June 2021 News (Part 2)

 JIPLogo

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

 

June 24

Top Headlines

 

Pro-Trump Election Lies, Jan. 6 Insurrection Day

Virus Victims, Responses

   

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

U.S. Media, Education, Cultural Wars

 

World News

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats Show New Urgency on Crime, Signaling a Shift, Alexander Burns, June 24, 2021 (print ed.). A strong showing by Eric Adams, right, in the New York mayoral race and President Biden’s announcement of a new crime-fighting agenda signal a shift by Democrats toward themes of public safety.

eric adamsFacing a surge in shootings and homicides and persistent Republican attacks on liberal criminal-justice policies, Democrats from the White House to Brooklyn Borough Hall are rallying with sudden confidence around a politically potent cause: funding the police.

In the nation’s capital on Wednesday, President Biden put the weight of his office behind a crime-fighting agenda, unveiling a national strategy that includes cracking down on illegal gun sales and encouraging cities to use hundreds of billions of dollars in pandemic relief money for law-enforcement purposes. His speech represented the most muscular response so far from his administration to a rise in crime that has stricken the country’s major cities.

democratic donkey logoIn New York City, the country’s largest metropolis and a Democratic stronghold, it was Adams, a former police officer who is Black, who rode an anti-crime message to a commanding lead in the initial round of the Democratic mayoral primary on Tuesday.

The back-to-back developments signaled a shift within the Democratic Party toward themes of public safety. Senior Democrats said they expected party leaders to lean hard into that issue in the coming months, trumpeting federal funding for police departments in the American Rescue Plan and attacking Republicans for having voted against it.

“This is not a time to turn our backs on law enforcement or our communities,” Mr. Biden said in his speech.

washington post logoWashington Post, Colleges want students to get coronavirus shots, but there’s a stark red-blue divide, Nick Anderson, Susan Svrluga, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Lauren Lumpkin and Maria Aguilar, June 24, 2021 (print ed.). Students and staff members at Indiana University in Bloomington and its other campuses will be required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

More than 500 colleges and universities plan to require vaccination for at least some students and employees, mostly in states won by Joe Biden in 2020.

Indiana University, a flagship institution in a staunchly Republican state, will require its more than 100,000 students and employees to get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus as it turns the page on a strange pandemic school year. “This is saving lives, it’s as simple as that,” said university President Michael A. McRobbie. “And it will enable us to have a normal fall semester.”

Purdue University, also prominent in Indiana, is strongly encouraging vaccination for students and employees but avoiding mandates. A campaign for personal choice and responsibility, Purdue President Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. said, will get better public health results than requirements that “might come across as ham-handed and dictatorial.”

Two public universities, two divergent approaches, one race to a common goal: Maximize vaccination before college students return for the fall. Colleges and universities everywhere face daunting challenges, logistical and political, as they try to create safe campus spaces for living and learning in a nation weary of the coronavirus and divided over masks and vaccines.

  • Washington Post, Indiana University students sue over coronavirus vaccine mandate

washington post logoWashington Post, Nearly 900 Secret Service members were infected with the coronavirus. A watchdog blames Trump, Timothy Bella, June 24, 2021 (print ed.). Almost 900 Secret Service members have tested positive for the coronavirus since March 2020, according to a watchdog report, and many of those infected had protection assignments that included the safety of the president and vice president.

The nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington published a report Tuesday detailing how 881 Secret Service employees had tested positive between March 1, 2020 and March 9, 2021. The data, which came from a Freedom of Information Act request to the Secret Service, found that 477 members of the special agent division had been infected. Described by the Department of Homeland Security as “the elite agents you see protecting the President and Vice President,” special agents are also responsible for a number of safety assignments overseas and in the United States, such as protecting the president and vice president’s families, presidential candidates and visiting foreign leaders.

CREW said it’s unclear “whom the special agents who tested positive were assigned to protect or when, exactly, they tested positive.”
Advertisement

While the data does not give a breakdown of coronavirus infections between the two administrations during this period, the watchdog placed much of the blame on President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence for holding “large-scale rallies against public health guidelines.”

The group also slammed the Trump family’s regular travel during the pandemic and Trump’s photo op last year outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center “in a car with secret service agents while being treated for covid, further putting agents in danger.”

“It’s impossible to overstate the risk the Trump administration put on Secret Service agents,” CREW wrote.

The report is the latest window into how the spread of the coronavirus disrupted the security team during the Trump administration and Trump campaign events where many attendees did not wear masks.

The Post previously reported that more than 130 Secret Service officers — roughly 10 percent of the agency’s core security team — who helped protect the White House and Trump when he traveled had been ordered to isolate or quarantine because they tested positive for the coronavirus or had close contact with infected co-workers. Trump’s insistence on holding public events — such as his Tulsa rally — while the pandemic was in full force last year left the Secret Service dealing with coronavirus cases in the aftermath of his travel blitz.

“Never before has the Secret Service run up against a president so intent on putting himself first regardless of the costs, including to those around him,” Ned Price, a national security expert and former CIA analyst, said to The Post in August.

President Biden, who was assigned Secret Service protection in March 2020, also had campaign stops last year, but the events were restricted to much smaller numbers compared with Trump’s rallies.

Joseph Cuffari, the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, blocked investigations proposed by career Secret Service staff last year to scrutinize the spread of the coronavirus in its ranks. Cuffari, a Trump appointee who is the chief federal watchdog for the Secret Service, ultimately shelved a probe into whether the agency flouted federal protocols put in place to detect and reduce the spread of the coronavirus within its workforce, according to records obtained by the Project On Government Oversight, a nonprofit watchdog group, and shared with The Post.

The nonprofit also reflected on Pence’s ski trip to Vail, Colo., in December that reportedly put “at least 48 agents at risk of infection” and cost taxpayers more than $750,000 in Secret Service protection.

lloyd austin o

washington post logoWashington Post, Defense secretary backs removing sexual assault prosecutions from military justice system, Dan Lamothe and Alex Horton, June 24, 2021 (print ed.). Senior military officials have been reluctant to surrender the oversight of disciplinary matters within the ranks, a long-standing military tradition.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, above, said Tuesday that he will work with Congress to remove sexual assault prosecutions from the military justice system, marking a dramatic about-face for the Department of Defense SealPentagon, which for years has not meaningfully confronted an epidemic believed to affect thousands of personnel every year.

The acknowledgment came one day after Austin received recommendations and a comprehensive report from an independent commission that reviewed the issue, he said. Senior military officials have been resistant to the idea because oversight of disciplinary matters within the ranks is a long-standing military tradition that few are willing to surrender.

Austin said that within days he will present to President Biden recommendations for change, which will require amendments to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but that already he has seen enough to announce his intentions. The commission’s work “provides us real opportunities to finally end the scourge of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military,” the defense secretary said.

 

Pro-Trump Election Lies, Jan. 6 Insurrection Day

ny times logoNew York Times, Michigan Republicans published an unsparing debunking of voter fraud claims in the state, Reid J. Epstein June 23, 2021. A committee led by Michigan Republicans on Wednesday republican elephant logopublished an extraordinary debunking of voter fraud claims in the state, delivering a comprehensive rebuke to a litany of accusations about improprieties in the 2020 election and its aftermath.

The 55-page report, produced by a Michigan State Senate committee of three Republicans and one Democrat, is a systematic rebuttal to an array of false claims about the election from supporters of former President Donald J. Trump. The authors focus overwhelmingly on Michigan, but they also expose lies perpetuated about the vote-counting process in Georgia.

michigan mapThe report is unsparing in its criticism of those who have promoted false theories about the election. It debunks claims from Trump allies including Mike Lindell, right, the mike lindell screengrabchief executive of MyPillow; Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former president’s lawyer; and Mr. Trump himself.

Yet while the report eviscerates claims about election fraud, its authors also use the allegations to urge their legislative colleagues to change Michigan’s voting laws to make absentee voting harder and limit the availability of drop boxes for absentee ballots, as Republicans have done in other swing states as they try to limit voting.

“This committee found no evidence of widespread or systematic fraud in Michigan’s prosecution of the 2020 election,” the authors wrote, before adding: “It is the opinion of this committee that the Legislature has a duty to make statutory improvements to our elections system.”

Michigan Republicans, who control the state’s Legislature, have for weeks debated a series of new voting restrictions. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, has said she will veto the legislation, but Michigan law allows citizens to circumvent the governor by collecting 340,047 signatures.

ny times logoNew York Times, Indiana Woman Is First Person to Be Sentenced in Capitol Riot, Alan Feuer, June 24, 2021 (print ed.). Anna Morgan-Lloyd, who will serve no prison time, said she realized that she and others who breached the Capitol may have helped encourage the violence by other Trump supporters.

The first person to be sentenced in connection with the riot at the Capitol — a 49-year-old woman from Indiana — will serve no time in prison after reaching an agreement with the government and pleading guilty on Wednesday to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge.

At an unusual hearing where she admitted guilt and was immediately sentenced by a judge, the woman, Anna Morgan-Lloyd, expressed remorse for her role in the attack of Jan. 6. She apologized to the court, her family and the “American people,” saying it was wrong to have entered the Capitol even though she hurt no one, broke nothing and was inside for only about 10 minutes.

Ms. Morgan-Lloyd said she had gone to Washington to hear former President Donald J. Trump speak and was “ashamed it became a savage display of violence.”

“I would have never been there if I had known it would turn out that way,” she added.

At the hearing, the presiding judge, Royce C. Lamberth, made scathing remarks from the bench attacking the handful of Republican politicians who have labeled the assault on the Capitol the work of mere tourists, calling that position “utter nonsense.”

“I don’t know what planet they’re on,” Judge Lamberth said. “Millions of people saw Jan. 6.”

Ms. Morgan-Lloyd’s light penalty, three years of probation, was not only the first punishment handed down against any of the nearly 500 people charged in the attack, but is also likely to serve as a bellwether for scores of other rioters who committed no violence on Jan. 6 and were accused of only minor crimes.

Under the terms of her deal with the government, Ms. Morgan-Lloyd also agreed to pay restitution of $500, her small part in defraying the estimated $1.5 million in damage done to the Capitol during the attack.

Two other Capitol Hill defendants also pleaded guilty on Wednesday at separate hearings. One of them, Robert Reeder, of Maryland, acknowledged committing a misdemeanor, disorderly conduct, by illegally entering the Capitol after chanting, “Fight for Trump!” Under the terms of his plea, he faces up to six months in prison.

The other defendant, Graydon Young, of Sarasota, Fla., admitted to conspiring to breach the building as part of a military-style “stack” made up of members of the Oath Keepers militia and disrupt the certification of the Electoral College vote. As part of his deal with the government, Mr. Young agreed to cooperate with prosecutors — the second member of the Oath Keepers to provide assistance to investigators. He faces an estimated 63 to 78 months in prison.

owen shroyer willard fire resized2 amazon

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Spread of delta variant renews danger to regions with low vaccination rates, Ariana Eunjung Cha, Karla Adam, Ben Guarino and Lenny Bernstein, June 24, 2021 (print ed.). The rapid spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus is poised to divide the United States again, with highly vaccinated areas continuing toward post-pandemic freedom and poorly vaccinated regions threatened by greater caseloads and hospitalizations, health officials warned this week.

The highly transmissible variant is taxing hospitals in a rural, lightly vaccinated part of Missouri, and caseloads and hospitalizations are on the rise in states such as Arkansas, Nevada and Utah, where less than 50 percent of the eligible population has received at least one dose of vaccine, according to data compiled by The Washington Post.

One influential model, produced by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, predicts a modest overall surge in cases, hospitalizations and deaths this fall. Scott Gottlieb, a former head of the Food and Drug Administration, said Sunday that a fall surge could occur even if 75 percent of the eligible population is vaccinated.

  • Washington Post, Analysis: Even the world’s most successful vaccination programs are hitting hurdles, June 24, 2021 (print ed.).

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal health officials cite ‘likely association’ between coronavirus vaccines and rare heart issues in teens, young adults, Lena H. Sun, June 24, 2021 (print ed.). They say the benefits far outweigh risks, and ‘strongly encourage’ vaccination for those 12 and older.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The benefits of vaccination in young adults far outweigh the risks, including for myocarditis, Leana S. Wen, M.D., right, June 24, 2021 (print ed.). Advisers to the Centers of leana wenDisease Control and Prevention met on Wednesday to discuss the possible link between myocarditis — inflammation of the heart muscle — and the two coronavirus vaccines that use mRNA, Pfizer and Moderna. They determined that while there is an association between the vaccines and myocarditis, all age groups eligible to receive them should continue to, including adolescents 12 and over.

This was the right decision based on a thoughtful weighing of risks and benefits. While myocarditis and an associated condition, pericarditis (inflammation of the lining around the heart), could be serious, the likelihood of this occurring is low and most cases are mild. By comparison, the risk of severe and lasting outcomes from covid-19 are much higher and can be prevented through vaccination.

Here’s what the CDC reported: Of the more than 300 million doses of the mRNA vaccines administered in the United States, there have been 323 documented cases of myocarditis, pericarditis or both, in those under 30. Most occurred after the second of the two-dose vaccination. The median age for those diagnosed with the conditions after the second dose was 24 years old, and 79 percent occurred in males. Symptoms generally started within three to four days. Of these 323 reports, nearly 80 percent are known to have recovered from their symptoms at this time. Nine are still hospitalized and two are in intensive care. No one has died.

Leana Wen, M.D., is a visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of the forthcoming book “Lifelines: A Doctor’s Journey in the Fight for the Public’s Health.” 

washington post logoWashington Post, 177.9 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 24, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 150.8 million people (45.4 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 53.6 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 24, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 180,450,521, Deaths: 3,909,314
U.S. Cases:     34,449,004, Deaths:   618,294
India Cases:     30,082,778, Deaths:   392,014
Brazil Cases:   18,170,778, Deaths:    507,240

ny times logobrazil flag wavingNew York Times, Brazil Passes 500,000 Covid Deaths, a Tragedy With No Sign of Letup, Ernesto Londoño and Flávia Milhorance, Photographs by Mauricio Lima, June 24, 2021. With 2.7 percent of the world’s population, Brazil has suffered 13 percent of the Covid-19 fatalities, and the pandemic there is not abating.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Sydney Outbreak Prompts Travel Ban and Mask-Wearing, Staff Reports, June 24, 2021. A Covid-19 cluster in Sydney has grown to 49 cases, prompting a travel ban for the city’s five million residents. Here’s the latest on the pandemic.

  • The International Monetary Fund has a proposal to rescue poor countries from the pandemic.
  • The White House plans to send 3 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine to Brazil on Thursday.
  • Angela Merkel tells Europeans to ‘remain vigilant,’ and other news from around the world.
  • San Francisco will require all city employees to be vaccinated.

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Cindy McCain to be nominated as ambassador to U.N. food and agriculture programs, Tyler Pager, June 23, 2021. President Biden announced Wednesday that he will nominate Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), for an ambassadorship to the United Nations’ food and agriculture programs.

cindy mccain 2018If confirmed, Cindy McCain, right, who crossed party lines to endorse Biden in the general election, will head to Rome as the envoy to the United Nations Agencies for Food and United NationsAgriculture, which encompasses three U.N. agencies.

Biden also tapped Claire Cronin, a state representative in Massachusetts, to serve as ambassador to Ireland, a significant posting in the Biden administration given the president’s Irish heritage. Cronin is the majority leader in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and she is the first woman to hold that role.

Biden often talks about his Irish roots, whether sharing stories about his ancestors’ journey to the United States in coffin ships or professing his love for Irish poets.

ny times logoNew York Times, Can Maya Wiley or Kathryn Garcia Still Beat Eric Adams? Yes, but …, Andy Newman, June 23, 2021. Under ranked-choice voting, it is mathematically possible for the second- and third-place finishers in Tuesday’s Democratic primary to overtake the front-runner — but it will be tough.

It was the city’s first mayoral race using ranked-choice voting, and there was no incumbent running.

After the first round of vote tallying, a relatively conservative male Democrat with a long history in elected office led the pack by nine percentage points, with two female candidates ranked second and third.

In the end, the second-place finisher came from behind to score a narrow victory.

It happened in Oakland, Calif., in 2010. Whether it can happen in New York City in 2021 is a question that has taken on great urgency.

eric adamsWith partial results in on Wednesday afternoon, Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, has 32 percent of first-place votes. He leads Maya Wiley, a former City Hall counsel, by 9 points, and Kathryn Garcia, a former sanitation commissioner, by 12 points.

Because Mr. Adams has almost no chance of garnering more than 50 percent of first-place votes, the ranked-choice playoff process will begin. It is a series of rounds in which the candidate with the fewest first-place votes is eliminated and those votes are transferred to whomever the voter listed in the next slot, until only two candidates remain — at which point the leader wins.

Ms. Wiley’s supporters hope that she can close the gap by picking up enough votes from voters who preferred her to Mr. Adams but did not rank her first. Ms. Garcia’s supporters are hoping for something similar.

democratic donkey logoBut both candidates face steep challenges to overcoming Mr. Adams’s commanding lead. Here is a brief explainer:
Can Wiley or Garcia still win?

Mathematically, yes. Ms. Wiley could win if she makes it to the final round and is ranked ahead of Mr. Adams on around 60 percent of all ballots where neither is ranked first. Ms. Garcia’s threshold in the same situation is a few points higher.

What’s the likelihood of that?

Low. Mr. Adams would have to be enormously unpopular among voters who did not rank him first, and one of the few polls done late in the race showed broader support for him than for Ms. Wiley or Ms. Garcia.

The poll of 800 likely Democratic voters, conducted by Citizen Data and FairVote, a national organization that promotes ranked-choice voting, found that Mr. Adams was the only candidate in the race who was a top-three choice of more than half the voters.

The poll tracks fairly closely with the actual first-round results reported so far: It showed Mr. Adams with 32 percent and Ms. Wiley and Ms. Garcia both with 18 percent. It was conducted before the race’s chaotic final weekend, when Mr. Adams was criticized for asserting that Ms. Garcia and Andrew Yang, a former presidential candidate, were trying to weaken Black candidates by campaigning together.

That episode may have damaged Mr. Adams and helped Ms. Garcia, but not much, said Rob Richie, FairVote’s president.

“My assumption is that the last three days didn’t change the fundamentals enough to actually change the outcome,” he said.

How often does a trailing candidate in a ranked-choice election end up winning?

Very rarely. In 128 ranked-choice races in the United States since 2004 where there was no first-round winner, there have been only three occasions where someone trailing by more than eight points after the first round ended up the victor, according to FairVote.

No one trailing by 10 points has ever won, though in the 2018 San Francisco mayoral race, Mark Leno very nearly came from 12 points down to overtake London Breed. Ms. Breed wound up winning by less than a percentage point.

ny times logoNew York Times, Senators will meet with President Biden Thursday after a potential breakthrough on an infrastructure bill, June 23, 2021. A bipartisan group of centrist senators will head to the White House on Thursday to brief President Biden on their infrastructure framework after lawmakers said they had signed off on an outline for how to fund and finance billions of dollars for roads, bridges and other public-works projects.

After two lengthy meetings with White House officials on Wednesday, multiple senators said they had struck an agreement on the overall framework for an infrastructure plan and would personally update Mr. Biden as they worked to finalize some details. Lawmakers and staff declined to offer any details about the apparent breakthrough, but a previous outline drafted by the group of senators — five Republicans and five Democrats — would provide for $579 billion in new spending as part of an overall $1.2 trillion package spent over eight years.

susan collins o“There’s a framework of agreement on a bipartisan infrastructure package,” Senator Susan Collins, left, Republican of Maine, told reporters as she left negotiations in the Capitol. “There’s still details to be worked out.”

The bipartisan group previously released a statement announcing an agreement on a framework that the White House had not yet backed. Mr. Biden sent aides to Capitol Hill on Tuesday and Wednesday for further discussions.

“The group made progress toward an outline of a potential agreement,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said in a statement Wednesday evening after what she described as “two productive meetings” with White House officials.

The group has been scrounging for ways to pay for billions of dollars in new spending that would be a critical part of a potential compromise plan to invest in roads, broadband internet, electric utilities and other infrastructure projects.

“We just kept working at it, I’m serious,” Ms. Collins said. “Each of us brought in different ideas that we had researched with our staffs.”

ny times logoNew York Times, What Did New York’s Primaries Mean for Progressives? It’s Complicated, Lisa Lerer, June 24, 2021. Progressives cheered the results in down-ballot races and in Buffalo, even as the outcome of the mayoral primary appeared less rosy.

They may not win Gracie Mansion, but there’s always Buffalo. And Rochester, too.

For progressives in New York State, primary elections on Tuesday night brought a number of victories, even as the biggest apple of them all — New York City’s mayoralty — may elude their grasp.

Though Eric Adams amassed a sizable lead over Maya D. Wiley, his top rival, in first-choice votes, liberal candidates celebrated victories in down-ballot races in New York City and in the state’s second and third largest cities, wins that they argue demonstrate their ascendancy at the grass-roots level even as they are struggling to flex their power in Washington.

In perhaps the biggest upset of the night, India B. Walton, a democratic socialist, defeated a four-term incumbent in the Democratic mayoral primary in Buffalo and cast her victory as a threat to the longtime party establishment.

Ms. Walton had promised to safeguard undocumented immigrants, place a moratorium on new charter schools and cut millions from the Police Department budget by ending the role of officers in most mental health emergency calls.

ny times logoNew York Times, India Walton, a socialist candidate, stuns longtime incumbent in Buffalo mayor’s race, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, June 23, 2021. A progressive challenger running her first campaign was poised on Tuesday to beat Buffalo’s four-term Democratic mayor in a primary upset that would upend the political landscape in New York’s second-biggest city and signal the strength of the party’s left wing.

The challenger, India B. Walton, is a former nurse and community activist who ran with the support of the Democratic Socialists of America and the Working Families Party. She was leading Byron Brown, a longtime member of the Democratic establishment, by 7 percentage points, or about 1,500 votes, as of midnight with all of the in-person ballots counted, according to unofficial results.

Should Ms. Walton, 38, win the primary and then triumph in the general election November — a likely result in heavily Democratic Buffalo — she would be the first socialist mayor of a major American city since 1960, when Frank P. Zeidler stepped down as Milwaukee’s mayor. She would also be the first female mayor in Buffalo’s history.

democratic donkey logoMs. Walton celebrated her victory in a jubilant call to her mother that was captured on video, yelling, “Mommy, I won. Mommy, I’m the mayor of Buffalo. Well, not until January, but, yeah.”

Mr. Brown, who once led the state’s Democratic Party and is a close ally of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, declined to concede despite the margin separating him from Ms. Walton.

“We’re going to make sure every single vote is counted,” he said. (Ms. Walton’s campaign estimated that there were about 1,500 absentee ballots outstanding.)

Ms. Walton showed no such hesitation in declaring victory, highlighting what she said were the race’s national ramifications. She said the stunning outcome would “resound here in Buffalo and throughout the nation, showing that a progressive platform that puts people over profit is both viable and necessary.”

“Tonight’s result proves that Buffalonians demand community-minded, people-focused government, and we’re ready to serve them,” Ms. Walton said in a statement. “For too long, we’ve seen our city work for politicians, for developers, for the police union, but not for ordinary working families. In our city, everyone will have a seat at the table.”

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘I Just Want My Life Back,’ Britney Spears Tells Judge, Joe Coscarelli, Updated June 24, 2021. In a rare public appearance in court, the singer gave an impassioned speech about her treatment under the conservatorship that controls her life, telling the judge she would like it to end.

Britney Spears told a Los Angeles judge on Wednesday that she has been drugged, compelled to work against her will and prevented from removing her birth control device over the past 13 years as she pleaded with the court to end her father’s legal control of her life.

“I’ve been in denial. I’ve been in shock. I am traumatized,” Ms. Spears, 39, said in an emotional 23-minute address by phone that was broadcast in the courtroom and, as she insisted, to the public. “I just want my life back.”

It was the first time that the world had heard Ms. Spears address in detail her struggles with the conservatorship granted to her father, James P. Spears, in 2008, when concerns about her mental health and potential substance abuse led him to petition the court for legal authority over his adult daughter.

Ms. Spears called for the arrangement to end without her “having to be evaluated.” “I shouldn’t be in a conservatorship if I can work. The laws need to change,” she added. “I truly believe this conservatorship is abusive. I don’t feel like I can live a full life.”

The struggle between one of the world’s biggest pop stars and her father has become a long-running saga that has spawned a “Free Britney” movement around the world among her fans and fellow celebrities.

Outside the courtroom, Ms. Spears’s voice silenced a crowd of roughly 120 supporters who had rallied on her behalf but paused to listen to her words on their phones.

The striking development came after Ms. Spears’s court-appointed lawyer, Samuel D. Ingham III, asked at her request in April that she be allowed — on an expedited basis — to address the judge directly. Confidential court records obtained recently by The New York Times revealed that Ms. Spears had raised issues with her father’s role in the conservatorship as early as 2014, and had repeatedly asked about terminating it altogether, though Mr. Ingham had not filed to do so.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why U.S. Police Have Been Quitting in Droves in the Last Year, Neil MacFarquhar, June 24, 2021.  Asheville, N.C., has been among the hardest hit by departures in the wake of racial justice protests. About a third of the force quit or retired. Public outrage and low pay were compounded by a demoralizing sense that the city itself did not back its police force, officers said.

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

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

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

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

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Wildfires Threaten Urban Water Supplies, Long After the Flames Are Out, Henry Fountain, June 24, 2021. When wildfires blaze across the West, as they have with increasing ferocity as the region has warmed, the focus is often on the immediate devastation — forests destroyed, infrastructure damaged, homes burned, lives lost.

But about two-thirds of drinking water in the United States originates in forests. And when wildfires affect watersheds, cities can face a different kind of impact, long after the flames are out.

After a forest burns, the resulting erosion can contaminate drinking water supplies for up to a decade.

usda logo horizontal Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge halts Black farmers’ debt-relief program, Laura Reiley, June 24, 2021 (print ed.). A Florida federal court issued a preliminary injunction Wednesday, delivering a legal blow to a key part of the Biden administration’s federal stimulus relief package that forgave agricultural debts to farmers of color.

Black and other minority farmers were dealt a new legal blow on Wednesday when a Florida federal court issued a preliminary injunction halting a key part of the Biden administration’s federal stimulus relief package that forgave agricultural debts to farmers of color.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard halted loan forgiveness payments and debt relief for disadvantaged farmers anywhere in the United States, according to the Middle District Court of Florida ruling. The lawsuit was filed by White farmer Scott Wynn of Jennings, Fla., who also has farm loans and has faced financial hardship during the pandemic. He said the debt relief program discriminates against him by race.

Howard wrote that in crafting this debt program benefiting farmers based on race that “Congress also must heed its obligation to do away with governmentally imposed discrimination based on race.” She added that “it appears that in adopting Section 1005’s strict race-based debt relief remedy Congress moved with great speed to address the history of discrimination, but did not move with great care.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Pentagon linguist sentenced to 23 years for exposing U.S. sources in Iraq to Hezbollah in rare terrorism espionage case, Spencer S. Hsu, June 24, 2021 (print ed.).  A linguist for a U.S. Special Operations task force in Iraq was sentenced Wednesday to 23 years in prison in a rare terrorism espionage case, after she admitted she turned over names of informants and other classified data to a Lebanese man with ties to the militant group Hezbollah.

Mariam Taha Thompson, 63, formerly of Rochester, Minn., pleaded guilty on March 26 to delivering national defense information to aid a foreign government. Prosecutors alleged that she passed the information to a man with whom she fell in love, believing it would assist Lebanese Hezbollah, designated by the United States as a terrorist group.

Department of Defense SealProsecutors said Thompson, who was born in Lebanon and became a U.S. citizen in 1993, risked the lives of U.S. sources and troops because she hoped the man would marry her.

“Thompson’s sentence should stand as a clear warning to all clearance holders that violations of their oath to this country will not be taken lightly, especially when they put lives at risk,” John C. Demers, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s national security division, said in a statement.Advertisement

In court, Assistant U.S. Attorney John M. Cummings Jr. argued that turning over terrorist targeting information “posed real threats to U.S. troops and allies, and for those reasons she deserves a 30-year sentence.”

While Thompson’s defense requested seven years, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates said he knew of no espionage case in which a defendant was sentenced to less than 15 years for divulging the identities of human sources — much less to a terrorist organization in an active area of operations.

The judge cut the sentence short, however, saying Thompson was a sympathetic individual with an otherwise inspiring life story who served her adopted country alongside U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The judge also acknowledged that the government request was tantamount to a life sentence.

 

U.S. Media, Education, Cultural Wars

washington post logoWashington Post, In push against ‘indoctrination,’ DeSantis mandates surveys of Florida students’ beliefs, Caroline Anders, June 24, 2021 (print ed.). After successfully banning public schools from teaching “critical race theory” two weeks ago, Florida is reshaping civics lessons and addressing what its governor says parents worry about when they send their children to college — indoctrination.

ron desantis oGov. Ron DeSantis (R), right,  says he is concerned about the free flow of ideas on campus and whether higher education stifles free speech from conservatives. Under the law he signed Tuesday, which goes into effect July 1, public universities must assess “viewpoint diversity” on campus each year through a survey developed by the State Board of Education, a requirement that a free-speech expert predicted as a model for other conservative-led states.

What is critical race theory, and why do Republicans want to ban it in schools?

Although the Florida law does not address penalties for schools where the survey finds low levels of “intellectual freedom” and “viewpoint diversity,” DeSantis has hinted at the potential for budget cuts at universities that don’t pass muster.

The bill defines those two terms as the exposure to — and encouragement or exploration of — “a variety of ideological and political perspectives.”

“We want our universities to be focused on critical thinking and academic rigor. We do not want them as basically hotbeds for stale ideology,” DeSantis said at a news conference Tuesday. “That’s not worth tax dollars and not something we’re going to be supporting moving forward.”


brandi levy aclu photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court sides with high school cheerleader in free-speech dispute over profane Snapchat rant, Robert Barnes, June 24, 2021 (print ed.). The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled for a Pennsylvania cheerleader (shown above in an ACLU photo) whose profane off-campus rant cost her a spot on the squad, saying the punishment violated her First Amendment rights.

The court ruled 8 to 1 that the punishment was too severe, although it declined to say schools never have a role in disciplining students for off-campus speech.

“It might be tempting to dismiss B. L.’s words as unworthy of the robust First Amendment protections discussed herein,” Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote in his 11-page majority opinion.

“But sometimes it is necessary to protect the superfluous in order to preserve the necessary.”

Brandi Levy — now an 18-year-old college student — was a frustrated ninth-grader when she lamented being passed over for the varsity cheerleading squad at Mahanoy Area High School. On a spring Saturday in her freshman year, she posted on Snapchat a photo of herself and a friend with upraised middle fingers and this rant:Advertisement

“F— school, f— softball, f— cheer, f— everything.” It was sent to about 250 friends, including fellow cheerleaders at her school.

It was supposed to disappear in 24 hours, but her cheerleading coaches were alerted to it, and Levy was suspended from cheerleading for a year — but not from school.

A cheerleader’s Snapchat rant leads to ‘momentous’ Supreme Court case on student speech

In a statement Wednesday, Levy said: “Young people need to have the ability to express themselves without worrying about being punished when they get to school. I never could have imagined that one simple snap would turn into a Supreme Court case, but I’m proud that my family and I advocated for the rights of millions of public school students.”

ny times logoNew York Times, John McAfee, Software Pioneer Turned Fugitive, Dies in Spanish Prison, By William P. Davis, Mary Williams Walsh and Coral Murphy Marcos June 23, 2021.  Mr. McAfee, who has not been associated with the company that bears his name for more than two decades, was fighting extradition to the United States.

John David McAfee, the founder of the antivirus software maker bearing his name, died in a prison in Spain on Wednesday, after a Spanish court said he could be extradited to the United States on tax-evasion charges.

His death was confirmed by his lawyers. He was 75.

After selling his pioneering virus-fighting firm in 1994 and losing most of his fortune during the 2008 financial crisis, Mr. McAfee led a peripatetic life that included a turn to paranoia and a string of arrests around the globe. That all culminated in his detention in Spain in 2020 after prosecutors in the United States accused him of not filing tax returns for several years.

The indictment filed by the Justice Department said Mr. McAfee had earned millions from “promoting cryptocurrencies, consulting work, speaking engagements and selling the rights to his life story for a documentary,” and had tried to avoid taxes by using cryptocurrency and channeling the money through bank accounts. He could have faced prison time if convicted.

Mr. McAfee said he had been arrested despite paying “millions of dollars in taxes” and resisted extradition, claiming he faced political persecution for denouncing corruption in the Internal Revenue Service and opposing the fiat money system, in which central banks like the Federal Reserve control the money supply. But on Wednesday, the Spanish court released its decision to allow the Justice Department’s request to extradite him, saying there was “no supporting evidence that such a thing could be happening.”

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. to Move Afghans Who Aided Troops to Other Countries, Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt, June 24, 2021. Interpreters and others who worked with departing American forces will go somewhere safe until visas for them to enter the United States are processed.

The Biden administration is preparing to relocate thousands of Afghan interpreters, drivers and others who worked with American forces to other countries in an effort to keep them safe while they apply for entry to the United States, senior administration officials said.

With the American military in the final phases of withdrawing from Afghanistan after 20 years of war, the White House has come under heavy pressure from lawmakers and military officials to protect Afghan allies from revenge attacks by the Taliban and speed up the lengthy and complex process of providing them special immigrant visas.

On Wednesday, administration officials started notifying lawmakers that they will soon begin what could be a wholesale move of tens of thousands of Afghans. Officials said the Afghans would be moved out of Afghanistan to third countries to await the processing of their visa requests to move to the United States.

The officials declined to say where the Afghans would wait.

washington post logoWashington Post, Hundreds of unmarked graves found at another former residential school in Canada, Michael E. Miller and Amanda Coletta, June 24, 2021 canadian flag(print ed.). The Cowessess First Nation said it made the “horrific and shocking” find at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan. The number of graves could eclipse the 215 that were found on the grounds of a former residential school in British Columbia last month.

 

June 23

Top Headlines

 

Jan. 6 Insurrection Day, White Nationalist Watch

 

Virus Victims, Responses

   

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

World News

 

Top Stories

chuck schumer podium

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate Republicans block debate on elections bill, dealing blow to Democrats’ voting rights push, Mike DeBonis, June 23, 2021 (print ed.). Senate Republicans banded together Tuesday to block a sweeping Democratic bill that would revamp the architecture of American democracy, dealing a grave blow to efforts to federally override dozens of GOP-passed state voting laws.

The test vote, which would have cleared the way to start debate on voting legislation, failed 50-50 on straight party lines — 10 votes short of the supermajority needed to advance legislation in the Senate.

It came after a succession of Democrats delivered warnings about what they said was the dire state of American democracy, accusing former president Donald Trump of undermining the country’s democratic system by challenging the results of the 2020 election in a campaign that prompted his supporters in numerous state legislatures to pass laws rolling back ballot access.

“Are we going to let reactionary state legislatures drag us back into the muck of voter suppression? Are we going to let the most dishonest president in history continue to poison our democracy from the inside?” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), shown above, said before the vote. “Or will we stand up to defend what generations of Americans have organized, marched, fought and died for — the sacred, sacred right to vote?”

Mitchell_McConnellBut Republicans stood firmly together in opposition, following the lead of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), left, who on Tuesday lambasted the Democrats’ bill, known as the For the People Act, as “a transparently partisan plan to tilt every election in America permanently in [Democrats’] favor” and as “a recipe for undermining confidence in our elections.”

Although many Democrats and liberal activists insist the fight is not over — pledging to launch a final, furious push over the coming weeks to change the Senate’s rules to pass the bill — they face long odds as key lawmakers have insisted that they are not willing to eliminate the chamber’s supermajority rule to override Republican opposition.

Republicans, however, exhibited little discomfort in their blanket opposition to the Democratic voting bill — which was largely written before the 2020 election and goes well beyond standard provisions for election access to federally dictate rules on campaign financing, government ethics, congressional redistricting and much more. The House passed the bill this year.

republican elephant logoMcConnell and other Republicans have taken aim at numerous provisions in the Democratic legislation, including a proposal to publicly finance congressional campaigns, potential new disclosure requirements for political donors and a realignment of the Federal Election Commission meant to break partisan gridlock in enforcing election laws.

This year, 18 states have enacted more than 30 laws described as “anti-voter” by the nonpartisan Voting Rights Lab, which tracks developments in state election rules. The restrictions affect roughly 36 million people, or 15 percent of all eligible voters, the group stated in a report last week.

The state laws impose changes including restricting access to mail voting, creating new hurdles to voter registration, establishing new voter ID requirements and expanding the definition of criminal behavior by voters, election officials and third parties.

Democrats have united in opposition to those laws, which were passed after Trump challenged his loss in the 2020 election and rallied his supporters behind an effort to overturn the result — a campaign that also resulted in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Democrats did win a small victory Tuesday in persuading Manchin to vote to start debate on the voting rights bill, with the understanding that senators would then vote to make his compromise proposal the new baseline for further amendments. Democratic leaders wanted to keep their caucus united in a symbolic show of force against the GOP blockade, and Manchin ultimately obliged.

washington post logoWashington Post, Nearly 900 Secret Service members were infected with the coronavirus. A watchdog blames Trump, Timothy Bella, June 23 2021. Almost 900 Secret Service members have tested positive for the coronavirus since March 2020, according to a watchdog report, and many of those infected had protection assignments that included the safety of the president and vice president.

The nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington published a report Tuesday detailing how 881 Secret Service employees had tested positive between March 1, 2020 and March 9, 2021. The data, which came from a Freedom of Information Act request to the Secret Service, found that 477 members of the special agent division had been infected. Described by the Department of Homeland Security as “the elite agents you see protecting the President and Vice President,” special agents are also responsible for a number of safety assignments overseas and in the United States, such as protecting the president and vice president’s families, presidential candidates and visiting foreign leaders.

CREW said it’s unclear “whom the special agents who tested positive were assigned to protect or when, exactly, they tested positive.”
Advertisement

While the data does not give a breakdown of coronavirus infections between the two administrations during this period, the watchdog placed much of the blame on President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence for holding “large-scale rallies against public health guidelines.”

The group also slammed the Trump family’s regular travel during the pandemic and Trump’s photo op last year outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center “in a car with secret service agents while being treated for covid, further putting agents in danger.”

“It’s impossible to overstate the risk the Trump administration put on Secret Service agents,” CREW wrote.

The report is the latest window into how the spread of the coronavirus disrupted the security team during the Trump administration and Trump campaign events where many attendees did not wear masks.

The Post previously reported that more than 130 Secret Service officers — roughly 10 percent of the agency’s core security team — who helped protect the White House and Trump when he traveled had been ordered to isolate or quarantine because they tested positive for the coronavirus or had close contact with infected co-workers. Trump’s insistence on holding public events — such as his Tulsa rally — while the pandemic was in full force last year left the Secret Service dealing with coronavirus cases in the aftermath of his travel blitz.

“Never before has the Secret Service run up against a president so intent on putting himself first regardless of the costs, including to those around him,” Ned Price, a national security expert and former CIA analyst, said to The Post in August.

President Biden, who was assigned Secret Service protection in March 2020, also had campaign stops last year, but the events were restricted to much smaller numbers compared with Trump’s rallies.

Joseph Cuffari, the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, blocked investigations proposed by career Secret Service staff last year to scrutinize the spread of the coronavirus in its ranks. Cuffari, a Trump appointee who is the chief federal watchdog for the Secret Service, ultimately shelved a probe into whether the agency flouted federal protocols put in place to detect and reduce the spread of the coronavirus within its workforce, according to records obtained by the Project On Government Oversight, a nonprofit watchdog group, and shared with The Post.

The nonprofit also reflected on Pence’s ski trip to Vail, Colo., in December that reportedly put “at least 48 agents at risk of infection” and cost taxpayers more than $750,000 in Secret Service protection.

ny times logoNew York Times, Saudi Operatives Who Killed Khashoggi Received Paramilitary Training in U.S., Mark Mazzetti, Julian E. Barnes and Michael LaForgia, June 23, 2021 (print ed.). The training, approved by the State Department, underscores the perils of military partnerships with repressive governments.

Four Saudis who participated in the 2018 killing of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, right, received paramilitary training in the United States the previous year under a contract approved by jamal khashoggi march 2018 croppedthe State Department, according to documents and people familiar with the arrangement.

The instruction occurred as the secret unit responsible for Mr. Khashoggi’s killing was beginning an extensive campaign of kidnapping, detention and torture of Saudi citizens ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, left, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, to crush dissent inside the kingdom.

mohammad bin salman cropped file smallThe training was provided by the Arkansas-based security company Tier 1 Group, which is owned by the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management. The company says the training — including “safe marksmanship” and “countering an attack” — was defensive in nature and devised to better protect Saudi leaders. One person familiar with the training said it also included work in surveillance and close-quarters battle.

There is no evidence that the American officials who approved the training or Tier 1 Group executives knew that the Saudis were involved in the crackdown inside Saudi Arabia. But the fact that the government approved high-level military training for operatives who went on to carry out the grisly killing of a journalist shows how intensely intertwined the United States has become with an autocratic nation even as its agents committed horrific human rights abuses.

It also underscores the perils of military partnerships with repressive governments and demonstrates how little oversight exists for those forces after they return home.

Such issues are likely to continue as American private military contractors increasingly look to foreign clients to shore up their business as the United States scales back overseas deployments after two decades of war.

The State Department initially granted a license for the paramilitary training of the Saudi Royal Guard to Tier 1 Group starting in 2014, during the Obama administration. The training continued during at least the first year of former President Donald J. Trump’s term.

Louis Bremer, a senior executive of Cerberus, Tier 1 Group’s parent company, confirmed his company’s role in the training last year in written answers to questions from lawmakers as part of his nomination for a top Pentagon job during the Trump administration.

The administration does not appear to have sent the document to Congress before withdrawing Mr. Bremer’s nomination; lawmakers never received answers to their questions.

In the document, which Mr. Bremer provided to The New York Times, he said that four members of the Khashoggi kill team had received Tier 1 Group training in 2017, and two of them had participated in a previous iteration of the training, which went from October 2014 until January 2015.

lloyd austin o

washington post logoWashington Post, Defense secretary backs removing sexual assault prosecutions from military justice system, Dan Lamothe and Alex Horton, June 23, 2021. Senior military officials have been reluctant to surrender the oversight of disciplinary matters within the ranks, a long-standing military tradition.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, above, said Tuesday that he will work with Congress to remove sexual assault prosecutions from the military justice system, marking a dramatic about-face for the Pentagon, which for years has not meaningfully confronted an epidemic believed to affect thousands of personnel every year.

The acknowledgment came one day after Austin received recommendations and a comprehensive report from an independent commission that reviewed the issue, he said. Senior military officials have been resistant to the idea because oversight of disciplinary matters within the ranks is a long-standing military tradition that few are willing to surrender.

Austin said that within days he will present to President Biden recommendations for change, which will require amendments to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but that already he has seen enough to announce his intentions. The commission’s work “provides us real opportunities to finally end the scourge of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military,” the defense secretary said.

washington post logoWashington Post, For military’s top man, navigating the Trump-Biden transition is his biggest test yet, Missy Ryan, June 23, 2021 (print ed.). Days after cameras captured him walking alongside President Donald Trump across a square near the White House that had been violently cleared of protesters, Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sat in his office across the Potomac assessing the fallout.

mark milley army chief of staffPeople whom Milley respected had issued scathing condemnations of his role in the president’s June 2020 photo op, saying it represented a military endorsement of Trump’s suppression of peaceful protests, and a chorus of commentators called for the general to resign. Friends urged Milley — a gruff, ebullient and sometimes impulsive career soldier — to stay on for the good of the country.

Milley, right, tried to explain that the episode had caught him off guard, that he hadn’t known Trump’s intentions when they walked into an area where just minutes earlier authorities had used tear gas to disperse protesters. Milley also knew that to the cold gaze of history, it might not matter.

From the moment Milley became chairman in September 2019, he and Pentagon leaders were consumed by crises generated by Trump. Those included the president’s intervention in the Navy’s handling of a SEAL accused of war crimes and his greenlighting of a Turkish offensive in Syria, which endangered U.S. allies and necessitated a pullback so rushed that U.S. pilots had to bomb their own base.

 

Jan. 6 Insurrection Day, White Nationalist Watch

owen shroyer willard fire resized2 amazon

Proof via Substack, Investigative Report and Commentary: A Fire Set on January 5 Outside the Willard Hotel May Have Helped Spark the Bloody Events of January 6, Seth Abramson, left, June 22-23, 2021. seth abramson graphicThe outcry from insurrectionists Owen Shroyer and David Harris at Proof’s report on the setting of a fire outside the Willard on January 5 underscores that the previously unreported event is critical.

Introduction: A deliberately set, accelerant-aided fire outside the Willard Hotel on Insurrection Eve has revealed itself to be noteworthy for several reasons.

seth abramson proof logoNot only was it a dangerous, visually spectacular, and illegal Proud Boy-linked event that occurred during a period of 48 hours in which the seat of the American government came under armed assault by that particular white supremacist organization; not only did it feature a small gang of notable insurrectionists, including at least one Proud Boy later arrested by the FBI for breaching the U.S. Capitol on January 6; but it’s been acknowledged by Trumpists as a dramatically invigorating event that occurred just twenty minutes before a near-riot at Black Lives Matter Plaza in D.C. on January 5.

The next day, incited and led—respectively—by the very entities behind the Willard Hotel fire, InfoWars and the Proud Boys, armed insurrectionists brutally attacked and overran the Capitol building.

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump’s International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Merrick Garland is the wrong man for the job, Jennifer Rubin, June 23 2021. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Tuesday made clear that he has decided to let bygones be bygones. I can only imagine the reaction from the scores of former Justice Department lawyers who spent four years writing pleas to their ex-colleagues to eschew partisan corruption, who demanded accountability for attorneys failing to live up to their oaths and who decried the damage to the department’s stature.

The New York Times reports: “Answering questions from reporters at the Justice Department on Tuesday, Mr. Garland said that reviewing the previous administration’s actions was ‘a complicated question.’” Afraid of being accused of partisanship, he chooses not to do his job.

The report continues:

“We always look at what happened before,” he said. But he stopped short of saying that he would undertake a comprehensive review of Trump era Justice Department officials and their actions, in part to keep career employees from concluding that their work would be judged through changing political views.

“I don’t want the department’s career people to think that a new group comes in and immediately applies a political lens,” Mr. Garland said.He also invoked the investigations by the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, noting that they spoke to the question of whether Mr. Trump had improperly used the

Attorneys who did their jobs professionally would have nothing to worry about in a top-to-bottom review of the department’s conduct. Investigating wrongdoing, rooting out unethical behavior and getting to the bottom of the politicization of the department are central to restoring the Justice Department’s reputation. In allowing miscreants to escape accountability (unless Horowitz snares them in his inquiries), Garland has effectively told his department that there are no consequences for unethical or even illegal conduct.

Moreover, in refusing to examine what occurred in the last administration, he is not protecting career attorneys; he is protecting former attorney general William P. Barr and his political hacks who intervened in prosecutions, looked the other way when a whistleblower revealed the disgraced former president’s attempt to extort Ukraine, played along with phony accusations of election fraud and likely misrepresented facts in the census case that was before the Supreme Court. In a sense, Garland is also sheltering former president Donald Trump from investigation, since the only way to understand the extent of his effort to subvert the election is to examine in minute detail his interactions with the Justice Department.

It seems Garland is not the right person for his job, which requires determination to clean house and reestablish the highest standards for the department. That requires the ability to absorb political attacks from those who object to his mission to root out misbehavior. If he cannot explain to critics that a thorough investigation is not partisan, but an essential part of reasserting legal norms, he is not up to the challenge before him.

Garland is not going to quit or be fired anytime soon — although after a year of service, he might consider “spending more time with his family.”

Whatever he does, Congress must fulfill its oversight responsibilities to examine department wrongdoing in the Trump era. The House and Senate judiciary committees could hire a respected attorney — e.g., Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York; former acting attorney general Sally Yates; former impeachment counsel Dan Goldman — to conduct the legwork and handle questioning in open hearings. Lawmakers can also call up Garland and his senior staff to question them as to the lack of initiative on protecting voting rights.

washington post logoWashington Post, Officer in Colorado killed in ‘ambush’ by man who ‘expressed hatred’ of law enforcement, officials say, Paulina Firozi and Reis Thebault, June 23, 2021 (print ed.). A veteran police officer and a bystander were gunned down in a Denver suburb on Monday in what authorities now describe as a targeted attack by someone who “expressed hatred” for members of law enforcement.

The episode in Arvada, a city of more than 120,000 people, was at least the third high-profile shooting in Colorado during the past three months. The investigation into the incident is still ongoing, but Police Chief Link Strate said Tuesday that the officer, Gordon Beesley, “was targeted because he was wearing an Arvada police uniform and a badge.” He was a 19-year veteran of the department.

“Officer Beasley was ambushed by someone who expressed hatred of police officers,” Strate said at a news conference.

The shooting was “a deliberate act of violence,” Strate added, but officials “believe this is an isolated incident.” He identified the second victim as 40-year-old John Hurley and described him as a “good Samaritan” who intervened in the violence.

Police have released few additional details and did not name the suspect, who was also shot and killed. The Denver Post reported that the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office identified him as 59-year-old Ronald Troyke.

Palmer Report, Opinion: It’s all happening at once now, Bill Palmer, June 23, 2021. Last night all fifty Democrats voted to advance HR1 voting rights legislation – a reminder that Chuck Schumer really does know what he’s doing – but the measure failed, a reminder that this battle is still just getting started. Also last night, Nancy Pelosi announced she’s appointing a select committee to investigate the January 6th Capitol attack. So here we go.

These two major ongoing congressional battles are now reaching a fever pitch, even as the Manhattan District Attorney’s office revealed this week that it’s going after the families of Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg and Trump Organization COO Matthew Calamari, in order to get one or both of them to flip on Donald Trump and his family. This comes amid the news that the FBI is now poking around at everyone from Roger Stone to members of Congress, as part of the criminal investigation into the Capitol attack.

This is an era in which so many major political narratives are happening at once, it’s difficult to keep track of them all. And now several of these major narratives are threatening to boil over all at once.

These things were all going to come to a reckoning eventually. Once Trump lost the election, he and the GOP were never going to just magically get away with it all. Nor was anyone simply going to move on. Now it’s all happening at once. This is a time for activism and awareness. We’ve made it this far. Let’s keep fighting and see how much more we can win.

washington post logoWashington Post, Indiana grandmother set to be first defendant sentenced in Capitol riots, Spencer S. Hsu and Rachel Weiner, June 23, 2021. The day after taking part in a mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol to stop the peaceful transition of power, prosecutors say, a 49-year-old Indiana grandmother exulted.

“That was the most exciting day of my life,” Anna Morgan-Lloyd told the friend and hairdresser who had joined her that day, according to court filings. “I’m so glad we were there. For the experience and memory but most of all we can spread the truth about what happened and open the eyes of some of our friends.”

Now Morgan-Lloyd says her eyes have been opened to a different truth. The registered Democrat-turned-Trump supporter is set to plead guilty Wednesday and become the first person sentenced in the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

In a letter to the judge who will decide her punishment, Morgan-Lloyd said she was “ashamed that something meant to show support for the President had turned violent.”

“At first it didn’t dawn on me, but later I realized that if every person like me, who wasn’t violent, was removed from that crowd, the ones who were violent may have lost the nerve to do what they did,” she wrote. “For that I am sorry and take responsibility. It was never my intent to help empower people to act violently.”

With the help of her attorney, she said she has also been learning “what life is like for others in our country,” particularly Black, Jewish and Native Americans. She wrote to the judge about reading the books “Just Mercy” and “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” and watching the movies “Schindler’s List” and “Slavery by Another Name.”

“I’ve lived a sheltered life and truly haven’t experienced life the way many have,” Morgan-Lloyd wrote. “I’ve learned that even though we live in a wonderful country things still need to improve. People of all colors should feel as safe as I do to walk down the street.”

A sprawling investigation: What we know so far about the Capitol riot suspects

A guilty plea is not official until it is accepted by the court, but Morgan-Lloyd’s defense submitted a sentencing request stating that she will plead guilty at a combined plea hearing and sentencing at 2:30 p.m.

  

Virus Victims, Responses

Roll Call, White House concedes it will fall short of Biden’s July 4 vaccination goal, Ariel Cohen and Niels Lesniewski, June 23, 2021 (print ed.). Younger adults’ slow approach to vaccination raises risks. The White House will fall short of its goal of getting at least 70 percent of the adult population partially vaccinated by July 4, White House officials announced Tuesday, largely because younger adults are refusing the COVID-19 shot.

The administration has hit its 70 percent partially vaccinated target for Americans ages 30 and older and is expected to reach that threshold for Americans ages 27 and older by July 4, said Jeff Zients, jeffrey zients o obama national economic councilright, the head of the White House COVID-19 response team. But it will take a few more weeks to get Americans ages 18 to 26 up to that level.

“The reality is, many younger Americans have felt like COVID-19 is not something that impacts them and have been less eager to get the shot,” Zients told reporters on Tuesday. NBC News first reported the delay.

The White House still is planning a celebration for the holiday weekend featuring health care workers and members of the military. Zients said President Joe Biden will host about 1,000 people on the White House lawn.

Members of the administration have been crisscrossing the country to promote the vaccination campaign. On Tuesday, first lady Jill Biden is scheduled to join Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., for a tour of a vaccination site in Jackson, Miss. Then the first lady will head north to Nashville, Tenn., for a similar event with country music star Brad Paisley at the Ole Smokey Distillery.

Vaccine clinics at places like breweries and distilleries, as well as incentives for getting the vaccines, have had some success, but the White House plans to double down on its efforts to reach younger populations.

“We are not stopping at 70 percent, and we are not stopping on July 4,” Zients said.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said the ultimate goal is “crushing the outbreak completely in the United States.” This will require an intense focus on convincing unvaccinated younger people to get the shot.

Fauci said highly contagious virus variants could spread rapidly among unvaccinated individuals. But Fauci also predicted that any resurgence this fall will be limited to regional pockets where vaccination rates are low.

The country is now averaging 10,350 new COVID cases per day over the past week, a decrease of nearly 18 percent over the prior seven-week average. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said that deaths also continue to decrease, averaging 270 per day.

Young adults in Generation Z have been among the most vaccine-hesitant groups in America and, unlike people in other age groups, their reluctance to get the shot has increased over time.

The young and healthy were not prioritized for vaccinations in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many young adults said they didn’t see a need to rush as they watched case numbers fall, mask restrictions let up and life begin to return to normal.

The Biden administration recently began to take notice of the younger generation’s reluctance, and Biden encouraged young adults to get the shot.

“For young people who may think this doesn’t affect you, listen up, please: This virus, even a mild case, can be with you for months. It will impact on your social life,” Biden said earlier this month. “It could have long-term implications for your health.”

Public health experts caution that even though younger adults have a lower risk of contracting serious disease from COVID-19, remaining unvaccinated could have serious consequences for those who have lingering effects, known as “long COVID.”

The unvaccinated also further the spread of the virus and fuel new variants.

“If we get vaccinated now, it’s hard for the new strains to get in here, but if they’re in here and … really are easy to transmit, then there’s more of a risk,” said Arthur Caplan, a professor of bioethics at New York University Langone Medical Center.

The highly contagious delta variant, which first originated in India, has infected many young people, but Amesh Adalja, a physician and a Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security senior scholar, says this is because more young people are unvaccinated, not because the variant specifically targets young people’s immune systems.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Jill Biden tours the South to encourage vaccination as cases among the young mount, Katerina Ang, June 23, 2021. First lady Jill Biden headed to two Southern states on Tuesday to encourage vaccination, as the White House scrambles to raise inoculation levels in a region where relatively few people have received their shots.

Biden’s visits to Mississippi and Tennessee, both states where under 35 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, come as health experts warn that young people in the South are increasingly being hospitalized because of the coronavirus. There are fears that the more virulent delta variant could become the dominant strain this summer.

In Mississippi, the seven-day average of people 18 to 29 years old hospitalized for covid has quadrupled in the month to June 19, federal government data show. In Arkansas, the figure has more than doubled in the same time period. In other news:

  • Tokyo bans alcohol at Olympic games following outcry
  • Israel struggles to get children vaccinated as delta variant spreads

washington post logoWashington Post, Dozens of Texas health workers quit, fired after refusing to get vaccinated, Dan Diamond, June 23, 2021 (print ed.). Houston Methodist — one of the first health systems to require the coronavirus shots — parted ways with 153 workers Tuesday, a spokeswoman said. She declined to specify how many were in each category.

The hospital system announced April 1 that staffers would need to be vaccinated to keep their jobs. While 24,947 workers did get vaccinated by earlier deadlines, Houston Methodist suspended 178 workers who had failed to do so on June 7, giving them an additional two weeks to prove they had been immunized. Twenty-five of those employees did get vaccinated, Smith said.

washington post logoWashington Post, 177.9 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 23, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 150.8 million people (45.4 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 53.6 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 23, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 179,997,274, Deaths: 3,899,731
U.S. Cases:     34,434,803, Deaths:   617,875
India Cases:     30,028,709, Deaths:   390,691
Brazil Cases:   18,056,639, Deaths:    504,897

washington post logoWashington Post, Coronavirus cases surge in Cornwall, England, after G-7 summit, sparking fury, Miriam Berger, June 23, 2021 (print ed.).Coronavirus cases are rising in Cornwall — but Downing Street says the Group of Seven summit held in the British town earlier this month is not to blame.

The seven-day case rate in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has soared from 4.9 per 100,000 people in early June to 130.6 per 100,000 people on June 16, the Guardian reported. Rates g7 logo uk 2021of infections are particularly high in Carbis Bay, where the summit was held, and several nearby areas where delegates to the gathering of world leaders stayed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesperson on Monday denied any direct causation between the G-7 summit — with its influx of journalists, police officers and support staff — and the rise in coronavirus infection rates.

“We are confident that there were no cases of transmission to the local residents,” the unidentified spokesperson told the Guardian. “All attendees were tested, everyone involved in the G-7 work were also tested during their work on the summit.”

 

 U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Adams Leads in N.Y.C. Mayoral Primary as First Results Stream In, Staff Reports, June 23, 2021 (print ed.).Yang Concedes; Final Race Call Is Not Expected for Weeks.

eric adamsEric Adams, right, was leading in early returns of the Democratic primary for New York mayor, with Maya Wiley and Kathryn Garcia behind him. Andrew Yang, a former front-runner, dropped out after a disappointing finish. Curtis Sliwa won the G.O.P. primary.

The embattled mayor of Rochester, who had been under indictment, loses handily. Lovely Warren, the scandal-plagued mayor of Rochester, N.Y., who is under indictment and has faced repeated calls for her resignation, was defeated by a wide margin on Tuesday night in the Democratic primary. The victor was Malik Evans, a city councilman, who was declared the winner by The Associated Press.

ny times logoNew York Times, Can Maya Wiley or Kathryn Garcia Still Beat Eric Adams? Yes, but …,Andy Newman, June 23, 2021. Under ranked-choice voting, it is mathematically possible for the second- and third-place finishers in Tuesday’s Democratic primary to overtake the front-runner — but it will be tough.

It was the city’s first mayoral race using ranked-choice voting, and there was no incumbent running.

After the first round of vote tallying, a relatively conservative male Democrat with a long history in elected office led the pack by nine percentage points, with two female candidates ranked second and third.

In the end, the second-place finisher came from behind to score a narrow victory.

It happened in Oakland, Calif., in 2010. Whether it can happen in New York City in 2021 is a question that has taken on great urgency.

With partial results in on Wednesday afternoon, Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, has 32 percent of first-place votes. He leads Maya Wiley, a former City Hall counsel, by 9 points, and Kathryn Garcia, a former sanitation commissioner, by 12 points.

Because Mr. Adams has almost no chance of garnering more than 50 percent of first-place votes, the ranked-choice playoff process will begin. It is a series of rounds in which the candidate with the fewest first-place votes is eliminated and those votes are transferred to whomever the voter listed in the next slot, until only two candidates remain — at which point the leader wins.

Ms. Wiley’s supporters hope that she can close the gap by picking up enough votes from voters who preferred her to Mr. Adams but did not rank her first. Ms. Garcia’s supporters are hoping for something similar.

But both candidates face steep challenges to overcoming Mr. Adams’s commanding lead. Here is a brief explainer:
Can Wiley or Garcia still win?

Mathematically, yes. Ms. Wiley could win if she makes it to the final round and is ranked ahead of Mr. Adams on around 60 percent of all ballots where neither is ranked first. Ms. Garcia’s threshold in the same situation is a few points higher.

What’s the likelihood of that?

Low. Mr. Adams would have to be enormously unpopular among voters who did not rank him first, and one of the few polls done late in the race showed broader support for him than for Ms. Wiley or Ms. Garcia.

The poll of 800 likely Democratic voters, conducted by Citizen Data and FairVote, a national organization that promotes ranked-choice voting, found that Mr. Adams was the only candidate in the race who was a top-three choice of more than half the voters.

The poll tracks fairly closely with the actual first-round results reported so far: It showed Mr. Adams with 32 percent and Ms. Wiley and Ms. Garcia both with 18 percent. It was conducted before the race’s chaotic final weekend, when Mr. Adams was criticized for asserting that Ms. Garcia and Andrew Yang, a former presidential candidate, were trying to weaken Black candidates by campaigning together.

That episode may have damaged Mr. Adams and helped Ms. Garcia, but not much, said Rob Richie, FairVote’s president.

“My assumption is that the last three days didn’t change the fundamentals enough to actually change the outcome,” he said.
Sign up for the New York Today Newsletter: Each morning, get the latest on New York businesses, arts, sports, dining, style and more.

To give a sense of Mr. Adams’s strength, in a final-round matchup between Mr. Adams and Ms. Wiley based on the voter rankings in the FairVote poll, Ms. Wiley inherited 47 percent of Ms. Garcia’s first-place voters and Mr. Adams inherited 35 percent, but he still beat her by more than 10 points. In a similar matchup between Mr. Adams and Ms. Garcia, she inherited more than 60 percent of Ms. Wiley’s first-place votes but still lost.

Nevertheless, an undaunted Ms. Wiley said on Wednesday that she expected to significantly outpace Mr. Adams in collecting second- and third-choice votes and said she had no plan to concede, “because I’m winning.”
How often does a trailing candidate in a ranked-choice election end up winning?

Very rarely. In 128 ranked-choice races in the United States since 2004 where there was no first-round winner, there have been only three occasions where someone trailing by more than eight points after the first round ended up the victor, according to FairVote.

No one trailing by 10 points has ever won, though in the 2018 San Francisco mayoral race, Mark Leno very nearly came from 12 points down to overtake London Breed. Ms. Breed wound up winning by less than a percentage point.

washington post logoWashington Post, Cindy McCain to be nominated as ambassador to U.N. food and agriculture programs, Tyler Pager, June 23, 2021. President Biden announced Wednesday that he will nominate Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), for an ambassadorship to the United Nations’ food and agriculture programs.

If confirmed, Cindy McCain, who crossed party lines to endorse Biden in the general election, will head to Rome as the envoy to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture, which encompasses three U.N. agencies.

Biden also tapped Claire Cronin, a state representative in Massachusetts, to serve as ambassador to Ireland, a significant posting in the Biden administration given the president’s Irish heritage. Cronin is the majority leader in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and she is the first woman to hold that role.

Biden often talks about his Irish roots, whether sharing stories about his ancestors’ journey to the United States in coffin ships or professing his love for Irish poets.

ny times logoNew York Times, Senators will meet with President Biden Thursday after a potential breakthrough on an infrastructure bill, June 23, 2021. A bipartisan group of centrist senators will head to the White House on Thursday to brief President Biden on their infrastructure framework after lawmakers said they had signed off on an outline for how to fund and finance billions of dollars for roads, bridges and other public-works projects.

After two lengthy meetings with White House officials on Wednesday, multiple senators said they had struck an agreement on the overall framework for an infrastructure plan and would personally update Mr. Biden as they worked to finalize some details. Lawmakers and staff declined to offer any details about the apparent breakthrough, but a previous outline drafted by the group of senators — five Republicans and five Democrats — would provide for $579 billion in new spending as part of an overall $1.2 trillion package spent over eight years.

“There’s a framework of agreement on a bipartisan infrastructure package,” Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, told reporters as she left negotiations in the Capitol. “There’s still details to be worked out.”

The bipartisan group previously released a statement announcing an agreement on a framework that the White House had not yet backed. Mr. Biden sent aides to Capitol Hill on Tuesday and Wednesday for further discussions.

“The group made progress toward an outline of a potential agreement,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said in a statement Wednesday evening after what she described as “two productive meetings” with White House officials.

The group has been scrounging for ways to pay for billions of dollars in new spending that would be a critical part of a potential compromise plan to invest in roads, broadband internet, electric utilities and other infrastructure projects.

“We just kept working at it, I’m serious,” Ms. Collins said. “Each of us brought in different ideas that we had researched with our staffs.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Michigan Republicans published an unsparing debunking of voter fraud claims in the state, Reid J. Epstein June 23, 2021. A committee led by Michigan Republicans on Wednesday published an extraordinary debunking of voter fraud claims in the state, delivering a comprehensive rebuke to a litany of accusations about improprieties in the 2020 election and its aftermath.

The 55-page report, produced by a Michigan State Senate committee of three Republicans and one Democrat, is a systematic rebuttal to an array of false claims about the election from supporters of former President Donald J. Trump. The authors focus overwhelmingly on Michigan, but they also expose lies perpetuated about the vote-counting process in Georgia.

The report is unsparing in its criticism of those who have promoted false theories about the election. It debunks claims from Trump allies including Mike Lindell, the chief executive of MyPillow; Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former president’s lawyer; and Mr. Trump himself.

Yet while the report eviscerates claims about election fraud, its authors also use the allegations to urge their legislative colleagues to change Michigan’s voting laws to make absentee voting harder and limit the availability of drop boxes for absentee ballots, as Republicans have done in other swing states as they try to limit voting.

“This committee found no evidence of widespread or systematic fraud in Michigan’s prosecution of the 2020 election,” the authors wrote, before adding: “It is the opinion of this committee that the Legislature has a duty to make statutory improvements to our elections system.”

Michigan Republicans, who control the state’s Legislature, have for weeks debated a series of new voting restrictions. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, has said she will veto the legislation, but Michigan law allows citizens to circumvent the governor by collecting 340,047 signatures.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Voting reform cannot die. The future of democracy is at stake, Editorial Board, June 23 2021. Senate Republicans on Tuesday torpedoed the For the People Act, the Democrats’ sprawling election reform bill that would have made voting easier and fairer, but that came with so many other controversial provisions that it never had much chance of passage. With Republican legislatures in state after state ratifying new voting restrictions and politicizing election administration, this cannot be the end of the effort to reform federal voting standards.

The optimistic view is that Democrats have hardly begun trying to attract Republican support for a voting bill, and that the field is wide open for further negotiations that might result in at least 10 Republicans agreeing to new, filibuster-proof legislation. In a recent compromise proposal, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) floated a national voter ID standard, a long-sought GOP goal, and other Democrats indicated they were willing to concede on that issue if it enabled them to pass a broader package. Democrats could seek to find other policies on which they would be willing to compromise.

In return, Democrats could press standards that no one committed to democracy could legitimately oppose. These include simple measures to promote access to the ballot box, such as requiring early voting, making Election Day a holiday or allowing people to cast provisional ballots if they show up to the wrong precinct. Democrats could also pursue important reforms that they did not put into the For the People Act, but that the 2020 election showed were necessary. These include rewriting the archaic Electoral Count Act to ensure that Congress may not overturn free and fair voting results. Another idea is to erect safeguards against meddling in election results by state officials or state legislatures.

ny times logoNew York Times, India Walton, a socialist candidate, stuns longtime incumbent in Buffalo mayor’s race, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, June 23, 2021. A progressive challenger running her first campaign was poised on Tuesday to beat Buffalo’s four-term Democratic mayor in a primary upset that would upend the political landscape in New York’s second-biggest city and signal the strength of the party’s left wing.

The challenger, India B. Walton, is a former nurse and community activist who ran with the support of the Democratic Socialists of America and the Working Families Party. She was leading Byron Brown, a longtime member of the Democratic establishment, by 7 percentage points, or about 1,500 votes, as of midnight with all of the in-person ballots counted, according to unofficial results.

Should Ms. Walton, 38, win the primary and then triumph in the general election November — a likely result in heavily Democratic Buffalo — she would be the first socialist mayor of a major American city since 1960, when Frank P. Zeidler stepped down as Milwaukee’s mayor. She would also be the first female mayor in Buffalo’s history.

Ms. Walton celebrated her victory in a jubilant call to her mother that was captured on video, yelling, “Mommy, I won. Mommy, I’m the mayor of Buffalo. Well, not until January, but, yeah.”

Mr. Brown, who once led the state’s Democratic Party and is a close ally of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, declined to concede despite the margin separating him from Ms. Walton.

“We’re going to make sure every single vote is counted,” he said. (Ms. Walton’s campaign estimated that there were about 1,500 absentee ballots outstanding.)

Ms. Walton showed no such hesitation in declaring victory, highlighting what she said were the race’s national ramifications. She said the stunning outcome would “resound here in Buffalo and throughout the nation, showing that a progressive platform that puts people over profit is both viable and necessary.”

“Tonight’s result proves that Buffalonians demand community-minded, people-focused government, and we’re ready to serve them,” Ms. Walton said in a statement. “For too long, we’ve seen our city work for politicians, for developers, for the police union, but not for ordinary working families. In our city, everyone will have a seat at the table.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Far-right activist Ammon Bundy is running for Idaho governor, tapping an anti-establishment trend, Paulina Villegas, June 23, 2021. The conservative figure held a rancher protest against the Bureau of Land Management in Nevada and led an armed takeover of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon.

ammon bundyAmmon Bundy, left, has carried a small copy of the U.S. Constitution in his front pocket for the past seven years. He does so to remind himself of what the government is supposed to do to serve the people without abusing its authority, he said.

The far-right activist known for his armed occupation of federal land in Oregon rejects the “anti-government label” but is happy to swap it for a catchier one: “I am definitely anti-corrupt-government, anticronyism,” he said in an interview with The Washington Post, adding that he has never rallied for a revolution to overthrow the government.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

ny times logoNew York Times, Man Awaiting Trial for Covid-19 Bank Fraud Does It Again, Authorities Say, Azi Paybarah, June 23, 2021. A Pennsylvania man who was awaiting trial on charges that he fraudulently received more than $2.5 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans filed an application last month seeking an additional $500,000 in Covid-19 relief money, the authorities said.

In February, federal authorities seized four of the man’s bank accounts where that money had been deposited, saying the loan applications were fraudulent. In March, the man submitted a fifth application for a P.P.P. loan, intended to help struggling businesses during the pandemic, and received more than $1.3 million. In April, he was arrested and charged with bank fraud and money laundering.

While he was out on bond, federal officials said, he submitted a sixth loan application.

On Monday, the man, Randy A. Frasinelli, 65, of Carnegie, Pa., was arrested again and charged with another count of bank fraud.

As the coronavirus disrupted the global economy, officials raced to send billions of dollars to businesses on the verge of collapsing, hoping to keep them and their employees afloat. Some saw that as an opportunity to enrich themselves by seeking loans for businesses that did not exist.

Prosecutors in California, Texas and Florida charged three men in separate cases with taking millions of dollars in pandemic relief funds to buy, among other things, Lamborghini luxury vehicles. But even in those cases, the defendants did not continue to pursue federal money for pandemic relief while facing charges of inappropriately taking pandemic relief funds.

Justice Department log circularMr. Frasinelli used the federal relief funds to buy a Mustang, a BMW, a Porsche, two Mercedes-Benz S.U.V.s, gold bars, silver coins and other luxury items, according to a pair of affidavits submitted to the U.S. District Court in Western Pennsylvania by a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The agent, Sean Langford, wrote that “none of the PPP funds appear to have been used for business expenses or to maintain payroll.”

Efrem M. Grail, a lawyer for Mr. Frasinelli, said on Tuesday evening he had not had an opportunity to review the charges in depth.

The affidavits in Pennsylvania lay out a curious series of events, with loan applications being filed well after law enforcement officials suspected the man filing the loan was doing so fraudulently.

Mr. Frasinelli began his efforts in May 2020 when, according to the affidavits, he began filing four loan applications to the Paycheck Protection Program to help his four companies: Grant-Williams Associates, Grant-Williams Global, Grant-Williams International and Grant-Williams Associates Corporation.

In his LinkedIn profile, which is cited in the affidavits, Mr. Frasinelli described himself as a high-level technology adviser for “advanced technology companies on a global basis working on the development and release of classified technology products that are developed and sold to major defense contractors and defense department in the US, UK, Israel and other (friendly) countries across the globe.”

In response to those loans, two banks gave Mr. Frasinelli a total of $2,545,082, according to the affidavits.

 

 

brandi levy aclu photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court sides with high school cheerleader in free-speech dispute over profane Snapchat rant, Robert Barnes, June 23, 2021. The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled for a Pennsylvania cheerleader (shown above in an ACLU photo) whose profane off-campus rant cost her a spot on the squad, saying the punishment violated her First Amendment rights.

The court ruled 8 to 1 that the punishment was too severe, although it declined to say schools never have a role in disciplining students for off-campus speech.

“It might be tempting to dismiss B. L.’s words as unworthy of the robust First Amendment protections discussed herein,” Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote in his 11-page majority opinion.

“But sometimes it is necessary to protect the superfluous in order to preserve the necessary.”

Brandi Levy — now an 18-year-old college student — was a frustrated ninth-grader when she lamented being passed over for the varsity cheerleading squad at Mahanoy Area High School. On a spring Saturday in her freshman year, she posted on Snapchat a photo of herself and a friend with upraised middle fingers and this rant:Advertisement

“F— school, f— softball, f— cheer, f— everything.” It was sent to about 250 friends, including fellow cheerleaders at her school.

It was supposed to disappear in 24 hours, but her cheerleading coaches were alerted to it, and Levy was suspended from cheerleading for a year — but not from school.

A cheerleader’s Snapchat rant leads to ‘momentous’ Supreme Court case on student speech

In a statement Wednesday, Levy said: “Young people need to have the ability to express themselves without worrying about being punished when they get to school. I never could have imagined that one simple snap would turn into a Supreme Court case, but I’m proud that my family and I advocated for the rights of millions of public school students.”

ny times logoNew York Times, A Mother and Son Are Found Murdered, Deepening a Mystery in South Carolina, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, June 23, 2021.  Officials opened a new investigation into an unsolved 2015 death as a result of information gleaned after two members of a prominent family were killed.

When residents across a broad swath of South Carolina’s rural low country first elected a chief prosecutor 101 years ago, they turned to Robert Murdaugh, elevating him from a one-man law practice to one of the region’s most powerful law enforcement offices. It was the beginning of a legal dynasty: For more than eight decades, until 2006, three generations of the Murdaugh family prosecuted crime across five counties and 3,200 square miles.

But the influential family is now at the center of a gruesome mystery after Alex Murdaugh — a lawyer who is the great-grandson of the first elected prosecutor — found his wife and son shot to death earlier this month at their home in Islandton, an obscure hamlet of 70 people about 65 miles west of Charleston.

The police have made no arrests and have not identified a suspect or a motive, but the killings have fueled speculation about whether the family’s long and tangled history in the region could have a connection to the crime. The case has also put renewed attention on two previous deaths over the past six years, which investigators are reviewing to determine if they are connected to the double homicide.

The son who was killed, Paul Murdaugh, a 22-year-old college student, had been out on bail after being charged in 2019 with drunkenly crashing a boat in an accident that left a 19-year-old passenger dead. And the state police agency that is investigating the Murdaugh killings said this week that the police had learned something — they won’t say what — that prompted them to open a new inquiry into yet another case, the 2015 death of a 19-year-old man. That man, Stephen Smith, was found along a road 10 miles from the Murdaugh home, his death never fully explained.

ny times logoNew York Times, John McAfee, Software Pioneer Turned Fugitive, Dies in Spanish Prison, By William P. Davis, Mary Williams Walsh and Coral Murphy Marcos June 23, 2021.  Mr. McAfee, who has not been associated with the company that bears his name for more than two decades, was fighting extradition to the United States.

John David McAfee, the founder of the antivirus software maker bearing his name, died in a prison in Spain on Wednesday, after a Spanish court said he could be extradited to the United States on tax-evasion charges.

His death was confirmed by his lawyers. He was 75.

After selling his pioneering virus-fighting firm in 1994 and losing most of his fortune during the 2008 financial crisis, Mr. McAfee led a peripatetic life that included a turn to paranoia and a string of arrests around the globe. That all culminated in his detention in Spain in 2020 after prosecutors in the United States accused him of not filing tax returns for several years.

The indictment filed by the Justice Department said Mr. McAfee had earned millions from “promoting cryptocurrencies, consulting work, speaking engagements and selling the rights to his life story for a documentary,” and had tried to avoid taxes by using cryptocurrency and channeling the money through bank accounts. He could have faced prison time if convicted.

Mr. McAfee said he had been arrested despite paying “millions of dollars in taxes” and resisted extradition, claiming he faced political persecution for denouncing corruption in the Internal Revenue Service and opposing the fiat money system, in which central banks like the Federal Reserve control the money supply. But on Wednesday, the Spanish court released its decision to allow the Justice Department’s request to extradite him, saying there was “no supporting evidence that such a thing could be happening.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden administration to back bid to end disparity in drug sentencing, Sean Sullivan and Seung Min Kim, June 23, 2021 (print ed.). The move on crack and powder cocaine reflects how the president’s attitude on drug laws has shifted over his long tenure in elected office.

joe biden black background resized serious fileThe Biden administration plans to endorse legislation that would end the disparity in sentences between crack and powder cocaine offenses that President Biden helped create decades ago, according to people with knowledge of the situation — a step that highlights how Biden’s attitudes on drug laws have shifted over his long tenure in elected office.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, Regina LaBelle, the acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, plans to express the administration’s support for the Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law Act, or Equal Act. The legislation, which sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), would eliminate the sentencing disparity and give people who were convicted or sentenced for a federal cocaine offense a resentencing.

Associated Press, Prosecutors say Colorado father killed son because of photos, Staff Report. June 22, 2021. A Colorado father killed his 13-year-old son in 2012 over photographs that triggered a fatal rage, prosecutors argued in court Monday.

Mark Redwine stands trial in the killing of his son Dylan, who disappeared in November 2012 in the Vallecito area near Durango during a court-ordered visit over Thanksgiving break. Redwine told investigators he left Dylan alone at home to run errands and returned to find him missing.

Fred Johnson, special deputy district attorney, suggested that on the night he was killed, Dylan may have mentioned or shown his father “compromising photographs” of Redwine dressed in women’s underwear and eating feces from a diaper, The Denver Post reported.

“A damaged relationship, exposed with compromising photographs, photographs in the hands of a 13-year-old who is disgusted by it, which triggered a violent rage in the defendant,” Johnson said.

Redwine, who has pleaded not guilty, was arrested after a grand jury indicted him in July 2017, accusing him of second-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death. He faces up to 48 years in prison if he’s found guilty of his son’s death.

Redwine’s public defender John Moran argued that text messages show Dylan had previously confronted his father about the photographs during a cross-country trip without suffering any harm.

The case drew nation attention when Redwine and the boy’s mother, Elaine Hall, leveled accusations at each other during appearances on the syndicated “Dr. Phil” television show in 2013. TV host Nancy Grace also did a show Dylan’s disappearance.

Redwine’s day in court was postponed in 2020 and a judge granted several mistrials because of COVID-19 restrictions. The trial is expected to continue through mid-to-late July. Testimony will begin Tuesday.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Ethiopia Killed 80 at Market, Then Barred Ambulances, Officials Say, Simon Marks and Abdi Latif Dahir June 23, 2021. The attack hit a busy market in Tigray, where there has been fierce fighting as Ethiopian forces have pursued the region’s former leaders.

Dozens of people were killed when a government airstrike slammed into a busy market in northern Ethiopia, medics and witnesses said, as fighting intensified in the restive Tigray region where federal forces are struggling to contain a broadening insurgency.

The airstrike appeared to be one of the deadliest single incidents of the eight-month civil war that has sullied the international reputation of Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize winning leader, Abiy Ahmed. The attack was on Tuesday in Togoga, 15 miles west of the Tigrayan regional capital, Mekelle.

A day later, on Wednesday, Tigrayan rebels struck back against the government when fighters shot down an Ethiopian Air Forces C-130 transport plane as it approached Mekelle, causing it to smash into a field about 15 miles south of the city, according to the rebels and witnesses.

It pointed to an intensifying fight in Tigray, where fighters led by Ethiopia’s one-time ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, captured areas south of Mekelle that until recently were controlled by soldiers from Eritrea. The rebels say they have captured several thousand Ethiopian soldiers and were holding them as prisoners of war.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. seizes websites linked to Iranian government propaganda, Devlin Barrett and Kareem Fahim, June 23, 2021. The Justice Department moved Tuesday to seize more than 30 Web domains linked to Iranian state media, as American officials continued their efforts to counter what they say is Iranian propaganda and disinformation at a time of simmering tensions between the two countries.

A number of the domains, including some used by English-language Press TV, an Iranian state-owned news channel, posted notices Tuesday indicating they had been taken down by U.S. authorities. The websites for Al-Alam TV, another Iran-owned news channel that broadcasts in Arabic, and the website for Al-Masirah, a Beirut-based outlet that serves as a mouthpiece for an Iranian-allied rebel group in Yemen, posted similar notices.

Thirty-three websites used by the Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union, and three websites operated by Kataib Hezbollah, were seized, the Justice Department said in a release. The United States imposed sanctions in late 2020 on IRTVU for what it has called the Iranian government’s interference with the U.S. election through disinformation aimed at U.S. voters. Tuesday’s seizures were aimed at those Web domains owned by a U.S. company, which means that the outlets’ webpages operating on non-American domains are still functioning.

ny times logospain flag CustomNew York Times, Spain Pardons Jailed Catalan Separatist Leaders, Nicholas Casey, June 23, 2021 (print ed.). Spain approved pardons for the group’s involvement in a failed attempt to form a breakaway state in Catalonia, a major olive branch in the conflict. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Australia’s runaway mouse plague targets prisons, forcing mass evacuation, Jennifer Hassan, June 23, 2021 (print ed.). The mice aren’t just causing chaos in homes, farms and hospitals. Australia has a mouse problem. A plague, in fact. A mass invasion occurs every decade or so, wreaking havoc across communities and destroying the crops and stock of farmers who are worried about what the future holds for their livelihoods.

australian flag wavingUntold numbers of the critters are running rampant along the country’s Eastern grain belt, demolishing crops, sabotaging homes and forcing concerned farmers to create makeshift traps to slow down the rodents, which are able to reproduce at an alarming rate.

 

June 22

Top Headlines

 

Jan. 6 Insurrection Day Trump Watch

 

Justice Dept. Accountability

 

Virus Victims, Responses

   

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

 

World News

 

U.S. Jobs, Economy, Race

 

Top Stories

Destroyed Murtha federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995 (Photo via ABC News).

Destroyed Murtha federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995 (Photo via ABC News).

washington post logoWashington Post, In Oklahoma, the 1995 bombing offers lessons — and warnings — for today’s fight against extremism, Hannah Allam, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). Many Oklahomans are alarmed to see terrorist Timothy McVeigh’s far-right ideology spread in the state he attacked, while a political class that is increasingly dominated by those who rarely speak against extremism or, worse, promote it.

Talking about political violence is especially fraught this year, as Oklahoma faces its long-buried history of racial bloodshed. This is the centennial of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, when a White mob razed a prosperous Black district in what President Biden called “an act of hate and domestic terrorism.”

An hour outside of Tulsa, Leonardo DiCaprio and other Hollywood stars are filming a movie about the “Reign of Terror,” when wealthy Osage Native Americans were killed in the 1920s.

Many Oklahoma educators, activists and politicians view this moment as an opportunity to confront historical violence in an unflinching way that serves as a national model. The same goes, they said, for sharing lessons from the Oklahoma City bombing, which is getting renewed attention under Attorney General Merrick Garland, who oversaw the criminal investigation and is now leading a reinvigorated fight against domestic terrorism at the Justice Department. In a speech this month, Garland cited the Tulsa and Oklahoma City attacks as inspiration for the Biden administration’s revamped domestic terrorism strategy.

“The people who live in Oklahoma City have a special obligation to figure out what are the paths out of that type of extremism, because we know where it leads,” said Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt, an anti-Trump Republican. “Ultimately, it leads to violence.”

Vice News, Ex-Marine and Neo-Nazi Told Followers How to Shoot Truckers to Dismantle Supply Chain, Ben Makuch, June 22, 2021. The four-year military veteran, who recently encouraged his followers to move to Maine to start a white ethnostate, said his comments were showing a hypothetical scenario where 25 shooters could bring the U.S. “to its knees.”

The ex-Marine who is attempting to lead a mass migration of neo-Nazis to Maine to create a white ethnostate, a project he described in peaceful terms, once told followers how to target and shoot truckers in sniper operations.

The streamed video, obtained by VICE News through an antifascist researcher, shows Chris Pohlhaus, 34, a four-year veteran of the Marine Corps, sitting behind a Confederate flag describing in detail how his followers could undertake the operation that could theoretically and easily disrupt the United States’ supply chain.

“It’s easy to stop trucks. You don’t need anybody; you barely need anyone. Twenty-five dudes,” Pohlhaus said in the video from August 2020. “Twenty-five dudes trained with a (rifle).”

“Each one of those guys shoots and moves and hides, shoots two truckers a day. That’s 50 truckers (shot) every day.”
Advertisement

Pohlhaus commands a Telegram channel of thousands of followers. He often presses people to arm themselves and adheres to the violent political ideology of accelerationism, which preaches terrorism to hasten the collapse of world governments and is widely adopted by a hardcore stratum of the far-right that believes in a fantasy race war.

Pohlhaus denied telling followers to shoot truckers and said the full context of the video was discussing historical hypotheticals involving whether epic figures like Genghis Khan or Alexander the Great could conquer the modern world. He said the trucker analogy was meant to show that it’s easy to attack a society he considers on the brink of demise.

“The illustration was meant to show the fragility of the system currently because only 2 percent of people actually produce food and the supply lines are entirely too long and overly complicated,” he said in a text exchange with VICE News. “This system is incredibly fragile, and what I did was show a way 25 men could bring it completely to its knees. And I am right, as always. They could.

“It is only a matter of time before something happens and this fragile little world falls apart. You need to come to terms with this reality and prepare for the absolute hell that is coming for us.”

In recent months, Pohlhaus coordinated a national counterprotest on the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder and has been calling for followers to move to Maine, an overwhelmingly white state with favorable gun laws, to arm up and prepare for the “collapse” of society. (He told VICE News that his planned migration is simply him “trying to build a community of family men.”)

While hyper-violent neo-Nazi terrorist groups like The Base and Atomwaffen Division have always believed in accelerationism as a founding doctrine, in recent years the ideology has bled further into the mainstream among neo-Nazis like Pohlhaus, who operate openly. It also is yet another example of a military veteran, with soldiering tradecraft and years of training from the U.S. military, sharing their knowledge with like-minded individuals online. The mob attack on Capitol Hill in January, for example, consisted of many veterans and active-duty soldiers.

washington post logoncaa logoWashington Post, Justices rule against NCAA limits on some school perks for student-athletes, Robert Barnes and Molly Hensley-Clancy, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). The NCAA had contested a lower-court ruling that would allow colleges to offer greater academic-related perks to Division I football and men’s and women’s basketball players.

  • Washington Post, High school sports will feel impact of athlete branding changes. For some, that’s cause for concern.

ny times logoNew York Times, Saudi Operatives Who Killed Khashoggi Received Paramilitary Training in U.S., Mark Mazzetti, Julian E. Barnes and Michael LaForgia, June 22, 2021. The training, approved by the State Department, underscores the perils of military partnerships with repressive governments.

Four Saudis who participated in the 2018 killing of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, right, received paramilitary training in the United States the previous year under a contract approved by jamal khashoggi march 2018 croppedthe State Department, according to documents and people familiar with the arrangement.

The instruction occurred as the secret unit responsible for Mr. Khashoggi’s killing was beginning an extensive campaign of kidnapping, detention and torture of Saudi citizens ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, left, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, to crush dissent inside the kingdom.

mohammad bin salman cropped file smallThe training was provided by the Arkansas-based security company Tier 1 Group, which is owned by the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management. The company says the training — including “safe marksmanship” and “countering an attack” — was defensive in nature and devised to better protect Saudi leaders. One person familiar with the training said it also included work in surveillance and close-quarters battle.

There is no evidence that the American officials who approved the training or Tier 1 Group executives knew that the Saudis were involved in the crackdown inside Saudi Arabia. But the fact that the government approved high-level military training for operatives who went on to carry out the grisly killing of a journalist shows how intensely intertwined the United States has become with an autocratic nation even as its agents committed horrific human rights abuses.

It also underscores the perils of military partnerships with repressive governments and demonstrates how little oversight exists for those forces after they return home.

Such issues are likely to continue as American private military contractors increasingly look to foreign clients to shore up their business as the United States scales back overseas deployments after two decades of war.

The State Department initially granted a license for the paramilitary training of the Saudi Royal Guard to Tier 1 Group starting in 2014, during the Obama administration. The training continued during at least the first year of former President Donald J. Trump’s term.

Louis Bremer, a senior executive of Cerberus, Tier 1 Group’s parent company, confirmed his company’s role in the training last year in written answers to questions from lawmakers as part of his nomination for a top Pentagon job during the Trump administration.

The administration does not appear to have sent the document to Congress before withdrawing Mr. Bremer’s nomination; lawmakers never received answers to their questions.

In the document, which Mr. Bremer provided to The New York Times, he said that four members of the Khashoggi kill team had received Tier 1 Group training in 2017, and two of them had participated in a previous iteration of the training, which went from October 2014 until January 2015.

 

Trump Watch

Proof via Substack, Investigative Report and Commentary: A Fire Set on January 5 Outside the Willard Hotel May Have Helped Spark the Bloody Events of January 6, Seth Abramson, left, June 22, 2021.  seth abramson graphicThe outcry from insurrectionists Owen Shroyer and David Harris at Proof’s report on the setting of a fire outside the Willard on January 5 underscores that the previously unreported event is critical.

Introduction: A deliberately set, accelerant-aided fire outside the Willard Hotel on Insurrection Eve has revealed itself to be noteworthy for several reasons.

seth abramson proof logoNot only was it a dangerous, visually spectacular, and illegal Proud Boy-linked event that occurred during a period of 48 hours in which the seat of the American government came under armed assault by that particular white supremacist organization; not only did it feature a small gang of notable insurrectionists, including at least one Proud Boy later arrested by the FBI for breaching the U.S. Capitol on January 6; but it’s been acknowledged by Trumpists as a dramatically invigorating event that occurred just twenty minutes before a near-riot at Black Lives Matter Plaza in D.C. on January 5.

The next day, incited and led—respectively—by the very entities behind the Willard Hotel fire, InfoWars and the Proud Boys, armed insurrectionists brutally attacked and overran the Capitol building.

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump’s International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Sues N.Y.C. for Ending Golf Course Contract After Capitol Riot, Jonah E. Bromwich, June 22, 2021 (print ed.).  The Trump Organization, which had a 20-year contract to operate a public golf course in the Bronx, claims it was unfairly targeted.

washington post logo

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Trump’s connection to the KGB highlighted in full-page ads in 1987, Wayne Madsen, left (author and former Navy Intelligence officer and NSA analyst), June 21, 2021. Donald Trump’s role as an intelligence asset for the wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallSoviet Committee for State Security (KGB) and Czechoslovak State Security (StB) in the 1970s and 80s was revealed in WMR’s August 19, 2020 article, “Trump likely a KGB/Czechoslovak StB intelligence asset as early as 1976.”

wayne madesen report logoFurther information revealed to The Guardian of the UK by former KGB agent Yuri Shvets indicates that the Trump Organization’s full-page ad run in the September 2, 1987 editions of The New York Times, Washington Post and Boston Globe was actually crafted and paid for by the KGB.

At a critical time for U.S. foreign policy, with the Soviet bloc showing significant signs of unraveling and Iran posing a threat to shipping in the Persian Gulf, Trump’s full-page ad was titled “There’s nothing wrong with America’s Foreign Defense Policy that a little backbone can’t cure.”

The current probe of the Trump Organization’s finances, particularly the firm’s longtime chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, may yield information on Trump’s receipt of KGB financing for the three newspaper ads and other purposes via a KGB business front on Fifth Avenue, Joy-Lud electronics store, run by Soviet Ukrainian emigré Semyon Kislin, a “spotter agent” or recruiter for the KGB.

 

Justice Dept. Accountability

washington post logoWashington Post, Garland tries to untangle the Trump legacy at Justice Dept., Devlin Barrett, June 22, 2021 (print ed.. Merrick Garland has been criticized by some Democrats over recent legal decisions, but the new attorney general insists he is plotting a straight course.

merrick garlandThree months into his new job, judge-turned-attorney general Merrick Garland, who inherited a demoralized and politicized Justice Department, is facing criticism from some Democrats that he is not doing enough to quickly expunge Trump-era policies and practices.

On a host of issues ranging from leak investigations to civil and criminal cases involving former president Donald Trump, Garland has been beset by a growing chorus of Justice Department log circularcongressional second-guessers, even as he insists he is scrupulously adhering to the principles of equal justice under the law.

How he charts his way through the current controversies and still-unresolved politically sensitive cases is likely to determine how much of a long-term impact the Trump presidency has on the Justice Department.

“It’s a difficult situation to navigate. The Department of Justice is an institution like an ocean liner — it doesn’t turn around easily,” said Ronald Weich, who served as an assistant attorney general in the early days of the Obama administration.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

Roll Call, White House concedes it will fall short of Biden’s July 4 vaccination goal, Ariel Cohen and Niels Lesniewski, June 22, 2021. Younger adults’ slow approach to vaccination raises risks. The White House will fall short of its goal of getting at least 70 percent of the adult population partially vaccinated by July 4, White House officials announced Tuesday, largely because younger adults are refusing the COVID-19 shot.

The administration has hit its 70 percent partially vaccinated target for Americans ages 30 and older and is expected to reach that threshold for Americans ages 27 and older by July 4, said Jeff Zients, jeffrey zients o obama national economic councilright, the head of the White House COVID-19 response team. But it will take a few more weeks to get Americans ages 18 to 26 up to that level.

“The reality is, many younger Americans have felt like COVID-19 is not something that impacts them and have been less eager to get the shot,” Zients told reporters on Tuesday. NBC News first reported the delay.

The White House still is planning a celebration for the holiday weekend featuring health care workers and members of the military. Zients said President Joe Biden will host about 1,000 people on the White House lawn.

Members of the administration have been crisscrossing the country to promote the vaccination campaign. On Tuesday, first lady Jill Biden is scheduled to join Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., for a tour of a vaccination site in Jackson, Miss. Then the first lady will head north to Nashville, Tenn., for a similar event with country music star Brad Paisley at the Ole Smokey Distillery.

Vaccine clinics at places like breweries and distilleries, as well as incentives for getting the vaccines, have had some success, but the White House plans to double down on its efforts to reach younger populations.

“We are not stopping at 70 percent, and we are not stopping on July 4,” Zients said.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said the ultimate goal is “crushing the outbreak completely in the United States.” This will require an intense focus on convincing unvaccinated younger people to get the shot.

Fauci said highly contagious virus variants could spread rapidly among unvaccinated individuals. But Fauci also predicted that any resurgence this fall will be limited to regional pockets where vaccination rates are low.

The country is now averaging 10,350 new COVID cases per day over the past week, a decrease of nearly 18 percent over the prior seven-week average. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said that deaths also continue to decrease, averaging 270 per day.

Young adults in Generation Z have been among the most vaccine-hesitant groups in America and, unlike people in other age groups, their reluctance to get the shot has increased over time.

The young and healthy were not prioritized for vaccinations in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many young adults said they didn’t see a need to rush as they watched case numbers fall, mask restrictions let up and life begin to return to normal.

The Biden administration recently began to take notice of the younger generation’s reluctance, and Biden encouraged young adults to get the shot.

“For young people who may think this doesn’t affect you, listen up, please: This virus, even a mild case, can be with you for months. It will impact on your social life,” Biden said earlier this month. “It could have long-term implications for your health.”

Public health experts caution that even though younger adults have a lower risk of contracting serious disease from COVID-19, remaining unvaccinated could have serious consequences for those who have lingering effects, known as “long COVID.”

The unvaccinated also further the spread of the virus and fuel new variants.

“If we get vaccinated now, it’s hard for the new strains to get in here, but if they’re in here and … really are easy to transmit, then there’s more of a risk,” said Arthur Caplan, a professor of bioethics at New York University Langone Medical Center.

The highly contagious delta variant, which first originated in India, has infected many young people, but Amesh Adalja, a physician and a Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security senior scholar, says this is because more young people are unvaccinated, not because the variant specifically targets young people’s immune systems.

washington post logoWashington Post, 177.6 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 22, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 150.4 million people (45.3 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 53.5 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 22, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 179,635,172, Deaths: 3,890,556
U.S. Cases:     34,419,838, Deaths:    617,463
India Cases:    29,977,861, Deaths:    389,302
Brazil Cases:   17,969,806, Deaths:    502,817

washington post logoWashington Post, Book offers fresh details about chaos, conflicts in Trump pandemic response, Dan Diamond, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). At one point, the president mused about transferring infected American citizens in Asia to Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, as White House officials debated whether to bring infected Americans home for care, President Donald Trump suggested his own plan for where to send them, eager to suppress the numbers on U.S. soil.

“Don’t we have an island that we own?” the president reportedly asked those assembled in the Situation Room in February 2020, before the U.S. outbreak would explode. “What about Guantánamo?”

“We import goods,” Trump specified, lecturing his staff. “We are not going to import a virus.”

Aides were stunned, and when Trump brought it up a second time, they quickly scuttled the idea, worried about a backlash over quarantining American tourists on the same Caribbean base where the United States holds terrorism suspects.

Such insider conversations are among the revelations in Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic That Changed History, a new book by Washington Post journalists Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Paletta that captures the dysfunctional response to the unfolding pandemic.

The book offers new insights about Trump as the president careened between embracing miracle coronavirus cures in his quest for good news, grappling with his own illness — which was far more serious than officials acknowledged — and fretting about the outbreak’s implications for his reelection bid.

CNNCNN, A coronavirus outbreak hit a Florida government building. Two people are dead but a vaccinated employee wasn’t infected, Jamiel Lynch, June 22, 2021. Two people are dead and four of their coworkers were hospitalized after a Covid-19 outbreak swept through a government building in Manatee County, Florida.

The outbreak began in the IT department, according to Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes, who is also an epidemiologist. Another person who worked on the same floor but in a different department also tested positive for coronavirus last week.

The only exposed employee in the IT office who was vaccinated did not get infected, Hopes said.

“The clinical presentation gives me concern that we’re dealing with a very infectious variant that is quite deadly,” Hopes told Burnett.

The government building was closed on Friday as a precaution. It reopened Monday but officials didn’t implement a mask requirement, instead keeping them optional.Hopes said he’s encouraging workers who aren’t vaccinated to wear a mask and the county is making them available to employees and visitors.

“Clearly masks work, but the vaccine is more important at this point,” Hopes said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Philippines’ Duterte threatens to arrest anyone refusing to get vaccinated, Regine Cabato, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). While vaccinations remain voluntary in the country, the president’s spokesman said that could change.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to arrest anyone who refuses to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, as the country grapples with both vaccine hesitancy and a lack of supplies.

rodrigo duterte philippines president“I will order their arrest,” Duterte, left, said late Monday. “To protect the people, I have to sequester you in jail. Now choose — get vaccinated, or I’ll lock you up in a cell.”

“If you don’t want to be vaccinated, I’ll have you arrested and have the vaccine shot into your [buttocks],” he said, using a vulgar term.

philippines flagHe also expressed impatience with any kind of anti-vaccine sentiment, suggesting that if people felt that way, they should leave.

“If you don’t get vaccinated, leave the Philippines. Go to India if you want, or somewhere, America,” he added.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra clarified Tuesday that refusing vaccination was not against the law.

washington post logoWashington Post, Wuhan lab’s classified work complicates search for pandemic’s origins, Eva Dou, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). The Wuhan lab has drawn global scrutiny because of its research on bat coronaviruses in the city where the pandemic began. The events have shined a light on a research niche that — in China, the United States and elsewhere — operates with heightened secrecy because of the national security risks of handling deadly pathogens.

washington post logoWashington Post, Coronavirus cases surge in Cornwall, England, after G-7 summit, sparking fury, Miriam Berger, June 22, 2021. Coronavirus cases are rising in Cornwall — but Downing Street says the Group of Seven summit held in the British town earlier this month is not to blame.

The seven-day case rate in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has soared from 4.9 per 100,000 people in early June to 130.6 per 100,000 people on June 16, the Guardian reported. Rates of infections are particularly high in Carbis Bay, where the summit was held, and several nearby areas where delegates to the gathering of world leaders stayed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesperson on Monday denied any direct causation between the G-7 summit — with its influx of journalists, police officers and support staff — and the rise in coronavirus infection rates.

“We are confident that there were no cases of transmission to the local residents,” the unidentified spokesperson told the Guardian. “All attendees were tested, everyone involved in the G-7 work were also tested during their work on the summit.”

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

djt bible doug mills nyt june 1 2020 st johns

Then-President Trump shown on June 1, 2020 outside the parish rectory of St. John’s Episcopal Church, which was damaged during a night of unrest near the White House (Photo Credit: Doug Mills/The New York Times). “He did not pray,” said Mariann E. Budde, the Episcopal bishop of Washington. “He did not mention George Floyd, he did not mention the agony of people who have been subjected to this kind of horrific expression of racism and white supremacy for hundreds of years.”

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. judge tosses most claims against Trump in clearing of Lafayette Square, Spencer S. Hsu, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). Dabney L. Friedrich of Washington called allegations that federal officials conspired to enable a photo op of President Donald Trump holding a Bible too speculative.

A U.S. judge on Monday dismissed most claims filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of D.C., Black Lives Matter and others in lawsuits that accused the Trump administration of authorizing an unprovoked attack on demonstrators in Lafayette Square last year.

dabney friedrich nbcThe plaintiffs asserted the government used unnecessary force to enable a photo op of President Donald Trump holding a Bible outside of the historical St. John’s Church. But U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich of Washington, right, called allegations that federal officials conspired to make way for the photo too speculative.

The judge’s decision came in a 51-page opinion after the Justice Department requested she toss four overlapping lawsuits naming dozens of federal individual and agency defendants, as well as D.C. and Arlington police, in the June 2020 incident.

Friedrich also ruled that federal defendants such as then-Attorney General William P. Barr and then-acting Park Police chief Gregory T. Monahan are immune from civil suits and could not be sued for damages, and that Black Lives Matter as a group could not show it was directly injured by actions against individual demonstrators.

The judge did allow litigation to go forward challenging federal restrictions on protests and other First Amendment activity at Lafayette Square across from the White House, and against local D.C. and Arlington County police agencies that supported the operation.

The lawsuits stem from confrontations last June when military personnel along with federal and local law enforcement officers forcibly cleared the square. Officials used batons, clubs and spray and fired projectiles as more than 1,000 largely peaceful demonstrators gathered to protest the killing of George Floyd. Images of violence before Trump made his way to the church drew a national backlash and the nation’s top military official later apologized for walking with Trump before television cameras that day.

washington post logoWashington Post, Appeals court blocks federal judge’s ruling to overturn California’s assault weapons ban, Timothy Bella, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). A three-judge panel in a one-page order on Monday issued a stay of the June 4 order from U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez of the Southern District of California, in which he likened an AR-15 rifle to a Swiss Army knife.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has blocked a federal judge’s ruling overturning California’s longtime ban on assault weapons, in which he likened an AR-15 to a Swiss Army knife.

A three-judge panel in a one-page order on Monday issued a stay of the June 4 order from U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez of the Southern District of California, in which the judge ruled that sections of the state ban in place since 1989 regarding military-style rifles are unconstitutional.

Senior Circuit Court Judge Barry G. Silverman, Circuit Judge Jacqueline H. Nguyen and Circuit Judge Ryan D. Nelson wrote that the stay will remain in place pending the outcome of another case challenging the ban. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden administration to back bid to end disparity in drug sentencing, Sean Sullivan and Seung Min Kim, June 22, 2021. The move on crack and powder cocaine reflects how the president’s attitude on drug laws has shifted over his long tenure in elected office.

joe biden black background resized serious fileThe Biden administration plans to endorse legislation that would end the disparity in sentences between crack and powder cocaine offenses that President Biden helped create decades ago, according to people with knowledge of the situation — a step that highlights how Biden’s attitudes on drug laws have shifted over his long tenure in elected office.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, Regina LaBelle, the acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, plans to express the administration’s support for the Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law Act, or Equal Act. The legislation, which sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), would eliminate the sentencing disparity and give people who were convicted or sentenced for a federal cocaine offense a resentencing. 

djt michael cohenPalmer Report, Opinion: New York prosecutors are now closing in on Donald Trump from all sides, Bill Palmer, June 22, 2021. When it comes to the criminal justice proceedings in New York that are now playing out against Donald Trump and the Trump Organization, it’s important to keep two things in mind as a baseline. First, Michael Cohen (above left)) – who has met with Manhattan prosecutors more than ten times regarding the case – has publicly stated that there’s more than enough evidence to take Trump down whether anyone flips on him or not. Second, the way these kinds of proceedings always work is that prosecutors try to flip as many people as possible, in order to have them pile on for good measure.

It’s within this context that things have suddenly gotten really interesting in the past 24 hours. First came the story about prosecutors closing in on Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg (below right). Then bill palmer report logo headercame the story about prosecutors closing in on Trump Organization COO Matthew Calamari. This one-two punch makes two things clear.

allen weisselberg croppedFirst, Manhattan prosecutors are targeting everyone under Donald Trump in order to try to get one or more of them to flip on Trump. If they’re simultaneously squeezing the CFO and COO of Trump’s company, then they’re surely squeezing everyone in between. And keep in mind that a lower ranking Trump Organization official, Jeff McConney, has already testified to the grand jury. This means that, by legal definition in New York, he got immunity in exchange for testifying to the grand jury. It makes you wonder who else may have jumped at the chance to get automatic immunity by testifying in this case.

Second, the Manhattan criminal probe has clearly reached the point where prosecutors are ready to begin having the grand jury issue criminal indictments against Trump’s underlings who don’t flip. Yesterday’s media blitz feels like a last call for those who want to cut a deal. That doesn’t mean indictments will start coming down tomorrow, or this week. The legal process doesn’t move that swiftly. But it was reported last week that the Weisselberg indictment could come “this summer” – and we are now officially two days into summer.

The upshot is this. Regardless of how much evidence New York prosecutors have amassed against Donald Trump – and Cohen says they have more than enough – they’re in the process of squeezing everyone in Trump’s life in order to build the most bulletproof criminal case possible. They’ve got Cohen, McConney and perhaps others. They want Weisselberg, Calamari, and surely others. They’re going to indict and arrest whoever necessary in order to complete the job of nailing Donald Trump – and they’re closing in on him from all sides.

Associated Press, Prosecutors say Colorado father killed son because of photos, Staff Report. A Colorado father killed his 13-year-old son in 2012 over photographs that triggered a fatal rage, prosecutors argued in court Monday.

Mark Redwine stands trial in the killing of his son Dylan, who disappeared in November 2012 in the Vallecito area near Durango during a court-ordered visit over Thanksgiving break. Redwine told investigators he left Dylan alone at home to run errands and returned to find him missing.

Fred Johnson, special deputy district attorney, suggested that on the night he was killed, Dylan may have mentioned or shown his father “compromising photographs” of Redwine dressed in women’s underwear and eating feces from a diaper, The Denver Post reported.

“A damaged relationship, exposed with compromising photographs, photographs in the hands of a 13-year-old who is disgusted by it, which triggered a violent rage in the defendant,” Johnson said.

Redwine, who has pleaded not guilty, was arrested after a grand jury indicted him in July 2017, accusing him of second-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death. He faces up to 48 years in prison if he’s found guilty of his son’s death.

Redwine’s public defender John Moran argued that text messages show Dylan had previously confronted his father about the photographs during a cross-country trip without suffering any harm.

The case drew nation attention when Redwine and the boy’s mother, Elaine Hall, leveled accusations at each other during appearances on the syndicated “Dr. Phil” television show in 2013. TV host Nancy Grace also did a show Dylan’s disappearance.

Redwine’s day in court was postponed in 2020 and a judge granted several mistrials because of COVID-19 restrictions. The trial is expected to continue through mid-to-late July. Testimony will begin Tuesday.

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

New York Times, Adams Leads in N.Y.C. Mayoral Primary as First Results Stream In, Staff Reports, June 22, 2021. Yang Concedes; Final Race Call Is Not Expected for Weeks.

eric adamsEric Adams, right, was leading in early returns of the Democratic primary for New York mayor, with Maya Wiley and Kathryn Garcia behind him. Andrew Yang, a former front-runner, dropped out after a disappointing finish. Curtis Sliwa won the G.O.P. primary.

The embattled mayor of Rochester, who had been under indictment, loses handily. Lovely Warren, the scandal-plagued mayor of Rochester, N.Y., who is under indictment and has faced repeated calls for her resignation, was defeated by a wide margin on Tuesday night in the Democratic primary. The victor was Malik Evans, a city councilman, who was declared the winner by The Associated Press.

washington post logoWashington Post, New Yorkers vote in primaries for mayor after a race dominated by crime and coronavirus recovery, Jada Yuan and David Weigel, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). Visualize how ranked-choice voting could change the way democracy works

Democrats in America’s largest city will pick a nominee Tuesday to succeed Mayor Bill de Blasio after a campaign shaped by a surge in violent crime and a debate about how the places hardest hit during the coronavirus pandemic can recover.

“New city, new vision, new mind-set,” Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams told voters at a Sunday rally in Inwood, a largely Dominican neighborhood in Manhattan. “We are going to finally end the institutional poverty in our city. We’re going to become a safe, fair, affordable city. We will get the justice we deserve with the safety we need.”

Adams, a 60-year-old retired police captain and former state legislator, has become the dominant figure in a race where sexual misconduct allegations, a campaign staff revolt and even a debate question about real estate prices knocked other candidates off course. In public polls, he has charged ahead of 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang, 46, who has attacked Adams as a corrupt insider who won’t deliver real change.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Only the Women Can Save Us Now, New York, Michelle Goldberg, June 22, 2021. Both men leading the Democratic mayoral primary are disasters. Last week I wrote about michelle goldberg thumbwhy I thought Eric Adams is very marginally preferable to Andrew Yang in New York City’s Democratic mayoral primary. Yang is likable, and I can see why people have gravitated to his sunny vision of a vibrant, business-friendly city.

But electing a totally inexperienced mayor buoyed by hedge fund billionaires and singularly focused on public order seems potentially calamitous. Not because public order isn’t important — everyone wants a safe city — but because it has to be balanced with a commitment to justice.

An Adams mayoralty would likely be pretty terrible. He has a penchant for dishonesty and demagogy, and both were on full display when he accused Yang and Kathryn Garcia of racism because they had the temerity to join forces against him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Politics: Senate to vote on whether to begin debate on voting rights bill, Colby Itkowitz, June 22, 2021. Senate to vote on OPM nominee after GOP senators blocked her over critical race theory and abortion rights stances; Obama throws his weight behind Sen. Manchin’s modified voting rights proposal.

  • The Senate votes Tuesday on whether to advance a sweeping voting rights package, with Republicans poised to use the filibuster to block the legislation. Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), who opposes the bill as it is now, may still support this procedural step to start debating it. Manchin has offered a compromise that has the support of former president Barack Obama. The vote is expected around 5:30 p.m.
  • The White House, meanwhile, continues its behind-the-scenes push to secure a bipartisan deal on infrastructure and plans to invite senators to meet with President Biden to discuss it this week.
  • The president has a meeting in the afternoon with Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell to discuss how the agency is preparing for natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires this summer.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Manchin got Republicans to admit to the ‘big lie.’ Democrats should celebrate, Catherine Rampell, right, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). Credit where due to Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-catherine rampellW.Va.): The media seems to have missed it, but last week he got Republicans to admit to the “big lie.” Whatever his Democratic colleagues’ other beefs with him, they should celebrate this achievement.

Dick ShelbyOn Wednesday, Manchin, left, did something very clever when he offered a compromise on election-reform legislation.

In a memo, Manchin proposed building upon parts of the For the People Act and a narrower bill, known as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, with a few amendments.

His proposal would make Election Day a public holiday, require two weeks of early voting, automatically register voters through motor vehicle departments and eliminate partisan gerrymandering. It’s not everything Democrats want — and has some oversights — but it addresses most of the party’s goals for promoting free and fair elections.Advertisement

Perhaps more important, from a political standpoint: Manchin’s compromise completely undercuts Republicans’ case for blocking reform.

It does this by including new requirements to safeguard election security, which is — or was — the top priority of Republicans concerned by “questions” the 2020 election supposedly raised.

krysten sinema vote thumb

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We have more to lose than gain by ending the filibuster, Krysten Sinema, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). Kyrsten Sinema, shown above voting “thumbs down” against a $15 kyrsten sinema ominimum wage and at right, a Democrat, represents Arizona in the U.S. Senate. 

Arizonans expect me to do what I promised when I ran for the House and the Senate: to be independent — like Arizona — and to work with anyone to achieve lasting results. The best way to achieve durable, lasting results? Bipartisan cooperation.

Since I was elected to Congress, a bipartisan approach has produced laws curbing suicide among our troops and veterans, boosting American manufacturing, delivering for Native American communities, combating hate crimes, and protecting public lands.

It’s no secret that I oppose eliminating the Senate’s 60-vote threshold. I held the same view during three terms in the U.S. House, and said the same after I was elected to the Senate in 2018. If anyone expected me to reverse my position because my party now controls the Senate, they should know that my approach to legislating in Congress is the same whether in the minority or majority.

Once in a majority, it is tempting to believe you will stay in the majority. But a Democratic Senate minority used the 60-vote threshold just last year to filibuster a police reform proposal and a covid-relief bill that many Democrats viewed as inadequate. Those filibusters were mounted not as attempts to block progress, but to force continued negotiations toward better solutions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Kyrsten Sinema accidentally reveals the huge hole in her filibuster defense, Greg Sargent, June 22, 2021. As one of the last Democratic holdouts against filibuster reform, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) is making big news with an op-ed in The Post laying out her rationale. Some of its central pronouncements have already been debunked: Despite her claims otherwise, the filibuster does not facilitate moderation or bipartisan cooperation.

Sinema’s own treatment of these questions inadvertently serves to reveal that a choice must inevitably be made between the two — and that Sinema is choosing the filibuster over defending democracy.

Imagine a world in which legislative majorities could pass voting restrictions over the objections of minorities!

Oh, wait, we already live in that world. In state after state after state, voting restrictions of all kinds are being passed into law by Republican-controlled legislative majorities, over the objections of minorities. Crucially, this is happening almost exclusively on partisan lines.

washington post logoWashington Post, If Republicans block a compromise voting-rights bill, reform the filibuster, Editorial Board, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). Mr. Manchin’s reforms deserve a full hearing and an up-or-down vote. If his proposal does not get its due, Democrats should consider reforming the filibuster.

There is no shortage of ideas about how to adjust the procedural maneuver without abolishing it, such as demanding that minority senators show up to sustain their filibusters; requiring three-fifths of present and voting senators to end a filibuster, rather than three-fifths of all senators; or reducing the number of votes needed to overcome filibusters. These are just a few possibilities.

 

World News

imran khan pakistan pm

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Pakistan is ready to be a partner for peace in Afghanistan, but we will not host U.S. bases, Imran Khan, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). Imran Khan is the prime minister of Pakistan. Pakistan is ready to be a partner for peace in Afghanistan with the United States — but as U.S. troops withdraw, we will avoid risking further conflict.

Our countries have the same interest in that long-suffering country: a political settlement, stability, economic development and the denial of any haven for terrorists. We oppose any military takeover of Afghanistan, which will lead only to decades of civil war, as the Taliban cannot win over the whole of the country, and yet must be included in any government for it to succeed.

In the past, Pakistan made a mistake by choosing between warring Afghan parties, but we have learned from that experience. We have no favorites and will work with any government that enjoys the confidence of the Afghan people. History proves that Afghanistan can never be controlled from the outside.

Our country has suffered so much from the wars in Afghanistan. More than 70,000 Pakistanis have been killed. While the United States provided $20 billion in aid, losses to the Pakistani economy have exceeded $150 billion. Tourism and investment dried up. After joining the U.S. effort, Pakistan was targeted as a collaborator, leading to terrorism against our country from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and other groups. U.S. drone attacks, which I warned against, didn’t win the war, but they did create hatred for Americans, swelling the ranks of terrorist groups against both our countries.

pakistan flag wavingWhile I argued for years that there was no military solution in Afghanistan, the United States pressured Pakistan for the very first time to send our troops into the semiautonomous tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, in the false expectation that it would end the insurgency. It didn’t, but it did internally displace half the population of the tribal areas, 1 million people in North Waziristan alone, with billions of dollars of damage done and whole villages destroyed. The “collateral” damage to civilians in that incursion led to suicide attacks against the Pakistani army, killing many more soldiers than the United States lost in Afghanistan and Iraq combined, while breeding even more terrorism against us. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province alone, 500 Pakistani policemen were murdered.

There are more than 3 million Afghan refugees in our country — if there is further civil war, instead of a political settlement, there will be many more refugees, destabilizing and further impoverishing the frontier areas on our border. Most of the Taliban are from the Pashtun ethnic group — and more than half the Pashtuns live on our side of the border. We are even now fencing this historically open border almost completely.Advertisement

If Pakistan were to agree to host U.S. bases, from which to bomb Afghanistan, and an Afghan civil war ensued, Pakistan would be targeted for revenge by terrorists again. We simply cannot afford this. We have already paid too heavy a price. Meanwhile, if the United States, with the most powerful military machine in history, couldn’t win the war from inside Afghanistan after 20 years, how would America do it from bases in our country?

I believe that promoting economic connectivity and regional trade is the key to lasting peace and security in Afghanistan. Further military action is futile. If we share this responsibility, Afghanistan, once synonymous with the “Great Game” and regional rivalries, could instead emerge as a model of regional cooperation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran’s Raisi says ballistic missiles, regional presence ‘not negotiable’ — and he doesn’t want to meet Biden, Erin Cunningham, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). Iran’s President-elect Ebrahim Raisi, a cleric and former judiciary chief, is a hardline conservative who enjoyed the backing of Iran’s supreme leader and allied security services in last week’s presidential elections.

ebrahim raisi smile facebookIran’s President-elect Ebrahim Raisi, right, is opposed to talks that would limit Tehran’s ballistic missile program or support for regional proxy forces, the new hard line leader said in remarks Monday.

Speaking at his first news conference in the capital, Raisi, who was elected Friday, also said that he is not willing to meet President Biden, even as the two sides work to revive the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

Iran FlagWhen asked by a reporter if he was willing to meet the U.S. president, Raisi simply said: “No.” He added that Iran’s ballistic missiles and regional presence are also “not negotiable.”

Raisi, a cleric and former judiciary chief, is a hard line conservative who enjoyed the backing of Iran’s supreme leader and allied security services in last week’s presidential elections. His victory marks a shift from the more reform-minded presidency of Hassan Rouhani, a moderate pragmatist who favored engagement with the West.

Preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapon is ‘paramount priority,’ national security adviser says.

ny times logospain flag CustomNew York Times, Spain Pardons Jailed Catalan Separatist Leaders, Nicholas Casey, June 22, 2021. Spain approved pardons for the group’s involvement in a failed attempt to form a breakaway state in Catalonia, a major olive branch in the conflict. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Australia’s runaway mouse plague targets prisons, forcing mass evacuation, Jennifer Hassan, June 22, 2021. The mice aren’t just causing chaos in homes, farms and hospitals. Australia has a mouse problem. A plague, in fact. A mass invasion occurs every decade or so, wreaking havoc across communities and destroying the crops and stock of farmers who are worried about what the future holds for their livelihoods.

australian flag wavingUntold numbers of the critters are running rampant along the country’s Eastern grain belt, demolishing crops, sabotaging homes and forcing concerned farmers to create makeshift traps to slow down the rodents, which are able to reproduce at an alarming rate.

 

U.S. Jobs, Economy, Race

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Week Inflation Panic Died, Paul Krugman, right, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). Remember when everyone was panicking about inflation, warning ominously about 1970s-type stagflation? paul krugmanOK, many people are still saying such things, some because that’s what they always say, some because that’s what they say when there’s a Democratic president, some because they’re extrapolating from the big price increases that took place in the first five months of this year.

But for those paying closer attention to the flow of new information, inflation panic is, you know, so last week.

Seriously, both recent data and recent statements from the Federal Reserve have, well, deflated the case for a sustained outbreak of inflation. For that case has always depended on asserting that the Fed is either intellectually or morally deficient (or both). That is, to panic over inflation, you had to believe either that the Fed’s model of how inflation works is all wrong or that the Fed would lack the political courage to cool off the economy if it were to become dangerously overheated.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Lumber Prices Fall, the Threat of Inflation Loses Its Bite, Matt Phillips, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). Lumber prices soared over the past year, frustrating would-be pandemic do-it-yourselfers, jacking up the costs of new homes and serving as a compelling talking point in the debate over whether government stimulus efforts risked the return of 1970s-style inflation.

The housing-and-renovation boom drove insatiable demand for lumber, even as the pandemic idled mills that had already been slowed by an anemic construction sector since the 2008 financial crisis. Lumber futures surged to unprecedented heights, peaking at more than $1,600 per thousand board feet in early May.

But since then, the prices of those same plywood sheets and pressure-treated planks have tumbled, as mills restarted or ramped up production and some customers put off their purchases until prices came down.

It’s a dance of supply and demand that has reassured many experts and the Federal Reserve in their belief that painful price spikes for everything from airline tickets to used cars will abate as the economy gets back to normal.

washington post logoWashington Post, Retail workers are quitting at record rates for higher-paying work, Abha Bhattarai, June 22, 2021 (print ed.).  The retail industry faces a reckoning as workers quit at record rates: “These were never good jobs.” Some 649,000 employees gave notice in April, the sector’s largest one-month exodus in over 20 years, a reflection of pandemic-era strains and a strengthening job market

washington post logoWashington Post, Maryland finds more than 500,000 ‘potentially fraudulent’ jobless claims, Ovetta Wiggins, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). Maryland labor officials said Monday that they have found 508,000 “potentially fraudulent” unemployment claims in the past six weeks, the latest response from the Hogan administration as it fends off criticism over the governor’s decision to cut enhanced federal jobless benefits in coming days.

Gov. Larry Hogan, one of at least 25 Republican governors who has decided to end the federal benefits in their state, said Maryland has found 1.3 million fraudulent claims since the beginning of the pandemic. He said numbers have increased in recent weeks as the Labor Department beefed up its security measures and as a July 3 deadline for receiving the benefits draws near.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sen. Whitehouse defends family’s membership in private beach club amid questions about whether it is all-White, Felicia Sonmez, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). The Rhode Island Democrat was asked whether the club has any non-White members. “I think the people who are running the place are still working on that, and I’m sorry it hasn’t happened yet,” he said. 

 

June 21

Top Headlines

 

Trump Watch

 

Justice Dept. Accountability

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

 

U.S. Media News

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Law

 

World News

  

Top Stories 

washington post logoWashington Post, Recovering U.S. economy is drastically changed and it’s not going back, Heather Long, June 21, 2021 (print ed.) A new economic era has arrived, and it features greater worker power, higher housing costs and very different ways of doing business. Policymakers are also contending with inflation and how Americans will react to high rates.

In late February 2020, the unemployment rate was 3.5 percent, inflation was tame, wages were rising and American companies were attempting to recover from a multiyear trade war.

The pandemic disrupted everything, damaging some parts of the economy much more than others. But a mass vaccination effort and the virus’s steady retreat this year has allowed many businesses and communities to reopen.

What Americans are encountering, though, is almost unrecognizable from just 16 months ago. Prices are up. Housing is scarce. It takes months longer than normal to get furniture, appliances and numerous parts delivered. And there is a great dislocation between millions of unemployed workers and millions of vacant jobs.

The post-covid luxury spending boom has begun. It’s already reshaping the economy.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell acknowledged all the uncertainty this week, saying that policymakers had misjudged parts of the recovery and that they aren’t certain what exactly will happen next.

ny times logoNew York Times, Guest Essay: I Am Breaking My Silence About the Baseball Player Who Raped Me, Kat O’Brien (a former journalist and baseball writer for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Newsday), June 21, 2021 (print ed.). I was 22 years old and working as a sports reporter when I was raped by a Major League Baseball player.

major league baseball mlb logoI didn’t tell my best friend, my sister, my mother or my sports editor, who was a woman. For 18 years, I didn’t tell anyone.

I didn’t say it out loud to myself, write it down, speak his name or allow myself to think about it beyond wishing hard that it would not have happened. I spent years willing it to unhappen. Magical thinking became my truth.

That all changed in January.

 

Trump Watch

Proof via Substack, Investigation and Commentary: A Comprehensive Overview of All Five of Donald Trump’s January 6 War Rooms, Seth Abramson, June 21, 2021. During Insurrection Week, Trump’s seth abramson graphicinsurrectionists had at least five secretive war rooms inside Washington. Here’s everything we know about each of them so far.

Research by Proof into the January 6 insurrection reveals that Team Trump opened five “war rooms” during Insurrection Week. Trump lawyer John Eastman was the first to call his own space (of the seth abramson proof logofive) a “war room”; another participant in the same room, Joe Oltmann, called it a “command center”; and at another point Eastman noted that he had been working in a “communications coordination.” The five spaces that answer to such descriptions are summarized below and then discussed in more detail.

#1: The Trump International War Room; Location: Trump Townhouse in Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC; Occupants: 19+.

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump’s International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

washington post logo

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Trump’s connection to the KGB highlighted in full-page ads in 1987, Wayne Madsen, left (author and former Navy Intelligence officer and NSA analyst), June 21, 2021. Donald Trump’s role as an intelligence asset for the wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallSoviet Committee for State Security (KGB) and Czechoslovak State Security (StB) in the 1970s and 80s was revealed in WMR’s August 19, 2020 article, “Trump likely a KGB/Czechoslovak StB intelligence asset as early as 1976.”

wayne madesen report logoFurther information revealed to The Guardian of the UK by former KGB agent Yuri Shvets indicates that the Trump Organization’s full-page ad run in the September 2, 1987 editions of The New York Times, Washington Post and Boston Globe was actually crafted and paid for by the KGB.

At a critical time for U.S. foreign policy, with the Soviet bloc showing significant signs of unraveling and Iran posing a threat to shipping in the Persian Gulf, Trump’s full-page ad was titled “There’s nothing wrong with America’s Foreign Defense Policy that a little backbone can’t cure.”

The current probe of the Trump Organization’s finances, particularly the firm’s longtime chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, may yield information on Trump’s receipt of KGB financing for the three newspaper ads and other purposes via a KGB business front on Fifth Avenue, Joy-Lud electronics store, run by Soviet Ukrainian emigré Semyon Kislin, a “spotter agent” or recruiter for the KGB.

Axios, Scoop: Trump works refs ahead of book barrage, Mike Allen, June 21, 2021. Former President Trump has given at least 22 interviews for 17 different books since leaving office, with authors lining up at Mar-a-Lago as he labors to shape a coming tsunami of Trump tomes, Axios has learned.

axios logoWhy it matters: Trump advisers see the coming book glut as proof that interest in “POTUS 45,” as they call him, has never been higher. These advisers know that most of the books will paint a mixed picture, at best. But Trump is working the refs with charm, spin and dish.

Offering Diet Cokes and dressed in suit and tie, Trump spent an average of about 90 minutes with each of the authors, some of whom were invited to stay and eat dinner at Mar-a-Lago (although not with him).

The interviews are mostly on the record, for use when the books publish. So Trump, who has rarely been heard on non-Fox outlets since leaving office, will see himself quoted constantly over the next year.

Between the lines: Sources tell me Trump makes each author feel they’re getting something special. And some of them are: Many of the nuggets will definitely make news. But there appears to be quite a bit of overlap in the “scoops” Trump is dishing out.

There’s intense jockeying among the authors over several publishing-date logjams in the coming 18 months, with Michael Wolff’s Landslide currently in pole position (July 27). The book many Trump insiders are awaiting most is Maggie Haberman’s, due next year.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Told you Roger Stone was going down for the January 6th Capitol attack, Bill Palmer, June 21, 2021. Weeks ago, federal prosecutors brought conspiracy charges against two “Oath Keepers” employees of Roger Stone, for their roles in the January 6th Capitol attack. At the time, Palmer Report explained that under these circumstances the main reason to bring conspiracy charges against them was so that conspiracy charges could also be brought against Stone.

bill palmer report logo headerSure enough, Harry Litman of the LA Times tweeted on Sunday night that the Feds are in fact investigating Roger Stone for the Capitol attack. This comes as no real surprise. Video evidence has been circulating for months that showed Stone interacting and plotting with these same Oath Keepers on the morning of the attack. And while that alone wouldn’t be enough to get a criminal conviction against Stone, it was more than enough for the Feds to dig in and uncover the entire evidence trail.

FBI logoWhat stands out is that the Feds are now allowing the media to find out that they’re targeting Roger Stone in the January 6th investigation. The Feds know that this will only place additional pressure on them to bring charges against Stone before too much longer – so this can be taken as a sign that Stone’s indictment likely isn’t too far off. It’s worth asking if this is a sign that one or more of Stone’s Oath Keepers pals may be cutting a plea deal against him.

It’s also worth pointing out that Roger Stone’s pardon from Donald Trump was issued before the Capitol attack, and therefore can’t possibly get him off the hook for it. Stone is fully vulnerable to whatever criminal charges end up being brought against him related to January 6th. Trump’s commutation and pardon were the only thing that kept Stone out of prison the last time around. This time there’s nothing to protect Stone.

 

Justice Dept. Accountability

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: If the Justice Department won’t investigate itself, Congress should, Jennifer Rubin, right, June 21, 2021. Democrats and other critics of the disgraced former president’s reign jennifer rubin new headshotof corruption and politicization over the criminal justice system are losing patience with Attorney General Merrick Garland. Appearing on CBS News’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, spoke out about the Trump Justice Department’s attempt to target his email records:

I had to hear from Apple and not the Justice Department about what had gone on in the last four years. The inspector general is doing an investigation. I talked with the attorney general about going beyond that. I think he really needs to do a wholesale review of all of the politicization of the department over the last four years. What happened to our committee, what happened to members of the press, that’s just a subset.

The direct intervention by the president and the attorney general in specific criminal cases implicating the president, like that of Roger Stone, one of his aides whose sentence was reduced before he was pardoned, [and] Mike Flynn, another presidential national security adviser whose case was made to completely go away. These are gross abuses of the independence of the Justice Department, and we don’t know how far . . . they run. And our new attorney general has to find out.

Several points deserve emphasis. First, we do not know what other victims of Justice Department abuse are out there because we do not know the full scope of the previous administration’s “national security” witch hunts. Second, we do not know who within the Justice Department objected to any direction they found unethical or illegal or who complied with directions they knew were wrong. We therefore lack a full picture of events and have no way of knowing whether any attorney deserves censure, termination or even prosecution. 

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. Garland tries to untangle the Trump legacy at Justice Dept., Devlin Barrett, June 21, 2021. Merrick Garland has been criticized by some Democrats over recent legal decisions, but the new attorney general insists he is plotting a straight course.

Three months into his new job, judge-turned-attorney general Merrick Garland, who inherited a demoralized and politicized Justice Department, is facing criticism from some Democrats that he is not doing enough to quickly expunge Trump-era policies and practices.

On a host of issues ranging from leak investigations to civil and criminal cases involving former president Donald Trump, Garland has been beset by a growing chorus of congressional second-guessers, even as he insists he is scrupulously adhering to the principles of equal justice under the law.

How he charts his way through the current controversies and still-unresolved politically sensitive cases is likely to determine how much of a long-term impact the Trump presidency has on the Justice Department.

“It’s a difficult situation to navigate. The Department of Justice is an institution like an ocean liner — it doesn’t turn around easily,” said Ronald Weich, who served as an assistant attorney general in the early days of the Obama administration.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump and his CFO Allen Weisselberg stay close as prosecutors advance case, Jonathan O’Connell, Shayna Jacobs, David A. Fahrenthold and Josh Dawsey, June 21, 2021. The former president and his trusted lieutenant both head to Trump Tower as prosecutors press Allen Weisselberg to turn on his boss.

If Donald Trump was looking for some good news on his 75th birthday last Monday, it arrived at 8:15 a.m. by way of a blue Mercedes slipping into Trump Tower’s private garage entrance on West 56th Street.

Behind the wheel was Allen Weisselberg, Trump’s longtime confidant and Trump Organization chief financial officer, whom the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has pressed to turn on the former president as they investigate Trump’s business dealings.

Every day that Weisselberg arrives for work at Trump Tower — as he did that day, steering in from his Upper West Side apartment across town — could be seen as a public signal that he is sticking with Trump and deflecting investigators’ advances.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Scientists battle over the ultimate origin story: Where did the coronavirus come from? Joel Achenbach, June 21, 2021 (print ed.). Stanley Perlman, who has been studying coronaviruses for 39 years, got a nasty email June 4: “Dr. Frankenstein just wants more public money and wants to research things he shouldn’t be messing with. THANKS A LOT FOR CORONA LOSER.”

Perlman, a mild-mannered, grandfatherly virologist at the University of Iowa, didn’t know the author of the dyspeptic email and had nothing to do with the emergence of the coronavirus. But he had co-signed a letter to the Lancet in February 2020 saying SARS-CoV-2 was not a bioengineered virus and condemning “conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.”

That remains the consensus of many scientists — but the “lab leak” theory has never gone away and has become louder than ever. It is not a theory so much as a constellation of scenarios that imagine how the virus may have emanated from a laboratory in China, ranging from the accidental to the sinister.

ny times logoNew York Times, Sway Podcast, Kara Swisher Interviews Anthony Fauci, Kara Swisher, right, June 21, 2021. Anthony Fauci doesn’t have a Twitter account. But he does have a lot to say about the kara swisherrecent scrutiny following the release of his emails from 2020 — an especially busy time in his tenure as America’s chief immunologist.

Republicans like Ron DeSantis have used the emails as fodder for criticism, accusing him of “faucism” (yes, that’s a play on fascism). Fauci’s response: “Here’s a guy whose entire life has been devoted to saving lives. And now you’re telling me he’s like Hitler? Come on, folks. Get real.”

[You can listen to this episode of “Sway” on Apple, Spotify, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.]

In this conversation, Kara Swisher and Fauci parse the science from the politics. She presses him on the Wuhan lab leak theory, which critics claim Fauci and the media were too quick to dismiss. They discuss what went wrong with his early mask-wearing guidance and whether there is room for error or evolution of advice when it comes to public health in a social media age. And of course, they dig into some of the 4,000 or so pages of Fauci’s emails, including exchanges with Sylvia Burwell, the former Health and Human Services secretary, and Mark Zuckerberg. (No, he was not asking Zuck for help with his Instagram.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: China passes 1 billion vaccinations amid tightened curbs, questions on shots’ efficacy, Katerina Ang and Miriam Berger, June 21, 2021.  Hundreds of thousands of deaths appear to be missing from India’s coronavirus toll, state figures indicate

China has administered more than 1 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines, a state health body said, marking a milestone for one of the world’s fastest inoculation drives even as questions persist about how much protection against symptomatic infection is provided by Chinese-developed shots.

Beijing has offered other countries tens of millions of doses as part of a “vaccine diplomacy” competition with Washington, although reports have emerged in Brazil of people turning down available Chinese-developed Sinovac shots in hopes of receiving the coronavirus vaccine developed by U.S. firm Pfizer with German partner BioNTech. Hundreds of Indonesian health-care workers were recently infected after being inoculated with Sinovac shots — with dozens requiring hospitalization. Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are also offering Pfizer-BioNTech boosters to many people vaccinated with Chinese-developed Sinopharm doses.

Despite vaccinating millions of people daily, China is still focused on a virus-elimination strategy. International borders remain largely sealed and the economic hub of Shenzhen over the weekend moved to step up enforcement of social distancing measures after a small increase in infections.

In related news:

  • Excess deaths in just two Indian states over the past year are 360,000 above normal levels, suggesting a massive undercount of covid-19 deaths across the country.
  • Olympic organizers will allow spectators at this summer’s Tokyo Games but cap attendance at 10,000 people or 50 percent of a venue’s capacity, whichever is smaller, they announced on Monday.
  • Hong Kong will cut the quarantine period for some vaccinated travelers starting June 30, as the beleaguered semiautonomous Chinese city seeks to keep its place as a global economic hub.
  • Cuba says late-phase trial of its Soberana 2 vaccine showing promising results.

washington post logoWashington Post, Models predict U.S. coronavirus infections could surge this fall if vaccination rates lag, former FDA chief says, Jeanne Whalen, June 21, 2021 (print ed.). Scott Gottlieb also expressed concern about U.K. study showing brain-tissue shrinkage after covid-19.

The transmission of the more contagious delta variant in the United States could spur a fall surge in coronavirus infections if only 75 percent of the country’s eligible population is vaccinated, former Food and Drug Administration chief Scott Gottlieb said Sunday.

Although Gottlieb cited one projection forecasting an increase in infections reaching as high as 20 percent of last winter’s peak, he called that an “aggressive estimate,” saying he doesn’t “think it’ll be quite that dire.” But he said states with low vaccination rates already are showing a concerning rise in cases with the spreading of delta, which is up to 60 percent more contagious than earlier variants.

Delta variant could become dominant strain in U.S. this summer, CDC head says

“So Connecticut, for example, where I am, shows no upsurge of infection, but Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri show very substantial upsurges of infections. That’s based entirely on how much population-wide immunity you have based on vaccination,” Gottlieb said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program.

He urged a renewed vaccination push closer to the fall, as people prepare to return to school and work, when he said they may be more open to the shots.

washington post logoWashington Post, 177.3 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 21, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 150 million people (45.2 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 53.4 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 21, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 179,320,883, Deaths: 3,883,427
U.S. Cases:     34,406,001, Deaths:    617,166
India Cases:    29,935,221, Deaths:    388,164
Brazil Cases:   17,927,928, Deaths:    501,918

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: In trying to pressure Biden, the Catholic bishops forget the lessons of JFK, Karen Tumulty, June 21, 2021 (print ed.). In September 1960, Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy, against the advice of his political consultants, confronted anti-Catholic bigotry head-on in an extraordinary speech before a hostile audience of several hundred Protestant ministers in Houston.

Kennedy’s strong stance on the separation of church and state helped secure the narrow victory that made him the first Catholic president in U.S. history.

A little more than 60 years later, a second Catholic president sits in the White House, and the church’s American bishops appear to have forgotten what it took for one of their own to get there. On Friday, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops — defying a warning from the Vatican — voted to create guidelines for receiving the sacrament of Holy Communion.

What is driving the move is a push by conservative bishops to declare that President Biden, who rarely misses Mass and is arguably the most religiously observant president since Jimmy Carter, should not be allowed to receive the Eucharist. It is also a reaction to the relatively liberal Pope Francis, who espouses a vision of making the church more inclusive.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘We don’t want you here’: Sen. Ron Johnson is booed at Milwaukee’s Juneteenth celebration, Felicia Sonmez,June 21, 2021 (print ed.). The Wisconsin Republican had originally objected to making Juneteenth a federal holiday. He later relented.

ron johnson oThe incident came days after Congress voted to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. Johnson, right, had originally objected to the move on the grounds that taxpayers should not be forced to pay for an additional holiday for federal workers. He relented last week, paving the way for the Senate’s unanimous passage of the bill.

In a statement on the measure Tuesday, Johnson said he supports Juneteenth and noted that resolutions recognizing the significance of the day have passed the Senate unanimously during his time in Congress. But he added: “While it still seems strange that having taxpayers provide federal employees paid time off is now required to celebrate the end of slavery, it is clear that there is no appetite in Congress to further discuss the matter.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Who Are the Billionaires’ Picks for New York Mayor? Follow the Money, Dana Rubinstein, Jonah E. Bromwich and Katie Glueck, June 21, 2021. Ultrawealthy donors have given $16 million to super PACs dedicated to the New York City mayor’s race. Half of that has gone to three moderate candidates. The influx of money comes as the pandemic has illuminated the stark differences between the city’s haves and have-nots.

  • New York Times, Here’s why we may not know who won Tuesday’s mayoral primary before July 12.

 

U.S. Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, Media Commentary: Tucker Carlson Calls Journalists ‘Animals.’ He’s Also Their Best Source, Ben Smith, Updated June 21, 2021. His platform on Fox News made him a big player in Donald Trump’s circle. Off camera, he shapes the coverage of Trump’s world and Fox’s own internal politics.

Mr. Carlson, right, a proud traitor to the elite political class, spends his time when he’s not denouncing the liberal media trading gossip with them. He’s the go-to guy for sometimes-unflattering stories about tucker carlsonDonald J. Trump and for coverage of the internal politics of Fox News (not to mention stories about Mr. Carlson himself). I won’t talk here about any off-the-record conversations I may have had with him. But 16 other journalists (none from The Times; it would put my colleagues in a weird position if I asked them) told me on background that he has been, as three of them put it, “a great source.”

“In Trump’s Washington, Tucker Carlson is a primary supersecret source,” the media writer and Trump chronicler Michael Wolff writes in his forthcoming collection of essays, “Too Famous.” Mr. Wolff, who thanked Mr. Carlson in the acknowledgments of his 2018 book, “Fire and Fury,” explained, “I know this because I know what he has told me, and I can track his exquisite, too-good-not-to-be-true gossip through unsourced reports and as it often emerges into accepted wisdom.”

Mr. Carlson was particularly well positioned to be a source about the Trump administration. His Fox platform, where in May he had a nightly average of three million viewers, made him someone who mattered to Mr. Trump, a close follower of television ratings. He has a former reporter’s eye for detail and anecdote, and his observations can be detected in the lurid tales of Mr. Trump’s chaotic court and Fox’s own tumultuous internal politics.

fox news logo SmallA coming book by the Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender, Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost, includes a moment in which Mr. Carlson sends Mr. Trump’s calls to voice mail after the first presidential debate last fall, when he was criticized for repeatedly interrupting Joe Biden. When Mr. Trump finally reaches the Fox host, the book describes, verbatim, an exchange between the two men that casts Mr. Carlson in a flattering light. (“Everyone says I did a good job,” Mr. Trump tells Mr. Carlson. “I don’t know who told you that was good,” Mr. Carlson says. “It was not good.”) Mr. Bender declined to comment on the sourcing that allowed him to so precisely reconstruct a conversation between the two men.

And Brian Stelter, the host of the CNN program “Reliable Sources,” told me that “you can see Tucker’s fingerprints all over the hardcover” edition of his 2020 book Hoax, which excoriates Fox News for amplifying Mr. Trump’s falsehoods. He said that he “couldn’t stomach” talking to Mr. Carlson, who has grown ever more hard-line, for the updated paperback version that was just released.

Mr. Carlson was born to a world of insiders and story shapers, and makes no secret of it. His father was a reporter in Los Angeles and San Diego before Ronald Reagan appointed him director of the Voice of America, and the son grew up with a generation of elite Washington journalists. “I’ve always lived around people who are wielding authority, around the ruling class,” he said in a 2018 interview.

A former New York Observer media writer, Sridhar Pappu, recalled to me that when he first traveled to Washington to cover the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in the early 2000s, it was Mr. Carlson who asked him, “Do you have an invitation to Tammy’s?” referring to the annual brunch for media insiders co-hosted by Tammy Haddad, the well-connected former MSNBC producer.

Mr. Carlson has said he turned against his fellow elites after the 2008 financial crisis. His political shift also transformed his long journeyman’s career as a magazine writer and MSNBC conservative, and made him Fox’s leading tribune of the pro-Trump masses.

But his decades of Washington relationships have produced a tiresome conversation among Mr. Carlson’s old friends about what he really stands for, whether he’s really a racist or whether he cynically plays one on TV. Who knows, and what does it matter anyway? Mr. Carlson’s recent fixations include suggesting that the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection was, in fact, a provocation staged by the F.B.I. and that making children wear masks is abuse. The Anti-Defamation League recently called for him to be fired from Fox News for warning that Democrats are plotting to “replace” the current electorate with “more obedient voters, from the third world.” The Pentagon rebuked him for a sexist riff on women in the military.

And then there are his stated views on the media. “I just can’t overstate how disgusted I am,” he told the Fox-owned sports media site Outkick in April. “The media is basically Praetorian Guard for the ruling class, the bodyguards for Jeff Bezos. That’s the opposite of what we should have. I really hate them for it, I’ll be honest.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Vance Trimble 1913–2021, Matt Schudel, June 21, 2021. Journalist who won Pulitzer Prize by exposing congressional corruption dies at 107. He wrote about rampant nepotism, hidden payrolls and self-dealing.

Vance H. Trimble, a journalist who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1960 for exposing rampant nepotism, hidden payrolls and financial self-dealing among members of Congress, died June 16 at his home in Wewoka, Okla. He was 107.

The death was confirmed by the Stout-Phillips Funeral Home in Wewoka. The cause was not disclosed.

Mr. Trimble began his career as a cub reporter in the 1920s and was still publishing books in the 21st century. He was 77 when in 1990 he wrote a best-selling biography of Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart.

When Mr. Trimble won his Pulitzer Prize, he was a news editor in the Washington bureau of the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain, working from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. He had previously been the managing editor of the Houston Press, then a fast-growing metropolitan daily in a booming city with more than its share of crime and natural disasters.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, Justices rule against NCAA limits on some school perks for student-athletes, Robert Barnes and Molly Hensley-Clancy, June 21, 2021. The NCAA had contested a lower-court ruling that would allow colleges to offer greater academic-related perks to Division I football and men’s and women’s basketball players.s ago

  • Washington Post, High school sports will feel impact of athlete branding changes. For some, that’s cause for concern.

 djt maga hat speech uncredited Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Two weeks notice, Bill Palmer, right, June 21, 2021. If what the major news outlets are reporting is accurate – and it probably is, given that the sources for the stories are likely the bill palmerprosecutor themselves – then we’re about to enter a remarkable stretch that a lot of people were certain would never happen. We’re talking about the actual takedown of Donald Trump and his most notorious associates.

bill palmer report logo headerThis past week we all learned that federal prosecutors are planning to make a charging decision against Trump lackey Matt Gaetz in “July.” It’s worth pointing out that July begins less than two weeks from now. We also learned this past week that New York prosecutors are looking to indict Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg “this summer.” According to the calendar, summer 2021 officially began yesterday.

So if things remain on the trajectory that prosecutors just finished leaking to the media, then in as little as two weeks from now we could be looking at Gaetz and Weisselberg both in handcuffs. Gaetz has been accused of a wide variety of crimes, some of them truly heinous. It’s not clear what the odds of conviction would be for his worst crimes. But if the reporting is true that he allegedly used campaign funds to pay for it all, then he’ll be nearly a lock for prison, because no one gets away with using campaign funds for anything. And Weisselberg’s financial crimes are the kind that no one skates on either.

So while Gaetz and Weisselberg can decide to go to trial if they want, there’s a good chance they’ll be under indictment on charges they have no chance of beating at trial. Weisselberg’s only way out will be to cut a plea deal against Donald Trump, which is what we all know New York prosecutors want out of him. Gaetz may not even have a way out, depending on the severity of the charges against him. But his only potential shot at leniency would also be to flip on Trump, if the Feds are indeed looking to make a criminal case against Trump.

We don’t know what will happen once Weisselberg and Gaetz are arrested. Flipping or not flipping is a personal choice. But the upshot at this point is that, based on what’s being reported, we could be less than two weeks away from seeing them both in handcuffs. And even if it doesn’t happen quite that quickly, we know we can expect Gaetz to happen sometime in July, and Weisselberg to happen sometime this summer.

There are those defeatists who still think that Donald Trump is going to somehow magically get away with it all no matter what. If anything, since the news surfaced last month that New York was empaneling a grand jury specifically to bring indictments in the criminal case against Donald Trump and the Trump Organization, the defeatists have become more insistent that Trump will skate. We’ll see what they say once the handcuffs start landing on the wrists of Trump’s closest confidantes. Once Trump lost the election, he was never just going to “get away with it all.” These upcoming weeks should help make that more clear.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Taking on racism and crime should be the same fight, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, June 21, 2021 (print ed.). We must fight racism and fight crime at the same time. We must reform ej dionne w open neckpolicing and make policing more effective. And we must battle any demagoguery that casts demands for justice as concessions to criminality.

Harmonizing these goals is morally urgent as the movement for change ignited by police killings of Black Americans runs headlong into public alarm at a wave of murders across the nation.

It’s important in politics, too. A review of why Democrats lost seats in the House last year by Rep. Sean Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, found that Republican attacks against the “defund the police” slogan proved more potent than Democrats had anticipated.

A report by the centrist think tank Third Way, the Collective PAC and Latino Victory concluded that “where Defund the Police had a significant impact, it was as a part of culture-based attack on Democrats that sought to stoke fears among voters about any candidate with a ‘D’ after their name.”

Concerns about crime cross party lines. In New York City, which holds its mayoral primary on Tuesday, a recent NY1/Ipsos poll of likely Democratic primary voters found that crime/public safety should be the top priority for the next mayor, listed by 46 percent. Reopening the economy and affordable housing followed well behind at 30 percent each; stopping the spread of covid-19 drew 24 percent, and battling racial injustice 20 percent.

When you talk to Democratic politicians searching for a principled path forward, one name pops up again and again. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, chair of the House Democratic Caucus, has both personal and political reasons to push for police reform as part of a strategy for restoring order.

washington post logoWashington Post, Unmasking the far right: An extremist paid a price when his identity was exposed online after a violent clash in Washington, Robert Klemko, June 21, 2021 (print ed.). Laura Jedeed, an activist from Portland, Ore., was harassed after filming a group of President Donald Trump’s supporters last year.

In a flash, Laura Jedeed was surrounded by screaming men. The freelance journalist was filming a group of Trump supporters walking the streets of the District after the “Million MAGA March” on Nov. 14 when a man wearing an American flag gaiter mask approached her, stepped on her toes and began yelling.

“What’s up, you stupid b—-?” the man shouted, his mask slipping down his face.

Jedeed yelled at the man to stop touching her. A crowd formed around her and another journalist, with unmasked men screaming at them from all directions. Jedeed kept her camera rolling, and when she got away from the crowd, she uploaded video of the incident to YouTube and Twitter, and it went viral.

Reaction was swift.

washington post logoWashington Post, Thieves have been stealing truckloads of nuts, police say. The latest heist was 42,000 pounds of pistachios, Jaclyn Peiser, June 21, 2021. As Touchstone Pistachio Company ran through its routine audit earlier this month, something wasn’t adding up.

The company soon enlisted the sheriff’s office in Tulare County, Calif., for help and on Saturday, law enforcement officials said they had found the missing nuts and arrested the thief. Police said the culprit, Alberto Montemayor, 34, was hiding the pistachios in a tractor trailer parked in a nearby parking lot and then repackaging them to sell.

The case is just the latest heist of pistachio nuts in Central California, where the nuts were a $5.2 billion economic engine tied to more than 47,000 jobs last year, according to studies commissioned by the industry. Last August, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office arrested a 23-year-old man for allegedly stealing two trucks full of pistachios valued at $294,000.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran’s Raisi says ballistic missiles, regional presence ‘not negotiable’ — and he doesn’t want to meet Biden, Erin Cunningham, June 21, 2021. Iran’s President-elect Ebrahim Raisi, a cleric and former judiciary chief, is a hardline conservative who enjoyed the backing of Iran’s supreme leader and allied security services in last week’s presidential elections.

ebrahim raisi smile facebookIran’s President-elect Ebrahim Raisi, right, is opposed to talks that would limit Tehran’s ballistic missile program or support for regional proxy forces, the new hard line leader said in remarks Monday.

Speaking at his first news conference in the capital, Raisi, who was elected Friday, also said that he is not willing to meet President Biden, even as the two sides work to revive the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

Iran FlagWhen asked by a reporter if he was willing to meet the U.S. president, Raisi simply said: “No.” He added that Iran’s ballistic missiles and regional presence are also “not negotiable.”

Raisi, a cleric and former judiciary chief, is a hard line conservative who enjoyed the backing of Iran’s supreme leader and allied security services in last week’s presidential elections. His victory marks a shift from the more reform-minded presidency of Hassan Rouhani, a moderate pragmatist who favored engagement with the West.

Preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapon is ‘paramount priority,’ national security adviser says.

washington post logoWashington Post, Attacks in Mexican border city kill at least 14 people, Paulina Villegas, June 21, 2021 (print ed.). The attacks may have derived from a dispute between rival groups over territorial control of the area and dominance over illicit operations including drug trafficking and human trafficking, an official said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ethiopia’s historic election overshadowed by a cascade of crises and conflict, Max Bearak, June 21, 2021 (print ed.).  Ethiopia is set to hold a twice-delayed national election on Monday in what the government has heralded as a long-awaited emergence into multi-party democracy.

But a cascade of major crises in Africa’s second-most populous country has thrown the vote into disarray, leaving millions unable to vote.

Foremost among them is a disastrous seven-month-old civil war in the northern region of Tigray, where a powerful regional political party is waging a guerilla-style conflict against Ethiopia’s military, which in turn has aligned with forces from neighboring Eritrea and Ethiopia’s Amhara region. All sides have been accused of war crimes, and humanitarian groups say hundreds of thousands in Tigray are experiencing famine conditions.

The election itself has been weakened by widespread insecurity, logistical issues and political disputes. Tigray will not take part in the vote at all, and about a fifth of polling stations in the rest of the country will not open on Monday because of security concerns or improperly printed ballots, according to the country’s election commission. The closed polling stations tend to be in areas where opposition parties claim support. Those closures as well as the jailing of numerous prominent government critics have led some of the country’s biggest opposition parties to boycott the election.

ny times logoNew York Times, War Shatters Nobel Halo of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Declan Walsh, June 21, 2021. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed plunged Ethiopia into a war in the Tigray region that spawned atrocities and famine. On Monday, his country goes to the polls.

abiy ahmed ethiopian pmAs war raged in northern Ethiopia, and the region barreled toward its worst famine in decades, a senior American envoy flew to the Ethiopian capital last month in the hope of persuading Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to pull his country out of a destructive spiral that many fear is tearing it apart.

Not long ago Mr. Abiy, who faces Ethiopian voters on Monday in long-delayed parliamentary elections, was a shining hope for country and continent. After coming to power in 2018 he embarked on a whirlwind of ambitious reforms: freeing political prisoners, welcoming exiles home from abroad and, most impressively, striking a landmark peace deal with Eritrea, Ethiopia’s old foe, in a matter of months.

ny times logoNew York Times, What led Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to conduct a military campaign in the Tigray region, and how has the fighting affected Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa? Declan Walsh and Abdi Latif Dahir, Updated June 21, 2021. Why did Ethiopia’s leader launch an internal war on the Tigray Region? Here’s some background.

 

June 20

Top Headlines

 

Trump-era Justice Abuses, Insurrection

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Law

  

U.S. Politics, Governance, Climate

 

World News

 

U.S. Religion and Media News

 

Top Stories 

ny times logoNew York Times, How Republican States Are Expanding Their Power Over Elections, Nick Corasaniti and Reid J. Epstein, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). With Republican-led states mounting an expansive takeover of election administration, Democratic officials of color have been some of the earliest casualties. Republicans in states like Georgia and Arkansas have also stripped secretaries of state of their power and made it easier to overturn election results.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosLonnie Hollis has been a member of the Troup County election board in West Georgia since 2013. A Democrat and one of two Black women on the board, she has advocated Sunday voting, helped voters on Election Days and pushed for a new precinct location at a Black church in a nearby town.

But this year, Ms. Hollis will be removed from the board, the result of a local election law signed by Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican. Previously, election board members were selected by both political parties, county commissioners and the three biggest municipalities in Troup County. Now, the G.O.P.-controlled county commission has the sole authority to restructure the board and georgia mapappoint all the new members.

“I speak out and I know the laws,” Ms. Hollis said in an interview. “The bottom line is they don’t like people that have some type of intelligence and know what they’re doing, because they know they can’t influence them.”

Ms. Hollis is not alone. Across Georgia, members of at least 10 county election boards have been removed, had their position eliminated or are likely to be kicked off through local ordinances or new laws passed by the state legislature. At least five are people of color and most are Democrats — though some are Republicans — and they will most likely all be replaced by Republicans.

republican elephant logoMs. Hollis and local officials like her have been some of the earliest casualties as Republican-led legislatures mount an expansive takeover of election administration in a raft of new voting bills this year.

G.O.P. lawmakers have also stripped secretaries of state of their power, asserted more control over state election boards, made it easier to overturn election results, and pursued several partisan audits and inspections of 2020 results.

Republican state lawmakers have introduced at least 216 bills in 41 states to give legislatures more power over elections officials, according to the States United Democracy Center, a new bipartisan organization that aims to protect democratic norms. Of those, 24 have been enacted into law across 14 states.

washington post logomichele roosevelt edwardsWashington Post, Investigation: ‘Italygate’ election conspiracy theory was pushed by two firms led by woman who also falsely claimed $30 million mansion was hers, Jon Swaine and Emma Brown, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). Two firms led by Virginia business executive Michele Roosevelt Edwards promoted outlandish claims that an Italian defense contractor conspired with CIA officials to switch votes from Trump to Biden using satellite technology.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The summer that could define the Biden presidency, Dan Balz, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden faces big challenges and hard decisions on infrastructure, voting rights and the pandemic, testing liberals’ loyalty and whether bipartisanship is possible.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Horse deaths and drug violations: The dark side of Bob Baffert’s reign as thoroughbred racing’s top trainer, Gus Garcia-Roberts and Steven Rich, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). In March 2020, horse racing’s most recognizable figure, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, declared that his sport was “in crisis.”

Federal prosecutors had just indicted more than two dozen trainers, veterinarians and others on charges related to doping horses, a seismic event in a sport already reeling from a well-publicized spate of horse deaths and perpetually dwindling revenue.

bob baffertIn an op-ed for The Washington Post, Baffert, right, wrote that reforming racing was not just necessary to the sport’s survival but the only moral path forward. “Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our equine and human athletes,” Baffert wrote, “and nothing impacts their health and safety more than the policies and procedures concerning drugs.”Advertisement

The bold statement appeared to put Baffert on the right side of history: By the end of the year, President Donald Trump had signed into law the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, which promised to reform the sport. But the star trainer’s sudden support belied the fact that Baffert has for years been entangled with the very problems he blamed for his sport’s potential demise: drugs, dead horses and a feckless regulatory system.

At least 74 horses have died in Baffert’s care in his home state of California since 2000, more than all but two of hundreds of trainers in the state, according to a Post analysis of data and public records. But when factoring in the number of races run, Baffert’s horses have died at the highest rate of the 10 trainers who have had the most horse deaths.

 

Trump-era Justice Abuses, Insurrection

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Garland inherited a booby-trapped DOJ. Here’s why it won’t be easy to fix, Joyce White Vance (right, a former U.S. attorney in Alabama, and a professor at the University of Alabama School of Law), June 20, 2021 (print ed.). No Biden U.S. attorneys have been confirmed yet, and there are tens of thousands of investigations to sift through, none of which come with warning stickers

joyce vance smaller photoAttorney General Merrick Garland knew he’d inherit some ticking time bombs when he took charge of the Justice Department. What he didn’t know, apparently, until the New York Times reported it this month, was that one of them was this: Under the Trump administration, the department subpoenaed Apple for information that included accounts belonging to Democratic members of Congress and their staff and families, and concealed that fact from them for almost four years.

That’s a shocking departure from the respect for the separation of powers that prevented even President Richard M. Nixon, with his list of enemies, from investigating members of merrick garlandCongress. We don’t know the story behind the subpoenas — who ordered them or whether the White House was involved.

What’s less shocking is that Garland, left, didn’t know about this case sooner — and may yet not know if there are other Trump-era investigations that were subject to improper White House influence, such as those involving subpoenas for reporters’ communications, for example. The problem cases don’t identify themselves. Files don’t come with bright yellow stickers that say “Warning!” or “Danger!” It will take a top-to-bottom review of the Justice Department to root them out. And it has to happen fast.

The sheer scope of that review will be daunting. The Justice Department has an enormous docket of pending investigations and cases.

In 2020, U.S. attorneys’ offices alone indicted in more than 57,000 criminal cases and handled 92,860 civil matters. That doesn’t include the work in the Justice Department’s seven Washington-based litigation divisions: criminal, civil, national security, civil rights, antitrust, tax, and environment and natural resources. There are lawyers in other components of the department as well, such as the pardon attorney’s office, the office of professional responsibility and the Bureau of Prisons.

Justice Department log circularAnd there are lawyers in the department’s four law enforcement agencies — the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the U.S. Marshals Service — while agents work on matters that have yet to be referred to a prosecutor. To complicate things further, investigations can be international in scope.

It’s an enormous portfolio for a new attorney general to take control of, especially without his full team in place. The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for the head of Garland’s criminal division was only held late last month. There isn’t a single Senate-confirmed U.S. attorney nominated by President Biden in any of the 94 offices across the country.

Garland has tasked his deputy attorney general, Lisa Monaco, with “surfacing potentially problematic matters deserving high level review,” and he has enlisted the department’s inspector general to investigate the subpoena incident. But he will have to go well beyond that, ensuring a comprehensive, painstaking review, if he wants to find any other land mines before they, too, explode on the front pages of the nation’s newspapers — and if he wants to have a hope of restoring trust in the institution.

How will that be possible? One critical step is for Garland to commit to transparency. He can depart from the Justice Department’s culture of reserve, a culture that avoids much in the way of public explanation.

The department can’t publicize the details of investigations in progress because it could compromise them, endanger witnesses or smear the reputations of people who are never charged. Disclosure of grand jury proceedings is prohibited by law. But the department can be transparent about the way it works and its decision-making process. It can openly discuss why it takes certain legal positions, especially when institutional interests are at stake. It can make sure the country learns about any additional problems the department uncovers and how it is fixing them from the attorney general himself, not from investigative reporters.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Told you the Feds would find their way to the insurrectionist Republicans in Congress, Bill Palmer, right, June 20, 2021. Federal investigations into massive criminal conspiracies only bill palmerwork one way, and if some folks don’t understand how such things work, it doesn’t change how those investigations work. The Feds always start by busting the ground level people who physically committed the crimes, then work to flip them on the higher-ups in order to establish a criminal conspiracy. If the FBI probe into the January 6th Capitol attack was going to target insurrectionist Republicans in Congress, this was the only way it was ever going to happen.

Much as I’ve tried to explain this over the past few months, defeatists have instead insisted that because no House or Senate Republicans have been indicted yet, it’ll never happen. This is a logical fallacy on its face, in addition to not being how criminal probes work, yet defeatism always somehow ends up being its own justification for defeatism.

bill palmer report logo headerOf course the defeatists love to insist that insurrectionist House and Senate Republicans must be arrested right this second or else all hope is lost, but that kind of foaming at the mouth ignores two important facts.

The first is that even if the Feds did arrest members of Congress for what they publicly said to the insurrectionists that day, no jury would convict them for it; the only way to nail the U.S. House logoinsurrectionist Republicans is to flip inside witnesses against them.

The second fact here is that, in spite of all the “sky is falling” rhetoric, our democracy has in fact not collapsed into a puddle simply because no insurrectionist Republicans have been indicted yet. We are not five minutes away from the nation collapsing, no matter how many talking heads try to drum up ratings each day by insisting otherwise. And now the inevitable is finally happening in the federal criminal probe into the insurrectionists.

FBI logoMSNBC is now reporting that the FBI is indeed interrogating January 6th suspects about their connections to members of Congress. This is how an investigation into a hierarchal criminal conspiracy works. Now that most of the low-level henchmen are in custody, investigators attempt to leverage them to move up the hierarchy and take down those who were calling the shots.

This doesn’t prove that any members of Congress will go down for January 6th. But it does prove that the federal criminal investigation is headed in that direction. Members of Congress with connections to the attack will be probed, to see if there’s enough evidence there to prove that they were part of a criminal conspiracy. Logically, this was always going to end up happening. It’s literally the only way these kinds of investigations work. But now you have your proof of where this is headed – and as always, the defeatists were just yelling baseless nonsense about insurrectionist House Republicans somehow already magically being off the hook.

  

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, 177.1 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 20, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 149.7 million people (45.1 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 53.3 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 20, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 179,041,697, Deaths: 3,877,237
U.S. Cases:     34,401,712, Deaths:    617,083
India Cases:    29,881,965, Deaths:    386,740
Brazil Cases:   17,883,750, Deaths:    500,868

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why so many Republicans talk about nonsense, Jennifer Rubin, right, June 20, 2021. The latest numbers on vaccination rates are telling: Mississippi has the lowest percentage of vaccinated residents, followed by Alabama, Arkansas, Wyoming, Louisiana, Georgia and Tennessee. All except Louisiana have both Republican governors and legislatures, as do the next seven on jennifer rubin new headshotthe list. Among the 14 U.S. senators representing the bottom seven, only two (both in Georgia) are Democrats. The Post reports, “Ten states, concentrated in the Deep South and rural West, report fewer than 35 percent of residents are fully immunized.”

Health care in these deep-red states is generally dreadful. Among the 12 states that have neither expanded nor voted to expand Medicaid, all but three have GOP governors and in those three (North Carolina, Kansas and Wisconsin), a Democratic governor faces a GOP legislature.

Of the 15 poorest states, all but two (Maine and New Mexico) are also deep red. Among the 30 Senate seats from those states, 27 are held by Republicans.

By these or just about any other measures, Republican states are failing to meet the basic needs of their residents. Among unvaccinated Americans, infection rates are climbing. More will get sick in those places, and some will die. Republicans are unwilling or incapable of meeting the challenge.

This sorry sight is unsurprising given that Republicans have all but given up on the notion of governance. At the national level, they consume themselves with race-baiting (e.g., scaring Americans about immigration and critical race theory), assailing private companies (e.g., corporations that defend voting rights, social media platforms, book publishers) and perpetrating the most ludicrous and dangerous lie in memory — that the 2020 election was stolen.

As Reason Magazine’s Peter Suderman wrote recently for the New York Times, the GOP “no longer has a cognizable theory of government.” They claim to be economic populists but oppose raising any taxes on the rich and corporations, decry union organizing and attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. “Freedom” used to be a central theme, but they are on a crusade to criminalize abortion and compel unwilling women to endure nine months of pregnancy — even in cases of rape or incest. They are also in favor of ordering teachers not to teach unfavorable facts about America.

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Law 

washington post logoWashington Post, Retropolis: As Juneteenth marks the end of slavery, lawmakers turn their focus to forced prison labor, Hannah Knowles, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). The 13th Amendment outlawed slavery “except as a punishment for crime.” That caveat stands today, allowing forced labor in prisons that disproportionately hold people of color.

Days after the official nationwide abolition of slavery in December 1865, Alabama made it illegal for Black farm employees to sell a long list of foods, including corn, rice, cotton and “animal of any kind.”

Another law punished Black people for gathering in a “disorderly way,” one professor said in a Cornell Law Review article. Another for carrying a pistol. And whipping and branding were scrapped as penalties, while a new sentence was added: “hard labor for the county.”

Desperate to keep profiting from Black bondage, Alabama’s leaders were exploiting an exception to the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery in the United States “except as a punishment for crime.” That caveat stands today, allowing forced labor in prisons that disproportionately hold people of color — even as Americans celebrate emancipation with Juneteenth, newly elevated to a federal holiday.

The same day that President Biden signed into law a bill commemorating the date June 19, Democratic lawmakers reintroduced a proposal they say is long overdue to truly end centuries of bondage: a constitutional amendment to remove the “punishment clause.” With key Biden administration priorities such as voting access and changes to policing stalled in Congress, the renewed push to end forced prison work is one of many changes advocates are framing as necessary to back the symbolic embrace of Juneteenth with national action to address racism and inequality.

“We know that the work of making that vision of a just and equal society a reality is unfinished,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said at a Saturday virtual gathering, two days after introducing the proposed “abolition amendment” with Rep. Nikema Williams (D-Ga.). “We know that slavery’s legacy of injustice continues in many ways today.”

Williams said she is “confident” the amendment will pass and noted some states, red and blue, had recently removed similar exceptions from their constitutions.

ny times logoNew York Times, Los Angeles Just Elected a Liberal D.A. He’s Already Facing a Recall Effort, Tim Arango, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). George Gascón is facing an intense backlash for enacting the sorts of policies demanded by protesters after the killing of George Floyd.

From inside the walls of Folsom State Prison, the two inmates, one a convicted murderer, clinked their cups of prison moonshine in a toast to the new district attorney of Los Angeles, George Gascón.

A video of the celebration was released earlier this year by Mr. Gascón’s opponents — and there are many — who used it to attack what is perhaps the most far-reaching plank of his progressive agenda: the review of nearly 20,000 old prison sentences, many for violent crimes like murder, for possible early releases.

Mr. Gascón, a Democrat, has brushed off the video as nothing more than a Willie Horton-style attack by get-tough-on-crime proponents that “plays well on Fox News.” But he doesn’t shy away from his belief that even those convicted of violent crimes deserve a chance at redemption.

“There’s no way we can get to meaningful prison reduction in this country without looking at more serious crimes,” Mr. Gascón, who also supports ending cash bail and eliminating the prosecution of juveniles as adults, said in an interview. “The public stories you hear are the really scary stuff. You’re talking about the violent sexual predator. You’re talking about some sadistic murderer. The reality is those are really a small number of the prison population and violent crime.”

But the prospect of convicted murderers getting out early, or getting lighter sentences than they would have received in a previous era, has fueled an effort to force a recall election next year and remove Mr. Gascón from office. More than a thousand volunteers, as well as dozens of paid workers, are collecting signatures for the recall at gun stores, bail bonds offices, and even outside Mr. Gascón’s home.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Disorder and Chaos’ in N.Y.C. Jails as Pandemic Recedes, Jan Ransom, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). Six people have died, a murder suspect was accidentally released and a captain was charged with homicide. The future of Rikers Island remains unclear.

Violence on Rikers Island is surging. Exhausted guards are working triple shifts. And staffing shortages have triggered lockdowns at some of the jail’s largest facilities.

More than a year after the coronavirus sickened thousands in New York City’s jail system, the Department of Correction has plunged further into crisis as complaints of severe mismanagement, persistent violence and deaths of incarcerated people continue to mount.

Correction officers and incarcerated people alike have described a tumultuous first half of the year: Six detainees have died, including at least two by suicide, compared with seven through all of 2020. Guards have been forced to work triple and occasionally quadruple shifts, staying on duty for 24 hours or longer, to make up for staffing shortages.

Last month, a report by a federal monitor appointed to oversee the troubled jails described a system in a state of disorder, and expressed grave concern about the agency’s ability to change course.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance 

llewellyn king photo logo

White House Chronicle, Commentary: The Great Western Drought Will Affect Us All, Llewellyn King, above, June 19-20, 2021. The severe drought gripping the Western states looks set to reach into all lives in the nation and into every pocket.

The unbearable heat for those living in the West, with record-high temperatures stretching from Wyoming to the Mexican border and from the Pacific to the Mississippi, will impact the rest of the country as well.

Scientists have classified this monstrous baking as a megadrought. There hasn’t been regular rain or mountain snow in the West for more than 20 years.

To call it a scorcher is to underestimate a catastrophe that has the possibility of reaching near-biblical proportions. This is big and there is no quick fix. None.

The drought means epic disruptions, merciless rearrangement.

First, of course, there is no water, which means much economic activity may slow or cease. Farmers won’t be able to grow crops or raise livestock. Food prices that are already high from the pandemic’s disruptions will go even higher.

The electricity supply will be strained and may be curtailed because of reduced hydroelectric production. The 13 Western states get more than 22 percent of their electricity from hydropower dams, located mostly in Washington, according to the National Hydropower Association.

In today’s world, farmers depend on electricity to water crops and livestock, milk cows, dry grain, and freeze produce.

The first measurable disruption of the summer will be from breakdowns in the California food supply chain. Prices in supermarkets will reflect the impact of the drought on California, which acts as the nation’s truck farm. If you eat it, it grows in California, but only when there is water for irrigation.

The rivers of the West are running dry. The reserves of water in the great dams on the major rivers, especially the Columbia and the Colorado, which act as the lifelines of much of the West, are way below normal.

Manufactured goods from Western states will be affected if power shortages are extended and widespread. Wildfires will abound and have already started their annual scourge.

Business Insider, Trump Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross made at least $53 million from private companies while serving in government: report, John L. Dorman, June 20, 2021. Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary under former President Donald Trump, raked in at least $53 million from private companies while working in the administration and earning a taxpayer-funded salary, according to a Huffington Post report.

wilbur rossWhile leading the Department of Commerce, Ross reported making a minimum of $53 million to $127 million in outside earnings.

However, according to the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Ross, right, may have “earned significantly more as he was not required to specify certain income totals over $1 million.”

“It is impossible to know Ross’s exact income because it was reported in broad ranges, but it is clear that while running the agency in charge of promoting economic growth and regulating global trade for the United States, he made tens of millions of dollars,” the CREW investigative report noted.

The report added: “Ross became notorious for mixing personal business with his government role.”

According to the CREW report, Ross made at least $42 million in 2017, which included “more than $6 million he was paid for giving up unvested restricted Invesco shares and more than $5 million from selling Invesco stock.”

The development comes after The Washington Post reported last month that a security unit within the Department of Commerce had morphed into a counterintelligence-like operation “that collected information on hundreds of people inside and outside the department.”

Read more: We identified the 125 people and institutions most responsible for Donald Trump’s rise to power and his norm-busting behavior that tested the boundaries of the US government and its institutions

The Investigations and Threat Management Service (ITMS) searched workers’ offices in the evenings and looked through emails in search of possible foreign influence, according to the Post.

Per the Post report, the Biden administration paused all ITMS investigations in March and suspended its activities last month.

According to Forbes, Ross started a special purpose acquisition company in the Cayman Islands in January while still in his government role.

In 2017, CREW sought a probe into whether he fully divested from the Bank of Cyprus and questioned whether he “violated conflict of interest rules by participating in meetings and policy deliberations involving the United States and China trade matters related to assets he held or holds.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: The long hard fall of Mike Pence, James Sullivan, June 20, 2021. Few figures in politics have risen and fallen so quickly as Mike Pence, even after the disastrous scandals that plagued his congressional career and tenure as Indiana governor.

mike pence bites lip CustomHe was once hailed by right-wingers and even some political strategists as the man who single handedly saved Trump’s campaign with his ability to convince evangelicals to come out and vote for Donald Trump in droves, and once championed by Trumpers as the only worthy successor for his boss and the GOP in 2024, who lionized Pence’s knack for terrifying a number of progressives and moderates with his theocratic vision of America.

bill palmer report logo headerNow it seems like forever ago that people dreaded the possibility that Pence could become president if Trump never completed his first term of office – something that made people reluctant to call for the former guy’s impeachment for fear that they could get something much worse. By the end of Trump’s term, Pence was yet another enemy of the people – demonized by his own boss for his failure to overturn the election – which is something the vice president cannot actually do. Rather than officially denounce the former guy, Pence decided to keep that albatross and describe his relationship with Trump as “complicated.”

On Friday, we got a glimpse of just how well that played. The Faith & Freedom Coalition should’ve seemed like a fairly routine place for the former veep to make an appearance and get a standing ovation no matter what he said, but the problem is that Pence took the stage and couldn’t get a word out. Rather than thunderous applause, his speech was drowned out by people screaming “Traitor!” It’s bad news for anyone hoping to be president – and bad news for the GOP in general – since they’re clearly still not over the last election and the loss of their de facto leader. Let’s make sure it stays that way for at least another eight years.’

ny times logoNew York Times, Yang and Garcia Form Late Alliance in Mayor’s Race, Drawing Adams’s Ire, Emma G. Fitzsimmons and Jeffery C. Mays, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). Andrew Yang and Kathryn Garcia campaigned together on Saturday in a show of unity that their top rival, Eric Adams, sought to portray as racially motivated.

andrew yang twitterAndrew Yang and Kathryn Garcia, two leading candidates in the New York City mayor’s race, joined each other on the campaign trail on Saturday, a late alliance that the contest’s front-runner, Eric Adams, left, immediately sought to portray as an attempt to weaken the voice of minority voters.

eric adamsMr. Yang, right, and Ms. Garcia stopped short of an official cross-endorsement, with Mr. Yang urging voters to rank Ms. Garcia second on their ballots but Ms. Garcia refraining from doing the same for him. Still, the two distributed fliers at a rally in Queens that featured their photos and names side by side.

“Rank me No. 1 and then rank Kathryn Garcia No. 2,” Mr. Yang said.

The display of unity, just three days before the Democratic primary scheduled for Tuesday, appeared to be aimed at Mr. Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, who has been leading in the polls. Mr. Yang and Ms. Garcia are centrists in the top tier of candidates who are trying to stop Mr. Adams’s momentum, and theirs was the first major alliance under ranked-choice voting.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Brazil, Besieged by Covid, Now Faces a Severe Drought, Manuela Andreoni and Ernesto Londoño, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). Brazilians are paying more for electricity, dealing with the possibility of water rationing and expecting a destructive fire season in the Amazon.

Crops have shriveled up under searing heat. Immense water reservoirs, which generate the bulk of Brazil’s electricity, are growing alarmingly shallow. And the world’s largest waterfall system, Iguaçu Falls, has been reduced from a torrent to a trickle.

brazil flag wavingAs Brazil approaches 500,000 deaths from Covid-19, a worsening drought is imperiling the country’s ability to jump-start its beleaguered economy, and may set the stage for another intensely destructive fire season in the Amazon rainforest.

Several states in the country are facing the worst drought in at least 90 years. The crisis has led to higher electricity prices, the threat of water rationing and a disruption of crop growing cycles. Agriculture, an economic engine of the nation — which relies heavily on hydropower — is now at risk.

Experts said the arid landscape, which coincided with a rise in illegal deforestation over the past months in the Amazon rainforest, could lead to a devastating fire season. Enforcement of environmental regulations is weak in the rainforest, and fire season traditionally begins in July.

ebrahim raisi smile facebook

ny times logoNew York Times, Iranian Hard-Liner, Ebrahim Raisi, Is Headed to Presidency, Vivian Yee, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). Rivals conceded the election to Mr. Raisi, Iran’s judiciary chief, a close ally of the supreme leader who has a record of human rights violations.

Iran FlagIran’s ultraconservative judiciary chief, Ebrahim Raisi, looked certain to become the country’s next president on Saturday after an election that many voters skipped, seeing it as rigged in his favor.The semiofficial news agency Fars, citing the head of the election commission, said that with 90 percent of the vote counted Mr. Raisi had won 17 million of the 28 million votes tabulated. Two rival candidates have conceded, and President Hassan Rouhani congratulated Mr. Raisi for the victory on Saturday, the semiofficial Mehr news agency reported.

Huge swaths of moderate and liberal-leaning Iranians sat out the election, saying that the campaign had been engineered to put Mr. Raisi in office or that voting would make little difference. He had been expected to win handily despite late attempts by the more-moderate reformist camp to consolidate support behind their main candidate — Abdolnasser Hemmati, a former central bank governor.

There was no immediate word on voter turnout. But if 28 million votes amounted to 90 percent of the ballots cast, then only about 31 million people would have voted. That would be a significant decline from the last presidential election, in 2017.. The number of eligible voters is 59 million, according to Mehr, an official news agency.

 washington post logoWashington Post,, Death of Afghan commander in Taliban massacre highlights country’s struggles and fears, Pamela Constable, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). Col. Sohrab Azimi was among 23 commandos killed as the insurgent group seeks to make gains with the U.S. military leaving the fight.

Col. Sohrab Azimi, a field commander in Afghan special forces that often rescue troops and retake outposts from Taliban attacks, symbolized the country’s best hope to fend off an insurgent takeover as U.S. troops began to withdraw from the fight.

Azimi, 31, and his squad of 22 men were massacred Wednesday by Taliban forces while defending a base in northern Faryab province and waiting for reinforcements.

The loss unleashed a flood of emotions across social media — grief, anger and fear that even the nation’s most skilled defenders would be undercut by poor military leadership and the departure of Afghanistan’s major foreign military ally.

washington post logoWashington Post, Israel, Hamas revert to routine of provocation and reprisal, Steve Hendrix, June 20, 2021 (print ed.).  Nearly a month after a cease-fire ended 11 days of intense fighting, neither side is eager for a return to a full air war, according to military and political analysts, although the situation remains volatile.

washington post logoWashington Post, Israel struggles to restore vaccine swap deal after Palestinians reject doses for being too old, Shira Rubin, June 20, 2021. Israeli officials are working to revive talks to deliver vaccine doses to the Palestinian Authority after a deal last Friday was suddenly called off by P.A. officials who said that the vaccines were too close to their expiration date and do not meet their standards.

Some 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are still without sufficient vaccine supplies as shipments from other sources continue to lag even while their neighbor, Israel, is mostly returning to pre-pandemic life.

The announcement and abrupt cancellation of the deal has given rise to conspiracy theories and further damaged the low standing of the Palestinian Authority among its people.

Palestinians cancel vaccine deal with Israel, saying doses are too close to expiration date

On Friday, Israeli officials celebrated the finalization of the three-way deal between the two governments and Pfizer, by which Israel would ship more than 1 million doses of its vaccine to the Palestinian Authority, in exchange for a similar number of doses to be delivered back to Israel later this year.

Hours later, however, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh scrapped the deal, saying that the first shipment of some 100,000 Pfizer doses was due to expire at the end of the month and so too close to their expiration date.

At a news conference Friday evening, Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kaila said health officials who inspected the vaccines found they “did not meet standards and so we decided to return them.”

 

U.S. Religion and Media News 

pope francis eucharist

ny times logoNew York Times, Pope’s Silence Speaks Volumes on Controversial Communion Vote by U.S. Bishops, Jason Horowitz, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). The divergence of the conservative American church from Francis’ agenda is now so obvious as to be unremarkable, even when U.S. bishops ignore a Vatican warning.

Pope Francis (shown above) on Saturday put a founder of the European Union on the track to sainthood, told Roman deacons to take care of the poor and met with a top prelate who once defended him against wild allegations by the Vatican’s former ambassador to the United States.

But the most telling thing he did was stay quiet about the extraordinary vote by America’s Roman Catholic bishops to move ahead — despite the warning of the pope’s top doctrinal official — with the drafting of new guidance that conservatives hope will eventually deny communion to President Biden for his support of abortion rights.

The pope said nothing, church officials and experts said, because there is nothing else to say.

The divergence of the conservative American church from Francis’ agenda is now so apparent as to become unremarkable, and Vatican officials and experts said Saturday that the pope’s silence also underlined just how unsurprising the American vote, made public on Friday, was to the Vatican.

ed litton

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Will Christian America Withstand the Pull of QAnon? Peter Wehner (Mr. Wehner, right, who served in various roles in the three Republican administrations before the Trump administration, is a contributing peter wehnerOpinion writer. He attends McLean Presbyterian Church in McLean, Va.), June 19, 2021 (print ed.).

The scandals, jagged-edged judgmentalism and culture war mentality that have enveloped significant parts of American Christendom over the last several years, including the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, have conditioned many of us to expect the worst. Which is why the annual meeting of the convention this week was such a pleasant surprise.

The convention’s newly elected president, the Rev. Ed Litton, above, barely defeated the Rev. Mike Stone, below left, the choice of the denomination’s insurgent right. Mr. Litton, a soft-spoken pastor in Alabama who is very conservative theologically, has made racial reconciliation a hallmark of his ministry and has said that he will make institutional accountability and care for survivors of sexual abuse priorities during his two-year mike stone twitterterm.

“My goal is to build bridges and not walls,” Mr. Litton said at a news conference after his victory, pointedly setting himself apart from his main challenger. But those bridges won’t be easy to build.

Tensions in the convention are as high as they’ve been in decades; it is a deeply fractured denomination marked by fierce infighting. The Conservative Baptist Network, which Mr. Stone is part of, was formed in 2020 to stop what it considers the convention’s drift toward liberalism on matters of culture and theology.Ruth Graham and Elizabeth Dias of The Times describe the individuals in the Conservative Baptist Network as “part of an ultraconservative populist uprising of pastors” who want to “take the ship.” They are russell moore headshotzealous, inflamed, uncompromising and eager for a fight. They nearly succeeded this time. And they’re not going away anytime soon.

They view as a temporary setback the defeat of Mr. Stone, who came within an eyelash of winning even after allegations by the Rev. Russell Moore, right, the former head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm, that Mr. Stone blocked investigations of sexual abuse at Southern Baptist churches and engaged in a broader campaign of intimidation. (Mr. Stone has denied the charges.

joe biden jill biden church

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden finds himself caught in politics of Catholic Church, Matt Viser, June 19, 2021 (print ed.). Joe Biden (shown above at center foreground with First Lady Jill Biden) is arguably the most observant U.S. president in decades and the nation’s most prominent Catholic politician. He rarely misses Mass, he quotes scripture, and his faith has long been a core part of his identity. He’s also a liberal, and that’s stirring up the U.S. Catholic bishops fighting cultural battles within the church.

tom perriello resized2

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Some Catholic Leaders Deserve to Have Biden’s Ear, and Some Do Not, Tom Perriello, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). (Tom Perriello, shown above, the U.S. executive director of Open Society Foundations, is a former diplomat and member of Congress). The efforts by conservative bishops to arbitrate who receives communion reinforce why they so often stand alone.

The last time I took communion was in El Salvador, not long before the pandemic. As a Catholic, I enjoy exploring how Mass is experienced and enriched by different cultures. But I had a more urgent reason for searching out this ritual abroad. It provided my only chance to take the Eucharist, because I quietly decided 10 years ago that I could not in good conscience do so under the auspices of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

While the Catholic Church is far from infallible overseas, I frequently bear witness to Catholic leaders reminding me why my faith called me to a career promoting peace and justice. But back home, the persistent efforts by conservative bishops to arbitrate who among the faithful receives communion, while failing to practice the confession and penance they demand of others, reinforces why the American bishops so often stand alone.

When the bishops met on Friday, they could have voiced their support for today’s economic and racial justice movements. They could have backed Congressional efforts to guarantee dignity for children, parents, the aging and the workers who care for them. Instead, these men who benefit from a lifetime guarantee of housing, health care, and income, voted to back a measure that could be an early step toward limiting communion for President Biden — a man of compassion, empathy and lived but quiet faith.

This is not the first time the bishops have challenged a practicing Catholic who supports abortion rights. Former Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts was targeted by conservative bishops, some of whom even criticized Boston’s archbishop for presiding over former Senator Ted Kennedy’s funeral Mass.

I have worked on peace and justice issues at home and abroad, and I was always struck by the U.S. bishops’ myopic focus. But my experiences with them during my brief time in Congress shocked me. As a representative, I saw them cherry-pick theology to promote partisan ends, favoring a future Supreme Court over their congregations struggling to afford care.

At a time when the Church could model moral accountability for its decades of criminality and corruption, they opt instead for the partisan agenda of their largest donors and the misogyny inherent in their structure. They have opted to model the so-called “cafeteria Catholicism,” of which they accuse reformers. Their statements lack the moral clarity of their Salvadoran brethren in calling out, say, authoritarianism, or Big Tech’s role in spreading hate and lies, or elected officials who obstruct efforts to humanize our economy.

Growing up around Charlottesville, Va., I spent every Sunday hearing priests sermonize about the horrible atrocities committed against innocent civilians — even nuns — in Central America and about our own government’s complicity. We heard about extreme poverty, with a clear message that a failure to devote your life to addressing these injustices might lead to eternal damnation.

Catholic bishops in El Salvador, the country where Saint Óscar Romero was assassinated for standing with the poor and vulnerable, also met recently. They chose to take a courageous position against President Nayib Bukele’s move to consolidate power and create impunity for corruption. They also sent the Biden administration a clear message that “tough talk” on the border only helps the coyotes and gangs extort a higher price from those most at risk.

These are the true Catholic leaders, and the ones I hope serve as the better angels in President Biden’s ear.

I look forward to taking communion again when travel resumes and to being inspired every day by Catholic clergy and their lay colleagues whose faith inspires them to serve. I continue to fall short in my faith and feel guilty, as any Catholic would. I pray this week that the American bishops reflect on Pope Francis’s message that communion “is not the reward of saints, but the bread of sinners.”

Instead of asking whether they think President Biden is worthy of communion from them, I pray that they ask what they must do to rebuild the moral authority that would have them offering communion to any of us.

 

June 19

Top Headlines

 

American Vote Suppression, Nullification

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Law

  

U.S. Politics, Governance, Climate

 

World News

 

U.S. Religion and Media News

 

Top Stories 

ny times logoNew York Times, With Vaccination Goal in Doubt, Biden Warns of Variant’s Threat, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Noah Weiland, June 19, 2021 (print ed.). The U.S. is unlikely to partly vaccinate 70 percent of its adults by July 4. President Biden has ramped up his drive for Americans to get their shots.

joe biden black background resized serious fileWith the United States unlikely to reach his self-imposed deadline of having 70 percent of adults partly vaccinated against the coronavirus by July 4, President Biden on Friday stepped up his drive for Americans to get their shots, warning that those who decline risk becoming infected by a highly contagious and potentially deadly variant.

In an afternoon appearance at the White House, Mr. Biden avoided mentioning the 70 percent target that he set in early May and instead trumpeted a different milestone: 300 million shots in his first 150 days in office. But even as he hailed the vaccination campaign’s success, he sounded a somber note about the worrisome Delta variant, which is spreading in states with low vaccination rates.

“The best way to protect yourself against these variants is to get vaccinated,” the president declared.

His remarks came as his administration begins a final push to reach the July 4 goal over the next two weeks. Vice President Kamala Harris and Xavier Becerra, the health and human services secretary, were both on the road on Friday, trying to drum up enthusiasm for the vaccine. Ms. Harris went to Atlanta, where she noted that less than half of people in Fulton County, where the city is, had at least one shot, and Mr. Becerra to Colorado.

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

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

Daily Beast, New Docuseries Suggests Jeffrey Epstein Was a Government Informant, Nick Schager, June 19, 2021. The Plot Thickens. The Peacock docuseries “Epstein’s Shadow: Ghislaine Maxwell” traces the life of the late sex trafficker’s right-hand woman, with victims speaking out about the damage they wrought.

Ghislaine Maxwell has a name that many can’t pronounce and a backstory that’s shrouded in mystery. Epstein’s Shadow: Ghislaine Maxwell seeks to rectify the latter by investigating the life of Jeffrey Epstein’s notorious girlfriend and co-conspirator, who currently resides in a Brooklyn jail awaiting trial for a variety of sex-trafficking charges that were levied against her by the U.S. federal government daily beast logoin 2020. Informative and comprehensive, it paints a portrait of a woman who was groomed at an early age for her eventual role as a madame for her pedophilic partner—a cretin for whom she herself groomed countless underage girls for his perverse sexual pleasure.

Peacock’s three-part docuseries (premiering June 24) is a no-frills non-fiction affair, and all the better for it. A raft of interviews with acquaintances, authors, journalists, and more provide the narrative spine for an archival footage-heavy investigation into Maxwell’s saga, which has ensnared the many rich and powerful people whom she brought into Epstein’s orbit.

Those include, most infamously, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, whose damningly clumsy BBC interview receives some airplay here, as well as Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, and various celebrities—Elon Musk, Mick Jagger, Joan Rivers—whom she was photographed with at one gala event or another. Maxwell was the conduit between Epstein and high society’s cream of the crop, and though this overview presents no new bombshells about her A-list relationships, her intimate ties to dignitaries, politicians, artists, and other notable names is made definitively clear.

Those links are central to Maxwell’s fate, since it’s apparent she and Epstein made secret surveillance videos (and photographs) of visitors to their NYC townhouse home—meaning they potentially have blackmail material on a host of global big shots.

alexander acosta o cropped CustomThese incriminating recordings have been fingered as the reason Epstein received a “sweetheart deal” from U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida (and Secretary of Labor under Trump) Alexander Acosta, right, in 2008, when the feds had Epstein dead-to-rights on sex-trafficking crimes, and yet offered him a plea agreement that put him behind bars for 15 months—he could even come and go during the day from prison—and provided immunity to anyone related to his infractions, at least in Palm Beach. It’s also been suggested that they’re the cause of his much-debated suicide; as the conspiracy theory goes, he may have been murdered by forces that wanted to keep what he knew—and had—from seeing the light of day.

ICE logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion : Remittances aren’t talked about much in discussions of northern migration. They should be, Colbert I. King, right, June 19, 2021 (print ed.). Dry sounding “workers’ remittances” represent money that migrants colbert king twitterfrom Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador send back home to their families and communities. By any measure, remittances have more transformative economic power in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala than all U.S. aid contributions to those countries combined.

A little context.

Some two-thirds of all emigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean reside in the United States, making this country the largest — and, given our economy and currency, the most reliable — source of remittances for the region. Workers’ remittances — money sent by people working mostly in low-paid jobs in housekeeping, construction, food preparation, etc. — are a crucial source of investment and external financing for the Northern Triangle

washington post logoWashington Post, Heat wave raises fears western U.S. states could face severe fire season, Derek Hawkins and David Suggs, June 19, 2021 (print ed.) The punishing heat wave that baked the western United States this week has intensified fears that the region is heading into another severe wildfire season, pressuring emergency officials and residents still recovering from last year’s historic blazes once again to prepare for the worst.

Record high temperatures and a worsening drought have parched vast tracts of brush, timber and grasses, leaving an abundance of potential fuels for the flames to consume. The vegetation has dried out faster than usual in some places after an early snow melt and months with little precipitation. The triple-digit heat this week has only compounded the problem.

“We’re going into fire season with fuels that are already much drier than we’d expect at this time of year,” said Lenya N. Quinn-Davidson, a fire adviser with the University of California Cooperative Extension. “Everything is kind of primed. If we get those ignitions, everything will be ready to burn easily.

portland skyline w

washington post logoWashington Post, Entire Portland police crowd-control unit quits over fellow officer’s assault charge, Max Hauptman, June 19, 2021 (print ed.). All of the approximately 50 members of a Portland, Ore., police crowd-control unit resigned from their assignment on Wednesday, citing a lack of support from city officials during a year that has seen frequent clashes between protesters and law enforcement.

The mass resignation came one day after a grand jury charged Officer Corey Budworth with one count of assault in the fourth degree, a misdemeanor offense that carries up to a one-year jail sentence, for his actions during an Aug. 18 protest in downtown Portland.

Budworth, who was placed on administrative leave by the department on Tuesday, was filmed repeatedly striking a woman in the head with a baton and knocking her to the ground. There have been few criminal cases filed against police officers for excessive use of force at protests, and the Multnomah County indictment marks the first time a member of the Portland Police Department will face prosecution for such actions.

 

American Vote Suppression, Nullification

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: The administrators of U.S. democracy are under attack, Editorial Board, June 19, 2021 (print ed.). This is an underappreciated threat to U.S. democracy.

A report from New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice this week shows that one-third of election officials feel unsafe, with most saying that social media has made their professions more dangerous. Election workers up and down the ranks have endured death threats, racial slurs and menacing protests outside their homes. One website displayed a state election director’s home address and a photo with crosshairs over it along with a warning: “Your days are numbered.”

katie hobbs headshotThese threats continue long after the height of the 2020 vote dispute: In May, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, right, tweeted, “Earlier today a man called my office saying I deserve to die and wanting to know ‘what she is wearing so she’ll be easy to get.’

It was one of at least three such threats today. Then a man who I’ve never seen before chased me and my staffer outside of our office.” It is only a matter of time before election officials end up hurt — or worse. Even if the point is merely to intimidate, it is toxic for democracy if voting administrators have to fear what one side may do to them if it loses.

 washington post logoWashington Post, McConnell vows to block voting legislation, spurning Manchin’s compromise offer, Mike DeBonis and Vanessa Williams, June 18, 2021 (print ed.). Senate Republicans vowed Thursday to block voting legislation from advancing later this month, rejecting a key Democratic senator’s compromise offer that adopted some GOP ideas in a bid to break partisan gridlock on the issue.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosThe pledge from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) all but guarantees that Republicans will filibuster a sweeping voting bill that Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) is sending to the floor Tuesday.

Mitchell_McConnellParts of the bill are meant to overrule provisions contained in a host of GOP-passed state laws that have placed restrictions on early voting, mail-in voting, ballot drop boxes and other policies that make it easier to cast a ballot, in response to former president Donald Trump’s false claims of a stolen 2020 presidential election.

“I’ve taken a look at all the new state laws — none of them are designed to suppress the vote,” McConnell, left, said Thursday. “There is no rational basis for the federal government to take over all of American elections.”

The only remaining question is whether all 50 Democratic senators will unite in support of debating the bill, known as the For the People Act, and how they will react once Republicans block the legislation.

Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), above, has long withheld support for the sprawling bill, which contains dozens of provisions for disparate voting, campaign finance and elections, citing a lack of GOP support. But this week he circulated a three-page memo outlining potential changes that could win his support, including adopting some traditional Republican priorities such as mandating that voters provide identification and giving state and local elections officials a free hand to maintain their voter rolls.

Manchin outlines demands on voting legislation, creating an opening for potential Democratic compromise

After huddling with his fellow Democratic senators Thursday, Manchin suggested that he would join with them to at least start debating the bill next week. “I would think we all would want to do that,” he said. “You could air your differences that you might have or what your concerns are or what your thoughts may be.”

us senate logoBut McConnell said flatly Wednesday that his party would not be joining in.

“All Republicans, I think, will oppose that . . . if that were to be surfaced on the floor,” he said.

McConnell’s remarks came not long after the Manchin proposal won a notable endorsement from Democratic voting-rights activist Stacey Abrams, who said in a morning CNN appearance that she could “absolutely” support his proposal and called it a “first and important step to preserving our democracy.”

Other Democrats also spoke positively about Manchin’s proposal — and several senators said they could be willing to accept a voter ID mandate as part of a broader package.

raphael warnock“I don’t know anybody who believes that people shouldn’t have to prove that they are who they say they are,” said Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D-Ga.), right, a close ally of Abrams. “But what has happened over the years is people have played with common sense identification and put into place restrictive measures intended not to preserve the integrity of the outcome, but to select certain voters. That’s what I oppose.”

Abrams, a former Georgia state legislative leader and gubernatorial candidate, is an influential figure among Democrats, who credit her efforts with helping deliver Georgia for President Biden in 2020. But she is a reviled figure among the Republican voter base, and McConnell and other GOP leaders immediately used her words of support to cast the Manchin proposal as unacceptable.

In an interview Thursday, Abrams said she did not agree with every piece of Manchin’s proposal but said it “signaled a willingness to engage and to have conversations” about voting legislation. “But this is a process,” she added, “which means others are going to also have a say.”

The most important message Manchin’s engagement has sent, Abrams said, is that the effort to pass federal voting rights legislation still has momentum. And she said the GOP efforts to weaponize her support for the new talks among Democrats did not change the political fundamentals of the partisan clash.

“If I disagreed with it, they were going to oppose it. If I agreed with it, they were going to oppose it,” she said. “There’s nothing in access to the right to vote that will appease Mitch McConnell.”

McConnell gathered about a dozen Republican senators to stand with him in front of reporters Thursday as he lambasted the Democratic voting rights efforts, a show of force that reflected his own long-standing distaste for legislation that puts federal fetters on campaigns and elections as well as the depth of support he has within his caucus for his hard-line approach.

That approach is backstopped by the Senate filibuster — the 60-vote supermajority rule that gives a united minority an effective veto — and the knowledge that Manchin and several other Democratic senators do not currently support changing that rule.

As he rolled out his compromise proposal Wednesday, Manchin simultaneously made clear that he remains unwilling to change Senate rules to pass major legislation with a simple majority. On Thursday, he said he was still hopeful that some Republicans could be convinced to support some type of elections bill.

“McConnell has the right to do whatever he thinks he can do,” Manchin told reporters. “I would hope that there’s enough good Republicans who understand the bedrock of our society is having an accessible, open, fair and secure election.”

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, High Hopes for Johnson & Johnson’s Covid Vaccine Have Fizzled, Noah Weiland, June 19, 2021 (print ed). The “one and done” Janssen vaccine has made up less than 4 percent of the U.S.’s total administered doses so far. Millions of vials will soon expire. The vaccine’s appeal has dropped after several controversies, and experts now say that the U.S. has missed a big opportunity to tackle health disparities.

When Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose coronavirus vaccine was authorized for emergency use in late February, ​it was seen as a breakthrough for reaching vulnerable and isolated Americans, a crucial alternative to vaccines that require two shots weeks apart and fussier storage. It was soon popular on college campuses, in door-to-door campaigns and with harder-to-reach communities that often struggle with access to health care.

johnson johnson logoBut with only 11.8 million doses administered in the United States so far — less than 4 percent of the total — the “one and done” vaccine has fallen flat. States have warned for weeks that they may not find recipients for millions of doses that will soon expire, partly because the vaccine’s appeal dropped after it was linked to a rare but serious blood-clotting disorder and injections were paused for 10 days in April.

The vaccine took another hit last week, when regulators told Johnson & Johnson that it should throw out tens of millions of additional doses produced at a plant in Baltimore because they might be contaminated. The diminished supply and enthusiasm for the shot mean that its role in the United States is fading fast, even though millions of Americans have yet to be vaccinated.

“It’s just not what I think anybody would have hoped it would be when it came out,” said Dave Baden, the chief financial officer of the Oregon Health Authority.

Health officials in a number of other states presented a similarly discouraging picture. The pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, they said, effectively kicked it aside for good; only about 3.5 million doses have been used since the pause was lifted on April 23. Kim Deti, a spokeswoman for the Wyoming Health Department, said the graph of uptake in her state told the vaccine’s story: a significant climb in the early weeks of its rollout, followed by a plateau that began around the pause.

washington post logoWashington Post, 175.9 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 19, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 147.8 million people (44.5 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 53 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

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

World Cases: 178,668,986, Deaths: 3,868,508
U.S. Cases:     34,393,269, Deaths:    616,920
India Cases:    29,823,546, Deaths:    385,167
Brazil Cases:   17,802,176, Deaths:    498,621

ny times logoeuropean union logo rectangleNew York Times, E.U. Recommends Opening to Americans to Rescue the Summer, Monika Pronczuk, June 18, 2021. The European Union recommended its 27 member nations lift a ban on nonessential travel from the United States, but each country will decide for itself. 

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Law 

ny times logoNew York Times, Los Angeles Just Elected a Liberal D.A. He’s Already Facing a Recall Effort, Tim Arango, June 19, 2021. George Gascón is facing an intense backlash for enacting the sorts of policies demanded by protesters after the killing of George Floyd.

From inside the walls of Folsom State Prison, the two inmates, one a convicted murderer, clinked their cups of prison moonshine in a toast to the new district attorney of Los Angeles, George Gascón.

A video of the celebration was released earlier this year by Mr. Gascón’s opponents — and there are many — who used it to attack what is perhaps the most far-reaching plank of his progressive agenda: the review of nearly 20,000 old prison sentences, many for violent crimes like murder, for possible early releases.

Mr. Gascón, a Democrat, has brushed off the video as nothing more than a Willie Horton-style attack by get-tough-on-crime proponents that “plays well on Fox News.” But he doesn’t shy away from his belief that even those convicted of violent crimes deserve a chance at redemption.

“There’s no way we can get to meaningful prison reduction in this country without looking at more serious crimes,” Mr. Gascón, who also supports ending cash bail and eliminating the prosecution of juveniles as adults, said in an interview. “The public stories you hear are the really scary stuff. You’re talking about the violent sexual predator. You’re talking about some sadistic murderer. The reality is those are really a small number of the prison population and violent crime.”

But the prospect of convicted murderers getting out early, or getting lighter sentences than they would have received in a previous era, has fueled an effort to force a recall election next year and remove Mr. Gascón from office. More than a thousand volunteers, as well as dozens of paid workers, are collecting signatures for the recall at gun stores, bail bonds offices, and even outside Mr. Gascón’s home.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Disorder and Chaos’ in N.Y.C. Jails as Pandemic Recedes, Jan Ransom, June 19, 2021. Six people have died, a murder suspect was accidentally released and a captain was charged with homicide. The future of Rikers Island remains unclear.

Violence on Rikers Island is surging. Exhausted guards are working triple shifts. And staffing shortages have triggered lockdowns at some of the jail’s largest facilities.

More than a year after the coronavirus sickened thousands in New York City’s jail system, the Department of Correction has plunged further into crisis as complaints of severe mismanagement, persistent violence and deaths of incarcerated people continue to mount.

Correction officers and incarcerated people alike have described a tumultuous first half of the year: Six detainees have died, including at least two by suicide, compared with seven through all of 2020. Guards have been forced to work triple and occasionally quadruple shifts, staying on duty for 24 hours or longer, to make up for staffing shortages.

Last month, a report by a federal monitor appointed to oversee the troubled jails described a system in a state of disorder, and expressed grave concern about the agency’s ability to change course.

ny times logoNew York Times, Man Pleads Guilty to Threatening to Lynch 2 Members of Congress, Michael Levenson, June 19, 2021 (print ed.). Kenneth R. Hubert, of Marionville, Mo., had threatened Representatives Emanuel Cleaver II after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and Steve Cohen in 2019, prosecutors said.

kenneth hubertA Missouri man pleaded guilty on Thursday to charges that he had threatened to lynch a Black congressman the day after the Jan. 6 siege at the U.S. Capitol and a Jewish congressman in 2019, court records show.

The man, Kenneth R. Hubert, right, 63, Marionville, Mo., was arrested in March after, prosecutors said, he had directed the threats at Representatives Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri and Steve Cohen of Tennessee, both Democrats.

According to a plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Mr. Hubert pleaded guilty to two counts of threatening to assault a United States steve cohenofficial. Each count carries a maximum penalty of six years in prison, the agreement states. It was unclear whether a sentencing date had been set.

Prosecutors, Mr. Hubert’s lawyer and representatives for Mr. Cleaver and Mr. Cohen did not immediately respond to messages on Friday.

In the plea agreement, Mr. Hubert acknowledged that on May 6, 2019, he had called the Washington office of Mr. Cohen, who is Jewish, and told a staff member that he had “a noose with the congressman’s name on it” and planned to “put a noose around his neck” and drag him behind his pickup truck.

Three days later, F.B.I. agents went to Mr. Hubert’s home, where he admitted making the call and said he had done so because he was offended by a comment that Mr. Cohen had made about Donald J. Trump, who was president, the agreement states.

On Jan. 7, a day after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, Mr. Hubert called Mr. Cleaver’s office in Independence, Mo., and, according to the plea agreement, left a voice mail message in which he called Mr. Cleaver, who is Black, a racial slur, and said, “How about a noose around his neck?”

After F.B.I. agents went to Mr. Hubert’s home on Jan. 19, he admitted that he had called Mr. Cleaver’s office, acknowledged that his message was threatening and said he had been upset about a comment that Mr. Cleaver had made in the House of Representatives, the agreement states.

Prosecutors said Mr. Hubert had been upset after Mr. Cleaver had ended the opening prayer on the first day of Congress by saying, “Amen and A-woman.”

Mr. Hubert had a history of making threatening and hostile phone calls, according to prosecutors.

On the morning of Jan. 6, they said, he called the Missouri Democratic Party and left a message saying the party should “stay in hiding. Steal the election, we got something for you.” In a second voice mail later that day, he pointed to the siege at the Capitol and said, “It’s coming your way next,” prosecutors said.

Mr. Hubert had also been investigated by law enforcement officials after he left a hostile message for a federal judge in Montana in 2014 in response to a ruling on same-sex marriage, according to prosecutors. Mr. Hubert had also called the Council on American-Islamic Relations in St. Louis in 2016 and made disparaging and derogatory comments, prosecutors said.

At a hearing in March, Mr. Hubert’s lawyer, David Mercer, said his client had served in the military, had spent most of his life in southern Missouri and had “lived a completely law-abiding life,” The Kansas City Star reported. 

 

chris doworth left matt gaetz joel greenberg resized facebook

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL, at center, former Florida State Rep. Chris Dorworth, left, then of the Ballard Partners lobbying firm, and former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, at right, posed for the photograph above outside the White House in June of 2019.

Palmer Report, Opinion:  The Matt Gaetz scandal is blowing up in Republicans’ faces, Bill Palmer, right, June 19, 2021. Once the Feds gained two cooperating witnesses against Matt Gaetz last month, it was bill palmerpretty clear that he was headed for likely criminal indictment. Earlier today the Feds seemingly tipped off that Gaetz will be indicted and arrested within weeks. This is ugly news for Republicans – and not just the specific Central Florida Republicans who appear to be going down with him.

Because Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy, left, is a tepid idiot who usually just defers to whatever fantasy Donald Trump would like to see play out, McCarthy missed the chance to preemptively make some kind of move to distance his party from Matt Gaetz. There was a window of opportunity where McCarthy could have had the House GOP remove Kevin McCarthyGaetz from committees, so that once Gaetz was indicted, the Republicans could argue that they took action against Gaetz before anyone else did.

bill palmer report logo headerBut now it’s realistically too late for McCarthy and the House GOP to get out ahead of the Gaetz scandal. Congressman Ted Lieu highlighted the trouble that House Republicans are now facing in a tweet today: “Dear Kevin McCarthy: You and your GOP caucus should stop embracing Rep Matt Gaetz and remove him from the Judiciary Committee immediately. Gaetz should not be sitting on the Committee that has oversight over the DOJ that is investigating him for alleged sex crimes & other crimes.”

Lieu’s tweet is a preview of what the Democratic Party will end up saying about every House Republican who faces reelection in 2022: they knew what Matt Gaetz was all along, so why did they try to protect him instead of doing the right thing? At this point Kevin McCarthy is a deer in the headlights – and House Republicans are stuck right there with him.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance 

llewellyn king photo logo

White House Chronicle, Commentary: The Great Western Drought Will Affect Us All, Llewellyn King, above, June 19, 2021. The severe drought gripping the Western states looks set to reach into all lives in the nation and into every pocket.

The unbearable heat for those living in the West, with record-high temperatures stretching from Wyoming to the Mexican border and from the Pacific to the Mississippi, will impact the rest of the country as well.

Scientists have classified this monstrous baking as a megadrought. There hasn’t been regular rain or mountain snow in the West for more than 20 years.

To call it a scorcher is to underestimate a catastrophe that has the possibility of reaching near-biblical proportions. This is big and there is no quick fix. None.

The drought means epic disruptions, merciless rearrangement.

First, of course, there is no water, which means much economic activity may slow or cease. Farmers won’t be able to grow crops or raise livestock. Food prices that are already high from the pandemic’s disruptions will go even higher.

The electricity supply will be strained and may be curtailed because of reduced hydroelectric production. The 13 Western states get more than 22 percent of their electricity from hydropower dams, located mostly in Washington, according to the National Hydropower Association.

In today’s world, farmers depend on electricity to water crops and livestock, milk cows, dry grain, and freeze produce.

The first measurable disruption of the summer will be from breakdowns in the California food supply chain. Prices in supermarkets will reflect the impact of the drought on California, which acts as the nation’s truck farm. If you eat it, it grows in California, but only when there is water for irrigation.

The rivers of the West are running dry. The reserves of water in the great dams on the major rivers, especially the Columbia and the Colorado, which act as the lifelines of much of the West, are way below normal.

Manufactured goods from Western states will be affected if power shortages are extended and widespread. Wildfires will abound and have already started their annual scourge.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Brazil, Besieged by Covid, Now Faces a Severe Drought, Manuela Andreoni and Ernesto Londoño, June 19, 2021. Brazilians are paying more for electricity, dealing with the possibility of water rationing and expecting a destructive fire season in the Amazon.

Crops have shriveled up under searing heat. Immense water reservoirs, which generate the bulk of Brazil’s electricity, are growing alarmingly shallow. And the world’s largest waterfall system, Iguaçu Falls, has been reduced from a torrent to a trickle.

brazil flag wavingAs Brazil approaches 500,000 deaths from Covid-19, a worsening drought is imperiling the country’s ability to jump-start its beleaguered economy, and may set the stage for another intensely destructive fire season in the Amazon rainforest.

Several states in the country are facing the worst drought in at least 90 years. The crisis has led to higher electricity prices, the threat of water rationing and a disruption of crop growing cycles. Agriculture, an economic engine of the nation — which relies heavily on hydropower — is now at risk.

Experts said the arid landscape, which coincided with a rise in illegal deforestation over the past months in the Amazon rainforest, could lead to a devastating fire season. Enforcement of environmental regulations is weak in the rainforest, and fire season traditionally begins in July.

ebrahim raisi smile facebook

ny times logoNew York Times, Iranian Hard-Liner, Ebrahim Raisi, Is Headed to Presidency, Vivian Yee, June 19, 2021. Rivals conceded the election to Mr. Raisi, Iran’s judiciary chief, a close ally of the supreme leader who has a record of human rights violations.

Iran FlagIran’s ultraconservative judiciary chief, Ebrahim Raisi, looked certain to become the country’s next president on Saturday after an election that many voters skipped, seeing it as rigged in his favor.The semiofficial news agency Fars, citing the head of the election commission, said that with 90 percent of the vote counted Mr. Raisi had won 17 million of the 28 million votes tabulated. Two rival candidates have conceded, and President Hassan Rouhani congratulated Mr. Raisi for the victory on Saturday, the semiofficial Mehr news agency reported.

Huge swaths of moderate and liberal-leaning Iranians sat out the election, saying that the campaign had been engineered to put Mr. Raisi in office or that voting would make little difference. He had been expected to win handily despite late attempts by the more-moderate reformist camp to consolidate support behind their main candidate — Abdolnasser Hemmati, a former central bank governor.

There was no immediate word on voter turnout. But if 28 million votes amounted to 90 percent of the ballots cast, then only about 31 million people would have voted. That would be a significant decline from the last presidential election, in 2017.. The number of eligible voters is 59 million, according to Mehr, an official news agency.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Power of Money: How Autocrats Use London to Strike Foes Worldwide, Andrew Higgins, Jane Bradley, Isobel Koshiw and Franz Wild, June 19, 2021 (print ed.). English courtrooms are a battleground — and a source of strong weapons — in disputes between the tycoons and the politicians of the post-Soviet world.

 

U.S. Religion and Media News 

ed litton

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Will Christian America Withstand the Pull of QAnon? Peter Wehner (Mr. Wehner, right, who served in various roles in the three Republican administrations before the Trump administration, is a contributing peter wehnerOpinion writer. He attends McLean Presbyterian Church in McLean, Va.), June 19, 2021 (print ed.).

The scandals, jagged-edged judgmentalism and culture war mentality that have enveloped significant parts of American Christendom over the last several years, including the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, have conditioned many of us to expect the worst. Which is why the annual meeting of the convention this week was such a pleasant surprise.

The convention’s newly elected president, the Rev. Ed Litton, above, barely defeated the Rev. Mike Stone, below left, the choice of the denomination’s insurgent right. Mr. Litton, a soft-spoken pastor in Alabama who is very conservative theologically, has made racial reconciliation a hallmark of his ministry and has said that he will make institutional accountability and care for survivors of sexual abuse priorities during his two-year mike stone twitterterm.

“My goal is to build bridges and not walls,” Mr. Litton said at a news conference after his victory, pointedly setting himself apart from his main challenger. But those bridges won’t be easy to build.

Tensions in the convention are as high as they’ve been in decades; it is a deeply fractured denomination marked by fierce infighting. The Conservative Baptist Network, which Mr. Stone is part of, was formed in 2020 to stop what it considers the convention’s drift toward liberalism on matters of culture and theology.Ruth Graham and Elizabeth Dias of The Times describe the individuals in the Conservative Baptist Network as “part of an ultraconservative populist uprising of pastors” who want to “take the ship.” They are russell moore headshotzealous, inflamed, uncompromising and eager for a fight. They nearly succeeded this time. And they’re not going away anytime soon.

They view as a temporary setback the defeat of Mr. Stone, who came within an eyelash of winning even after allegations by the Rev. Russell Moore, right, the former head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm, that Mr. Stone blocked investigations of sexual abuse at Southern Baptist churches and engaged in a broader campaign of intimidation. (Mr. Stone has denied the charges.

washington post logoWashington Post, Catholic bishops back document that could limit Communion for Biden, Michelle Boorstein, June 19, 2021 (print ed.). The presidency of the country’s second Catholic president is revealing deep divisions among U.S. bishops. The vote to create guidelines on the meaning of communion could be an early step toward limiting the serving of the eucharist to politicians who support abortion rights.

Catholic bishops on Friday voted to create guidelines on the meaning of Communion, a move that could be an early step toward limiting the serving of the Eucharist to President Biden and other politicians who support abortion rights.

The vote came after a 3½-hour-long emotional discussion Thursday at the annual spring meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Multiple bishops clashed over how, or if, they should single out the church’s teaching on abortion.

The vote on whether to create a draft document about the meaning of the Eucharist, the bread-and-wine rite at the heart of Communion, needed a simple majority. The measure passed 168 to 55, with six abstentions.

Biden’s presidency, the second Catholic to ever hold the position in the nation’s history, is revealing deep divisions among U.S. bishops, and one after another appeared Thursday at their annual meeting to declare their fraternity is at a crossroads..

Embedded in the organization’s agenda this week were explosive, profound differences about theology, pastoring, human nature and a political backdrop that set off a rare public show of division among the bishops . One bishop said the men were meeting at a time of “historic opportunity.” Another said he could not recall a moment like this in 30 years. Yet another said the bishops’ discussion was the most robust discussion in a decade.

Each side said the other was jeopardizing the church’s reputation.

joe biden jill biden church

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden finds himself caught in politics of Catholic Church, Matt Viser, June 19, 2021 (print ed.). Joe Biden (shown above at center foreground with First Lady Jill Biden) is arguably the most observant U.S. president in decades and the nation’s most prominent Catholic politician. He rarely misses Mass, he quotes scripture, and his faith has long been a core part of his identity. He’s also a liberal, and that’s stirring up the U.S. Catholic bishops fighting cultural battles within the church.

 

christina bobb resized

washington post logoWashington Post, One America News is the face of the GOP-led Arizona election audit. Its reporter is also helping pay for it, Paul Farhi and Elahe Izadi, June 19, 2021 (print ed.). The right-wing channel’s Christina Bobb, above, is simultaneously covering, promoting and fundraising for the review of the 2020 election results.

One America News correspondent Christina Bobb had some exciting news to share from the scene of the Arizona GOP-led audit of the 2020 presidential vote in Maricopa County: Republican lawmakers from another battleground state had just paid a visit to see if they might replicate it back home.

“If they like what they see, [they’ll] take it back to Pennsylvania,” she told her audience this month from the floor of a massive Phoenix arena where more than 2 million ballots are being removed from boxes and examined by hand.

“I think we can expect to see a lot more key decision-makers coming out to take a look,” she added, hopefully.

Bobb didn’t mention in her report that she had helped raise money to pay for those lawmakers to visit. Nor that she worked with Arizona Republicans last year to find some of the initial, much-disputed evidence they used to justify the audit.

 

June 18

Top Headlines

 

Jan. 6 U.S. Pro-Trump Insurrection

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Law

  

U.S. Politics, Governance, Climate

 

World News

 

Religion and Media News

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Juneteenth holiday marking end of slavery becomes law after decades of inaction, Seung Min Kim, June 18, 2021 (print ed.). In signing the measure — which resulted in an joe biden twitterunexpected day off Friday for federal workers — President Biden called for more aggressive action on voting access and other racial equity measures.

Because June 19 falls on a Saturday this year, most federal employees will get this Friday off.

washington post logoWashington Post, House votes to repeal 2002 authorization for military force with strong bipartisan support, White House endorsement, Karoun Demirjian, June 17, 2021. The House voted Thursday to repeal a 19-year-old military authorization that Congress passed to give legal backing to the Iraq War with the support of Democrats, Republicans and the White House — an unprecedented coalition to end post-9/11 authorities to engage in hostilities that critics argue are outdated.

The 268-to-161 vote reflects growing bipartisan support for the repeal effort and tees up the legislation for the Senate, where Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) this week declared his support for the measure and his intention to bring it to the floor for a vote sometime this year.

“Today’s historic vote is a turning point,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory W. Meeks (D-N.Y.) said on the floor just before the vote. “I look forward to Congress no longer taking a back seat on some of the most consequential decisions our nation can make.

 

joe manchin smile palmer

washington post logoWashington Post, McConnell vows to block voting legislation, spurning Manchin’s compromise offer, Mike DeBonis and Vanessa Williams, June 18, 2021 (print ed.). Senate Republicans vowed Thursday to block voting legislation from advancing later this month, rejecting a key Democratic senator’s compromise offer that adopted some GOP ideas in a bid to break partisan gridlock on the issue.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosThe pledge from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) all but guarantees that Republicans will filibuster a sweeping voting bill that Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) is sending to the floor Tuesday.

Mitchell_McConnellParts of the bill are meant to overrule provisions contained in a host of GOP-passed state laws that have placed restrictions on early voting, mail-in voting, ballot drop boxes and other policies that make it easier to cast a ballot, in response to former president Donald Trump’s false claims of a stolen 2020 presidential election.

“I’ve taken a look at all the new state laws — none of them are designed to suppress the vote,” McConnell, left, said Thursday. “There is no rational basis for the federal government to take over all of American elections.”

The only remaining question is whether all 50 Democratic senators will unite in support of debating the bill, known as the For the People Act, and how they will react once Republicans block the legislation.

Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), above, has long withheld support for the sprawling bill, which contains dozens of provisions for disparate voting, campaign finance and elections, citing a lack of GOP support. But this week he circulated a three-page memo outlining potential changes that could win his support, including adopting some traditional Republican priorities such as mandating that voters provide identification and giving state and local elections officials a free hand to maintain their voter rolls.

Manchin outlines demands on voting legislation, creating an opening for potential Democratic compromise

After huddling with his fellow Democratic senators Thursday, Manchin suggested that he would join with them to at least start debating the bill next week. “I would think we all would want to do that,” he said. “You could air your differences that you might have or what your concerns are or what your thoughts may be.”

us senate logoBut McConnell said flatly Wednesday that his party would not be joining in.

“All Republicans, I think, will oppose that . . . if that were to be surfaced on the floor,” he said.

McConnell’s remarks came not long after the Manchin proposal won a notable endorsement from Democratic voting-rights activist Stacey Abrams, who said in a morning CNN appearance that she could “absolutely” support his proposal and called it a “first and important step to preserving our democracy.”

Other Democrats also spoke positively about Manchin’s proposal — and several senators said they could be willing to accept a voter ID mandate as part of a broader package.

raphael warnock“I don’t know anybody who believes that people shouldn’t have to prove that they are who they say they are,” said Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D-Ga.), right, a close ally of Abrams. “But what has happened over the years is people have played with common sense identification and put into place restrictive measures intended not to preserve the integrity of the outcome, but to select certain voters. That’s what I oppose.”

Abrams, a former Georgia state legislative leader and gubernatorial candidate, is an influential figure among Democrats, who credit her efforts with helping deliver Georgia for President Biden in 2020. But she is a reviled figure among the Republican voter base, and McConnell and other GOP leaders immediately used her words of support to cast the Manchin proposal as unacceptable.

In an interview Thursday, Abrams said she did not agree with every piece of Manchin’s proposal but said it “signaled a willingness to engage and to have conversations” about voting legislation. “But this is a process,” she added, “which means others are going to also have a say.”

The most important message Manchin’s engagement has sent, Abrams said, is that the effort to pass federal voting rights legislation still has momentum. And she said the GOP efforts to weaponize her support for the new talks among Democrats did not change the political fundamentals of the partisan clash.

“If I disagreed with it, they were going to oppose it. If I agreed with it, they were going to oppose it,” she said. “There’s nothing in access to the right to vote that will appease Mitch McConnell.”

McConnell gathered about a dozen Republican senators to stand with him in front of reporters Thursday as he lambasted the Democratic voting rights efforts, a show of force that reflected his own long-standing distaste for legislation that puts federal fetters on campaigns and elections as well as the depth of support he has within his caucus for his hard-line approach.

That approach is backstopped by the Senate filibuster — the 60-vote supermajority rule that gives a united minority an effective veto — and the knowledge that Manchin and several other Democratic senators do not currently support changing that rule.

As he rolled out his compromise proposal Wednesday, Manchin simultaneously made clear that he remains unwilling to change Senate rules to pass major legislation with a simple majority. On Thursday, he said he was still hopeful that some Republicans could be convinced to support some type of elections bill.

“McConnell has the right to do whatever he thinks he can do,” Manchin told reporters. “I would hope that there’s enough good Republicans who understand the bedrock of our society is having an accessible, open, fair and secure election.”

 

Jan. 6 Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection 

joe oltmann resized amazon.com via proof

Proof via Substack, The Troubling Associations of Insurrection-Week Trump “Command Center” Participant Joe Oltmann—the Man Who Tried to Convince the State Department to Overturn the 2020 seth abramson graphicElection on Insurrection Day, Seth Abramson, left, June 17-18, 2021. From Eric Trump to the State Department, paramilitaries to pro-Trump rappers, Trump lawyers to Stop the Steal, this seth abramson proof logoportrait of the ties of an invitee to an Insurrection Week “war room” is telling. 

On March 13, 2020, a man named Joe Otto (shown above) took to his podcast, Conservative Daily, to call COVID-19 a “fake story” and assure his listeners that the “real pandemic” was the “mental midget-ness” of a society that—he said—celebrates the idea that “everyone is a victim.”

Joe Otto—real name Joe Oltmann—has now spent the last year identifying himself as the victim of everyone from local Colorado politicians to “antifa journalists”, from mask mandates to the author of Proof, who Oltmann (communicating under his real name) has accused of lying about him in this Proof article, thereafter threatening to “sue [me]…out of existence.”

 Trump attorney and former Justice Department Deputy Attorney Gen. Rudy Giuliani, his colleague and significant other Maria Ryan, and One America Network White House correspondent Christina Bogbb are shown working in a Willard Hotel

Trump attorney and former Justice Department Deputy Attorney Gen. Rudy Giuliani, his colleague and significant other Maria Ryan, and One America Network White House correspondent Christina Bogbb are shown working in a Willard Hotel “War Room” near almost across the street from White House grounds with fellow Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021 in a photo by a fellow Trump supporter.

Proof via Substack, Investigation: We Now Know What the Willard Hotel War Room Was For—and You’re Not Going to Believe It, Seth Abramson, June 16-17-2021. The revelation of the seventh person in seth abramson graphicTrump’s Willard Hotel war room leads to the strangest discovery of the January 6 investigation so far, one so bizarre that it must be read to be believed.

When I discovered that the seventh identifiable figure in the photographs of Donald Trump’s Willard Hotel command center (photographs which had been posted on Instagram by Trump associate Robert Hyde) was Rudy Giuliani girlfriend Maria Ryan, the news meant little to me. It would, I felt, merit little interest from anyone else, either.

I now realize that I couldn’t have been more mistaken, as sometimes mundane discoveries lead to appalling ones—something you’d think I’d recall from my experience as a federal-system criminal investigator and then a state criminal defense attorney.

seth abramson proof logoAs the identification of Maria Ryan as the seventh entrant into the Willard war room was underway, a Proof reader sent me a January 5 “interview” Ryan had conducted with One America News (OAN) propagandist Christina Bobb. I put the word “interview” in quotes here because, as the above photo confirms, and as Proof has already reported at great length, Bobb was, with Ryan, a member of Trump’s secretive insurrection-week team at the Willard — and therefore her on-air discussion with Ryan on January 5 was in no way a real interview. Note: Bobb didn’t disclose her association with Ryan during their chat.

Even odder than the truth of the Bobb-Ryan “interview” was its timing: Insurrection Eve.

Indeed (and this was the first sign of the strange story I was about to find myself immersed in as a journalist and researcher) on January 5, 2021, Maria Ryan was being interviewed from the very war room that Bobb was a member of—meaning that Bobb had at some point left the war room, gone in to work at OAN’s television studio, and then conducted an “interview” with the very legal team she was a part of with a fellow team member who was sitting in the very war room that Bobb herself had been using.

 

andrew clyde left jan 6 201

A frightened U.S. Congressman, Andrew Clyde, left, Republican of Georgia, is defended by Capitol security during the pro-Trump insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP congressman refuses to shake hands with D.C. police officer who protected the Capitol on Jan. 6, Colby Itkowitz and Peter Hermann, June 18, 2021 (print ed.). Rep. Andrew S. Clyde (R-Ga.), who voted against awarding police officers the Congressional Gold Medal for their bravery in protecting the U.S. Capitol against violent, pro-Trump rioters on Jan. 6, refused to shake hands with D.C. police officer Michael Fanone on Wednesday.

Fanone was beaten unconscious after he voluntarily rushed to the Capitol to help defend it from those who breached the building. He suffered a concussion and a mild heart attack. In the months since, Fanone has been one of the leading voices pushing back against Republicans who have sought to downplay the severity of what happened Jan. 6.

Fanone, joined by Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, returned to the Capitol on Wednesday, the day after 21 House Republicans voted against the Gold Medal resolution, in an effort to meet them and tell his story.

andrew clydeHe said he recognized Clyde, right, at an elevator and that he and Dunn hopped in with the congressman.

djt maga hat“I simply extended my hand and said, “How are you doing today, Congressman.’ I knew immediately he recognized me by the way he reacted. He completely froze. He just stared at me,” Fanone said in an interview.

Fanone said Clyde did not motion to shake his hand in return.

“I said, ‘I’m sorry, you’re not going to shake my hand?’ ” Fanone said he told Clyde.

He said Clyde answered, “I don’t know who you are.”

Fanone said he responded, “’I’m sorry, sir, my name is Michael Fanone. I’m a D.C. police officer and I fought to defend the Capitol on Jan. 6.” He said he described being stunned repeatedly in the back of the neck and beaten unconscious, stripped of his badge and radio.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, High Hopes for Johnson & Johnson’s Covid Vaccine Have Fizzled, Noah Weiland, June 18, 2021.The “one and done” Janssen vaccine has made up less than 4 percent of the U.S.’s total administered doses so far. Millions of vials will soon expire. The vaccine’s appeal has dropped after several controversies, and experts now say that the U.S. has missed a big opportunity to tackle health disparities.

When Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose coronavirus vaccine was authorized for emergency use in late February, ​it was seen as a breakthrough for reaching vulnerable and isolated Americans, a crucial alternative to vaccines that require two shots weeks apart and fussier storage. It was soon popular on college campuses, in door-to-door campaigns and with harder-to-reach communities that often struggle with access to health care.

johnson johnson logoBut with only 11.8 million doses administered in the United States so far — less than 4 percent of the total — the “one and done” vaccine has fallen flat. States have warned for weeks that they may not find recipients for millions of doses that will soon expire, partly because the vaccine’s appeal dropped after it was linked to a rare but serious blood-clotting disorder and injections were paused for 10 days in April.

The vaccine took another hit last week, when regulators told Johnson & Johnson that it should throw out tens of millions of additional doses produced at a plant in Baltimore because they might be contaminated. The diminished supply and enthusiasm for the shot mean that its role in the United States is fading fast, even though millions of Americans have yet to be vaccinated.

“It’s just not what I think anybody would have hoped it would be when it came out,” said Dave Baden, the chief financial officer of the Oregon Health Authority.

Health officials in a number of other states presented a similarly discouraging picture. The pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, they said, effectively kicked it aside for good; only about 3.5 million doses have been used since the pause was lifted on April 23. Kim Deti, a spokeswoman for the Wyoming Health Department, said the graph of uptake in her state told the vaccine’s story: a significant climb in the early weeks of its rollout, followed by a plateau that began around the pause.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: China’s road to 1 billion vaccine doses: eggs, water bottles, free rides, Staff Reports, June 18, 2021. The country’s inoculation effort accounts for more than a third of all China Flagshots globally. While the E.U. said that American tourists should be allowed easier entry, Lisbon was forced into a weekend lockdown.

  • Israel is to bolster the Palestinian vaccination drive, trading a million doses.
  • Suspicion about vaccination videos fuels attacks on health workers in Kashmir.
  • In Taiwan, some foreign tech workers are confined indoors to tackle an outbreak.
  • Vaccinations are now mandatory for frontline workers in Moscow.
  • Isolated in the South Pacific, Fiji struggles as infections rise

washington post logoWashington Post, 175.9 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 18, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 147.8 million people (44.5 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 53 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 18, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 178,267,584, Deaths: 3,859,419
U.S. Cases:     34,377,592, Deaths:    616,440
India Cases:    29,762,793, Deaths:    383,521
Brazil Cases:   17,704,041, Deaths:    496,172

ny times logoeuropean union logo rectangleNew York Times, E.U. Recommends Opening to Americans to Rescue the Summer, Monika Pronczuk, June 18, 2021. The European Union recommended its 27 member nations lift a ban on nonessential travel from the United States, but each country will decide for itself 

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge strikes down CDC cruise rules in ‘major victory’ for DeSantis, Hannah Sampson, June 18, 2021. A federal judge said Friday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can’t enforce its rules for coronavirus-era sailing against cruise ships in Florida starting July 18.

The decision was hailed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) — who filed suit against the public health agency in April — as a “major victory.”

Under the ruling from U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday, the CDC’s conditional sail order will become a “ ‘nonbinding ‘consideration,’ ‘recommendation’ or ‘guideline’ ” when applied to Florida sailings on July 18.

As part of its conditional sailing order, the CDC says operators can sail quickly if 95 percent of crew and passengers are vaccinated. If not, the agency requires cruise lines to take volunteers on “test” cruises to show they can mitigate the risks of covid.

Cruise ships have not been allowed to carry passengers from the United States since March of 2020, after high-profile outbreaks on ships around the world.

The agency can propose “a narrower injunction” by July 2 “to further safeguard the public’s health while this action pends,” the ruling said. CDC spokeswoman Caitlin Shockey declined to comment Friday afternoon.

In a statement, DeSantis said the industry would soon be allowed to sail again thanks to the lawsuit that he and Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody filed. In reality, some cruise ships are preparing to sail as soon as next week with the CDC’s blessing after meeting their requirements.

It wasn’t clear if cruise operators would change anything about their plans after July 18 given the ruling. Roger Frizzell, spokesman for industry giant Carnival Corp., said the company was in the process of reviewing the decision.


U.S. Crime, Courts, Law
 

ny times logoNew York Times, Man Pleads Guilty to Threatening to Lynch 2 Members of Congress, Michael Levenson, June 18, 2021. Kenneth R. Hubert, of Marionville, Mo., had threatened Representatives Emanuel Cleaver II after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and Steve Cohen in 2019, prosecutors said.

A Missouri man pleaded guilty on Thursday to charges that he had threatened to lynch a Black congressman the day after the Jan. 6 siege at the U.S. Capitol and a Jewish congressman in 2019, court records show.

kenneth hubertThe man, Kenneth R. Hubert, right, 63, Marionville, Mo., was arrested in March after, prosecutors said, he had directed the threats at Representatives Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri and Steve Cohen of Tennessee, both Democrats.

According to a plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Mr. Hubert pleaded guilty to two counts of threatening to assault a United States official. Each count carries a maximum penalty of six years in prison, the agreement states. It was unclear whether a sentencing date had been set.

Prosecutors, Mr. Hubert’s lawyer and representatives for Mr. Cleaver and Mr. Cohen did not immediately respond to messages on Friday.

In the plea agreement, Mr. Hubert acknowledged that on May 6, 2019, he had called the Washington office of Mr. Cohen, who is Jewish, and told a staff member that he had “a noose with the congressman’s name on it” and planned to “put a noose around his neck” and drag him behind his pickup truck.

Three days later, F.B.I. agents went to Mr. Hubert’s home, where he admitted making the call and said he had done so because he was offended by a comment that Mr. Cohen had made about Donald J. Trump, who was president, the agreement states.

On Jan. 7, a day after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, Mr. Hubert called Mr. Cleaver’s office in Independence, Mo., and, according to the plea agreement, left a voice mail message in which he called Mr. Cleaver, who is Black, a racial slur, and said, “How about a noose around his neck?”

After F.B.I. agents went to Mr. Hubert’s home on Jan. 19, he admitted that he had called Mr. Cleaver’s office, acknowledged that his message was threatening and said he had been upset about a comment that Mr. Cleaver had made in the House of Representatives, the agreement states.

Prosecutors said Mr. Hubert had been upset after Mr. Cleaver had ended the opening prayer on the first day of Congress by saying, “Amen and A-woman.”
ImageRepresentative Steve Cohen of Tennessee was the target of a threat in 2019.

Mr. Hubert had a history of making threatening and hostile phone calls, according to prosecutors.

On the morning of Jan. 6, they said, he called the Missouri Democratic Party and left a message saying the party should “stay in hiding. Steal the election, we got something for you.” In a second voice mail later that day, he pointed to the siege at the Capitol and said, “It’s coming your way next,” prosecutors said.

Mr. Hubert had also been investigated by law enforcement officials after he left a hostile message for a federal judge in Montana in 2014 in response to a ruling on same-sex marriage, according to prosecutors. Mr. Hubert had also called the Council on American-Islamic Relations in St. Louis in 2016 and made disparaging and derogatory comments, prosecutors said.

At a hearing in March, Mr. Hubert’s lawyer, David Mercer, said his client had served in the military, had spent most of his life in southern Missouri and had “lived a completely law-abiding life,” The Kansas City Star reported.

 Ronnie Oneill III in court (Photo by Arielle Bader with the Tampa Bay Times via the Associated Press).

Accused murderer Ronnie Oneal III arguing his case in court (Photo by Arielle Bader with the Tampa Bay Times via the Associated Press).

washington post logoWashington Post, A boy is the sole survivor of a family massacre. His dad, the suspect, was allowed to question him in court, Julian Mark, June 18, 2021 (print ed.). For about 20 minutes in a Tampa courtroom on Wednesday, a jury listened to an 11-year-old boy describe what he survived three years ago: hearing his mom hit with a shotgun blast, seeing his sister stabbed in the head with an ax, and then feeling himself get soaked in gasoline and lit on fire.

His father, Ronnie Oneal III, is charged with committing all of these crimes. After the 11-year-old’s harrowing testimony to prosecutors, Oneal himself got up to directly question him about it.

“Did I hurt you the night of this incident?” Oneal asked his son, known as Ronnie Oneal IV.

“Yes,” the boy replied. “You stabbed me.”

It was an unusual moment in an unusual trial. Hillsborough Circuit Judge Michelle Sisco allowed Oneal to represent himself in his murder trial this week, determining he was mentally fit, educated enough and understood the consequences of such a decision, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

The son has been adopted by the family of one of the police officers working on the case.

 ABC News, As Gaetz investigation ramps up, feds mount sweeping probe into Central Florida political scene: Sources,Will Steakin and Katherine Faulders, June 18, 2021. The sprawling probe has revved up its focus on alleged corruption and fraud.

Since federal prosecutors obtained the cooperation of GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz’s once close-ally in May, sources tell ABC News the ongoing investigation, which includes sex trafficking allegations involving Gaetz, has engulfed the tight-knit Central Florida political scene as prosecutors continue their investigation of the Florida congressman.

Former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg, who reached a plea deal last month, has been assisting federal agents in the sprawling probe that has recently revved up its focus on alleged corruption and fraud stemming from Greenberg’s time in office and beyond, multiple sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.

The former tax collector pleaded guilty in May to a host of crimes including charges of stalking, identity theft, wire fraud and conspiracy to bribe a public official, as well as a sex trafficking charge. Greenberg is prepared to hand over evidence and testimony that could implicate Gaetz and others, sources told ABC News.

Sources told ABC News that prosecutors believe a decision about whether or not to bring charges against Gaetz could come as early as July.

Sources said the probe into the congressman has ramped up in recent weeks. Investigators have started interviewing more women who were allegedly introduced to Gaetz through Greenberg, who last month pleaded guilty to sex trafficking a 17-year-old girl — who later went on to work in pornography — and introducing her to other “adult men.” Since May, a new round of target letters and subpoenas in the wide-ranging investigation have been sent out, ABC News has learned.

Another avenue investigators have been focusing on recently, according to sources, are contracts that Greenberg handed out through the tax office totaling more than $1.5 million, which an independent audit late last year described as “unnecessary” and “considered to be a waste of taxpayer dollars,” according to documents in the forensic audit of the tax office obtained by ABC News through a public records request.

Sources told ABC News that investigators have reached out to Keith Ingersoll, whose firm KI Consulting had a $48,000 contract with the tax office that ran between January 2017 and September 2020. The audit found that there was “no evidence of work product” by Ingersoll’s group despite the multi-year contract and staff at the tax office being “unaware what this group did.”

Ingersoll’s attorney did not respond to multiple requests for comment from ABC News.

In May, Politico reported that investigators were seeking information from close associates of Greenberg, including Gaetz and long-time friend Joe Ellicott. A subpoena received by one associate allegedly stated that the grand jury is investigating alleged crimes “involving commercial sex acts with adult and minor women as well as obstruction of justice.” It also requested any communications, documents, recordings and payments the individual had with Ellicott, Gaetz and Greenberg from 2016 until now, according to Politico.

Ellicott, who was also on the tax office payroll as an assistant deputy tax collector, has a long history with Greenberg; he was a groomsman at the former tax collector’s wedding and the pair co-hosted a local sports-themed radio show before Greenberg ran for office.

Ellicott could emerge as a key witness in the ongoing sex traffic investigation, and appears to have information that may be damning to others beyond Greenberg, sources say. In a private text exchange over the encrypted messaging app Signal, Ellicott allegedly told Greenberg last August that a mutual friend was worried she could be implicated in the investigation into the sex ring involving a minor.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason the Feds just revealed that Matt Gaetz is likely going down within weeks, Bill Palmer, June 18, 2021. Just because the media coverage of the federal criminal investigation into Matt Gaetz has tapered off this month, that doesn’t have anything to do with the trajectory of the investigation itself. With two cooperating witnesses in hand, we’ve been fully expecting prosecutors to end up indicting Gaetz before much longer. Now there’s news on that front.

This morning ABC News reported that the Feds are now planning to make a charging decision about Gaetz in July – a month which begins just twelve days from now. To be clear, this kind of inside information doesn’t get picked up by a gust of wind and randomly land on a reporter’s desk. Prosecutors have clearly given this story to the media because they want it out there. But why?

bill palmer report logo headerFor one thing, if the probe is this close to completion, then the Feds surely already know whether they have enough to indict Matt Gaetz. And if they were coming up short, if anything they’d be leaking about how their witnesses are falling apart, so as to lower expectations and reduce the public backlash for when they don’t charge Gaetz.

Instead they’re playing up the help that cooperating witness Joel Greenberg, right, has provided. In other words, prosecutors are letting it be known that they plan to indict Gaetz within weeks. But again, why put this out there now?

Palmer Report, Opinion: Matt Gaetz is falling to pieces, Ron Leshnower, June 18, 2021. Matt Gaetz is falling fast. A sizeable drop remains to the floor of the prison cell where Gaetz belongs, but the GOP’s star is quickly fading from relevance and influence. As the feds ramp up their investigation into Gaetz for sex trafficking and obstruction of justice, he can’t afford to shed any positive public opinion. Gaetz was right to vote for Juneteenth, but the toxic stench surrounding his wide-ranging criminal activity is pulling him down.

bill palmer report logo headerA new analysis from Business Insider notes that Gaetz has not appeared once on Fox News since March 30. This last appearance was when Gaetz famously remarked that Tucker Carlson had been “falsely accused of a terrible sex act,” prompting Carlson to call the exchange “one of the weirdest interviews I have ever conducted.” After appearing on Fox 310 times since August 2017, Gaetz remains effectively banned from the network for nearly three months and counting.

In a separate report, Business Insider revealed that former Gaetz staffers have started formally disassociating themselves from the shunned creep. At least 25 former congressional aides have removed Gaetz’ name from their LinkedIn resumes, fearing it could destroy their career prospects. Even Dan McFaul, Gaetz’s former chief of staff, now only goes so far as to say he generically served a “congressman.”

supreme court resized 2021

ny times logoNew York Times, Affordable Care Act Survives Latest Supreme Court Challenge, Adam Liptak, June 18, 2021 (print ed.). A seven-justice majority ruled that the plaintiffs did not have the standing to sue, but the court did not address the larger issue in the case. The 2010 law, also known as Obamacare, has been the subject of relentless criticism from Republicans and two other major Supreme Court cases.

The Affordable Care Act on Thursday survived a third major challenge in the Supreme Court.

A seven-justice majority ruled that the plaintiffs had not suffered the sort of direct injury that gave them standing to sue.

The court did not reach the larger issues in the case: whether the bulk of the sprawling 2010 health care law, President Barack Obama’s defining domestic legacy, could stand without a provision that initially required most Americans to obtain insurance or pay a penaltydjt hands up mouth open CustomIn the years since the enactment of the law in 2010, Republicans have worked hard to destroy it, and President Donald J. Trump relentlessly criticized it. But attempts to repeal it failed, as did two earlier Supreme Court challenges, in 2012 and 2015. With the passing years, the law gained in popularity and was woven into the fabric of the health care system. Its future now seems secure.

Striking down the Affordable Care Act would have expanded the ranks of the uninsured in the United States by about 21 million people — a nearly 70 percent increase — according to recent estimates from the Urban Institute.

The biggest loss of coverage would have been among low-income adults who became eligible for Medicaid under the law after most states expanded the program to include them. But millions of Americans would also have lost private insurance, including young adults whom the law allowed to stay on their parents’ plans until they turned 26 and families whose income was modest enough to qualify for subsidies that help pay their monthly premiums.

A ruling against the law would also have doomed its protections for Americans with past or current health problems — or pre-existing conditions. The protections bar insurers from denying them coverage or charging them more for it.

The case, California v. Texas, No. 19-840, was brought by Republican officials who said the mandate requiring health insurance coverage became unconstitutional after Congress in 2017 eliminated the penalty for failing to obtain coverage because the mandate could no longer be justified as a tax.

The argument was based on the court’s 2012 ruling, in which Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., joined by what was at the time the court’s four-member liberal wing, said the mandate was authorized by Congress’s power to assess taxes.

The new challenge was largely successful in the lower courts. A federal judge in Texas ruled that the entire law was invalid, but he postponed the effects of his ruling until the case could be appealed. In 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, agreed that the mandate was unconstitutional but declined to rule on the fate of the remainder of the health law, asking the lower court to reconsider the question in more detail.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justices unanimously rule for Catholic group in Philadelphia foster-care dispute, Robert Barnes, June 18, 2021 (print ed.). The Supreme Court said Thursday that Philadelphia was wrong to end a contract to provide foster care services to a religious organization that refuses to work with same-sex couples.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Climate 

anna paulina

Business Insider via Yahoo News, A Florida Republican reportedly compared his political rival to a ‘f—ing speed bump’ and threatened to send a hit squad to make her ‘disappear,’ Oma Seddiq, June 17, 2021. A Florida congressional candidate threatened to call a “Russian-Ukrainian hit squad” to make his political opponent “disappear,” according to a secret phone call recording obtained by Politico.

William Braddock, a Republican running for Florida’s 13th Congressional District, attacked one of his rivals, Anna Paulina Luna (shown above in a file photo), in a phone call with a conservative activist recorded last Wednesday, per Politico.

republican elephant logo“I really don’t want to have to end anybody’s life for the good of the people of the United States of America,” Braddock said during the phone call. “That will break my heart. But if it needs to be done, it needs to be done. Luna is a f—ing speed bump in the road. She’s a dead squirrel you run over every day when you leave the neighborhood.”

Braddock also called Luna “a crazy b—-” and “a piece of s—,” among other insults during the 30-minute phone call, according to Politico.

At another part of the conversation, Braddock expressed confidence that Luna will lose the upcoming Republican primary election. The candidates are running to replace outgoing Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist, who is running for governor.

“She’s gonna be gone. Period. That’s end of discussion. Luna is not an issue,” Braddock said, per Politico.

“How do we make her go?” the activist who recorded the phone call, Erin Olszewski, asked.

“I call up my Russian-Ukrainian hit squad and within 24 hours they’re sending me pictures of her disappearing,” Braddock answered. “I’m not joking.”

Olszewski told Politico that she recorded the conversation and turned it over to St. Petersburg police.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: With Obamacare Ruling, Health Battles Are Likely to Shift, Margot Sanger-Katz and Sarah Kliff, June 18, 2021 (print ed.). Congressional Republicans have largely abandoned efforts to repeal the law. With the latest Supreme Court ruling, health policy now shifts to new territory

ny times logoNew York Times, Why G.O.P.-Led States Are Banning Police From Enforcing Federal Gun Laws, Glenn Thrush and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs Missouri is the latest to throw down a challenge to the enforcement of firearms laws as Republicans try to thwart President Biden’s gun control proposals.

Missouri has become the latest state to throw down a broad challenge to the enforcement of federal firearms laws, as Republican-controlled state legislatures intensify their fierce political counterattack against President Biden’s gun control proposals.

mike parson MissouriA bill signed by Gov. Mike Parson, left, over the weekend — at a gun store called Frontier Justice — threatens a penalty of $50,000 against any local police agency that enforces certain federal gun laws and regulations that constitute “infringements” of Second Amendment gun rights.

At least eight other states — Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia — have taken similar action this year, passing laws of varying strength that discourage or prohibit the enforcement of federal gun statutes by state and local agents and officers.

The new law “is about protecting law-abiding Missourians against government overreach and unconstitutional federal mandates,” Mr. Parson and the attorney general, Eric Schmitt, said in a letter defending the law on Thursday to the U.S. Justice Department. They said the state would “reject any attempt by the federal government to circumvent the fundamental right Missourians have to keep and bear arms to protect themselves and their property.”

In interviews, the sponsors of the bill in the Missouri House and Senate acknowledged that the law would most likely have little immediate effect on the current operations of local and state police agencies, since there is presently little difference between state and federal gun laws in Missouri.

There would be no change to the federal requirement for background checks before buying guns from licensed firearms dealers, they said, and local police officers could still aid in federal gun law enforcement operations as long as the person being targeted was also violating a state law.

The Republican lawmakers said their main intent was to guard against the potential of more wide-ranging legislation from Washington, where Democratic lawmakers have proposed a major expansion of federal background checks, an extension of the time period in which federal officials can review purchases and bills to restrict the sale of popular semiautomatic weapons like AR-15s.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Democrats devise a way to finally expand Medicaid in resistant states, Paige Winfield Cunningham, June 18, 2021 (print ed.). Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Tex.) says he has a solution. On Thursday morning, he’ll introduce legislation, co-signed by more than 40 House Democrats, that would let cities and counties bypass the states still refusing to expand their Medicaid programs.

“We’ve got a new, homegrown solution to finally get Medicaid to millions of our most vulnerable citizens by empowering local governments to cover their residents and protect their health,” Doggett said in a statement.

ny times logoNew York Times, For Republicans, ‘Crisis’ Is the Message as the Outrage Machine Ramps Up, Jonathan Weisman, June 18, 2021 (print ed.). With next year’s midterm elections seen as a referendum on Democratic rule, Republicans are seeking to create a sense of instability and overreach, diverting focus from their own divisions.

House Republican leaders would like everyone to know that the nation is in crisis.

republican elephant logoThere is an economic crisis, they say, with rising prices and overly generous unemployment benefits; a national security crisis; a border security crisis, with its attendant homeland security crisis, humanitarian crisis, and public health crisis; and a separate energy crisis.

steve scalisePressed Tuesday on whether the nation is really so beleaguered, the No. 2 Republican in the House, Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, right, thought of still more crises: anti-Semitism in the Democratic ranks, “yet another crisis,” he asserted, and a labor shortage crisis.

“Unfortunately they’re all real,” he said capping a 25-minute news conference in which the word “crisis” was used once a minute, “and they’re all being caused by President Biden’s actions.”

As Americans groggily emerge from their pandemic-driven isolation, they could be forgiven for not seeing the situation as quite so dire. They might also be a little confused about which of the many outrages truly needs their focus: the border, perhaps, but what about Dr. Anthony S. Fauci and the Wuhan lab leak theory, the teaching of critical race theory in the nation’s schools, the fact that some schools are not fully reopened, Representative Ilhan Omar, or all those transgender athletes competing in high school sports?

House Republicans, still overwhelmingly in the thrall of Donald J. Trump, have learned over the last four years that grievance, loudly expressed, carries political weight, especially with their core voters. Mr. Trump certainly did not teach members of his party how to express anger over perceived injustices; many of them had been doing it for years. But the House Republican leadership has shifted to Trumpian expressions of outrage since the days of former Speaker Paul D. Ryan, a self-described “policy guy” with a happy-warrior image, and the backslapping bonhomie of his predecessor John A. Boehner.

The idea is that with Democrats in control of the White House, House and Senate, next year’s midterm elections will be a referendum on one-party control, not on Republican governing plans.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, The Power of Money: How Autocrats Use London to Strike Foes Worldwide, Andrew Higgins, Jane Bradley, Isobel Koshiw and Franz Wild, June 18, 2021. English courtrooms are a battleground — and a source of strong weapons — in disputes between the tycoons and the politicians of the post-Soviet world.

ny times logoNew York Times, Iran Edges Toward One-Party Rule as Clerics Sideline Moderates, Vivian Yee and Farnaz Fassihi, June 18, 2021 (print ed.). An ultraconservative judiciary chief appears to have the only real chance of winning after virtually all the other viable candidates were disqualified.

Iran FlagSince the revolution in 1979 toppled the monarchy, Iran has been run by parallel branches of the government. One is elected and the other is appointed, composed of the supreme leader and powerful councils of clerics.

While Iran has never been a true democracy over the past four decades, there was always a degree of choice and competition in elections for president and parliament. The outcomes were never a certainty.

But even those limited freedoms, which shrank after a contested election in 2009 led to widespread unrest, have nearly disappeared in this election cycle. The country is now moving increasingly toward what amounts to a one-party system whereby the top council of clerics that vets candidates eliminates anyone seen as a challenge to their conservative policies and views.

The Islamic Republic’s hierarchy has long used election turnout to try to bolster its legitimacy, pointing to robust voter participation as proof that Iranians really do choose their leaders. If voter turnout is low on Friday, that could be regarded as a sign of growing disaffection.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s strategy of pessimism ekes out a few gains with Putin, John Hudson, June 18, 2021 (print ed.). With expectations set low and pushed lower by the talks’ ending earlier than expected, President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin emerged with a pleasant surprise: incremental progress on a handful of issues.

joe biden resized oIn a political career spanning four decades, President Biden has seen American presidents from both parties try to transform the U.S. relationship with Russia only to leave office disappointed.

In his first meeting as commander in chief with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Biden intended not to make the same mistake.

He would make no overtures for a reset in relations, and his pessimism about the prospects of changing Putin’s mind on issues such as human rights would inform his actions.

With expectations set low and pushed even lower by the talks’ ending earlier than expected, Putin and Biden emerged from the meetings with a pleasant surprise: incremental progress on a handful of issues.

 

Religion and Media News 

Techdirt,  Commentary: Devin Nunes’ Family’s Bizarrely Stupid Defamation Lawsuit Goes Off The Rails, Mike Masnick, June 18 2021. As you may recall, Rep. Devin Nunes has been involved in a bunch of totally frivolous SLAPP suits that seem designed to try to intimidate journalists from writing stories criticizing Devin Nunes. A key one that seems to have gotten deeply under Nunes’ skin is an Esquire piece devin nunes grimacingfrom a few years ago entitled Devin Nunes’s Family Farm Is Hiding a Politically Explosive Secret written by reporter Ryan Lizza. In the fall of 2019 he sued over that article, and a few months later his family sued over it as well.

To say it hasn’t gone well for Nunes, left, would be an understatement.

As a reminder, the article claims that the “politically explosive secret” is just the fact that, despite Nunes repeatedly pitching himself as a California farmer, his family packed up the farm and moved it to Iowa a while back. Much of the article is about how they appear to have worked over time to try to hide that:

So here’s the secret:

The Nunes family dairy of political lore—the one where his brother and parents work—isn’t in California. It’s in Iowa. Devin; his brother, Anthony III; and his parents, Anthony Jr. and Toni Dian, sold their California farmland in 2006. Anthony Jr. and Toni Dian, who has also been the treasurer of every one of Devin’s campaigns since 2001, used their cash from the sale to buy a dairy eighteen hundred miles away in Sibley, a small town in northwest Iowa where they—as well as Anthony III, Devin’s only sibling, and his wife, Lori—have lived since 2007. Devin’s uncle Gerald still owns a dairy back in Tulare, which is presumably where The Wall Street Journal’s reporter talked to Devin, and Devin is an investor in a Napa Valley winery, Alpha Omega, but his immediate family’s farm—as well as his family—is long gone.

The article also discusses a bunch of other oddities about the Nunes’ farm in Iowa, and while it never comes out and directly claims that the farm hires undocumented workers, it does note that most other farms in the area do. This point has become somewhat important in the case.

Devin Nunes’ own part in the case is effectively over as the judge dismissed it last summer, pointing out absolutely nothing Nunes claimed was defamatory actually was defamatory (Nunes is appealing, because of course he is, but it’s hard to see much of a chance of the case being reinstated). And while the judge had made it clear that the lawsuit by Nunes’ family was on shaky ground, the Nunes’ family and their lawyer, the infamous Steven Biss, decided to keep the case going.

The only claim that has survived in the case is the one where Nunes’ family says it is defamatory due to the implication that the farm has employed undocumented workers. So, as would be expected, one of the things that Esquire’s publisher, Hearst, wished to do was to depose the workers on the farm to establish their documentation. Last month, it became clear that something nutty was going on after Hearst filed quite a document with the court, about its efforts to depose the workers from NuStar farms. Much of the filing is redacted, but you can still get a sense of the frustration:

This Motion comes in the wake of an unusual and troubling series of events in this case, which were previewed for the Court during last week’s telephone conferences with Judge Roberts….

Reading through the details (and especially the declaration of one of Esquire’s lawyers) strongly suggests (though the redactions make it a little tricky to parse out) that Biss has played games to try to keep NuStar’s employees from giving depositions. This includes questions about whether or not Biss would accept service on behalf of those employees and also whether or not he would represent those employees.

Reading those links suggests the case was already turning into something of a clusterfuck, and apparently on Thursday it all blew up as the magistrate judge on the case benchslapped Biss and told him to stop playing games (first reported by the Fresno Bee, whose parent company was also sued by Nunes, and which has done some great reporting on these cases).

The order from the magistrate judge details what happened when Hearst’s lawyers were finally able to depose the NuStar employees and… um… wow.

washington post logoWashington Post, Catholic bishops back document that could limit Communion for Biden, Michelle Boorstein, June 18, 2021. The presidency of the country’s second Catholic president is revealing deep divisions among U.S. bishops. The vote to create guidelines on the meaning of communion could be an early step toward limiting the serving of the eucharist to politicians who support abortion rights.

Catholic bishops on Friday voted to create guidelines on the meaning of Communion, a move that could be an early step toward limiting the serving of the Eucharist to President Biden and other politicians who support abortion rights.

The vote came after a 3½-hour-long emotional discussion Thursday at the annual spring meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Multiple bishops clashed over how, or if, they should single out the church’s teaching on abortion.

The vote on whether to create a draft document about the meaning of the Eucharist, the bread-and-wine rite at the heart of Communion, needed a simple majority. The measure passed 168 to 55, with six abstentions.

Biden’s presidency, the second Catholic to ever hold the position in the nation’s history, is revealing deep divisions among U.S. bishops, and one after another appeared Thursday at their annual meeting to declare their fraternity is at a crossroads..

Embedded in the organization’s agenda this week were explosive, profound differences about theology, pastoring, human nature and a political backdrop that set off a rare public show of division among the bishops . One bishop said the men were meeting at a time of “historic opportunity.” Another said he could not recall a moment like this in 30 years. Yet another said the bishops’ discussion was the most robust discussion in a decade.

Each side said the other was jeopardizing the church’s reputation.

washington post logoWashington Post, One America News is the face of the GOP-led Arizona election audit. Its reporter is also helping pay for it, Paul Farhi and Elahe Izadi, June 18, 2021. The right-wing channel’s Christina Bobb is simultaneously covering, promoting and fundraising for the review of the 2020 election results.

One America News correspondent Christina Bobb had some exciting news to share from the scene of the Arizona GOP-led audit of the 2020 presidential vote in Maricopa County: Republican lawmakers from another battleground state had just paid a visit to see if they might replicate it back home.

“If they like what they see, [they’ll] take it back to Pennsylvania,” she told her audience this month from the floor of a massive Phoenix arena where more than 2 million ballots are being removed from boxes and examined by hand.

“I think we can expect to see a lot more key decision-makers coming out to take a look,” she added, hopefully.

Bobb didn’t mention in her report that she had helped raise money to pay for those lawmakers to visit. Nor that she worked with Arizona Republicans last year to find some of the initial, much-disputed evidence they used to justify the audit.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Hong Kong police raid newspaper offices, arrest editors, Shibani Mahtani, June 18, 2021 (print ed.). The early morning operation underscored the lengths that authorities will go to shut down any remaining space for dissent, including the silencing of media.

hong kong flagPolice on Thursday raided the Apple Daily newspaper, known for its support for Hong Kong’s democracy movement, and arrested five executives, including three top editors, on suspicion of violating the city’s national security law. Authorities also froze the tabloid’s assets.

The early-morning operation highlighted the authorities’ resolve to shut down any residual space for dissent, including silencing media critical of the Chinese government. Press freedom is supposed to be guaranteed under the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.

The police warrant allowed officers to seize “journalistic materials” — the first time they have exercised such powers under the security law. Police scoured reporters’ computers, files and notes, and cited as the basis for the arrests dozens of Apple Daily articles that called for Western sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials. The United States last year imposed sanctions on city leader Carrie Lam and other figures for eroding freedoms.

Press Run via Substack, Commentary: The New York Times creates another ‘Both Sides’ fiasco, Eric Boehlert, June 18, 2021. First, Republicans across the country are passing an unprecedented collection of voter suppression laws. But the Times won’t use that clear language, instead opting for the watered down, “curtail voting rules.” The word choice is important because if the Times had framed the article as one about “voter suppression” laws, it would make it much harder for Republicans to “shrug off” the allegations about putting democracy in peril.

Second, the Times places alongside each other the claims that voter suppression is a function of Republican authoritarianism, and that the GOP’s dismissal that it’s all “politics as usual.” In the eyes of the Times those are equally valid and important points for readers to know. Democrats are saying our democracy is in clear danger and Republican says it’s “politics as usual,” which makes no sense. It’s not “usual” for one of the two major political parties in this country to warn that America’s nearly two-and-a-half centuries of democratic rule faces a looming internal and deliberate danger. In fact, that’s the opposite of “usual” — it’s unheard of.

From the outset, the Times frames the article as an impossible-to-solve disagreement between both parties, with the implication being that Both Sides have a valid point. They do not.

The avalanche of current GOP bills aim to shorten the early voting period, reduce the number of hours that people can vote on Election Day, eliminate drive-through voting centers, create stricter deadlines for returning absentee ballots, block early voting on Sunday, limit ballot drop boxes, restrict mail-in voting —basically any possible initiative Republicans can think of that would suppress the vote.

“The playbook that the Republican Party is executing at the state and national levels is very much consistent with actions taken by illiberal, anti-democratic, anti-pluralist parties in other democracies that have slipped away from free and fair elections,” Lee Drutman, senior fellow at the New America think tank recently told the Washington Post.

Still, the Times clings to Both Sides.

 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to Top