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US Monthly Headline News December 2020 Page 2

Then-HHS science adviser Paul Alexander called for millions of Americans to be infected as means of fighting Covid-19.

A top Trump appointee repeatedly urged top health officials to adopt a "herd immunity" approach to Covid-19 and allow millions of Americans to be infected by the virus, according to internal emails obtained by a House watchdog and shared with POLITICO. “There is no other way, we need to establish herd, and it only comes about allowing the non-high risk groups expose themselves to the virus. PERIOD," then-science adviser Paul Alexander wrote on July 4 to his boss, Health and Human Services assistant secretary for public affairs Michael Caputo, and six other senior officials.

"Infants, kids, teens, young people, young adults, middle aged with no conditions etc. have zero to little risk….so we use them to develop herd…we want them infected…" Alexander added. "[I]t may be that it will be best if we open up and flood the zone and let the kids and young folk get infected" in order to get "natural immunity…natural exposure," Alexander wrote on July 24 to Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn, Caputo and eight other senior officials. Caputo subsequently asked Alexander to research the idea, according to emails obtained by the House Oversight Committee's select subcommittee on coronavirus.

Alexander also argued that colleges should stay open to allow Covid-19 infections to spread, lamenting in a July 27 email to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield that “we essentially took off the battlefield the most potent weapon we had...younger healthy people, children, teens, young people who we needed to fastly [sic] infect themselves, spread it around, develop immunity, and help stop the spread.” Alexander was a top deputy of Caputo, who was personally installed by President Donald Trump in April to lead the health department's communications efforts. Officials told POLITICO that they believed that when Alexander made recommendations, he had the backing of the White House. more...

By Matt Cannon

Some 42 days after Election Day, a major bookmaker has finally begun paying out on Joe Biden winning the 2020 presidential election—leaving Donald Trump supporters disappointed. The decision follows, the Electoral College officially casting their ballots faithfully on Monday, giving Biden 306 votes to Trump's 232. Candidates needed 270 to win.

As a result, Betfair, which has one of the world's largest online betting exchanges, announced it would start paying out the following day. "The Next President market rules stipulated that we would settle the market on the candidate that had the most projected Electoral College votes," the company said in a statement released on its website. "Following the Electoral College votes being cast, that candidate is clearly Joe Biden." It added: "Thanks for your patience." more...

By Josh Campbell and Gisela Crespo, CNN

(CNN) A former police captain who was part of a private citizens group investigating still unsubstantiated 2020 election fraud claims was charged Tuesday with running a man off the road and pointing a gun to his head two weeks before the election, the Harris County district attorney said in a statement. Prosecutors say former Houston Police captain Mark Anthony Aguirre said he believed the man was transporting fraudulent ballots. "I believe it's a political prosecution," Terry Yates, Aguirre's attorney, told CNN affiliate KTRK.
Prosecutors say Aguirre was paid over a quarter million dollars by a private group called "Liberty Center for God and Country" to investigate alleged ballot schemes in the Houston area.

Jared Woodfill, the center's president, told CNN the group and Republican activist Steve Hotze hired a private firm that included "Aguirre, a former FBI investigator and about 20 investigators that investigated reports of voter fraud," reports that were sent to Hotze. The Republican activist was also one of the plaintiffs who filed a petition prior to Election Day seeking to invalidate 127,000 ballots cast in drive-thru early voting. A federal judge rejected that request. CNN has reached out to Hotze for comment. According to the district attorney's news release, Aguirre, 63, told authorities he had conducted surveillance for four days on an unidentified man driving a truck that he suspected had 750,000 fraudulent ballots inside. The release said Aguirre believed the man was "the mastermind of a giant (voter) fraud." Instead, prosecutors say the victim was an "innocent and ordinary" air-conditioner repairman.

"Aguirre ran his SUV into the back of the truck to get the technician to stop and get out," the news release said, describing the October 19 incident. "When the technician got out of the truck, Aguirre, pointed a handgun at the technician, forced him to the ground and put his knee on the man's back -- an image captured on the body-worn camera of a police officer." Responding authorities found no ballots inside the vehicle, only air conditioner parts and tools, prosecutors said. more...

By Ewan Palmer

Supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory have unsurprisingly turned their backs on Mitch McConnell after he finally congratulated President-elect Joe Biden on his election victory. Followers of the radical movement who believe President Donald Trump is waging a secret war against satanic pedohiles, as well as pushing baseless claims that the election was rigged, were dismayed at the Senate Majority Leader and accusing him of being a traitor. Others said they will now leave the GOP or even form a new political party all together.

On Tuesday, McConnell announced that the "Electoral College has spoken" after it declared Biden had won 306 Electoral Votes and referred to him as the President-elect. Trump later criticized the Kentucky senator in a tweet: "Mitch, 75,000,000 VOTES, a record for a sitting President (by a lot)," Trump said. "Too soon to give up. Republican Party must finally learn to fight. People are angry!" Trump's message was tweeted along with an article detailing a number of high-profile conservative figures also criticizing McConnell for accepting Biden as the president-elect. more...

By Jacob Jarvis

President Donald Trump dismissed Sen. Mitch McConnell's congratulations of President-elect Joe Biden following the Electoral College vote, telling the Senate Majority Leader it is "too soon to give up." The Kentucky Republican had acknowledged Biden as the presidential election victor on Tuesday in a floor speech. In a message to McConnell, shared on Twitter, Trump referenced his popular vote tally and said: "Mitch, 75,000,000 VOTES, a record for a sitting President (by a lot). Too soon to give up. Republican Party must finally learn to fight. People are angry!" In the same tweet, the president shared an article about Trump allies criticizing McConnell. McConnell, the Senate majority leader, had said: "Many of us hoped that the presidential election would yield a different result, but our system of government has processes to determine who will be sworn in on January 20. The Electoral College has spoken. more...

By Raphael Satter, Christopher Bing, Joseph Menn

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - On an earnings call two months ago, SolarWinds Chief Executive Kevin Thompson touted how far the company had gone during his 11 years at the helm. There was not a database or an IT deployment model out there to which his Austin, Texas-based company did not provide some level of monitoring or management, he told analysts on the Oct. 27 call. “We don’t think anyone else in the market is really even close in terms of the breadth of coverage we have,” he said. “We manage everyone’s network gear.”

Now that dominance has become a liability - an example of how the workhorse software that helps glue organizations together can turn toxic when it is subverted by sophisticated hackers. On Monday, SolarWinds confirmed that Orion - its flagship network management software - had served as the unwitting conduit for a sprawling international cyberespionage operation. The hackers inserted malicious code into Orion software updates pushed out to nearly 18,000 customers. And while the number of affected organizations is thought to be much more modest, the hackers have already parlayed their access into consequential breaches at the U.S. Treasury and Department of Commerce. more...

By Jazmin Goodwin, CNN Business

New York (CNN Business) MacKenzie Scott announced on Tuesday her second major charitable contribution of the year, giving away nearly $4.2 billion to 384 organizations as part of a plan to donate a majority of her fortune. The announcement comes just four months after Scott donated $1.7 billion to 116 organizations, including four historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), in July. The latest round of philanthropic gifts total more than $4.16 billion donated by Scott to organizations nationwide in the past four months.

"The pandemic has been a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling," Scott wrote in a Medium post. "Economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, for people of color, and for people living in poverty. Meanwhile, it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires." Scott's post included a list of the hundreds of organizations that received funds, including financial service providers for under-resourced communities, education for historically marginalized and underserved individuals, civil rights advocacy groups and legal defense funds that take on institutional discrimination. more...

Nicholas Fandos and Michael S. Schmidt - The New York Times

President Donald Trump lost key swing states by clear margins. His barrage of lawsuits claiming widespread voting fraud has been almost universally dismissed, most recently by the Supreme Court. And Monday, the Electoral College will formally cast a majority of its votes for President-elect Joe Biden. But as the president continues to refuse to concede, a small group of his most loyal backers in Congress is plotting a final-stage challenge on the floor of the House of Representatives in early January to try to reverse Biden’s victory.

Constitutional scholars and even members of the president’s own party say the effort is all but certain to fail. But the looming battle Jan. 6 is likely to culminate in a messy and deeply divisive spectacle that could thrust Vice President Mike Pence into the excruciating position of having to declare once and for all that Trump has indeed lost the election. The fight promises to shape how Trump’s base views the election for years to come, and to pose yet another awkward test of allegiance for Republicans who have privately hoped that the Electoral College vote this week will be the final word on the election result.

For the vice president, whom the Constitution assigns the task of tallying the results and declaring a winner, the episode could be particularly torturous, forcing him to balance his loyalty to Trump with his constitutional duties and considerations about his own political future. The effort is being led by Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., a backbench conservative. Along with a group of allies in the House, he is eyeing challenges to the election results in five states — Arizona, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia and Wisconsin — where they claim varying degrees of fraud or illegal voting took place, despite certification by voting authorities and no evidence of widespread impropriety. more...

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes and Veronica Rocha, CNN

President-elect Joe Biden has received enough electoral votes to officially clinch the presidency. Today's Electoral College vote is a procedural step that typically goes unnoticed. But it has taken on outsize importance this year as President Trump continues to attack the election results. more...

The president-elect repudiated Donald Trump and said his assault on the democratic process was ‘unconscionable’
Lauren Gambino

Joe Biden delivered a sharp repudiation of Donald Trump and declared that the “will of the people had prevailed” in a speech that came shortly after the electoral college officially confirmed his victory. It was “time to turn the page” on a presidential election that tested the resilience of American democracy, the president-elect said just moments after Hawaii cast the final four electoral college votes, clearing a milestone that all but ended Trump’s unprecedented attempt to overturn the results.

Biden hailed the presidential election and its uncharted aftermath as a triumph of American democracy and “one of the most amazing demonstrations of civic duty we’ve ever seen in our country”. The final tally – 306 to 232 electoral votes – followed a baseless campaign by the president to reverse the results of an election that saw historic turnout despite a pandemic. Trump lost not only in the electoral college but the popular vote, too – by nearly 7m.

Yet for weeks, the president has clung to meritless accusations of voter fraud in a slate of battleground states that delivered the victory to Biden. His refusal to concede has sowed doubt among his supporters about the integrity of the vote and undermined faith in the institutions of American governance. In a speech delivered from Wilmington, Delaware, Biden said “our democracy – pushed, tested, threatened – proved to be resilient, true and strong”. more...

Ronald J. Hansen Arizona Republic

In another sign of the lingering unrest over President Donald Trump's election loss, an Arizona group sent the National Archives in Washington, D.C., notarized documents last week intended to deliver, wrongly, the state's 11 electoral votes for him. Copies of the documents obtained by The Arizona Republic show a group that claimed to represent the "sovereign citizens of the Great State of Arizona" submitted signed papers casting votes for what they want: a second term for Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. Mesa resident Lori Osiecki, 62, helped created a facsimile of the "certificate of ascertainment" that is submitted to formally cast each state's electoral votes as part of an effort to prevent what she views as the fraudulent theft of the election.

"We seated before the legislators here. We already turned it in. We beat them to the game," she said. Osiecki said she and others associated with a group called "AZ Protect the Vote" have attended the postelection rallies protesting the results, including the daylong meeting in Phoenix that included Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani. She left that gathering upset that Gov. Doug Ducey wasn't supporting the president's efforts and she wanted to take further action. She and the others chose electors as a result. more...

By Alex Rogers, CNN

(CNN) Georgia GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler's campaign disavowed a photo spreading on social media of her smiling next to a White supremacist at a campaign event on Friday, as her Democratic opponent and others criticized her for it ahead of the January 5 runoff elections for control of the Senate. The photo shows Loeffler posing next to Chester Doles, a former Ku Klux Klan leader and member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance who was sentenced to prison in the 1990s for assaulting a Black man in Maryland. Doles marched in the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, with the Hammerskins, a racist skinhead gang.

The Loeffler campaign condemned the White supremacist on Sunday in a statement to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The Loeffler campaign did not respond to CNN's requests for additional comment. Video from Friday's rally shows Doles attended. "Kelly had no idea who that was, and if she had she would have kicked him out immediately because we condemn in the most vociferous terms everything that he stands for," Loeffler's spokesman Stephen Lawson told the newspaper. more...

CBS This Morning

Cleveland's baseball club says it took the name "Indians" in 1915 as a tribute to a Native American player. Now, The New York Times reports that, after years of protests, the team will drop its nickname - a claim its management does not dispute. Correspondent Jericka Duncan reports on the recent reckoning with a name some call racist. video...

Ryan Lucas

Attorney General William Barr, an outspoken proponent of conservative values and an expansive view of presidential power, will leave office before Christmas, President Trump announced in a tweet Monday afternoon. Trump said he and Barr had a "very nice meeting" and that their "relationship has been a very good one." Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen will become acting attorney general, Trump said.

Earlier this month, Barr said the DOJ found no evidence of widespread election fraud, directly contradicting President Trump's baseless claims that the election was stolen by Democrats. Ahead of the election, Barr had stood by the president, repeating his unsubstantiated claims that mail-in voting was ripe for fraud.

In less than two years on the job, Barr emerged as perhaps the most divisive attorney general in recent memory for a series of controversial actions, including his handling of special counsel Robert Mueller's report on the Russia investigation and his repeated false claims about the integrity of mail-in voting.

But his legacy will forever be stamped by his role leading the forceful removal of peaceful protesters from Lafayette Park in the summer of 2020 to clear the way for a presidential photo op in front of a nearby church. more...

By Oliver Darcy, CNN Business

New York (CNN Business) A voting technology company swept up in baseless conspiracy theories about the 2020 election said on Monday that it had sent legal notices to Fox News and two other right-wing media companies for participating in a "disinformation campaign" aimed at damaging it. The company, Smartmatic, said that Fox News, One America News, and Newsmax have helped spread false and defamatory claims that are not supported by real evidence and could easily have been debunked with basic research.

"They have no evidence to support their attacks on Smartmatic because there is no evidence," Smartmatic chief executive Antonio Mugica said in a statement. "This campaign was designed to defame Smartmatic and undermine legitimately conducted elections." As President Donald Trump continues to attack the integrity of the voting system, some of his allies have homed in on Smartmatic because of the services it provided Los Angeles County for the 2020 election.

The baseless conspiracy theories peddled about Smartmatic, which mimic those pushed against Dominion Voting Systems, falsely suggest that the company's technology allowed the November vote to be rigged against Trump. Some strains of the conspiracy theory have aimed to tie the company to the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez and George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist who is portrayed as a boogeyman in right-wing media. more...

(CNN) Michigan Republican Rep. Paul Mitchell told CNN that his disgust and disappointment with President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the election have led him to request that the clerk of the House change his party affiliation to "independent." Read his letter to Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy below: more...

By Zachary Cohen, Vivian Salama and Brian Fung, CNN

Washington (CNN) US officials suspect that Russian-linked hackers were behind the recent data breach of multiple federal agencies, including the Departments of Homeland Security, Treasury and Commerce, but are continuing to investigate the incident, a senior administration official told CNN Monday. CNN learned Monday that DHS, which is tasked with helping safeguard the nation from malicious foreign cyber actors, is among at least three US government agencies compromised in the hack. A source familiar with the matter said that number is expected to increase in the coming hours and days.

While US officials believe that a Russia-linked entity or Russian individuals are responsible for the attacks, they have not yet finalized their designation on which actors are responsible, a senior administration official said.The National Security Council has decided to covene two meetings daily with the Cyber Response Group to determine the scope, scale and impact of the hack, they added. In the first of its meetings on Monday, officials came closer to a determination that a Russian-backed group was responsible but forensic investigations are ongoing, the official told CNN.

A meeting scheduled for later Monday aims to determine which government agencies were compromised. So far, only the Commerce Department has said publicly that it experienced a breach but other agencies appeared to have been targeted as well. "We have a hunch about who is behind the breaches," another administration official said, also confirming Monday's Emergency Cyber Response Group meeting. "But forensics like this take time to nail down, unless they were sloppy about it." more...

By Daniel Politi

The head of the Texas Republican Party threw what amounts to a tantrum after the Supreme Court decided to shoot down the effort by the state to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory. Texas GOP chair Allen West issued a statement saying that “perhaps” it’s time for “law-abiding states to bond together and form a Union of states that will abide by the constitution.” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton had called on the court to overturn the results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, four states that were key to Biden’s victory. Attorneys general in 17 states and more than 100 Republican members of Congress backed the lawsuit that was shot down by the Supreme Court that said Texas doesn’t have the right to get involved in elections of other states.

West made his anger clear shortly after the Supreme Court issued its brief order tossing out the lawsuit. The Supreme Court “has decreed that a state can take unconstitutional actions and violate its own election law,” West wrote. “This decision establishes a precedent that says states can violate the US constitution and not be held accountable. This decision will have far-reaching ramifications for the future of our constitutional republic.” West went on to say that the “Texas GOP will always stand for the Constitution and for the rule of law even while others don’t.” more...

“This weekend, we saw forces of hate seeking to use destruction and intimidation to tear us apart,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said.

WASHINGTON — Vandals tore down a Black Lives Matter banner and sign from two historic Black churches in downtown Washington and set the banner ablaze as nighttime clashes Saturday between pro-Donald Trump supporters and counter-demonstrators erupted into violence and arrests. Police on Sunday said they were investigating the incidents at the Asbury United Methodist Church and Metropolitan A.M.E. Church as potential hate crimes, which one religious leader likened to a cross burning.

“This weekend, we saw forces of hate seeking to use destruction and intimidation to tear us apart,” District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser said Sunday. “We will not let that happen.” A video posted on Twitter showed a group of men appearing to take down a BLM sign at the Metropolitan A.M.E. Church as others in the crowd shout, “Whose streets? Our streets.” Another video showed people pouring an accelerant on a BLM banner and setting it ablaze in the street as others cheered and cursed antifa. Someone walks up about a minute later and uses a fire extinguisher to put out the flames. more...

By Jim Acosta and Kaitlan Collins, CNN

(CNN) High-ranking White House officials are set to receive some of the first coronavirus vaccines in the United States, according to a White House official and a person familiar. Those vaccinations, which could begin as soon as this week, would come while the vaccine is in extremely limited supply and only generally available to high-risk health care workers. The New York Times first reported on the White House vaccinations. Other parts of the Trump administration will be vaccinated in the coming days.

An administration official said health care providers at the National Institutes of Health will begin receiving the vaccine in the near future. Doctors and nurses in the intensive care unit at the NIH Clinical Center will be prioritized to receive the vaccine first. Other top officials, like Dr. Anthony Fauci, are on the list to receive the vaccine following those staffers who rank higher on the priority list, the official said. more...


WASHINGTON (AP) — Hackers broke into the networks of federal agencies including the Treasury and Commerce departments in attacks revealed just days after U.S. officials warned that cyber actors linked to the Russian government were exploiting vulnerabilities to target sensitive data. The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security's cybersecurity arm are investigating what experts and former officials said appeared to be a large-scale penetration of U.S. government agencies.

“This can turn into one of the most impactful espionage campaigns on record," said cybersecurity expert Dmitri Alperovitch. The hacks were revealed just days after a major cybersecurity firm disclosed that foreign government hackers had broken into its network and stolen the company's own hacking tools. Many experts suspect Russia is responsible for the attack against FireEye, a major cybersecurity player whose customers include federal, state and local governments and top global corporations.

The apparent conduit for the Treasury and Commerce Department hacks — and the FireEye compromise — is a hugely popular piece of server software called SolarWinds. It is used by hundreds of thousands of organizations globally, including most Fortune 500 companies and multiple U.S. government agencies who will now be scrambling to patch up their networks, said Alperovitch, the former chief technical officer of the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike. more...

Matthew Brown USA TODAY

Sen. Lamar Alexander said President Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election and needs to "put the country first," calling on him to formally concede to President-elect Joe Biden during an interview Sunday on NBC News' "Meet the Press." Alexander noted "the courts have resolved the disputes" Trump and his allies levied at states where he narrowly lost to Biden. Alexander also said he hoped Trump would congratulate Biden on his victory and then “helps him get off to a good start."

On Friday, the Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, which was supported by 18 other Republican attorneys general, seeking to block the electors from four battleground states from voting for Biden when the Electoral College meets Monday. The court's decision was widely seen as the final nail in the coffin for the Republican efforts to overturn the election results. more...

By Daniel Politi

The pro-Trump protest that took over Washington on Saturday turned violent at night as members of groups that refuse to accept President-elect Joe Biden won the election started roaming the streets and there were multiple faceoffs with counterprotesters. At least four people were stabbed near Harry’s Bar, which had become popular among members of the Proud Boys, the far-right male-chauvinist group. The victims were transported to the hospital with potentially life-threatening injuries. It wasn’t clear who the attackers were and whether the victims were affiliated with any political group although there are reports that at least one of the people stabbed was a Proud Boy member.

Two police officers with non-life-threatening injuries and two other people with minor injuries were also hospitalized. At least 23 people were arrested throughout the day, including six for assaulting police officers. Pro-Trump protsters gathered in several state capitals across the country and some of those also turned violent. In Olympia, Washington one person was shot, three were arrested and police declared a riot. Videos posted on social media appear to show the moment of the shot and the person who fired the shot and later put on a red hat. more...

In an epic dummy spit, vloggers Diamond & Silk called for military intervention and internet troll Milo Yiannopoulos said the only options left were war or secession.
Alaina Demopoulos

MAGA world has gone into total meltdown after the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed a bizarre Trump-endorsed lawsuit on Friday seeking to overturn the results of the presidential election. Many of the president’s staunchest supporters believed that the Supreme Court, with its Trump-appointed justices, would eventually come to the president’s rescue in his failing election fraud crusade. But, with their hopes crushed, some of the wackiest sycophants took to Twitter and alt right-friendly app Parler to call for civil war or secession—all because their guy lost.

“If the Supreme Court can’t save our republic, then where is the military?” former Fox News pundits and unofficial Trump “advisers” Diamond & Silk tweeted Friday evening. “Trying to overthrow the Government by exploiting a Pandemic, thus implementing rules that break our election laws, is unconstitutional. If the DOJ and the FBI can’t do their jobs, then where is the military? This is a Coup!” Lynette “Diamond” Hardaway and Rochelle “Silk” Richardson later clarified that they believe the military, which has no involvement in election auditing, should conduct a “forensic audit” in swing states, focusing on ballot boxes and dominion machines. more...

By Georgett Roberts and Dean Balsamini

A Queens woman accused of driving into pedestrians at a protest in Midtown Manhattan was issued no more than a desk appearance ticket and released within hours of the shocking incident, police said Saturday. Kathleen Casillo, 52, was charged with reckless endangerment for the Friday incident in which she was caught on video plowing into people in the street, authorities said. She is due back in court Feb. 22. The stunning footage shows the vehicle stopped at 39th Street and Third Avenue just after 4 p.m. with protesters in front of the car — seconds before its female driver floors it. One protester can be seen rolling up onto the car’s hood and into the windshield before tumbling to the pavement. more...

Tom Perkins in Wisconsin

‘The roads were supposed to be for 13,000 workers but no one is here,’ Sean McFarlane said. ‘What is this sidewalk for? I don’t understand it. It’s the sidewalk to nowhere.’ In Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, families were forced out for a huge hi-tech plant – but three years later, it still hasn’t been built. When Sean McFarlane recently returned to the site where his lifelong home was demolished, he found in its place a retention pond and hundreds of geese perched on a hill.

The quiet scene came as a shock. The Wisconsin village of Mount Pleasant had effectively forced him, his girlfriend and four children from their home in 2017 to make way for a proposed 20m sq ft hi-tech plant owned by the Taiwanese electronics giant Foxconn, a plant Donald Trump had said would soon be the “eighth wonder of the world”. To make way for this “wonder”, village officials temporarily placed the McFarlanes in a dilapidated vacant house with no working toilets or heat, then allegedly failed to meet the promised relocation payment of $22,000.

Three years later, the factory for which the family went through hell hasn’t been built. Sitting in his wheelchair on an empty sidewalk in November, McFarlane sighed in disbelief as he scanned the vast patchwork of mud, open fields, ponds and a few underutilized buildings comprising the 3,000-acre Foxconn site. “They demolished my house for this? A bunch of geese that sit on a hill?” McFarlane, 37, asked. “It’s upsetting. That’s where my old house was, and now it’s just nothing. You know? Nothing.” more...

Jill Filipovic

This is extraordinary: a group of Republicans are asking the court to disenfranchise millions of Americans, just so their guy can stay put. That’s what we’re seeing play out, as 106 Republicans in Congress signed a lawsuit, backed by more than a dozen Republican state attorneys general, asking the US supreme court to overturn the results of a free and fair American election, because a Democrat won. It’s an egregious and unconscionable move, and suggests that the corrosive effects of President Donald Trump will remain even after he leaves the White House.

Trump lost fair and square. But the state of Texas has asked the supreme court to intervene in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan; those four states, in turn, have asked the supreme court not to intervene, and to respect the results of the election and the will of their citizens. This is an extraordinary situation: a group of Republicans, still loyal to a president with waning power, are asking the supreme court to disenfranchise millions of Americans, just so their guy can stay put.

The fact that so many Republicans are going along with this authoritarian and undemocratic charade is clarifying, if depressing. Through four years of Trump, there were two main theories of Republican acquiescence: either Republicans really were supportive of the president, in all of his cruelty and incompetence and authoritarianism, or Republicans were simply scared of him and his hold over the Republican base, but secretly loathed the man and were anxious for a return to normal. Now, we’re seeing which theory was correct. more...

"The Supreme Court has decisively and speedily rejected the latest of Donald Trump and his allies’ attacks on the democratic process," said Biden campaign spokesman Mike Gwin.
By Pete Williams and Dartunorro Clark

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday brushed aside the lawsuit filed by Texas that sought to overturn Joe Biden's election victory in four battleground states. President Donald Trump called the case "the big one," and 126 of the 196 Republicans in the House urged the court to take it. But the justices acted quickly to turn it down. "Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections," the court said in a brief unsigned opinion.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito said the court had no authority to refuse a case filed on its original docket, where one state files to sue another. But they said they would not have granted Texas any other relief and expressed no view on any of the issues raised in the lawsuit. So the ruling was essentially a unanimous rejection of the Texas claims. Supporters of the Trump campaign saw the Texas suit as their best hope for derailing a victory for Joe Biden before the actual presidential vote is cast by the Electoral College on Monday.

President-elect Joe Biden's team welcomed the news, calling it an end to the president's baseless legal battle. "The Supreme Court has decisively and speedily rejected the latest of Donald Trump and his allies’ attacks on the democratic process," said campaign spokesman Mike Gwin in a statement. "This is no surprise — dozens of judges, election officials from both parties, and Trump's own Attorney General have dismissed his baseless attempts to deny that he lost the election," he said. "President-elect Biden's clear and commanding victory will be ratified by the Electoral College on Monday, and he will be sworn in on January 20th."

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, said in a statement following the ruling that "it’s time to move forward." “Today’s Supreme Court decision is an important reminder that we are a nation of laws, and though some may bend to the desire of a single individual, the courts will not," she said. "Now it’s time to move forward — not as separate states, red or blue — but as united states in the continuing pursuit of a more perfect union.” Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, who has clashed with Trump, said in a statement the Supreme Court has finally "closed the book on the nonsense." more...

*** Trump and the rabid right our trying to steal the election and destroy our democracy in the process. The rabid right only cares about democracy and the constitution when they are out of power when they are in power they do everything they can to violate the constitution and destroy our democracy. ***

By Juliegrace Brufke and Scott Wong

More than 100 House Republicans on Thursday signed an amicus brief in support of the Texas lawsuit aimed at overturning the election results in four swing states — Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — that handed Democrat Joe Biden the White House.

“This brief presents [our] concern as Members of Congress, shared by untold millions of their constituents, that the unconstitutional irregularities involved in the 2020 presidential election cast doubt upon its outcome and the integrity of the American system of elections,” states the brief signed by 106 GOP lawmakers.

Outgoing Republican Study Committee Chairman Mike Johnson (La.) — one of President Trump’s closest allies in the House, having served on his impeachment defense team — helped lead the effort to garner support from his GOP colleagues for the brief. Johnson is joining the GOP leadership team in the new Congress. more...

The libertarian-leaning senator is using his procedural powers to block swift passage of the legislation.

Rand Paul is at it again. And his moves could force another brief government shutdown. The Kentucky Republican is objecting to swift passage of the annual defense policy bill, effectively forcing senators to remain in Washington for an extra day as he filibusters the $740 billion legislation. But the government needs to be funded past Friday — and the short one-week spending bill can't be passed before then without agreement from all 100 senators to vote. Paul, no stranger to filibusters, said in an interview Thursday that he opposes a provision in the bill that would hamstring the president’s ability to draw down American troops from Afghanistan. “That amendment alone is enough to make me object to it, as well as the amount of spending,” he said. Removing a provision from a conference report would destroy a massive agreement on defense spending. more...

Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel voted 17 to 4 with one member abstaining on Thursday to recommend the approval of Pfizer and BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for emergency use, the last step before the FDA gives the final OK to broadly distribute the first doses throughout the United States. If the FDA accepts the nonbinding recommendation from the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee — which is expected — it would mark a pivotal moment in the Covid-19 pandemic, which has infected more than 15.4 million people and killed roughly 290,000 in the U.S. in less than a year.

The committee plays a key role in approving flu and other vaccines in the U.S., verifying the shots are safe for public use. While the FDA doesn’t have to follow the advisory committee’s recommendation, it often does. The FDA could grant emergency use authorization of Pfizer’s vaccine as early as Friday, James Hildreth, a member of the committee, told NBC’s “Weekend Today” on Saturday. An emergency use authorization, or EUA, generally allows a drug or vaccine to be administered to a limited population or setting, such as to hospitalized patients, as the agency continues to evaluate safety data. more...

Dan Barrick, Todd Bookman, Josh Rogers

Rep. Dick Hinch, a Republican who was elected speaker of the New Hampshire House just one week ago, died of COVID-19 on Wednesday. This comes about a month before the state legislature, the largest in the U.S., is expected to convene in Concord for its regularly scheduled annual session. The state's attorney general, Gordon MacDonald, announced the cause of death Thursday afternoon with the consent of Hinch's family, following an autopsy by New Hampshire Chief Medical Examiner Jennie Duval.

Hinch, who was 71 and from Merrimack, was poised to lead his party in the state's House of Representatives. New Hampshire Republicans gained control of both the House and the state Senate from Democrats in elections last month. Hinch was formally elected House speaker on Dec. 2 at an outdoor session held on an athletic field at the University of New Hampshire because of coronavirus concerns. Earlier that same week, several Republican House members were confirmed to have tested positive for the coronavirus after attending an indoor GOP caucus meeting.

Since then, a member of Gov. Chris Sununu's staff and an employee in the House speaker's office have also tested positive, according to announcements from each office. At the time the legislative staffer's diagnosis was announced, the House speaker's office said: "no legislators were identified as close contacts." more...

“When is this nonsense detrimental to our democracy going to end?” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called on Republicans Thursday to drop plans for a hearing centering on alleged “irregularities” in the 2020 presidential election. The hearing, called by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chair Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, just two days after members of the Electoral College meet to cast their 306 electoral votes for President-elect Joe Biden and 232 for President Donald Trump.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia have already certified their tallies, but Trump is continuing to push baseless allegations of voter fraud in battleground states where Biden won. Most Republicans are still refusing acknowledge Biden won the election. “When is this nonsense detrimental to our democracy going to end?” Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor. “To use a Senate committee to spread misinformation about our own elections, it’s beyond the pale.” Schumer said Johnson, a top Trump ally, should call off the “ridiculous” hearing and said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should intervene. more...

Nearly half of voters cast absentee ballots in the election, a huge increase. If Republicans have their way, that might not last.
By Michael Wines

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s barrage of losses in court cases trying to undermine the election has not stopped Republicans from turning to battles they might be able to win — attempts to limit or undermine the future use of the vote-by-mail ballots that so infuriated Mr. Trump.

Absentee ballots constituted nearly half the votes cast in the 2020 election, and the experiment in mass voting by mail has been viewed by election experts as a remarkable success, one that was less prone to errors than expected and had almost no documented fraud. But that has not stopped Republican critics eager to follow the president’s lead.

This week in Georgia, as the president rages against the election he lost and the members of his party who oversaw it there, Republican state senators promised to make getting and casting mail ballots far more difficult.

The Georgia state senators pledged on Tuesday to eliminate no-excuse absentee voting, require a photo ID to obtain a ballot, outlaw drop boxes and scrap a court agreement to quickly tell voters about signature problems on ballots so that they could be fixed. more...

Ed Pilkington and Sam Levine

Georgians from both parties describe violent and sexual threats to themselves and their families as militias make their presence known. On 1 December Gabriel Sterling, a Republican election official in Georgia, stood on the steps of the state capitol in Atlanta and let rip on Donald Trump. “Mr President, it looks like you likely lost the state of Georgia,” he said, contradicting Trump’s increasingly unhinged claim that he had won the presidential race against all evidence. “Stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence,” Sterling went on, referring to a storm of death threats and intimidation that had been unleashed by Trump supporters against public officials in the state. “Someone is going to get shot, someone is going to get killed. And it’s not right.” Then Sterling uttered the phrase that instantly entered the annals of American political rhetoric: “It has to stop.” It did not stop. more...

By Sophie Lewis

The Arizona Republican Party asked its Twitter followers this week if they would be "willing" to die to overturn President Trump's election loss. On Monday, an activist associated with the "Stop the Steal" movement, which promotes baseless arguments that Democrats "stole" the election, tweeted, "I am willing to give my life for this fight." In response, the official account for the Arizona branch of the GOP quote tweeted the sentiment, adding, "He is. Are you?"  Last week, Arizona certified President-elect Joe Biden as the winner of its 11 electoral votes. Trump's team has lost several lawsuits in the state after failing to provide evidence of voter fraud, but continues to dispute the results. more...

Mia Jankowicz

Rep. Katie Porter launched a blistering attack on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Twitter on Tuesday, slamming his insistence in COVID-19 stimulus negotiations on corporate liability protections. "Everyone at the negotiating table—including Senate Rs—has agreed to a compromise. Except one," she wrote in a Twitter thread, which as of Wednesday had been shared more than 50,000 times. "Mitch McConnell is refusing to bring it to the floor unless it wipes away all COVID-related lawsuits filed that 'allege injury or death' due to corporate negligence," she wrote. "These lawsuits represent the worst of the worst examples of disregard for human life," she added. You can click on the tweet below to read Porter's full thread. more...

University, which has been at forefront of Covid-19 response, took pride in founder purportedly being an abolitionist
Associated Press

Johns Hopkins University, whose researchers have been at the forefront of the global response to Covid-19, announced on Wednesday that its founder owned slaves during the 19th century, a revelation for the Baltimore-based school that had taken pride in the man purportedly being a staunch abolitionist. Researchers uncovered the information in government census records as part of an initiative exploring the university’s history. The long-held narrative of an abolitionist Hopkins whose father had freed the family’s slaves in 1807 came into question over the past several months.

“We now have government census records that state Mr Hopkins was the owner of one enslaved person listed in his household in 1840 and four enslaved people listed in 1850,” President Ronald J Daniels and other school officials wrote in a letter to the Johns Hopkins community. “By the 1860 census, there are no enslaved persons listed in the household.”

Maryland did not abolish slavery until 1864. The officials said the school will continue researching Hopkins’ life in the coming months to “have a full picture”, as a complete biography of the university’s founder does not exist. They wrote they decided to share the development as part of the school’s effort “to deepen our historical understanding of the legacy of racism in our country, our city, and our institutions”. Hopkins died in 1873 and left $7m to open a university, orphanage and hospital. The donation at the time was considered to be the largest philanthropic gift made in the US. more...

By Sarah Polus

A Spokane man was taken into custody Wednesday after police said he threatened to blow up a labor union building, local outlet KREM2 reports. The man, who has not been publicly identified, entered the Teamsters labor union building, which also serves as the hub for county Democrats, with a device he said was an explosive, authorities in Spokane said. Police have yet to determine whether the device was, in fact, an explosive. The offender held one person hostage in an office amid his threats, and set a fire within the building, police told KREM.

Police said everyone escaped safely. "We are so relieved that no one was harmed in this reprehensible act of violence," said a joint statement from The Spokane County Democrats and Washington State Democrats Chair Tina Podlodowski. "Our primary concern is for the safety of our volunteers and the broader community of Spokane." "We urge every elected official and community leader to join us in condemning this apparently politically motivated act of violence. No one should have to fear for their life simply because they participate in our political process." more...

By Natalie Colarossi

A Republican lawyer in Florida accused the state of covering up coronavirus information and resigned from his position on a state judicial commission after police raided the home of a former coronavirus data scientist. Ron Filipkowski, who was appointed to the 12th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission by Governor Ron DeSantis, submitted his resignation on Tuesday after authorities raided the home of Rebekah Jones, a former state data scientist who accused the governor of manipulating information about the coronavirus.

Speaking to Newsweek, Filipkowski called the state's decision to seize property from Jones "crazy" and said he believes DeSantis has covered up coronavirus data and is now targeting scientists who are trying to tell the truth. "My concern is that in Florida we haven't been getting all of the facts and all the information about COVID, and it's clear the governor doesn't want to institute any kind of COVID policy of any kind," Filipkowski said. "The truth has been kept from us during the pandemic."

Over the summer, Jones said she had evidence that proved Florida was changing coronavirus data to make it falsely look as if the state's numbers were improving, a claim that the governor has vehemently denied. Jones was targeted by state authorities on Monday, after the Department of Health alleged that she used its statewide system to send an unauthorized emergency alert telling scientists to "speak up" about true coronavirus numbers in the state. more...

Federal prosecutors also have investigated foreign ties, possible money laundering.

The federal investigation into President-elect Joe Biden’s son Hunter has been more extensive than a statement from Hunter Biden indicates, according to a person with firsthand knowledge of the investigation. On Wednesday, Hunter Biden said he had been contacted about a tax investigation out of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Delaware. In addition to Delaware, the securities fraud unit in the Southern District of New York also scrutinized Hunter Biden’s finances, according to the person with direct knowledge of the investigation. The person said that, as of early last year, investigators in Delaware and Washington were also probing potential money laundering and Hunter Biden’s foreign ties. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

In addition to the probe into Hunter Biden, federal authorities in the Western District of Pennsylvania are conducting a criminal investigation of a hospital business in which Joe Biden’s brother James was involved. Federal officials have asked questions about James Biden's role in the business, according to a second person with direct knowledge of that investigation, who said it remains ongoing. There is no indication that Joe Biden himself is under investigation, but if the cases remain open when Joe Biden takes office, they could complicate his presidency, and shine an unflattering light on his relatives' dealings, which often seek to capitalize on the Biden family’s political connections. more...

*** Donald J. Trump is trying to stage coup. If you want to stop the steal, tell Donald J. Trumphe needs to stop the lies and stop his coup attempt. ***

Zeynep Tufekci

On the evening of September 11, 1980, my mom was approached by a neighbor who held rank in the Turkish military. He told her to stock up on bread and rice. “Oh, another coup,” she immediately groaned. The neighbor was aghast—he wasn’t supposed to tell anyone what was coming. But my mom, of course, had immediately understood what his advice must have meant. Turkey is the land of coups; this was neither the first nor the last coup it would face.

Over three decades later, I walked up to a counter in Antalya Airport to tell a disbelieving airline employee that our flight would shortly be canceled because the tanks being reported in the streets of Istanbul meant that a coup attempt was under way.* It must be a military exercise, she shrugged. Some routine transport of troops, perhaps? If so, I asked her, where is the prime minister? Why isn’t he on TV to tell us that? Another woman approached the counter. “This must be your first,” she said to the young woman behind the counter, who was still shaking her head. “It’s my fourth.”

I told the airline employee that we were not getting on that plane, destined for the Istanbul airport, which I knew would be a primary target. The other woman and I nodded at each other, becoming an immediate coup pod. I went out to secure transportation for us—this airport was not going to be safe either—while she and my 7-year-old son went to retrieve our luggage. “His first too,” I said to her. more...

Will Carless USA TODAY

For four years, President Donald Trump downplayed homegrown extremism, refused to engage in security briefings and peddled in falsehoods about threats from leftists. Now former federal security officials are urging President-elect Joe Biden to more seriously acknowledge the growing danger of domestic terrorism, and they welcome signs that he plans to do so. "Just the fact that Biden's going to run a normal process, that alone will make us safer because you'll actually have people paying attention and addressing these issues," said Elizabeth Neumann, a former senior Homeland Security official.

"The indications are that he's going to treat the challenges we have with domestic terrorism seriously." Neumann was one of a half-dozen former U.S. Department of Homeland Security sources interviewed, along with members of other federal law enforcement agencies and experts in domestic terrorism. Their consensus was that the past four years have been chaotic at the upper echelon of national security. Trump has consistently downplayed a spike in homegrown extremism – most of it from the far right – that his own words have helped grow, they said. more...


The billionaire entrepreneur declared that California had "too much influence in the world" but that its power is waning. Tesla, valued at $500bn (£372bn), has its headquarters in California, but will build a new factory in Austin. Space X - Mr Musk's spaceflight company - already has facilities in Texas. "The two biggest things that I got going on right now are the Starship development in South Texas ... and then the big new US factory for Tesla," Mr Musk told the Wall Street Journal. Living in California "wasn't necessarily a great use of my time," he added. more...

Sam Stein

President Donald Trump on Tuesday held what was billed as a summit to celebrate and mark the progress of the development of a vaccine to help end the COVID-19 pandemic. But after a few minutes of touting the success of Operation Warp Speed, his address morphed into an unspooling of grievances over the election outcome as well as an unfounded assertion that the rising number COVID-19 cases across the country was, in fact, a “terrific” development.

“I hear we’re close to 15 percent. I’m hearing that, and that’s terrific,” Trump said of the percentage of Americans who have contracted COVID-19. Trump Announced a Major Vaccine Summit but Forgot to Tell Key Figures He appeared to be referencing the increased likelihood that a rising infection rate would bring the country closer to so-called herd immunity, which would effectively stop the virus from spreading because there would be no potential carriers to which it could go. In fact, infectious disease experts say an infection rate would have to be above 70 percent for herd immunity to take hold—a number that, if it were to be reached, would result in hundreds of thousands more Americans dying. more...

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