army had built up an immunity to it. You know, like vaccines do for people. If they had not built up that immunity and Washington had refused to do anything to keep his army from contracting malaria, things might have ended differently.

    Also — George Washington’s death was very likely due to catching some kind of bug and sitting around in wet clothes at dinner, and then having several pints of blood let in an attempt to save his life. So while many wars did not kill Washington, an unknown disease of some kind did. And it’s possible that he might not have even died had his doctors had the benefit of modern medicine and current scientific understanding instead of, you know, leeches or whatever.

    Also, also — I am no great fan of George Washington, as he was pretty into keeping human beings as slaves, but I still don’t think I would compare sitting in Congress and refusing to wear a mask to fighting in a bunch of wars during the 1700s. […]

    Here’s what’s happening. Green and Cawthorn really, really don’t want to wear masks. More than that, though, they don’t like the people who are telling them they need to wear masks. They don’t like the people who are telling them the virus is real and could kill them and other people. They are also very not happy with the fact that they are the obvious villains in this situation. They very desperately want a narrative in which they are the good guys and the people telling them they need to wear masks are the bad guys, but they don’t have enough actual real life evidence to make that work. So they’re delving back into history finding good guys and bad guys and saying “Well, we’re this good guy and you’re that bad guy and we called it so now it’s true. We win!”

    […] It’s also really the same deal as the QAnon/Pizzagate people deciding that all of the people they don’t like are Satanic pedophiles. If your arguments and positions are weak, the best way to make yourself feel like the super heroic good guy is to place yourself in opposition to the worst thing on earth. They can’t do “What we want is good!” so they have to be “Actually we are George Washington and everyone who opposes us is like a Nazi who wants to send George Washington to the gas chamber for having the incredible courage to refuse a vaccine and not wear a mask.” […]

    Link

  120. says

    […] Trump was backed up by members of his campaign, such as Roger Stone. And in August 2020, Stone gave the definitive statement that would shape the future of the Republican Party.

    “I think we have widespread voter fraud, but the first thing that Trump needs to do is begin talking about it constantly,” said Stone. “If there’s voter fraud, this election will be illegitimate, the election of the winner will be illegitimate, we will have a constitutional crisis, widespread civil disobedience, and the government will no longer be the government.”

    That was the coup Trump and Stone were preparing to launch in 2016, only Trump surprised them both by winning. Still, Trump’s team understood that keeping up the myth of voter fraud was essential to their future plans, those plans being to discredit any authority except their authority. Even on Election Day 2016, Trump told Fox News that the election had been “rigged” and that there would be “large-scale fraud.”

    […] Trump didn’t stop trying to convince his followers that democracy could not be trusted. The polls were barely closed when Trump claimed that there was “serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California.” As might be expected, he offered no proof for any of these chosen-from-a-hat states.

    But it was only part of a larger claim that Trump made repeatedly: So many people had voted illegally, said Trump, that the results showing Hillary Clinton had won the popular vote were incorrect. “I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” said Trump.

    It was a claim that, like the exaggeration of the small crowd at his inauguration, was easy to laugh off as just another example of Trump’s thin skin and expansive ego. It wasn’t. It was a continuation of a key strategy going forward.

    By the time Republicans reached the 2020 election, they had literally failed to come up with an official platform. But that didn’t mean they didn’t have an unofficial one: using claims of voter fraud to end effective democracy. That was the plan. It still is. […]

    Link

  121. says

    Only the best people.

    The scandal-embroiled Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) is teaming up with one of his most controversial (and annoying) colleagues, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), to do their dear leader’s bidding in Arizona.

    The two are holding a rally in Mesa, Arizona tonight “to defend President Donald Trump in the elections audit. The Biden DOJ is trying to stop the Arizona audit. We demand accountability,” Gaetz said in a new radio ad his campaign is running in Arizona.

    Tonight’s affair will be the second in a series of “America First” rallies the two are holding, seemingly to support former President Trump and keep his fantasies of a stolen election alive and well among his base. They held an event in Florida earlier this month where Greene reportedly got the crowd riled up, proclaiming Trump was still their president. The stop in Arizona is no coincidence.

    The two have made their support for the sham audit […] well known, signing onto a letter earlier this week alongside Republican Arizona Reps. Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar asking the Justice Department to allow the sketchy audit to continue without interference. It was written seemingly in response to a letter Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela Karlan sent to the Arizona Senate president outlining the DOJ’s “concerns” about the increasingly fishy affair in Maricopa County. […]

    Link

  122. says

    ‘Beyond Reprehensible’: GOP Rep Slams Greene For Comparing Mask Policy To Holocaust

    Rep. Peter Meijer (R-MI) on Sunday took aim at Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) in response to her incendiary remarks comparing the House’s mask policy to the Holocaust.

    During an interview on Real America’s Voice on Friday, Greene complained about the House’s mandatory mask mandate on the floor and equated the policy to the mistreatment of Jews during the Holocaust.

    “You know, we can look back at a time in history when people were told to wear a gold star, and they were definitely treated like second-class citizens, so much so that they were put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany,” Greene said. “And this is exactly the type of abuse that (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi is talking about.”

    Greene, who has come under fire for her remarks, also accused Pelosi of being “mentally ill” for keeping the House’s mask requirement in place during the interview.

    Appearing on CNN on Sunday, Meijer added to the growing outcry against Greene’s comments, calling his colleague’s remarks “beyond reprehensible.”

    “Any comparisons to the Holocaust, it’s beyond reprehensible. This is, I don’t even have words to describe how disappointing it is to see this hyperbolic speech that frankly amps up and plays into a lot of the antisemitism that we’ve been seeing in our society today,” Meijer said, pointing to recent anti-Semitic attacks in New York and Los Angeles amid the latest Israel-Palestinian conflict.

    “I do condemn that in the strongest terms, there’s no excuse for that,” Meijer said, before arguing that “the most far-fetched, the most attention-seeking message” is “taking up the oxygen” on policy discussions that should be prioritized. […]

  123. says

    GOP Rep’s Top Aide Alerted Police Ahead Of Riot About Comments Overheard In Hotel Lobby

    Rep. Carlos Gimenez (R-FL) confirmed on Saturday that a top aide from his office had alerted law enforcement hours before the Jan. 6 Capitol attack about comments the aide had overheard in a hotel lobby regarding what seemed to be plans to breach the FBI building.

    During a CNN interview on Saturday, Gimenez provided his own account describing the scene in the lobby of a D.C. hotel where he was staying on the morning of Jan. 6, suggesting that while most of the people gathered there appeared to be dressed normally, the congressman and his chief of staff had also witnessed at least three men dressed in tactical gear.

    Gimenez told CNN’s Jim Acosta that his chief of staff, Alex Ferro, had overheard troubling comments from one of the men that appeared to be about storming the FBI building. [video available at the link]

    According to Gimenez, the aide called Capitol Police to alert them about the man who donned a helmet and tactical gear. The congressman said the incident took place at roughly 9 a.m.

    “At least some people were ready to cause trouble at nine o’clock in the morning,” Gimenez said on Saturday. […] “The Capitol Police and the FBI had some warning that something was going to go down,” Gimenez said.

    Ferro told the publication he made the call to law enforcement just an hour after hearing the comments.

    The GOP congressman had previously mentioned the incident at the Hyatt Regency where he was staying as an incoming lawmaker, during a separate CNN interview earlier this week.

    “I know for a fact that I saw people in my hotel room that were saying they were going to do something at 2 o’clock. And that happened at 9 o’clock in the morning,” Gimenez had said during that interview on Wednesday.

    Ferro reportedly clarified to the network that the pair had witnessed the scene in the hotel lobby, not the congressman’s hotel room. “It didn’t sit well with me,” Ferro reportedly said of what he heard. […]

  124. says

    About damned time Santorum lost that job.

    CNN Dismisses Santorum After Botched Cleanup Of Remarks About Native Americans

    CNN has ended its contract with commentator and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, weeks after he suggested that colonizers had “birthed a nation from nothing,” when they arrived on American soil.

    Alison Rudnick, vice president for communications at the network, confirmed to TPM in an email that CNN had “parted ways,” with Santorum.

    HuffPost first reported the news of Santorum’s departure on Saturday, which comes weeks after he made racist comments related to Native Americans and the nation’s founding to a room full of conservative youth last month.

    “We birthed a nation from nothing. I mean, there was nothing here,” Santorum said at a conference for the Young America’s Foundation last month. “I mean, yes we have Native Americans, but candidly there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture.”

    Responding to backlash, the former senator and unsuccessful GOP presidential candidate appeared on CNN anchor Chris Cuomo’s primetime show earlier this month, and said that he “misspoke” when he made the brazen comments at the Standing Up For Faith & Freedom Conference.

    “Just — just to be clear, what I was not saying is that Native American culture — I misspoke. I was saying — what I was talking about is, as you can see from the run-up, I was talking about the founding of our country,” Santorum said at the time.

    CNN anchor Don Lemon criticized Santorum’s missed apology hours after the commentator’s appearance on Cuomo.

    “I cannot believe the first words out of his mouth weren’t ‘I’m sorry. I said something ignorant, I need to learn about the history of this country.’ No contrition,” he said of Santorum at the time.

    Even before the comments about Native Americans, Santorum had a long history of incendiary remarks on the network since his first contract was announced in 2017. Santorum was also once a contributor at Fox News before launching a failed 2012 presidential bid. […]

  125. says

    Sad! Donald Trump is desperate to regain internet relevance, but so far, it’s just not working

    The Mar-a-Lago Blogger is having a hard time adjusting to his new role in the nation’s consciousness. According to an analysis of web traffic by The Washington Post, the worst American president in modern history just doesn’t matter as much as he used to. Banned from Twitter (permanently) and Facebook (probably permanently), the Q Anon messiah just can’t seem to find a way to dominate the national discourse.

    Sure, he launched a shitty little website, where he sells event appearances and publishes carelessly written missives “From the Desk of Donald Trump.” Admittedly, certain members of the media race to amplify those missives, often tweeting screenshots … but that keeps the conversation on Twitter.

    Which means there’s little reason to visit the Donald’s shitty little website.

    How irrelevant is the twice-impeached, would-be dictator’s online presence? Let’s check The Post’s analysis.

    Online talk about him has plunged to a five-year low. He’s banned or ignored on pretty much every major social media venue. In the last week, Trump’s website — including his new blog, fundraising page and online storefront ­— attracted fewer estimated visitors than the pet-adoption service Petfinder and the recipe site Delish. […]

    Social engagement around Trump — a measure of likes, reactions, comments or shares on content about him across Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and Pinterest — has nosedived 95 percent since January, to its lowest level since 2016.

    It’s almost like trying to destroy democracy has consequences. Sure, Trump still has a vise-like grip on the Republican Party that still considers him their king. […]

    But the rest of us? We’re enjoying the stability and calmness of the Biden-Harris presidency thus far, getting our vaccines, trying to recover from the trauma of this pandemic and the previous administration. […]

    More at the link.

  126. says

    Good News! New Data Confirms Pfizer Vaccine Is Highly Effective Against Two Variants

    […] According to new data, the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine has “high levels of effectiveness” against the highly transmissible variant found in India. The data, from Public Health England, an agency in the UK department of health, studied Pfizer’s efficacy after two doses and found it was 88 percent effective in preventing symptomatic cases of the B.1.617.2 variant.

    Researchers found that the Pfizer shot is also highly effective against B.117, the variant first found in the UK, preventing 93 percent of symptomatic cases. And as with other variants, “even higher levels of effectiveness are expected against hospitalisation and death” after the second dose, according to the UK officials. Researchers also studied the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been used widely in the UK but has not yet been approved in the US; data shows it was was 60 percent effective against the B.1.617.2 variant, and 66 percent effective against B.117. […]

  127. says

    Iran’s hard-line parliament speaker said Sunday a temporary deal between Tehran and international inspectors to preserve surveillance images taken at nuclear sites had ended, escalating tensions amid diplomatic efforts to save the Islamic Republic’s atomic accord with world powers.

    […] last-minute discussions further underscored the narrowing window for the U.S. and others to reach terms with Iran. The Islamic Republic is already enriching and stockpiling uranium at levels far beyond those allowed by its 2015 nuclear deal.

    Iran’s hard-line parliament in December approved a bill that would suspend part of U.N. inspections of its nuclear facilities if European signatories did not provide relief from oil and banking sanctions by February. The IAEA struck a three-month deal with Iran in February to have it hold the surveillance images, with Tehran threatening to delete them afterward if no deal had been reached. […]

    It also wasn’t clear what this meant for in-person inspections by the IAEA. There are 18 nuclear facilities and nine other locations in Iran under IAEA safeguards. […]

    President Joe Biden has said he’s willing for the U.S. to re-enter the nuclear deal. Weeks of negotiations in Vienna have been described as positive, though no draft agreements have been released. The U.S. also is not directly talking to Iran in the sessions.

    […] “What we haven’t yet seen is whether Iran is ready and willing to make a decision to do what it has to do,” Blinken said. “That’s the test and we don’t yet have an answer.”

    Link

  128. says

    Wonkette: “Ammon Bundy Hates The Government So Much He Wants To Be Governor Of Idaho”

    After failing for many years to beat the government, anti-government extremist Ammon Bundy has apparently decided he wants to join them. In fact, he has decided that wants to be Governor of Idaho and has filed the paperwork needed to run for the position in 2022. Sort of.

    Bundy did fill out the paperwork, but it didn’t count because no one named “Ammon Bundy” is registered to vote in the state of Idaho — a requirement for running for office in the state — and also because he listed himself as his own treasurer. Which is also not a thing one can actually do. And the treasurer needs to be a registered voter as well.

    According to a tweet from the Idaho Secretary of State “a treasurer must be a registered Idaho voter, Ammon Bundy will either need to register and refile or name a new treasurer by refiling. IDSOS staff have notified him as such.”

    Awkwardly, Bundy is currently banned from the Idaho State Capitol after having staged an anti-mask protest there last August, during which he refused to leave and had to be wheeled out in an office chair. This will obviously make being the Governor of Idaho a little difficult. Bundy was also arrested twice last month, in the span of 24 hours.

    In the event that Bundy successfully figures out his paperwork situation, he will be one of five Republicans, one “unafillliated” and zero Democrats currently running for the office. It would be lovely to say “LOL, like he’ll actually win!” but we’ve probably all learned our lesson now with that one.

    Link

    JFC.

  129. says

    “I watched the GOP’s Arizona election audit. It was worse than you think.”

    Washington Post link

    When Arizona’s secretary of state asked me if I would serve as an observer of the Arizona Senate’s audit of Maricopa County’s ballots, I expected to see some unusual things. Post-election audits and recounts are almost always conducted under the authority of local election officials, who have years of knowledge and experience. The idea of a government handing over control of ballots to an outside group, as the state Senate did when hiring a Florida contractor with no elections experience, was bizarre. This firm, Cyber Ninjas, insisted that it would recount and examine all 2.1 million ballots cast in the county in the 2020 general election.

    So I figured it would be unconventional. But it was so much worse than that. In more than a decade working on elections, audits and recounts across the country, I’ve never seen one this mismanaged.

    I was stunned to see spinning conveyor wheels, whizzing hundreds of ballots past “counters,” who struggled to mark, on a tally sheet, each voter’s selection for the presidential and Senate races. They had only a few seconds to record what they saw. Occasionally, I saw a counter look up, realize they missed a ballot and then grab the wheel to stop it. This process sets them up to make so many mistakes, I kept thinking. Humans are terrible at tedious, repetitive tasks; we’re especially bad at counting. That’s why, in all the other audits I’ve seen, bipartisan teams follow a tallying method that allows for careful review and inspection of each ballot, followed by a verification process. I’d never seen an audit use contraptions to speed things up.

    Speed doesn’t necessarily pose a problem if the audit has a process for catching and correcting mistakes. But it didn’t. Each table had three volunteers tallying the ballots, and their tally sheets were considered “done” as long as two of the three tallies matched, and the third was off by no more than two ballots. The volunteers recounted only if their tally sheets had three or more errors — a threshold they stuck to, no matter how many ballots a stack contained, whether 50 or 100. This allowed for a shocking amount of error. Some table managers told the counters to recount when there were too many errors; other table managers just instructed the counters to fix their “math mistakes.” At no point did anyone track how many ballots they were processing at their station, to ensure that none got added or lost during handling.

    I also observed other auditors working on a “forensic paper audit,” flagging ballots as “suspicious” for a variety of reasons. One was presidential selection: If someone thought the voter’s choice looked as though it had been marked by a machine, they flagged it as “anomalous.” Another was “missing security markers.” (It’s virtually impossible for a ballot to be missing its security markers, since voting equipment is designed to reject ballots without them.) The third was paper weight — the forensics tables had scales for weighing ballots, though I never saw anyone use them — and texture. Volunteers scrutinized ballots for, of all things, bamboo fibers. Only later, after the shift, did I learn that this was connected to groundless speculation that fake ballots had been flown in from South Korea.

    The fourth reason was folding. The auditors reasoned that only absentee voters would fold their ballots; an in-person, Election Day voter would take a flat ballot, mark it in the booth and submit it, perfectly pristine. I almost had to laugh: In my experience, voters will fold ballots every which way, no matter where they vote or what the ballot instructs them to do. Chalk it up to privacy concerns or individual quirks — but no experienced elections official would call that suspicious.

    At one point, I overheard some volunteers excitedly discussing a stain on a ballot. “It looks like a Cheeto finger,” one said. “Like someone’s touched it with cheese dust!” That had to be suspicious, their teammate agreed. Why would someone come to the polls with cheese powder on their hands? But I’ve seen ballots stained with almost anything you can imagine, including coffee, grease and, yes, cheese powder. Again, when you have experience working with hundreds of thousands of ballots, you see some messes: That’s evidence of humanity’s idiosyncrasies, not foul play.

    Their equipment worried me more than their wild theorizing. At the forensics tables, auditors took a photo of each ballot using a camera suspended by a frame, then passed the ballot to someone operating a lightbox with four microscope cameras attached. This was a huge deviation from the norm. Usually, all equipment that election officials use to handle a ballot — from creating to scanning to tallying it — has been federally tested and certified; often, states will conduct further tests before their jurisdictions accept the machines. It jarred me to see volunteers using this untested, uncertified equipment on ballots, claiming that the images would be used at some point in the future for an electronic re-tally.

    […] procedures should never change in the middle of an audit. Here, they did, and not just a couple of times, but almost daily. […]

    This is not an audit, and I don’t see how this can have a good outcome.

  130. says

    Belarus Forces Down Plane to Seize Dissident; Europe Sees ‘State Hijacking’

    New York Times link

    The dissident, Roman Protasevich, co-founded a Telegram channel that is a popular opposition outlet in Belarus. The plane was flying from Athens to Lithuania when it was forced down.

    The strongman president of Belarus sent a fighter jet to intercept a European airliner traveling through the country’s airspace on Sunday and ordered the plane to land in the capital, Minsk, where a prominent opposition journalist aboard was then seized, provoking international outrage.

    The stunning gambit by Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, a brutal and erratic leader who has clung to power despite huge protests against his government last year, was condemned by European officials, who called it a “state hijacking.” But it also underscored that with the support of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Mr. Lukashenko is prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to repress dissent.

    The Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania, carrying some 170 passengers — among them the journalist, Roman Protasevich, 26 — was flying over Belarus when Belarusian air traffic controllers notified its pilots of “a potential security threat on board” and directed the plane to divert to Minsk, the Ireland-based airline said in a statement.

    Mr. Lukashenko, often referred to as “Europe’s last dictator,” personally ordered a MiG-29 fighter jet to escort the Ryanair plane to the Minsk airport, his press service said. According to the statement, Mr. Lukashenko gave an “unequivocal order” to “make the plane do a U-turn and land.” […]

    Mr. Protasevich’s arrest demonstrated the lengths to which Mr. Lukashenko is ready to go in order to pursue his political opponents. Many of them have sought safe heaven in exile in Lithuania and Poland, but Sunday’s events showed that Mr. Lukashenko can reach them even in the air.

    Both Lithuania and Greece are members of the European Union. Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, the E.U.’s executive body, called the situation “utterly inadmissible.” The Greek Foreign Ministry called it a “state hijacking.”

    Greece’s prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, said on Twitter, “The forced landing of a commercial plane to detain a journalist is an unprecedented, shocking act.” Calling for stepped-up pressure on Belarus, he said, “Enough is enough.” […]

    But in Russia — where the state media described last year’s uprising against Mr. Lukashenko as a Western plot — the arrest met with approval among Mr. Putin’s supporters. Margarita Simonyan, editor of the pro-Kremlin RT television network, wrote on Twitter that Mr. Lukashenko “played it beautifully.” And Vyacheslav Lysakov, a member of Parliament allied with Mr. Putin, described Mr. Protasevich’s arrest as a “brilliant special operation.” […]

    Ms. Tikhanovskaya, Mr. Lukashenko’s main opponent during the last presidential election in August, which was widely regarded as rigged, called the episode with the Ryanair flight “an operation by the special services to hijack an aircraft in order to detain activist and blogger Roman Protasevich.”

    “Not a single person who flies over Belarus can be sure of his safety,” she said.

  131. says

    It was near the beginning of the pandemic, in mid-April of 2020, when a stranger spit on me. After apparently taking note of my hospital badge and mask, he announced that even though I was a doctor, I “brought the sickness.” He called me “Hindu,” along with a string of profanities.

    I got away quickly, washed the saliva out of my hair in a hospital bathroom and started my day. I had other things on my mind: Those of us in medicine were working extra shifts, even as the virus changed our lives.

    I felt intense pride about being a doctor — I’m a psychiatrist who was working in a hospital in the Boston area — when the country needed me most, and it made me feel deeply American. I felt needed and seen […] I monitored my temperature and oxygen twice a day and quarantined away from my young children. I drove out to far-flung medical supply stores, finding stashes of personal protective equipment and sharing them with house staff members and other health workers. I offered extra masks to grocery store clerks and donated cleaning supplies to hospitals with shortages. I had never served in war before, but now I was enlisted.

    I focused on all this, instead of the stranger’s cruel words.

    The truth is, I had experienced the same kind of hate and bigotry before, in public places and in health care settings, but until this year I didn’t fully grapple with or fully acknowledge the impact of such aggression. My medical training encouraged me to focus on the work and deny and minimize the discrimination I faced.

    But the recent rise in attention to anti-Asian hate has forced me to reckon with how we Asian-American women doctors are demeaned as a group, and how even the valor we display when we show up to work to risk our lives during a pandemic doesn’t protect us from having to endure racism and sexism.

    My awareness of this grew gradually as the pandemic went on, and all around us, anti-Asian bigotry seemed to be intensifying. Donald Trump’s use of cruel phrases — “Chinese Virus” and, later, “Kung Flu” — no doubt inspired some of the abuse. The murders of Asian-American women in the Atlanta area and the spate of brutal beatings of Asian-Americans, including elders and women, have made such hate impossible to ignore.

    […] I’ve been similarly stereotyped by colleagues and patients. Docile and passive. Deferential. Tentative. Servile. The persistent, pernicious American prejudice about women like me undermines us on a daily basis. Our white coats and hospital badges don’t discourage aggression — they make us a target for it. Our very existence in these relatively powerful roles challenges white male dominance.

    It’s no surprise that one of the first Asian-American doctors to practice medicine in the United States, Dr. Margaret Chung, was allowed to train but forced to work only as a nurse for the first few months after she graduated from medical school in 1916.

    […] Last year, only 64 medical department chairs in the country, out of more than three thousand surveyed, were occupied by Asian-American women doctors (compared with 2,037 by white men, and only 49 by Black women, who have themselves endured discriminatory treatment).

    […] I still feel proud of my work at the hospital during the pandemic. But I can no longer look away from the specific, fetishizing, gendered hate that Asian-American women face, both in and out of the hospital setting. Something has to change. Our valor should be reserved for coping with the challenges of a pandemic; it shouldn’t be required to endure the distorted perceptions and ugly words that Asian-American women encounter every day.

    New York Times link

  132. Pierce R. Butler says

    TPM via Lynna @ # 156: … Santorum had a long history of incendiary remarks on the network since his first contract was announced in 2017.

    I came up with an idea at the time, that some executive had ordered a certified Republican join the CNN cast and the incumbent liberals had deliberately chosen the absolutely worst mouthpiece for conservatism available.

    Nothing since then has confirmed, nor contradicted, that hypothesis, though now at least the coast seems clear for somebody’s memoirs to reveal some part of that decision. Will the inevitable replacement designated-deplorable match the same pattern?

  133. KG says

    “What we haven’t yet seen is whether Iran is ready and willing to make a decision to do what it has to do,” Blinken said. “That’s the test and we don’t yet have an answer.” – Lynna,OM@159, quoting Politico

    Just a small point, Mr. Blinken: it was the USA, not Iran, that trashed the agreement keeping Iran’s nuclear technologies restricted and under international surveillance. What we haven’t yet seen is whether the USA is ready and willing to make a decision to do what it has to do to. That’s the test and we don’t yet have an answer.

  134. says

    Guardian – “Sasha Johnson: BLM activist in critical condition after gunshot to the head”:

    The Black Lives Matter activist Sasha Johnson is in a critical condition after sustaining a gunshot wound to her head in an incident in south London, her affiliated group, Taking the Initiative party, has announced on social media.

    In a statement on the group’s Facebook page, the party said the incident happened in the early hours of Sunday and followed “numerous death threats”.

    Johnson is a prominent member of TTIP, which has been described as “Britain’s first Black-led political party”. She rose to prominence after last year’s BLM protests spread around the country, helping to organise marches and addressing crowds.

    She has worked in activism and community support and achieved a first-class degree in social care at Oxford Brookes University.

    A [Met police] spokesperson said that, while the investigation was at an early stage, there was nothing to suggest it was a targeted attack or that the woman had received any credible threats against her before this incident. Detectives from the Met’s specialist crime command (Trident) were leading the investigation.

    DCI Jimi Tele said: “This was a shocking incident that has left a young woman with very serious injuries. Our thoughts are with her family who are being provided with support at this terribly difficult time.”

    He said detectives were making “good progress” in hunting the attackers but they needed help from the public and it was “crucial” that anyone who saw anything suspicious in the Consort Road area in the early hours of Sunday or who had heard information since then get in touch.

    Tele added: “Finally, I recognise that this incident will have shocked those in the local community and further afield. I would ask people to avoid speculating as to the motive or the circumstances behind it.”

    No arrests have so far been made.

    I find the police statements perplexing.

  135. says

    BBC with more – “Sasha Johnson: Black Lives Matter activist critical after shooting, party says”:

    …Imarn Ayton, a friend of Ms Johnson’s, told the BBC doctors had carried out surgery on her fellow activist which had gone well and she was “now with her parents”.

    She said Ms Johnson had been at a party or gathering when she was injured but she did not believe “she was the intended victim”.

    “As far as I am aware… this incident is more related to rival gangs as opposed to her activism,” Ms Ayton said.

    Detectives from the Met’s Specialist Crime Command have been investigating at the scene and the surrounding area and are pursuing a number of lines of inquiry.

    It is believed the shooting happened near a house where a party was taking place and a number of people may have been in the area, a Met Police statement said….

  136. says

    Here’s a link to the May 24 Guardian coronavirus world liveblog.

    From there:

    The World Health Organization (WHO) has started its annual member states’ meeting this morning.

    French president Emmanuel Macron called for the body to be empowered to visit countries rapidly in case of outbreaks with potential to spark a pandemic, and to access data.

    In separate pre-recorded remarks, German chancellor Angela Merkel called for funding to be improved and backed the idea of a new international treaty to prevent pandemics.

    Director general Tedros Adhanom is speaking at the moment, and has said a “scandalous inequity” in vaccine distribution is perpetuating the pandemic.

    India’s overall death toll from Covid crossed 300,000 on Monday, as it reported 4,454 deaths over the last 24 hours. Its daily coronavirus infections rose by 222,315.

    The International Olympic Committee’s insistence that “sacrifices” must be made to ensure the Games go ahead in Tokyo regardless of the coronavirus situation in Japan has sparked a backlash and more calls for them to be cancelled. Japan opened its first mass vaccination centres on Monday in a bid to speed up a cautious Covid-19 inoculation programme

    The UK has reported five new deaths with 28 days of a positive Covid test. That puts the seven-day average down to just over seven deaths per day.

    Israel will end local Covid-19 restrictions following its vaccine rollout that has nearly stamped out new infections, the country’s health minister said.

    At least 115,000 health and care workers have died from Covid-19 since the onset of the pandemic, the World Health Organization chief has said at the organisation’s annual member states’ meeting as he called for more equitable distribution of vaccines.

    Director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledged the sacrifices made by these workers during the health crisis, adding that they have often lacked access to personal protective equipment and, more recently, vaccines.

    “For almost 18 months, health and care workers all over the world have stood in the breach between life and death,” he said. “They have saved countless lives and fought for others who, despite their best efforts, slipped away.”

    Tedros added: “Many have themselves become infected, and while reporting is scant, we estimate that at least 115,000 health and care workers have paid the ultimate price in the service of others.”

    He underlined the inequitable global distribution of vaccines, with more than 75% of the world’s doses going to just 10 countries.

    “The number of doses administered globally so far would have been enough to cover all health workers and older people if they had been distributed equitably,” he said.

  137. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    A study published on Monday found that people who are infected with coronavirus give off a distinct odour, which highly trained dogs can detect with pinpoint precision.

    The paper, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, found that dogs could detect Covid-19 on clothing worn by infected people with up to 94.3% sensitivity: they would correctly identify 94 out of every 100 infected people. This compares with a sensitivity of 58-77% for lateral flow tests, and 97.2% for PCR tests.

    In other news, the numbers on the CDC site suggest that the US will hit 50% of adults fully vaccinated and 50% of the population with at least one dose in the next few days, and possibly today. The wide gaps in vaccination rates among the states continue.

  138. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    Malta ‘achieves herd immunity’ vaccinating up to 70 per cent of adult population

    Malta has vaccinated up to 70 per cent of the adult population with least one dose of the vaccine, the first country in the EU to reach this goal.

    While addressing a press conference on Monday, the health minister, Chris Fearne said the nation has now reached ‘herd immunity’ against coronavirus.

    “Today we have reached herd immunity. The vaccine is a weapon against the virus,” the health minister said.

    Malta is currently vaccinating people at a faster rate than its EU peers.

    Fearne said by Monday evening 70% of adults will have received at least the first dose of the vaccine, while 42% of the population have been completely vaccinated at this stage.

    He encouraged people aged 16-29 to come forward and register, saying 52% of this age group had signed up so far.

    He was speaking as Malta entered another phase in its reopening timeline – with gyms and pools welcoming back patrons on Monday and restaurants allowed to open until midnight. People who are fully vaccinated will not have to wear a mask outdoors from July.

    The health minister said a vaccine certificate would be launched in the coming days and from July authorities would be able to use this to begin to open cultural and entertainment events.

    According to official figures released by Malta’s health authorities on Monday, a total of 474,475 COVID-19 vaccination jabs have been administered so far. The figures show that 302,933 of these were first doses.

  139. says

    From today’s DN! headlines:

    Israel-Hamas Ceasefire Holds as Gazans Face Grief and Destruction After Israeli Assault

    A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas continues to hold as Egyptian mediators try to maintain the relative calm that follows Israel’s brutal 11-day assault on the Gaza Strip, which killed at least 248 Palestinians, including 66 children. But tensions in the region remained high over the weekend as Israeli forces and settlers entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem multiple times since Friday, with local outlets reporting attacks on Palestinian worshipers. Gazans have begun to clean up the wreckage as they surveyed the devastating aftermath of the Israeli bombardment.

    The U.N. said it is launching an aid appeal for the Gaza Strip, where fears are mounting COVID-19 could further spike after residents were forced to flee their homes and shelter together from the bombing. The U.S. has said it would contribute to helping rebuild Gaza, while refusing to condemn the death and destruction wrought by Israel.

    Meanwhile, massive protests in solidarity with the Palestinian people took place around the globe again this weekend, including here in the U.S. An estimated 180,000 people took part in a London march….

    India’s Official COVID Death Toll Passes 300,000, Latin America Tops 1 Million Deaths

    India recorded over 4,400 new COVID fatalities today, bringing its official death toll over 300,000 — just the third country to pass the tragic milestone after the U.S. and Brazil. Its daily cases have dropped significantly from early this month, with around 220,000 reported today. Experts say both numbers are vast undercounts.

    Latin America has now recorded over 1 million COVID-19 deaths — around 30% of the world’s death toll, despite accounting for just 8% of the global population. Brazil represents around 45% of the region’s fatalities. On Friday, the state of Maranhão issued a fine to far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for refusing to respect local health rules by holding a mass gathering and not wearing a face mask.

    This all comes as the World Health Organization said Friday the true global death toll for COVID-19 is likely two to three times higher than official reports.

    Average of Daily U.S. Coronavirus Infections Falls Below 30,000 for First Time Since June

    Here in the U.S., the seven-day rolling average of daily coronavirus cases has fallen below 30,000 for the first time since last June, with daily deaths also at a similar level to last summer. Hospitalizations are also way down. At least eight states — Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Vermont and Hawaii — have now given at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose to 70% of their adult population. Here in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio just announced schools will open in full in September with no remote option.

    Biden Administration to Extend Temporary Protected Status to 100,000 Haitians in U.S.

    The Biden administration is granting more than 100,000 Haitians in the U.S. the chance to gain temporary protected status, or TPS, which includes work permits and protection from deportation while Haiti suffers a political crisis. Haitian President Jovenel Moïse continues to refuse calls to step down, even as human rights groups report he has sanctioned attacks against civilians in impoverished neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, with targeted assassinations and threats against government critics carried out with impunity. President Biden deported more Haitians during his first two months than Donald Trump did in the last year of his presidency. We’ll have more on the Biden administration’s decision to grant TPS to Haitian immigrants later in the broadcast.

    Weekend Mass Shootings Around U.S. Leave 11 Dead, 69 Injured

    The United States experienced another weekend of deaths and injuries from at least 12 mass shootings. At least 11 people were killed and 69 injured from gun violence in New Jersey, South Carolina, Georgia, Ohio and Minnesota. The nonprofit Gun Violence Archive reported 2021 is the second straight year the U.S. has seen over 60 mass shootings in the month of May, with 229 mass shootings recorded since the start of the year.

    Alden Global Capital Hedge Fund to Purchase Tribune Newspaper Chain

    In media news, shareholders have approved the purchase of Tribune Publishing by New York hedge fund Alden Global Capital for $633 million. Tribune Publishing’s many newspapers include the Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun and New York Daily News. Alden, which already owns around 100 newspapers and 200 publications, is known for making major cuts to local papers in pursuit of profit. The outlet More Perfect Union reports Alden slashed the staff of The Denver Post by 75% and closed six newsrooms in 2020. About half of daily local newspaper circulation in the U.S. is now controlled by hedge funds.

  140. says

    Guardian – “Liz Cheney won’t link Trump’s election lies to restrictive Republican voting laws”:

    The Republican pariah Liz Cheney has repeatedly refused to admit a link between Donald Trump’s lies about voter fraud and restrictive voting laws being introduced in Republican states, telling an interviewer on Sunday night she will “never understand the resistance to voter ID”.

    “There’s a big difference between that and a president of the United States who loses an election after he tried to steal the election and refuses to concede,” said the Wyoming representative ejected from party leadership for opposing the former president.

    …Cheney has ranged herself against Trump but when pressured by Axios on HBO interviewer Jonathan Swan, she stayed in lockstep with her party.

    To Cheney’s remark about resistance to voter ID laws, Swan countered: “Even the Republican lieutenant governor of Georgia, Jeff Duncan, said … when this bill was started that the momentum was when Rudy Giuliani was testifying that the Georgia election was a sham.”

    “Four hundred-some voting bills have been introduced,” Swan said, “90% by Republicans, supported by the Republican National Committee. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that after the election, this has happened.”

    Cheney said: “I think everybody should want a situation and a system where people who want to vote and ought to have the right to vote, vote, and people that don’t shouldn’t. And again I come back to things like voter ID.”

    Actual instances of voter fraud or attempted voter fraud are few and far between. Some involve Trump voters. Nonetheless, state Republican parties have pursued strict laws while in Arizona the GOP has gone so far as to conduct a highly controversial recount in the most populous county.

    “But what problems are [these laws] solving?” Swan asked. “What are all these states doing?”

    “Well,” said Cheney, “each state is different.”

    Swan asked what the problem was in Georgia, or Texas, or Florida.

    “I think you’ve got to look at each individual state law,” Cheney said.

    Swan said: “But you can’t divorce them from the context. Come on.”

    Cheney said: “But I think what we can all agree on is that what is happening right now is really dangerous.”

    Swan said: “I can agree with that.”

    Cheney switched back to her preferred subject – Trump’s refusal to concede defeat, which led to the deadly attack on the Capitol by his supporters on 6 January, over which more than 400 people have been charged, while Republicans in Congress oppose a 9/11-style investigation….

  141. says

    From text quoted by SC in comment 173, “The health minister said a vaccine certificate would be launched in the coming days and from July authorities would be able to use this to begin to open cultural and entertainment events.”

    Excellent plan. It’s really too bad that we have so many unreasonable doofuses in the USA that such a plan will probably not work here, at least not nationwide.

  142. says

    Update:

    ! According to his mother, Roman Protasevich is in hospital in critical condition – heart disease.

    FYI, 3 days ago another Belarusian political prisoner – Witold Ashurok – has died of an alleged ‘heart disease’. His family last heard from him on 30 April, although previously they got letters from him every 10 days. Prison officials still refuse to hand his body over to family.

  143. says

    Republicans target democracy from multiple directions, all at once

    It’s as if Republicans pondered every way in which a democracy could be “fixed” in their favor, and launched an offensive on every front, all at once.

    When political observers take note of Republican efforts to curtail democracy, one of the principal lines of attack is voter-suppression measures. […]

    …Georgia is hardly the only state that’s made it harder to vote this year. Republican lawmakers have now enacted new voting restrictions in a total of 11 states — Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, Utah and Wyoming.

    But there’s no reason to stop there. There are also election administration concerns.

    “In 2021, state legislatures across the country — through at least 148 bills filed in 36 states — are moving to muscle their way into election administration, as they attempt to dislodge or unsettle the executive branch and/or local election officials who, traditionally, have run our voting systems.” That is the conclusion of a recent report, “A Democracy Crisis in the Making,” by two nonpartisan organizations, States United Democracy Center and Protect Democracy, and a nonprofit law firm in Wisconsin, Law Forward.

    Republicans also intend to duplicate Arizona’s bonkers election “audit” by exporting the scheme. “Republican county committees around the country are making requests to do forensic audits, according to multiple state secretaries of state, and local officials nationwide are fielding bizarre offers from unqualified ‘auditors.'”

    On a related note, plenty of Republicans intend to replace secretaries of state with far-right partisans, who’ll approach the administration of future elections in a Trumpier way. “Republicans who sought to undercut or overturn President Joe Biden’s election win are launching campaigns to become their states’ top election officials next year, alarming local officeholders and opponents who are warning about pro-Trump, “ends justify the means” candidates taking big roles in running the vote.”

    Republicans are also targeting the volunteers who work at local polling places. “Republican lawmakers in Texas, following in the footsteps of their counterparts across the country, are pressing forward with a voting bill that could impose harsh penalties on election officials or poll workers who are thought to have committed errors or violations.”

    GOP officials are also curtailing the ability of Americans to pursue policy goals through ballot initiatives.”[T]his year, Republican-led legislatures in Florida, Idaho, South Dakota and other states have passed laws limiting the use of the practice, […] So far in 2021, Republicans have introduced 144 bills to restrict the ballot initiative processes in 32 states, according to the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, a liberal group that tracks and assists citizen-driven referendums. Of those bills, 19 have been signed into law by nine Republican governors”

    By some measures, Republicans are even exploring ways to make it more difficult for Americans to turn to the courts in the hopes of protecting voting rights. “A new Brennan Center analysis identified at least 93 bills in 26 states introduced this year that threaten judicial independence by limiting courts’ power or injecting more politics into state judiciaries. According to the analysis, in at least eight of these states, bills have specifically targeted election-related cases. And in 21 states, broader court bills were introduced that would impact election cases, among others, by changing how judges are selected, which courts hear cases challenging the constitutionality of state actions or how judicial decisions are enforced.”

    It’s not enough to say that Republican officials are interfering with Americans’ voting rights, though they are. What’s striking is the multi-faceted quality of the campaign. It’s as if GOP officials pondered every possible way in which the democracy could be “fixed” in their favor, and decided to launch an offensive on every front, all at once.

    In isolation, each of the aforementioned reports is important, but collectively, they create an ugly mosaic. The image is one of a major political party that believes the key to acquiring and maintaining power is less about broadening appeal through the power of ideas, and more about rigging the system, across multiple fronts, to defy the will of the electorate.

    If Democrats — and democrats — fail to appreciate the gravity of the situation, the consequences for our system of government will likely be severe.

    Additional, embedded links to source material are available at the main link.

  144. says

    Bits and pieces of campaign news:

    […] * In New Mexico’s congressional special election to fill the vacancy left by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Democrats are cautiously optimistic, but not taking any chances: Roll Call reports that the party and its allies “have rushed to support” New Mexico state Rep. Melanie Stansbury’s (D) candidacy. Election Day in the district is a week from tomorrow, though early voting is underway.

    * According to a local Fox affiliate in Minnesota, a Republican strategist named Kip Christianson, who was on the Republican National Committee’s payroll during the last election cycle, recruited Kevin Ne Se Shores to run for Congress last year. That wouldn’t be especially notable except Shores, who is blind and permanently disabled, was recruited to run against then-Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) as a candidate for the Grassroots Legalize Cannabis Party, and he now believes he was tricked.

    * And in Arizona, state Rep. Daniel Hernandez (D), perhaps best known as a former Gabrielle Giffords staffer who helped save her life after a 2011 shooting, is now running for Congress in the district Giffords used to represent.

    Link

  145. says

    Just when it seemed the Arizona Republicans’ election “audit” couldn’t become an even bigger fiasco, the story somehow managed to get a little worse.

    […] The Arizona Republic reported yesterday:

    An organization run by an ardent supporter of former President Donald Trump will help decide who counts ballots when the Arizona audit of 2020 election results resumes Monday. An email obtained by The Arizona Republic shows a nonprofit started by former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne will handle background checks, non-disclosure agreements and volunteer agreements of audit workers.

    Before proceeding, let’s take a moment to review some of what we’ve learned about Patrick Byrne.

    Late last year, as Donald Trump grew increasingly desperate about nullifying his own country’s election results, the then-president formed a new inner circle. As the Washington Post reported shortly before Christmas, Trump had turned to “a ragtag group of conspiracy theorists, media-hungry lawyers and other political misfits in a desperate attempt to hold on to power after his election loss.”

    The article added that there were officials who tried to level with Trump, but he “sidelined” those who told him the truth, and embraced fringe figures instead. One of the figures who gathered around the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office last December was Byrne, who famously had a lengthy romantic relationship with a Russian spy, and who denounced the U.S. charges against his former girlfriend on Overstock letterhead. He was ousted as the company’s CEO soon after.

    Byrne went on to start echoing the kind of bonkers conspiracy theories espoused by Sidney Powell — another member of Trump’s inner circle from last December — and sharing his strange ideas with the likes of Glenn Beck.

    Reflecting on Byrne’s circuitous path, Jon Chait joked a while back, “There was once a time, years ago, when ‘CEO falls for Russian spy, goes mad, gets fired, becomes presidential strategist’ would have been a major story in itself, not merely a colorful side plot.”

    […] And now, according to the Arizona Republic’s reporting, Byrne’s outfit “will help decide” who’s responsible for counting the ballots. Would could possibly go wrong?

    Remember, there’s no reason whatsoever to question Arizona’s official vote tally. The ballots have been counted and recounted. There have already been two independent audits, which found literally nothing untoward.

    But for Republican conspiracy theorists in the Arizona state Senate, reality was unsatisfying, so they’ve turned to Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based outfit with no qualifications, and which is run by a QAnon conspiracy theorist, to oversee a laughable process. The process will now apparently be staffed in part by locals who are vetted by an entirely different conspiracy theorist.

    This madness will not end anytime soon, and just as importantly, Republicans in other states are eager to follow Arizona’s lead.

    Link

  146. says

    The Republican Study Committee has put its budget plan in writing. Democrats would be smart to recognize this as a gift.

    The White House is scheduled to release President Joe Biden’s first budget plan this week, which will likely include the Democrat’s fiscal blueprint for the next decade. […] congressional Republicans will denounce the document using predictable talking points about government spending and deficits, which the party forgot to care about over the last four years.

    […] the Republican Study Committee, one of the dominant caucuses in the House, unveiled a budget plan of its own a few days ago, and as the Washington Post’s Henry Olsen explained, the blueprint is an amazing piece of work.

    […] most notable features are its changes to the major entitlement programs most Americans rely on in old age. The age at which one receives full Social Security benefits would go up to 69 by 2030, from a planned rise to 67 in 2022. Medicare’s eligibility age would rise from 65 to 69. Combined, these increases would likely keep many aging Americans in the workforce for years more than they expect or desire.

    Olsen added that under the Republican Study Committee’s plan, Medicare’s structure “would also be thoroughly transformed.” That’s an understatement: Medicare currently exists as a guaranteed benefit for seniors, providing coverage through a robust government insurance program. The RSC intends to replace Medicare with a new model in which seniors would get a subsidy to purchase private insurance, and in the instances in which the Republicans’ health care coupon doesn’t cover enough of the costs, the out-of-pocket burdens for the elderly would be considerable. [Yikes!]

    In case this weren’t quite enough, the Republican Study Committee’s budget calls for turning Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the Affordable Care Act exchange marketplaces into lump-sum block-grants to states, which would in turn be free to scale back the scale and scope of the social-insurance programs.

    […] In case any readers are seeing this and feeling some anxiety about their personal wellbeing, it’s important to emphasize that the Republican Study Committee’s plan will not pass. So long as there’s a Democratic majority on Capitol Hill, proposals like these have literally no chance of success. [Right! “So long as …]

    So why would such a blueprint be important, if it will inevitably fail? For a couple of reasons.

    […] the Democrats’ hold on the reins of power may not last long. Traditionally, the president’s party loses quite a few seats two years after a national election, and given the Dems’ thin margins in both chambers, the prospect of GOP majorities on the Hill in a couple of years is quite real.

    What kind of proposals do Republicans have in mind? As it turns out, they’ve put some of these ideas in writing.

    Which leads us to other reason the RSC budget plan is so important: it’s a rare peek into the Republican Party’s actual agenda. […] The Republican Study Committee, representing nearly three-quarters of the House GOP conference, has put its budget plan in writing.

    If Democrats are smart, they’ll not only bring the RSC plan to the floor for a vote, forcing Republicans to go on the record, yea or nay, on their party’s budget blueprint, Democrats will also take full advantage of such of a document ahead of next year’s midterm elections.

  147. says

    Sondland Demands Pompeo Pay $1.8 Million In Impeachment Legal Fees

    Gordon Sondland, the former U.S. ambassador to the EU, is suing former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the government in a bid to have one of the two pay for $1.8 million in legal fees incurred during the 2019 Ukraine impeachment inquiry.

    […] When the impeachment inquiry began in September 2019, Sondland alleged, he met with Pompeo and received an assurance: while government lawyers would not represent him in the inquiry, the State Department would reimburse Sondland for all of his legal costs relating to the impeachment.

    But when it came time to pay up in February 2020, Sondland said, State Department officials told Sondland that “the Administration wanted to purge everyone remotely connected to the Impeachment trial.”

    […] He played a key role in affirming that there was a quid pro quo at the heart of the scandal, in which the Ukrainian government would have to deliver on damaging information about the Bidens in exchange for military aid and high-level White House contacts.

    “Was there a quid pro quo?” Sondland told Congress. “The answer is yes.”

    […] “Testifying truthfully and candidly before Congress as cameras roll was in fact a fireable offense in Pompeo’s Department of State,” the lawsuit reads, saying that Sondland uttered “words that were entirely candid and truthful (but uncomfortable to the Trump Administration).”

    […] “Indeed, Pompeo was making a promise that was not the type of act he was employed to perform, and which was not motivated by a desire to serve the Government,” the lawsuit alleges. “Instead, it was entirely for self-serving personal or political reasons in the hopes that Ambassador Sondland would not implicate him or others through his testimony.”

    Those same political motivations spurred Pompeo’s refusal to make good on the deal, Sondland argues, saying that it was “abandoned apparently for political convenience.”

    […] Should Pompeo attempt to argue that his promise to Sondland exceeded his authority as secretary of state, Sondland says that he will demand Pompeo cover the $1.8 million in legal fees.

    “In the alternative, if Pompeo attempts to assert that he did not possess the authority to bind the Government to reimburse Ambassador Sondland’s attorneys’ fees, Pompeo was at all times acting for his own self-serving personal or political reasons, to further his interests to protect himself and others,” the lawsuit reads. “Thus, in the alternative, Plaintiff seeks to hold Pompeo personally liable for misrepresenting his authority.”

  148. says

    Getting into position to cheat:

    […] a handful [of Republicans] have launched campaigns to become their states’ top election officials:

    Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia, who voted against certifying the 2020 Electoral College results and joined a lawsuit to overturn the results.

    Arizona state Rep. Mark Finchem, who has pushed the sham election audit in Arizona’s largest county, Maricopa.

    Nevada’s Jim Marchant, who sued to overturn his 5-point congressional loss last year.

    Michigan’s Kristina Karamo, who devoted herself to claiming election fraud in every pro-conspiracy outlet that would take her.

    All four are making bids to control elections in battleground states that will likely prove critical to determining which party controls Congress once the dust settles from the 2022 cycle. That prospect even has some Republican officials worried about how bad actors could undermine the integrity of state elections.

    Someone who is running for an election administration position, whose focus is not the rule of law but instead ‘the ends justifies the means,’ that’s very dangerous in a democracy,” Bill Gates, Republican vice chair of the Board of Supervisors in Maricopa County, Arizona, told Politico. “This is someone who is trying to tear at the foundations of democracy.”

    In Georgia and Nevada, these conspiracy-minded Trumpers are running to replace Republicans who they believe betrayed Trump and his voters by adhering to their oaths of office. But in Arizona and Michigan, they are hoping to replace Democrats who ran their state’s elections.

    […] “Any secretary of state who is a chief elections official is going to have a megaphone and a media platform during the election,” Grayson said. “A lot of the power is the perception of power, or that megaphone.”

    The scenario that is currently playing out in Arizona with the sham audit of Maricopa County offers a window into the havoc one maligned actor with a platform could wreak. While actual Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has been laboring to reassure and educate voters about 2020 election integrity, one of the candidates to replace her, Finchem, has been pushing conspiracy theories as the audit progresses.

    On Twitch, where many alt-right, pro-conspiracy voices broadcast, Finchem railed against mainstream media for calling the baseless fraud claims “baseless.”

    “I hate to break the news to you, but just in case you news people haven’t been paying attention, there’s a lot of evidence that’s already out there,” Finchem said. “We’ve got the proof, we’ve got the receipts.”

    There’s still no proof. There’s still no receipts. All there is in Maricopa right now is the corruption of the process at the hands of people who have zero experience in administering elections. Despite having no proof of their claims, Finchem and others are both preying on and pumping the hopes of Trumpers who still haven’t accepted the simple fact that their guy lost. Nationwide, that’s roughly two-thirds of GOP voters based on repeated polling of the issue.

    Link

  149. says

    Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-Pa.) became the sixth House member to be issued a $5,000 fine for failing to complete a security screening before entering the House chamber last week, the House Ethics Committee revealed on Monday.

    The Capitol Police report filed with the fine notification states that Smucker entered the House chamber without undergoing a security screening last Wednesday, even though a police officer on duty tried to get his attention.

    Police officers later got Smucker’s attention after he had already entered the House chamber. Smucker subsequently went back through the metal detector for a screening after he had already voted on the floor.

    […] The Capitol Police report accompanying the fine notification issued to Rogers stated that he continued to walk into the House chamber despite setting off the metal detector. A Capitol Police officer told Rogers that he needed to be wanded, but Rogers replied: “Maybe later, I have to vote.” Rogers later returned to the security checkpoint, at which time the officer clarified he needed to complete the screening before — not after — entering the chamber. […]

    Link

  150. says

    #Belarus Breaking. Pro-government channels published Raman #Pratasevich video address. He was forced to say he is confessing that he was ‘plotting riots’…”

    (I don’t know what this means re the report @ #177 – could have been recorded earlier. I hope it means that report was incorrect.)

  151. says

    “Y’All Qaeda” —from Josh Marshall:

    Another one of those sign of the times story. A bar owner in Troy, New York, Matt Baumgartner, reopens with a rule that patrons must show they’re vaccinated before entering the bar. He’s then inundated by calls, something threatening violence in response to his decision. “They’re all saying the same thing: that I’m a Nazi, that I’m anti-American.” Most of the calls seemed to be coming from Florida.

    Then there’s Bill McCamley, former Secretary of the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions. He resigned his position recently and at first it wasn’t clear whether he’d resigned voluntarily or been forced out. Last week he revealed that he resigned because of a rising tide of threats to his and his family’s safety. He’s also chosen to move out of the state because of the volume of threats.

    Just before the election last fall a New Mexico state senator, Jacob Candelaria, was forced to flee his home over death threats after being publicly critical of people gathering without masks at a political protest outside the state capitol.

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/yall-qaeda

  152. says

    Las Vegas restaurant manager shows exactly why he might be having trouble hiring workers

    As 21 Republican governors and counting cut off the federal government’s $300 weekly unemployment subsidy and yell and scream about how no one wants to work, a big, big thank you to one Las Vegas restaurant manager for telling it how he sees it.

    “‘How much do you pay?’ that’s one of the first questions out of their mouth,” said Steven Kim, director of operations for restaurants Zenshin and Island Sushi & Grill, of jobseekers. “When they opened the economy, they should have decreased the amount of unemployment.”

    How DARE people looking for work ask how much the jobs are going to pay! How f’ing dare they. Everyone knows that it is your obligation, when looking for work, to not even think about trifles like pay rather than simply getting straight to work at unknown but presumably rock-bottom wages serving Zenshin’s “8 Second Bull Ride” sushi roll: “Deep Sea Crab, Avocado, Tempura Asparagus Roll, Topped with Seared Wagyu Beef, Sesame Miso & Truffle Essence” for $17.

    […] For the record, generous unemployment benefits are not keeping people from looking for jobs. Multiple studies show that, most recently one from the commies over at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. And the Census Bureau has found that, even with the extra $300 a week, one in three people on unemployment still has trouble paying basic bills. It’s not that $300 a week that is keeping people from working at restaurants where management gets offended when asked how much the jobs pay.

    Some other restaurant executives have a better grasp of what’s going on.

    ”The world is reopening,” Jeffrey Bank, CEO of Alicart Restaurant Group, which has restaurants in New York, Atlantic City, Washington, D.C., and the Bahamas as well Las Vegas, said to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “When was the last time in history this many jobs were created in four weeks, six weeks? This is a tsunami of an opening. Employees have a chance to decide where they want to work.”

    Which means they get to show up and ask “How much do you pay” and do a little comparison shopping. […]

    “Sexual harassment, hostility and health risks are way up,” said Saru Jayaraman, director of the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, and president of One Fair Wage. A survey conducted by her group found that 53% of restaurant workers are thinking about leaving the industry. Low pay is a reason for 76% of those, but the sexual harassment and hostility are presumably not making those low-paid jobs more appealing. It’s not a “Well, the pay isn’t great, but the people coming back to Las Vegas first at the end of a pandemic are just treating me with such love and respect that I can’t wait to bring them their 8 Second Bull Ride sushi roll at any pay level” kind of situation.

    Things are legitimately looking up. Weekly unemployment claims have fallen two weeks in a row, to a pandemic low of 444,000 (which is still a lot, to be clear). Vaccination rates are still rising, albeit more slowly than would be ideal. Unfortunately, Republicans and too many employers think that the answer to everything—including the United States not coming back from a major global pandemic in the time it takes to snap their fingers—is blaming workers.

  153. says

    National Guard troops are slated to decamp from Capitol Hill this week, nearly five months after thousands were deployed to safeguard Congress amid fears of further unrest after the violent Jan. 6 insurrection.

    The military presence has been a regular fixture for lawmakers and staff since mid-January, with troops scattered throughout the Capitol for high-profile events such as the impeachment of former President Donald Trump and the inauguration of President Joe Biden. […]

    The departure of roughly 2,000 troops will return control of the complex back to the Capitol Police, which is now seeking a major expansion of its own capacity after its top brass faced criticism during the riot. […]

    Link

  154. says

    Renewed momentum around the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act as the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder on Tuesday approached has led to some optimism from those around the process that a bipartisan bill is within reach, a rare achievement in a divided Washington.

    President Biden called on Congress to pass the bill by May 25 during his first address to Congress last month. But lawmakers spearheading the legislation have since said it won’t be ready.

    The White House has announced its intention to give lawmakers space to work […]

    […] “Obviously, we are in close touch, and we certainly defer to the expectations of the key negotiators here. And I would note that Senator Booker has indicated that there’s good energy to the talks. Senator Scott has said that ‘The key for us … is to keep making progress.’ And we certainly support those efforts,” White House Press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Thursday.

    “The President talked about the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in his joint session speech, put a marker down because he feels it’s important to be bold, to be ambitious. And that’s exactly what he feels we’re hopefully working toward,” she added.

    Psaki also told reporters the White House has been “in close touch” with lawmakers, though Biden officials have hardly been visible as talks play out.

    “We are not going to slow our efforts to get this done but we can also be transparent about the fact that it’s going to take a little bit more time. Sometimes that happens, and that’s OK,” Psaki said Friday. When asked if the president wants a bill done this summer, Psaki said he wants to sign it “as quickly as possible.” […]

    Link

  155. says

    Madison Cawthorn Too Busy To Deal With The People’s Business

    Last week Axios reported that GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn led the pack of freshmen cutting class, missing a whopping 16.2 percent of the votes since swearing an oath to represent the interests of his North Carolina constituents in the House. Luckily Cawthorn has a very good excuse and it was that he was too busy making sexytimes with his new wife. (Or whatever he meant by “service as a husband.”)

    “It just shows exactly how the Democrats feel about the nuclear family in America right now,” the newlywed father of none told “Real America’s Voice” host David Brody. “I will tell you, I was doing the only thing that I find more important than my service here in congress, and that was my service as a husband. I just got married about seven weeks ago and my wife and I went on our honeymoon.”

    Mazal tov to the lovely couple! And where did the congressman take the new Missus? We know he’s already crossed Hitler’s summer home off his bucket list. […]

    Well, wherever they were, they were so busy doing “marital service” that Cawthorn couldn’t be bothered to vote remotely. Not even by proxy.

    Cawthorn had no explanation for why he needed to get hitched during the legislative session rather than during the several months of the year when the House is in recess. Instead he appeared to accuse Democrats of allowing votes to “pile up” during his honeymoon just to make him look like a lazy asshole. Pffffft, like we have to lift a finger for that.

    Coming in at 14th place, the freshman Democrat who blew off the most votes was New York’s Rep. Jamaal Bowman with just a 2.8 percent truancy rate, meaning there are 13 Gippers including Cawthorn ahead of him on that list. Because Republicans are not here to govern, they just want to fuck shit up. Although most are less explicit than Cawthorn, who bragged that “I have built my staff around comms rather than legislation.”

    “Every single vote that came up was some Democrat garbage, so I was happy to be able to not actually have to vote on those,” Cawthorn gabbled on to Brody, painting his fundamental unseriousness as a virtue. “Because they’re eliminating our voices. They’re not allowing us to debate on the House floor. And, I’m telling you, if I had to choose between voting with Nancy Pelosi or spending time with my beautiful wife, I’ll choose Cristina every time.”

    Yes, please do that, Blondie. Choose Cristina every time to stick it to the libs! Oh, we would be so triggered.

    Link

  156. says

    As hurricane season looms, Biden doubles funding to prepare for extreme weather.

    Washington Post link

    Administration will also launch a new NASA initiative aimed at collecting better climate data.

    President Biden will announce Monday afternoon that he is doubling the amount of money the U.S. government will spend helping communities prepare for extreme weather events, while launching a new effort at NASA to collect more sophisticated climate data.

    While the $1 billion in funding is a fraction of what taxpayers spend each year on disasters, it underscores a broader effort to account for the damage wrought by climate change and curb it. Last week the president signed an executive order instructing federal agencies to identify and disclose the perils a warming world poses to federal programs, assets and liabilities, while also requiring federal suppliers to reveal their own climate-related risks.

    […] The Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program helps communities prepare in advance for hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters. The administration will target roughly 40 percent of the additional money to disadvantaged areas.

    In a phone interview Monday, White House national climate adviser Gina McCarthy said that Biden’s actions will help convey to Americans how the climate has already changed and what the United States must do to respond to it.

    “That’s really going to make this climate issue real and relevant to people,” she said. “We just have to prepare for this, and the president is a realist. This is the world we’re living in.”

    Monday’s hurricane briefing, McCarthy said, marked a sharp departure from how President Donald Trump approached extreme weather events. In a 2019 incident known as “Sharpiegate,” Trump and his deputies pressured the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to contradict its own experts and say the path of Hurricane Dorian would severely impact Alabama. He also repeatedly questioned the link between rising temperatures and more frequent and intense wildfires. […]

  157. says

    As covid-19 devastates rural India, Modi and his ministers focus on covering up their incompetence

    The disturbing video went viral across India in a matter of hours: Scores of bodies, feared to be of covid-19 victims, washed up on the shores of the holy Ganges River in the northeastern state of Bihar. […]

    Investigators are still trying to understand what happened, but it appears to be another grim reminder of the raging death toll in the country — a death toll that is going largely undercounted, especially in rural areas, even as the official figures break records: On May 19 there were more than 4,500 deaths reported in a single day.

    While a lot of media coverage has focused on the lack of oxygen and hospital beds in large cities, the real carnage is unfolding in our villages, where access to basic health care is virtually nonexistent.

    India’s leading Hindi newspaper, the Dainik Bhaskar, has dispatched brave reporters to several towns in Uttar Pradesh, which neighbors Bihar and is governed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, and their dispatches should shame the collective conscience of the nation. The journalists counted more than 2,000 bodies that had either been dumped or hurriedly buried by local officials in a clear effort to underplay the coronavirus casualties in the region.

    Village after village is being wiped out in Uttar Pradesh, and it’s impossible not to draw a link to local elections that were not postponed. People traveled to the state from cities like Mumbai and Delhi to cast their votes, and they brought the virus with them, infecting an already vulnerable population.

    Vikas Singh, a villager from Lalganj in Uttar Pradesh, developed a cough and fever a few days after casting his vote. Six of his relatives developed similar symptoms. The local doctor, who had no coronavirus tests, suggested it was a flu and treated the entire family with what he said was medicine that would help cure them of their breathlessness. Within four days, Singh succumbed to covid-19 as the virus ravaged his lungs. His daughter, Mirsha, 22, who was to be married in two months, died from the virus, too. When the time came to cremate Singh, none of the villagers were willing to help. His wife had to pay $300 from the only savings in the house to get locals and priests to help her perform the last rites. […] He got dignity in death, a privilege that is not being accorded to thousands of Indians who are dying in villages, and whose bodies end up on river banks and sometimes even dragged by stray dogs.

    […] In Ghazipur, in Uttar Pradesh, villages are reportedly experiencing deaths in “almost every second” house. A district magistrate from a town in Uttar Pradesh, who has been very active on social media attending to requests for medical help, tells me that he feels as complicit in the death of the people he needed to take care of as the elected representatives who were last seen during the local elections. The magistrate told me that his office has received orders to not make a “spectacle” of the covid-19 deaths.
    But as hard as officials try to hide the truth, people are suffering and showing their discontent. […]

    Local health volunteers tell us that the scale of the devastation in rural India won’t likely be fully known. I’ve also been reporting from the ground and have spoken to hundreds of villagers. It’s probably an understatement to suggest that the real death toll is at least five times the actual figures.

    But Modi and his deputies are nowhere in sight. We are seeing a complete failure of leadership. The scathing criticism of India’s handling of the pandemic is coming from all over the world. But his acolytes are focused only on salvaging the prime minister’s reputation — not on saving lives. They denounce journalists from international publications, saying they are writing at the behest of the opposition. Government ministers go on news channels talking about an international conspiracy. […]

    Misinformation is spreading fast, but Modi and his political henchmen should know their lies can do little when the dead are speaking for themselves.

  158. says

    Who Is Roman Protasevich, the Captive Journalist in Belarus?

    New York Times link

    It has all of the elements of a Jason Bourne plot: A commercial flight carrying a dissident journalist is intercepted by a MiG-29 fighter jet under orders from the strongman president of Belarus.

    This protagonist is very much real. His name is Roman Protasevich, and on Sunday, he drew worldwide attention because the Belarusian government and its authoritarian leader went to extraordinary lengths to stop him.

    Mr. Protasevich, 26, was traveling by commercial airline from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania, when the Belarusian air force scrambled a fighter jet. The flight, on the Irish airline Ryanair, was diverted to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, where the millennial opposition figure was taken into custody.

    The widely condemned tactic was the latest attempt by Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, the country’s authoritarian leader, to suppress the influential voice of Mr. Protasevich.

    There are few remaining sources of independent news in Belarus, where most media outlets were forced to shut down after widespread protests over a disputed presidential election in 2020.

    Mr. Protasevich is a co-founder and a former editor of the NEXTA channel on the social media platform Telegram, which has become a popular conduit for Mr. Lukashenko’s foes to share information and organize demonstrations against the government.

    He fled the country in 2019, fearing arrest. But he has continued to roil Mr. Lukashenko’s regime while living in exile in Lithuania, so much so that he was charged in November with inciting public disorder and social hatred. […]

    What happened on Sunday?

    Mr. Protasevich was returning to Vilnius from an economic conference in Greece with the Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya […]

    As [the plane] approached the border between Belarus and Lithuania, a MiG-29 fighter jet was scrambled to intercept it.

    Mr. Lukashenko, who is often referred to as “Europe’s last dictator,” personally ordered the fighter jet to escort the Ryanair plane to the Minsk airport after a bomb threat, his press service said. According to the statement, Mr. Lukashenko, an ally of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, gave an “unequivocal order” to “make the plane do a U-turn and land.”

    No bomb was found on board […]

    Antony J. Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, sharply criticized the government of Belarus on Twitter on Sunday for its detention of Mr. Protasevich. He called it a “brazen and shocking act to divert a commercial flight and arrest a journalist.” […]

    What kind of punishment is he facing?

    The government’s main security agency in Belarus, called the K.G.B., placed Mr. Protasevich’s name on a list of terrorists. If he is accused and convicted of terrorism, he could face the death penalty.

    The charges of inciting public disorder and social hatred carry a punishment of more than 12 years in prison.

  159. says

    Humor/satire from Andy Borowitz:

    Republicans on Capitol Hill are arguing that a proposed January 6th commission is uncalled for because the rioters were merely middle schoolers on a field trip.

    Speaking to reporters, Senator Ron Johnson, of Wisconsin, said that, after reviewing footage of the riot, “It’s plain to see that this was just a bunch of middle-school kids who got a little rowdy.”

    “I’ve had teen-agers, and I know what kind of horseplay and tomfoolery they can get up to,” he said. “I didn’t set up a commission every time they raised a little heck.”

    Claiming that the rioters’ behavior should be expected of “a bunch of crazy kids looking to cut loose,” Johnson said that the responsibility for investigating them belongs “not to Congress but to their teachers.”

    “I think the teachers need to find out who were the class clowns behind these stunts, and say to them, ‘Any more nonsense like this and you’re not going to the water park on the last day of school,’ ” he said.

    New Yorker link

  160. says

    NBC News:

    “Piracy,” “hijacking” and “state terrorism” — the condemnation of Belarus was swift and strong after it forced the landing of a commercial airplane carrying an opposition journalist. In a show of unified fury, the United States, Britain, the European Union, NATO and the United Nations on Monday lined up to call out the action in the skies above the eastern European country led by Alexander Lukashenko, often referred to as Europe’s last dictator.

  161. says

    AP News:

    In perhaps the strongest evidence yet of an attempted cover-up in the deadly 2019 arrest of Ronald Greene, the ranking Louisiana State Police officer at the scene falsely told internal investigators that the Black man was still a threat to flee after he was shackled, and he denied the existence of his own body camera video for nearly two years until it emerged just last month.

  162. says

    NBC News:

    President Joe Biden says he won’t allow the Department of Justice to seize journalists’ phone records and emails, calling the practice “wrong” in a significant departure from his predecessors. “Absolutely, positively, it’s wrong. It’s simply, simply wrong,” he told a reporter Friday at the White House.

  163. johnson catman says

    re Lynna @197: It is amazing that the body cam video didn’t “disappear” in the two years since the incident.

  164. says

    Guardian – “The fight to whitewash US history: ‘A drop of poison is all you need’ “:

    …The laborious project of establishing truth in the face of official lies is one that Americans embraced during the racial reckoning of the summer of 2020, whether it was individuals speaking out about their experiences of racism at work, or institutions acknowledging their own complicity in racial injustice. For a time, it seemed that America was finally ready to tell a more honest, nuanced story of itself, one that acknowledged the blood at the root.

    But alongside this reassessment, another American tradition re-emerged: a reactionary movement bent on reasserting a whitewashed American myth. These reactionary forces have taken aim at efforts to tell an honest version of American history and speak openly about racism by proposing laws in statehouses across the country that would ban the teaching of “critical race theory”, the New York Times’s 1619 Project, and, euphemistically, “divisive concepts”.

    The movement is characterized by a childish insistence that children should be taught a false version of the founding of the United States that better resembles a mythic virgin birth than the bloody, painful reality. It would shred the constitution’s first amendment in order to defend the honor of those who drafted its three-fifths clause.

    Legislation seeking to limit how teachers talk about race has been considered by at least 15 states, according to an analysis by Education Week.

    In Idaho, Governor Bill Little signed into law a measure banning public schools from teaching critical race theory, which it claimed will “exacerbate and inflame divisions on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or other criteria in ways contrary to the unity of the nation and the wellbeing of the state of Idaho and its citizens”. The state’s lieutenant governor, Janice McGeachin, also established a taskforce to “examine indoctrination in Idaho education and to protect our young people from the scourge of critical race theory, socialism, communism, and Marxism”.

    In Tennessee, the legislature has approved a bill that would bar public schools from using instructional materials that promote certain concepts, including the idea that, “This state or the United States is fundamentally or irredeemably racist or sexist.”

    The Texas house of representatives has passed a flurry of legislation related to teaching history, including a bill that would ban any course that would “require an understanding of the 1619 Project” and a bill that would establish an “1836 Project” (a reference to the date of the founding of the republic of Texas) to “promote patriotic education”.

    Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, in April came out in opposition to a small federal grant program (just $5.25m out of the department of education’s $73.5bn budget) supporting American history and civics education projects that, among other criteria, “incorporate racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse perspectives”.

    While diversity training and the 1619 Project have been major targets, critical race theory has more recently become the watch word of the moral panic. Developed by Black legal scholars at Harvard in the 1980s, critical race theory is a mode of thinking that examines the ways in which racism was embedded into American law.

    …In the hands of the American right, critical race theory has morphed into an existential threat. In early January, just five days after rightwing rioters had stormed the US capitol, the Heritage Foundation, a rightwing thinktank with close ties to the Trump administration, hosted a panel discussion about the threat of “the new intolerance” and its “grip on America”.

    “Critical race theory is the complete rejection of the best ideas of the American founding. This is some dangerous, dangerous philosophical poisoning in the blood stream,” said Angela Sailor, a VP of the Heritage Foundation’s Feulner Institute and the moderator of the event.

    “The rigid persistence with which believers apply this theory has made critical race theory a constant daily presence in the lives of hundreds of millions of people,” she added, in an assessment that will probably come as a surprise to hundreds of millions of people.

    The Heritage Foundation has been one of the top campaigners against critical race theory, alongside the Manhattan Institute, another conservative thinktank known for promoting the “broken windows” theory of policing.

    Bridging the two groups is Christopher Rufo, a documentary film-maker who has become the leading spokesperson against critical race theory on television and on Twitter. As a visiting fellow at Heritage, he produced a report arguing that critical race theory makes inequality worse, and in April the Manhattan Institute appointed him the director of a new “Initiative on Critical Race Theory”. (Rufo is also affiliated with another rightwing thinktank, the Discovery Institute, which is best known for its repeated attempts to smuggle Christian theology into US public schools under the guise of the pseudoscientific “intelligent design”.)

    A host of new organizations has also sprung up to spread the fear of critical race theory far and wide. The Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism (Fair) launched recently with an advisory board comprised of anti-“woke” media figures and academics. The group is so far encouraging opposition to the grant program McConnell opposed and has highlighted a legal challenge to a debt relief program for Black farmers as a “profile in courage”.

    Those who take the Fair “pledge” can also join a message board where members discuss their activism against critical race theory in schools and access resources…

    Parents Defending Education, another new organization, encourages parents to “expose” what’s happening in their schools and offers step-by-step instructions for parents to set up “Woke at X” Instagram accounts to document excessive “wokeness” at their children’s schools.

    A new website, What Are They Learning, was set up by Daily Caller reporter Luke Rosiak to serve as a “woke-e-leaks” for parents to report incidents of teachers mentioning racism in school. “In deep-red, 78% white Indiana, state department of education tells teachers to Talk about Race in the Classroom, cites Ibram X Kendi,” reads one such report. (The actual document submitted is, in fact, titled Talking about Race in the Classroom and appears to be a copy of a webinar offering teachers advice on discussing last year’s Black Lives Matter protests with their students.)

    Such initiatives and others – the Educational Liberty Alliance, Critical Race Training in Education, No Left Turn in Education – have received enthusiastic support from the rightwing media, with the New York Post, Daily Caller, Federalist, and Fox News serving up a steady stream of outrage fodder about the threat of critical race theory. Since 5 June, Fox News has mentioned “critical race theory” by name in 150 broadcasts, the Atlantic found.

    For some of these groups, critical race theory is just one of many “liberal” ideas they don’t want their children to learn. No Left Turn in Education also complains about comprehensive sex education and includes a link on its website to an article suggesting that teaching children about the climate crisis is a form of indoctrination.

    For others, it seems possible that attacking critical race theory is just a smokescreen for a bog standard conservative agenda….

    Whatever their motives, today’s reactionaries are picking up the mantle of generations of Americans who have fought to ensure that white children are taught a version of America’s past that is more hagiographic than historic. The echoes are so strong that Adam Laats, a Binghamton University professor who studies the history of education in the US, remarked, “It’s confusing which decade we’re in.”

    Still, the fact that reactionaries are looking to legislate against certain ideas may be a sign of just how weak their own position is.

    Laats suspects that the right is using “critical race theory” as a euphemism. “You can’t go to a school board and say you want to ban the idea that Black Lives Matter.”

    “They’ve given up on arguing in favor of indoctrination and instead say that critical race theory is the actual indoctrination,” he said of the conservative movement. “They’ve given up on arguing in favor of racism to say that critical race theory is the real racism. This campaign against the teaching of critical race theory is scary, and it’s a sign of great strength, but it’s strength in favor of an idea that’s already lost.”

    Or at least, so we hope.

    Last week I called Paweł Machcewicz, a Polish historian who has been at the center of a battle in his own country between those who want to tell the truth about the past, and those who want to weaponize history for political purposes. Machcewicz was one of the historians who uncovered evidence of Polish complicity in Nazi war crimes, and as the founding director of the Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk, he attempted to provide an accurate account of Poland’s experience in the war. The far-right ruling party, Law and Justice, deemed the museum insufficiently patriotic and fired him. The next year, the government passed legislation to outlaw accusing Poland of complicity in Nazi war crimes.

    “Democracy turned out to be very fragile,” Machcewicz said. “I knew history was important for Law and Justice, but it became a sort of obsession. I never thought that as a founding director of a museum of the second world war, I would become a public enemy.”

    “You never know what price you have to pay for independent history,” he added. “I don’t think it will ever go as far in the US as Poland, but some years ago, I also felt quite secure in my country.”

    More atl.

  165. says

    Guardian – “El Salvador’s house of horror becomes grisly emblem of war on women”:

    Day after day they flock to the emerald green house on Estévez Street, seeking news of loved ones who have vanished without a trace.

    Others sought daughters or wives, Central American women feared to have fallen prey to the house’s proprietor, the former police officer and alleged serial killer Hugo Ernesto Osorio Chávez, who is feared to have buried his victims inside.

    The mass grave at No 11 Estévez Street was discovered on the night of 7 May after neighbours called police having heard the cries of a young woman. By the time police arrived more than an hour later she and her mother were dead – reportedly bludgeoned to death with an iron tube by Osorio, who confessed to the crimes. While taking the 51-year-old into custody, police stumbled across the half-buried bodies of two men in the house’s patio and, when they started digging, found more corpses below in a series of pits.

    Authorities have yet to announce the precise number of bodies buried inside but the excavators still probing its foundations believe there could be as many as 40, and no fewer than 15.

    Officials say they believe most of the victims are young women who Osorio lured home by reportedly promising to help them find work in Mexico. At least three were young children aged two, seven and nine. Nine other suspects have been arrested, among them people traffickers and other former members of the police and military, fueling suspicions Osorio also used his clandestine cemetery to dispose of other people’s victims.

    The case has sent shock waves through El Salvador and cast a spotlight on the femicide emergency raging across Latin America, from Argentina to Mexico, where 4,000 women were killed in 2019 alone.

    El Salvador has long been considered one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman, a reality that forces many to flee north to seek shelter in the United States. Last year, 541 women disappeared in the country with a population of 6.7 million, according to Ormusa (the Organisation of Salvadorian Women for Peace).

    “The serial killer of women in Chalchuapa is not an isolated incident,” said the feminist and social activist Morena Herrera.

    “It is an incident rooted in two factors: society’s permissiveness towards violence against women and institutional complicity. El Salvador’s institutions care very little about the lives of women and I’m not just talking about the police,” Herrera added.

    …Authorities – apparently unsettled by the outcry over what local newspapers are calling “the slaughter of Chalchuapa” – have sought to portray the killings as the freakish actions of a deranged “psychopath”, although the arrests of former members of the security forces seemed to undercut that narrative.

    “Thanks to the swift action of our officers and investigators, he will spend at least 100 years in prison,” El Salvador’s social media-savvy president tweeted last Friday, vowing Osorio would never again enjoy direct sunlight.

    Earlier in the day the attorney general, Rodolfo Delgado, had attacked the media’s “morbid” reporting while the security minister, Gustavo Villatoro, criticised “malicious” journalists using the case to draw broader conclusions about the security situation in the Central American country and the increase in disappearances.

    For families of El Salvador’s missing the discovery has provided a tiny ray of hope that at least there may be some answers for those looking for missing relatives. One security officer guarding the crime scene said up to 15 people were arriving each day in search of answers and remains….

  166. says

    Here’s a link to the May 25 Guardian coronavirus world liveblog.

    From there:

    Mass vaccination of children against Covid-19 moved a step closer as Moderna became the second manufacturer to announce successful trial results, showing its vaccine can stop transmission in people aged 12 to 18….

    EU expects enough doses to fully vaccinate population by end of September

    The European Union expects to receive over 1 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines by the end of September from four drugmakers, a document seen by Reuters shows.

    The over 1 billion doses estimated by the end of September would be sufficient to immunise the entire EU population of 450 million, well beyond the EU’s initial goal of vaccinating at least 70% of its adult population by the end of the summer.

    The estimates take into account only vaccines from four drugmakers: Pfizer-BionTech, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and Moderna.

    They exclude doses from German biotech firm CureVac and French drugmaker Sanofi, which have signed contracts with the EU for hundreds of millions of doses but are struggling to develop their vaccines and get them approved by EU regulators.

    The EU is currently in a dispute with AstraZeneca over its earlier failure to deliver promised supplies.

    EU leaders have agreed to donate at least 100m doses of Covid-19 vaccines to poorer countries by the end of the year as supplies steadily rise across Europe….

  167. says

    Intercept – “AP, in Leaked Memos, Doing Damage Control With Staff: ‘You Will Have a Voice'”:

    The Associated Press sent a memo to the news agency’s editorial staff this weekend about its controversial decision to fire a young staff reporter, Emily Wilder, following a conservative campaign to have her removed over her college activism regarding Israel-Palestine. The memo, obtained by The Intercept, assured staffers that “we hear you” and “you will have a voice,” then goes on to stand by the decision. “We did not make it lightly,” the memo notes. Signed by 10 senior executives, one signature is conspicuously absent: AP’s Executive Editor Sally Buzbee.

    On Monday, Buzbee insisted to NPR that she had no involvement in the decision, saying that she had already handed over day-to-day operations after accepting a new job at the Washington Post. Buzbee’s first day as the Post’s executive editor will be June 1.

    Two AP staffers, who spoke to The Intercept on the condition of anonymity to avoid professional reprisal, said that Buzbee’s distancing from the issue reflects how controversial the firing is — both within the news agency and beyond. (Lauren Easton, a spokesperson for AP, declined to comment on why Buzbee did not sign the memo.)

    “Sally doesn’t want the controversy directly attached to her name,” one of the AP staffers speculated.

    Wilder, a 22-year-old who graduated from Stanford University last year, joined AP as a news associate earlier this month. Last week, she became the target of Stanford College Republicans who deemed her an “anti-Israel agitator” in a Twitter thread, pointing to her membership in student organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine, as well as a Facebook post mocking Sheldon Adelson, the late Republican billionaire and ardent defender of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The tweets were later amplified by right-wing news outlets and even Republican Sen. Tom Cotton. The campaign targeting Wilder came after she tweeted criticism of news coverage of Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

    An AP editor assured Wilder that she would not be fired for her old posts on social media, Wilder has said. Then she was fired on Thursday for violating the news agency’s social media policy. Citing a company policy of not commenting on personnel matters, AP has declined to specify what rules Wilder violated, except to say that she was terminated “for violations of AP’s social media policies during her time at AP.”

    The firing has become a major controversy within the news agency. On Monday, over 100 AP staffers publicly condemned the firing in an open letter, saying that the organization was bowing to a “smear campaign.” In response to the letter, AP said, “The Associated Press looks forward to continuing the conversation with staff about AP’s social media policy.”

    This afternoon, the union representing Washington Post reporters tweeted, “Solidarity with the staff of the @AP and Emily Wilder. We hope management provides swift answers on her termination and clarifies the newsroom’s social media practices.” (This is the first tweet the Washington Post Guild has issued since welcoming Buzbee’s hiring on May 11.)

    One AP staffer told me that while there’s a “spectrum” of opinion on whether Wilder violated any rules, “all concur that firing blew up in management’s face.”

    Wilder issued a statement on Saturday saying, “I am one victim to the asymmetrical enforcement of rules around objectivity and social media that has censored so many journalists — particularly Palestinian journalists and other journalists of color — before me.”

    In an interview, Wilder said she remains frustrated with the challenge of defending herself against violations that AP says took place but refuses to specify. “What’s most unfair is that they refused to explain what tweet was problematic or exactly what policy I violated,” Wilder told me. “I’m not sure how I am supposed to understand, learn, or defend myself if they can’t tell me what I did wrong.”

    On Monday afternoon, Brian Carovillano, AP’s managing editor, sent staff another memo outlining new efforts for “expanding the conversation taking place about AP’s approach to social media.” That memo, also obtained by The Intercept, describes plans to establish “group conversations” among AP’s reporters to discuss social media guidelines “in a collaborative, deliberative way,” starting next week. A committee, the memo says, will review ideas produced by these conversations and “bring the best of them forward by September 1.”…

  168. says

    Guardian – “Influencers say Russia-linked PR agency asked them to disparage Pfizer vaccine”:

    French and German YouTubers, bloggers and influencers have been offered money by a supposedly UK-based PR agency with apparent Russian connections to falsely tell their followers the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is responsible for hundreds of deaths.

    Fazze, which said it was an “influencer marketing platform … connecting bloggers and advertisers”, claimed to be based at 5 Percy Street in London but is not registered there. On Tuesday, it closed its website and made its Instagram account private.

    The agency contacted several French health and science YouTubers last week and asked them, in poor English, to “explain … the death rate among the vaccinated with Pfizer is almost 3x higher than the vaccinated by AstraZeneca”.

    The influencers were told to publish links on YouTube, Instagram or TikTok to reports in Le Monde, on Reddit and on the Ethical Hacker website about a leaked report containing data that supposedly substantiates the claim.

    The article in Le Monde is about data reportedly stolen by Russian hackers from the European Medicines Agency and later published on the Dark Web. It contains no information on mortality rates. The pages on the other two sites have been deleted.

    The influencers were asked to tell their subscribers that “the mainstream media ignores this theme”, and to ask: “Why some governments actively purchasing Pfizer vaccine, which is dangerous to the health of the people?”

    The brief also included requests to “act like you have the passion and interest in this topic”, and to avoid using the words “advertising” or “sponsored” in posts or videos because “the material should be presented as your own independent view”.

    Screen shots of the emails were posted on Twitter by Léo Grasset, a popular French science YouTuber with nearly 1.2m subscribers. Grasset said the campaign had a “colossal budget” but that the agency refused to identify its client.

    The French investigative news site Numerama also published extracts from the exchanges, including Fazze’s exhortation to “encourage viewers to draw their own conclusions, take care of themselves and their loved ones”.

    Mirko Drotschman, a German YouTuber and podcaster with 1.5 million subscribers, also posted a screenshot of an email asking him to take part in an “information campaign” about “a significant number of deaths” after the Pfizer shot.

    “Please send us statistics on the age of your subscribers … and how much it would cost,” the mail concluded….

    According to LinkedIn, Fazze’s management come from Moscow and have worked for an agency reportedly founded by a Russian entrepreneur.

    French media have pointed to the similarities between Fazze’s message and the official Twitter account of Russia’s Sputnik V – a viral vector vaccine like AstraZeneca – which has repeatedly claimed “real world data” shows they are “safer and more efficient” than mRNA vaccines.

    An EU study last month accused Russian and Chinese media of “state-sponsored disinformation” aimed at sowing mistrust in western vaccines by sensationalising safety concerns, making “unfounded links between shots and deaths in Europe”, and promoting Russian and Chinese vaccines as superior.

  169. says

    Text quoted by SC in comment 205:

    An EU study last month accused Russian and Chinese media of “state-sponsored disinformation” aimed at sowing mistrust in western vaccines by sensationalising safety concerns, making “unfounded links between shots and deaths in Europe”, and promoting Russian and Chinese vaccines as superior.

    It would be to Putin’s advantage if more non-Russians died from coronavirus infections. Not to mention that sowing distrust in institutions and in other governments is also to Putin’s advantage.

    Glad to see the disinformation campaign was spotted and outed.

  170. says

    Text quoted by SC in comment 200:

    “Critical race theory is the complete rejection of the best ideas of the American founding. This is some dangerous, dangerous philosophical poisoning in the blood stream,” said Angela Sailor, a VP of the Heritage Foundation’s Feulner Institute and the moderator of the event.

    The opposite of truth. This kind of lie reminds me of Trump’s method of “branding” concepts that he wants to oppose. This is disgusting. This is what’s dangerous.

  171. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    News coming in from Associated Press that the US will reach 50% of American adults fully vaccinated against coronavirus.

    President Joe Biden had previously set a goal of having 70% of all adults receiving at least one dose of the vaccine by July 4th.

    Since ramping up its vaccine distribution, coronavirus case and deaths have dramatically fallen across the nation.

    There are currently three vaccines in use in the United States. The Biden administration has increased the number of inoculations it is exporting to other nations.

    As I said above, the US should reach 50% of the total population having received at least one dose soon as well.

  172. says

    GOP leaders slam Marjorie Taylor Greene, but add some fine print

    Republican leaders could’ve simply done the right thing, and condemned Greene’s garbage.

    It was last week when Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) added to her greatest-hits collection, comparing a mask mandate on Capitol Hill during a pandemic to Nazis forcing Jews to wear gold stars. The right-wing congresswoman insisted the House leadership’s masks policies are “exactly” similar to Jews being “put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany.”

    Soon after, Greene reiterated her Holocaust-focused rhetoric, and she then did it once again this morning.

    As we’ve discussed, the question isn’t whether the unhinged Georgia Republican will keep engaging in ridiculous antics; the question is what her party is prepared to do about it. The answer became a little clearer a couple of hours ago.

    House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy joined a quick chorus of outrage at Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., on Tuesday after she doubled-down on her comparison of Covid-19-related rules to the Holocaust.

    It took several days, but McCarthy finally issued a written statement calling Greene’s Holocaust rhetoric “appalling,” adding, “Let me be clear: the House Republican Conference condemns this language.” Similarly, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), the #2 Republican in the chamber, added that he “does not agree with these comments and condemns [Greene’s] comparisons to the Holocaust.”

    That’s the good news.

    The bad news is, House GOP leaders couldn’t simply criticize one of their conference’s most offensive extremists; they also felt the need to take cheap rhetorical shots at Democrats, too.

    McCarthy’s statement for example, before saying that House Republicans condemn Greene’s language, said, “At a time when the Jewish people face increased violence and threats, anti-Semitism is on the rise in the Democrat Party and is completely ignored by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.” Scalise did the same thing, adding this morning, “We also need to be speaking out strongly against the dangerous anti-Semitism that is growing on our streets in the Democrat party.”

    It’s just so tiresome. […] Because partisanship must be paramount, McCarthy and Scalise were also careful to smear their rivals in the Democratic Party — which they continue to call the “Democrat Party” […]

    Also note, neither McCarthy nor Scalise gave any indication they’re prepared to act beyond their perfunctory rebukes. As we’ve discussed, Greene has already lost her committee assignments — a step McCarthy and the vast majority of House Republicans tried to prevent — but the Republican leadership has other options. The minority leader could, for example, recruit and endorse a primary rival. He could announce that she will not have the party’s support during her re-election bid. McCarthy could even call for her expulsion.

    As things stand, the House GOP leader has issued a blame-both-sides statement that gives no indication of further action. If McCarthy expects this to discourage Greene, she’s already proving otherwise.

  173. says

    Oh, FFS.

    Trump issued a statement yesterday claiming an election audit in New Hampshire has “revealed that large-scale voting machines” appear to have counted “NON-EXISTING VOTES.” Two sentences later, the former president added that he considered his his own assertion is “probably” true.

  174. says

    TPM – “Unsealed Order Shows Judge’s Scorn For Barr’s ‘Public Relations’ Plan For Mueller Report”:

    A federal judge accused former Attorney General Bill of plotting to get a “jump” on the department’s “public relations” spin of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report and then obscuring that scheme in later Freedom of Information Act litigation.

    The swipes at Barr’s handling of the Mueller probe came in previously redacted portions of a May 3 opinion that ordered the release of an internal DOJ memo related to the Mueller report.

    Judge Amy Berman Jackson unsealed the unredacted opinion Tuesday after the Biden administration agreed to a release of her opinion in full, even as it’s fighting in court to keep some parts of the internal DOJ memo private.

    The litigation and Jackson’s description of the memo sheds light on how Barr sought to shape the public perception of Mueller’s probe, by releasing a letter to Congress “summarizing” Mueller’s report several weeks ahead of when it made the report itself public.

    Jackson and another federal judge have said Barr’s summary didn’t square up with Mueller’s own explicit refusal in his report to clear the former president’s conduct.

    The memo being sought in the FOIA case was assembled by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel — which gives legal advice to the federal government — in the weekend between when Barr received the report from Mueller and when he sent the summary letter.

    Jackson earlier this month ordered the department to release previously redacted portions of the memo, because she concluded that the sections did not meet FOIA’s carve outs for “predecisional” deliberations and for attorney-client privilege.

    The Biden administration late Monday night agreed to release some of the memo sections in question, but is appealing her findings for other parts of the memo.

    The unredacted version of Jackson’s opinion includes a lengthy section in which she describes what Trump’s DOJ was up to in the withheld parts of the OLC memo.

    One of the “apparent purposes of the memorandum” was to “justify the Attorney General’s plan to opine about the strength of the evidence,” Jackson wrote, “even though he and his team were well aware that under DOJ policy, there was no prosecution decision to be made.”

    In Jackson’s telling, the department hid this purpose in the FOIA litigation and instead suggested that the OLC was advising Barr on whether to prosecute Trump. In a filing Monday night, the Biden administration acknowledged that a decision whether to prosecute Trump was never “in play,” given a DOJ policy prohibiting charges being brought against siting president.

    Instead, the OLC was advising Barr on whether he could come to his own determination as to whether the conduct Mueller described would be of the sort that the DOJ would prosecute, if it were not for its internal policy of not charging sitting presidents. The OLC memo, according to the judge, also weighed in on whether Barr could communicate his determination to the public.

    “This is news,” Jackson said, as the DOJ’s filings in the FOIA litigation did not inform “the Court that whether the Attorney General should offer a public opinion was even a subject of the memorandum.”

    Once she herself got to review the memo in private, it revealed “that there was no decision actually being made as to whether the then-President should be prosecuted.”

    Instead, “the agency was girding for a preemptive strike on the Mueller report,” she wrote.

    According to Jackson, the department had not been not been candid about the memo’s purpose. She said the government’s arguments in the FOIA case suggested “that the Attorney General’s advisors were helping him make a decision about whether to initiate or decline a prosecution.”

    “So why did the Attorney General’s advisors, at his request, create a memorandum that evaluated the prosecutive merit of the facts amassed by the Special Counsel? Lifting the curtain reveals the answer to that too: getting a jump on public relations,” she wrote….

  175. says

    When Interior Secretary Deb Haaland gave up her congressional seat to join the White House cabinet, she created a U.S. House vacancy. A week from today, voters in New Mexico’s 1st congressional district will fill that vacancy.

    At first blush, Democrats have reason to be optimistic about the race. This is, after all, a district President Joe Biden won by 23 points, and Deb Haaland was a popular incumbent, winning by a similar landslide last fall. For the special election, the party has nominated State Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D), who’s already won local contests, and who’s focusing her message on addressing infrastructure, fight climate change, drought, and food insecurity.

    But Politico ran a report today on the special election, focusing specifically on the message from Stansbury’s Republican opponent.

    Her Republican opponent used the same pre-election push to warn that [Stansbury] would be heading to Washington to “defund the police” and back legislation to close all federal prisons within 10 years, releasing infamous criminals out on the street. “Think about who’s in federal prison right now: El Chapo, the co-founder of al Qaeda, the Oklahoma City bomber, the Unabomber,” state Sen. Mark Moores told a luncheon of three dozen Republican women on Friday. “That is how radical this agenda is, and we have to stop it.” [JFC!]

    […] there are no Democratic congressional candidates, in New Mexico or elsewhere, who’ve endorsing closing all federal prisons.

    […] A Republican congressional candidate, fearing a likely defeat in a Democratic-leaning district, feels the need to tell demagogic lies about his opponent in the hopes of remaining competitive. This is hardly the first time such a political dynamic has unfolded in recent years.

    But the special election in New Mexico’s 1st is offering the parties a test-drive of sorts. Politico’s report added, “Both parties are using next week’s race in this central New Mexico district to test their messaging” ahead of next year’s midterm cycle.

    And that’s what makes this notable. Stansbury and her party believe the key to success is to focus on a post-pandemic recovery and ambitious governing goals. Moores and the GOP hope to shift attention away from the post-pandemic recovery — it makes Biden look better, and Republicans opposed the American Rescue Plan — and the party has no ambitious governing goals to pursue.

    And so, Moores is going with “defund the police” and the idea that Democrats intend to let terrorists walk the streets.

    Coming soon to a congressional district near you.

    Link

  176. says

    Team Trump’s info sharing with Russia comes into sharper focus

    We knew Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chair, lied to prosecutors. Now, we’re finally learning what it is he lied about.

    […] the former president’s campaign chairman, deputy campaign chairman, campaign adviser, lawyer, and national security adviser, among others, were all convicted of assorted felonies.

    But even within this motley crew, Paul Manafort still stands out as special.

    Manafort, of course, oversaw Trump’s political operation in 2016, before he was convicted of a variety of felonies, including tax fraud and bank fraud, and he even served some time in federal prison — right up until Trump pardoned him, rewarding his former aide for failing to cooperate with law enforcement.

    But there’s long been some mystery surrounding the short-lived cooperation agreement Manafort initially reached with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team. We know that Manafort ended up lying about a great many things, which in turn voided the agreement and sent the Republican to prison. What we didn’t know was some of the relevant details: court records of the episode included a variety of redactions, obscuring key elements.

    […] the materials are being unredacted, which means we now have a better sense of what the former president’s campaign chairman lied to prosecutors about […] TPM noted yesterday:

    The evidence that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had suggesting that Paul Manafort was sharing polling with a shady figure with links to Russian intelligence was more extensive than previously known, as revealed by documents unsealed Monday in Manafort’s case.

    Quite right. As Rachel explained on last night’s show, Manafort specifically lied about sharing internal campaign polling data — during the 2016 campaign, as Russia was targeting our political system in the hopes of putting Donald Trump in power — with Konstantin Kilimnik, a former Manafort business associate whom U.S. officials have identified as a Russian intelligence agent.

    It was just last month when the U.S. Treasury Department said Kilimnik relayed the information he received from Team Trump to Russian Intelligence Services.

    So where does that leave us? For one thing, Manafort insisted that the internal campaign polling data he shared wasn’t important. According to the newly unredacted court documents, that wasn’t true.

    For another, the same unredacted filings indicate that Manafort also lied about knowing that the leaked information would be passed along to the Kremlin.

    I’m mindful of the debate surrounding the opaque definition of “collusion” — a political term, not a legal one — but none of these revelations do Team Trump any favors. Donald Trump’s own campaign chair shared internal information with a Russian intelligence officer, who conveyed that information to Russian Intelligence Services, during Russia’s attack on our elections, and then lied about it to federal prosecutors.

    Occasionally, the former president likes to claim that the Russia scandal was a “hoax.” It’s among the most important lies he’s ever told.

  177. says

    […] Just below the surface, there’s a little more to this. As we’ve discussed, Biden’s plan for the IRS is the kind of revenue-generating idea that conservatives should be comfortable with.

    When it comes to financing the president’s domestic agenda, there’s a predictable fight underway about taxes — or more specifically, tax rates. Democrats want to ask more from the wealthy and big corporations, while Republicans want to shield the rich and powerful while pretending to be a working-class party.

    But Biden’s IRS plan is a little different.

    The service has been gradually undermined for years, which in turn has made it far more difficult for the agency to be aggressive in pursuing possible tax cheats, which in turn has meant less revenue for policy priorities. Spending more on the IRS would almost certainly mean a lot more money for the treasury, even with existing tax rates.

    As Catherine Rampell explained in a recent column, “How do you raise tax revenue without raising taxes? By increasing enforcement of existing tax law and making sure every penny already owed gets paid.”

    By some measures, strengthening the IRS could generate an additional $700 billion in tax revenue over the next decade […] For the “law and order” party, this shouldn’t be too heavy a lift.

    In effect, White House officials are telling Republicans, “We have an idea to raise federal revenue, to help pay for key priorities, without raising tax rates.”

    To which Republicans are effectively telling the White House, “We’re against that, too.”

    Indeed, as Eric Levitz noted, Donald Trump’s former legislative director, Marc Short, is helping spearhead the effort against efforts to bolster the IRS, and his group’s message is far from subtle:

    The 30-second spot shows an army of shadowy IRS agents — all apparently clones of the same bespectacled man — stalking anxious middle-class taxpayers with surveillance drones. This is “the new America,” the voice-over warns, “where congressional Democrats want to defund the police, and Biden wants to add thousands of IRS agents.” To prevent their nation from becoming a dystopian hellscape in which criminals murder with impunity — while IRS agents arrest small-business owners for math errors — viewers must call their representatives now.

    […] these conservatives want to be seen as allies of law enforcement, except for those who enforce tax laws. The right would have Americans believe tax cheats aren’t a problem, but efforts to catch tax cheats are a problem.

    […] There’s broad agreement for the need to invest in U.S. infrastructure. Can we inch the corporate tax rate higher? Republicans say no. Can we ask more of millionaires and billionaires? Republicans say no. Can we strengthen the IRS to enforce existing tax laws? Republicans are saying no to that, too. […]

    Link

  178. says

    From Eric Topol:

    C’mon Idaho
    Your vaccination (35%) is among the lowest in the US
    Your positive test rate of 6.3% is an outlier, more than double the US average (2.9%)

  179. says

    Klobuchar takes aim at Trump favorite: Pre-checked fundraising boxes

    Team Trump pioneered the practice of raising money through pre-checked boxes and recurring contributions. Sen. Amy Klobuchar has proposed a ban.

    […] The FEC voted unanimously on May 6 that recurring contributions through prechecked boxes should be banned.

    Of course, FEC members can’t unilaterally alter federal election laws — it’s an enforcement agency, not a policymaking one — which is why the commissioner specifically asked Congress to protect the public and prospective donors by strengthening the campaign-finance system.

    Yesterday, as NBC News reported, a group of senators answered the call.

    Senate Democrats introduced legislation Monday to ban political campaigns from prechecking recurring political donation boxes after a number of former President Donald Trump’s supporters complained that they’d been duped into contributing more than they’d intended to. […] The bill would require contributors to consent to recurring charges and require political committees or campaigns to inform donors about how to cancel recurring contributions.

    The lead sponsor is Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who chairs the Senate Rules Committee, which has jurisdiction over campaign-finance laws and the administration of federal elections. As of this morning, the bill — the “Rescuing Every Contributor from Unwanted Recurrences” Act” (RECUR Act) — has seven co-sponsors: six Democrats and an independent who caucuses with Democrats.

    That list may yet grow, but if Republicans refuse to support the measure, it suggests the bill may not survive a GOP filibuster.

    […] Team Trump set up a default system for online donors: by adding easily overlooked pre-checked boxes and opaque fine print, the then-president’s operation was able to fleece unsuspecting donors for months. Not surprisingly, banks and credit card companies were soon inundated “with fraud complaints from the president’s own supporters about donations they had not intended to make, sometimes for thousands of dollars.” Some donors even canceled their cards just to make the recurring payments to Trump stop.

    […] effectively fleecing his own supporters, and while the former president didn’t like the reporting, he also didn’t contest any of its specific details.

    The original article added that the tools Team Trump relied on are being “exported … across the Republican Party, presaging a new normal for G.O.P. campaigns.” […] “Those donors who do not proactively uncheck the box will have their credit cards billed or bank accounts deducted for donations every month.”

    […] What made Trump’s and his party’s tactics unusual was the predatory nature of their tactics. The specific tool may be relatively common, but Republicans’ efforts to hide and intimidate stood out for a reason.

    The National Republican Congressional Committee’s donation page read last month, for example, “If you UNCHECK this box, we will have to tell Trump you’re a DEFECTOR & sided with the Dems. CHECK this box and we can win back the House and get Trump to run in 2024.” All of that text is bolded. Below it, in text that isn’t bold, the box added, “Make this a monthly recurring donation.”

    The appeal came on the heels of a different recent NRCC fundraising pitch with a similar pre-checked yellow box. “If you want Trump to run for President in 2024, check this box,” it read. “If we flip 5 seats and the House RED, Trump says he’ll run. Uncheck this box, we lose.”

    Trump didn’t actually say this, of course. The National Republican Congressional Committee simply wanted to separate its supporters from their money.

  180. says

    New Filing Accidentally Reveals Scope Of Giuliani SDNY Probe

    Manhattan federal prosecutors executed search warrants on three Ukrainians in their investigation into Rudy Giuliani, botched redactions in a court filing reveal.

    Prosecutors with the Southern District of New York have searched the email accounts of two former Ukrainian officials, ex-prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko and tax service chief Roman Nasirov. They also seized the iPhone and iPad of Alexander Levin, a Ukrainian businessman who put two associates of Giuliani’s in touch with a powerful Ukrainian oligarch.

    A filing by Joseph Bondy, an attorney for Lev Parnas, accidentally revealed the information by blackening lines in the court document while leaving it possible for them to be copied and pasted to another file, CNN first reported. […]

    Lutsenko played a key role in Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch’s 2019 firing. Text messages that Parnas gave to the House Intelligence Committee show Lutsenko pushing the Giuliani associate for her firing, tying it at times to his announcement of damaging information about the Bidens.

    Nasirov, another former Ukrainian official who met his downfall amid corruption allegations, reportedly helped to fund a $10 million loan for a project that Parnas was working on. Nasirov also attended Trump’s 2017 inauguration. […]

  181. says

    […] A new watchdog report by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General released on Monday found that between July 2017 and July 2018, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement returned as many as 348 parents to their home countries without their children and without documenting if they had agreed to be separated. In some cases, the investigation concluded, ICE knowingly removed parents without their children even though those parents explicitly stated that they wanted to bring their children with them. “There was no policy or standard process requiring ICE officers to ascertain, document, or honor parents’ decisions regarding their children,” the report states.

    This latest OIG investigation adds to the mounting evidence of the sheer negligence or cruel intent behind the practice of prosecuting migrant parents and separating families at the border.

    […] at least in some cases, the report concluded, “ICE’s removals of parents without their children were intentional, and not just inadvertent incidents resulting from human error or inaccurate records.”

    […] no government action will undo the years of trauma that parents and children have now endured.”

    Link

  182. says

    Wonkette:

    In a sharp rebuke to Donald Trump’s cheerful, optimistic approach of “everything will be fine, shut up,” President Joe Biden and California Gov. Gavin Newsom have both unveiled plans to prepare for likely disasters before they even happen, based on something they call “science.” It is believed this “science” thing may secretly be a form of communism that will take away your guns and make your children speak Chinese.

    Biden announced yesterday that, ahead of the Atlantic hurricane season, he would double the amount of federal funding to help communities prepare for hurricanes and other extreme weather events, which “scientists” say will be made worse and less predictable by climate change. Biden also announced a plan to significantly build up NASA’s ability to collect climate data, as if the space agency had any business looking at the planet we live on instead of at cooler faraway places without oil lobbyists.

    Meanwhile, in Sacramento, Newsom announced that he too would double funding for disaster preparedness, but in this case it was a plan to spend $2 billion to get ready for what’s expected to be another horrible fire season in California, as well as for other disasters the state is prone to, like earthquakes, landslides, and the release of Michael Bay movies.

    Neither Biden nor Newsom made any mention of the need to rake the forests […]

    Visiting the Washington DC headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Biden warned that the coming hurricane season and the western wildfire season both promise to keep the nation’s disaster response agencies busy, saying his administration would “spare no expense, no effort, to keep Americans safe and respond to crises when they arise. And they certainly will.” Talk about a downer!

    By contrast, Trump regularly assured Americans that the coronavirus would just suddenly go away, which was certainly a more positive message. Biden also advanced the odd idea that even people in states that didn’t vote for him deserve to be helped, both with preparedness and after a disaster strikes.

    […] “It’s not about red states and blue states. You all know that. It’s about having people’s backs in the toughest moments that they face, ready with food, water, blankets, shelters and more.”

    It is unclear whether Biden has any plans to personally throw rolls of paper towels to survivors, a step that endeared Donald Trump to political satirists everywhere. It is not believed he intends to use a Sharpie on any hurricane path projections, either.

    […] As if you needed more reasons to work to keep Democrats in control of the House and Senate in 2022, let’s recall that when the GOP took over the Senate last time, Ted Cruz became the head of the subcommittee with oversight of NASA. He then spent two years hectoring the space agency to stop wasting time and money on climate, which isn’t even in space. In 2015, Cruz notoriously lectured then-NASA Administrator Charles Bolden that climate was outside NASA’s real mission, which was about exploring other planets, not ours. After all, said Cruz, space exploration is “what inspires little boys and little girls across this country,” not a bunch of boring “climate” data.

    Bolden agreed that space is very nifty (as a former astronaut, he’d know), but added that NASA “can’t go anywhere if the Kennedy Space Center goes underwater. … It is absolutely critical that we understand Earth’s environment because this is the only place that we have to live,” […]

    Out in California, which mostly got Donald Trump’s attention when he was blaming the state for irresponsibly catching fire, Gavin Newsom held a press conference to announce his plans for fire season, arriving in a CalFire firefighting helicopter because that’s an exciting visual for the evening news. […]

    As Politico points out, Newsom has plenty of reasons to focus on wildfire prevention and suppression, like the thousand or so fires that have already hit California in 2021 so far, well ahead of the worst months for wildfire, in the fall and early winter.

    […] And without ever saying the name of the previous president, Newsom was happy to point out that the current president takes science seriously, and believes that the federal government’s job is to assist states, not to whine at them.

    He reminded that “close to 60 percent of the forest land in the state of California is managed by the federal government,” with just a “very few percent” even owned by the state. “Now with an administration that is less a closed fist — and more of an open hand — we expect significant investments by the U.S. Forest Service to advance these efforts,” he said.

    […] it sure is terrible that Newsom is buying votes by doing things Californians want. Particularly since that spending is possible because the state had a pleasantly surprising budget surplus […]

    Seems unfair of Democrats to pander to voters by investing in plans to prepare for disasters. […]

    Link

  183. says

    Belarus dissident’s ‘confession’ video suggests coercion and torture, experts and advocates say.

    Washington Post link

    A video purporting to show dissident Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich confessing to organizing “mass riots” has met with skepticism from scholars, family members and human rights groups who say that there is little doubt that he was coerced.

    The 29-second video surfaced Monday evening, a day after Belarusian authorities forced a plane with Protasevich on board to land so that he could be arrested, roiling European aviation and prompting an E.U. agreement to impose sanctions. In the footage, Protasevich, seated against a blank wall in a brightly lit room, says that he is being treated “as correctly as possible” and is not experiencing any health problems.

    The detained journalist’s demeanor in the video alarmed his father, Dzmitry, who told Reuters that his son’s nose appeared to have been broken, “because the shape of it is changed,” and that his remarks were out of character.

    “It’s not his words, it’s not his intonation of speech, he is acting very reserved, and you can see he is nervous,” Dzmitry Protasevich said. “My son cannot admit to creating the mass disorders, because he just didn’t do any such thing.”

    In the video, Protasevich’s face appears to be marked with abrasions and bruises, suggesting that authorities subjected him to “torture or other ill-treatment” before recording the supposed confession, Amnesty International spokesman Alexander Artemyev told The Washington Post.

    […] World leaders have also approached the video with skepticism. President Biden said in a statement Monday that it appeared to have been “made under duress” and called for Protasevich’s immediate release. […]

    “All I can say is the behavior of the Belarus regime does not lend itself to think that in any way this statement was offered voluntarily,” Therese Coffey, a British government minister, told Sky News on Tuesday.

    […] The video of Protasevich’s alleged confession was distributed in multiple channels on the social media and messaging site Telegram that are allied with Belarus’s strongman president, Alexander Lukashenko.[…]

  184. says

    Sen. Joe Manchin, in all his hubristic, mulish certainty that he’s God’s gift to legislating, is demanding a colossal amount of time and energy from the rest of us trying to save this damned country. Now that includes 39 constitutional scholars who have written to congressional leaders to say, in essence, that Manchin is full of shit. In this case, the shit he is full of is on statehood for the District of Columbia.

    “As scholars of the United States Constitution, we write to correct claims that the D.C. Admission Act is vulnerable to a constitutional challenge in the courts,” write the 39 scholars, including Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law, Erwin Chemerinsky of UC Berkeley Law, Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia, and Leah Litman of the University of Michigan Law School. There is “no constitutional barrier,” they write, to prevent Washington, D.C., from “entering the Union through a congressional proclamation, pursuant to the Constitution’s Admissions Clause, just like the 37 other states that have been admitted since the Constitution was adopted.”

    Manchin is laboring under the impression—or excuse—that admitting the district as a state would require a constitutional amendment. Earlier this month, he said on West Virginia MetroNews’ Talkline radio that he had taken a “deep dive” on the issue and knew what he was talking about. “D.C. statehood is not a new one,” Manchin said, and remarked that the Justice Department had studied the issue from the 1960s to the 1980s. “They all came to the same conclusion: If Congress wants to make D.C. a state, it should propose a constitutional amendment. It should propose a constitutional amendment and let the people of America vote.” His home state of West Virginia, by the way, broke from Virginia in 1861 and Congress passed a bill to declare it a state in 1863.

    The actual constitutional scholars disagree. “Congress’s exercise of its express constitutional authority to decide to admit a new state is a classic political question, which courts are highly unlikely to interfere with, let alone attempt to bar,” they write in the letter. They also obliquely refer to the controversial splintering of Virginia and West Virginia by pointing out that the Supreme Court “has never interfered with Congress’s admission of a state, even when potentially legitimate constitutional objections existed.” Those objections were raised in 1863, when some argued that West Virginia’s statehood violated Admissions Clause, the scholars point out. “The Supreme Court, however, did not bar West Virginia’s admission; to the contrary, it later tacitly approved of it,” the letter says.

    The House passed Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s D.C. statehood bill on April 22. The legislation would preserve the immediate surroundings of the White House, Capitol Hill, the Supreme Court, and the National Mall as the federal district and turn the rest of what is now Washington, D.C. into the “State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth.” It would also give the 714,153 residents of the district the full benefits of being U.S. citizens—representation to go along with their taxation, and the right to have a fully functioning local government that is not at the mercy of the whims of Congress.

    That representation would include a member of the House who had an actual vote in Congress. Norton is still only a delegate. She’s a powerful voice, but has no vote when it counts. The people of Washington, D.C., have no U.S. senators, and yes, the population of the district is larger than that of either Wyoming or Vermont. That the new state would be plurality-Black (in stark contrast to both Wyoming or Vermont) has just about everything to do with Republican opposition to the fundamentally patriotic ideal of Washington statehood.

    That fact—that Republicans are not even attempting to hide the white supremacist motivations behind the Big Lie and all their voter suppression tactics—that’s something that should make any Democrat think about what they’re enabling by allowing Republican obstruction. Especially when it comes to restoring and then preserving democracy.

    It’s Kyrsten Sinema, who McConnell has made a bestie of, or Manchin, who has the unmitigated hubris to dismiss what’s happening before his very eyes with a sniff and a thoroughly misplaced sense of superiority, and the sense that he and he alone can bring bipartisanship back to the Senate.

    […] The filibuster has to go. It’s as simple as that.

    Link

  185. says

    Robert Kennedy Jr. cavorts with Nazis, and suing Daily Kos won’t make that any less true

    Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is pretty much the worst. The prominent anti-vaxxer [source links are available at the main link], anti-masker, and anti-sound health policy scion of the famous family has done incredible damage to our ability to weather and emerge from this global pandemic, making common cause with Republicans like Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin to spread their anti-science, pro-COVID-19 message. Indeed, the Center for Countering Digital Hate found that just 12 people were responsible for 65% of all the COVID-19 misinformation on social media, including 73% of misinformation on Facebook. And No. 2 on their list? Kennedy and his […] Children’s Health Defense.

    But Kennedy isn’t content just spreading dangerous, life-threatening misinformation and lies. You know how crazy California Republican Rep. Devin Nunes sued a parody Twitter account to try and unmask the author, with Trump Justice Department help? Well, Kennedy has sued Daily Kos to unmask the identity of a community diarist for writing a story attacking him for attending an anti-mask rally in Berlin that was heavily planned, promoted, and attended by Nazis. […]

    […] Here is my affidavit expressing why it’s important for Daily Kos to protect the pseudonymity of its community, boiling down to this simple conclusion: “It is essential that Daily Kos take all efforts to ensure that a registered user may maintain anonymity. This is because some of the participants in our community would be subject to adverse treatment, for example in the workplace, and in some instances even physical harm to themselves and their family if their Daily Kos identity was revealed.” We take that seriously, which is why we’ve been fighting this case and will continue to do so.

    […] instead of going after a pseudonymous community writer/diarist on this site, maybe Kennedy will drop that pointless lawsuit and go after me. No guarantees, of course. He’s a coward who has avoided going after major news organizations like Reuters and The New York Times that are writing the same stories. But we’re certainly not done legally fighting him. In fact, consider this an escalation. Because yes, Kennedy cavorts with Nazis. And so let me explain, in detail, from the top.

    The community story in question is this one: “Anti-Vaxxer RFK JR. joins neo-Nazis in massive Berlin ‘Anti-Corona’ Protest,” by DowneastDem. The story was a translation of a German-language news story about the event.

    The protest was organized by right-wing extremist organizations- including the AfD party and various anti-Semitic conspiracy groups as well as the neo-Nazi NPD party.

    Among the speakers was Robert F. Kennedy Jr.. who warned against the “totalitarianism” of Angela Merkel.

    “He sounded the alarm concerning the 5G mobile network and Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Referring to the famous Berlin speech of his uncle JFK he said ‘Today Berlin is is once again the front against totalitarianism.’”

    Protester were seen carrying posters urging “Trump, Please Help” with the QAnon logo.

    Kennedy sicced his lawyers on us, demanding identifying information on DowneastDem. Because of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, he cannot sue Daily Kos—the site itself—for defamation. We are protected by the so-called safe harbor. That’s why he’s demanding we reveal what we know about DowneastDem so they can sue her or him directly.

    Kennedy justifies his legal assault by claiming that the community story […] calling the organizers “right-wing extremist organizations” is defamatory, and that the specific group that invited him to speak, the Querdenken movement, is “a broad-based, peaceful citizens’ movement for freedom, peace and human rights.” He claims that it “strongly opposes Nazism, anti-Semitism and all forces of extremists.” As a result, he concludes that the “article’s claims were utterly false” and “[t]he fact that the erroneous nature of Daily Kos’s inflammatory ‘fake news’ was so easily discernible attests to the journal’s malicious intent. By tarring Kennedy with Nazism and anti-Semitism, Daily Kos was employing two of the three most damaging accusations that anyone can levy at a public figure.”

    Now, there are two different frames upon which to view this attack: The first is Kennedy’s assault on the First Amendment and efforts to silence a critic, even one as small as a pseudonymous community writer on Daily Kos. The second is the facts of the matter. In other words, there are two ways to approach this: What does the law say, and what is the truth of the matter? We’ll tackle both.

    Let’s start with the law. Given that he is a public figure, the legal standard for defamation is “actual malice,” which is further defined in The New York Times v. Sullivan as “with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard” for truth.

    Keep in mind that DowneastDem essentially translated a local newspaper account, Der Tagesspiegel. This literally destroys any “actual malice” argument on its face, no matter how much Kennedy wants to claim “malicious intent.” […] And note, it wasn’t just that newspaper that reported the rally organized and attended by Nazis. Here’s The New York Times:

    Some 38,000 protesters from all over the country flocked to the German capital last weekend, the biggest number since the marches started in April. It was an eclectic crowd. There were anti-vaxxers like Robert F. Kennedy Jr., anticapitalists, esoterics, ordinary citizens angry at having to wear face masks — but also about 3,000 members of the far-right scene.

    CBS News:

    Robert F. Kennedy Jr., nephew of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy, speaks to people from a wide spectrum, including coronavirus skeptics, conspiracy enthusiasts, right-wing extremists, religious conservatives, hippies and others gathered under the Victory Column in the city center to hear speeches during a protest against coronavirus-related restrictions and government policy on August 29, 2020 in Berlin, Germany.

    That CBS article also has pictures of people in the crowd wearing and carrying pro-Trump, pro-Q, and white supremacist extremist symbols and messages. This Irish Times article notes, “Noticeable numbers of neo-Nazis, kitted out with historic Reich flags and other extremist accessories, mixed in with the crowd.” In their briefs, Kennedy’s lawyers try to distinguish between the Victory Column protest, the one Kennedy spoke at, and a gathering of neo-Nazi protesters at the Reichstag (Parliament) a couple of kilometers away, but as this same story notes, “as the main demonstration was winding down, a small group of extremists waving historic Reich flags held an unofficial gathering at the Reichstag.” In other words, they weren’t concurrent, separate events.

    […] Our response brief has many more examples of media coverage, as literally dozens of media organizations reported on the event the same way—anti-vaxxer Kennedy spoke at an event organized and attended by extremists. So why isn’t he suing those media outlets […]

    There is literally nothing in the reporting of the event that would suggest any hint of “fake news.” Rather, it’s obvious that Kennedy is using that phrase the same way Donald Trump does: as a way to refute the very reality we see before our eyes.

    […] Kennedy is a public figure, hence the standard for defamation is almost impossibly high to meet. He knows this, of course—his lawyers have told him this. And he himself isn’t an idiot. He is simply pissed at the media focus on his shady, racist, antisemitic associates and is taking it out on what he thinks is the easiest target in sight.

    But those are legal arguments. […] let’s talk about the Querdenken.

    Here’s the German outlet Deutcheswelle, with a … significantly different picture of who and what they are.

    Meet Germany’s ‘Querdenker’ COVID protest movement. They act like a peace movement, but Querdenker march alongside the far-right, and their protests often end in violence.

    Reading that piece, one gets the impression that as movement it’s certainly eclectic, yet happy to host extremists among its ranks, […] Extremist parties have strong support among its members, and its leadership has coordinated with other explicitly extremists groups.

    The Daily Beast had its own look at the group, and called them “the Weird Pro-QAnon German Group Behind RFK Jr.’s Latest Anti-Vaxx Stunt.”

    Querdenken 711, whose name loosely translates to “Thinking Outside the Box 711,” had tried to invite other controversial world leaders to the rally before landing Kennedy. On Aug. 7, the group’s Twitter account tweeted at Donald Trump, calling him […] Three days later, the account tweeted at Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, asking him, too, to speak about “Peace in Europe,” apparently ignoring Russia’s intervention in Eastern Ukraine.

    In a last-ditch effort to score a major speaker outside of their own ranks, the group finally tweeted at Kennedy, asking him to join them on stage for “freedom and peace” […]

    Voice of America has taken its own look at the rise of German extremist groups.

    Last month, officials in the southwestern Baden-Wuerttemberg region added the “Querdenken 711” group to a watch list, the state’s Interior Ministry said.

    “Legitimate protest against coronavirus restrictions is increasingly making way for a general hate against state and politics,” Interior Minister Thomas Strobl told Reuters.

    Strobl said violent right-wing actors are spreading false claims to incite hate against the state, making “absurd comparisons” with the Nazis, and minimizing the Holocaust.

    […] violent far-right elements appear to have become more pronounced in the group, which has increasingly embraced the idea that the modern German state is illegitimate.

    Meanwhile, the BBC reports that “’Querdenker’ anti-lockdown demonstrations have drawn support from a variety of groups, including the far-right AfD party, anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists. […]

    […] Furthermore, Querdenken is working alongside white supremacism Nazi groups in Germany. […]

    At the first large protest in Berlin on Aug. 1, [Querdenken founder Michael] Ballweg cited the QAnon slogan, “Where we go one, we go all” in front of a cheering crowd. At the same event, he was photographed talking to Nikolai Nerling, a former primary school teacher who was convicted for incitement by a German court after denying the Holocaust in front of students at the concentration camp memorial in Dachau […]

    Ballweg also dog-whistled his support for Reichsbürger (“Imperial Citizen”), a movement similar to the “sovereign citizens” in the U.S. […]

    Note: This all happened at the event with Kennedy. […] Kennedy spoke at an event in Berlin organized and attended by antisemitic Nazis and Nazi sympathizers. […]

    Obviously, this fight isn’t inexpensive. So you can help us fight for the pseudonymity of this community by contributing here. I’ll keep everyone apprised of the legal case as it winds its way through the courts.

    And if Kennedy isn’t a coward, he can drop the suit targeting DowneastDem and come directly after me, as I’ve reiterated every single charge made in that one original diary. […]

    So bring it, asshole. […]

  186. says

    Representative Adam Schiff:

    Marjorie Taylor Greene made herself a GOP star. By creating chaos for clicks. Seeking money using racist, homophobic, antisemitic language. Spewing nonsense and hate. Her actions are only a sign of the greater rot in her party. It won’t stop until people stop rewarding them.

  187. says

    Michelangelo Signorile – “January 6th just the beginning, as ‘second civil war’ is plotted”:

    …As Gerson noted, many of the threats of violence from extremists are being experienced by election officials who don’t support the Big Lie. The Arizona Secretary of State, Democrat Katie Hobbs, who has spoken against the outrageous “fraudit” in Maricopa County, has received death threats and had to get extra security, as is the case with many Democrats in Congress.

    But even Republicans who’ve stood against the Big Lie, like Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, received death threats. And according to Washington Post reporter Dan Zak, Republicans fearful of physical violence from Trump supporters if they cross Trump have a name for this: getting “Mike Pence’d.” It’s obviously an allusion to Vice President Mike Pence being targeted by Trump supporters — after Trump lashed out at him at the “Stop the Steal” rally — during the insurrection, who chanted “Hang Mike Pence!” and even brought a gallows to the event.

    Covering the Arizona “fraudit” up close — “The Maricopa Mess” — Zak reports:

    This is just a race to the bottom, according to current and former officials, who say some Arizona Republicans are worried about getting “Mike Pence’d” — facing political or possibly physical danger — if they don’t support Trump’s continuing attack on democracy. The Maricopa supervisors have been harassed outside their homes, assigned police protection and decamped to Airbnbs to avoid threats.

    “My colleagues across the country in Georgia and Michigan and many other states have protection details because their lives have been threatened” since the election, says Kim Wyman, the Washington secretary of state. “It’s frightening.”

    So the talk of a “Second Civil War,” as red states are passing more laws allowing access to guns, and as GOP officials do all they can to protect the violent insurrectionists who beat and stomped police, is clearly a signal that there is more to come.

    Democrats must understand the gravity of this — and progressives should be turning up the heat if they’re not….

  188. says

    Another hostage video from Belarus, being pushed by pro-Kremlin media. Sofia Sapega, the Russian partner of Roman Protasevich who was detained with him, is forced to ‘confess’ to being admin of an opposition Telegram channel that exposed names Lukashenko’s abusive police officers

    Belarusian authorities today arrested her for two months.”

    She’s not even from there!

  189. says

    New York Times:

    Iran agreed on Monday to a one-month extension of an agreement with international inspectors that would allow them to continue monitoring the country’s nuclear program, avoiding a major setback in the continuing negotiations with Tehran. Under the agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran will extend access to monitoring cameras at its nuclear facilities until June 24, Rafael Mariano Grossi, the agency’s director general, told reporters in Vienna.

  190. says

    A century ago, a prosperous Black neighborhood in Tulsa, Okla., perished at the hands of a violent white mob.

    Link

    The Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 killed hundreds of residents, burned more than 1,250 homes and erased years of Black success.

    Imagine a community of great possibilities and prosperity built by Black people for Black people. Places to work. Places to live. Places to learn and shop and play. Places to worship.

    Now imagine it being ravaged by flames.

    In May 1921, the Tulsa, Okla., neighborhood of Greenwood was a fully realized antidote to the racial oppression of the time. Built in the early part of the century in a northern pocket of the city, it was a thriving community of commerce and family life to its roughly 10,000 residents.

    Brick and wood-frame homes dotted the landscape, along with blocks lined with grocery stores, hotels, nightclubs, billiard halls, theaters, doctor’s offices and churches.

    Greenwood was so promising, so vibrant that it became home to what was known as America’s Black Wall Street. But what took years to build was erased in less than 24 hours by racial violence — sending the dead into mass graves and forever altering family trees.

    Hundreds of Greenwood residents were brutally killed, their homes and businesses wiped out. They were casualties of a furious and heavily armed white mob of looters and arsonists. One factor that drove the violence: resentment toward the Black prosperity found in block after block of Greenwood.

    The financial toll of the massacre is evident in the $1.8 million in property loss claims — $27 million in today’s dollars — detailed in a 2001 state commission report. For two decades, the report has been one of the most comprehensive accounts to reveal the horrific details of the massacre — among the worst racial terror attacks in the nation’s history — as well as the government’s culpability.

    The destruction of property is only one piece of the financial devastation that the massacre wrought. Much bigger is a sobering kind of inheritance: the incalculable and enduring loss of what could have been, and the generational wealth that might have shaped and secured the fortunes of Black children and grandchildren.

    “What if we had been allowed to maintain our family business?” asked Brenda Nails-Alford, who is in her early 60s. The Greenwood Avenue shoe shop of her grandfather and his brother was destroyed. “If they had been allowed to carry on that legacy,” she said, “there’s no telling where we could be now.”

    For decades, what happened in Greenwood was willfully buried in history. Piecing together archival maps and photographs, with guidance from historians, The New York Times constructed a 3-D model of the Greenwood neighborhood as it was before the destruction. The Times also analyzed census data, city directories, newspaper articles, and survivor tapes and testimonies from that time to show the types of people who made up the neighborhood and contributed to its vibrancy.

    Perhaps no other collection of businesses tells the story of Greenwood and Black entrepreneurship better than the 100 block of Greenwood Avenue, rising near the southern tip of the neighborhood. This marquee block was the pulse of the Black business community.

    More than 70 businesses operated in mostly one-, two- and three-story red brick buildings clustered along the block. All but a couple were owned by Black entrepreneurs.

    In this stretch alone, there were four hotels, two newspapers, eight doctors, seven barbers, nine restaurants and a half-dozen professional offices of real estate agents, dentists and lawyers. A cabaret and a cigar shop were on the block, too. […]

    More at the link.

  191. says

    CNBC – “Manhattan DA convenes grand jury in Trump investigation, report says”:

    Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. has convened a grand jury in his wide-ranging investigation into former President Donald Trump, The Washington Post reported Tuesday, citing two sources familiar with the probe.

    Prosecutors have been investigating Trump, the Trump Organization and its officers since at least 2018. The grand jury signals that they are ready to present evidence and potentially seek indictments.

    The panel was convened recently, according to the Post, but it was unclear precisely when. It will meet three days a week over a span of six months.

    In New York state, this kind of special grand jury typically hears a number of different cases and is especially useful in complex, long-running matters.

    Although much of Vance’s investigation is still opaque, court filings and witnesses have confirmed that prosecutors are investigating several kinds of financial activities that Trump and the Trump Organization engaged in.

    One of them is whether the former president and his company falsely inflated the value of their properties for insurance adjusters and then undervalued the properties for tax purposes.

    Another area under investigation is how the Trump Organization paid its top executives and whether taxes were paid on various forms of compensation….

    Elie Mystal is on MSNBC with Ari Melber talking about it, and brought out popcorn. :)

  192. says

    Vance Has Convened A Grand Jury To Consider Trump Indictment [!!!]

    Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has convened a special grand jury to hear evidence about potential charges in his investigation of the Trump Organization, the Washington Post reported.

    Citing two anonymous sources, the newspaper reported that the grand jury has begun to meet recently, but did not specify a start date.

    Vance has been investigating Trump for more than two years. A grand jury issued a subpoena for the former president’s tax returns in August 2019, which Trump successfully fought off until after the 2020 election.

    During that time, Vance has suggested in public filings that bank, insurance, and tax fraud all may be focuses of the probe.

    The investigation has heated up in recent months, as New York Attorney General Letitia James joined the investigation with Vance. James’s probe began with testimony from former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen that Trump would inflate or deflate the value of his assets for lending or tax purposes, while Vance’s probe reportedly began with Cohen’s testimony about the Stormy Daniels hush money payments.

    The Post described Vance’s probe as “expansive,” saying that he has been focusing on Trump’s business career before he ran for president.

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/wapo-vance-has-convened-a-grand-jury-to-consider-trump-indictment

  193. says

    Follow-up to comment 236.

    Posted by readers of the article:

    After so many disappointments in the legal pursuit of the Trumps I’m hesitant to get my hopes up, but this looks promising. I hope we get to see Uday and Qusay do the perp walk.
    ——————-
    Trump putting the “flop” in “flop sweat”. Yes! All in all, today’s been a good news day.
    ——————-
    Though I am nothing if not pessimistic, having Donald sweat is worth a lot, for pure schadenfreude if nothing else. And I really don’t believe that, now that he’s out of office, he can avoid everything forever. Even if this isn’t the tolling of the bell
    —————–
    I don’t think Vance worked this thing for two years in order to produce nothing.

    If you’re hoping that trump will be pilloried in Times Square, well that probably won’t happen.
    ———————-
    Sure willing to celebrate over here a bit.

    A sunshine break in the clouds is always appreciated.

    And this does not have to be the issue that gets through all the way. It will be a drain on him. And it is not the last lawsuit.

    He’s bottomlessly corrupt. We’re still barely scratching the surface.
    ——————–
    Neil Katyal is saying this is the worst thing that has happened to donnie and the public shouldn’t give into the fatigue of…“Oh, he always gets away with everything.”

    Katyal: “This jury is working three days a week. They’re working a lot more than HE ever did.”
    ———————-
    being an ex-president is a big difference that renders a lot of the past performance moot. Now that he’s passed on from the presidency and he’s a former president, his earlier legal “arguments” are pushing up the daisies and have joined the choir invisible.
    ——————–
    All I can say, its about damn time!!

    Looks like Trump’s hell is about to fire up!
    ———————
    Neil Katyal says: “Trump has the most to fear about this because Weisselberg will flip and he knows where are the bodies are buried.”
    ——————-
    Everything is the same right up until it isn’t and things don’t happen until they do. People didn’t think we would ever have a Black president until one day we did. John Gotti was teflon until he wasn’t. That’s how shit goes
    ——————
    For major cases the DA will use one or more investigative grand juries. Then the evidence is turned over to an indicting grand jury that puts the evidence together. That is where we are now.

    Under NY law any person who is the potential criminal defendant has the right to testify before indictment. Interesting to see if any members of the Trump crime family take advantage.
    ——————-
    Don’t protect his head when you push him into the back seat on the way to the jail.

  194. says

    Prosecutor in Trump criminal probe convenes grand jury to hear evidence, weigh potential charges.

    Washington Post link

    Manhattan’s district attorney has convened the grand jury that is expected to decide whether to indict former president Donald Trump, other executives at his company or the business itself should prosecutors present the panel with criminal charges, according to two people familiar with the development.

    The panel was convened recently and will sit three days a week for six months. It is likely to hear several matters — not just the Trump case ­— during the duration of its term, which is longer than a traditional New York state grand-jury assignment, these people said. Like others, they spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. Generally, special grand juries such as this one are convened to participate in long-term matters rather than to hear evidence of crimes charged routinely.

    The move indicates that District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.’s investigation of the former president and his business has reached an advanced stage after more than two years. It suggests, too, that Vance believes he has found evidence of a crime — if not by Trump then by someone potentially close to him or by his company.

    Vance’s investigation is expansive, according to people familiar the probe and public disclosures made during related litigation. His investigators are scrutinizing Trump’s business practices before he was president, including whether the value of specific properties in the Trump Organization’s real estate portfolio were manipulated in a way that defrauded banks and insurance companies, and if any tax benefits were obtained illegally through unscrupulous asset valuation.

    The district attorney also is examining the compensation provided to top Trump Organization executives, people familiar with the matter have said.

    […] Adam S. Miller, who served as deputy bureau chief of the Major Economic Crimes Bureau in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office before entering private practice in 2011, said such a “special grand jury” is “certainly not an uncommon thing to do with a large, technical and complicated investigation.”

    “It’s really for very complicated cases that have a lot of information for a grand jury to digest,” Miller said, noting that special grand juries can be extended beyond their initial term with a judge’s approval.

    […] Roiphe said the recent step of seating a long-term panel shows that Vance’s investigation has progressed to the point that prosecutors will visit the grand jury, bring them evidence and witnesses, and potentially ask them to contemplate charges. They were unlikely to take that step without believing they had evidence to show there was probable cause to believe someone committed a crime, she said.

    “The prosecutors are convinced they have a case. That’s at least how I read it,” Roiphe added. […]

  195. says

    CNN – “Pompeo-led effort to hunt down Covid lab theory shut down by Biden administration over concerns about quality of evidence”:

    President Joe Biden’s team shut down a closely-held State Department effort launched late in the Trump administration to prove the coronavirus originated in a Chinese lab over concerns about the quality of its work, according to three sources familiar with the decision.

    The existence of the State Department inquiry and its termination this spring by the Biden administration — neither of which has been previously reported — comes to light amid renewed interest in whether the virus could have leaked out of a Wuhan lab with links to the Chinese military. The Biden administration is also facing scrutiny of its own efforts to determine if the Chinese government was responsible for the virus.

    Those involved in the previously undisclosed inquiry, which was launched last fall by allies of then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, say it was an honest effort to probe what many initially dismissed: that China’s biological weapons program could have had a greater role in the pandemic’s origin in Wuhan, according to two additional sources.

    But the inquiry quickly became mired in internal discord amid concerns that it was part of a broader politicized effort by the Trump administration to blame China and cherry-pick facts to prove a theory.

    The decision to terminate the inquiry, which was run primarily out of the State Department’s arms control and verification bureau, was made after Biden officials were briefed on the team’s draft findings in February and March of this year, a State Department spokesperson said. Questions were raised about the legitimacy of the findings and the project was deemed to be an ineffective use of resources, explained a source familiar with the decision.

    Though Biden officials shut down this particular inquiry, they remain skeptical of Beijing’s role in limiting investigators from accessing information that may be pertinent to the origins of the virus. US intelligence agencies continue to examine the question of whether the virus emerged naturally from human contact with infected animals or if it could have been the result of a laboratory accident.

    One US intelligence report, which CNN and the Wall Street Journal recently reported on, found that several researchers at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology fell ill in November 2019 and had to be hospitalized, a new detail which has fueled the continued debate about the virus’s origin. The exact nature of their symptoms remain unclear.

    A State Department spokesperson confirmed work on the inquiry had stopped, saying, “Even though this discrete project has concluded, the State Department continues to work with the interagency to look into the COVID origins issue.”

    Opponents of the State Department inquiry viewed the effort as alarming because those working on it appeared to actively hide their work from skeptics, two sources said.

    “The way they did their work was suspicious as hell,” said one former State Department official who was familiar with the effort. “They basically conducted it in secret, cutting out the State Department’s technical experts and the Intelligence Community, and then trying to brief certain senior officials in the interagency on their ‘tentative conclusions’ even before they’d let the department leaders they worked for know an investigation was underway at all.”

    During the final weeks of the Trump administration, when senior officials in the department who had been shielded from the efforts learned about how far the inquiry had gone, they pushed for a panel of outside scientists to review the findings. When scientists looked at the data, during a 3-hour long meeting in early January, the evidence collected up until that point appeared inconclusive and misguided, two sources said.

    “It smelled like they were just fishing to justify pre-determined conclusions and cut out experts who could critique their ‘science,’ ” said the former official familiar with the effort. “The reason for all this became clear when real scientists finally got a chance to see their analysis, and [the inquiry’s] ‘statistical’ case fell apart.”

    The briefing prompted then-Assistant Secretary Chris Ford to send a memo to a handful of department officials, including top leadership, urging caution about the group’s findings.

    Ford called aspects of the analysis “gravely flawed” and urged officials “against suggesting that there is anything inherently suspicious — and suggestive of biological warfare activity — about People’s Liberation Army involvement at WIV on classified projects.”

    National security adviser Jake Sullivan has been vocal in criticizing the World Health Organization’s efforts thus far, which have been inhibited by the Chinese government restricting their access.

    “Going forward, all countries, including China, should participate in a transparent and robust process for preventing and responding to health emergencies, so that the world learns as much as possible as soon as possible,” Sullivan said in February. The State Department has echoed those calls.

    The Biden administration’s effort to investigate the origins of the pandemic is primarily focused on rallying pressure and support for the WHO’s investigation to be transparent and fulsome, explained a Biden administration official.

    The WHO, too, has said the theory needs more investigation and more access is required.
    Biden national security officials have also stated publicly that the US intelligence community does not have any solid details about the origin of the virus….

    Much more atl.

  196. says

    Quoted in Lynna’s #238:

    The panel was convened recently and will sit three days a week for six months. It is likely to hear several matters — not just the Trump case ­— during the duration of its term, which is longer than a traditional New York state grand-jury assignment, these people said.

    That’s harsh. I feel for the jurors. Hope it’s at least interesting for them, and that participating in such a big case makes it worthwhile.

  197. says

    Dominic Cummings is testifying and it’s wild. And PMQs just started as well.

    Here’s the Guardian liveblog.

    A few snippets:

    Cummings says original plan would have been exposed as ‘complete garbage’ six weeks earlier if outside experts had been involved

    Cummings says what happened was “a classic historic example of groupthink”.

    The more people criticised the plan, the more people on the inside took the view that others just did not understand.

    He says part of his job was to challenge things. He did do that, but he obviously did not do that early enough.

    If the process had been opened up early to scrutiny by smart people, “we would have figured out at least six weeks earlier that there was an alternative plan”.

    People would have realised the original plan was “complete garbage”, he says.

    Cummings says system that offers voters choice between Johnson and Corbyn for PM deeply flawed

    Cummings says that at the last election people had a choice between a government led by Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn. He says any system that presents people with a choice like that has gone “extremely badly wrong”.

    There are thousands of people who could provide better leadership, he says.

    He also says it is “crazy” that someone like himself was able to have so much power. And it was “crackers” that Johnson was in there too, he says.

    It is completely crazy that I should have been in such a senior position in my personal opinion.

    I’m not smart. I’ve not built great things in the world.

    It’s just completely crackers that someone like me should have been in there, just the same as it’s crackers that Boris Johnson was in there, and that the choice at the last election was Jeremy Corbyn.

    He says the political parties need to ask themselves about why they present the public with choices like this.

    And he says Whitehall needs to explain why people out of their depth reach senior positions.

    Cummings says there were many brilliant people at middle and junior levels, but they were let down by the leadership.

    He says Matt Hancock should have been fired for at least 20 things, “including lying to everybody in multiple occasions in meeting after meeting in the cabinet room and publicly”.

    He says the cabinet secretary also told the PM Hancock should be fired, as did other senior people.

    …Cummings said:

    Like in much of the government system, there were many brilliant people at relatively junior and middle levels who were terribly let down by senior leadership.

    I think the secretary of state for health should’ve been fired for at least 15, 20 things, including lying to everybody on multiple occasions in meeting after meeting in the cabinet room and publicly.

    There’s no doubt at all that many senior people performed far, far disastrously below the standards which the country has a right to expect. I think the secretary of state for health is certainly one of those people.

    I said repeatedly to the prime minister that he should be fired, so did the cabinet secretary, so did many other senior people.

    Cummings says in February and early March Boris Johnson, and others, thought the most serious threat was to the economy, not to public health.

    And he says people also thought they had more time than they did, because Covid was not expected to peak until June.

    Starmer urges the government to bring forward the official inquiry.

    Johnson says that will not be a good use of officials’ time.

    And here’s Ian Dunt’s livetweeting.

  198. says

    From the liveblog:

    Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminter, says Dominic Cummings apologised this morning. Like Starmer, he quotes Cummings’ opening apology. (See 9.36am.) If even a ‘disgraced figure” like Cummings can apologise, shouldn’t Johnson do the same?

    Johnson says he is truly sorry for what happened. But the government acted with the intention of saving lives, he says. And it followed the best advice.

    Blackford asks when the PM will accept responsibilities for the failings of his government.

    Johnson says he takes responsibility. He has set up an inquiry, he says.

    JFC.

  199. says

    From Dunt’s livetweets:

    …Absolute deafening silence over Brexit in all these things the govt was so occupied by.

    Procurement, HS2, reshuffles – sure. That small project Cummings helped force through, that we know took up all emergency planning capacity in the years running up to covid, and literally took place in Jan/Feb? Not so much.

    Cummings says Johnson thought covid was a scare story. “The view of various officials in No.10 was, if we have the PM chairing Cobra meetings and he just tells everyone it;s swine flu… that would not help actually serious planning.”

    Incredible statement from Cummings there. Not that the PM was useless, but that he was so useless his presence would have actively undermined a government response.

    “I am not a technical person, I am not a smart person, I couldn’t understand a lot of the models that were being discussed.” Incredible. He said this.

    When Hancock said on March 15 that herd immunity wasn’t part of the plan, was that wrong?

    Yes, Cumming says.

    “That was the plan. I’m completely baffled by why No.10 has tried to deny that. You can see it in the Cobra documents I’ve brought along.”

    “A lot of it was over my head.” This is really happening.

    Cummings says he was told on March 7th by someone he trusted that “this plan could easily be mad, it could be incredibly destructive”.

    Incidentally this timeline is extremely convincing. It tallies, almost day by day, with what we know. And Cummings in this case (unlike his idiot blog edits) is offering a realistic appraisal of his own thought process at the time.

    And it is tragic, because of the reality of exponential growth. The decisions he’s talking about cost thousands of lives.

    Cummings backtracks to the 12th. Reads out a message he sent to PM at 7:48am. “We’ve got big problems coming. The Cabinet Office is terrifyingly shit. We must advise today if you feel ill stay home.”

    That morning theTimes had run a story about the PM, is girlfriend and their dog. She was angry and we had to deal with that. “The prime minister had his girlfriend going crackers over something completely trivial.” This is amazing.

    There was also pressure from Trump to join in a bombing campaign btw.

    Dep Cabinet secretary walks in and says official in charge of coordinating with Dept for Health. He said: “I’ve been told for years there was a whole plan for this. There is no plan. We’re in huge trouble.”

    The Dep Cab sec added: “I think we are absolutely fucked. This country is heading for disaster. We’re going to kill thousands of people.”

    Jesus Christ. He says on [March] 12th, the Cabinet Secretary was telling the PM that they had a herd immunity plan “like the old chickenpox parties”….

  200. says

    More from the livetweets:

    …”On the day the PM tested positive, we were told by officials that the Dept of Health had been turning down ventilators because the price had been marked up. it completely beggars belief. ”

    Clark tells Cummings that accusing Hancock of lying is a serious charge. What’s the evidence?

    “In summer he said everyone who needed treatment got the treatment they required…

    He knew that was a lie because he’d been briefed by the chief scientific adviser himself about the first peak and we were told explicitly people did not get the treatment they deserved and people were left to die in horrific circumstances.”

    “In mid-April, the sec of state told us everything is fine with PPE. When I came back [after getting covid] almost the first meeting I had in the Cabinet room was about the disaster with PPEand how… hostpials all over the country were running out.”

    Course it could all be bollocks, because the person saying it is himself someone who doesn’t care about truth. Haha! What fun. A festival of bullshitters.

    Quick reminder that this session is called ‘Coronavirus: lessons learned’ and Cummings’ chief conclusion is that people like him and Johnson should never be allowed in politics.

    You get a sense of how different this new contrite Cummings is by his comments on Brexit. “Reasonable people can agree or disagree about Brexit. It’s perfectly reasonable to have the view that Remain should have won.”

    Rather significant change there from the ENEMIES OF PEOPLE YOU HATE BRITAIN shit we got from him earlier. Still, welcome aboard.

    You get a good sense for how fucked we are as a country by the fact that Jeremy Hunt, who looks like a frightened rodent caught in the headlights at night, is basically an elder statesman in this session.

    Dunno what Hancock did to him man, but he fucking pissed this guy off.

    Basically blaming him for single-handedly undermining test-and-trace. “Completely because Hancock wanted to be able to go on TV and say ‘look at me and my 100K target’. It was criminal disgraceful behaviour which caused serious harm.”

    Amazing. “I blame myself for many many things in this crisis, but one thing can say completely honestly is: I said repeatedly from Feb/March, if we don’t fire [Hancock], we are going to kill people and it;s going to be a catastrophe.”

    Interesting that Cummings seems to live in a very black and white universe. Everyone he mentions is either a hero or villain. Hancock is basically Skeletor. “Mark Warner”, though, “is one of the smartest and most ethical people that I’ve ever met in my life”….

  201. says

    Here’s a link to the May 26 Guardian (support them if you can!) coronavirus world liveblog.

    From there (aaaaargh):

    Indian doctors have questioned the free distribution of an ayurvedic medicine to Covid patients by the state of Haryana as the maker of the herbal concoction which has not undergone large clinical trials faced criticism.

    The news comes after the state of Goa announced it would give anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin to all adults due to claims, which have raised some eyebrows – not least at the World Health Organisation – that it may help combat the virus.

    Reuters has the full story:

    The northern state, which is ruled by prime minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janta Party, said this week it would hand out Coronil to Covid-19 patients. The ayurvedic medicine was launched by yoga guru Baba Ramdev’s company Patanjali Ayurved last year.

    The government later said the consumer goods company co-founded by Ramdev, who has a large following in India, could not market the drug as a cure, and it needed to market it as an immunity booster.

    There is no scientific basis to Coronil’s use in treating Covid-19 patients, said Ajay Khanna, the state secretary of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) in Uttarakhand, where Patanjali is headquartered.

    One small study suggests it could be effective, but experts have said further research would be required to support any such claims.

    Ayurveda is an ancient Indian system that includes medicines, meditation, exercise and dietary guidelines practiced by millions of adherents.

  202. says

    Guardian Cummings liveblog:

    Johnson ‘never wanted proper border policy’, says Cummings

    Cummings says “there was no proper border policy because the prime minister never wanted a proper border policy”.

    He says they could have just copied what Singapore or Taiwan did.

    But Boris Johnson was at this point arguing that lockdown was a mistake, and he wanted to be like the mayor in Jaws (who kept the beaches open when the shark was a threat).

    He says Johnson was worried about the impact on the tourism industry. But he was told if they did not control April there would not be a tourism industry.

    He says Johnson was also being influenced by the Daily Telegraph’s “stupid campaign” on this topic, and Tory MPs were “going crackers” about this too.

    He says in the early stages of the pandemic Johnson was not prioritising the economy over health. But after April it was a different story. That was when he was opposing border controls, Cummings says.

  203. says

    Dunt’s livethread:

    …Hancock also responsible for the deaths in care homes, apparently. In April, when they realised what happened, PM asked what had happened? Hancock had apparently said in Cabinet room that people would be tested before they left hospital and went back to care homes.

    “We only subsequently found out that hadn’t happened. The govt rhetoric was we’d put a shield around care homes. Complete nonsense. Quite the opposite of putting a shield around them, we sent people with covid back to the care homes.”

    Read that last sentence and take it in. The scale of the irresponsibility. The scale of the failure.

    And that operates regardless of whether Hancock was responsible. Important to note that, given I’m pretty sure that if someone asked who killed JFK in this session, Cummings would say that Hancock did it….

  204. says

    Dunt’s livethread:

    …”Some of the people working on communications were some of the best in the world. Fundamentally the reason for all these problems was bad policy, bad decisions, bad planning, bad operational capability.”

    “It doesn’t matter if you have great people doing comms, if the PM changes his mind ten times a day, calls up the media and contradicts his own policy day after day after day. You’re going to have a communications disaster zone.”…

  205. blf says

    Louvre museum will be headed by woman for first time in its 228-year history:

    The French presidency has appointed Laurence des Cars, the current director of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, to head the world’s largest museum as of September 1[st …]

    […]

    An art historian and specialist of the 19th and 20th centuries, des Cars won plaudits for her efforts to expand the Musée d’Orsay’s exhibition rooms and introduce greater diversity in its shows.

    The 2019 exhibit “Black models: From Gericault to Matisse” [Black identity in the spotlight at Paris’s musée d’Orsay], which focused on the “forgotten” black models who inspired France’s artistic avant-gardes, won critical acclaim and is regarded as a highlight of her tenure.

    There’s also a video about that exhibition embedded in the middle of the excerpted article (but not, weirdly, in the older article specifically on that exhibition).

    […]
    Earlier this year, the Musée d’Orsay director successfully pushed for a Gustav Klimt painting in the museum’s collections to be returned to the heirs of a Jewish family that was forced to sell it by the Nazis in 1938.
    […]

  206. says

    Ian Dunt (from the livethread): “I find it extraordinary, given how long this has all gone on for, that we’ve talked so little about Johnson’s delay in the second and third lockdown. Unlike the first, there are no excuses for that. And the price we paid in human life was terrible.”

  207. says

    Politico – “MyPillow’s Mike Lindell is turned away from Republican governors event”:

    The Republican Governors Association on Tuesday threw out Mike Lindell, the CEO of MyPillow and a top Trump ally, after he showed up to its spring conference in Tennessee, he told POLITICO in an interview.

    Lindell said he had flown to Nashville on Monday to attend the three-day meeting starting on Tuesday, but that only a few minutes after he collected his credential at the JW Marriott Hotel, an event coordinator in the lobby told him he was not allowed at any of the official RGA events.

    An RGA official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said on Tuesday night that Lindell tried to join transportation for members only for a dinner at the Tennessee Governor’s Mansion and was denied. The person added: “These events are for RGA members, and Mike Lindell is not currently an RGA member.”

    Lindell on Tuesday shared a screenshot of a calendar event headlined “RGA – Nashville Meeting” with the attachment “Nashville Agenda[dot]pdf,” and said he had been invited to the event in the last month or two. He also shared the schedule of RGA events for Tuesday and Wednesday that had the word “CONFIDENTIAL” at the bottom.

    Earlier on Tuesday, Lindell had gone on Steve Bannon’s radio show and promised to confront Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, RGA’s chair, about the election and allegations of fraud in their states.

    Hundreds of people are attending this week’s conference in Nashville, the organization’s first widely attended event to be held since the start of the Covid pandemic more than a year ago.

    Lindell has attended previous meetings of the RGA, including the winter 2020 meeting, where a few Republican governors encouraged him to run for governor of Minnesota. Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell brought him to that event, but Lindell was not with McDonnell at the hotel on Tuesday. Trump has also encouraged Lindell to run.

    Lindell said in the interview on Tuesday that instead of staying the next few days in Nashville, he was going to the airport to leave the city on his private plane.

  208. says

    Guardian Cummings liveblog:

    Cummings describes how Johnson rejected Sage’s call for lockdown in late September

    The hearing is now resuming. The next session will focus on what happened in the autumn, ahead of the second lockdown.

    Dominic Cummings says Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, advised a short, sharp lockdown. The PM refused to agree to that. But eventually the government did lock down, at the end of October.

    He says Vallance and Prof Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, came to No 10 proposing a lockdown lasting two weeks or more.

    He says Whitty had said previously that, once schools went back in September, R, the reproduction number, would rise above 1.

    He says over the summer he and others had told the PM not to tell everyone to go back to work. But the PM’s priority was the economy.

    He says there was a long discussion on a Friday near the end of September when the PM said no.

    Cummings proposed a meeting on Monday 21 September, looking at the predictions for what the data would say at the end of October.

    But he says by this stage the PM was listening to people saying there was already herd immunity in the population.

    Cummings says all credible people, in his opinion, were pushing for a lockdown at this point.

    But the PM was just taking his own advice.

    He says the cabinet was not asked. He says he has been very critical of Matt Hancock, but Hancock agreed with Cummings at this point.

  209. says

    Guardian Cummings liveblog:

    Cummings says he heard PM say he would rather see ‘bodies pile high’ than order another lockdown

    Carol Monaghan (SNP) asks how a previous PM would have dealt with this.

    Cummings says if you took “anybody at random from the kind of top 1% competent people in this country” they would do things differently.

    Q: Was it arrogance or complacency?

    Cummings says Boris Johnson is misunderstood. People think that after he fell ill, he took it more seriously. But he thought that the first lockdown was a mistake. And he thought he had been gamed into ordering it.

    Q: Did you hear him say that he would rather see the bodies pile high than order another lockdown?

    Cummings says there are different versions of this. There was a version in the Sunday Times that was not correct. But he says the BBC version was correct.

    He says: “I heard that in the PM’s study.”

    He says this was at a different point. This was on 31 October.

    [From the BBC report]:

    Boris Johnson said he would rather see “bodies pile high” than take the country into a third lockdown, sources familiar with the conversations have told the BBC.

    The remarks were said to have been made last autumn, just as England went into a second lockdown.

    This piece of evidence from Cummings is important because Johnson specifically denied saying this, or anything to this effect, in the House of Commons. Cummings is the first on-the-record witness to contradict him.

  210. blf says

    Follow-up to @254, a snippet from the Gruniad’s report, Louvre appoints Laurence des Cars as first female president:

    […] About 67% of the country’s national museums are headed by women, according to the culture ministry, a rise of 27% from 2019. In March, Catherine Chevillot, the director at the Rodin Museum in Paris, was named president of the Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine, the biggest architectural museum in the world; the Élysée museum has been run by Tatyana Franck since 2014; and Sophie Makariou is president of the Musée Guimet, the national museum for Asian arts.

    Wow… 67% floored me. Great! (I note the Grauniad carefully qualified the statistic as referring to France’s national museums; so, e.g., the village’s own museum wouldn’t be considered in that count (I have absolutely no idea who is the director, and a quick search only confirmed what I already knew, it’s largely run by the local historical society).)

  211. says

    Guardian Cummings liveblog:

    Q: You spoke about people saying the UK could not follow Asian countries because “Asians all do what they’re told, so it won’t work here.” Who said that and who was promoting that outdated racist stereotype?

    Sarah Owen, who asks this, is British Chinese.

    Cummings says he does not want to reveal private conversations. But he says there is a problem with the UK’s refusal to learn from other countries.

    Q: Is Boris Johnson a fit and proper person to get us through this?

    No, says Cummings.

  212. says

    Aditya Chakrabortty in the Guardian – “The Dominic Cummings circus is an indictment of the entire governing class”:

    … “It’s a full-on knife fight,” frothed one insider at the Evening Standard. Another source whispered hoarsely to the Sunday Times: “Dominic has copies of everything and knows where all the bodies are buried.”

    And, my, aren’t there a lot of bodies. More than 150,000 Britons have been killed by Covid: the equivalent in deaths of a twin towers terrorist attack happening on these shores every week for a year. Well over a million people report suffering long Covid, with one in six so ill they cannot carry out daily tasks. These are bodies, all right: sick and dead ones. No cache of top-secret documents is necessary to find out about them; they are our relatives, friends, neighbours. And the cause of their deaths is rather bigger than a punch-up between two middle-aged private school boys. It lies in a grotesque failure of the state.

    In a country that as late as 2019 considered itself to be among the best prepared on Earth to handle a pandemic, hundreds of thousands of families are today struggling with premature death or the nursing of a chronically ill loved one, and the loss of vital income. Forget the blame game being played on Downing Street, this is an indictment of an entire governing class: lethal in its complacency, cocksure despite its manifest inadequacy, and forever blocking its eyes and ears to the lessons from history, or even the TV pictures from hospitals across northern Italy.

    “When the public needed us most, the government failed,” Cummings acknowledged on Wednesday. And tens of thousands died as a result. That’s what counts, not who said what about herd immunity. [This is an overstatement – obviously it matters what the Prime Minister and people in government said about herd immunity. – SC] The machinery of state buckled, the government all but collapsed – not just once, but again and again: from PPE to lockdowns to test and trace to care homes. The result is that Johnson’s UK stands alongside Donald Trump’s US as a cautionary tale of what happens when a ragtag bunch of cash-in merchants, state-haters and incompetent braggarts are allowed to run a country in grave danger. Plenty of examples of that were given to the parliamentary committee: Johnson pretending to be the mayor from Jaws, Cummings dreaming of replacing dull old civil servants with supercomputers, and Hancock blagging his way through.

    The thread that pulls all this together is denialism. The denial you saw etched on the face of Hancock last spring is now writ large across what Cummings calls the “political-media system”. Many of the pundits and politicians refuse to take on board how singularly badly the UK has handled the pandemic, even while relatively poor states such as Vietnam have done much better.

    …For now, what counts for the front pages is jabs ­and freedom day just around the corner, the binning of social distancing rules, the return of big, fat weddings and heaving nightclubs. With all that waiting for us, the pandemic has been consigned to the rear view, its lasting effects chiefly a matter for careers in SW1.

    Except, to misquote an old Athenian, just because you do not take an interest in Covid doesn’t mean Covid won’t take an interest in you. As MPs questioned Cummings, the so-called Indian variant of the coronavirus continued its advance across the country. It is no longer confined to Bolton and Burnley and a few other pockets, but is increasingly widespread across west London. And what the Cummings circus has obscured is how many of the failures that left the UK so fatally exposed remain with us….

    More atl.

  213. says

    Text quoted by SC in comment 256:

    Lindell has attended previous meetings of the RGA, including the winter 2020 meeting, where a few Republican governors encouraged him to run for governor of Minnesota. Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell brought him to that event, but Lindell was not with McDonnell at the hotel on Tuesday. Trump has also encouraged Lindell to run.

    OMFG. Lindell as the governor of any state is an effing nightmare.

  214. says

    Text quoted by SC in comment 262:

    The machinery of state buckled, the government all but collapsed – not just once, but again and again: from PPE to lockdowns to test and trace to care homes. The result is that Johnson’s UK stands alongside Donald Trump’s US as a cautionary tale of what happens when a ragtag bunch of cash-in merchants, state-haters and incompetent braggarts are allowed to run a country in grave danger.

    Yep. That’s as good a summary as any.

  215. says

    Politico – “Mother of deceased Capitol Police officer presses GOP senators to back Jan. 6 commission”:

    The mother of fallen Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick is requesting meetings with GOP senators to push them to support a proposed bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, which Republicans are poised to block as soon as Thursday.

    Gladys Sicknick is seeking sit-downs with every single Senate GOP office on Thursday to emphasize “the importance” of establishing an independent body to investigate the deadly insurrection, according to a copy of one of the scheduling request emails obtained by POLITICO. Brian Sicknick died a day following his response to the Jan. 6 attack after suffering from a stroke.

    “Not having a January 6 Commission to look into exactly what occurred is a slap in the faces of all the officers who did their jobs that day,” Gladys Sicknick said in a statement provided to POLITICO. “I suggest that all Congressmen and Senators who are against this Bill visit my son’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery and, while there, think about what their hurtful decisions will do to those officers who will be there for them going forward.”

    “Putting politics aside, wouldn’t they want to know the truth of what happened on January 6? If not, they do not deserve to have the jobs they were elected to do,” she added.

    A measure to set up the commission passed the House last week with the support of every single Democrat and 35 Republicans. But that legislation is on shaky ground in the Senate, where 10 Republicans would need to get on board in order to circumvent a filibuster. So far, only a few GOP lawmakers — including Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have signaled support for the proposal. Even then, they want to see changes made.

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has warned his members behind closed doors that the release of the commission’s findings could drag into the height of the 2022 election cycle, when both the Senate and House majorities are up for grabs. Former President Donald Trump has also come out swinging against the commission and slammed the House Republicans who voted for it.

    But Republicans are facing mounting political pressure, including from some in the law enforcement community, to get behind the proposed commission. D.C. Police officer Michael Fanone, who was severely injured on the job while responding to the Jan. 6 attack, has been seeking a meeting with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

    Last week, an anonymous and unsigned statement was released on Capitol Police letterhead and said to be authored by multiple officers on the force, delivering a rare and scathing public rebuke of top Republicans for opposing the commission bill….

  216. says

    Sorry – this is the link for #266.

    This is the article at the mistaken link – DFRLab – “QAnon’s hallmark catchphrases evaporating from the mainstream internet”:

    Data retrieved and analyzed by the DFRLab shows that the language of the QAnon conspiracy theory movement as it has historically appeared online has all but evaporated from the mainstream internet. In its wake lies a kind of neo-QAnon: a cluster of loosely connected conspiracy theory-driven movements that advocate many of the same false claims without the hallmark linguistic stylings that defined QAnon communities during their years of growth.

    The theory and its followers received increased public attention and scrutiny in the last year corresponding with its groundswell within the broader Republican Party base. Data analyzed by the DFRLab shows that the taglines and phrases associated with the movement have plummeted in mainstream internet venues following major tech moderation and policy actions meant to counter the conspiracy theory. While alternative social media platforms like Parler and Gab have seen swells in QAnon language on their respective platforms, those peaks still pale in comparison to mainstream platforms’ slowest days….

    Data and analysis atl.

  217. says

    Arizona GOP’s election ‘audit’ going far worse than Trump realizes

    Trump believes the Arizona GOP’s election “audit” is “engendering such tremendous respect, even adoration.” Reality tells a very different story. [“Adoration”? JFC]

    Donald Trump has been watching the utterly bonkers election “audit” in Arizona with great interest. In fact, a New York Times reporter recently noted that Trump has told people close to him that he believes the Arizona audit “could undo” the results of the 2020 presidential election.

    It was against this insane backdrop that the former president issued a statement yesterday that read in part, “Arizona Republican State Senators are engendering such tremendous respect, even adoration, for the great job they are doing on the Forensic Audit of the 2020 Presidential Election Scam.”

    There is no scenario in which any of that was true. On the contrary, a variety of prominent Arizona Republicans are increasingly mortified by this embarrassing fiasco. What’s more, as the Arizona Republic reported yesterday, the IT company that was in charge of running the day-to-day audit no longer wants anything to do with the partisan debacle.

    The contract with Wake TSI ended May 14, the original completion date for the hand count, and the company chose not to renew its contract, according to Randy Pullen, an audit spokesperson and former state GOP chair. […]

    If Wake TSI’s name sounds familiar, it’s not your imagination. Rachel explained on the show last week that Cyber Ninjas, the woefully unqualified Florida outfit run by a fringe conspiracy theorist, needed a subcontractor to oversee the actual recounting of more than 2 million ballots in Maricopa County.

    […] Last week, the Republican-dominated Maricopa County Board of Supervisors urged the GOP-led state Senate to put a stop to this madness, calling the outlandish process a “spectacle that is harming all of us,” adding, “Our state has become a laughingstock.”

    They went on to write, “You have rented out the once good name of the Arizona State Senate to grifters and con-artists, who are fundraising hard-earned money from our fellow citizens even as your contractors parade around the Coliseum, hunting for bamboo and something they call ‘kinematic artifacts’ while shining purple lights for effect. None of these things are done in a serious audit. The result is that the Arizona Senate is held up to ridicule in every corner of the globe and our democracy is imperiled.”

    The letter was signed by members of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, as well as the local Democratic sheriff, and Stephen Richer, the local Republican official who oversees Maricopa County’s elections department.

    It was the same Richer who responded to Donald Trump’s deranged comments about the state’s election results, describing the former president’s preposterous nonsense as “unhinged.” Richer added, “We can’t indulge these insane lies any longer. As a party. As a state. As a country.”

    Trump may adore the bogus “audit,” but few others are that unhinged.

  218. says

    SC @267, mostly good news when it comes to tamping down QAnon nonsense.

    In other news: Arizona Republicans are moving forward with plans to strip Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) of her authority to defend election lawsuits. Power will instead shift to state Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R), whom GOP legislators see as a partisan ally. The source for this is NBC News. Another “yikes!” moment, brought to you by unhinged Republicans.

  219. says

    Washington Post:

    Michigan’s top election official and the company whose voting equipment has been the subject of baseless claims of fraud are cautioning local governments in the state that outside audits of the 2020 election results like the one underway in Maricopa County, Ariz., would be illegal and would void the machines’ security warranties.

  220. says

    Joe Manchin is aiding and abetting the bad-faith “negotiating” from Republicans:

    It took about a year for Democrats to pass the Affordable Care Act, but that wasn’t the timeline then-President Barack Obama had in mind. On the contrary, Obama wanted to see the health care debate wrap up in 2009, creating possible windows of opportunity in 2010.

    But that’s not what happened. Instead, there was a “Gang of Six” — a group of three Democratic senators and three Republican senators, led by then-Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) — which was ostensibly focused on crafting a bipartisan health care reform package. The “gang” invested months into fruitless negotiations, in which Democrats pleaded for GOP votes that did not, and would not, materialize.

    One Republican member of the “gang,” Wyoming’s Mike Enzi, later conceded that he negotiated with Democrats in bad faith, stringing Dems along and weakening the Affordable Care Act blueprint, though he didn’t have any intention of voting for it. Eventually, the Democratic majority recognized reality and approved their plan on their own, but not before moderate Dems wasted a precious resource: time.

    Baucus’ unfortunate experiment came to mind this morning reading Politico’s report on infrastructure talks.

    Democrats are warning time is already running out for President Joe Biden’s agenda. Joe Manchin isn’t in any rush. The West Virginia Democrat isn’t ready to wind down bipartisan negotiations on infrastructure, willing to blow through the unofficial Memorial Day deadline.

    […] The process doesn’t have to be a “long game.” It will only be dragged out if senators like Manchin insist on it being dragged out.

    For weeks, leaders in both parties more or less agreed that Memorial Day was a sensible deadline. If President Joe Biden and Senate Republicans couldn’t strike a deal by May 31, the relevant players would agree that a bipartisan deal on this issue simply wasn’t possible. At that point, it would be up to Democrats to pursue their own plan using the budget reconciliation process (a step Democratic leaders have “quietly” started preparing for).

    […] many Senate Democrats agree that it’s time for the majority party to move forward with governing.

    But not Manchin, who has more of a Baucus-esque vision in mind, working from the assumption that it’s possible to find 10 Republican senators to eventually support a Democratic infrastructure package.

    […] given the precarious state of the Democratic majority in the upper chamber, the West Virginian is taking a significant risk with a key national priority for no real reason.

    What’s more, Manchin is already reportedly exploring the possibility of a side deal with some Republican senators on an entirely new infrastructure plan that’s smaller, less ambitious, and less effective than Biden’s proposal. In case this isn’t obvious, the president has enjoyed a fair amount of leverage in the infrastructure talks: everyone involved understood that if Republicans refused to strike a credible deal, Biden had the option of walking away from the table and pursuing his own plan without them.

    That leverage disappears when Manchin freelances and starts negotiating with GOP senators on his own.

    As things stand, Biden has already lowered the topline price tag of his infrastructure plan from $2.25 trillion to $1.7 trillion, and the White House this week said the ball is in the GOP’s court. Republicans will reportedly unveil a counter-proposal tomorrow, which will be in the ballpark of $1 trillion.

    […] pay attention to the details. When Senate Republicans ostensibly put forward a $568 billion plan last month, it wasn’t long before we took a closer look and realized the pitch was actually far smaller than it appeared.

    […] it’s time to stop pretending that there’s an effective and worthwhile infrastructure plan that can get 10 Republican votes in the Senate. My fear is this will not be obvious to Joe Manchin.

    Link

  221. says

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell […] has been candid about rallying opposition against an infrastructure plan and about devoting 100% of his focus to “stopping” the Biden administration’s agenda.

    Yesterday, as Politico reported, McConnell was candid anew on the bipartisan plan to create a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrectionist attack on the Capitol.

    McConnell warned Republicans at a closed-door meeting on Tuesday that regardless of tweaks to the bill that approving the commission could hurt the party’s midterm election message, according to attendees. He left that room and promptly told reporters that while Democrats want to talk about Trump, voters who’ll determine control of Congress next fall “ought to focus on what this administration is doing to the country.”

    In the hopes of satisfying GOP demands, House Democrats made a series of concessions about the structure and scope of the proposed Jan. 6 panel. House Republicans, who probably thought their unreasonable demands would scuttle any possible deal, responded by saying they wouldn’t take “yes” for an answer.

    When the bill cleared the lower chamber anyway, Senate Republicans started coming up with evolving rationalizations and excuses to oppose the plan they used to support.

    Fortunately, McConnell’s approach doesn’t bother with pretenses: he wants to target President Joe Biden and position his party for the 2022 midterm elections. An independent commission would do nothing to advance those goals, so he wants Republicans to oppose it. Period. Full stop.

    Answering questions about a deadly insurrectionist attack on the United States’ seat of government sounds fine, but for McConnell, prioritizing a partisan electoral strategy sounds a lot better.

    […] It would take 10 GOP senators to break ranks and advance the legislation, and as things stand, proponents are not close to reaching such a goal. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) appear to be “yes” votes, and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) expressed tacit support for the plan yesterday. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) also appears to be a likely supporter, though she’s still trying to tweak the details on the parties’ control over commission staff — as if such changes are genuinely important to her Republican brethren. […]

    Link

  222. says

    […] Medicaid expansion through the Affordable Care Act is a good deal, but as regular readers know, there are still 12 holdouts. As a consequence, there are more than 2 million low-income Americans who don’t have health security, simply because Republicans in their respective states refuse to do the right thing.

    One of those 12 states was handed an opportunity to act yesterday. As the Associated Press reported, it did not go well.

    Republicans who control the Wisconsin Legislature on Tuesday convened and within seconds ended a special session called by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to expand Medicaid, dashing chances for the state to receive a one-time bonus of $1 billion in federal coronavirus relief funding. The Senate and Assembly gaveled in and adjourned the special session in mostly empty chambers with only a handful of lawmakers in attendance.

    The process was remarkably efficient. After Wisconsin’s Democratic governor called a special session on the matter, officials in the Republican-led state Assembly showed up, banged the gavel, and left after 40 seconds. In the Republican-led state Senate, they moved with even greater speed: the session wrapped up in less than 10 seconds.

    GOP legislators not only refused to vote on Tony Evers’ Medicaid expansion plan, they also refused to even debate it.

    […] Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature are risking a fierce public backlash by expressing such callous indifference toward struggling families and their own state’s finances. […] GOP state lawmakers assume they’re free to act with impunity […] Wisconsin Republicans have rigged the state’s district lines to such a degree that the GOP keeps power, even when Democrats win more votes.

    In other words, Wisconsin Republican legislators can make unpopular and irresponsible decisions, comfortable in the knowledge that, despite operating in an ostensible democracy, there’s little voters can do about it.

    […] In the Democrats’ COVID relief package, called the American Relief Plan, President Joe Biden thought he’d come up with an offer that states couldn’t refuse.

    […] the offer was straightforward: under the ACA, the federal government already covers 90% of the costs of expanding Medicaid. As Vox explained, the Democrats’ relief package ups the ante: “[N]ewly expanding states would also receive a 5 percent bump in the federal funding match for their traditional Medicaid programs for two years. Because the traditional Medicaid population is significantly larger than the expansion population, the funding bump is projected to cover a state’s 10 percent match for expansion enrollees and then some over those two years.”

    It led Jon Chait to joke, “Now states taking the Medicaid expansion would have more than 100 percent of the cost covered by Washington. They would literally have to pay for the privilege of denying coverage to their poorest citizens.”

    […] how many states did the obvious thing? None. Literally, not one of the 12 holdouts has budged.

    […] they said no in Wisconsin. And Texas. And Wyoming. And Florida. And Tennessee.

    Meanwhile, in Missouri, voters added Medicaid expansion to the state constitution last year, but GOP officials said they don’t care and still won’t approve the policy. A new lawsuit intends to force Republicans’ hands. […]

    Link

    Unbelievable.

  223. says

    Since the failed revolt of Jan. 6, 2021, when MAGA heads, white supremacist dunderheads, and Republican Party officials stoked the fires of insurrection that led to a siege of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., people have been getting identified and arrested. […]

    One very public attendee of the Jan. 6 insurrection was Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano. Mastriano is the elected official who had a strange, somewhat secretive meeting with Donald Trump just weeks after Trump lost the November 2020 election. Mastriano was an active participant in the runup to the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” anti-democracy disaster. He infamously told the crowd gathered in Washington that day: “It’s time to rise up, Americans.” Mastriano was filmed marching and reportedly organized one of the many bus trips to the Capitol that day. His colleagues have asked that he resign from his position. Mastriano has argued that he left early in the march and did not participate in the subsequent siege on the Capitol building. Well, there are new photos emerging that seem to tell a different story.

    Let’s first give precise context here: In the day or two after the Jan. 6 insurrection, amidst calls for his resignation, Mastriano gave this exact statement: “My wife and I went to Washington, D.C., today to support President Trump. When it was apparent that this was no longer a peaceful protest, my wife and I left the area and made our way out of the area. At no point did we enter the Capitol building, walk on the Capitol steps, or go beyond police lines.” Let’s go take a peak at what the kids call the “receipts.” [Video is available at the link.]

    […] Mastriano said: “[…] Even disingenuous internet sleuths know that the police lines did shift throughout the course of the day.” Of course, these “disingenuous internet sleuths” have been a major resource for the FBI in the search for the identities of the hundreds of not-peaceful insurrectionists at the Capitol that day. That image above gives you a peek into what the retired military colonel considers “shifting.” [More video available at the link.]

    One of the people yet to be arrested but on the list is Sam Lazar. He’s here at on the FBI wanted list at #275. He has been identified by Sedition Hunters as Sam Lazar, and given the proper hashtag of #facepaintblowhard. Lazar was also identified by Lancaster Online, which called him a “staunch Trump supporter” based on a review of his active social media accounts. According to Huffpost, Lazar has been out and about living his most MAGA life, which has included attending and taking some photos at a fundraiser for dubious coronavirus-spreading Trump ally and Big Lie inciter Republican Mastriano. Headlining the event where Lazar took photos with Mastriano was none other than the leaky head of corruption himself, Rudy Giuliani. Receipts!

    […] Lancaster Online says the FBI wants the Ephrata, Pennsylvania, resident for his bullhorn antics of incitement and more importantly, an allegation that what he was filmed spraying at the Capitol Police guarding the steps on Jan. 6 was possibly pepper spray. The news outlet reports that Lazar’s Facebook page has been scrubbed of the various images showing his more militant support of Donald Trump. What exactly was in that spray he was using is hard to say. Whether it was an actual irritant or something less destructive, you aren’t allowed to do that to people—spray them with crap.

    Mastriano, like the rest of the ambitious and craven brass of the Trumpian GOP, will be happy to pass off all responsibility for the insurrection onto people like Lazar. And people like Lazar deserve all kinds of responsibility for their part. But one would hope a retired military colonel would have the lightest touch of integrity. He doesn’t, and that’s mostly because he has turned to fascism to feed his ambition.

    Link

  224. blf says

    Michele Bachmann Claims the Progressive Left Carried Out the Capitol Insurrection to Put Trump Down the Memory Hole:

    […]
    Jan 6, we’re all told that that’s the worst day that ever happened, these were the worst riots in America, Bachmann said. It absolutely wasn’t. It is my opinion that this was a theatrical event that the progressive left put on. The individuals who were the instigators, who brought this about, these were agitators brought in to create this problem. I believe it was specifically done to rebrand Donald Trump as being an insurrectionist and a leader of a terrorist movement. I also believe that this was done to rebrand the Make America Great agenda — because remember, that was considered extremely popular by about 80 million Americans — so they wanted to rebrand Make America Great as an evil thing and those of us who supported Donald Trump and that agenda as evil and terrorists.
    […]

    There’s no real point in Earth, or indeed any part of reality, trying to contact bonkersmam, but hair furor got c.74m votes; it was President Biden who got over 80m.

  225. says

    Lynna @ #268:

    Trump believes the Arizona GOP’s election “audit” is “engendering such tremendous respect, even adoration.” Reality tells a very different story. [“Adoration”? JFC]

    How creepy and weird.

    In related lunacy – CNN – “New Hampshire auditors see no sign of fraud — as Trump claims otherwise”:

    …Unlike audits of 2020 election results that have popped up in Arizona and Georgia, New Hampshire’s audit arose from a tangible gap in vote tallies in a race for state representative. Auditors have said their early assessment reveals no sign of fraud and instead points to human errors that they don’t believe are pervasive statewide.

    Even so, the bipartisan audit has become a flashpoint in this small town. And some conservatives are clinging to claims that the issue in Windham could point to broader election integrity problems throughout New Hampshire or even beyond.

    Harri Hursti, an expert in electronic voting security and part of the three-man team leading the audit, said he’s been surprised at the level of “malicious misinformation” swirling around the audit.

    “I’m a little bit surprised at the level of confusion and the level of deliberate trolling,” Hursti said. “The level of this is more than I expected. Nevertheless, we have to get the truth out. We have to make sure that people have the facts.”

    While the Windham audit wraps up this week, the 2020 election conspiracy theories are sure to persist. Among those amplifying them: former President Donald Trump and his allies. In a statement Monday night, Trump seized on the errors auditors are uncovering in New Hampshire and then claimed — without any supporting evidence — that Democrats were somehow behind it.

    “Why aren’t Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republicans doing anything about what went on in the 2020 Election? How can the Democrats be allowed to get away with this?” Trump said.

    Trump’s longtime political ally Corey Lewandowski, who lives in Windham, has also seized on the audit as evidence that there are voter discrepancies elsewhere.

    “This isn’t just about the town of Windham,” Lewandowski said at an event flanked by conservatives who are pushing for an even broader audit in New Hampshire. “We’re seeing things take place across this entire country.”

    There’s no indication that the presidential tallies were miscounted, and Trump’s race is not being audited here. He lost the state by nearly 60,000 votes and — even if Trump had managed to turn his fortunes around — New Hampshire’s four electoral votes would not have been enough to land him back in the Oval Office.

    New Hampshire’s audit saga began after a candidate for state representative, Kristi St. Laurent, narrowly lost her race and requested a recount last November. The results puzzled election officials. St. Laurent’s vote total fell by 99, while the four Republicans who had won the state representative seats saw theirs rise by roughly 300 votes.

    “Pretty much the whole room was shocked,” St. Laurent told CNN.

    That kicked off an effort in the state legislature to authorize an audit in Windham. The measure passed on a bipartisan basis and was signed by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu.

    Eventually the forensic audit got underway earlier this month, led by Hursti, Lindeman and Philip Stark, a statistics professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

    Unlike the shadowy effort underway in Arizona — which has been criticized even by some Republicans for its lack of transparency and unclear audit methods — the New Hampshire auditors said they aimed to make their process as transparent as possible. They set up an independent livestream and the count is open to outside observers as well as the media. Auditors often stop throughout the day to field questions from observers and the press alike.

    While the auditors plan to write a report on their findings, their early assessment points to a confluence of errors.

    “I would say this is a perfect storm,” Hursti said. “This is a conspiracy of coincidences.”

    Auditors and their conservative critics seem to agree on one issue skewing the count: Improperly folded ballots that led the machines to think a ballot bubble was shaded, when it was actually a blank bubble with a crease running through it.

    Hursti said auditors have looked at the results for two additional races as well and, so far, there’s no indication the ballot issue in Windham’s roughly 10,000-vote election impacted races beyond the one for state representative. But the audit team still has plans to research whether this could have impacted any other New Hampshire towns.

    “Right now, we are still gathering evidence, was this happening anywhere else in New Hampshire,” Hursti said. “We need to know that.”

    Hursti noted that, even with the issues that were uncovered in Windham, none of the recounts or post-election analyses have upended who won the election in town.

    “The original count, the recount, nothing has ever been changing who gets elected,” Hursti said. “This is an exercise of finding what caused the error, but the four winners have all — from day one — remained to be the same four winners. This has never threatened that. And, again, if there would have been a widespread fraud, which would have been uncovered (in) this, it would have come out. There was none.”

    But after watching the audit play out, some conservative activists still aren’t satisfied….

    Trump’s allies have already made clear they would like to see a New Hampshire audit focused on the presidential race, even though an audit wouldn’t overturn the statewide election results that showed Trump lost New Hampshire by more than 7 points.

    As for Trump, he has remained fascinated by Windham’s proceedings and has been checking in weekly — sometimes daily — for audit updates, Breton said.

    This is all so cultish and bizarre. It’s an audit for a state race in one town in New Hampshire, with bipartisan support, requested by a Democratic candidate who lost, which found a local error with folded ballots caused the discrepancy and didn’t change the outcome. It has nothing to do with Trump at all.

  226. says

    Aiyiyiyi.

    Appearing on the GunFreedomRadio podcast, 26-year-old Army Reserve chaplain Alex Stovall, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Congress from Arizona, made his opinion of Joe Biden and the legitimacy of the 2020 election very clear, saying: “We saw the inauguration of this well, I don’t think he’s President but whoever you would call this sleepy guy in office”

    In an email this morning to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) alerting MRFF to Stovall’s wearing of his uniform in his campaign ads, a retired Air Force senior NCO asked: “[D]oes wearing a uniform in the ad and directly attacking A.O.C. constitute a violation of Art 88 if being done and done on social-media in a cognizable duty status (such as on ADT Annual Tour or IDT weekend drills)?”

    The answer to the retired NCO’s question in an unequivocal YES!!!

    Article 88, part of Title 10 of the U.S. Code, also known as the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) addresses “Contempt toward officials,” stating: “Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”

    […] Chaplain Stovall’s campaign ads also violate DoD Directive 1344.10, “Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces,” which contains a detailed section on what is and what is not allowed in campaign materials for active, reserve, or retired members of the military running for office.

    The only use of photos of the candidate in uniform that is allowed are photos as part of the candidates biographical information, when accompanied by other non-military photos, and when also accompanied by a disclaimer stating that the appearance of the photo in uniform doesn’t imply a DoD endorsement.

    […] The focal point of Chaplain Stovall’s campaign ads is that he is a U.S. military chaplain — a chaplain who will “take on AOC.”

    Chaplain Stovall’s campaign ads primarily target one person — Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). “Socialists like AOC hate two things — God and America.”

    Not surprisingly, Stovall is also opposed to mask-wearing, idiotically saying on the GunFreedomRadio podcast: “The government has no business telling us what to wear. … For Pete sake, you’re telling me I have to wear a mask to go into a grocery store? Before you know it, they’ll be telling you to wrap your face with Saran wrap.”

    Equally unsurprising is that this Army Reserve chaplain and wannabe congressman is a former regional director for BLEXIT, the Trump-supporting organization founded by Candace Owens to “free” Black people from the Democratic Party.

    He was also a “field organizer for the Trump Victory Campaign,” […]

    Stovall is a U.S. military officer who is flagrantly violating military regulations to further his political ambition […]

    MRFF, as it similarly and successfully did when failed Georgia Senate candidate and chaplain Doug Collins was similarly violating the same regulations in his 2020 Georgia primary ads, will be taking action to stop this anti-American chaplain […] from illegally using his military rank and position to advertise his candidacy and his contempt for America.

    […] “U.S. Army Reserve Officer/Chaplain Alex Stovall has most disgustingly managed to BLATANTLY violate just about as many crucial DoD regulations and standards as is humanly possible. MRFF will shortly be officially demanding to the Pentagon that the U.S. Army vigorously investigate and aggressively and visibly punish this individual to the full extent of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and related regulatory provisions.”

    Link

  227. says

    Yet another mass shooting: 8 killed in San Jose shooting, suspect also dead

    The shooting took place at a light rail facility that is next door to the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department and across a freeway from the airport.

    An assailant opened fire Wednesday at a California railyard serving Silicon Valley, killing eight people. The suspect was also dead, authorities said.

    Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said it was “undetermined” how the shooter died.

    The shooting took place around 6:30 a.m. at a light rail facility in San Jose next door to the sheriff’s department and across a freeway from the airport. The facility is a transit control center that stores trains and has a maintenance yard.

    Davis said he did not know the type of weapon used or whether the gunfire happened indoors or outdoors. He said the victims include VTA employees. Authorities did not release any of the victims’ names. […]

  228. blf says

    Climate landmark: Court orders Royal Dutch Shell to cut emissions:

    In a climate crisis landmark, a Dutch court on Wednesday ordered energy giant Royal Dutch Shell to slash its carbon emissions by a net 45 percent by 2030 compared to 2019 levels.

    […]

    The Hague District Court ruled that the Anglo-Dutch energy giant has a duty of care to reduce emissions and that its current reduction plans were not concrete enough.

    The decision could set a precedent for similar cases against polluting multinationals around the world. Activists who gathered outside the courtroom erupted into cheers as the decision was read out loud.

    “The climate won today,” said Roger Cox, a lawyer for the Dutch arm of Friends of the Earth, which was one of the organisations behind the case.

    [… nonsensical reaction along the following lines criticised by the court in it ruling:]

    The court said in an English-language summary of its ruling that Shell was not currently in breach of its obligation to reduce emissions, as the environmental groups had argued, because the parent company was tightening its emissions policy.

    But it ruled that Shell’s policy “is not concrete, has many caveats and is based on monitoring social developments rather than the company’s own responsibility for achieving a CO2 reduction”.

    “Therefore, the court has ordered RDS to reduce the emissions of the Shell group, its suppliers and its customers by net 45%, as compared to 2019 levels, by the end of 2030, through the corporate policy of the Shell group,” read the court summary.

    […]

    The case in the Netherlands is the latest in a string of legal challenges filed around the world by climate activists seeking action to rein in emissions, but it is believed to be the first targeting a multinational company.

    One of the first successful climate cases also was in the Netherlands, where the Supreme Court two years ago upheld a 2015 ruling requiring the government to cut emissions at least 25 percent by the end of 2020 from benchmark 1990 levels.

    In February, a Paris court ruled that the French government had failed to take sufficient action to fight climate change in a case brought by four nongovernmental organisations. Last month, Germany’s top court said the federal government must set clear goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions after 2030.

    […]

  229. says

    blf @ #275, it’s funny when they say things like “I believe it was specifically done to rebrand Donald Trump as being an insurrectionist and a leader of a terrorist movement” and “they wanted to rebrand Make America Great as an evil thing and those of us who supported Donald Trump and that agenda as evil and terrorists.” They’re basically acknowledging that Trump and his followers are rightly regarded as evil insurrectionists and terrorists after the putsch, so it had to be fake.

  230. says

    Wonkette: “Jesus, Pennsylvania Republicans, What Freaking Year Is This”

    This week, Republicans in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives decided the state should keep the word “homosexuality” in its indecency and obscenity laws. […]

    Title 18, Section 5903 of the Pennsylvania criminal code makes it a crime to give or sell material containing “sexual conduct” to people under 18. And “sexual conduct” means

    acts of masturbation, homosexuality, sexual intercourse, sexual bestiality or physical contact with a person’s clothed or unclothed genitals, pubic area, buttocks or, if such person be a female, breast.

    Yeah, it’s always a good thing when homosexuality appears in the same sentence as bestiality. (And we don’t want to go into a whole rabbit hole about “showing a person under 18 a movie with a boob-touching in it is a crime,” but, well, we just did.)

    After discovering Pennsylvania’s disgusting and archaic obscenity law made it illegal for LGBTQ kids to have materials about LGBTQ people, this session, Democrats introduced bills into both chambers of the General Assembly — House Bill 1279 and Senate Bill 609, respectively — to remove it. And you already know what happened next!

    In a memo accompanying HB 1279, state Rep. Mike Zabel wrote,

    Did you know that one of our current state laws still prohibits the distribution to minors of materials such as books, pictures, and videos which depict “acts of homosexuality,” classifying homosexuality as obscene? Recently, one of the municipalities I represent, Upper Darby Township, repealed a similar decades old ordinance and, upon further review, it was discovered that Pennsylvania has such a statute still on the books.

    Under existing law, “acts of homosexuality” are classified as “obscene” in Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses), Section 5903 (Obscene and Other Sexual Materials and Performances). My legislation would rectify this injustice by amending this section to remove the term “homosexuality” from the state obscenity clause.

    The fact that bigoted, offensive language is still listed in our state’s law is unacceptable. Please join me in bringing Pennsylvania into the 21st century by supporting this commonsense measure that will help promote equality and inclusion within Pennsylvania.

    This week, another opportunity to repeal this disgusting law presented itself when the House considered House Bill 231, a human trafficking bill, and Rep. Zabel offered an amendment to stop making gayness a crime.

    Every single Democrat in the House voted to remove homosexuality from the criminal code. Every Republican voted to keep it in.

    The crazy scope of this law can’t be overstated — in Pennsylvania, it is a crime for a library to let a gay kid borrow a book about growing up as a gay kid. Because the word homosexuality isn’t elaborated upon or defined anywhere, it would arguably be illegal to give a child a photo of his same-sex parents kissing.

    That. Is. Insane.

    This week’s vote is a clear attempt to stifle LGBTQ content, making it inherently dirty, different from straight/cis content, and even illegal. When LGBTQ kids can’t access materials about the things they are dealing with, they just feel more alone, isolated, and depressed. Books can literally save lives. And it is beyond abhorrent, though entirely expected, that Republicans would put their own bigotry above the lives of their children.

    […] Rep. Brian Sims, Pennsylvania’s first openly gay state legislator and a current candidate for lieutenant governor, also took to Twitter with outrage at his Republican colleagues’ “rampant homophobia” and “cowardice.”

    The only thing this is, is hatred. If a criminal case were actually brought against a same-sex couple for something like displaying a kissing picture where children can see it, I can’t imagine a court holding up such a conviction. But sure, keep unconstitutional bullshit in our laws just to make a point about what a bigoted piece of shit you are.

    This isn’t the only part of Pennsylvania’s laws that discriminate against the LGBTQ community. According to the Movement Advancement Project,
    – Pennsylvania doesn’t have adoption or foster care nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ parents.
    – The state’s family-leave laws don’t include LGBTQ-inclusive definitions of spouse, partner, children, or parents.
    – There is no nondiscrimination policy for state employees.
    – The state’s broad religious exemption law allows businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people.
    – Pennsylvania’s hate crimes law doesn’t cover LGBTQ people.
    – PA’s anti-bullying laws don’t cover anti-LGBTQ bullying, and
    – There aren’t protections for LGBTQ children in the child welfare system.

    Shit like this is a stark reminder that, even in 2021, homophobia, transphobia, and assorted anti-LGBTQ bigotry are still all too common — both in people’s hearts and in our laws.

    Let’s do better.

    https://www.wonkette.com/pa-republicans-are-homophobes

  231. blf says

    Related to @279, Exxon investor scores historic climate win with two board seats:

    An investor with a tiny stake in ExxonMobil scored a historic climate victory when it won two seats on the oil giant’s board.

    A first-time activist investor with a tiny stake in Exxon Mobil Corp. scored a historic win in its proxy fight with the oil giant, signaling the growing importance of climate change to investors.

    Engine No 1 — the little-known firm that vaulted into the spotlight in December when it began pressing Exxon to come up with a better plan to fight global warming — won two seats on the company’s board at Wednesday’s annual shareholders meeting, according to a preliminary tally.

    The result is an embarrassment for Exxon, unprecedented in the rarefied world of Big Oil, and a sign that institutional investors are increasingly willing to force corporate America to tackle climate change. That Engine No 1, with just a 0.02% stake and no history of activism in oil and gas, could win even a partial victory against a titan like Exxon, the Western world’s biggest crude producer, shows how seriously environmental concerns are now being taken in the boardrooms of the country’s largest companies.

    This is one of those Bloomberg / Al Jazeera collaborations, which is perhaps why the above seems to have confused this small investor’s arguments with the position of the board of Extreme Carbon. Extreme Carbon has not been taking the Climate Catastrophe, or the environment in general, seriously, other than how to not do anything but continue on as before and make even more profit$. (It’s possible that Bloomberg (I presume) is referring to the boards of other investors who apparently backed — as-in voted-for — Engine No 1’s nominees.)

    The vote is also striking because of the force with which Exxon battled the activist, which also criticized the company for its lackluster financial performance. Exxon refused to to meet with the nominees and Chief Executive Officer Darren Woods told shareholders earlier this month that voting for them would derail our progress and jeopardize your dividend. The company even went as far as to pledge, just 48 hours before the meeting, that it will add two new directors, including one with “climate experience.”

    […]

    Exxon’s environmental record and unwillingness to embrace the transition to cleaner energy quickly enough was a key criticism in the six-month old proxy campaign. San Francisco-based Engine No 1 was scathing in its assessment of Exxon’s long-term financial performance, calling it “a decade of value destruction.”

    Rather than pivot toward low-carbon fuels and selling power like its some of its rivals, Exxon is betting heavily on carbon capture and sequestration, a technology that it says needs substantial government support to be viable.

    Engine No 1 said Exxon’s marquee CCS hub in Houston “lacks any real substance” and generated nothing more than an “advertising blitz.” The fund also said Exxon’s climate targets were “distorting its long-term emissions trajectory” and its claim of being aligned with the Paris Agreement “fails the basic test of logic.”

    It remains to be seen how Exxon pivots, if at all, but the message from shareholders is clear: The status quo cannot continue.

  232. says

    Miles Taylor:

    A former Member of Congress to me: “Trump has not only made Congressional Republicans fear for their political lives, but for their actual ones. They worry about the safety of their families if they oppose him, even now. That’s how bad it is.”

    Commentary from Wonkette:

    […] This is bullshit, of course. Republicans don’t look like they’re starring in hostage videos whenever they appear on cable news, promoting the MAGA line. Florida Senator Marco Rubio isn’t a brilliant method actor. He’s not secretly ashamed of himself because that would require possessing shame in the first place.

    It’s obviously not encouraging when a former member of Congress claims that a major political party is operating like an organized crime family. If what this person says is true, then we’re already a failed state. Actual gangsters would at least take out their deranged Don, but Republican apologists paint the GOP as a bunch of victims, whose unwavering support and fealty to MAGA is their regular “protection payment.” Anyone who’s watched a mob movie knows that if you do business with gangsters, the parasites will bleed you out until there’s nothing left.

    Conservative columnist George Will, during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” also suggested that congressional Republicans are a bunch of cowards, scared of the very people who put them in office because they promised to “take on” (wink, wink) Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the rest of the Squad.

    We have something new in American history. We have a political party defined by the terror it feels for its own voters. That’s the Republican Party right now.

    Every elected official is frightened of [Trump’s] voters, therefore doesn’t respect his voters and doesn’t like his voters and is afraid that a vote for [the 1/6 commission] would be seen as an insult to the 45th president.

    Democrats also have every reason to fear Trump supporters, especially since some of the most unhinged are serving in Congress alongside them. That didn’t stop Democrats from impeaching Trump for a second time and pursuing an investigation into his attempted coup on January 6. Republicans claimed for years that Democrats were “soft on terror,” but it seems like they were just projecting.

    No, what Republicans fear most is a loss of political power. They need Trump voters to win their next elections, so helping spread the Big Lie and undermining democracy is worth it. The Recount executive editor John Heilemann called this for what it is on MSNBC’s “Deadline White House.” [Video is available at the link.]

    HEILEMANN: By using the language of terror, it makes it sound like it’s OK: ‘Well, of course you capitulate to terrorists because it’s like they have a gun to your head.’ Well, they don’t have a gun to your head! All they have to your head is the threat of voting you out of office, and that is nothing. That’s a career change. That is go work at a Washington law firm, go be a lobbyist, go write a book, go on the speaking circuit, go work for Fox News. There’s a million ways to go and make money. That’s all you’re talking about, maybe you lose an election. Who cares?

    No matter what some feckless Republicans might say to their former colleagues, anyone who’s still a Republican and who isn’t actively opposing what the party represents now is choosing to do so because they approve or don’t mind that much. Neither option is noble or sympathetic. Don’t buy their sob stories. Just vote every last one of them out of office.

    Link

  233. says

    What could go wrong?

    Trump and Newt Gingrich are supposedly working on a ‘policy agenda’ after years of not having one

    This bit of news […] is so agonizingly ridiculous that to even bring it up seems like it will first require dismembering it into all its constituent asininities. It simply will not fit through the news door otherwise.

    At its heart, the “news” is that Incompetent Narcissist Criminal Guy—also known as Dear Leader, also known as Donald Trump, also known as the man who proved all of Republicanism to be a hollow shell propped up at this point only by racism and a willingness to commit petty crimes—wants to craft a new “policy agenda” for the Republican Party. To roughly quote Diogenes, I shitteth y’all not.

    Donald Trump is sitting in Mar-a-Lago stewing in his own bile, and he has allegedly gotten it into his head that what Republicanism needs right now is a “policy agenda” that nobody in his party could come up before, that he was unable to elucidate during four years of half-assing his way through government […]

    Recall, for example, that the Republican Party refused to even have an official party platform during their 2020 convention, instead going with a catch-all declaration that whatever Trump was for, they were for, whatever that happened to be on any particular day.

    The news that Donald Trump is allegedly now of the belief that Republicans need a “doctrine” is bullshittery at the highest level. The next bit of the story makes it even more ridiculous.

    Who is allegedly spearheading this new policy think-upping? Newt Gingrich!

    No, really. Newt Gingrich. You know, the disgraced ex-House Republican leader (not the pedophile, the other one) who wrecked governance the first time around and has devoted his current would-be comeback to kissing Trump’s ample behind in as many individual television appearances as the gods will grant him. He seems thoroughly obsessed with joining the ranks of such Trump-promoted titans of Republicanism as Rudy Giuliani, Paul Manafort, the two Fox lawyers who got raided by the FBI, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, Jeff Sessions, and takeyourpick.

    Trump “sat down” with Newt “in recent weeks,” […] to work out a new “Contract with America”—

    Stop laughing, damnit, we’re going to get through this together.

    —based on “MAGA” principles. He is assisted by Sen. Lindsey Graham, former chief of staff and unindicted co-conspirator Mark Meadows, and presumably whichever Mar-a-Lago guests spring for the […] Lunch Special on those particular days.

    Newt Gingrich is meeting with Donald Trump to craft a new Contract with America based on new Republicanism’s principles. That is a baffling sentence, isn’t it? […]

    “The group is still just beginning to hammer out the details—” yeah, no kidding. The document, “if one is issued at all,” is not expected to be ready “anytime soon.” […] coincidentally Newt is willing to pipe up to describe what he believes the document should look like.

    “‘It should be positive,’ Gingrich said. ‘School choice, teaching American history for real, abolishing the ‘1619 Project,’ eliminating critical race theory and what the Texas legislature is doing. We should say, ‘Bring it on.’”

    All right then, so it will be a “positive” document underlining white nationalist mythologies as a central theme, with a direct focus on weakening public schools and tightly restricting what can be taught about our history. That’s the only part of the story that sounds plausible. No need to meddle with infrastructure priorities, tax policy, or the rest; the new Republican Contract with America will focus on what New Republicanism can agree on, and what New Republicanism can agree on is hard racism and unrelenting propaganda.[…]

    […] Newt Gingrich—who was run out of politics for his conduct until at long last the rest of his party degraded so far that his own scandals now seem Paleozoic—is a new party savior working with Indifferent Self-Obsessed Narcissist to return Republicanism to a time of havin’ policies and theoretically standing for things, here’s the most likely “news” to be had here:
    Newt Gingrich broke into Mar-a-Lago or had someone spring for him to attend as a guest, and began ingratiating himself to Trump with promises of a new Trumpian era of policies and important-looking slides that would just by-the-way allow Trump to claim some relevance despite spending the entirety of his post-presidential life hiding inside his for-profit house and airing an assortment of grievances to wedding guests. […]

    This isn’t a story about Donald Trump wanting to suddenly write down policies he never gave a damn about writing down before. This is a story about Newt Gingrich crawling through Mar-a-Lago ductwork, dropping down on Donald’s table during a random gloomy lunch, and promising the deposed god-king that with the scrubbing bubbles of Newt Gingrich’s policy chops, he can yet again force the party into doing whatever he says. […]

    Well, it is something that we’ll have to keep an eye on. The odds that Donald Trump will retain interest long enough to even give Newt something to work with are low […]

  234. blf says

    Follow-ups to @279 and @282 in the Grauniad (so no Bloomberg distortions), plus additional recent successful(-ish) Climate Catastrophe-related revolts at Chevron and other big oils, ExxonMobil and Chevron suffer shareholder rebellions over climate:

    […]
    Exxon failed to defend its board against a coup launched by dissident hedge fund activists at Engine No 1 which successfully replaced two Exxon board members with its own candidates to help drive the oil company towards a greener strategy.

    Meanwhile, a majority of Chevron shareholders rebelled against the company’s board by voting 61% in favour of an activist proposal from Dutch campaign group Follow This to force the group to cut its carbon emissions.

    […]

    The shareholder rebellions in the US were matched by an unprecedented reversal for the oil industry upset in the Netherlands where green campaigners won a court battle in the Hague to force Shell to cut its carbon emissions by 45% in the next 10 years.

    “Institutional investors understand that no investment is safe in a global economy wracked by devastating climate change,” [Follow This founder] Van Baal said.

    The activist win against Chevron was the third successful insurrection coordinated by Follow This against the boards of US oil companies after it forced through votes to cut emissions at ConocoPhillips and Phillips 66 earlier this month.

    Exxon was forced to adjourn its annual shareholder meeting for an hour in a bid to stave off the rebellion by Engine No 1 which may claim a further two board seats once the preliminary results are finalised. Exxon said the vote was too close to call late on Wednesday.

    […]

    BlackRock, the world’s biggest asset manager, owns a 6.7% stake in Exxon, sided with the rival upstart, according to Reuters, due to frustration with the company’s refusal to take climate concerns seriously. Legal & General, one of Exxon’s top 20 investors, is also said to have backed Engine No 1 […]

  235. says

    Biden has ordered an intelligence assessment regarding the likely origins of COVID to be completed within 90 days. I can’t link to any of the articles I’ve seen about it because they’re stupid and misleading. (I think the text of the order might also be stupid and misleading but won’t bother to look – the order itself is the news.)

  236. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    France’s average daily number of new Covid-19 cases fell to its lowest level since mid-September while the number of people being treated for the virus in hospital continued to decline, official data showed on Wednesday.

    The daily figure, averaged out over seven days, fell below 10,000, down from a 2021 high of over 42,000 in mid-April.

    New confirmed infections rose by 12,646 over the past 24 hours to a cumulative 5.62 million since the start of the pandemic, a slower pace of growth than a week ago, when they rose by 19,000. Four weeks ago the figure was 31,000.

    The number of people in intensive care units with Covid-19 fell by 117 to 3,330, while the overall number of people in hospital with the virus fell by 837 to 18,593.

    Both numbers have been on a steady downward trend since the end of April. The health ministry also reported 144 new coronavirus deaths in hospitals on Wednesday, compared with 141 a week ago.

    Scientists in Germany claim to have solved the cause of the rare blood clotting events linked to the Oxford/AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines and believe the jabs could be fixed to prevent the reaction altogether, the FT (paywall) reports.

    Rolf Marschalek, a professor at Goethe university in Frankfurt who has been leading research into the rare condition since March, said his research showed that the problem lies with the adenovirus vectors that both vaccines use to deliver the spike protein of the virus into the body.

    In a preprint paper published today, the scientists wrote that the delivery mechanism means the vaccines send the spike protein into the cell nucleus as opposed to the cytosol fluid found inside the cell where the virus normally produces proteins.

    According to Marschalek’s research, once inside the cell nucleus, certain parts of the spike protein splice, creating mutant versions, which are unable to bind to the cell membrane where important immunisation takes place; instead, the floating mutant proteins are secreted by cells into the body, which is what triggers blood clots in roughly one in 100,000 people.

    In contrast, with mRNA-based vaccines, such as the BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna jabs, the spike’s genetic material is delivered to the cell fluid and it never enters the nucleus. Marschalek told the FT that when virus genes are in the nucleus they can create “some problems”.

    He believes there is a “way out” if the vaccine developers can adapt the sequence of the spike protein to prevent splicing.

  237. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    A traveller arriving in Brazil has been diagnosed with the coronavirus variant first discovered in India, São Paulo health officials said on Wednesday, stoking concerns that it could further fuel one of the world’s deadliest outbreaks.

    São Paulo health authorities said they requested a complete list of the passengers on the flight coming from India, as well as the names of all airport staff and other people who may have had contact with the passenger, for monitoring and isolation.

    Following treatment of crew members with the B.1.617.2 variant on a cargo ship off Brazil’s northern coast last week, the case confirmed on Wednesday raised alarms about the easily transmissible variant passing through two of the country’s busiest airports.

    The 32-year-old patient, a resident of Campos dos Goytacazes in Rio de Janeiro state, landed at Guarulhos International Airport near Sao Paulo on 22 May, state officials said.

    The passenger was tested on arrival for Covid-19, but by the time São Paulo authorities were informed of the positive result, he had flown to Rio de Janeiro, according to a statement from state officials….

    Brazilian senators conducting a high-profile inquiry into president Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday voted to recall the current and former health ministers for more testimony, as well as summon nine state governors for the first time, Reuters reports.

    Senators are grilling government officials and other stakeholders to seek answers as to why Brazil has become the country with the world’s second-highest Covid-19 death toll, with more than 450,000 fatalities.

    The probe may pose a headache for Bolsonaro, who has long sought to play down the severity of the virus, ahead of next year’s presidential election.

    The current health minister Marcelo Queiroga and his predecessor, Eduardo Pazuello, an active-duty army general, will both be called to testify again in front of the Senate panel.

    Former presidential adviser Arthur Weintraub and businessman Carlos Wizard Martins, who was briefly attached to the Health Ministry, will also be called.

    In addition, nine state governors are due to explain irregularities in Covid-19 spending in their states.

    Wilson Witzel, the former governor of Rio de Janeiro, was impeached in April over alleged graft in the purchase of medical supplies and services to fight the Covid-19 outbreak.

  238. says

    Guardian – “Did Jordan’s closest allies plot to unseat its king?”:

    The phone call that shook the Jordanian government came in the second week of March this year. On the line to the General Intelligence Directorate (GID) in Amman was the US Embassy, seeking an urgent meeting about a matter of national importance. The kingdom’s spies were startled. Danger was brewing on the home front, they were told, and could soon pose a threat to the throne.

    Within hours, the GID had turned its full array of resources towards one of the country’s most senior royals, Prince Hamzah bin Hussein, a former crown prince and half-brother of the king, whom the Americans suspected was sowing dissent and had begun rallying supporters. By early April, officials had placed Hamzah under house arrest and publicly accused the former heir and two close aides of plotting to unseat King Abdullah.

    As two alleged plotters prepare to face court in Amman, a fuller picture is emerging of the three weeks that rattled the royal family. This week prosecutors in possession of phone taps, intercepted messages and recorded conversations will outline evidence supporting sedition charges against Bassem Awadallah, a former head of the Royal Hashemite Court and businessman and cousin of the King, Sharif Hassan bin Zaid.

    However, away from the courthouse, evidence that a family feud could have been driven by a broader conspiracy has also been taking shape. The alleged deeds of Hamzah and his two accused conspirators are increasingly being seen as the dying echoes of a larger plot, fuelled by Jordan’s closest allies, that could have imperilled Abdullah’s grip on the throne if Donald Trump had won a second stint as US president.

    As the turmoil of Trump’s term recedes, the implications of his attempts to redraw the map of Israel and Palestine via his showpiece foreign policy play – the so-called deal of the century – are crystallising. Officials in the Biden administration, which has restored a more traditional approach to regional diplomacy fear that Jordan’s interests would have been shredded in a second Trump government. And its leadership may well have been a casualty.

    Regional officials say there may be links between Prince Hamzah’s alleged actions, which officials in Amman describe as sedition but not a coup, and the approach to Middle East affairs steered by Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East envoy, Jared Kushner, with the backing of his friend and ally, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

    Phone intercepts from that time heard by the Guardian portrayed Hamzah and Sharif Hassan in close coordination. The pair often spoke in English and referred to each other as ‘bro’. For Awadallah, they used the nickname ‘No Lube’. [Totally want to hear these.]

    From the early months of Trump’s presidency, Kushner and Prince Mohammed rode large across the regional landscape, drawn by each other’s nakedly transactional worldview and their readiness to blend political power and business interests.

    Both saw themselves as change agents breaking barriers through coercion and intimidation and were dismissive of allies who refused to do their bidding.

    The normally watertight relationship between Amman and Washington, built on 50 years of security cooperation, reached breaking point in Trump’s first term, senior Jordanian officials say, as the White House pursued its Middle East agenda through a team of handpicked loyalists, eschewing both structures of state and sidelining officials whom Jordan would normally have dealt with.

    First among the administration’s schemes was an attempt to forge peace between Israel and the Palestinians that ripped up the rulebook governing decades of talks and shattered understandings of what an eventual deal may look like. Despite being directly affected, Jordan knew none of its elements until the grand announcement in early 2019.

    When the plan was finally revealed, Jordanian leaders sensed mortal danger…

    …“They were desperate to get this done, and made no bones about blackmailing friend and foe. For the Emiratis it was F-35s. For the Sudanese, it was getting them off the terror blacklist. The prize (for both countries) was American patronage and Israeli technical expertise.”

    By mid-2020 King Abdullah was under increasing strain, buffeted by ill winds from Washington and just as troubled by the chill from across the border with Saudi Arabia….

    During the dying months of the Trump White House, demands to get the deal done intensified. Jordan’s defiance angered Kushner and Prince Mohammed, who had also been displeased with a similarly reluctant Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas.

    As the friendship between Kushner and Prince Mohammed blossomed – often during all-night discussions in tents deep in the Saudi desert – ties between Bassem Awadallah and Riyadh were also deepening. A former Jordanian finance minister, Awadallah joined a panel at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh in 2019, where local dignitaries knew him well from another previous role as Jordanian envoy to Riyadh.

    “The upshot is that Trump lost and it all fell over,” said a regional intelligence source. “Had he been re-elected, this would be a very different region.”

    Senior officials in Amman would not be drawn on the likelihood of a foreign element to the alleged plot, and nor would they confirm that their most trusted security partner, the US, had alerted them to a potential threat. However, the officials clearly took comfort from the fact that the new US administration has restored a traditional security relationship, which had been traduced under Trump.

    US officials have confirmed to the Guardian that in the final months of 2020, officials sought advice on which areas of funding to Jordan were outside congressional approval and could therefore be cut without debate.

    Amman was ultimately spared a budget blow. As Joe Biden has settled in, its leaders have collectively exhaled and prefer not to focus on how close, if at all, King Abdullah came to being ousted by Jordan’s two closest friends.

    Instead, senior officials are busying themselves with local dimension to the alleged plot….

    While Jordanian officials refused to be to be drawn on whether Saudi Arabia played a role, it is understood that a bilateral arrangement broke down around the time the alleged plot was uncovered. Every autumn, locusts emerge from the Saudi deserts and fly north to Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. The plagues usually arrive in three waves, and early warning systems have been put in place to give Jordanian farmers time to safeguard crops. This year, there were no warnings.

    More atl. Nicely reported.

  239. says

    Humor/satire from Andy Borowitz:

    After news broke that the Manhattan District Attorney was convening a grand jury, Donald J. Trump changed the name of his company to the Eric Trump Organization.

    The former President made the announcement in a press conference at his signature Manhattan building, the newly renamed Eric Trump Tower.

    “Changing the name of the company is no big deal,” he said. “It’s going to be the same company that it’s always been—with Eric Trump running the show and me just following his orders.”

    “It’s only fitting to call this company the Eric Trump Organization, because Eric is responsible for everything it has ever done,” he added. “This is long overdue.”

    Asked about the grand jury, Trump said, “From what I’ve heard, they’re going to be looking into Eric’s businesses quite strongly. I hope he hasn’t gotten himself into a big mess. He’s been a great boss to work for all these years, and I wish him well.”

    New Yorker link

    BTW, thanks SC for summarizing the Guardian’s reporting, “Did Jordan’s closest allies plot to unseat its king?” It looks to me like Jordan, and King Abdullah in particular, narrowly escaped nefarious machinations fueled by Jared Kushner, Donald Trump and Prince Mohammed.

  240. says

    Scoop: You may recall Robert Packer, a man wearing a ‘Camp Auschwitz’ hoodie on Jan 6th at the Capitol. It took a few calls & some USGovt court filings but I got the search warrant

    Here’s a rundown of Hitler, antisemitic, and white supremacy items the FBI took out of his house…”

    Form atl. One of those wily antifa agitator/instigators.

  241. Pierce R. Butler says

    There may be another side to the Roman Protasevich story besides that of the idealistic anti-Lubashenko activist suddenly playing the role of a Belarusian Navalny:

    Per FOIA Research, apparently a Eurocentric antifa information website:

    Protasevich has a neo-Nazi and anti-communist background. He is a sympathizer of the Pahonia Detachment4, a Belarusian militia that has fought alongside the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion in Ukraine’s post-Maidan civil war.5 … In February and March 2017, Belarus was swept by a series of demonstrations throughout the country, which Protasevich eagerly “documented,” always just a step away from the neo-Nazi black block. … According to his Facebook page, he started working for the USAID-supported radio in Belarus Euroradio.fm on August 31, 2018.17 … According to his Facebook page, Protasevich left his job with Euroradio on December 1, 2019.18 … Protasevich is a neo-Nazi-affine Western-backed regime change activist.

    I know next to nothing about FOIA Research; their writings have a whiff of doctrinaire leftism (and English-as-a-second-languageism), and I don’t know enough details of neo-Euro-fascism to assess their reliability (though their Oath Keepers profile seems accurate and well-done). Anybody here know more about either Protasevich or FOIA Research?