As the country grapples with a surge in the delta variant of the COVID-19 coronavirus, Dr. Anthony Fauci believes that lockdowns the country saw last year are likely to not return, though he warned "things will get worse" during an interview on ABC's "This Week."
"I don't think we're gonna see lockdowns. I think we have enough of the percentage of people in the country -- not enough to crush the outbreak -- but I believe enough to not allow us to get into the situation we were in last winter. But things are going to get worse," the nation's top infectious disease expert told "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl on Sunday.
"If you look at the acceleration of the number of cases, the seven-day average has gone up substantially. You know what we really need to do, Jon, we say it over and over again and it's the truth -- we have 100 million people in this country who are eligible to be vaccinated who are not getting vaccinated. We are seeing an outbreak of the unvaccinated," he added.
"From the standpoint of illness, hospitalization, suffering and death, the unvaccinated are much more vulnerable because the vaccinated are protected from severe illness, for the most part, but when you look at the country as a whole. And getting us back to normal, the unvaccinated, by not being vaccinated, are allowing the propagation and the spread of the outbreak which ultimately impacts everybody," Fauci said.
Concerns over the coronavirus resurged this week, as research about the outbreak of the virus in Provincetown, Massachusetts, indicated that the now-dominant delta variant may be able to spread among fully vaccinated people.
During an investigation of the outbreak, researchers learned that the amount of virus in the noses of vaccinated people experiencing a breakthrough infection was the same as in an unvaccinated person -- a concerning sign that vaccinated people can also spread the virus.
The data helped the CDC make its decision to bring mask guidelines back for vaccinated individuals in areas of high or substantial spread of the virus -- despite the fact that breakthrough cases in vaccinated individuals are overwhelmingly mild and do not result in hospitalization or death.
"That has much more to do with transmission," Fauci said of the new guidelines.
"You want them to wear a mask, so that if in fact they do get infected, they don't spread it to vulnerable people, perhaps in their own household, children or people with underlying conditions," Fauci said of the new guidance for the vaccinated.
Sunday, August 1, 2021
Neither President Biden nor House Democrats moved to extend the eviction moratorium over the weekend, and starting Monday as many as six million Americans will be kicked out of their apartments and rental homes right into the teeth of the delta variant. As CNN's Zachary Wolf states, this didn't have to happen.
It's like Democrats in the White House and Congress forgot the date.
Now it's the first of the month and rent -- and back rent -- is suddenly due for millions of Americans who have been shielded from eviction during the pandemic.
Millions of households could face eviction over the next month -- when lawmakers on are on their annual August recess -- and some have predicted a full-blown eviction crisis, just as a surge in Covid cases from the highly contagious Delta variant may be prompting renewed calls for people to stay home and keep their distance.
"We only learned of this yesterday," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Friday evening after the House tried and failed to pass legislation that would extend the federal eviction moratorium. "There was not enough time to socialize it within our caucus as well as to build a consensus necessary," she said, with a promise from her top lieutenant to revisit the issue ASAP. Probably after the break.
Pelosi was likely referring to the fact that the Biden administration only formally asked Congress to pass an extension on Thursday, two days before the program expired.
Some White House officials made a late-stage push last week to reexamine the legal potential for President Joe Biden to extend the moratorium but were told by administration lawyers it wasn't possible, according to people familiar with the deliberations.
You'd never know from the White House's late ask or Pelosi's lame excuse that the Supreme Court was very clear one month ago; either Congress could vote again to authorize the program or evictions could go forward.
Not that a successful House vote would have accomplished anything. An eviction moratorium bill that can't pass the Democratic House would have been laughed out of the evenly divided Senate, where the rules give any one senator the right to slow anything down. There are plenty of Republicans who opposed the temporary hold on evictions when it was first enacted during the Trump administration in September of 2020. Today, there is a gaping divide over whether the government can or should tell private landlords they can't kick tenants out.
But this is a story of Democrats' failure to manage time just as much as it is about Republicans' obstruction.
"I absolutely believe that in this moment, yes, we are failing the American people," Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley told CNN's Ryan Nobles on Saturday evening. "We absolutely should have received word from the White House much earlier than we did. ... There is still time, though, to right this wrong. I do believe that the White House and CDC can act, should act unilaterally. And if we are challenged by the courts, that will still buy these families time."
And it's a clear sign that extraordinary efforts by the government to help Americans through the pandemic are temporary, even if the virus is here to stay.
Expanded unemployment benefits that Democrats were able to sustain without Republican help will expire in September.
A novel new direct payment for parents, meant to pull kids out of poverty, will end in 2022 unless they can find a way to extend it.
What may be most frustrating for Democrats who helped Biden enact his American Rescue Plan to fight Covid this year is they earmarked money to help renters, but most of it has not yet been spent.
That's the real problem though. States are sitting on billions earmarked for rental relief, and most have made no effort to spend a dime of it. Landlords in particular made no effort to go through the process to get the money they are screaming about losing, because they want to evict people and make room for renters who *can* pay. The vast majority of landlords in America are large rental corporations who can afford to take a temporary hit if it means clearing the decks of lower-income renters and bringing in new tenants at higher rents.
Congress knew that the Roberts Court made it clear that they, not Biden, had the authority for the moratorium extension. And all Mitch had to do in order to win again was drag out the clock on everything else, leaving Dems high and dry this weekend.
Not passing a House bill and not forcing a Senate vote is something that's going to haunt the Dems well into 2022 and beyond.
As for the millions evicted, well, you can't vote without an address, can you?
Which was always the point.
Every four years, the same argument plays out. The Olympics reminds the public of the existence of rhythmic gymnastics and the public scoffs at this ridiculous spectacle, with its “ribbon dancing”, its sequins, its extravagant bending and pirouetting. Where artistic gymnastics – the one with the beam and the bars, the one with triple backflips and the constant risk of broken bones – is dignified and athletic, rhythmic gymnastics is frilly and absurd. How is this even a sport? Why is it part of the Olympics? These are the usual criticisms. In return, embattled admirers will point out that rhythmic gymnastics is extremely difficult, actually. There is immense skill involved in those backbends and leaps; besides, have you tried throwing and catching a ball while holding your foot above your head?
When I first caught sight of rhythmic gymnastics, I knew nothing of this. The reasons the sport is mocked – the sequins, the balletic dancing, the kilowatt-bright, beauty-pageant smiles of the gymnasts – were the reasons I found it delightful. I was six, sitting in my kitchen in Auckland, staring at the television. On screen, a gymnast at the 2000 Sydney Olympics tossed a bright red ribbon high into the air before catching it with astonishing ease. She was, to me, the height of womanly sophistication: beautiful, graceful, and covered in glitter. I dragged my mother into the room, pointed to the television and announced that this was the sort of lady I would like to become.
My mother was used to this. When I was a baby, she had moved us to New Zealand, while my father stayed in China, working to support our lives abroad. Like many immigrant parents, she wanted to provide her child with opportunities that she, growing up as one of four siblings in rural 1970s China, did not have. By the time I was a toddler, I was going to Chinese dance lessons, which I loved, and Chinese language classes, which I hated. As I grew older, I built up a near-maniacal collection of hobbies. I wanted to play piano, then violin. I wanted to be a ballerina. I was gripped by figure skating. Much later, my mother started worrying about the lack of male influences in my life and I was sent to after-school electronics clubs, where I spent a lot of time soldering.
These fixations were intense and brief. I usually lost interest within weeks. But with rhythmic gymnastics, it was different. Not long after my epiphany in front of the TV, my mother searched through the Auckland Yellow Pages and found a gymnastics club near our house. A few weeks later, we set off on a 15-minute journey through the suburbs for my first class. It was a good opportunity, my mother thought, for her daughter to get some regular exercise.
Later, when my gymnastics career was behind me, after all the accolades and the trophies and the gold medals, I would loudly reminisce about it to my friends, teachers, acquaintances, anyone who would listen – a 13-year-old wistfully reflecting on her glory days. But as I grew older, embarrassment crept over me. I wondered what it had meant to dedicate so much of my childhood to a sport that now seemed shamefully girly and unfeminist. This is a sport that first asks women to be graceful and model-thin, then scrutinises their every movement and facial expression for imperfections. The lifecycle of an elite rhythmic gymnast would please the most ardent misogynist. Ideally, you begin as early as possible, so you develop maximum flexibility before the grim reaper (puberty) comes knocking. Then, in the years when you are allegedly at your most beautiful, and certainly at your most emotionally insecure, you are expected to dazzle. Once you are no longer capable of dazzling, you exit the stage. Senior competitive gymnasts commonly retire in their early 20s.
At university, I made peace with my childhood passion by presenting it cynically, showing friends photos of myself on the gym floor, clad in makeup and sequins, with an air that said, “Yes, I, too, have semi-read The Second Sex”. Mostly, though, when I looked at these photos, I felt old. One summer, watching yet another round of gymnasts getting their taste of Olympic glory, all of whom seemed to be rudely getting younger and younger, I phoned my dad in a panic, telling him that I had become a has-been. He replied that I was 18, and thus still had plenty left to live for.
Almost a decade on, I recently searched online for any remnants of my life in rhythmic gymnastics. Gone. I asked my mother if she still had any of the medals. Lost in an old house move. What about that time I was interviewed in the local paper? Gone, gone, gone. That child national champion, so driven and so athletic, feels like another person who somehow inhabited my body decades earlier, before bolting it without warning, shutting the windows and doors and leaving no trace. Was that even me?
Saturday, July 31, 2021
This past week, just before the officers began to deliver anguished testimony about the brutality they had endured, Mr. McCarthy repeatedly laid blame not with Mr. Trump, the rioters or those who had fueled doubts about the election outcome, but with Ms. Pelosi, one of the invading mob’s chief targets.
“If there is a responsibility for this Capitol, on this side, it rests with the speaker,” Mr. McCarthy said.
Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, the recently selected House conference chairwoman, went even further, saying Ms. Pelosi “bears responsibility” as speaker “for the tragedy that occurred on Jan. 6” and deriding her as “an authoritarian who has broken the people’s house.”
Ms. Pelosi is not responsible for the security of Congress; that job falls to the Capitol Police, a force that the speaker only indirectly influences. Republicans have made no similar attempt to blame Mr. McConnell, who shared control of the Capitol at the time.
Outside the Justice Department, meanwhile, a group of conservative lawmakers gathered to accuse prosecutors of mistreating the more than 500 people accused in the Jan. 6 riot.
Encouraged by Mr. Trump, they also echoed far-right portrayals of Ashli Babbitt, a rioter who was shot trying to break into the House chamber, as a patriotic martyr whose killing by the police was premeditated.
As if to show how anti-democratic episodes are ping-ponging around the globe, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in June seized on Ms. Babbitt’s killing — calling it an “assassination” — to deflect questions about his own country’s jailing of political prisoners.
Some senior Republicans insist that warnings of a whitewash are overwrought.
“I don’t think anybody’s going to be successful erasing what happened,” said Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas. “Everybody saw it with their own eyes and the nation saw it on television.”
For Mr. Cornyn and other lawmakers, continuing to talk about the attack is clearly an electoral loser at a time when they are trying to retake majorities in Congress and avoid Mr. Trump’s ire.
Most Republican lawmakers instead simply try to say nothing at all, declining even to recount the day’s events, let alone rebuke members of their party for spreading falsehoods or muddying the waters.
Asked how he would describe the riot, in which a hostile crowd demanded the hanging of Vice President Mike Pence, his brother, Representative Greg Pence of Indiana, responded curtly, “I don’t describe it.”
Yet the silence of party stalwarts, including nearly all of the House Republicans who voted to impeach Mr. Trump for his role in the attack and the Republican senators who voted to convict him, has created an information void that hard-right allies of Mr. Trump have readily filled. And they have found receptive audiences in a media environment replete with echo chambers and amplifying algorithms.
In a July poll by CBS News, narrow majorities of Trump voters said they would describe the attack as an example of “patriotism” or “defending freedom.”
That silence follows a familiar pattern: Rather than refute false allegations about a stolen election and rampant voter fraud, many leading Republicans have simply tolerated extremist misinformation.
Nearly half of Republican voters believe there will come a time when the so-called "American patriots" will "have take the law into their own hands," the findings of a new survey reveal.
The new survey, conducted by GW Politics Poll, analyzed the belief systems of Democrats and Republicans. Based on the survey's findings, there are stark differences between Democratic and Republican voters' perspectives of the law and their trust and confidence in the government.
Republican voters in states former President Donald Trump won during the 2020 election have a higher level of trust in their state and local officials than Republicans residing in blue states won by President Joe Biden. While the same trend is evident where Democratic voters are concerned, the survey indicates it is far "less profound."
Danny Hayes, a George Washington University political science professor and co-director of the GW Politics Poll weighed in with more details about the survey findings.
"Most of the state and local officials who run our elections are long-time public servants whose goal is simply to help our democracy operate smoothly," Hayes said. "But if we've gotten to a place where voters trust the electoral system only when their side wins, then that undermines the idea of non-partisan election administration, which is essential for democracy."
The survey highlighted the following:
"Support for fundamental principles such as free and fair elections, free speech, and peaceful protest are nearly unanimous among both Democrats and Republicans. Their views on other democratic values, however, differ dramatically. Over half of Republicans (55%) supported the possible use of force to preserve the "traditional American way of life," compared to 15% of Democrats. When asked if a time will come when "patriotic Americans have to take the law into their own hands," 47% of Republicans agreed, as opposed to just 9% of Democrats."
Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they'd support federal, state or local governments requiring everyone to get a coronavirus vaccine, according to a new survey conducted by The COVID States Project.
Why it matters: This kind of blanket mandate hasn't even been proposed, at any level of government. But more piecemeal requirements are rapidly becoming more popular, and the survey suggests Americans are fine with that.
The big picture: There's recently been a surge in vaccine requirements for employees among health care organizations, governments and private businesses. The federal government yesterday became the latest employer to create a new vaccination policy.
But many of these requirements stop short of being actual vaccine mandates, and instead impose additional burdens — such as extra testing — on people who choose to remain unvaccinated. They also only apply to a select group of people, like employees, students or customers.
By the numbers: 64% of respondents said in June or July that they'd support government vaccine requirements, a slight bump up from the 62% who said the same in April or May. 70% said they'd support vaccine requirements to get on an airplane; 61% support requiring children to be vaccinated to go to school; and 66% support requiring college students to be vaccinated to attend a university.
A majority of every demographic subgroup except Republicans said they'd support vaccine requirements. Only 45% of Republicans said they approve of such mandates. A majority of respondents in all but three states — Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota — said they support requirements that everyone be vaccinated.
Between the lines: Unsurprisingly, vaccinated people are more likely to support mandates, and most of the people who "strongly disapprove" of mandates are unvaccinated, according to Matthew Baum, a public policy professor at Harvard University and one of the report's authors.
Pay people to get vaccinated, no matter whether that is unfair to those who didn’t receive checks for jabs. Require them to do so as a condition of going to work or enrolling in school. Do whatever it takes — and, recent weeks have shown, it is going to take steps like these — to get the pandemic under control.
Those of us who have behaved responsibly — wearing masks and, since the vaccines became available, getting our shots — cannot be held hostage by those who can’t be bothered to do the same, or who are too deluded by misinformation to understand what is so clearly in their own interest.
The more inconvenient we make life for the unvaccinated, the better our own lives will be. More important, the fewer who will needlessly die. We cannot ignore the emerging evidence that the delta variant is transmissible even by those who have been fully vaccinated. “The war has changed,” as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded.
President Biden recognized this new reality with his actions Thursday. He announced that federal employees must be vaccinated or mask up and submit continuing proof that they are not infected; he urged private employers to do the same; and he encouraged the use of federal funds to prod — okay, bribe — the unvaccinated to step up.
If anything, Biden didn’t go far enough. He should have imposed a tighter mandate on federal workers and contractors — no frequent testing option as an alternative. He should have required vaccines for airline and railroad travel. He should have mandated vaccines for members of the military rather than kicking that can a few weeks down the road.
If I sound exasperated, I am, and I don’t think I’m alone. I have been looking forward to going back to my office — or backish, since it likely won’t be full-time — in a few weeks. Now, with D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) having wisely reimposed a mask mandate in the city, it’s hard to see how we’re going to actually pull that off. Better to straggle along on Zoom, seeing one another’s faces, than mask up for eight hours or more.
I have been looking forward to attending synagogue for the Jewish holidays in September, to going to dinner in indoor restaurants with friends, to resuming real life. I have been appreciating the ability to see my 86-year-old mother without fear of infecting her; now I have to worry anew about her getting on a plane to come visit us, as she was planning.
As I was writing this, a vaccinated friend texted to say he had tested positive. He’s not very sick, but he could have infected others who are more vulnerable. This variant is no joke.
It’s reasonable, it’s fair, and it’s legal to step up the pressure on the reckless noncompliant. By reckless, I mean to exclude some people: If you have a medical condition that counsels against vaccination, you are excused.
The Justice Department has cases against multiple Russian nationals in the wake of the Trump regime, but don't worry, if they're hiding anything, the Russians already know all of it.
The Russian hackers behind the massive SolarWinds cyberespionage campaign broke into the email accounts of some of the most prominent federal prosecutors’ offices around the country last year, the Justice Department said Friday.
The department said 80% of Microsoft email accounts used by employees in the four U.S. attorney offices in New York were breached. All told, the Justice Department said 27 U.S. Attorney offices had at least one employee’s email account compromised during the hacking campaign.
The Justice Department said in a statement that it believes the accounts were compromised from May 7 to Dec. 27, 2020. Such a timeframe is notable because the SolarWinds campaign, which infiltrated dozens of private-sector companies and think tanks as well as at least nine U.S. government agencies, was first discovered and publicized in mid-December.
The Biden administration in April announced sanctions, including the expulsion of Russian diplomats, in response to the SolarWinds hack and Russian interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Russia has denied wrongdoing.
Jennifer Rodgers, a lecturer at Columbia Law School, said office emails frequently contained all sorts of sensitive information, including case strategy discussions and names of confidential informants, when she was a federal prosecutor in New York.
“I don’t remember ever having someone bring me a document instead of emailing it to me because of security concerns,” she said, noting exceptions for classified materials.
The Administrative Office of U.S. Courts confirmed in January that it was also breached, giving the SolarWinds hackers another entry point to steal confidential information like trade secrets, espionage targets, whistleblower reports and arrest warrants.
The list of affected offices include several large and high-profile ones like those in Los Angeles, Miami, Washington and the Eastern District of Virginia.
The Southern and Eastern Districts of New York, where large numbers of staff were hit, handle some of the most prominent prosecutors in the country.
“New York is the financial center of the world and those districts are particularly well known for investigating and prosecuting white-collar crimes and other cases, including investigating people close to the former president,” said Bruce Green, a professor at Fordham Law School and a former prosecutor in the Southern District.
Friday, July 30, 2021
President Donald J. Trump pressed top Justice Department officials late last year to declare that the election was corrupt even though they had found no instances of widespread fraud, so that he and his allies in Congress could use the assertion to try to overturn the results, according to new documents provided to lawmakers and obtained by The New York Times.
The demands were an extraordinary instance of a president interfering with an agency that is typically more independent from the White House to advance his personal agenda. They are also the latest example of Mr. Trump’s wide-ranging campaign during his final weeks in office to delegitimize the election results.
The exchange unfolded during a phone call on Dec. 27 in which Mr. Trump pressed the acting attorney general at the time, Jeffrey A. Rosen, and his deputy, Richard P. Donoghue, on voter fraud claims that the department had disproved. Mr. Donoghue warned that the department had no power to change the outcome of the election. Mr. Trump replied that he did not expect that, according to notes Mr. Donoghue took memorializing the conversation.
“Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me” and to congressional allies, Mr. Donoghue wrote in summarizing Mr. Trump’s response.
Mr. Trump did not name the lawmakers, but at other points during the call he mentioned Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, whom he described as a “fighter”; Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, who at the time promoted the idea that the election was stolen from Mr. Trump; and Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, whom Mr. Trump praised for “getting to bottom of things.”
The notes connect Mr. Trump’s allies in Congress with his campaign to pressure Justice Department officials to help undermine, or even nullify, the election results.
The lawmakers did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Mr. Jordan ultimately voted to overturn the election results in key states, but has downplayed his role in the president’s pressure campaign. Mr. Perry continues to assert Mr. Trump won, but has not been tied directly to the White House effort to keep him in office. And Mr. Johnson, whom Mr. Trump recently endorsed as he weighs whether to seek a third term, maintains that it is reasonable to have questions about the integrity of the election, though he has recognized Joseph R. Biden Jr. as president.
The Justice Department provided Mr. Donoghue’s notes to the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which is investigating the Trump administration’s efforts to unlawfully reverse the election results.
Typically, the department has fought to keep secret any accounts of private discussions between a president and his cabinet to avoid setting a precedent that would prevent officials in future administrations from candidly advising presidents out of concern that their conversations would later be made public.
But handing over the notes to Congress is part of a pattern of allowing scrutiny of Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn the election. The Biden Justice Department also told Mr. Rosen, Mr. Donoghue and other former officials this week that they could provide unrestricted testimony to investigators with the House Oversight and Reform and the Senate Judiciary Committees.
Though Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear's administration is now requiring state government workers to wear a mask in state offices, several constitutional offices have chosen not to enforce the masking rules for their employees.
Whereas only unvaccinated state workers had been required to mask for the past several months, a memo from Personnel Cabinet Secretary Gerina Whethers on Thursday stated that all executive branch employees would be required to wear a face covering when around others in state offices or vehicles, regardless of their vaccination status.
The move followed a Tuesday advisory by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that all people should wear masks around others indoors in areas of "substantial and high transmission" of COVID-19 — which currently includes most counties in Kentucky and many other states — citing the rapid spread of the more-transmissible delta variant.
However, at least three of the five constitutional offices run by Republican elected officials won't enforce the mandate, including those of the state auditor, agriculture commissioner and state treasurer.
Sean Southard, the spokesman for Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, said the two-term officer "disagrees with the Governor’s mask mandate and as such, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture will not be enforcing it."
Quarles tweeted Thursday that with vaccines widely available, "it's time to end the mandates as the voluntary vaccines offer the best protection from COVID-19 and the Delta variant. It's an individual choice."
The delta variant of the coronavirus appears to cause more severe illness than earlier variants and spreads as easily as chickenpox, according to an internal federal health document that argues officials must “acknowledge the war has changed.”
The document is an internal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention slide presentation, shared within the CDC and obtained by The Washington Post. It captures the struggle of the nation’s top public health agency to persuade the public to embrace vaccination and prevention measures, including mask-wearing, as cases surge across the United States and new research suggests vaccinated people can spread the virus.
The document strikes an urgent note, revealing the agency knows it must revamp its public messaging to emphasize vaccination as the best defense against a variant so contagious that it acts almost like a different novel virus, leaping from target to target more swiftly than Ebola or the common cold.
It cites a combination of recently obtained, still-unpublished data from outbreak investigations and outside studies showing that vaccinated individuals infected with delta may be able to transmit the virus as easily as those who are unvaccinated. Vaccinated people infected with delta have measurable viral loads similar to those who are unvaccinated and infected with the variant.
“I finished reading it significantly more concerned than when I began,” Robert Wachter, chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, wrote in an email.
CDC scientists were so alarmed by the new research that the agency earlier this week significantly changed guidance for vaccinated people even before making new data public.
The data and studies cited in the document played a key role in revamped recommendations that call for everyone — vaccinated or not — to wear masks indoors in public settings in certain circumstances, a federal health official said. That official told The Post that the data will be published in full on Friday. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky privately briefed members of Congress on Thursday, drawing on much of the material in the document.
One of the slides states that there is a higher risk among older age groups for hospitalization and death relative to younger people, regardless of vaccination status. Another estimates that there are 35,000 symptomatic infections per week among 162 million vaccinated Americans.
The document outlines “communication challenges” fueled by cases in vaccinated people, including concerns from local health departments about whether coronavirus vaccines remain effective and a “public convinced vaccines no longer work/booster doses needed.”
The presentation highlights the daunting task the CDC faces. It must continue to emphasize the proven efficacy of the vaccines at preventing severe illness and death while acknowledging milder breakthrough infections may not be so rare after all, and that vaccinated individuals are transmitting the virus. The agency must move the goal posts of success in full public view.
Thursday, July 29, 2021
Georgia Republicans have taken the first step on their freshly blazed path toward a possible takeover of Fulton County’s elections.
A letter obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows two dozen state senators support a performance review of Fulton elections chief Richard Barron. The letter was written Tuesday, the very same day a front-page AJC story examined the prospect of a takeover of elections in Fulton, home to a tenth of all Georgians.
“We’re asking them to simply correct a record they say is easily corrected. Is it or isn’t it? The people of Georgia deserve answers,” wrote Republican Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller, who signed the letter.
As written into Senate Bill 202, the State Election Board can replace a county’s election board following a performance review/audit/investigation. Then, a temporary superintendent would enjoy full managerial authority of how the county counts votes and staffs polling places.
Barron was not available for comment due to a scheduling conflict, according to a county spokesman.
A performance review begins upon request of at least two state representatives and two state senators from the county.
With more than enough senators, the letter addresses the representatives needed: “We have every reason to believe that the requisite number of Fulton’s House delegation will respond likewise, thereby triggering the performance review.”
Two representatives confirmed to the AJC on Wednesday that they would join the effort.
“I support and will be calling for a performance review of the Fulton County Elections Board Director because of repeated and systemic elections process failures,” House Speaker Pro-Tempore Jan Jones, a Milton Republican, wrote in an email. “This includes an investigation and evaluation of his technical competency and compliance with state law and regulation.”
From Rep. Chuck Martin, a Republican representing the Alpharetta area: “I want to see and will be requesting a full process review of the Fulton County Elections Operations because all the people of Fulton County and the State of Georgia deserve answers ... Let’s work together, get this review moving and get to the truth; the people deserve the truth.”
Rep. David Dreyer, an Atlanta Democrat and head of the Fulton House delegation, said elections are massive logistical undertakings.
“If I were to audit Chick-fil-A and Home Depot … I’d find things that aren’t done perfectly,” he said.
Fulton Commission Chairman Robb Pitts said a takeover is really a GOP attempt to wrest control of the U.S. Senate from Democrats and retain the governorship in 2022, with eyes toward 2024.
“It’s been rhetoric until this point. This letter is the first official step in the process,” he said.
Pitts said he intends to form a plan with his staff, including the county attorney, Thursday.
The Justice Department is putting states on notice about their obligations under federal law as GOP-led efforts to conduct reviews of the 2020 election intensify.
Federal authorities on Wednesday issued a pair of new guidance documents to states and voters to remind them of their responsibilities — and their rights.
The moves are part of the Biden administration's push to demonstrate it is on guard amid new voting restrictions proposed and enacted by Republican-led states across the nation — and as Democratic-led federal voting legislation has stalled in Congress.
"We are keeping a close eye on what's going on around the country," said a Justice Department official, who requested anonymity to brief reporters. "If they're going to conduct these so-called audits, they have to comply with federal law."
Back in December, Brooks was the first House Republican to say ahead of the congressional Electoral College certification that he would object to certain states’ electors. On the day of the certification, Jan. 6, he then gave a fiery speech at President Donald Trump’s rally at the Ellipse where he told the assembled crowd that “today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass!” Months later, he still argues that Trump would have won the election if only “lawful votes” were counted.
Brooks’ support of Trump’s efforts to overturn the election successfully earned him the former president’s endorsement in the 2022 Alabama Senate race. But it’s also earned him legal issues. California Rep. Eric Swalwell sued Brooks and others earlier this year for fomenting the Jan. 6 riot. The Justice Department this week refused Brooks’ request to shield him from the lawsuit, in part because he’d basically admitted he was thinking about winning elections—not doing his job—when he started his rally chant. And though Brooks is claiming to dismiss the select committee hearings as a political stunt, the committee could seek to bring him in for questioning about what he knew, or didn’t know, ahead of the riot.
When I asked him whether he could be subpoenaed, he said, “I have no clue.”
Brooks, like Republican leaders who tried to counterprogram the hearing with a press conference yesterday, thinks a proper investigation would look at why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office wasn’t “doing a better job with respect to the Capitol Police and their level of preparation.”
Then, to prove his point about preparation, he revealed a new detail to me: that because of a tip he’d received about potential violence, he’d been wearing body armor at the very same Ellipse speech in which he encouraged rally attendees to “start taking down names and kicking ass.”
“I was warned on Monday that there might be risks associated with the next few days,” he said. “And as a consequence of those warnings, I did not go to my condo. Instead, I slept on the floor of my office. And when I gave my speech at the Ellipse, I was wearing body armor.
“That’s why I was wearing that nice little windbreaker,” he told me with a grin. “To cover up the body armor.”
He didn’t say who warned him, or what the “risk” was that he’d been warned about. There were probably a “half-dozen different motivations that affected people in varying degrees” to engage in insurrection. He named, for example, “financial losses suffered because of the government’s reaction to COVID-19,” “the belief that there was significant voter fraud and election theft activity,” or “a great love and respect for President Trump.”
“It might be,” too, he added, “that some of them were just militant anarchists and saw this as an opportunity to infiltrate an otherwise peaceful protest and turn it into a riot.”
In Brooks’ affidavit asking the Justice Department to shield him from liability, his lawyers emphasize the parts of his speech where he encouraged peaceful protest, not physical violence. “Once again, Brooks makes no call for a physical attack on the Capitol,” a typical footnote reads. “To the contrary, Brooks calls on Ellipse Speech attendees to do one thing: ‘utter words’!” The affidavit argues that the “taking down names and kicking ass!” remark was really about taking the names of Republicans who wouldn’t support Trump’s Electoral College objections, and punishing them in future elections.
But if he was so sure the mob would understand the peaceful intent of his words, why’d he need the Kevlar?
Wednesday, July 28, 2021
Donald Trump's advisers are angry at David McIntosh, president of the conservative Club for Growth, for persuading the former president to endorse a losing candidate in the special election for Texas' 6th District.
Why it matters: Susan Wright's defeat Tuesday in a Republican runoff with Navy veteran Jake Ellzey dealt a blow to Trump's aura of invincibility as a Republican kingmaker. It's critical to his 2022 midterm endorsements and continued hold on the GOP. Trump advisers and allies have been ambivalent about the Club's advice and thought he should stay out of this Republican-on-Republican contest. They take the long view and are protective of his successful record — so far — in GOP primary endorsements.
McIntosh did not respond to repeated requests for comment from Axios.
Trump himself disputed the result had dented his power. In a phone call with Axios on Wednesday, the former president conceded McIntosh had pushed him to support Wright but blamed Democrats — not the Club for Growth — for Ellzey's victory. He also said he actually "won" because Wright had bested Ellzey in the initial primary and the runoff came down to two Republicans he liked.
"I think this is the only race we've lost together," Trump said of McIntosh and the Club for Growth, before catching himself mid-sentence on the word "lost."
"This is the only race we've ... this is not a loss, again, I don't want to claim it is a loss, this was a win. …The big thing is, we had two very good people running that were both Republicans. That was the win."
Trump is notorious for shifting or refusing to accept blame for any failure, whether as a businessman or a politician.
The Club for Growth spent more than $1 million on the run-off, making it easily the top outside spender.
Behind the scenes: In private conversations with Trump, McIntosh pushed the former president hard to throw his weight behind Wright. She's the widow of Rep. Ron Wright (R-Texas), whose death from COVID-19 vacated the seat. In these conversations with Trump, McIntosh painted Ellzey as non-conservative and anti-Trump, according to sources familiar with their conversations.
McIntosh appealed to Trump's vendetta-streak by telling him that the Never-Trumper Bill Kristol had previously donated money to Ellzey (it was a paltry $250 in 2018).McIntosh also mentioned to Trump that Ellzey didn't want to join the Freedom Caucus — a group of ultra-conservative House Republicans who are fervently pro-Trump.
Between the lines: The Wright campaign and the Club for Growth also cited internal polling to reassure Team Trump of Wright's strength. The polling proved to be way off.
President Biden will be mandating all federal employees either get vaccinated against COVID or submit to weekly testing until further notice as new US cases are on a sharp rise due to the delta variant.
President Joe Biden will announce on Thursday a requirement that all federal employees and contractors be vaccinated against Covid-19, or be required to submit to regular testing and mitigation requirements, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter.
The announcement will come in remarks where Biden is also expected to lay out a series of new steps, including incentives, in an attempt to spur new vaccinations as the Delta variant spreads rapidly throughout the country. It will also follow the decision by the Department of Veterans Affairs to require its frontline health care workers to be vaccinated over the course of the next two months.
Biden alluded to the looming announcement on Tuesday.
"That's under consideration right now," Biden said, when asked if he would impose a vaccination mandate on federal workers.
While the specifics are still being finalized, the source said, federal workers would be required to attest to their vaccination status or submit to regular testing. The source said the proposal will be roughly similar to what is being implemented in New York City.
Additional requirements for the unvaccinated could be added as agencies push to vaccinate their employees.
Biden will not impose the requirement on the US military, despite his authority to do so, for the time being. He is, however, likely to outline how the Department of Defense may seek to approach the issue going forward, the source said.
Asked if he thinks the new revised guidance on masks from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will lead to confusion for Americans, Biden cast blame on unvaccinated Americans, saying that if they had been vaccinated "we'd be in a very different world."
"We have a pandemic because the unvaccinated and they're sowing enormous confusion. And the more we learn about this virus and the Delta variantion, the more we have to be worried and concerned. And there's only one thing we know for sure, if those other hundred million people got vaccinated, we'd be in a very different world," he said.
The administration's decision to require vaccines for VA health workers provided a powerful signal that vaccine requirements could be necessary to convince the still-hesitant to get their shots.
United States District Judge Ann M. Donnelly entered an order yesterday forfeiting a rare cuneiform tablet bearing a portion of the epic of Gilgamesh, a Sumerian poem considered one of the world’s oldest works of literature. Known as the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet, it originated in the area of modern-day Iraq and entered the United States contrary to federal law. An international auction house (the “Auction House”) later sold the tablet to Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. (“Hobby Lobby”), a prominent arts-and-crafts retailer based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for display at the Museum of the Bible (the “Museum”). Law enforcement agents seized the tablet from the Museum in September 2019.
Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Kenneth A. Polite, Jr., Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, and Peter C. Fitzhugh, Special Agent-in-Charge, Homeland Security Investigations, New York (HSI), announced the forfeiture decree.
“This forfeiture represents an important milestone on the path to returning this rare and ancient masterpiece of world literature to its country of origin,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Kasulis. “This Office is committed to combating the black-market sale of cultural property and the smuggling of looted artifacts.”
“Forfeiture of the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet demonstrates the Department’s continued commitment to eliminating smuggled cultural property from the U.S. art market,” stated Assistant Attorney General Polite. “Thwarting trade in smuggled goods by seizing and forfeiting an ancient artifact shows the department’s dedication to using all available tools, including forfeiture, to ensure justice.”
“The trafficking of cultural property and art is a lucrative criminal enterprise that transnational criminal organizations exploit to make a profit, regardless of its destructive consequence to cultures around the globe,” stated HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Fitzhugh. “HSI continues to partner in art and antiquities investigations to ensure looted pieces are no longer trafficked through commerce for an illicit profit, because the cultural value of this tablet that travelled the world under false provenance exceeds any monetary value.”
So, we're talking about a billionaire (Steve's worth at least $5 billion according to Forbes) who is literally appropriating Iraqi culture for his own art collection but covering birth control for his own employees was a literal federal case.
Christian values indeed. And he's going to get away with it because he's going to open a museum with his stolen crap after getting slapped on the wrist for less than 0.1% of his net worth. And what makes this utterly, completely perfect is that "selling stolen Iraqi artifacts to morality-free Western billionaires" is pretty much the chief source of funding for the Islamic State, which is why even the Trump DoJ is involved with this.
That's right. Hobby Lobby is essentially funding ISIS through buying stolen antiquities.
Can't make this up, guys.
Also, I will never apologize for that post title. Ever.
Tuesday, July 27, 2021
The House Select Committee on January 6th gets underway today, with this op-ed from Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, explaining the stakes, scope, and goals.
Jan. 6 was supposed to be about the peaceful transfer of power after an election, a hallmark of democracy and our American tradition. The rioters went to the Capitol that day to obstruct this solemn action — and nearly succeeded while defacing and looting the halls of the Capitol in the process. The committee will provide the definitive accounting of one of the darkest days in our history. Armed with answers, we hope to identify actions that Congress and the executive branch can take to help ensure that it never happens again.
The bipartisan members of the committee believe strongly it is important to begin our work by hearing from law enforcement officers who defended the Capitol on Jan. 6. On Tuesday, we will be joined by Capitol Police officers Aquilino Gonell and Harry Dunn and Metropolitan Police officers Daniel Hodges and Michael Fanone. These officers will provide firsthand accounts of the chaos of that day and the violence perpetrated by the rioters.
Fanone voluntarily rushed to the Capitol with his partner when he heard about the attacks. As a result of his bravery that day, he suffered a traumatic brain injury and a heart attack. In a video that has now been shared widely, Hodges can be seen being crushed by the mob as he and his fellow officers sought to defend a narrow hallway leading to a Capitol entrance. Dunn was one of the first officers to speak publicly about what law enforcement encountered when the rioters stormed the Capitol and the racial epithets he and others faced. Gonell, a veteran who had been deployed to Iraq, defended the Capitol against rioters who hurled chants of “traitor.” While pulling an officer who had fallen to the ground away from the rioters, Gonell was beaten with a pole carrying an American flag.
The officers’ testimony will bring into focus individual acts of heroism by law enforcement that day. The officers will also speak to how, more than six months after the attack, law enforcement officers continue to deal with the physical, mental and emotional effects of that day. This conversation is an important step, as we look to bolster protection of the Capitol and our democracy.
Regrettably, some are already focusing their energies on maligning the select committee before its work has even begun. We will not be distracted by politically motivated sideshows.
This hearing is just the beginning of the select committee’s work; when it comes to the security of the Capitol — and our democracy — nothing will be off-limits. We will do what is necessary to understand what happened, why and how. And we will make recommendations to help ensure it never happens again. We owe it to the country we love to provide the answers that the American people deserve.
Of all the topics that Rep. Thompson covered, it's the promise that "nothing will be off-limits" that is the most impactful. If Thompson is serious about this, it will mean subpoenas for several Republicans in the House and Senate, namely Jim Jordan, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, and if there is a just deity in this multiverse, Mike Pence himself.
We'll see how far that "nothing will be off-limits" goes, and given that both the Justice Department and Reps. Cheney and Kinzinger seem serious about the prospect of calling GOP witnesses, this might get real interesting.
Californians who say they expect to vote in the September recall election are almost evenly divided over whether to remove Gov. Gavin Newsom from office, evidence of how pivotal voter turnout will be in deciding the governor’s political fate, according to a new UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times.
The findings dispel the notion that California’s solid Democratic voter majority will provide an impenetrable shield for Newsom, and reveal a vulnerability created by a recall effort that has energized Republicans and been met with indifference by many Democrats and independent voters.
The poll found that 47% of likely California voters supported recalling the Democratic governor, compared with 50% who opposed removing Newsom from office — a difference just shy of the survey’s margin of error.
Conservative talk radio host Larry Elder, who last week won a court battle to appear on the Sept. 14 recall ballot, leads in the race to replace Newsom among the dozens of candidates in the running, while support for reality television star Caitlyn Jenner remains low, the survey found. Forty percent of likely voters remain undecided on a replacement candidate, providing ample opportunity for other gubernatorial hopefuls to rise in the ranks before the Sept. 14 special election.
Even though Democratic voters far outnumber Republicans in California, the GOP’s enthusiasm over the recall promises to inflate the potency of the anti-Newsom vote in September, said Mark DiCamillo, director of the poll. Nearly 90% of Republicans expressed a high level of interest in the recall election while just 58% of Democrats and 53% of independent voters were as interested, the poll found.
“Democrats, at least in the middle of July, almost unanimously believed that Newsom will defeat the recall. I think that may be contributing to some complacency among those voters. Republicans, on the other hand, are confident that they can turn out the governor,” DiCamillo said. “I think the Newsom campaign really has to light a fire among the Democrats and say, ‘Look, the outcome is in jeopardy unless you get out there and vote.’”
Though Republicans account for only about a quarter of all registered voters in California, the poll found that they account for 33% of those most likely to cast ballots in the recall election. Democrats make up 46% of the state’s 22 million voters and “no party preference” voters 24%, but their share of the likely recall voters drops to 42% and 18% respectively, DiCamillo said.
“Gavin Newsom is in serious trouble at this time because his base of voters is not motivated to come out and support him,” said Dave Gilliard, one of the political strategists leading the effort to oust Newsom.
Gilliard said Newsom doesn’t have much time to correct that, or voter discontent over the homeless crisis and crime in California, since elections officials will begin mailing ballots to all registered voters starting Aug. 16.
Hey California, you'd better start giving a damn, or your next governor is going to be a right-wing minstrel asshole who will end the state's affirmative action, climate change, health care, and social services programs by decree. If you think Newsom's making you miserable now, wait until Larry Elder gets done with the place and turns California into Alabama...with Alabama's GDP.