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« Reply #30 on: Sep 22, 2020, 03:10 AM »

Rohingya refugees allege sexual assault on Bangladeshi island

Group says it has been held in jail-like conditions on Bhasan Char since April

Hannah Ellis-Petersen and Shaikh Azizur Rahman
Tue 22 Sep 2020 01.00 BST

Rohingya refugees allege they are being held against their will in jail-like conditions and subjected to rape and sexual assault on a Bangladeshi island in the Bay of the Bengal.

A group of more than 300 refugees were taken to the uninhabited, silt island of Bhasan Char in April, when a boat they were travelling on was intercepted by Bangladeshi authorities.

The refugees were attempting to sail from the sprawling camps of Cox’s Bazar on the Bangladeshi mainland to Malaysia. Like hundreds of thousands of others, they originally fled to Bangladesh from neighbouring Myanmar, where they faced violence and ethnic cleansing.

Sitara, 28, who only uses one name, is being held on Bhasan Char with her three children aged nine, seven and six. She had paid traffickers a huge sum to board the boat in an attempt to join her husband, who is in Malaysia.

She said that after the boat was intercepted, the refugees had been told by police they would be held on Bhasan Char for two weeks. “They lied to us,” she said, sobbing. “We feel cheated. There is no one to help relieve our miseries. We are so helpless.”

Umme Khairu’s parents couldn’t afford the boat journey, so her berth was paid for by a prospective groom in Malaysia. The 18-year-old described feeling trapped on the island. “Life is very painful,” she said. “I feel I am in a cage or a jail, with no contact allowed with my family. I want to see my parents. I want to see my brothers and sisters. But there is no way out.”

Khairu said the refugees were being held in jail-like conditions, with up to five people per 50-square ft room. She alleged that refugees were given dirty water to drink, which was often filled with insects. Many women were covered in rashes, she said.

“Some among us sometimes say that we will never be taken out and that we will die here ,” she said. “I feel very scared. “What offence did I commit that I have been dumped here?”

Two women who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals said sexual violence had been inflicted by police guards on some female refugees.

“One or two security personnel were caught by the Rohingya men after they raped a young, unmarried girl,” one said. “The girl cried out badly and alerted the Rohingya men who lived in the same area. But we have no way to know if any police case was registered.”

Another said women had been able to seek protection from female police officers on duty during the day, but at night only male officers were on duty.

“In a couple of other cases, two other women were targeted, but somehow they managed to escape the attacks,” she said. “We feel vulnerable. Sometimes we feel as scared as we used to feel with the violent Burmese soldiers, before we fled our homeland.”

Bangladeshi authorities said the intercepted refugees were brought to the island as a temporary measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the Cox’s Bazar camps.

Bangladesh has built housing for 100,000 people on Bhasan Char and wants to relocate some of the million Rohingya living in Cox’s Bazar. However, grave concerns expressed by human rights groups and the Rohingya themselves over safety, living conditions and freedom of movement on the remote island have delayed official, large-scale relocation attempts.

Women on Bhasan Char said that when they pleaded with police to be released, they were badly beaten. They alleged that one woman was recently caned so badly she had to be taken to hospital. Her present whereabouts are unknown.

An Amnesty International report published last week also alleged sexual assault against Rohingya women on the island. They called for authorities to open an investigation.

Mahbub Alam Talukder, the Bangladeshi refugee relief and repatriation commissioner, denied all allegations of sexual assault and said no investigation would be carried out. He also said no refugee would be forcibly relocated to the island.

“No incident of sexual abuse or molestation of any Rohingya woman took place in Bhasan Char. We are sure about that,” said Talukder. “What is the need of such an inquiry?”

Louise Donovan from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that despite assurances from the Bangladeshi government that the UN would be able to conduct a humanitarian visit to the refugees held on Bhasan Char, such a visit had still not occurred. Donovan said it was “urgent for the visit to go ahead”.

In the first week of September, about 40 Rohingya leaders were invited on a “guided tour” of Bhasan Char to view the facilities for themselves. Two of the leaders who took the tour told the Guardian they would not support any Rohingya being moved to the island or agree to bring their families there. They also reported that after several Rohingya leaders spoke to the press about their concerns over Bhasan Char, they were threatened by police officers and told to stay quiet.

Abul Kalam, a community leader in Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, said he had witnessed women and children held on Bhasan Char crying and desperately pleading to be taken off the island.

“They begged with us to take them along when we left,” said Kalam. “One woman said, ‘Don’t be impressed by the buildings. They look nice from outside. But we are living here like jail inmates. We cannot move around freely. Mostly, we have to stay indoors in the small rooms.’”

Kalam expressed concern that the island appeared ill-equipped to deal with natural disasters such as storms, tidal surges and earthquakes. He said there were no means for the refugees to build livelihoods or farm.

“If I am asked to live in this island with my family, I will certainly refuse,” he said. “I would be too scared to live here.”

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« Reply #31 on: Sep 22, 2020, 03:36 AM »

Trump races to fill supreme court seat as Republicans fall into line

Democrats’ hopes of keeping seat empty fade as two key Republican senators signal support for moving quickly

Martin Pengelly in New York
Tue 22 Sep 2020 08.04 BST

Donald Trump has raced to cement a conservative majority on the US supreme court before the presidential election on 3 November, and Democrats’ hopes of keeping the seat empty have faded as two Republican senators signalled their support for moving quickly.

The president said on Monday he would name his third supreme court nominee on Friday or Saturday, following memorials for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the liberal justice who died aged 87 on Friday.

Ginsburg will lie in state at the court on Wednesday and Thursday. Her coffin will rest on the Lincoln Catafalque, a platform built after the assassination of the 16th president in 1865 and loaned to the court by Congress. Ginsburg’s funeral will follow next week, at Arlington national cemetery.

“I think it will be on Friday or Saturday and we want to pay respect,” Trump told Fox News in a rambling interview by phone. “It looks like we will have services on Thursday or Friday, as I understand it, and I think we should, with all due respect for Justice Ginsburg, wait for services to be over.”

With the presidential election only 43 days away, an announcement on Friday or Saturday would narrow even that short window considerably.

Polling shows a majority of the public thinks the nomination should be made by the winner of the presidential election. Democrats also point to the precedent of Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s refusal to grant a hearing to Barack Obama’s last nominee, Merrick Garland, in the eight months between the death of Antonin Scalia in February 2016 and the election Trump won.

McConnell and Senate allies say the precedent they set then does not apply, as the Senate and the White House are held by the same party. There is no provision in the constitution on the subject. On the current court, the conservative Clarence Thomas was nominated by a Republican president and confirmed by a Democratic Senate.

A successful nomination would tilt the court 6-3 in favour of conservatives, potentially shaping American life for generations to come.

Two Republicans, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, have said they do not support efforts to bring a nomination to a vote. That leaves McConnell with a 51-49 majority – enough to get the confirmation through. One more defection would produce a tie that would be broken by the vice-president, Mike Pence. Two more would sink the effort.

Democrats had hoped to get similar support from Cory Gardner, the senator for Colorado, who faces a tough re-election race in Colorado, and the Iowa senator, Chuck Grassley. But both men said on Monday they would vote to confirm a qualified Trump pick.

The Republican senator Mitt Romney, who has clashed with Trump and is seen by Democrats as a potential holdout, avoided questions about the supreme court seat on Monday.

“Before I have any comment, I’m going to meet with my colleagues, which I’ll be doing tomorrow,” Romney, the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, told reporters.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the Republican chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, told Fox News late on Monday: “We’ve got the votes to confirm Justice Ginsburg’s replacement before the election. We’re going to move forward in the committee. We’re going to report the nomination out of the committee to the floor of the United States Senate so we can vote before the election.”

Trump has promised to nominate a woman. Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana and Barbara Lagoa of Florida are reported to be frontrunners, Trump having reportedly said of Barrett: “I’m saving her for Ginsburg.”

Political considerations will naturally impinge on the selection. Barrett is a devout Catholic, leading to fears among pro-choice groups that her confirmation would imperil Roe v Wade, the 1973 ruling that made abortion legal.

Appearing on Fox & Friends, Trump praised both women but also said Lagoa was “excellent, she’s Hispanic. She’s a terrific woman from everything I know. I don’t know her. We love Florida and so she’s got a lot of things.”

Trump and Joe Biden are in a tight race in Florida, a key swing state. The Trump campaign has also been targeting Latino voters in Nevada and Arizona.

Ginsburg died on Friday of complications from pancreatic cancer at age 87.

The Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, said any vote should take place next year. “That was Justice Ginsburg’s dying wish. And it may be the Senate’s only, last hope,” Schumer said.

Trump said without evidence that he did not believe the National Public Radio report that Ginsburg had told her granddaughter she did not want the Senate to consider a successor until next year, when either Trump will begin a second term or Democratic rival Joe Biden, who leads in opinion polls, will take office.

“It was just too convenient,” Trump said.

Reuters contributed to this report


Likely top Trump SCOTUS choice – a right wing religious extremist – was at the White House today

on September 22, 2020
By David Badash, The New Civil Rights Movement

President Donald Trump’s current top choice to replace Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg visited the White House on Monday.

Reporters including CNN Chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta say Judge Amy Coney Barrett visited the White House today.

    Top contender for SCOTUS pick, Amy Coney Barrett was at WH today, we’ve confirmed.

    — Jim Acosta (@Acosta) September 21, 2020

Multiple reports say Coney Barrett is the leading contender.

Earlier today White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told CBS “This Morning” Trump would be announcing his decision “before Wednesday.” MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell also made a similar suggestion. Trump later told Fox News he would wait until Friday or Saturday, and told reporters Saturday. Justice Ginsburg will lie in state at the Supreme Court Wednesday and Thursday.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett is anti-LGBTQ, anti-choice, and a right wing religious extremist.

In 2006 Barrett told Notre Dame graduates, “your legal career is but a means to an end, and . . . that end is building the kingdom of God.”

Coney Barrett has said she believes “life begins at conception.”

She opposes one of the greatest tenets of the Supreme Court: stare decisis, the legal doctrine that obliges courts to consider Supreme Court rulings as settled law.

Critical issues such as the right of women to obtain an abortion, the right of same-sex couples to marry, as well as the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) are seen as being overturned with her on the court.


Donald Trump may kill off democracy — but Mitch McConnell was the real murderer

on September 22, 2020
By Amanda Marcotte, Salon
- Commentary

Ever since Donald Trump’s oversized suit-clad carcass first befouled the Oval Office, there’s been talk in the media about if and when he would cause a constitutional crisis. The assumption underlying this discourse is that a constitutional crisis would hit us like a thunderbolt and we would collectively realize, all at once, that the very fate of our democracy was on the line. Instead, there’s been a series of mini-constitutional crises, from Trump stomping all over our laws against foreign emoluments (an old-timey phrase for being bribed by foreign leaders), obstructing justice during Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s role in Russian election interference, blackmailing the Ukrainian president to extract dishonest election assistance and about a dozen other instances it would be tedious to list.

The result has been a steady erosion of the political norms and laws that protect our democracy, culminating in Trump’s last big push to steal or corrupt the 2020 presidential election.

If Trump successfully does that, it could well be the killing blow for our tattered democracy. But it’s important to understand that the credit for orchestrating the demise of our once-great nation should largely go to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a man possessed by the same lust for power and moral turpitude as Trump, but not hobbled by Trump’s stupidity or short-sightedness.

It was McConnell who recognized long ago that he could leverage the undemocratic power of the Senate as a weapon to invade and conquer the federal courts, and then use the latter to vacate any effort by the voters to exert real influence on how this country is governed. During Barack Obama’s presidency, McConnell deliberately slow-walked the confirmations of Obama’s nominations to the federal bench, leaving dozens of seats empty. When Trump was elected, McConnell hit the gas, packing the courts at record speed with an assembly line of nearly identical conserva-bots whose main attributes were youth and a willingness to forgo any intellectual rigor to rubber-stamp the right-wing agenda.

With the death of the Supreme Court’s liberal lion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, McConnell has a real opportunity to complete his mission of crushing democracy completely. Sure, there will still be elections and Democrats may win lots of them, especially this year with so many liberals fired up to throw Trump out of office. But with a possible 6-3 conservative majority on the court, McConnell knows that conservatives can nullify most efforts by those elected officials to pass progressive legislation. McConnell can even stop worrying about Chief Justice John Roberts, who occasionally has a bout of conscience and votes with the liberals to uphold precedent or follow constitutional law.

That commanding court majority won’t just serve as a firewall against new laws passed by a Democratic House and Senate. It will also give Republicans an opportunity to undo decades of progress in human rights. McConnell stole dozens of federal court appointments that legally belonged to Obama, but his crowning jewel, of course, was the theft of the seat left open when Justice Antonin Scalia died in early 2016. Using the laughably thin pretext that you shouldn’t seat a Supreme Court justice during an election year, McConnell refused even to hold  hearings for Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland.

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

Right now, Democrats are understandably up in arms about McConnell inventing this “not during an election year” rule and then dropping it the second he had a chance to seat a judge during not just an election year, but right in the thick of a presidential campaign.

But in truth, McConnell’s blatant hypocrisy was visible long before that, when he first filled the seat that he stole with Trump’s nominee, Neil Gorsuch. The American people most certainly did not want Trump to fill that seat. The American people picked Barack Obama to fill that seat, when they elected him in 2012. They then chose Hillary Clinton, by a margin of nearly 3 million votes over Trump, to fill that seat.

Consider also that the American people picked Al Gore over George W. Bush in the 2000 election — by about 500,000 votes. If it were up to the American people, it’s arguable that seven of the nine current Supreme Court would be Democratic appointees.

We also know from polling that 62% of Americans believe that the person who fills Ginsburg’s seat should be the person who wins the election.

Trump is a notorious, pathological liar, but we can’t let that get in the way of seeing that McConnell is just as rotten, and much craftier about being evil, to boot. McConnell loves to resort to high-minded rhetoric about democracy, but he’s clearly laughing up his sleeve the entire time. If Americans had a real democracy, McConnell wouldn’t even hold his leadership position: A majority of Americans have been voting for Democrats in Senate races for years, but Republicans control the upper chamber of Congress because the Constitution gives disproportionate power to rural states with small but overwhelmingly conservative populations.

Even this unfair stranglehold on power isn’t enough for McConnell, however, which is why he has lied, cheated and stolen his way to control the federal judiciary. He intends to use that same judiciary to steal even more power for Republicans at the ballot box, because conservative judges are only too happy to hand down rulings on voting rights and gerrymandering that allow Republicans to further eviscerate Americans’ ability to choose their own leaders.

The ugly, hard truth is that the constitutional crisis has been going on for years, and the architect of our demise isn’t Donald Trump. He’s just a loudmouth bully Republicans can hide behind to get what they’ve always wanted — to hold onto power without being accountable to the voters.

Sure, this presidential election is important, but getting rid of Trump isn’t enough to save us. If Democrats can pull off this election, we will need drastic reform — starting with packing the courts and major voting-rights legislation — simply to begin to undo all the damage done by McConnell and his crew. Not because that’s good for the Democrats, although that would be a likely side effect. But because our democracy is taking its last breaths, and without major intervention it will be lost to us for good.


Republicans’ naked power grab will unwind the legal framework of the majority — and replace it with minority rule

on September 22, 2020
By Heather Cox Richardson, Moyers & Company

The big story today is big indeed: how and when the seat on the Supreme Court, now open because of the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday, will be filled. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced within an hour of the announcement of Ginsburg’s passing that he would move to replace her immediately. Trump says he will announce his pick for the seat as early as Tuesday.

Democrats are crying foul. Their immediate complaint is that after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February 2016, McConnell refused even to meet with President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, on the grounds that it was inappropriate to confirm a Supreme Court justice in an election year. He insisted voters should get to decide on who got to nominate the new justice. This “rule” was invented for the moment: in our history, at least 14 Supreme Court justices have been nominated and confirmed during an election year. (Three more were nominated in December, after an election.)

There is a longer history behind this fight that explains just why it is so heated… and what is at stake.

World War Two forced an American reckoning with our long history of racism and sexism. Americans of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, all gender identities, and all levels of wealth had helped to defeat fascism and save democracy, and they demanded a voice in the postwar government. Recognizing both the justice of such claims and the fact that communist leaders used America’s discriminatory laws to insist that democracy was a sham, Republican President Dwight Eisenhower set out to make equal justice under law a reality.

Over the course of his eight years in office, from 1953-1961, Eisenhower appointed five justices to the Supreme Court, beginning with Chief Justice Earl Warren, the former Republican Governor of California, in October 1953. In 1954, the Warren Court handed down the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, decision, requiring the desegregation of public schools. The decision was unanimous.

From then until Warren retired in 1969, the “Warren Court” worked to change the legal structures of the nation to promote equality. It required state voting districts to be roughly equal in population, so that, for example, Nevada could no longer have one district of 568 people and another of 127,000. It required law enforcement officers to read suspects their rights. It banned laws criminalizing interracial marriage. It ended laws against contraceptives.

Warren resigned during President Richard Nixon’s term, and Nixon chose Chief Justice Warren Burger to replace him. Burger was less interested than Warren in using the Supreme Court to redefine equal rights in the nation; nonetheless, he presided over the court when it handed down the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision striking down restrictive state abortion laws. The case was decided by a vote of 7-2, and the majority opinion was written by Justice Harry Blackmun, a Republican nominated, like Burger, by Richard Nixon. All the justices were men.

Americans opposed to the Supreme Court’s expansion of rights complained bitterly that the court was engaging in what came to be called “judicial activism,” changing the country by decree rather than letting voters decide how their communities would treat the people who lived in them. Rather than simply interpreting existing laws, they said, the Supreme Court was itself creating law.

When President Ronald Reagan took office, he attacked the idea of “activist judges” and promised to roll back the process of “legislating from the bench.” In his eight years, he packed the courts with judges who believed in “a strict interpretation of the Constitution” and “family values” and said they would not make law but simply follow it. Reagan appointed more judges than any other president in history: three Supreme Court associate justices and one chief justice, as well as 368 district and appeals court judges. Older members of the Justice Department who believed that the enforcement of the law should not be politicized were outraged when Reagan appointees at the Justice Department quizzed candidates for judgeships about their views on abortion and affirmative action. Reagan’s Attorney General Edwin Meese said that the idea was to “institutionalize the Reagan revolution so it can’t be set aside no matter what happens in future presidential elections.”

George H. W. Bush followed Reagan, and his first nominee for the Supreme Court, David Souter, was confirmed easily, by a vote of 90-9. But his next nominee, for the seat of the legendary Thurgood Marshall, was a harder sell.

Clarence Thomas fit the Republican bill by believing in a strict interpretation of the Constitution. But he was rated poorly by the American Bar Association and had criticized affirmative action, making people leery of his support for the civil rights legislation Marshall had championed. Most damaging, though, was that an FBI interview with Anita Hill, a lawyer whom Thomas had supervised at the Department of Education, leaked to the press. In the private interview, Hill said that Thomas had sexually harassed her. The Senate called her to testify (but did not call the other women who had similar stories). One of the first in-depth public discussions of sexual harassment, Hill’s calm testimony revealed what sexual advances, often accepted by men, looked like to professional women. For his part, Thomas called it “a circus… a national disgrace… a high-tech lynching.”

The Senate confirmed Thomas by a vote of 52 to 48 in October 1991.

In the context of national anger over the hearing and the outcome, then-Senator Joe Biden, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on June 25, 1992, suggested that, if a Supreme Court vacancy were to occur, the Senate should wait until after the upcoming election to fill it.

“Politics has played far too large a role in the Reagan-Bush nominations to date,” he noted. “Should a justice resign this summer and the president move to name a successor, actions that will occur just days before the Democratic Presidential Convention and weeks before the Republican Convention meets, a process that is already in doubt in the minds of many will become distrusted by all. Senate consideration of a nominee under these circumstances is not fair to the president, to the nominee, or to the Senate itself.”

This is the “Biden Rule” that McConnell cited as the reason he would not hold hearings on Merrick Garland’s appointment. There was no vacancy, no nominee, and no vote on any rule, not least because Biden didn’t call for one. He wanted to protect the Supreme Court from being further politicized.

So what is really going on? Republicans recognize that their program is increasingly unpopular, and the only way they can protect it is by packing the courts. By holding the seat open in 2016, McConnell could motivate Republican voters to show up for Trump even if they weren’t thrilled with his candidacy.

It worked. McConnell had held not just the Supreme Court seat open but other appointments as well, meaning that Trump has nominated, and under McConnell the Senate has confirmed, a raft of new federal judges. “You know what Mitch’s biggest thing is in the whole world? His judges,” Trump told journalist Bob Woodward. Faced with a choice between getting 10 ambassadors or a single judge, “he will absolutely ask me, ‘Please, let’s get the judge approved instead of 10 ambassadors.’” Trump has already appointed two right-wing Supreme Court justices and now, apparently, plans to nominate a third.

The 2016 McConnell rule that the Senate should not confirm a Supreme Court justice in an election year should now stop the Senate from confirming a replacement for Justice Ginsburg, but McConnell now says his rule only holds when the Senate and the president are from different parties. All but two of the many Republicans senators who insisted in 2016 that the Senate absolutely should not confirm a nominee in an election year have suddenly changed their minds and say they will proceed with Trump’s nomination.

This abrupt about-face reveals a naked power grab to cement minority rule.

Both of the last two Republican presidents—Bush and Trump– have lost the popular vote, and yet each nominated two Supreme Court justices, who have been confirmed by the votes of senators who represent a minority of the American people. The confirmation of a fifth justice in this way will create a solid majority on the court, which can then unwind the legal framework that a majority of Americans still supports.

It’s not just the issue of abortion, for all that that’s what gets most press. On the agenda just a week after the election, for example, is the Affordable Care Act.


WATCH: Trump refuses to call out Putin for poisoning of political opponent

Raw Story
By Bob Brigham

President Donald Trump on Monday continued to demonstrate his subservience to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Who do you think poisoned Alexei Navalny in Russia?” a reporter asked Trump as he was departing the White House for a campaign rally in Swanton, Ohio.

“Uh,” Trump replied. “We’ll talk about that at another time.”

“On Wednesday, the German government confirmed the doctors’ fears: Mr. Navalny, 44, had been poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent from the Novichok family, a potent class of chemical weapon developed by the Soviet Union that was used at least once before in recent years in an attack on a Kremlin enemy,” The New York Times reported on September 15th. “The Novichok revelation, which the German government said was based on “unequivocal evidence,” provided the strongest indication yet that the Kremlin, which has denied involvement, was behind the poisoning, as Western intelligence agencies have assessed that only the Russian government would likely have access to such a dangerous weapon.”

Trump has repeatedly refused to criticize the Russian dictator, who intervened in the 2016 election to help Trump win, according to the U.S. intelligence community.

    Reporter: "Who do you think poisoned Alexei Navalny in Russia?"

    Pres. Trump: "Uhhhhh, we'll talk about that at another time." https://t.co/e9dsNRyMws pic.twitter.com/vWr3DWAHMP

    — Evan McMurry (@evanmcmurry) September 21, 2020


Trump kicks out more health department staff as pandemic reaches 200,000 deaths

Raw Story

Two more public health staffers are out as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage and President Donald Trump clashes with doctors and experts about the virus.

Politico reported Monday that the move comes after HHS spokesman Michael Caputo took a leave of absence after posting a bizarre rant on Facebook and allegations that Trump has gone to war with the Food and Drug Administration.

FDA officials revealed that “Trump’s attacks threaten to permanently damage the agency’s credibility.” Trump’s politicizing of the coronavirus vaccine has made many fearful that it will be rushed to market before it is confirmed to be safe by researchers.

“The move leaves Azar’s immediate team with more control over the health department’s direction in the near term, after a series of developments this year that undermined the secretary’s authority, including the surprise installation of top department spokesperson Michael Caputo in April,” said Politico.

“Chief of Staff Brian Harrison is committed to working in close partnership with the White House Office of Presidential Personnel,” an HHS spokesperson announced in a statement. “He is the Chief of Staff not the Acting White House Liaison.”

Trump has blamed the White House liaison’s office for political hires that ultimately backfired. Longtime GOP aide and OANN writer Emily Miller’s appointment as FDA spokesperson was short-lived after she created problems among career officials.


Trump’s racism is dragging him down: ‘Suburban whites are pretty much gone’

Raw Story

President Donald Trump is bleeding support from a demographic he needs to win re-election.

White voters cast nearly three-fourths of all ballots in 2016, and Trump won them by about 15 points nationwide, but Joe Biden has cut that lead down to single digits in recent polls, reported Politico.

“It’s a big, big swing,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “What Biden’s doing among whites is more than offsetting the slippage among non-whites … The recipe is very different this time, right now anyway, in terms of white voters.”

The president’s appeals to racism aren’t resonating with white voters as they did four years ago, and that could cost him in November.

“Suburban whites are pretty much gone,” said Ed Rendell, the former Pennsylvania governor and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. “If Trump loses Pennsylvania by four or five points, then the suburbs and the working-class whites, that accounts for the loss.”

The coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic misery appear to have cut into Trump’s support with older white voters.

“It’s these older white voters that I think are the ones that are moving” away from Trump, said Democratic strategist Jeff Link. “The older people are like, ‘What the f*ck is this guy doing?”


These Florida Cuban-American voters are flipping their support from Trump to Biden: ‘I know what a dictator looks like’

on September 22, 2020
By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

In recent weeks, there has been a great deal of reporting on President Donald Trump’s efforts to make inroads with Latino voters. But it’s important to note where most of those inroads have been made: Trump has generally fared much better among Cuban-Americans in Florida than among Mexican-Americans in western states or Puerto Ricans in New York City, Boston and Philadelphia. And journalist David Smiley, in an article published in the Miami Herald on September 21, stresses that Trump’s support among Cuban-Americans is by no means universal.

“Amid evidence that Trump has significantly expanded his support among Miami-Dade’s traditionally conservative Cuban exile community,” Smiley reports, “a counter-movement is afoot to show that there are thousands of Cuban-Americans in Florida who believe the president does not have their best interests at heart.”

On Saturday, September 19, Smiley reports, a car parade of Cuban-Americans who are supporting former Vice President Joe Biden for president made its way through Hialeah, Florida — a heavily Latino city — and George Marrero, one of the participants in that Cubanos Con Biden event, told the Herald, “This country has been abused for the last four years. Joe Biden is going to bring back — like he’s said — the soul of America. It’s been lost.”

Marrero told the Herald that although he voted for Trump in 2016 and was formerly registered as a Republican, he is now a registered Democrat.

“There’s a mentality that all Cubans or Latins are Republican, but there’s a lot who are not,” Marrero explained. “I voted for Trump in ‘16 because I didn’t like Hillary Clinton and the policies that were there. Shortly after this guy got into office, his true self came out.”

Another Cuban-American who has been quite critical of Trump, Smiley notes, is Al Cardenas, former chairman of the Florida Republican Party. And Mike Rivero, a Cuban-American organizer of the September 19 Cubanos Con Biden car parade, told the Herald, “Traditionally, the Cuban community has gone Republican. And hats off to the Trump campaign, they’ve done a great job stoking the fears of socialism and communism in our community. Enough is enough — we’re not gonna be manipulated.”

One of the best-known Latinas in conservative Florida politics is Ana Navarro, a CNN pundit and Republican strategist. Navarro is not Cuban — she is originally from Nicaragua — but she has had a lot to say about Trump’s Cuban-American outreach. Although Navarro is supporting Biden, the Never Trump Latina has emphasized that his anti-leftist fear-mongering can be effective with Cuban immigrants who fled Fidel Castro’s communist dictatorship.

Rosa Arias, a native of Cuba who now lives in South Florida, believes that Trump — like Castro — has an authoritarian mentality and is planning to vote for Biden. Arias told the Herald, “I used to be middle class. Now, I’m down at the bottom. I was born in Cuba under Castro; so, I know what a dictator looks like. Donald Trump is on his way, and we have to stop him.”

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« Reply #32 on: Sep 22, 2020, 04:07 AM »

Trump tells white audience in Minnesota they have 'good genes'


It's called a “dog whistle,” a word or phrase in a speech that is unobjectionable on the surface but conveys a coded message to partisans, by analogy to high-pitched sounds that are audible to dogs but not to people. Richard Nixon leaned on it heavily during his 1968 presidential campaign, referencing “law and order” and a “war on drugs,” further codifying racial appeals from Barry Goldwater for “states’ rights” and “freedom of association.” Ronald Reagan took it to another level in 1976, demonizing a “welfare queen” who fraudulently collected $150,000 in government benefits, a barely concealed appeal to the race and class resentments of white voters toward Blacks.

By that standard, President Trump’s riff about the “good genes” found among the people of Minnesota — an 80 percent white state — wasn’t a dog whistle. It was a train whistle, folding in Trump’s long-held belief that some people, himself especially, are simply born with superior traits to others.

“You have good genes, you know that, right?” Trump said during his Saturday rally in front of a nearly all-white crowd in Bemidji. “You have good genes. A lot of it is about the genes, isn’t it, don’t you believe? The racehorse theory. You think we’re so different? You have good genes in Minnesota.”

The racehorse theory is the belief that some humans have a better genetic endowment than others, and by breeding two superior people you end up with superior offspring. The belief in eugenics, the pseudoscience of trimming out “inferior” bloodlines to increase the quality of the gene pool, is part of a long, racist history in America, from forced sterilizations to research funded by the Carnegie Institution, among other wealthy foundations. Earlier this month, charges surfaced that a doctor at an ICE facility was performing unwanted and likely unnecessary hysterectomies on detained immigrant women, which would prevent them from having more children.

“It’s not just eugenics in theory, but it’s eugenics in practice,” said Steve Silberman, a historian whose book “NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity” discusses 20th century theories of eugenics in both the United States and Nazi Germany.

“Trump's allusion to ‘good genes’ in front of a mostly white crowd in Minnesota isn’t just ‘like’ Nazism, it’s classic Nazi eugenic theory, encompassing the belief that ‘Aryans’ — like the descendants of Swedes in Minnesota — are destined to become the so-called master race,” Silberman told Yahoo News. “It’s not even a subtle dog whistle; Trump is just saying it, straight out, in the midst of a pandemic that disproportionately impacts people of color and disabled folks. The ramifications of this for our society are deeply chilling, and made concrete in the soaring COVID-19 death tolls for these vulnerable communities.”

Trump has long espoused a belief in eugenics, stating in a 1990 Playboy interview that “I’m a strong believer in genes.” In the 2014 film “Kings of Kallstadt,” a documentary looking at descendants from a single German town, Trump said, “You know I’m proud to have that German blood. There’s no question about it.” At a January 2016 event in Mississippi, he said, “I have Ivy League education, smart guy, good genes. I have great genes and all that stuff, which I’m a believer in.”

He has often cited a paternal uncle who was a professor at MIT as certifying his own superior intellect.

In a 2016 PBS documentary, Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio claimed Trump and his father were big believers in the concept of good breeding.

“This is a very deep part of the Trump story,” D’Antonio said. “The family subscribes to a racehorse theory of human development, that they believe that there are superior people, and that if you put together the genes of a superior woman and a superior man, you get superior offspring.”

Ian Haney López, a law professor at University of California, Berkeley, who’s studied the effectiveness of dog-whistle messaging, said Trump’s comments were consistent with his father’s reported beliefs on race science and an attempt to “trigger fears and resentments rooted in racist stereotypes, but in a way that allows a politician to deny that’s what they’re doing.”

“But what’s left of plausible deniability when you begin to talk about genes?” López told Yahoo News. “Because genes begin to connect up to eugenics and Nazi race theory. That ideology in the United States would lose favor and generally be repudiated, because that same system of thinking of races as groups you could and should control the breeding of would give rise to Nazism and in particular the effort to exterminate Jews and Gypsies and homosexuals. To have the president give voice to those ideas is profoundly dangerous for the country.”

“To have an audience that’s overwhelmingly white, that’s no surprise,” López continued. “What is shocking is to see the way in which rhetoric that has been coded is returning to a form of naked endorsements of white genetic superiority. Trump didn’t say ‘white genetic superiority,’ he just said ‘genes,’ so there’s still some slight cover.”

During the same speech Saturday, Trump also disparaged refugees. He has made Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Somali refugee who won a seat in Congress from Minnesota in 2018, a frequent target of racist attacks. Omar is one of the first female Muslims ever elected to federal office.

“One of the most vital issues in this election is the subject of refugees,” Trump said Saturday. “You know it. You know it perhaps better than almost anybody. Lots of luck. You’re having a good time with the refugees. That’s good. We want to have Omar. He said Omar. That’s a beauty. How the hell did she win the election? How did she win? It’s unbelievable.”

“Every family in Minnesota needs to know about sleepy Joe Biden’s extreme plan to flood your state with an influx of refugees from Somalia, from other places all over the planet,” Trump continued. “Well, that’s what’s happened, and you like Omar a lot, don’t you?”

More than 52,000 Minnesota residents trace their ancestry to Somalia, in East Africa. Trump had previously attacked them in 2016, stating that Minnesotans had “suffered enough” as a result of “filthy refugee vetting.” During a 2018 Oval Office meeting, Trump criticized protections for refugees from “s***hole countries” in Latin America and Africa while expressing a preference for immigrants from Norway.

According to a 2019 book from New York Times reporters Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Michael Shear, Trump asked why he couldn’t ban refugees from “f***ing Somalia.” At a rally in October 2019, he promised to protect native-born Americans from an influx of immigrants from Somalia.

“In the Trump administration, we will always protect American families first, and that has not been done in Minnesota,” Trump said, adding, “We will not make the mistakes made in European countries and allow a violent ideology to take root in our country, on our shores. We’re not going to allow it to happen.”

López said one reason Trump continues to return to dog whistles is that, according to López’s research, it works.

“Trump in his own way has a more sophisticated understanding of how race works in American politics than many progressives or journalists,” López said. “Trump understands that the majority of Americans are susceptible to these messages of racial fear and understand them not as racism but as common sense. I say this not simply as an observer of Trump but as someone who ran two major research campaigns to figure out how this rhetoric is working and multiple dozens of focus groups and major polling campaigns. This sort of rhetoric comes across not just as convincing to majorities of whites but to majorities of Latinos, majorities of African-Americans, majorities of Democrats and majorities of union households.”

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« Reply #33 on: Sep 22, 2020, 05:36 AM »

‘He choked like a dog’: CNN panel pummels Trump for lying about COVID as 200,000 are dead

on September 22, 2020
Raw Story
By Brad Reed

A CNN panel on Tuesday pummeled President Donald Trump for continuing to lie to his followers about the novel coronavirus even as the death told in the United States hits 200,000.

During a panel discussion, CNN played a clip of Trump falsely claiming that the coronavirus only affects old people, despite the fact that thousands of people under the age of 65 have died from the disease.

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, an epidemiologist based in Michigan, told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota that Trump’s lies aren’t going to work on people who have lost family members to the disease.

“These people are dead,” he said. “They left a hole in the hearts of their families and the people that they leave behind. To say that this disease doesn’t affect anyone, virtually nobody, I think, just in keeping with that politicization. That’s what he wishes, that’s what he wants. And if you’re a president who failed to act in the midst of the worst pandemic in over 100 years, you may just tell yourself that fib, but it doesn’t make it true.”

Reporter Abby Phillip had a similar take.

“I think it’s really a president who is flailing to convince the American public that he has this situation under control,” she said.

Camerota later in the panel chimed into to say that Trump himself would give any other leader who oversaw such mass death in his country a scathing review.

“If President Trump were critiquing this of any other leader and his job of trying to control this virus, he would say he choked,” she said. “He choked like a dog.”

Watch: https://youtu.be/ASlipr701Zo


MSNBC’s Morning Joe rips Trump rally ‘idiots’ who are making COVID-19 worse through their own ‘stupidity’

Raw Story
By Travis Gettys

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough blasted the “stupidity” of Ohio rallygoers booing their Republican lieutenant governor’s basic health advice and cheering President Donald Trump’s demonstrable lies.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted was heckled by Trump supporters in Dayton, and the “Morning Joe” host called out their gleeful ignorance of basic scientific facts.

“The stupidity, actually, that is exhibited there, and I’ll say it, like the people in the crowd have heard their own president say on tape privately that this spreads through the air,” Scarborough said. “They’ve heard Donald Trump’s own government say repeatedly to wear a mask, that it not only saves lives — get this, idiots that are in the audience booing, wear a mask, get this, it saves jobs. If you don’t give a damn about lives, how about your job, your neighbor’s job? Anybody’s job?”

“This economy is not getting better,” he added. “Over the past several weeks I’ve heard one business person from another throughout our economic infrastructure telling me that 2021 is going to be terrible. It doesn’t matter who gets elected, it’s going to be terrible because this pandemic is not going away for awhile, and even when we have a vaccine, that only protects 50 percent of us, but, of course, people aren’t taking the vaccine when they get it based on new polling. Why? Because Donald Trump is lying about everything.”

Watch: https://youtu.be/zOcbCukrtlA

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« Reply #34 on: Sep 22, 2020, 05:52 AM »

CIA: Putin ‘probably directing’ disinformation campaign against Biden with GOP’s help

on September 22, 2020
Raw Story
By Travis Gettys

Russian president Vladimir Putin is “probably directing” a disinformation campaign against Joe Biden ahead of November’s election, according to a top-secret CIA assessment.

Two unnamed sources told the Washington Post the Kremlin was attempting to interfere with the 2020 presidential election through a Ukrainian parliamentarian with ties to President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.

“We assess that President Vladimir Putin and the senior most Russian officials are aware of and probably directing Russia’s influence operations aimed at denigrating the former U.S. vice president, supporting the U.S. president and fueling public discord ahead of the U.S. election in November,” the report states in its first line.

The highly classified report was reportedly published for agency use at the end of last month, and is based on intelligence gathered by the FBI and the NSA.

Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach, who has been working publicly with Giuliani and was recently sanctioned by the Treasury Department for election meddling, has been spreading disinformation about Biden through Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI).

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« Reply #35 on: Sep 22, 2020, 07:01 AM »

‘He lies so easily’: Morning Joe buries his old friend Lindsey Graham’s ‘shameless’ hypocrisy

on September 22, 2020
Raw Story
By Travis Gettys

The “Morning Joe” host entered Congress in 1994 with the South Carolina Republican as part of a GOP midterm sweep, but Scarborough said Graham had debased himself by helping to block Barack Obama’s judicial nominee all through 2016 while rushing forward with Donald Trump’s weeks before the election.

“It was within their right but it was deeply offensive and deeply offensive the lies that just spew out of Lindsey Graham’s mouth,” Scarborough said. “The lies, and Steve Daines, the lies that just spew out of their mouths, they lied to the people of Montana so effortlessly, so easily. They lie to the people of South Carolina so effortlessly and so easily. That’s the real problem.”

“But understand on the other side of this election, understand in 2021 if Democrats decide to do what they decide to do, which who knows, maybe they’ll decide to expand the Supreme Court to 11 or 12,” he added. “Oh, will Republicans scream and yell? Sure they will, but guess what, they can do that constitutionally. There’s nothing in the Constitution that says that there have to be nine justices. That number has expanded throughout American history, it may expand again. So there’s always a reaction to a radical move.”

Scarborough said he’s been around Washington, D.C., long enough to have lost some of his capacity to be shocked, but he still can’t quite believe Graham lied so brazenly before he faces re-election.

“I’ve known Lindsey for so long and we spent so much time together in the House, just distressed by the fact that he lies so easily in public,” Scarborough said. “He lies to his constituents without any remorse. He does it in the open and he says something that’s really just not true. He says, you would do the same thing too if the shoe were on the other foot.”

Scarborough lists off other members of their freshman House class who would not have flip-flopped so shamelessly.

“I don’t want to say this is a new low, because there have been so many things that have happened over the past four years,” he said, “but I find myself actually shocked that Lindsey Graham gives his word to the people of South Carolina, gives his word to the American people during the 2016 Senate hearings and then in 2018, after [Brett] Kavanaugh, gives his word to the American people again while talking to Jeffrey Goldberg and then just lies with absolutely no remorse to the people of South Carolina.”

“We’re not angels, nobody is perfect,” he added. “But the degree of duplicity here is about as unprecedented as I can remember — shameless.”

Watch: https://youtu.be/u21rBULtQwM

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« Reply #36 on: Sep 23, 2020, 02:29 AM »

This coronavirus vaccine statistic is pretty scary

By Andy Meek

    The latest Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index reveals that a shocking number of Americans don’t intend to take the first-generation coronavirus vaccine, which has all sorts of implications for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, among other things.
    The index reveals that skepticism around a COVID-19 vaccine is also pretty bipartisan, with the numbers of both Democrats and Republicans who say they’d take the first coronavirus vaccine continuing to fall.
    Around half of Americans also expect the vaccine to be either offered for free or at a very minor cost.

Don’t set your hopes too high regarding the first coronavirus vaccine, which could start arriving in as soon as a month or two from now. That’s according to Dale Fisher, a professor of infectious diseases at the National University of Singapore Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, who told CNBC this week that a vaccine is only going to help the situation once it arrives — as opposed to definitely solving the crisis.

“It’s not going to be the fairytale (ending) everyone wants it to be, where we’ll have a 100% effective vaccine and 100% of people will take it, and they’ll all receive it over the course of a month and we can go back to our way of life,” Fisher warned. This might help explain why the share of Americans who say they’re willing to get a dose of the first COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it arrives keeps falling, according to the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index which has been regularly tracking sentiment around a vaccine.

The percentage of Americans who say they don’t want the vaccine right away is, from one point of view, pretty staggering. According to the index, only 13% of Americans say they’d be willing to get vaccinated right away, while around 60% don’t want the COVID-19 vaccine immediately. That’s up from a little more than 50% back in August.

In addition to the headline finding here being that a majority of Americans say they won’t take the first-generation vaccine, which has all kinds of implications that affect the longevity of the pandemic, the latest Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index also found that “half of Americans expect that the vaccine will be provided to them at no cost, and if they had to pay, a majority would pay less than $50, or nothing at all.”

Going a little deeper, the index also reveals that:

    The increasing reluctance to take the first COVID-19 vaccine once it’s available is pretty bipartisan. The numbers of both Democrats and Republicans alike who say they’re likely to get a vaccine as soon as it’s available are falling.
    Around a third of the respondents herein said they’d want to wait at least a few months after the first vaccine becomes available (30%) while 18% said they’d want to wait until a year or more after a vaccine is available before they get vaccinated.
    On a related note, most Americans (60%) said they don’t trust pharmaceutical companies to look out for their best interests.

Another perhaps unsurprising finding: Republicans are more optimistic that things are going in the direction they should, relative to the coronavirus pandemic, than Democrats. “Levels of optimism about getting the virus under control, as well as the federal government’s role in our country’s recovery, illustrate the deeply polarized views that persist about COVID-19,” reads a summary of the latest index’s findings.

“Overall, 57% of Americans are very or somewhat hopeful that the US will get the COVID-19 pandemic under control in the next six months. However, Republicans are significantly more optimistic than Democrats — there is a 40 percentage-point difference between the two — while Independents are more evenly split on being hopeful or not.”

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« Reply #37 on: Sep 23, 2020, 02:32 AM »

New all-time coldest northern hemisphere temperature discovered

Reading of -69.C in 1991 from Greenland is nearly 2C colder than previous known records

Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent
Wed 23 Sep 2020 08.00 BST

The coldest temperature ever recorded in the northern hemisphere just got colder, thanks to the work of climate detectives at the World Meteorological Organization.

Searching through the WMO archives of heat records from weather stations at the top of the world, researchers found the coldest temperature reading came from an automatic weather station in Greenland in midwinter almost 30 years ago, nearly 2C (3.6F) colder than the previous known records.

The Klinck station in Greenland, close to the summit of the ice sheet, recorded -69.6C on 22 December 1991, a substantially lower reading than the -67.8C recorded in Verkhoyansk in Russia in February 1892, and in Russia’s Oimekon site in January 1933.

All three are exceptional for the northern hemisphere, but beaten to the coldest ever recorded on the planet by the decidedly chilly -89.2C struck on 21 July 1983, midway through the southern hemisphere winter, at the high-altitude Vostok weather station in Antarctica.

Extremes of weather in the polar regions are of particular interest to climate scientists as they create models of past and future climate. This week, sea ice in the Arctic was found to have shrunk to its second lowest level in 40 years.

Temperatures in the Arctic have soared this summer, with a heatwave in Siberia and unusual warmth across the region. The Verkhoyansk weather station, whose record low was tumbled by the discovery from the archives, showed a temperature of 38C on 20 June this year, which the WMO is now considering as a candidate for the record highest temperature seen north of the Arctic Circle.

Petteri Taalas, the secretary general of the WMO, said: “In the era of climate change, much attention focuses on new heat records. This newly recognised cold record is an important reminder about the stark contrasts that exist on this planet.”

Searching through the archives allows scientists to check temperature patterns, and provides valuable data for climate models. The Klinck station operated for two years in the early 1990s, before its automated instruments were sent for use in the Antarctic.

The record came to light only after a WMO group tracked down the original scientists. The data had to go through rigorous checking before the new record was accepted.

Their assessment is published in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society.

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« Reply #38 on: Sep 23, 2020, 02:33 AM »

Rising temperatures shrink Arctic sea ice to second-lowest level on record

Sea ice minimum has fallen below 4m sq km for the second time in 40 years as the climate crisis rapidly transforms the region

Reuters in the Arctic Ocean

Rising temperatures in the Arctic shrank the ice covering the polar ocean this year to its second-lowest extent in four decades, scientists have announced, in yet another sign of how the climate crisis is rapidly transforming the region.

Satellites recorded this year’s sea ice minimum at 3.74m sq km on 15 September, only the second time the ice has been measured below 4m sq km in 40 years of record keeping, said researchers at the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

“It’s fairly devastating that we’ve had such consistently low sea ice. But unfortunately, it’s not surprising,” said Twila Moon, a glaciologist at the research center in Boulder, Colorado.

The record low of 3.41m sq km, reached in 2012 after a late-season cyclonic storm broke up the remaining ice, is not much below what researchers see today.

This year’s decline was especially fast between 31 August and 5 September, thanks to pulses of warm air coming off a heatwave in Siberia, according to the NSIDC. The rate of ice loss during those six days was faster than during any other year on record. Another team of scientists found in July that the Siberian heatwave would have been all but impossible without human-caused climate change.

As the Arctic sea ice vanishes, it leaves patches of dark water open. Those dark waters absorb solar radiation rather than reflecting it back out of the atmosphere, a process that amplifies warming and helps to explain why Arctic temperatures have risen more than twice as fast as the rest of the world over the last 30 years.

The loss of sea ice also threatens Arctic wildlife, from polar bears and seals to plankton and algae, said Tom Foreman, a polar wildlife expert and Arctic guide.

“The numbers that we’re getting in terms of extent of sea ice decrease each year put us pretty much on red alert in terms of the level of worry that we have, our concern for the stability of this environment,” Foreman said.

The same warming that is opening summertime Arctic waters is also eating away at the ice sheets covering Arctic lands in Canada and Greenland. The faster those ice sheets melt into surrounding ocean, the faster sea levels will rise worldwide.

Given that a warmer Arctic could impact weather patterns worldwide, Moon said the world should not wait for another new record sea ice low before taking action to limit climate change.

“We should work very hard to make differences in our emissions of polluting gases so that we do not see so many records created in the future,” Moon said.

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« Reply #39 on: Sep 23, 2020, 02:38 AM »

Secretly-recorded tapes reveal true scope of 200-year project planned for one of earth’s ‘most pristine ecosystems’

on September 23, 2020
By Common Dreams

“The Pebble Tapes reveal what we suspected,” said the Audubon Society of Alaska. “This is not a small, short-term project.”

Tapes secretly recorded by the Environmental Investigation Agency reveal that two large mining companies in Alaska have far more expansive plans for a mine near the Bristol Bay fishery than they have publicly acknowledged in statements to the U.S. Congress and the Army Corps of Engineers.

“We are shocked at the depth and breadth of Pebble’s deception.”
—Rachel James, SalmonState
Defend democracy. Click to invest in courageous progressive journalism today.

The EIA on Tuesday released more than an hour’s worth of conversations the group secretly recorded in August and September with Tom Collier, CEO of Pebble Limited Partnership, and Ronald Thiessen, president and CEO of Northern Dynasty Minerals, which owns Pebble. EIA investigators posed as potential investors in the companies’ mining projects in order to hear the executives speak openly about their plans.

In the “Pebble Tapes,” the two mining executives speak openly about their plans to build a large, long-term mine at Bristol Bay’s headquarters in western Alaska—not a small 20-year project, as the companies have said in official statements to the U.S. government.

Watch a compilation of the discussions below:

In the tapes, EIA asks Thiessen if the companies are planning “unstoppable” growth of the mining project, past the scale it applied for last year.

“Yes,” Thiessen replies. “Once you have something like this in production why would you want to stop?”

Thiessen and Collier detail their plans for a mine with a 180- to 200-year lifespan, with an expanded footprint after its first 20 years—the amount of time it told the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment, in written testimony last year, that the project would last.

Rather than processing 180,000 tons of mineral deposits per day, as stated in the companies’ Environmental Impact Statement, Collier and Thiessen admitted privately that they plan to increase their daily production rates to between 220,000 and 320,000 tons after the mine’s first 20 years.

The Audubon Society of Alaska tweeted that the tapes “reveal what we suspected. This is not a small, short-term project.”

    The #PebbleTapes reveal what we suspected. This is not a small, short-term project. https://t.co/i8jURN5Wt9

    — Audubon Alaska (@AudubonAlaska1) September 21, 2020

“These tapes show that potential investors are given an entirely different vision for this massive mine than the government and the public,” said Alexander von Bismarck, executive director of EIA. “We think that is important information to release. The public, and especially the people of Alaska, should know about the scope of a project with permanent impacts on one of the most pristine ecosystems on Earth.”

In addition to planning a project that could last two centuries rather than two decades, Pebble and Northern Dynasty are hoping to activate the Donlin Mine, 175 miles north of Bristol Bay’s headquarters, if the Pebble mine is approved.

“There is a lot of logic to us joining forces to make a single corridor,” Thiessen told EIA investigators, while Collier added, “If you flip the Pebble switch on, it’s likely that you may be also flipping on the Donlin switch.”

“While the public is told this is a 20-year project, investors are told it will go for up to 200 years,” said von Bismarck. “While the public is told it will be five square miles, investors are told that it could spread over the entire valley and literally pave the way for other mines, hundreds of miles away.”

Critics of the Pebble mine near Bristol Bay say the project will pollute the bay, which supports a $1.5 billion fishery.

“We are shocked at the depth and breadth of Pebble’s deception,” said Rachel James, Bristol Bay campaign coordinator for SalmonState, which advocates for Alaska’s wild fisheries. “From their manipulation of the Alaska governor’s office, to the truth of their plan for a massive 200-year mine, to cozy relationships with the Army Corps and EPA political appointees, it’s clear they will stop at nothing in their plans to build a toxic mega-mine at the headwaters of the greatest sockeye salmon run left on the planet.”

In addition to conservationist groups, 30 local native tribes which rely on the region’s salmon for their subsistence culture have opposed Pebble as well as  protested the Donlin gold mine.

“The proposed project poses too much risk to our lands and our food sources which we have an obligation to protect and develop responsibly for future generations,” wrote 10 tribes in May.

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« Reply #40 on: Sep 23, 2020, 02:41 AM »

Cult leader who claims to be reincarnation of Jesus arrested in Russia

Former traffic officer Sergei Torop, AKA Vissarion, arrested in special operation in Siberia

Shaun Walker in Moscow
23 Sep 2020 15.50 BST

Russian authorities mounted a special operation to arrest a former traffic police officer who claims to be the reincarnation of Jesus and has run a cult based in the depths of Siberia for the past three decades.

Helicopters and armed officers stormed communities run by Sergei Torop, known to his followers as Vissarion, and arrested him and two of his aides. Russia’s investigative committee said it would charge him with organising an illegal religious organisation, alleging that the cult extorted money from followers and subjected them to emotional abuse.

Watch: https://youtu.be/kD-QnWOlb40

Torop, 59, with long grey hair and a beard, was led by masked troops to a helicopter. The operation involved agents from Russia’s FSB security service as well as police and other agencies. Vadim Redkin, a former drummer in a Soviet-era boyband who is known as Vissarion’s right-hand man, was also arrested, along with another aide, Vladimir Vedernikov.

Torop, who lost his job as a traffic officer in 1989, claimed he experienced an “awakening” as the Soviet regime began to collapse. In 1991 he founded a movement now known as the Church of the Last Testament.

Several thousand followers live in a series of remote hamlets in the Krasnoyarsk region in Siberia. Converts to the cult have included professionals from across Russia as well as pilgrims from abroad.

“I am not God. And it is a mistake to see Jesus as God. But I am the living word of God the father. Everything that God wants to say, he says through me,” Vissarion told the Guardian in 2002.

Russian media reported that in the original ideology of the cult, Vissarion claimed Jesus was watching over people from an orbit close to Earth, and the Virgin Mary was “running Russia”, but later he declared himself to be Jesus.

His commune mixes a selection of rites drawn from Orthodox Christianity with environmental edicts and a series of other rules. Veganism is enforced and monetary exchange is banned inside the commune. Followers wear austere clothing and count years starting from 1961, the year of Vissarion’s birth, while Christmas has been replaced by a feast day on 14 January, his birthday.

It is not clear what will happen to the disciples now that their leader has been arrested, nor is it clear why authorities decided to move now. The official Russian Orthodox church has long condemned the group but officials have largely left the devotees alone. Some Russian media outlets reported that the community had become involved in a dispute with local business interests.

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« Reply #41 on: Sep 23, 2020, 03:05 AM »

Global report: Donald Trump calls 200,000 US coronavirus deaths 'a shame'

US president says it could have been 2.5 million deaths; Japan considers easing border controls; WHO announces record weekly cases
Helen Sullivan
Wed 23 Sep 2020 08.30 BST

President Donald Trump has said the 200,000 US deaths from coronavirus were “a shame” in response to a reporter’s question about the milestone in the country’s fight against the pandemic.

As Trump was departing for an election campaign event in Pittsburgh he told the media: “I think if we didn’t do it properly and do it right, you’d have 2.5 million deaths.”

The US has the most Covid-19 deaths in the world, 60,000 deaths more than Brazil, which has the next worst toll. The total US figure on Tuesday night was 200,768. The administration has been criticised for not acting faster and more firmly to stop the virus’ spread. The US accounts for nearly 6.9 million of the world’s 31.4 million cases. There are fears that the coming winter in the US will cause the virus to spread more rapidly as people are driven indoors.

Trump also blamed China, where the virus emerged late last year, saying the country should have “stopped it at the border” and went on to say: “China let this happen, and just remember that.” The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases for mainland China stands at 85,307, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.

In a video address on Tuesday at the United Nations general assembly, Trump said the UN had to take action against China and called for Beijing to be held accountable by the UN for “releasing the virus”. He also falsely claimed the World Health Organization was “virtually controlled by China”. China’s UN representative, Zhang Jun, said the country rejected the “baseless accusations” before introducing President Xi Jinping.

Meanwhile, Japan is considering allowing more foreign arrivals into the country for longer stays starting as early as next month, while keeping the Covid-19 entry curbs in place for tourists, the Asahi newspaper reported on Wednesday.

In an effort to prevent the spread of the virus, Japan has adopted some of the strictest travel restrictions in the world, with even permanent residents unable to re-enter the country without prior permission.

The government eased some of those restrictions on students and businesspeople from seven countries in late July.

Under the latest proposal, Japan would allow those staying longer than three months, such as students and medical workers, to enter from any country, the Asahi reported, citing multiple government sources. Entry would be limited to 1,000 people a day, it said.

Japan has so far managed to keep infections and deaths at relatively low levels, with a cumulative 79,900 infections and 1,519 deaths.

Other developments include:

    In Scotland, hundreds of students have been told to isolate after a suspected Covid-19 outbreak in a hall of residence. NHS Tayside is investigating a single positive Covid case and a small number of suspected cases linked to private student accommodation Parker House in Dundee.

    The weekly number of new recorded infections worldwide was last week at its highest level ever, the WHO announced. With a new seven-day high of just short of 2 million new cases recorded, the latest tally represents a 6% increase on the previous week as well as “the highest number of reported cases in a single week since the beginning of the epidemic”, the UN health agency said.

    In the UK, the prime minister, Boris Johnson, introduced new restrictions for England that could last six months following a surge in cases in recent weeks. The raft of new measures include telling the public to continue working from home, a 10pm curfew for hospitality venues, and limiting weddings to 15 people.

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« Reply #42 on: Sep 23, 2020, 03:08 AM »

Hong Kong police tighten control on media with new accreditation rules

Experts say new policy enables government to decide who is a journalist and curbs power of student and online journalism

Helen Davidson
Wed 23 Sep 2020 05.26 BST

Hong Kong authorities have moved to further constrain the city’s free press with an announcement by police that they would no longer recognise certain types of media accreditation.

Critics accused the police force of infringing the constitutionally enshrined free press, by attempting to create a government licensing system and reduce independent monitoring of their activities.

Under the announcement the police force will recognise journalists from “internationally recognised and renowned” foreign outlets only or from media organisations that are registered with the government information system.

It explicitly stated it would no longer recognise the accreditations given by major associations such as the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) and Hong Kong Press Photographers Association (HKPPA), which represent hundreds of journalists.

The new policy would restrict those not recognised from attending press conferences, and would likely see less protection or assistance for individual journalists during protests and police-run operations.

    The government ... is taking the power to decide who can be the monitor over them

Mak Yin Ting, former media association chair

The HKJA, HKPPA, and five media unions demanded the new policy be withdrawn, “or we will respond by taking any possible and necessary measures”.

“The amendment allows authorities to decide who are reporters, which fundamentally changes the existing system in Hong Kong,” they said. “It will be no different to an official accreditation system, which will seriously impede press freedom in Hong Kong, leading the city toward authoritarian rule.”

Freedom of the press has deteriorated sharply in Hong Kong over the past 18 months, particularly since the introduction of national security laws almost three months ago, and subsequent police raids on newsrooms. The semi-autonomous region has dropped 10 places in the Press Freedom Index since 2018.

Hong Kong police face numerous accusations of targeting journalists and photographers when deploying teargas, pepper spray, and other crowd control measures during pro-democracy protests that swept the region last year.

In a letter sent to the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents Club on Tuesday, a police chief superintendent, Kwok Ka-chuen, said the protests “often attract hundreds of reporters to a single hot spot”. He also repeated claims that “self-proclaimed reporters” had taken part in protests, and alleged they obstructed or assaulted police. “This has burdened the law enforcement action of police officers,” the letter said, but added that further training would be provided to officers to assist the media.

Kwok also claimed the new guidelines were based on discussions with media groups, a claim media associations rejected.

A letter from the media groups said existing guidelines were a product of detailed discussions between police and media, and that police had broken the relationship by announcing a “significant amendment” without consultation. The letter claimed the police chief, Chris Tsang, had repeatedly refused the HKJA’s requests for meetings.

Mak Yin Ting, a veteran journalist and a former chair of the HKJA, told the Guardian the new rules were a further step in tightening control on media. “It is absurd because by doing so the government, who should be monitored, is taking the power to decide who can be the monitor over them.”

Mak suggested there were two main aims: “One, to take the control of defining who is media from professional groups to a government department … The second purpose is to stop the numerous online media and journalists from university and journalism schools from publishing articles.”

Some of the most widely seen footage of incidents at protests, including the police shooting of a protester last year, and the tackling of a 12-year-old girl by officers just last month, were filmed by university media. In the case of the girl, police did not release a statement until after the footage had drawn considerable outrage.

Mak also expressed concern that police on the ground could decide which international media outlets were sufficiently renowned to be accepted, and said officers routinely had low awareness of media, even local titles. She rejected the claim that high numbers of reporters at events justified such rules.

“This should not be police business. Police business is to mind whether the people there really are obstructing your work. If they are, police have the legal tools already. They should not mind whether there are more reporters than protesters there.”

On Wednesday a coalition of seven Hong Kong journalism schools expressed their “gravest reservations over the proposal” and called for the Hong Kong government to have it revoked.

“We are highly concerned that the practical implementation of this proposal is that it would strip the people of Hong Kong of a fundamental right,” the letter said. “The police have every right to take action against anyone engaging in illegal activities, however, this proposed policy is in effect restricting the freedom of reporting.”

Earlier Kwok defended the rules and said the criticism was based on a misunderstanding. However he confirmed that freelancers and student journalists would be barred from police press conferences and non-public events.

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« Reply #43 on: Sep 23, 2020, 03:11 AM »

Bougainville independence high on agenda as Ishmael Toroama elected president

Former rebel commander says law and order a priority, and says issue of PNG independence needs swift resolution

Leanne Jorari and Ben Doherty Pacific Editor
Wed 23 Sep 2020 05.42 BST

Ishmael Toroama, a former secessionist military commander turned peacemaker and cocoa farmer, has been elected the president of PNG’s autonomous Bougainville region, in a further fillip for the province’s push for independence from Papua New Guinea.

“We conducted a clean campaign, we did not give money to the voters and we did not intimidate any voters: people have used their God-given wisdom to vote for the right candidate,” Toroama said after his victory was announced.

“I will stand up for independence in Bougainville… it is now time to work together.”

In his campaign, Toroama stressed the restoration of law and order was a priority, and said the province’s independence question needed to be resolved swiftly. He has proposed a timeline of two to three years.

Renowned for his role as a commander in the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA), Tororama was at the forefront of much of the BRA’s decade-long civil war against the PNG government.

The conflict and subsequent military blockade – provoked by the the environmental damage wrought by the Rio Tinto’s massive Panguna copper mine, as well as disputes over the limited share of mine profits going to the island’s inhabitants – led to the deaths up to 20,000 people between 1988 and 1998.

Wounded by a rocket-propelled grenade in 1997, Toroama later laid down his arms to help broker the Bougainville Peace Agreement that was eventually signed in 2001, and was a key advocate in the disarmament process before returning to his land in central Bougainville to grow cocoa.

He will now lead the talks with the PNG government on the terms of the island’s independence.

The general election was the first since Bougainville voted overwhelmingly for independence from PNG at the end of last year. More than 98% of voters supported independence in the non-binding referendum, but that independence now needs to be negotiated with a central PNG government reluctant to lose the resource-rich province.

    A big #Bougainville clap to acknowledge the victory of Ishmael Toroama as new president. pic.twitter.com/CQJ7HGUa32
    — Joseph Nobetau (@JosephNobetau) September 23, 2020

Bougainville, a group of islands in PNG’s east that has close relations with neighbouring Solomon Islands, has been hampered post-conflict by years of poor economic progress, despite its abundance of natural resources.

On the election trail, the Bougainvillean newspaper reported Toroama’s campaign saying: “I am standing to be the change. The change people want, the change people can see and feel, the change people have been crying for, the change people expect to see and the change that has never happened during the course of the first three parliaments of Bougainville”.

Any re-opening of the Panguna mine – which would be intensely controversial in the province – was a decision for the owners of that land, Toroama has said.

PNG prime minister James Marape offered his congratulations on Toroama’s “conclusive” victory.

“I offer my support to work with you to deliver on my commitments to Bougainville,” he said. “And to the people of Bougainville, thank you for your peace and serenity as you decided on your government. Looking forward to work with your leaders including the president.”

But Marape’s government has been careful not to commit to granting Bougainville independence in the wake of the referendum.

Marape has said his government is willing to talk to Bougainville’s leaders, but has framed discussions around self-determination and “economic independence”, while carefully avoiding commitments to political independence.

Toroama defeated 24 other candidates for the presidency, seeking to replace the retiring John Momis who has dominated Bougainvillean politics, as governor and president, for decades.

Momis had sought a third term – in defiance of Bougainville’s constitution which limits presidents to two – but lost a challenge before the supreme court. Toroama ran second to Momis in the previous election.

Parliamentary elections parallel to the presidential poll marked a significant shift from the status quo in Bougainville politics. Many long-term members of the province’s house of representatives lost their seats to young, millennial generation leaders, such as Theonila Matbob, born during the civil war, and elected to the constituency of Ioro, home to the disused Panguna mine.

Toroama will be sworn into office Friday.

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« Reply #44 on: Sep 23, 2020, 03:38 AM »

Cindy McCain rebukes Trump and publicly endorses Joe Biden for president

McCain was motivated in part by Trump’s recent comments on the military, where he called war heroes ‘losers’ and ‘suckers’

Guardian staff and agencies
Wed 23 Sep 2020 03.22 BST

Cindy McCain has endorsed Joe Biden for president, a stunning rebuke of Donald Trump by the widow of the Republican party’s 2008 nominee.

Cindy McCain tweeted on Tuesday: “My husband John lived by a code: country first. We are Republicans, yes, but Americans foremost. There’s only one candidate in this race who stands up for our values as a nation, and that is Joe Biden.”

    My husband John lived by a code: country first. We are Republicans, yes, but Americans foremost. There's only one candidate in this race who stands up for our values as a nation, and that is @JoeBiden.
    — Cindy McCain (@cindymccain) September 22, 2020

Trump has had a fraught relationship with members of John McCain’s family since he disparaged the Arizona senator during his 2016 campaign. The president has publicly criticized McCain on numerous occasions and was enraged when the senator voted against an effort to overturn Obamacare. During his campaign, Trump infamously said of McCain: “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured ... He lost and let us down. I’ve never liked him as much after that. I don’t like losers.”

However, the McCains have stopped short of endorsing Trump’s rivals.

Cindy McCain’s backing could help Biden appeal to Republicans disaffected with the president and give the former vice president a boost in Arizona, a crucial swing state that McCain represented in Congress for 35 years. He’s remained a revered figure since his 2018 death from complications of a brain tumor, particularly with the independent voters whom Biden is courting.

Biden told donors on Tuesday evening that McCain’s endorsement was coming “because of what (Trump) talks about how my son and John and others who are heroes, who served their country. You know, he said they’re ‘losers, suckers’.”

Biden was referring to comments Trump reportedly made mocking the American war dead. Trump has denied making the remarks, first reported through anonymous sources by The Atlantic, but many of the comments were later confirmed by the Associated Press.

Cindy McCain had not initially been expected to offer an explicit endorsement of Biden, but she had already gone to bat for his presidential run. She lent her voice to a video that aired during the Democratic National Convention and was focused on Biden’s close friendship with her late husband.

John McCain was assigned to be a military aide for Biden, then a senator, during an overseas trip, and their families formed an enduring friendship. They later shared a grim bond over glioblastoma, an aggressive cancer that killed Biden’s son Beau three years before McCain succumbed to the same disease.

John McCain said in 2016 that he couldn’t support Trump or Hillary Clinton in 2016, citing Trump’s demeaning comments about women.

“It’s not pleasant for me to renounce the nominee of my party,” McCain said during a debate as he sought his sixth term in the Senate. “He won the nomination fair and square.”


Trump ripped for ‘straight out confessing he plans to steal the election through SCOTUS’

Raw Story

President Donald Trump was harshly criticized on Tuesday for linking his desire to confirm a new Supreme Court justice prior to the election with his hope that a conservative court could hand the election to him regardless of the voters.

Trump falsely claimed that mailing voters ballots during a pandemic was a “hoax” while departing the White House for a campaign rally in Pennsylvania.

“We need nine justices. You need that with the unsolicited millions of ballots that they’re sending. It’s a scam. It’s a hoax,” Trump falsely claimed. “Everybody knows that. And the Democrats know it better than anybody else.”

“So you’re going to need nine justices up there, I think it’s going to be very important,” he continued. “Because what they’re doing is a hoax, with the ballots, they’re sending out tens of millions of ballots, unsolicited — not where they’re being asked, but unsolicited.”

“And that’s a hoax and you’re going to need to have nine justices. So doing it before the election would be a very good thing, because you’re going to probably see it,” Trump argued. “Because what they’re doing is trying to sow confusion and everything else.”

Here’s some of the criticism Trump received:

    Trump openly admits his rush to fill the seat is so SCOTUS backs his attempts to steal the election. https://t.co/JiwZdAiwkJ

    — Jesse Lehrich (@JesseLehrich) September 22, 2020

    Trump gives the game away.

    Trump is launching this SCOTUS power grab so he can try and launch a subsequent power grab and overturn the election results. https://t.co/xh4E2Txxz6

    — Ahmed Baba (@AhmedBaba_) September 22, 2020

    Trump straight out confessing he plans to steal the election through SCOTUS if he loses the votes.

    We are in REAL trouble, folks. https://t.co/vlctvUHKct

    — Kaz Weida (@kazweida) September 22, 2020

    Trump wants this justice for two reasons: one for bragging rights, and the primary reason is that he thinks they can and will hand a close election to him. And he will fully expect them to do that, no matter what the law says. https://t.co/3k5bHhSmct

    — Khashoggi’s Ghost (@UROCKlive1) September 22, 2020

    The president keeps making clear that unless Democrats win by an unquestionable landslide, he will fight the results of the election and trigger an unprecedented legitimacy crisis, unless he's allowed to simply steal power.

    We are in such dangerous territory. https://t.co/YUgPaG8oKq

    — Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) September 22, 2020

    Here is our president, openly laying out his plans to declare an election that he loses to be an illegitimate election.https://t.co/HgBFq01ItG https://t.co/kIzpf8TBHy

    — S.V. Dáte (@svdate) September 22, 2020

    Show of hands: anyone shocked that he’s already considering taking the election to SCOTUS?

    Solution: vote in numbers too big to contest. https://t.co/1OGCD9qJ7T

    — Angry Staffer (@AngrierWHStaff) September 22, 2020

    Quite a journey from 2000 to now. We now have a President who sees the main purpose of Supreme Court justices as stealing elections. https://t.co/3fqfBoJCMZ

    — Jonathan Ladd (@jonmladd) September 22, 2020

    American democracy is being destroyed before our very eyes… https://t.co/TiCRpBbv7G

    — Michael McDonald (@ElectProject) September 22, 2020

    saying the quiet part loud https://t.co/nA1Utjrjfx

    — Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 22, 2020

    President Trump explicitly stating he needs another Republican SCOTUS justice to help him steal the election. Meanwhile Republican Leadership is excited for kicking 30+ million off of healthcare, making women’s healthcare illegal, ending civil rights for minority populations. https://t.co/bBZeqXcxUv

    — David Rothschild (@DavMicRot) September 22, 2020

    God. He literally can’t help but put his foot in his mouth. I can guarantee every Republican Senator & the justices cringe when they hear this. https://t.co/nnB7kUYYpA

    — Brian Rosenwald (@brianros1) September 22, 2020

    They aren't hiding that they want to confirm a new Trump justice so that justice can steal the election.https://t.co/IKeFyXEk2O

    — Ian Millhiser (@imillhiser) September 22, 2020

    Incredibly dangerous rhetoric from Trump, alleging without any evidence that people are sending out tens of million of unsolicited ballots. It's all a set-up to contest the election before an extra-friendly supreme court. https://t.co/8oCy4Y7495

    — Tim Steller (@senyorreporter) September 22, 2020

    I'm 100% positive Trump plans to try stay in power via the court. https://t.co/wVngMTuGlX

    — Todd Poirier (@todd_poirier) September 22, 2020

    GOP rigging courts so they can rig the election https://t.co/QHjoUqaxlX

    — Ari Berman (@AriBerman) September 22, 2020

    Like normal, he's telling you EXACTLY how he's cheating/criming/grifting

    Nothing he does is a secret, he does it all out in the open, it's the most transparent thing ever

    And yet people always try to ascribe some other explanation

    No, it's just straight up gangsterism https://t.co/U4V8n0nS8F

    — Leigh Drogen (@LDrogen) September 22, 2020

    It is simply amazing that the President of the United States is already disputing the results of the election. The first president in my lifetime who openly and plainly has little commitment to the basic principles of a democratic society. https://t.co/SVLBh2uhJm

    — Matt Glassman (@MattGlassman312) September 22, 2020


‘They’ll get away with it’: Strategist explains how GOP federal judges will help Trump steal election

Raw Story
By Bob Brigham

President Donald Trump will remain in power if he narrowly loses the 2020 presidential election, with conservative judges poised to help him “steal” the election, a longtime Democratic Party strategist warned on Tuesday.

MSNBC anchor Brian Williams interviewed James Carville about the Supreme Court vacancy and how it could impact any legal wrangling about counting the votes.

“James, that’s a pretty neat trick, the president is gaslighting out in advance voter fraud that he is promoting, ergo the need for nine justices on the court, which doesn’t exist in law. The court has functioned just fine with eight during times of a death or a recusal,” Williams noted. “Be that as it may, if Trump fills this seat before the election, in your view, how does that change the dynamic of the election?”

“If this election is remotely close, they’ll steal it, and the Supreme Court will let them,” Carville replied.

“Let’s not forget this century started with them stealing a race in Florida,” he reminded. “They stopped an ongoing vote count and gave the election to [George W.] Bush. Since then, they’ve gotten away with everything they want to,” he warned.

“The only protection Democrats have is they have to win by such a margin that makes it impossible for him to overturn the election. But believe you me, they have every intention — if this race is anywhere near remotely close of overturning the result,” he warned. “And I don’t have any doubt about that. He understands that because if he loses this election, he knows what’s going to happen to him, he’s going to the penitentiary.”


In first post-Ginsburg test, GOP wants Supreme Court to review Pennsylvania mail-in voting

2020/9/23 18:13 (EDT)
Miami Herald

The GOP has asked the Supreme Court to review a Pennsylvania ruling that extends the mail-in voting deadline for the presidential election, a move that could lead to the court’s’ first test since the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, law experts say.

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ruled last week that there will be a three-day extension for mail-in ballots as long as they’re postmarked by 8 p.m. on Nov. 3, Election Day. Previously, ballots were due when the polls close on Election Day, but the state’s Democratic Party filed a lawsuit to push back the deadline. Republicans have argued that expanding mail-in voting could give Democrats an unfair edge in the election.

The Pennsylvania court wrote that ballots “received within this period that lack a postmark or other proof of mailing, or for which the postmark or other proof of mailing is illegible, will be presumed to have been mailed by Election Day unless a preponderance of the evidence demonstrates that it was mailed after Election Day.”

On Tuesday morning, Republicans filed a petition for the Supreme Court to review the ruling, arguing that the decision violates federal law that mandates “holding all elections for Congress and the Presidency on a single day throughout the Union.”

Ginsburg, a member of the Supreme Court’s liberal wing, died on Friday at the age of 87. Her death leaves the court with a 5-3 conservative majority and gives President Donald Trump the opportunity to further shape the highest court in the nation.

“This could be a big first test for the post-RBG Supreme Court and where it will stand on election issues,” said Rick Hasen, election law expert and law professor at the University of California Irvine, according to The Hill. “There’s little reason to believe that the conservative-liberal divide will disappear with Justice Ginsburg’s death.”

The Pennsylvania case is one of hundreds filed regarding election laws and the Supreme Court’s conservative majority following Ginsburg’s death could shape how voting rights cases are decided ahead of the election, Forbes reported. Other lawsuits have been filed in other pivotal swing states including Wisconsin, Michigan, and Georgia, according to the publication.

Trump has said mail-in voting would make the election “rigged” and “fraudulent,” while saying voting by mail is secure in Florida — a crucial swing state — because “we defeated Democrats’ attempts at change.” He also said the state has “a great Republican governor” while explaining his support for mail-in voting in Florida.

Studies have found that mail-in voting does not benefit one party more than the other, FiveThirtyEight reported.

An Axios/Ipsos poll found Democrats are more likely to be concerned about in-person voting as a risk for getting COVID-19. Fifty-two% of respondents said in-person voting was risky. Sixty-four% of Democrats said it was risky compared to 29% of Republicans. The poll was conducted July 31-Aug. 3 with a margin of error of 3 to 3.4 percentage points.

Another poll from Yahoo News/YouGov — with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points — found 55% of Trump supporters said they won’t view Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s win as legitimate if mail-in voting puts him over Trump.

There’s evidence of a large partisan gap over which method people intend to use to vote. Of those who said they would rather vote in person, Trump leads Biden 59% to 28% — while Biden leads Trump 70% to 14% among respondents who said they would prefer to vote through mail, according to the Yahoo News/YouGov poll.


After 200,000 coronavirus deaths, the US faces another rude awakening

The US death toll has doubled less than four months after the 100,000 landmark – and with autumn nearing, there is little chance of containing the contagion, experts say

Ed Pilkington

Donald Trump attended one of his then daily White House coronavirus briefings on 17 April and in a moment of rare candor talked openly about his projections for the number of Americans who could die from the disease.

“Right now, we’re heading at probably around 60, maybe 65,000,” he said, adding: “One is too many. I always say it: One is too many.”

If one death from coronavirus is too many, then the president of the United States has a lot of explaining to do. His projection of a total 60,000 death toll was passed by 1 May, just two weeks after he made it.

By the end of that month the grim landmark of 100,000 deaths was surpassed. Now less than four months later the toll has doubled again, the virus crossing the 200,000 point with breezy abandon.

There is a Groundhog Day quality to the American experience of Covid-19. Back in March there was public outcry that, under Trump, protective gear to keep health workers safe was in critically short supply, testing for coronavirus was woefully inadequate and black Americans were dying in grotesquely disproportionate numbers.

Today, six months later, exactly the same laments can be heard. “There is a theme here,” said Eric Topol, professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research in San Diego. “Recreate the crime. We keep on doing it, over and over again.”

With autumn on the horizon, when colder weather is likely to drive millions back indoors where the virus can spread more easily and with returning colleges acting as giant disease incubators, the US is poised for another rude awakening. There is simply no chance of containing the contagion when new cases are still running at about 35,000 a day.

    We’re on track to have a quarter-million dead Americans by the end of the year with absolutely no reason it had to happen

Jeremy Konyndyk

In March the Guardian asked Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development who was at the forefront of the US government response to Ebola in 2014, to give his take on how the pandemic was being handled. He called the Trump administration’s effort “one of the greatest failures of basic governance in modern times”.

We went back to Konyndyk to ask how he sees it now as the country passes the devastating 200,000 deaths mark. “I think my analysis has borne out extremely well,” he said. “We’re on track to have a quarter-million dead Americans by the end of the year with absolutely no reason it had to happen. It was all preventable. So yes, this is a leadership failure of astounding proportions.”

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

When the number of coronavirus infections began rising in the US in March, the failure of the Trump administration quickly to mobilise a national response led to dire shortages of protective gear across the country. Hospital workers and other essential staff were exposed to personal danger after inadequate supplies of masks, gowns and disinfectants ran out, leading some medical staff to improvise PPE out of piles of fabric and prompting nurses to protest outside the White House.

PPE shortages were one important factor behind the tragic loss of life among health workers. The Guardian’s project with Kaiser Health News, Lost on the frontline, has identified 1,150 medical workers who have died of Covid-19 having contracted the virus on the job.

Despite such tragedies, the US is still remarkably unprepared. The president of the American Medical Association, Susan Bailey, said last week that critical PPE shortages persist, “and in many ways things have only gotten worse”.

In many hospital systems, including Scripps Health in San Diego where Topol is based, the most effective form of protection, N95 masks, are still being rationed.

“Why the Trump administration, which has spent trillions of dollars bailing out companies, has not invested in protecting Americans with the best protection we can provide, is a mystery to me,” Topol said.


The US has struggled to provide sufficient diagnostic testing for the virus since the start of the pandemic. From the outset, Trump was reluctant to engage the federal government in a nationwide push for testing on a scale that could contain the disease.

As a result, US testing remains inadequate to this day, with still no sign of any attempt by the Trump administration to fix the problem. In fact, the quantity of daily testing is actually falling, down from more than 800,000 tests a day in July to about 600,000 daily tests now.

Daily testing falls grossly short of the capability of 20m tests a day that Harvard’s Edmond Safra Center has estimated is needed for safe and effective reopening of the economy.
A healthcare worker administers a swab test at a Covid-19 drive-thru testing site in San Pablo, California, on 28 April.

The individual components of a coronavirus test also remain in short supply. “There aren’t enough swabs, there aren’t enough reagents, we haven’t invested in the rapid home test that should have been available by now,” Topol said.

The dearth of testing can directly be linked to Trump’s opposition to it. The US president has consistently stood in the way of more testing, arguing it leads to a higher count of confirmed cases which is bad for his political standing.

In fact, the scientific understanding is the opposite: if you increase testing, that will allow you eventually to bring down the case count – and death toll – by allowing you to identify and isolate infected individuals.

Trump has imposed his resistance to testing on the country’s leading public health agency. Last month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), under its director, Dr Robert Redfield, changed its official recommendations having been leant on by the White House.

The new guidelines say that people showing no symptoms of Covid-19 need not be tested. That flies in the face of scientific thinking – asymptomatic individuals are precisely those who need testing most as they can infect others undetected.

“It’s mind-boggling,” Konyndyk said. “I have no idea how Redfield has not yet resigned. He’s been party to policies that are utterly indefensible.”

Consistent messaging

Public health experts stress that consistent and clear messaging is critical in fighting a pandemic. Trump’s messaging has at least been largely consistent, but it has also been fatally misleading.

From the start, the president downplayed the severity and danger of the virus and disparaged simple methods of reducing its spread including masks – refusing to wear a mask in public until 11 July. He predicted coronavirus would miraculously disappear, a claim that he has repeated in various guises right up to last week when he said that America was “rounding the corner”.

We now know that Trump’s soothing talk was a lie to the American people. Taped interviews released by the journalist Bob Woodward for his new book, Rage, record Trump in February admitting he knew full-well that the virus was “deadly stuff” and that he played it down “because I don’t want to create a panic”.

Not wanting to create panic is one thing. Failing to act to prevent the deaths of potentially hundreds of thousands of Americans quite another.

Racial disparities

One of the most distressing aspects of the Covid disaster in the US has been the way the disease has disproportionately affected African American and other racial and ethnic minorities.

Data suggests that, nationwide, black people are between two and three times more likely to die from Covid-19 than white Americans. In some parts of the US the gulf is even more pronounced, with Latinos in Minnesota testing positive for the virus at seven times the per-capita rate of white people.

The Trump administration has tried to dismiss the racial inequity of Covid outcomes by blaming it on underlying co-morbidities such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. Health experts, however, have called for a deeper look at what lies behind those co-morbidities, which often flourish among poverty.

Minority groups are more likely to be living in cramped housing where the virus can easily spread, and frontline workers consisting disproportionately of minorities are often forced to carry on working away from home even at times of peak contagion. Questions have also been raised about whether African Americans are given equal access to testing and medical treatment.

Although these racial disparities were revealed early on in the pandemic, the Trump administration appears to have done little to try and address them. The CDC has been criticized for failing to record up-to-date and comprehensive records on Covid-19 cases and deaths by racial group.


The one area where the federal government has been aggressively active in response to the pandemic has been in pressing for rapid approval of any coronavirus vaccine. Trump launched Operation Warp Speed in May and since then has repeatedly promised early access to a vaccine, predicting it might even be ready – conveniently – before the 3 November presidential election.

    We have an FDA who is complicit by issuing false and reckless approvals

Eric Topol

Trump’s use of the prospect of a vaccine as an electoral tool has raised fears that he is politicizing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the federal agency that will have the ultimate power to approve or withhold any new vaccine. Topol pointed out that the FDA’s commissioner, Stephen Hahn, has already made two basic breaches of scientific protocol.

He granted emergency approval for hydroxychloroquine after Trump claimed inaccurately that it was a “miracle drug”. Hahn also gave out false information for which he later apologized at a Trump press conference hailing a “historic breakthrough” over convalescent plasma.

“We have an FDA who is complicit by issuing false and reckless approvals. That’s not a good foundation for making the biggest public health decision for generations – whether or not to approve a vaccine,” Topol said.

Any misstep on the part of the Trump administration in handling the rollout of a vaccine could have drastic consequences. Anxiety about the safety or efficacy of a vaccine is already running high, with 35% of Americans in a recent Gallup poll saying they would not agree to be vaccinated even were the product free and fully FDA-approved.


Chaotic White House made worse by ‘incompetent’ Trump who rarely shows up for work: report

Raw Story

According to Playboy magazine senior White House correspondent Brian Karem — who has seen it first hand — Donald Trump is an absentee president who puts in little time at his job and, when he does, has no idea what he is supposed to be doing.

Writing for the conservative Bulwark, Karem said Trump is more than just “Putin’s puppet,” he is “incompetent” and therefore dangerous.

As Karem see it, the public is inundated with reports about the president’s “bombast, wild claims, misogyny, racism, lies, greed and avarice” but what should be more concerning is his inability to fulfill the basic responsibilities of his office.

That is when he bothers to show up and enter it.

As he explains, “The Marine guard posted outside of Trump’s office when he is in it almost never appears before noon and is rarely seen in the afternoon. There have been days when Trump has held press briefings where the guard wasn’t outside of the door even as Trump entered the briefing room—indicating that Trump may have walked straight from the residence to the briefing room. No guard on duty outside of the West Wing after a Trump appearance would indicate he walked straight back to the residence.”

Pointing out the staff aides’ claims that the president is a hard worker are patently false, Karem said the president has neither the attention span nor the interest in dealing with complex issues that affect the country.

“His lack of engagement leads to him reading from notes and using visual aids in his briefings. It is often apparent—sometimes he even points it out himself—that he hasn’t read the prepared material he’s giving us. Thus he misquotes it and often doesn’t seem to understand what he’s saying,” he charged. “Last Wednesday he was at it again. He used visual aids and misled us about their significance to try and explain away the fact that we lead the world in coronavirus deaths.”

According to the journalist, Trump’s disinterest in his job has allowed his close advisers to run wild and the White House communications shop to botch announcements only to be followed with claims of “they misspoke” or “they didn’t understand.”

Providing an example, Karem wrote, “That was on display again last Wednesday. Early in the morning a pool reporter tweeted out that an administration official said a couple of staffers had tested positive for the coronavirus. In her afternoon briefing, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany refused to say how many, if any, of the White House staff had tested positive,” and that what followed was the president saying he was unaware of it — then disputing it.

Karem noted that that incident was not the only fruit of White House chaos that day with the president later disputing comments made by his own CDC director, with the White House correspondent writing, “The message coming out of the Trump White House could not be more muddled.”

“At the end of the day, if there is a second term for President Donald Trump, then last Wednesday is a template for just how screwed up the administration can and will be,” he explained. “If Trump gets a second term and doesn’t have to face another election in his lifetime, does anyone honestly think he’ll spend more time at the office?”

Adding “His speech at the National Archives last Thursday shows where we’re headed: Stephen Miller-driven national policy,” Karem wrote. “That couldn’t be more hideous. As for Trump, he disengaged long ago and all the chaos and lies are symptomatic of a man who just doesn’t care anymore—or was never really even capable of doing so.”


The CDC scandal just got worse — and it shows why Trump can’t be trusted with a coronavirus vaccine

on September 23, 2020
By Amanda Marcotte, Salon
- Commentary

September has featured one scandal after another stemming from Donald Trump’s belief that the best way to handle the coronavirus pandemic is to let a bunch of people get sick and die, and then deny that it’s happening. First, journalist Bob Woodward started to releasing recordings in which Trump said he “wanted to always play it down” and admitted he had deliberately lied to the public about how serious this virus really is. Then, in a town hall for ABC News, Trump confessed that his real strategy was to let the virus run loose to create herd immunity — or rather “herd mentality” which would be “herd developed,” to quote the president accurately — even though that would literally kill millions of Americans. Then the New York Times published a new exposé revealing that Trump officials had overruled medical researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, forcing the agency to publish misleading and dangerous information designed to discourage people who have been exposed to the virus from being tested.

None of this, it’s critical to underline, is good for Trump’s re-election campaign. Polling shows that only 35% of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the pandemic, which is the same percentage of Americans who would probably say they’d still love Trump if he nuked their hometowns. Polls also show that because of Trump’s malice and incompetence, 69% of Americans have little to no confidence in the safety or efficacy of a vaccine that he may announce. Only 9% of Americans say they have a great deal of confidence in Trump. Even his own supporters know he’s a liar and a fraud: They’ve entrusted him with the nuclear codes, but don’t trust him with a vaccine.

Yet despite all this, Trump keeps on keeping on with his “let them die and lie about it” strategy.

At a rally in Ohio Monday night, Trump leaned heavily into the “play it down” strategy, going on a rant about how young people “have a strong immune system” and the virus primarily “affects elderly people, elderly people with heart problems and other problems.”

“But it affects virtually nobody. It’s an amazing thing,” he continued, even though the “nobodies” he’s talking about — older people, people with health problems — are more likely to be Republican voters than Democrats, who skew younger. Trump himself is 74 years old, though he has probably deluded himself with all his “good genes” talk into believing he’s not in the high-risk category.

Trump made these “nobody” comments as the death toll from the virus approached 200,000 Americans — a benchmark we passed on Tuesday morning — and the number of people infected surpassed 6.8 million. But the circle of “nobodies” is much larger than that, since basically everyone in the country is affected by this pandemic. Either someone they love has gotten the virus or lockdowns and the severe economic downturn have negatively impacted their lives.

Trump’s efforts to weaponize the CDC haven’t slowed down either. Last Friday, a new guidance slipped onto the website that emphasized that coronavirus transmission is airborne and that indoor, crowded spaces such as fitness classes and choir practice are especially dangerous. On Monday, however, the guidance was removed and the CDC said it had been “posted in error.”

That is, of course, absolutely ridiculous. As Ben Guarino, Chris Mooney and Tim Elfrink at the Washington Post report, “Evidence that the virus floats in the air has mounted for months, with an increasingly loud chorus of aerosol biologists pointing to superspreading events in choirs, buses, bars and other poorly ventilated spaces.”

It’s possible, of course, that this is all a matter of bureaucratic mismanagement and that any moment now the CDC will post a guidance that reflects the scientific evidence that indoor airborne transmission is a serious threat. But it’s reasonable to be suspicious, especially as the guidance that was yanked down conflicts with Trump’s repeated insistence on returning Americans to a lifestyle that involves a great deal of close contact in indoor spaces such as offices, restaurants, churches, schools and — perhaps most importantly, in Trump’s eyes — political rallies.

Considering that Trump’s pandemic mismanagement has destroyed any hope of a return to normal life anytime soon, all eyes have turned toward the possibility of a vaccine as the thing that will save us from this pandemic. While there’s reason to hope that a safe and effective vaccine will be ready for distribution in the coming months, there’s also reason to be worried that Trump is going to screw the entire thing up.

Trump just keeps lying and lying about a vaccine, insisting that one is not only coming on a much quicker timeline than actual health experts believe, but even setting concrete deadlines, suggesting (of course) that a vaccine may be available before Election Day.

It’s tempting to shrug off such antics, but as with all things, Trump’s relentless lying and meddling are only making a bad situation worse. The more this pathological liar talks about a miracle vaccine that’s right around the corner, the more the public appears to be skeptical about it, on the sound grounds that it’s bad news to trust a blowhard moron who posited that bleach injections might be a useful treatment for COVID-19.

People probably shouldn’t be worried that Trump will try to force a dummy vaccine onto the market. He’s way too lazy to pull that off. What’s more likely is that he’ll find some thin pretext to host some reality TV-style October-surprise announcement of a vaccine that doesn’t actually exist yet, holding up an empty syringe and falsely claiming — as he has done for months — that the pandemic is finally over.

The real problem isn’t so much a fake vaccine as the possibility that Trump will screw up the distribution of a real one, whenever such a thing exists. Past is predictor, after all, and in the past, meddling by Trump and his administration — especially his son-in-law, Jared Kushner — has actively blocked efforts by government officials or medical experts to control the pandemic. Kushner shut down strategies to distribute protective equipment to people in need, embracing instead a “market” strategy that drove up prices and increased shortages. Trump himself has waged a war against the widespread testing necessary to slow down viral spread.

Trump’s instincts will always lead him to lie and cheat, and his distrust of experts makes it impossible for him to get out of the way and let competent people do their jobs. Witness how he took over the coronavirus task force briefings, interfering with the ability of public health officials to share valuable information so that he could indulge his fantasy of being the star of the show and the preeminent authority on every topic.

If Trump wins re-election (by fair means or foul), his compulsive need to interfere with everything and his paranoia about the “deep state” that’s out to get him will surely affect vaccine distribution, just as he and Kushner messed with distribution networks for protective equipment and testing.

Also, the more Trump runs his mouth about a vaccine, the more people will distrust that a vaccine is trustworthy and safe, since everyone — including his own supporters — knows he will say anything if he thinks it benefits him. If people don’t trust a vaccine, they won’t get it, no matter how many experts vouch for its safety.

The grim reality is that it won’t be enough to have a safe and effective vaccine. (Bearing in mind that we don’t quite know what “effective” will mean: Will it be more like the measles vaccine, which protects most people for their entire lives, or like the flu vaccine, which offers partial protection for a single season?) To bring an end to the pandemic and a return to something like normal life, the vaccine must be distributed widely and efficiently, and most people need to trust it enough to take it. With Trump in charge, there’s a good chance that all of that will go sideways. The only way to be certain that the coronavirus pandemic is brought to an end is for a real president to be in charge when a real vaccine is finally available.


Trump’s former top Russia advisor says his America is ‘an object of pity’ across the globe

Raw Story

Speaking to CNN’s Jim Sciutto this Tuesday, former top Trump Russia adviser Fiona Hill that the United States is now seen as “an object of pity” to other world leaders.

“We are increasingly seen as an object of pity, including by our allies, because they are so shocked by what’s happening internally, how we’re eating ourselves alive with our divisions,” Hill said. “We’re the ones who are creating all this. It’s not the Russians or the Chinese or anyone else. We are doing this to ourselves.”

“What is really eroding our standing is what people are seeing happening here in the United States,” Hill added.

“Right now, most of our closest allies, not just partners and other major players, do not see the United States as leading. They see us as quite the contrary, as being so consumed with domestic problems that we really can’t do anything very much at all,” she continued.

Watch an excerpt below:

    The United States is “increasingly seen as an object of pity” around the world, says Trump’s former top Russia advisor Fiona Hill pic.twitter.com/p1ZQNjK1zw

    — Peter Wade (@brooklynmutt) September 22, 2020

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