Jan. 2022 News, Views

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

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

 

Jan. 2

Top Stories

 

More On Radical Changes In U.S. Law, Elections

 

New Year’s Outlook

 

Investigations

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime, Race

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

 

World News, Human Rights

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Poll: Democrats and Republicans split over Jan. 6 attack, Trump’s culpability, Dan Balz, Scott Clement and Emily Guskin, Jan. 2, 2022 (print ed.). Partisan divisions related to Jan. 6 and the 2020 presidential election color most issues in The Washington Post-University of Maryland survey.

One year after the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, Republicans and Democrats are deeply divided over what happened that day and the degree to which former president Donald Trump bears responsibility for the assault, amid more universal signs of flagging pride in the workings of democracy at home, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosPartisan divisions related both to the Jan. 6 assault and the 2020 presidential election color nearly every issue raised in the survey, from how much violence occurred at the Capitol that day to the severity of the sentences handed down to convicted protesters to whether President Biden was legitimately elected. Only on a question about injured law enforcement officers is there broad bipartisan agreement.

The percentage of Americans who say violent action against the government is justified at times stands at 34 percent, which is considerably higher than in past polls by The Post or other major news organizations dating back more than two decades. Again, the view is partisan: The new survey finds 40 percent of Republicans, 41 percent of independents and 23 percent of Democrats saying violence is sometimes justified.

On Jan. 6, the day Congress was to ratify the 2020 electoral college vote, Trump claimed at a rally near the White House that the election had been rigged and urged his followers to “fight like hell” to stop what he said was a stolen outcome. Many of his supporters walked to the Capitol from the rally and took part in the violence.

 

anthony fauci graphic Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Fauci says U.S. may add testing component to new 5-day isolation period, Jeff Stein, Frances Stead Sellers, Anthony S. Fauci said that U.S. health officials are considering recommending that Americans get tested before going back to work.

Anthony S. Fauci said Sunday that U.S. health officials are considering recommending that Americans get tested for the coronavirus before going back to work under the shortened isolation protocol they recently introduced.
FAQ: What to know about the omicron variant of the coronavirus

cdc logo CustomAppearing on ABC News’s “This Week,” Fauci acknowledged the backlash over the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reducing the recommended isolation period after a positive coronavirus test from 10 days to five. Fauci said officials may soon add a testing component at the end of the five-day period. The CDC’s shortened isolation protocol applies only to asymptomatic people.

New CDC guidelines were spurred by worries omicron surge could lead to breakdown in essential services

“There has been some concern about why we don’t ask people at that five-day period to get tested. That is something that is now under consideration,” said Fauci, the chief medical adviser to President Biden. “The CDC is very well aware there has been some pushback about that. Looking at it again, there may be an option in that — that testing could be a part of that. And I think we’re going to be hearing more about that in the next day or so from the CDC.”

United Nations

washington post logoWashington Post, Covax vaccine deliveries surge in final stretch of last year, Adam Taylor, Jan. 2, 2022 (print ed.). More than 910 million doses were shared through the U.N.-backed initiative in 2021, far short of an original target of 2 billion. Covax delivered over 309 million coronavirus vaccine doses in December, marking a dramatic increase in the delivery rate for a global vaccine-sharing initiative that had struggled for much of 2021 amid a lack of supply and logistical problems.

In total, roughly 910 million doses were delivered through the U.N.-backed initiative as of Dec. 30, according to provisional tracking by UNICEF released to The Washington Post on Friday.

The final tally for the year is far short of the 2 billion-plus doses that Covax had initially aimed for, and is leagues below even loftier targets that some activists said it should be aiming for. But with roughly a third of doses delivered in the final month of the year, there are cautious hopes that Covax may have sidestepped some of the problems that plagued it in 2020.

world health organization logo Custom“It brings a tear to the eye,” said Olly Cann, director of communications at Gavi, the vaccine alliance, a nonprofit that is one of the three principal backers of the program, along with the World Health Organization and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

It marks a bright spot after a tough year for the ambitious vaccine-sharing initiative, which had faced widespread criticism amid missed deadlines and revised targets. Lawrence Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University, said there was “no getting around the idea that Covax has been disappointing and underperformed.”

But Gostin said the surge in Covax deliveries was a reflection of the changing dynamic of global vaccination efforts. “We’re frankly getting toward a world where supply is not going to be as great a challenge as simply delivering the vaccine and getting it into people’s arms,” he said.

washington post logoWashington Post, 3 missing in Colorado fire as snow storm complicates recovery effort, sheriff says, Ari Schneider, Marisa Iati, Reis Thebault and Jonathan O’Connell, Jan. 2, 2022 (print ed.). Two days after a wind-fueled grass fire reduced entire neighborhoods to tangles of smoldering debris, investigators announced they were searching for three missing people, a mission complicated by several inches of snow now blanketing the region.

First responders initially reported no casualties in the blaze, but Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said Saturday that two people from Superior, between Denver and Boulder, and a third from the nearby community of Marshall — two hard-hit areas — were unaccounted for. All lived in homes destroyed in the blaze and were likely killed, he added.

Deputies are planning to bring in cadaver dogs to help search through the still-hot rubble buried in eight inches of snow.

“So search and recovery efforts are hampered substantially,” Pelle said. Still, he added: “We are fortunate we don’t have a list of 100 missing people.”

The grim news came as authorities came closer to determining the full extent of the damage after the Marshall Fire erupted Thursday, spreading rapidly with the help of 100-plus mph winds. Nearly 1,000 homes were burned, leaving families grappling with the painful new reality that they will begin 2022 without their belongings or the places they call home.

“Reality kicks in when we have to find a place to stay now,” said Alex Stickelberger, who was staying with relatives after fleeing with his family.

In all, roughly 990 homes in Superior, the neighboring town of Louisville and unincorporated Boulder County burned down, officials said Saturday. On Friday, authorities said that they had counted about 500 destroyed homes but feared the final tally could be much higher.

The fire grew to more than 6,000 acres before the snow helped extinguish remaining flames.

 

More On Radical Changes In U.S. Law, Elections

 

robert palmer

This image provided by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia shows Robert S. Palmer, of Largo, Fla., hurling a fire extinguisher at police in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. (U.S. District Court for District of Columbia/U.S. District Court)

washington post logoWashington Post, 1 in 3 Americans say there can be justified violence against government, citing fears of political schism, pandemic, Meryl Kornfield and Mariana Alfaro, Jan. 2, 2022 (print ed.). The Post-UMD poll, coming a year after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, marks the largest share of Americans to hold that view since the question was first asked more than two decades ago.

Phil Spampinato had never contemplated the question of whether violence against the government might be justified — at least not in the United States. But as he watched Republicans across the country move to reshape election laws in response to former president Donald Trump’s false fraud claims, the part-time engineering consultant from Dover, Del., said he began thinking differently about “defending your way of life.”

“Not too many years ago, I would have said that those conditions are not possible, and that no such violence is really ever appropriate,” said Spampinato, 73, an independent.

The notion of legitimate violence against the government had also not occurred to Anthea Ward, a mother of two in Michigan, until the past year — prompted by her fear that President Biden would go too far to force her and her family to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“The world we live in now is scary,” said Ward, 32, a Republican. “I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist but sometimes it feels like a movie. It’s no longer a war against Democrats and Republicans. It’s a war between good and evil.”

A year after a pro-Trump mob ransacked the Capitol in the worst attack on the home of Congress since it was burned by British forces in 1814, a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll finds that about 1 in 3 Americans say they believe violence against the government can at times be justified.

The findings represent the largest share to feel that way since the question has been asked in various polls in more than two decades. They offer a window into the country’s psyche at a tumultuous period in American history, marked by last year’s insurrection, the rise of Trump’s election claims as an energizing force on the right, deepening fissures over the government’s role in combating the pandemic, and mounting racial justice protests sparked by police killings of Black Americans.

The percentage of adults who say violence is justified is up, from 23 percent in 2015 and 16 percent in 2010 in polls by CBS News and the New York Times.

A majority continue to say that violence against the government is never justified — but the 62 percent who hold that view is a new low point, and a stark difference from the 1990s, when as many as 90 percent said violence was never justified.

While a 2015 survey found no significant partisan divide when it comes to the question of justified violence against the government, the new poll identified a sharper rise on the right — with 40 percent of Republicans and 41 percent of independents saying it can be acceptable. The view was held by 23 percent of Democrats, the survey finds.

American Flag

washington post logoWashington Post, Shaken by Jan. 6 attack, Capitol workers quit jobs that once made them proud, Paul Schwartzman and Peter Jamison, Jan. 2, 2022 (print ed.). “The idea that you’re in a place where your life is at risk was just — on top of everything else — the clinching factor for me,” said Rich Luchette, 35, a former senior adviser to Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.). “It becomes overwhelming at some point.”

A sign of the enduring trauma, Luchette said, occurred a week or so after the insurrection, when the sounds of partying neighbors woke him up in his Navy Yard apartment. As he opened his eyes, his first thought was: “Are there Proud Boys out in the hallway?”

Luchette had considered looking for a new job before Jan. 6. By July, he had found one.

In any given year, staff turnover at the Capitol is constant, making it difficult to quantify the number of employees who quit or retired because of the insurrection. More than 100 U.S. Capitol Police officers had departed as of early December, a figure that was a sharp increase over the previous year.

On a typical day, the 290-acre Capitol complex is a veritable city unto itself, spread out over multiple blocks, with its own subway system, an array of cafeterias and a workforce approaching 30,000 people.

Jan. 6 was anything but typical, with the coronavirus having kept many employees at home. Yet, no matter where they were as the insurrection unfolded, Capitol employees could not help but feel violated as they saw rioters invade and vandalize their workplace.

Another former House staffer, a Democrat who quit months after Jan. 6, said the toll of that day grew as time passed.

“I got to the point where my mental health just took an absolute nose dive because I was still trying to process all this stuff,” said the former aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she fears retribution from Trump supporters.

Death threats continued to arrive daily by phone from constituents who were convinced that Democrats had stolen the election. “It absolutely broke me to know that people would be fine if my boss was dead, if I was dead, if my co-workers were dead,” she said. “The American people stopped believing in the institution. And if they don’t believe in it, what the hell are any of us doing working for it?”

Recent Headlines

Investigations

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: When They Warn of Rare Disorders, These Prenatal Tests Are Usually Wrong, Sarah Kliff and Aatish Bhatia, Jan. 2, 2022 (print ed.). Some blood screenings that look for chromosomal defects are incorrect up to 90 percent of the time when they come back positive, causing undue alarm to expectant parents. Nonetheless, on product brochures and test result sheets, companies describe the tests as near certain.

In just over a decade, the tests have gone from laboratory experiments to an industry that serves more than a third of the pregnant women in America, luring major companies like Labcorp and Quest Diagnostics into the business, alongside many start-ups.

The tests initially looked for Down syndrome and worked very well. But as manufacturers tried to outsell each other, they began offering additional screenings for increasingly rare conditions.

The grave predictions made by those newer tests are usually wrong, an examination by The New York Times has found.

 

New Year’s Outlook

Midsummer Sunrise, Gulf of Saint Lawrence (NASA) (From Dan Rather's Steady Newsletter)

Midsummer Sunrise, Gulf of Saint Lawrence (NASA)

Steady, Commentary: Happy New Year, Dan Rather, below right, Jan. 1, 2022. And there we have it, an end to 2021, a year many of us are happy to see in dan rather new portraitthe rearview mirror.

A year of sadness and loss…

A year of illness…

A year of anxiety…

A year of assaults on our democracy…

A year of assaults on the truth…

A year of further degradations… to our civic bonds, to the health and safety of the planet, to a women’s right to choose, to the dignity of so many of our fellow citizens, and to peoples struggling around the world.

We find ourselves adrift, uncertain where we will, or even whether we will, find a safe harbor in which to anchor to ride out the storm.

But for the moment, let us look up, and look forward. Let us recognize that there is much goodness in this world, that there are so many who right now are helping, in our hospitals, in our schools, and in countless jobs, volunteer programs, and households. There are even many helpers in our governments, at the national, state, and local levels.

I am fueled by all of you who are striving to make this world, in some meaningful way, a little bit better. I wish you all a happy and healthy New Year.

New Years is about recognizing that the past need not be prologue, if we find the will to chart a new path. It is about embracing hope, because the work necessary to make hope possible can itself be self-fulfilling.

On a personal note, 2021 will always hold a special pace in my heart. It was the year we began this Steady newsletter. We didn’t know what to expect, or if anyone would show up or care about what we were trying to build. But you have, and you did. I cannot express the full measure of my gratitude.

I have lived through a lot of New Years. And from my experience, one is usually eager, when the time comes, to let the previous year slip away. The nature of life, the nature or our celestial journey around the sun, the nature of the seasons, is that we live through cycles of renewal, even as we ourselves age.

Ecclesiastes tells us, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” One need not be religious to see the wisdom of this sentiment.

I hold on to this line from the passage: “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” Now is the time for all of this, and so much more.

Life is a journey of inconsistencies and contradictions. It will be full of surprises.

So here’s to wishing the happy surprises of 2022 far outweighs the bad, that health outweighs sickness, that joy outweighs pain.

And let us remember that when we act together, we are always stronger than when we try to act alone.

ny times logoNew York Times, With Omicron’s Rise, Americans Brace for Returning to School and Work, Audra D. S. Burch, Stephanie Saul, Edgar Sandoval and Mitch Smith, Jan. 2, 2022 (print ed.). Uncertainty looms as the variant continues to spread, and as people return to workplaces and schools that vow to remain open.

In two short weeks, as the year closed out, the Omicron variant drove coronavirus case counts to record levels, upended air travel and left gaping staffing holes at police departments, firehouses and hospitals.

And that was at a time many people were off for the holiday season. Now comes Monday, with millions of Americans having traveled back home to start school and work again, and no one is sure of what comes next.

Most of the nation’s largest school districts have decided to forge ahead and remain open, at least for the time being, citing the toll that remote learning has taken on students’ mental health and academic success. And the rising number of cases has not been followed by a significant increase in hospitalizations and deaths, a hopeful sign that the Omicron variant seems to cause fewer cases of severe illness.

But the highly contagious variant is still racing across the country, and teachers, parents and workplaces are bracing for the impact.

“I figured that over these two weeks of break, everyone has been everywhere visiting everybody,” said Teresa Morrison, 48, who plans to keep her 8-year-old daughter Tristan, who suffers from severe bronchitis, from attending in-person classes in San Antonio. “So I really just anticipate January to be a disaster.”

The rapid spread of the Omicron variant has left companies across industries — from meatpacking to retail — with a thinning work force, especially after months of record high resignations. Thousands of flights have been canceled and National Guard troops have been activated to help staff hospitals.

The spiking case counts have also flummoxed the dozens of companies that sent their employees to work from home in March 2020, as Covid was first sweeping the country. Some offices that had reopened advised workers to stay home. Others, including major companies like Apple and Google, have extended their work-from-home arrangements.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Puerto Rico Faces a Staggering Covid Case Explosion, Frances Robles, Jan. 2, 2022. The island had a 4,600 percent increase in cases in recent weeks after mounting one of the nation’s most successful vaccination campaigns.

Armed with her vaccine passport and a giddy urge to celebrate the holiday season, Laura Delgado — and 60,000 other people in Puerto Rico — attended a Bad Bunny concert three weeks ago.

Three days later, she was sick with Covid-19, one of about 2,000 people who fell ill as a result of the two-day event.

“We did so well; we followed the rules,” said Ms. Delgado, a 53-year-old interior designer. “We followed the mask mandate. Our vaccination rate was so high that we let our guard down. The second Christmas came, we were like, ‘We’re going to party!’”

The superspreader concert helped usher in an explosion of Covid-19 cases in Puerto Rico, which until then had been celebrating one of the most successful vaccination campaigns in the United States. The concert was one of a series of business events, company holiday parties and family gatherings that fueled a 4,600 percent increase in cases on the island, a surge that public health officials worry could linger into the New Year; the Puerto Rican holiday season stretches to Three Kings Day on Jan. 6.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: New York reported 85,000 cases, another record, as the current surge showed no sign of slowing, Staff Reports, Jan. 2, 2022. covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2U.S. flight cancellations pass 2,700 in a day, a weekly high. As North Carolina confronts an Omicron-fueled surge, some counties are running out of tests. Catch up on Covid news.

  • U.S. flight cancellations hit a record level as Covid thins crews amid severe weather.
  • North Carolina faces a surge, but runs into testing issues.
  • A crew outbreak halts a German New Year’s cruise in Lisbon.
  • South Africa bids farewell to Desmond Tutu with a modest funeral further limited by Covid restrictions.
  • How high will the U.S. surge go after the holidays? Should you get tested?
  • Hopeful signs amid the Omicron wave: The week in science news.

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter permanently suspends Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s personal account over covid-19 misinformation, Brittany Shammas, Jan. 2, 2022. Twitter has permanently suspended the personal account of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), saying Sunday that she repeatedly violated the company’s covid-19 misinformation policy.

twitter bird CustomThe congresswoman had been temporarily suspended two times over the summer. In July, she lost access to the account for 12 hours after falsely claiming that the coronavirus was “not dangerous for non-obese people and those under 65.” A month later, she faced a week-long suspension after she falsely tweeted that the coronavirus vaccines were “failing.”

Twitter on Sunday cited a “strike” system for violations of its covid policy, which bars users from sharing content that is “demonstrably false or misleading and may lead to significant risk of harm.” Five or more strikes lead to a permanent suspension.

“We’ve been clear that, per our strike system for this policy, we will permanently suspend accounts for repeated violations of the policy,” Katie Rosborough, a company spokeswoman, said in an email.

In a statement on messaging app Telegram, Taylor Greene lambasted Twitter, saying, “Twitter is an enemy to America and can’t handle the truth. That’s fine, I’ll show America we don’t need them.”

She maintains access to her congressional Twitter account, @RepMTG.

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

World Cases: 289,798,570, Deaths: 5,458,781
U.S. Cases:     55,864,519, Deaths:    847,162
Indian Cases:   34,889,132, Deaths:    481,770
Brazil Cases:   22,291,507, Deaths:    619,139

Related Recent Headlines:

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Child Tax Credit’s Extra Help Ends, Just as Covid Surges Anew, Ben Casselman, Jan. 2, 2022. For millions of American families with children, the 15th of the month took on a special significance in 2021: It was the day they received their monthly child benefit, part of the Biden administration’s response to the pandemic.

The payments, which started in July and amounted to hundreds of dollars a month for most families, have helped millions of American families pay for food, rent and child care; kept millions of children out of poverty; and injected billions of dollars into the U.S. economy, according to government data and independent research.

Now, the benefit — an expansion of the existing child tax credit — is ending, just as the latest wave of coronavirus cases is keeping people home from work and threatening to set off a new round of furloughs. Economists warn that the one-two punch of expiring aid and rising cases could put a chill on the once red-hot economic recovery and cause severe hardship for millions of families already living close to the poverty line.

“It’s going to be hard next month, and just thinking about it, it really makes me want to bite my nails to the quick,” said Anna Lara, a mother of two young children in Huntington, W.Va. “Honestly, it’s going to be scary. It’s gong to be hard going back to not having it.”

A pandemic benefit that many progressives hoped to make permanent has lapsed in a congressional standoff. Researchers say it spared many from poverty.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump appointee resigns as FDIC chairman following clash with Democratic colleagues, Jonathan O’Connell, Jan. 2, 2022 (print ed.). Jelena McWilliams resigned Friday after voicing concerns about a ‘hostile takeover’ of the agency.

One of the nation’s top banking regulators, the chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), resigned late Friday after a partisan clash with Democrats that she had described as a “hostile takeover.”

Jelena McWilliams was appointed by President Donald Trump in 2018 to serve a five-year term as chairman of the independent regulatory agency. But following repeated disagreements with her Democratic colleagues over potential banking revisions, she issued a statement on New Year’s Eve saying she would leave her post on Feb. 4.

The move is likely to give the Biden administration more control over the agency, and more leeway to aggressively police bank mergers and push the industry to prepare for the risks of climate change. Democrats hold a majority on the board, and Martin J. Gruenberg, an appointee of President Barack Obama, will serve as chairman temporarily, his third stint in the post.

Democratic members of the board had chafed at McWilliams’s leadership in recent weeks, accusing her of using procedural tactics to stonewall their efforts to review the board’s bank merger approval process. In a lengthy December statement, board member Rohit Chopra, who also serves as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, accused the board’s leadership — without naming McWilliams — of “unsafe and unsound governance” for its unwillingness to consider proposed changes offered by a majority of board members.

“While members of the Board may differ on what, if any, new policies should be enacted, we should quickly solicit input from the public to identify potential policy options,” Chopra wrote.

McWilliams, the board’s only Republican, disagreed, blocking a review. Chopra called this “an attack on the rule of law.” McWilliams responded the next day, writing in the Wall Street Journal that Chopra had flouted long-standing FDIC policies in pushing his request and that the Democratic members of the board had tried to hijack the agency’s staff in November by circulating a letter advancing the review while she was on a flight to Switzerland.

“Agency staff report to me as the CEO, and I have always ensured that board members have access to staff for discussions, briefings and technical expertise,” she wrote. “The board members’ letter was an attempt to seize control of the FDIC’s staff while its chairman was on a nine-hour flight to Europe for official meetings.”

McWilliams also suggested that her colleagues’ intent wasn’t to advance merger regulations but to oust her from the board.

ny times logoNew York Times, Coming Soon to This Coal County: Solar, in a Big Way, Cara Buckley, Jan. 2, 2022. In Martin County, Ky., where coal production has flatlined, entrepreneurs are promising that a solar farm atop a closed mine will bring green energy jobs.

For a mountain that’s had its top blown off, the old Martiki coal mine is looking especially winsome these days. With its vast stretches of emerald grass dotted with hay bales and ringed with blue-tinged peaks, and the wild horses and cattle that roam there, it looks less like a shuttered strip mine and more like an ad for organic milk.

The mountain is poised for another transformation. Hundreds of acres are set to be blanketed with solar panels in the coming year, installed by locals, many of them former miners. The $231 million project, which recently cleared its last regulatory hurdle, may well be the biggest utility-scale coal to solar project in the country.

It would be a desperately needed economic boost drenched in symbolism: Renewable energy generated from a shuttered mine in the heart of Appalachia, where poverty grinds on in the aftermath of the coal industry’s demise.

In many ways, the project is a test case for whether a region once completely dependent on digging fossil fuels from the ground can be revived by creating clean energy from the sun. As coal continues to decline — the number of jobs nationwide fell to about 40,000 last year from 175,000 in the mid 1980s — supporting former coal communities is seen as vital for what has been termed a “just transition,” in part to ward off backlash against attempts to decarbonize.

Yet even as coal miners elsewhere resist the prospect of work in solar and wind production, Martin County’s bleak economic picture — its unemployment rate is nearly twice the national average — has opened many residents to investment of pretty much any sort. Coal mining has already flatlined here; by last count the county had just 26 miners left, down from a peak of thousands.

ny times logoNew York Times, Left and Center-Left Both Claim Stacey Abrams. Who’s Right? Astead W. Herndon, Jan. 2, 2022. Ms. Abrams, the Georgia Democrat running for governor, has admirers in both wings of her party — and Republicans eager to defeat her.

To left-leaning Democrats, Stacey Abrams, who is making her second run for Georgia governor, is a superstar: a nationally recognized voting-rights champion, a symbol of her state’s changing demographics, and a political visionary who registered and mobilized tens of thousands of new voters — the kind of grass-roots organizing that progressives have long preached.

“I don’t think anyone could call Stacey Abrams a moderate,” said Aimee Allison, the founder of She the People, a progressive advocacy group for women of color.

Moderates would beg to differ. They see Ms. Abrams as an ally for rejecting left-wing policies that center-left Democrats have spurned, like “Medicare for all,” the Green New Deal to combat climate change and the defunding of law enforcement in response to police violence.

“I don’t know that anybody in the party can say, ‘She’s one of us,’” said Matt Bennett, a founder of Third Way, the center-left group. “We can’t pretend she’s a moderate,” he added. “But the progressives can’t say she’s a progressive and not a moderate. We’re both kind of right.”

Recent Related Headlines:

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime, Race

 

supreme court Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Roberts says federal judiciary has some issues but doesn’t need congressional intervention, Robert Barnes, Jan. 1, 2022 (print ed.). In his year-end report, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. acknowledged concerns about ethical conflicts among judges and workplace discrimination within the judiciary.

john roberts oChief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., right, acknowledged in a report released Friday that the federal judiciary has work to do in ensuring that judges live up to their ethical responsibilities and in creating a harassment-free workplace.

But he politely told Congress it is work that judges can do on their own.

In his 2021 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary, the chief justice did not mention President Biden’s commission on reforming the Supreme Court or react to nascent congressional proposals to make drastic changes, such as expanding the number of justices or ending their lifetime tenure.

But he said the judiciary’s independence is best maintained by remaining free of interference from the political branches.

“The Judiciary’s power to manage its internal affairs insulates courts from inappropriate political influence and is crucial to preserving public trust in its work as a separate and co-equal branch of government,” Roberts wrote.

In the report, Roberts addressed “topics that have been flagged by Congress and the press over the past year.” Those included the failure of some judges to recuse themselves from cases in which they had a financial interest, and concerns about how the judiciary handles allegations of workplace harassment and discrimination.

Roberts referred to articles in the Wall Street Journal that said “between 2010 and 2018, 131 federal judges participated in a total of 685 matters involving companies in which they or their families owned shares of stock.”

He said that was “inconsistent” with a federal ethics statute that requires a judge to recuse in any matter in which he or she knows of a personal financial interest.

“Let me be crystal clear: the Judiciary takes this matter seriously,” Roberts wrote. “We expect judges to adhere to the highest standards, and those judges violated an ethics rule.”

But, he said, in context, that meant the judiciary had a “99.97% compliance rate.”

“For most of the judges involved (a total of 83 of the 131), the Journal reported one or two lapses over the nine-year period,” Roberts wrote. “Those sorts of isolated violations likely entailed unintentional oversights in which the judge’s conflict-checking procedures failed to reveal the financial conflict.”

Roberts said congressional intervention was not needed. The Judicial Conference and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts will dedicate themselves in the coming months to increasing ethics training for judges and researching new computer programs to detect potential conflicts in the cases that come before judges.

“The bottom line is that the Conference is taking the concerns seriously and has committed itself to the careful labor of addressing them,” he wrote. The Journal reported that Roberts said he had “serious constitutional concerns” about proposed accountability legislation in 2018.

Roberts defends colleagues on recusal issues

Supreme Court justices are not covered by the same ethics policies, although the justices have said they voluntarily comply with them. Roberts is one of three justices — Stephen G. Breyer and Samuel A. Alito Jr. are the others — who own individual stocks. They recuse from cases, or sometimes sell the stock in order to participate, but they too have missed some cases.

The chief justice also acknowledged concerns about how the federal judiciary handles allegations of harassment and discrimination. He detailed steps that the judiciary’s leaders have taken to improve its reporting system, including the expansion of the Office of Judicial Integrity and the hiring of workplace relations directors in each of the federal circuits.

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World News, Human Rights

washington post logoWashington Post, China harvests masses of data on Western targets from social media, documents show, Cate Cadell, Jan. 2, 2022 (print ed.). Hundreds of projects launched since 2020 show that Chinese police, state media and the military are gathering data from sites to track perceived threats.

china flag SmallChina is turning a major part of its internal Internet data surveillance network outward, mining Western social media, including Facebook and Twitter, to equip its government agencies, military and police with information on foreign targets, according to a Washington Post review of hundreds of Chinese bidding documents, contracts and company filings.

China maintains a countrywide network of government data surveillance services — called public opinion analysis software — that were developed over the past decade and are used domestically to warn officials of politically sensitive information online.

facebook logoThe software primarily targets China’s domestic Internet users and media, but a Washington Post review of bidding documents and contracts for over 300 Chinese government projects since the beginning of 2020 include orders for software designed to collect data on foreign targets from sources such as Twitter, Facebook and other Western social media.

The documents, publicly accessible through domestic government bidding platforms, also show that agencies including state media, propaganda departments, police, military and cyber regulators are purchasing new or more sophisticated systems to gather data.

These include a $320,000 Chinese state media software program that mines Twitter and Facebook to create a database of foreign journalists and academics; a $216,000 Beijing police intelligence program that analyses Western chatter on Hong Kong and Taiwan; and a Xinjiang twitter bird Customcybercenter cataloguing Uyghur language content abroad.

“Now we can better understand the underground network of anti-China personnel,” said a Beijing-based analyst who works for a unit reporting to China’s Central Propaganda Department. The person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss their work, said they were once tasked with producing a data report on how negative content relating to Beijing’s senior leadership is spread on Twitter, including profiles of individual academics, politicians and journalists.

 

Jan. 1

Top Stories

 

More On Radical Changes In U.S. Law, Elections

 

New Year’s Outlook

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime, Race

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

 

World News, Human Rights

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Poll: Democrats and Republicans split over Jan. 6 attack, Trump’s culpability, Dan Balz, Scott Clement and Emily Guskin, Jan. 1, 2022. Partisan divisions related to Jan. 6 and the 2020 presidential election color most issues in The Washington Post-University of Maryland survey.

One year after the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, Republicans and Democrats are deeply divided over what happened that day and the degree to which former president Donald Trump bears responsibility for the assault, amid more universal signs of flagging pride in the workings of democracy at home, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll.

Partisan divisions related both to the Jan. 6 assault and the 2020 presidential election color nearly every issue raised in the survey, from how much violence occurred at the Capitol that day to the severity of the sentences handed down to convicted protesters to whether President Biden was legitimately elected. Only on a question about injured law enforcement officers is there broad bipartisan agreement.

The percentage of Americans who say violent action against the government is justified at times stands at 34 percent, which is considerably higher than in past polls by The Post or other major news organizations dating back more than two decades. Again, the view is partisan: The new survey finds 40 percent of Republicans, 41 percent of independents and 23 percent of Democrats saying violence is sometimes justified.

On Jan. 6, the day Congress was to ratify the 2020 electoral college vote, Trump claimed at a rally near the White House that the election had been rigged and urged his followers to “fight like hell” to stop what he said was a stolen outcome. Many of his supporters walked to the Capitol from the rally and took part in the violence.

washington post logoWashington Post, 3 missing in Colorado fire as snow storm complicates recovery effort, sheriff says, Ari Schneider, Marisa Iati, Reis Thebault and Jonathan O’Connell, Jan. 1, 2022. Two days after a wind-fueled grass fire reduced entire neighborhoods to tangles of smoldering debris, investigators announced they were searching for three missing people, a mission complicated by several inches of snow now blanketing the region.

First responders initially reported no casualties in the blaze, but Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said Saturday that two people from Superior, between Denver and Boulder, and a third from the nearby community of Marshall — two hard-hit areas — were unaccounted for. All lived in homes destroyed in the blaze and were likely killed, he added.

Deputies are planning to bring in cadaver dogs to help search through the still-hot rubble buried in eight inches of snow.

“So search and recovery efforts are hampered substantially,” Pelle said. Still, he added: “We are fortunate we don’t have a list of 100 missing people.”

The grim news came as authorities came closer to determining the full extent of the damage after the Marshall Fire erupted Thursday, spreading rapidly with the help of 100-plus mph winds. Nearly 1,000 homes were burned, leaving families grappling with the painful new reality that they will begin 2022 without their belongings or the places they call home.

“Reality kicks in when we have to find a place to stay now,” said Alex Stickelberger, who was staying with relatives after fleeing with his family.

In all, roughly 990 homes in Superior, the neighboring town of Louisville and unincorporated Boulder County burned down, officials said Saturday. On Friday, authorities said that they had counted about 500 destroyed homes but feared the final tally could be much higher.

The fire grew to more than 6,000 acres before the snow helped extinguish remaining flames.

washington post logoWashington Post, Flight cancellations top 2,500 in another chaotic day for air travel, Paul Duggan, Jan. 1, 2022. The coronavirus, staffing shortages and wintery weather cause havoc for travelers.

Airlines canceled more than 2,500 U.S. flights on New Year’s Day, many of them into or out of the storm-battered Upper Midwest, as wintry weather and staffing shortages amid a spike in coronavirus cases made Saturday the worst of several straight chaotic days for air travelers.

As of early Saturday evening, 2,627 flights within, into or out of the United States had been canceled, easily the highest daily total in more than a week of havoc for airlines, according to FlightAware, which compiles commercial aviation data.

Twenty-seven flights out of Reagan National and 22 into the airport had been canceled as of early Saturday night. Cancellations at Dulles International were 20 flights out and 19 inbound.

In snowy Chicago, 408 flights out of O’Hare International Airport and 129 out of Midway International were scrubbed, making the Windy City the hub of air travel disruptions nationwide, FlightAware data showed. In addition, as night fell Saturday, nearly 600 flights into those two airports had been canceled.

ny times logoNew York Times, Record-Setting Colorado Fires Destroyed Up to 1,000 Homes, Charlie Brennan, Shay Castle, Mitch Smith and Jack Healy, Updated Jan. 1, 2022. Unlike fires in mountain wilderness, which often burn over the course of weeks, the destruction on Thursday played out in minutes and hours.

It took only a few hours for the flames to cut an unimaginable path of destruction across the drought-starved neighborhoods between Denver and Boulder.

By Friday morning, as smoke from the most damaging wildfire in state history cleared, more than 500 homes, and possibly as many as 1,000, had been destroyed. Hundreds of people who had hastily fled returned to ruins, everything they owned incinerated in the fast-moving blaze. Entire neighborhoods had been reduced to ashes.

Despite the astonishing destruction, no deaths were immediately recorded, a figure that Gov. Jared Polis said would be a “New Year’s miracle” if it held.

It turned out that people had just enough time to evacuate, with some grabbing passports and pets, toothbrushes and clothing, as the fast-moving flames, fueled by 110-mile-an-hour winds, leapfrogged highways and strip malls and bore down on their homes.

It “wasn’t a wildfire in the forest; it was a suburban and urban fire,” said Mr. Polis, a Democrat who lives in Boulder County and who described receiving texts and voice mail messages from friends describing what they had lost.

“The Costco we all shop at, the Target we buy our kids’ clothes at — all surrounded and damaged,” he said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Extreme climate conditions fueled Colorado fire, Jason Samenow, Jacob Feuerstein and Becky Bolinger, Jan. 1, 2022 (print ed.). Record warmth and extreme drought, intensified by climate change, set the stage for the devastating blaze in Boulder County.

The raging inferno that erupted in Boulder County, Colo., on Thursday afternoon became the most destructive wildfire in the state’s history as it burned through hundreds of homes in densely populated suburbs. The fire was fueled by an extreme set of atmospheric conditions, intensified by climate change, and fanned by a violent windstorm.

The fire came at a time of year when a blaze of such violence is unprecedented; Colorado’s fire season typically spans May though September. But exceptionally warm and dry conditions through this fall, including a historic lack of snowfall, created tinderbox conditions ripe for a fast-spreading blaze.

‘Total devastation’ after wildfire charges through Colorado towns

All that was needed to incite such a conflagration was a spark and that was provided by a ferocious windstorm, rushing down the slopes of the front range. As the winds — gusting over 100 mph — toppled power lines, the inferno was ignited.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden says he warned Putin of ‘severe sanctions’ if Russia invades Ukraine again, Meryl Kornfield, Jan. 1, 2022 (print ed.). President Russian FlagBiden plans to speak by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday amid growing alarm over Russia’s military buildup.

 

More On Radical Changes In U.S. Law, Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, 1 in 3 Americans say there can be justified violence against government, citing fears of political schism, pandemic, Meryl Kornfield and Mariana Alfaro, Jan. 1, 2022. The Post-UMD poll, coming a year after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, marks the largest share of Americans to hold that view since the question was first asked more than two decades ago.

Phil Spampinato had never contemplated the question of whether violence against the government might be justified — at least not in the United States. But as he watched Republicans across the country move to reshape election laws in response to former president Donald Trump’s false fraud claims, the part-time engineering consultant from Dover, Del., said he began thinking differently about “defending your way of life.”

“Not too many years ago, I would have said that those conditions are not possible, and that no such violence is really ever appropriate,” said Spampinato, 73, an independent.

The notion of legitimate violence against the government had also not occurred to Anthea Ward, a mother of two in Michigan, until the past year — prompted by her fear that President Biden would go too far to force her and her family to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“The world we live in now is scary,” said Ward, 32, a Republican. “I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist but sometimes it feels like a movie. It’s no longer a war against Democrats and Republicans. It’s a war between good and evil.”

A year after a pro-Trump mob ransacked the Capitol in the worst attack on the home of Congress since it was burned by British forces in 1814, a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll finds that about 1 in 3 Americans say they believe violence against the government can at times be justified.

The findings represent the largest share to feel that way since the question has been asked in various polls in more than two decades. They offer a window into the country’s psyche at a tumultuous period in American history, marked by last year’s insurrection, the rise of Trump’s election claims as an energizing force on the right, deepening fissures over the government’s role in combating the pandemic, and mounting racial justice protests sparked by police killings of Black Americans.

The percentage of adults who say violence is justified is up, from 23 percent in 2015 and 16 percent in 2010 in polls by CBS News and the New York Times.

A majority continue to say that violence against the government is never justified — but the 62 percent who hold that view is a new low point, and a stark difference from the 1990s, when as many as 90 percent said violence was never justified.

While a 2015 survey found no significant partisan divide when it comes to the question of justified violence against the government, the new poll identified a sharper rise on the right — with 40 percent of Republicans and 41 percent of independents saying it can be acceptable. The view was held by 23 percent of Democrats, the survey finds.

washington post logoWashington Post, Shaken by Jan. 6 attack, Capitol workers quit jobs that once made them proud, Paul Schwartzman and Peter Jamison, Jan. 1, 2022. “The idea that you’re in a place where your life is at risk was just — on top of everything else — the clinching factor for me,” said Rich Luchette, 35, a former senior adviser to Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.). “It becomes overwhelming at some point.”

A sign of the enduring trauma, Luchette said, occurred a week or so after the insurrection, when the sounds of partying neighbors woke him up in his Navy Yard apartment. As he opened his eyes, his first thought was: “Are there Proud Boys out in the hallway?”

Luchette had considered looking for a new job before Jan. 6. By July, he had found one.

In any given year, staff turnover at the Capitol is constant, making it difficult to quantify the number of employees who quit or retired because of the insurrection. More than 100 U.S. Capitol Police officers had departed as of early December, a figure that was a sharp increase over the previous year.

On a typical day, the 290-acre Capitol complex is a veritable city unto itself, spread out over multiple blocks, with its own subway system, an array of cafeterias and a workforce approaching 30,000 people.

Jan. 6 was anything but typical, with the coronavirus having kept many employees at home. Yet, no matter where they were as the insurrection unfolded, Capitol employees could not help but feel violated as they saw rioters invade and vandalize their workplace.

Another former House staffer, a Democrat who quit months after Jan. 6, said the toll of that day grew as time passed.

“I got to the point where my mental health just took an absolute nose dive because I was still trying to process all this stuff,” said the former aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she fears retribution from Trump supporters.

Death threats continued to arrive daily by phone from constituents who were convinced that Democrats had stolen the election. “It absolutely broke me to know that people would be fine if my boss was dead, if I was dead, if my co-workers were dead,” she said. “The American people stopped believing in the institution. And if they don’t believe in it, what the hell are any of us doing working for it?”

washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutors break down charges, convictions for 725 arrested so far in Jan. 6 attack on U.S. Capitol, Keith L. Alexander, Jan. 1, 2022 (print ed.). Federal prosecutors in the District have charged more than 725 individuals with various crimes in connection with the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection, when hundreds of rioters forced their way into the U.S. Capitol, the U.S. attorney’s office said Friday.

As the country nears the first anniversary of the storming of the Capitol, the U.S. attorney’s office in the District, the largest office of federal prosecutors in the nation, released a breakdown of the arrests and convictions associated with the attack.

Of those arrested, 225 people were charged with assault or resisting arrest. More than 75 of those were charged with using a deadly or dangerous weapon against police officers. The office said 140 police officers, including Capitol officers and members of the D.C. police department, were victimized during the attack.

The office said about 10 individuals were charged with assaulting members of the media or destroying their equipment.

Some 640 people were charged with entering a restricted federal building or its grounds. And another 75 were charged with entering a restricted area with a deadly weapon.

Prosecutors in the office have been working with the FBI as well as prosecutors in various locations around the nation. The office said the individuals arrested come from nearly all 50 states.

One person, 35-year-old Ashli Babbitt of California, was fatally shot by a Capitol Police officer as she tried to breach a set of doors deep in the Capitol during the riot. Federal prosecutors later cleared the officer of any wrongdoing in Babbitt’s death.

According to a May estimate by the Architect of the Capitol, the attack caused about $1.5 million worth of damage to the building.

About 165 individuals, the office said, have pleaded guilty to a variety of federal charges, from misdemeanors to felony obstruction.

So far, 70 defendants have received some kind of sentence from a judge. Of those, 31 people were ordered jailed, and 18 were sentenced to home detention. The remaining 21 defendants were placed on probation.

In early December, Robert Scott Palmer, 54, of Largo, Fla., received the longest prison sentence to date among those convicted in the attack. A U.S. District Court judge sentenced him to more than five years in prison.

In October, Palmer pleaded guilty to resisting arrest and assaulting officers with a dangerous weapon. Prosecutors said Palmer broke into the Capitol building and, while inside, threw a wooden plank at police officers; then, they said, while he was on the front line of the riot, he sprayed police officers with a fire extinguisher and hurled the emptied extinguisher at the officers. No officers, prosecutors said, were injured.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The truth in 2022 is our strongest weapon against the lies that led to Jan. 6, Colbert I. King, Jan. 1, 2022 (print ed.). One year ago, on Jan. 1, 2021, I wrote: “Over a span of 14 days this month, our nation’s capital will bear witness to three events that will tell us much about the state of American democracy: a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, where electoral votes cast in December will be read and counted aloud; protests in downtown Washington scheduled for the same day; and the Jan. 20 inauguration of the president of the United States.

“How will our country look after all this is over?”

The insurrection was seen coming.

“Wednesday will be a day of acrimony, probably to [President Donald] Trump’s delight, because, at the very least, the disruption will cast a cloud over the incoming president, Joe Biden,” I wrote. “It could, however, be worse than that,” I predicted, adding, “Trump’s forces are coming.”

The New Year’s Day 2021 column closed with this observation:

“Imagine Congress assembling to count electoral college votes in the midst of Trump-encouraged chaos.” And with this warning: “Trump isn’t calling his followers to Washington for sport. Or to make lawmakers nervous. Or to dominate the news cycle. Trump wants to overturn the 2020 election and take the presidential oath on Jan. 20. This is our current state.”

Five days later, all hell broke loose at the seat of American democracy.

It didn’t take a soothsayer to forecast the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol. It was a simple matter of telling the truth about what was being said and done at the time. About Trump’s incitement of supporters to mass in Washington to pressure Congress not to approve the election results. About Trump’s desperate scheming to find new ways to alter the outcome of the presidential election. About the betrayal of accepted standards of political morality by a cult of Republican lawmakers who willfully interrupted congressional certification with unfounded fraud claims.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary, 2022 will be a year of book burning, history re-writing, and election nullification, Wayne Madsen, left, Dec. 29, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2021 — Jan. 1, 2022. One way to stick it to the Republican Party and its current Nazi penchant for nullifying elections is to celebrate February 9th as President Samuel Tilden Day. Tilden was born on February 9, 1814.

In 1876, Tilden, the reformist Democratic presidential candidate and governor of New York, who had broken the back of New York City’s corrupt Tammany Hall political machine and William “Boss” Tweed, won the popular vote but lost the Electoral Vote tally because of a backroom deal samuel tilden campaignmade between southern Democrats favoring an end to Reconstruction and Republican supporters of Rutherford B. Hayes. Hayes was the lackluster governor of Ohio whose dubiously-attained presidency is now only dimly recalled in trivia contests.

In the infamous “Compromise of 1877,” the Commission decided to award the 20 disputed electors to Hayes in return for the Hayes administration agreeing to ending Reconstruction in the South. This was the same template that Donald Trump and his congressional supporters planned to use to deny the presidency to Democratic victor Joe Biden.

If Trump supporters want to insist that Trump won the election of 2020, Democrats can honor the legacy of “President” Tilden, the Democratic candidate robbed of the presidency some 145 years ago. The Republican Party has been the party of election cheating and fraud since 1876 and that fact should be hammered home in public school classrooms across the nation.

To this day, Tilden remains the only presidential candidate to lose the presidency while commanding a majority of the popular vote. Although Andrew Jackson, Grover Cleveland, Al Gore, and Hillary Clinton also lost their respective electoral vote counts, they did so while winning a plurality, not an overall majority, of the popular vote.

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 New Year’s Outlook

Midsummer Sunrise, Gulf of Saint Lawrence (NASA) (From Dan Rather's Steady Newsletter)

Midsummer Sunrise, Gulf of Saint Lawrence (NASA)

Steady, Commentary: Happy New Year, Dan Rather, below right, Jan. 1, 2022. And there we have it, an end to 2021, a year many of us are happy to see in dan rather new portraitthe rearview mirror.

A year of sadness and loss…

A year of illness…

A year of anxiety…

A year of assaults on our democracy…

A year of assaults on the truth…

A year of further degradations… to our civic bonds, to the health and safety of the planet, to a women’s right to choose, to the dignity of so many of our fellow citizens, and to peoples struggling around the world.

We find ourselves adrift, uncertain where we will, or even whether we will, find a safe harbor in which to anchor to ride out the storm.

But for the moment, let us look up, and look forward. Let us recognize that there is much goodness in this world, that there are so many who right now are helping, in our hospitals, in our schools, and in countless jobs, volunteer programs, and households. There are even many helpers in our governments, at the national, state, and local levels.

I am fueled by all of you who are striving to make this world, in some meaningful way, a little bit better. I wish you all a happy and healthy New Year.

New Years is about recognizing that the past need not be prologue, if we find the will to chart a new path. It is about embracing hope, because the work necessary to make hope possible can itself be self-fulfilling.

On a personal note, 2021 will always hold a special pace in my heart. It was the year we began this Steady newsletter. We didn’t know what to expect, or if anyone would show up or care about what we were trying to build. But you have, and you did. I cannot express the full measure of my gratitude.

I have lived through a lot of New Years. And from my experience, one is usually eager, when the time comes, to let the previous year slip away. The nature of life, the nature or our celestial journey around the sun, the nature of the seasons, is that we live through cycles of renewal, even as we ourselves age.

Ecclesiastes tells us, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” One need not be religious to see the wisdom of this sentiment.

I hold on to this line from the passage: “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” Now is the time for all of this, and so much more.

Life is a journey of inconsistencies and contradictions. It will be full of surprises.

So here’s to wishing the happy surprises of 2022 far outweighs the bad, that health outweighs sickness, that joy outweighs pain.

And let us remember that when we act together, we are always stronger than when we try to act alone.

ny times logoNew York Times, With Omicron’s Rise, Americans Brace for Returning to School and Work, Audra D. S. Burch, Stephanie Saul, Edgar Sandoval and Mitch Smith, Jan. 1, 2022. Uncertainty looms as the variant continues to spread, and as people return to workplaces and schools that vow to remain open.

In two short weeks, as the year closed out, the Omicron variant drove coronavirus case counts to record levels, upended air travel and left gaping staffing holes at police departments, firehouses and hospitals.

And that was at a time many people were off for the holiday season. Now comes Monday, with millions of Americans having traveled back home to start school and work again, and no one is sure of what comes next.

Most of the nation’s largest school districts have decided to forge ahead and remain open, at least for the time being, citing the toll that remote learning has taken on students’ mental health and academic success. And the rising number of cases has not been followed by a significant increase in hospitalizations and deaths, a hopeful sign that the Omicron variant seems to cause fewer cases of severe illness.

But the highly contagious variant is still racing across the country, and teachers, parents and workplaces are bracing for the impact.

“I figured that over these two weeks of break, everyone has been everywhere visiting everybody,” said Teresa Morrison, 48, who plans to keep her 8-year-old daughter Tristan, who suffers from severe bronchitis, from attending in-person classes in San Antonio. “So I really just anticipate January to be a disaster.”

The rapid spread of the Omicron variant has left companies across industries — from meatpacking to retail — with a thinning work force, especially after months of record high resignations. Thousands of flights have been canceled and National Guard troops have been activated to help staff hospitals.

The spiking case counts have also flummoxed the dozens of companies that sent their employees to work from home in March 2020, as Covid was first sweeping the country. Some offices that had reopened advised workers to stay home. Others, including major companies like Apple and Google, have extended their work-from-home arrangements.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, As omicron spreads, New York City is once again a center of the pandemic, Emmanuel Felton, Jan. 1, 2022 (print ed.). Officials struggled to provide basic services this week, with scores of transit workers, police officers and paramedics now sick.

In recent weeks, the highly contagious omicron variant of the novel coronavirus has quickly spread through the city, which now has one of the highest rates of new cases in the country despite taking more precautions than many communities and having a vaccination rate higher than the national average.

So far, hospitalizations have remained comparatively low, given the high number of infections, although the number of children hospitalized with covid-19 has increased dramatically this month.

ny times logoNew York Times, Studies Suggest Why Omicron Is Less Severe: It Spares the Lungs, Carl Zimmer and Azeen Ghorayshi, Jan. 1, 2022 (print ed.). Suggesting Why It’s Less Severe, Compared with other variants, Omicron appears to cause less damage to the lungs. In trials on animals, infections were limited largely to the nose and throat. While the studies help explain why the variant causes milder disease, they don’t answer why it’s so highly transmissible. Scientists say more research is needed.

A spate of new studies on lab animals and human tissues are providing the first indication of why the Omicron variant causes milder disease than previous versions of the coronavirus.

In studies on mice and hamsters, Omicron produced less damaging infections, often limited largely to the upper airway: the nose, throat and windpipe. The variant did much less harm to the lungs, where previous variants would often cause scarring and serious breathing difficulty.

“It’s fair to say that the idea of a disease that manifests itself primarily in the upper respiratory system is emerging,” said Roland Eils, a computational biologist at the Berlin Institute of Health, who has studied how coronaviruses infect the airway.

In November, when the first report on the Omicron variant came out of South Africa, scientists could only guess at how it might behave differently from earlier forms of the virus. All they knew was that it had a distinctive and alarming combination of more than 50 genetic mutations.

ny times logoNew York Times, New daily cases topped one million globally. See where they are rising the fastest, Lazaro Gamio, Albert Sun and Alexandria Symonds, Dec. 31, 2021 (print ed.). As the Omicron variant sweeps across the planet, the global tally of new coronavirus cases has for the first time passed one million per day on average. The previous global case record set last April has already been broken three times this week.

The United States, Canada and much of Western Europe are leading the surge, with both regions seeing record-breaking levels of new coronavirus cases. The daily average number of new cases in the United States on Tuesday was more than 267,000, exceeding the previous all-time peak set in January; Wednesday’s average was higher still, at more than 300,000.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2New cases in at least 11 European countries — Britain, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Spain and Switzerland — also passed their previous all-time peaks on Tuesday or Wednesday. In France, the daily case average passed 100,000.

Cases in Canada have also seen a steep increase in recent days, more than doubling in a week to an average of more than 25,000. And Australia’s cases climbed to an average of more than 12,600 on Wednesday — eight times higher than just three weeks earlier.

As dramatic as these case counts are, they are also likely an undercount because of asymptomatic cases, reporting lags due to the holiday season, lack of test availability in many places and at-home tests whose results may not be reported.

In the United States, where Omicron is spreading quickly, 16 states and Puerto Rico are at their all-time case records. These include states with comparatively high vaccination rates: Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island, all of which are at least 70 percent fully vaccinated. In addition to being more transmissible generally, Omicron also appears to give rise to more breakthrough infections.

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

World Cases: 288,680,388, Deaths: 5,455,377
U.S. Cases:     55,696,500, Deaths:    846,905
Indian Cases:   34,861,579, Deaths:    481,486
Brazil Cases:   22,287,521, Deaths:    619,109

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U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Medicare Officials’ Decision on Alzheimer’s Drug Could Determine Its Fate, Pam Belluck, Jan. 1, 2022 (print ed.). The preliminary decision over Medicare coverage for Aduhelm is expected in January. The F.D.A. approved the drug despite unclear evidence that it helps patients.

Federal officials are wrestling with a decision that could go a long way toward determining the future of the controversial new Alzheimer’s drug, Aduhelm, and whether significant numbers of patients use it.

In January, Medicare, the federal health insurance program for people 65 and over, plans to issue a preliminary decision on whether it will cover the expensive medication. The Food and Drug Administration’s approval of Aduhelm in June has drawn fierce criticism because clinical trials showed the drug had significant safety risks and unclear benefit to patients.

Roughly 80 percent of potential Aduhelm patients are old enough to receive Medicare, making the program’s coverage decision crucial. Private insurers often follow Medicare’s lead.

 

ny times logoNew York Times, Karen Ferguson, Fighter for Pension Rights, Dies at 80, Katharine Q. Seelye, Jan. 1, 2022 (print ed.). She started as one of Ralph Nader’s “Nader Raiders” and, after developing an expertise in retirement systems, became a leading advocate for workers’ rights.

In the early 1970s, Karen Ferguson was a Nader Raider, one of a legion of young public-interest lawyers who flocked to Washington to work for Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate and scourge of corporate America. Mr. Nader would periodically gather the Raiders in a circle and read off a list of topics or little-examined government agencies to be investigated; the lawyers were to raise their hand when a subject piqued their interest.

When he read out “pension law,” Mr. Nader said in an interview, only one hand went up — Ms. Ferguson’s.

She had an inkling that this unglamorous-sounding subject was actually full of human drama, and that unraveling its arcane complexities would pose an intellectual challenge that she would enjoy. When Mr. Nader gave her newspaper articles about pension abuses and letters of grievance from workers, she knew she had chosen the right field.

“I was immediately drawn in,” she said in a 2002 interview with Harvard Law Bulletin, a publication of Harvard Law School, of which she was a graduate. “So many people had been hurt in so many different ways.”

Within a few short years, she became one of the country’s foremost experts on pension law and a champion of workers’ rights.

As director of the Nader-backed Pension Rights Center in Washington for more than four decades, Ms. Ferguson successfully lobbied Congress for numerous pension reforms. She also personally handled thousands of individual claims from people who had worked all their adult lives and found themselves being denied their full retirement benefits for one reason or another — corporate bankruptcies, say, or anticipated insolvencies, or chicanery.

washington post logoWashington Post, Wampanoag, who helped Pilgrims survive, win rights to tribal lands, Dana Hedgpeth, Jan. 1, 2022 (print ed.). A decision last week from the U.S Department of the Interior overturns a Trump administration move to strip the tribe’s reservation land. ‘It’s kind of unbelievable when you look at what was promised us and how it was taken,’ said a tribal educator.

Four hundred years after the Mashpee Wampanoag in Plymouth, Mass., helped the Pilgrims from the Mayflower survive, they have been fighting to get their ancestral homeland back. Last week, they won a major victory in a ruling from the U.S. Department of the Interior that will give them substantial control of roughly 320 acres around Cape Cod.

The decision opens the door for the Wampanoag tribe to move forward on economic development projects — such as a casino resort or housing — that tribal leaders say will bring much-needed revenue to their community of roughly 2,800 members.

“This is a momentous day for the Mashpee Wampanoag, for Indigenous communities across the country and for defenders of justice,” said Brian Weeden, the tribe’s chairman. He said it will allow his tribe to “reclaim and protect our cherished land.”

This tribe helped the Pilgrims survive for their first Thanksgiving. They still regret it 400 years later. The Wampanoag’s fight to keep their land is long and complicated.

Palmer Report, Opinion: This is the year we win, Bill Palmer, right, Jan. 1, 2022. It’s easy to list what all went wrong in 2021. In fact that list has been hurled at us bill palmeron a nonstop loop for so long, it’s tempting to conclude that the entire year was a waste. But if you take a moment to list off the good things that happened in 2021, it’s a surprisingly comprehensive list.

bill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump was removed from power. Yes, the media keeps trying to convince us that he’s hiding behind every dark corner, and that he’s somehow more powerful and dangerous than he was when the year began. But that’s baseless. When the year began, Trump had control of the nuclear launch codes. These days he’s rotting in a Mar-a-Lago back room, pretending he still has power that he does not, hoping he doesn’t get criminally indicted, and he doesn’t even have control of so much as a Twitter account.

COVID vaccines came along and made (most of) us safer. Yes, Omicron is a potential nightmare, particularly if the surge doesn’t subside before the hospital system breaks. But try to imagine how much worse Omicron would be if three-quarters of us weren’t vaccinated. Most of us are far safer from COVID than we were when the year began, and most of the people who are at most risk from COVID are unvaccinated idiots who are at risk by choice. Let’s all do what we can to help protect immunocompromised people until this surge is over.

– When the year began, Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell were still packing the courts with far-right federal judges. Now, a year later, Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer have spent 2021 packing the courts with legitimate federal judges at a far faster rate than Trump and McConnell were ever able to do. And, for whatever it’s worth, Trump-appointed judges keep ruling against Trump’s last ditch attempts at staving off criminal prosecution.

Speaking of criminal prosecution, new Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is taking office today. He has a history of bringing legal action against Donald Trump, and now he’s inheriting what appears to be a nearly-complete criminal case against Trump, complete with an active grand jury. Trump’s indictment in New York is coming in the new year.

And if state-level criminal charges against Trump aren’t enough to satisfy your sense of justice, the January 6th Committee is about to start holding televised public hearings, after having recently leaked to the media that it intends to make a criminal referral against Trump for crimes including obstruction of Congress and wire fraud. Whatever you think of Merrick Garland’s DOJ, it’s difficult to imagine this DOJ ignoring a legitimate criminal referral from Congress. In fact this DOJ has already acted on the committee’s criminal referral against Steve Bannon, setting some degree of precedent for it.

There was a lot of winning in 2021, even if much of it was incremental, incomplete, behind the scenes, and so on. The good news is that the mixed victories of 2021 have set the stage for far bigger wins in 2022, if we’re smart about playing the winning hand we’ve been dealt. We’re heading into the new year with a growing majority consensus that voting rights legislation must be passed by any means, that Trump must be indicted, and so on. And we’re heading into the midterms with Trump set to spitefully make a total mess of the primary process for the Republicans. If we work hard and work smart in 2022, we can win it all. Happy New Year. Let’s do this!

 

Ted Koppel, right, interviews Randy Collins, the president of the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce, for a piece on “CBS Sunday Morning.” (CBS Sunday Morning)Ted Koppel, right, interviews Randy Collins, the president of the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce, for a piece on “CBS Sunday Morning.” (CBS Sunday Morning)

washington post logoWashington Post, How Ted Koppel’s trip to ‘Mayberry’ turned into one of 2021’s most striking moments of TV, Emily Yahr, Dec. 31, 2021 (print ed.).The veteran newsman and “CBS Sunday Morning” contributor explains how a seeming puff piece about “The Andy Griffith Show” turned into an unsettling snapshot of an angry America

At the height of the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns, veteran journalist Ted Koppel was working out on the treadmill when he came across an episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” — it caught his attention because of something he heard earlier that day while listening to WMAL, a Virginia-based conservative talk radio station. A listener had called in to explain that they used to live in the Washington area, but couldn’t stand how “woke” it had become, so they fled to the South. They said something along the lines of, “We moved down here to the Carolinas, and boy, life is just wonderful. People are so lovely. They’re so neighborly. Everything is so nice.”

Koppel, 81, started thinking about how “The Andy Griffith Show” was also set in the Carolinas, in the fictional town of Mayberry, N.C. After his workout, he went online and discovered that the CBS comedy was an even bigger hit than he remembered; the series, starring Griffith as the good-natured sheriff and Ron Howard as his adorable young son, was one of the most-watched shows from its debut in 1960 until it went off the air in 1968. And, more intriguingly, while Mayberry was not real, the city of Mount Airy, N.C., claims to be the prototype on which it was based, and still draws thousands of tourists every year looking to relive their beloved show.

So Koppel, the former ABC “Nightline” host and now a senior contributor to “CBS Sunday Morning,” called his producer, Dustin Stephens, and suggested that they travel down to Mount Airy. Koppel was curious: What made the show so popular? And what was it about this community that makes people want to come visit decades later?

What started with those general questions wound up evolving into one of the most striking TV segments of the year, as Koppel was visibly taken aback by the fierce nostalgia for a time and place that literally never existed — and how it connects to the misinformation that has infiltrated America’s politics.

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U.S. Law, Courts, Crime, Race

 

supreme court Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Roberts says federal judiciary has some issues but doesn’t need congressional intervention, Robert Barnes, Jan. 1, 2022 (print ed.). In his year-end report, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. acknowledged concerns about ethical conflicts among judges and workplace discrimination within the judiciary.

john roberts oChief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., right, acknowledged in a report released Friday that the federal judiciary has work to do in ensuring that judges live up to their ethical responsibilities and in creating a harassment-free workplace.

But he politely told Congress it is work that judges can do on their own.

In his 2021 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary, the chief justice did not mention President Biden’s commission on reforming the Supreme Court or react to nascent congressional proposals to make drastic changes, such as expanding the number of justices or ending their lifetime tenure.

But he said the judiciary’s independence is best maintained by remaining free of interference from the political branches.

“The Judiciary’s power to manage its internal affairs insulates courts from inappropriate political influence and is crucial to preserving public trust in its work as a separate and co-equal branch of government,” Roberts wrote.

In the report, Roberts addressed “topics that have been flagged by Congress and the press over the past year.” Those included the failure of some judges to recuse themselves from cases in which they had a financial interest, and concerns about how the judiciary handles allegations of workplace harassment and discrimination.

Roberts referred to articles in the Wall Street Journal that said “between 2010 and 2018, 131 federal judges participated in a total of 685 matters involving companies in which they or their families owned shares of stock.”

He said that was “inconsistent” with a federal ethics statute that requires a judge to recuse in any matter in which he or she knows of a personal financial interest.

“Let me be crystal clear: the Judiciary takes this matter seriously,” Roberts wrote. “We expect judges to adhere to the highest standards, and those judges violated an ethics rule.”

But, he said, in context, that meant the judiciary had a “99.97% compliance rate.”

“For most of the judges involved (a total of 83 of the 131), the Journal reported one or two lapses over the nine-year period,” Roberts wrote. “Those sorts of isolated violations likely entailed unintentional oversights in which the judge’s conflict-checking procedures failed to reveal the financial conflict.”

Roberts said congressional intervention was not needed. The Judicial Conference and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts will dedicate themselves in the coming months to increasing ethics training for judges and researching new computer programs to detect potential conflicts in the cases that come before judges.

“The bottom line is that the Conference is taking the concerns seriously and has committed itself to the careful labor of addressing them,” he wrote. The Journal reported that Roberts said he had “serious constitutional concerns” about proposed accountability legislation in 2018.

Roberts defends colleagues on recusal issues

Supreme Court justices are not covered by the same ethics policies, although the justices have said they voluntarily comply with them. Roberts is one of three justices — Stephen G. Breyer and Samuel A. Alito Jr. are the others — who own individual stocks. They recuse from cases, or sometimes sell the stock in order to participate, but they too have missed some cases.

The chief justice also acknowledged concerns about how the federal judiciary handles allegations of harassment and discrimination. He detailed steps that the judiciary’s leaders have taken to improve its reporting system, including the expansion of the Office of Judicial Integrity and the hiring of workplace relations directors in each of the federal circuits.

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World News, Human Rights

washington post logoWashington Post, China harvests masses of data on Western targets from social media, documents show, Cate Cadell, Jan. 1, 2022 (print ed.). Hundreds of projects launched since 2020 show that Chinese police, state media and the military are gathering data from sites to track perceived threats.

china flag SmallChina is turning a major part of its internal Internet data surveillance network outward, mining Western social media, including Facebook and Twitter, to equip its government agencies, military and police with information on foreign targets, according to a Washington Post review of hundreds of Chinese bidding documents, contracts and company filings.

China maintains a countrywide network of government data surveillance services — called public opinion analysis software — that were developed over the past decade and are used domestically to warn officials of politically sensitive information online.

facebook logoThe software primarily targets China’s domestic Internet users and media, but a Washington Post review of bidding documents and contracts for over 300 Chinese government projects since the beginning of 2020 include orders for software designed to collect data on foreign targets from sources such as Twitter, Facebook and other Western social media.

The documents, publicly accessible through domestic government bidding platforms, also show that agencies including state media, propaganda departments, police, military and cyber regulators are purchasing new or more sophisticated systems to gather data.

These include a $320,000 Chinese state media software program that mines Twitter and Facebook to create a database of foreign journalists and academics; a $216,000 Beijing police intelligence program that analyses Western chatter on Hong Kong and Taiwan; and a Xinjiang twitter bird Customcybercenter cataloguing Uyghur language content abroad.

“Now we can better understand the underground network of anti-China personnel,” said a Beijing-based analyst who works for a unit reporting to China’s Central Propaganda Department. The person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss their work, said they were once tasked with producing a data report on how negative content relating to Beijing’s senior leadership is spread on Twitter, including profiles of individual academics, politicians and journalists.

  • New York Times, A Digital Manhunt: How Chinese Police Track Critics on Social Media, Muyi Xiao and Paul Mozur, Jan. 1, 2022 (print ed.). Authorities in China use advanced software to silence criticism on overseas social media. Their targets include students and non-Chinese nationals.
  • New York Times, France promised normalcy. But Omicron is challenging whether it, or any other country, can deliver on that right now.

 

 

 

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