Sept. News Pt. 2

 

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Editor’s Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative September  2021 news and views. This is Part 2 of our excepts during a heavy news month.

 

Sept. 22

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Governance, Politics, Elections

 

U.S. Terrorists, Election Fraudsters, Money Sources

 

Canadian, German Elections

 

U.S. Courts, Law, Crime

 

World News

 

U.S. Media, Academic News

 

Inside DC

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, F.D.A. Authorizes Pfizer Booster Shots for Older and At-Risk Americans, Noah Weiland and Sharon LaFraniere, Sept. 22, 2021. The authorization applies to Pfizer vaccine recipients who are over 65 or at high risk, including those who are often exposed to the virus in their jobs. The move sets up what is likely to be a staggered campaign to deliver the shots to the most vulnerable Americans.

After weeks of internal strife at the Food and Drug Administration, the agency on Wednesday authorized people over 65 who had received Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine to get a booster shot at least six months after their second injection.

pfizer logoThe F.D.A. also authorized booster shots for adult Pfizer-BioNTech recipients who are at high risk of becoming severely ill with Covid-19 or are at risk of serious complications from the disease due to frequent exposure to the coronavirus at their jobs.

The authorization sets up what is likely to be a staggered campaign to deliver the shots, starting with the most vulnerable Americans. It opens the way for possibly tens of millions of vaccinated people to receive boosters at pharmacies, health clinics, doctors’ offices and elsewhere.

Roughly 22 million Americans are at least six months past their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About half of them are 65 and older. Millions of Americans who received the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are still waiting to learn whether they, too, can get boosters.

The F.D.A.’s decision will be followed as soon as Thursday by a recommendation from the C.D.C., which issues guidance on vaccine policy for clinicians and public health officials throughout the United States. An advisory committee of the C.D.C. is now in the midst of a two-day meeting on the issue. But even if the C.D.C. takes a different stance, health care providers are now authorized to offer third shots to Pfizer-BioNTech recipients who meet the F.D.A.’s eligibility criteria.

washington post logoWashington Post, House passes bill to avert shutdown, but legislation faces grim prospects in Senate, Tony Romm, Sept. 22, 2021 (print ed.). The political standoff is threatening to leave Congress with little time to resolve a number of disputes that could shutter the government during a pandemic and destabilize global markets.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. default this fall would cost 6 million jobs, wipe out $15 trillion in wealth, study says, Jeff Stein, Sept. 22, 2021 (print ed.). The United States could plunge into an immediate recession if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling and the country defaults on its payment obligations this fall, according to one analysis released Tuesday.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, found that a prolonged impasse over the debt ceiling would cost the U.S. economy up to 6 million jobs, wipe out as much as $15 trillion in household wealth, and send the unemployment rate surging to roughly 9 percent from around 5 percent.

Lawmakers in both parties agree that the debt ceiling must be raised to avoid economic calamity, but their standoff over how to do so has intensified. Despite the national debt increasing by close to $8 trillion under President Donald Trump, Republicans have been adamant that they will refuse to help Democrats increase the debt ceiling, in opposition to President Biden’s spending plans.

The Treasury Department has said it will exhaust its “extraordinary measures” to pay the U.S. obligations sometime in October, giving lawmakers little time to act to head off calamity.

“This economic scenario is cataclysmic. … The downturn would be comparable to that suffered during the financial crisis” of 2008, said the report, written by Zandi and Bernard Yaros, assistant director and economist at Moody’s Analytics.

The debt limit is the maximum amount of debt that Treasury can issue to pay the country’s bills. It was suspended from 2019 through the beginning of last month under a deal reached during the Trump administration. If Congress fails to increase the debt limit, Treasury would be unable to pay debts as they come due. janet yellen oTreasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, right, said earlier this week that such a default would be unprecedented in U.S. history. Moody’s “best estimate” is that this date is Oct. 20, although Treasury has not given a more precise day.

At that point, Treasury officials would face excruciating choices, such as whether to fail to pay $20 billion owed to seniors on Social Security, or to fail to pay bondholders of U.S. debt — a decision that could undermine faith in U.S. credit and permanently drive federal borrowing costs higher.

Failure to raise the debt limit would have catastrophic impacts on global financial markets. Interest rates would spike as investors demand a higher rate of return for the risk of taking on U.S. debt given uncertainty about repayment. An increase in interest rates would ripple through the economy, raising costs not only for taxpayers but also for consumers and other borrowers. The value of the U.S. dollar would also decline long term as investors questioned the security of purchasing U.S. treasuries. The cost of auto and home loans would rise.

Washington Post, White House rules out concessions on debt ceiling while GOP refuses to help avert financial crisis

“Stock prices would be cut almost in one-third at the worst of the selloff, wiping out $15 trillion in household wealth,” the Moody’s report finds. The market would rebound once the impasse is resolved, but some amount of the losses would be permanent. “Treasury yields, mortgage rates, and other consumer and corporate borrowing rates spike, at least until the debt limit is resolved and Treasury payments resume.”

  Trump-allied attorney Sidney Powell, right, with allied attorney Jenna Ellis in the background last fall.

Trump-allied attorney Sidney Powell, right, with allied attorney Jenna Ellis in the background last fall, has pushed baseless claims of election tampering.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Campaign Knew Lawyers’ Voting Machine Claims Were Baseless, Memo Shows, Alan Feuer, Sept. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Days before lawyers allied with Donald Trump gave a news conference promoting election conspiracy theories, his campaign had determined that many of those claims were false, court filings reveal.

Two weeks after the 2020 election, a team of lawyers closely allied with Donald J. Trump held a widely watched news conference at the Republican Party’s headquarters in Washington. At the event, they laid out a bizarre conspiracy theory claiming that a voting machine company had worked with an election software firm, the financier George Soros and Venezuela to steal the presidential contest from Mr. Trump.

But there was a problem for the Trump team, according to court documents released on Monday evening.

By the time the news conference occurred on Nov. 19, Mr. Trump’s campaign had already prepared an internal memo on many of the outlandish claims about the company, Dominion Voting Systems, and the separate software company, Smartmatic. The memo had determined that those allegations were untrue.

The court papers, which were initially filed late last week as a motion in a defamation lawsuit brought against the campaign and others by a former Dominion employee, Eric Coomer, contain evidence that officials in the Trump campaign were aware early on that many of the claims against the companies were baseless.

The documents also suggest that the campaign sat on its findings about Dominion even as Sidney Powell and other lawyers attacked the company in the conservative media and ultimately filed four federal lawsuits accusing it of a vast conspiracy to rig the election against Mr. Trump.

According to emails contained in the documents, Zach Parkinson, then the campaign’s deputy director of communications, reached out to subordinates on Nov. 13 asking them to “substantiate or debunk” several matters concerning Dominion. The next day, the emails show, Mr. Parkinson received a copy of a memo cobbled together by his staff from what largely appear to be news articles and public fact-checking services.

Even though the memo was hastily assembled, it rebutted a series of allegations that Ms. Powell and others were making in public. It found:

  • That Dominion did not use voting technology from the software company, Smartmatic, in the 2020 election.
  • That Dominion had no direct ties to Venezuela or to Mr. Soros.
  • And that there was no evidence that Dominion’s leadership had connections to left-wing “antifa” activists, as Ms. Powell and others had claimed.

As Mr. Coomer’s lawyers wrote in their motion in the defamation suit, “The memo produced by the Trump campaign shows that, at least internally, the Trump campaign found there was no evidence to support the conspiracy theories regarding Dominion” and Mr. Coomer.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: New details about Trump’s Dominion scam help explain our authoritarian slide, Greg Sargent, Sept. 22, 2021. In one sense, it’s not surprising to learn that Donald Trump’s campaign officials knew they were lying their backsides off when they hatched their now-notorious conspiracy theories about Dominion Voting Systems. These were central to trying to overturn his 2020 loss. Of course, they knew these were inventions, right?

But the latest news about this lie — that a memo has surfaced showing Trump’s co-conspirators knew the truth about Dominion’s voting machines even as their lies intensified — is nonetheless highly significant.

That’s because it clearly illustrates how knowingly manufactured lies about our electoral system, and about the left writ large, were wielded as the foundational justification for efforts to subvert our democratic order. The manufacturing of these lies continues to function as a kind of prefabricated pretext for overturning future elections, making this a continuing danger.

Two weeks after the election, lawyers working to overturn it held a news conference where they spewed lurid lies about Dominion. These included a weird theory involving Smartmatic software and the idea that Dominion collaborated with George Soros and Venezuela to steal the election.

But as the New York Times reports, they knew it was all nonsense.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Covid and Trumpism lead to coups and rumors of coups, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 20 books and former Navy wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallintelligence officer, Sept. 22, 2021. The twin toxic combination of Covid-19 and Trumpism has been the perfect ingredient to foster the type of political and economic instability that has fostered seven coups — four military, two civilian, and one hybrid — in countries around the world. These have all occurred since Donald Trump’s abortive coup in the United States on January 6, 2021.

wayne madesen report logoWhile coups have historically been something that plagued the developing world, the insurrection by pro-Trump gangs at the U.S. Capitol, aided and abetted by embedded agents of influence inside the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, the National Security Council, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Capitol Police, and the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, almost precipitated a full-scale coup d’état in the United States. That action in Washington, DC sent political shock waves around the world.

washington post logoWashington Post, More centrist Democrats question size of $3.5 trillion economic plan, Tony Romm and Marianna Sotomayor, Sept. 22, 2021 (print ed.).  Razor-thin majorities in the House and Senate give Democrats little wiggle room as they try and assemble budget plan.

A slew of moderate Democrats in the House and Senate have toiled behind the scenes to try to rethink or scale back core elements of the party’s $3.5 trillion tax-and-spending plan, opening new internal rifts that complicate its path to swift passage.

U.S. House logoIn recent days, centrist Democratic lawmakers have questioned the price tag of the proposal, raised alarms that it could add to the deficit, and sought to whittle down some of its key components, including programs that would provide free prekindergarten and community college for all Americans perhaps regardless of income.

The political complications are hard enough to resolve on their own, pitting warring factions of Democrats against each other over President Biden’s broader economic agenda. But they have taken on greater significance at a time when the party finds itself newly consumed with a wide array of additional problems, including a scramble to prevent a government shutdown next week and a breach of the debt ceiling shortly after that. The battles could lessen some moderates’ appetites for trillions of dollars in new spending.

For now, the most forceful objections have come from lawmakers including Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who met with President Biden to discuss her position last week. Three people familiar with Sinema’s thinking, who requested anonymity to describe their private conversations, said she is especially interested in targeting some of the aid more narrowly based on income and economic status than her Democratic peers might have preferred. That includes the new prekindergarten and community college spending.

President-elect Joe Biden (Gage Skidmore photo via Flickr).

ny times logoNew York Times, In U.N. Debut, Biden Confronts Doubts About U.S. Global Leadership, Michael D. Shear, David E. Sanger and Rick Gladstone, Sept. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Covid-19 and climate change are dominating the start of the General Assembly gathering. The U.N. secretary general warned that an increasingly divided world was “on the edge of an abyss.” The annual U.N. meeting presents a major test for President Biden.

President Biden delivered his debut address to the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations on Tuesday amid strong new doubts about his ability to vault the United States back into a position of global leadership after his predecessor’s promotion of “America First” isolationism.

UN logoSpeaking to a smaller than usual audience of his peers because of the still-raging Covid-19 pandemic, Mr. Biden called for a new era of global unity against the coronavirus, emerging technological threats and the expanding influence of autocratic nations such as China and Russia.

“No matter how challenging or how complex the problems we’re going to face, government by and for the people is still the best way to deliver for all of our people,” he said, insisting that the United States and its Western allies would remain vital partners.

Calling for the world to make the use of force “our tool of last resort, not our first,” he defended his decision to end the U.S. war in Afghanistan, a chaotic withdrawal of American troops that left allies blindsided.

“Today, many of our greatest concerns cannot be solved or even addressed by the force of arms,” he said. “Bombs and bullets cannot defend against Covid-19 or its future variants.”

But Mr. Biden’s efforts to move America past President Donald J. Trump’s more confrontational policies come amid growing frustration among allies with his administration’s diplomatic approach.

His familiar refrain that the world must choose between democracy and autocracy looks different now that the Taliban are once again in control of Kabul, reversing many of the democratic gains of the past 20 years. Covid is resurging in much of the world. And the French just recalled their ambassador in outrage — not just over losing a $60 billion-plus submarine contract, but because it was made clear they are not in the inner circle of allies.

european union logo rectangleCharles Michel, the European Council president, said in a briefing at the E.U. Mission to the United Nations on Monday that “the elementary principles for allies are transparency and trust.” Expressing shock and bafflement over Mr. Biden’s treatment of France, he said, “And what do we observe? We are observing a clear lack of transparency and loyalty.”

The allies recognize the differences between Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump. But in conversations over the past two weeks, they say they have new concerns about the United States.

They worry about whether Mr. Biden really has their back, after the French foreign minister compared the submarine deal with Australia to a “knife in the back.” When they hear about Covid vaccine booster shots in the United States, they often wonder what that might do to global supplies. And when they look at how the U.S. handles the Australia deal, they wonder whether American national interest has eclipsed the role of global leader.

Mr. Biden and other leaders gathered in New York City against a backdrop of disastrous climate change, polarized superpower relations and a devastating pandemic that has worsened the global rich-poor divide.

The event is a major test of credibility for Mr. Biden, who was among the first to address the 193-member General Assembly. Among the last to speak will be President Xi Jinping of China, via prerecorded video, bookending a day with the competing views of the two most powerful countries in the world.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Second dose of J&J vaccine increases covid protection, company says, Ben Guarino, Sept. 22, 2021 (print ed.). According to Johnson & Johnson’s study, efficacy was 100 percent against severe or critical cases of covid-19 for two weeks after the booster shot. Regulators would have to authorize the boosters before the public could receive them.

johnson johnson logoA second shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine boosts protection against symptomatic and severe covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, the drug company announced early Tuesday. Those booster shots also generated additional antibodies, molecules churned out by the immune system to help fight off infections.

Under the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency-use authorization, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is given as a single dose, unlike the two shots required for full immunization with the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines.

Results published this summer indicate that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine generates lasting amounts of antibodies able to target delta and other variants of concern. In June and July, when delta was ascendant, the effectiveness of the one-shot vaccine was 78 percent against observed covid-19, according to a report published Thursday that has not yet gone through peer review.

ny times logoNew York Times, Pressure Grows on U.S. Companies to Share Covid Vaccine Technology, Stephanie Nolen and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Sept. 22, 2021. As President Biden hosts a Covid-19 summit today, American drug companies are being urged to share their formulas with nations that need more shots. Primarily in the spotlight is Moderna, the upstart biotech firm that accepted $2.5 billion in taxpayer money to develop its vaccine.

As President Biden convenes heads of state for a Covid-19 summit on Wednesday, pressure is growing on American drug companies — particularly Moderna, the upstart biotech firm that developed its coronavirus vaccine with billions of dollars in taxpayer money — to share their formulas with manufacturers in nations that desperately need more shots.

Last year’s successful race to develop vaccines in extraordinarily short order put companies like Moderna and Pfizer in a highly favorable spotlight. But now, with less than 10 percent of those in many poor nations fully vaccinated and a dearth of doses contributing to millions of deaths, health officials in the United States and abroad are pressing the companies to do more to address the global shortage.

The Biden administration has privately urged both Pfizer and Moderna to enter into joint ventures where they would license their technology to contract manufacturers with the aim of providing vaccines to low- and middle-income countries, according to a senior administration official.

Those talks led to an agreement with Pfizer, announced Wednesday morning, to sell the United States an additional 500 million doses of its vaccine at a not-for-profit price — rather than license its technology — to donate overseas.

The discussions with Moderna have not been fruitful, said the official, who expressed deep frustration with the company but requested anonymity to discuss sensitive information.

ny times logoNew York Times, People with serious conditions are waiting weeks for non-Covid surgeries as hospitals are inundated once again, Reed Abelson, Sept. 22, 2021. She manages to walk for a short time in her kitchen or garden before she has to sit down. “It’s just frustrating at this point,” said Ms. O’Donnell, 80, who lives in Aloha, Ore. “I’m really depressed.”

She had been preparing for back surgery scheduled for Aug. 31, hoping the five-hour procedure would allow her to be more active. But a day before the operation, at OHSU Health Hillsboro Medical Center, she learned it had been canceled.

“Nope, you can’t come, our hospital is filling up,” she said she was told.

Faced with a surge of Covid-19 hospitalizations in Oregon, the hospital has not yet rescheduled her surgery. “I don’t know what is going to happen,” Ms. O’Donnell said, worrying that her ability to walk might be permanently impaired if she is forced to wait too long.

Echoes of the pandemic’s early months are resounding through the halls of hospitals, with an average of more than 90,000 patients in the United States being treated daily for Covid. Once again, many hospitals have been slammed in the last two months, this time by the Delta variant, and have been reporting that intensive care units are overflowing, that patients have to be turned away and even that some patients have died while awaiting a spot in an acute or I.C.U. ward.

In this latest wave, hospital administrators and doctors were desperate to avoid the earlier pandemic phases of blanket shutdowns of surgeries and other procedures that are not true emergencies. But in the hardest-hit areas, especially in regions of the country with low vaccination rates, they are now making difficult choices about which patients can still be treated. And patients are waiting several weeks, if not longer, to undergo non-Covid surgeries.

ny times logo

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Sept. 22, 2021), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher, as the New York Times reported in India’s true pandemic death toll is likely to be well over 3 million, a new study finds:

World Cases: 230,451,133, Deaths: 4,725,279
U.S. Cases:    43,246,791, Deaths:     696,918
India Cases:    33,531,498, Deaths:     445,801
Brazil Cases:   21,247,094, Deaths:    591,518

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 212.3 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Sept. 22, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2vaccine. This includes more than 182 million people, 54.7 percent of the eligible population, fully vaccinated.

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

 

U.S. Governance, Politics, Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Former treasury secretaries tried defusing debt-ceiling bomb in talks with Yellen, McConnell, Jeff Stein, Sept. 22, 2021. Overtures by Henry janet yellen oPaulson and Steven Mnuchin were unsuccessful, as Republicans have insisted that Democrats must address the debt ceiling without GOP support.

Two former GOP treasury secretaries held private discussions this month with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, right, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hoping to resolve an impasse over the debt limit that now threatens the global economy, according to four people aware of the conversations.

The previously unreported talks involving the GOP economic grandees — Henry Paulson, who served as treasury secretary under President Bush; and Steven Mnuchin, right, treasury secretary under President Trump — did not resolve the matter and the U.S. is now racing toward a massive fiscal cliff with no clear resolution at hand.

steven mnuchin wPaulson and Mnuchin have in recent weeks spoken with both McConnell and Yellen as the Biden administration tries to ensure the U.S. does not default on its debt obligations and spark a global financial crisis.

The backchanneling by Mnuchin and Paulson — who had previously worked together at Goldman Sachs — reflects the widespread alarm among economists and U.S. business interests about the consequences of an unprecedented default on the federal debt. If the U.S. was unable to borrow money to pay all of its bills, a number of economists have predicted that it would lead to a calamity that could trigger a meltdown in financial markets and plunge the economy into recession. Republicans have refused to help Democrats approve a new debt ceiling suspension despite approving three such measures during the Trump administration while the national debt rose by roughly $8 trillion under Trump.

Yellen has recently warned that the debt ceiling must be raised or suspended by some time in October or the country’s fiscal situation will be severe.

Paulson met with McConnell in his office in the U.S. Capitol last week and discussed the debt limit standoff, two people familiar with the exchange said. Paulson primarily listened to McConnell’s views on the matter as the Senate GOP leader made clear he was not bluffing about Democrats having to raise the debt limit without Republican support. Paulson expressed in the meeting a high degree of concern about the dangers and likelihood of a federal default and its implications for the global economy, the people said. Paulson worked closely with McConnell and other lawmakers in 2008 to address the financial crisis.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Fed projects new interest rate hikes in 2022, signals upcoming easing of supports if economy continues to heal, Anne Gearan, Rick Noack, John Hudson and Adam Taylor, Sept. 22, 2021. Economists and Wall Street have been eager for details on when, and how, the Fed will start to dial back its support for the markets

ny times logoNew York Times, What’s at Stake in the 2022 Races for Governor, Clay Risen, Sept. 22, 2021 (print ed.). The attention may be on House and Senate campaigns, but these races — some of which will be true tossups — may be just as important.

This weekend, word leaked that Beto O’Rourke, the former congressman and presidential candidate, is on the cusp of announcing a run for governor of Texas next year, taking on the incumbent Republican, Greg Abbott.

Given Mr. O’Rourke’s celebrity, and perhaps the schadenfreude some might feel of watching Texas once again elude a high-profile Democrat’s grasp, the news instantly made the state one of the marquee races of 2022. It also served as a reminder that for all of the attention ladled on the upcoming House and Senate campaigns, the governors’ races may be just as important.

That’s because, as Jennifer Rubin noted last month in The Washington Post, state-level, statewide races offer a different, and maybe more accurate, reading of Trump-wing strength than congressional campaigns. That’s especially true now, after governors have waded into fights over masks, Covid vaccines and critical race theory, making the elections about not just the performance of individual governors, but also the strength of the MAGA cause as a whole.

The parties certainly get it: According to OpenSecrets.org, the Democratic Governors Association and the Republican Governors Association have already raised a combined $46.6 million, and spent $28.2 million, for the 2021 and 2022 governor races, significantly more than usual. The money is also a function of the sheer number of upcoming races: two this year and an astounding 36 next November.

Most of those races are in deeply red or deeply blue states, but analysts consider five to be true tossups — Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — and another five as possible nail-biters — Florida, Maine, Michigan, Nevada and New Hampshire.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘I’ve never seen maggots this big’: New Orleans hasn’t picked up some people’s trash since Ida. They’re begging to get rid of the stench, Katy Reckdahl and Timothy Bella, Sept. 22, 2021. When the city lost power, people tossed the contents of their refrigerators into garbage bags that have been left to rot. The hazards of the uncollected trash and debris have been exacerbated by rain and soaring temperatures.

washington post logoWashington Post, Texas Gov. Abbott sends miles of cars along border to deter migrants, Adela Suliman, Sept. 22, 2021. The Republican said this “steel wall” of vehicles was meant to stop migrants from crossing the dam.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has sent a fleet of state-owned vehicles to line up for miles as a barricade along the border with Mexico, insisting the state was taking “unprecedented steps,” as thousands of migrants still seek to cross into the United States.

The “steel wall” of cars, as Abbott called it, is only the latest of the stark images coming from the crisis unfolding in Del Rio, Tex., where nearly 15,000 border crossers, many Haitians living in Chile and other South American nations, have arrived.

The Homeland Security Department is investigating reports that Border Patrol agents on horseback attempted to grab migrants and push them back toward Mexico, captured in scenes Sunday along the Rio Grande.

“What we did, we put hundreds of Texas Department of Public Safety cars and created a steel wall — a steel wall of DPS vehicles — that prevented anybody from crossing that dam that you’ve seen people walk across,” Abbott told Fox News in an interview Tuesday. “We effectively … regained control of the border.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Total chaos in Texas, Bocha Blue, Sept. 21, 2021. Right now there is chaos going on in Texas. This is primarily due to the fact that random people are suddenly getting it in their head to start the process of litigation because of the Texas handmaid law. Only maybe not for the reasons Republicans were hoping for.

Doctor Alan Braid of San Antonio Texas announced he’d performed an abortion. He announced this in a Washington Post op-ed. Braid has been candid in his motivation. He wants to force a review of SB 8. After all, he admits to violating the handmaid law. So, how could it NOT be reviewed? Of course the outcome of Braid’s announcement was predictable.

Faster then one could say breaking the law, two Attorneys, one disbarred and living on house-arrest, have sued Braid. Sigh. As I have said before, you just can’t make this stuff up.

“Texas Right to life” is the group that backed this wretched law, and they are not very happy right now. The reason they are not happy is because “neither of these lawsuits are valid attempts to save innocent human lives.”

This is a quote from John Seago, legislative Director for the organization. Indeed, one of the lawyers who is suing isn’t even asking for money. He just wants the law reviewed. Oh dear. What’s a Stepford Republican to do?

It will be interesting to see what comes of this litigation. In the meantime, these actions have left fuming Texas Republicans stewing in their own juices, and it couldn’t happen to a more miserable bunch of morons.

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats Begin Effort to Curb Post-Trump Presidential Powers, Charlie Savage, Sept. 22, 2021 (print ed.). House Democrats plan to introduce a package of proposed new limits on executive power that amount to a point-by-point rebuke of former President Trump. But to appeal to Republicans, a bill being introduced in the House to impose checks on executive authority may be broken into pieces in the Senate.

democratic donkey logoHouse Democrats are planning to introduce a package of proposed new limits on executive power on Tuesday, beginning a post-Trump push to strengthen checks on the presidency that they hope will compare to the overhauls that followed the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War.

Democrats have spent months negotiating with the Biden White House to refine a broad set of proposals that amount to a point-by-point rebuke of the ways that Donald J. Trump shattered norms over the course of his presidency. The Democrats have compiled numerous bills into a package they call the Protecting Our Democracy Act.

The legislation would make it harder for presidents to offer or bestow pardons in situations that raise suspicion of corruption, refuse to respond to oversight subpoenas, spend or secretly freeze funds contrary to congressional appropriations, and fire inspectors general or retaliate against whistle-blowers, among many adam schiff squareother changes.

The legislation’s lead sponsor, Representative Adam B. Schiff, right, Democrat of California, said he hoped it would receive a floor vote “this fall.”

While the bill would constrain President Biden and his successors, its implicit rebuke of Mr. Trump’s behavior in the White House may limit how many Republicans are willing to vote for it. Under Senate rules, at least 10 Republicans would need to support it for that chamber to hold a vote on such a bill.

But supporters noted that Republican senators previously supported significant components of the bill, like requiring the Justice Department to turn over logs of contacts with White House officials and constraining a president’s ability to declare a national emergency and spend money in ways Congress did not approve.

 

U.S. Terrorists, Election Fraudsters, Dark Money

washington post logoWashington Post, Huge hack reveals embarrassing details of who’s behind Proud Boys and other far-right websites, Drew Harwell, Craig Timberg and Hannah Allam, Sept. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Researchers say it will allow them to gain important new insights into how extremists operate online.

Epik long has been the favorite Internet company of the far-right, providing domain services to QAnon theorists, Proud Boys and other instigators of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol — allowing them to broadcast hateful messages from behind a veil of anonymity.

But that veil abruptly vanished last week when a huge breach by the hacker group Anonymous dumped into public view more than 150 gigabytes of previously private data — including user names, passwords and other identifying information of Epik’s customers.

washington post logoWashington Post, Two GOP operatives indicted for allegedly routing money from Russian national to support Trump campaign, Felicia Sonmez and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Sept. 22, 2021 (print ed.). A political strategist who was pardoned by the former president after being convicted in a 2012 campaign finance scheme is facing new charges related to an alleged 2016 plot to illegally funnel donations made by a Russian national to support then-candidate Donald Trump’s White House bid.

Jesse Benton, 43, who was previously a top aide to former congressman Ron Paul (R-Tex.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and later ran a pro-Trump super PAC, was charged this month, according to a federal indictment in Washington unsealed Monday. Also charged is Roy Douglas “Doug” Wead, 75, a conservative author and former special assistant to President George H.W. Bush.

According to the indictment, in the months before the 2016 presidential election, Benton and Wead solicited a U.S. campaign donation from a Russian national in violation of federal law, then filed false campaign finance reports to make it seem that the donation was from Benton.

Federal disclosures from that period make clear the donation went to support Trump’s election, though the recipient is not named in the indictment. Authorities allege Benton arranged for the Russian national to attend a fundraiser “and get a photograph with” the candidate, “in exchange for a political contribution.”

Benton and Wead “concealed the scheme from the candidate, federal regulators, and the public,” according to the indictment.

The court filing does not name Trump, but details in the indictment match a $25,000 donation that Benton made in the fall of 2016 to a committee that jointly raised money for the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee, campaign finance records show.

The unnamed Russian national, who is described as a business associate of Wead, wired a total of $100,000 from a bank account in Vienna, Austria, to a political consulting firm owned by Benton, authorities allege.

In return, Benton and Wead allegedly arranged for the Russian national to attend a September fundraiser in Philadelphia. The following month, Benton used his credit card to pay the $25,000 cost of the Russian national’s ticket to the event and told a consultant for the related campaign committees that he had “bought the tickets and gifted them” to Wead and the individual.

Benton then paid off the $25,000 on his card using the funds wired by the individual to his consulting company. He kept the remaining $75,000, the indictment alleges.

 

Canadian, Russian Elections

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Neo-fascist party in Canada makes a mark in election; its vote count shouldn’t fool anyone, Wayne Madsen, left (author of 20 books, including one forthcoming on the rise of fascism in Western nations, and former Navy intelligence officer), wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallSept. 21-22, 2021. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gambled his Liberal Party government’s political future by calling a snap election and, defying many polls, came out ahead of his main rival, the increasingly Trump-like Conservative Party.

wayne madesen report logoWhile most eyes were on Trudeau and Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole, election observers eyeing the rise of neo-fascist, neo-Nazi, and other far-right parties around the world were looking at how a relatively new Canadian party, the far-right People’s Party of Canada (PPC), would fare in its first national contest. Formed in 2018 by former Conservative MP Maxime Bernier, the PPC ran 312 candidates in the recent election.

The PPC expounds the same sort of Gish galloping gobbledygook that every far-right party uses to confuse voters. They claim to be “libertarian,” “populist,” “nationalist,” and, most laughable, neither “right” or “left” in the classical sense.  The far-right claims ownership of terms like freedom, patriot, and libertarian to mask its fascist underpinnings.

  • canadian flagNew York Times, Justin Trudeau to Remain Prime Minister of Canada, Ian Austen, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). Canadian broadcasters projected that Mr. Trudeau would remain in power after Monday’s election. Trudeau falls short of a majority in Canada’s federal election.

ny times logoNew York Times, Germany’s Far Right Is Nowhere in the Election. But It’s ‘Here to Stay,’ Katrin Bennhold, Sept. 22, 2021. Although the far-right Alternative for Germany party is likely to remain a pariah force, it looks assured of a role in shaping the country’s future.

Four years ago the Alternative for Germany, or AfD, arrived in the German Parliament like a wrecking ball, the first far-right party to win a place at the heart of Germany’s democracy since World War II. It was a political earthquake in a country that had once seen Hitler’s Nazi party rise from the fringes to win power in free elections.

As another election looms on Sunday, the worst fears of many Germans have not come true: Support for the party has dipped. But neither have the hopes that the AfD would disappear from the political scene as suddenly as it appeared. If Germany’s fate in this election will not be settled by the far right, political analysts say, Germany’s future will partly be shaped by it.

 

More World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden, Macron to meet next month amid dispute over Australian submarine deal, Anne Gearan, Rick Noack, John Hudson and Adam Taylor, Sept. 22, 2021. France will send its envoy back to the United States as the two leaders sought to make peace after a secret arms deal led to an unprecedented diplomatic rupture.

French President Emmanuel Macron will send the country’s ambassador back to Washington next week, French and U.S. officials said, as the two countries sought to reset relations after a secret arms deal led to an ugly diplomatic rupture.

In a joint statement, itself a sign of easing tensions, Biden and Macron said they had spoken on the phone on Wednesday and agreed to meet in person at the end of October. Both are scheduled to attend the Group of 20 summit in Rome at that time.

Macron had recalled Ambassador Philippe Etienne to Paris in the days after the announcement that the United States had formed an alliance with Australia and the United Kingdom and that would allow Australia to purchase U.S. nuclear submarine technology. That deal effectively canceled an arrangement under which Australia had been set to purchase less capable French vessels, and prompted public outrage from French officials.

washington post logoWashington Post, Future of nuclear talks with Iran uncertain as Tehran expands enrichment activities, Karen DeYoung and Kareem Fahim, Sept. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Three months after the last meeting to negotiate a revival of the nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers, it remains unclear if and when the talks in Vienna will restart, or who might represent Iran’s new government.

In the interim, Iran has continued to expand the quantity and quality of its uranium enrichment, leading some experts to conclude it is now even closer to possessing enough fissile material to build a bomb than the two or three months the Biden administration has publicly estimated. At the same time, Iran has repeatedly sparred with the International Atomic Energy Agency over monitoring of its nuclear activities originally agreed in the 2015 deal.

For its part, the administration has continued to warn that negotiating time is running out, without saying how much time is left or what it will do if it expires. Some answers may emerge this week, when the Tehran government says Iran’s new foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, plans to hold bilateral meetings with his counterparts from Britain, Germany and France at the annual United Nations General Assembly.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden vows to double aid for vulnerable nations dealing with climate change, Brady Dennis, Sept. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Proposed $11.4 billion in annual U.S. financing would help “support the countries and people that will be hit the hardest,” the president said, but critics say it’s still not enough

washington post logoWashington Post, In first address to U.N., Biden calls for unity on climate change, pandemic, Anne Gearan, Sept. 22, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden defended the messy end to the of war in Afghanistan and made a case that the world can come together to confront global threats like climate change and the coronavirus in a Tuesday speech at the United Nations geared at easing allies’ increasing qualms with American leadership.

In his first address to the body as president, Biden also affirmed U.S. support for it and an alphabet soup of international partnerships and pledged support for poorer countries often disproportionately affected by climate change.

“We’ve ended 20 years of conflict in Afghanistan, and as we close this era of endless war we are opening an era of endless diplomacy,” Biden.

His measured address was notable mostly for its contrast to the boastful tone and sour reception that marked addresses by President Donald Trump.

President Biden announced plans Tuesday to double the funding the United States provides each year to help developing nations cope with the ravages of climate change and build greener economies.

Speaking at the United Nations, Biden framed the move as part of a broader return to multilateralism, saying the world must work together to combat daunting challenges such as the coronavirus pandemic, trade disputes and a rapidly warming planet.

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Republicans, Democrats unable to reach deal on bill to overhaul policing tactics, Felicia Sonmez and Mike DeBonis, Sept. 22, 2021. A bipartisan group of lawmakers has failed to achieve a long-discussed overhaul of police practices meant to stem the killings of Black citizens at the hands of law enforcement officers, an aide to one of the members said Wednesday.

Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) along with Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) had been negotiating for months. They were unable to resolve the issue of whether to loosen or eliminate the doctrine of “qualified immunity” that shields police officers and departments from civil liability in cases of misconduct, a Booker aide said.

News of the collapse of the talks was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

According to the Booker aide, Democrats’ final offer completely omitted any change to qualified immunity or Section 242 of the Civil Rights Act, which could cause officers to face expanded accountability in court.

Throughout the talks, Democrats had made eliminating — or at least loosening — the doctrine a cornerstone of their overhaul efforts. Republicans by and large had resisted making any changes, fearful that exposing police officers to lawsuits could cause them to adopt less aggressive and less effective tactics.

gabby petito fiancé bian laundrie

Travel blogger Gabby Petito is shown with her fiance, Brian Laundrie, now missing and being sought by authorities, who describe him as a person of interest in her homicide.

ny times logoNew York Times, Gabby Petito’s Death Ruled a Homicide, F.B.I. Confirms, Sept. 22, 2021. The search continues for Brian Laundrie, Ms. Petito’s fiancé, who has been named a person of interest in the case.

Vanity Fair, Commentary: Gabby Petito, Online Detectives, and the Queasy Places Our True-Crime Obsessions Have Taken Us, Delia Cai, Sept. 22, 2021.
Nothing about how the internet has consumed and shaped news about a missing woman is exactly surprising or new, but taken as a whole, it may represent a grim future.

Last week I found myself googling the drive from Grand Teton National Park to North Port, Florida, and clocking firsthand the overt fishiness that much of the internet had already assigned to the behavior of Gabby Petito’s boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, who’d arrived home at the end of that trip on September 1 without his girlfriend, Petito.

By the time Petito’s family reported her missing on September 11, the facts of the case courted speculation: Petito and Laundrie, a #VanLife influencer couple, had been heavily documenting their cross-country road trip.

In the past week, I’ve been thinking about what made Petito’s disappearance so prime for a national obsession. Why did the internet glom onto this woman’s story in particular, arguably well beyond the usual fixation so many readers and viewers and news organizations pay to missing white women? (Note that in Wyoming, 710 Indigenous people, mostly girls, have gone missing in the past decade.) Certainly, there is a morbid degree of fascination assigned to such a horrific end for a photogenic couple known for posting about their seemingly picture-perfect travels.

But there was also something about the way visibility played into the story: No doubt Petito’s and Laundrie’s roles as semipublic figures—via a self-selected mantle that invites a particular kind of following and scrutiny—were hugely responsible for vaulting their story into the national interest, to be covered by Fox News and Elle Australia alike. For Petito to disappear amid a road trip that was being shared in real time for her followers was a form of tragic irony too twisted to comprehend; for a while, people wondered if it was just some kind of sick stunt toward building narrative interest.

ny times logoNew York Times, R. Kelly Says He Won’t Testify in Trial as Closing Arguments Begin, Troy Closson, Sept. 22, 2021. A Brooklyn jury will decide whether the R&B superstar was at the center of a criminal conspiracy to abuse women and girls. Follow updates here.

r kelly twitterR. Kelly, right, manipulated not only the women and girls in his orbit, but his own employees as well for more than two decades, prosecutors told jurors at the start of their closing arguments in Mr. Kelly’s criminal trial in New York.

“For many years, what happened in the defendant’s world stayed in the defendant’s world,” Elizabeth Geddes, an assistant U.S. attorney, told the jurors in her final arguments to jurors at Federal District Court in Brooklyn. “But no longer.”

The portrayal came at the end of a five-week trial that featured nearly a dozen accusations of physical and sexual abuse of women and underage girls and boys.

Ms. Geddes homed in early in her summation on the vast circle of employees, entourage members and managers who surrounded the singer across his career. She used a large blackboard with the photos of his accusers on one side and Mr. Kelly on the other, with a network of associates surrounding him, showing jurors that they played critical roles in enabling his abuse and allowing it to persist.

“Over the past two decades, the names of the individuals have changed. But their roles have remained the same,” Ms. Geddes said. “And from the beginning, the defendant has been the leader.”

She also described a system of control that entrapped his accusers and blocked them from speaking out.

Ms. Geddes said that system included letters written by Mr. Kelly’s accusers that she said were filled with lies absolving him of crimes. The letters were locked away because he intended to use them in the future, Ms. Geddes said.

When women “crossed him” and opted to go public with their allegations, Ms. Geddes said, Mr. Kelly “used his henchmen to lodge threats and exact revenge.”

Referencing a slide show playing in the courtroom for jurors, she directed their attention to the transcript of an audio clip they had heard during the trial. In the snippet, Mr. Kelly warned any accusers who he believed had stolen from him, saying “people get murdered” for that behavior, using an expletive.

“That was a threat,” Ms. Geddes said.

The racketeering charge itself and the unusual nature of the case against Mr. Kelly, once one of pop music’s biggest stars, has been a key target for Mr. Kelly’s defense team.

But Ms. Geddes painstakingly broke down the racketeering charge the singer faces for jurors. “The law recognizes when someone commits a crime as part of a group, he’s more powerful — more dangerous,” she explained, later adding that “without his inner circle, the defendant could not have carried out the crimes he carried out for as long as he did.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: D.C. attorney general accuses Delta Phi Epsilon member of using group’s charitable funds for himself, Fredrick Kunkle, Sept. 14, 2021 (Sept. 22, print ed.). Civil complaint says longtime fraternity brother gained control of organization and its related foundation.

When Terrence J. Boyle pledged Delta Phi Epsilon’s Alpha Chapter in 1963, he joined a Georgetown University fraternity dedicated to cultivating careers in diplomatic and foreign service.

Over succeeding decades, Boyle is alleged to have gained control of the fraternity, along with a related private foundation, and used their charitable assets for himself, according to a civil complaint filed in Superior Court by D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D).

The 23-page court document accuses Boyle of using funds from the Delta Phi Epsilon Foundation for Foreign Service Education to help purchase a home for himself on 34th Street NW in Georgetown that is now worth more than $1 million. The complaint also accuses Boyle, a former attorney for the Federal Trade Commission, of improperly arranging to sell Delta Phi Epsilon’s chapter house last year for about $2.6 million — well below its appraisal of more than $4 million — by diverting the fraternity’s charitable asset into the foundation, which he runs.

The complaint also alleges that Boyle withheld financial details from fellow fraternity members or provided them with inaccurate information about the chapter house’s sale. Afterward, he allegedly requested and received unspecified proceeds from an escrow fund in violation of an agreement with D.C. investigators.

Boyle, a graduate of Georgetown’s Walsh School of Foreign Service and its law school, has denied the allegations in court papers and in a brief interview.

“All of that stuff is nonsense,” Boyle, 80, said when visited by a reporter at his 34th Street home, which is less than a block from the former chapter house. Boyle was accompanied by Matthew G. Ellison, 25, a 2018 Georgetown graduate and fraternity member who is also the foundation’s president. Ellison declined to comment.

River Farm fight offers public view of internal strife inside a nonprofit

The attorney general’s civil complaint, filed June 3 in D.C. Superior Court, says the subsidized purchase of Boyle’s private home in 1990 and the sale of Delta Phi Epsilon’s chapter house in June 2020 were improper schemes that occurred without necessary oversight from fellow fraternity members, whose donations Boyle helped solicit over the years.

The Delta Phi Epsilon foundation’s charitable assets, including bequests of as much as $52,000, were designated for student scholarships. Yet the foundation has never awarded a scholarship and ceased to function after Boyle took control in 1984, the complaint alleges.

“As far as I know, the only charitable work the foundation has ever done is provide housing for Terry Boyle,” said Georgetown graduate and fraternity member James Abely, 55. “He took over the fraternity and ran it into the ground.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Teenage Boy in New York Pleads Guilty in Killing of Tessa Majors, Jonah E. Bromwich, Updated Sept. 22, 2021. Ms. Majors, a Barnard College student, was stabbed to death in 2019 in a killing that rattled New York City. One of her killers pleaded guilty on Tuesday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Imam charged with sexually assaulting girl who sought his help, police say, Justin Jouvenal, Sept. 22, 2021 (print ed.). An imam from an Annandale mosque has been charged with allegedly sexually assaulting an underage girl who sought his help in 2015, Fairfax County police said Tuesday.

Said Shirzadi, 36, of Maryland, is facing one count of indecent liberties by a custodian after the victim disclosed the alleged unlawful contact in May and detectives launched an investigation, police said.

 

U.S. Media, Academic News

ny times logoNew York Times, No More Apologies: Inside Facebook’s Push to Defend Its Image, Ryan Mac and Sheera Frenkel, Sept. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s chief executive, has signed off on an effort to show users pro-Facebook stories and to distance himself from scandals.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, signed off last month on a new initiative code-named Project Amplify.

facebook logoThe effort, which was hatched at an internal meeting in January, had a specific purpose: to use Facebook’s News Feed, the site’s most important digital real estate, to show people positive stories about the social network.

The idea was that pushing pro-Facebook news items — some of them written by the company — would improve its image in the eyes of its users, three people with knowledge of the effort said. But the move was sensitive because Facebook had not previously positioned the News Feed as a place where it burnished its own reputation. Several executives at the meeting were shocked by the proposal, one attendee said.

Project Amplify punctuated a series of decisions that Facebook has made this year to aggressively reshape its image. Since that January meeting, the company has begun a multipronged effort to change its narrative by distancing Mr. Zuckerberg from scandals, reducing outsiders’ access to internal data, burying a potentially negative report about its content and increasing its own advertising to showcase its brand.

The moves amount to a broad shift in strategy. For years, Facebook confronted crisis after crisis over privacy, misinformation and hate speech on its platform by publicly apologizing. Mr. Zuckerberg personally took responsibility for Russian interference on the site during the 2016 presidential election and has loudly stood up for free speech online. Facebook also promised transparency into the way that it operated.

But the drumbeat of criticism on issues as varied as racist speech and vaccine misinformation has not relented. Disgruntled Facebook employees have added to the furor by speaking out against their employer and leaking internal documents. Last week, The Wall Street Journal published articles based on such documents that showed Facebook knew about many of the harms it was causing.

So Facebook executives, concluding that their methods had done little to quell criticism or win supporters, decided early this year to go on the offensive, said six current and former employees, who declined to be identified for fear of reprisal.

 

Sept. 21

Top Headlines

 

U.S. Terrorists, Election Fraudsters, Money Sources

 

Canadian, Russian Elections

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Trump Watch

 

Migration Issues

 

U.S. Governance, Politics, Elections

 

U.S. Courts, Law, Crime

 

World News

 

U.S.-Australia Sub Deal, French Outrage

 

U.S. Jobs, Economy, Markets

 

U.S. Media, Academic News

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, House passes bill to avert shutdown, but legislation faces grim prospects in Senate, Tony Romm, Sept. 21, 2021. The political standoff is threatening to leave Congress with little time to resolve a number of disputes that could shutter the government during a pandemic and destabilize global markets.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. default this fall would cost 6 million jobs, wipe out $15 trillion in wealth, study says, Jeff Stein, Sept. 21, 2021.  The United States could plunge into an immediate recession if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling and the country defaults on its payment obligations this fall, according to one analysis released Tuesday.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, found that a prolonged impasse over the debt ceiling would cost the U.S. economy up to 6 million jobs, wipe out as much as $15 trillion in household wealth, and send the unemployment rate surging to roughly 9 percent from around 5 percent.

Lawmakers in both parties agree that the debt ceiling must be raised to avoid economic calamity, but their standoff over how to do so has intensified. Despite the national debt increasing by close to $8 trillion under President Donald Trump, Republicans have been adamant that they will refuse to help Democrats increase the debt ceiling, in opposition to President Biden’s spending plans.

The Treasury Department has said it will exhaust its “extraordinary measures” to pay the U.S. obligations sometime in October, giving lawmakers little time to act to head off calamity.

Washington Post, Democrats unveil new plan to fund government, suspend debt ceiling as major showdown with GOP looms

“This economic scenario is cataclysmic. … The downturn would be comparable to that suffered during the financial crisis” of 2008, said the report, written by Zandi and Bernard Yaros, assistant director and economist at Moody’s Analytics.

The debt limit is the maximum amount of debt that Treasury can issue to pay the country’s bills. It was suspended from 2019 through the beginning of last month under a deal reached during the Trump administration. If Congress fails to increase the debt limit, Treasury would be unable to pay debts as they come due. janet yellen oTreasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, right, said earlier this week that such a default would be unprecedented in U.S. history. Moody’s “best estimate” is that this date is Oct. 20, although Treasury has not given a more precise day.

At that point, Treasury officials would face excruciating choices, such as whether to fail to pay $20 billion owed to seniors on Social Security, or to fail to pay bondholders of U.S. debt — a decision that could undermine faith in U.S. credit and permanently drive federal borrowing costs higher.

Failure to raise the debt limit would have catastrophic impacts on global financial markets. Interest rates would spike as investors demand a higher rate of return for the risk of taking on U.S. debt given uncertainty about repayment. An increase in interest rates would ripple through the economy, raising costs not only for taxpayers but also for consumers and other borrowers. The value of the U.S. dollar would also decline long term as investors questioned the security of purchasing U.S. treasuries. The cost of auto and home loans would rise.

Washington Post, White House rules out concessions on debt ceiling while GOP refuses to help avert financial crisis

“Stock prices would be cut almost in one-third at the worst of the selloff, wiping out $15 trillion in household wealth,” the Moody’s report finds. The market would rebound once the impasse is resolved, but some amount of the losses would be permanent. “Treasury yields, mortgage rates, and other consumer and corporate borrowing rates spike, at least until the debt limit is resolved and Treasury payments resume.”

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. careens toward shutdown, financial crisis amid stalemate in Congress, Tony Romm, Sept. 21, 2021 (earlier than above). Democrats have tied an increase in the debt ceiling with a bill that funds the government into December, setting off a war with Republicans, who refuse to raise the cap out of opposition to President Biden’s agenda — even if it means grinding the country to a halt.

The U.S. government is careening toward an urgent financial crisis starting in 10 days, as a political standoff on Capitol Hill threatens to shutter the government during a pandemic, delay hurricane aid to millions of Americans and thrust Washington to the precipice of defaulting on its debt.

The high-stakes feud stems from a fight to raise the U.S. government’s borrowing limit, known as the debt ceiling. Democrats have tied the increase to a bill that funds federal operations into December, setting off a war with Republicans, who refuse to raise the cap out of opposition to President Biden’s broader agenda — even if it means grinding the country to a halt.

No recent fight in the halls of Congress has quite carried the same stakes as this one, coming at a time when Washington continues to grapple with rising coronavirus infections and the deadly consequences of a fast-warming planet. Biden himself has warned “catastrophic” effects of inaction with key deadlines looming.

Washington Post, U.S. default this fall would cost 6 million jobs, wipe out $15 trillion in wealth, study says

washington post logoWashington Post, More centrist Democrats question size of $3.5 trillion economic plan, Tony Romm and Marianna Sotomayor, Sept. 21, 2021. Razor-thin majorities in the House and Senate give Democrats little wiggle room as they try and assemble budget plan.

A slew of moderate Democrats in the House and Senate have toiled behind the scenes to try to rethink or scale back core elements of the party’s $3.5 trillion tax-and-spending plan, opening new internal rifts that complicate its path to swift passage.

U.S. House logoIn recent days, centrist Democratic lawmakers have questioned the price tag of the proposal, raised alarms that it could add to the deficit, and sought to whittle down some of its key components, including programs that would provide free prekindergarten and community college for all Americans perhaps regardless of income.

The political complications are hard enough to resolve on their own, pitting warring factions of Democrats against each other over President Biden’s broader economic agenda. But they have taken on greater significance at a time when the party finds itself newly consumed with a wide array of additional problems, including a scramble to prevent a government shutdown next week and a breach of the debt ceiling shortly after that. The battles could lessen some moderates’ appetites for trillions of dollars in new spending.

For now, the most forceful objections have come from lawmakers including Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who met with President Biden to discuss her position last week. Three people familiar with Sinema’s thinking, who requested anonymity to describe their private conversations, said she is especially interested in targeting some of the aid more narrowly based on income and economic status than her Democratic peers might have preferred. That includes the new prekindergarten and community college spending.

  During a vote earlier this year, first-year U.S. Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) emphasized her vote against increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour with a thumbs down gesture.

During a vote earlier this year, first-year U.S. Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) emphasized her vote against increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour with a thumbs down gesture.

The Nation, Commentary: Kyrsten Sinema’s Grapes of Wealth, Tom Gogola, Sept. 16, 2021. The Arizona senator’s wine-soaked politics offer a bold and colorful bouquet of disparate notes, with a hint of corruption.

A curious news story popped up in the Sonoma County Press-Democrat this summer, just as a bipartisan group of US senators was trimming the sails on Joe Biden’s infrastructure plans and sending their own $1.2 trillion package to the Senate floor: The Wine Country paper of record reported that one of those senators, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, had traveled to the city of Sonoma in August 2020, where she earned $1,117.40 as a paid intern at a winery.

According to the Press-Democrat, Senator Sinema worked at the California winery for three weeks last summer, and has also traveled to Sonoma for a fundraiser held on her behalf at a luxury inn that charges $950 a night for a room during peak season.

Why would a sitting senator—earning a taxpayer-funded salary of $174,000—take a paid internship at a winery?

Well, Sinema is apparently a serious wine buff, in her own way.

Around the same time as the Press-Democrat internship article appeared, back in Washington, D.C., all the headlines were about how Sinema played a key role in keeping the infrastructure negotiations on track by encouraging her fellow “moderates” to guzzle some more wine and get back to work when talks broke down. She supplied the wine, while plonky plutocrat Joe Manchin opened his houseboat on the Potomac to the lubricated legislators. It all sounded rather immoderate, if not completely decadent, if you ask me. And anyway, isn’t excessive alcohol consumption supposed to impair your judgment, not enhance it?

So again: Why this particular wine operation? One possible answer aligns with what Sinema’s former supporters in Arizona say about her: She has abandoned the progressives who brought her to the dance and prefers to do the Wah Watusi on behalf of the 1 percent these days.

Three Sticks is owned by William S. Price III, a cofounder of TPG Capital, one of the largest private equity firms in the world, with $108 billion in assets under management.

 

President-elect Joe Biden (Gage Skidmore photo via Flickr).

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: In U.N. Debut, Biden Confronts Doubts About U.S. Global Leadership, Michael D. Shear, David E. Sanger and Rick Gladstone, Sept. 21, 2021. Covid-19 and climate change are dominating the start of the General Assembly gathering. The U.N. secretary general warned that an increasingly divided world was “on the edge of an abyss.” The annual U.N. meeting presents a major test for President Biden.

President Biden delivered his debut address to the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations on Tuesday amid strong new doubts about his ability to vault the United States back into a position of global leadership after his predecessor’s promotion of “America First” isolationism.

UN logoSpeaking to a smaller than usual audience of his peers because of the still-raging Covid-19 pandemic, Mr. Biden called for a new era of global unity against the coronavirus, emerging technological threats and the expanding influence of autocratic nations such as China and Russia.

“No matter how challenging or how complex the problems we’re going to face, government by and for the people is still the best way to deliver for all of our people,” he said, insisting that the United States and its Western allies would remain vital partners.

Calling for the world to make the use of force “our tool of last resort, not our first,” he defended his decision to end the U.S. war in Afghanistan, a chaotic withdrawal of American troops that left allies blindsided.

“Today, many of our greatest concerns cannot be solved or even addressed by the force of arms,” he said. “Bombs and bullets cannot defend against Covid-19 or its future variants.”

But Mr. Biden’s efforts to move America past President Donald J. Trump’s more confrontational policies come amid growing frustration among allies with his administration’s diplomatic approach.

His familiar refrain that the world must choose between democracy and autocracy looks different now that the Taliban are once again in control of Kabul, reversing many of the democratic gains of the past 20 years. Covid is resurging in much of the world. And the French just recalled their ambassador in outrage — not just over losing a $60 billion-plus submarine contract, but because it was made clear they are not in the inner circle of allies.

european union logo rectangleCharles Michel, the European Council president, said in a briefing at the E.U. Mission to the United Nations on Monday that “the elementary principles for allies are transparency and trust.” Expressing shock and bafflement over Mr. Biden’s treatment of France, he said, “And what do we observe? We are observing a clear lack of transparency and loyalty.”

The allies recognize the differences between Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump. But in conversations over the past two weeks, they say they have new concerns about the United States.

They worry about whether Mr. Biden really has their back, after the French foreign minister compared the submarine deal with Australia to a “knife in the back.” When they hear about Covid vaccine booster shots in the United States, they often wonder what that might do to global supplies. And when they look at how the U.S. handles the Australia deal, they wonder whether American national interest has eclipsed the role of global leader.

Mr. Biden and other leaders gathered in New York City against a backdrop of disastrous climate change, polarized superpower relations and a devastating pandemic that has worsened the global rich-poor divide.

The event is a major test of credibility for Mr. Biden, who was among the first to address the 193-member General Assembly. Among the last to speak will be President Xi Jinping of China, via prerecorded video, bookending a day with the competing views of the two most powerful countries in the world.

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats to Pair Spending Bill With Raising Debt Ceiling, Pressuring G.O.P., Emily Cochrane, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). The approach essentially dares Republicans to follow through on their threats to oppose increasing the debt limit, by coupling it with urgently needed federal spending. 

Top congressional Democrats announced on Monday that they would tack a measure lifting the federal borrowing limit through the end of 2022 onto a bill to keep the government funded through December, escalating a brewing showdown with Republicans who have vowed to oppose legislation needed to avert a fiscal catastrophe.

The House is expected to take up the bill as early as this week, as Democrats juggle work on their $3.5 trillion economic package with the pressing need to avoid a government shutdown in 10 days and a potential default on the national debt within weeks.

But Republicans have warned repeatedly that they are unwilling to support raising the debt ceiling, leaving the fate of both measures in doubt. In pairing the two, Democratic leaders hoped to pressure Republicans into dropping their opposition and allowing passage of legislation that is expected to contain urgently needed spending, including disaster relief to help their states.

“Addressing the debt limit is about meeting obligations the government has already made, like the bipartisan emergency Covid relief legislation from December, as well as vital payments to Social Security recipients and our veterans,” the top two Democrats, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, said in a joint statement announcing their plan. “Furthermore, as the administration warned last week, a reckless Republican-forced default could plunge the country into a recession.”

Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, has argued for weeks that it is the ruling party’s responsibility to finance the federal spending it has endorsed, particularly as Democrats seek to maneuver trillions of dollars in spending around unified Republican opposition.

“Democrats want to build a partisan future without our input, so Democrats will not get bipartisan facilitators for their purely partisan spending binge,” Mr. McConnell declared on the Senate floor, adding that Republicans would support a stand-alone bill to keep the government open. “Democrats are fully capable of owning this step themselves.”

But the debt-limit increase is needed to pay for trillions of dollars in debt racked up by lawmakers in both parties, including under President Donald J. Trump. Democrats, who joined Republicans in increasing the limit during the Trump administration, argue that the G.O.P. should reciprocate under President Biden so the government does not default on its obligations.

“This is a bipartisan responsibility, just as it was under my predecessor,” Mr. Biden said on Twitter, in a statement of support for the plan. “Blocking it would be inexcusable.”

In their statement, Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer singled out the need to pay for the $900 billion pandemic relief bill that became law in the final weeks of the Trump administration with bipartisan support, including from Mr. McConnell and moderate Republicans. The pair also said the legislation, which had not been made public by Monday evening, would also include emergency funding to resettle refugees from Afghanistan and address the onslaught of natural disasters in recent months, including the hurricane devastation in Louisiana and wildfires in the West.

 

U.S. Terrorists, Election Fraudsters, Dark Money

 Trump-allied attorney Sidney Powell, right, with allied attorney Jenna Ellis in the background last fall.

Trump-allied attorney Sidney Powell, right, with allied attorney Jenna Ellis in the background last fall, has pushed baseless claims of election tampering.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Campaign Knew Lawyers’ Voting Machine Claims Were Baseless, Memo Shows, Alan Feuer, Sept. 21, 2021. Days before lawyers allied with Donald Trump gave a news conference promoting election conspiracy theories, his campaign had determined that many of those claims were false, court filings reveal.

Two weeks after the 2020 election, a team of lawyers closely allied with Donald J. Trump held a widely watched news conference at the Republican Party’s headquarters in Washington. At the event, they laid out a bizarre conspiracy theory claiming that a voting machine company had worked with an election software firm, the financier George Soros and Venezuela to steal the presidential contest from Mr. Trump.

But there was a problem for the Trump team, according to court documents released on Monday evening.

By the time the news conference occurred on Nov. 19, Mr. Trump’s campaign had already prepared an internal memo on many of the outlandish claims about the company, Dominion Voting Systems, and the separate software company, Smartmatic. The memo had determined that those allegations were untrue.

The court papers, which were initially filed late last week as a motion in a defamation lawsuit brought against the campaign and others by a former Dominion employee, Eric Coomer, contain evidence that officials in the Trump campaign were aware early on that many of the claims against the companies were baseless.

The documents also suggest that the campaign sat on its findings about Dominion even as Sidney Powell and other lawyers attacked the company in the conservative media and ultimately filed four federal lawsuits accusing it of a vast conspiracy to rig the election against Mr. Trump.

According to emails contained in the documents, Zach Parkinson, then the campaign’s deputy director of communications, reached out to subordinates on Nov. 13 asking them to “substantiate or debunk” several matters concerning Dominion. The next day, the emails show, Mr. Parkinson received a copy of a memo cobbled together by his staff from what largely appear to be news articles and public fact-checking services.

Even though the memo was hastily assembled, it rebutted a series of allegations that Ms. Powell and others were making in public. It found:

That Dominion did not use voting technology from the software company, Smartmatic, in the 2020 election.

That Dominion had no direct ties to Venezuela or to Mr. Soros.

And that there was no evidence that Dominion’s leadership had connections to left-wing “antifa” activists, as Ms. Powell and others had claimed.

As Mr. Coomer’s lawyers wrote in their motion in the defamation suit, “The memo produced by the Trump campaign shows that, at least internally, the Trump campaign found there was no evidence to support the conspiracy theories regarding Dominion” and Mr. Coomer.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Serious new legal trouble for everyone involved with Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign, Bill Palmer, Sept. 21, 2021. Dominion Voting Systems has already brought individual civil cases against numerous lawyers associated with Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign, over the phony conspiracy theories they touted about imaginary election fraud. The big question was whether there would end up being enough evidence to prove that they knew these claims were false when they made them, and whether Trump himself would end up being targeted by Dominion as well.

bill palmer report logo headerNow we’re getting some answers. The New York Times is reporting that after Donald Trump was declared the loser of the 2020 election, his campaign immediately crafted an internal memo admitting that there was no voting machine fraud. This is bad for the Trump cartel on two levels.

First, it means that the likes of Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani are really screwed. They’ll have a nearly impossible time convincing anyone that they somehow weren’t aware of this Trump campaign internal memo, meaning Dominion now has the smoking gun it needs to very likely win its cases against them.

Second, it means that Donald Trump and his 2020 campaign leaders all knew that Powell and Giuliani were lying when they went out there to make these claims on behalf of the campaign. It means Trump and his campaign people are looking at serious legal culpability in civil court, once Dominion inevitably files suit against them. It also raises the possibility of a criminal conspiracy to commit election fraud.
In the interim, Iran has continued to expand the quantity and quality of its uranium enrichment, leading some experts to conclude it is now even closer to possessing enough fissile material to build a bomb than the two or three months the Biden administration has publicly estimated. At the same time, Iran has repeatedly sparred with the International Atomic Energy Agency over monitoring of its nuclear activities originally agreed in the 2015 deal.

For its part, the administration has continued to warn that negotiating time is running out, without saying how much time is left or what it will do if it expires. Some answers may emerge this week, when the Tehran government says Iran’s new foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, plans to hold bilateral meetings with his counterparts from Britain, Germany and France at the annual United Nations General Assembly.

washington post logoWashington Post, Huge hack reveals embarrassing details of who’s behind Proud Boys and other far-right websites, Drew Harwell, Craig Timberg and Hannah Allam, Sept. 21, 2021. Researchers say it will allow them to gain important new insights into how extremists operate online.

Epik long has been the favorite Internet company of the far-right, providing domain services to QAnon theorists, Proud Boys and other instigators of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol — allowing them to broadcast hateful messages from behind a veil of anonymity.

But that veil abruptly vanished last week when a huge breach by the hacker group Anonymous dumped into public view more than 150 gigabytes of previously private data — including user names, passwords and other identifying information of Epik’s customers.

Extremism researchers and political opponents have treated the leak as a Rosetta Stone to the far-right, helping them to decode who has been doing what with whom over several years. Initial revelations have spilled out steadily across Twitter since news of the hack broke last week, often under the hashtag #epikfail, but those studying the material say they will need months and perhaps years to dig through all of it.

“It’s massive. It may be the biggest domain-style leak I’ve seen and, as an extremism researcher, it’s certainly the most interesting,” said Megan Squire, a computer science professor at Elon University who studies right-wing extremism. “It’s an embarrassment of riches — stress on the embarrassment.”

Epik, based in the Seattle suburb of Sammamish, has made its name in the Internet world by providing critical Web services to sites that have run afoul of other companies’ policies against hate speech, misinformation and advocating violence. Its client list is a roll-call of sites known for permitting extreme posts and that have been rejected by other companies for their failure to moderate what their users post.

Online records show those sites have included 8chan, which was dropped by its providers after hosting the manifesto of a gunman who killed 51 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019; Gab, which was dropped for hosting the antisemitic rants of a gunman who killed 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018; and Parler, which was dropped due to lax moderation related to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

TheDonald’s owner speaks out on why he finally pulled plug on hate-filled site

Epik also provides services to a network of sites devoted to extremist QAnon conspiracy theories. Epik briefly hosted the neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer in 2019 after acquiring a cybersecurity company that had provided it with hosting services, but Epik soon canceled that contract, according to news reports. Epik also stopped supporting 8chan after a short period of time, the company has said.

Earlier this month, Epik also briefly provided service to the antiabortion group Texas Right to Life, whose website, ProLifeWhistleblower.com, was removed by the hosting service GoDaddy because it solicited accusations about which medical providers might be violating a state abortion ban.

An Epik attorney said the company stopped working with the site because it violated company rules against collecting people’s private information. Online records show Epik was still the site’s domain registrar as of last week, though the digital tip line is no longer available, and the site now redirects to the group’s homepage.

Epik founder Robert Monster’s willingness to provide technical support to online sanctuaries of the far-right have made him a regular target of anti-extremism advocates, who criticized him for using Epik’s tools to republish the Christchurch gunman’s manifesto and live-streamed video the killer had made of the slaughter.

Steady, Commentary: Hypocrisy, Dan Rather (author, commentator and former CBS News Anchor and Managing Editor) and Steady Team, Sept. 22, 2021. What is happening now in our nation’s capital, and radiating throughout the country, is enough to put even the most cynical of politicians of past eras to shame.

I fear that we don’t have an adequate framework to make complete sense of the depravity and disingenuousness of what is taking place. Basically, we have one political party at the national level, the Republicans, who have long since ceded any pretense of actually doing the work of government, namely making policies to solve problems. Instead, it is raw power for power’s sake, and that has turned Congress into what is in essence largely a troll farm on their side of the aisle. You stand out by “owning the libs” on Fox News (or an even more troll-inducing platform).

To say this brings me no pleasure. Our government was designed for passionate debates over principles (or at least prerogatives) that then were meant to resolve, whenever possible, in compromise. We don’t need one-party rule. We need a marketplace of ideas. But the only marketplace open for business right now in Washington is WITHIN the Democratic Party. What we should have is the will of the majority, with significant concessions for the minority. Now, with the abuse of the filibuster, the denial of basic democratic norms, and the utter bad faith of both the leaders and the followers in the Republican caucus, we have a spectacle of the absurd that is downright dangerous.

Of course none of this is new, but what set me off this evening is following the descent towards a shutdown of the government and the chilling possibility of a default on the nation’s debt.

For many in the Beltway “In Crowd,” this is being covered as sport, a fight on the line of scrimmage between opposing political forces. But this is not a game. This is not a case of winners and losers, but a situation where the entire nation is in danger of losing. This isn’t a showdown. This isn’t a question of tactics. It’s extortion. After running up debt with tax cuts and pandemic spending, the Republicans now see the opportunity to stick it to the Democrats. Now, politics is a tough business, it can be bare knuckles. But this is again not a fight over anything other than holding our government and economy hostage.

To write all of this is not to give Democrats a free pass. Their proposals must be analyzed and questioned. Their internal debates deserve to be covered. As the governing party, they need to be scrutinized. But in doing so, we can’t lose sight of the larger context. Republicans only worry about the debt when they are out of power. They see nothing wrong with pouring trillions of dollars into mismanaged foreign wars, but heaven forbid we spend a fraction of that trying to protect our planet against climate change.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How serious is the threat to democracy, and how do we defeat it? Jennifer Rubin, right, author of the new book Resistance published this week and shown below, Sept. 21, 2021. Election law guru Richard L. Hasen jennifer rubin new headshothas published a law review article explaining the danger of subverted elections and violence after millions have been brainwashed to believe the “big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen.

The piece is particularly timely, given the new reporting that two supposedly “responsible” Republicans, Sens. Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina and Mike Lee of Utah, had reviewed the disgraced former president’s fraud claims in January and confirmed they were total bunk. Despite this, the senators have refused to separate their party from the instigator of the Jan. 6 insurrection and voted against a bipartisan commission to review the violent day.

jennifer rubin book resistanceHasen warns: “Of greatest concern is that the activities of Trump and his allies from the November 2020 election through January 7, 2021 served as dress rehearsal for how to subvert election results in 2024 or in other future elections.” He outlines three main risks to our elections.

The first risk arises from the “independent state legislature” doctrine. As Hasen explains, this is “[t]he argument that Article II and Article I, section 4 give state legislatures virtually unlimited powers over the rules for running presidential and congressional elections — even if it means violating the state’s own Constitution.” He points out that if courts were to accept this doctrine, it would “create a potential earthquake in American election law by upending everything from voter initiatives setting the rules for congressional primaries to normal election administration decisions of state and local election administrators — not to mention, rendering state constitutional protections for voting rights a nullity in congressional and presidential election.”

Democrats have warned that electing a GOP House majority in 2022 would open the door to abuse of this process and refusal to recognize voters’ presidential choice in preference for state lawmakers’ pick. Hasen writes:

The 2020 election shattered the illusion that bipartisan norms insulated our elections in a way that less mature democracies could not. Instead, it’s now clear we have one party that would gladly swap U.S. democracy for a tin-pot dictatorship with its champion at the helm. Behind that party is an army of disgraceful, right-wing media outlets, pundits and think tanks that eagerly legitimize anti-democratic subversion for the sake of a buck. A recently-surfaced, six-point plan from lawyer John Eastman advising how the vice president could unilaterally pull off a coup underscores the seriousness of the threat and just how deceitful and un-American are MAGA’s enablers. (It should also highlight the need for disciplinary action against lawyers plotting to overturn our democracy.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Two GOP operatives indicted for allegedly routing money from Russian national to support Trump campaign, Felicia Sonmez and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Sept. 21, 2021. A political strategist who was pardoned by the former president after being convicted in a 2012 campaign finance scheme is facing new charges related to an alleged 2016 plot to illegally funnel donations made by a Russian national to support then-candidate Donald Trump’s White House bid.

Jesse Benton, 43, who was previously a top aide to former congressman Ron Paul (R-Tex.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and later ran a pro-Trump super PAC, was charged this month, according to a federal indictment in Washington unsealed Monday. Also charged is Roy Douglas “Doug” Wead, 75, a conservative author and former special assistant to President George H.W. Bush.

According to the indictment, in the months before the 2016 presidential election, Benton and Wead solicited a U.S. campaign donation from a Russian national in violation of federal law, then filed false campaign finance reports to make it seem that the donation was from Benton.

Federal disclosures from that period make clear the donation went to support Trump’s election, though the recipient is not named in the indictment. Authorities allege Benton arranged for the Russian national to attend a fundraiser “and get a photograph with” the candidate, “in exchange for a political contribution.”

Benton and Wead “concealed the scheme from the candidate, federal regulators, and the public,” according to the indictment.

The court filing does not name Trump, but details in the indictment match a $25,000 donation that Benton made in the fall of 2016 to a committee that jointly raised money for the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee, campaign finance records show.

The unnamed Russian national, who is described as a business associate of Wead, wired a total of $100,000 from a bank account in Vienna, Austria, to a political consulting firm owned by Benton, authorities allege.

In return, Benton and Wead allegedly arranged for the Russian national to attend a September fundraiser in Philadelphia. The following month, Benton used his credit card to pay the $25,000 cost of the Russian national’s ticket to the event and told a consultant for the related campaign committees that he had “bought the tickets and gifted them” to Wead and the individual.

Benton then paid off the $25,000 on his card using the funds wired by the individual to his consulting company. He kept the remaining $75,000, the indictment alleges.

washington post logoWashington Post, Treasury Department will sanction crypto exchanges that help channel payments to hackers, Gerrit De Vynck, Sept. 21, 2021. The Biden administration is also warning companies that paying ransoms to hackers might be illegal The U.S. government is stepping up its efforts to disrupt the infrastructure hackers use to make money from breaking into and holding hostage computer networks, announcing sanctions against one virtual currency exchange and warning U.S. companies it could be legally risky for them to pay off hackers that hit their systems.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions Tuesday against Suex, an exchange that lets people buy and sell virtual currencies with regular credit cards, according to its website. The government said as much as 40 percent of known transactions run by Suex were criminal. Other exchanges could be hit with sanctions, too.

“We are going to continue to look at the ecosystem and look for actors that are taking similar actions,” Anne Neuberger, the White House’s deputy national security adviser on cybersecurity, said during a call with reporters.

Ransomware attacks, where hackers lock out a company or organization from its computer system and demand a ransom payment to restore access, more than doubled from 2019 to 2020. The government sees them as both a criminal menace, and a national security threat. In February, a hack on the Colonial Pipeline fuel-delivery network led to fuel shortages up and down the East Coast. President Biden has told Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose country is known to host many of the ransomware gangs responsible for the surge, that he would take “any necessary action” to defend critical infrastructure against cyberattacks.

The anatomy of a ransomware attack

Still, the hacks keep coming. On Monday, Iowa-based New Cooperative, a major buyer and distributor of grain and feed, said it had been hit by a ransomware attack, though it was able to find a workaround to keep most of its business running.

The announcement Tuesday is part of the government’s attempts to lower the frequency and profitability of ransomware attacks. It has urged companies to increase their cybersecurity practices, such as requiring all employees to use two-factor authentication. Legislators have proposed new rules requiring private companies that operate critical infrastructure to meet minimum security standards.
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Sanctioning crypto exchanges might also make it riskier for companies to pay ransoms even if they want to. Right now, many companies hire third-party consultants to negotiate and help pay ransoms, ensuring that computer systems get back up and running quickly. But if the exchanges used to facilitate those ransom payments are sanctioned, the hacked companies and their consultants could now both be breaking the law by paying.

“Companies that facilitate ransomware payments to cyber actors on behalf of victims, including financial institutions, cyber insurance firms, and companies involved in digital forensics and incident response, not only encourage future ransomware payment demands but also may risk violating OFAC regulations,” the Treasury Department said in its statement. “The U.S. government strongly discourages all private companies and citizens from paying ransom or extortion demands.”

FBI held back ransomware decryption key from businesses to run operation targeting hackers

If companies feel they must make a payment, the best course of action is to tell law enforcement ahead of time, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said on the call.

“If a company determines that it’s in their interest to pay these demands, the OFAC guidance makes clear that the best way to protect that company from the risk of paying a sanctioned entity is to report the fact that they have been attacked to law enforcement,” Adeyemo said.

The White House has also been pushing cyber-insurance providers to craft policies that incentivize companies to take security more seriously. Some hackers have specifically targeted companies they know have robust cyber-insurance. The government wants stricter rules on who gets to access that insurance.

“In order to get home insurance, you have to have installed smoke detectors or have an alarm system,” Neuberger said. “So when we look at cybersecurity, what we’re grappling with is what seems to be the lack of incentives for companies to make the investment to have to modernize their defenses to meet the threat.”

 

Canadian, Russian Elections

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Neo-fascist party in Canada makes a mark in election; its vote count shouldn’t fool anyone, Wayne Madsen, left (author of 20 books, including one forthcoming on the rise of fascism in Western nations, and former Navy intelligence officer), wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallSept. 21, 2021. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gambled his Liberal Party government’s political future by calling a snap election and, defying many polls, came out ahead of his main rival, the increasingly Trump-like Conservative Party.

wayne madesen report logoWhile most eyes were on Trudeau and Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole, election observers eyeing the rise of neo-fascist, neo-Nazi, and other far-right parties around the world were looking at how a relatively new Canadian party, the far-right People’s Party of Canada (PPC), would fare in its first national contest. Formed in 2018 by former Conservative MP Maxime Bernier, the PPC ran 312 candidates in the recent election.

The PPC expounds the same sort of Gish galloping gobbledygook that every far-right party uses to confuse voters. They claim to be “libertarian,” “populist,” “nationalist,” and, most laughable, neither “right” or “left” in the classical sense.  The far-right claims ownership of terms like freedom, patriot, and libertarian to mask its fascist underpinnings.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Justin Trudeau to Remain Prime Minister of Canada, Ian Austen, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). Canadian broadcasters projected that Mr. Trudeau would remain in power after Monday’s election. Trudeau falls short of a majority in Canada’s federal election.

canadian flagHere’s what you need to know:

  • Justin Trudeau will remain prime minister, Canadian TV projects.
  • Many Canadians, weary of their prime minister, still see him as the least bad choice.
  • The national dialogue on Indigenous issues was missing from the campaign.
  • Climate change was supposed to be a big issue this election. It wasn’t.
  • The Conservative, Erin O’Toole, shifted left to broaden his party’s appeal.

justin trudeau twitterThe prime minister, right, called the election last month, two years ahead of schedule, expecting that the boost in his popularity provided by his handling of the pandemic would give him the majority he was denied in 2018. But those promising numbers immediately fell as Canadians expressed dismay about the election being held while the Delta variant of the coronavirus was straining hospitals and prompting the authorities to restore restrictions in some areas.

While disgruntlement about the election call dominated the five-week campaign, the pandemic intensified as a campaign issue over the final days. Mr. Trudeau has proposed mandatory vaccination for some and championed vaccine passports. Erin O’Toole, the Conservative leader, rejected both.

Mr. Trudeau first came to power in 2015 by presenting himself as a new voice in politics with a fresh approach and policies.

This time around, Mr. Trudeau is part of the political establishment. So he focused on telling voters, explicitly or otherwise, that a return to a Conservative government under Mr. O’Toole would wipe away his achievements in a variety of areas including gun control, gender equity, climate change, child care, poverty reduction and, above all, ending the pandemic and getting Canadians vaccinated.

vladimir putin hand up palmer washington post logoWashington Post, Putin’s United Russia party gains big majority in parliamentary elections, Robyn Dixon, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party maintained its tight grip on the nation’s parliament in three-day elections criticized by opposition parties and independent observers for ballot stuffing and tampering, according to election results announced by the Central Election Commission.

CEC head Ella Pamfilova said United Russia won, holding on to its supermajority in the parliament with a turnout of 51.68 percent, well above the 2016 turnout of 47.88 percent — the lowest in Russian history.

russian flag wavingComing in for particular criticism by the opposition was a new, online voting system used in six regions, which was described as opaque and has been credited with preserving United Russia seats, especially in Moscow.

The Communist Party — which came in second as usual — announced it would not recognize the online voting results and would not do so in the future, saying the system had no integrity.

Putin’s party expected to maintain its grip on Duma as Russian opposition complains of stolen vote

Police cordoned off Pushkin Square in central Moscow after Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov called for protests to “defend the election.” Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin denied Communist Party applications to stage protests Monday, Tuesday or Friday.

The results mean Putin’s party has won all five State Duma elections since 2003, giving the Kremlin a compliant parliament that has long supported the president as he cracked down on political freedoms and crushed his opponents.

United Russia’s approval rating was hovering around 30 percent in the months leading to elections, due to voter discontent over increases in the pension age, high food prices, declining real wages and the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Russian fascism shows weak links; Biden missed an opportunity, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 20 books and former Navy intelligence officer, Sept. 20-21, 2021. A Cold War mindset during the Barack wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallObama administration and a Russophile Donald Trump foreign policy squandered advantageous opportunities for the United States to politically hobble the neo-fascist policies of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The recent Russian legislative and regional elections indicate that if the United States were to provide “quiet” assistance to the Communist wayne madesen report logoParty of the Russian Federation (KPRF) the consistent majorities Putin’s United Russia cult of personality party achieves in elections, including the three-day election that wrapped up on September 19, could suffer setbacks.

As of this report, with 99.6 percent of the vote counted, United Russia clocked in with 49.8 percent of the votes, only a plurality of votes for Putin. In 2016, the Putin party won 54.2 percent of the vote, a majority.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Second dose of J&J vaccine increases covid protection, company says, Ben Guarino, Sept. 21, 2021. According to Johnson & Johnson’s study, efficacy was 100 percent against severe or critical cases of covid-19 for two weeks after the booster shot. Regulators would have to authorize the boosters before the public could receive them.

johnson johnson logoA second shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine boosts protection against symptomatic and severe covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, the drug company announced early Tuesday. Those booster shots also generated additional antibodies, molecules churned out by the immune system to help fight off infections.

Under the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency-use authorization, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is given as a single dose, unlike the two shots required for full immunization with the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines.

Results published this summer indicate that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine generates lasting amounts of antibodies able to target delta and other variants of concern. In June and July, when delta was ascendant, the effectiveness of the one-shot vaccine was 78 percent against observed covid-19, according to a report published Thursday that has not yet gone through peer review.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: U.S. reported deaths surpass toll of 1918 flu pandemic, Rachel Pannett and Annabelle Timsit, Sept. 21, 2021. Family urges others to get vaccinated after bride-to-be dies of covid: ‘Misinformation killed her.’

More people have died during of covid-19 in the United States than those estimated to have died of influenza during the 1918 pandemic. As of Monday, more than 675,000 U.S. deaths associated with the coronavirus have been reported since Feb. 29, 2020, per a Washington Post tracker.

 According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that’s roughly how many died of influenza in the United States between 1918 and 1919 — along with more than 49 million people globally in the “deadliest pandemic of the 20th century.” (Coronavirus has killed nearly 4.7 million globally.)

That’s a grim milestone, but as The Post’s Aaron Blake explains, it needs to be put into context. The U.S. population is more than three times larger than it was roughly a century ago: While in 1918, 675,000 deaths represented about 1 in 150 Americans, it’s currently 1 in 500. The coronavirus has also killed fewer of the people it infects than the 1918 H1N1 flu virus, although it’s not clear whether “that reflects the relative deadliness of the virus, the advances in health care and mitigation over the past 100 years, or some combination of both,” Blake writes.

That doesn’t mean the parallel isn’t concerning. With overwhelmed hospitals, wars over vaccine mandates, and another winter approaching, the coronavirus doesn’t seem to be burning itself out like the flu virus did 100 years ago. Instead, it’s adapting, with new, more contagious variants like delta. The estimated death toll of the 1918 pandemic is just that — an estimate — meaning it’s possible that we had already surpassed it.

Here’s what to know

  • jair bolsonaro brazilThe United Nations General Assembly’s general debate kicks off today with speeches from Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, right, — whose unvaccinated status has been the cause of much hand-wringing among U.N. and New York officials — and later President Biden.
  • The White House Monday said it would revoke its travel ban for fully-vaccinated travelers from 33 countries, most of them in Europe, in early November.
  • Hospitals in the U.S. are struggling to get their hands on lifesaving medical equipment as trade disruptions caused by coronavirus and shortages of raw materials take a hit on global supply chains.
  • Biden will get a booster shot on camera, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday, but did not specify a timing. At 78, Biden is part of the cohort that a Food and Drug Administration expert panel recommended last week should be given booster shots.

Samantha Wendell and fiance Austin Eskew (family photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Family urges others to get vaccinated after bride-to-be dies of covid: ‘Misinformation killed her,’ Jessica Lipscomb, Sept. 21, 2021. After dating for more than 10 years, Samantha Wendell and her fiance, Austin Eskew (shown above), were ready to settle down and have kids.

Following their engagement in 2019, the couple set a wedding date for Aug. 21, 2021, at a church in Lisle, Ill., where Wendell’s parents had married years earlier. They planned to start a family soon after.

Wendell was eager to have children, so when she heard false claims that the coronavirus vaccine could affect her fertility, she decided to hold off on getting immunized, her family members told NBC News. But over the summer, Wendell, a surgical technician in Grand Rivers, Ky., changed her mind and scheduled a vaccine appointment for the end of July. It was too late — days before the appointment, she and Eskew tested positive for the virus.

After a long hospitalization, during which she was placed on a ventilator, Wendell died Sept. 10. She was 29.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP maneuvers to block vaccine mandates, undercutting a key policy, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Annie Linskey, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). Republican leaders argue that requiring the shots violates personal freedoms, but experts say mass vaccinations have not worked historically without mandates.

washington post logoWashington Post, As covid patients fill hospitals, health workers fight fear and exhaustion: ‘Here we go again,’ Antonio Olivo and Rachel Chason, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). Many on health care’s front lines say they’re baffled that there is still even a debate over whether to get vaccinated or wear a mask in public.

washington post logoWashington Post, Lawyer’s rise shows how vaccine misinformation can fuel fundraising and far-right celebrity, Shawn Boburg and Jon Swaine, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). Thomas Renz, once a little-known attorney in Ohio with limited litigation experience, boosted his profile with lawsuits challenging coronavirus vaccines.

In one of dozens of recent media appearances, Ohio attorney Thomas Renz was claiming that coronavirus vaccines were more harmful than the virus itself. “The people that are dying are vaccinated,” he said on a conservative online talk show in July.

As Renz spoke, a message flashed across the screen with his website address. “Donate to his cause,” it urged.

Renz, who became a licensed attorney only months before the pandemic began, has rapidly gained prominence among covid-19 skeptics for leading federal lawsuits in six states that challenge shutdowns, mask mandates and the safety of vaccines while alleging that the danger of the virus has been overblown.

Anti-vaccine groups, conspiracy theory enthusiasts and far-right media have embraced him, and his best-known client, the group America’s Frontline Doctors, calls him part of a “Legal Eagle Dream Team.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Low dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is safe, effective in children ages 5-11, companies’ study finds, a key step toward approval, Carolyn Y. Johnson, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). The data, eagerly anticipated by many parents and pediatricians, is a crucial step toward the two-shot coronavirus vaccine regimen becoming available for children, perhaps close to Halloween.

pfizer logoA lower dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine — one-third the amount given to adults and teens — is safe and triggered a robust immune response in children as young as 5 years old, the drug companies announced in a news release Monday morning.

The finding, eagerly anticipated by many parents and pediatricians, is a crucial step toward the two-shot coronavirus vaccine regimen becoming available for younger school-aged children, perhaps close to Halloween.

The companies still must prepare and submit the data to the Food and Drug Administration, a process they expect to complete by the end of September. Then, the data — not yet published or peer reviewed — will be scrutinized by regulators to ascertain that the vaccine is safe and effective. That could take weeks, or up to a month.

Regulators have made clear they are working as fast as possible, but also need to ensure the vaccine meets the highest standards — especially because a rare, but concerning vaccine side effect of heart muscle inflammation has been identified, most frequently in the younger males eligible for the vaccines. An FDA analysis estimated that among 16- to 17- year old males, the risk was close to one in 5,000.

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Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Sept. 21, 2021), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher, as the New York Times reported in India’s true pandemic death toll is likely to be well over 3 million, a new study finds:

World Cases: 229,927,024, Deaths: 4,715,744
U.S. Cases:     43,108,260, Deaths:    694,637
India Cases:     33,504,534, Deaths:    445,416
Brazil Cases:    21,247,667, Deaths:    591,034

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 212 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Sept. 21, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2vaccine. This includes more than 181.7 million people, 54.7 percent of the eligible population, fully vaccinated.

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

TheHill.com, Anti-Greg Abbott TV ad pulled minutes before college football game: Lincoln Project, Monique Beals, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). An advertisement slamming Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was pulled minutes before it was intended to air during a University of Texas football game, according to the group that produced the ad.

“Our ad was supposed to air in Texas during the Longhorns game this weekend. But then, 10 minutes before kickoff, we were informed the ad would not run and it was a ‘University-made decision,'” said a statement from The Lincoln Project, a group led by Republican operatives who oppose former President Trump and his allies.

The ad is titled “Abbott’s Wall” and says that caskets of the 60,000 Texans who have died from the coronavirus would stretch from Austin to San Antonio.

The advertisement was cleared by ESPN’s legal department, and The Lincoln Project had paid $25,000 for the slot, a spokesman for the group told the Morning News.

Abbott is a graduate of the University of Texas and remains involved in appointing members of the school’s board of regents, according to the Morning News.

Abbott is up for reelection next year and has amassed $55 million in his campaign bank account ahead of the race, according to The Texas Tribune. Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) is reportedly considering a run to oust him from the governor’s office.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Republican official dies of COVID, Jesse Green, Sept. 21, 2021. Another member of the GQP fornicated around and found out. Florida GQP official Gregg Prentice recently died. Yeah. From COVID-19. After railing against taking any precautions against COVID and Dr. Fauci, saying dumb crap like how the country needed to “end Faucism”. Prentice died of the same disease he tried to pretend did not exist. And he left his fellow GQP members in a bit of a bind.

bill palmer report logo headerA software engineer by trade, Prentice built the software that the Hillsborough County GQP used to track donations and help them in making reports to the FEC. Problem is that he did not provide the login information or instructions on how to access the data he maintained. This has left the local GQP scrambling to compile information required by the FEC. The local party has sent a message to the FEC saying that they may have to re-enter all the data manually and they might not make their September 20 reporting deadline. This could leave the GQP in a lot of trouble if the FEC decided to be as petty as Republicans would be towards Democratic organizations facing similar circumstances.

Never ones to pass up the chance to spread conspiracy theories, local members of the GQP are using Prentice’s death to spread their liquid manure far and wide. (Trust me, I grew up on a farm. Liquid manure is the absolute nastiest type of manure). Such as how COVID was genetically engineered, how doctors intubate everyone, and hospitals are evil, prompting a city council member to push back against their bullshit.

That’s the thing about cults like the GQP. They not only consume their own, they use their own to spread their twisted messages as far and as wide as possible. And to cause as much suffering as possible. As people in Tampa found out when a local GQP official died.

 

Trump Watch

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seth abramson proof logoProof, Investigative Commentary: Why Donald Trump Is Again Interfering in Georgia’s Electoral Process, Seth Abramson, left, Sept. 20-21, 2021. Trump is up to his old seth abramson graphiccrimes—bribery, witness tampering, and obstruction—as well as the basic graft for which he’s well known. His latest scheme is a dangerous long-term play that we can’t ignore.

That’s right: Trump is up to his old tricks (which in some instances have actually been crimes) in Georgia. CNN reports that Trump has just again initiated a communication with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which the corrupt ex-POTUS rehashes the “Big Lie” about the November presidential election and tries to convince Raffensperger to “decertify” the 2020 election results in Georgia—which georgia mapof course he knows (and Raffensperger knows) neither the State of Georgia nor anyone in it can do.

If you’re thinking Trump is up to something else here besides the obvious, you’re right.

In fact, it’s reasonably transparent: Trump is in the midst of trying to help one of the top insurrectionist leaders in America, Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA), become the Secretary of State in Georgia so that Trump—or his handpicked 2024 Republican presidential candidate—can steal the 2024 election in that state through new administrative regs, the redeployment of voting machines away from majority-minority precincts, various draconian machinations involving early voting and poll hours and ID presentments, and, if necessary, open election fraud.

Palmer Report, Opinion: You’re darn right Donald Trump is going to prison, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 21, 2021. Because some time has passed since Donald Trump was bill palmerbooted from office and he hasn’t yet been indicted or arrested, some observers have concluded that he’s “dodged indictment” and “gotten away with it all.” Of course these are merely slogans for those who have no idea or interest in how the criminal justice system actually works, and we just received a major reminder of this.

From the time the New York criminal investigation into Donald Trump’s finances became public knowledge at the end of 2019, it’s been clear that once he lost reelection, prosecutors would then begin dismantling the Trump Organization and end up indicting Trump himself. That’s why, ever since the New York probe went public, Palmer Report has predicted that Trump will indeed end up in prison.

bill palmer report logo headerSure enough, things have played out like we said they would. First Trump lost reelection. Then New York prosecutors let it be known through the media that they were gunning for him. Then they criminally indicted Allen Weisselberg and the Trump Organization. And yesterday Weisselberg’s lawyers appeared in court and stated that they fully expect more people to be indicted in the New York criminal case. Hint: indictments tend to move up the hierarchy, and everyone above Weisselberg is named “Trump.”

So yeah, Donald Trump is absolutely on track to go to prison. That’s more clear than ever. The financial charges he’ll be indicted on in New York are the type that no one beats, which is why they’re going after him on financial charges. This is how it was always going to play out.

You just have to keep in mind that this isn’t a Law & Order episode. Criminals aren’t investigated, indicted, arrested, tried, and convicted in sixty minutes minus commercial breaks. In the real world, the legal process moves very, very deliberately. But Donald Trump is obviously on a track to prison. Even Weisselberg’s lawyers just basically admitted it.

 

Migration Issues

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 ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Administration to Lift Restrictions for Vaccinated Travelers, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Mark Landler, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). Foreign travelers who provide proof that they are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus before boarding a flight will be able to fly to the U.S.

washington post logoWashington Post, Deportees land in Port-au-Prince: ‘Nobody told us we were going back to Haiti,’ Widlore Merancourt and Anthony Faiola, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). He crossed the Mexican border into Texas only two weeks ago, joyous at the prospect of building anew in the United States. Now part of the first wave of deportees rapidly ejected by the Biden administration amid a fresh surge at the border, Johnson Bordes, 23, stepped off a Boeing 737 on Sunday and into the Haitian capital, terrified by a city torn apart by violence in a homeland he could barely remember.

Like many deportees arriving on charter flights at the airport in Port-au-Prince, 15 minutes from neighborhoods controlled by brutal armed gangs, Bordes’s family left Haiti in the great migration after the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people. He was 12 when they left, first for the Dominican Republic, then on to Chile, where he was living with his mother and brother when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Encouraged by relatives in the United States, the family set out on a 4,500-mile trek to the U.S. border — never imagining the road would lead back to the devastated country they left more than a decade ago.

“How could they bring us back here?” he asked. “This is an injustice. I don’t even know where we are going to sleep tonight.”

He mingled with other confused deportees, many of whom hadn’t seen Haiti in years and now spoke Spanish or Portuguese better than Haitian Creole. Several families told The Washington Post that they were never told they were being deported back to Haiti.

us dhs big eagle logo4“If Biden continues with these deportations, he’s no better than Trump,” Bordes said. “I’m afraid for my safety here. I don’t even know this country anymore.”
Drone video shows migrants under Texas bridge

They began landing Sunday in a nation that some describe as Somalia of the Caribbean — a failed state suffering a humanitarian emergency that critics say is too dangerous and unstable for the thousands being deported.

haiti flagRecognition of the conditions led the Biden administration as recently as May to grant temporary protected status to tens of thousands of undocumented Haitians in the United States. At the time, officials cited “serious security concerns, social unrest, an increase in human rights abuses, crippling poverty, and lack of basic resources” in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation.

Haiti suffered the still unsolved assassination of its president in July and a devastating earthquake that killed 2,200 people and destroyed tens of thousands of homes, schools and churches in August. Violent street gangs have seized neighborhoods and key roads, torching homes and spreading a plague of rapes, kidnappings and killings that have caused thousands of residents to flee.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden to raise refugee admissions cap to 125,000, Felicia Sonmez and Seung Min Kim, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). The Biden administration is raising the refugee admissions cap for the next fiscal year to 125,000, a reflection of the goal to which the president aspired during the 2020 campaign.

The move comes as the United States is accepting hundreds of refugees from Afghanistan after the end of U.S. military operations in the country. The administration also cited the expanded resettlement of Central Americans and Myanmar dissidents.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), the Senate majority whip, welcomed the news.

“I applaud the Biden administration for setting a target of 125,000 refugee admissions in the next fiscal year — a target my colleagues and I have been advocating for since April,” Durbin said in a statement. “And while I’m disappointed in the projected number of refugees to be admitted this fiscal year, I acknowledge the challenges the Biden administration inherited with the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program due to the anti-immigrant actions of the previous Administration.”

The 125,000 number has long been the aspirational figure that the Biden administration had set for fiscal 2022, which begins Oct. 1.

Earlier this year, President Biden reinforced that goal but cautioned that the number “will still be hard to hit,” attributing his conclusion to the challenges of rebuilding a system that President Donald Trump had dismantled.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House, House Homeland Security chair denounce ‘horrific’ mistreatment of Haitian migrants by Border Patrol officers, Felicia Sonmez, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). The White House and the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee on Monday voiced concern over photos and reports appearing to show U.S. Border Patrol officers on horseback mistreating Haitian migrants near the Rio Grande, calling the images “horrific.”

Their statements come one day after the Biden administration began deporting people from the makeshift camp where nearly 14,000 migrants have gathered beneath a South Texas bridge.

One photo by photojournalist Paul Ratje shows a Border Patrol officer on horseback, grabbing the shirt of a Haitian migrant holding bags of food and trying to enter an encampment near the river. Other footage shows mounted Border Patrol officers chasing migrants away. One of the officers can be seen swinging at one of the migrants with what appears to be a strap connected to the horse’s bridle.

“This is why your country’s [expletive], because you use your women for this!” another of the officers can be heard saying to the migrants, according to footage published by Al Jazeera English.

Analysis: What one photo from the border tells us about the evolving migrant crisis

bennie thompson headshotRep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), left, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, denounced the officers’ behavior in a statement Monday.

“Video and photos coming out of Del Rio showing U.S. Border Patrol’s mistreatment of Haitian migrants along the border are horrific and disturbing,” Thompson said. “This mistreatment runs counter to our American values and cannot be tolerated.”

He called on Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to “take immediate action to hold those responsible accountable and ensure that all migrants are treated in accordance with the law and basic decency, as this Administration has promised to do since day one.”

 

U.S. Governance, Politics, Elections

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: It’s All or Nothing for These Democrats, Even if That Means Biden Fails, Jamelle Bouie, Sept. 21, 2021. If President Biden’s “Build jamelle bouieBack Better” bill dies in Congress, it will be because moderate Democrats killed it.

Over the past month, those moderates have put themselves at the center of negotiations over the $3.5 trillion proposal (doled out over 10 years) for new programs, investments and social spending. And they’ve made demands that threaten to derail the bill — and the rest of Biden’s agenda with it.

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats Begin Effort to Curb Post-Trump Presidential Powers, Charlie Savage, Sept. 21, 2021. House Democrats plan to introduce a package of proposed new limits on executive power that amount to a point-by-point rebuke of former President Trump. But to appeal to Republicans, a bill being introduced in the House to impose checks on executive authority may be broken into pieces in the Senate.

democratic donkey logoHouse Democrats are planning to introduce a package of proposed new limits on executive power on Tuesday, beginning a post-Trump push to strengthen checks on the presidency that they hope will compare to the overhauls that followed the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War.

Democrats have spent months negotiating with the Biden White House to refine a broad set of proposals that amount to a point-by-point rebuke of the ways that Donald J. Trump shattered norms over the course of his presidency. The Democrats have compiled numerous bills into a package they call the Protecting Our Democracy Act.

The legislation would make it harder for presidents to offer or bestow pardons in situations that raise suspicion of corruption, refuse to respond to oversight subpoenas, spend or secretly freeze funds contrary to congressional appropriations, and fire inspectors general or retaliate against whistle-blowers, among many adam schiff squareother changes.

The legislation’s lead sponsor, Representative Adam B. Schiff, right, Democrat of California, said he hoped it would receive a floor vote “this fall.”

While the bill would constrain President Biden and his successors, its implicit rebuke of Mr. Trump’s behavior in the White House may limit how many Republicans are willing to vote for it. Under Senate rules, at least 10 Republicans would need to support it for that chamber to hold a vote on such a bill.

But supporters noted that Republican senators previously supported significant components of the bill, like requiring the Justice Department to turn over logs of contacts with White House officials and constraining a president’s ability to declare a national emergency and spend money in ways Congress did not approve.

 

More World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Future of nuclear talks with Iran uncertain as Tehran expands enrichment activities, Karen DeYoung and Kareem Fahim, Sept. 21, 2021. Three months after the last meeting to negotiate a revival of the nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers, it remains unclear if and when the talks in Vienna will restart, or who might represent Iran’s new government.

In the interim, Iran has continued to expand the quantity and quality of its uranium enrichment, leading some experts to conclude it is now even closer to possessing enough fissile material to build a bomb than the two or three months the Biden administration has publicly estimated. At the same time, Iran has repeatedly sparred with the International Atomic Energy Agency over monitoring of its nuclear activities originally agreed in the 2015 deal.

For its part, the administration has continued to warn that negotiating time is running out, without saying how much time is left or what it will do if it expires. Some answers may emerge this week, when the Tehran government says Iran’s new foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, plans to hold bilateral meetings with his counterparts from Britain, Germany and France at the annual United Nations General Assembly.

ny times logoNew York Times, Evergrande Crisis Shows Cracks in China’s Property Market, Alexandra Stevenson and Cao Li, Sept. 21, 2021. Experts are making grim predictions about the developer’s ability to hold on without a government bailout, and the consequences of a possible collapse.

Angry home buyers are waiting on as many as 1.6 million apartments. Suppliers that sold cement, paint, rebar and copper pipes are owed more than $100 billion China Flagin payments. Employees who were strong-armed into lending are panicking now that the company cannot repay them on time.

China’s Evergrande Group, the embattled property developer whose towering debt has set off panic in global markets, is buckling under the weight of more than $300 billion in debt. The company’s billionaire chairman told employees on Tuesday that they would “walk out of darkness as soon as possible.”

But the question for many is whether the company can stumble out of its current crisis on its own without being led by Beijing. And experts are making increasingly grim predictions about Evergrande’s ability to hold on without a government bailout, and the consequences of a possible collapse.

A dire forecast about the company’s fate arrived on Tuesday for investors in Asia, this one from S&P Global Ratings.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden vows to double aid for vulnerable nations dealing with climate change, Brady Dennis, Sept. 21, 2021. Proposed $11.4 billion in annual U.S. financing would help “support the countries and people that will be hit the hardest,” the president said, but critics say it’s still not enough

washington post logoWashington Post, In first address to U.N., Biden calls for unity on climate change, pandemic, Anne Gearan, Sept. 21, 2021. President Biden defended the messy end to the of war in Afghanistan and made a case that the world can come together to confront global threats like climate change and the coronavirus in a Tuesday speech at the United Nations geared at easing allies’ increasing qualms with American leadership.

In his first address to the body as president, Biden also affirmed U.S. support for it and an alphabet soup of international partnerships and pledged support for poorer countries often disproportionately affected by climate change.

“We’ve ended 20 years of conflict in Afghanistan, and as we close this era of endless war we are opening an era of endless diplomacy,” Biden.

His measured address was notable mostly for its contrast to the boastful tone and sour reception that marked addresses by President Donald Trump.

President Biden announced plans Tuesday to double the funding the United States provides each year to help developing nations cope with the ravages of climate change and build greener economies.

Speaking at the United Nations, Biden framed the move as part of a broader return to multilateralism, saying the world must work together to combat daunting challenges such as the coronavirus pandemic, trade disputes and a rapidly warming planet.

 

U.S. Courts, Law, Justicegabby petito fiancé bian laundrie

Travel blogger Gabby Petito is shown with her fiance, Brian Laundrie, now missing and being sought by authorities, who describe him as a person of interest in her homicide.

washington post logoWashington Post, Autopsy scheduled on body believed to be Gabby Petito as authorities continue search for fiance, Kim Bellware and Timothy Bella, Sept. 21, 2021. An autopsy is scheduled Tuesday on the body found in Wyoming that authorities say resembles the description of Gabby Petito, as investigators continue to search for her fiance, Brian Laundrie, nearly three weeks after he returned from a cross-country van trip without her.

The Teton County coroner will determine whether the remains discovered Sunday in a remote area of Bridger-Teton National Forest in western Wyoming are those of the 22-year-old whose disappearance has attracted national attention.

Legal Schnauzer, Opinion: Signs of sloppiness at Christopher Wray’s FBI go beyond the USA Gymnastics probe; they date at least to a botched background check on Brett Kavanaugh, Roger Shuler, Sept. 21, 2021. That’s a story that seemingly will not go away. Perhaps it’s driven in part by Wray’s curious background, which includes alarming ties to Russian interests and right-wing bad actors who tend to have an outsized influence in Alabama’s political and legal worlds.

From a Legal Schnauzer post in October 2018:

FBI director Christopher Wray has professional ties to Russia, and that likely explains a Brett Kavanaugh background check that widely is being described as a “sham,” according to an Alabama political insider.

Donald Trump nominated Wray to lead the FBI in June 2017, having fired James Comey roughly one month earlier. In 2003, President George W. Bush nominated Wray to lead the Criminal Division at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Before going into public service, Wray was a partner at King and Spalding, an Atlanta-based law firm with 10 offices around the country — plus 10 international branches, including one in Moscow. . . .

FBI logoHow sketchy was the FBI supplemental background check on Kavanaugh? It probably would have to improve to merit being called “cursory”. According to one report, FBI agents interviewed nine individuals — but they apparently did not include chief accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, nor any of her corroborating witnesses. From a report at New York magazine:

Several people who reached out to investigators to offer information said they were also left hanging. NBC News says dozens of potential witnesses have come forward to FBI field offices, “but agents have not been permitted to talk to many of them.” The New Yorker spoke to several people who were also unable to get an audience with the FBI despite their ability to corroborate [Deborah] Ramirez’s story and information refuting claims Kavanaugh made during last week’s testimony.

The FBI/Kavanaugh story continues to percolate, as evidenced by a report last week from the UK Guardian:

The FBI director, Chris Wray, is facing new scrutiny of the bureau’s handling of its 2018 background investigation of Brett Kavanaugh, including its claim that the FBI lacked the authority to conduct a further investigation into the then supreme court nominee.

At the heart of the new questions surrounding Wray . . . is a 2010 Memorandum of Understanding that the FBI has recently said constrained the agency’s ability to conduct any further investigations of allegations of misconduct.

It is not clear whether that claim is accurate, based on a close reading of the MOU, which was released in court records following a Freedom of Information Act request.

The FBI was called to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh during his Senate confirmation process in 2018, after he was accused of assault by Christine Blasey Ford, a professor who knew Kavanaugh when they were both in high school. He also faced other accusations, including that he had exposed himself to a classmate at Yale called Deborah Ramirez. Kavanaugh denied both accusations.

The FBI closed its extended background check of Kavanaugh after four days and did not interview either Blasey Ford or Kavanaugh. The FBI also disclosed to the Senate this June – two years after questions were initially asked – that it had received 4,500 tips from the public during the background check and that it had shared all “relevant tips” with the White House counsel at that time. It is not clear whether those tips were ever investigated.

The FBI said in its letter to two senators – Sheldon Whitehouse and Christopher Coons – that the FBI did not have the authority under the 2010 MOU at the time to “unilaterally conduct further investigative activity absent instructions from the requesting entity”. In other words, the FBI has said it would have required explicit instructions from the Trump White House to conduct further investigation under the existing 2010 guidelines on how such investigations ought to be conducted.

Justice Department log circularBut an examination by the Guardian of the 2010 MOU, which was signed by the then attorney general, Eric Holder, and then White House counsel, Robert Bauer, does not make explicitly clear that the FBI was restricted in terms of how it would conduct its investigation.

The MOU, which was released in court documents in 2019 as part of Freedom of Information Act litigation brought against the US government by Buzzfeed, also does not explicitly state that the White House had the power to set the process parameters on any investigation.

What about the ties of Wray’s former law firm to Russian mobsters, domestic mobsters, and unsavory characters in the Alabama political/legal firmament? From our 2018 post:

King and Spalding’s extensive ties to Russia should raise eyebrows about the cursory supplemental background check of Brett Kavanaugh by Christopher Wray’s FBI, says Jill Simpson — whistle blower, opposition researcher, and retired lawyer from Rainsville, Alabama. In a Facebook post yesterday, Simpson notes King and Spalding’s ties to a number of dubious characters and activities related to Russia.

They include Sergei Millian, a one-time Russian translator who has headed the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce (Russia Am Cham, based in Atlanta) and reportedly was a primary source of information for the Trump-Steele dossier. In short, Millian likely has loads of blackmail-worthy dirt on Trump, and guess what law firm has represented Russia Am Cham? It’s King and Spalding, of course, says Simpson.

The firm also has ties to Trump-affiliated mobster Felix Sater, and Simpson says the firm (via Russia Am Cham) was involved in a failed lottery deal — involving oily Alabama lawyer Rob Riley and his associate, Robert Sigler — that fleeced the late Milton McGregor, attorney Tommy Gallion, and other prominent Montgomery business types out of about $40 million. King and Spalding, says Simpson, has ties to Russian oligarch/mafia figure Oleg Derispaska, one-time Trump campaign chair and convicted felon Paul Manafort, and Trump attorney general Jeff Sessions.

That is a lot ugly, nasty stuff — threatening America’s democracy, and Christopher Wray, via his association with King and Spalding, is tied to all of it. Writes Simpson:

FBI director Christopher Wray should be forced to resign over [the Kavanaugh supplemental background check]. It was Wray’s firm, King and Spalding, that used to host the Russia Am Cham conferences for Oleg Deripaska, Mr Millian, and Mr. Sater — the Riley/Sessions Gang attended when they beat Milton McGregor and his buddies out of $40 million for a fake Russian lottery.

Wray’s firm represents the Russian Oil and Gas Business firm that Vladimir Putin directs. Also, Christopher Wray was a Yale Law School graduate, just like Kavanaugh, and has been buddies with the Kavanaugh, Rove, and Sessions crowd for years.

The FBI’s Kavanaugh background check is just a report done by a member of the Jeff Sessions, Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump Russian Mafia. I tried to say last week it would be bullshit, due to Wray’s ties to the Russian Mafia. His old firm is a big part of Putin’s legal team. Until we as a country crush the New York/Alabama/GOP Russian Mafia, we are going to continue seeing this level of corruption.

washington post logoWashington Post, Women within the Southern Baptist Convention allege they were sexually abused and the church covered it up, Megan Botel, Sept. 21, 2021. An investigation of the church’s handling of allegations is moving forward. Women have been telling their stories for years.

Tens of thousands gathered in June at the Music City Center in Nashville for the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual conference. For the many women who have been speaking out about sexual assault within the nation’s largest evangelical denomination, the conference marked a long-awaited change of course: The Southern Baptist Convention nearly unanimously approved a third-party audit of sexual abuse allegations within its more than 47,000 churches. It also authorized an investigation into a suspected widespread coverup by the Executive Committee.

This week, Southern Baptist executives reaffirmed the probe into the church’s handling of sex abuse allegations, and a vote on whether it’ll waive attorney-client privilege for the purposes of the investigation is expected.

These developments come after a landmark investigation in 2019 by the Houston Chronicle revealed that more than 250 pastors and church leaders in the SBC had been charged with sex crimes in the past 20 years, affecting more than 700 victims. Overwhelmingly, the victims were children. Most of them were girls.

[ Probe of Southern Baptist sex abuse response moves forward]

The persistence of sexual abuse among conservative evangelical denominations like the SBC is rooted both in theology and in culture, according to Diane Winston, a religion and media professor at the University of Southern California. Bound by the ideals of male headship and extreme sexual purity, she said, evangelical men in power are often held even less accountable than men in other institutions.

For years, Southern Baptist delegates resisted reform. They rejected proposals to track predators in SBC churches and to investigate survivors’ allegations. But the decision at its June conference was a marked change in course.

“All these survivors have been telling their stories for years now,” said Grant Gaines, a Southern Baptist pastor in Murfreesboro, Tenn., who raised the motion for the audit. “Now, let’s try to right those wrongs so we can move forward.”

[ Southern Baptist leaders called Kamala Harris a ‘Jezebel.’ That’s not just insulting, it’s dangerous, experts say.]

Here are the stories of three women who allege that the Southern Baptist Convention failed to protect them from abuse. Two of them are sisters who both say their father, a Southern Baptist minister, abused them for years. Another woman says she was assaulted by her youth pastor more than two decades ago.

washington post logoWashington Post, Imam charged with sexually assaulting girl who sought his help, police say, Justin Jouvenal, Sept. 21, 2021. An imam from an Annandale mosque has been charged with allegedly sexually assaulting an underage girl who sought his help in 2015, Fairfax County police said Tuesday.

Said Shirzadi, 36, of Maryland, is facing one count of indecent liberties by a custodian after the victim disclosed the alleged unlawful contact in May and detectives launched an investigation, police said.

 

U.S. Media, Academic News

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Middle-Aged Sadness Behind the Cancel Culture Panic, Michelle Goldberg, right, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). In a sharp essay in Liberal michelle goldberg thumbCurrents, Adam Gurri looked at empirical evidence that might tell us how big a crisis academic cancellations really are, and he came away nonplussed.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, for example, documents 426 cases of scholars “targeted for sanction by ideological adversaries” since 2015, a relatively small number given the size of American higher education. “If any other problem in social life was occurring at this frequency and at this scale, we would consider it effectively solved,” writes Gurri.

Yet to many in elite enclaves, the problem feels far bigger than this — so big that it’s tempting to reach for dramatic historical analogies to describe it.

washington post logoWashington Post, Al Franken has a new comedy tour. His targets? Former Senate colleagues, Karen Heller, Sept. 21, 2021. The recovering politician on Saturday launched “The Only Former U.S. Senator Currently on Tour Tour,” which pokes fun at many of Franken’s former colleagues. It’s his first extended stand-up stint since he resigned in 2018 after several women accused him of groping and kissing, allegations he has denied.

For more than eight years in the Senate, Al Franken largely stifled the funny, as though he coexisted with a powerful alter ego in desperate need of submission: Senator Franken and “Saturday Night Live” Al. He had to watch everything he said. He dared to be dull.

No longer. Now, everything is political roadkill for his new comedy tour.

The recovering politician visited this bucolic college town Saturday to launch “The Only Former U.S. Senator Currently on Tour Tour,” which pokes fun at several of Franken’s former colleagues. Actually, make that many.

This is his first extended standup stint since he resigned from the U.S. Senate in January 2018 after several women accused him of groping during photo sessions and inappropriate kissing, allegations he has vigorously denied. If he no longer sits in Congress, if he did not receive the due process that he sorely wishes he had, why, Franken can bite the hands that once amicably slapped his back.

“I have the freedom to do many things. It’s very hard as a Senator to do a comedy tour,” he said in an interview a few days before the show. A previous tour ended early because of covid.

Unlike the Senate, Franken is bipartisan in his targets. Republicans such as Mitch McConnell, Chuck Grassley, Lindsey Graham and former member Tom Coburn are mocked, occasionally drubbed. Also, fellow Democrats Bernie Sanders, Dianne Feinstein and Charles Schumer.

But mostly, Ted Cruz.

What wife shtick was for Henny Youngman and drug humor for Robin Williams, the Texas Republican is for Franken. He can deliver a tight five minutes.

Salon, Eccentric Christian reporter causing headaches for Jen Psaki, White House press corps, Zachary Petrizzo, Sept. 21, 2021. Little-known Christian reporter — who once sang in press room — claims Biden administration is persecuting him White House press secretary Jennifer Psaki has an odd problem on her hands: a longtime White House correspondent from an obscure Christian website — that publishes little or no actual reporting — is raising a fuss over no longer being allowed to enter her personal office whenever he wishes. This previously unreported West Wing drama has led the reporter in question to call for an investigation.

Matthew Anthony Harper, a former chaplain who is the self-appointed White House correspondent for a little-known media outlet called InterMountain Christian News, says his access to administration sources is being restricted. Harper says this started last week, and now claims he is the target of a “harassment” and “intimidation” campaign crafted by White House press assistants.

“A Secret Service person was giving me a hard time, saying I couldn’t be there,” he told Salon in an interview, referring to Psaki’s office. He said the agent told him “that I didn’t have clearance,” adding that he was “confused about why I’m being banned from this.” That incident, Harper said, occurred last Wednesday, Sept. 15.

 

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