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Rad
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« on: Oct 20, 2019, 04:50 AM »

We will be posting in this thread a variety of interesting stories about our environment, cultures around the world, and the current news of the day.
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« Reply #1 on: Sep 19, 2020, 03:20 AM »


Key cannabis chemical may help prevent colon cancer, researchers say

2020/9/19
The State (Columbia, S.C.)

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A chemical in marijuana may be able to help prevent colon cancer, according to a new study from top University of South Carolina researchers.

The study, published in iScience, found that mice injected with THC and a cancer-causing chemical did not develop cancer. Mice in a control group were injected with the carcinogen but no THC, causing them to develop cancer.

“We were really excited to see those results, which were so dramatic,” said co-author Prakash Nagarkatti, who is the University of South Carolina’s vice president of research.

THC — the chemical in cannabis that causes a “high” — prevented cancer from emerging in mice by reducing inflammation in the colon, said Nagarkatti, who is one of America’s leading marijuana researchers. This could be useful for people who have illnesses such as Crohn’s disease and colitis, where long-term inflammation increases risk of cancer, Nagarkatti said.

“We clearly need to do clinical trials and additional research needs to be done,” Nagarkatti said.

Chronic inflammation is also thought to increase risk for other types of cancer, such as breast cancer, pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer, Nagarkatti said.

“There are quite a few of these cancers that are triggered by chronic inflammation,” Nagarkatti said.

Nagarkatti’s conclusion corroborates anecdotal evidence THC may be effective in helping humans with illnesses like Crohn’s that cause chronic inflammation, he said.

In states where medical marijuana is legal, many people with inflammatory bowel disease who have tried using marijuana have reported to their doctors it lessened symptoms and improved quality of life, Nagarkatti said.

While colonoscopies have reduced the amount of colon cancer in older Americans, more Americans in their 40s are getting colon cancer, Nagarkatti said. Perhaps the most public example of this recently was Chadwick Bozeman, the South Carolina native and star of “Black Panther,” who died late last month at age 43 from colon cancer.

Mitzi Nagarkatti, the chair of the university’s department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology who is married to Prakash, is listed as a co-author on the study. The duo have recently published multiple studies on chemicals found in marijuana. Recently, they published a study that found THC may be able to treat a deadly complication of COVID-19 by tamping down a harmful immune system response to the coronavirus.


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« Reply #2 on: Sep 19, 2020, 03:24 AM »


'Shocking': wilderness the size of Mexico lost worldwide in just 13 years, study finds

Researchers say loss of 1.9m square kilometres of intact ecosystems will have ‘profound implications’ for biodiversity

Graham Readfearn
Guardian
19 Sep 2020 16.00 BST

Wilderness across the planet is disappearing on a huge scale, according to a new study that found human activities had converted an area the size of Mexico from virtually intact natural landscapes to heavily modified ones in just 13 years.

The loss of 1.9m square kilometres (735,000 sq miles) of intact ecosystems would have “profound implications” for the planet’s biodiversity, the study’s authors said.

Using mostly satellite imagery, 17 scientists across six countries examined the human footprint across the globe and how it had changed between 2000 and 2013.

Almost 20% of the earth’s surface had deteriorated, the study found, while human pressure had eased on only six per cent of the planet.

Russia, Canada, Brazil, and Australia held the largest intact areas, together responsible for 60% of the world’s most untouched places.

Some 1.1m sq km (425,000 sq miles) of wilderness identified from imagery in 2000 had some human impact 13 years later.

Tropical savannahs and grasslands lost the most area to human pressure, the study, published in the journal One Earth, found.

Lead researcher Brooke Williams, of the University of Queensland, told the Guardian: “We were expecting there to be high levels of intact ecosystem and wilderness loss, but the results were shocking.

“We found substantial area of intact ecosystems had been lost in just 13 years – nearly two million square kilometres – which is terrifying to think about. Our findings show that human pressure is extending ever further into the last ecologically intact and wilderness areas.”

Rainforests in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea that were both rich with species had lost large areas to human activities. Conversion of habitats to cash crops, including palm oil, was a big contributor to the losses.

The study did not try to identify the cause of the losses, but Williams said the direct clearing of landscapes for farming was a known major driver.

Co-author Prof James Watson, also of the University of Queensland and the global conservation group the Wildlife Conservation Society, said: ‘The data does not lie. Humanity keeps on shrinking the amount of land that other species need to survive.”

“In a time of rapid climate change, we need to proactively secure the last intact ecosystems on the planet, as these are critical in the fight to stop extinction and halt climate change,” Watson said.

Looking across 221 nation states, only 26 had at least half of their land intact, the study found. In 2013, 41% of the world’s surface was either wilderness or was mostly intact.

Williams, who is also a conservationist at the Wildlife Conservation Society, said the losses undermined efforts to mitigate climate change because intact lands acted as storage spaces for carbon dioxide.

She said: “Proactively protecting Earth’s intact ecosystems is humanity’s best mechanism for protecting against climate change, ensuring large-scale ecological and evolutionary processes persist, and safeguarding biological diversity into the future.”

The paper’s authors write: “Halting the loss of intact ecosystems cannot be achieved alongside current trajectories of development, population growth, and resource consumption.”

Prof Bill Laurance, the director of James Cook University’s centre for tropical environmental and sustainability science in Queensland, who was not involved in the study, said its findings were scary.

“Humans are trashing much of the planet – no doubt about that,” he said. “The tropics are under particular pressure, and it’s not just forest destruction but also the loss of other habitat types, such as tropical savannahs and native grasslands, that are occurring apace.”

He said it was notable that tropical grasslands were heavily impacted because these were more easily converted to pasture or farmland. Declines in rainforests in south-east Asia were also “among the biologically richest ecosystems on Earth”.

One example, he said, was the rainforests of Sumatra that were home to critically endangered species of orangutan, as well as tigers, elephants and rhinos. That country’s forests were either gone or being devastated.

He said: “If we don’t halt such changes, we’re going to see the continued rapid disruption and loss of Earth’s ecosystems, including the biologically richest habitats on the planet. And along with that will be continued declines in the quality of life for people.”

The study comes after research earlier this week found that protected areas around the world, such as national parks and world heritage areas, were becoming isolated.

Only about 10% of the world’s protected areas were connected to similar habitats outside their borders.

The research, in the journal Nature Climate Change, warned that as the globe warmed, species would look to move. But if protected areas were isolated, those species would have nowhere to go.


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« Reply #3 on: Sep 19, 2020, 03:28 AM »

Fire, Flood and Plague – essays about 2020: The megafires and pandemic expose the lies that frustrate action on climate change

If there was a moment of true emergency in the fight to preserve our climate, it is now   

by Tim Flannery
Guardian
19 Sep 2020 18.30 BST

I was in Melbourne in late January, watching as more and more people donned face masks to protect themselves against the bushfire smoke that had thickened the air for weeks and that was causing hundreds of deaths. Turning on the news, I was surprised to see footage of crowds in China similarly masked, but for a very different reason. Hundreds were then dying in Wuhan, Hubei province, from a novel virus.

When I asked Australia’s chief medical officer about the virus that same week, I could see the concern in his eyes. But my attention was largely on the fires. They were unlike anything experienced on the continent previously, and climate scientists were beginning to piece together the link with climate change. What few knew back then was that three catastrophes would strike Australia in quick succession: the unprecedented, climate-fuelled megafires that were extinguished in February by damaging, climate-influenced floods. Then, in March, the Covid-19 pandemic that began to spread across Australia.

These three catastrophes are proof that things that travel invisibly through the great aerial ocean that is our atmosphere are a particular danger to our complex, global civilisation. The carbon dioxide molecule that accumulates imperceptibly as we burn fossil fuels causes an increase in average global temperature, which triggered the profoundly disruptive droughts, floods and fires that plagued Australia over the past year. But the coronavirus also travels unseen through the great aerial ocean, insinuating itself in lung after lung, killing person after person, until it threatens our health system, economy and society.

There are many differences between climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic but, from the perspective of prevention, there are also many similarities. Perhaps the most important is that both have “incubation periods” during which the problem grows, undetected, except by the experts. Throughout this period, things can seem relatively normal but, unless a sense of urgency leads to decisive action at this time, catastrophe becomes inevitable.

The actions required to contain both a pandemic and climate change are also broadly similar, and involve three steps. The first and most urgent is to stop the threat from growing. For Covid-19, that involved introducing social distancing, closing schools and halting entire industries. For climate change it means dramatically cutting the use of fossil fuels. The second step involves ensuring that we can save as many of the stricken as possible. For Covid-19, that meant preparing emergency wards and other treatment facilities. For climate change it means instituting measures to deal with a sweeping variety of issues, including future megafires, the threat to the Great Barrier Reef, and vulnerable coasts. The third step involves finding a permanent fix. For Covid-19, that means the development of a vaccine, while for climate change it involves removing the excess CO2 from the atmosphere.

    The climate emergency is now entering a crucial phase

Many Australians have been astonished at the contrast between the federal government’s responses to the pandemic and to the climate threat. It was missing in action for much of the climate-related megafire and flood crisis but in the face of a pandemic it acted swiftly. A real sense of urgency, prompted by scientific advice, was evident when Australia cancelled flights from China in February (well before most other nations had acted), and when it labelled the Covid-19 threat a global pandemic 12 days before the World Health Organization announced that it was upgrading the threat to that status. But bigger things were to come. In the middle of March, by which time the number of infections in Australia was doubling every four days, the Morrison government locked the nation down, dealing a devastating blow to the economy but saving thousands of lives.

Overall, Australia has mounted one of the most effective responses to the virus of any country. Yet on climate change it remains unalarmed and unmotivated. This may prove catastrophic, for the climate emergency is now entering a crucial phase. In Covid-19 terms, we are in mid-March – the last possible moment for emergency action. That’s because the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is now so great that to delay even for a few more years risks triggering Earth’s tipping points. And if that happens, there will be no way back.

Researchers have identified 15 tipping points for Earth’s climate system. They involve things like the melting of glaciers and ice caps, the destruction of the Amazon’s forests and the altering of ocean currents. Trigger any of them and a cascade of consequences is unleashed that will lead to out-of-control planetary heating. Trigger the tipping points, and almost everything about Earth will change, including biodiversity, the coasts, our food and water security, and our health.

The urgency of our situation has been underlined by Australia’s most eminent climate scientist, Prof Will Steffen. In an interview with Voice of Action on 5 June, Steffen said “we are already deep into the trajectory towards collapse” of our civilisation, because nine of the 15 known global tipping points have already been activated. This is the equivalent of the nation’s chief medical officer telling the prime minister in March that he must act today if he wishes to contain the pandemic.

To date, government action on climate change has been so tardy that very soon, enough CO2 will be in the atmosphere to make it impossible to achieve the lower Paris agreement target of keeping warming below 1.5C. And, within a few years of that, there will be enough to make the higher target of 2C unobtainable. Time is now so short that we cannot wait for the next Australian election for action. It is the Morrison government that must act decisively if Australia is to do its part in averting this looming disaster. Despite the obvious impediments and appalling track record of some Coalition governments, looking back on the events of early 2020 I have hope that the Morrison government can lead Australia out of danger.

Sometimes it takes a terrible disaster to alert people and Australia’s megafires may well be the moment when we as a nation awoke to how exquisitely vulnerable our country is to the effects of climate change. Historically, in a bad bushfire year about 2% of Australia’s forests will be burned. But in the summer of 2019-20, more than 21% of the country’s forests was aflame. That’s a tenfold increase and it’s the kind of step change that we’re increasingly seeing as our climate system begins to destabilise.

The link between the megafires and climate change is clear. South-eastern Australia has been getting hotter and drier for decades, and 2019 was Australia’s hottest and driest year on record, with 2018 being equally dry over south-eastern Australia and almost as hot. Fires are profoundly influenced by temperature and dryness (which is why they occur in summer rather than winter), and the long, hot, dry spell of 2018-19 set Australia’s forests up for burning. Fire chiefs had been warning of the danger for months but the prime minister had refused a meeting to discuss the growing emergency. He even went on holiday as the fires began to peak. By the time widespread flooding extinguished the fires in February 2020, 34 people had died in the flames, nearly 3,000 houses had been destroyed and entire regional economies were in tatters.

Beginning with the UK in May 2019, one nation after another has proclaimed a climate emergency. And they are acting strongly to deal with that emergency. By mid-June, the UK (the country where industrial coal-burning started) had gone two months without burning coal. But Australia has neither declared a climate emergency nor acted decisively. Despite our abundant sunlight and wind resources we are still 60% dependent on coal for our electricity needs.

There could not be a clearer case of the dangers of inaction in the face of the climate emergency than Australia’s megafires. Exactly why the federal government is not treating the climate emergency as it did the health emergency is probably known only to Morrison’s cabinet. But a few factors are evident to all.

That Australia is the world’s largest exporter of gas and coal, two of the three fossil fuels (along with oil) that are causing climate change, is clearly fundamental. Too many people, including some politicians, are doing far too well from the trade in fossil fuels to want to stymie it, regardless of the impact on the rest of us. With coal in global decline and few oil resources, gas is the healthiest sector of Australia’s fossil fuel industry, and it is the gas sector that the Morrison government is focusing on to lead the post-Covid recovery.

But if economic opportunity were the only driver of climate denialism, it could be countered by creating opportunity elsewhere, and to some extent this is happening. With enormous potential to be found in green hydrogen and the renewables sector, some bright young people are leaving the fossil fuel industry and staking their futures on the new, clean economy. What is holding back progress most strongly is the $80bn that corporations have invested in domestic gas infrastructure. Acting on the climate emergency would mean that these corporations will face huge losses. In ignoring the climate scientists and investing so heavily in gas they have made a bad economic bet but are unwilling to face the consequences.

Interwoven with self-interest, the Morrison government suffers from a thick strand of climate denialism that feeds on on tribalism and wilful ignorance. The former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull believes that the Coalition continues to struggle with climate denialism. But there has been a shift, at least in terms of rhetoric, since the megafires. It’s been a while since we heard climate lunacy from the mouth of Craig Kelly, and two of the most adamant denialists in the National party, Barnaby Joyce and Matt Canavan, are now languishing on the backbench.

I think that as the full consequences of the megafires begin to be understood, climate denialism will become more and more difficult to sustain. The economic impact of the megafires is not insignificant: estimates put the full cost between $100bn and $200bn. Because the damage is concentrated in certain regions, those communities will suffer for years as they strive to rebuild.

Finally, there are likely to be more megafires in the future. If we had not already added so much CO2 to the atmosphere, we could expect conditions as hot and dry as those of 2019 to occur around once every 400 years. But, due to the levels greenhouse gases had reached by 2013, that probability has increased to once every eight years.

Will the Morrison government act in time? There is one important difference between the pandemic and the climate emergency that may hinder prompt climate action. Pandemics grow quickly: one week there might only be a scatter of cases, but within a fortnight, without strong action, there could be thousands. By comparison, the climate emergency is slow-moving. The fate of Turnbull warns that those struggling against self-interest and climate denialism have a difficult job ahead of them.

One cause for optimism, however, lies in the fact that the megafires and the pandemic have exposed some of the lies told to frustrate action on climate change. That it would be “economy wrecking” to take action in the face of the climate emergency is one. Australian electors now understand that their government can do extraordinary things to protect them.

One thing we could all do right now to help is to challenge the denialists. Before the Covid restrictions, hundreds of people attended a meeting in Sydney’s Sutherland shire aimed at ousting their local member, Craig Kelly, in order to replace him with a representative who understands the need for climate action. And at the 2019 election, denialist-in-chief Tony Abbott was defeated by an independent, Zali Steggall. Were the denialists visibly challenged everywhere, their grasp of power within the Coalition would slip even before the next election.

Tragically, the news from the climate scientists is getting worse and worse. Increasingly, many experts are viewing 2021, and specifically the UN climate change conference to be held in Glasgow late that year, as humanity’s last chance to avoid an environmental apocalypse. If there was a moment of true emergency in the fight to preserve our climate, it is now.


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« Reply #4 on: Sep 19, 2020, 03:33 AM »


'Unfathomable destruction': thousands of rare wildflowers wiped out in Nevada

About 40% of the Tiehm’s buckwheat population destroyed, amid fierce dispute over proposed lithium and boron mine nearby

Rasha Aridi
Guardian
19 Sep 2020 17.24 BST

Nestled among the slopes of Nevada’s Silver Peak Range are six patches of Tiehm’s buckwheat, a rare flowering plant found nowhere else in the world. Only an estimated 42,000 plants remain on 10 acres. But over the weekend, conservationists discovered that 40% of the total population had been destroyed.

“We did a field survey of damage, and it was like doing an autopsy on my best friend,” said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). “It’s really unfathomable destruction. It’s the most emotionally devastating thing that’s ever happened in my career.”

The destruction occurs amid a conflict over the flower’s habitat. For the past year and a half, Donnelly and Naomi Fraga, director of conservation at the California Botanic Garden, have been working to protect Tiehm’s buckwheat from a proposed mine for lithium and boron, elements involved in producing clean energy technology. The operation would encompass the entire range of the plant’s population, risking its extinction in the wild.

“I would not oppose the mine if it was done in a way that didn’t put the whole species at risk, and was environmentally sound,” said Fraga. “What is the cost of green energy if it causes the extinction of whole species?”

Donnelly said that the miner, Ioneer has perpetuated a narrative that protecting Tiehm’s buckwheat means the killing the whole mining project, leading him to allege that the destruction was “undoubtedly related to the mine”.

Over the weekend, Donnelly drove out to the site and found plants ripped from the ground, the fields pockmarked with nearly perfect circular holes, and heavy footprints on the trails. All six existing patches of Tiehm’s buckwheat were damaged in what Donnelly characterized as a “calculated, well-organized effort”.

However, Ioneer executive chairman James Calaway said he was confident that wildlife caused the destruction. He agreed with Elizabeth Leger, a plant biologist at the University of Nevada, that rodents must have ravaged the fields.

Leger’s research team was one of the first on site and found that the edges of the plants’ taproots were ragged, as if gnawed off, and that the leaves of some plants were shredded. Her team did see footprints, but thought that they had been left by researchers performing surveys over the summer, and did not see marks indicating people had knelt to dig out the buckwheat.

“CBD has been trying to kill our lithium operation with one set of propaganda after another,” said Calaway, citing the CBD’s “fabricated evidence” that people ruined the fields.

On Tuesday, Donnelly and Fraga wrote a letter to the Bureau of Land Management, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Nevada Division of Forestry and Ioneer, demanding all parties take immediate action to protect the plant.

Their demands include placing a security guard on site, restoring the population to its former state, and fencing the entire habitat. CBD is also seeking more support from federal and state agencies to grant Tiehm’s buckwheat more protection, which would require Ioneer to obtain higher-level permits.


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« Reply #5 on: Sep 19, 2020, 03:36 AM »


Mexican women's patience snaps at Amlo's inaction on femicide

Feminists seize human rights office to force President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to tackle grim toll of rape and murder

Madeleine Wattenbarger in Mexico City
Guardian
19 Sep 2020 16.22 BST

As Mexicans prepared to mark Independence Day celebrations on 15 September, a different kind of commemoration was held at the headquarters of the country’s human rights commission (CNDH).

Under a fluttering purple anarchy flag, women in black balaclavas lined the upstairs balconies of the 19th-century building – and speaker after speaker expressed their fury at the country’s crisis of violence against women.

One middle-aged woman whose niece and sister have both disappeared brandished a fistful of documents from their CNDH case files. “I did this correctly. I sat here for hours and nothing happened,” she shouted, before shredding the papers and tossing them from the balcony.

“The institutions can go to hell, because they don’t respect people’s human rights.”
Activist Yesenia Zamudio, whose teenage daughter was killed in a suspected femicide, speaks as demonstrators occupy the human rights commission building in Mexico City on 14 September.

The masked protesters stormed the building a week ago, and they have vowed to occupy it until the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador takes decisive action to stop the relentless toll of rape, murder and forced disappearance.

Until then, they say, the building will be repurposed as a shelter for female victims of violence.

The occupation is the latest in a series of increasingly daring direct actions by activists who say they will no longer tolerate a wave of gender violence that last year claimed the lives of 3,825 women.

In August 2019, feminist protesters set fire to a police station and a bus terminal in the heart of Mexico City after news broke of rapes committed by police officers in the capital. Activists have also sprayed graffiti on the iconic Angel of Independence monument and staged months-long occupations at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

In March, the murder of Ingrid Escamilla, 25, by her boyfriend – and the subsequent publication of graphic photographs of her mutilated corpse – prompted Mexico’s first ever national women’s strike and fresh calls for a reckoning with the country’s femicide problem.

Many of the protesters have focused their anger on the president, popularly known as Amlo, who has repeatedly downplayed the country’s human rights crisis.

Following the occupation of the CNDH, the president repeated allegations that feminist activists have a partisan political agenda, claiming – without offering any evidence – that they were backed by “conservatives”.

Amlo also expressed outrage that the protesters had defaced portraits of historical presidents in the building, taking particular offence over an image of the revolutionary leader Francisco I Madero, which was embellished with lipstick and a purple forehead tattoo spelling out “ACAB” (All Cops Are Bastards).

The response of one of the occupiers quickly went viral. Erika Martínez told reporters she had become an activist after her seven-year-old daughter was abused and authorities refused to investigate.

“The president was indignant about a portrait – but why wasn’t he indignant when my daughter was abused?” she said.

For some activists, Amlo’s inaction has been particularly disappointing given his previous promises to victims of human rights violations. On Sunday outside the commission, relatives of forced disappearance from the state of Guerrero spoke directly to the president.

“I voted for you, Amlo,” said one woman whose husband was one of more than 73,000 Mexicans who have vanished without trace. “I believed you when you said, I will be on your side, I will study and check every single file. It’s not true. The files are covered with dust.”

Inside the offices, women in balaclavas sort through piles of donated clothes and food. The women have painted the walls with colorful murals, and they have taken over the staff kitchen to take turns cooking meals.

“They say we destroy and paint things, but it’s the only way to get the government to turn to look at us,” said one woman. “What a shame that the government wants us to destroy things.”

Around the country activists have occupied local human rights commissions in cities including Puebla, San Cristóbal, Villahermosa and Tampico. But while authorities in Mexico City have insisted that they will not use force against the occupiers of the CNDH police elsewhere have responded with violence.

On Thursday afternoon, a group of women in the city of Ecatepec took over offices of the human rights commission of the state of Mexico, which surrounds the capital.

Shortly after midnight, police entered the building and beat the women and children with them, before taking them away in unmarked vehicles to the prosecutor’s office in a neighboring municipality.

Police refused to give information to relatives of the detainees, and after protesters began to break windows of the prosecutor’s office, the police attacked the crowd outside with metal tubes and fire extinguishers.


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« Reply #6 on: Sep 19, 2020, 03:46 AM »


Global report: Covid cases pass 30m worldwide as Biden offers vaccine reality check

Global deaths nearing 1 million; Biden calls Trump virus response ‘close to criminal; Europe infection rates ‘alarming’

Helen Sullivan
Guardian
19 Sep 2020 06.12 BST

The number of coronavirus cases worldwide passed 30 million on Friday, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, as the World Health Organization said daily case numbers were growing at an “alarming rate” in Europe.

The global death toll stands at 943,203 people and is expected to pass 1 million by 1 October.

The US accounts for than 22% of global cases, at 6.67m, and nearly 200,000 fatalities. The Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, again criticised the President Trump’s handling of the pandemic as “close to criminal”, in particular Trump’s supposedly intentional downplaying of the severity of the virus.

Biden also questioned Trump’s claims on a vaccine: “I don’t trust the president on vaccines,” he said, adding that he trusted Dr Anthony Fauci, the leading US infectious diseases expert sidelined by Trump.

“If Fauci says a vaccine is safe, I would take the vaccine. We should listen to the scientists, not to the president,” said Biden.

Roughly one in every 50 Americans is infected, and one in every 1,600 has died since the start of the pandemic.

Reports emerged late on Thursday that guidance about the novel coronavirus testing posted last month on the website of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was not written by the agency’s scientists and was posted despite their objections. The New York Times reported the story, citing people familiar with the matter and internal documents.

The guidance said it was not necessary to test people with no symptoms of Covid-19, even if they had been exposed to the virus. The agency’s previous position recommended testing all people who had close contact with anyone diagnosed with Covid-19. The reversal shocked doctors and politicians and prompted accusations of political interference.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned of “alarming rates of transmission” of Covid-19 across Europe and cautioned countries against shortening quarantine periods. The WHO said the number of coronavirus cases in September “should serve as a wake-up call for all of us”.

France confirmed a new 24-hour record late on Thursday, registering 10,593 new confirmed coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours and pushing the cumulative number to 415,481. The previous high was 10,561 new cases in a day, recorded on 12 September. The sharp increase is a result of a higher infection rate but also of a massive increase in testing, Reuters reported.

Extra measures to curb the epidemic in the cities of Lyon and Nice were announced by the health minister on Thursday, adding to the three other regions already deemed as virus “red zones”.

Israel is preparing to enter a second national coronavirus lockdown on Friday, becoming the first country to re-enter nationwide restrictions. The unpopular lockdown is expected to last at least three weeks, upending a normally festive period filled with Jewish holidays.

Meanwhile, the Chinese city of Wuhan, ground zero for the coronavirus outbreak, is reopening for international flights, ending an eight-month moratorium. China stopped international flights in March as Covid-19 swept the world, but has now largely brought the disease under control at home through travel restrictions, testing and lockdowns.

China reported 32 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, marking the highest daily increase in more than a month and up sharply from nine cases reported a day earlier, the Chinese health authority said on Friday. The National Health Commission said in a statement that all new cases were imported infections among returned travellers.


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« Reply #7 on: Sep 19, 2020, 03:51 AM »


Belarus borders remain open despite leader's closure threat

AFP
9/19/2020

KYIV, Ukraine (AFP) — Belarus' borders with Poland and Lithuania remained open Friday despite the nation's president declaring they would be closed and accusing the neighboring nations of instigating nearly six weeks of protests against his 26 years of authoritarian leadership.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said late Thursday that he was putting the army on high alert and closing the country’s borders with Lithuania and Poland. Lukashenko has blamed the United States and its allies for fomenting the unrest following his landslide reelection to a sixth term last month, an outcome that protesters in Belarus say resulted from vote-rigging.

“We are forced to withdraw troops from the streets, put the army on high alert and close the state border on the west, primarily with Lithuania and Poland,” Lukashenko said while addressing a women’s forum, adding that Belarus’ border with Ukraine also would be strengthened.

But the national Border Guard Service said all border checkpoints remained open, though it said controls and inspections have been strengthened. A spokeswoman for the Polish Border Guard, Agnieszka Golias, said traffic at Poland's border with Belarus was as busy as usual. Lithuanian authorities also reported no changes.

Lukashenko’s main challenger in the election, former English teacher and political novice Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, dismissed Lukashenko's claims as part of his efforts to denigrate protesters and to blame foreign influences for the outpouring of anger toward him and calls for his resignation on the streets of Belarus.

“Lukashenko already has tried to scare us with enemies that don't exist. He has accused peaceful people of being engaged in violence and tried to cast the true patriots as traitors,” Tsikhanouskaya said in a statement. “But his talk yesterday about closing the borders marks a new level of distancing from reality. It was talk by a weak person about his own imaginary world.”

She urged Belarusians to ignore Lukashenko's bluster, emphasizing that “all our neighbors are our friends.” Seeking to further cement ties with his main ally and sponsor, Moscow, Lukashenko has tried to cast the protests as a Western plot to isolate Russia. This week, Russia has sent 300 paratroopers for joint military drills with Belarusian soldiers near Brest on the border with Poland. On Friday, they practiced freeing hostages in a mock anti-terror operation.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius voiced concern over Lukashenko's statement about beefing up troops on the border. “This is an inadequate response of an inadequate person to the situation,” he told public broadcaster LRT Radio.

The United States and the European Union have criticized the presidential election as neither free nor fair and urged Lukashenko to start talks with the opposition — a call he has rejected. Washington and Brussels have been pondering sanctions against Belarusian officials for alleged vote-rigging and the violent response to protests.

The EU ambassadors in Belarus urged authorities to release all political prisoners, warning in Friday’s statement that “from this day on, each of us will take a copy of the list of political prisoners in Belarus to every meeting with Belarusian officials.”

“We reiterate that a peaceful and sustainable resolution of the current crisis can result only from an inclusive national dialogue held in full observance of the Belarusian people’s fundamental rights and freedoms and in full respect of their demand for a democratic process,” the EU ambassadors said.

During a ferocious protest crackdown in the first few days after the Aug. 9 presidential election, nearly 7,000 people were arrested and hundreds were injured. Belarusian authorities have since changed tactics and tried to squash protests with the selective detentions of demonstrators and the jailing of opposition leaders.

Several top members of the Coordination Council the opposition has created to push for a new election have been jailed and others forced to leave the country. Maxim Znak, a leading member of the council, declared a hunger strike in prison on Friday.

In a new strategy to stem Sunday rallies that drew up to 200,000 people to the streets of Minsk to denounce the government, the Belarusian Prosecutor General's office said it has tracked down parents who took their children to opposition demonstrations.

It said that prosecutors in the capital have served notices to 140 individuals, warning them of their failure to fulfill their parental duties. The office's statement didn't spell out the potential consequences of the warnings.

The United Nations' top human rights body held an urgent debate Friday on the situation in Belarus with U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet pointing at "hundreds of reports of torture and other ill-treatment, including sexual violence and the reported torture of children.”

Belarus’ ambassador, Yury Ambrazevich, staunchly denied what he described as unfounded accusations of sexual violence against protesters or disappearances of people. He tried but failed to prevent Tsikhanouskaya, the main opposition challenger, from delivering a video statement in which she called for an international mission to document the human rights abuses in Belarus.

Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow, Monika Scislowska in Warsaw, Poland, and Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed to this report.


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« Reply #8 on: Sep 19, 2020, 03:53 AM »


EU unveils plan to combat racism, increase diversity

AFP
9/19/2020

BRUSSELS (AFP) — The European Commission presented a series of measures Friday aimed at tackling structural racism and discrimination, acknowledging a blatant lack of diversity among the European Union's institutions.

The bloc's executive arm set out its action plan for the next five years, which includes strengthening the current legal framework, recruiting an anti-racism coordinator and increasing the diversity of EU staff.

The European Commission's vice president for values and transparency, Věra Jourová, said that recent anti-racism protests in the U.S. and Europe highlighted the need for action. “We have reached a moment of reckoning. The protests sent a clear message, change must happen now," Jourová said. “It won’t be easy, but it must be done.

“We won’t shy away from strengthening the legislation, if needed,” she said. "The commission itself will adapt its recruiting policy to better reflect European society.” The current College of Commissioners, which oversees EU policies, is made up of 27 members, one from each EU country. All the members of the team set up last year by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are white.

Under the plan, data on the diversity of commission staff will for the first time be collected on the basis of a voluntary survey that will help define new recruitment policies. Meanwhile, the new coordinator for anti-racism will be in charge of collecting the grievances and feelings of minorities to make sure they are reflected in EU policies.

The EU said that more than half of Europeans believe that discrimination is widespread in their country. According to surveys carried out by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, or FRA, 45% of people of North African descent, 41% of Roma and 39% of people of sub-Saharan African descent have faced such discrimination.

The EU's racial equality directive will also be assessed, with possible new legislation introduced in 2022. In the wake of the Black Live Matters protests triggered by George Floyd's death in the U.S., the European Commission said it would look carefully into discrimination by law enforcement authorities such as unlawful racial profiling. Meanwhile, the EU agency for fundamental rights will continue to collect data on police attitudes towards minorities.

The European Commission also wants to combat stereotypes and disinformation by setting up a series of seminars and promoting commemorative days linked to the issue of racism. It also encouraged member states to address stereotypes via cultural and education programs, or the media. A summit against racism is planned next year.

“Nobody is born racist. It is not a characteristic which we are born with,” said Helena Dalli, the EU commissioner for equality. “It's a question of nurture, and not nature. We have to unlearn what we have learned.”

Earlier this year, the European Parliament approved a resolution condemning the Floyd's death and asking the EU to take a strong stance against racism.


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« Reply #9 on: Sep 19, 2020, 03:55 AM »


US to break with UN security council and reimpose Iran snapback sanctions

Officials says they will launch new measures on Monday despite overwhelming opposition

Julian Borger in Washington
Guardian
Sat 19 Sep 2020 10.30 BST

The US will break with almost every other UN security council member state including its closest allies on Saturday night by declaring UN sanctions back in effect on Iran.

Administration officials say they will launch a raft of new punitive measures on Monday, which some observers believe may be aimed at seeking to provoke a confrontation with Tehran in the run up to the US election.

The Trump administration has said it will consider UN sanctions, mostly involving the arms trade, as having resumed at midnight GMT on Saturday night, and has threatened to take new measures to enforce them.

The sanctions were suspended in 2015 following a multilateral nuclear deal with Iran in July that year. The US walked out of the deal in 2018, but this summer claimed to be still a participant for the purposes for reimposing sanctions. Thirteen out fifteen members of the UN security council disagreed and rejected the US position, saying it was no longer a participant in the 2015 agreement and had no standing to trigger a sanctions “snapback”.

The overwhelming majority of UN member states see the Saturday night deadline as being meaningless, and intend to ignore it.

Donald Trump is expected to shrug off US isolation when he addresses the UN general assembly by video on Tuesday.

“We will return to the United Nations to reimpose sanctions so that the arms embargo will become permanent next week,” secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said this week. “We believe deeply that this is good for the peoples of all nations.”

Elliott Abrams, the US special envoy on Venezuela and Iran, said there would be a major announcement on Monday about the scale of US actions.

“The arms embargo will now be re-imposed indefinitely and other restrictions will return, including the ban on Iran engaging in enrichment and reprocessing-related activities, the prohibition on ballistic missile testing and development, and sanctions on the transfer of nuclear and missile-related technologies to Iran,” Abrams said.

Analysts said they expected the US to unveil sanction threats against companies or countries trading arms with Iran. Russia and China, in particular, are expected to defy that threat, but may defer major new weapons sales until under the US election.

“I think what we’re going to see is an instance of where US sanctions policy is reaching its exhaustion because the whole premise of the snapback was to try isolate Iran on the political stage … which it hasn’t done so far,” said Ellie Geranmayeh, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

New sanctions on arms trading are likely to have little real impact on Iran. However, some experts suggest the US could try to go further, and seek to stop and search ships in international waters ostensibly in search for weapons being shipped to or from Iran.

Trita Parsi, co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft in Washington and author of three books on US-Iranian relations, said this more aggressive approach is being driven by hawks in the administration who want to provoke Iran into reacting in a way that will make it impossible to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal, even if Trump loses the November election.

“For that specific faction that I think is playing Trump, this may be the last couple of weeks that they can do anything,” Parsi said “So now is not the time to save your last bullet, now’s the time to just throw everything you have.”


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« Reply #10 on: Sep 19, 2020, 04:16 AM »


Ruth Bader Ginsburg, supreme court justice, dies aged 87

    Stalwart of court’s liberal bloc had survived four cancer treatments
    Death of justice gives Trump chance of third appointment

Tom McCarthy national affairs correspondent, and Lois Beckett in Los Angeles
Guardian
Sat 19 Sep 2020 03.34 BST

The supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died of pancreatic cancer, the court said Friday. She was 87.

Ginsburg was the second woman appointed to the court in history and became a liberal icon for her sharp questioning of witnesses and intellectually rigorous defenses of civil liberties, reproductive rights, first amendment rights and equal protections under the law.

In a statement, the court said Ginsburg, who served more than 27 years on the bench, “died this evening surrounded by her family at her home in Washington DC, due to complications of metastatic pancreas cancer”.

The chief justice, John Roberts, said that the nation “has lost a jurist of historic stature. We at the supreme court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn, but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her – a tireless and resolute champion of justice.”

Her death thrust an immediate spotlight on who might fill the vacancy on the court, with just over six weeks before the election. The news was received with alarm by liberals and moderates who feared that Republicans would exploit the narrow window to install a third Donald Trump appointee on the supreme court.

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, pledged to get Trump a swift vote his supreme court pick. “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate,” McConnell said.
Mourners gather outside the US supreme court.

The Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden, said that the Republican-controlled Senate should wait until after the election to confirm Ginsburg’s replacement, following the precedent Republicans set in 2016.

'i have no soul, only a rancid abscess' McConnell blocked Barack Obama from filling a court vacancy in March 2016, eight months before the presidential election that year, claiming that the window of time was too narrow and saying the slot had to be held for the next president to fill.

“Tonight and in the coming days we should focus on the loss of the justice and her enduring legacy,” Biden said. “But there is no doubt – let me be clear – that the voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider. This was the position the Republican Senate took in 2016 when there were almost 10 months to go before the election.”

Both of Trump’s supreme court appointments to date – Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh – replaced justices appointed by fellow Republican presidents. But by replacing Ginsburg, who was appointed in 1993 by Bill Clinton, Trump could decisively skew the ideological balance of the court for a generation.

Tributes poured in on Friday, with figures on the left and the right offering praise and condolences. Meanwhile hundreds of mourners gathered outside the supreme court in Washington DC, laying flowers and candles on its steps.

“During her extraordinary career, this Brooklyn native broke barriers & the letters RBG took on new meaning – as battle cry & inspiration,” tweeted the New York governor, Andrew Cuomo.

    Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo)

    NY’s heart breaks with the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

    During her extraordinary career, this Brooklyn native broke barriers & the letters RBG took on new meaning—as battle cry & inspiration.

    Her legal mind & dedication to justice leave an indelible mark on America.
    September 19, 2020

“Justice Ginsburg paved the way for so many women, including me. There will never be another like her,” said former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, while the former president George W Bush said “she inspired more than one generation of women and girls”.

    Ryan Struyk (@ryanstruyk)

    George W. Bush statement: "Laura and I join our fellow Americans in mourning the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She dedicated many of her 87 remarkable years to the pursuit of justice and equality, and she inspired more than one generation of women and girls."
    September 19, 2020

    Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton)

    Justice Ginsburg paved the way for so many women, including me. There will never be another like her. Thank you RBG.
    September 19, 2020

The president’s son, Eric Trump, called Ginsburg “a remarkable woman with an astonishing work ethic”. Donald Trump, who was holding a rally in Minnesota when the news broke on Friday, appeared not to learn of the news until he left the stage.

After the the event, the president offered brief comments to the press before boarding Air Force One, according to the White House pool report:

“She just died? I didn’t know that,” Trump said. “She led an amazing life, what else can you say? Whether you agree or not ... she led an amazing life.”

    Eric Trump (@EricTrump)

    Justice Ginsburg was a remarkable woman with an astonishing work ethic. She was a warrior with true conviction and she has my absolute respect! #RIP
    September 19, 2020

Ginsburg had been in poor health and was admitted to the hospital as recently as mid-July, when she was taken in with a fever and chills, but was released after about 24 hours, with the court reporting that she was recovering well.

After her discharge Ginsburg announced that she had been undergoing chemotherapy since May to treat cancerous lesions on her liver. A scan on 7 July had revealed “reduction of the liver lesions and no new disease”, she said.

Ginsburg had survived four cancer treatments going back to 1999. She participated in oral arguments in May from a hospital bed while receiving treatments believed at the time to be for a malignant tumor on her pancreas diagnosed in 2019. Ginsburg had announced in January that she was cancer-free.

Ginsburg had undergone surgery on 21 December 2018 to remove two cancerous nodules from her lung.
People gather in Washington following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Doctors discovered that she had developed lung cancer in the course of a health review following a 7 November fall in which the associate justice fractured three ribs. She returned to work within days of that incident.

Ginsburg had been diagnosed with colon cancer in 1999 and pancreatic cancer in 2009, undergoing surgery both times.

Trump could become the first president to appoint three supreme court justices in his first term since Richard Nixon a half-century ago. In July, Trump nominated Kavanaugh to replace the retiring Anthony Kennedy. In early 2017, Trump nominated Gorsuch to replace Antonin Scalia, who died 11 months before the end of Obama’s presidency. McConnell declined to hold hearings on the nomination by Obama of the appeals court judge Merrick Garland.

In her 25 years on the court, Ginsburg was an essential vote in watershed rulings that combatted gender discrimination and protected abortion rights, equal pay, civil liberties and privacy rights.

Of reproductive rights, Ginsburg told an interviewer in 2009: “The basic thing is that the government has no business making that choice for a woman.”

In her later years Ginsburg gained traction as a cultural figure and feminist icon. A biopic released in 2018 was chosen by the National Board of Review as the best documentary of the year. A blog called Notorious RBG packaged Ginsburg’s feminist appeal in a hip-hop persona, and she had a daily workout that defeated Stephen Colbert.

Ginsburg was born in Brooklyn, New York, and was one of the first women to graduate from Harvard Law School. She served as general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union and was co-founder of the Women’s Rights Project. “Women’s rights are an essential part of the overall human rights agenda, trained on the equal dignity and ability to live in freedom all people should enjoy,” she said.

Elevated to a federal judgeship by Jimmy Carter, Ginsburg was Clinton’s first nomination to the court. The Senate voted 96-3 to confirm her nomination to the supreme court.

**************

Mitch 'i have no soul, only a rancid abscess' McConnell vows US Senate will push on with Trump's pick to replace Ginsburg

Mitch 'i have no soul, only a rancid abscess' McConnell says vote will go ahead despite refusing Obama’s, as Biden says next president should choose Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s replacement

Lauren Gambino
Guardian
Sat 19 Sep 2020 05.02 BST

Mitch McConnell, the US senate majority leader, vowed on Friday to move forward quickly with Donald Trump’s nominee to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the supreme court, setting the stage for an extraordinary political battle just six weeks before election day.

Shortly after the 87-year-old justice’s death was announced, the Republican released a statement removing any doubt about his intention to act, though the timeline for doing so remained notably vague.

“Americans reelected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary. Once again, we will keep our promise,” McConnell said in a statement. “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”

The death of one of the most prominent and celebrated supreme court justices in American history has suddenly transformed an already volatile election season into an all-out battle for control of every branch of government. Trump, facing a difficult re-election, has signalled a desire to quickly nominate a third justice.

The decision will likely be met with outrage from Democrats, who are still furious over McConnell’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s nomination of judge Merrick Garland to replace the conservative justice Antonin Scalia, who died months before the 2016 election. Analysts believe the controversial decision – and Trump’s commitment to nominating “pro-life” justices to the court – was critical to his surprise presidential victory in 2016.

The confirmation of Trump’s supreme court appointees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh secured a solid conservative majority on the court. If Trump is successful in confirming a third nominee, the conservative bloc would dominate the nation’s highest court, likely for decades to come.

Earlier this month, Trump unveiled a list of 20 potential nominees to the court. Among a host of judicial conservatives were three Republican senators: Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri.

While the courts have long motivated conservative voters, who see the judicial branch as a bulwark against a changing electoral landscape, liberals have become increasingly motivated by judicial appointments during the Trump era. The prospect of a conservative majority has alarmed liberal voters, who are fearful a conservative court would overturn Roe v Wade, the landmark supreme court decision that established a right to abortion.

The titanic clash over Trump’s choice to replace Ginsburg – and how the Senate proceeds with the nomination – may well determine the outcome of the election in November.

“In the coming days, we should focus on the loss of her justice and enduring legacy,” Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said on Friday night, speaking from an airport in Delaware after returning from a campaign trip to Minnesota. “But there is no doubt, let me be clear, that the voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider. This was the position of Republican Senate took in 2016, when there were almost 10 months to go before the election [and] that’s the position the United States Senate must take today.”

Trump, who was speaking at a rally in Montana when the news of Ginsburg’s death broke, mused about appointing Cruz and touted his appointments to the court, though he appeared oblivious of the partisan battle brewing offstage.

Speaking after the rally, Trump told reporters: “She led an amazing life. What else can you say? She was an amazing woman, whether you agreed or not, she was an amazing woman who led an amazing life. I’m actually saddened to hear that.”

The White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, said Trump was unaware of her death when he took the stage on Friday, and said the White House would lower the flags in her honor.

It was unclear if McConnell intended to push for a vote before the November election or wait until the lame-duck session, the period following the election but before the new president is sworn-in. Control of the Senate hangs in the balance, and already some of his members have voiced concern about the prospect of ramming through a nominee weeks before an election, particularly given McConnell’s position four years ago.

Senator Susan Collins, one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents, told the New York Times earlier this month that she would not seat a Supreme Court justice in October, arguing that it was “too close” to the election. Unless Trump was re-elected, she said, she would oppose confirming the president’s nominee in a lame-duck session.

Shortly before Ginsburg’s death was announced, Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, told a state radio station that she would not vote to confirm a new justice before the election. Explaining her rationale, she said it was the same logic McConnell applied to Obama’s final supreme court nominee.

“That was too close to an election,” she said, characterizing McConnell’s argument.

Yet Kelly Loeffler, a Georgia Republican attempting to beat back a strong challenge from her right, urged the president to appoint a new justice.

“Our country’s future is at stake & @realDonaldTrump has every right to pick a new justice before the election,” she wrote on Twitter. “I look forward to supporting a strict constructionist who will protect the right to life & safeguard our conservative values.”

McConnell has argued that the current situation is different from that of 2016. Then, Republicans controlled the Senate, the chamber that confirms supreme court nominees, while a Democrat occupied the White House. This time, he contends, the same party controls both branches, and therefore the confirmation should proceed.

Democrats have balked at this argument, saying it threatens the legitimacy of the court. Even some of the president’s closest allies say a confirmation should not take place in the final months of an election cycle.

Senator Lindsey Graham, who is facing an unexpectedly competitive re-election contest in South Carolina, said during an interview in 2018: “If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process has started, we’ll wait to the next election.”

“You’re on the record,” the interviewer said to Graham, in a video clip that was widely shared online Friday night.

“Hold the tape,” he replied.

************

Mitch 'i have no soul, only a rancid abscess' McConnell told GOP donors that replacing RBG would be their ‘October Surprise’: report

Raw Story
9/19/2020

In April, The New Yorker published a blockbuster profile of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The story, by Jane Mayer, was titled, “How Mitch McConnell became Trump’s enabler-in-chief.”

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/04/20/how-mitch-mcconnell-became-trumps-enabler-in-chief

“The most famous example of McConnell’s obstructionism was his audacious refusal to allow a hearing on Merrick Garland, whom Obama nominated for the Supreme Court, in 2016. When Justice Antonin Scalia unexpectedly died, vacating the seat, there were three hundred and forty-two days left in Obama’s second term. But McConnell argued that ‘the American people’ should decide who should fill the seat in the next election, ignoring the fact that the American people had elected Obama,” Mayer wrote.

“As a young lawyer, McConnell had argued in an academic journal that politics should play no part in Supreme Court picks; the only thing that mattered was if the nominee was professionally qualified. In 2016, though, he said it made no difference how qualified Garland, a highly respected moderate judge, was,” she explained. “Before then, the Senate had never declined to consider a nominee simply because it was an election year. On the contrary, the Senate had previously confirmed seventeen Supreme Court nominees during election years and rejected two. Nevertheless, McConnell prevailed.”

Mayer interviewed a former Trump White House official.

“McConnell’s telling our donors that when R.B.G. meets her reward, even if it’s October, we’re getting our judge. He’s saying it’s our October Surprise,” the former Trump official revealed.

*************

GOP Senator Murkowski said she will not vote for Ginsburg’s replacement before an election: report

Raw Story
9/19/2020

In an interview shortly before it was announced that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had passed away from complications from pancreatic cancer, Sen. Lisa Murkowski  (R-AK) told a reporter that she would not vote for a Supreme Court replacement with less than 50 days before the election.

According to Alaska Public Media, the Republican senator stated, “I would not vote to confirm a Supreme Court nominee. We are 50 some days away from an election,” with the report noting that “Murkowski said her reasoning is based on the same reasoning that held up the confirmation of former President Barack Obama’s final nominee to the Supreme Court.”

About Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) decision to block Judge Merrick Garland, Murkowski said, “That was too close to an election, and that the people needed to decide. That the closer you get to an election, that argument becomes even more important.”

************

GOP senator blasted after immediately calling for vote on RBG replacement: ‘Only a ghoul would tweet something like this’

Raw Story
9/19/2020

Embattled Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to move forward with a vote on whomever President Donald Trump nominates to replace Ruth Bader Ginsberg on the United States Supreme Court.

“This U.S. Senate should vote on President Trump’s next nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court,” McSally said.

McSally lost her 2018 bid for the United States Senate, but was appointed a senator anyway by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. Polls show her trailing Democratic challenger and former astronaut Mark Kelly.

As the race is Special Election to fill a vacant seat, Kelly could be sworn in as early as November 30 if he prevails.

Here’s some of what people were saying about McSally:

    pic.twitter.com/pRVKKUEVXA

    — Baligubadle (@Baligubadle1) September 19, 2020

    She wouldn’t even vote. Kelly would be seated immediately bc she is in from a special election

    — Henrynathanmia (@henrynathanmia) September 19, 2020

    Try it! The majority of woman in the country will be out in the streets. Learn from Belarus

    — Olga Lautman (@OlgaNYC1211) September 19, 2020

    Only a ghoul would tweet something like this hours after the passing of RBG.

    — Ann Lewis Hamilton (@AnnLHamilton) September 19, 2020

    No new justices during an election year. Remember?

    — matt (@mattantillon) September 19, 2020

    Correction; a national disgrace.

    — Charles Addy McGee (@camcgee3) September 19, 2020

    Once again Martha McSally demonstrates what a horrible, despicable person she is.

    Justice Ginsburg's body isn't even cold and she's celebrating. pic.twitter.com/sbTc6tPAoy

    — THE G🤥P'S M🤥RAL BANKRUPTCY (@azstudigital) September 19, 2020

    Thank you for saying this Sen. McSally! I needed a good reason to give money Mark Kelly today, and now I have one…

    — schoopy schoop (@ifollowonlyos) September 19, 2020

    The unelected Senator from AZ has shown her corrupt hand

    Donate to Mark Kelly tonight.

    If elected he takes the seat on Nov 30th

    — Jeff Farias – Tree Detonator (@jefffarias) September 19, 2020

    Ginsberg’s dying message: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed."#VoteHerOut

    — Denise Wu (@denisewu) September 19, 2020

    The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

    — Mitch McConnell, March 2016.

    Vote for @CaptMarkKelly – obviously McSally will always be a Trump sycophant

    — KEEP MN BLUE (@DeminMN77) September 19, 2020

    The people of Arizona should vote for Mark Kelly as their next senator: https://t.co/b0cjf4iZFs https://t.co/0MANnY8G96

    — Indivisible Guide (@IndivisibleTeam) September 19, 2020

    (I'm being a overly cautious with the "arguably.")

    — Josh Wingrove (@josh_wingrove) September 19, 2020

    SHE WAS APPOINTED AFTER LOSING HER SENATE ELECTION. https://t.co/r2YWv5YX4u

    — Ezra Levin (@ezralevin) September 19, 2020

    Let the hypocrisy wash over you like a wave of warm frothy sewage, America! https://t.co/lSce3ebfmW

    — Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) September 19, 2020

    Is she just trying to lose now? https://t.co/su33bBW4SK

    — Hemant Mehta (@hemantmehta) September 19, 2020

    Mark Kelly would be sworn in at the end of November if he wins. His vote could put a dent in any effort by McConnnell to ram this through in a lame-duck session https://t.co/rnErORNXih

    — Niles Edward Francis (@NilesGApol) September 19, 2020

    How does one even become this evil? Is it genetic? Or did her parents make her sleep in a cupboard and make her eat dog food? https://t.co/z0jMLfwoBC

    — Alice Evans (@AliceEvansGruff) September 19, 2020

    Horrid disgusting vile excuse of a human being https://t.co/9FY8eRSQmQ

    — LorettaFaucher🌊🌊🌊🌊 (@lorettafaucher) September 19, 2020

    This is exactly why you’re going to lose in November…for the second time. Make sure y’all head on over and donate to Mark Kelly @CaptMarkKelly so McSally can be sent home…again. https://t.co/2JluuRZo7j

    — Miss Aja (@brat2381) September 19, 2020

    A swan dive into the dustbin of history https://t.co/82LxPdWJR8

    — Brandon Friedman (@BFriedmanDC) September 19, 2020

**************

‘Big mistake’: Trump’s favorite pollster tells Fox why Republicans shouldn’t push nomination before the election

Raw Story
9/19/2020

Fox News on Friday examined why it would be a “big mistake” for Republicans to attempt to force through a nominee to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.

Following Ginsburg’s death, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) vowed that Trump’s nominee would receive a vote, but did not specify whether it would occur before the election or during the “lame duck” session of Congress that occurs before the 2020 election victors are sworn in.

But conservative pollster Scott Rasmussen warned Republicans it would be a bad idea during an appearance with Fox News personality Laura Ingraham.

“I hear all this talk that Republicans are ready to go and vote right away, I think that’s a big mistake,” Rasmussen said.

“I think the president should come out and say, ‘I want the American people to decide this, I’m going to nominate someone after I’m re-elected, here’s who I’m thinking of nominating and by the way, I want to specifically hear from Joe Biden who he’s going to nominate.’ And the reason I think he should do that is that’s puts the focus on the choice for the court, not on this side argument of whether or not the confirmation battle should go ahead right now,” he explained.

    🤔🤔 pic.twitter.com/jIjbxCusOc

    — Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) September 19, 2020

***********

Here’s how Mitch McConnell could lose his leverage to replace Ginsburg after November

Raw Story
9/19/2020
By Tom Boggioni

According to a report in AZCentral, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan to rush through a replacement for the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg could encounter an unexpected roadblock if he tries to hold a confirmation vote after the election.

With McConnell already facing at least one Republican Senator, Lisa Murkowski (AK), saying she won’t vote on a replacement before the election — and rumors that Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) are feeling the same — McConnell has little room to lose another GOP vote in a closely divided Senate.

Another loss could come in the form of losing the vote of embattled Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) whose seat could change hands as soon as November 30 if she loses because she is running in a special election.

According to AZCentral, “Two Republican and two Democratic election attorneys agree that state law and Senate practices would make Kelly eligible to take over the seat once held by Sen. John McCain as soon as Nov. 30, when the state election results are expected to be canvassed.”

McSally, it should be noted was appointed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey to fill McCain’s seat after he passed away following her close defeat in 2018 to current Arizona Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D).

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Is Bill Barr signaling that his much-hyped Durham probe is a bust?

on September 19, 2020
By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Attorney General Bill Barr delivered a remarkably incendiary and inflammatory speech this week, apparently defending his overtly partisan and political management of the Justice Department and triggering a wave of analysis and outrage from many of his usual critics. I’m among his usual critics and have written about his warped view of justice many times before. I have little to add to the excellent arguments about Barr’s hypocrisy and overreach that I haven’t said before.

Instead, I’d like to point to a few key features of the speech and some recent reporting that I think may be flying under the radar. And at the risk of being proven decisively wrong by future of events, I’d like to engage in some measured speculation about Barr’s much-hyped investigation by U.S. Attorney John Durham.

The investigation remains mostly a black box. Its full scope is unknown, though we know it’s somewhat duplicative of Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s review of the origins of Crossfire Hurricane, the Russia investigation. Durham has, quite inappropriately, made public that he does not fully support Horowitz’s view that the Crossfire Hurricane was properly predicated, though he hasn’t explained why. And Durham has secured a guilty plea from Kevin Clinesmith, an FBI lawyer who admitted to altering an email in the course of an application to surveil former Trump campaign associate Carter Page, though there’s no sign it was part of any larger criminal wrongdoing. (Indeed, were it not for the attorney general’s unique interest in the case, Clinesmith probably would have been simply fired rather than charged for his wrongdoing.)

We also know that right-wing media is deeply invested in the investigation, to extent that is probably difficult to understand for those who haven’t followed it.

For example, Fox News host Jeanine Pirro once declared that there was a “a criminal cabal in our FBI and the Department of Justice who think they know better than we do who our president should be.” She has said the deep state “worked to spy on and frame a presidential candidate and plant the seed for his overthrow in the ugliest, most corrupt attempted political coup in U.S. History.” She added: “That it occurred at all, is stunning. But that it was manipulated to take down a president and remove him from office almost as soon as we put him there, essentially overthrowing a government, is an outrage that demands the most severe consequence our criminal justice system has to offer.”

She, her viewers, and their compatriots have closely watched for developments from Durham to finally get vengeance for Trump.

Barr has dutifully whetted conservatives’ appetite for the results of the probe, and Trump is just as hungry for high-profile convictions as anyone else — though charges against former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden have already been ruled out. Against all tradition and protocol, Barr has repeatedly given public updates on the investigation, for no other obvious reason except that it’s what Republicans want to hear.

But could Barr be ready to disappoint his fans? Several recent signs point to that possibility.

Most clearly, the Washington Post reported this week of Barr’s speech:

    … some people close to the attorney general said Barr’s speech was meant not just as a rejoinder to those on the left who have criticized his moves on cases involving Trump associates, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn and longtime friend Roger Stone. Barr was also gingerly trying to temper conservatives’ hopes that, before Election Day, former senior officials once involved in investigating the president will be charged criminally, people familiar with the matter said. [emphasis added]

Lawfare’s Susan Hennessey scoffed at this claim, saying she found no evidence for it in Barr’s actual remarks: “Read the speech for yourself and see if you can spot where Barr is supposedly tempering expectations. (I can’t).”

Indeed, many critics read the speech as a brazen assertion of his own power and refusal to bend to any criticism, rather than a tempering of expectations of his allies.

But arguably, there were signals in his speech to hose on the right who may be on the edge of their seats waiting for indictments. For example, Barr said:

    In short, it is important for prosecutors at the Department of Justice to understand that their mission above all others is to do justice. And that means following the letter of the law and the spirit of fairness. Sometimes that will mean investing months or years in an investigation and then concluding it is without criminal charges. [emphasis added]

For those who have waited for months and years to see Trump’s enemies — including James Comey, John Brennan, Andrew McCabe, and others — proscuted, this may be a signal to get ready for disappointment. A long probe like Durham’s sometimes comes up dry.

Barr also said:

    This criminalization of politics is not healthy.  The criminal law is supposed to be reserved for the most egregious misconduct — conduct so bad that our society has decided it requires serious punishment, up to and including being locked away in a cage.

And:

    The political winners ritually prosecuting the political losers is not the stuff of a mature democracy.

Many read these claims as a defense of Barr’s own actions regarding Robert Mueller’s investigation, in particular his attempts to exonerate Trump and Michael Flynn and reduce the sentence of Roger Stone. He has said explicitly that he thinks that Obama administration launched partisan investigations of political enemies. And he likely intended these claims as a defense of himself, at least in part. But imagine that Durham has found little if anything to criminally charge out of the investigation; in this context, Barr’s words sound like a pre-emptive warning to Trump’s base and a post-hoc rationalization on Barr’s part for the broad sweep of his actions. No, he might as well be saying, I’m not going to prosecute those on the losing side of a political fight — because I can’t.

There are other signs as well that Durham may not be fulfilling the grand visions of people like Pirro and the president.

For example, the New York Times reported last week:

    Several officials said expectations had been growing in the White House and Congress that Mr. Barr would make public, ahead of the election, some kind of interim report or list of findings from Mr. Durham before he completed the investigation. Mr. Barr had wanted Mr. Durham’s team to move quickly, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The Hartford Courant reported that Nora Dannehy, a top aide for Durham, resigned in part because of improper pressure from the DOJ to produce a report, an extremely disturbing development on its own.

But why would Barr want to publicize an “interim report” or “list of findings”? That is not what prosecutors or U.S. attorneys do. Barr released Mueller’s report, but that was specifically demanded in the unique circumstance in which a special counsel is called for. And it was uniquely reasonable to releasese findings about the president’s potentially criminal conduct because he cannot be prosecuted while in office under current DOJ guidelines. Ordinarily, prosecutors are not supposed to say anything about the cases they’ve investigated unless they’re bringing charges; it’s viewed as a basic matter of fairness.

So it seems that Barr would only want a highly unusual and likely inappropriate “report” from Durham if he couldn’t get what he really wanted: high-profile prosecutions of criminal wrongdoing. Given Durham and Barr’s previous remarks, they may announce that they’ve concluded that Crossfire Hurricane was improperly launched, conradicting the inspector general. One report has already floated the possibility that some of the paperwork filed to start the probe may have been somewhat unusual, and perhaps there were other administrative errors of varying levels of signficiance. Perhaps Barr and Durham will have findings to share about the Steele Dossier, which has become a particularly potent bugbear on the right. But all that would be a huge disappointment to people hoping to see Comey in handcuffs.

**********

Shocking emails document Trump administration’s scheme to muzzle the CDC — and misinform Americans

By Bob Brigham
Raw Story
9/19/2020

Emails obtained by The New York Times detail how Trump administration political appointees sought to silence the Centers for Disease Control during the coronavirus pandemic.

“On June 30, as the coronavirus was cresting toward its summer peak, Dr. Paul Alexander, a new science adviser at the Department of Health and Human Services, composed a scathing two-page critique of an interview given by a revered scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” the newspaper reported. “Dr. Anne Schuchat, a 32-year veteran of the C.D.C. and its principal deputy director, had appealed to Americans to wear masks and warned, ‘We have way too much virus across the country.’ But Dr. Alexander, a part-time assistant professor of health research methods, appeared sure he understood the coronavirus better.”

“Her aim is to embarrass the president,” Alexander argued because Dr. Schuchat had urged masks while speaking to Journal of the American Medical Association. “She is duplicitous.”

The emails make it look like the Trump appointees actually believed Trump’s spin on the pandemic.

“Dr. Alexander’s point-by-point assessment, broken into seven parts and forwarded by Mr. Caputo to Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the C.D.C. director, was one of several emails obtained by The New York Times that illustrate how Mr. Caputo and Dr. Alexander attempted to browbeat career officials at the C.D.C. at the height of the pandemic, challenging the science behind their public statements and attempting to silence agency staff,” the newspaper reported. “Far from hiding what they knew about the virus’s danger, as Bob Woodward’s new book contends President Trump was doing, the emails seem to indicate that aides in Washington were convinced of their own rosy prognostications, even as coronavirus infections were shooting skyward.”

“At the same time, Mr. Caputo moved to punish the C.D.C.’s communications team for granting interviews to NPR and attempting to help a CNN reporter reach him about a public-relations campaign. Current and former C.D.C. officials called it a five-month campaign of bullying and intimidation,” The Times reported.

    New: Emails show how two senior HHS officials, including Michael Caputo, attempted to browbeat career CDC officials, challenge science and silence agency staff https://t.co/iUuyzo9Qvg

    — Noah Weiland (@noahweiland) September 18, 2020


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« Reply #11 on: Sep 19, 2020, 04:20 AM »


New Lincoln Project ad imagines a world where children still look up to the president

on September 19, 2020
Raw Story
By Brad Reed

A new ad from the Lincoln Project tries to get Americans to remember what it’s like when children could look to the president of the United States as a role model.

The ad features a mother and her son talking about a homework assignment where the son is struggling to write about what he wants to be when he grows up.

His mother suggests he could write about wanting to be a good and moral person, although he replies that no one gets paid to be a good person.

She replies that he should write about being president because being president means that “you would have to be a good person.”
Defend democracy. Click to invest in courageous progressive journalism today.

The ad then cuts to an image of Democratic nominee Joe Biden and tells viewers that, “It’s time for decency.”

Watch: https://youtu.be/O9yEALZ2vXA


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« Reply #12 on: Sep 20, 2020, 06:05 AM »

From Trump, No Respect for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or the Rules

Once a cheater, always a cheater

By Frank Bruni
NY Times
9/20/2020

I was prepared for Mitch McConnell’s hypocrisy, but his brazenness left me breathless. He pledged a speedy Senate vote on a Trump-nominated replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg less than two hours after news of her death broke.

He couldn’t have waited, I don’t know, six hours? A day? Out of respect?

Silly question. Silly me. I sometimes forget the era we’re living in and the president we’re living under. McConnell understands that neither is about propriety, procedure, precedent. They’re about taking whatever can be taken and exploiting whatever can be exploited.

Rules are for fools. To the cheaters go the spoils. That’s President Trump’s credo. And he hasn’t been proven wrong yet.

Technically, yes, it’s Trump’s right to nominate a new Supreme Court justice as soon as he wants and for as long as he’s in office — and he indeed signaled in a tweet on Saturday morning that he wanted to move forward “without delay.” McConnell, for his part, can absolutely try to hustle that nominee through Senate confirmation.

But McConnell would be violating his own code, the one he adopted after Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016. McConnell then decreed that with an election just nine months away, President Obama should not be allowed to fill a court vacancy. The American people should first be allowed to speak through their presidential ballots in early November.

Now an election is little more than one month away. And that code — poof! — is gone. McConnell’s quickness to abandon it arises principally from his own unscrupulousness but owes something as well to his confidence about Trump’s ethically inverted inclinations, which are that it matters only whether you win or lose, not how you play the game.
 
Look at the unfolding election. President Trump and his allies have been stubbornly trying to prevent Americans from voting by mail, which is known to be more popular with Democrats than with Republicans. While you can call this an attack on democracy, you can instead be blunter and truer to its intent. You can call it cheating.

On his own or with the aid of apparatchiks like Michael Caputo, the president has sought to manipulate, minimize or repudiate statistics and studies that render a withering verdict on America’s battle against the coronavirus. This has been characterized, rightly, as an insult to science and to the scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It’s also cheating.

As Republicans maneuvered to get Kanye West on the ballot in states where he might siphon votes from Joe Biden, Jared Kushner just so happened to huddle with the entertainer in Telluride, Colo.

It could be that each enjoys basking at high altitudes in the other’s affluence. Or it could be that Kushner was conniving with West in violation of federal election law: in other words, cheating.

“The only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged,” Trump told supporters at a rally in Wisconsin last month. He has repeatedly made versions of that claim, at one point exhorting North Carolinians to monitor polling sites and “watch all the thieving and stealing and robbing” by Democrats, who will work to lift Biden to victory by “doing very bad things.”

And it’s a perfect example of Trump’s tendency to assign his own motives and methods to others. He worries that they’ll cheat because he has always cheated — on his taxes, on his wives, in his business dealings, in his philanthropy. He imagines them cheating because he actually is cheating.

He considers it their only hope because it may well be his only hope, given his persistently underwhelming approval ratings and some 200,000 Americans dead from causes related to the coronavirus. And when you step back and take in the scope of his cheating, it’s shocking.

But exactly no one is shocked. This is Trump, after all. He will wipe his memory clean of Merrick Garland, the Obama nominee whom Republicans refused to consider for the court, as he races to wipe the court clean of Ginsburg’s memory. He’s the bearer of double standards. Trump approaches “cheating as a way of life,” his niece Mary, a clinical psychologist, once explained. She has recordings of one of Trump’s sisters, Maryanne Trump Barry, a retired federal judge, saying that he had someone else take the SAT for him.

He is infamous for stiffing creditors and being sued by them, for using bankruptcy laws to lessen or evade the personal financial impact of corporate disasters, for inflating his net worth when that suited his image, for undervaluing his assets when that suited his tax returns, for assuming the fictive identity of a publicist to call journalists and whisper flattering secrets about himself. These behaviors could variously be tucked under the subheadings of hard-nosed business tactics, creative public relations and egomaniacal pathology. But the banner over them all? Cheating.

The presidency has no more altered that ethos than it has ennobled him. The White House is just a highfalutin stage for the same old huckster, a fact made crassly clear by his exploitation of those trappings for his big convention speech. The fireworks at the finish spelled more than his name. They spelled cheating.

Under the Hatch Act, which forbids federal employees from engaging in overtly political activities while on the job, that whole climactic evening (Ivanka as Evita!) shouldn’t have happened, and Mike Pompeo shouldn’t have stumped for Trump while on a diplomatic trip abroad, and Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of homeland security, shouldn’t have been swearing in new citizens as Trump-burnishing convention theater.

But Trump’s cheating is its own virus, infecting everyone around him. Trump’s cheating is its own ecosystem. Abandon all scruple, ye who enter here.

Trump was impeached because he tried to cheat, pressuring Ukraine to do a political hit job on Biden. But the cheating didn’t stop there: As John Bolton revealed in “The Room Where It Happened,” Trump pleaded with the Chinese president to buy more American agricultural exports, because that might help his prospects for re-election.

By refusing to condemn Russian interference in American elections — an orientation evident in the diluting of intelligence reports about Russia’s aims and activities — he’s essentially inviting a fresh round of Russian cheating in 2020 on his behalf.

Meanwhile, he and his administration take various tacks to fool voters about the pandemic’s severity. His health department, not C.D.C. scientists, schemed to change coronavirus testing recommendations in a manner sure to depress the number of recorded cases. He and his administration have tried to intimidate and discredit the C.D.C. in additional ways. And he promoted a bogus claim that the coronavirus death toll was just 6 percent of the correct figure.

But his and his Republican allies’ most flagrant cheating is in the realm of voting. Republicans in multiple states have fought against secure drop boxes for ballots that give people concerned about exposure to the coronavirus an alternative to traditional polling sites. They have opposed the expansion of such sites.

Although voting by mail makes by far the most sense during a pandemic and has gone smoothly in states that have long used it, Trump is determined to thwart it. His campaign has filed suit against three states that are trying to institute universal mail-in voting. He has advocated a slowdown in the United States Postal Service precisely because it could impede the timely arrival of ballots.

And, knowing full well that many mail-in ballots may not be counted until the days immediately following Nov. 3, Trump tweeted: “Must know Election results on the night of the Election, not days, months, or even years later!” To translate: Trump doesn’t want a full tally. He wants a partial one that’s partial to him.

And he wants the whole process shrouded in doubt. As Richard Hasen, the author of “Election Meltdown: Dirty Tricks, Distrust and the Threat to American Democracy,” wrote in The Times last month, “The most benign explanation for Mr. Trump’s obsessive focus on mail-in balloting is that he is looking for an excuse for a possible loss to his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, in November. The less benign explanation is that he is seeking to sow chaos to drive down turnout and undermine the legitimacy of the election, laying the groundwork for contesting a close election if he loses.”

“Laying the groundwork” is euphemistic for cheating, and what a grand form of cheating at that: the prophylactic invalidation of any outcome displeasing to Trump. He went so far as to suggest postponing the election, and while he had to know that the idea was a non-starter, he also knew that it further seeded cynicism among some voters about a trustworthy process.

In the context of cheating as epic as that, jamming yet another of his nominees onto the Supreme Court as the clock runs out is nothing.


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« Reply #13 on: Sep 20, 2020, 09:56 AM »

‘This is for the people to decide’: Jaw-dropping CNN supercut lays bare the GOP’s stunning hypocrisy on SCOTUS

on September 20, 2020
By Elizabeth Preza, AlterNet
- Commentary

As the battle over replacing Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — who died Friday from complications of pancreatic cancer — takes shape in Washington, D.C., Republican senators who previously refused to hold a vote on former President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick are now having their words thrown in their faces.

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper on Saturday played a devastating supercut that features Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) explaining why they would not vote on Obama’s nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016.

“I want you to use my words against me,” Graham said in 2016 — laying out what Cooper described as an “eerily similar” situation as the one currently playing out in Congress. “If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say, ‘Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination,’ and you could use my words against me and you would be absolutely right.”

“We’re setting a precedent here today, Republicans are, that in the last year, at least of a lame duck eight-year term, I would say it’s going to be a four-year term, that you’re not going to fill a vacancy of the Supreme Court based on what we’re doing here today,” he added. “That’s going to be the new rule.”

In his own floor speech on the matter in 2016, McConnell likewise urged Congress to give the American people a say in the Supreme Court pick.

“The next justice could fundamentally alter the direction of the Supreme Court and have a profound impact on our country. So, of course, of course the American people should have a say in the court’s direction,” McConnell said.

Cruz — who was shortlisted by Trump as a potential SCOTUS pick earlier this month — also insisted in 2016 that Congress should not move to replace Scalia until after the election.

“I don’t think we should be moving forward on a nominee in the last year of this president’s term, Cruz said. “I would say that if it was a republican president.”

“President Obama is eager to appoint Justice Scalia’s replacement this year,” he continued. “But do you know in the last 80 years we have not once has the Senate confirmed a nomination made in an election year and now is no year to start. This is for the people to decide. I intend to make 2016 a referendum on the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Of course, all three men have now signaled they’re much more likely in 2020 to jam a conservative Supreme Court justice down voters’ throats on the eve of an election. After President Donald Trump on Saturday tweeted that the Senate has an “obligation” select a replacement for Ginsburg, Graham said he “fully” understands where the president is coming from.

In case that statement seems vague, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman added: ”I will support President [Trump] in any effort to move forward regarding the recent vacancy created by the passing of Justice Ginsburg.”

And McConnell has also insisted “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”

And in perhaps the least surprising flip-flop of all, Cruz on Saturday wrote an opinion piece for Fox News that outlined 3 reasons why the Senate must confirm Ginsburg’s replacement before election day. In it, he touted Trump’s “list of extremely qualified, principled constitutionalists who could serve on the Supreme Court” — which, of course, included himself — and argued that going into an election with an 8 person bench could trigger a constitutional crisis in the event of a contested election.

Amazing how now of the senators were concerned with such a problem when Obama appointed his nominee.

Watch the video to see the blatant hypocrisy for yourself: https://youtu.be/5B0dfYof5aQ

*************

‘You don’t see any hypocrisy?’ Chris Wallace filets Tom Cotton by replaying his Merrick Garland speech

on September 20, 2020
Raw Story
By David Edwards

Fox News host Chris Wallace accused Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) of hypocrisy on Sunday after he vowed to push forward with a vote to replace Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in an election year.

“Why the rush to judgement?” Wallace asked Cotton after the senator promised a swift vote on President Donald Trump’s eventual nominee.

“We’re not going to rush,” Cotton insisted. “We not going to skip steps. We’re going to move forward without delay.”

Wallace reminded Cotton that President Barack Obama named Judge Merrick Garland as his nominee after Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016.

“Senate Republicans blocked the choice of Garland,” Wallace noted before playing a clip of Cotton defending the move at the time.

In the clip, Cotton notes that the country will have a new president “in a few short months.”

“Why would we cut off the national debate about this next justice?” Cotton says in the clip. “Why would we squelch the voice of the people, why would we deny the voters a chance to weigh in on the make up of the Supreme Court?”

Wallace continued following the clip: “Garland was nominated nine months before the election and you were saying then, nine months before the election, it was wrong to deny voters a chance to weigh in. So if it was wrong then nine months before the election, why is it OK now six weeks before the election?”

For his part, Cotton argued that Republicans won the Senate in 2014 to stop President Barack Obama’s judicial nominations, and then he claimed that the current Republican Senate is in power to uphold nominations by President Donald Trump.

“You really don’t think there is any hypocrisy at all,” Wallace pressed, “in saying, we need to give voters — because you can parse the 2014 election, the 2018 election any way you want — but you stated a pretty firm principle in 2016 about Merrick Garland: It’s wrong to deny voters a chance to weigh in.”

“You don’t see any hypocrisy between that position then and this position now?” the Fox News host wondered.

“Chris, the Senate majority is performing our constitutional duty and fulfilling the mandate that the voters gave us,” Cotton opined.

Watch: https://youtu.be/gvAcVk4KKP4


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« Reply #14 on: Sep 21, 2020, 02:42 AM »

Researchers made a breakthrough drug that can completely neutralize the coronavirus

By Yoni Heisler
9/21/2020
BGR

    Researchers recently isolated a molecule that could help create a drug capable of neutralizing the coronavirus.
    Clinical trials involving the drug are set to begin on humans next year.
    Even if a coronavirus vaccine is approved later this year, it may only work 50% of the time.

Researchers at the Pittsburgh School of Medicine recently made a scientific breakthrough that could prove to be instrumental in putting the coronavirus pandemic behind us. Specifically, researchers managed to isolate the smallest molecule capable of completely neutralizing the coronavirus. The scientists will now use that molecule to help create a drug for humans (called Ab8, for the time being) that could completely destroy the virus that causes COVID-19 and prevent it from replicating in humans.

One of the benefits of Ab8 is that it’s especially small. Researchers say this is helpful because it can spread more easily within tissues as a result. Its small size also means that it can be administered in a variety of ways, including via inhalation. What’s more, research has shown that it’s less likely to cause side effects in humans than other coronavirus therapies that are currently being tested because it doesn’t bind to individual cells.

Speaking to Pittwire, John W. Mellors — one of the co-authors of the study –said the following:

    Ab8 not only has potential as therapy for COVID-19, but it also could be used to keep people from getting SARS-CoV-2 infections. Antibodies of larger size have worked against other infectious diseases and have been well tolerated, giving us hope that it could be an effective treatment for patients with COVID-19 and for protection of those who have never had the infection and are not immune.

To date, Ab8 has only been tested on mice so it remains to be seen if it proves to be as effective on humans. To this end, clinical trials are set to begin early next year, but the scientists seem confident based on early results that they’re on to something big.

Meanwhile, with the number of daily new coronavirus cases still hovering in the 40,000 range here in the United States alone, it has become clear that we may not be able to move past the pandemic until several safe and effective vaccines and other drugs are developed. One potential problem with a coronavirus vaccine, however, is that the first incarnation may only be effective 50% of the time. On top of that, the first vaccines that are authorized for emergency use could very well require individuals to take at least two doses.

In light of that, CDC director Robert Redfield recently said that mask-wearing is likely more effective at preventing the coronavirus than a vaccine would be. “We have clear scientific evidence they work,” Redfield said of masks earlier this week. “This face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID19 than when I take a COVID vaccine.”

He continued, “These face masks are the most powerful public health tool we have. I appeal to all Americans to embrace these face coverings.”


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