Editor’s Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative news and view in December, 2021
Note: Excerpts are from the authors’ words except for subheads and occasional “Editor’s notes” such as this.
- New York Times, Analysis: Supreme Court Seems Poised to Uphold Mississippi’s Abortion Law, Adam Liptak
- Washington Post, Live Reports: Justices hear arguments over Miss. abortion law challenging Roe v. Wade
- Washington Post, Planned Parenthood Los Angeles says hack breached about 400,000 patients’ information
- Washington Post, Trump allies work to place supporters in key election posts across U.S., Amy Gardner, Tom Hamburger and Josh Dawsey
- Washington Post, Marcus Lamb, head of Daystar, a large Christian network that discouraged vaccines, dies after getting covid-19
- Washington Post, Fourth victim dies in Mich. school shooting; suspect charged as an adult with terrorism and murder
Virus Victims, Responses
- Washington Post, Stricter coronavirus testing being weighed for all travelers to U.S.
- Washington Post, FDA advisers narrowly recommend authorization of first antiviral pill to treat covid-19, Carolyn Y. Johnson and Katie Shepherd, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.).
- Washington Post, Trump-appointed judges block Biden administration vaccine mandate for health-care workers
- Washington Post, Nigeria reports West Africa’s first omicron cases, igniting confusion over timeline
- Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals: U.S. Deaths: 803,045
- Washington Post, 196.8 milliion in U.S. fully vaccinated
Trump Watch, White Supremecists, Cults
- Palmer Report, Opinion: No wonder Mark Meadows is cooperating against Donald Trump, Bill Palmer
- Washington Post, Prosecutors demanded records of Sidney Powell’s fundraising groups as part of criminal probe
- Washington Post, Opinion: Trump’s coverup of his Jan. 6 corruption takes an ominous new turn, Greg Sargent
- Rolling Stone, The Fringe QAnon ‘Cult’ Is Still Waiting for a JFK Jr. Miracle in Dallas
U.S. Law, Courts, Crimes
- Washington Post, Epstein accuser says Maxwell and Epstein groomed her
- Washington Post, Wife of Mexican drug kingpin ‘El Chapo’ sentenced to 3 years in prison
- Washington Post, Author Alice Sebold apologizes to man wrongfully convicted of her rape
- Washington Post, Ex-D.C. priest in prison for sexual abuse found guilty in separate case
- Washington Post, Philip Heymann (1932–2021); Legal scholar and aide to Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox dies at 89
- Washington Post, An assistant principal in D.C. also worked as a principal in Rhode Island — at the same time
- Washington Post, Investigation: They trusted a coach with their girls and Ivy League ambitions. Now he’s accused of sex abuse
U.S. Politics, Governance
- Washington Post, Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican Trump critic, will not seek reelection
- Washington Post, Democrat Stacey Abrams plans another run for Ga. governor, which could lead to rematch with Gov. Kemp
- Washington Post, Oregon Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio, chairman of transportation panel, to retire at end of his term
- Roll Call, Leaders point fingers as defense bill remains stalled in the Senate
- Washington Post, Marjorie Taylor Greene, in feud with Nancy Mace on Islamophobia, launches personal attack over abortion
- Washington Post, Rep. Lauren Boebert renews Islamophobic attack on Rep. Ilhan Omar, rebuffs call for public apology
- Washington Post, Honduras elects democratic socialist as its first female president
- Washington Post, Tensions with Russia loom over NATO talks
- Belfast Telegraph, Flags report: SDLP and Greens call for action plan, while DUP MLA criticises Sinn Fein
- Washington Post, Japan’s prince decries ‘terrible’ comments about daughter’s decision to marry commoner
- Washington Post, German court gives life in prison to ex-ISIS fighter for death of 5-year-old in first ‘genocide’ trial
U.S. Media News
- Washington Post, CNN suspends Chris Cuomo ‘indefinitely’ after documents detail help he gave his brother
- Washington Post, Lara Logan draws outrage for comparing Fauci to Nazi doctor Josef Mengele on Fox News
- Washington Post, The Facebook executive in charge of the company’s cryptocurrency push just quit
- Washington Post, Analysis: Twitter’s new CEO is bringing an engineering background to a politics fight,
- Washington Post, Who is Twitter’s new CEO, Parag Agrawal? 5 things to know
- Washington Post, Analysis: In Washington, Jack Dorsey will be remembered for polarizing calls and historic scrutiny
- Wall Street Journal, Racy Affair Saga Between Jeff Bezos and Enquirer Reaches Final Chapter
New York Times, Analysis: Supreme Court Seems Poised to Uphold Mississippi’s Abortion Law, Adam Liptak, Dec. 1, 2021. After two hours of sometimes tense exchanges in one of the most significant abortion cases in years, the court appeared poised to uphold the state law, which bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
The Supreme Court seemed poised on Wednesday to uphold a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, based on sometimes tense and heated questioning at a momentous argument in the most important abortion case in decades.
Such a ruling would be flatly at odds with what the court has said was the central holding of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion and prohibited states from banning the procedure before fetal viability, or around 23 weeks.
But the court’s six-member conservative majority seemed divided about whether to stop at 15 weeks, for now at least, or whether to overrule Roe entirely, allowing states to ban abortions at any time or entirely.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. was the leading voice on the right for a narrow decision. “The thing that is at issue before us today is 15 weeks,” he said.
He repeatedly questioned whether the viability line was crucial, saying that Justice Harry A. Blackmun, the author of the majority opinion in Roe, had called the line arbitrary in his private papers. Chief Justice Roberts added that much of the rest of the world has similar limits.
Julie Rikelman, a lawyer for the abortion clinic challenging the Mississippi law, disputed that, saying that limits in many other countries are subject to significant exceptions.
Other conservative justices indicated that they were not interested in the chief justice’s intermediate approach. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said “the only real options we have” are to reaffirm Roe or to overrule it.
Assuming the three most conservative members of the court — Justices Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil M. Gorsuch — are prepared to overrule Roe entirely, Chief Justice Roberts would need to attract at least two votes for a narrower opinion, one upholding the Mississippi law but not overruling Roe in so many words, to be controlling. But the most likely candidates, Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, said little to suggest that they were inclined toward that narrower approach.
The court’s three liberal members — Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor — were adamant that Roe should stand.
- New York Times, Mississippi says progress in the workplace makes abortion rights unnecessary. This is what the research says.
Washington Post, Live Reports: Justices hear arguments over Miss. abortion law challenging ‘Roe v. Wade,’ Ann E. Marimow and Amy B Wang, Dec. 1, 2021. The Supreme Court on Wednesday is taking up the most serious challenge in decades to the constitutional right to abortion established in Roe v. Wade in 1973. The Mississippi law at issue bans most abortions after 15 weeks into pregnancy and has not taken effect because lower courts said it violated Roe and the subsequent decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which said states may not ban abortion before viability, usually between 22 and 24 weeks.
Mississippi has only one abortion clinic in the state, and one of its doctors sued, saying the ban imposes an undue burden on the right to abortion. Mississippi told the court that allowing the 2018 law to stand would “scuttle a half-century of precedent.” The state says the Constitution does not protect a right to abortion and that the court’s precedents are “grievously wrong, unworkable, damaging and outmoded.”
Here’s what to know:
- In accepting the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the court said it will decide whether all prohibitions on abortion before viability are unconstitutional. Abortion opponents believe this is their best chance in decades.
- The justices could overturn Roe or find another way to uphold the Mississippi law. The state suggested the court could hold that the law does not impose an “undue burden” on a significant number of women because the Mississippi clinic performs abortions only up to 16 weeks.
- Past court rulings, public appearances and other public comments by the nine justices give insight into their thinking on abortion and court precedents.
- Mississippi is represented by recently hired Solicitor General Scott G. Stewart, a former law clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas. The abortion provider is represented by attorney Julie Rikelman, litigation director for the Center for Reproductive Rights. U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar also argued on behalf of the abortion provider.
Washington Post, Planned Parenthood Los Angeles says hack breached about 400,000 patients’ information, Aaron Schaffer, Joseph Marks and Hannah Knowles, Dec. 1, 2021. A hacker gained access to the personal information of hundreds of thousands of Planned Parenthood patients last month, the reproductive health-care group’s Los Angeles branch said Wednesday.
The breach is limited to the Los Angeles affiliate, and spokesperson John Erickson said there is no indication at this point that the information was “used for fraudulent purposes.”
Supreme Court seems inclined to uphold Mississippi abortion law that would undermine Roe v. Wade
But an investigation is ongoing, he said, and information was compromised for about 400,000 patients of the organization at the center of the country’s fierce debates over abortion rights. Someone gained access to Planned Parenthood Los Angeles’ network between Oct. 9 and Oct. 17, installed malicious software and “exfiltrated” some files, Erickson said in a statement.
Letters from PPLA to affected patients warned that “we identified files that contained your name and one or more of the following: address, insurance information, date of birth, and clinical information, such as diagnosis, procedure, and/or prescription information.”
Erickson said the attack involved a specific type of malware called ransomware that was behind this year’s shutdown of a major fuel pipeline — a wide-ranging hack on U.S. energy infrastructure.
Ransomware is a malicious computer code that hackers deploy to block an organization’s access to its own computer network to extort a ransom. Erickson did not immediately respond to questions about whether PPLA paid a ransom and how malware affected its systems.
Graphic: What abortion laws would look like if Roe v. Wade were overturned
Planned Parenthood has been hacked before. This year, the organization’s Metropolitan Washington branch revealed that patient and donor information — including dates of birth, medical data and Social Security and financial information — was breached in 2020.
Joshua Speiser, director of communications for PPMW, did not specify at the time how many patients were affected.
In 2015, names and contact information for hundreds of Planned Parenthood employees nationwide were posted online after another breach. The leader of the hacker group behind the posting was critical of the national organization.
Washington Post, Trump allies work to place supporters in key election posts across U.S., Amy Gardner, Tom Hamburger and Josh Dawsey, Nov. 30, 2021 (print ed.). If they succeed, the former president and his backers could pull down some of the guardrails that prevented him from overturning President Biden’s victory, critics say.
In Michigan, local GOP leaders have sought to reshape election canvassing boards by appointing members who expressed sympathy for former president Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 vote was rigged.
In two Pennsylvania communities, candidates who embraced election fraud allegations won races this month to become local voting judges and inspectors.
And in Colorado, 2020 doubters are urging their followers on conservative social media platforms to apply for jobs in election offices.
A year after local and state election officials came under immense pressure from Trump to subvert the results of the 2020 White House race, he and his supporters are pushing an ambitious plan to place Trump loyalists in key positions across the administration of U.S. elections.
The effort goes far beyond the former president’s public broadsides against well-known Republican state officials who certified President Biden’s victory, such as Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey. Citing the need to make elections more secure, Trump allies are also seeking to replace officials across the nation, including volunteer poll watchers, paid precinct judges, elected county clerks and state attorneys general, according to state and local officials, as well as rally speeches, social media posts and campaign appearances by those seeking the positions.
Daystar founder Marcus Lamb and his wife, Joni Lamb.
Washington Post, Marcus Lamb, head of Daystar, a large Christian network that discouraged vaccines, dies after getting covid-19, Michelle Boorstein, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Lamb’s network during the pandemic has made the virus a huge focus, calling it a satanic attack that should not be treated with vaccines. He was 64 years old.
Daystar is the second-largest Christian network in the world, according to CBN News, a competitor, reaching 2 billion people worldwide. Its brand is a fluid, modern, charismatic faith, more about general good-vs-evil, miraculous healings and religious freedom than any specific denominational theology.
But during the pandemic, Lamb and his network went in big with anti-vaccine conspiracies, hosting daily interviews with skeptics who talked about dangerous, hidden forces pushing vaccines and stealing Christians’ freedoms. “What if the most dangerous thing your child could face in life is the very thing you’re told by your doctor is safe?” is the headline of “A Hidden Crisis,” about coronavirus vaccines.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that this is a spiritual attack from the enemy,” Lamb’s son, Jonathan, said on the network earlier this month about his father’s covid-19 bout, Relevant magazine reported Tuesday. Talking about the alternative, unfounded treatments his parents promoted, Jonathan Lamb said, “there’s no doubt that the enemy is not happy about that. And he’s doing everything he can to take down my Dad.”
Daystar spokesman Arnold Torres declined to comment Tuesday on Lamb’s career or about his views of his illness before he died, or whether he was vaccinated.
“The family asks that their privacy be respected as they grieve this difficult loss. Please continue to lift them up in prayer,” Torres wrote in an email.
On social media, vaccine misinformation mixes with extreme faith
A brief statement said Daystar was launched in 1998 and grew to more than 100 television stations around the world. “[Lamb] will always be remembered for his fierce love of God, people, and his family.”
His wife, Joni, on their daily Ministry Show Tuesday, said her husband was diagnosed with covid-19, “got the covid pneumonia” and also had diabetes.
“We were trying to treat the covid and pneumonia with the different protocols we use, including the ones we talk about on Daystar. We used those — I myself used them and had breezed through covid,” she said on the show. His blood sugar spiked and he needed oxygen, she said. “He 100 percent believed in everything we talk about here on Daystar, things that help so many people around the world with early protocol treatments for covid. We still stand by those obviously.”
White evangelical Christians resist coronavirus vaccines at higher rates than other religious groups in the United States, a phenomenon experts say is bound up in politics, skepticism about government and in their consumption of alternative media and unfounded conspiracy theories about vaccine dangers.
Some Christian nationalists are fueling their movement with opposition to coronavirus vaccines and mask mandates
Lamb, whose network is headquartered in Dallas, was praised by prominent evangelicals Tuesday, who didn’t mention his anti-vaccine activism. Among them were Jentezen Franklin, a Georgia pastor who, with Lamb, was in a small circle of evangelical advisers to then-President Donald Trump, and Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham and president of the international relief organization Samaritan’s Purse. Lamb appeared in a 2020 photo with Trump and a group of prominent Christians at an Evangelicals for Trump rally.
Washington Post, Fourth victim dies in Mich. school shooting; suspect charged as an adult with terrorism and murder, Lindsay Kalter, Paulina Firozi, Bryan Pietsch, Annabelle Timsit and Reis Thebault, Dec. 1, 2021. A 15-year-old who opened fire on classmates at a Michigan high school, killing four and injuring seven, was charged on Wednesday as an adult with one count of terrorism and four counts of first-degree murder.
The news came shortly after the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that a fourth victim, a 17-year-old, had died this morning at McLaren Oakland Hospital in Pontiac, Mich.
“There are facts leading up in the shooting that suggest this was not just an impulsive act,” Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said. She said “charging this person as an adult is necessary to achieve justice and protect the public. Any other option would put all of us at risk of this person because they could be released and still a threat.”
The four people slain were identified as 17-year-old Justin Shilling, who died Wednesday; 14-year-old Hana St. Juliana; 17-year-old Madisyn Baldwin and 16-year-old Tate Myre, who died in a patrol car Tuesday while sheriff’s deputies were taking him to a hospital.
The suspected gunman, Ethan Crumbley, is a 15-year-old sophomore at Oxford High School who attended class before the attack, officials said. Law enforcement officials say the suspect’s father purchased the pistol on Nov. 26, just days before the shooting, but they declined to say how Crumbley then obtained the gun.
Crumbley was charged with a host of felonies — one count of terrorism causing death, four counts of first degree murder, seven counts of assault with intent to murder and 12 counts of possession of a firearm — and a judge ordered him transferred from a youth detention facility to a county jail. McDonald said additional charges could be added later, and charges against both of his parents are under consideration.
McDonald said she could not offer much detail because she did not want to jeopardize the investigation, but said she was confident the acts were planned.
“There is a mountain of digital evidence: videotape, social media, all digital evidence possible,” she said. “We have reviewed it and we are confident we can show it was premeditation.”
Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said authorities learned Wednesday that on the morning of the shooting, the suspect’s parents were brought in to the school and had a face to face meeting with school officials. School personnel also had a meeting with the suspect the day prior for “behavior in the classroom that they felt was concerning.”
Bouchard said the content of the meetings is part of the investigation. He added that prior to those meetings, there was “nothing in his file” on concerning behavior or discipline.
The mass shooting appears to be the deadliest episode of on-campus violence in more than 18 months, a period when instruction shifted online during the coronavirus pandemic and school shootings largely dropped out of headlines.
- Washington Post, Student kills 3, injures 8, police say; suspect is in custody, Reis Thebault, Hannah Knowles, Holly Bailey, María Luisa Paúl, Lateshia Beachum and Meryl Kornfield
Virus Victims, Responses
Washington Post, Stricter coronavirus testing being weighed for all travelers to U.S., Lena H. Sun and Tyler Pager, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). The Biden administration is expected to require everyone entering the country, including returning Americans, to be tested one day before boarding flights, regardless of their vaccination status or country of departure.
The Biden administration is preparing stricter testing requirements for all travelers entering the United States, including returning Americans, to curb the spread of the potentially dangerous omicron variant, according to three federal health officials.
As part of an enhanced winter covid strategy Biden is expected to announce Thursday, U.S. officials would require everyone entering the country to be tested one day before boarding flights, regardless of their vaccination status or country of departure. Administration officials are also considering a requirement that all travelers get retested within three to five days of arrival.
In addition, they are debating a controversial proposal to require all travelers, including U.S. citizens, to self-quarantine for seven days, even if their test results are negative. Those who flout the requirements might be subject to fines and penalties, the first time such penalties would be linked to testing and quarantine measures for travelers in the United States.
The two testing measures are detailed in a draft public health order written by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that is under review by officials at the U.S. Health and Human Services Department and the White House. The self quarantine-related measures are not in that draft but could be added later if the proposals win broader sign-off, said the officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the order has not been finalized.
Washington Post, FDA advisers narrowly recommend authorization of first antiviral pill to treat covid-19, Carolyn Y. Johnson and Katie Shepherd, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Expert advisers to the Food and Drug Administration recommended authorization Tuesday of the first coronavirus pill to prevent high-risk people from developing severe illness in a divided vote that reflects the complicated mix of benefits and risks involved with a new and easy mode of treatment.
Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics developed the drug, molnupiravir, as a five-day regimen to be taken at home within five days of onset of coronavirus symptoms. The FDA is not bound by the 13-to-10 vote but typically follows its external advisers’ recommendations. The drug could have an immediate impact on the pandemic if authorized — just as the ominous new omicron variant has emerged, jolting the world with the prospect of a longer and more complicated pandemic.
Merck has pledged to manufacture treatment courses for 10 million patients by the end of the year, and the United States has preordered enough medicine to treat 3.1 million people. Monoclonal antibodies, another treatment, are harder to administer but are more effective, which led experts to debate the benefits and drawbacks of an easy-to-use medicine that would offer an additional tool to reduce the strain on hospitals as a potential winter surge looms.
Washington Post, Trump-appointed judges block Biden administration vaccine mandate for health-care workers, Eli Rosenberg and Adela Suliman, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Another federal judge halted the Biden administration’s vaccine requirement for certain medical workers on Tuesday, effectively halting the requirement across the country after it was blocked in 10 states a day before.
Washington Post, Nigeria reports West Africa’s first omicron cases, igniting confusion over timeline, Danielle Paquette, Dec. 1, 2021. Nigeria has confirmed its first cases of the omicron variant after three travelers arriving from South Africa tested positive, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control said Wednesday.
The travelers all landed in Africa’s most populous country over the past week, Ifedayo Adetifa, the NCDC’s director general, said in a statement. The infections are “widespread globally,” he added.
“Therefore,” he said, “it is a matter of when, not if, we will identify more cases.”
Confusion abounded, however, after the nation’s top health agency initially reported that omicron was found in samples collected in October, which would have made Nigeria the first place the variant was known to have existed. The wording of the statement was subsequently changed.
How the omicron variant unsettled the world in just one week: A visual timeline
A medical official who works with the NCDC, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, told The Washington Post that the information was a mistake, saying the passengers were actually swabbed in the last days of November.
Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Dec. 1, 2021), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher:
World Cases: 263,239,161, Deaths: 5,237,024
U.S. Cases: 49,428,913, Deaths: 803,045
Indian Cases: 34,596,776, Deaths: 469,247
Brazil Cases: 22,094,459, Deaths: 614,754
Washington Post, At least 196.8 in U.S. fully vaccinated, 59.3 % of the population, as of Dec. 1, 2021. Note: Due to adjustments in reporting, Pennsylvania removed 1.2 million doses on Nov. 23.
Related Recent Headlines:
- Washington Post, Live Updates: Warnings over vaccine effectiveness against omicron spook markets
- Washington Post, Judge temporarily blocks Biden administration vaccine mandate for health-care workers in 10 states
- New York Times, Live Updates: China pledged 1 billion Covid vaccine doses for Africa as the continent grapples with Omicron
- New York Times, The Defense Department says Oklahoma National Guard must get vaccinated
- New York Times, Supply Chain Problems Have Small Retailers Gambling on Hoarding
- Washington Post, Pfizer set to request authorization for coronavirus booster for 16- and 17-year-olds
- Washington Post, Biden said South Africa has turned down vaccine doses. The issue is more complicated than that
- Washington Post, Opinion: Red states are now paying people not to get vaccinated, Catherine Rampell
Trump Watch, White Supremecists, Cults
Palmer Report, Opinion: No wonder Mark Meadows is cooperating against Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, right, Dec. 1, 2021. Yesterday we all learned that even as the January 6th Committee has been preparing to refer former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to the DOJ for contempt of Congress, Meadows has decided at the last minute to cooperate. It’s not difficult to parse that Meadows is trying to avoid going to prison for contempt. But now it turns out he has another apparent motivation.
We all recall that Donald Trump did an in-person debate with Joe Biden on September 29th, 2020. Then on October 2nd, Trump announced that he had just tested positive for COVID, and was taken to the hospital. But Mark Meadows is telling a different version of that story.
Multiple major news outlets are reporting today that in his new book, Meadows, below right, claims Trump tested positive for COVID before the debate with Biden, but tested negative using a different kind of testing system, and decided to participate in the debate while keeping his positive test a secret.
It’s not immediately clear how pro-Trump or anti-Trump the rest of the book is. But this bombshell alone is obviously going to make Trump look very bad in the eyes of a lot of mainstream Americans, and Meadows knows this. Trump is already releasing a statement calling it “fake news,” which suggests that he and Meadows are finished. Meadows had to know this kind of response from Trump was coming as well.
So what is Mark Meadows doing? Well, he’s suddenly decided to cooperate with the January 6th Committee against Donald Trump, at the same time he’s leaking ugly details about Trump from his upcoming book. Was this the plan all along? Was Meadows trying to stall on cooperating with the committee until his book was ready for release? Is Meadows releasing a Trump tell-all book to fund his legal defense in Fulton County, Georgia, where the District Attorney has empaneled a special grand jury into election tampering?
There are a lot of questions raised here. But it’s not difficult to parse that there’s some correlation between Mark Meadows’ decision to cooperate against Donald Trump and Mark Meadows’ upcoming release of a Trump tell-all book. So let’s keep an eye on this.
Regardless of Meadows’ specific motivations, all that really matters that he is cooperating with investigators, and that he keeps cooperating. If his book is part of that, then so be it.
- Palmer Report, Opinion: Mark Meadows is now cooperating with the January 6th Committee, and Donald Trump’s life just became a nightmare, Bill Palmer
Trump-allied attorney Sidney Powell, right, with allied attorney Jenna Ellis in the background last fall, has pushed baseless claims of election tampering.
Washington Post, Prosecutors demanded records of Sidney Powell’s fundraising groups as part of criminal probe, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Emma Brown and Rosalind S. Helderman, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.).
Federal prosecutors have demanded the financial records of multiple fundraising organizations launched by attorney Sidney Powell after the 2020 election as part of a criminal investigation, according to a subpoena reviewed by The Washington Post.
The grand jury subpoena, issued in September by the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia, sought communications and other records related to fundraising and accounting by groups including Defending the Republic, a Texas-based organization claiming 501(c) 4 nonprofit status, and a PAC by the same name, according to the documents and a person familiar with the investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details of the probe.
As part of the investigation, which has not been previously reported, prosecutors are seeking records going back to Nov. 1, 2020.
Washington Post, Opinion: Trump’s coverup of his Jan. 6 corruption takes an ominous new turn, Greg Sargent, right, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). As the Jan. 6 select committee investigation gathers momentum, Donald Trump has gotten several cronies to refuse to testify by invoking “executive privilege.” That’s absurd on its face: Much of the information Trump wants to keep buried doesn’t relate to the office of the presidency, but rather to his incitement of mob violence to remain president illegitimately.
But there’s something uniquely troubling about the latest turn in this saga. Trump might now succeed, at least temporarily, in using this tactic to muzzle testimony from someone who apparently communicated personally and directly with Trump about some of his most flagrantly corrupt efforts to overturn our political order.
We’re talking about Jeffrey Clark, above, the former Justice Department official who reportedly launched various efforts to conscript the department into helping Trump subvert the election. The committee subpoenaed Clark, but he has rebuffed questions, citing Trump’s effort to assert executive privilege to block Congress from obtaining internal information.
This week, the select committee will vote to hold Clark in criminal contempt. If and when the full House follows, the matter will be referred to the Justice Department for potential prosecution. But then the matter will likely land in the courts, perhaps for a long time.
To see why this is so perverse, let’s dig into Clark’s involvement. It’s detailed in a Senate Judiciary Committee report examining Trump’s pressure on the Justice Department, which relied on testimony from another top official, then-acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen.
That pressure constitutes the beating heart of Trump’s coup attempt. The report found that Trump extensively pressured department leaders to take official action to portray his loss as fraudulent, via investigations, lawsuits and public statements.
The idea was apparently to create a fake rationale for Trump’s vice president to simply declare Joe Biden’s electors invalid, after which friendly states might send alternate electors. That plot was outlined in the now-notorious Trump coup memo.
But the role of Clark was particularly troubling. The report found that Trump and Clark personally communicated before Clark undertook extraordinary actions on Trump’s behalf.
These included an effort to send official Justice Department letters to swing states declaring that the department was examining election problems and advising state legislators to consider appointing new electors. That was thwarted by Rosen and other officials, but it was an extraordinary abuse of power.
Subsequent to that, Clark reportedly informed Rosen that Trump had offered to install him in Rosen’s place, presumably amid Trump’s anger over Rosen’s rebuffing of his corrupt designs.
The question is, to what degree did Trump and Clark elaborate this scheme in their own conversations?
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), right, a member of the select committee, noted that Clark could testify about his conversations throughout that time. This might illuminate what Trump directed Clark to do, or understood him to be doing, on his behalf.
Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor, told me that Clark could speak to potentially criminal conduct by Trump, by testifying about “Trump conspiring with Department of Justice officials to undermine our free and fair elections.”
That may have run afoul of the law, Kirschner notes, citing criminal conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States.
That offense, he said, could include seditious conspiracy or attempted coercion of government employees into carrying out political activity. Constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe has also detailed how Trump’s pressure on the Justice Department could constitute such crimes.
But Clark has now refused to testify, citing Trump’s executive privilege claim. And we don’t know how long it will take to get Clark’s testimony, if ever. This could remain bogged down in court and could end up before the Supreme Court.
- Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: The right’s trashing of American symbols, Wayne Madsen
Rolling Stone, The Fringe QAnon ‘Cult’ Is Still Waiting for a JFK Jr. Miracle in Dallas, Steve Monicelli, Dec. 1, 2021. The group, led by conspiracy theorist Michael Protzman, are trafficking in fascistic ideas that are far more concerning than they are kooky.
It’s been a month since the fanatical followers of a fringe QAnon influencer, Michael Protzman (aka Negative48), first gathered in Dallas, Texas, to witness the reveal — or resurrection, depending who you asked — of John F. Kennedy and JFK Jr.
U.S. Law, Courts, Crimes
Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in 2005 (Joe Schildhorn / Patrick McMullan, via Getty Images)
Washington Post, Epstein accuser says Maxwell and Epstein groomed her, Shayna Jacobs, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Maxwell was often in room during abuse, The woman recalled meeting Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein at an arts camp in 1994.
A 41-year-old woman told jurors Tuesday how Ghislaine Maxwell allegedly helped groom and recruit her into the life of financier Jeffrey Epstein decades ago, including watching at times as Epstein forced her into sexual acts.
The woman — testifying under the pseudonym Jane — was the first of four alleged victims who will testify at Maxwell’s sex-trafficking trial in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. She gave a mostly matter-of-fact account of being lured into Epstein’s world of daily erotic massages as a 14-year-old and globe-trotting on private jets.
Maxwell, 59, who was Epstein’s longtime associate and paramour, has pleaded not guilty.
Epstein died by suicide in 2019 while awaiting his own federal trial
On the witness stand, Jane, now a professional singer and actress, said she met Maxwell and Epstein at a prestigious summer camp for music students for which Epstein was a benefactor.
The pair invited the girl and her mother to tea at Epstein’s mansion in Palm Beach, Fla., and earned the mother’s trust as potential mentors for her daughter, prosecutors allege. Eventually, Epstein paid for the girl’s schooling and an apartment in New York where she and her family stayed.
Jane testified that she visited Epstein’s mansion about every other week. Initially, she said, the visits were “casual” — centered around trips to the movies and poolside hangouts. The woman said she was first exposed to sex acts with Epstein when he led her into the pool house during a discussion about calls he could make to his influential friends to help her launch her career. There, he exposed himself, she said, using her as a prop as he masturbated.
“I was frozen in fear. . . . I was terrified, I felt gross and I felt ashamed,” she testified, saying it was the first time she had seen male genitalia.
Maxwell’s defense team began to cross-examine Jane late Tuesday afternoon and will continue Wednesday.
Laura Menninger, one of Maxwell’s lawyers, suggested in her initial questioning that Jane had exaggerated her family’s financial distress around the time she met Epstein and Maxwell in 1994 at the Interlochen Center for the Arts summer camp in Michigan.
Menninger also pressed Jane on why she waited until 2020 to take her allegations about Epstein and Maxwell to law enforcement. By then, Menninger noted, she was represented by a personal injury attorney.
Jane answered that she was reluctant to tell many people because her story was “embarrassing” and “shameful.”
Defense lawyers said in opening statements that they will seek to undermine the credibility and motives of Maxwell’s accusers, presenting testimony about how memory can change over time and about alleged financial incentives the women may have had in coming forward. Jane recently was awarded $5 million by a fund set up to administer payments from Epstein’s estate to his victims. After attorney fees and deductions, she kept about $3 million.
- New York Times, Ghislaine Maxwell’s Trial Opens, With Jeffrey Epstein at Its Center, Benjamin Weiser and Rebecca Davis O’Brien.
Washington Post, Ex-D.C. priest in prison for sexual abuse found guilty in separate case, Jasmine Hilton, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). A former assistant pastor at a Catholic church in Northwest Washington who is serving a prison sentence for sexually abusing children was found guilty Monday in a separate case of sexually abusing an adult parishioner, officials said.
After a one-day trial in D.C. Superior Court and hearing a victim impact statement, Judge Juliet McKenna sentenced Urbano Vazquez, 49, to the maximum sentence of 180 days on one count of misdemeanor sexual abuse, officials said. That term will be served consecutively to a 15-year sentence that was imposed after Vazquez was convicted in 2019 of four felony counts of child sexual abuse, according to a statement by the District’s U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves and Police Chief Robert J. Contee III.
Joaquin “El Chapo Guzman” under arrest in 2014 in Mexico City (Bloomberg via Getty Images).
Washington Post, Wife of Mexican drug kingpin ‘El Chapo’ sentenced to 3 years in prison, Paul Duggan, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Two years after the Mexican drug lord nicknamed “El Chapo” began serving life behind bars in the United States, his wife, who admitted taking part in his multibillion-dollar smuggling operation and aiding his notorious 2015 tunnel escape from a Mexican prison, was sentenced Tuesday to 36 months in a federal penitentiary.
Emma Coronel Aispuro, right, whose husband, Joaquín Guzmán Loera reigned for years as boss of Mexico’s murderous Sinaloa Cartel, pleaded guilty in June to three charges in U.S. District Court in Washington, including conspiracy to distribute 100 tons of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines.
“I address you today to express my true regret . . . and ask that you and all the citizens of this country forgive me,” Coronel, 32, told Judge Rudolph Contreras in Spanish. Speaking through an interpreter, she said, “I am sorry.”
The Justice Department and Coronel’s lawyers agreed that advisory sentencing guidelines in her case called for prison time in the range of 51 to 71 months. A prosecutor recommended only 48 months, noting that Coronel was a small “cog in a very large wheel of a powerful criminal organization” and that she “quickly accepted responsibility” after her February arrest.
But defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman asked for more leniency, saying Coronel, a former beauty queen, married El Chapo on her 18th birthday, when he was 49, and spent her adulthood under his sway. “Her involvement . . . was in many ways just being Joaquín Guzmán’s wife,” Lichtman said, arguing that her role in the organization should be “judged through the lens of how she entered it.”
Contreras, in giving her 36 months, indicated he agreed.
As part of a plea deal, Coronel admitted she helped her husband, now 64, keep control of the Sinaloa Cartel from his cell in a supposedly high-security Mexican prison before his escape in July 2015. She conceded that prosecutors could show she delivered messages from El Chapo to cartel associates as he continued directing and profiting from drug smuggling while in custody.
She acknowledged she received $1 million in heroin proceeds that were owed to Guzmán and used intermediaries to distribute some of the cash as bribes to ensure favorable treatment for him in the prison, known as Altiplano, near Mexico City.
And in a caper seemingly straight out of Hollywood, she admitted giving her incarcerated husband a GPS device disguised as food. Aided by the device, cartel engineers burrowed a mile-long tunnel, 33 feet deep, that came up under the shower stall in El Chapo’s cell.
The tunnel originated on property that Coronel acknowledged buying for the escape.
After months in hiding, the stout, 5-foot-6-inch kingpin, whose nickname roughly translates to “Shorty,” was captured in January 2016 and extradited to the United States a year later. He was convicted of federal drug-trafficking charges in 2019 and sentenced to life. In his years atop the cartel, authorities said, he raked in an estimated $14 billion and was responsible for innumerable acts of savage violence.
“He won me over with his kindness and his manners,” Coronel once told an interviewer. She and Guzmán are parents of 11-year-old twin daughters.
At El Chapo’s trial in Brooklyn, his wife cut a striking figure, arriving in fashionable outfits, stiletto heels and oversized sunglasses. From her reserved seat in the courtroom gallery, she would occasionally blow kisses to her husband.
“The Kardashian of Sinaloa,” she was dubbed. She launched a clothing line in El Chapo’s name and appeared on the VH1 reality show “Cartel Crew.”
Then, on Feb. 22 this year, Coronel was arrested by federal agents at Dulles International Airport in Virginia. In addition to the drug conspiracy charge, she pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiring to launder money and conducting a financial transaction intended to evade U.S. government sanctions against her husband.
Coronel “opted to take accountability for her actions, and she did so quickly,” prosecutor Anthony J. Nardozzi said in recommending a lesser sentence than called for by the guidelines. He said she “saved the government the considerable time and resources that would have been required to engage in adversarial proceedings against her.”
Washington Post, Author Alice Sebold apologizes to man wrongfully convicted of her rape, Jaclyn Peiser, Dec. 1, 2021. For eight days, author Alice Sebold (shown above) remained quiet about the exoneration last week of the man convicted of raping her in 1981. Sebold’s 1999 memoir Lucky, which describes in searing detail the attack in Syracuse, N.Y., when she was a college freshman, propelled her into a successful career as a novelist. She would go on to write The Lovely Bones, which sold millions of copies and was made into a 2009 film directed by Peter Jackson.
But after Anthony Broadwater spent 16 years in prison and decades struggling to move forward while tethered to the state’s sex offender registry, a New York Supreme Court judge freed him from the conviction.
On Tuesday, Sebold broke her silence. In a statement first released to the Associated Press and later posted on Medium, the author apologized directly to Broadwater, 61, but cast equal blame on “our flawed legal system.”
“I deeply regret what you have been through,” Sebold wrote to Broadwater. “I am sorry most of all for the fact that the life you could have led was unjustly robbed from you, and I know that no apology can change what happened to you and never will.”
“I will remain sorry for the rest of my life that while pursuing justice through the legal system, my own misfortune resulted in Mr. Broadwater’s unfair conviction,” she continued.
Soon after the release, Broadwater’s lawyer told Syracuse.com that his client was moved to tears by Sebold’s words.
“It comes sincerely from her heart,” Broadwater said in an interview with the news site. “She knowingly admits what happened. I accept her apology.”
Washington Post, An assistant principal in D.C. also worked as a principal in Rhode Island — at the same time, Hannah Natanson, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Michael Redmond faces allegations that he violated the city’s code of ethics by holding both jobs last year.
Michael Redmond had worked for D.C. Public Schools since 2014, earning accolades first as an assistant principal at Truesdell Education Campus, where he launched a popular book club for Black male students, and then at Kramer Middle School, where he helped students grieve the fatal shooting of a classmate.
But for 17 weeks last year, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Redmond led a professional double life, D.C. officials say — serving remotely as Kramer’s assistant principal while working in person as a principal of E-Cubed Academy in Providence, R.I.
Officials outlined that alleged double dipping in a filing with D.C.’s Board of Ethics and Government Accountability in early November, asserting that Redmond violated the D.C. Code of Conduct, which prohibits city employees from holding outside jobs. Possible penalties for such a violation include thousands of dollars in fines or a year in prison.
Redmond confirmed Monday that he worked the two jobs simultaneously and said he resigned from Kramer as soon as he learned that he was unable to hold both positions. He told The Washington Post that he worked around-the-clock to fulfill his responsibilities at Kramer, leading and attending professional development sessions and regularly meeting with parents and students.
Redmond said Richard Jackson, the head of D.C.’s Council of School Officers, told him that he was “not allowed to work both jobs,” at which point he resigned “immediately” from his position in D.C. In the ethics filing, officials said Redmond resigned from D.C. Public Schools on Nov. 30, 2020.
The 22-page filing asserts that Redmond took the job as assistant principal at Kramer at the start of the 2019-2020 school year at an annual salary of $125,434. Redmond then took the job at E-Cubed Academy on July 22, 2020, according to the filing, without leaving his position at Kramer.
The late Watergate prosecutors (on leave from Harvard Law School) Philip Heymann, left, and his mentor Archibald Cox in 1973 (Associated Press photo by Jim Palmer).
Washington Post, Philip Heymann (1932–2021); Legal scholar and aide to Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox dies at 89, Emily Langer, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Philip B. Heymann, a legal scholar who was a chief assistant to Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox, later leading the Justice Department’s criminal division and serving briefly as the top deputy to Attorney General Janet Reno during a career that established him as an authority on presidential powers and civil liberties, died Nov. 30 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 89.
The cause was complications from a stroke, said his daughter Jody Heymann, a distinguished professor at the University of California at Los Angeles and an authority on health and social policy.
Mr. Heymann (pronounced Hyman) had long taught at Harvard Law School, his alma mater and professional home during those periods when he was not engaged in government service at the Justice or State departments.
“An academician who has the hands-on experience of prosecution and administration,” a reporter for the Boston Globe once wrote, he was “well-respected both in academia and the workaday world of prosecutors” and thus belonged to “a singular group of major, national players in criminal justice who combine two attributes often considered to be in conflict in the field.”
Other recent headlines
- New York Times, Ghislaine Maxwell’s Trial Opens, With Jeffrey Epstein at Its Center
- WhoWhatWhy, Investigation and Analysis: Will Ghislaine Maxwell Trial Reveal Jeffrey Epstein Secrets? Gabriella Lombardo
- New York Times, Inside the Last Abortion Clinic in Mississippi
- New York Times, Opinion: What ‘My Body, My Choice’ Means to the Right, Michelle Goldberg
- Washington Post, Opinion: If the Supreme Court throws out ‘Roe v. Wade,’ it will tear the country apart, Eugene Robinson
- New York Times, Opinion: My Book Was Censored in China. Now It’s Blacklisted — in Texas
- New York Times, Farm Housing Mennonite Boys Engaged in Human Trafficking, Lawsuit Says
- New York Times, Elizabeth Holmes Says Former Boyfriend Abused Her
- Axios Sneak Peek, Conservative group targets Biden court pick ahead of Mississippi abortion case, Hans Nichols
Washington Post, Investigation: They trusted a coach with their girls and Ivy League ambitions. Now he’s accused of sex abuse, Lizzie Johnson, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Kirk Shipley, above, the rowing coach at Walt Whitman High in Bethesda, Md., held onto his job through two investigations into his behavior. Then he was arrested.
The rowing season had already ended by the time the seven girls began drafting a letter that they hoped would get their coach fired.
They’d spent years competing for the crew team affiliated with Walt Whitman High, one of the Washington region’s highest-achieving public schools. In an affluent Maryland suburb fixated on success, their team was a juggernaut, regularly winning medals at Philadelphia’s prestigious Stotesbury Cup Regatta — the world’s largest high school racing competition — and sending its rowers on to Brown, MIT, Yale and other top colleges.
Many credited the team’s accomplishments to its longtime head coach: a Whitman High social studies teacher named Kirk Shipley. At 47, he was a three-time All-Met Coach of the Year who’d led the parent-funded club program for nearly two decades. He’d cultivated a loyal following, becoming drinking buddies with rival coaches and accepting invitations from rowers’ parents to dine at their Bethesda, Md., homes. They trusted him with their daughters — and their Ivy League ambitions.
Now, three days after their graduation from Whitman, the seven rowers decided to send a missive to the parent board, a group of mothers and fathers who volunteered to oversee the program. In just a few weeks, one girl was headed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point; at least three others had earned scholarships to row in college. None of them wanted other students to have the same experiences they’d had with Shipley.
The coach, the seven warned in the letter they sent June 15, “has taken advantage of his role on the team and used his position to create a toxic, competitive atmosphere that fosters negativity and tension among the athletes. … He very clearly plays favorites, and when athletes spoke up or criticized his actions, their boat placement was often affected. This could be seen all three years we were on the varsity team.”
They detailed the times he’d pitted girls in different boats against each other, called them names, asked probing questions about their boyfriends and delved into their personal lives in ways that felt invasive and inappropriate. After one of their teammates attempted suicide, they told the 14-member parent board, Shipley had bluntly asked her, “So, how did you try to do it?”
This wasn’t the first time Shipley, who declined an interview request through his attorney, had been the target of a complaint about the way he operated. He’d been investigated in 2018 after being accused that spring of creating a toxic culture — a claim he denied, arguing in an email to the complaining parent that it was just “the competitive nature of the Women’s program at Whitman.”
U.S. Politics, Governance
Washington Post, Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican Trump critic, will not seek reelection, Joanna Slater, Dec. 1, 2021. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker will not seek re-election to a third term, he announced on Wednesday, a move that will bring an end to his tenure as the moderate Republican leader of a heavily Democratic state.
Baker, 65, right, was one of his party’s most public critics of former president Donald Trump. He has served two terms as governor of Massachusetts and remains popular with voters, according to opinion polls, although his approval ratings have fallen since last year. Baker won his second term in 2018 with 66 percent of the vote.
Baker said in a note to supporters on Wednesday that there were several factors in his decision, including a desire to spend more time with his family and to keep the focus on recovering from the pandemic, rather than the “grudge matches political campaigns can devolve into.”
Baker’s announcement will prompt a wide-open contest for his successor. Maura Healey, the state’s Democratic attorney general, is considering a run. Geoff Diehl, a conservative Republican embraced by Trump, had already announced his intention to challenge Baker in the GOP primary.
Washington Post, Marjorie Taylor Greene, in feud with Nancy Mace on Islamophobia, launches personal attack over abortion, Rachel Pannett, Dec. 1, 2021. House Republicans Nancy Mace and Marjorie Taylor Greene (shown above in a fund-raising ad) are in a public and highly personal feud over abortion and religion, amid the ongoing fallout from Islamophobic remarks by some GOP lawmakers.
Greene (Ga.) denounced her colleague as “the trash in the GOP conference” — appearing to accuse Mace of being aligned with Democrats on religious and abortion issues, rather than her own party.
She wrote on Twitter Tuesday that Mace, right, is never attacked by Democrats or moderate Republicans “because she is not conservative, she’s pro-abort.”
Mace (S.C.), who is a rape survivor, supports restrictions on abortion. Greene’s suggestion that her colleague was “pro-abort” appears to stem from how as a state representative, Mace championed exceptions to an abortion ban for victims of rape and incest.
Washington Post, Democrat Stacey Abrams plans another run for Ga. governor, which could lead to rematch with Gov. Kemp, Felicia Sonmez, Dec. 1, 2021. Stacey Abrams, Georgia’s 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee, announced Wednesday that she is pursuing a bid for governor in 2022.
The move means Abrams could face a rematch against Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), to whom she narrowly lost the governor’s race three years ago.
In a video shared on social media, Abrams said she’s running “because opportunity and success in Georgia shouldn’t be determined by your Zip code, background or access to power.”
Stacey Abrams announces Georgia gubernatorial run
In a video posted to Twitter on Dec. 1, Stacey Abrams announced that she would enter the 2022 Georgia governor’s race. (Stacey Abrams | Twitter)
The Democrat was widely credited with boosting voter turnout in Georgia in 2020, helping Joe Biden defeat President Donald Trump in the state and aiding two Democrats — Raphael G. Warnock and Jon Ossoff — in capturing Senate seats this past January.
“If our Georgia is going to move to its next and greatest chapter, we’re going to need leadership,” Abrams said in her announcement video. “Leadership that knows how to do the job. Leadership that doesn’t take credit without taking responsibility. Leadership that understands the true pain folks are feeling and has real plans. That’s the job of governor, to fight for one Georgia — our Georgia. And now, it’s time to get the job done.”
Washington Post, Oregon Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio, chairman of transportation panel, to retire at end of his term, Mariana Alfaro, Michael Laris and Marianna Sotomayor, Dec. 1, 2021. DeFazio, who has served since 1987, said it’s time to pass the baton to “the next generation.”
Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.), the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said Wednesday he is retiring at the end of his congressional term.
“It’s time for me to pass the baton to the next generation so I can focus on my health and well-being,” DeFazio, 74, said in a statement. “This was a tough decision at a challenging time for our republic with the very pillars of our democracy under threat, but I am bolstered by the passion and principles of my colleagues in Congress and the ingenuity and determination of young Americans who are civically engaged and working for change.”
DeFazio has been an active member of the transportation panel since he was first elected to represent Oregon’s 4th Congressional District in 1986.
DeFazio becomes the 19th House Democrat to announce plans to leave office at the end of his term for either another office or retirement. DeFazio also is the third committee chair who will not seek reelection next year, following Reps. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), chairman of the House budget committee, and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), chairwoman of the science, space and technology committee.
Roll Call, Leaders point fingers as defense bill remains stalled in the Senate, Andrew Clevenger, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Republicans demand vote on amendment to sanction the Russian company building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans blocked progress on the defense bill to secure more amendment votes.
Once again, the annual defense policy bill has stalled in the Senate, leading to another round of recriminations over which party is to blame.
Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., took to the Senate floor Tuesday to criticize Republicans for holding up the bill, saying the deal offered by Democrats to vote on 19 amendments “is more than fair and reasonable” and had the approval of the Armed Services Committee’s top Republican, James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma.
Nonetheless, Inhofe joined most of his Republican colleagues in voting against cloture on Monday, although he supports the bill itself.
Schumer said the deal between Inhofe and Armed Services Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I., allowed for more amendment votes than in the previous four years combined. “To say that we’re being unfair, to say that we’re not giving enough amendments is poppycock, and they know it,” Schumer said.
In response, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., accused Schumer of “botch[ing] the floor process” on a bill with broad bipartisan support.
“The Democratic leader wants to block the Senate from fully and robustly debating a number of important issues, from how to manage the fallout from the reckless Afghanistan retreat” to how to respond to China’s destabilizing military modernization, McConnell said.
A procedural vote to end debate on the fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act fell short Monday evening by a tally of 45-51, with 60 yea votes needed to move forward.
Susan Collins of Maine, right, was the only Republican to vote for cloture, while four progressive Democrats, Edward J. Markey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden of Oregon, along with Vermont independent Bernie Sanders, voted with the other Republicans against cloture. They oppose the bill’s increase in the defense topline.
Though the GOP’s opposition has contributed to a year-end crunch for Democrats, who are trying to enact fiscal 2022 appropriations, raise the debt ceiling and pass a broad social welfare and climate bill, McConnell insisted that Republicans had acted only to secure more amendment votes. “That is the only reason that we pushed the pause button on this bill,” he said at an afternoon news conference.
Republicans want to vote on an amendment, sponsored by Republicans Jim Risch of Idaho and Ted Cruz of Texas, who both are members of the Foreign Relations Committee, which would sanction allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin over the proposed Nord Stream 2 pipeline connecting Russia and Germany. But given that the Biden administration waived sanctions over the issue, Democrats are looking to avoid a vote that could potentially put them at odds with the White House.
Under apparent consideration is ditching the conference committee process that reconciles the Senate and House versions. Instead, the House could vote to attach the bill to an unrelated measure as an amendment and send it back to the Senate.
Other recent headlines:
- The American Prospect, Opinion: Biden the Silent, Harold Myerson
- Washington Post, Rep. Lauren Boebert renews Islamophobic attack on Rep. Ilhan Omar, rebuffs call for public apology
- Washington Post, Unaccountable: An Examination of Policing in America: Under Trump, U.S. officials aggressively sought sheriffs to detain undocumented immigrants, Debbie Cenziper, Madison Muller, Monique Beals, Rebecca Holland and Andrew Ba Tran
- Washington Post, Opinion: The Biden administration is moving too slowly on ‘ghost guns’ like the one that killed my daughter, Bryan Muehlberger
World News, Global Human Rights
Washington Post, Honduras elects democratic socialist as its first female president, Kevin Sieff, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Democratic socialist Xiomara Castro is poised to become Honduras’s next president after her main rival conceded Tuesday, bringing the country’s left back to power after 12 years of conservative National Party rule, much of it pockmarked by scandal.
Speaking on local television, Nasry Asfura congratulated Castro on her victory and referred to her as president-elect.
Castro, 62, right, will be the first female president of the Central American country. The wife of Manuel Zelaya, a former president who was removed from office by the military in 2009, Castro ran on an anti-corruption platform with promises to end what she deemed a narco-state.
She will succeed President Juan Orlando Hernández, whose last term in office was clouded by investigations into his alleged ties to drug trafficking. Hernández’s brother, Tony, was sentenced in U.S. federal court this year to life in prison plus 30 years for drug trafficking. Juan Orlando Hernández was implicated in the court filings. He has denied wrongdoing.
It remains unclear whether Hernández will be extradited to the United States, but with a political rival soon to be in power, he appears to have even less cover in Honduras. The country maintains an extradition treaty with the United States that Hernandez himself helped negotiate when he was in congress.
Honduras is now the biggest source of migration to the United States — a fact that critics blame partly on the Hernández administration’s poor governance and an issue Castro will now inherit. While the Biden administration is crafting policy aimed at deterring migration, the Honduran economy depends on money sent home by its citizens working in the United States. Remittances make up roughly 20 percent of the country’s GDP.
“The Honduran people exercised their power to vote in a free and fair election,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday on Twitter. “We congratulate them and President Elect @XiomaraCastroZ and look forward to working together to strengthen democratic institutions, promote inclusive economic growth, and fight corruption.”
Washington Post, Tensions with Russia loom over NATO talks, Missy Ryan, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). The Biden administration is trying to forge a unified response to Russia’s military buildup near the Russian border with Ukraine.
NATO foreign ministers began talks here Tuesday as the alliance confronts mounting tensions with Russia over its military buildup near Ukraine.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken joined his counterparts from across the 30-member bloc as the Biden administration attempts to forge a unified transatlantic response to Russia’s deployment of troops and weaponry along its border with Ukraine, which officials in Kyiv and Washington say could indicate plans for a Russian invasion.
American officials have been considering measures they hope will deter Russian President Vladimir Putin from escalating Ukraine’s simmering conflict, including additional military aid to Kyiv or new sanctions on Russia. But they also hope to avoid provoking Moscow into further action as rhetoric grows more antagonistic on both sides.
Belfast Telegraph, Flags report: SDLP and Greens call for action plan, while DUP MLA criticises Sinn Fein, Ralph Hewitt, Dec. 1 2021. The SDLP and the Green Party have called for an implementation strategy to be put in place for the recommendations made within the Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition (FICT) report.
However, DUP MLA Christopher Stalford said the “weaponisation” of culture and identity by Sinn Fein make solutions “very difficult to come by”.
Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly responded by saying the DUP “doesn’t do equality.”
The much-delayed 168-page FICT report — costing £800,000 — was released on Wednesday and outlined a number of recommendations on flags, bonfires and murals in Northern Ireland.
None of the recommendations from the report are expected to be implemented, as no action plan has been agreed.
Washington Post, Japan’s prince decries ‘terrible’ comments about daughter’s decision to marry commoner, Annabelle Timsit, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Japanese Crown Prince Akishino has criticized the media coverage of his daughter Mako’s marriage and slammed Internet commenters for writing “particularly terrible” things about her and her husband, in unusually candid comments from a member of Japan’s royal family.
Akishino, who is the younger brother of Emperor Naruhito, said slander, “whether it is in a magazine or online,” can hurt people or even cause them to take their own lives, and “is not something that should be permitted.”
In October, Princess Mako married a commoner, Kei Komuro, who she met in college. The couple became engaged four years ago, but the marriage was delayed when their relationship became embroiled in controversy after news surfaced about a financial dispute involving Komuro’s mother.
Washington Post, German court gives life in prison to ex-ISIS fighter for death of 5-year-old in first ‘genocide’ trial, Loveday Morris, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). A German court sentenced a former Islamic State member on Tuesday to life imprisonment for the killing of a 5-year-old Yazidi girl at his home, marking the first conviction for committing genocide against members of the minority religious community.
Taha al-Jumailly, 29, an Iraqi citizen, was also found guilty of genocide and war crimes resulting in death at the court in Frankfurt. He was ordered to pay the child’s mother $57,000 in damages.
His 30-year-old German wife, Jennifer Wenisch, was sentenced last month in a separate trial to 10 years in prison in relation to the killing.
German court convicts ISIS bride for ‘crimes against humanity’ in death of 5-year-old Yazidi ‘slave’
According to the indictment, Jumailly joined the Islamic State sometime before March 2013. He and his wife were accused by prosecutors of purchasing the child, Reda, and her mother as “slaves” when they lived in the Islamic State-occupied Iraqi city of Fallujah in 2015. Both Reda and her mother were subjected to violent beatings and other abuse by Jumailly.
Recent Global Headlines:
- New York Times, Dozens of Former Afghan Security Forces Dead or Missing, Report Says
- New York Times, Afghan Economy Nears Collapse as Pressure Builds to Ease U.S. Sanctions
- New York Times, Pentagon Chief Orders New Inquiry Into U.S. Airstrike That Killed Dozens in Syria
- New York Times, China’s Silence on Peng Shuai Shows Limits of Beijing’s Propaganda
- New York Times, ‘Like Fresh Meat’: Sexual Harassment Detailed in Australian Parliament
- New York Times, Weak Recovery Leaves India’s Middle Class Anxious and Frugal
- New York Times, Opinion: What Europe Can Teach Us About Jobs, Paul Krugman
- Washington Post, Barbados to cast off Queen Elizabeth II as Prince Charles watches
U.S. Media News
New York Times, Those Cute Cats Online? They Help Spread Misinformation, Davey Alba, Dec. 1, 2021. A mainstay of the internet is regularly used to build audiences for people and organizations pushing false and misleading information.
On Oct. 2, New Tang Dynasty Television, a station linked to the Chinese spiritual movement Falun Gong, posted a Facebook video of a woman saving a baby shark stranded on a shore. Next to the video was a link to subscribe to The Epoch Times, a newspaper that is tied to Falun Gong and that spreads anti-China and right-wing conspiracies. The post collected 33,000 likes, comments and shares.
The website of Dr. Joseph Mercola, below left, an osteopathic physician who researchers say is a chief spreader of coronavirus misinformation online, regularly posts about cute animals that generate tens or even hundreds of thousands of interactions on Facebook. The stories include “Kitten and Chick Nap So Sweetly Together” and “Why Orange Cats May Be Different From Other Cats,” written by Dr. Karen Becker, a veterinarian.
And Western Journal, a right-wing publication that has published unproven claims about the benefits of using hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19, and spread falsehoods about fraud in the 2020 presidential election, owns Liftable Animals, a popular Facebook page. Liftable Animals posts stories from Western Journal’s main website alongside stories about golden retrievers and giraffes.
Videos and GIFs of cute animals — usually cats — have gone viral online for almost as long as the internet has been around. Many of the animals became famous: There’s Keyboard Cat, Grumpy Cat, Lil Bub and Nyan Cat, just to name a few.
Now, it is becoming increasingly clear how widely the old-school internet trick is being used by people and organizations peddling false information online, misinformation researchers say.
The posts with the animals do not directly spread false information. But they can draw a huge audience that can be redirected to a publication or site spreading false information about election fraud, unproven coronavirus cures and other baseless conspiracy theories entirely unrelated to the videos. Sometimes, following a feed of cute animals on Facebook unknowingly signs users up as subscribers to misleading posts from the same publisher.
Melissa Ryan, chief executive of Card Strategies, a consulting firm that researches disinformation, said this kind of “engagement bait” helped misinformation actors generate clicks on their pages, which can make them more prominent in users’ feeds in the future. That prominence can drive a broader audience to content with inaccurate or misleading information, she said.
“The strategy works because the platforms continue to reward engagement over everything else,” Ms. Ryan said, “even when that engagement comes from” publications that also publish false or misleading content.
Perhaps no organization deploys the tactic as forcefully as Epoch Media, parent company of The Epoch Times. Epoch Media has published videos of cute animals in 12,062 posts on its 103 Facebook pages in the past year, according to an analysis by The New York Times. Those posts, which include links to other Epoch Media websites, racked up nearly four billion views. Trending World, one of Epoch’s Facebook pages, was the 15th most popular page on the platform in the United States between July and September.
One video, posted last month by The Epoch Times’s Taiwan page, shows a close-up of a golden retriever while a woman tries in vain to pry an apple from its mouth. It has over 20,000 likes, shares and comments on Facebook. Another post, on Trending World’s Facebook page, features a seal grinning widely with a family posing for a picture at a Sea World resort. The video has 12 million views.
“Dr. Becker is a veterinarian, her articles are about pets,” said an email from Dr. Mercola’s public relations team. “We reject any New York Times accusations of misleading any visitors, but are not surprised by it.”
The viral animal videos often come from places like Jukin Media and ViralHog. The companies identify extremely shareable videos and reach licensing deals with the people who made them. After securing the rights to the videos, Jukin Media and ViralHog license the clips to other media companies, giving a cut of the profits to the original creator.
Mike Skogmo, Jukin Media’s senior vice president for marketing and communications, said his company had a licensing deal with New Tang Dynasty Television, the station tied to Falun Gong.
“Jukin has licensing deals with hundreds of publishers worldwide, across the political spectrum and with a range of subject matters, under guidelines that protect the creators of the works in our library,” he said in a statement.
Asked whether the company evaluated whether their clips were used as engagement bait for misinformation in striking the license deals, Mr. Skogmo said Jukin had nothing else to add.
“Once someone licenses our raw content, what they do with it is up to them,” said Ryan Bartholomew, founder of ViralHog. “ViralHog is not supporting or opposing any cause or objective — that would be outside of our scope of business.”
The use of animal videos presents a conundrum for the tech platforms like Facebook, because the animal posts themselves do not contain misinformation. Facebook has banned ads from Epoch Media when the network violated its political advertising policy, and it took down several hundred Epoch Media-affiliated accounts last year when it determined that the accounts had violated its “coordinated inauthentic behavior” policies.
“We’ve taken enforcement actions against Epoch Media and related groups several times already,” said Drew Pusateri, a Facebook spokesman. “If we discover that they’re engaging in deceptive actions in the future we will continue enforcing against them.” The company did not comment on the tactic of using cute animals to spread misinformation.
Washington Post, CNN suspends Chris Cuomo ‘indefinitely’ after documents detail help he gave his brother, Sarah Ellison and Jeremy Barr, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). The decision follows revelations that he was far more involved in the efforts of former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo than previously known.
CNN has suspended Chris Cuomo, above, one of its biggest stars, a day after the release of documents that detailed his efforts to help his brother, then-New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, fend off allegations of sexual misconduct.
Transcripts from the New York Attorney General’s office on Monday showed that the cable host was far more involved in the governor’s crisis-management efforts than the younger Cuomo had previously acknowledged.
The network and its president, Jeff Zucker, had previously backed Cuomo for months, even as details accumulated about his role advising his brother, who eventually resigned in the wake of the sexual harassment allegations.
Cuomo calls sexual harassment investigation a ‘political firecracker’ during farewell speech
During his farewell address on Aug. 23, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) derided the investigation into allegations that he sexually harassed 11 women. (The Washington Post)
In May, The Washington Post reported that Cuomo had joined conference calls to discuss how to handle the allegations. At the time, the network said it was “inappropriate” for Cuomo to engage in conversations that included members of the governor’s staff; the host acknowledged his error in doing so and pledged not to do so again.
Washington Post, Lara Logan draws outrage for comparing Fauci to Nazi doctor Josef Mengele on Fox News, Jeremy Barr, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). It’s the latest in a series of inflammatory and conspiracy-tinged comments from the once-lauded former ’60 Minutes’ correspondent.
Lara Logan, right, once a lauded foreign correspondent for CBS News’s “60 Minutes” and now a boundary-pushing Fox News guest commentator and streaming show host, drew fierce condemnation for on-air comments Monday night comparing the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, Anthony S. Fauci, to Nazi doctor Josef Mengele.
Her comments came during a segment in which Fox host Pete Hegseth, a frequent critic of coronavirus vaccine mandates and masking politics, accused the Biden administration of overhyping the new omicron variant.
Logan’s response, though, went well beyond.
“What you see on Dr. Fauci — this is what people say to me: that he doesn’t represent science to them. He represents Josef Mengele,” she said. “Dr. Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor who did experiments on Jews during the Second World War and in the concentration camps. And I am talking about people all across the world are saying this, because the response from covid, what it has done to countries everywhere, what it has done to civil liberties, the suicide rates, the poverty, it has obliterated economies. The level of suffering that has been created because of this disease is now being seen in the cold light of day.”
It was the latest and arguably the most inflammatory in a series of comments from Logan that have stunned viewers who remember her days as an impartial news reporter and star correspondent for the respected newsmagazine show.
But Hegseth, who guest-hosted Fox’s 7 p.m. opinion show Monday, showed little reaction while Logan spoke and did not contradict or push back on her statements. Before going to a commercial break, he promoted Logan’s show on the Fox Nation streaming service. (His other guest, Fox host Will Cain, called Fauci a “would-be authoritarian.”)
Known as “the angel of death,” Mengele performed “a broad range of agonizing and often lethal experiments with Jewish and Roma twins, most of them children,” while serving as a physician at the Auschwitz concentration camp, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Early Tuesday morning, the Auschwitz Museum’s official Twitter account released a statement seeming to condemn Logan’s remarks without naming her. “Exploiting the tragedy of people who became victims of criminal pseudo-medical experiments in Auschwitz in a debate about vaccines, pandemic and people who fight for saving human lives is shameful,” the organization said. “It is disrespectful to victims & a sad symptom of moral and intellectual decline.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that works to combat antisemitism, issued a statement to The Washington Post on Tuesday saying that “there’s absolutely no comparison between mask mandates, vaccine requirements, and other covid-19 mitigation efforts to what happened to Jews during the Holocaust.”
Washington Post, The Facebook executive in charge of the company’s cryptocurrency push just quit, Gerrit De Vynck, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.).The top executive overseeing Facebook’s efforts to get into cryptocurrency and international money transfers quit Tuesday, further complicating the company’s efforts to gain a foothold in the fast-growing world of digital currencies and blockchain technology.
David Marcus’s high-profile departure comes just months after the company began hitting walls in Washington when it relaunched its initiative to use cryptocurrency to allow its users to make payments and send money to each other without transaction fees. The project has faced delays and name changes since it was first announced in 2019, coming under scrutiny from regulators and users, many of whom are already concerned about the social media giant’s power.
“My entrepreneurial DNA has been nudging me for too many mornings in a row to continue ignoring it,” Marcus said in tweets announcing his departure. Stephane Kasriel, a vice president in Facebook’s fintech and crypto division, will take over the job, Marcus said. A spokesperson for Facebook did not return a request for comment.
Washington Post, Analysis: Twitter’s new CEO is bringing an engineering background to a politics fight, Will Oremus and Elizabeth Dwoskin, Dec. 1, 2021. Parag Agrawal, right, was a surprising pick for one of tech’s most fraught positions. Here’s why he got the job.
On Day 1 of Parag Agrawal’s new job as CEO of Twitter, congressional Republicans took a tweet he had posted in 2010 out of context to imply that he’s biased against White people. On Day 2, Twitter unveiled a confusingly worded new policy banning the sharing of “private media,” which drew immediate fire from both left and right.
And that was all before Agrawal was formally introduced as the company’s new CEO at an all-hands meeting Tuesday, following outgoing CEO Jack Dorsey’s surprise resignation tweet on a Monday that was supposed to be a “day of rest” for Twitter’s employees.
Agrawal, who at 37 becomes the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company, was chosen unanimously to succeed Dorsey by Twitter’s board of directors, according to an official statement Monday. At Tuesday’s all-hands meeting, according to employees who attended, Dorsey emphasized Agrawal’s engineering background and the fact that he rose through the ranks over a decade at Twitter in touting him as the ideal choice to lead the influential social media firm.
Yet several current and former employees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters, said Agrawal was an unexpected choice internally — though not necessarily an unwelcome one — for one of the most fraught leadership roles in Silicon Valley. Having joined Twitter before completing his Ph.D. program at Stanford University in 2011, he spent much of his tenure there with zero direct reports, two of those employees said.
As chief technology officer, he also had limited experience handling the thorny questions of content policy — what people are allowed to post on social media — that make Twitter an influential force in global discourse and a target of criticism and regulation by governments and political actors around the world.
“Agrawal has to sort out how Twitter should respond to a fusillade of bills in Congress seeking to rein in social media companies and a new [Federal Trade Commission] chairwoman who has painted a target on the prominent platforms,” as well as attacks from former president Donald Trump and the right, said Paul Barrett, deputy director of the New York University Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, in an email. If Trump runs again, “pressure to reinstate him will be enormous. Impressive engineering chops won’t resolve that problem.”
- Washington Post, Analysis: In Washington, Jack Dorsey will be remembered for polarizing calls and historic scrutiny, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.).
Wall Street Journal, Racy Affair Saga Between Jeff Bezos and Enquirer Reaches Final Chapter, Staff report, Dec. 1, 2021. Probes by federal officials on phone-hack, extortion claims haven’t led to public action; Amazon founder Jeff Bezos accused the National Enquirer’s owner of extorting him in 2019.
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