Editor’s Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative June, 2021 news and views
- Washington Post, Biden promises to combat GOP efforts to restrict voting rights
- Washington Post, VMI has tolerated ‘racist and sexist culture’ and must change, investigation finds
- Washington Post, JBS, world’s biggest meat supplier, says its systems are coming back online after cyberattack
- Washington Post, A student was barred from graduation for wearing the wrong shoes. So a teacher gave him the shoes off his own feet
- Washington Post, Israel opposition says it’s ready to vote on ousting Netanyahu
Virus Victims, Responses
- Washington Post, Analysis: The pandemic is getting worse, even when it seems like it’s getting better, Ishaan Tharoor
- Washington Post, 168.5 million U.S. vaccinated
- Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals, U.S. Deaths: 610,436
- Washington Post, Opinion: We need to investigate the lab-leak theory — without inflaming anti-Asian hate, Leana S. Wen
- Washington Post, Inside Fauci’s spring 2020 emails with a Chinese official, Pence’s chief of staff, regular citizens
- New York Times, Opinion: The End of the C.D.C. Eviction Moratorium Means Trouble, Peter Hepburn
U.S. Crime, Courts, Race
- Washington Post, Tampa man pleads guilty to felony in Jan. 6 Capitol riot; his sentencing could set bar for others
- Vice, QAnon Has a Disturbing Takeover Plot to ‘Eliminate’ Elected Officials, David Gilbert
- Washington Post, Supreme Court will not take up Johnson & Johnson challenge of $2.1 billion cancer case award
U.S. Politics, Governance
- Washington Post, Republicans aren’t ‘looking forward.’ They’re stepping into a Jim Crow past, Dana Milbank
- Anchorage Daily News, Biden administration suspends oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
- Washington Post, Administration suspends oil and gas leases in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
- Palmer Report, Opinion: Last night’s House special election just revealed the trajectory the Democrats are on for the 2022 midterms, Bill Palmer
- Washington Post, What lawmakers, White House officials have said about UFOs
- Washington Post, Analysis: At least 20 Republican senators didn’t meet with Brian Sicknick’s family, Jacqueline Alemany
- Washington Post, This Senate is the oldest in American history. Should we do anything about it
- Washington Post, Opinion: Trump’s blog just shut down. Without the mainstream media, he’s starving, Paul Waldman
- Washington Post, Trump has grown increasingly consumed with ballot audits as he pushes falsehood that election was stolen
- Palmer Report, Opinion: So that explains why Donald Trump pulled that “reinstatement” stunt yesterday, Bill Palmer
- Washington Post, Trump’s company will try again to sell lease for its D.C. hotel
- Washington Post, Snubbed, fired and vilified, Israeli opposition lawmakers unite in disdain for Netanyahu
- Washington Post, What to know about Naftali Bennett, the Israeli politician who could succeed Benjamin Netanyahu
- Washington Post, Opinion: What the U.S. should learn from Israel’s odd-couple proposed government, David Ignatius
- Washington Post, Airline passengers are behaving worse than ever. One proposed solution? Ban alcohol
- Washington Post, Covid pushed millions from the middle class to poverty. One man is trying to work his way back
- Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion:( WMR), Think tank wars and the enforcement of thought crime laws, Wayne Madsen
- The Hindu, Veteran Indian-origin journalist Tejinder Singh passes away
- OpEdNews, Commentary: Red Alert: Progressives, Democrats Must Confront Republican “Trigger Words” or Lose Seats and Both Houses in 2022, Robert Weiner and Adjanni Ramos
- Palmer Report, Opinion: Predicting the apocalypse, Robert Harrington
Washington Post, Biden promises to combat GOP efforts to restrict voting rights, Tyler Pager and Annie Linskey, June 2, 2021 (print ed.). The president made the vow while attending an event marking the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa massacre.
President Biden promised Tuesday to “fight like heck” against Republican efforts to restrict voting, using the anniversary of a racist massacre here to respond to Democrats’ growing anxiety that his low-key approach was threatening fair elections and their own electoral future.
Biden announced that he was tapping Vice President Harris, right, to marshal an effort against the increasing array of Republican-led state laws that restrict voting in various ways, a campaign Biden condemned as “un-American.”
“This sacred right is under assault with incredible intensity like I’ve never seen,” Biden said, adding that June should be a “month of action” on Capitol Hill and taking what appeared to be a shot at Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), suggesting they often side with Republicans.
The president has been under pressure to show more urgency in the face of a GOP push that includes efforts to overturn the last presidential election, former president Donald Trump’s false assertion that he won, and Republican resistance to Democrats’ voting rights proposals in Congress. Democrats in Texas over the weekend blocked a restrictive voting measure, at least temporarily, by walking out of the statehouse.
Biden, the first president to visit Tulsa to commemorate the 1921 massacre, which included numerous atrocities and destroyed a prosperous Black community, delivered a searing speech that recounted the events in great detail and sought to “fill the silence” about the killing.
The massacre, which killed as many as 300 people and destroyed more than 1,250 homes, destroyed what was known as Black Wall Street, a thriving community of African Americans.
- Washington Post, Perspective: The cleansing necessity of guilt
- Washington Post, What happened during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre
Washington Post, VMI has tolerated ‘racist and sexist culture’ and must change, investigation finds, Ian Shapira, June 2, 2021 (print ed.). An independent investigation of the culture at Virginia Military Institute released Tuesday found a “racist and sexist culture,” fierce resistance to change, and a fear of retaliation among students and faculty who want to report bigotry or sexual misconduct to administrators.
“This investigation found that institutional racism and sexism are present, tolerated, and left unaddressed at VMI. The racist and misogynistic acts and outcomes uncovered during this investigation are disturbing,” said the report, written by lawyers at the law firm Barnes & Thornburg, who were paid $1 million by the state for the probe. “Although VMI has no explicitly racist or sexist policies that it enforces, the facts reflect an overall racist and sexist culture.”
At VMI, Black cadets endure lynching threats, Klan memories and Confederacy veneration
The report recommended requiring VMI, the nation’s oldest state-supported military college, to create a sweeping reform plan and to submit quarterly reports to the state on its progress. It also urged Gov. Ralph Northam (D), right, who graduated from VMI in 1981, and the General Assembly to appoint a committee with no ties to the school to evaluate those reports and address “any lack of substantial progress.”
Washington Post, JBS, world’s biggest meat supplier, says its systems are coming back online after cyberattack, Hamza Shaban, Ellen Nakashima and Rachel Lerman, June 2, 2021 (print ed.). The company said its systems are coming back online after a ransomware attack shut down some of its U.S. and Australian operations. Officials called the breach an extortion attempt by a criminal group likely based in Russia.
The breach is the latest targeting a crucial supply chain and comes three weeks after the Colonial Pipeline hack disrupted fuel operations in the U.S.
Washington Post, Israel opposition says it’s ready to vote on ousting Netanyahu, Steve Hendrix and Shira Rubin, June 2, 2021. A vote in the Knesset could come within a week.
A diverse group of opposition lawmakers notified Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday that they have agreed on the terms of a power-sharing government that would replace Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister for the first time in 12 years.
The step sets up a vote on the arrangement by Israel’s full parliament, probably within a week to 12 days.
Former defense minister Naftali Bennett would replace Netanyahu, his former mentor, as prime minister for a term of two years, according to the official notification. After that, centrist opposition leader Yair Lapid would take the top spot.
Those two party leaders had been on the verge of securing a majority coalition to unseat Netanyahu when hostilities erupted last month between Israel and Hamas. While some political observers initially said the prime minister would benefit from the fighting and might be able to fend off the opposition challenge, negotiations between Lapid and Bennett again accelerated after the cease-fire, and Bennett said Sunday he was ready to join the anti-Netanyahu coalition.
Virus Victims, Responses
Washington Post, Analysis: The pandemic is getting worse, even when it seems like it’s getting better, Ishaan Tharoor, June 2, 2021. In the United States, life is returning to normal. Restaurants and bars are filling up again, vacations are being booked and flights are selling out. At sporting events, maskless fans are hugging and cheering. Memorial Day weekend, the country’s unofficial start to the summer, was celebrated with much more gusto and many more family barbecues than it was a year ago.
That’s all for good reason: A majority of Americans have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and daily new infections and deaths are at their lowest levels in almost a year. The pandemic is slowly receding from the daily lives of many Americans as businesses open up and local authorities ease restrictions. Britain, which on Tuesday reported no new coronavirus-related deaths for the first time since March 2020, can also see the sunlit uplands of a post-pandemic future.
But the pandemic is hardly in retreat elsewhere. The emergence of more virulent variants of the virus in countries like Brazil and India and the slowness of vaccination efforts in many places outside the West have contributed to deadly new waves. Coronavirus case counts worldwide are already higher in 2021 than they were in 2020. The death toll almost certainly will be.
Washington Post, 168.5 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 2, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 60.1 % of the eligible population,12 and older and 50.8 % of the total population. See about your state.
Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: June2, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):
World Cases: 171,996,807, Deaths: 3,577,479
U.S. Cases: 34,136,738, Deaths: 610,436
India Cases: 28,307,832, Deaths: 335,114
Brazil Cases: 16,625,572, Deaths: 465,312
Washington Post, Opinion: We need to investigate the lab-leak theory — without inflaming anti-Asian hate, Leana S. Wen, June 2, 2021 (print ed.). The lab-leak hypothesis has emerged as one of two leading theories for how covid-19 began. As a physician, I believe it’s crucial to understand the origin of the pandemic and prevent future ones. As a Chinese American, I worry that unproven speculation could increase racist attacks against Chinese people and further fuel anti-Asian hate.
This is not a hypothetical concern. Since the beginning of the pandemic, people of Asian descent have been blamed for coronavirus, and harassed and assaulted as a result. In Texas, a man allegedly stabbed three members of an Asian American family, including children ages 2 and 6, because they were “Chinese and infecting people with the coronavirus.”
A medical student was assaulted near her hospital in New York City, with the perpetrator shouting “Chinese virus.” In Boston, a doctor taking care of covid-19 patients was followed as she left the hospital by someone who shouted profanities and asked her why the Chinese were killing people. According to the nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate, more than 6,600 anti-Asian American and Pacific Islander incidents have been reported between March 2020 and March 2021.
Washington Post, Inside Fauci’s spring 2020 emails with a Chinese official, Pence’s chief of staff, regular citizens, Damian Paletta and Yasmeen Abutaleb, June 2, 2021 (print ed.). Fauci’s correspondence from March and April 2020, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, offers a peek into his world during the frantic early days of the coronavirus crisis.
New York Times, Opinion: The End of the C.D.C. Eviction Moratorium Means Trouble, Peter Hepburn (an assistant professor of sociology at Rutgers University-Newark, runs the Eviction Tracking System at the Eviction Lab), June 2, 2021. A federal judge last month struck down the eviction moratorium put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Though the judge stayed her decision pending appeal, the ruling is a harbinger of the inevitable: the end of the federal eviction moratorium, which is set to expire on June 30.
With millions of tenants behind on rent and emergency rental assistance only now beginning to be disbursed, few states are ready for this eventuality.
According to the Covid-19 Housing Policy Scorecard — which is run by the Eviction Lab at Princeton where I work — only two states, Minnesota and Washington, afford renters strong pandemic-related protections, defined as freezing the eviction process in most or all cases. Thirty-nine states have few, if any, protections. No state that voted for Donald Trump in 2020 is still offering meaningful protections to renters.
The C.D.C. moratorium, which has now been in place for nine months, limits landlords’ ability to evict tenants who fall under certain income thresholds or are unable to pay rent because of a medical or economic hardship. Tenants must attest — and often prove under cross-examination in court — that they have made good-faith efforts to get rental assistance and have nowhere to go if evicted.
In anticipation of the end of federal renter protections, progressive housing activists persuaded lawmakers to make a robust investment in emergency rental assistance. Congress appropriated $25 billion in the Consolidated Appropriations Act in December and an additional $21.55 billion in the American Rescue Plan in March. These funds are intended to help renters catch up on back rent and to support landlords struggling to make mortgage and utility payments because of missed rent.
This aid, however, won’t be equally available everywhere. Congress allocated assistance on the basis of state population, without taking into account differences in the number of renter households, variation in the cost of rent, or the extent of pandemic-related hardship.
U.S. Crime, Courts, Race
Washington Post, Tampa man pleads guilty to felony in Jan. 6 Capitol riot; his sentencing could set bar for others, Spencer S. Hsu and Rachel Weiner, June 2, 2021. A Tampa man who carried a Trump flag into the well of the Senate on Jan. 6 pleaded guilty Wednesday to one felony count of storming the Capitol to obstruct Congress’s certification of the 2020 presidential election.
Paul Allard Hodgkins, 38, shown above, did not enter a cooperation deal with prosecutors, and he is not accused of any other wrongdoing or involvement with extremist groups.In admitting to the stiffest felony count charged by prosecutors against individuals not otherwise accused of conspiracy or violence in the Capitol riot, Hodgkins faces a prison sentence of 15 to 21 months under federal guidelines. His sentencing is poised to become a test case watched by other defendants deciding whether to accept pleas, several defense lawyers said.
“I have decided that I will accept this plea offer, and I will plead guilty to charge one,” Hodgkins told U.S. District Judge Randolph D. Moss.
Was the attack on the U.S. Capitol an attempted coup?
Hodgkins’s attorney, Patrick Leduc, said he would seek a lower sentence at a sentencing hearing as soon as July 19, and he asked the judge to waive a $7,500 to $75,000 fine because his client also agreed to pay $2,000 in restitution for his share of riot damage to the Capitol.
Prosecutor Mona Sedky estimated damage to the Capitol at $1.5 million — the first time prosecutors have given a public cost estimate.
“There’s no justification for January 6th. That’s why he is standing up and entering a plea of guilty. He acknowledges what he did was wrong, and there’s no excuses for it,” Leduc said afterward.
Hundreds of people stormed the Capitol. Most won’t face hefty prison terms, legal experts say.
“Paul is an Eagle Scout with no prior record, a working Joe who is a crane operator at a steel processing plant,” who spent 15 minutes inside the Capitol, Leduc said.
Prosecutors agreed to drop four misdemeanor counts of trespassing and disorderly conduct in the restricted Capitol building and grounds. They also agreed to give Hodgkins credit for accepting responsibility, pleading in a timely manner and paying compensation.
Hodgkins is one of about 450 defendants federally charged in the riot, which authorities said contributed to five deaths, assaults on nearly 140 police officers and the evacuation of a joint session of Congress.
Nearly half the defendants face only misdemeanor charges likely to carry no prison time for first offenders. However, about 200 are charged with obstructing an official proceeding of Congress and are accused of intending to impede or interfere with Congress’s confirmation of the electoral vote count. The charge carries a maximum 20-year prison term.
Vice, Investigation: QAnon Has a Disturbing Takeover Plot to ‘Eliminate’ Elected Officials, David Gilbert, June 2, 2021. A known grifter and QAnon supporter who claims she can time-travel has amassed an army of thousands of loyal followers to carry out a plot to oust elected officials across the country and replace them with QAnon believers—and she’s using game-streaming platform.
Terpsichore Maras-Lindeman has spent the last four months building an intricate network of groups in all 50 states, urging followers to dig up information about elected officials and cough up hundreds of dollars to take part in her scheme.
Maras-Lindeman has promised her followers that the plot will bring about “retaliation” for what she believes was a stolen election last November, and ultimately see the return of former president Donald Trump to the White House.
All the while, Maras-Lindeman, who streams under the name Tore Says, has grown her subscriber base massively, raking in tens of thousands of dollars since the beginning of the year. She even managed to convince her supporters to cough up over $87,400 in a crowdfunding campaign, which she used to buy a new Tesla.
Maras-Lindeman is part of a growing ecosystem of grifters and hucksters who are leveraging the widespread belief that Trump’s election loss was somehow orchestrated by shadowy figures and companies tied to the Democrats. This so-called “Big Lie” has taken hold within the mainstream Republican Party, and fringe figures like Maras-Lindeman have succeeded in carving out a niche that’s proving to be highly lucrative.
When President Joe Biden was inaugurated on January 20, QAnon supporters were distraught—after all, they were promised that would never happen.
Building the army on Twitch
For some it was the final straw, but others, who had spent years devoted to the conspiracy movement, needed something to latch onto—and Maras-Lindeman provided that.
A week after Biden’s inauguration, Maras-Lindeman outlined an audacious plan to oust sitting lawmakers across the country and replace them with Q believers who were tired of having elections stolen from them.
And they were going to begin with Ohio.
“Ohio’s gonna be lit, next week we’re gonna be setting some serious fires,” she told viewers on her Twitch channel, ToreSays, on Jan. 29. Then, she issued a warning to the lawmakers: “You want a great reset? Here it is. We’re gonna do it our way, and that’s by eliminating you.”
The plan was relatively simple: Maras-Lindeman claimed that vote-counting equipment used in states across the country were not properly certified and that as a result, all elected officials—both Democrat and Republican—were illegitimate. This opens the door for anyone to file what’s known as a “quo warranto” lawsuit, an arcane legal action that requires a person to show by what warrant an office or franchise is held, claimed, or exercised.
But so far neither Maras-Lindeman nor any of her supporters has provided evidence to back up their claims that the voting machines are invalid.
“From what I can discern, the final step is meeting at the Ohio Supreme Court, where they’ll look to have Ms. Lindeman filing their election fraud warrants, in an effort to remove the ‘illegally elected’ representatives, and take their place,” Genevieve Oh, a livestreaming analyst who has been closely tracking Maras-Lindeman’s activity on Twitch for months, told VICE News.
“Looking at her followers’ messages and reactions, she seems to have legitimately convinced her viewers they’re going to take Ohio Senate and House of Representatives’ seats through this movement,” Oh added.
So far over 60 people in Ohio alone have signed up to take part in this mass lawsuit filing, according to an online spreadsheet used by the group and seen by VICE News.
Over the course of the next four months, Maras-Lindeman’s support base grew dramatically on her Twitch channel. In parallel, she organized state-specific groups on the encrypted messaging app Telegram to allow citizens in those states to coordinate their efforts and get people to sign up to challenge elected officials.
Washington Post, Supreme Court will not take up Johnson & Johnson challenge of $2.1 billion cancer case award, Robert Barnes, June 2, 2021 (print ed.). The Supreme Court ruled in low-profile cases Tuesday, but it was the justices’ decision to bypass an appeal that might have the most lasting impact.
The court turned down a request from Johnson & Johnson to review a $2.1 billion award to women who claimed the company’s talc-based baby powder contained cancer-causing asbestos.
The company told the Supreme Court that a link to ovarian cancer from its product had not been proved. And it said a trial in St. Louis in which 22 plaintiffs from 12 states were allowed to press claims was so unfair that it violated the company’s right to due process.
As is its custom, the court did not provide a reason for turning down the case. Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Brett M. Kavanaugh recused themselves from considering it.
The company faces thousands of lawsuits regarding the talc-based powder, and last year it said it would stop selling the product in the United States and Canada. The company continues to sell a cornstarch version.
Washington Post, Airline passengers are behaving worse than ever. One proposed solution? Ban alcohol, Hannah Sampson, June 2, 2021 (print ed.) .Southwest, American and United have all taken steps to curb in-flight alcohol consumption — and, hopefully, passenger incidents.Washington Post, Summer evening in London’s Hyde Park shattered by machete-wielding gang, Jennifer Hassan, June 2, 2021. While guns are nearly absent in Britain, the country long has wrestled with rampant knife crime, which could be poised to rebound after a coronavirus-induced lull.
U.S. Politics, Governance
Washington Post, Republicans aren’t ‘looking forward.’ They’re stepping into a Jim Crow past, Dana Milbank, right, June 2, 2021 (print ed. Move along, the Republicans say. Nothing to see here.
“I’m looking forward not backward,” says Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.). “A lot of our members,” affirms Senate GOP whip John Thune (S.D.), “want to be moving forward and not looking backward.”
Yet, on the very day that pronouncement of forward motion appeared, Republicans took two giant steps backward.
That day in Texas, the Republican-controlled legislature tried to ram through a bill so flagrantly restricting the ability of Blacks and Latinos to vote that it wouldn’t have been entirely out of place in the Jim Crow era, before the Voting Rights Act of 1965. After Democrats temporarily foiled the plan by walking out and denying the legislature a quorum, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott tried some Lone Star authoritarianism: He threatened to defund the legislature.
Palmer Report, Opinion: Last night’s House special election just revealed the trajectory the Democrats are on for the 2022 midterms, Bill Palmer, right, June 2, 2021. Last night Democratic candidate Melanie Stansbury defeated Republican candidate Mark Moores in the special election to fill the U.S. House seat vacated by Deb Haaland when she became Secretary of the Interior. Stansbury was always going to win, given the demographics of her heavily Democratic-leaning district. But the margin of victory actually tells us something interesting.
Stansbury won last night by a whopping 29 points. That’s notable, given that Haaland only won reelection by 17 points last November. That’s a twelve point gain for the Democrats, in this same district, in just six months.
To be clear, there were other factors involved. The Republican candidate ran a troubled campaign in this special election, to say the least. But on the other hand, the Democrats lacked an incumbency advantage in this special election, which they had in this same district back in November. You can say that these two factors may have moved the needle a few points in either direction, but not twelve points.
It’s pretty clear what two things moved the needle this much in yesterday’s special election: 1) President Biden has a high approval rating thus far, meaning voters in the middle are trending Democrat even more so now than they were in November. 2) Liberal activists are more motivated to win right now than conservative activists, which makes sense given the right wing disarray created by Trump’s ongoing downfall.
I remember back when the first meaningful special election took place after the 2016 election, and the Democrats outperformed by about five points. Most observers were disheartened by the fact that the Democrat still lost. But I pointed out that the outperformance pointed to good things for the Democrats in the 2018 midterms. Sure enough, that’s when they won control of the House.
So last night’s twelve point outperformance in the New Mexico special election can also be seen as a positive sign for the Democrats in terms of where things are trending toward in the 2022 midterms. Of course liberal activists will still have to put in the work in order to retain control of the House and Senate, given that the Republicans are supposed to have a natural advantage in 2022. But now we have some hard data that points to Democrats being on track to potentially outperform in 2022 after all.
Anchorage Daily News, Biden administration suspends oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alex DeMarban, June 2, 2021 (print ed.). The U.S. Interior Department said Tuesday that it will suspend controversial oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that were issued in the final days of the Trump administration.
The agency will also conduct a “comprehensive” environmental analysis of the oil and gas leasing program in the refuge, which Congress approved in 2017 at the urging of Alaska’s congressional delegation after decades of failed attempts.
“The department is notifying lessees that it is suspending oil and gas leases in the Arctic Refuge, pending the review, to determine whether the leases should be reaffirmed, voided, or subject to additional mitigation measures,” the agency said in a statement Tuesday.
During his campaign, President Joe Biden vowed to permanently protect the refuge from drilling, and on his first day in office he placed a temporary moratorium on oil and gas activity in the refuge. Biden’s order suggested that a review of the oil and gas program, conducted by the Trump administration, was legally flawed.
Conservation and tribal groups who are suing to stop development in the refuge, amid concerns about impacts to imperiled polar bears, caribou and Native subsistence hunters, supported the move announced Tuesday.
But news of the lease suspensions angered Alaska leaders and others who have long sought oil production within the 1.6-million-acre coastal plain inside the refuge.
“We are very disappointed with this decision,” said Alan Weitzner, executive director of the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority.
The state agency snatched up seven of nine leases in a Jan. 6 lease sale held under the Trump administration in the hope that it could one day attract private partners to eventually explore the coastal plain for oil.
The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated that the coastal plain could hold 8 billions of barrels of oil. Alaska leaders have long sought to allow drilling in the area, about 8% of the 19-million-acre refuge. A major oil discovery would boost jobs, state revenues and help keep oil flowing in the 800-mile trans-Alaska pipeline.
The Interior Department’s announcement comes just days after the Biden administration threw its support behind ConocoPhillips’ large Willow oil field, in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska west of the refuge. Related story:
Washington Post, Administration suspends oil and gas leases in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Juliet Eilperin and Joshua Partlow, June 2, 2021 (print ed.). The Biden administration on Tuesday suspended oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, targeting one of President Donald Trump’s most significant environmental acts during his last days in office.
The move by the Interior Department, which could spark a major legal battle, dims the prospect of oil drilling in a pristine and politically charged expanse of Alaskan wilderness that Republicans and Democrats have fought over for four decades. The Trump administration auctioned off the right to drill in the refuge’s coastal plain — home to hundreds of thousands of migrating caribou and waterfowl as well as the southern Beaufort Sea’s remaining polar bears — just two weeks before President Biden was inaugurated.
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Now the Biden administration is taking steps to block those leases, citing problems with the environmental review process. In Tuesday’s Interior Department order, Secretary Deb Haaland, right, said that a review of the Trump administration’s leasing program in the wildlife refuge found “multiple legal deficiencies” including “insufficient analysis” required by environmental laws and a failure to assess other alternatives. Haaland’s order calls for a temporary moratorium on all activities related to those leases in order to conduct “a new, comprehensive analysis of the potential environmental impacts of the oil and gas program.”
The step, coming just days after the Justice Department defended another drilling project on Alaska’s North Slope, underscores the balancing act the new administration aims to strike as it slows fossil fuel development on public lands. While Biden has paused new federal oil and gas leasing and pledged to drastically cut the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, he has taken a much more cautious approach toward most oil and gas operations approved under his predecessor
Washington Post, What lawmakers, White House officials have said about UFOs, Staff reports, June 2, 2021 (print ed.) (video). From former president Barack Obama to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), here’s what lawmakers have said about UFOs in the past.
Washington Post, Analysis: At least 20 Republican senators didn’t meet with Brian Sicknick’s family, Jacqueline Alemany, June 2, 2021. Many said they had scheduling issues that prevented them from meeting with Gladys Sicknick, the mother of a U.S. Capitol Police officer who died after the Jan. 6 riot.
NO SHOWS: Before Senate Republicans blocked the creation of a bipartisan commission to investigate the events of Jan. 6, Gladys Sicknick, the mother of late U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick (above) — who lost his life shortly after defending the Capitol that day — requested meetings with every GOP senator to advocate for the proposal.
At least 20 Republican senators did not meet with Sicknick’s mother, according to a list obtained by The Washington Post. Asked why they were not able to meet with Gladys Sicknick, who was accompanied by her son’s former partner, Sandra Garza, several of the offices cited scheduling issues.
Washington Post, This Senate is the oldest in American history. Should we do anything about it? Roxanne Roberts, June 2, 2021. How old is too old to be a United States senator?
Consider, for a moment, the octogenarians in office. Dianne Feinstein, right, the oldest sitting senator, turns 88 this month. She’s served since 1992. Charles Grassley, three months younger, celebrates his 88th birthday in September. He’s held the job for 40 years.
Richard Shelby is 87. James Inhofe is 86. Pat Leahy is 81. The three men have served in the senate for a total of 106 years.
And there are plenty more right behind them: Twenty-three members of the Senate are in their 70s; only one is under 40. According to the Congressional Research Service, the average age of senators at the beginning of this year was 64.3 years — the oldest in history.
Senior senators often stay for decades because voters are reluctant to give up the perks of incumbency: Seniority, committee chairmanships and all the money poured into their states. West Virginia’s Robert Byrd, who was in his ninth term when he died at age 92, funneled an estimated $10 billion to his constituents during his 51 years in the Senate, according to the Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History.
Which brings us to Feinstein. The senior senator from California, who has served for 28 years, has spent the last year defending her fitness for the job. During the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, liberals believed Feinstein was far too conciliatory and called for her to give up her seat on the Judiciary Committee.
Feinstein won a sixth term in 2018 when she was 85, easily defeating a more progressive candidate. Is all this chatter about her fitness a way for critics to replace her with a younger, more liberal senator? Or are there real issues about her health and acuity?
Naftali Bennett, left, may become Israel’s next prime minister, succeeding Benjamin Netanyhu, at right, his onetime mentor and now opponent.
Washington Post, Snubbed, fired and vilified, Israeli opposition lawmakers unite in disdain for Netanyahu, Steve Hendrix and Shira Rubin, June 2, 2021 (print ed.). The governing coalition now poised to take power in Israel is an ideological mix — many would say mess — of factions that range from religiously oriented advocates of Jewish settlements in the West Bank to secular supporters of an independent Palestinian state.
But there is one thing they all agree on: It is time for Benjamin Netanyahu to go.
This new government, if it is voted into power by the parliament in coming days, will be the anti-Netanyahu government. The organizing principle of the “change coalition” is the assertion that the prime minister’s dogged push to keep his office after four inconclusive elections is harming the country.
Netanyahu, who was indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in 2019 and has been on trial for a year, has waged a scorched-earth campaign against prosecutors and judges. He dissolved parliament in 2018 rather than let rivals have a chance to form a government. And he has railed against lawmakers wanting to replace him as leftist radicals, raising fears of political violence harking back to the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a right-wing Jewish nationalist.
Washington Post, What to know about Naftali Bennett, the Israeli politician who could succeed Benjamin Netanyahu, Miriam Berger, June 2, 2021 (print ed.). Though still to be confirmed by Israel’s parliament, the deal on the table would make a former Netanyahu protege, Naftali Bennett, Israel’s next prime minister — at least for a fixed time, according to the terms of the bargain taking shape, before handing off to Yair Lapid, a centrist politician.
Though Bennett’s party trailed far behind both Netanyahu and Lapid’s in the last election, a rising push to oust Netanyahu in divergent quarters, amid political deadlock, has allowed him to emerge as a key power broker.
Here is what to know about Bennett, a technology millionaire turned far-right religious lawmaker, who is a staunch supporter of Israeli settlements and opponent of a Palestinian state.
Washington Post, Opinion: What the U.S. should learn from Israel’s odd-couple proposed government, David Ignatius, right, June 2, 2021 (print ed.). The United States could take a lesson from what’s happening this week in Israel, where two radically diverging wings of Israeli politics have united in opposing the polarizing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid couldn’t disagree more about big issues.
Bennett is an Orthodox Jewish former settler leader who wants to annex the West Bank; Lapid is a secular Jew who favors a two-state solution to the Palestinian problem. Yet the two joined forces last weekend for what supporters call a “change government.”
The mission is to oust Netanyahu and end the impasse in Israeli politics he helped create.Netanyahu is the ultimate political survivor. He has remained prime minister for the past 12 years in part because of his genius at exploiting the divisions in Israeli society for his own benefit. He exploited “wedge politics” much like his political ally, former president Donald Trump. He has kept his post despite a 2019 indictment on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, and a trial that resumed in April, in which he has pleaded not guilty.
What has happened in Israel to produce this extraordinary (if precarious) movement for national unity? Partly it’s frustration with the political impasse Netanyahu produced as he held office through four inconclusive elections over the past two years. Partly, it’s a feeling of disgust about Netanyahu continuing to hold power even as he stands trial on charges that he abused it.
Most of all, I suspect, Bennett and Lapid have come together because of a shared passion for the well-being of their country. And that’s the point that I wish Americans could learn from watching this episode. This seems to be a moment where Israel’s version of “red” and “blue” states — people who disagree about fundamental issues — have decided to put those divisions aside because of something that’s more important: national survival.
Washington Post, Covid pushed millions from the middle class to poverty. One man is trying to work his way back, Anthony Faiola and Megan Janetsky, June 2, 2021 (print ed.). The pandemic dealt a blow to Latin America’s middle class, leaving millions who had spent a lifetime climbing the social ladder looking for a way back up.
Marlon Mendoza, certified Cartagena tour guide, stopped in the shade of a Spanish Colonial balcony and scanned the old slave market for prospects.
“#Localcartagenatours. Nobody Does It Better Than the Locals,” his T-shirt promised, although there were hardly any tourists left to look. Hundreds of miles away, American beach towns, amply supplied with vaccines, were back in business. But here, the pandemic was only getting worse, evaporating the seas of sightseers in the bougainvillea-lined streets of Old Town.
The stocky 36-year-old sized up the slim pickings and zeroed in on a pale European couple.
He hesitated. He is a Black Colombian, and his market was African Americans. They’d filled his Afro-centric tours exposing the heroes of Colombia’s showcase city as slavers. But that was before the pandemic punched a hole in the developing world’s middle class, sending millions careening back down the social ladders they’d spent lifetimes ascending.
If history were any guide, it would take a Black man in Latin America far longer to recover. And Mendoza was down deep. In the 15 months since Colombia’s first confirmed coronavirus case, he’d been evicted from his office and pulled his 7-year-old out of private school. He’d moved his family out of the city and back to the dirt-road village of his birth.
The rent was due in five days and he was still short $60. A day’s worth of tips before, a king’s ransom today.
Business card out, he approached the Europeans. “It’s cool. I’m a winner, a builder, a creator,” he said, flashing a broad smile. “Better to laugh than cry. It gets you more clients.”
Washington Post, Opinion: Trump’s blog just shut down. Without the mainstream media, he’s starving, Paul Waldman, right, June 2, 2021. The heyday of blogging may have been 15 years ago or so, but there are always those who try to find success in the old forms. Alas, it doesn’t always work out, as a certain prominent media figure just discovered:
Former president Donald Trump’s blog, celebrated by advisers as a “beacon of freedom” that would keep him relevant in an online world he once dominated, is dead. It was 29 days old.
Upset by reports from The Washington Post and other outlets highlighting its measly readership and concerns that it could detract from a social media platform he wants to launch later this year, Trump ordered his team Tuesday to put the blog out of its misery, advisers said.
On its last day, the site was shared or commented on on Facebook and Twitter just 1,500 times — a staggering drop for someone whose every tweet once garnered hundreds of thousands of reactions.
Maybe he should have tried Substack? I hear that’s the next big thing.
Through Trump’s presidency, it was often noted that he had a unique ability to command the nation’s attention, even more so than previous presidents. He was a constant presence in our consciousness, every hour and every minute, forcing himself in front of our eyes with a barrage of tweets, outrageous comments and never-ending controversies.
But his current travails demonstrate how much Trump was always dependent on the mainstream media he both hated and sought the approval of. Like a tree falling in the forest, Trump barely makes a sound unless those supposedly stodgy legacy outlets are there to amplify him.
Washington Post, Trump has grown increasingly consumed with ballot audits as he pushes falsehood that election was stolen, Josh Dawsey and Rosalind S. Helderman, June 2, 2021. Former president Donald Trump remains relentlessly focused on the false claim that the November election was stolen from him and is increasingly consumed with the notion that ballot reviews pushed by his supporters around the country could prove that he won, according to people familiar with his comments.
Trump has rebuffed calls from some advisers to drop the matter, instead fixating on an ongoing Republican-commissioned audit in Arizona and plotting how to secure election reviews in other states, such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Georgia, according to advisers. He is most animated by the efforts in Fulton County, Ga., and Maricopa County, Ariz., according to two advisers who, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.
Trump’s interest has been fueled by conversations he has had with an array of figures who have publicly touted false claims of election fraud. Among them, according to advisers, is Christina Bobb, a host at the One America News network who has privately discussed the Arizona audit with the former president and his team; Mike Lindell, the chief executive of the company MyPillow; and Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R), who urged the state’s congressional delegation to reject Biden’s victory there last fall.
Trump has become so fixated on the audits that he suggested recently to allies that their success could result in his return to the White House this year, according to people familiar with comments he has made. Some advisers said that such comments appear to be just offhand musings.
Trump’s deepening preoccupation with post-election audits has created a singular situation, one in which a former president is regularly attacking the electoral legitimacy of his successor. And it comes as a coterie of his most devoted supporters have intensified their own rhetoric, making allusions to undemocratic actions that could result in Trump’s return.
Palmer Report, Opinion: So that explains why Donald Trump pulled that “reinstatement” stunt yesterday, Bill Palmer, June 2, 2021. Yesterday Donald Trump make the disturbing, dangerous, and yet entirely delusional claim that he’ll somehow magically be back in the Oval Office by this August. It’s something that obviously won’t happen, and it was clear that Trump was merely trying to grab headlines for it – even if those headlines were laughing at him and/or condemning him. Now we have a better understanding of why he did it.
Today, Trump’s handlers quietly announced that his ill-fated blog has been taken down. This doesn’t come as a surprise. Virtually no one was reading it – not even his own supporters – meaning he was making the effort for nothing. Worse for him, his blog was starting to generate embarrassing headlines about the fact that no one was reading it. He had to kill it off, before it became even more of a debilitating punchline for him.
But now Trump’s stunt yesterday makes more sense. Twenty-four hours later, his announcement that he’ll be “reinstated” as President in August is still dominating the headlines, meaning he’s getting fewer headlines about the demise of his blog. Trump pulled this kind of misdirection stuff all the time while he was in office, and the media played along willingly. Even now that Trump is out of office, powerless, and a punchline, he’s still occasionally able to get the media to do his bidding. But it doesn’t change the fact that he’s now so irrelevant, he can’t even get anyone to read his blog.
Washington Post, Trump’s company will try again to sell lease for its D.C. hotel, Jonathan O’Connell and Shayna Jacobs, June 2, 2021 (print ed.). The former president’s company previously considered selling the lease to its luxury Washington hotel before covid struck.
Former president Donald Trump’s company has again hired a broker to sell the lease to its D.C. hotel, according to two people familiar with the discussions, a second attempt to unload the property after the pandemic thwarted a previous effort.
The Trump Organization previously listed the Pennsylvania Avenue hotel, in the federally owned Old Post Office Pavilion, in the fall of 2019. When covid-19 struck, many hotels closed either completely or partially due to government shutdowns, and the company pulled the property off the market.
Now, with Trump under investigation by prosecutors in New York and the economy beginning to take off, his company is trying again, hiring the brokerage firm Newmark Group to market the lease, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share private business discussions.
Representatives for the Trump Organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A representative of Newmark Group declined to comment.
The hotel, which Trump’s company leases from the General Services Administration, has suffered financially from both the toll covid has taken on luxury travel and the damage Trump’s brand has endured due to his politics, with many liberal, corporate and international clients unwilling to book rooms or events at the hotel
Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion:( WMR), Think tank wars and the enforcement of thought crime laws, Wayne Madsen, below left, June 2, 2021. The United States, Russia, Britain, and other countries are waging a war that pits think tank against think tank and criminalizes ideas and opinions.
That war heated up on April 15 when the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed financial sanctions on the Moscow-based think tank, Strategic Culture Foundation (SCF), for whom this editor has written for over ten years.
OFAC alleged, without much in the way of any hard evidence, that SCF was an arm of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, the SVR. Treasury’s sanctions came after a 2020 State Department Global Engagement Center (GEC) report that illustrated the opinions being expressed by SCF and other Russian think tanks and news organizations as similar to Covid-19 virus microbes.Neither State nor Treasury could make up their minds about what Russian government entity allegedly controls SCF, with both the SVR and Russian Foreign Ministry being the accused controllers of the puppet strings.
In the information dictatorship of today’s America, the citizenry may only place their trust in outlets like the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and other “Pravda on the Potomac” media courtiers for the Washington establishment, which includes the useless paper pushers, dispatchers of bovine excrement, and keyboard jockeys at State and Treasury.
There is one inconvenient truth about the censors of State and Treasury. Not once did SCF, Press TV of Iran, TeleSur of Venezuela, or CCTV of China caution me about referring on air or in writing about the creeping doctrinaire fascism that began taking over the United States during both Republican and Democratic administrations, going back to that of Ronald Reagan.
Only until recent times have the corporate media of the United States and other Western industrialized nations began tolerating the use of the terms “fascism,” “neo-Nazism,” and “white nationalism” to describe authoritarian political movements. Fascism is what’s now for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the U.S. Republican Party, the British Conservative Party, and various other far-right movements associated with international fascists like Steve Bannon, left, and his Chinese financier Guo Wengui, Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Robert and Rebekah Mercer, Michael Flynn, Li Hongzhi and his Falun Gong and Epoch Times newspaper, Nigel Farage, and other malcontents of fascist fringe politics.
The real threats to U.S. national security do not come from SCF or other think tanks supported by Russia, Iran, China, Venezuela, Cuba, Syria, or Serbia but from homegrown think tanks of the right-wing.
The Hindu, Veteran Indian-origin journalist Tejinder Singh passes away, Staff Reports, June 2, 2021. Pentagon Press Secretary John F Kirby condoled his death at a press briefing on Tuesday. Tejinder Singh, a veteran White House correspondent and founder and editor of the India America Today newswire, has passed away in the U.S., the publication has announced.
Singh, left, founded India America Today, an independent media organisation and news provider based in Washington, DC.
“India America Today is deeply grieved to announce the passing of our Founder and Editor @tejindersingh. He launched IAT in 2012, and we will continue to carry on the work that he started. RIP Editor,” the publication said on Twitter on May 29.
Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby (shown in a file photo) condoled his death at a press briefing on Tuesday.
“We here at the Pentagon would like to take a moment to express our condolences and sympathies for the passing of Mr. Tejinder Singh, who many of you know was the founder and editor of India America Today,” he said.
“He was a Pentagon Correspondent since 2011, and I dealt with him from this podium, I’ve dealt with him when I was at the State Department podium, and the one word, I mean, the word one that comes to mind when you think of Tejinder is gentleman,” Mr. Kirby said.
“He was a real gentleman, good reporter, damn good reporter. Asked tough questions and produced good stuff, but he was a heck of a man… a gentleman as I said. And we’re going to miss him, we’re all going to miss him, and I know you guys feel the same way,” he said.
He was the Vice-President (Print) for the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA-DC) 2011-12.
OpEdNews, Commentary: Red Alert: Progressives, Democrats Must Confront Republican “Trigger Words” or Lose Seats and Both Houses in 2022, Robert Weiner and Adjanni Ramos, June 2, 2021. Democrats are slowly moving toward losing to Republicans in the House or Senate during Biden’s first off-year election, as they did during Clinton and Obama.
As sure as day, Republicans will say: “Police Defunding,” “Socialism,” “Big Spenders,” “Government Overreach,” “Over-regulation,” “Tax Increases”, and “Hyping the Capitol Riots.”
These are Republican trigger words that voters historically react to, and Democrats repeatedly fail to give good counterpoints to. Democrats must have short, punchy, pithy, persuasive counterattacks.
“Democrats are socialist.” Republicans love calling Democrats and their agendas socialists. Sen. Mitch McConnell and his team (R-KY) want to say they’re going to stop Democrats from passing their “socialist” bills. After President Biden offered his Infrastructure Plan, Republicans began accusing it of being a calling it a “Soviet-style…wish list”
Every time Republicans talk about socialism amongst Democrats, which this is not, Democrats can point out the fascist tendencies in Trump’s language and actions.
Republicans want to lower taxes on the rich and wealthy and pass voting laws that restrict voting. President Joe Biden has openly said, “I beat the socialists. That’s how I got elected. That’s how I got the nomination.” But he and all Democratic and progressive candidates need to say they are supporting “people programs, which are what Republicans oppose.” Are libraries, Medicare, pubic colleges and school education and K-12 schools, food security, fire departments, drug treatment, assistance to hospitals, needed housing assistance, working roads/bridges/tunnels/electric grids/updated computer systems, even aid to small businesses and restaurants devastated by Covid, “socialist?” or self interested help by the nation to people to help the country work better?
Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) have both self-identified as socialists but base their belief system on programs for people rather than dictators.
Nonetheless, Biden and Congressional candidates have to say, “I own the middle which most Democrats want, and define the middle as fixing the services — like infrastructure — that polls show the vast majority of Americans want.”
Palmer Report, Opinion: Predicting the apocalypse, Robert Harrington, right, June 2, 2021. Armageddon dates come and go and are as quickly forgotten as they are quickly invented. And yet the people and the politicians and the religious nut jobs who make such predictions seem to do all right after their doomsday adventisms fall flat, for the most part. It’s partly what keeps them coming back. There are no significant consequences for such predictions.
While it isn’t precisely an end of the world scenario, Donald Trump’s insistence that he will somehow be miraculously “reinstated” into the office of the president of the United States in August might as well be. Such a thing would mean the end of America as we know it, of course. But it’s not going to happen. I’m pretty sure about that.
But it’s interesting how Trump and his loony followers keep getting away with such nonsense with very little embarrassment or pushback. Who recalls that March 4, 2021, was supposed to be the date for Trump’s second inaugural? In fact, January 20 2021 was soberly posited as the date for Trump’s second inaugural by Kayleigh McEnany and many conservative TV pundits even after the election. That was when a bona fide loony member of the Trump squad even blithely and personally informed me about how sorry I was going to be when Trump became “my” president again.
Of course, this is Trump trying to stir up another insurrection without actually coming right out and saying it. Like the apocalyptic doomsayers of the past he’s hoping he gets lucky. If not he believes he has plausible deniability in that he never actually called specifically for an insurrection. He left all that up to Michael Flynn. Just as Flynn lacks the courage to take responsibility for his words, Trump lacks the courage to say such a thing openly in the first place.
Anyway, you need not fear such a thing. Trump and his followers are no match for the American army in the capable hands of the Biden administration. Even so, it’s troubling that there are so many stupid people willing to believe that democracy is somehow best served by a usurping tyrant. That is the failure of education and the inadequate distribution of common sense.
- New York Times, Biden Meets With Survivors 100 Years After Tulsa Massacre
- Proof via Substack, New Video: See the Terrifying, Seditious Propaganda Video Released at the Dallas QAnon Conference Headlined By Trump Advisers Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell, Seth Abramson
- New York Times, Opinion: The Radical Modesty of Biden’s Budget, Paul Krugman
- Washington Post, After defeating voting limits, Tex. Democrats call on Congress to protect rights
- Washington Post, Analysis: The dramatic fight in Texas over voting obscures the point that almost no demonstrated fraud exists, Philip Bump
- Washington Post, Alzheimer’s drug spurs emotional battle as FDA nears deadline for approval
- Washington Post, Anarchists and an increase in crime hijack Portland’s social justice movement
Pro-Trump Jan. 6 Riot, Insurrection
- Palmer Report, Opinion: “They’re getting away with it all!” Bill Palmer
- Proof via Substack, Investigation: Insurrection Update #2, Seth Abramson
- Washington Post, At Texas event with QAnon ties, Louie Gohmert downplays Jan. 6: ‘It wasn’t just right-wing extremists’
Virus Victims, Responses
- Washington Post, Live Updates: Peru revises death toll, claims the world’s worst coronavirus mortality per capita
- Washington Post, 168.5 million U.S. vaccinated
- Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals, U.S. Deaths: 609,767
- New York Times, Live Updates: Some U.S. Prisons Surpass Public Covid Vaccination Rates
U.S. Politics, Governance
- Washington Post, Opinion: A frantic warning from 100 leading experts: Our democracy is in grave danger, Greg Sargent
- New York Times, Push for Voting Overhaul in Congress Falters
- Washington Post, FEC spares Trump but fines tabloid publisher for hush-money payment to ex-Playboy model who claimed affair with him
- Washington Post, Democrat wins New Mexico special election for U.S. House, overcoming a Republican emphasis on rising crime
- New York Times, A New Mexico special election will test the Republican Party’s focus on crime
- Washington Post, Hack exposed government’s light-touch oversight of pipeline security
- MailOnline US, Revealed: 90s Tarzan star Joe Lara, his Christian diet guru wife Gwen and five other members of controversial church ‘were en route to MAGA rally featuring Roger Stone’ when plane crashed and killed all seven onboard
- Washington Post, Israel’s Netanyahu fights to block opposition parties from taking power
- Washington Post, Vatican clarifies penalties for priests who sexually abuse minors in first rewrite of internal penal code in almost 40 years
- Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Book Update: May 2021 Update to the “2021 WMR International Political Handbook: Vital Information for an Ever-Changing World,” Wayne Madsen
U.S. Crime, Guns, Courts, Race
- Washington Post, Texas man who planned ‘mass casualty event’ at Walmart had assault weapons, racist symbols, police said
- Washington Post, FBI agent charged with attempted murder in shooting of passenger on Metro train
- New York Times, Retired F.B.I. Agent Is Accused of Swindling Texas Woman Out of $800,00
U.S. Education, Media, Culture News
- New York Times, As Harvard Case Looms at Supreme Court, Study Tests Value of Diversity
- New York Times, Disputing Racism’s Reach, Republicans Rattle American Schools
- New York Times, A Rural-Urban Broadband Divide. Not the One You Think Of
- Raw Story, WATCH: Boat explodes just after passengers harass family with Pride flag
Oklahoma City scene of devastation in its once-prosperous African-American Greenwood section burned during a white mob’s massacre of residents in 1921 (Oklahoma Historical Society Photo).
New York Times, Biden Meets With Survivors 100 Years After Tulsa Massacre, Michael D. Shear, June 1, 2021. President Biden’s visit is meant to lift the silence surrounding the deaths of hundreds of Black residents at the hands of an angry white mob.
President Biden met privately on Tuesday with surviving members of the 1921 massacre in Greenwood, the African-American community in Tulsa, Okla., that was destroyed by a white mob 100 years ago, helping to shine a spotlight on one of the worst outbreaks of racist violence in American history as he strives to make racial equity and justice central themes of his presidency.
Mr. Biden was the first president to visit Tulsa to commemorate the massacre. The survivors he will meet with — each between the ages of 101 and 107 — lived through the events of May 31 and June 1 in 1921, when angry whites descended on Greenwood, a prosperous part of Tulsa known as Black Wall Street, killing as many as 300 people and destroying more than 1,250 homes. The violent and searing episode was rarely mentioned in history books.
In remarks during his visit, Mr. Biden highlighted steps his administration is taking to help financially struggling minority communities and to begin to close the wealth gap between Black and white people in the United States, according to administration officials.
The president’s announcements — timed to underscore the legacy of anti-Black sentiment that fueled the mob in Greenwood — included efforts to direct more federal spending to small and minority-owned business, fair housing enhancements, and programs that are intended to repair the damage to neighborhoods divided by transportation projects.
Proof via Substack, New Video: See the Terrifying, Seditious Propaganda Video Released at the Dallas QAnon Conference Headlined By Trump Advisers Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell, Seth Abramson, left, June 1. Warning: this video is profoundly disturbing. It’s insurrectionist multimedia sponsoring the overthrow of America’s democratically elected government, not in a distant future but soon: in August 2021.
New York Times, Opinion: The Radical Modesty of Biden’s Budget, Paul Krugman, right, June 1, 2021 (print ed.). Many reports about the Biden administration’s budget proposal, released Friday, convey the sense that it’s huge. President Biden, scream some of the headlines, wants to spend SIX TRILLION DOLLARS next year. (Sorry, can’t help doing my best Dr. Evil imitation.)
It takes some digging to learn that the baseline — the amount the administration estimates we’d spend next fiscal year without new policies — is $5.7 trillion.
In fact, one of the most striking things about Biden’s budget initiative — arguably about his whole administration — is its relative modesty in terms of both money spent and claims about what that spending would accomplish. He is neither proposing nor promising a revolution, just policies that would make Americans’ lives significantly better.
And I, for one, find this hugely refreshing after Former Guy’s achievement-free bombast.
Now, the Biden plan is by no means trivial. The budget proposes spending 24.5 percent of G.D.P. over the next decade, up from a baseline of 22.7 percent. That increase, mainly driven by increased expenditures for infrastructure and families, is bigger than it looks because so much of the baseline is devoted to the military, Medicare and Social Security. But it’s not socialism, either. It would still leave the United States with a smaller government than most other wealthy countries’.
Still, the extra spending would make a huge difference to some economic sectors, notably renewable energy, and vastly improve some American lives, especially those of lower-income families with children.
Notably, however, the administration is not claiming that these policies would dramatically accelerate economic growth. Former Guy’s economists predicted that their policies would produce sustained G.D.P. growth of 3 percent a year, which would have been extraordinary in an economy whose working-age population is barely growing. Biden’s economists are projecting growth of less than 2 percent after the economy has bounced back from the pandemic.
Washington Post, After defeating voting limits, Tex. Democrats call on Congress to protect rights, Amy Gardner, June 1, 2021 (print ed.). The coordinated walkout jolted the national debate about voting rights, putting the spotlight on federal voting rights legislation that has been stalled in the Senate.
Texas Democrats who defeated a Republican effort to pass a suite of new voting restrictions with a dramatic late-night walkout from the state House chamber on Sunday have a message for President Biden and his allies in Congress: If we can protect voting rights, you can, too.
The surprise move by roughly 60 Democratic lawmakers headed off the expected passage of S.B. 7, a voting measure that would have been one of the most stringent in the nation, by denying Republicans a required quorum and forcing them to abruptly adjourn without taking a vote.
The coordinated walkout just after 10:30 p.m. Central time jolted the national debate on voting rights, putting the spotlight on Democratic-backed federal legislation that has been stalled in the Senate all spring, even as state Republicans move to enact new voting rules.
“We knew today, with the eyes of the nation watching action in Austin, that we needed to send a message,” state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, a San Antonio Democrat, said at a news conference held at a historically Black church in Austin early Monday, shortly after he and other lawmakers left the state Capitol. “And that message is very, very clear: Mr. President, we need a national response to federal voting rights.”
Republicans control every branch of Texas government and hold firm majorities in both the House and Senate. While Gov. Greg Abbott (R), right, vowed late Sunday to bring the voting measure back at a special legislative session for redistricting later this year — and threatened to defund the legislature in a tweet on Monday — the walkout represented an unmistakable and shocking defeat for Republican leaders who had assumed the bill would pass ahead of the House’s midnight deadline to finish its 2021 business.
Washington Post, Analysis: The dramatic fight in Texas over voting obscures the point that almost no demonstrated fraud exists, Philip Bump, June 1, 2021. Texas’s legislature meets every two years, with its 2021 session coming to an end at midnight on Sunday. The Republican majority in the state House had hoped to pass new constraints on voting in the state, but were unable to do so after Democrats walked out, preventing the chamber from reaching the quorum needed for a vote. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) responded by saying he would dock the legislators’ pay, reflecting the fury of his party at the unexpected play by their political opponents.
The proposed legislation in Texas was an echo of other bills passed in a number of states since the 2020 election, including new restrictions on voting implemented in Georgia and Florida. The path to a gubernatorial signature in those other states twisted in different ways, with Georgia’s early position on the effort drawing national scrutiny and blowback. The root is obviously the same: dishonest claims from former president Donald Trump that the 2020 election was riddled by fraud have prompted Republican voters to embrace the false idea that the security of voting is imperiled. So we have late-night machinations in Austin including quiet text messages and exasperated legislators.
All of that drama, though, can obscure the central point: There is no evidence of any rampant fraud in Texas or anywhere else, meaning the purported rationale for the legislation itself doesn’t exist.
From 2015 to 2020, a period during which more than 44.1 million votes were cast for presidential and gubernatorial races and for constitutional measures alone, there were only 197 complaints of election fraud filed with the state. Only 23 were from the 2020 election itself. The office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) devoted more than 22,000 hours to tracking down fraud cases last year, closing out 16 minor cases around Houston.
As the legislature considered new legislation focused on fraud, the head of the election fraud department in Paxton’s office claimed the number of fraud cases was “higher than our historical average by a long shot,” totaling “510 offenses pending against 43 defendants in court.” However: “Only one of those pending cases stems from the 2020 election, in which more than 11 million Texans cast ballots,” as a Houston Chronicle fact check pointed out.
That fact check was a response to a CNN appearance by Texas state Sen. Bryan Hughes (R), in which he repeatedly claimed there were “over 400 open cases of investigations of voter fraud” in the state. There were not.
Texas has a history of trying to implement new voting restrictions that courts have determined disproportionately affect non-White voters — voters who tend to vote more heavily Democratic. The Obama administration blocked an attempt by the state to impose new voting restrictions using its power under the Voting Rights Act. After the conservative majority on the Supreme Court gutted the provisions of that law, Texas’s then-attorney general, Greg Abbott, quickly moved to implement the law’s provisions.
It’s also not a coincidence that the states that have been quickest to implement new restrictions are ones in which the legislature is controlled by Republicans but in which Democrats are posing an increasing statewide electoral threat.
- Washington Post, Tex. Democrats block restrictive voting bill by walking off floor,
- Washington Post, Tex. GOP finalizes bill that would enact stiff voting restrictions, make it easier to overturn election results
Washington Post, Alzheimer’s drug spurs emotional battle as FDA nears deadline for approval, Laurie McGinley, June 1, 2021 (print ed.). If cleared, the drug would be the first for slowing cognitive decline, but critics say the data does not prove it works.
When Phil Gutis was diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease at 54, he immediately enrolled in a clinical trial for an experimental drug but had little hope of being helped. Over time, though, he started feeling better, his brain less cloudy.
“There was just a fogginess I remember having a couple of years ago that I don’t really feel I have now,” said Gutis, who has received monthly infusions of a medication called aducanumab for five years, except for a short interruption.
Now, he is hoping others with the disease will have a chance to try the drug. But he is worried that the Food and Drug Administration, which is weighing whether to approve the drug, will reject it, derailing the medication and jeopardizing his ability to get the treatment.
“Would my world become fuzzy again?” said Gutis, who lives in New Hope, Pa., with his husband and is a former reporter. “I don’t want to go backward.”
By June 7, the FDA is expected to make one of its most important decisions in years: whether to approve the drug for mild cognitive impairment or early-stage dementia caused by Alzheimer’s. It would be the first treatment ever sold to slow the deterioration in brain function caused by the disease, not just to ease symptoms. And it would be the first new Alzheimer’s treatment since 2003.
The medication is a monoclonal antibody, a protein made in the laboratory that can bind to substances — in this case, clumps of amyloid beta, a sticky plaque compound that many scientists believe damages communication between brain cells and eventually kills them. The treatment is designed to trigger an immune response that removes the plaques.
Washington Post, Anarchists and an increase in crime hijack Portland’s social justice movement, Scott Wilson, June 1, 2021 (print ed.). After months of social-justice activism that made Portland a vivid, sometimes violent focal point for a nation debating the same issues around police accountability and reform, the movement here has splintered into bickering groups, at odds over tactics, goals and an overall direction for how to make the city safer, with the police force still at the debate’s bitter center.
The sharpening conflict between rising violent crime and efforts to reduce the size of police departments has played out across the American West throughout this pandemic year. Now cities such as Portland, considered among the most ambitious in moving to reshape its police force, have retrenched. So have Oakland, Calif.; Berkeley, Calif.; Los Angeles and several other influential cities on the issue.
The nightly confrontations with police and federal agents deployed here by President Donald Trump have been replaced by a kind of generational hopelessness, a tenuous sense of security across an under-policed city and a return to an old-school style of gun violence reminiscent of a tit-for-tat cycle of deadly reprisals, almost always among young men of color. Through April, the police reported 348 shootings, more than double those recorded over the first four months of last year.
A city of about 650,000 people, Portland has long experienced the push and pull of its stridently felt politics. By many measures, particularly on social issues such as marijuana legalization, the environment and gay rights, the city has been at the vanguard.
But there has also been a historical strain of violent independence in some of its residents, a trait that has helped small groups of self-described anarchists overwhelm the year-old push for police reform and social justice.
From the assessments of the White mayor, Ted Wheeler (shown at left following a dispute with then-President Trump), and the Black police chief, Chuck Lovell, this smaller faction comprises mostly White, middle-class students and others, who have made places such as churches, public libraries, small Black-owned businesses and a Boys & Girls Club the confounding targets of their vandalism.
On Tuesday, police declared a riot when one of two groups that had gathered to mark the anniversary of Floyd’s murder broke windows, set fires and threw objects at police. Five people were arrested; all were White.
Portland’s once-vibrant downtown, the heart of a world-class food scene, is still marred by boarded-up windows and closed businesses, the aftermath of a year of pandemic and fear of random assault and vandalism often committed under the name of the police reform movement.
“So these perpetrators, my guess, were coming of age, were in elementary and middle school right around the Great Recession,” said Brian Renauer, director of the Criminal Justice Policy Research Institute at Portland State. “Now they’re in their early to mid-20s. So what we’re seeing is the outgrowth of a breakdown in the family, in the economy, in those neighborhoods they came out of, if this is very much a homegrown phenomenon.”
The rising gun violence, and for a time the downtown demonstrations, have stressed the police department and put it largely on its back foot, a response unit rather than a force with resources to prevent crime. As one measure, police response time to emergency calls has more than doubled over the past eight years, to more than 40 minutes of wait-time before a call is even fielded by emergency dispatchers.
“Police are bailing,” Henning said. “We are losing our best, most experienced officers left and right, and calls for service are increasing every year.
More On Pro-Trump Jan. 6 Riot, Insurrection
Two of the pro-Trump insurrectionists who took over the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 to prevent congressional election-certification of President-elect Joe Biden.
Palmer Report, Opinion: “They’re getting away with it all!” Bill Palmer, right, June 1, 2021. The DOJ is now bringing 1/6 conspiracy charges against multiple Oath Keepers. This opens the door to also charging the 1/6 ringleaders and planners with conspiracy. Don’t let pundits tell you “nothing is being done.” The DOJ probe is advancing in the way that such probes work.
“Why isn’t it moving faster?” Because that’s not how these kinds of complex probes work. As we see by the ongoing arrests of people who played progressively more important roles in the attack, these things work from the bottom up, but they get there eventually.
“Why didn’t they start by indicting people at the top?” Because you need to indict and flip the people below them first, in order to get charges against the people at the top to stick.
“But why don’t they just arrest the insurrectionist House Republicans right now?” Because their words on camera alone won’t be enough to get any jury to convict them. They’d be acquitted, and then we’d have a far bigger problem. You need to produce cooperating witnesses against them first, if you want to truly take them down.
“But I find all of this unacceptable!” That’s irrelevant. The criminal justice process works in a certain way, and that doesn’t change just because you don’t find it acceptable or don’t understand it.
Proof via Substack, Investigation: Insurrection Update #2, Seth Abramson, left, May 30-31, 2021. A comprehensive review of recent developments in Donald Trump’s rebellion against the people of the United States and their democratically elected federal government.
“Insurrection Update” is an ongoing series at Proof. You can find an archive of entries in the series here. The series curates the most significant news in the ongoing insurrection led by former president Donald Trump.
A link to all ongoing federal criminal cases relating to the insurrection can be found here.
May 30: At a QAnon conference in Dallas (see “May 29” entry, below), former Trump legal adviser Sidney Powell falsely declares that “Trump can simply be reinstated” as president — and Joe Biden summarily “told to move out of the White House” — once the fraudulent “audits” of the 2020 presidential election being run by GOP partisans in several battleground states reveal that Trump really “won” last year’s general election. Meanwhile, in an even more shocking statement, former Trump National Security Advisor and current top Trump political adviser Michael Flynn tells the crowd of QAnon-inspired insurrectionists that there “should” be a violent military coup of the Joe Biden administration right now, just as there’s a violent military coup happening in Myanmar at the moment.
May 30: After Nashville’s HatWRKS makes headlines for selling Holocaust-style Star of David patches reading “Not Vaccinated” — a nod to anti-Semitic insurrectionist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who says that city masking ordinances are the same as being sent at gunpoint to a concentration camp via cattle car and then gassed to death on arrival — a citizen journalist reviewing HatWRKS’ social media accounts finds the store’s owner is an avowed insurrectionist who was at the Capitol on January 6. Companies are now pulling their hats from HatWRKS, including, notably, Stetson.
Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, legal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.
Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump’s International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).
Washington Post, At Texas event with QAnon ties, Louie Gohmert downplays Jan. 6: ‘It wasn’t just right-wing extremists,’ Katie Shepherd, June 1, 2021. Over the weekend, hundreds gathered in Dallas for a four-day conference with ties to prominent QAnon figures to listen to keynote speakers who repeated false claims that former president Donald Trump won the 2020 election, appeared to welcome a Myanmar-style military coup in the United States and dismissed the significance of the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Among those speakers was one sitting congressman.
With the slogan for QAnon — an extremist ideology that the FBI has deemed a domestic terrorism threat — shining onstage behind him, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), right, spoke to a crowd gathered for the “For God & Country Patriot Roundup” on Saturday, where he downplayed the seriousness of the January insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and criticized Democrats pushing an independent review of the deadly event.
He suggested that “it wasn’t just right-wing extremists” rioting in the Capitol, even though federal officials have consistently debunked claims that leftist activists played a role in the attack. He also suggested that the insurrection shouldn’t be a serious concern because the United States has weathered worse, including foreign attacks.
“Some of us think Pearl Harbor was the worst attack on democracy, some of us think 9/11 was the worst attack,” he said. “Some of us think that those things were worse attacks on democracy.”
Gohmert later posed for a photo with a QAnon-promoting podcaster who has claimed that he participated in the Jan. 6 riot, reported Media Matters for America, a liberal media watchdog group
Virus Victims, Responses
Washington Post, Live Updates: Peru revises death toll, claims the world’s worst coronavirus mortality per capita, Erin Cunningham and Katerina Ang, June 1, 2021. Peru this week adjusted its official pandemic death toll to include more than 100,000 additional fatalities it says can now be attributed directly to covid-19. The revision means that the nation of about 33 million people now has the worst coronavirus mortality rate per capita in the world.
Peru’s government broadened the criteria for classifying virus-related deaths at the recommendation of an expert panel, which found that the official toll, based solely on positive test results, probably was a vast undercount.
Some experts believe that most countries are underreporting covid-19 fatalities, in part due to insufficient testing or to conceal the true extent of domestic outbreaks. Scientists at the University of Washington estimated last month that the actual global death toll from the pandemic was more than twice as high as officially reported. In other news:
- Turkey relaxes some coronavirus restrictions as infections decline
- Big U.S. travel surge during Memorial Day as millions take to the skies in first maskless holiday of pandemic
- Faced with a new variant and mounting cases, Vietnam scrambles for vaccines
Washington Post, 168.5 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 1, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 60.1 % of the eligible population,12 and older and 50.8 % of the total population. See about your state.
Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: June1, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):
World Cases: 171,528,679, Deaths: 3,566,520
U.S. Cases: 34,113,146, Deaths: 609,767
India Cases: 28,175,044, Deaths: 331,909
Brazil Cases: 16,547,674, Deaths: 462,966
New York Times, Live Updates: Some U.S. Prisons Surpass Public Covid Vaccination Rates, Staff reports, June 1, 2021. Still, most prison systems have struggled with vaccination. Some U.S. states have higher vaccination rates inside prisons than outside.
While most of the United States’ prison systems have struggled to vaccinate inmates, some, including California’s, have outperformed vaccination rates among the general public. And experts say their success may offer clues about how to persuade skeptical people outside correctional facilities to get vaccinated.
“Education is really key,” said Lauren Brinkley-Rubinstein, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine who leads the Covid Prison Project, a group that tracks coronavirus cases in correctional settings and compiled the data on vaccination rates. “Especially in a prison context, where there tends to be a lot of distrust of both health care staff and correctional staff, that education piece becomes even more important.”
At one California prison, inmates held a town-hall-style meeting in which medical experts answered questions about the safety of the vaccines. In Rhode Island, formerly incarcerated people were involved in helping develop a vaccination plan for inmates. In Kansas, inmates were given priority for vaccinations, and prisons provided vaccine information to inmates’ relatives and to the inmates themselves.
About 73 percent of inmates in California and Kansas prisons have received at least one Covid vaccine dose, according to the project. In North Dakota, another state that has had prison town-hall meetings, the rate is above 80 percent.
By contrast, North Dakota’s overall vaccination rate is 42 percent. California has administered at least one shot to 56 percent of residents, and Kansas 47 percent.
Incarcerated people are at a much greater risk from Covid-19 than the general public, but many say that they are wary both of the vaccines and of the prison medical staff members who administer them.With most adults vaccinated and case numbers low, Israel removes many restrictions.
- Covid has killed over 5 percent of lawmakers in Congo’s Parliament.
- Peru says its true Covid death toll is almost triple its official count.
- Covid vaccines are free in the U.S., but not everyone believes that.
- Australia’s softball players are among the first Olympic athletes to arrive in Japan.
- In Peru, the death toll is almost triple the official count. Here’s the latest.
- The Covid vaccine is free, but some still worry about unexpected medical bill
U.S. Politics, Governance
Washington Post, Opinion: A frantic warning from 100 leading experts: Our democracy is in grave danger, Greg Sargent, right, June 1, 2021. Democrats can’t say they weren’t warned. With yet another GOP effort to restrict voting underway in Texas, President Biden is now calling on Congress to act in the face of the Republican “assault on democracy.” Importantly, Biden cast that attack as aimed at “Black and Brown Americans,” meriting federal legislation in response.
That is a welcome escalation. But it remains unclear whether 50 Senate Democrats will ever prove willing to reform or end the filibuster, and more to the point, whether Biden will put real muscle behind that cause. If not, such protections will never, ever pass.
Now, in a striking intervention, more than 100 scholars of democracy have signed a new public statement of principles that seeks to make the stakes unambiguously, jarringly clear: On the line is nothing less than the future of our democracy itself.
“Our entire democracy is now at risk,” the scholars write in the statement, which I obtained before its release. “History will judge what we do at this moment.”
And these scholars underscore the crucial point: Our democracy’s long-term viability might depend on whether Democrats reform or kill the filibuster to pass sweeping voting rights protections.
“We urge members of Congress to do whatever is necessary — including suspending the filibuster — in order to pass national voting and election administration standards,” the scholars write, in a reference to the voting rights protections enshrined in the For the People Act, which passed the House and is before the Senate.
What’s striking is that the statement is signed by scholars who specialize in democratic breakdown, such as Pippa Norris, Daniel Ziblatt and Steven Levitsky. Other well-known names include Francis Fukuyama and Jacob Hacker.
“We wanted to create a strong statement from a wide range of scholars, including many who have studied democratic backsliding, to make it clear that democracy in America is genuinely under threat,” Lee Drutman, senior fellow at New America and a leading organizer of the letter, told me.
“The playbook that the Republican Party is executing at the state and national levels is very much consistent with actions taken by illiberal, anti-democratic, anti-pluralist parties in other democracies that have slipped away from free and fair elections,” Drutman continued.
Among these, the scholars note, are efforts by GOP-controlled state legislatures everywhere to restrict access to voting in ways reminiscent of tactics employed before the United States became a real multiracial democracy in the mid-1960s:
New York Times, Push for Voting Overhaul in Congress Falters, Nicholas Fandos, June 1, 2021. Opposition from Republicans has left Democrats struggling to determine whether they should nix the filibuster in order to save a top priority.
In the national struggle over voting rights, Democrats have rested their hopes for turning back a wave of new restrictions in Republican-led states and expanding ballot access on their narrow majorities in Congress. Failure, they have repeatedly insisted, “is not an option.”
But as Republican efforts to clamp down on voting prevail across the country, the drive to enact the most sweeping elections overhaul in generations is faltering in the Senate. With a self-imposed Labor Day deadline for action, Democrats are struggling to unite around a strategy to overcome solid Republican opposition and an almost certain filibuster.
Republicans in Congress have dug in against the measure, with even the most moderate dismissing it as bloated and overly prescriptive. That leaves Democrats no option for passing it other than to try to force the bill through by destroying the filibuster rule — which requires 60 votes to put aside any senator’s objection — to pass it on a simple majority, party-line vote.
But Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, left, the Democrats’ decisive swing vote, has repeatedly pledged to protect the filibuster and is refusing to sign on to the voting rights bill. He calls the legislation “too darn broad” and too partisan, despite endorsing such proposals in past sessions. Other Democrats also remain uneasy about some of its core provisions.
Navigating the 800-page For the People Act, or Senate Bill 1, through an evenly chamber was never going to be an easy task, even after it passed the House with only Democratic votes. But the Democrats’ strategy for moving the measure increasingly hinges on the longest of long shots: persuading Mr. Manchin and the other 49 Democrats to support both the bill and the gutting of the filibuster.
“We ought to be able to pass it — it really would be transformative,” Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, said recently. “But if we have several members of our caucus who have just point-blank said, ‘I will not break the filibuster,’ then what are we even doing?”
Summarizing the party’s challenge, another Democratic senator who asked to remain anonymous to discuss strategy summed it up this way: The path to passage is as narrow as it is rocky, but Democrats have no choice but to die trying to get across.
The hand-wringing is likely to only intensify in the coming weeks. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, vowed to force a floor debate in late June, testing Mr. Manchin’s opposition and laying the groundwork to justify scrapping the filibuster rule.
Washington Post, FEC spares Trump but fines tabloid publisher for hush-money payment to ex-Playboy model who claimed affair with him, Felicia Sonmez, June 1, 2021. The Federal Election Commission has fined the National Enquirer’s parent company $187,500 for “knowingly and willfully” violating election law by making a payment in 2016 to Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with former president Donald Trump years before he was elected.
The decision came in response to a complaint made more than three years ago by the nonprofit government watchdog group Common Cause, which was notified of the FEC’s findings Tuesday.
The group had alleged that the company’s $150,000 payment to McDougal months before the 2016 election was effectively an illegal in-kind corporate contribution to Trump’s presidential campaign. The payment allegedly benefited Trump’s campaign by suppressing McDougal’s story of an alleged relationship with Trump before voters went to the polls.
The FEC found in May that American Media Inc. and its former chief executive David Pecker violated campaign finance law, according to documents the agency released Tuesday to Common Cause. The payment was made in consultation with Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer, the agency found.
But the six-member commission — which often deadlocks along partisan lines — did not have sufficient votes to find that Trump and his campaign also broke the law.
Paul S. Ryan, Common Cause’s vice president for policy and litigation, hailed the news as “a win for democracy.” But he argued that the FEC’s “failure to hold former-President Trump and his campaign accountable for this violation lays bare the dysfunction at the FEC.”
He noted that the decision comes on the heels of a similar decision by the agency to drop an inquiry into whether Trump violated campaign finance laws when Cohen paid adult-film actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 in the days leading up to the 2016 election.
“The agency has again shown itself incapable of fully enforcing the campaign finance laws passed by Congress,” Ryan said in a statement.
Further details on the commission’s deliberations are expected to be released within 30 days.
In a conciliation agreement with the FEC, American Media — now known as A360Media after a merger — acknowledged the agency’s findings but said that it did not knowingly or willfully violate the law. The company initially argued that its officials were acting as journalists in making the deal with McDougal. But in 2018, the firm signed a non-prosecution agreement with the Justice Department stipulating that the financial arrangement was indeed an effort to influence the 2016 presidential campaign.
Washington Post, Democrat wins New Mexico special election for U.S. House, overcoming a Republican emphasis on rising crime, David Weigel, June 1, 2021. The victor appears to have benefited from the early vote in a district Joe Biden won by 23 points in 2020.
Democrats held on to a suburban House seat in New Mexico on Tuesday, with state Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D) easily winning the Albuquerque-area district filled until this spring by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
Stansbury defeated state Sen. Mark Moores, who worked to make the race a referendum on Albuquerque’s rising crime rate. Republicans, hopeful that suburban voters might abandon Democrats over their embrace of police reform, were stymied by a Stansbury campaign that emphasized her own support for law enforcement funding.
Stansbury’s victory, projected by the Associated Press little more than one hour after polls closed, will give Democrats 220 seats in the House, offering a bit more breathing room to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) ahead of an expected summer push on infrastructure spending. Two Republicans will face each other in the runoff for another vacant House seat, in Texas, on July 27. Two open seats in Ohio, split between the parties, will not be filled until November, and a safely Democratic seat in Florida will remain vacant until January 2021.
“Everything is on the line this election,” Stansbury told supporters Thursday as she campaigned with second gentleman Doug Emhoff, a month after appearing with first lady Jill Biden. “The majority of our House is at stake, and the future of our country is at stake, and the future of our communities is at stake.”
Live results from the New Mexico special election
Stansbury, 42, was the favorite to win the seat as soon as she secured the party’s nomination at an online convention in March. Ninety percent of the district’s vote comes from Albuquerque’s Bernalillo County, which has moved away from Republicans in the past decade. Biden carried the district by 23 points last year, and Haaland ran a few points behind.
Moores, 51, worked to disrupt the Democrats’ advantage with a focus on rising crime in Albuquerque. In debates and ads, he has labeled Stansbury a “radical” who would dismantle policing and federal prisons, and who has worked only in government, while he owns a lab that handled coronavirus tests during the pandemic.
“Crime is out of control,” Moores said in an interview this month. “We try to recruit doctors to New Mexico in our personal business, and a lot of times when they look at the crime rate or look at the schools, they say, ‘I’ll go to Tucson instead.’ ”
Violent crime has increased across the country since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and homicides in Albuquerque have doubled in comparison with the first five months of 2020. Liberals and criminal-justice-reform activists have blamed economic distress and a surge in gun-buying for higher crime, while Republicans and police unions have argued that calls to “defund the police” have lowered morale, sped up retirements and left cities less safe.
Stansbury, a former White House fellow and congressional staffer, raised more than $1.3 million for a seat that her party has held without a serious challenge since 2008; Moores raised less than half as much. Stansbury flipped her suburban legislative district in the 2018 wave, when Democrats swept New Mexico’s elections, and emerged in the special nominating convention as a consensus choice after notable wins in Santa Fe, including legislation to modernize the state’s power grid.
New York Times, A New Mexico special election will test the Republican Party’s focus on crime, Jonathan Martin, June 1, 2021. In a special election to replace Deb Haaland, Democrats are bolstering their nominee, taking no chances that a law-and-order argument against her will cost them what should be a safe House seat.
In theory, the special election to fill Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s seat in the House should not be competitive. President Biden carried the Albuquerque-based district by 23 points last year, and there has not been a close race for Congress here since George W. Bush was president.
Democrats in Washington and New Mexico, however, are not taking any chances ahead of the election Tuesday. They have flooded Melanie Stansbury, their nominee, with an infusion of late money, dispatched Jill Biden and Doug Emhoff to appear with her in the state, and sought to energize volunteers on her behalf.
“This race is the highest priority for us,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, left, told nearly a thousand national progressive activists on a conference call Thursday night, adding: “Any victory is good, but we want a nice, decisive victory.”
Ms. Pelosi’s eagerness to notch a resounding win reflects the party’s anxiety over one of the most pressing challenges it faces: defusing Republican attacks over law and order.
Washington Post, Hack exposed government’s light-touch oversight of pipeline security, Ellen Nakashima, Lori Aratani and Douglas MacMillan, June 1, 2021 (print ed.). The Transportation Security Administration is reversing its hands-off approach to overseeing pipeline cybersecurity in the wake of the devastating ransomware attack on critical U.S. infrastructure.
MailOnline US, Revealed: 90s Tarzan star Joe Lara, his Christian diet guru wife Gwen and five other members of controversial church ‘were en route to MAGA rally featuring Roger Stone’ when plane crashed and killed all seven onboard, Emily Crane and Adam Schrader, May 31, 2021. Tarzan actor Joe Lara, his Christian diet guru wife Gwen Shamblin Lara and five other members of their controversial Remnant Fellowship Church in Tennessee may have been en route to a Florida MAGA rally when their small plane crashed and killed them all.
The seven people on board were killed when the Cessna C501, which is registered to Joe and Gwen, crashed into a a lake in Smyrna, 25 miles southeast of Nashville, shortly after take-off on Saturday morning.
The Remnant Fellowship Church on Sunday night confirmed the deaths of Joe and Gwen Lara; Gwen’s son-in-law Brandon Hannah; and church leaders David and Jennifer Martin and Jonathan and Jessica Walters.
Rescue workers are in the process of retrieving human remains and parts of the plane wreckage found so far at the Percy Priest Lake crash site.
Authorities say the plane was bound for Palm Beach International Airport.
Kimberly Fletcher, a Trump supporter who was scheduled to speak at a MAGA rally near Palm Beach on Sunday, has since revealed that one of the event’s sponsors was on board the plane when it crashed. Fletcher did not specify which of the seven people on board was the person who helped sponsor the rally
According to Federal Election Commission data, Gwen Shamblin Lara last year donated at least $3,000 to the Trump Make America Great Again Committee and the Trump 2020 campaign.
‘I am heartbroken. I am in Florida at for an event I’m speaking at tomorrow. One of the sponsors was flying in on a private plane with some friends,’ Fletcher wrote in a Facebook post with a link to a news article about the plane crash.
The rally, which was held at the Martin County Fairgrounds, included speeches from Trump ally Roger Stone, according to an advertisement for the event.
Rutherford County Fire and Rescue Captain John Ingle said recovery operations were ongoing at the lake and would continue throughout Monday. The Cessna C501 had left Smyrna Rutherford County Airport before it slammed into the water at 10.53am on Saturday shortly after take-off, officials said.
The plane is registered to the Laras. Joe Lara played Tarzan in the 1989 film Tarzan in Manhattan and short-lived 1990s’ TV series Tarzan: The Epic Adventures – through their company JL&GL Productions LP.
The plane, built in 1982, is a fixed-wing plane with two engines and eight seats, according to the website Flight Aware.
In a statement late Sunday, the church confirmed the deaths of the seven members.
‘The seven Remnant Fellowship leaders lost May 29, 2021 were some of the finest and most loving people that you would ever come across. During this horrible tragedy, our church would greatly appreciate prayers,’ the statement read.
Washington Post, Israel’s Netanyahu fights to block opposition parties from taking power, Steve Hendrix and Shira Rubin, June 1, 2021 (print ed.). The prime minister’s supporters slammed right-wing parties planning to join the broad-based coalition as “traitors,” picketed their homes and in some cases issued threats that led police to provide additional security to at least two politicians
- Washington Post, Israeli opposition parties reach agreement to oust Netanyahu
- Washington Post, U.S. supporters of a tougher line on Israel split over tactics and message
Washington Post, Vatican clarifies penalties for priests who sexually abuse minors in first rewrite of internal penal code in almost 40 years, Chico Harlan, June 1, 2021. The Vatican on Tuesday said that Pope Francis had signed off on a rewrite of the universal Catholic Church’s internal penal system, updating a version in place since the 1980s and laying out clearer penalties for the sexual abuse of minors.
The changes, though years in the making, are in part a response to the church’s raft of abuse and financial scandals — which have often been magnified by secretive, highly subjective decision-making about how and whether to apply punishments.
Pope Francis, right, in a letter accompanying the revisions, said the laws aimed to be clearer and simpler, while reducing the number of instances in which penalties are left to the “discretion of authorities.”
“It is necessary that these norms be closely related to social changes and the new needs of the People of God,” the pope wrote.
Pope Francis acknowledges sexual abuse scandals have damaged the Catholic Church
The changes give the church authorities — whether in the Vatican or a far-flung parish — a new template for assessing and addressing possible church violations. The changes deal specifically with church penal sanctions; other parts of canon law — the church’s vast set of ecclesiastical rules — remain unchanged. Still, those revisions alone mark the most significant rewrite of canon law in four decades, since the era of Pope John Paul II.
The new laws state that clerics who abuse minors or other vulnerable people be punished with “deprivation from office,” and potentially with a defrocking. Previously, the church had only said such cases merit “just penalties,” not excluding defrocking.
In addition, the church also explicitly criminalized the grooming of minors for participation in pornography, as well as the acquisition and distribution of child pornography. The new laws also state that laypeople in positions of power can be punished for abuse as well.
The church is now several decades into its effort to reduce cases of clerical abuse and better hold to account bishops and cardinals who have sometimes protected known abusers.
Wayne Madsen Report (WM), Book Update: May 2021 Update to the “2021 WMR International Political Handbook: Vital Information for an Ever-Changing World,” Wayne Madsen, June 1, 2021. The following are May updates to WMR’s 2021 book documenting leading government officials and their contact information for more than 200 nations around the world in a volume intended for activists, officials and other researchers.
U.S. Crime, Guns, Courts, Race
Washington Post, Texas man who planned ‘mass casualty event’ at Walmart had assault weapons, racist symbols, police said, Jaclyn Peiser, June 1, 2021. Last week, Coleman Thomas Blevins logged on to an online forum to confess a menacing plan, police said: The 28-year-old from Kerrville, Tex., was going to storm into a Walmart and shoot up the place.
But an undercover police officer intercepted the message. After consulting the FBI, law enforcement swiftly labeled Blevins a national security threat.
On Friday, the Kerr County Sheriff’s Office arrested Blevins and charged him with making a terroristic threat — thwarting a possibly deadly scenario, police said. Officials said they later found weapons and racist and extremist materials in his home.
“Our investigators did outstanding work in this case, and possibly saved many lives,” Sheriff Larry Leitha said in a news release on Sunday. “The plot interrupted in this case is unthinkable.”
The arrest comes amid a spate of mass shootings across the country. On Mother’s Day, a gunman in Colorado Springs killed six people at a birthday party and then turned the gun on himself. In mid-April, a 19-year-old fatally shot eight people at a FedEx plant in Indianapolis. Other mass shootings in Atlanta and Boulder have left those cities reeling.
Washington Post, FBI agent charged with attempted murder in shooting of passenger on Metro train, Dan Morse, June 1, 2021. Eduardo Valdivia was indicted by a Montgomery County grand jury in the December shooting that occurred on a moving Red Line train. Officials have said a “verbal exchange” preceded the shooting.
An FBI agent who shot another passenger during a confrontation aboard a moving subway train just outside Washington was indicted on attempted murder and other counts, according Maryland court records unsealed Tuesday morning.
Eduardo Valdivia, 37, was also charged with first-degree assault, reckless endangerment, and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony stemming from the early-morning encounter six months ago on a southbound Metro Red Line train. The passenger who was struck was hospitalized with gunshot wounds but survived.
Valdivia was booked into the Montgomery County Detention Center Tuesday morning, according to online records and a jail official, after turning himself in. He was expected to appear in court later in the day to have the conditions of his bond reviewed. No trial date has been set.
Law enforcement officials have described Valdivia’s actions as an extreme overreaction to a stranger with a history of aggressive panhandling who confronted the agent but did not physically assault him. There has been no indication that the man was armed.
New York Times, Retired F.B.I. Agent Is Accused of Swindling Texas Woman Out of $800,000, Azi Paybarah, June 1, 2021 (print ed.). The former agent told the woman she was on “secret probation” over drug crimes and at one point proposed marriage, federal prosecutors said.
A retired F.B.I. agent in Texas has been indicted on fraud charges and accused of conning a woman out of $800,000 by convincing her that she was on “secret probation” for drug crimes and needed to pay him and an accomplice for their work to “mentor” and “supervise” her, federal prosecutors said on Friday.
The man, William Roy Stone Jr., 62, who had retired from the Dallas field office of the F.B.I. about a month before the scam began, even proposed marrying the victim and said he would try to discharge her from probation, prosecutors said.
“Stone allegedly conned, threatened and stole from his victim, exploiting her trust in law enforcement for his own financial gain,” Cloey C. Pierce, special agent in charge of the Justice Department’s inspector general’s office in Dallas, said in a statement.
Gregg Gallian, a lawyer for Mr. Stone, said in a statement on Sunday, “Mr. Stone will clear his name in the courtroom and, in doing so, will bring the actual facts of this case to light.” Mr. Gallian added, “There is much more to this story.”
According to a statement from prosecutors, Mr. Stone was indicted on Tuesday by a grand jury on seven counts of wire fraud, one count of wire fraud conspiracy, one count of impersonating a federal officer, “one count of engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from unlawful activity” and one count of giving false statements to law enforcement.
Mr. Stone retired from the F.B.I. office in Dallas in October 2015. At some point the following month, he was in contact with a woman in Granbury, Texas, southwest of Fort Worth, identified only as “C.T.” Mr. Stone told her she was on “secret probation” for drug crimes in “Judge Anderson’s court in Austin, Texas,” and that this court had assigned Mr. Stone and another person, who was not identified, to “mentor” and “supervise” her.
As a part of this probation, prosecutors said, Mr. Stone told the woman that she was obligated to pay the expenses he incurred traveling to Austin to speak with the judge about her probation. Mr. Stone also told C.T. that she had to report all of her activities, and assets, to him.
Mr. Stone also told the woman that she was forbidden to disclose her probation status to anyone, and that if she did not comply with these terms, she could be imprisoned and lose custody of her children, prosecutors said.
Mr. Stone’s scheme was effective, prosecutors said. The victim gave him “over $800,000 in money and property,” according to the indictment. Prosecutors said property linked to Mr. Stone’s dealings with the woman included a home on Kennedy Drive in Colleyville, Texas, a 2017 Toyota Tacoma and a 2016 Mercedes CLS.
U.S. Education, Media, Culture News
New York Times, As Harvard Case Looms at Supreme Court, Study Tests Value of Diversity, Adam Liptak, June 1, 2021 (print ed.). After prestigious law reviews adopted diversity policies for choosing student editors, researchers found, the articles they published were cited more often.
The Supreme Court is set to consider next week whether to hear a challenge to Harvard’s race-conscious admissions program. If the justices take the case — a reasonably safe bet — affirmative action in higher education, which has survived several close calls at the court, will again be in peril.
Its main vulnerability will be the contested and largely untested proposition that diversity enhances education, and that students of different backgrounds benefit from learning from one another.
The court has said that idea is the sole permissible rationale for taking account of race in admissions decisions. But members of what is now a six-justice conservative bloc have mocked the notion and questioned how it could be subjected to meaningful judicial scrutiny.
“What unique perspective does a minority student bring to a physics class?” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. asked at a 2015 argument over the constitutionality of an affirmative action program at the University of Texas.
The next year, the court upheld the program by a 4-to-3 vote. (Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat was vacant after his death that February, and Justice Elena Kagan was recused.) In dissent, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., joined by the chief justice and Justice Clarence Thomas, said that there was no way of knowing whether diversity was working.
The university’s main argument, Justice Alito wrote, “is that merely invoking ‘the educational benefits of diversity’ is sufficient and that it need not identify any metric that would allow a court to determine whether its plan is needed to serve, or is actually serving, those interests.”
New York Times, Disputing Racism’s Reach, Republicans Rattle American Schools, Trip Gabriel and Dana Goldstein, June 1, 2021. In a culture-war brawl that has spilled into the country’s educational system, Republicans at the local, state and national levels are trying to block curriculums that emphasize systemic racism.
In Loudoun County, Va., a group of parents led by a former Trump appointee are pushing to recall school board members after the school district called for mandatory teacher training in “systemic oppression and implicit bias.”
In Washington, 39 Republican senators called history education that focuses on systemic racism a form of “activist indoctrination.”
And across the country, Republican-led legislatures have passed bills recently to ban or limit schools from teaching that racism is infused in American institutions. After Oklahoma’s G.O.P. governor signed his state’s version in early May, he was ousted from the centennial commission for the 1921 Race Massacre in Tulsa, which President Biden will visit on Tuesday to memorialize one of the worst episodes of racial violence in U.S. history.
From school boards to the halls of Congress, Republicans are mounting an energetic campaign aiming to dictate how historical and modern racism in America are taught, meeting pushback from Democrats and educators in a politically thorny clash that has deep ramifications for how children learn about their country.
Republicans have focused their attacks on the influence of “critical race theory,” a graduate school framework that has found its way into K-12 public education. The concept argues that historical patterns of racism are ingrained in law and other modern institutions, and that the legacies of slavery, segregation and Jim Crow still create an uneven playing field for Black people and other people of color.
New York Times, A Rural-Urban Broadband Divide. Not the One You Think Of, Eduardo Porter, June 1, 2021. Many more people in cities lack broadband access than in rural areas, but lawmakers are focused on extending high-speed access to remote areas.
Whom should the government help get superfast internet access?
The question is not addressed directly in President Biden’s multibillion-dollar infrastructure plan, which devotes tens of billions of dollars to expanding access to broadband but does not provide much detail about how the money will be spent.
But veterans of the nation’s decade-long efforts to extend the nation’s broadband footprint worry that the new plan carries the same bias of its predecessors: Billions will be spent to extend the internet infrastructure to the farthest reaches of rural America, where few people live, and little will be devoted to connecting millions of urban families who live in areas with high-speed service that they cannot afford.
“From an economic and society perspective, the most important thing to do is to get online everybody who wants to be online,” said Blair Levin, who oversaw a broadband project at the Federal Communications Commission during the Obama administration and is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution. “From a political perspective, the biggest political capital is behind accelerating deployment where there is none, which means in rural areas.”
There is a political and economic logic to devoting billions of taxpayer dollars to bringing broadband to the rural communities that make up much of former President Donald Trump’s political base, which Mr. Biden wants to win over. But some critics worry that the capital-heavy rural-first strategy could leave behind urban America, which is more populous, diverse and productive.
About 81 percent of rural households are plugged into broadband, compared with about 86 percent in urban areas, according to Census Bureau data. But the number of urban households without a connection, 13.6 million, is almost three times as big as the 4.6 million rural households that don’t have one.
“We also have to be careful not to fall into the old traps of aggressively solving for one community’s problem — a community that is racially diverse but predominantly white — while relying on hope and market principles to solve for another community’s problem — a community that is also racially diverse but disproportionately composed of people of color and those earning lower incomes,” Joi Chaney, senior vice president for policy and advocacy at the National Urban League, recently told the House Appropriations Committee.
Raw Story, WATCH: Boat explodes just after passengers harass family with Pride flag, Matthew Chapman, June 1, 2021. On Tuesday, Newsweek flagged a viral story making the rounds on Twitter and TikTok, in which instant karma befell three boaters who harassed a family sailing with a gay pride flag on Moses Lake, Washington.
“Twitter user @retro_ushi_, who identifies as trans and queer, told the story on social media and said: ‘These people harassed my family because we were flying gay pride flags in Moses Lake, Washington, by racing around us and shouting gay slurs. Then, their boat literally blew up! #KarmaIsReal,” reported Seren Morris. “They added: ‘And just ONE more tidbit to really drive the karma in there. The driver literally s*** his pants and everyone saw when his shorts fell off in the water.'”
Ultimately, the offending boaters were rescued, and police doused the fire after the vessel had been charred black. According to @retro_ushi, the most likely cause of the fire was that “they were driving around us so roughly, they either damaged their carburetor or took in water and stalled. Then fumes built up and when they tried to speed away, the fumes ignited.”