Sept. News Reports

 

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

 

Sept. 2

Top Headlines

Virus Victims, Responses

 

More On Supreme Courts, Abortion, Votes, Democracy

 

Pro-Trump Election Claims, Capitol Riot

 

Sirhan Parole Proceeding In RFK Death

 

More On Afghanistan

 

U.S. Hurricanes, Fires, Climate Change

U.S. Courts, Crime, Law

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

World News

 

Top Stories

supreme court Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court, Breaking Silence, Won’t Block Texas Abortion Law, Adam Liptak, J. David Goodman and Sabrina Tavernise, Updated Sept. 2, 2021, 1:40 a.m. ET. Legislation Is Nation’s Most Restrictive. The 5-to-4 vote came less than a day after the law went into effect, prohibiting abortions after six weeks. Texas lawmakers drafted the measure with the goal of frustrating efforts to challenge it in federal court.

The Supreme Court refused just before midnight on Wednesday to block a Texas law prohibiting most abortions, less than a day after it took effect and became the most restrictive abortion measure in the nation.

john roberts oThe vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., left, joining the court’s three liberal members in dissent.

The majority opinion was unsigned and consisted of a single long paragraph. It said the abortion providers who had challenged the law in an emergency application to the court had not made their case in the face of “complex and novel” procedural questions. The majority stressed that it was not ruling on the constitutionality of the Texas law and did not mean to limit “procedurally proper challenges” to it.

But the ruling was certain to fuel the hopes of abortion opponents and fears of abortion rights advocates as the court takes up a separate case in its new term this fall to decide whether Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision establishing a constitutional right to the procedure, should be overruled. It also left Texas abortion providers turning away patients as they scrambled to comply with the law, which prohibits abortions after roughly six weeks.

All four dissenting justices filed opinions.

“The court’s order is stunning,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her dissent. “Presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand.”

“The court has rewarded the state’s effort to delay federal review of a plainly unconstitutional statute, enacted in disregard of the court’s precedents, through procedural entanglements of the state’s own creation,” Justice Sotomayor wrote. “The court should not be so content to ignore its constitutional obligations to protect not only the rights of women, but also the sanctity of its precedents and of the rule of law.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Texas shows us what post-democracy America would look like, Dana Milbank, right, Sept. 2, 2021 (print ed.). Thanks to a series of dana milbank Customactions by the Texas legislature and governor, we now see exactly what the Trumpified Republican Party wants: to take us to an America where women cannot get abortions, even in cases of rape and incest; an America where almost everybody can openly carry a gun in public, without license, without permit, without safety training and without fingerprinting; and an America where law-abiding Black and Latino citizens are disproportionately denied the right to vote.

This is where Texas and other red states are going, or have already gone. It is where the rest of America will go, unless those targeted by these new laws — women, people of color and all small “d” democrats — rise up.

On Wednesday, a Texas law went into effect that bans abortions later than six weeks, after the Supreme Court let pass a request to block the statute. Because 85 to 90 percent of women get abortions after six weeks, it amounts to a near-total ban. Already on the books in Texas is a “trigger” law that automatically bans all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest, if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. At least 10 other states have done likewise.

djt maga hatAlso Wednesday, a new law went into effect in Texas, over the objections of law enforcement, allowing all Texans otherwise allowed to own guns to carry them in public, without a license and without training. Now, 20 states have blessed such “permitless carry.”

And on Tuesday, the Texas legislature passed the final version of the Republican voting bill that bans drive-through and 24-hour voting, both used disproportionately by voters of color; imposes new limits on voting by mail, blocks election officials from distributing mail-ballot applications unless specifically requested; gives partisan poll watchers more leeway to influence vote counting; and places new rules and paperwork requirements that deter people from helping others to vote or to register. At least 17 states have adopted similar restrictions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Manchin calls on Democrats to ‘pause’ and cut their $3.5 trillion spending plan, dealing potential blow to Biden agenda, Tony Romm, Sept. 2, 2021. The West Virginia senator’s remarks could upend Democrats’ plans on everything from health care to climate change.

A defining element of President Biden’s economic agenda appeared to be in new political jeopardy on Thursday, after Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), one of the chamber’s most pivotal swing votes, said the Senate needed to take a “strategic pause” on advancing its $3.5 trillion tax-and-spending package.

joe manchin headshotWriting in The Wall Street Journal, Manchin, right, raised alarms that the price tag is too high, the effects on the federal debt might be too great and the risks of inflation could create financial harms for Americans. He called on his fellow Democrats to slim down their spending ambitions — and slow down their plans to adopt the measure as soon as this month.

“While some have suggested this reconciliation legislation must be passed now, I believe that making budgetary decisions under artificial political deadlines never leads to good policy or sound decisions,” Manchin wrote.

House passes $3.5 trillion budget blueprint

Manchin’s comments immediately created headaches for Democrats, just as party lawmakers began work this week to craft what they hope to be a significant overhaul of the country’s education, health care and tax laws. If he ultimately withholds his vote, Democrats would not be able to proceed in the chamber since all 50 Republicans have vowed to oppose the bill.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: U.S. could work with Taliban against terrorists, Pentagon says, Rachel Pannett, Ellen Francis and Miriam Berger, Sept. 2, 2021. Tajikistan says it cannot afford to take in Afghan refugees.

The top U.S. military official said it is “possible” the United States will coordinate with the Taliban in the fight against the Islamic State, although he declined to Department of Defense Sealmake predictions about potential collaboration with Afghanistan’s new rulers, who could announce a new government as early as Thursday.

mark milley army chief of staff“We don’t know what the future of the Taliban is, but I can tell you from personal experience that this is a ruthless group from the past, and whether or not they change remains to be seen,” Gen. Mark A. Milley, left, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters Wednesday. “In war, you do what you must,” he added, even if it is “not what you necessarily want to do.”

American commanders worked with the Taliban to facilitate the evacuation of more than 124,000 people from Afghanistan in recent weeks. Both the United States and the Taliban share a common threat in the Islamic State, which was responsible for an attack outside Kabul airport last week that killed 13 U.S. service members and more than 170 civilians.

  • ‘We need to adjust to the new reality,’ U.K.’s top diplomat says of Taliban rule
  • Afghan national girls’ soccer team is seeking to leave amid fears of persecution by the Taliban

washington post logoWashington Post, Questions hang over diplomatic mission as next phase of U.S.-Afghanistan relationship begins, Missy Ryan, Sept. 2, 2021 (print ed.).The Biden administration is scrambling to stand up a new post in Qatar and help those stranded after the U.S. exit.

The Biden administration on Tuesday began planning for the next phase of the U.S. relationship with Afghanistan, as the State Department scrambled to stand up a remote diplomatic mission and continue working to help those stranded under Taliban rule.

Diplomats will work from the Qatari capital, Doha, where they will assist refugees who have fled Afghanistan and liaise with representatives of the militant group whose capture of Kabul this month marked an ignominious end to the United States’ two decades there.

America’s 20-year war in Afghanistan ends as last military cargo plane lumbers into the sky

Victorious Taliban leaders cemented their own plans for Afghanistan in a high-level three-day meeting, headed by the group’s supreme leader, Haibatullah Akhunzada, which concluded Monday in the Taliban’s birthplace city of Kandahar.

 

Army Maj. Gen. Christopher T. Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, at the Kabul airport on Aug. 30 before he boarded a C-17 as the last service member on the ground in Afghanistan. (Army Master Sgt. Alex Burnett/U.S. Army)

Army Maj. Gen. Christopher T. Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, at the Kabul airport on Aug. 30 before he boarded a C-17 as the last service member on the ground in Afghanistan. (Army Master Sgt. Alex Burnett/U.S. Army). Washington Post, Perspective: The viral photo of the last soldier in Afghanistan is powerful — and deceptive, Philip Kennicott

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Joe Rogan has covid-19, is taking unproven deworming medicine, Elahe Izadi and Emily Yahr, Sept. 2, 2021 (print ed.). Joe Rogan, host of a wildly popular podcast who has downplayed the need for coronavirus vaccines, announced Wednesday he tested positive for the coronavirus.

In a brief video, Rogan told his 13.1 million Instagram followers that he returned home from the road Saturday night — he’s currently on tour and just performed a series of comedy shows in Florida — feeling weary with a headache.

“Just to be cautious, I separated from my family, slept in a different part of the house, and throughout the night I got fevers and sweats. And I knew what was going on,” Rogan said. “So I got up in the morning, got tested — and turns out I got covid.”

joe rogan twitterRogan, right, said he was now feeling “great” after “one bad day” on Sunday. After his diagnosis, he said he “immediately threw the kitchen sink” at the virus, and listed a litany of therapeutics and treatments he tried, including ivermectin, a medicine used to kill parasites in animals and humans but best known as a horse dewormer.

The treatment is one that has been promoted by conservative media figures, politicians and some doctors, but also carries a warning from the Food and Drug Administration, which has advised against using it as a treatment for covid-19. Poison control centers have reported huge spikes of calls about ivermectin exposure.

“You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it,” the FDA tweeted last month amid an increase of people getting sick from the medicine.

Doctors dismayed by patients who fear coronavirus vaccines but clamor for unproven ivermectin

“The Joe Rogan Experience” is the most popular podcast in the country, according to tracking firm Edison Research. In 2020, Spotify acquired Rogan’s podcast library in a reported $100 million deal and now exclusively licenses the series. Before he moved to Spotify, Rogan’s show had about 190 million monthly downloads.

Rogan, a stand-up comedian, is a lightning rod with a huge following. He’s hosted controversial figures on his show, including Alex Jones, who has pushed the false theory that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a hoax.

washington post logoWashington Post, Georgia professors are quitting over their universities’ lax mask rules: ‘This is a matter of life and death,’ Andrea Salcedo, Sept. 2, 2021. After more than a year of working from home, lecturer Cornelia Lambert was days away from returning to the University of North Georgia to teach a seminar on the history of infectious diseases when she began having second thoughts.

georgia mapSeveral things worried her. Coronavirus cases tied to the highly transmissible delta variant were on the rise. Although she is vaccinated, Lambert feared the possibility of infecting her immunocompromised husband. But above all, she said, there was no way to make her classroom safe for her students since she could not require masks or proof of vaccination.

Lambert, who received her university’s “Excellence in Online Teaching Award” earlier this year, asked if she could teach her fall courses virtually. The university declined, she said.

“The next day, I quit,” Lambert, 45, told The Washington Post. “I was going to feel like a fraud sitting there and talking to my students about public health while being paid by an institution that’s ignoring public health.”

Lambert, who joined the university in 2015, is among a group of Georgia state professors who have chosen to walk away from their jobs as their schools reopen for the fall semester without mask or vaccine mandates. Last month, another professor at the University of North Georgia resigned days before the semester was set to begin, citing inadequate covid-19 safety measures.

washington post logoWashington Post, FDA to hear from outside experts on coronavirus boosters just days before shots become available, Laurie McGinley and Dan Diamond, Sept. 2, 2021 (print ed). The session could prove awkward if the experts say boosters are not necessary now — or it could bolster Biden administration arguments that shots are needed sooner rather than later.

The Food and Drug Administration has scheduled a key meeting on coronavirus boosters with its outside advisers for Sept. 17 — just a few days before the Biden administration’s planned starting date for an extra-shot campaign.

The session, which will be public, could add much-needed clarity and transparency to a decision-making process that some people have criticized as confusing. But it also could fuel more controversy over an administration position some experts regard as premature.

One of the panel members is Paul A. Offit, a vaccine expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who has questioned whether boosters are needed at this time because data indicates the vaccines remain effective against severe covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Administration officials have responded that protection is waning, and it is important to make a plan to administer boosters before it is too late.

washington post logoWashington Post, Texas district closes schools after covid kills two teachers in one week, Timothy Bella, Sept. 2, 2021 (print ed.). A Central Texas school district is temporarily closing after two teachers died of covid-19 in the same week, while parents and legislators in the state continue to clash over mask mandates in classrooms.

Officials with the Connally Independent School District, north of Waco, said its five suburban schools will be closed until after the Labor Day holiday following the covid-19 death Saturday of Natalia Chansler, 41, a sixth-grade social studies teacher at Connally Junior High School. Her death came just days after 59-year-old David “Andy” McCormick, a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Connally Junior High, died of covid-19 on Aug. 24, the district said.

“We are very heartbroken,” Jill Bottelberghe, the district’s assistant superintendent of human resources, told the Waco Tribune-Herald, adding, “It is very devastating as far as the students, the staff and the community as a whole.”

 

marc bernier

washington post logoWashington Post, Four conservative radio talk-show hosts bashed coronavirus vaccines. Then they got sick, Paul Farhi,  Sept. 2, 2021 (print ed.). All four died over the past month, highlighting talk radio’s often overlooked role as a vector of coronavirus misinformation.

Marc Bernier was adamant: He was not going to get a coronavirus vaccination.

republican elephant logo“I’m Mr. Anti-Vax,” he told listeners of his talk-radio program in Daytona Beach, Fla., after the federal government provisionally approved the first vaccines in December. He later declared that the government was “acting like Nazis” in urging people to get vaccinated.

But in early August, WNDB AM-FM, Bernier’s radio home for more than 30 years, announced that the 65-year-old host was being treated in a hospital for covid-19. On Saturday, the station said that Bernier had died.

Bernier was at least the fourth talk-radio host who had espoused anti-vaccine and anti-mask sentiments to succumb to the virus in August. There was also Phil Valentine, 61, a popular host in Tennessee; Jimmy DeYoung, 81, a nationally syndicated Christian preacher also based in Tennessee; and Dick Farrel, 65, who had worked for stations in Miami and Palm Beach, Fla., as well as for the conservative Newsmax TV channel.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Yes, you can get some immunity from having covid-19. But no one should wait to get vaccinated, Leana S. Wen, right, Sept. 2, 2021 (print ed.). A leana wenmajor reason why many Americans remain unvaccinated is the belief that so-called natural immunity protects as well or better than immunity from vaccination. A professor at George Mason University recently filed a lawsuit against his employer alleging that because he recovered from covid-19, he should be exempted from the university’s vaccine mandate. Some physicians have argued that children are better off being exposed to covid-19 and developing immunity through infection rather than vaccination.

fda logoThere are some simple responses to these arguments: All eligible people 12 and above — including those who were previously infected such as that professor — would be better off getting the vaccine and should be required to do so. Vaccines for younger children must be an urgent priority and, once authorized, should also be mandated.

Nevertheless, it’s important to acknowledge that those promoting natural immunity aren’t entirely wrong. They are right that recovery from covid-19 provides good protection from reinfection. They might even make a reasonable case that those who had the disease don’t need both doses of the vaccine. Where they go grievously wrong is when they encourage people to forgo vaccination and instead opt for infection.

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 205.9 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Sept. 2, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2vaccine. This includes more than 175 million people, or 52.7 percent, fully vaccinated.

The United States reached President Biden’s target of getting at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine to 70 percent of adults just about a month after his goal of July 4. When the president set the goal May 4, more than 2 million vaccine doses were being given daily, 56 percent of adults had already received at least one shot, and the target seemed to be in easy reach. Vaccination rates fell to 1 million per day and in July fell further to around a half-million doses per day before turning up again.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Sept. 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: 219,448,430, Deaths: 4,548,707
U.S. Cases:     40,330,712, Deaths:    659,927
India Cases:     32,857,937, Deaths:    439,559
Brazil Cases:   20,804,215, Deaths:    581,228

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Buying of the American Mind, Paul Krugman, right, Sept. 2, 2021 (print ed.). Today’s column was inspired by the latest twist in our still shambolic paul krugmanresponse to Covid — the continuing refusal of many Americans to get vaccinated and the insistence of some of them on swallowing horse paste instead.

I tried (Aug. 29 column) to link this horrifying, if comic, development to the long relationship between right-wing extremism and patent medicine. But I didn’t have space to put this in the broader context of how money influences politics and policy.

The simple fact is that none of us are saints. Even those who claim to be working for the common good can be and often are influenced by the prospect of personal reward. As conservative economists like to say, incentives matter.

Indeed, it’s usually conservative economists who make this point most strongly.

And as far back as I can remember, the world of conservative opinion and thought has, in fact, consisted largely of bought men and women. (I’ll talk about liberals in a minute.)

First came the rise of “movement conservatism” — a highly organized set of interlocking institutions, all backed by billionaires and big corporations, of which the Republican Party was only one piece. There were also media organizations, especially Fox, think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and more. By the aughts (we never did come up with a better name for this century’s first decade), these institutions had created a safe space, a guarantee of a stable and fairly lucrative career, for people willing to say the right things — tax cuts good, regulation bad — and not rock the boat.

I never thought I’d be nostalgic for the era when big money ruled the right. But traditional corporate influence looks benign compared with where we are now. At this point, to be a conservative in good standing you have to pledge allegiance to blatant lies — Democrats are Marxists, the election was stolen, basic public health measures are sinister assaults on freedom.

OK, what about liberals? They’re people too, with all the usual human flaws; there are plenty of prominent liberals who I know personally to be driven by ego and to some extent by monetary considerations, people like … actually, not going there. But they live in a different environment from conservatives.

The old Will Rogers line — “I am not a member of any organized political party — I am a Democrat” — still applies. Political science research confirms that the Republican Party, and conservatism in general, is an ideological monolith, albeit one largely under new management.

Democrats and the center-left in general, by contrast, are a loose coalition, and to prosper in that coalition you have to satisfy multiple constituencies. This makes it harder to sell your soul, because it’s not clear who you’re supposed to sell it to

So the blend of craziness and corruption taking place on the American right is special, without anything comparable on the left. Don’t both-sides this.

 

More On Supreme Courts, Abortion, Votes, Democracy

supreme court Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court, Breaking Silence, Won’t Block Texas Abortion Law, Adam Liptak, J. David Goodman and Sabrina Tavernise, Updated Sept. 2, 2021, 1:40 a.m. ET (continued from above). Legislation Is Nation’s Most Restrictive. The 5-to-4 vote came less than a day after the law went into effect, prohibiting abortions after six weeks. Texas lawmakers drafted the measure with the goal of frustrating efforts to challenge it in federal court.

Chief Justice Roberts wrote that he would have blocked the law while appeals moved forward.

“The statutory scheme before the court is not only unusual, but unprecedented,” he wrote. “The legislature has imposed a prohibition on abortions after roughly six weeks, and then essentially delegated enforcement of that prohibition to the populace at large. The desired consequence appears to be to insulate the state from responsibility for implementing and enforcing the regulatory regime.”

The chief justice underscored the tentative nature of the majority’s ruling. “Although the court denies the applicants’ request for emergency relief today,” he wrote, “the court’s order is emphatic in making clear that it cannot be understood as sustaining the constitutionality of the law at issue.”

Justice Elena Kagan criticized the court’s practice of deciding important issues in rushed decisions without full briefing or oral argument — on what Supreme Court specialists call its “shadow docket.”

“Today’s ruling illustrates just how far the court’s ‘shadow-docket’ decisions may depart from the usual principles of appellate process,” she wrote. “That ruling, as everyone must agree, is of great consequence.”

“Yet the majority has acted without any guidance from the court of appeals — which is right now considering the same issues,” she wrote. “It has reviewed only the most cursory party submissions, and then only hastily. And it barely bothers to explain its conclusion — that a challenge to an obviously unconstitutional abortion regulation backed by a wholly unprecedented enforcement scheme is unlikely to prevail.”

“In all these ways,” Justice Kagan wrote, “the majority’s decision is emblematic of too much of this court’s shadow-docket decision making — which every day becomes more unreasoned, inconsistent and impossible to defend.”

The Texas law, known as Senate Bill 8, amounts to a nearly complete ban on abortion in Texas because 85 to 90 percent of procedures in the state happen after the sixth week of pregnancy, according to lawyers for several clinics. On Tuesday night, clinics were scrambling to see patients until the minute the law went into effect, with six-hour waits for procedures in some places. By Wednesday, the patient lists had shrunk, clinic workers said in interviews.

The law is the latest battle over abortion rights in the United States. In recent years, anti-abortion campaigners have found success through laws in state legislatures, and a broad swath of the South and the Midwest now has limited access to abortions.

Texas has about 24 abortion clinics, down from roughly 40 before 2013, when the State Legislature imposed a previous round of restrictions. It was not immediately clear on Wednesday if every one of them was complying with the law, which the Republican governor signed in May, but many, in interviews, said they were.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Texas shows us what post-democracy America would look like, Dana Milbank, right, Sept. 2, 2021 (print ed., continued from above). Thanks to a series of dana milbank Customactions by the Texas legislature and governor, we now see exactly what the Trumpified Republican Party wants: to take us to an America where women cannot get abortions, even in cases of rape and incest; an America where almost everybody can openly carry a gun in public, without license, without permit, without safety training and without fingerprinting; and an America where law-abiding Black and Latino citizens are disproportionately denied the right to vote.

On Wednesday, a Texas law went into effect that bans abortions later than six weeks, after the Supreme Court let pass a request to block the statute. Because 85 to 90 percent of women get abortions after six weeks, it amounts to a near-total ban. Already on the books in Texas is a “trigger” law that automatically bans all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest, if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. At least 10 other states have done likewise.

djt maga hatAlso Wednesday, a new law went into effect in Texas, over the objections of law enforcement, allowing all Texans otherwise allowed to own guns to carry them in public, without a license and without training. Now, 20 states have blessed such “permitless carry.”

And on Tuesday, the Texas legislature passed the final version of the Republican voting bill that bans drive-through and 24-hour voting, both used disproportionately by voters of color; imposes new limits on voting by mail, blocks election officials from distributing mail-ballot applications unless specifically requested; gives partisan poll watchers more leeway to influence vote counting; and places new rules and paperwork requirements that deter people from helping others to vote or to register. At least 17 states have adopted similar restrictions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Texas abortion law abruptly reshapes the political landscape, Annie Linskey, Colby Itkowitz and Mike DeBonis, Sept. 2, 2021. Both parties are thrust into new positions, as Democrats fear a long-standing principle is at risk and Republicans see their aspirations closer to reality. Will Democrats be mobilized by the threat, or Republicans by their gains?

Texas’s new abortion law has scrambled the political landscape and forced both parties to recalibrate their strategies, as Republicans see their antiabortion agenda move closer to reality and Democrats fear one of their most deeply held principles is suddenly in jeopardy.

Abortion rights activists, who’ve made limited headway warning Democrats their abortion rights could disappear, are now seeing those rights erode in real time, potentially sending a jolt of energy through the party. Some antiabortion advocates, meanwhile, say they will benefit from having actual gains to show for their decades of activism.

“I predict there will be a greater intensity on this issue,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a prominent antiabortion group. “In the past, it’s all been planning for the distant future, for a day when it might happen. And in this election, we can say that moment is much closer.”

Dannenfelser conceded that voters who support abortion rights will also be energized. “They have everything to lose,” she said. “Their activity, of course, will be intense as well.”

Jennifer Palmieri, a Democratic strategist who served as Hillary Clinton’s communications director, said voters react forcefully to the threat of existing rights being taken away.

“Do I feel like it will be motivating? Yes, I do,” Palmieri said. “I’m totally freaked out. If I lived in Texas, I would just be filled with rage all day.” Referring to the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion rights case, she added: “For a long time we’ve said Roe is under threat. And now it’s being dismantled in front of our eyes.”

The law, which took effect this week, prohibits abortions in most cases after six weeks of pregnancy. In a 5-to-4 decision late Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to put a hold on the statute as it works its way through the courts.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sen. Collins asserted that Kavanaugh considered abortion rights settled law. His decision on Texas’s ban suggests otherwise, Felicia Sonmez, Sept. 2, 2021. Sen. Susan Collins emerged from her face-to-face meeting with then-Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh in August 2018 insisting that he had reassured her that Roe v. Wade was settled law.

Two months later, Collins (R-Maine), who supports abortion rights, declared in a lengthy Senate floor speech that Kavanaugh had a “record of judicial independence” and dismissed the notion that he might overturn precedent. She later would vote to confirm him to the lifetime post.

Collins’s past assertions came into sharp relief Wednesday as Kavanaugh joined four of his fellow conservatives on the court in declining to block one of the country’s most restrictive abortion laws, a Texas statute that bans the procedure as early as six weeks into pregnancy with no exception for rape or incest. The court’s action stands as the most serious threat to the landmark ruling establishing a woman’s right to abortion in nearly 50 years.

Collins’s support for Kavanaugh — and her insistence that he would uphold Roe — was crucial in installing then-President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court as the Senate confirmed him by one of the narrowest margins in history, a near party-line 50-to-48 vote.

His decision late Wednesday night revives questions of whether Collins was misled by the nominee or whether she was intent on supporting him no matter his views on abortion rights. Collins’s full-throated endorsement of Kavanaugh and her swing vote means she will always be associated with this Supreme Court justice, winning praise from conservatives and widespread criticism from liberals.

In a statement Thursday afternoon, Collins called the Texas law “extreme and harmful.” She made no specific mention of Kavanaugh but noted that of the six Supreme Court justices she has voted to confirm, three voted with the majority on the Texas ban, while three voted with the minority.

“The Supreme Court recognized that there are ‘serious questions’ regarding the constitutionality of the Texas law, and it emphasized that its recent ruling does not address those questions,” Collins said. “I oppose the Court’s decision to allow the law to remain in effect for now while these underlying constitutional and procedural questions are litigated.”

Abortion providers say the Texas ban — which relies on private citizens to sue people who help women obtain abortions prohibited under the law — effectively eliminates the guarantee in Roe v. Wade and subsequent Supreme Court decisions that women have a right to end their pregnancies before viability, and that states may not impose undue burdens on that decision. It was specifically designed to turn away pre-enforcement challenges in federal courts.

Collins’s support for Kavanaugh became a major issue in her bid for reelection in 2020. Some abortion rights groups withdrew their support for Collins, and a major LGBTQ rights group, the Human Rights Campaign, endorsed her Democratic opponent, Maine’s then-House Speaker Sara Gideon, citing Collins’s vote to confirm Kavanaugh, as well as “her support of Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump’s agenda.”

Nonetheless, the senator successfully won reelection, taking 51 percent to Gideon’s 42.4 percent. Collins, 68, is not up for reelection until 2026.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Kevin McCarthy emerges as a demagogue in his own right, Michael Gerson, Sept. 2, 2021.  House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s threat that Republicans “will not forget” if telecommunications companies comply with requests for email and phone records by the Jan. 6 committee marks a coming out of sorts.

For years, McCarthy (R-Calif.) has been former president Donald Trump’s factotum — a groveler and sniveler, held in obvious contempt by the object of his loyalty. You can usually identify the minority leader in a picture by his hunted expression.

But now McCarthy is emerging as a demagogue in his own right. His obstruction of a congressional inquiry is probably a violation of House ethics rules, and maybe even a violation of federal law. But that is presumably the point: McCarthy wants to show his chest hair and spitting skills in a party where toxic masculinity has become the dominant political philosophy.

ny times logoNew York Times, After Supreme Court Silence, Texas Clinics Face Near-Total Abortion Ban, Adam Liptak and Sabrina Tavernise, Sept. 2, 2021 (print ed.). The law went into effect after the Supreme Court failed to act on a request to block it, prompting clinics in the state to begin to turn away women. The justices may still rule on the request, which is just an early step in what is expected to be an extended legal battle over the law.

texas mapA Texas law prohibiting most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy went into effect on Wednesday after the Supreme Court failed to act on a request to block it, ushering in the most restrictive abortion law in the nation and prompting clinics in the state to turn away women seeking the procedure.

The justices may still rule on the request, which is just an early step in what is expected to be an extended legal battle over the law. In the meantime, though, access to abortion in Texas has become extremely limited, the latest example of a Republican-led state imposing new constraints on ending pregnancies.

The law, known as Senate Bill 8, amounts to a nearly complete ban on abortion in Texas, one that will further fuel legal and political battles over the future of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion. The law makes no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from incest or rape.

supreme court buildingIn an emergency application urging the justices to intervene, abortion providers in the state wrote that the law “would immediately and catastrophically reduce abortion access in Texas, barring care for at least 85 percent of Texas abortion patients (those who are six weeks pregnant or greater) and likely forcing many abortion clinics ultimately to close.”

Supreme Court precedents forbid states from banning abortion before fetal viability, the point at which fetuses can sustain life outside the womb, or about 22 to 24 weeks.

But the Texas law was drafted to make it difficult to challenge in court. Usually, a lawsuit seeking to block a law because it is unconstitutional would name state officials as defendants. But the Texas law bars state officials from enforcing it and instead deputizes private individuals to sue anyone who performs the procedure or “aids and abets” it.

The patient may not be sued, but doctors, staff members at clinics, counselors, people who help pay for the procedure, even an Uber driver taking a patient to an abortion clinic are all potential defendants. Plaintiffs, who need not have any connection to the matter or show any injury from it, are entitled to $10,000 and their legal fees recovered if they win. Prevailing defendants are not entitled to legal fees.

The immediate question for the justices is not whether the Texas law is constitutional. It is, rather, whether it may be challenged in federal court. The law’s defenders say that, given the way the law is structured, only Texas courts can rule on the matter and only in the context of suits against abortion providers for violating the law.

Amy Hagstrom Miller, the chief executive of Whole Woman’s Health, which operates four clinics in Texas, said they would comply with the law and that no abortions would be scheduled for any patient whose ultrasound detects a fetal heartbeat.

She said the threat of being sued individually under the law was worrying for her staff, including doctors and administrators, and she did not want to expose them to that risk.

“Our staff and doctors would be put in the position of having to defend themselves against accusations of breaking the law,” she said. “It’s sobering. This is way beyond anything any of us had imagined.”

At Whole Woman’s Health of Fort Worth, the last patient appointment was completed at 11:56 p.m. on Tuesday, said Marva Sadler, senior director of clinic services. She said doctors started at 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning and treated 117 patients, far more than usual.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Say goodbye to Roe v. Wade, Paul Waldman, right, Sept. 2, 2021 (print ed.). Thanks to the state of Texas, the country’s most paul waldmanconservative court of appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, abortion has been all but outlawed in the second-largest state in America. Roe v. Wade now hangs by a fraying thread, with six justices sharpening their scissors to sever it once and for all.

Texas recently passed the most draconian abortion law in the United States, one that quite intentionally violates Roe v. Wade. A federal district court was about to have a hearing on the law, one that would probably have resulted in a stay on the law while the legal case against it is decided.

But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit — the most conservative of the federal appeals courts — stepped in and canceled that hearing. The plaintiffs suing to stop the law made an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court, which the justices chose not to act on before Sept. 1, when the law was slated to go into effect.

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Texas actions make it a prime candidate for international sanctions, Wayne Madsen, left, Sept. 2, 2021. Texas has now become a wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallreal-life version of the dystopian Republic of Gilead,  the christofascist dictatorship depicted in Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, wayne madesen report logoand in the eponymous Netflix series.

On the heels of Texas restricting suffrage to Hispanics, African-Americans, disabled, and others by instituting a voting law that unfairly targets minorities and permits violent neo-Nazi thugs to harass voters, it has now instituted a Gestapo-like informant system that rewards private citizens for suing women and others believed to be involved in having and enabling abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. Many women are not even aware they are pregnant at four to six weeks.

 

Jan. 6 Pro-Trump Riot Probes, Prosecutions

Proof via Substack, Investigation: On Insurrection Eve, Trump Adviser Michael Lindell Both Proposed Civil War in a 15-Page Manifesto and Met in Virginia with a seth abramson graphicCorrupt Foreign National, Seth Abramson, left, Sept. 2, 2021. In this second entry of the Proof series on lightly reported or non-reported pre-insurrection meetings involving insurrectionist kingpins, we discuss a secretive January 5 dinner in Virginia. 

Introduction: Proof long ago reported on Michael Lindell’s claims that he met with the corrupt son of corrupt Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro on January 5. That reporting in turn led to two additional significant Proof reports on the possible value of the Bolsonaros to Trump’s coup attempt; the connection between other Trump war room participants (such as the Becks of Idaho) and the Bolsonaros; and other visits Eduardo Bolsonaro made during his consistently-thereafter-lied-about trip to D.C.—including not just one but two visits to see the Trump family at the White House, one before Insurrection Day and one shortly afterward.

seth abramson proof logoThe reports linked to above contain photographs of these key meetings. Ultimately, reports at Proof about Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Michael Lindell, Team Kraken, Daniel Beck, Doyle Beck, Eduardo and Jair Bolsonaro, and Donald Trump led to an ongoing Congressional inquiry in Brazil, as detailed (with links) in the history of this publication.

Brazilian media has now covered the possible involvement of the Brazilian government in Team Trump’s fraudulent “election fraud” accusations against Brazil’s foremost enemy—Venezuela—in a way that U.S. media has not.

And some members of Team Trump and its offshoot Team Kraken, such as Sidney Powell, have maintained their lies about Venezuela in a way that must be extremely pleasing to the increasingly unstable, perpetually embattled neo-fascist Bolsonaro government.

Proof can now report much more on what Lindell was doing on Insurrection Eve than it already has—though this is a developing story, and there is doubtless much more to learn. But the urgency of uncovering what Lindell has been up to has only grown since his insurrectionist August “conference” in South Dakota; his past claims that Trump will be reinstated as President of the United States (which would have seen Trump back in the White House on August 13, per Lindell); and the upcoming Justice for J6 rally in D.C. on September 18, during which insurrectionists like Lindell will return to the scene of past offenses via a rally law enforcement fears could spawn new violence.

Read more at the Proof site to see the revelations….

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, Liz Cheney appointed vice chair of panel investigating Jan. 6 Capitol attack, Adela Suliman, Sept. 2, 2021. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) has been appointed as vice chair of the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, according to a statement on Thursday from the panel.

liz cheney o“Every member of this committee is dedicated to conducting a non-partisan, professional, and thorough investigation of all the relevant facts regarding January 6th and the threat to our Constitution we faced that day,” Cheney said in a statement. “I have accepted the position of Vice Chair of the committee to assure that we achieve that goal.”

The move further cements Cheney, who was ousted by fellow House Republicans from her leadership position in May over her challenge of former president Donald Trump’s false claim that the presidential election was stolen, as a major player in the investigation. She was originally tapped to join the committee in July.

Cheney’s position will boost Democrats’ arguments the probe is bipartisan even as many Republicans oppose it – with some GOP lawmakers even going so far as to threaten telecommunications and social media companies that comply with its requests.

bennie thompson headshotRep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), left, the select committee’s chair, welcomed Cheney’s appointment and said her presence “underscores the bipartisan nature” of the effort to get to the bottom of events that saw an attack on the Capitol earlier this year.

“Representative Cheney has demonstrated again and again her commitment to getting answers about January 6th, ensuring accountability, and doing whatever it takes to protect democracy for the American people,” Thompson said in a statement.

The Jan. 6 committee is tasked with investigating the facts related to the attack on the Capitol that saw pro-Trump rioters involved in deadly clashes with police and threatened the orderly certification of President Biden’s electoral victory.
In June, House Speaker Pelosi announced the formation of a select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol after Senate Republicans blocked an effort to form an independent, bipartisan commission.

Cheney, 55, has called her decision to publicly fight Trump a matter of principle, warning that allowing him to falsely claim that the election was stolen amounts to an attack on democracy and is destructive to the GOP and its values.

Trump has previously publicly reveled in Cheney’s ouster, calling her “a bitter, horrible human being,” in a statement and stating that she was “bad” for the Republican Party.

On Monday, the committee asked 35 companies to retain phone records and other information related to the attack as it ramps up its investigation ahead of the return of Congress next month. Several of the companies indicated this week that they intend to comply with the panel’s requests. However, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Republicans “will not forget” the actions of telecommunications and social media companies that comply with the committee’s request.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Republicans keep crossing the line. Democrats must hold them accountable, Jennifer Rubin, right, Sept. 2, 2021. Republicans have jennifer rubin newest circularbecome accustomed to a cult leader who bullies, threatens and obstructs legal processes. Naturally, the party — including its congressional leaders — has decided to emulate him.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has done his best to throw sand in the gears of the investigation into the Jan. 6 insurrection. He voted against impeachment of the instigator of the “stop the steal” assault. He opposed a bipartisan commission. He then appointed Republican members to the Jan. 6 select committee who opposed the investigation, including unceasing gadfly Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). And when two of his five picks were rejected, he pulled all his members from the committee.

Now that the committee has sought phone records from telecom companies to examine the phone history of witnesses of Jan. 6, including members of Congress, McCarthy has threatened the companies in an attempt to keep them from complying. “A Republican majority will not forget,” he warned on Tuesday.
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This blatant attempt to interfere with Congress’s work and lawful subpoenas is intolerable. Democrats — including the White House — should condemn the behavior. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) should refer the matter to the House ethics committee, if not to the Justice Department.

Unfortunately, McCarthy is not an exception. Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), at a Republican event on Sunday, repeated the “big lie” that the election was stolen. “If our election systems continue to be rigged and continue to be stolen then it’s going to lead to one place and that’s bloodshed,” he declared. “I will tell you, as much as I am willing to defend our liberty at all costs, there’s nothing I would dread doing more than having to pick up arms against a fellow American.” This advertisement for future violent insurrection is precisely the type of conduct from Republicans that defenders of democracy feared would become more regular. It would be bad enough for a private citizen to make such a statement; it is inexcusable from a member of Congress.

Pelosi’s office responded in a written statement. “McCarthy backed [Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R)] after she threatened to execute Members of Congress,” she recalled. “He sat on his hands as his members and allies threatened the lives of police officers who responded to January’s insurrection. McCarthy himself even joked about hitting Speaker Pelosi with a gavel.” The statement also bashed McCarthy for refusing to confront Cawthorn. This is not enough. The matter should be sent to the ethics committee and, regardless of its disposition, Pelosi should hold a vote on the floor to expel Cawthorn.

washington post logokevin mccarthyWashington Post, Rep. McCarthy threatens tech and telecom firms that comply with Jan. 6 committee’s request to retain information related to attack, Felicia Sonmez, Sept. 2, 2021 (print ed.). The House minority leader, right, who is a potential witness in the probe, said Republicans “will not forget” the actions of companies that comply with the panel’s request.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Kevin McCarthy keeps revealing how ugly a GOP House would be, Greg Sargent, right, Sept. 2, 2021 (print ed.). e’re now beginning to see just how ugly a House GOP takeover would be for the country. What is unmistakable is that a Republican House would be greg sargentsingularly devoted to using its power to avenge Donald Trump’s 2020 loss — and to whitewashing his efforts to overturn it in every way possible.

Case in point: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has now openly threatened to use a GOP-controlled House to punish private companies that comply with lawful subpoenas issued by the House select committee examining the Jan. 6 insurrection.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The use of unfounded fraud claims to limit voting access is more obvious than ever, Philip Bump, right, Sept. 2, 2021 (print ed.). Sen. Ron Johnson (philip bumpR-Wis.) didn’t know he was talking to an undercover journalist last weekend when he expounded at some length on the results of the 2020 presidential election. What he made obvious in that conversation, though, was the way in which his party is using false claims of election fraud to widely diverging ends.

The video, recorded by Lauren Windsor, was filmed at an event near Milwaukee on Sunday. In it, Windsor — not dissuading Johnson from assuming that she’s a supportive voter — asks the senator about the results of the election in the state, which President Biden won by about 21,000 votes. She presses him on the point: Didn’t he think there was something wonky about what happened? What about that late-night “dump” of ballots that ron johnson osupporters of former president Donald Trump have so frequently emphasized?

Johnson, left, waved it away.

“There’s nothing obviously skewed about the results,” he said, pointing to the fact that other Republican candidates at the state level did slightly better than the then-incumbent president. “He didn’t get 51,000 votes that other Republicans got,” Johnson said, “and that’s why he lost.”

This is right both in its specifics and in its implications. Trump supporters have for a long time separated out the presidential race from every other contest, accepting Republican victories in House and state races as legitimate while insisting that something weird happened with Trump’s race.

At times, there have been efforts to explain this — such as: maybe Democrats were so savvy that they masked their rampant fraud by allowing democratic donkey logoRepublicans to win other races — but normally it’s just ignored. A look at the county-level data in Wisconsin makes clear that there was nothing wonky about what happened in the state. Things shifted a bit from 2016, uniformly, and that turned a narrow Trump win five years ago into a narrow Trump loss.

This flash of rationality, however unintentionally offered, has no hope of illuminating the dark cave of conspiracy. How long has it been now that we’ve been promised irrefutable proof of fraud? How many times have deadlines come and gone? How often have isolated little blips been presented as conclusive proof that something sketchy happened, only for them to amount to nothing and be forgotten for whatever comes next on the conveyor belt?At this top level of conspiracy theorizing, there’s no real need to prove anything. Fraud is assumed, and the countless fraud-like shadows that are identified by Trump and his allies are simply casual reinforcements of the broader theme, like a “haunted house” in which every explainable creak nonetheless gets to the main point.

Trump keeps promising that the evidence is imminent, over and over and over — for 300 days and counting — and the failure of that evidence to emerge has never seemed to cause him much distress. Not that this is a new tactic for the former president.

 

Sirhan Parole Proceeding In RFK Death

sirhan sirhan cdcr

Sirhan B. Sirhan is shown at a California parole board hearing on Aug. 27 in San Diego a photo released by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Man Who Murdered My Father Doesn’t Deserve Parole, Rory Kennedy (a documentary filmmaker and the youngest child of Robert Kennedy, right, the New York senator and presidential candidate assassinated in June 1968), Sept. 2, 2021 (print ed.).

I never met my father. When Sirhan Sirhan murdered him in the kitchen hallway of the Ambassador Hotel in front of scores of witnesses, my mother was three months pregnant with me. Of my 10 older brothers and sisters, Robert F. KennedyKathleen, the eldest, was 16, and Douglas, the youngest, was little more than 1. I was born six months after my father’s death.

My mother and the majority of my siblings agree with what I now write, although a couple do not. But I will say, for myself, while that night of terrible loss has not defined my life, it has had impact beyond measure.

In 1969, when Mr. Sirhan was found guilty by a jury of his peers and sentenced to death, I was barely a toddler. I know, as it is part of the historical record, that my uncle Teddy sent a five-page handwritten letter to the district attorney in a last-minute plea to save the condemned assassin’s life. The letter invoked my father’s beliefs: “My brother was a man of love and sentiment and compassion. He would not have wanted his death to be a cause for the taking of another life.”

Despite this plea, Superior Court Judge Herbert Walker upheld the sentence, ruling that Mr. Sirhan should “die in the manner prescribed by law,” which in California in 1969 was the gas chamber. There was no consideration of future rehabilitation. The court’s decision seemed based entirely upon the prevailing conception of justice in California at that time: As my father was taken forever, so too should Mr. Sirhan be.

In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional and suspended it. At the time, “life without parole” was not yet an alternative in California; it wouldn’t take effect there for another six years. Mr. Sirhan’s sentence was commuted to “life with the possibility of parole.” Because of this, in legal terms, the word “forever” was taken off the table.

But as last Friday’s parole hearing made clear, his suitability for release has not changed. According to Julie Watson, an Associated Press reporter present, Mr. Sirhan still maintains that he does not recall the killing and that “it pains me to experience that, the knowledge for such a horrible deed, if I did in fact do that.” If? How can you express remorse while refusing to accept responsibility? And how, having committed one of the most notorious assassinations of the latter part of the 20th century, can you be considered rehabilitated when you won’t even acknowledge your role in the crime itself?

Yet last week’s parole commissioner, Robert Barton, found a way. Although the official transcripts have not yet been released, he is reported as telling Mr. Sirhan, “We did not find that your lack of taking complete responsibility” for the shooting indicates that you are “currently dangerous.”

It is true that Mr. Sirhan has been incarcerated for a long time. For 53 years, to be exact. That is, after all, an easy number for me to track. It is the same number of years that my father has been dead. It is the age that I turn on my birthday this year.

The decision to release Mr. Sirhan still has to be reviewed by the full parole board and then by California’s governor. I ask them, for my family — and I believe for our country, too — to please reject this recommendation and keep Sirhan Sirhan in prison.

Justice Integrity Project editor Andrew Kreig, a pro bono consultant attorney for the defense, submitted the following reader comment appended to the column above:

Anyone’s heart and sympathies must go out to the author of this column, as well as other Kennedy family members, supporters and supporters everywhere of the late senator’s dedication to democracy, justice and human rights.

Even so, this column and nearly all of the reader comments sidestep several vital elements of this proceeding that illustrate those kinds of RFK ideals.

Most importantly, the parole board focused on the relevant law and facts generally applicable to California cases, such as the prisoner’s age, prison good conduct and strong evidence he could be released to his family home/community or deported without undue risk to society.

Also powerful evidence exists that Sirhan did not fire the fatal shots, as numerous books, witnesses and other evidence have shown. That evidence has persuaded two of the RFK children to argue that Sirhan could not have killed their father and that instead someone else must have fired the fatal shots from the rear. A third child, the family’s eldest and a former state lieutenant governor, has argued that doubts about the prosecution are so powerful that there should be a new investigation. These arguments are expressed, among other places, in a powerful series of in-depth articles by Tom Jackman, an experienced justice system reporter at the Washington Post.

Among those living experts alive and available are Dr. Thomas Noguchi, the medical examiner, consultants Dr. Cyril Wecht and Dr. Dan Brown, and shooting victim Paul Schrade.

 

More On Afghanistan

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: It was time to end the long wars. Now, Biden must make a new era work, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, Sept. 2, 2021 (print ed.). It will go down in ej dionne w open neckhistory as one of the most unabashedly antiwar speeches ever given by an American president.

We are accustomed to martial rhetoric from commanders in chief, soaring words and calls for sacrifice on behalf of causes larger than any of us.

President Biden broke with all that on Tuesday in explaining and justifying his decision to pull U.S. troops from Afghanistan. One simple sentence summarized his gut instinct and his historical judgment: “We’ve been a nation too long at war.”

Biden did something else that was unusual in presidential speeches: He took on the arguments of his critics, one by one, and asked the country to see why he was right and they were wrong.

He was especially forceful in rejecting the most alluring claim of respected voices in the foreign policy and military establishments — architects, it should be said, of many of the policies that led us to this point. Maintaining a small American force, they insisted, could have held off a Taliban victory and prevented a rout of the United States’ Afghan allies.

Biden described this option several times as the “low grade,” “low risk” approach, and asserted that this halfway house of a policy misdescribed the alternatives he faced.

It was not withdraw or go small. It was withdraw or go big. “That was the choice — the real choice — between leaving or escalating,” he said. “I was not going to extend this forever war.”

The history of the war suggests that Biden is right, even if we will never know for certain. Once it reversed the withdrawal set in motion by former president Donald Trump, the United States would most likely at some point have faced another choice, between a surge of U.S. troops or an ignominious battlefield defeat.

But there was more to Biden’s decision, and here is where his revulsion over two decades of war — bolstered by his many conversations with military veterans, and his role as the father of a son who fought in Iraq — came into play.
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“When I hear that we could’ve, should’ve continued the so-called low-grade effort in Afghanistan, at low risk to our service members, at low cost,” Biden said, “I don’t think enough people understand how much we have asked of the 1 percent of this country who put that uniform on, who are willing to put their lives on the line in defense of our nation.”

He spoke arrestingly of “18 veterans, on average, who die by suicide every single day in America,” and concluded: “There’s nothing low-grade or low-risk or low-cost about any war.” Rarely has a president described the burdens of warfare so starkly.

Washington being Washington, its talk has already moved to politics and the impact of the chaotic withdrawal on voters’ judgments about Biden.

There will be arguments over whether we should celebrate (as Biden devoutly hopes we do) the extraordinary heroism in the airlifting of more than 120,000 people, including almost all remaining Americans; or whether we should criticize Biden for leaving perhaps 200 Americans behind, along with the tens of thousands of our Afghan allies to whom we owe much.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Afghan evacuees in U.S. face shaky legal status, scant financial support, Nick Miroff, Sept. 2, 2021. The Biden administration is preparing to screen and resettle tens of thousands of Afghan evacuees in the United States over the coming weeks and months, but the majority will arrive without visas as “humanitarian parolees,” lacking a path to legal U.S. residency and the benefits and services offered to traditional refugees, according to U.S. officials and worried aid groups working closely with the government.

Afghan parolees who have arrived at U.S. military bases will be eligible for an ad hoc State Department program that provides limited assistance for up to 90 days, including a one-time $1,250 stipend. But they will not have the full range of medical, counseling and resettlement services available to immigrants who arrive through the U.S. refugee program.

The nonprofit organizations that work with the government to resettle refugees and that are assisting with Afghan evacuees say Congress will need to provide billions in emergency funding to help the Afghans start over and ensure they can be successfully and safely integrated into the United States.

“We’ve been heartened by the administration’s efforts to ensure some minimal support, but 90 days is meager compared to the massive need,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and chief executive of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. “These Afghans feared for their lives and faced floggings on the way to the airport, and the last thing we want them to face here is a tangled web of backlogs and bureaucratic hurdles.”

More than 31,000 evacuees from Afghanistan arrived in the United States between Aug. 17 and 31, according to the latest Department of Homeland Security data. That included about 7,000 U.S. citizens and legal residents, as well as nearly 24,000 labeled “Afghans at Risk.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Don’t compound the Afghanistan mistake by fighting the last war, David Ignatius, right, Sept. 2, 2021 (print ed.). With the last C-17 flight out of Kabul david ignatiusMonday night, the unvarnished truth is that America’s war in Afghanistan is over. We must keep faith with Americans and Afghans left behind. And we’ll have a season of assessing blame for what happened. But we’ll compound the Afghanistan mistake if we keep fighting this last war.

The eerie final image, captured in the yellow-green light of night vision, shows Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue, the last U.S. military commander, walking as if into a different galaxy. That’s as it should be. We need, as the literary critic Frank Kermode titled one of his books, “the sense of an ending.” The curtain has come down, and we can start something new.

“I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not extending a forever exit,” President Biden said Tuesday in an emphatic defense of his decisions to withdraw troops and the final, messy evacuation from Kabul airport. He spoke of a broader shift, too. “It’s about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries,” Biden said, and of easing the burden on a U.S. military that has been at war for two decades.
Afghanistan will present serious counterterrorism challenges for the United States, but they will be different from the ones that took us to war in 2001, in the shadow of 9/11. The United States is far better protected now; intelligence and law enforcement here and around the world are much better integrated. The Islamic State is a threat in Afghanistan, but it suffered pulverizing defeats in Syria and Iraq. Al-Qaeda lives, but feebly. It didn’t win this war.

And the Taliban? We honestly don’t know whether this insurgent group is prepared to be more inclusive and avert a renewed civil war. For now, we just need to watch and assess — protecting our people and interests and reacting to the Taliban’s decisions. For a change, it has the urgently ticking watches, and we have the time.

“How do we all make a paradigm shift?” asks one senior intelligence official. Afghanistan is now just one of a dozen potential sources of global terrorism, rather than ground zero. Assessing the different players in Afghanistan and their intentions, capabilities and motivations will be a hard intelligence problem, but not an impossible one compared with other terror threats. Close-in neighbors, such as Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran, may have a greater interest in checking threats from postwar Afghanistan than we do.

washington post logoWashington Post, TV news takes heat for relying on former defense officials as Afghanistan pundits, Jeremy Barr, Sept. 2, 2021. Andrea Mitchell looked pleased to welcome her guest on MSNBC last Thursday: H.R. McMaster, there to discuss the attack on American forces and evacuees at the Kabul airport. The retired lieutenant general and former commander of a task force in Afghanistan, “has detailed knowledge of all of this, going back years,” Mitchell told her viewers.

“This is actually what happens when you surrender to a terrorist organization like the Taliban,” McMaster told her, lambasting the U.S. withdrawal from the country that was set in motion during Donald Trump’s administration — which he served in as national security adviser.

One of Mitchell’s colleagues was less impressed by the booking. On Twitter, MSNBC prime time host Lawrence O’Donnell called McMaster “a feverish TV endless war advocate.”

A convoy of military experts have been invited onto cable TV shows to critique the calamitous end of the Afghanistan War, notwithstanding the central roles many of them played in the 20-year conflict, which was supposed to result in a democratic Afghan government that could withstand Taliban attacks. That has not sat well with some viewers — and even fellow TV hosts, like O’Donnell — who argue that some of these former leaders are eliding their own role in the failure of that mission and are unfairly criticizing the Biden administration for abiding by a withdrawal that was negotiated under Trump. Critics also argue that these viewpoints have taken airtime away from humanitarians, longtime opponents of the war and advocates who could speak to the human toll of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan.

Lucas Kunce, a Marine veteran who served in Afghanistan and is running as a Democrat for a U.S. Senate seat in Missouri, went viral this week for appearances on MSNBC calling out television pundits who he claims want the United States to stay in Afghanistan in perpetuity. The networks are booking “a parade of officials who basically were spending the last 20 years selling the American people on this idea that the 20 years, the $2.3 trillion [spent] and the 2,500 lives lost were worth it,” he told The Washington Post. “The only so-called ‘experts’ are people who were a part of that effort.”

 

U.S. Hurricanes, Fires, Climate Change

 washington post logoWashington Post, Ida’s remnants inundate the Northeast, killing more than 40, Ben Guarino, Philip Bump, Mark Berman and Marc Fisher, Sept. 2, 2021. Ida’s remnants inundate the Northeast, killing more than 40, Ida had long since lost its hurricane status, but the storm that powered down New Orleans and forced thousands from their homes last weekend doused the New York-New Jersey area with near-biblical bursts of rain Wednesday night, killing more than 40 people, paralyzing transportation and raising alarms about the region’s ability to handle a new wave of intense weather.

Ida had long since lost its hurricane status, but the storm that powered down New Orleans and forced thousands from their homes last weekend doused the New York-New Jersey area with near-biblical bursts of rain Wednesday night, killing more than 40 people, paralyzing transportation and raising alarms about the region’s ability to handle a new wave of intense weather.

People drowned in their homes and perished in cars stuck on flooded roads. In the Flushing section of Queens in New York City, a family of three, including a 2-year-old, got trapped in their flooded basement apartment, called for help but died before it could arrive. Not far away, in Jamaica, two more people died when the building they lived in partially collapsed as it filled with rainwater.

In the 1,300 miles of Ida’s beeline from Louisiana’s Gulf Coast to New York City, the storm morphed from Category 4 hurricane into a sprawling mess of wind and water, but it packed an even deadlier wallop in its late phase, dumping more than three inches of rain on New York’s Central Park in just one hour, a record and a deluge so intense that basements and tunnels filled up in minutes. There were 23 deaths in New Jersey alone, the state’s governor said.

  • Washington Post, Analysis: What made the New York City flooding so devastating

washington post logoWashington Post, Caldor Fire continues burning toward Lake Tahoe, Ally Gravina and Diana Leonard, Sept. 2, 2021 (print ed.). Experts warned that the fire could destroy thousands of structures and put lives at risk in the next few days. “It’s not going to be the same beautiful lake once this is over.”

Craig B. Clements, a professor at the Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center at San Jose State University, said the Tahoe region has always been vulnerable to fires. But what’s unusual this time, he said, is the size of the burn.

“For a fire to be burning on such a large scale is quite concerning,” he said.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Widespread and potentially life-threatening’ flooding expected in Northeast U.S., Matthew Cappucci, Sept. 2, 2021 (print ed.). Ida’s remnants could drop up to eight inches of rain, prompting a rare ‘high risk’ flood outlook.

It’s been four days since Hurricane Ida laid siege to Louisiana and demolished parts of the Gulf Coast, the borderline Category 5 storm tying as the eighth most intense to ever hit the Lower 48 and the strongest on record in Louisiana. Now, the remnants of Ida are moving through the eastern United States, expected to drop very heavy flooding and a few tornadoes that could bring a day of high-impact weather to the Interstate 95 corridor.

An extremely rare high risk for heavy rain and flash flooding has been declared for parts of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, the most severe outlook category the National Weather Service can hoist ahead of an anticipated flood event. They’re calling for “widespread and potentially life-threatening flooding,” with totals of 3 to 8 inches likely in a broad swath hundreds of miles long.

Cities like New York and Hartford are included in the outlook bull’s eye, with other places like Baltimore, Philadelphia and Providence, R.I., bracing for major disruptions to travel, too. Flash flood watches stretch from the Blue Ridge in North Carolina to Maine.

ny times logoNew York Times, Climate Change Is Bankrupting America’s Small Towns, Christopher Flavelle, Photographs by Mike Belleme, Sept. 2, 2021. Repeated shocks from hurricanes, fires and floods are pushing some rural communities, already struggling economically, to the brink of financial collapse.

It’s been almost five years since Hurricane Matthew flooded this small town, Fair Bluff, on the coastal plain of North Carolina. But somehow, the damage keeps getting worse.

The storm submerged Main Street in four feet of water, destroyed the town hall, the police and fire departments, and flooded almost a quarter of its homes. After two weeks underwater, the roads buckled. The school and grocery store shut, then didn’t reopen. When Hurricane Florence submerged the same ground two years later, in 2018, there was little left to destroy.

What started as a physical crisis has become an existential one. The town’s only factory, which made vinyl products, closed a few months after Matthew. The population of around 1,000 fell by about half. The federal government tried to help, buying the homes of people who wanted to leave, but those buyouts meant even less property tax, tightening the fiscal noose.

Al Leonard, the town planner, who is responsible for its recovery, said his own job may have to be eliminated, and maybe the police department, too.

Climate shocks are pushing small rural communities like Fair Bluff, many of which were already struggling economically, to the brink of insolvency. Rather than bouncing back, places hit repeatedly by hurricanes, floods and wildfires are unraveling: residents and employers leave, the tax base shrinks and it becomes even harder to fund basic services.

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Law

Palmer Report, Opinion: For all the marbles, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 2, 2021. The Supreme Court’s decision not to preemptively strike down Texas’ new anti-abortion law bill palmerdoes not mean that the court will end up siding with the law once the case inevitably comes in front of the court. But it’s nonetheless an ugly, sexist, and frankly un-American development that should send a chill down the spine of anyone with a conscience and a pulse.

It also means that the 2022 midterm elections are going to be for all the marbles. All the marbles. At this point the only way to salvage the abortion issue, and other crucial issues like it, is to remake the Supreme Court. There are only two ways to do that. One is amass enough of a Senate majority that we can end the filibuster and and expand the court. The other is to hang onto the existing majority long enough for some of the conservative Justices to die of old age, so they can be replaced with decent Justices.

bill palmer report logo headerThe bottom line is that we now have to win the midterms. There’s no other path forward. It’s the next fundamental step we have to take in rebuilding our country and taking it back from the psychopaths who spent the previous four years trying to burn it down.

But you can damn well better believe we’re going to be motivated to put in the work required to win the midterms. These right wingers are living in a fantasy world in which they’ve already won, and therefore don’t think they need to put in any work. On the other hand, our side – the pro American side – is going to be more motivated to drive the vote than we’ve ever been.

It’s all hands on deck. We have no time for defeatism. No time for lamenting. No time for hand wringing. No time for floating excuses about why we shouldn’t bother putting in the work because we’re somehow going to lose anyway. This is simply too important to waste any time on self pity. Instead, we have to get out there and fight like we’re going to win. We can do this. We won in 2020. We can do it again in 2022.

 

purdue pharma logo

 ny times logoNew York Times, Purdue Pharma Dissolved; Sacklers to Pay Billions to Settle Opioid Claims, Jan Hoffman, Sept. 2, 2021 (print ed.). The ruling in bankruptcy court caps a long legal battle over the fate of a company accused of fueling the opioid epidemic and the family that owns it. The bankruptcy plan for OxyContin’s maker ends thousands of lawsuits brought to address a public health crisis that led to more than 500,000 deaths. It requires the owners, the Sackler family, to pay $4.5 billion but largely absolves them of liability. They will remain among the richest American families.

Purdue Pharma, the maker of the highly addictive painkiller OxyContin, was dissolved on Wednesday in a wide-ranging bankruptcy settlement that will also require the company’s owners, members of the Sackler family, to turn over billions of their fortune to address the deadly opioid epidemic.

But the agreement includes a much-disputed condition: It largely absolves the Sacklers of Purdue opioid-related liability. And as such, they will remain among the richest families in the country.

Judge Robert Drain of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in White Plains, N.Y., provisionally approved the plan, saying he wanted modest adjustments. The painstakingly negotiated plan will end thousands of lawsuits brought by state and local governments, tribes, hospitals and individuals to address a public health crisis that led to the deaths of more than 500,000 people nationwide.

The settlement terms have been harshly criticized for shielding the Sacklers. They are receiving protections that are typically given to companies that emerge from bankruptcy, but not necessarily to owners who, like the Sacklers, do not themselves file for bankruptcy.

Several states were preparing to file an appeal as soon as the judge approved the settlement.

In exchange for the protections, the Sacklers agreed to turn over $4.5 billion, including federal settlement fees, paid in installments over roughly nine years. Those payments, and the profits of a new public benefit drug company rising from Purdue’s ashes with no ties to the Sackler family, will mainly go to addiction treatment and prevention programs across the country.

Judge Drain delivered his ruling orally from the bench in a marathon session that ran to six hours, meticulously working through his reasoning in a case he called the most complex he had ever faced. “This is a bitter result,” he said. “B-I-T-T-E-R,” he spelled out, explaining that he was incredibly frustrated that so much of the Sackler money was parked in offshore accounts. He said he had expected and wished for a higher settlement.

But the costs of further delay, he said, and the benefits of an agreement he described as “remarkable” in its consensus and focus on abating the epidemic, tilted toward approval.

elizabeth holmes 2015 forbes cover

washington post logoWashington Post, Elizabeth Holmes’s court date puts Silicon Valley’s ‘fake it till you make it’ culture on trial, Rachel Lerman, Sept. 2, 2021 (print ed.). The former CEO of blood testing start-up Theranos is charged with wire fraud.

The black turtleneck was gone Tuesday, the uniform Elizabeth Holmes adopted back in the days when she was casting herself as a genius tech entrepreneur, the next Steve Jobs. In its place, Holmes wore the sober business attire often preferred by the criminally accused.

Holmes (shown above on a 2015 Forbes Magazine cover) started her company, Theranos, with a captivating goal: to make lab testing cheaper, faster and less painful for patients. She envisioned tests performed with a tiny finger-prick of blood, a method less painful and easier than traditional blood draws from the arm, using longer needles. The company worked on its flagship technology — a small automated box known as either the MiniLab or the Edison — intended to quickly run hundreds of tests and issue diagnostics with just drops of blood.

Her vision enticed investors from Rupert Murdoch to Silicon Valley’s Tim Draper, and within a dozen years Theranos was valued at $9 billion. But it was all a fraud, federal prosecutors have alleged: her technology never worked as advertised. Now Holmes faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $3 million. She’s pleaded not guilty.

As jury selection began Tuesday ahead of opening arguments next week, Holmes has laid the groundwork for an unusual mental defect defense. The brash confident former CEO who once graced the cover of Time magazine is expected to blame her former boyfriend and the company’s president for emotional abuse that rendered her incapable of making decisions.

Entrepreneurs raise hundreds of thousands of dollars based off ideas that may or may not come to fruition or even be profitable if they do. Failure is considered a necessary part of doing business.

“She is still, in my view, a child of this culture,” said John Carreyrou, the former Wall Street Journal reporter who broke the Theranos story and is now hosting a podcast about the trial. “She surfed on this myth of the genius founder who can see around corners.”

The spectacular collapse of Theranos in 2018 following those investigations triggered some limited soul searching in Silicon Valley, according to interviews with more than a dozen investors, founders and lawyers.

But little cultural change has occurred in the start-up industry in the years since, they say.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-prosecutor indicted over Ahmaud Arbery case, accused of shielding suspects in fatal shooting, Hannah Knowles, Sept. 2, 2021. Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson is accused of violating her oath of office and obstructing police in the Black man’s fatal shooting in February 2020.

A grand jury on Thursday indicted a former Georgia prosecutor over her handling of Ahmaud Arbery’s fatal shooting, on allegations she helped shield men now charged with murder in a case that went for months without arrests.

Ex-Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson is accused of violating her oath of office and obstructing police after the Black man’s death in February of 2020. A viral video of White men chasing and shooting 25-year-old Arbery drew comparisons to a lynching, sparking public demands for accountability and also accusations of a coverup by local authorities. Arbery soon became a rallying cry in a massive racial justice movement ignited by the murder of George Floyd as protests sought justice in high-profile killings of Black Americans.

Thursday’s indictment says Johnson showed “favor and affection” to suspect Greg McMichael, who was previously an investigator in her office, and also failed to “treat Ahmaud Arbery and his family fairly and with dignity” when she sought help from another district attorney — now also under investigation — who argued the shooting was justified before recusing himself.

Douglas Jensen in a hallway outside the Senate chamber at the Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. (AP/Manuel Balce Cenet)

washington post logoWashington Post, QAnon ‘poster boy’ for Capitol riot sent back to jail after violating court order to stay off Internet, Spencer S. Hsu, Sept. 2, 2021. A self-described “poster boy” for the Jan. 6 Capitol riot was sent back to jail Thursday after violating a federal judge’s order to stay off the Internet — a lapse his lawyer attributed to his seeming addiction to the QAnon cult.

Douglas Jensen, 42, of Des Moines became one of the most recognized members of the mob that day when he was recorded on widely shared video pursuing U.S. Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman up two flights of stairs inside the Capitol while searching for the just-evacuated Senate chamber, according to prosecutors.

Jensen — wearing a black T-shirt emblazoned with a large “Q” and an eagle — came to Washington believing that members of Congress and Vice President Mike Pence were going to be arrested for opposing President Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election, U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly said at a hearing Thursday. The judge was in D.C., and Jensen appeared from Des Moines via video link.

“He was at the forefront of a mob deep inside the Capitol because he wanted a front row to see what would happen. . . . He wanted to be part of a revolution,” Kelly said, citing Jensen’s own statements.

Kelly said it was a “close call” when he released Jensen from jail July 13. At the time, the judge said he believed the assertion by Jensen that after being behind bars since Jan. 8, he recognized he had been deceived by “a pack of lies.”

Capitol riot defendants’ lawyer apparently hospitalized with covid leaves clients without counsel, prosecutors say

Jensen agreed to abide by the judge’s order imposing conditions for his release, including not accessing the Internet or using Internet-capable devices, including cellphones. The court’s point was to separate Jensen from the far-right QAnon ­conspiracy theory, which the FBI has warned could encourage violence among some believers of its false foundational claim that a cabal of Satan-worshipping “global elites” and “deep state” international child-sex traffickers were engaged in plots to conduct a coup against Trump.

Washington Post, ‘QAnon Shaman’ Jacob Chansley, face of pro-Trump Capitol riot, to plead guilty, Sept. 2, 2021.

washington post logoWashington Post, ISIS militant admits role in torture, killings of American hostages, Rachel Weiner and Tom Jackman, Sept. 2, 2021. Alexanda A. Kotey pleaded guilty in federal court to involvement in the kidnappings and deaths of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid workers Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller in Syria.

Seven years after the Islamic State horrified people around the world by beheading hostages and using their deaths in propaganda videos, one former member has admitted to his involvement in the killings of four Americans.

Alexanda A. Kotey, 37, pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court in Alexandria to playing a role in the kidnappings and deaths of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid workers Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller. The three men were beheaded on camera in videos posted online. The circumstances of Mueller’s death remain unclear.

All four traveled to Syria, their friends and family have said, out of an intense desire to help — either by reporting on the war there or giving aid to those displaced by the conflict.

Kotey’s plea marks the first time a member of the Islamic State has been held accountable in a U.S. court for those killings. He faces a mandatory life sentence.

In exchange for his admission of guilt and promised cooperation, prosecutors agreed that after Kotey serves 15 years in a U.S. prison, he may seek to serve the rest of his sentence in the United Kingdom, where he was born. If that happens, Kotey also agreed he would plead guilty in a United Kingdom prosecution and face a life sentence there, and be returned to the United States if released by the U.K.

The government agreed to the possible transfer because three British men were also abducted by the same terrorist group, and two, aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, were slain. A third, journalist John Cantlie, was never found and the British government said in 2019 he may still be alive.

Parents of all four American victims were in the courtroom Thursday, taking notes and dabbing their eyes as the names of their children were read over and over. They had pressed for criminal trials in the United States.

After the hearing, Diane Foley, James Foley’s mother, thanked the Justice Department for “this outstanding prosecution” while beseeching the government to “prioritize the return of all U.S. nationals kidnapped or wrongly detained abroad,” calling it “a silent epidemic.”

Kotey was captured in Syria in 2018 along with El Shafee Elsheikh, another accused Islamic State militant who is awaiting trial in the case, and brought to the United States in October.

Along with the masked killer from the videos, Mohammed Emwazi, who died in a 2015 drone strike, and a fourth Londoner, Aine Davis, they became known by hostages as “The Beatles” because of their British accents.

Kotey was born and raised in London and began practicing Islam in his early 20s. He and Emwazi attended the same mosque and traveled to Syria together in 2012.

The United Kingdom, which had revoked the pair’s citizenship, aided the U.S. prosecution after assurances the men would not face the death penalty.

Associated Press via Washington Post, Syed Ali Shah Geelani 1929–2021: Separatist leader in Kashmir region dies at 91, Staff Reports, Sept. 2, 2021. Geelani was a staunch proponent of the merger of Kashmir with Pakistan, and he became the emblem of the region’s defiance against New Delhi.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick to be arraigned for past sex assault of teen in Massachusetts court, Michelle Boorstein and Kurt Shillinger,Sept. 2, 2021. Theodore McCarrick, 91, is scheduled to appear in public — in a Massachusetts courtroom — on Friday for the first time since 2018, when the former Catholic cardinal and global power-broker began his fall amid a wave of sex abuse allegations. He will be arraigned on three counts of sexually assaulting a teen in the 1970s, the first U.S. cardinal to face criminal charges of abuse.

Now in his early 60s, the accuser plans to be with supporters in the courtroom, the first time McCarrick will publicly face one of the more than a dozen people who say the once-powerful cleric sexually abused or harassed them as boys or young seminarians or clerics. Prosecutors say McCarrick abused the man when he was 16, in a coat room at the man’s brother’s wedding in Wellesley, Mass.

The sight of McCarrick, who now lives at a suburban Missouri treatment center, in regular street clothes and facing criminal charges in the state that put clergy sex abuse in the public consciousness, is also symbolically powerful. Advocates for clergy abuse survivors plan to gather outside the Dedham District Court.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Judge rebukes Donald Trump Jr. for misinformation — as Trump Jr. doubles down, Aaron Blake, Sept. 2, 2021. It was a telling moment in the GOP’s continual descent into a post-truth party in the Donald Trump era. Even though multiple fact-checkers debunked a claim that the Taliban hanged a man from a U.S. helicopter left behind in Afghanistan, many Republicans who promoted the claim refused to back off it. And Donald Trump Jr. ultimately went so far as to replace the banner on his Twitter page with a mock Biden campaign logo featuring an illustration of the supposed helicopter hanging.

The same day, though, this same strategy landed Trump Jr. some legal problems — and earned him a rebuke from a judge.

For the past two years, a GOP Senate candidate in West Virginia has been suing Trump Jr. for defamation. At issue is Trump Jr. claiming during the 2018 campaign that Don Blankenship, whom Trump and his allies opposed in the primary, was a “felon.” Blankenship was charged with felonies related to an explosion at a mine he ran, but he was convicted only on a misdemeanor count.

Trump Jr.’s lawyers sought to have the case dismissed, but U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver Jr. rejected that Wednesday and said the case could move forward.

The reason? It’s because he believed there was substantial evidence that Trump Jr. might have known the claim to be false and said it anyway.

washington post logoWashington Post, TV news takes heat for relying on former defense officials as Afghanistan pundits, Jeremy Barr, Sept. 2, 2021. Andrea Mitchell looked pleased to welcome her guest on MSNBC last Thursday: H.R. McMaster, there to discuss the attack on American forces and evacuees at the Kabul airport. The retired lieutenant general and former commander of a task force in Afghanistan, “has detailed knowledge of all of this, going back years,” Mitchell told her viewers.

“This is actually what happens when you surrender to a terrorist organization like the Taliban,” McMaster told her, lambasting the U.S. withdrawal from the country that was set in motion during Donald Trump’s administration — which he served in as national security adviser.

One of Mitchell’s colleagues was less impressed by the booking. On Twitter, MSNBC prime time host Lawrence O’Donnell called McMaster “a feverish TV endless war advocate.”

A convoy of military experts have been invited onto cable TV shows to critique the calamitous end of the Afghanistan War, notwithstanding the central roles many of them played in the 20-year conflict, which was supposed to result in a democratic Afghan government that could withstand Taliban attacks. That has not sat well with some viewers — and even fellow TV hosts, like O’Donnell — who argue that some of these former leaders are eliding their own role in the failure of that mission and are unfairly criticizing the Biden administration for abiding by a withdrawal that was negotiated under Trump. Critics also argue that these viewpoints have taken airtime away from humanitarians, longtime opponents of the war and advocates who could speak to the human toll of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan.

Lucas Kunce, a Marine veteran who served in Afghanistan and is running as a Democrat for a U.S. Senate seat in Missouri, went viral this week for appearances on MSNBC calling out television pundits who he claims want the United States to stay in Afghanistan in perpetuity. The networks are booking “a parade of officials who basically were spending the last 20 years selling the American people on this idea that the 20 years, the $2.3 trillion [spent] and the 2,500 lives lost were worth it,” he told The Washington Post. “The only so-called ‘experts’ are people who were a part of that effort.”

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Tracking the political appointees Biden is nominating to fill the top roles in his administration, Harry Stevens, Madison Walls and Adrian Blanco, Sept. 2, 2021. Follow the president-elect’s progress filling nearly 800 positions, among the 1,200 that require Senate confirmation, in this tracker from The Washington Post and the Partnership for Public Service.

We are tracking 800 government positions among about 1,200 that require Senate confirmation.

  • 229 positions have no Biden nominee.
  • 18 picks are awaiting formal nomination.
  • 206 nominees are being considered by the Senate.
  • 127 have been confirmed by the Senate.

Additionally, we have identified 220 appointees so far who are serving in termed positions or who were held over from previous administrations.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden backs lasting support for Ukraine in White House Meeting, Karen DeYoung, Sept. 2, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday, reaffirming his administration’s support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and security and granting Zelensky the in-person meeting at the White House he Joe Biden portrait 2has awaited since taking office in 2019.

The meeting offered Biden the opportunity, following his administration’s turbulent withdrawal from Afghanistan, to emphasize a foreign policy priority he often cited as a reason to withdraw troops from the Middle East.

In brief remarks in the Oval Office before the meeting, Biden expressed his desire for a “Europe whole, free and at peace,” and reiterated his opposition to “Russian aggression.”

Biden also reminisced about a previous visit he had made to Ukraine as vice president, and said he hoped to visit the country again.

volodymyr zelenskii cropped headshotZelensky was expected to use his face time with Biden to seek assurances that the United States remains committed to helping Ukraine ward off aggression from Moscow; press Biden on energy security related to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany; and discuss Ukraine’s aspirations of joining NATO.

Shortly after he was elected in 2019 on a reform agenda, Zelensky hoped to secure a White House meeting with President Donald Trump in a phone call between the two leaders. That call became the basis for Trump’s first impeachment trial — but the desired Oval Office meeting was never granted.

ukraine flagUkraine was a particular obsession for several figures around Trump, including Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, who sought evidence that Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, was part of a corrupt influence scheme with a Ukrainian energy firm. Giuliani also promoted the false narrative that Ukraine, not Russia, was responsible for election meddling in 2016. A career State Department diplomat, Marie Yovanovitch, was fired from her post as ambassador to Ukraine over those and other baseless suspicions.

The impeachment case against Trump alleged that he threatened to withhold U.S. aid to Ukraine unless Zelensky investigated Hunter Biden. Trump was acquitted by the Senate in February 2020.

Sept. 1

Top Headlines

Sirhan Parole Proceeding In RFK Death

 

Virus Victims, Responses

Pro-Trump Election Claims, Capitol Riot

 

More On Afghanistan

 

U.S. Hurricanes, Fires, Climate Change

U.S. Courts, Crime, Law

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

World News

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, After Supreme Court Silence, Texas Clinics Face Near-Total Abortion Ban, Adam Liptak and Sabrina Tavernise, Sept. 1, 2021. The law went into effect after the Supreme Court failed to act on a request to block it, prompting clinics in the state to begin to turn away women. The justices may still rule on the request, which is just an early step in what is expected to be an extended legal battle over the law.

texas mapA Texas law prohibiting most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy went into effect on Wednesday after the Supreme Court failed to act on a request to block it, ushering in the most restrictive abortion law in the nation and prompting clinics in the state to turn away women seeking the procedure.

The justices may still rule on the request, which is just an early step in what is expected to be an extended legal battle over the law. In the meantime, though, access to abortion in Texas has become extremely limited, the latest example of a Republican-led state imposing new constraints on ending pregnancies.

The law, known as Senate Bill 8, amounts to a nearly complete ban on abortion in Texas, one that will further fuel legal and political battles over the future of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion. The law makes no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from incest or rape.

 

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 ny times logoNew York Times, Purdue Pharma Dissolved; Sacklers to Pay Billions to Settle Opioid Claims, Jan Hoffman, Sept. 1, 2021. The ruling in bankruptcy court caps a long legal battle over the fate of a company accused of fueling the opioid epidemic and the family that owns it. The bankruptcy plan for OxyContin’s maker ends thousands of lawsuits brought to address a public health crisis that led to more than 500,000 deaths. It requires the owners, the Sackler family, to pay $4.5 billion but largely absolves them of liability. They will remain among the richest American families.

Purdue Pharma, the maker of the highly addictive painkiller OxyContin, was dissolved on Wednesday in a wide-ranging bankruptcy settlement that will also require the company’s owners, members of the Sackler family, to turn over billions of their fortune to address the deadly opioid epidemic.

But the agreement includes a much-disputed condition: It largely absolves the Sacklers of Purdue opioid-related liability. And as such, they will remain among the richest families in the country.

Judge Robert Drain of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in White Plains, N.Y., provisionally approved the plan, saying he wanted modest adjustments. The painstakingly negotiated plan will end thousands of lawsuits brought by state and local governments, tribes, hospitals and individuals to address a public health crisis that led to the deaths of more than 500,000 people nationwide.

The settlement terms have been harshly criticized for shielding the Sacklers. They are receiving protections that are typically given to companies that emerge from bankruptcy, but not necessarily to owners who, like the Sacklers, do not themselves file for bankruptcy.

Several states were preparing to file an appeal as soon as the judge approved the settlement.

In exchange for the protections, the Sacklers agreed to turn over $4.5 billion, including federal settlement fees, paid in installments over roughly nine years. Those payments, and the profits of a new public benefit drug company rising from Purdue’s ashes with no ties to the Sackler family, will mainly go to addiction treatment and prevention programs across the country.

Judge Drain delivered his ruling orally from the bench in a marathon session that ran to six hours, meticulously working through his reasoning in a case he called the most complex he had ever faced. “This is a bitter result,” he said. “B-I-T-T-E-R,” he spelled out, explaining that he was incredibly frustrated that so much of the Sackler money was parked in offshore accounts. He said he had expected and wished for a higher settlement.

But the costs of further delay, he said, and the benefits of an agreement he described as “remarkable” in its consensus and focus on abating the epidemic, tilted toward approval.

 

afghanistan marines centcom photo

U.S. Marines undertaking evacuation efforts during the last days of the war in Afghanistan.

washington post logoWashington Post, Taliban fights to consolidate its hold, Rachel Pannett, Ellen Francis and Haq Nawaz Khan, Sept. 1, 2021. Heavy clashes around last province outside Taliban control.

Heavy fighting erupted in pockets of northern Afghanistan on Tuesday night in what may be some of the final clashes between Taliban and resistance fighters as the Islamist group tries to consolidate its hold on the country.

An official with the Panjshir Valley-based resistance movement said at least 17 of its fighters had been killed but more than twice that many Taliban fighters had also died in the fighting. A Taliban official, however, told The Washington Post that at least one district had already been taken and the last remaining areas of resistance would soon be quashed.

Talks for a peaceful resolution to the standoff collapsed on Monday. Amir Khan Muttaqi, a senior Taliban leader who has been negotiating with former government officials in Kabul, said Wednesday that the takeover was all but complete.

  • Questions hang over diplomatic mission as next phase of U.S. relationship with Afghanistan begins
  • In Kabul, celebration and dread the day after U.S. troops withdraw
  • More than 85 percent of Kabul’s female journalists are not working anymore, watchdog says

washington post logoWashington Post, Questions hang over diplomatic mission as next phase of U.S.-Afghanistan relationship begins, Missy Ryan, Sept. 1, 2021. The Biden administration is scrambling to stand up a new post in Qatar and help those stranded after the U.S. exit.

The Biden administration on Tuesday began planning for the next phase of the U.S. relationship with Afghanistan, as the State Department scrambled to stand up a remote diplomatic mission and continue working to help those stranded under Taliban rule.

Diplomats will work from the Qatari capital, Doha, where they will assist refugees who have fled Afghanistan and liaise with representatives of the militant group whose capture of Kabul this month marked an ignominious end to the United States’ two decades there.

America’s 20-year war in Afghanistan ends as last military cargo plane lumbers into the sky

Victorious Taliban leaders cemented their own plans for Afghanistan in a high-level three-day meeting, headed by the group’s supreme leader, Haibatullah Akhunzada, which concluded Monday in the Taliban’s birthplace city of Kandahar.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fear and uncertainty for Americans and their Afghan partners left behind, Kevin Sullivan, Dan Lamothe and Miriam Berger, Sept. 1, 2021. With the U.S. military gone and the Taliban in control, “there is really no way out” for those left behind.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Afghanistan Live Updates: Biden Defends U.S. Withdrawal After Taliban Declare Victory, Michael D. Shear and Jim Tankersley, Sept. 1, 2021 (print ed.).  President Biden on Tuesday hailed what he called the “extraordinary success” of the evacuation of Kabul as he vehemently defended his decision to end America’s war in Afghanistan, just one day after the end of a two-week rescue of 125,000 people from Kabul that saw the deaths of 13 service members.

Speaking from the Cross Hall at the White House, Mr. Biden said the nation owed a debt of gratitude to the troops who died in the evacuation mission.

“Thirteen heroes gave their lives,” he said in a speech in which he offered no apologies for either his decision to end the war or the way in which his administration executed that mission. “We owe them and their families a debt of gratitude we can never repay, but we should never, ever, ever forget.”

Mr. Biden appeared intent on forcefully rejecting criticism of the end of the 20-year war in Afghanistan, offering a defensive recounting of his decision-making and blaming former President Donald J. Trump for negotiating a bad deal with the Taliban that boxed Mr. Biden and his team in.

“That was the choice, the real choice between leaving or escalating,” Mr. Biden declared, his tone angry and defensive as he opened the first minutes of his remarks. “I was not going to extend this forever war.”

 

Army Maj. Gen. Christopher T. Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, at the Kabul airport on Aug. 30 before he boarded a C-17 as the last service member on the ground in Afghanistan. (Army Master Sgt. Alex Burnett/U.S. Army)

Army Maj. Gen. Christopher T. Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, at the Kabul airport on Aug. 30 before he boarded a C-17 as the last service member on the ground in Afghanistan. (Army Master Sgt. Alex Burnett/U.S. Army)

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: The viral photo of the last soldier in Afghanistan is powerful — and deceptive, Philip Kennicott, Sept. 1, 2021 (print ed.). The last U.S. soldier to board a military plane out of Kabul on Tuesday was actually a general, Army Maj. Gen. Christopher T. Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division.

He is seen in several widely circulated images taken in the final moments of the U.S. occupation, including one in which he strides up the ramp of a waiting C-17 military transport plane. He is rendered in the monochromatic green of a night-vision scope, a solitary figure, alone for a moment on hostile ground. Behind him, a few lights still shine at the Kabul airport, now controlled by the Taliban.

This is the end of a 20-year war. That’s the meaning ascribed to this powerful but deeply fraught image, which has the potential to do lasting damage if we can’t separate its truth from its mythological power.

The truth of the image, as far as we know it, is precise but limited. While he may have been wearing “the last boots on the ground” by the definition of some journalists and politicians, he was certainly not the last American with feet on the ground. Americans remain in Afghanistan, some willingly, others not, and we will almost certainly be back one way or another.

And while the American military evacuation is now over, other countries and many NGOs continue to operate in the country. Donahue’s departure initiates a new age of American military and diplomatic absence, but it closes the book on few things that are essential to the daily lives of Afghans.

Thus, the ghostly green picture symbolizes not the end of a war, but the end of a mission. But images are subject to “mission creep” — the almost inevitable expansion of purpose that dogs so many military ventures — and it is tempting to use this as an iconic bow to wrap up a long and tragic chapter of American and Afghan history. By accident or design, this representation is perfectly constructed to give a sense of cinematic finality. Although the palette is green, it renders the world in black-and-white, like films made a century ago. The round format — not obvious in many reproductions which crop it square — suggests the classic “iris” shot used by directors in the age of silent movies to end a scene, or a whole film

The basic trope — the last man on the ground — recalls an emotionally resonant idea of responsibility and even chivalry. The captain is the last one off a sinking ship. The general is the last one out the door as the United States turns off the lights in Afghanistan. War, which is always messy, brutal and chaotic, is represented by a scene of individual valor, which is an important but limited truth.

 

Sirhan Parole Proceeding In RFK Death

sirhan sirhan cdcr

Sirhan B. Sirhan is shown at a California parole board hearing on Aug. 27 in San Diego a photo released by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Man Who Murdered My Father Doesn’t Deserve Parole, Rory Kennedy (a documentary filmmaker and the youngest child of Robert Kennedy, right, the New York senator and presidential candidate assassinated in June 1968), Sept. 1, 2021.

I never met my father. When Sirhan Sirhan murdered him in the kitchen hallway of the Ambassador Hotel in front of scores of witnesses, my mother was three months pregnant with me. Of my 10 older brothers and sisters, Robert F. KennedyKathleen, the eldest, was 16, and Douglas, the youngest, was little more than 1. I was born six months after my father’s death.

My mother and the majority of my siblings agree with what I now write, although a couple do not. But I will say, for myself, while that night of terrible loss has not defined my life, it has had impact beyond measure.

In 1969, when Mr. Sirhan was found guilty by a jury of his peers and sentenced to death, I was barely a toddler. I know, as it is part of the historical record, that my uncle Teddy sent a five-page handwritten letter to the district attorney in a last-minute plea to save the condemned assassin’s life. The letter invoked my father’s beliefs: “My brother was a man of love and sentiment and compassion. He would not have wanted his death to be a cause for the taking of another life.”

Despite this plea, Superior Court Judge Herbert Walker upheld the sentence, ruling that Mr. Sirhan should “die in the manner prescribed by law,” which in California in 1969 was the gas chamber. There was no consideration of future rehabilitation. The court’s decision seemed based entirely upon the prevailing conception of justice in California at that time: As my father was taken forever, so too should Mr. Sirhan be.

In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional and suspended it. At the time, “life without parole” was not yet an alternative in California; it wouldn’t take effect there for another six years. Mr. Sirhan’s sentence was commuted to “life with the possibility of parole.” Because of this, in legal terms, the word “forever” was taken off the table.

But as last Friday’s parole hearing made clear, his suitability for release has not changed. According to Julie Watson, an Associated Press reporter present, Mr. Sirhan still maintains that he does not recall the killing and that “it pains me to experience that, the knowledge for such a horrible deed, if I did in fact do that.” If? How can you express remorse while refusing to accept responsibility? And how, having committed one of the most notorious assassinations of the latter part of the 20th century, can you be considered rehabilitated when you won’t even acknowledge your role in the crime itself?

Yet last week’s parole commissioner, Robert Barton, found a way. Although the official transcripts have not yet been released, he is reported as telling Mr. Sirhan, “We did not find that your lack of taking complete responsibility” for the shooting indicates that you are “currently dangerous.”

It is true that Mr. Sirhan has been incarcerated for a long time. For 53 years, to be exact. That is, after all, an easy number for me to track. It is the same number of years that my father has been dead. It is the age that I turn on my birthday this year.

The decision to release Mr. Sirhan still has to be reviewed by the full parole board and then by California’s governor. I ask them, for my family — and I believe for our country, too — to please reject this recommendation and keep Sirhan Sirhan in prison.

Justice Integrity Project editor Andrew Kreig, a pro bono consultant attorney for the defense, submitted the following reader comment appended to the column above:

Anyone’s heart and sympathies must go out to the author of this column, as well as other Kennedy family members, supporters and supporters everywhere of the late senator’s dedication to democracy, justice and human rights.

Even so, this column and nearly all of the reader comments sidestep several vital elements of this proceeding that illustrate those kinds of RFK ideals.

Most importantly, the parole board focused on the relevant law and facts generally applicable to California cases, such as the prisoner’s age, prison good conduct and strong evidence he could be released to his family home/community or deported without undue risk to society.

Also powerful evidence exists that Sirhan did not fire the fatal shots, as numerous books, witnesses and other evidence have shown. That evidence has persuaded two of the RFK children to argue that Sirhan could not have killed their father and that instead someone else must have fired the fatal shots from the rear. A third child, the family’s eldest and a former state lieutenant governor, has argued that doubts about the prosecution are so powerful that there should be a new investigation. These arguments are expressed, among other places, in a powerful series of in-depth articles by Tom Jackman, an experienced justice system reporter at the Washington Post.

Among those living experts alive and available are Dr. Thomas Noguchi, the medical examiner, consultants Dr. Cyril Wecht and Dr. Dan Brown, and shooting victim Paul Schrade.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Joe Rogan has covid-19, is taking unproven deworming medicine, Elahe Izadi and Emily Yahr, Sept. 1, 2021. Joe Rogan, host of a wildly popular podcast who has downplayed the need for coronavirus vaccines, announced Wednesday he tested positive for the coronavirus.

In a brief video, Rogan told his 13.1 million Instagram followers that he returned home from the road Saturday night — he’s currently on tour and just performed a series of comedy shows in Florida — feeling weary with a headache.

“Just to be cautious, I separated from my family, slept in a different part of the house, and throughout the night I got fevers and sweats. And I knew what was going on,” Rogan said. “So I got up in the morning, got tested — and turns out I got covid.”

joe rogan twitterRogan, right, said he was now feeling “great” after “one bad day” on Sunday. After his diagnosis, he said he “immediately threw the kitchen sink” at the virus, and listed a litany of therapeutics and treatments he tried, including ivermectin, a medicine used to kill parasites in animals and humans but best known as a horse dewormer.

The treatment is one that has been promoted by conservative media figures, politicians and some doctors, but also carries a warning from the Food and Drug Administration, which has advised against using it as a treatment for covid-19. Poison control centers have reported huge spikes of calls about ivermectin exposure.

“You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it,” the FDA tweeted last month amid an increase of people getting sick from the medicine.

Doctors dismayed by patients who fear coronavirus vaccines but clamor for unproven ivermectin

“The Joe Rogan Experience” is the most popular podcast in the country, according to tracking firm Edison Research. In 2020, Spotify acquired Rogan’s podcast library in a reported $100 million deal and now exclusively licenses the series. Before he moved to Spotify, Rogan’s show had about 190 million monthly downloads.

Rogan, a stand-up comedian, is a lightning rod with a huge following. He’s hosted controversial figures on his show, including Alex Jones, who has pushed the false theory that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a hoax.

washington post logoWashington Post, Texas district closes schools after covid kills two teachers in one week, Timothy Bella, Sept. 1, 2021. A Central Texas school district is temporarily closing after two teachers died of covid-19 in the same week, while parents and legislators in the state continue to clash over mask mandates in classrooms.

Officials with the Connally Independent School District, north of Waco, said its five suburban schools will be closed until after the Labor Day holiday following the covid-19 death Saturday of Natalia Chansler, 41, a sixth-grade social studies teacher at Connally Junior High School. Her death came just days after 59-year-old David “Andy” McCormick, a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Connally Junior High, died of covid-19 on Aug. 24, the district said.

“We are very heartbroken,” Jill Bottelberghe, the district’s assistant superintendent of human resources, told the Waco Tribune-Herald, adding, “It is very devastating as far as the students, the staff and the community as a whole.”

 

marc bernier

washington post logoWashington Post, Four conservative radio talk-show hosts bashed coronavirus vaccines. Then they got sick, Paul Farhi, Sept. 1, 2021. All four died over the past month, highlighting talk radio’s often overlooked role as a vector of coronavirus misinformation.

Marc Bernier was adamant: He was not going to get a coronavirus vaccination.

“I’m Mr. Anti-Vax,” he told listeners of his talk-radio program in Daytona Beach, Fla., after the federal government provisionally approved the first vaccines in December. He later declared that the government was “acting like Nazis” in urging people to get vaccinated.

But in early August, WNDB AM-FM, Bernier’s radio home for more than 30 years, announced that the 65-year-old host was being treated in a hospital for covid-19. On Saturday, the station said that Bernier had died.

Bernier was at least the fourth talk-radio host who had espoused anti-vaccine and anti-mask sentiments to succumb to the virus in August. There was also Phil Valentine, 61, a popular host in Tennessee; Jimmy DeYoung, 81, a nationally syndicated Christian preacher also based in Tennessee; and Dick Farrel, 65, who had worked for stations in Miami and Palm Beach, Fla., as well as for the conservative Newsmax TV channel.

washington post logoWashington Post, A hospital refused to give ivermectin to a covid patient. A judge ordered doctors to administer it, Hannah Knowles and Timothy Bella, Sept. 1, 2021 (print ed.). When her husband had gotten so sick from the coronavirus that he was forced into a medically induced coma this month, Julie Smith turned to ivermectin — a deworming drug that some people are using to treat or prevent covid-19.

“My husband is on death’s doorstep,” she wrote, according to an affidavit, “he has no other options.”

Yet when Julie Smith got a prescription from an Ohio doctor, a hospital in West Chester Township, Ohio, allegedly refused to administer the drug to Jeffrey Smith while he was seriously ill and on a ventilator, according to a lawsuit she filed on behalf of her husband this month.

Now, the hospital is being forced to administer the unproven treatment to Jeffrey Smith, 51, after a judge ruled in Julie Smith’s favor.

On Aug. 23, Butler County Judge J. Gregory Howard ordered West Chester Hospital to treat Smith with ivermectin for three weeks, as requested by his wife. The judge’s decision last week came despite the Food and Drug Administration not approving ivermectin to treat or prevent covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and urging against that use in a recent public advisory amid news of spiking calls to poison centers driven by people taking potent versions of the drug meant for livestock.

“West Chester Hospital shall immediately administer Ivermectin to Jeffrey Smith,” Howard wrote in his order, which was first reported by Ohio Capital Journal and the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The Aug. 23 order, which does not explain the judge’s reasons, says Smith shall be administered 30 milligrams of ivermectin daily for 21 days. Smith’s vaccination status is not mentioned in the lawsuit, and Jonathan Davidson, an attorney for Julie Smith, declined to comment to The Washington Post on whether the Ohio man had been vaccinated.

Davidson said Tuesday that Jeffrey Smith is alive but declined to share details of his client’s medical condition, citing the family’s privacy.

The judge’s decision came as state and federal health agencies have expressed alarm at overdoses involving the deworming drug in recent weeks. The FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health have warned for months against using the drug to treat the coronavirus, saying its use can “cause serious harm.” The Mississippi State Department of Health recently issued an alert advising people not to take the drug, saying that “at least 70 percent of the recent calls” at the state’s poison-control center have been from people ingesting ivermectin to treat or prevent covid-19.

A version of ivermectin approved for humans has long been used to fight parasitic infections, and some doctors have become vocal advocates of using the drug for covid, prescribing it routinely. A group of researchers who reviewed data from 14 ivermectin studies found that the results “cannot confirm the widely advertised benefits,” though other trials are ongoing.

The drug has found particular traction in conservative circles, promoted by talk-show hosts and Republican lawmakers.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Yes, you can get some immunity from having covid-19. But no one should wait to get vaccinated, Leana S. Wen, right, Sept. 1, 2021. A leana wenmajor reason why many Americans remain unvaccinated is the belief that so-called natural immunity protects as well or better than immunity from vaccination. A professor at George Mason University recently filed a lawsuit against his employer alleging that because he recovered from covid-19, he should be exempted from the university’s vaccine mandate. Some physicians have argued that children are better off being exposed to covid-19 and developing immunity through infection rather than vaccination.

fda logoThere are some simple responses to these arguments: All eligible people 12 and above — including those who were previously infected such as that professor — would be better off getting the vaccine and should be required to do so. Vaccines for younger children must be an urgent priority and, once authorized, should also be mandated.

Nevertheless, it’s important to acknowledge that those promoting natural immunity aren’t entirely wrong. They are right that recovery from covid-19 provides good protection from reinfection. They might even make a reasonable case that those who had the disease don’t need both doses of the vaccine. Where they go grievously wrong is when they encourage people to forgo vaccination and instead opt for infection.

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 204.7 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Sept. 1, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2vaccine. This includes more than 173.8 million people fully vaccinated, 52.4 % of the eligible population.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Sept. 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: 218,734,144, Deaths: 4,537,832
U.S. Cases:     40,114,099, Deaths:    657,910
India Cases:     32,810,892, Deaths:    439,054
Brazil Cases:    20,777,867, Deaths:   580,525

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Buying of the American Mind, Paul Krugman, right, Sept. 1, 2021. Today’s column was inspired by the latest twist in our still shambolic paul krugmanresponse to Covid — the continuing refusal of many Americans to get vaccinated and the insistence of some of them on swallowing horse paste instead.

I tried (Aug. 29 column) to link this horrifying, if comic, development to the long relationship between right-wing extremism and patent medicine. But I didn’t have space to put this in the broader context of how money influences politics and policy.

The simple fact is that none of us are saints. Even those who claim to be working for the common good can be and often are influenced by the prospect of personal reward. As conservative economists like to say, incentives matter.

Indeed, it’s usually conservative economists who make this point most strongly.

And as far back as I can remember, the world of conservative opinion and thought has, in fact, consisted largely of bought men and women. (I’ll talk about liberals in a minute.)

First came the rise of “movement conservatism” — a highly organized set of interlocking institutions, all backed by billionaires and big corporations, of which the Republican Party was only one piece. There were also media organizations, especially Fox, think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and more. By the aughts (we never did come up with a better name for this century’s first decade), these institutions had created a safe space, a guarantee of a stable and fairly lucrative career, for people willing to say the right things — tax cuts good, regulation bad — and not rock the boat.

I never thought I’d be nostalgic for the era when big money ruled the right. But traditional corporate influence looks benign compared with where we are now. At this point, to be a conservative in good standing you have to pledge allegiance to blatant lies — Democrats are Marxists, the election was stolen, basic public health measures are sinister assaults on freedom.

OK, what about liberals? They’re people too, with all the usual human flaws; there are plenty of prominent liberals who I know personally to be driven by ego and to some extent by monetary considerations, people like … actually, not going there. But they live in a different environment from conservatives.

The old Will Rogers line — “I am not a member of any organized political party — I am a Democrat” — still applies. Political science research confirms that the Republican Party, and conservatism in general, is an ideological monolith, albeit one largely under new management. Democrats and the center-left in general, by contrast, are a loose coalition, and to prosper in that coalition you have to satisfy multiple constituencies. This makes it harder to sell your soul, because it’s not clear who you’re supposed to sell it to

So the blend of craziness and corruption taking place on the American right is special, without anything comparable on the left. Don’t both-sides this

 

Jan. 6 Pro-Trump Riot Probes, Prosecutions

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The use of unfounded fraud claims to limit voting access is more obvious than ever, Philip Bump, right, Sept. 1, 2021. Sen. Ron Johnson (philip bumpR-Wis.) didn’t know he was talking to an undercover journalist last weekend when he expounded at some length on the results of the 2020 presidential election. What he made obvious in that conversation, though, was the way in which his party is using false claims of election fraud to widely diverging ends.

The video, recorded by Lauren Windsor, was filmed at an event near Milwaukee on Sunday. In it, Windsor — not dissuading Johnson from assuming that she’s a supportive voter — asks the senator about the results of the election in the state, which President Biden won by about 21,000 votes. She presses him on the point: Didn’t he think there was something wonky about what happened? What about that late-night “dump” of ballots that supporters of former president Donald Trump have so frequently emphasized?

Johnson waved it away.

“There’s nothing obviously skewed about the results,” he said, pointing to the fact that other Republican candidates at the state level did slightly better than the then-incumbent president. “He didn’t get 51,000 votes that other Republicans got,” Johnson said, “and that’s why he lost.”

This is right both in its specifics and in its implications. Trump supporters have for a long time separated out the presidential race from every other contest, accepting Republican victories in House and state races as legitimate while insisting that something weird happened with Trump’s race.

At times, there have been efforts to explain this — such as: maybe Democrats were so savvy that they masked their rampant fraud by allowing Republicans to win other races — but normally it’s just ignored. A look at the county-level data in Wisconsin makes clear that there was nothing wonky about what happened in the state. Things shifted a bit from 2016, uniformly, and that turned a narrow Trump win five years ago into a narrow Trump loss.

This flash of rationality, however unintentionally offered, has no hope of illuminating the dark cave of conspiracy. How long has it been now that we’ve been promised irrefutable proof of fraud? How many times have deadlines come and gone? How often have isolated little blips been presented as conclusive proof that something sketchy happened, only for them to amount to nothing and be forgotten for whatever comes next on the conveyor belt?At this top level of conspiracy theorizing, there’s no real need to prove anything. Fraud is assumed, and the countless fraud-like shadows that are identified by Trump and his allies are simply casual reinforcements of the broader theme, like a “haunted house” in which every explainable creak nonetheless gets to the main point.

Trump keeps promising that the evidence is imminent, over and over and over — for 300 days and counting — and the failure of that evidence to emerge has never seemed to cause him much distress. Not that this is a new tactic for the former president.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sen. Ron Johnson says ‘nothing obviously skewed about the results’ of Trump’s election loss in Wisconsin, Timothy Bella, Sept. 1, 2021 (print ed.). ron johnson oSen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), right, one of former president Donald Trump’s staunchest congressional allies who has supported an audit of the election results in Wisconsin, acknowledged that the only reason Trump lost the state to Joe Biden was because he underperformed compared with other Republicans, according to a video released Tuesday.

democratic donkey logoSpeaking at a GOP event outside Milwaukee on Sunday, Johnson was asked by a liberal activist who posed as a conservative about the false and debunked belief that Biden won the election because of voter fraud. Instead of supporting the activist’s false theory, Johnson pointed to a different explanation for Trump’s defeat in Wisconsin: Republicans, as a whole, received more votes in races for other statewide offices than the former president.

“There’s nothing obviously skewed about the results,” Johnson said, according to a video posted by liberal activist Lauren Windsor. “If all the Republicans voted for Trump the way they voted for the Assembly candidates, he would have won. He didn’t get 51,000 votes that other Republicans got, and that’s why he lost.”

Biden won Wisconsin by nearly 21,000 votes, flipping a state Trump won in 2016 by about the same margin. President Biden’s win has been repeatedly reaffirmed through recounts and court rulings, and lawsuits from Trump allies and Republicans challenging Biden’s victory were defeated time and time again.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: As a former president, can Trump use executive privilege to stall the Jan. 6 investigation? Amber Phillips, Sept. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Former president Donald Trump is trying to do something that is without modern precedent: use executive privilege, even though he’s no longer president, to stop Congress from investigating his role in fomenting the violence of Jan. 6.

Can he? His claim is shaky, legal experts say, but he could still prevent the committee from getting what it wants just by putting up a fight. Here’s how.

First, what is executive privilege?

It’s a loose legal protection for the president and top White House aides designed to give them confidentiality as they make tough decisions while governing, without fearing that those private conversations will be scrutinized by Congress.

Every modern president has leaned on executive privilege heavily when they don’t want to give information to Congress, but Trump took it to a new level. During his first impeachment, he blocked or tried to block every single records request and subpoena by citing executive privilege.

How Trump is trying to use it against Jan. 6 committee requests

Last week, the special House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection requested a ton of information from federal agencies such as the National Archives and the FBI about the view from the White House and Republican members of Congress on that day. The committee asked for answers to questions including:

  • Who in Congress talked to the White House on and around that day?
  • Did Trump plan to march to the Capitol on the 6th?
  • Was Trump planning to “disrupt the peaceful transfer of power”?

Their records requests indicate that they’re also looking into Trump’s broader efforts to fight his election loss and replace top government officials with his own loyalists, reports The Washington Post’s John Wagner.

Trump responded with a fiery statement: “Executive privilege will be defended, not just on behalf of my Administration and the Patriots who worked beside me, but on behalf of the Office of the President of the United States and the future of our Nation.”

He hasn’t officially asserted executive privilege in a letter to the Biden administration, but it sure sounds like he will.

It’s not up to Trump whether he gets to claim executive privilege for information within the federal government. It’s up to the Biden administration, since President Biden is the one in charge of the federal agencies that have the records.

washington post logokevin mccarthyWashington Post, Rep. McCarthy threatens tech and telecom firms that comply with Jan. 6 committee’s request to retain information related to attack, Felicia Sonmez, Sept. 1, 2021. The House minority leader, right, who is a potential witness in the probe, said Republicans “will not forget” the actions of companies that comply with the panel’s request.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Kevin McCarthy keeps revealing how ugly a GOP House would be, Greg Sargent, right, Sept. 1, 2021. We’re now beginning to see just how ugly a House GOP takeover would be for the country. What is unmistakable is that a Republican House would be greg sargentsingularly devoted to using its power to avenge Donald Trump’s 2020 loss — and to whitewashing his efforts to overturn it in every way possible.

Case in point: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has now openly threatened to use a GOP-controlled House to punish private companies that comply with lawful subpoenas issued by the House select committee examining the Jan. 6 insurrection.

bennie thompson horizontal

washington post logoWashington Post, House Jan. 6 committee asks telecom companies to retain phone records related to Capitol attack as it ramps up investigation, Dave Clarke and Felicia Sonmez, Aug. 31, 2021 (print ed.). The committee has made three requests for information this month as it ramps up its investigation.

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol asked 35 telecommunications and social media companies Monday to retain phone records and other information relevant to its inquiry as the panel ramps up is investigation ahead of the return of Congress next month.

U.S. House logoThat list was expected to include phones used by some members of Congress, a person familiar with the request, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the investigation, said Friday. Committee spokesman Tim Mulvey on Monday declined to say which individuals were included in the request out of respect for their privacy.

“The Select Committee is at this point gathering facts, not alleging wrongdoing by any individual,” Mulvey said in a statement.

Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), above, recently said his panel would not shy away from investigating lawmakers as part of its inquiry, highlighting the remarkable nature of Congress investigating an attack on itself.

 michael fanone embattled but standingProof via Substack, Loose-Knit “Sedition Hunters” Group Reveals Connection Between the White House and the Attack on D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Michael seth abramson graphicFanone, Seth Abramson, left, Aug. 30-31, 2021. A group of White House allies whose members were in touch with White House and Trump campaign agents in the hours before the insurrection had one of their number at the site of the horrifying attack.

seth abramson proof logoAs Time wrote, “[DCMP officer Michael] Fanone, in uniform and helmet (shown above at center), was nearly killed by a pro-Trump mob waving Thin-Blue-Line [pro-police] flags.”

In the eight months since the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol incited by former president Donald Trump, articles in major-media outlets like NPR (link), CNN (link), the Philadelphia Inquirer (link), The Daily Beast (link), Bloomberg News (link), the Guardian (link), Slate (link), and the New York Times (link) have highlighted the critical investigative role of a group of citizen journalists known as the Sedition Hunters.

FBI logoAs noted in the articles above, the work of the Sedition Hunters has led to arrests of a number of January 6 defendants, federal sentencing hearings getting postponed due to new evidence being uncovered by the group, and an ongoing (if informal) partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Times’ Visual Investigations Unit.

But the most recent find by the loose-knit group of volunteer researchers may be its most harrowing yet. It centers on the actions of a small group of insurrectionists that included Cindy Chafian, the leader of militant group The Eighty Percent Coalition and—most importantly—a lead organizer, in coordination with the Trump White House, of the events of January 6.

 

More On Afghanistan

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Facts are finally starting to penetrate bad Afghanistan punditry, Jennifer Rubin, right, Sept. 1, 2021. Media coverage of the U.S. drawdown from Afghanistan has been characterized by hyperbolic commentary and conjecture — driven in part by former officials for the quagmire who were jennifer rubin newest circularquick to weigh in on the matter in interviews. One day, some in the pack would holler for the administration to extend the withdrawal day beyond Aug. 31; the next day, others would demand the United States leave before any more service members died.

One of the constant themes of coverage was scorn, bordering on contempt, for the notion that the Taliban might cooperate with the U.S. government in the evacuation. No matter how many times press secretaries for the Pentagon, White House and State Department explained that the administration was in constant conversation to “deconflict” with the Taliban, and no matter how many thousands of evacuees went through Taliban checkpoints, reporters sneered. Why are we trusting the Taliban? Who decided to outsource our protection to the Taliban?

Certainly, the Taliban has been a vicious group trying to enforce religious fanaticism by force. But it now also has to fight off Islamic State-Khorasan and figure out how to run a fractured country. Measured voices — including Aaron David Miller, former Middle East negotiator for the State Department — patiently explained that no one really knows if we are dealing with Taliban “1.0, 2.0 or 3.0.” Wait, facts should inform our opinions and decisions? What a concept.

Press secretaries, generals, the national security adviser and others explained again and again that the administration doesn’t trust the Taliban, but that the United States and the Taliban have a mutual interest in a successful withdrawal. Despite obvious evidence of cooperation, former administration officials denounced the suggestion that practical self-interest (getting the United States out) could trump ideology. H.R. McMaster, retired Army lieutenant general and national security adviser to President Biden’s predecessor, scorned the idea.

In fact, the commentary was off-base. Now actual reporting is filling in the gaps to provide a fuller picture of the Taliban’s actions. CNN reported, “The U.S. military negotiated a secret arrangement with the Taliban that resulted in members of the militant group escorting clusters of Americans to the gates of the Kabul airport as they sought to escape Afghanistan, two defense officials told CNN.” The report continued: “The officials said Americans were notified to gather at preset ‘muster points’ close to the airport where the Taliban would check their credentials and take them a short distance to a gate manned by American forces who were standing by to let them inside amid huge crowds of Afghans seeking to flee.” No wonder military officials described the Taliban’s conduct as “professional.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Republicans are guilty of mind-boggling hypocrisy in their attacks on Biden’s Afghanistan exit, Max Boot, right, Sept. 1, 2021. max boot screen shotRepublicans finally have an issue on which they can legitimately criticize President Biden. In a new Pew Research Center poll, only 27 percent of Americans say that Biden’s handling of Afghanistan has been good or excellent. Even some Democrats are quite critical of the president. This is a golden opportunity for the GOP to try to reclaim its credibility as a serious party on national security.

And yet it is blowing this chance by falling prey to the same compulsions — carelessness with the truth, cynical opportunism, mindless posturing, excessive outrage, rank prejudice, blatant hypocrisy — that have been its hallmarks in the Trump years.

The fundamental problem for the GOP is that it knows what it’s against — whatever Biden has done — but it has no idea what it’s for. Appearing on Fox Business on Tuesday, former president Donald Trump fulminated about “the level of incompetence on this withdrawal.” But when pressed on how he would have handled Afghanistan, the best he could come up with was: “We should have hit that country years ago, hit it really hard, and then let it rot.” Huh? Trump went on to say “We should have withdrawn in a totally different way” without specifying what that way was.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Don’t compound the Afghanistan mistake by fighting the last war, David Ignatius, right, Sept. 1, 2021. With the last C-17 flight out of Kabul david ignatiusMonday night, the unvarnished truth is that America’s war in Afghanistan is over. We must keep faith with Americans and Afghans left behind. And we’ll have a season of assessing blame for what happened. But we’ll compound the Afghanistan mistake if we keep fighting this last war.

The eerie final image, captured in the yellow-green light of night vision, shows Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue, the last U.S. military commander, walking as if into a different galaxy. That’s as it should be. We need, as the literary critic Frank Kermode titled one of his books, “the sense of an ending.” The curtain has come down, and we can start something new.

“I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not extending a forever exit,” President Biden said Tuesday in an emphatic defense of his decisions to withdraw troops and the final, messy evacuation from Kabul airport. He spoke of a broader shift, too. “It’s about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries,” Biden said, and of easing the burden on a U.S. military that has been at war for two decades.
Afghanistan will present serious counterterrorism challenges for the United States, but they will be different from the ones that took us to war in 2001, in the shadow of 9/11. The United States is far better protected now; intelligence and law enforcement here and around the world are much better integrated. The Islamic State is a threat in Afghanistan, but it suffered pulverizing defeats in Syria and Iraq. Al-Qaeda lives, but feebly. It didn’t win this war.

And the Taliban? We honestly don’t know whether this insurgent group is prepared to be more inclusive and avert a renewed civil war. For now, we just need to watch and assess — protecting our people and interests and reacting to the Taliban’s decisions. For a change, it has the urgently ticking watches, and we have the time.

“How do we all make a paradigm shift?” asks one senior intelligence official. Afghanistan is now just one of a dozen potential sources of global terrorism, rather than ground zero. Assessing the different players in Afghanistan and their intentions, capabilities and motivations will be a hard intelligence problem, but not an impossible one compared with other terror threats. Close-in neighbors, such as Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran, may have a greater interest in checking threats from postwar Afghanistan than we do.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Biden answers his critics on Afghanistan. Forcefully, Jennifer Rubin, right, Sept. 1, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden had a tricky task on jennifer rubin new headshotTuesday as he spoke to the nation about the end of the United States’s 20-year military operation in Afghanistan. Unlike the pundits, consultants, think tank gurus and paid military advisers who have sustained the fiction that the United States was building a stable Afghan government, Biden is accountable to the voters. He therefore had to reassert the case for ending the war and defend the way he handled the exit.

As he began, he sounded pugnacious if not angry. “I was not going to extend this forever war. And I was not going to extend a forever exit,” he said. He praised U.S. troops and diplomats who risked their lives to save more than 120,000 lives, impressing upon Americans the magnitude of the evacuation effort. For critics who point to thousands of Afghans who will live in misery, he explained that no country has done more to airlift allies to safety after losing a war. Regarding Americans still there, he argued there is “no deadline” to get them out. Getting those Americans out will be vital to retaining his credibility.

He then launched into a point-by-point rebuttal of his critics’ main claims.

The good news for Biden is that a significant majority (54 percent in the most recent Pew Research poll) approve of the withdrawal. But opinion on Biden’s performance is decidedly more mixed. Pew reports: “about a quarter (26%) say the administration has done an excellent or good job; 29% say the administration has done an only fair job and 42% say it has done a poor job.” Given the unremittingly negative and often hysterical coverage, that probably comes as a relief to the White House.

washington post logoWashington Post, Afghanistan is under Taliban control. Here’s who leads the organization, Ruby Mellen, Sept. 1, 2021 (print ed.). With Afghanistan under Taliban control, the world is watching to see how the group will govern after having been out of power since 2001.

The Islamist militant organization rapidly gained territory as the United States and its allies withdrew their forces from the country, seizing Kabul and entering the presidential palace on Aug. 15.

The group’s supreme leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada, was in Kandahar this week, a Taliban official confirmed, to help map out a new government with other senior Taliban figures.

The Taliban’s reign from 1996 to 2001 was brutal, punctuated by extreme religious mandates, public executions and severely restricted liberties for women and girls. But since returning to power the group has struck a more conciliatory tone, saying rivals will be pardoned and women would not be discriminated against.

Taliban leaders have been conducting meetings with former Afghan officials to form a potential power-sharing government, which could keep the group from becoming internationally isolated and boost Afghanistan’s economic prospects.

Few of the Taliban’s members who ruled in 2001 are alive or in power, leaving uncertainty over how the group intends to run the country today.

Here are some of the main leaders of the Taliban and what you need to know about them.

Haibatullah Akhundzada

haibatullah akhundzada taliban mullah 2016Haibatullah Akhundzada, shown above in a 2016 photo, is the supreme leader of the Taliban. He came into power in 2016, after the group’s former leader, Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan.

A cleric who was once the Taliban’s top judge, Akhundzada fled in 2001 to Pakistan, where he taught at religious schools before he rejoined to serve under Mansour.

He does not have much military experience, and since becoming the de facto leader of the Taliban, he has worked to bolster the group’s finances, in part through the narcotics trade, while also attempting to unify the group’s factions and consolidate power. It has been years since Akhundzada has appeared in public.

Abdul Ghani Baradar

abdul ghani baradarAbdul Ghani Baradar, above, served as a negotiator for peace talks in Doha, Qatar, and is the organization’s top political leader. He is also one of the original founders of the Taliban. He was imprisoned in 2010 in Pakistan before being released in 2018 at the request of the U.S. government so he could serve as the group’s leader in peace talks.

On Tuesday, he arrived in Afghanistan for the first time in more than a decade. Baradar swept through Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, amid fanfare and fireworks. The triumphant arrival set him up to become the country’s next leader and signaled that the group may soon form a government.

Baradar was intent on the withdrawal of U.S. troops, appearing to resist in March an attempt by the Biden administration to push back their departure date. The United States agreed to leave the country as a condition of a peace deal struck with the Taliban under President Donald Trump.

Baradar spoke with Trump in 2020, after the signing of the deal, becoming the first Taliban leader to directly communicate with a U.S. president.

It was also Baradar who addressed Afghanistan on Sunday after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

“We have reached a victory that wasn’t expected. … We should show humility in front of Allah,” Baradar said in a statement recorded in Doha. “Now it’s about how we serve and secure our people and ensure their future to the best of our ability.”

A once-vanquished insurgent returns as Afghanistan’s likely next leader

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: No, Taliban did not seize $83 billion of U.S. weapons, Glenn Kessler, Aug. 31, 2021. That’s the figure for all the money spent on the Afghan military over 20 years, about $24 billion of which was for equipment.

djt hands up mouth open Custom“ALL EQUIPMENT should be demanded to be immediately returned to the United States, and that includes every penny of the $85 billion dollars in cost.”

Former president Donald Trump, in a statement, Aug 30

We don’t normally pay much attention to claims made by the former president, as he mostly just riffs golden oldies. But this is a new claim. A version of this claim also circulates widely on right-leaning social media — that somehow the Taliban has ended up with $83 billion in U.S. weaponry. (Trump, as usual, rounds the number up.)

The $83 billion number is not invented out of whole cloth. But it reflects all the money spent to train, equip and house the Afghan military and police — so weapons are just a part of that. At this point, no one really knows the value of the equipment that was seized by the Taliban.

The $83 billion figure — technically, $82.9 billion — comes from an estimate in the July 30 quarterly report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) for all spending on the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund since the U.S. invasion in 2001.

 

U.S. Hurricanes, Fires, Climate Change

washington post logoWashington Post, Caldor Fire continues burning toward Lake Tahoe, Ally Gravina and Diana Leonard, Sept. 1, 2021. Experts warned that the fire could destroy thousands of structures and put lives at risk in the next few days. “It’s not going to be the same beautiful lake once this is over.”

Craig B. Clements, a professor at the Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center at San Jose State University, said the Tahoe region has always been vulnerable to fires. But what’s unusual this time, he said, is the size of the burn.

“For a fire to be burning on such a large scale is quite concerning,” he said.

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Law

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Say goodbye to Roe v. Wade, Paul Waldman, right, Sept. 1, 2021. Thanks to the state of Texas, the country’s most paul waldmanconservative court of appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, abortion has been all but outlawed in the second-largest state in America. Roe v. Wade now hangs by a fraying thread, with six justices sharpening their scissors to sever it once and for all.

Texas recently passed the most draconian abortion law in the United States, one that quite intentionally violates Roe v. Wade. A federal district court was about to have a hearing on the law, one that would probably have resulted in a stay on the law while the legal case against it is decided.

But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit — the most conservative of the federal appeals courts — stepped in and canceled that hearing. The plaintiffs suing to stop the law made an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court, which the justices chose not to act on before Sept. 1, when the law was slated to go into effect.

ny times logoNew York Times, Citizens, Not the State, Will Enforce New Abortion Law in Texas, Sabrina Tavernise, July 9, 2021, Updated Sept. 1, 2021. The measure bans abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. And it effectively deputizes ordinary citizens to sue people involved in the process.

People across the country may soon be able to sue abortion clinics, doctors and anyone helping a woman get an abortion in Texas, under a new state law that contains a legal innovation with broad implications for the American court system.

The provision passed the State Legislature this spring as part of a bill that bans abortion after a doctor detects a fetal heartbeat, usually at about six weeks of pregnancy. Many states have passed such bans, but the law in Texas is different.

Ordinarily, enforcement would be up to government officials, and if clinics wanted to challenge the law’s constitutionality, they would sue those officials in making their case. But the law in Texas prohibits officials from enforcing it. Instead, it takes the opposite approach, effectively deputizing ordinary citizens — including from outside Texas — to sue clinics and others who violate the law. It awards them at least $10,000 per illegal abortion if they are successful.

“It’s completely inverting the legal system,” said Stephen Vladeck, a constitutional law professor at the University of Texas at Austin. “It says the state is not going to be the one to enforce this law. Your neighbors are.”

The result is a law that is extremely difficult to challenge before it takes effect on Sept. 1 because it is hard to know whom to sue to block it, and lawyers for clinics are now wrestling with what to do about it. Six-week bans in other states have all been blocked as they make their way through the court system.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The 5th Circuit is staking out a claim to be America’s most dangerous court, Ruth Marcus, right, Sept. 1, 2021 (print ed.). The Supreme ruth marcus twitter CustomCourt is, no doubt, the nation’s most powerful court. But the 5th Circuit, the federal appeals court that covers Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, is staking out a claim to be the most dangerous — the least wedded to respecting precedent or following an orderly judicial process.

The 5th is arguably the most conservative among the country’s dozen appeals courts. It inclined in that direction even before President Donald Trump managed to install six nominees. And they constitute quite a bunch: Stuart Kyle Duncan, who said the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling establishing a right to same-sex marriage “imperils civic peace” and “raises a question about the legitimacy of the court.” Cory Wilson, who tweeted about Hillary Clinton using the hashtag #CrookedHillary, called the Affordable Care Act “illegitimate” and said he supported overturning Roe v. Wade. James C. Ho, who issued a concurring opinion lamenting the “moral tragedy of abortion.”

How conservative is the court, where 12 of 17 active judges were named by Republican presidents? “As conservative a federal appeals court as any of us have seen in our lifetimes,” says Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas, noting that even as the circuit’s conservatives tend toward the extreme end of the spectrum, its liberals aren’t all that liberal.

washington post logoWashington Post, Police, paramedics indicted in 2019 death of Elijah McClain, who was put in a chokehold, sedated during an arrest in Colorado, Kim Bellware, Sept. 1, 2021. A Colorado grand jury has sought criminal charges, including manslaughter, against three Aurora police officers and two paramedics in the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who was placed in a choke-hold and injected with ketamine by first responders during a violent arrest in 2019.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump Organization’s security director agrees to testify to grand jury, David A. Fahrenthold and Shayna Jacobs, Sept. 1, 2021. The Trump Organization’s director of security has agreed to testify before a Manhattan grand jury investigating the former president and his company, according to a person familiar with the case.

Matthew Calamari Jr., 28, received a subpoena to testify on Tuesday from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (D) and will appear before the grand jury Thursday afternoon, according to the person.

Calamari Jr. is the son of Matthew Calamari Sr., who now serves as the Trump Organization’s chief operating officer and has worked for former president Donald Trump as a bodyguard, security man and executive for more than 30 years.

The elder Calamari has not been subpoenaed, according to the person familiar with the case, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the subpoena publicly. Vance’s office declined to comment.

washington post logoWashington Post, Florida man charged in connection with overture to Rep. Matt Gaetz’s father about the investigation of his son, Matt Zapotosky, Sept. 1, 2021 (print ed.). The Justice Department on Tuesday arrested a Florida man over a scheme that involved seeking money from Florida Republican Don Gaetz, right, to don gaetzhelp halt the sex-trafficking investigation of his son, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), according to court records and a person familiar with the matter.

Stephen M. Alford, 62, was charged with wire fraud in connection with the alleged $25 million plot, which famously came to light months ago — shortly after the revelation that Matt Gaetz was under investigation.

matt gaetz officialIn response to the reporting on that probe in March, the congressman said his family had been cooperating with an FBI investigation of people trying use the investigation of his alleged conduct to extort his father. His father, Matt Gaetz, left, said, had even been wearing a wire for investigators.

The Justice Department indictment names only Alford, identifying Don Gaetz and others by their initials or short descriptors. But people familiar with the matter confirmed the case and said those referred to in it are the same individuals who have long been publicly tied to the effort to get money from the elder Gaetz.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Merrick Garland is either corrupt or senile. In either case, or both, it’s time for him to go, Wayne Madsen, left, Sept. 1, 2021. It wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallhas been said by legal and religious scholars through the ages that justice delayed is justice denied. Based on the actions of Attorney General wayne madesen report logoMerrick Garland, right, during his nearly seven months in charge of the Department of Justice, his delays and soft-peddling of justice indicate that he is either corrupt, senile, or both.

It matters not that Garland was, before being appointed by President Biden as the top law enforcement officer of the nation, the Chief Judge for the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. There are corrupt and unethical federal judges. One only has to look at the alleged New Jersey mob ties of Samuel Alito and the past sexual misbehavior of Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh to realize

merrick garlandGarland’s agreeing to light punishment plea deals by federal prosecutors in cases involving theJanuary 6 insurrectionists have perplexed DC federal judges. It is, indeed, rare for judges to criticize one of their former colleagues on the federal bench.

So, why is Garland so intent on not seeing those who staged a violent attempted coup d’état receive more punishment?

Garland does not seem to be functioning as a hands-on Attorney General. His department has been slow-walking potential indictments of Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) for underage sex trafficking, former New York Mayor and Trump personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani for a laundry list of criminal charges, and members of the Trump family, including Donald Trump, for financial fraud involving the Trump Organization.

elizabeth holmes 2015 forbes cover

washington post logoWashington Post, Elizabeth Holmes’s court date puts Silicon Valley’s ‘fake it till you make it’ culture on trial, Rachel Lerman, Sept. 1, 2021 (print ed.). The former CEO of blood testing start-up Theranos is charged with wire fraud.

The black turtleneck was gone Tuesday, the uniform Elizabeth Holmes adopted back in the days when she was casting herself as a genius tech entrepreneur, the next Steve Jobs. In its place, Holmes wore the sober business attire often preferred by the criminally accused.

Holmes (shown above on a 2015 Forbes Magazine cover) started her company, Theranos, with a captivating goal: to make lab testing cheaper, faster and less painful for patients. She envisioned tests performed with a tiny finger-prick of blood, a method less painful and easier than traditional blood draws from the arm, using longer needles. The company worked on its flagship technology — a small automated box known as either the MiniLab or the Edison — intended to quickly run hundreds of tests and issue diagnostics with just drops of blood.

Her vision enticed investors from Rupert Murdoch to Silicon Valley’s Tim Draper, and within a dozen years Theranos was valued at $9 billion. But it was all a fraud, federal prosecutors have alleged: her technology never worked as advertised. Now Holmes faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $3 million. She’s pleaded not guilty.

As jury selection began Tuesday ahead of opening arguments next week, Holmes has laid the groundwork for an unusual mental defect defense. The brash confident former CEO who once graced the cover of Time magazine is expected to blame her former boyfriend and the company’s president for emotional abuse that rendered her incapable of making decisions.

Entrepreneurs raise hundreds of thousands of dollars based off ideas that may or may not come to fruition or even be profitable if they do. Failure is considered a necessary part of doing business.

“She is still, in my view, a child of this culture,” said John Carreyrou, the former Wall Street Journal reporter who broke the Theranos story and is now hosting a podcast about the trial. “She surfed on this myth of the genius founder who can see around corners.”

The spectacular collapse of Theranos in 2018 following those investigations triggered some limited soul searching in Silicon Valley, according to interviews with more than a dozen investors, founders and lawyers.

But little cultural change has occurred in the start-up industry in the years since, they say.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal charges are filed against former director of economic development authority in Front Royal, Antonio Olivo, Sept. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Jennifer R. McDonald faces 34 counts alleging money laundering, wire fraud and bank fraud in a case involving millions of dollars. A former director of the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority in Virginia has been indicted on federal charges of money laundering, wire and bank fraud and identity theft, authorities said Tuesday.

Jennifer R. McDonald, who left the agency in 2018, had previously been accused of embezzling $21 million — part of an ongoing scandal involving multiple lawsuits. The allegations rocked the Front Royal community, particularly after the local county sheriff who partnered with McDonald on some of those allegedly illegal property investments died by suicide in 2019.

The 34-count federal indictment, which a grand jury delivered last week, echoed many of those earlier accusations, including allegations that McDonald used the agency’s funds to buy property in the name of limited liability companies she controlled and to pay debts owed by her, family members and friends.

NBC News logoNBC News, Arrest warrant issued for Ohio man accused of confronting NBC’s Shaquille Brewster on live TV, David K. Li and Donna Nelson, Updated Sept. 1, 2021. Benjamin Eugene Dagley is also suspected of a probation violation, authorities said.

Mississippi police issued an arrest warrant Tuesday for an Ohio man who they say confronted NBC News’ Shaquille Brewster on live television.

The man, Benjamin Eugene Dagley, of Wooster, Ohio, will be charged with two counts of simple assault, one count of disturbing the peace and one count of violating an emergency curfew, Gulfport police said in a statement.

He could also be in violation of his probation in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, if he traveled without authorization, police said.

Dagley had not been arrested by late Tuesday afternoon, and he could not be immediately reached at publicly listed telephone numbers.

His ex-wife in Ohio declined to comment.

Court documents in Ohio showed the 54-year-old pleaded guilty to vandalism, inducing panic and attempted assault, stemming from a 2017 commercial break-in. He was sentenced to five years probation and 30 days in jail to go along with a $5,000 fine and $10,000 restitution to Cleveland Plating.

The business is an electroplating company that Dagley once owned, according to a report by Cleveland.com. Dagley was arrested on suspicion of drilling holes into tanks of dangerous chemicals.

washington post logoWashington Post, A former Marine was pulled over for following a truck too closely. Police took nearly $87,000 of his cash, Matt Zapotosky, Sept. 1, 2021. Advocates for Stephen Lara say his case shows how the government abuses its power to seize assets.

The Nevada trooper first told Stephen Lara the highway patrol was educating drivers “about violations they may not realize they’re committing,” and that he’d been pulled over for following a tanker truck a bit too closely. After some small talk, the trooper admitted an ulterior purpose: stopping the smuggling of illegal drugs, weapons and currency as they crossed the state.

Lara — a former Marine who says he was on his way to visit his daughters in Northern California — insisted he was doing none of those things, though he readily admitted he had “a lot” of cash in his car. As he stood on the side of the road, police searched the vehicle, pulling nearly $87,000 in a zip-top bag from Lara’s trunk and insisting a drug-sniffing dog had detected something on the cash.

Police found no drugs, and Lara, 39, was charged with no crimes. But police nonetheless left with his money, calling a Drug Enforcement Administration agent to coordinate a process known as “adoption,” which allows federal authorities to seize cash or property they suspect is connected to criminal activity without levying criminal charges.

It was only after Lara got a lawyer, sued and talked with The Washington Post about his ordeal that the government said it would return his money. Asked for comment on this story on Tuesday, spokespeople for the Justice Department, DEA and Nevada Highway Patrol all declined to comment. But on Wednesday, after this story first published, DEA spokeswoman Anne Edgecomb said the agency had made a decision to return Lara’s money and the government vowed a broader review.

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Corporate America launches lobbying blitz to kill key parts of Democrats’ $3.5 trillion economic plan, Tony Romm, Sept. 1, 2021 (print ed.).  Drug makers, big banks, tech giants and others are preparing to fight the party’s reconciliation package, including its plans for raising taxes.

irs logoA torrent of political groups representing some of the country’s most influential corporations — including ExxonMobil, Pfizer, and the Walt Disney Company — is laying the groundwork for a massive lobbying blitz to stop Congress from enacting significant swaths of President Biden’s $3.5 trillion economic agenda.

rnc logoThe emerging opposition appears to be vast, spanning drug manufacturers, big banks, tech titans, major retailers and oil-and-gas giants. In recent weeks, top Washington organizations representing these and other industries have started pfizer logostrategizing behind the scenes, seeking to battle back key elements in Democrats proposed overhaul to federal health care, education and safety net programs.

Among the most active is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is in the early stages of putting together an economywide coalition to coordinate the fight against the still-forming economic package, including its significant price tag, policy scope and potential for tax increases.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tracking the political appointees Biden is nominating to fill the top roles in his administration, Harry Stevens, Madison Walls and Adrian Blanco, Sept. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Follow the president-elect’s progress filling nearly 800 positions, among the 1,200 that require Senate confirmation, in this tracker from The Washington Post and the Partnership for Public Service.

We are tracking 800 government positions among about 1,200 that require Senate confirmation.

  • 229 positions have no Biden nominee.
  • 18 picks are awaiting formal nomination.
  • 206 nominees are being considered by the Senate.
  • 127 have been confirmed by the Senate.

Additionally, we have identified 220 appointees so far who are serving in termed positions or who were held over from previous administrations.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden backs lasting support for Ukraine in White House Meeting, President Biden met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday, reaffirming his administration’s support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and security and granting Zelensky the in-person meeting at the White House he Joe Biden portrait 2has awaited since taking office in 2019.

The meeting offered Biden the opportunity, following his administration’s turbulent withdrawal from Afghanistan, to emphasize a foreign policy priority he often cited as a reason to withdraw troops from the Middle East.

In brief remarks in the Oval Office before the meeting, Biden expressed his desire for a “Europe whole, free and at peace,” and reiterated his opposition to “Russian aggression.”

Biden also reminisced about a previous visit he had made to Ukraine as vice president, and said he hoped to visit the country again.

volodymyr zelenskii cropped headshotZelensky was expected to use his face time with Biden to seek assurances that the United States remains committed to helping Ukraine ward off aggression from Moscow; press Biden on energy security related to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany; and discuss Ukraine’s aspirations of joining NATO.

Shortly after he was elected in 2019 on a reform agenda, Zelensky hoped to secure a White House meeting with President Donald Trump in a phone call between the two leaders. That call became the basis for Trump’s first impeachment trial — but the desired Oval Office meeting was never granted.

ukraine flagUkraine was a particular obsession for several figures around Trump, including Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, who sought evidence that Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, was part of a corrupt influence scheme with a Ukrainian energy firm. Giuliani also promoted the false narrative that Ukraine, not Russia, was responsible for election meddling in 2016. A career State Department diplomat, Marie Yovanovitch, was fired from her post as ambassador to Ukraine over those and other baseless suspicions.

The impeachment case against Trump alleged that he threatened to withhold U.S. aid to Ukraine unless Zelensky investigated Hunter Biden. Trump was acquitted by the Senate in February 2020.

 washington post logomexico flag1Washington Post, For U.S. and Mexico, awkward first steps to restart Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’, Nick Miroff and Mary Beth Sheridan, Sept. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Federal courts have ordered President Biden to restore his predecessor’s controversial policy “in good faith,” but neither country appears to have enthusiasm for it.

washington post logoWashington Post, ISIS militant expected to plead guilty in case involving hostages’ deaths, court records showI, Rachel Weiner, Sept. 1, 2021 (print ed.). British-born Alexanda Kotey was extradited from Iraq last year.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Venezuelan opposition declares end to boycott, agrees to participate in local and state elections, Ana Vanessa Herrero venezuela flag waving customand Anthony Faiola, Sept. 1, 2021 (print ed.). The opposition, whose candidates in past elections have been harassed and banned by President Nicolás Maduro’s government, has boycotted all votes since 2018. Its leaders acknowledged the likelihood that the local and regional elections in November would again be rigged against them.

washington post logoWashington Post, Piers Morgan cleared by British media watchdog over his critical Meghan comments, Karla Adam, Sept. 1, 2021. Morgan’s remarks sparked more than 50,000 complaints, including one from Meghan herself.

 

 

 

 

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