Aug. 2021 News

 

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Editor’s Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative August 2021 news and views.

 

Aug. 2

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Governance, Politics, Elections

 

World News, Corruption, Human Rights

 

2020 Tokyo Olympics

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Florida breaks record for new cases as surge of infections hits state, Timothy Bella and Meryl Kornfield, Aug. 2, 2021 (print ed.). Florida reported 21,683 new coronavirus cases, a total that eclipsed the record from January, when vaccinations were not widely available.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Florida reported 21,683 new coronavirus cases on Friday, the state’s highest one-day total since the start of the pandemic, according to data released Saturday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The data shows the severity of the surge in Florida, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak and now responsible for 1 in 5 new infections nationally. The previous peak in Florida had been on Jan. 7, when the state reported 19,334 cases, according to the CDC — before the widespread availability of coronavirus vaccinations. Florida has reported an average of 15,818 new cases a day over the past seven days, according to data compiled by The Washington Post.

The Florida Department of Health reported that coronavirus cases in the state had jumped 50 percent in the past week. In that time, the state has reported 409 deaths.

In addition to the highly transmissible delta variant, vaccine holdouts and the widespread resumption of normal activities have led to a surge in infections, hospitalizations and deaths nationwide. With the United States reporting more than 70,000 cases a day, case numbers have risen to levels not seen since February.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Senate unveils details of bipartisan infrastructure proposal, Tony Romm, Aug. 2, 2021 (print ed.). Democratic and Republican negotiators finalized the full text of the roughly $1 trillion proposal, setting the stage for a long-awaited debate in the chamber to enact one of President Biden’s economic policy priorities.

Senate Democrats and Republicans unveiled on Sunday a roughly $1 trillion proposal to improve the country’s roads, bridges, pipes, ports and Internet connections, setting in motion a long-awaited debate in the chamber to enact one of President Biden’s economic policy priorities.

The package arrives after weeks of haggling among a bipartisan bloc of lawmakers, who muscled through late-night fights and near-collapses to transform their initial blueprint into a roughly 2,700-page piece of legislation. The fate of their labors now rests in the Senate, where proponents of infrastructure reform have little margin for error as they race to adopt the sort of bill that has eluded them for years.

Read the Senate’s roughly $1 trillion infrastructure proposal

transportation dept logoVirtually no part of the U.S. economy is untouched by the plan chiefly put together by Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), below right, and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.). Roughly half of its $1 trillion overall price tag constitutes new federal spending, with the rest coming from existing, planned investments in the country’s roads, highways and bridges, according to details released in recent days by lawmakers and the White robert portmanHouse, which supports the proposal.

Those thoroughfares would see major expansions and repairs under the bill, which has additional investments in the nation’s transit system as well. Senators also said the measure calls for $66 billion targeting passenger railways, which the White House says is the largest such investment since the creation of Amtrak nearly a half-century ago.

Lawmakers plan to set aside $55 billion to improve the country’s drinking water, including a program that seeks to replace every lead pipe in America. There’s an additional $65 billion to expand broadband Internet access nationwide and ensure those who do have connectivity can afford their monthly payments. And Senate lawmakers are pursuing additional sums to upgrade key commercial hubs, including potentially $25 billion for repairs at major airports.

The proposal, called the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, further seeks a significant tranche of funding to combat the threat of climate change, aiming to reduce emissions and respond to the deadly consequences of a fast-warming planet. Lawmakers have called for $73 billion to modernize the nation’s energy grid and $21 billion to respond to environmental concerns, including pollution. And they propose allocating new sums to advance clean-energy technologies, including a $7.5 billion initiative for a first-ever national network of electric vehicle charging stations, they announced last week.

Trump ally Steve Bannon, left, with his billionaire partner Guo Wengui, a fugitive from China.

Trump ally Steve Bannon, left, indicted last year in a massive fraud scheme but pardoned by Trump, with his billionaire partner Guo Wengui, a fugitive from China.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Foreign cash bought the White House for Trump, Wayne Madsen (left, author of 20 books and former Navy intelligence officer), Aug. 2, 2021. Projection sums up the entire wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallfour years of Donald Trump’s chaotic administration in that while he and his cohorts were trying to convince the world that Joe Biden was tied financially in some way to Ukraine and China, his administration was bought and wayne madesen report logopaid for by foreign interests.

In addition to cash outlays to Team Trump, Steve Bannon’s international bloc of fascist parties and individuals contributed in kind with social media gaslighting and other propaganda campaigns designed to perpetuate unfounded rumor on Biden, Covid-19, and other subjects.

Repeated attempts by Congress to close campaign finance loopholes that permit foreign money to flow into the campaign coffers of American political candidates have met with failure. For the most part, it has been Trump loyalists in the U.S. Senate, many there due to foreign money helping to pay for their seats, that have deep-sixed repeated bills originating in both the House and the Senate designed to stop foreign money infusion into U.S. campaigns.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Biden cannot sit back and let our democracy sink. He’s now showing us he gets that, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, Aug. 2, 2021 (print ed.). ej dionne w open neckPresident Biden’s infrastructure bill defied predictions of its impending death again and again and again. Voting rights and political reform have been the subject of early obituaries even more dire. To protect our democracy, Biden has no choice but to prove these wrong, too.

The broad bipartisan vote to move forward on a physical infrastructure bill really was a big deal. It marked a decisive break from the dominance of a form of conservative politics that cast even the most basic forms of government action as wasteful. In tandem with the larger Democrats-only bill, it could herald a new era of social reform and public investment.

But if Biden has been right in saying that our democracy’s health depends on the political system demonstrating its capacity to undertake ambitious projects, Joe Biden portrait 2our democracy’s success also requires — well, that it remain a democracy.

That’s in question as Republican states (18 at last count) enact laws to limit access to the ballot and, in many cases, corrupt the election process itself by undercutting independent, nonpartisan ballot counting.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosThus the importance of Friday’s White House meeting, in which Biden joined House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) to craft a strategy to enact political reform and voting rights bills.

The meeting reflected a growing awareness inside the Biden camp that it cannot hang back and let democracy legislation founder while offering false hope that political organizing can overcome voter suppression and extreme gerrymandering.

As Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) told me, after Biden’s “intimate engagement” in negotiating the bipartisan infrastructure bill with the Senate, the administration cannot now claim the filibuster is purely that chamber’s business.
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Reflecting a view widely held by civil rights leaders, Jones argued that Biden must match the energy he devoted to infrastructure with an equally spirited push on voting rights, including — if needed — a willingness to back a change in Senate rules.

A White House statement after the meeting did not mention the filibuster. But it declared that “passing legislation to protect against voter suppression, electoral subversion, dark money and partisan gerrymandering” was a “moral imperative.”

Jones described Pelosi as “enormously strong” on the issue because she “gets that everything is at stake.” That was the message the speaker sent after the White House encounter: “This is of the highest priority for us.”

Schumer, too, has gone on offense, hosting efforts by Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Raphael G. Warnock (Ga.), Joe Manchin III (W.Va.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and others to write a new version of the political reform bill rooted in many of Manchin’s suggestions for easier ballot access. The bill will also include new provisions to try to stop partisan bodies from pushing aside local election officials and nullifying election results.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Where a Vast Global Vaccination Program Went Wrong, Benjamin Mueller and Rebecca Robbins, Aug. 2, 2021. After months of struggle, the U.N.-backed Covax alliance will soon have many more doses, promising relief for vaccine shortages in poorer countries. The vaccination program still faces a deepening crisis: difficulties getting shots into arms as the Delta variant spreads.

Deaths from Covid-19 were surging across Africa in June when 100,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived in Chad. The delivery seemed proof that the United Nations-backed program to immunize the world could get the most desirable vaccines to the least developed nations. Yet five weeks later, Chad’s health minister said, 94,000 doses remained unused.

Nearby in Benin, only 267 shots were being given each day, a pace so slow that 110,000 of the program’s AstraZeneca doses expired. Across Africa, confidential documents from July indicated, the program was monitoring at least nine countries where it said doses intended for the poor were at risk of spoiling this summer.

The vaccine pileup illustrates one of the most serious but largely unrecognized problems facing the immunization program as it tries to recover from months of missteps and disappointments: difficulty getting doses from airport tarmacs into people’s arms.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Workplace Vaccine Mandates Reveal a Divide Among Employees, Staff Reports, Aug. 2, 2021. Corporate requirements have so far tended to cover white-collar workers, not lower-income workers on the front lines. Here’s the latest in business.

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washington post logoWashington Post, At least 190.5 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Aug. 2, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 164.2 million people fully vaccinated.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Aug. 2, 2021, with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher, as the New York Times reported in India’s true pandemic death toll is likely to be well over 3 million, a new study finds): 

World Cases: 199,161,638, Deaths: 4,243,696
U.S. Cases:     35,768,924, Deaths:    629,380
India Cases:     31,695,958, Deaths:    424,808
Brazil Cases:    19,938,358, Deaths:    556,886

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP lawmaker who once spurned masks urges people to take covid-19 seriously after eight-month illness, Kim Bellware, Aug. 2, 2021 (print ed.). Tennessee state Rep. David Byrd had become so ill from infection that he had to get a liver transplant in June.

A Tennessee legislator who went from unmasked gatherings with fellow legislators to being placed on ventilator days later has emerged with a message for constituents after a harrowing eight-month experience with long-haul covid-19:

Take the coronavirus seriously.

“It is a disease that wants to kill us,” state Rep. David Byrd (R) said in a statement Friday. Byrd, 63, described an ordeal that included 55 days on a ventilator in which covid-19 ravaged his memory, his muscles and his organs — it led to him having a liver transplant in June; his condition was so grave that his family at least once began planning for his funeral. Stressing that covid-19 is real and “very dangerous,” Byrd encouraged people to get vaccinated.

“This is not an issue that should divide us,” he wrote.

Vaccinated people are ready for normalcy — and angry at the unvaccinated getting in their way

Before Byrd became ill around Thanksgiving, his attitude about the novel coronavirus, which can cause the disease covid-19, included a June 2020 vote for a resolution that accused the “mainstream media” of sensationalizing pandemic coverage. In November, he was among the House Republican Caucus members who gathered for an in-person multiday retreat amid surging infections statewide.

OpEdNews, Commentary: “Murder,” Ellsberg said: Recapping This Year’s Whistleblower Summit, Andrew Kreig, Aug. 1, 2021. Might former President Trump and key advisors be liable on murder charges for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans from the coronavirus pandemic?

The iconic “Pentagon Papers” whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg raised that question in a keynote address at the just-concluded annual “Whistleblower Summit & Film Festival” that continues to empower whistleblowers and encourages others to stand for truth and justice.

The still-eloquent Ellsberg, shown above in a 2020 photo from the collection of his archives at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, used his talk on July 30 to praise whistleblowers and extol their necessity along with a supportive public in line with the 10-day event’s theme: “50 Years of the Pentagon Papers and Investigative Journalism.”

Regarding the virus, Ellsberg urged prosecutors to consider whether the charge of second-degree murder, which is defined in some jurisdictions as homicide with “depraved indifference,” might be valid against those who deliberately downplayed the coronavirus to advance their political agendas. He alleged that at least half of the more than 600,000 American deaths from Covid-19 are probably attributable to the Trump team’s policies of minimizing warnings and preventive measures.

More broadly, Ellsberg noted deadly threats to Americans and to those around the world from disasters caused by climate change, which he described as similarly downplayed by officials for political reasons.

It was 50 years ago this summer that Ellsberg, a former Defense Department analyst, courageously disclosed in 1971 via the New York Times the “Pentagon Papers” documents showing, among other scandals, that four U.S. presidents had been systematically lying to the American people about causes and secret operations in the horrific Vietnam War.

He was later indicted on espionage charges in a stunning use of the anti-spy law to target a man who only wanted to alert the American public to their own taxpayer-funded operations. The charges were dropped on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct because Nixon officials had arranged a burglary of his psychiatrist’s office to try to find material to discredit him.

On Friday, Ellsberg praised whistleblowers who risk everything to help the public. Also, he noted with alarm what he called a dangerous tendency by American policymakers and pundits almost across the political spectrum to describe China and Russia as “the enemy.” He decried such name-calling as increasing the chances of a nuclear war.

Ellsberg’s talk culminated the speaker program of this year’s expanded Summit & Festival that began on July 23 and ended on Aug. 1 with the last of some thirty documentary films and shorts illustrating whistleblower themes.

 

U.S. Crime, Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, The quiet Biden-GOP talks behind the infrastructure deal, Seung Min Kim, Aug. 2, 2021 (print ed.). On the day President Biden’s first attempt at a bipartisan infrastructure deal collapsed, he dialed up a Republican senator he saw as a potential negotiating partner for a renewed push.

In that June 8 phone call, Biden told Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) that he wanted a public works agreement with Republicans in the neighborhood of $600 billion. More notably, Biden showed deep interest in provisions on energy resiliency that Cassidy had been working on for weeks.

That embrace of a favored provision hit home with Cassidy. “The president made it clear that that was essential for him,” the senator said. “Since the president had said it must be there, obviously that was very helpful.”

Cassidy would ultimately become one of five Senate Republicans, who, along with five Democrats and the White House, reached an agreement last week on a sweeping infrastructure package that includes $550 billion in new spending to revitalize the nation’s roads, strengthen public transit, repair water systems and expand broadband networks.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Government scientists who quit during the Trump administration haven’t returned, stunting President Biden’s climate plans, Coral Davenport, Lisa Friedman and Christopher Flavelle, Updated Aug. 2, 2021.  Hundreds of scientists and policy experts left the government during the Trump administration. The jobs remain unfilled nearly six months into President Biden’s term

ny times logoNew York Times, Two House Races in Ohio Could Challenge Democratic Divisions and Trump’s Sway, Jeremy W. Peters, Aug. 2, 2021.  In the Cleveland area, the left is battling the establishment. Near Columbus, a candidate endorsed by former President Trump faces a crowded field. Two primary contests on Tuesday for open House seats in Ohio are poised to act as a stress test for both Democrats and Republicans, offering early hints about whether party leaders are aligned with their voters ahead of the midterm elections next year.

In the Cleveland area, two Democrats are locked in an increasingly embittered and expensive clash that has become a flash point in the larger struggle between the party’s activist left flank and its leadership in Washington. The early favorite to win, Nina Turner, is now trying to hold back Shontel Brown, the preferred candidate of more establishment-friendly politicians and allied outside groups.

Ms. Turner, a former state senator who built a national following as a surrogate for Senator Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaigns, has been buoyed by support from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and other leaders in the progressive movement. But Ms. Brown, a local Democratic Party official, has benefited from the help of Hillary Clinton, Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina and others in party leadership roles.

About two hours to the south, near Columbus, a dense field of Republicans is vying to upset the preferred candidate of former President Donald J. Trump, an energy lobbyist named Mike Carey who was largely unknown until Mr. Trump endorsed him in early June and all but ensured that he would be the front-runner.

But the crowded competition — more than 10 candidates are running for the Republican nomination in the solidly right-leaning district — means that the race is fluid, especially considering that special elections typically draw low turnout.

If Mr. Trump’s candidate does not prevail, a loss would be seen as another sign that his blessing is not the political golden ticket that he and his allies insist it is.

ny times logoNew York Times, New York Is Pushing Homeless People Off the Streets. Where Will They Go? Andy Newman and Nicole Hong, Aug. 2, 2021. Cleanup crews are clearing encampments, but advocates say the sweeps just move people from one place to another and fail to address the housing crisis.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s fantasy land, Bill Palmer, right, Aug. 2, 2021. This past week Donald Trump’s former White House Chief of Staff did a bizarre bill palmerinterview in which he claimed that Trump was planning to meet with members of his “Cabinet.” The full context of the quote suggests that Meadows was referring to some unspecified future election. But still, since when does a former President meet with his “Cabinet” about anything?

bill palmer report logo headerIt’s the latest development in what’s becoming a remarkably pathetic development: Donald Trump’s remaining handlers are bending over further backward than ever to allow Trump to carry out the fantasy that he’s somehow still in charge of something and still relevant.

Trump’s handlers rarely allow him to appear in public these days, which tells you something about just how bad of shape he’s in. This is confirmed by Trump’s barely-there presence and fully incoherent rambling during the few speeches he’s allowed to give. There’s nothing Trump loves more than holding such rallies, but his handlers appear to understand that if they were to let him appear in public more than occasionally, it would allow the general public to figure out that he really is just about totally gone – and the Trump 2024 narrative would disappear from mainstream headlines entirely.

It’s becoming more clear by the day that Donald Trump, lost and broken and increasingly lacking his faculties, is living in some feeble fantasy land where he’s still President of the United States. Trump is too far gone to remain a threat. The real danger is what others might end up doing in his name. But Trump himself, what’s left of him, is just plain pathetic. If anyone else were in this sad sack position, without having been a monster to begin with, you’d feel bad for them.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats call on McCarthy to apologize after he said ‘it will be hard not to hit’ Pelosi with gavel, Amy B Wang, Aug. 2, 2021 (print ed.).  kevin mccarthySeveral Democrats are calling on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), right, to apologize or resign after he said it would “be hard not to hit” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), below left, with the gavel if he becomes speaker.

McCarthy, who was the keynote speaker for the Tennessee GOP’s annual Statesmen’s Dinner on Saturday, was presented at the event with an oversize gavel. He then told members of the crowd that they would be invited to his swearing-in as House speaker if Republicans won back the Nancy Pelosi House majority in 2022.

“More importantly, I want you to watch Nancy Pelosi hand me that gavel,” McCarthy said to cheers. “It will be hard not to hit her with it.”

A Washington Post reporter who was covering the dinner confirmed McCarthy’s remarks. Main Street Nashville reporter Vivian Jones also posted audio of McCarthy’s comment on Twitter.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Looks like Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump are getting a divorce, Bill Palmer, right, Aug. 1, 2021. Over the weekend Rudy Giuliani made the bizarre announcement that he’s bill palmer“more than willing” to go to prison, and that those who send him there will have to answer for it in the next life. At the time we wondered aloud why Rudy seemed to be giving up any hope of escaping what’s coming.

Now it looks like we’re starting to get an answer. Trump world mouthpiece Maggie Haberman is pointing to the amount of money that Trump’s phony political campaign is raising, and revealing that Rudy Giuliani’s camp is “aghast” that none of it is being used to pay for Rudy’s legal bills.

bill palmer report logo headerMoreover, Haberman says that Rudy is “close to broke,” which helps explain why he’s become so pessimistic about his own future. Trump’s team is also claiming that Trump can’t pay rudy giuliani recentRudy’s legal bills without creating legal problems for Trump, while also accusing Rudy of taking actions that “a lawyer should have known were problematic.”

So there it is. Not only is Donald Trump keeping all the fraudulently fundraised money for himself while letting Rudy Giuliani go broke, his team is also vaguely suggesting that Giuliani is guilty. In other words, Trump and Rudy are getting a divorce.

This leaves us with one key question: did Rudy really mean it when he said he’s willing to rot in prison? If he cuts a deal against Trump, he could potentially end up with a quite lenient sentence. We’ll see if Rudy changes his tune once he’s arrested, which he seems to think is coming sooner rather than later.

 

 World News, Corruption, Human Rights

washington post logoWashington Post, As the Taliban closes in, Afghan forces scramble to defend prisons holding thousands of militants, Susannah George, Aug. 2, 2021 (print ed.).  If just a fraction of the detainees escape, Afghan security officials warn, it would hand the Taliban a significant advantage on the battlefield, where it is already making steady gains.

Centcom logoAs Taliban militants close in on Afghanistan’s provincial capitals, they are inching closer to central prisons that house around 5,000 of their fellow fighters, leaving the government scrambling to secure the detention facilities. If just a fraction of the detainees were to escape, Afghan security officials warn, it would hand the militants a significant advantage on the battlefield, where they are already making steady gains.

In a city besieged by the Taliban, Afghan military advances disappear with forces stretched thin

Taliban leaders are telling their fighters “it’s extremely important that we release these people because they are experts, and we need them to strengthen our forces,” said a local security official in Kunduz briefed on the matter. Like other officials in this story, he spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S., Britain, Israel blame Iran for fatal drone strike on oil tanker; Tehran denies responsibility, Kareem Fahim and Shira Rubin, Aug. 2, 2021 (print ed.). The United States, Britain and Israel on Sunday all accused Iran of carrying out a drone attack last week on an oil tanker in the Arabian Sea that killed two people on board, raising fears of an escalating maritime war in the Middle East, as Tehran denied responsibility for the strike.

American and Israeli officials had previously said that Thursday’s attack on the Liberian-flagged Mercer Street bore the hallmarks of an operation by Iran, which has been accused of deploying attack drones in the past. The Mercer Street is managed by Zodiac Maritime, a London-based company owned by an Israeli billionaire. Those killed included a British national and a Romanian citizen, the company said.

Hostilities over the past two years between Israel and Iran have frequently played out at sea, in tit-for-tat attacks by both countries on oil tankers, private commercial vessels or warships — a conflict often referred to as part of a “shadow war” that feels increasingly overt. The strike on the Mercer, off the coast of Oman, marked a significant escalation and was the first time fatalities had resulted from one of the recent attacks.

 

2020 Tokyo Olympics

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ny times logoNew York Times, How Canada Beat the U.S. in the Women’s Soccer Semifinal, Andrew Keh, Aug. 2, 2021. The U.S. lost its star goalkeeper to a knee injury, but Canada delivered a shot no goalkeeper was likely to save, moving on to the gold medal game. The United States women’s soccer team lost, 1-0, to Canada canadian flagin an Olympic semifinal match Monday night at Ibaraki Kashima Stadium, ending the Americans’ hopes of following up their 2019 World Cup title with an Olympic gold medal.

The United States lost its star goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, the penalty-kick shootout hero of its quarterfinal victory, to a knee injury just half an hour into the match. But in the end, it was a shot that no goalkeeper was likely to save that sank them.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Olympics Updates: Jade Carey Wins Floor Exercise; Simone Biles to Compete on Beam, Staff Reports, Aug. 2, 2021. The event would be Biles’s last chance to compete at the Tokyo Games. Her decision comes after she withdrew from other events. Here’s the latest.

washington post logoolympics tokyo logoWashington Post, The Tokyo Olympics schedule, day by day, Staff Report. The Tokyo Olympics officially begin Friday with the Opening Ceremonies and end Aug. 8 with the Closing Ceremonies. Some events, such as softball and the men’s and women’s soccer tournaments, began Wednesday, before the official start of the Games.

The first medals will be handed out Saturday, followed by more than two weeks of dizzying action. Swimming and gymnastics likely will take center stage in the opening week. Many Olympic tournaments run nearly the duration of the Games, including basketball, baseball, softball, soccer and beach volleyball, and medals aren’t awarded until the final days.

Here’s the complete schedule of Olympic events, day by day.

 

Aug. 1

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Crime, Politics, Governance

 

Jan. 6 Pro-Trump Insurrection

 

World News, Corruption, Human Rights

 

2020 Tokyo Olympics

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Florida breaks record for new cases as surge of infections hits state, Timothy Bella and Meryl Kornfield, Aug. 1, 2021. Florida reported 21,683 new coronavirus cases, a total that eclipsed the record from January, when vaccinations were not widely available.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Florida reported 21,683 new coronavirus cases on Friday, the state’s highest one-day total since the start of the pandemic, according to data released Saturday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The data shows the severity of the surge in Florida, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak and now responsible for 1 in 5 new infections nationally. The previous peak in Florida had been on Jan. 7, when the state reported 19,334 cases, according to the CDC — before the widespread availability of coronavirus vaccinations. Florida has reported an average of 15,818 new cases a day over the past seven days, according to data compiled by The Washington Post.

The Florida Department of Health reported that coronavirus cases in the state had jumped 50 percent in the past week. In that time, the state has reported 409 deaths.
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In addition to the highly transmissible delta variant, vaccine holdouts and the widespread resumption of normal activities have led to a surge in infections, hospitalizations and deaths nationwide. With the United States reporting more than 70,000 cases a day, case numbers have risen to levels not seen since February.

ny times logoNew York Times, Where the Delta Variant and Low Vaccination Rates Are Colliding, Lauren Leatherby, Aug. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Many places in the U.S. that are seeing more new cases than at any point in the outbreak also have some of the country’s lowest vaccination rates.The Branson, Mo., and Harrison, Ark., areas have both set records this month, and Louisiana now has daily case rates more than 10 times higher than in June.

The highly contagious Delta variant is now responsible for almost all new Covid-19 cases in the United States, and cases are rising rapidly. For the first time since February, there were more than 100,000 confirmed cases on Tuesday, the same day the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that vaccinated people should resume wearing masks in public indoor spaces in communities where the virus is surging.

That updated guidance was based in part on a new internal report that cited evidence that vaccinated people experiencing breakthrough infections of the Delta variant, which remain infrequent, may be as capable of spreading the virus as infected unvaccinated people.

Several studies, including ones referenced in the C.D.C.’s presentation, have shown that vaccines remain effective against the Delta variant, particularly against hospitalization and death. That has held true in the real world: About 97 percent of those recently hospitalized by the virus were unvaccinated, the C.D.C. said. But in counties where vaccination rates are low, cases are rising fast, and deaths are also on the rise.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ban on evictions expires as renters face rising covid cases, lack of aid, Rachel Siegel, Aug. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Moody’s data shows there are still well over 6 million renters behind on payments.

The federal ban on evictions expires Saturday, marking a new, worrisome phase in the race to keep people in their homes amid the slow trickle of emergency rental aid and surging coronavirus cases.

The moratorium — put in place almost 11 months ago by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — has created new divisions pitting landlords against tenants, judges versus housing advocates, Republicans versus Democrats. While parts of the economy show signs of strength, the recovery has not carried everyone equally. Almost a year and a half since the pandemic began, many renters still haven’t caught up on their bills or gotten access to federal aid.

It’s difficult to know how many people could be served with eviction notices in the coming days and weeks, housing experts say. Moody’s data shows there are still well over 6 million renters behind on payments.

Evictions are about to restart as tenants wait on billions in unspent rental aid

In June, the CDC extended the ban for one final month, intensifying pressure on the Biden administration, along with state and local governments, to significantly ramp up the amount of rental assistance reaching tenants and landlords. All together, Congress appropriated $46 billion toward emergency rental aid. Only a fraction has been spent.

washington post logoWashington Post, Experts predict summer virus surge will get worse before it gets better, Ben Guarino and Dan Diamond, Aug. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Amid the highly transmissible delta variant and the widespread resumption of normal activities, the seven-day average of coronavirus cases nationwide has risen by about 60 percent in the past week alone.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Trump has more than $100 million in political cash after first six months of 2021, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Anu Narayanswamy, Aug. 1, 2021 (print ed.). The massive haul reveals how the former president has reaped financial rewards while claiming the election was stolen from him.

Former president Donald Trump’s proved himself his party’s most powerful fundraiser in the first six months of the year, amassing a political treasure chest of President Donald Trump official$102 million by the end of June, according to filings made public on Saturday.

His aides said he had raised $82 million in that period, though some of the money came in the form of transfers from accounts soliciting funds last year.

The sums, which are extraordinary for an ex-president who has been booted off social media, testify to the power of Trump’s online donor base and the deep financial reservoir available to him if he chooses to seek the White House a third time. They also reveal how the former president has reaped financial rewards while claiming the election was stolen from him.

Since leaving office, Trump has continued to vigorously solicit donations from supporters, based mostly on false claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election. His reported haul eclipsed that of his party’s House and Senate campaign arms, and was outpaced only slightly by the Republican National Committee, which raised $84 million in the first half of the year.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jan. 6 panel faces choice of whether to call GOP lawmakers to testify, Karoun Demirjian, Marianna Sotomayor and Jacqueline Alemany, Aug. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Several congressional Republicans have admitted to having contact with President Donald Trump during the Capitol insurrection or in the days leading up to it, making their testimony potentially key to the panel’s stated goal of being ‘guided solely by the facts.’

The Jan. 6 panel’s chairman, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), said in an interview that there is “no reluctance to subpoena” any member of Congress “whose testimony is germane to the mission of the select committee” if they resist cooperating voluntarily.

Thompson said the panel will be seeking the White House telephone and visitor logs to further scrutinize which members were in touch with the White House on Jan. 6.

“I would say between noon and 6 p.m., any call that went to the White House, you assume had to be something that had to do with it,” he said.

But legal experts said there is little precedent for forcing lawmakers to testify as part of a congressional inquiry if they resist a subpoena, an issue members of the Jan. 6 panel said they have yet to fully investigate or plan for as they plot out the next steps of their probe.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, New Rule Raises Question: Who’ll Pay for All the Covid Tests? Sarah Kliff, Aug. 1, 2021 (print ed.). With the Delta variant surging, many companies decide that unvaccinated workers will need to get regular testing.

Spurred by rising Covid cases and the Delta variant’s spread, a wave of major employers announced the same rule for unvaccinated workers this week: They will need to submit to regular surveillance testing. The new requirement raises a thorny question: Who pays for those coronavirus tests?

Doctors typically charge about $50 to $100 for the tests, so the costs of weekly testing could add up quickly. Federal law requires insurers to fully cover the tests when ordered by a health care provider, but routine workplace tests are exempt from that provision.

“It’s really up to the employer,” said Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms. “They can require employees to pick up the tab.”

Employers have so far taken a range of approaches, from fully covering the costs to having unvaccinated workers pay full freight.

joe biden black background resized serious fileThe U.S. government will pay for its unvaccinated workers’ coronavirus testing, Karine Jean-Pierre, the deputy White House press secretary, said at a news briefing Friday.

President Biden announced rules on Thursday that amount to a two-tier system for the country’s four million federal employees. Those who do not get vaccinated will have to social-distance, wear face coverings and comply with limits on official travel. Those who do get vaccinated will have no such requirements.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Require the vaccine. It’s time to stop coddling the reckless, Ruth Marcus, right, Aug. 1, 2021 (print ed.). P­­­ay people to get vaccinated, no matter ruth marcus twitter Customwhether that is unfair to those who didn’t receive checks for jabs. Require them to do so as a condition of going to work or enrolling in school. Do whatever it takes — and, recent weeks have shown, it is going to take steps like these — to get the pandemic under control.

Those of us who have behaved responsibly — wearing masks and, since the vaccines became available, getting our shots — cannot be held hostage by those who can’t be bothered to do the same, or who are too deluded by misinformation to understand what is so clearly in their own interest.

The more inconvenient we make life for the unvaccinated, the better our own lives will be. More important, the fewer who will needlessly die. We cannot ignore the emerging evidence that the delta variant is transmissible even by those who have been fully vaccinated. “The war has changed,” as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded.

Unz Review, Opinion-Debate: Are the Opponents of the Covid Injections “Anti-Vaxx Crackpots”? Vaccine skeptic Mike Whitney interviews Unz Review publisher and vaccine proponent Ron Unz, Aug. 1, 2021 ( 9,000 Words).

Question 1: Your views on the Coronavirus and Covid vaccine are very different than those of Unz Review writers, like Paul Craig Roberts, CJ Hopkins, Israel Shamir and myself. In your estimation, what are the main areas of disagreement and why do you think your analysis is more probable than theirs?

Ron Unz: America had more than 500,000 “excess deaths” during 2020, and additional tens or hundreds of thousands so far during 2021. Our official Covid death toll is now well over 600,000 but the experts in public health statistics at the University of Washington argue that nearly a million Americans have already died of Covid. Those are enormous numbers, much larger than the combined death toll of all our foreign wars, and they came despite the unprecedented public health measures the government (poorly) implemented over the last year to try to control the spread of the disease. It’s easy to imagine that millions of Americans might have died if the disease had spread in completely unchecked fashion.

As far as I can tell, nearly all Western countries did a very poor job of controlling the Covid outbreak, while East Asian nations like China, Taiwan, Japan, and Singapore, as well as Australia and New Zealand, did a much better job.

I come from a scientific background and I prefer to believe in reality. A disease that has already killed so many hundreds of thousands of Americans seems like a very serious problem to me.

washington post logoWashington Post, Why the choice to get teens vaccinated isn’t so clear- cut for some parents, Amy Joyce and Ellen McCarthy, Aug. 1, 2021 (print ed.). It’s not just anti-vaxers and covid deniers who are hesitant to take their teenagers to the vaccination clinic.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 190.5 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Aug. 1, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 164.2 million people fully vaccinated.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Aug. 1, 2021, with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher, as the New York Times reported in India’s true pandemic death toll is likely to be well over 3 million, a new study finds): 

World Cases: 198,708,991, Deaths: 4,236,355
U.S. Cases:     35,745,024, Deaths:    629,315
India Cases:     31,655,824, Deaths:    424,384
Brazil Cases:   19,917,855, Deaths:    556,437

washington post logoWashington Post, French police clash with anti-vaccine protesters amid tensions over ‘health pass’ plans, Miriam Berger, Aug. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Police in Paris used tear gas Saturday as thousands of protesters joined marches to denounce plans for vaccine “health passes,” the latest tensions around the world over government mandates to reward those who get vaccinated and maintain restrictions on those who refuse.

About 3,000 members of police and security forces were deployed in the French capital ahead of the demonstrations, which have flared weekly since the government announced the vaccine pass plans. Police fired tear gas and clashed with protesters in some areas. Protests also were held in other cities across France.

OpEdNews, Commentary: “Murder,” Ellsberg said: Recapping This Year’s Whistleblower Summit, Andrew Kreig, Aug. 1, 2021. Might former President Trump and key advisors be liable on murder charges for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans from the coronavirus pandemic?

The iconic “Pentagon Papers” whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg raised that question in a keynote address at the just-concluded annual “Whistleblower Summit & Film Festival” that continues to empower whistleblowers and encourages others to stand for truth and justice.

The still-eloquent Ellsberg, shown above in a 2020 photo from the collection of his archives at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, used his talk on July 30 to praise whistleblowers and extol their necessity along with a supportive public in line with the 10-day event’s theme: “50 Years of the Pentagon Papers and Investigative Journalism.”

Regarding the virus, Ellsberg urged prosecutors to consider whether the charge of second-degree murder, which is defined in some jurisdictions as homicide with “depraved indifference,” might be valid against those who deliberately downplayed the coronavirus to advance their political agendas. He alleged that at least half of the more than 600,000 American deaths from Covid-19 are probably attributable to the Trump team’s policies of minimizing warnings and preventive measures.

More broadly, Ellsberg noted deadly threats to Americans and to those around the world from disasters caused by climate change, which he described as similarly downplayed by officials for political reasons.

It was 50 years ago this summer that Ellsberg, a former Defense Department analyst, courageously disclosed in 1971 via the New York Times the “Pentagon Papers” documents showing, among other scandals, that four U.S. presidents had been systematically lying to the American people about causes and secret operations in the horrific Vietnam War.

He was later indicted on espionage charges in a stunning use of the anti-spy law to target a man who only wanted to alert the American public to their own taxpayer-funded operations. The charges were dropped on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct because Nixon officials had arranged a burglary of his psychiatrist’s office to try to find material to discredit him.

On Friday, Ellsberg praised whistleblowers who risk everything to help the public. Also, he noted with alarm what he called a dangerous tendency by American policymakers and pundits almost across the political spectrum to describe China and Russia as “the enemy.” He decried such name-calling as increasing the chances of a nuclear war.

Ellsberg’s talk culminated the speaker program of this year’s expanded Summit & Festival that began on July 23 and ended on Aug. 1 with the last of some thirty documentary films and shorts illustrating whistleblower themes.

 

U.S. Crime, Politics, Governance

huffington post logoHuffPost, Kevin McCarthy Makes Creepy Joke About Hitting Pelosi If He’s Ever Speaker Of The House, Mary Papenfuss, Aug. 1, 2021. “I want you to watch Nancy Pelosi hand me that gavel. It will be hard not to hit her with it, but I will bang it down,” he told laughing GOP donors.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), right, made a twisted joke on Saturday about how it would be “hard” not to strike Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) with her own gavel if he ever replaces her as speaker of the House.

kevin mccarthyHe made the startling comment after being given an oversized gavel by members of Tennessee’s congressional delegation at the Statemen’s Dinner, a GOP fundraising event in Nashville.

“I want you to watch Nancy Pelosi hand me that gavel. It will be hard not to hit her with it, but I will bang it down,” he said.

The remark, which was met by laughter from the 1,400 gathered GOP donors, was recorded by Main Street Nashville reporter Vivian Jones, who posted it on Twitter. The gavel presented to McCarthy was labeled with the words “Fire Pelosi.”

Pelosi’s spokesperson Drew Hammill quickly condemned McCarthy’s comment.

“A threat of violence to someone who was a target of a January 6th assassination attempt from your fellow Trump supporters is irresponsible and disgusting,” he said in a tweet.

Pelosi apparently struck a nerve last week when she called McCarthy a “moron” over his opposition of a new mask mandate in the House of Representatives due to rising cases of the delta variant of COVID-19.

Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) was outraged by McCarthy’s comments, drawing a contrast to Pelosi’s past support for the Violence Against Women Act. “When someone shows you who they are, believe them,” she tweeted.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Looks like Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump are getting a divorce, Bill Palmer, right, Aug. 1, 2021. Over the weekend Rudy Giuliani made the bizarre announcement that he’s bill palmer“more than willing” to go to prison, and that those who send him there will have to answer for it in the next life. At the time we wondered aloud why Rudy seemed to be giving up any hope of escaping what’s coming.

Now it looks like we’re starting to get an answer. Trump world mouthpiece Maggie Haberman is pointing to the amount of money that Trump’s phony political campaign is raising, and revealing that Rudy Giuliani’s camp is “aghast” that none of it is being used to pay for Rudy’s legal bills.

bill palmer report logo headerMoreover, Haberman says that Rudy is “close to broke,” which helps explain why he’s become so pessimistic about his own future. Trump’s team is also claiming that Trump can’t pay rudy giuliani recentRudy’s legal bills without creating legal problems for Trump, while also accusing Rudy of taking actions that “a lawyer should have known were problematic.”

So there it is. Not only is Donald Trump keeping all the fraudulently fundraised money for himself while letting Rudy Giuliani go broke, his team is also vaguely suggesting that Giuliani is guilty. In other words, Trump and Rudy are getting a divorce.

This leaves us with one key question: did Rudy really mean it when he said he’s willing to rot in prison? If he cuts a deal against Trump, he could potentially end up with a quite lenient sentence. We’ll see if Rudy changes his tune once he’s arrested, which he seems to think is coming sooner rather than later.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinions: What Trump got right, Mike Madden, Aug. 1, 2021. Opinion by nine experts and writers Donald Trump will not be remembered by most Americans as a great president.

An informal survey of historians this summer ranked him as the fourth-worst chief executive, ahead of only Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson and James Buchanan. He lost the popular vote in both the election he won and the election he lost. He was the first president to be impeached twice, as well as the first to be impeached after he left office. And by the time his supporters had finished storming the Capitol in a furious attempt to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory in January, only 38 percent of Americans approved of the job Trump did — with 52 percent “strongly” disapproving.

But four years is a long time, and presidents have an enormous amount of power. So even an unpopular chief executive who insists he actually won a losing reelection bid can’t make the wrong call on everything. Now that Trump has been out of office for six months, Outlook asked experts and writers who mostly disagreed with him — often vehemently — to look back on what he got right.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Yet another reason we need fewer political appointees, Jennifer Rubin, Aug. 1, 2021. How did the United States get so dangerously behind on cybersecurity? From China’s hack of the Office of Personnel Management to the SolarWinds attack to the shutdown of Colonial Pipeline due to ransomware, bad actors have regularly sliced through meager U.S. defenses. Should such an attack breach our power grid, the damage could be devastating.

One reason for this weakness, albeit not the only one, is the government’s inability to attract and retain top talent. The federal government’s cumbersome and misguided process for political appointees is part of the problem. The system is supposed to give Congress oversight control, but too often it leaves critical positions open, creates discontinuity and hampers the government in emergency response situations.

The Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security and Emergency Response (CESER) might not be well-known, but it is a critical entity within the Energy Department that is in charge of responding to natural and man-made emergencies impacting our power — from the Texas electric grid disaster to the pipeline hack. Considering the fleet of weather-related disasters and the rampant cybercrimes threatening our energy security, one would think a seasoned professional with years of experience would remain at the helm, even when administrations come and go. That would be wrong.

Thanks to the previous administration, the head of the office is a political position. That administration selected Karen S. Evans for the slot, despite her slight experience and poor management skills. She was confirmed as head of CESER in 2018. She lasted less than two years. Things got so bad that the inspector general found hundreds of millions of dollars unaccounted for due to a “lack of established internal controls.” After she left in February 2020, the position remained without a confirmed replacement. Not surprisingly, resignations plagued this key office. It fell to President Biden’s energy secretary, Jennifer Granholm, to revive the office.

The Biden administration came in with a commitment to strengthen cybersecurity and protect our electric grid, requesting a 30 percent budget increase for CESER. Granholm found someone to run the office: Puesh M. Kumar, who has years of private- and public-sector experience. He is the sort of person one would want running the agency regardless of party — and to continue running it even when administrations change hands. And if he does leave, the position certainly should not remain vacant as the confirmation process drags on for months.

That is precisely what Granholm is asking Congress to consider. At a June Senate hearing, Granholm engaged in a back-and-forth with Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), who urged that pipeline security be centralized and elevated. He asked whether CESER’s leadership should be bolstered and whether it should remain an assistant secretary post. That is the last thing we should do.

As Granholm explained, “Since CESER was established, about half its existence has been without leadership because it is a political position.” If you really want to elevate the position and the work CESER does, it should look like other emergency response entities where key posts are filled by career experts.

This is one small example of how critical functions of government would benefit from being removed from the political confirmation process. Max Stier, head of the Partnership for Public Service (which partners with The Post to track nominations and confirmations), has long advocated reducing the astonishing 4,000 or so political slots, more than 1,200 of which require Senate confirmation. “Simply put, the Senate is a small pipe down which we are trying to force too much material. Predictably, it is now clogged,” he wrote in a recent piece for Bloomberg. Do all these positions really need Senate confirmation? Given the discontinuity, unfilled leadership spots and cronyism that can undermine an agency or department without proper leadership, the answer is almost certainly no.

In testimony before the House Committee on Homeland Security’s subcommittee on cybersecurity, infrastructure protection, & innovation on Thursday, Stier listed a number of challenges that have hampered cybersecurity, from recruitment to retention to diversity. He also told members, “Congress also should hold political and career federal leaders accountable not only for owning policy but also for the organizational health of their agencies. In many cases, agencies and bureaus could benefit from career executives at the helm — nonpartisan, professional leaders who can provide needed stability and deep expertise.” He specifically cited CESER and urged Congress to “consider reducing the number of political appointees and creating more opportunities for career experts to lead.”

Should lawmakers ignore his plea, expect more empty slots, more reliance on “acting” officials, a loss of continuity of government and a greater risk that someone drops the ball at a critical time. The 9/11 Commission, for example, found that failure to have the requisite political positions in place contributed to the breakdown in communication and security lapse that allowed the catastrophic attack to happen.
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“Cyber and emergency response should be depoliticized. The growing threats from cyberattackers and climate change mean that our energy system needs stable, professional leadership at the helm of DOE’s CESER office,” Tarak Shah, Energy Department chief of staff, told me. “It’s a matter of when, not if, our country will face the next major cyberattack on our power sector, and at that moment, it’s incumbent on all of us to ensure we have technical experts at the helm with the requisite institutional knowledge.”

Granholm has it right. Congress should not only follow her advice on CESER but also start combing through the federal government to pare down its ludicrous list of political appointees.

This is one small example of how critical functions of government would benefit from being removed from the political confirmation process. Max Stier, head of the Partnership for Public Service (which partners with The Post to track nominations and confirmations), has long advocated reducing the astonishing 4,000 or so political slots, more than 1,200 of which require Senate confirmation. “Simply put, the Senate is a small pipe down which we are trying to force too much material. Predictably, it is now clogged,” he wrote in a recent piece for Bloomberg. Do all these positions really need Senate confirmation? Given the discontinuity, unfilled leadership spots and cronyism that can undermine an agency or department without proper leadership, the answer is almost certainly no.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Will Trump ever be held accountable? The Justice Department just increased the odds, Laurence H. Tribe (professor of constitutional law emeritus at Harvard Law School), Aug. 1, 2021 (print ed). Donald Trump managed to evade legal accountability throughout his presidency. That might be about to change — and the newest sign comes in a brief filed by the Justice Department. It doesn’t directly address the former president, yet has ominous implications for his ability to avoid responsibility for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

The Justice filing came in a lawsuit in which Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) and a number of Capitol Police officers have sued Trump and others for their roles in the insurrection. One of those named in the suit, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), claimed that he is immune from personal liability under a law known as the Westfall Act, which shields federal officials acting within the scope of their employment.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Rudy Giuliani admits it’s over for him, Bill Palmer, right, Aug. 1, 2021. When the Feds raided Rudy Giuliani’s home earlier this summer and bill palmerseized his communications devices, it was clear to us that he was going to end up in prison. In order to even obtain that kind of warrant, the Feds would have needed to already have more than enough evidence to nail him.

bill palmer report logo headerBut even as a court appointed special master sorts his communications and the prosecutorial process continues to play out, there are those who are convinced that the slow nature of the federal criminal justice system means Rudy has gotten away with it all. It turns out Rudy isn’t among them.

rudy giuliani recentRudy Giuliani announced this weekend that he’s “more than willing” to go to prison. If that’s not fatalistic enough, he also said that those who lock him up will have to answer for it in the afterlife. In other words, this is a guy who sees no hope of getting out of this.

What’s interesting is the timing. Giuliani’s goose has been cooked since the day of the raid. So why is he choosing now to publicly acknowledge that he has no way to beat the charges or wriggle his way out of prison? Maybe it’s just all finally sinking in for him. Or have prosecutors informed his legal team that movement is about to happen? The only move left at this point is his arrest. It may be time to start being on the lookout for it. Rudy seems to think it’s coming.

 

Jan. 6 Capitol Riot, Insurrection 

Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel and former President Trump (file photos).

Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel and former President Trump (file photos).

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: G.O.P. Strives to Turn Jan. 6 Riot Events Upside Down, Lisa Lerer and Nicholas Fandos, Aug. 1, 2021 (print ed.).  In the Republicans’ disinformation campaign, the arrested Capitol rioters are political prisoners and Speaker Nancy Pelosi is to blame for the attack.

In the hours and days after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, rattled Republican lawmakers knew exactly who was to blame: Donald J. Trump. Loyal allies began turning on him. Top Republicans vowed to make a full break from his divisive tactics and dishonesties. Some even discussed removing him from office.

rnc logoBy spring, however, after nearly 200 congressional Republicans had voted to clear Mr. Trump during a second impeachment proceeding, the conservative fringes of the party had already begun to rewrite history, describing the Capitol riot as a peaceful protest and comparing the invading mob to a “normal tourist visit,” as one congressman put it.

This past week, amid the emotional testimony of police officers at the first hearing of a House select committee, Republicans completed their journey through the looking-glass, spinning a new counternarrative of that deadly day. No longer content to absolve Mr. Trump, they concocted a version of events in which those accused of rioting were patriotic political prisoners and Speaker Nancy Pelosi was to blame for the violence.

Their new claims, some voiced from the highest levels of House Republican leadership, amount to a disinformation campaign being promulgated from the steps of the Capitol, aimed at giving cover to their party and intensifying the threats to political accountability.

republican elephant logoThis rendering of events — together with new evidence that Mr. Trump had counted on allies in Congress to help him use a baseless allegation of corruption to overturn the election — pointed to what some democracy experts see as a dangerous new sign in American politics: Even with Mr. Trump gone from the White House, many Republicans have little intention of abandoning the prevarication that was a hallmark of his presidency.

Rather, as the country struggles with the consequences of Mr. Trump’s assault on the legitimacy of the nation’s elections, leaders of his party — who, unlike the former president, have not lost their political or rhetorical platforms — are signaling their willingness to continue, look past or even expand his assault on the facts for political gain.

The phenomenon is not uniquely American.

“This is happening all over the place — it is so much linked to the democratic backsliding and rising of authoritarian movements,” said Laura Thornton, the director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. “It’s about the same sort of post-truth world. You can just repeat a lie over and over and, because there’s so little trust, people will believe it.”

Behind the Republican embrace of disinformation is a calculus of both ambition and self-preservation. With members of the select committee hinting that they could subpoena Trump aides, allies on Capitol Hill and perhaps Mr. Trump himself, the counterfactual counterattack could pre-emptively undercut an investigation of the riot. 

capitol noose shay horse nurphoto via getty

A crowd of Trump supporters surrounded a newly erected set of wooden gallows outside the Capitol Building on Jan. 6. “Hang Mike Pence!” members of the crowd shouted at times about the Republican Vice President who had announced that he could not comply with the president’s call to block election certification that day. The wooden gallows near the Capitol Reflecting Pool.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge berates riot suspect who refuses to wear mask: ‘When did you go to medical school?’ Rachel Weiner, Aug. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Daniel Goodwyn could go to jail for failing to comply with the requirement.

A federal judge in D.C. erupted in anger at a Jan. 6 riot defendant and his lawyer Friday afternoon for refusing to cooperate with court officials on covid-19 safety requirements.

“You may not believe in this virus even though 600,000 people have died,” said U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton. “I’m not going to be a part of spreading this virus because of what you don’t believe.”

But he did not immediately incarcerate Daniel Goodwyn, a San Francisco webpage designer accused of taking part in the assault on the Capitol. The judge said he would give Goodwyn one more chance to comply, even as the defendant insisted he would not.
reggie b walton

The judge, right, also warned Goodwyn’s lawyer, John Hull, that he could be held in contempt for repeatedly interrupting the proceedings and for calling a pretrial services officer “prissy” and “arrogant” in an email.

The clash in court came as concerns over the delta variant of the coronavirus and shifting masking guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised questions about the country’s pandemic recovery.

Goodwyn — charged with felony obstruction of an official proceeding and related misdemeanors — was first arrested in January at his parent’s home in Corinth, Tex.

During the arrest, according to prosecutors, FBI agents learned that someone in the home was believed to have covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, but Goodwyn refused to take a coronavirus test or wear a mask. When they put one on him, he chewed it and tried to spit it out; they went through five masks before getting him into quarantine at a nearby jail, prosecutors said.

Goodwyn was released in February but has since violated the conditions of his release multiple times, prosecutors said, including by refusing to wear a mask and failing to show up to meetings or report his location.

Hull said in court that Goodwyn had been diagnosed by a counselor as on the autism spectrum, which made it hard for him to wear a face covering and to handle rules he finds arbitrary. Some autistic people can’t tolerate face masks because of sensitivity to touch and texture. When asked why he wouldn’t wear a mask, Goodwyn said only that “it stresses me out,” then indicated that he does not believe in asymptomatic covid transmission or in the ability of masks to block that transmission. There is robust scientific evidence of both.

 

World News, Corruption, Human Rights

washington post logoWashington Post, Mexicans to vote on whether to prosecute former officials for alleged crimes, Kevin Sieff and Alejandra Ibarra Chaoul, Aug. 1, 2021 (print ed.). As the referendum has neared, it has become less clear to many Mexicans what they’re actually voting for — or why the vote is happening at all.

At the outset, the idea for the nationwide referendum to be held here on Sunday might have sounded groundbreaking: Do Mexicans want former presidents to be prosecuted for alleged crimes?

andrés lópez obrador wIn a country whose justice system rarely tries — and even less rarely convicts — those responsible for major crimes, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, right, proposed the referendum as yet another flourish in what he has described as a crusading, reformist agenda. Billboards began popping up in major cities with the faces of five former presidents and bold lettering encouraging citizens to “Break their historic pact of impunity.”

But as the referendum has neared, it has become less clear to many Mexicans what they’re actually voting for — or why the vote is happening at all. It has seemed yet another moment in which López Obrador — who calls his government Mexico’s “Fourth Transformation” — is using his skill as a showman to engage the country’s electorate without committing to any concrete action.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Promised to Restore the Iran Nuclear Deal. Now It Risks Derailment, David E. Sanger, Lara Jakes and Farnaz Fassihi, Aug. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Both sides have much to lose if a delicate negotiation over limiting Iran’s activities in return for a lifting of sanctions falls short.

ebrahim raisi smile facebook

Days before a new hard-line president is set to be inaugurated in Iran, Biden administration officials have turned sharply pessimistic about their chances of quickly restoring the nuclear deal that President Donald J. Trump dismantled, fearing that the new government in Tehran is speeding ahead on nuclear research and production and preparing new demands for the United States.

The concerns are a reversal from just a month ago, when American negotiators, based in part on assurances from the departing Iranian government, believed they were on the cusp of reaching a deal before Ebrahim Raisi, 60, right, a deeply conservative former head of the Iran Flagjudiciary, takes office on Thursday. In June, they were so confident that another round of talks was imminent that a leading American negotiator left his clothes in storage at a hotel in Vienna, where the talks took place through European intermediaries for the past four months.

That session never happened. International inspectors have been virtually blinded. At Iran’s major enrichment site at Natanz, centrifuges are spinning at supersonic speeds, beginning to enrich small amounts of nuclear fuel at near bomb-grade. Elsewhere, some uranium is being turned to metallic form — for medical purposes, the Iranians insist, though the technology is also useful for forming warheads.

ny times logoNew York Times, Riots Shatter Veneer of Coexistence in Israel’s Mixed Towns, Roger Cohen, Aug. 1, 2021. The May riots tore away a thin layer of civility to Israel Flagexpose seething resentments between Israel’s Jewish and Palestinian citizens. Decades after Israel’s birth in the 1948 Independence War, Jews and Arabs in Israel live side by side but largely blind to each others’ lives.

ny times logoNew York Times, What We Lost the Day of the Beirut Explosion, Essay by Lina Mounzer, Photographs by Mohamad Abdouni, Aug. 1, 2021. Almost one year ago, Lebanon’s capital was devastated by a blast at a port. Read reflections from victims, who want to see someone held accountable.

We still don’t even know how many people we lost. More than 200, but each official source in this deeply corrupt country gives a different tally, and so the exact number remains unknown.

And in any case, numbers alone cannot begin to capture the scale of loss.

The explosion shattered houses, buildings, cars, trees, but also our mental health, our sense of security, our sense of the possible and impossible.

We lost friends, parents, grandparents. Limbs and eyes. Memories. Entire neighborhoods. Hope. Our faith in a better tomorrow.

The losses are still piling up. Many have left the country or are laying plans to escape for good. That day was the definitive proof that there is no stable ground in this country anymore on which to build any kind of future.

ny times logoNew York Times, Tunisia’s President Holds Forth on Freedoms After Seizing Power, Vivian Yee Aug. 1, 2021. “‘Why do you think that, at 67, I would start a career as a dictator?’” President Kais Saied said in a meeting with The Times, quoting Charles de Gaulle.

Except that he had banned public gatherings of more than three people, and security forces had closed the local office of the pan-Arabic news channel Al Jazeera.

On the streets of Tunis, though, I found little appetite to protest. There was almost no sense of dread about the fate of Tunisian democracy

 

2020 Tokyo Olympics

olympics japan logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Italy’s Marcell Jacobs Is World’s New Fastest Man, Staff Reports, Aug. 1, 2021. Jacobs sprinted to Olympic gold in the men’s 100-meter dash, finishing in 9.80 seconds. Rebeca Andrade won the vault and Nina Derwael the uneven bars in women’s gymnastics. Alexander Zverev won the men’s singles tennis tournament, and Xander Schauffele took gold in men’s golf. Here’s the latest from Tokyo.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Tokyo Games went on. But American viewers aren’t coming along, Ben Strauss, Aug. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Leading up to the Tokyo Olympics, a group of NBC executives held a news conference to talk about their approach to these unusual Games.

“I really believe this is going to be the most meaningful Olympics of our lifetime,” said NBC Olympics executive producer Molly Solomon. “After everything the world has gone through … I do think that people are craving the shared experience. What better way to come together than through the stories of these athletes?”

The message was hope, as it is for every Olympics, but NBC also wanted these Games to mark the symbolic end of the global pandemic — a return to everyday life and a celebration of the triumph of the human spirit after a difficult 18 months. The sales pitch, from NBC’s perspective, made sense: the network is paying around about $12 billion to televise 10 Olympic Games from 2014 through 2032. But the network’s narrative was also running headlong into a state of emergency in Japan due to rising coronavirus cases and opposition to the Games on the ground there. When it was announced that there would be no fans, the television presentation suddenly became more challenging, too.

Indeed, the Games so far suggest that NBC overestimated America’s appetite for the Games and their pomp. Viewership is down significantly; public polling shows Americans are not enthusiastic about these Olympics; and the plight of Olympians and their mental health struggles have become the dominant story lines after Simone Biles withdrew from the gymnastics competition.

According to Nielsen, the opening ceremony in Tokyo drew 16.7 million viewers on NBC on July 23, accounting for both the live morning broadcast and the replay in prime time — the smallest audience for an opening ceremony in the past 33 years. It was down from 26.5 million who watched the event in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and 40.7 million people who watched London’s ceremony.

Through the first four nights of the Games, according to Sportico, viewership of NBCUniversal’s Olympics coverage, across its networks, is down 43 percent compared with Rio de Janeiro, to 17.5 million viewers from 30.7 million. Primetime coverage on the NBC is down nearly 50 percent.
Any viewership numbers must take into account that the number of homes with cable TV or satellite subscriptions has fallen significantly since 2016, from 86 million to 77 million. There is also the splintering of TV audiences with access to so much on-demand entertainment, as well as the time difference with Tokyo which puts many events on tape delay during prime time. And NBC is showing events on its streaming service, Peacock.

“You’ve got the normal head winds from an Olympics on that side of the world,” said former Fox executive and industry consultant Patrick Crakes. “It’s a year delayed and it feels in some ways like we’re getting this out of the way because we have to.”

washington post logoolympics tokyo logoWashington Post, The Tokyo Olympics schedule, day by day, Staff Report. The Tokyo Olympics officially begin Friday with the Opening Ceremonies and end Aug. 8 with the Closing Ceremonies. Some events, such as softball and the men’s and women’s soccer tournaments, began Wednesday, before the official start of the Games.

The first medals will be handed out Saturday, followed by more than two weeks of dizzying action. Swimming and gymnastics likely will take center stage in the opening week. Many Olympic tournaments run nearly the duration of the Games, including basketball, baseball, softball, soccer and beach volleyball, and medals aren’t awarded until the final days.

Here’s the complete schedule of Olympic events, day by day.

 

 

 

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