Feb. 2022 News, Views

 

 

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Editor’s Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative news and view in February, 2022

Note: Excerpts are from the authors’ words except for subheads and occasional “Editor’s notes” such as this. 

 

 

 Feb. 2

Top Headlines

 

Pro-Trump Coup Attempt, Election Rights, Probes

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Race Problems In Education, Sports, TV

 

More On U.S. Supreme Court

 

Ukraine Crisis

 

U.S. Elections, Governance, Economy

 

World News, Human Rights, Disasters

 

More On U.S. Crime, Courts

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Has Far Higher Covid Death Rate Than Other Wealthy Countries, Benjamin Mueller and Eleanor Lutz, Feb. 2, 2022 (print ed.). Two years into the pandemic, the coronavirus is killing Americans at far higher rates than people in other wealthy nations, a sobering distinction to bear as the country charts a course through the next stages of the pandemic.

Cumulative U.S. Covid-19 deaths per capita are highest among other large, high-income countries. Several countries had higher per capita Covid-19 deaths earlier in the pandemic, but the U.S. death toll now exceeds that of peer nations.

The ballooning death toll has defied the hopes of many Americans that the less severe Omicron variant would spare the United States the pain of past waves. Deaths have now surpassed the worst days of the autumn surge of the Delta variant, and are more than two-thirds as high as the record tolls of last winter, when vaccines were largely unavailable.

With American lawmakers desperate to turn the page on the pandemic, as some European leaders have already begun to, the number of dead has clouded a sense of optimism, even as Omicron cases recede. And it has laid bare weaknesses in the country’s response, scientists said.

“Death rates are so high in the States — eye-wateringly high,” said Devi Sridhar, head of the global public health program at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, who has supported loosening coronavirus rules in parts of Britain. “The United States is lagging.”

Some of the reasons for America’s difficulties are well known. Despite having one of the world’s most powerful arsenals of vaccines, the country has failed to vaccinate as many people as other large, wealthy nations. Crucially, vaccination rates in older people also lag behind certain European nations.

The United States has fallen even further behind in administering booster shots, leaving large numbers of vulnerable people with fading protection as Omicron sweeps across the country.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. troops will be deployed to NATO allies in Eastern Europe, Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt, Feb. 2, 2022. President Biden has approved the deployment of about 3,000 additional American troops to Eastern Europe, administration officials said on Wednesday.

The troops, including 1,000 who are already in Europe, will head to NATO allies on the alliance’s eastern flank, the officials said. Their purpose will be to reassure NATO allies that while the United States has no intention of sending troops into Ukraine, where Russia has been threatening an invasion, Mr. Biden would protect America’s NATO allies from any Russian aggression.

Most of the troops will be sent to Poland and Romania, a senior official said.

The Pentagon press secretary, John Kirby, is expected to announce the deployment on Wednesday at 10 a.m. Eastern.

The president’s decision comes days after Pentagon leaders said that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had deployed the necessary troops and military hardware to conduct an invasion of Ukraine. Senior Defense Department officials also said that the tense standoff was leading the United States, its NATO allies and Russia into uncharted territory.

The number of Russian troops assembled at Ukraine’s borders has reached well north of 100,000, the officials said, publicly confirming for the first time what intelligence analysts have described for weeks.

There are currently 4,000 American troops deployed to Poland, as well as about 100 U.S. forces in Lithuania, and 60 in Latvia and Estonia on temporary, rotational assignment.

“Our rotational forces are deliberate and defensive in nature and allow us to remain agile and flexible with our NATO allies to address the complex and dynamic security environment in which we operate,” said Lt. Col. Tony Semelroth, a Pentagon spokesman.

 vladimir putin hand up palmer

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S., Russia escalate war of words over Ukraine, Steve Hendrix and Rachel Pannett, Feb. 2, 2022 (print ed.). Sharp rhetoric followed after the White House dismissed Vladimir Putin’s claim that Moscow would be forced into conflict with NATO if Ukraine joins the Western alliance and attempts to seize back Crimea.

U.S. and Russian officials sharpened their verbal attacks on each other as Moscow’s ambassador in Washington accused the White House of “demonizing” Russia and lying about the Kremlin’s history of aggression.

Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov slammed White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s characterization of Russian President Vladimir Putin, shown above in a file photo, as a leader who has used chemical weapons and “invaded multiple countries in the past several years.”

Instead, he claimed Moscow had a better record of compliance with international chemical weapons treaties, according to comments posted on the embassy’s Facebook page late Tuesday. He also criticized Washington’s “bloody experiments” to bring democracy to the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

Those interventions brought the world “nothing but chaos, instability and loss of lives,” Antonov said. “We encourage our colleagues to look in the mirror more often before blaming or lecturing others.”

  • Washington Post, NATO forces grow as Putin tries to push them away
  • Washington Post, Analysis: Why it’s not so easy to slap sanctions on Vladimir Putin
  • Washington Post, FAQ: What sanctions could the U.S. use against Putin?

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Promised 500 Million Free Covid Tests. Then He Had to Find Them, Noah Weiland, Katie Thomas and Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Feb. 2, 2022. Millions of Americans are now receiving tests through the new mail program, which health experts said came too late to meet demand during the brunt of Omicron wave.

As the United States saw a nearly vertical increase in coronavirus cases in late December and a growing backlash over a shortage of rapid tests, President Biden promised that his administration would mail 500 million of them to Americans, free of charge.

There was a major hitch: The administration had yet to secure a single test kit for the program. The announcement sent officials hunting for stockpiles in warehouses around the country and uncommitted supply from large manufacturers.

Today the federal government is mailing tens of millions of rapid tests requested through a new Postal Service website that has sustained heavy traffic, with roughly 60 million households ordering the tests so far, according to the White House. The nation has a little more than twice that many households overall, suggesting enormous interest. Orders are limited to four per household for now.

Testing shortages have bedeviled the government since the beginning of the pandemic, and the resurgent supply of at-home tests, which deliver results in about 15 minutes, may be coming too late, given that the Omicron variant has already peaked in many regions. But the home deliveries, and broadened access to tests overall, represent a striking turnaround for an administration that had struggled to meet demand as it focused largely on vaccination.

It succeeded partly by turning to a cast of new players in a fast-expanding market, including one company that had never before made rapid tests. The administration also spent billions late last summer and in the fall purchasing tests directly from manufacturers, and sped up the process for reviewing and authorizing new tests.

Mr. Biden’s announcement days before Christmas came as tests had all but disappeared from retail shelves. The world’s largest testing manufacturers, which were already racing to meet skyrocketing demand from public and commercial buyers around the world, could not possibly provide that many tests for Americans on such short notice.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s claim that election can be ‘overturned’ looms over electoral count debate, Mike DeBonis, Feb. 2, 2022 (print ed.). New statements from former president Donald Trump insisting that his vice president, Mike Pence, could have “overturned” the 2020 presidential election have jolted a congressional debate over potentially changing the 135-year-old federal law under which Trump and his allies sought to reverse Joe Biden’s victory.

President Donald Trump officialA bipartisan group of senators has met in recent weeks to discuss revisions to the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which governs the congressional certification for the election of the president and vice president. On Tuesday, a group of prominent Democrats issued their own rewrite proposal just days after Trump made the claim — which is heavily disputed by legal scholars and officials from both parties — that a vice president is empowered under the law to summarily reject states’ electoral votes.

By exploring revisions to the 1887 law, Trump said in a Sunday statement, “what [members of Congress] are saying, is that Mike Pence did have the right to change the outcome, and they now want to take that right away. Unfortunately, he didn’t exercise that power, he could have overturned the Election!”

 djt barr conferring headshots

Palmer Report, Analysis: Has Bill Barr already given up Donald Trump to investigators? Bill Palmer, right, Feb. 2, 2022. Here’s the crucial bill palmerquestion of the week: who leaked to the New York Times that Donald Trump ordered Rudy Giuliani to look into seizing voting machines?

This kind of inside information about private conversations doesn’t just get picked up by the wind and randomly land on a reporter’s desk. Someone privy to the conversation decided to leak it, and had a specific reason for doing so. In any story, the source is usually whoever looks good in that story. The story says Bill Barr refused Trump’s order, so Barr is probably the leak. This is important.

bill palmer report logo headerBarr, shown above at right in a file photo, has a consistent history of thinly veiled leaks to the media to make himself look good or to promote his point of view. If this is the case again here, it means Barr wants his version of the story out there – which means he’ll certainly give it to (or has already given it to) the January 6th Committee.

The 1/6 committee chair says it’s already spoken with Barr. He didn’t say what about. He also didn’t say if it was actual testimony, or mere conversations about testifying. But if Barr is the person who leaked this revelation about Trump and voting machines, and the context of the NYT article suggests he is, it would surely mean he’s cooperating.

U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.So if Barr is cooperating, why would the 1/6 committee (shown at right) have kept it secret? Investigators often want to track down the rest of the story before letting someone know they’re onto them. Catch them off guard. Catch them in a lie (perjury). And so on.

Another question: if Barr has been secretly cooperating, and if he is the NYT source, why would he leak this now? It would suggest that the committee has completed the part of the probe where it needed the info that Barr gave the committee to remain secret. We’ll surely find out before too much longer. But for now let’s keep an eye out for additional signs that Barr may have already given up Trump to investigators.

washington post logoWashington Post, Two campus officers killed at Bridgewater College in Va., suspect arrested, officials say, Antonio Olivo, Jasmine Hilton, Tom Jackman and Justin Wm. Moyer, Feb. 2, 2022 (print ed.). A police officer and a security officer are fatally shot, college tells its community.

Two campus police officers were shot and killed at Bridgewater College in Virginia on Tuesday afternoon, the college said in a message to its students and staff. A suspect was taken into custody a short time later not far from the campus.

The college, located near Harrisonburg, identified the victims as campus police officer John Painter and campus safety officer J.J. Jefferson. An alert sent to the Bridgewater community said that the two officers were close friends and that Painter was the best man at Jefferson’s recent wedding.

“This is a sad and dark day for Bridgewater College,” college president David W. Bushman said in a message to the college community. “I know we all have so many questions and not many answers. One thing I do know, though, is that we will rally around one another and support each other as we move forward from this day.”

Authorities did not immediately identify the man who was apprehended or comment on a possible motive.

No students appear to have been injured. Several told The Washington Post they heard multiple shots from the area of Flory Hall, a classroom building on campus. Students and staff were ordered to shelter in place for more than three hours before being released.

Willie B. Jefferson, the mother of slain officer Jefferson, said her son was a hard worker who loved his wife and family.

“I loved my son, and he loved us,” she said. “He went beyond to help people.” He had just celebrated his 48th birthday Saturday, Willie B. Jefferson said. She said that was all she could say right now.

jeff zucker cnn

ny times logoNew York Times, Jeff Zucker Exits CNN After Relationship With Senior Executive, Michael M. Grynbaum, Feb. 2, 2022. The relationship came up during the network’s investigation into the former anchor Chris Cuomo. “I was required to disclose it when it began but I didn’t,” Mr. Zucker wrote in a memo to colleagues.

Jeff Zucker resigned on Wednesday as the president of CNN and the chairman of WarnerMedia’s news and sports division, writing in a memo that he had failed to disclose to the company a romantic relationship with another senior executive at CNN.

CNNMr. Zucker, 56, is among the most powerful leaders in the American media and television industries. The abrupt end of his nine-year tenure immediately throws into flux the direction of CNN and its parent company, WarnerMedia, which is expected to be acquired later this year by Discovery Inc. in one of the nation’s largest media mergers.

In a memo to colleagues that was obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Zucker wrote that his relationship came up during a network investigation into the conduct of Chris Cuomo, the CNN anchor who was fired in December over his involvement in the political affairs of his brother, former Governor Andrew M. Cuomo of New York.

“As part of the investigation into Chris Cuomo’s tenure at CNN, I was asked about a consensual relationship with my closest colleague, someone I have worked with for more than 20 years,” Mr. Zucker wrote. “I acknowledged the relationship evolved in recent years. I was required to disclose it when it began but I didn’t. I was wrong.”

“As a result, I am resigning today,” he wrote.

Mr. Zucker was referring to Allison Gollust, CNN’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer and one of the highest-ranking leaders of the network, who is closely involved in major business and communications decisions.
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Ms. Gollust said in a statement on Wednesday that she was remaining in her role at CNN.

“Jeff and I have been close friends and professional partners for over 20 years,” she wrote. “Recently, our relationship changed during Covid. I regret that we didn’t disclose it at the right time. I’m incredibly proud of my time at CNN and look forward to continuing the great work we do everyday.”

Both Mr. Zucker and Ms. Gollust are divorced.

In a memo to WarnerMedia employees, Jason Kilar, the company’s chief executive, acknowledged that he had accepted Mr. Zucker’s resignation, adding, “We will be announcing an interim leadership plan shortly.”

 

Pro-Trump Coup Attempt, Election Rights, Probes

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: ANTIFA Week: Day Two — The fascist alteration of history, Wayne Madsen, left, Feb. 1-2, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2022. In the fascist travesty known as the state of Texas, Stephen Balch is known for a lot of things, but historical accuracy is not one of them. Although Balch holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of California at Berkeley, his far-right views and historical revisionism have been widely condemned by other political scientists and historians.

wayne madesen report logoThe founding head of the National Association of Scholars, which seeks to stamp a right-wing imprimatur on higher education, Balch favors states’ rights when it comes to overriding the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision on gay marriage and he supports states assuming the responsibility for immigration and border control over that of the federal government.

Balch’s recent appointment as a curriculum and textbook content adviser by the Texas State Board of Education that drew sharp criticism by educators and school administrators in the state. Balch’s position on a Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) working group overseeing the state’s social studies curricula and recommended reading materials was condemned by the Texas Freedom Network. It stated that Balch’s “conspiracy theories, inflammatory rhetoric, and shocking contempt for our constitutional and democratic institutions make him unfit for this role.”

texas mapMore importantly and what is of greater alarm, Balch is a colleague of 2020 election insurrection lawyer John Eastman, the author of a paper that advanced the plan for Donald Trump and a group of Republicans in Congress and state legislatures to overturn the election of Joe Biden as president. Balch, writing for the right-wing website “American Greatness” on November 30, 2020 — as Trump and his cohorts, including Balch’s colleague Eastman, were scheming to overthrow the election — unabashedly called for Trump’s supporters to take to the streets.

Balch wrote: “So damn the COVID, the president must now lead his followers into America’s streets and squares. They must especially flock to the capitol complexes of all the critical states and register indignant protest. They must do the same under the media’s noses in Washington, New York, and Los Angeles, creating a clamor that broadcast agitprop can’t drown out. This has already begun, but its intensity must greatly ratchet up, becoming incessant and overwhelming. If that be demagoguery, make the most of it!”

Balch’s dream came true on January 6, 2021, as Trump insurrectionists stormed the halls of Congress, smashed everything in their path, brutally beat and bludgeoned law enforcement officers, vowed to hang Vice President Mike Pence and assassinate House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and left their animalistic residue by urinating and defecating on the floors and walls of the U.S. Capitol.

Balch was clearly one of the behind-the-scenes “Svengalis” urging Trump to mount an electoral coup with the assistance of state legislatures.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump ally pushes Republican Party to expel Cheney, Kinzinger, Josh Dawsey, Feb. 2, 2022 (print ed.). The resolution, to be debated at the RNC annual meeting in Salt Lake City this week, would be an unusual and public rebuke from a political party against two of its incumbent members of Congress

A prominent Trump ally is pushing the Republican Party to formally expel Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger at the party’s annual meeting this week in Salt Lake City, setting up a public showdown over the party’s direction.

David Bossie, a two-time Trump campaign adviser who serves as a national committeeman from Maryland, submitted a resolution to party leadership that attacks Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and calls for the Republican National Committee to formally endorse their ouster from the House Republican conference, according to people with knowledge of the document.

rnc logoThe resolution has circulated among party officials and members in recent days. It is co-sponsored by Frank Eathorne, the state chairman of the Wyoming Republican Party and a Trump ally. RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel has not taken a position on the resolution.

The resolution is expected to be debated by RNC members in Salt Lake City this week, where the party gathers for its annual meeting, according to Republican Party officials and RNC members. Should the resolution pass, it would be an unusual and public rebuke from a political party against two of its incumbent members of Congress.

In the resolution, Bossie cites the pair’s work for the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol as a reason they should be expelled from being Republicans, along with their efforts to “destroy President Trump,” according to people with knowledge of the document. In the document, he says the two should focus on helping Republicans win back the House of Representatives instead of helping Democrats through their work on the committee, people familiar with the document say.

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Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: WHO urges caution as countries begin to loosen restrictions, Rachel Pannett and Adela Suliman, Feb. 2, 2022. Countries should be cautious about lifting coronavirus restrictions, World Health Organization officials warned Tuesday, noting that many places have not yet reached the peak of the omicron surge.

world health organization logo CustomDenmark relaxed all public health measures the same day, including mask-wearing and isolating after a positive test result. The country has had one of the highest infection rates in the past seven days, according to Our World in Data. But it also has a relatively high vaccination rate: 81 percent. Other countries lifting restrictions include Norway and Australia, once dubbed the “Hermit Kingdom,” where the pandemic strategy recently shifted from tough restrictions such as lockdowns and border closures to one of “personal responsibility.”

“We are urging caution because many countries have not gone through the peak of omicron yet,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical leader on covid-19, said in an online briefing. “Many countries have low levels of vaccination coverage, with very vulnerable individuals within their populations.” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed concern that omicron’s high transmissibility and lower severity might lead countries to decide that “preventing transmission is no longer possible, and no longer necessary,” adding: “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Here’s what to know

  • A study of pandemic preparedness across 177 countries and territories found that better outcomes appear to have gone hand in hand with high levels of trust in government and other citizens.
  • Pfizer and BioNTech said Tuesday that they were seeking emergency use authorization for the first coronavirus vaccine for children younger than 5.
  • Tonga, once covid-free, has gone into national lockdown after reporting a handful of its first covid-19 cases. The archipelago nation is still recovering from a devastating volcanic eruption and tsunami.
  • Kidney from deceased coronavirus patient safely donated in transplant, researchers say
  • Experimental HIV vaccine, based on Moderna’s mRNA technology, in clinical trial

washington post logoWashington Post, Protesters block U.S.-Canada border crossing as ‘Freedom Convoy’ truckers challenge vaccine mandates, Annabelle Timsit and Amanda Coletta, Feb. 2, 2022 (print ed.). Canadian officials are denouncing an “unlawful” blockade of a border crossing between the United States and Canada and reports of violence, as a self-described “Freedom Convoy” of truckers and their supporters opposed to vaccine mandates continued its demonstrations for a fifth day.

Vehicles have blocked off access to the Coutts border crossing in southern Alberta since Saturday, creating traffic jams and disrupting the flow of goods and services — reportedly in support of those who arrived in the Canadian capital, Ottawa, over the weekend to protest a federal coronavirus vaccine requirement for cross-border truckers and other public health measures.

“What may have begun as a peaceful assembly quickly turned into an unlawful blockade,” the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Alberta said in a statement. It said the RCMP would take action to clear the blockade under local laws that prevent interference with critical infrastructure, after attempts to negotiate with the protesters broke down.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Tuesday that he had been told of “people aligned with the protesters assaulting RCMP officers” and “trying to ram members … later leading to a collision with a civilian vehicle.”

Local outlets reported that the blockade is aligned with the Freedom Convoy, whose protests in Ottawa over the weekend sparked “several criminal investigations” into “threatening” and “illegal” behavior. Monuments including the National War Memorial were defaced and demonstrators displayed “intimidating” behavior toward police and others, including staff members at a soup kitchen for homeless people, police said.

Some protesters carried Confederate flags, and at least one flag with a swastika drawn on it could be seen. Two men were charged with offenses related to their actions during the protest, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

ny times logoNew York Times, The defense secretary tells Republican governors: National Guard troops must be vaccinated, Jennifer Steinhauer, Feb. 2, 2022 (print ed.). Lloyd J. Austin III, the defense secretary, has written a letter to seven Republican governors, rejecting their requests for exemptions from coronavirus vaccination mandates for their states’ National Guard troops.

The rejection — sent to the governors of Alaska, Oklahoma, Texas, Idaho, Mississippi, Nebraska and Wyoming, who have all sought to allow their guard troops to refuse the vaccine without consequences — sets the stage for a potential legal battle.

“In making the decision to require vaccination against Covid-19 for service members,” Mr. Austin wrote: “I considered the thousands of hospitalizations and the hundreds of deaths among service members, civilians, and their families related to Covid-19. Covid-19 takes our service members out of the fight, temporarily or permanently, and jeopardizes our ability to meet mission requirements.”

“Failure by a member to do so will lead to a prohibition on participation in drills, training, and other duty conducted under Title 32 and will jeopardize the member’s status in the National Guard,” Mr. Austin added.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Feb. 2, 2022), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher:

World Cases: 382,924,186, Deaths: 5,708,428
U.S. Cases:    76,516,202, Deaths:    913,924
Indian Cases:  41,630,885, Deaths:    497,996
Brazil Cases:  25,625,133, Deaths:    628,132

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U.S. Race Problems In Education, Sports, TV

washington post logoWashington Post, Fear and anxiety follow waves of bomb threats targeting HBCUs, Lauren Lumpkin and Susan Svrluga, Feb. 2, 2022 (print ed.). For the third time in just a month, Howard University warned its campus on Tuesday of a bomb threat, part of a series targeting historically Black colleges and universities since the beginning of the year.

For the third time in just a month, Howard University warned its campus on Tuesday of a bomb threat. Each time, a law enforcement search found no sign of the threatened explosives.

But as students spilled out of academic buildings and headed to their next classes, or lined up for burritos at a nearby Chipotle, the campus was still on edge.

“Most of us are feeling anxiety,” said Troix McClendon, a 19-year-old freshman. “There’s not really a lot of information.”

The bomb threats at Howard are part of a wave to hit historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) this year. On Jan. 4, at least eight HBCUs were threatened. On Monday, at least six were.

Tuesday’s threats, most coming early in the morning on the first day of Black History Month, broadened and deepened the sense of unease: At least 16 universities closed or swept their campuses. In all, more than two dozen have faced similar threats this year.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Youngkin’s No-Guilt History of Virginia for Fragile White People, Dana Milbank, right, Feb. 2, 2022 (print ed.). dana milbank newestHistory has come alive for Trumpist Republicans. They’re rewriting it every day.

This week, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), in a tweet deriding Anthony Fauci, claimed to quote the 18th-century French philosopher Voltaire. The quote was actually uttered by a neo-Nazi pedophile.

But Massie’s, er, Enlightenment is a footnote compared with the historical revisionism Republican governors are attempting. Florida’s Ron DeSantis proposes a law (variations of which have been enacted in 10 states) to prohibit public schools from making (White) children “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race.” Virginia’s Glenn Youngkin opened a tip line so parents can report teachers mentioning anything “divisive.” The clear intent and likely effect of such actions: excise any reference to America’s racist past. Just in time for Black History Month!

So how would history sound denuded of anything potentially distressing for White kids? We don’t have to guess, because we’ve already been there. I have an actual 7th-grade textbook used in Virginia’s public schools from the 1950s through the 1970s — when Virginia began moving toward the current version of history: the truth.

I therefore present these verbatim excerpts from the textbook (Virginia: History, Government, Geography by Francis Butler Simkins and others), shared with me by Hamilton College historian Ty Seidule, author of Robert E. Lee and Me: A Southerner’s Reckoning with the Myth of the Lost Cause. Let’s call it “Glenn Youngkin’s No-Guilt History of Virginia for Fragile White People.”

“A feeling of strong affection existed between masters and slaves in a majority of Virginia homes. … It was to [the master’s] own interest to keep his slaves contented and in good health. If he treated them well, he could win their loyalty and cooperation. … The intelligent master found it profitable to discover and develop the talents and abilities of each slave. … The more progressive planters tried to promote loyalty and love of work by gifts and awards.”

“The tasks of each [house slave] were light. … They learned much about the finer things of life. The house servants took a great deal of pride in their comfortable positions. …The field hands … were given a rest period at noon, usually from one to three hours. Those who were too old or too sick to work in the fields were not forced to do so. … The ‘task system’ … gave them free hours after they finished their daily tasks. … The planter often kept a close eye upon [the overseer] to see that the slaves were not overworked or badly treated.”

“[The slaves] liked Virginia food, Virginia climate, and Virginia ways of living. Those Negroes who went to Liberia … were homesick. Many longed to get back to the plantations. … It must be remembered that Virginia was a home as much beloved by most of its Negroes as by its white people. Negroes did not wish to leave their old masters.”

“Life among the Negroes of Virginia in slavery times was generally happy. The Negroes went about in a cheerful manner making a living for themselves and for those for whom they worked. … They were not worried by the furious arguments going on between Northerners and Southerners over what should be done with them. … The negroes remained loyal to their white mistresses even after President Lincoln promised in his Emancipation Proclamation that the slaves would be freed.”

There you have it. Historically wrong and morally bankrupt — but for tender White minds, discomfort-free.

washington post logoWashington Post, Whoopi Goldberg suspended from ‘The View’ after claim Holocaust was ‘not about race,’ Jennifer Hassan, Feb. 2, 2022 (print ed.). Comedian apologized for the comment, saying Jewish people ‘have always had my support.’

Whoopi Goldberg has been suspended from ABC’s talk show “The View” for two weeks after claiming on the show that the Holocaust was “not about race” but rather “about man’s inhumanity to man” — comments that sparked widespread outrage from viewers and members of the Jewish community.

“Effective immediately, I am suspending Whoopi Goldberg for two weeks for her wrong and hurtful comments,” Kim Godwin, president of ABC News, said in a statement Tuesday. “While Whoopi has apologized, I’ve asked her to take time to reflect and learn about the impact of her comments. The entire ABC News organization stands in solidarity with our Jewish colleagues, friends, family and communities.”

Goldberg’s comments on Monday came as the panel discussed a Tennessee school district’s decision to ban the graphic novel “Maus,” citing nudity and profanity it deemed inappropriate. The Pulitzer-winning book zones in on the horrors of the Holocaust, including the killing of children, Nazi gas chambers and forced labor.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-Dolphins coach sues NFL and teams, alleging discrimination, Mark Maske and Nicki Jhabvala, Feb. 2, 2022 (print ed.). Brian Flores, who was fired last month as coach of the Miami Dolphins, filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the National Football League and its teams, accusing them of discriminating against Black coaches in their hiring practices and denying them equal opportunity and pay compared with their White counterparts.

The lawsuit is a stinging public rebuke by a prominent Black coach of the NFL, which for years has said hiring more Black candidates to senior coaching and executive positions was a major goal for a league in which approximately 70 percent of the players are Black. The NFL’s own senior executives have lamented the lack of diversity among the coaching ranks, and Flores’s charges come as diversity and equitable hiring practices have become a hot-button issue across the country.

Flores says in the complaint that he was subjected to “sham” interviews as teams sought to satisfy league rules to interview minority candidates before making hires. This offseason, the league has had nine head coaching vacancies. So far, four have been filled — all by White candidates.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Brian Flores is done pretending, and the NFL is losing control, Jerry Brewer, Feb. 2, 2022. To become the most dangerous threat to the NFL’s racial indifference, Brian Flores tossed his coaching career into the scrum. He’s done trying to get a job the expected way for a Black head coaching candidate, the way that requires a man to smile through all the lies and sham interviews, the way that makes his dignity bleed out one insulting little cut at a time.

What’s a job earned like that worth, anyway? Now that Flores is suing the league and its teams for discrimination, some might say he is engaging in self-sabotage by fighting a battle he can’t win. But that ignores his reality: Simply by dreaming, the former Miami Dolphins coach was already engaged in a no-win game. By dislodging himself from the false hope of a fair chance, at least Flores doesn’t have to play pretend to pursue equality.

He probably won’t win against the NFL and its legal machine. But now he can’t lose, either. He gets to be Brian Flores, in full, no matter what.

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More On U.S. Supreme Court

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The 11 likeliest people to get Biden’s Supreme Court nomination, The Ranking Committee, Feb. 1, 2022 (print ed.). At last, President Biden has a chance to atone for his mistreatment of Anita Hill. Three decades after Justice Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearings, the president could put the first African American woman on the Supreme Court. He vowed Thursday to keep his campaign promise to nominate a Black woman after Justice Stephen G. Breyer, 83, announced plans to retire when the court’s term ends this summer.

Biden, 79, is an old man in a young country. Of the 115 justices to serve on the Supreme Court, 16 have been confirmed since Biden was elected to the Senate half a century ago. Assuming Democrats can confirm his nominee through a 50-50 Senate, Biden is poised to select just the third African American and sixth woman ever to serve.

The president hopes to announce his choice by the end of February. Sadly, relatively few Black women serve as federal appellate judges, which has been the traditional pipeline for justices. (Biden has nominated eight Black women to circuit courts since taking office, and five have been confirmed.) “But he does not believe that is a prerequisite,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday.

Because this nominee will not tip the balance of power on a court that conservatives dominate 6-to-3, the confirmation fight might not be as scorched-earth as we’ve come to expect. But this is an election year, and control of the Senate is on the line in the midterms. Biden wants to galvanize his base, but he does not want to pick someone who won’t get the backing of moderate senators in his own party from West Virginia and Arizona.

With all that in mind, we asked some of our pundits to rank who they think Biden is most likely to select. The favorites:

  1. D.C. Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson
  2. California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger
  3. U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs
  4. 7th Circuit Judge Candace Rae Jackson-Akiwumi
  5. Delaware Supreme Court Justice Tamika Montgomery-Reeves
  6. NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund President Sherrilyn Ifill
  7. Two more faves of the Senate
  8. Three wild cards

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Ukraine Crisis

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Breaking Silence on Ukraine, Putin Says NATO Has Ignored Russia’s Concerns, Anton Troianovski, Ivan Nechepurenko and Jason Horowitz, Feb. 1, 2022. Addressing the Ukraine crisis for the first time since December, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said on Tuesday that the United States and NATO had “ignored” Russian concerns in their responses to Kremlin demands, a fresh signal that Moscow and the West remain far apart on key issues involving security in Eastern Europe.

The Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, right, told reporters that Russian officials were still drafting a formal response to American dmitry peskovsecurity proposals aimed at de-escalating the Ukraine crisis, and that they would be ready as soon as Mr. Putin “sees fit.”

But Mr. Putin, at a news conference with Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, said it was clear “that the principal Russian concerns turned out to be ignored.”

The Kremlin has demanded that NATO not expand eastward, guaranteeing that Ukraine will never join the alliance, and that NATO draw down forces in Eastern European countries that were once part of the Soviet Union or under its domination. American and European officials have dismissed such demands as non-starters.

Russia has massed more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders, and could be preparing for an invasion, U.S. and NATO officials have warned. Mr. Putin and people close to him have said publicly that Ukraine, with its longstanding political and cultural ties to Russia, is not a legitimate country.

Russian officials have denied any plans to attack Ukraine even as Mr. Putin himself kept silent on the matter. Mr. Putin last addressed the issue on Dec. 23, when he took a combative tone at his annual news conference in response to a British journalist who asked whether he would guarantee that Russia would not invade Ukraine.

“It was the United States that came with its missiles to our home, to the doorstep of our home,” Mr. Putin said. “And you demand from me some guarantees. You should give us guarantees. You! And right away, right now.”

Amid the mixed messaging, Russia has continued to mass troops around Ukraine, including in Belarus to the north. Russia says the troops gathering in Belarus will be taking part in snap military exercises from Feb. 10-20.

The United States and NATO submitted written responses to Russia’s demands last week. Russian officials said afterward that Mr. Putin was studying the responses. He warned in December that Russia would take unspecified “military-technical” measures if the West did not satisfy those demands.

Mr. Putin’s meeting Tuesday with Mr. Orban was part of a flurry of diplomacy aimed at defusing the crisis. Before meeting the Hungarian leader, Mr. Putin spoke by telephone on Tuesday to Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy, who warned that a “worsening of the crisis” would produce “serious consequences,” the Italian prime minister’s office said.

Mr. Putin may also speak in the coming days to Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, Mr. Peskov said. And after two phone calls between Mr. Putin and President Emmanuel Macron of France in recent days, Russian and French officials were preparing an in-person summit to be held “in the near future,” Mr. Peskov said.

Top Russian and American diplomats conferred on Tuesday. And a Russian diplomat met with counterparts from Ukraine, France and Germany in Paris last week to try to jump-start the peace process for eastern Ukraine that the four countries hammered out in Minsk, Belarus, in 2015. The four officials are scheduled to meet again in Berlin this month.

washington post logoWashington Post, As Putin heads to Beijing, Russia and China’s stronger ties are a headache for the U.S., Eva Dou and Mary Ilyushina, Feb. 1, 2022. As Western governments scramble to predict Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions toward Ukraine, one of the countries with the clearest view may be China: Putin is expected to visit Beijing for Friday’s Winter Olympics Opening Ceremonies and for talks with his Chinese counterpart.

Putin’s trip casts a spotlight on the China-Russia bond, which has deepened considerably in recent years, echoing their close relationship at the dawn of the Cold War. Both Beijing and Moscow see the partnership as key to countering a world dominated by the United States, as they share resources and technology and divide the attention of Western governments.

“These two simultaneous challenges are much bigger than if the U.S. has to deal only with the China challenge or the Russia challenge,” said Alexander Gabuev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center. “Joe Biden’s team is only human: They have 24 hours [in a day].”

  • Washington Post, Analysis: London’s status as a playground for oligarchs undermines Britain’s tough-on-Russia stance, Feb. 1, 2022.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia responds in writing to U.S. proposal on de-escalation, John Hudson and Ashley Parker, Feb. 1, 2022 (print ed.). The response comes as the Biden administration seeks to keep Russia at the diplomatic table without conceding to any of its core demands.

The Russian government has delivered a written response to a U.S. proposal aimed at de-escalating the Ukraine crisis, said a U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic talks.

The delivery of the response comes as the Biden administration continues a delicate dance that seeks to keep Russia at the diplomatic table without conceding to any of its core demands. The Kremlin has moved about 100,000 troops and heavy weaponry near the Ukrainian border and ignored calls by the United States to return its forces to their barracks.

“We can confirm we received a written follow-up from Russia,” the official said Monday. “It would be unproductive to negotiate in public, so we’ll leave it up to Russia if they want to discuss their response.”

The official declined to provide details about the proposal, delivered ahead of a phone call between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday.

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U.S. Elections, Governance, Economy

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats, GOP to huddle on deal to fund government and avert shutdown, Tony Romm, Feb. 2, 2022. Lawmakers face a Feb. 18 deadline, and some hope to tack onto the measure new aid in response to the coronavirus.

Top Democrats and Republicans are set to huddle Wednesday in pursuit of a deal that could fund the federal government for the republican elephant logoremainder of the fiscal year, hoping to stave off a shutdown while potentially pumping new spending into health care, education, science and defense.

The upcoming discussions mark the second consecutive day of private meetings on Capitol Hill, as lawmakers who oversee the federal purse increasingly have come to express a measure of confidence that they can act before an democratic donkey logoupcoming Feb. 18 deadline — and overcome months of prior political disputes and delays.

Since President Biden took office, the U.S. government has operated under short-term measures that sustain key federal agencies and programs largely at their existing spending levels. The stopgaps have kept the government running, but they have also delayed Democrats from delivering on some of the White House’s top priorities in 2022, from expanding affordable housing to confronting climate change.

Recent U.S. Politics-Governance Headlines:

 

World News, Human Rights, Disasters

washington post logoWashington Post, Landslide and floods in Ecuador’s capital kill 24, cover neighborhoods in mud after punishing rain, Ellen Francis, Feb. 2, 2022. A muddy deluge engulfed the streets, washing away cars and tree trunks in the neighborhoods of La Gasca and La ecuador flagComuna.

A landslide and floods triggered by hours of pounding rainfall in Ecuador killed 24 people in the capital, Quito, and injured nearly 50 others, officials said.

Twelve people remained missing Tuesday night, the municipality said, after a hillside collapsed.

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More On U.S. Law, Courts, Race

washington post logoWashington Post, N.C. man offered explosives training, knowing trainees wanted to kill those in law enforcement, prosecutors allege, Matt Zapotosky, Feb. 1, 2022 (print ed.). The website for Tackleberry Solutions tells prospective customers that it “teaches wartime military tactics for home defense” and offers a free PDF on home fortification for those willing to provide an email address.

Justice Department log circularBut the Justice Department alleged Monday that the organization’s trainer was secretly peddling a more sinister service — direction on how to make improvised explosive devices — and that he knew the recipient of his training was planning to kill law enforcement officers.

In a news release, the Justice Department announced that it had charged Christopher Arthur, 38, of Mount Olive, N.C., with teaching another individual how to make and use an explosive, knowing the individual intended to use that instruction in the attempted murder of federal law enforcement personnel. Arthur was arrested this month, and the case against him was unsealed Monday.

According to court documents, the FBI’s path to Arthur began after a dramatic 2020 chase and shootout in New York state between law enforcement officers and a suspected extremist. Investigators searching the home and vehicle of the slain suspect found guns, improvised explosive devices and an instruction manual from Tackleberry Solutions bearing Arthur’s name, prosecutors alleged.

FBI logoA confidential informant working with the FBI later reached out to the company requesting one of its free PDFs, and Arthur allegedly began to offer more.

“According to these charges, the defendant provided someone with training on explosive devices knowing that person intended to use that information to murder or attempt the murder of law enforcement,” U.S. Attorney Michael Easley said in a statement announcing the case. “This type of behavior is criminal, it is unacceptable, and it will be prosecuted to the fullest extent.

Prosecutors said the suspect in the chase and shootout appeared to have attended training with Arthur at Tackleberry Solutions for multiple days in March 2020. That suspect, Joshua Blessed, was driving a truck in New York in May 2020 when he fled from a traffic stop.

The local sheriff said at the time that Blessed was an “anti-police extremist” apparently set off by the police’s attempt to pull him over. An affidavit for a search warrant in Arthur’s case indicates that the FBI had been investigating Blessed since October 2018, “based on information that Blessed was organizing and attempting to recruit for a militia extremist group and preparing to engage in an apocalyptic battle against the U.S. Government.”

It was unclear on Monday what Arthur knew about Blessed’s plans. The affidavit alleges that investigators recovered from Blessed’s home a manual Arthur had written called “Quick Reaction Force-Modern Day Minutemen-lmprovised Explosives,” as well as 14 intact improvised explosive devices that appeared to be identical to those found in Tackleberry Solutions manuals.

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Pro-Trump Coup Attempt, Election Rights, Probes

 

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djt rudy new giuliani Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Trump Had Role in Weighing Proposals to Seize Voting Machines, Alan Feuer, Maggie Haberman, Michael S. Schmidt and Luke Broadwater, Updated Feb. 1, 2022. Six weeks after Election Day, with his hold on power slipping, President Donald J. Trump directed his lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani (shown above together in a file photo), to make a remarkable call. Mr. Trump wanted him to ask the Department of Homeland Security if it could legally take control of voting machines in key swing states, three people familiar with the matter said.

us dhs big eagle logo4Mr. Giuliani did so, calling the department’s acting deputy secretary, who said he lacked the authority to audit or impound the machines.

Mr. Trump pressed Mr. Giuliani to make that inquiry after rejecting a separate effort by his outside advisers to have the Pentagon take control of the machines.

And the outreach to the Department of Homeland Security came not long after Mr. Trump, in an Oval Office meeting with Attorney General William P. Barr, raised the possibility of whether the Justice Department could seize the machines, a previously undisclosed suggestion that Mr. Barr immediately shot down.

The new accounts show that Mr. Trump was more directly involved than previously known in exploring proposals to use his national security agencies to seize voting machines as he grasped unsuccessfully for evidence of fraud that would help him reverse his defeat in the 2020 election, according to people familiar with the episodes.

 

U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.

ny times logoNew York Times, Marc Short, who was chief of staff to former Vice President Mike Pence, testified to the House’s Jan. 6 panel, Luke Broadwater, Updated Feb. 1, 2022. Marc Short, who served as chief of staff to former Vice President Mike Pence, testified privately last week before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the latest turn in weeks of negotiations between the panel’s investigators and Mr. Pence’s team.

marc short white house file CustomMr. Short (shown at right in a file photo) appeared in response to a subpoena from the committee, according to three people with knowledge of the developments, making him the most senior person around Mr. Pence who is known to have cooperated in the inquiry.

Investigators believe that participation by the former vice president and his inner circle is critical, because Mr. Pence resisted a pressure campaign by former President Donald J. Trump to use his role in presiding over Congress’s official count of electoral votes to try to overturn the 2020 election.

Mr. Short was with Mr. Pence on Jan. 6 as a mob of Mr. Trump’s supporters attacked the Capitol, and has firsthand knowledge of the effort by Mr. Trump and his allies to try to persuade the former vice president to throw out legitimate electoral votes for Joseph R. Biden Jr. in favor of fake slates of pro-Trump electors.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity about Mr. Short’s testimony, which was earlier reported by CNN.

Investigators have been in high-stakes negotiations for months with Mr. Pence’s team about whether he would cooperate with the inquiry. In recent weeks, they have sought the cooperation of Mr. Short and Greg Jacob, Mr. Pence’s former lawyer.

Mr. Short and Mr. Jacob were both closely involved in Mr. Pence’s consideration of whether to go along with Mr. Trump’s insistence that he try to block the official count of Electoral College results by a joint session of Congress. Three days before the proceeding, the two men met with John Eastman, a lawyer then advising Mr. Trump, about a memo Mr. Eastman had written setting out a case for why Mr. Pence had the power to hold off the certification.

 

mike pence djt side by side

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump suggests Pence should have ‘overturned’ the election on Jan. 6, John Wagner, Feb. 1, 2022 (print ed.). Former president Donald Trump suggested in a statement Sunday night that then-Vice President Mike Pence (shown above at left) should have “overturned” the election on Jan. 6, 2021, as he presided over the counting of electoral college votes by Congress.

Trump has expressed frustration before that Pence did not use his role to try to reject the votes of several states that Joe Biden won. But the language in Sunday’s statement was among Trump’s most explicit in publicly stating his desire.

djt march 2020 CustomThe statement came in response to ongoing efforts by Congress to make changes to the Electoral Count Act, a law that governs what Congress should do in the case of any disputes about which candidate won in a state. Among the changes under consideration is making it more explicit that the role of the vice president is merely ceremonial.

“If the Vice President (Mike Pence) had ‘absolutely no right’ to change the Presidential Election results in the Senate, despite fraud and many other irregularities, how come the Democrats and RINO Republicans, like Wacky Susan Collins, are desperately trying to pass legislation that will not allow the Vice President to change the results of the election?” Trump said in his statement. “Actually, what they are saying, is that Mike Pence did have the right to change the outcome, and they now want to take that right away. Unfortunately, he didn’t exercise that power, he could have overturned the Election!”

There has been no evidence of widespread fraud in any states in which Biden prevailed, despite repeated claims by Trump to the contrary.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is among the lawmakers involved in bipartisan talks about changes to the Electoral Count Act, an effort that has gained momentum in the wake of the failure of Democrats to pass sweeping voting rights legislation.

Among the other changes under consideration is raising the total number of senators and House members required to challenge a state’s count.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), an outspoken Trump critic who voted to impeach him on a charge of inciting an insurrection, said in a tweet that the former president would try to do it again.

washington post logoWashington Post, Two campus officers killed at Bridgewater College in Va., suspect arrested, officials say, Antonio Olivo, Jasmine Hilton, Tom Jackman and Justin Wm. Moyer, Feb. 1, 2022. A police officer and a security officer are fatally shot, college tells its community.

Two campus police officers were shot and killed at Bridgewater College in Virginia on Tuesday afternoon, the college said in a message to its students and staff. A suspect was taken into custody a short time later not far from the campus.

The college, located near Harrisonburg, identified the victims as campus police officer John Painter and campus safety officer J.J. Jefferson. An alert sent to the Bridgewater community said that the two officers were close friends and that Painter was the best man at Jefferson’s recent wedding.

“This is a sad and dark day for Bridgewater College,” college president David W. Bushman said in a message to the college community. “I know we all have so many questions and not many answers. One thing I do know, though, is that we will rally around one another and support each other as we move forward from this day.”

Authorities did not immediately identify the man who was apprehended or comment on a possible motive.

No students appear to have been injured. Several told The Washington Post they heard multiple shots from the area of Flory Hall, a classroom building on campus. Students and staff were ordered to shelter in place for more than three hours before being released.

Willie B. Jefferson, the mother of slain officer Jefferson, said her son was a hard worker who loved his wife and family.

“I loved my son, and he loved us,” she said. “He went beyond to help people.” He had just celebrated his 48th birthday Saturday, Willie B. Jefferson said. She said that was all she could say right now.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP leads 2022 money race as both parties hit record levels of cash on hand, Michael Scherer and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Feb. 1, 2022 (print ed.). In a reversal of the last two election cycles, Republican Party and allied groups have more cash on hand than Democrats.

Major Republican organizations focused on winning back control of the House and the Senate ended last year with significantly more money than their Democratic counterparts, a reversal of past fortunes that suggests shifting momentum ahead of the midterm elections.

The new fundraising totals, revealed Monday in filings to the Federal Election Commission, showed both parties holding record amounts for the off-year of the congressional cycle. But the growth in the Republican cash hoard compared with the 2020 and 2018 cycles outstripped Democratic gains, as GOP donors, particularly those who give seven- and eight-figure checks, leaned into the effort to take back control of the House and the Senate this fall.

The Republican Party’s campaign committees for the House and the Senate, along with the super PACs affiliated with Republican House and Senate leadership, reported nearly $220 million in combined cash on hand on Dec. 31. By contrast, the corresponding Democratic organizations reported $176 million in cash reserves.

  • The same Democratic groups had nearly $161 million in cash on hand at this point in the 2020 cycle, about $50 million more than the corresponding Republican groups.
  • Trump began 2022 with a war chest of $122 million
  • Some Trump records sent to Jan. 6 panel torn up, taped back together
  • N.Y. attorney general subpoenaed Trump D.C. hotel records from feds

 

Pro-Trump Coup Attempt, Election Rights, Probes

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: ANTIFA Week: Day Two — The fascist alteration of history, Wayne Madsen, left, Feb. 1, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2022. In the fascist travesty known as the state of Texas, Stephen Balch is known for a lot of things, but historical accuracy is not one of them. Although Balch holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of California at Berkeley, his far-right views and historical revisionism have been widely condemned by other political scientists and historians.

wayne madesen report logoThe founding head of the National Association of Scholars, which seeks to stamp a right-wing imprimatur on higher education, Balch favors states’ rights when it comes to overriding the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision on gay marriage and he supports states assuming the responsibility for immigration and border control over that of the federal government.

Balch’s recent appointment as a curriculum and textbook content adviser by the Texas State Board of Education that drew sharp criticism by educators and school administrators in the state. Balch’s position on a Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) working group overseeing the state’s social studies curricula and recommended reading materials was condemned by the Texas Freedom Network. It stated that Balch’s “conspiracy theories, inflammatory rhetoric, and shocking contempt for our constitutional and democratic institutions make him unfit for this role.”

texas mapMore importantly and what is of greater alarm, Balch is a colleague of 2020 election insurrection lawyer John Eastman, the author of a paper that advanced the plan for Donald Trump and a group of Republicans in Congress and state legislatures to overturn the election of Joe Biden as president. Balch, writing for the right-wing website “American Greatness” on November 30, 2020 — as Trump and his cohorts, including Balch’s colleague Eastman, were scheming to overthrow the election — unabashedly called for Trump’s supporters to take to the streets.

Balch wrote: “So damn the COVID, the president must now lead his followers into America’s streets and squares. They must especially flock to the capitol complexes of all the critical states and register indignant protest. They must do the same under the media’s noses in Washington, New York, and Los Angeles, creating a clamor that broadcast agitprop can’t drown out. This has already begun, but its intensity must greatly ratchet up, becoming incessant and overwhelming. If that be demagoguery, make the most of it!”

Balch’s dream came true on January 6, 2021, as Trump insurrectionists stormed the halls of Congress, smashed everything in their path, brutally beat and bludgeoned law enforcement officers, vowed to hang Vice President Mike Pence and assassinate House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and left their animalistic residue by urinating and defecating on the floors and walls of the U.S. Capitol.

Balch was clearly one of the behind-the-scenes “Svengalis” urging Trump to mount an electoral coup with the assistance of state legislatures.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump ally pushes Republican Party to expel Cheney, Kinzinger, Josh Dawsey, Feb. 1, 2022. The resolution, to be debated at the RNC annual meeting in Salt Lake City this week, would be an unusual and public rebuke from a political party against two of its incumbent members of Congress

A prominent Trump ally is pushing the Republican Party to formally expel Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger at the party’s annual meeting this week in Salt Lake City, setting up a public showdown over the party’s direction.

David Bossie, a two-time Trump campaign adviser who serves as a national committeeman from Maryland, submitted a resolution to party leadership that attacks Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and calls for the Republican National Committee to formally endorse their ouster from the House Republican conference, according to people with knowledge of the document.

rnc logoThe resolution has circulated among party officials and members in recent days. It is co-sponsored by Frank Eathorne, the state chairman of the Wyoming Republican Party and a Trump ally. RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel has not taken a position on the resolution.

The resolution is expected to be debated by RNC members in Salt Lake City this week, where the party gathers for its annual meeting, according to Republican Party officials and RNC members. Should the resolution pass, it would be an unusual and public rebuke from a political party against two of its incumbent members of Congress.

Books, speeches, hats for sale: The Trumps try to make money the pre-presidency way

In the resolution, Bossie cites the pair’s work for the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol as a reason they should be expelled from being Republicans, along with their efforts to “destroy President Trump,” according to people with knowledge of the document. In the document, he says the two should focus on helping Republicans win back the House of Representatives instead of helping Democrats through their work on the committee, people familiar with the document say.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just screwed himself royally, Bill Palmer, right, Jan. 31, 2022. During his weekend rally, Donald Trump announced that bill palmerhe’s going to win the 2024 presidential election and then pardon all January 6th Capitol attackers. Then Trump put out a statement flat out admitting that he wanted Mike Pence to “overturn the election.” This naturally prompted the media to insist that this all means Trump will in fact somehow magically win the 2024 election, even as Twitter pundits used it as an excuse to insist that we’re all doomed.

bill palmer report logo headerMeanwhile back in the real world, these two moments added up to Christmas morning for anyone who wants to see Donald Trump behind bars. While Trump obviously won’t be anywhere near the 2024 election, his promise of pardons to those who refuse to cooperate with the DOJ was nonetheless an act of felony obstruction of justice on his part. And Trump’s subsequent confession will make it fairly easy for any prosecutor to convict Trump on election crimes who wants to take a shot at him.

Fulton County already has a special grand jury going against Trump for election crimes, and pretty clearly intends to indict him. Her job just got easier. Now she can point to Trump’s confession as proof that he intended to overturn the election when he called Georgia officials and told them he needed more votes. If Trump had any reasonable doubt defense by arguing that he was merely speaking wishfully or metaphorically during these conversations, that just got erased. Trump’s odds of conviction in Georgia just went way up.

We’ve been seeing a trail of breadcrumbs for the past few weeks which suggests (but doesn’t prove) that the DOJ is in fact building a criminal case against Donald Trump. Whatever the odds are of the DOJ indicting Trump, they just went way up. Trump’s direct public confession just made it very easy for the DOJ to indict him, and for that matter just made it a lot harder for the DOJ not to indict him.

Of course back in fantasyland, the pundits are insisting that Donald Trump’s latest actions mean he’s somehow got us right where he wants us, and that he’s somehow going to become President again no matter what. But that’s all just doomsday hysteria for the sake of boosting ratings, and for the sake of pandering to the defeatists who are so broken they want to believe they’re going to lose.

Even Trump pretty obviously knows he’s never again going to get within a mile of the White House (he confessed to that when he sold off the lease on his hotel down the street from it). There’s a reason Trump’s handlers rarely allow him to speak to the public anymore. Each time he does, he ends up making it all the more certain that he’ll end up in prison. Trump knows his life is over, but he still seems to very much enjoy making empty threats that cause the gullible types on our side to hide under their couch in fear of him. It’s probably the only enjoyment he has left. But it comes at the cost of cementing his fate: he’s going to prison.

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New York Times, Georgia Prosecutor Investigating Trump Seeks Safety Assistance From the F.B.I., Richard Fausset, Feb. 1, 2022 (print ed.). The Fulton County district attorney expressed concern about the former president’s comments at a rally in Texas.

The district attorney in Fulton County, Ga., who is conducting a criminal investigation of former President Donald J. Trump has asked for an F.B.I. risk assessment of the county courthouse in downtown Atlanta, citing “alarming” rhetoric used by Mr. Trump at a rally in Texas over the weekend.

fani willisThe Fulton County prosecutor, Fani T. Willis, right, is planning to impanel a special grand jury in May to look into accusations that Mr. Trump and his allies tried to improperly influence the outcome of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. Among other things, the investigation is looking into a call that Mr. Trump made to Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, to FBI logopressure him to “find 11,780 votes” — the margin by which Mr. Trump lost the state.

Ms. Willis, a Democrat, made her request for a security assessment in a letter on Sunday to J.C. Hacker, the special agent in charge of the F.B.I.’s Atlanta field office. Ms. Willis said that she and her staff had “already made adjustments to accommodate security concerns during the course of the investigation, considering the communications we have received from persons unhappy with our commitment to fulfill our duties.”

But she also noted that Mr. Trump, at his rally in Conroe, Texas, on Saturday, made “multiple references to investigations that are known to concern his activities.” Ms. Willis’s request to the F.B.I. was reported earlier by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

washington post logoWashington Post, Some Trump records sent to the Jan. 6 committee were torn up and taped back together, Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey and Amy Gardner, Feb. 1, 2022 (print ed.). The National Archives confirmed the former president’s unusual habit of ripping up documents, which forced aides to attempt to piece them back together in order to comply with the Presidential Records Act.

When the National Archives and Records Administration handed over a trove of documents to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, some of the Trump White House records had been ripped up and then taped back together, according to three people familiar with the records.

Former president Donald Trump was known inside the White House for his unusual and potentially unlawful habit of tearing presidential records into shreds and tossing them on the floor — creating a headache for records management analysts who meticulously used Scotch tape to piece together fragments of paper that were sometimes as small as confetti, as Politico reported in 2018.

But despite the Presidential Records Act — which requires the preservation of memos, letters, notes, emails, faxes and other written communications related to a president’s official duties — the former president’s infrangible shredding practices apparently continued well into the latter stages of his presidency.

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Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, First vaccine for children under 5 may be ready by end of February, Laurie McGinley, Lena H. Sun and Carolyn Y. Johnson, Feb. 1, 2022 (print ed.). Coronavirus vaccines for children younger than 5 could be available far sooner than expected — perhaps by the end of February — under a plan that would lead to the potential authorization of a two-shot regimen in the coming weeks, people briefed on the situation said Monday.

pfizer logoPfizer and its partner, BioNTech, the manufacturers of the vaccine, are expected to submit to the Food and Drug Administration as early as Tuesday a request for emergency-use authorization for the vaccine for children 6 months to 5 years old, which would make it the first vaccine available for that age group. Older children already can receive the shot.

The FDA urged the companies to submit the application so that regulators could begin reviewing the two-shot data, according to the knowledgeable individuals, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

ny times logoNew York Times, The defense secretary tells Republican governors: National Guard troops must be vaccinated, Jennifer Steinhauer, Feb. 1, 2022. Lloyd J. Austin III, the defense secretary, has written a letter to seven Republican governors, rejecting their requests for exemptions from coronavirus vaccination mandates for their states’ National Guard troops.

The rejection — sent to the governors of Alaska, Oklahoma, Texas, Idaho, Mississippi, Nebraska and Wyoming, who have all sought to allow their guard troops to refuse the vaccine without consequences — sets the stage for a potential legal battle.

“In making the decision to require vaccination against Covid-19 for service members,” Mr. Austin wrote: “I considered the thousands of hospitalizations and the hundreds of deaths among service members, civilians, and their families related to Covid-19. Covid-19 takes our service members out of the fight, temporarily or permanently, and jeopardizes our ability to meet mission requirements.”

“Failure by a member to do so will lead to a prohibition on participation in drills, training, and other duty conducted under Title 32 and will jeopardize the member’s status in the National Guard,” Mr. Austin added.

washington post logoWashington Post, All eyes are on Austria as a vaccination mandate for all adults comes into force, Denise Hruby and Loveday Morris, Feb. 1, 2022 (print ed.). As Austria moves toward a Friday deadline for nationwide vaccine mandate, challenges keep popping up.

As Austria’s mandate requiring all adults to be vaccinated against the coronavirus comes into force this week, debate is still bubbling over its legality, public health benefits and enforcement, in a rollout closely watched by other nations mulling whether to follow suit.

austria flagAs the first Western democracy to bring in a sweeping mandate, Austria is seen as a test case for other countries grappling with how to deal with those who refuse to get vaccinated — and it has gotten off to a stuttering start.

The new law comes into force Friday, but following logistical hurdles as the start date approached, the government opted to roll out its plans in three phases. During the first, those who aren’t vaccinated are given the “opportunity” to fulfill the legal obligation.

From mid-March, there will be spot checks and fines of up to 670 euros ($752), and at some unspecified date, medical data will be used to issue penalty notices. Those are income dependent and could stretch to 3,600 euros ($4,000).

fda logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Moderna Vaccine Is Granted Full Approval by F.D.A., Staff Reports, Feb. 1, 2022 (print ed.). The vaccine has been in use for more than a year under an emergency-use authorization. Get the latest pandemic news.

The Food and Drug Administration granted full approval on Monday to Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine, the second-most widely used in the United States and the second to receive full regulatory approval.

moderna logoThe vaccine, which can be administered to adults and has been shown to be highly effective at preventing virus infections and severe cases of Covid-19, has been in use for more than a year under an emergency-use authorization. That rigorous standard lets federal regulators allow use of the shot in a public health emergency before they complete a longer and more detailed review. The vaccine received emergency-use authorization in December 2020.

The full approval of Moderna’s vaccine, which was widely expected, came roughly five months after the company said it had finalized its application for regulators, and after Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, the makers of a similar vaccine, won federal approval in August for use in people 16 and older. That approval set off a cascade of vaccination mandates from institutions that had eagerly awaited the more exhaustive review.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is cleared for use in people 5 and older, and could be authorized for even younger children in the next few months.

More than 204 million doses of the Moderna vaccine have been administered in the United States so far, and nearly 75 million people across the nation have been fully vaccinated with it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“While hundreds of millions of doses of Moderna Covid-19 vaccine have been administered to individuals under emergency use authorization, we understand that for some individuals, F.D.A. approval of this vaccine may instill additional confidence in making the decision to get vaccinated,” Dr. Janet Woodcock, the acting F.D.A. commissioner, said in a statement on Monday.

More than 38 million extra shots of the vaccine have also been administered, according to the C.D.C. Fully vaccinated adults became eligible for Moderna booster shots in the fall. The C.D.C. now considers three doses of the vaccine, with a third dose given five months after the second, to be an “up to date” regimen for most adults. Some people with weakened immune systems recently became eligible for fourth doses.

The new approval also allows Moderna to market its vaccine under the name Spikevax, and gives more latitude to physicians to prescribe use of the shot. Controls on how the vaccine is administered were tighter under emergency use authorization.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • ‘We have to learn how to live with this’: Some U.S. governors say its time for an endemic approach to Covid.
  • Women under financial stress are more likely to be abused during the pandemic, researchers find.
  • A Hong Kong official resigns after attending a crowded birthday party amid an Omicron surge.
  • An Omicron surge across Asia restricts travel during the Lunar New Year weekend.
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada tests positive for the coronavirus.
  • Austria ends a lockdown for the unvaccinated as cases soar.
  • England extends vaccines to vulnerable children ages 5 to 11.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House frustrations grow over health chief’s handling of pandemic, Dan Diamond, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Tyler Pager, Feb. 1, 2022 (print ed.). Critics blame him for health officials’ conflicting messages; defenders say administration gave him an unclear role.

xavier becerra twitterWhite House officials have grown so frustrated with top health official Xavier Becerra, right, as the pandemic rages on that they have openly mused about who might be better in the job, although political considerations have stopped them from taking steps to replace him, officials involved in the discussions said.

Top White House officials have had an uneasy relationship with Becerra, the health and human services secretary, since early in President Biden’s term. But their dissatisfaction has escalated in recent months as the HHS logoomicron variant has sickened millions of Americans in a fifth pandemic wave amid confusing and sometimes conflicting messages from top health officials that brought scrutiny to Biden’s strategy, according to three senior administration officials and two outside advisers with direct knowledge of the conversations.

The frustration with Becerra comes as top White House and health officials face growing criticism for health messaging missteps, as well as controversial policies about coronavirus testing and isolation. The administration has also struggled in the face of a tsunami of cases that have overwhelmed hospitals and shuttered some schools and businesses because so many workers became infected.

washington post logoWashington Post, Spotify to add content advisories to podcasts after pandemic misinformation complaints, Rachel Pannett and Jennifer Hassan, Feb. 1, 2022 (print ed.).

spotify logoSpotify will start adding content advisories to podcast episodes about covid-19, the streaming service announced Sunday, after Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and other artists demanded the platform remove their music, saying it allows misinformation to spread about the pandemic and vaccines.

Their objections put the spotlight on provocative podcaster Joe Rogan, who has suggested that healthy, young people shouldn’t get vaccinated and praised unproven treatments for the coronavirus, such as the anti-parasite drug ivermectin. An open letter signed by medical and scientific professionals recently called on Spotify to “immediately establish a clear and public policy to moderate misinformation on its platform.”

Other platforms, including social media giants Facebook and Twitter, have employed disclaimers similar to the one Spotify has promised, as they have struggled to find and take down anti-vaccine propaganda. But false claims continue to proliferate.

In a video posted after Spotify’s announcement, Rogan praised the platform’s decision to add the disclaimer, which according to Spotify will direct users to a hub of “data-driven facts.” At the same time, he questioned the use of the term “misinformation” and defended his decision to invite guests who “have an opinion that’s different from the mainstream narrative.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Patient declines coronavirus vaccine at the expense of a lifesaving transplant: ‘I was born free, I’ll die free,’ Julian Mark, Feb. 1, 2022 (print ed.). For more than four years, Chad Carswell, 38, has suffered from severe kidney disease. In July 2020, he started on dialysis — but now his kidneys are functioning at just 4 percent.

chris carswellIn an interview with The Washington Post, Carswell, right, said he recently applied for a kidney transplant but was turned down because he has not received a coronavirus vaccine. And, despite his hospital’s requirements that organ recipients be vaccinated against the virus, he’s refusing the shots.

Carswell, of Hickory, N.C., acknowledged his condition is a “ticking time bomb,” and said he’s living every day as though it’s his last. Still, he will not take a coronavirus vaccine — even if that means losing out on a potentially lifesaving transplant.

“There is not a situation in this world that I’ll get a vaccine,” he told The Post. “If I’m laying on my deathbed, and they tell me, ‘You have a kidney waiting on you if you get this shot,’ I’ll tell them, ‘I’ll see you on the other side.’”

david fergusonCarswell is not the only unvaccinated person on a transplant wait list to be denied an organ. Last week, the family of David J. Ferguson (shown at left in a Facebook photo with his wife) said a Massachusetts hospital denied him a heart transplant because he refused to take a coronavirus vaccine, the Associated Press reported. In October, a Colorado hospital said it would deny a kidney transplant to a woman unless she got vaccinated against the coronavirus.

In both cases, the hospitals cited policies that require all transplant recipients to get vaccinated because of research that shows such patients are at a higher risk of dying from covid-19. Studies estimate the mortality rate of transplant patients who contract covid at about 20 to 30 percent, The Post reported.

ny times logoNew York Times, Living by the Code: In China, Covid-Era Controls May Outlast the Virus, Chris Buckley, Vivian Wang and Keith Bradsher, Jan. 31, 2022 (print ed.). Apps for tracking the spread of illness gave Xi Jinping a way for the Communist Party to reach into the lives of citizens. This sharpened surveillance may last beyond the pandemic, as officials use potent techno-authoritarian tools against corruption and dissent.

The police had warned Xie Yang, a human rights lawyer, not to go to Shanghai to visit the mother of a dissident. He went to the airport anyway.

His phone’s health code app — a digital pass indicating possible exposure to the coronavirus — was green, which meant he could travel. His home city, Changsha, had no Covid-19 cases, and he had not left in weeks.

China FlagThen his app turned red, flagging him as high risk. Airport security tried to put him in quarantine, but he resisted. Mr. Xie accused the authorities of meddling with his health code to bar him from traveling.

“The Chinese Communist Party has found the best model for controlling people,” he said in a telephone interview in December. This month, the police detained Mr. Xie, a government critic, accusing him of inciting subversion and provoking trouble.

The pandemic has given Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, a powerful case for deepening the Communist Party’s reach into the lives of 1.4 billion citizens, filling out his vision of the country as a model of secure order, in contrast to the “chaos of the West.” In the two years since officials isolated the city of Wuhan in the first lockdown of the pandemic, the Chinese government has honed its powers to track and corral people, backed by upgraded technology, armies of neighborhood workers and broad public support.

ny times logoNew York Times, Young students are bearing the weight of pandemic anxiety, with some taking on adult responsibilities, Jacey Fortin and Giulia Heyward, Jan. 31, 2022 (print ed.). The pandemic has changed children. Some can’t shake that feeling of instability. Others are taking on adult responsibilities. And anxiety is all around.

After months of remote learning, a year of in-person-but-not-quite-stable hybrid school and a fall semester that was just beginning to feel kind of normal, Kyla Chester-Hopkins, a high school junior in Milwaukee, learned that she had Covid-19.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Kyla, 16, was deeply anxious about spreading it to her family members. She worried that she had infected her best friend. So in early January, she stopped going to school and returned to learning online — stuck, once again, in the bedroom where she had already spent so much of 2020.

Back then, she was home with her father and four siblings, all but one of whom — her baby brother — relied on the same Wi-Fi connection to work and learn. Missing art class most of all, she pulled out her acrylic paints to make murals that sprawled across her bedroom walls and ceiling. She returned to school in the fall of 2020, but it was hybrid at the time, and most of her classmates were not there.

Her junior year has been better. Kyla recovered from her bout of Covid this month and is now back in class. But she feels that the instability of her freshman and sophomore years is not over yet, and she is always cautious.

“There are students who don’t wear their masks, or complain about wearing a mask, and I nag them,” she said. “People say I’m like another staff member at our school.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Feb. 1, 2022), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher:

World Cases: 379,637,939, Deaths: 5,694,054
U.S. Cases:     76,222,215, Deaths:    910,104
Indian Cases:   41,469,499, Deaths:    496,268
Brazil Cases:    25,454,105, Deaths:    627,365

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More On U.S. Supreme Court

supreme court building

washington post logoWashington Post, Critics say Ginni Thomas’s activism is a Supreme Court conflict. Under court rules, only her husband can decide if that’s true, Michael Kranish, Feb. 1, 2022 (print ed.). Ginni Thomas’s name stood out among the signatories of a December letter from conservative leaders, which blasted the work of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection as “overtly partisan political persecution.”

One month later, her husband, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas took part in a case crucial to the same committee’s work: former president Donald Trump’s request to block the committee from getting White House records that were ordered released by President Biden and two lower courts.

virginia thomas amazonThomas was the only justice to say he would grant Trump’s request. His wife is shown at right in a file photo.

That vote has reignited fury among Justice Thomas’s critics, who say it illustrates a gaping hole in the court’s rules: Justices essentially decide for themselves whether they have a conflict of interest, and Thomas has rarely made such a choice in his three decades on the court.

“I absolutely do believe that Clarence Thomas should have recused from the Jan. 6 case,” said Gabe Roth, executive director of Fix the Court, a nonpartisan advocacy group, who called the Supreme Court “the most powerful, least accountable, institution in Washington.”

While the Supreme Court is supposed to operate under regulations guiding all federal judges, including a requirement that a justice “shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned,” there’s no procedure to enforce that rule. Each justice can decide whether to recuse, and there is no way to appeal a Supreme Court member’s failure to do so.

Unlike in lower courts, there is no other judge that can step in, and thus a recusal by one justice would mean considering the case with only eight justices, increasing the chance it could not be resolved.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The 11 likeliest people to get Biden’s Supreme Court nomination, The Ranking Committee, Feb. 1, 2022 (print ed.). At last, President Biden has a chance to atone for his mistreatment of Anita Hill. Three decades after Justice Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearings, the president could put the first African American woman on the Supreme Court. He vowed Thursday to keep his campaign promise to nominate a Black woman after Justice Stephen G. Breyer, 83, announced plans to retire when the court’s term ends this summer.

Biden, 79, is an old man in a young country. Of the 115 justices to serve on the Supreme Court, 16 have been confirmed since Biden was elected to the Senate half a century ago. Assuming Democrats can confirm his nominee through a 50-50 Senate, Biden is poised to select just the third African American and sixth woman ever to serve.

The president hopes to announce his choice by the end of February. Sadly, relatively few Black women serve as federal appellate judges, which has been the traditional pipeline for justices. (Biden has nominated eight Black women to circuit courts since taking office, and five have been confirmed.) “But he does not believe that is a prerequisite,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday.

Because this nominee will not tip the balance of power on a court that conservatives dominate 6-to-3, the confirmation fight might not be as scorched-earth as we’ve come to expect. But this is an election year, and control of the Senate is on the line in the midterms. Biden wants to galvanize his base, but he does not want to pick someone who won’t get the backing of moderate senators in his own party from West Virginia and Arizona.

With all that in mind, we asked some of our pundits to rank who they think Biden is most likely to select. The favorites:

  1. D.C. Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson
  2. California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger
  3. U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs
  4. 7th Circuit Judge Candace Rae Jackson-Akiwumi
  5. Delaware Supreme Court Justice Tamika Montgomery-Reeves
  6. NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund President Sherrilyn Ifill
  7. Two more faves of the Senate
  8. Three wild cards

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Ukraine Crisis

vladimir putin hand up palmer

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Breaking Silence on Ukraine, Putin Says NATO Has Ignored Russia’s Concerns, Anton Troianovski, Ivan Nechepurenko and Jason Horowitz, Feb. 1, 2022. Addressing the Ukraine crisis for the first time since December, President Vladimir V. Putin, above, of Russia said on Tuesday that the United States and NATO had “ignored” Russian concerns in their responses to Kremlin demands, a fresh signal that Moscow and the West remain far apart on key issues involving security in Eastern Europe.

The Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, right, told reporters that Russian officials were still drafting a formal response to American dmitry peskovsecurity proposals aimed at de-escalating the Ukraine crisis, and that they would be ready as soon as Mr. Putin “sees fit.”

But Mr. Putin, at a news conference with Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, said it was clear “that the principal Russian concerns turned out to be ignored.”

The Kremlin has demanded that NATO not expand eastward, guaranteeing that Ukraine will never join the alliance, and that NATO draw down forces in Eastern European countries that were once part of the Soviet Union or under its domination. American and European officials have dismissed such demands as non-starters.

Russia has massed more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders, and could be preparing for an invasion, U.S. and NATO officials have warned. Mr. Putin and people close to him have said publicly that Ukraine, with its longstanding political and cultural ties to Russia, is not a legitimate country.

Russian officials have denied any plans to attack Ukraine even as Mr. Putin himself kept silent on the matter. Mr. Putin last addressed the issue on Dec. 23, when he took a combative tone at his annual news conference in response to a British journalist who asked whether he would guarantee that Russia would not invade Ukraine.

“It was the United States that came with its missiles to our home, to the doorstep of our home,” Mr. Putin said. “And you demand from me some guarantees. You should give us guarantees. You! And right away, right now.”

Amid the mixed messaging, Russia has continued to mass troops around Ukraine, including in Belarus to the north. Russia says the troops gathering in Belarus will be taking part in snap military exercises from Feb. 10-20.

The United States and NATO submitted written responses to Russia’s demands last week. Russian officials said afterward that Mr. Putin was studying the responses. He warned in December that Russia would take unspecified “military-technical” measures if the West did not satisfy those demands.

Mr. Putin’s meeting Tuesday with Mr. Orban was part of a flurry of diplomacy aimed at defusing the crisis. Before meeting the Hungarian leader, Mr. Putin spoke by telephone on Tuesday to Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy, who warned that a “worsening of the crisis” would produce “serious consequences,” the Italian prime minister’s office said.

Mr. Putin may also speak in the coming days to Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, Mr. Peskov said. And after two phone calls between Mr. Putin and President Emmanuel Macron of France in recent days, Russian and French officials were preparing an in-person summit to be held “in the near future,” Mr. Peskov said.

Top Russian and American diplomats conferred on Tuesday. And a Russian diplomat met with counterparts from Ukraine, France and Germany in Paris last week to try to jump-start the peace process for eastern Ukraine that the four countries hammered out in Minsk, Belarus, in 2015. The four officials are scheduled to meet again in Berlin this month.

washington post logoWashington Post, As Putin heads to Beijing, Russia and China’s stronger ties are a headache for the U.S., Eva Dou and Mary Ilyushina, Feb. 1, 2022. As Western governments scramble to predict Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions toward Ukraine, one of the countries with the clearest view may be China: Putin is expected to visit Beijing for Friday’s Winter Olympics Opening Ceremonies and for talks with his Chinese counterpart.

Putin’s trip casts a spotlight on the China-Russia bond, which has deepened considerably in recent years, echoing their close relationship at the dawn of the Cold War. Both Beijing and Moscow see the partnership as key to countering a world dominated by the United States, as they share resources and technology and divide the attention of Western governments.

“These two simultaneous challenges are much bigger than if the U.S. has to deal only with the China challenge or the Russia challenge,” said Alexander Gabuev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center. “Joe Biden’s team is only human: They have 24 hours [in a day].”

  • Washington Post, Analysis: London’s status as a playground for oligarchs undermines Britain’s tough-on-Russia stance, Feb. 1, 2022.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia responds in writing to U.S. proposal on de-escalation, John Hudson and Ashley Parker, Feb. 1, 2022 (print ed.). The response comes as the Biden administration seeks to keep Russia at the diplomatic table without conceding to any of its core demands.

The Russian government has delivered a written response to a U.S. proposal aimed at de-escalating the Ukraine crisis, said a U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic talks.

The delivery of the response comes as the Biden administration continues a delicate dance that seeks to keep Russia at the diplomatic table without conceding to any of its core demands. The Kremlin has moved about 100,000 troops and heavy weaponry near the Ukrainian border and ignored calls by the United States to return its forces to their barracks.

“We can confirm we received a written follow-up from Russia,” the official said Monday. “It would be unproductive to negotiate in public, so we’ll leave it up to Russia if they want to discuss their response.”

The official declined to provide details about the proposal, delivered ahead of a phone call between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday.

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U.S. Elections, Governance, Economy

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Guns, Germs, Bitcoin and the Antisocial Right, Paul Krugman, right, Feb. 1, 2022. In February 2021, a deep paul krugmanfreeze caused widespread power outages in Texas, leaving about 10 million Texans without electricity, in many cases for days. Hundreds died.

The biggest proximate cause of the crisis was disrupted production of natural gas, the state’s most important power source. After a 2011 freeze, federal regulators had urged Texas to require winterization of gas and electricity facilities. But it didn’t.

And for the most part it still hasn’t: So far, no winterization requirements have been placed on the politically powerful gas sector. Instead, Gov. Greg Abbott is hoping to secure the power grid by encouraging … Bitcoin mining. This would supposedly reduce the risk of outages because Bitcoin’s huge electricity consumption would eventually expand the state’s generation capacity.

Yes, that’s as crazy as it sounds. But it fits a pattern. When confronted with problems that could easily be alleviated through cooperative action, the radical right-wingers who have taken over the Republican Party often turn instead to bizarre nonsolutions that appeal to their antisocial ideology. I’ll explain why I use that word in a minute.

First, let’s talk about the most obvious current example: Covid policy. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis has tried to block just about every measure intended to limit the spread of the coronavirus; he and his officials have stopped just short of being explicitly anti-vaccine, but they have catered to the anti-vax fringe, with DeSantis even refusing to say whether he has received a booster shot.

They have, however, gone all in on antibody treatments that are far more expensive than vaccines, with DeSantis demanding that the Food and Drug Administration allow use of antibodies that, the F.D.A. has found, don’t work against Omicron.

Why support expensive, ineffective treatments while opposing measures that would help prevent severe illness in the first place?

Well, consider a parallel that may not be immediately obvious but is actually quite close: school shootings.

Among major advanced nations, such shootings are an almost uniquely U.S. phenomenon. And while there may be multiple reasons America leads the world in massacres of schoolkids, we could surely mitigate the horror with common-sense measures like restrictions on gun sales, required background checks and a ban on privately owned assault weapons.

But no. Republicans want to expand access to guns and, in many states, protect students by arming schoolteachers.

What do these examples have in common? As Thomas Hobbes could have told you, human beings can only flourish, can only avoid a state of nature in which lives are “nasty, brutish and short,” if they participate in a “commonwealth” — a society in which government takes on much of the responsibility for making life secure. Thus, we have law enforcement precisely so individuals don’t have to go around armed to protect themselves against other people’s violence.

In the end, none of this will work. Government exists for a reason. But the right’s constant attacks on essential government functions will take a toll, making all of our lives nastier, more brutish and shorter.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Oops: Democrats accidentally made GOP tax cuts easier, Catherine Rampell, right, Feb. 1, 2022 (print ed.). catherine rampellDemocrats in Congress have made it much easier for state-level Republicans to slash taxes this year, just ahead of the midterms.

That’s because Democrats have shoveled a ton of federal money onto the states, even after it became clear that many states were flush with cash and didn’t need the help.

This legislative season, tax cuts are on the agenda around the country. But especially in Republican-led states. Big budget surpluses have inspired the governors of Missouri, South Carolina and Iowa to propose cuts to their income tax rates. Utah’s Senate recently approved a $160 million tax cut, with its state House of Representatives expected to make the proposal even more expansive. And Mississippi is working to cut taxes on food sales and car tags — and to phase out its income tax entirely. The whole package will cost the state about $1.5 billion.

Even blue and purple states may jump on the traditionally conservative tax-cut bandwagon, too.

Historically, recessions are accompanied by massive state budget crunches because job losses cause tax revenue to fall and demand for safety-net services to rise. After the Great Recession, for example, it took years for state tax revenue to recover. So how is it that some states today have enough money to absorb billion-dollar-plus tax cuts?

The answer: partly because of the unusual nature and path of the pandemic recession, and partly because Democratic lawmakers gave states way more aid than they needed last year.

washington post logoWashington Post, Mich. governor candidate said rape victims shouldn’t have abortions: ‘Baby inside them may be the next president,’ Jaclyn Peiser, Feb. 1, 2022. When Garrett Soldano was asked on a right-wing podcast how he would “ensure the sanctity of life” in Michigan, the Republican candidate for governor said he would stop at nothing to protect a fetus.

Even in cases where victims of rape become pregnant, Soldano said, “we’re always going to fight for life.”

“They don’t know that little baby inside them may be the next president, may be the next person who changes humanity,” Soldano said on the “Face the Facts” podcast.

A video of the Jan. 19 episode, posted on Twitter by Heartland Signal, a liberal news site focused on Midwest politics, went viral Monday. As of early Tuesday, it had racked up over 460,000 views.

Many pro-choice politicians and activists condemned Soldano’s comments. State Sen. Erika Geiss (D) called his remarks “disgusting.”

“We should be inspiring women who’ve been raped to press charges [and] we should have a system that takes them seriously,” Geiss tweeted. “We should have a world where men don’t think they’re entitled to women’s bodies.”

Soldano is not the first political candidate to take heat after giving an interview about abortion rights.

In 2012, during his campaign for U.S. Senate, former Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) said in an interview that “legitimate rape” rarely causes pregnancy. He added that “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Akin, who died in October, apologized for his comments but later said he regretted doing so. In 2019, then-Florida House Speaker José Oliva (R) apologized for referring to pregnant women as “host bodies” several times during a TV news interview about an antiabortion bill.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tim Ryan’s plea to Ohio’s White working class: Trust Democrats again, Michael Scherer, Feb. 1, 2022 (print ed.). The congressman from Ohio, who is running for an open U.S. Senate seat, is trying to reverse huge Republican gains in what used to be a Democratic state.

tim ryan o 2010Congressman Tim Ryan, right, has been traveling the foothills of western Appalachia with a joke about marriage he hopes will make him Ohio’s next U.S. Senator.

democratic donkey logoThe voters he needs to turn his way — the forgotten, the struggling, in communities with hollow factories, Trump flags and fentanyl epidemics — don’t agree with everything he stands for as a Democrat. But then, he asks his small crowds, who does?

“If my wife and I have 10 conversations in one day and we agree on six or seven of them, we crack a bottle of wine and celebrate how great our marriage is,” he said at a recent stop here along the Ohio River, just a few blocks from an empty brownfield where furnaces once burned. “So why would you think you are going to agree with someone 100 percent of the time?”

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Media, Education, Entertainment News

nso group logo

washington post logoWashington Post, NSO offered ‘bags of cash’ for access to U.S. cell networks, whistleblower claims, Craig Timberg, Feb. 1, 2022. 
Rep. Ted Lieu asks the Justice Department to investigate after hearing the account of what he called ‘fishy’ behavior.

The surveillance company NSO Group offered to give representatives of an American mobile-security firm “bags of cash” in exchange for access to global cellular networks, according to a whistleblower who has described the encounter in confidential disclosures to the Justice Department that have been reviewed by The Washington Post.

The mobile-phone security expert Gary Miller alleges that the offer came during a conference call in August 2017 between NSO Group officials and representatives of his employer at the time, Mobileum, a California-based company that provides security services to cellular companies worldwide. The NSO officials specifically were seeking access to what is called the SS7 network, which helps cellular companies route calls and services as their users roam the world, according to Miller.

Surveillance companies try to access cellular communication networks to geolocate targets and provide other spying services. Cellular companies seek to prevent such intrusions by restricting access to the SS7 network and using firewalls to block computer queries that seek personal information on their customers.

Miller’s allegations are becoming public at a time when the Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation into NSO over allegations that its clients have illegally hacked phones and misused computer networks with the company’s technology, according to four people familiar with the probe who described elements of it on condition of anonymity to discuss matters not authorized for public disclosure. These people did not know what role, if any, Miller’s allegation is playing in that investigation or whether charges ultimately will be filed against NSO, which is based in Israel.

washington post logoWashington Post, The New York Times buys Wordle, the ultra-popular online word game, Elahe Izadi, Feb. 1, 2022 (print ed.). The New York Times announced Monday it has bought Wordle, the free once-a-day online word game that exploded in popularity in recent months.

The Times spent an undisclosed figure on the game, but described it in the “low-seven figures.” The company said in a statement that “at the time it moves to The New York Times, Wordle will be free to play for new and existing players, and no changes will be made to its gameplay.” The migration will happen “very shortly,” a spokesman said.

It’s a notable acquisition for the news organization, which has a goal of reaching 10 million digital subscribers by 2025 and has singled out the games and cooking parts of its business as “a key part” of its strategy. As of December 2021, New York Times Games and Cooking had 1 million subscribers each.

Software engineer Josh Wardle created the game in January 2021 for his partner Palak Shah, who loved word puzzles, particularly the Times’s “Spelling Bee” and daily crossword.

The Wrap, Fox News Notches 20 Straight Years as Top-Rated Cable News Network, Lindsey Ellefson, Feb. 1, 2022. January ratings are in and, per Nielsen Media Research data, Fox News just set a big record: The network officially capped off 20 straight years as the top-rated cable news channel.

Notably, “The Five” continued its ratings success, ending the month as the most-viewed show in cable news, which is a unique feat for a non-primetime program. Tucker Carlson’s 8 p.m. ET juggernaut led the way in the advertiser-coveted age demographic of 25 to 54.

fox news logo SmallFox News ended January as the top cable news channel in both total day viewers and primetime viewers. It has been the most-watched cable news network by both metrics since 2002. “Fox & Friends” host Steve Doocy told TheWrap in October of last year that when he started with the network at its inception 25 years ago, “it didn’t look good” and the team thought “market leader” CNN was tough competition. Five years later, the channel took the lead and never let it go.

Here’s how the numbers for January break down, per Nielsen: Fox News nabbed 1.414 million total-day viewers, on average, with 226,000 of those in the key demo. MSNBC took second place in total average viewers, pulling in 656,000, but took third place in the demo with 74,000. CNN was in last place in total viewers, averaging 493,000, but in second place in the demo with 101,000.

In primetime, Fox News brought in 2.242 million average total viewers, with 338,000 in the demo. Again, MSNBC took second place in total average primetime viewers, pulling in 1.15 million, but last place in the demo, securing 130,000. CNN nabbed 633,000 total average viewers between 8 p.m. ET and 11 p.m. ET, of whom 140,000 were between 25 and 54.

The top five cable news programs in total viewership and demo viewership all belonged to Fox News. In total average viewers, “The Five” led the way with 3.573 million, “Tucker Carlson Tonight” averaged 3.414 million, “Hannity” took in 2.862 million, “Special Report with Bret Baier” nabbed 2.616 million and the 7 p.m. ET hour brought in 2.385 million, on average. “Jesse Watters Primetime” premiered in the 7 p.m. hour during the final week of January. Prior to Watters’ ascension to his own pre-primetime solo gig, the hour was helmed by rotating hosts. Watters’ program nabbed 3.3 million average viewers and 490,000 demo viewers, on average, in its first week.

The top five programs in the demo for the month were “Tucker Carlson Tonight” with an average of 560,000 viewers between 25 and 54, “The Five” with 504,000, “Hannity” with 433,000, the 7 p.m. ET hour with 388,000 and “Special Report with Bret Baier” with 387,000. Watters’ first week hosting “Primetime” drew 490,000 viewers in the demo, on average.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Tom Brady, 7-Time Super Bowl Champion, Retires After 22 Seasons, Ben Shpigel, Feb. 1, 2022. Brady had for years stated that he wanted to play until he was 45 years old, a benchmark for him. But on his “Let’s Go!” podcast with Jim Gray in late January, he spoke about spending more time with his wife, the supermodel Gisele Bündchen, and three children, and said he would make a decision with their input.

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World News, Human Rights, Disasters

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washington post logoWashington Post, Venezuelan migrants being sent to Colombia under Biden’s new border plan, Nick Miroff, Feb. 1, 2022 (print ed.). An emergency provision allows authorities to bypass immigration proceedings without affording asylum seekers a chance to seek protection under U.S. law.

Venezuelans taken into custody along the U.S. southern border will be sent to Colombia under a new attempt by the Biden administration to contend with spiking numbers of migrants arriving from nations around the world.

venezuela flag waving customVenezuelans have crossed into the United States in recent months in record numbers, typically after flying to a Mexican border city and walking across to surrender to American authorities. U.S. Customs and Border Protection stopped 24,819 Venezuelans in December, up from 206 a year earlier.

The Department of Homeland Security said Monday that it will begin returning Venezuelans to Colombia if they had previously resettled in that country, expelling them from the United States under the pandemic-era health authority known as Title 42. The emergency provision allows authorities to bypass immigration proceedings without affording asylum seekers a chance to seek protection under U.S. law.

“On January 27, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security returned two Venezuelan nationals to Colombia, where they had previously resided,” the department said in a statement.

“DHS is committed to ensuring that every migrant encountered is processed in a safe, orderly, and humane manner.”

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will begin returning Venezuelans to Colombia on a regular basis, officials said. The arrangement was first reported by CNN.

nicolas maduro customThe U.S. government does not recognize Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro, right, as the country’s legitimate president, and the lack of formal diplomatic relations makes it all but impossible for Homeland Security officials to deport or return migrants there.

That has raised fears within the administration of a mass migration wave. Nearly 6 million Venezuelans already have been displaced from their homeland, according to the latest U.N. figures, fleeing lawlessness, economic collapse and authoritarian rule.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The circus music is winding down for BoJo the Clown, Eugene Robinson, right, Feb. 1, 2022 (print ed.). Not for eugene robinson headshot Customthe first time, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been unmasked and his true identity revealed: BoJo the Clown.

An official report released Monday confirms that while Britons were locked down under severe covid-19 restrictions, largely confined to their homes and prohibited from holding social gatherings, Johnson and his staff at 10 Downing Street were having alcohol-fueled parties. As far as Johnson is concerned, evidently, rules are for suckers.

“Against the backdrop of the pandemic, when the Government was asking citizens to accept far-reaching restrictions on their lives, some of the behaviour surrounding these gatherings is difficult to justify,” said the report, compiled by Sue Gray, a senior civil servant. “At least some of the gatherings in question represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of Government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time.”

Gray listed 16 events between May 2020 and April 2021. She issued the interim report on Monday, with most specifics and details omitted so as not to interfere with a separate criminal investigation into the gatherings that London’s Metropolitan Police is conducting.

The scandal, inevitably called “Partygate,” would be deeply embarrassing to Johnson — if he were less clownish and more capable of embarrassment. “Firstly, I want to say ‘sorry,’” he told Parliament shortly after the report was released. But he defiantly resisted calls, including some from within his own Conservative Party, that he resign.

To become prime minister, Johnson stabbed his Conservative predecessor, Theresa May, in the back over Brexit. On the floor of the House of Commons she got to return the favor, telling Johnson that either he “had not read the rules, did not understand what they meant and nor did others around him, or they didn’t think the rules applied to No. 10. Which was it?”

ny times logoNew York Times, Boris Johnson Faces Outcry After Damning U.K. Report on Lockdown Parties, Staff Reports, Feb. 1, 2022 (print ed.). A report found leadership failures and “excessive” drinking in Mr. Johnson’s government. His response was defiant. Here’s the latest.

A highly anticipated report describes heavy workplace drinking at parties that breached pandemic lockdown rules. Lawmakers, including fellow Conservatives, demanded answers from Mr. Johnson in Parliament.

boris johnson tiePrime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, right, speaks after receiving a report into claims of parties at Downing Street that violated England’s Covid rules in 2020. Mr. Johnson has been accused of lying about what he knew about the parties.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Carl Recine

United Kingdom flagA report into parties during Covid lockdowns describes a drinking culture at Downing Street.

Downing Street suffers from a culture of “excessive” workplace drinking that led to social gatherings during pandemic lockdowns, according to a highly anticipated report from a British government investigation released on Monday.

The document described leadership failures in the office of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, though it did not directly implicate Mr. Johnson in wrongdoing, leaving that judgment to a separate police investigation. That may give him some political breathing room, but it is unlikely to dispel the cloud of what has become a career-threatening scandal.

It has come to this: Boris Johnson denied that he drinks too much at Downing Street gatherings.

 

theresa may newer file

Palmer Report, Opinion: The unasked question, Robert Harrington, right, Feb. 1, 2022. In the aftermath of Monday’s robert harringtnn portraitabbreviated publication of the Sue Gray Report on Downing Street’s abuse of lockdown rules, British prime minister Boris Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, shown above in a file photo, rendered a blistering assessment.

bill palmer report logo header“What the Gray Report does show is that Number 10 Downing Street was not observing the regulations they had imposed on members of the public,” May said. “So either my right honorable friend had not read the rules or didn’t understand what they meant, and others around him, or they didn’t think the rules applied to Number 10. Which was it?”

To which Johnson disingenuously replied that wasn’t what the Gray Report said and he suggests that the former prime minister “waits to see the conclusion of the inquiry.”

United Kingdom flagThat’s right, “technically” the Gray Report has still yet to be fully published, as it must be restricted to an abbreviated version until the Metropolitan Police have completed their inquiry. So for the time being Boris Johnson can have it both ways, he can both disavow the report and claim it hasn’t been published yet.

But there is one key question that no one seems prepared to ask. What does the prime minister intend to do once the report is published? That is, is it possible that the report could contain language so condemnatory of the prime minister’s actions that he will resign?

It is clear that the answer to that question is “No.” Resignation is not part of Johnson’s playbook.

What the Gray Report does say is damning enough in limited format. Sue Gray wrote that multiple “failures of leadership and judgment” at Number 10 allowed parties to take place while the rest of the country was living under draconian lockdown rules. The Metropolitan Police (more popularly referred to as “Scotland Yard”) is currently investigating no less than 12 of 16 alleged events, including some attended by the prime minister.

The bottom line is that Boris Johnson, a proven serial liar and political hack, will continue to cling to power no matter what. He is the first British politician in my lifetime, perhaps ever, who did not resign when all others would have. Johnson is a continued harbinger of the shift in the political landscape, where loathsome serial liars now thrive out in the open.

washington post logoWashington Post, Israeli military disciplines three officers in death of Palestinian American, Shira Rubin and Erin Cunningham, Feb. 1, 2022 (print ed.). Omar Assad died after he was detained by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank.

Two Israeli military officers were removed from their positions immediately, and a third will be formally censured over the death of a 78-year-old Palestinian American man who was detained at a checkpoint in the West Bank last month, the Israeli military said Monday night.

The death of Omar Assad, a former Milwaukee grocery store owner, on Jan. 12 was the result of “moral failure and poor decision-making” by the soldiers who detained him, according to a statement from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

The statement, released late Monday night, summarized a week-long internal army investigation of Assad’s treatment after an autopsy conducted by the Palestinian Ministry of Justice revealed that he suffered a stress-induced heart attack that was probably brought on by being bound, gagged and held by Israeli forces at a cold construction site.

Autopsy finds Palestinian American man died of heart attack after being bound and gagged by Israeli soldiers

“The way in which this person was left in the field was grave and unethical,” said IDF Chief of General Staff Aviv Kohavi on Tuesday. “I expect that every soldier and officer will know how to fight while also preserving human dignity and the ethics of the IDF.

washington post logoWashington Post, West warns time is growing short for Iran nuclear deal, as talks pause again, Karen DeYoung, Feb. 1, 2022. The eighth, and longest, round of talks between Iran and world powers over reinstatement of the 2015 nuclear deal has ended with reports of both progress and impatience on all sides.

With the pause of their eighth session of talks since early last year, representatives of Iran and global powers returned to their capitals over the weekend to consult about what European partners in the Iran nuclear deal called “the final stage” in negotiations over a U.S. return to the agreement.

iran flag mapNegotiators have said for the past month that only weeks remained before Iran’s nuclear program would advance so far beyond the parameters of the original 2015 accord that a return to its terms would be impossible. A senior State Department official said Monday that those weeks have now dwindled to only “a handful.”

“In other words, we will know sooner rather than later whether the United States is back in the JCPOA,” or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, “and Iran is back in fully implementing its obligations, or whether we are going to have to face a different reality of mounting tensions and crisis,” said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity under rules set by the State Department.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Saeed Khatibzadeh, said Monday that his government had presented the other signers of the deal, including Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, with a written initiative that, if accepted by Washington, could result in a viable agreement on the day they return to the talks in Vienna, according to Iranian media.

Gulf Arab states that opposed the Iran nuclear deal are now courting Tehran

The United States, which withdrew from the agreement in 2018, after President Donald Trump called it “a bad deal” and promised to punish Tehran with “maximum pressure” sanctions, has not been a direct party to the talks, but exchanges positions with Iran through the Europeans.

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More On U.S. Law, Courts, Race

washington post logoWashington Post, N.C. man offered explosives training, knowing trainees wanted to kill those in law enforcement, prosecutors allege, Matt Zapotosky, Feb. 1, 2022 (print ed.). The website for Tackleberry Solutions tells prospective customers that it “teaches wartime military tactics for home defense” and offers a free PDF on home fortification for those willing to provide an email address.

Justice Department log circularBut the Justice Department alleged Monday that the organization’s trainer was secretly peddling a more sinister service — direction on how to make improvised explosive devices — and that he knew the recipient of his training was planning to kill law enforcement officers.

In a news release, the Justice Department announced that it had charged Christopher Arthur, 38, of Mount Olive, N.C., with teaching another individual how to make and use an explosive, knowing the individual intended to use that instruction in the attempted murder of federal law enforcement personnel. Arthur was arrested this month, and the case against him was unsealed Monday.

According to court documents, the FBI’s path to Arthur began after a dramatic 2020 chase and shootout in New York state between law enforcement officers and a suspected extremist. Investigators searching the home and vehicle of the slain suspect found guns, improvised explosive devices and an instruction manual from Tackleberry Solutions bearing Arthur’s name, prosecutors alleged.

FBI logoA confidential informant working with the FBI later reached out to the company requesting one of its free PDFs, and Arthur allegedly began to offer more.

“According to these charges, the defendant provided someone with training on explosive devices knowing that person intended to use that information to murder or attempt the murder of law enforcement,” U.S. Attorney Michael Easley said in a statement announcing the case. “This type of behavior is criminal, it is unacceptable, and it will be prosecuted to the fullest extent.

Prosecutors said the suspect in the chase and shootout appeared to have attended training with Arthur at Tackleberry Solutions for multiple days in March 2020. That suspect, Joshua Blessed, was driving a truck in New York in May 2020 when he fled from a traffic stop.

The local sheriff said at the time that Blessed was an “anti-police extremist” apparently set off by the police’s attempt to pull him over. An affidavit for a search warrant in Arthur’s case indicates that the FBI had been investigating Blessed since October 2018, “based on information that Blessed was organizing and attempting to recruit for a militia extremist group and preparing to engage in an apocalyptic battle against the U.S. Government.”

It was unclear on Monday what Arthur knew about Blessed’s plans. The affidavit alleges that investigators recovered from Blessed’s home a manual Arthur had written called “Quick Reaction Force-Modern Day Minutemen-lmprovised Explosives,” as well as 14 intact improvised explosive devices that appeared to be identical to those found in Tackleberry Solutions manuals.

Daily Beast, Suspect Arrested, Two Injured After Active Shooter Alert at Virginia College, Corbin Bolies, Feb. 1, 2022. Two police officers were injured by an active shooter who sent Bridgewater College in Virginia into lockdown on Tuesday afternoon, the school confirmed to The Daily Beast.

daily beast logoThe college alerted its community at 1:24 p.m. to shelter in place over reports of an active shooter. Campus police as well as officers from the Harrisonburg Police Department, Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office, state police, and other local, state, and federal agencies responded.

“The initial report came in that two officers had been shot and the armed suspect had fled the scene,” the school said. An individual was apprehended off-campus shortly before 2 p.m. Gov. Glenn Youngkin said in a tweet he was briefed on the incident and would continue to monitor it. The condition of the two officers was unclear.

ny times logoNew York Times, Tribes Reach $590 Million Opioid Settlement With J. & J. and Distributors, Jan Hoffman, Feb. 1, 2022. Hundreds of Native American tribes that have suffered disproportionately high addiction and death rates during the opioid epidemic agreed on Tuesday to a tentative settlement of $590 million with Johnson & Johnson and the country’s three largest drug distributors.

Together with a deal struck last fall between the distributors and the Cherokee Nation for $75 million, the tribes will be paid a total of $665 million.

Additional money has also been committed to them by Purdue Pharma in a settlement currently in mediation.

“We are not solving the opioid crisis with this settlement, but we are getting critical resources to tribal communities to help address the crisis,” said Steven Skikos, the top lawyer for the tribes.

Money from the tentative deal would go toward addiction and treatment and would be overseen by Native American tribal leaders.

washington post logoWashington Post, Incoming Georgetown Law official placed on leave for tweets about Supreme Court pick, Lauren Lumpkin, Feb. 1, 2022 (print ed.). School officials will investigate whether Ilya Shapiro’s tweets breached policy; Shapiro says he expects to be vindicated.

An incoming Georgetown Law administrator, who last week apologized for a series of now-deleted tweets about President Biden’s promise to nominate a Black woman for the Supreme Court, has been placed on administrative leave, the law school’s dean said Monday.

Ilya Shapiro, vice president and director of the Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute, was set to take over the law school’s Center for the Constitution as executive director Tuesday. He was also hired as a senior lecturer.

“I am writing to inform you that I have placed Ilya Shapiro on administrative leave, pending an investigation into whether he violated our policies and expectations on professional conduct, non-discrimination, and anti-harassment, the results of which will inform our next steps,” William M. Treanor, dean and executive vice president of the Georgetown University Law Center, wrote in an email to the law school community. Treanor said Shapiro will not be on campus pending the outcome of the investigation.

Shapiro, in an email to The Washington Post, said he expects to be vindicated.

“I’m optimistic that Georgetown’s investigation will be fair, impartial, and professional, though there’s really not much to investigate,” Shapiro wrote. “And I’m confident that it will reach the only reasonable conclusion: my Tweet didn’t violate any university rule or policy, and indeed is protected by Georgetown policies on free expression.”

Shapiro’s tweets came Wednesday after the news that Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer would retire at the end of the current term. Shapiro suggested that Sri Srinivasan, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and the first person of South Asian descent to lead a federal circuit court, would be Biden’s “best pick.”

“But alas doesn’t fit into the latest intersectionality hierarchy so we’ll get lesser black woman,” Shapiro wrote in a tweet. “Thank heaven for small favors?”

Shapiro also said that if Biden’s pick is a Black woman, she “will always have an asterisk attached.” He asked his followers in a poll if the president’s commitment to nominating a Black female judge was racist, sexist, both or neither.

In a tweet Thursday, Shapiro wrote: “I apologize. I meant no offense, but it was an inartful tweet. I have taken it down.” He posted a longer statement on Friday, saying he regretted his “poor choice of words,” but called it a shame that “men and women of every race” will be excluded from the president’s nomination process.

washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutors reach plea deal with two of Ahmaud Arbery’s killers facing hate-crime charges, Annabelle Timsit and Hannah Knowles, Feb. 1, 2022 (print ed.). Prosecutors have reached plea agreements with two of the three White men convicted of murdering 25-year-old Black man Ahmaud Arbery and facing federal hate-crime charges, court documents show.

Notices of the plea agreements for Travis McMichael, 35, and his father, Gregory McMichael, 66 — part of the trio sentenced in early January to life in prison for murdering Arbery in a case that sparked nationwide outrage and protests — were filed Sunday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia.

Lee Merritt, an attorney for Arbery’s mother, denounced the agreements Sunday night in a statement, calling them a “back room deal” and a “betrayal to the Arbery family who is devastated.” He said that the pleas would let the McMichaels serve the first 30 years of their sentence in federal prison, allowing them better detention conditions.

Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said federal prosecutors ignored her wishes in offering Travis and Gregory McMichael any kind of plea deal and said she plans to oppose the agreements during a pretrial hearing scheduled at 10 a.m. Monday. Prosecutors said in the notice that details of the pleas were shared with the court for its consideration.

The McMichaels and their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, were found guilty in November of murdering Arbery. Their pursuit of Arbery in pickup trucks through suburban streets near Brunswick, Ga., in February 2020 ended with Travis McMichael fatally shooting Arbery, who was unarmed.

The three men face federal hate-crime and attempted-kidnapping charges in a trial that was expected to begin Feb. 7 to determine whether — and to what extent — race played a role in their pursuit and killing of Arbery.

Bryan, the only one of the three granted the possibility of parole, was not mentioned in Sunday’s plea deal notices.

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