Today is National Black Cat Appreciation Day!
On Black Cat Appreciation Day, August 17, black cats could use a good spin doctor. They’re so sleek and seductive with their all-knowing yellow eyes, that black cats seldom get positive publicity even though they’re just as adorable as other cats. So, who’s to blame for this negative black cat spin? Superstition! During the Middle Ages, people (mainly the Catholic Church) saw witches as shape-shifting black cats and the damage was done.
Today, pop culture loves black cats. There’s the sarcastic Thackery Binx in “Hocus Pocus”, Salem, in “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” and Pyewacket in the classic ”Bell, Book and Candle.” It’s National Black Cat Appreciation Day with big ups to America’s sultry, mysterious and mostly, sweet black cats!
In Other News . . .
Former Trump supporter Anthony Scaramucci is now predicting that Trump won’t be on the ballot in November 2020.
William D. Cohan interviewed Scaramucci for Vanity Fair: “Oh My God, This Jackass”: The Mooch Explains Why He Thinks Trump is “Crazy,” “Narcissistic,” and a “Paper Tiger” Who Will Drop Out By March 2020. Some highlights:
Cohan: But what was the moment the scales actually fell from your eyes?
Scaramucci: The red line was the racism—full-blown racism. He can say that he’s not a racist, and I agree with him, okay? And let me explain to you why he’s not a racist, ’cause this is very important. He’s actually worse than a racist. He is so narcissistic, he doesn’t see people as people. He sees them as objects in his field of vision. And so therefore, that’s why he has no empathy. That’s why he’s got his thumb up in the air when he’s taking a picture with an orphan. That’s why when someone’s leaning over the desk and asks [Nobel Prize–winning human rights activist Nadia Murad], “Well, what happened to your family members?”—they were murdered—he just looks at her and says, “Okay, when are we getting coffee here?”
You know, he doesn’t look at people—and by the way, if you and I were in his field of vision and he had a cold and the two of us had to die for him to get a Kleenex, you’re fucking dead. I mean, there’s no chance. You understand that, right?
Cohan: And then there’s the mental element, right?
Scaramucci: I think the guy is losing it, mentally. He has declining mental faculties; he’s becoming more petulant; he’s becoming more impetuous. Okay, you see just by the way he’s sweating, his body’s not doing well. It’s obviously not a guy that takes care of himself, right? And he doesn’t listen to anybody. And just think about this, okay? There’s no one—there’s no Jim Mattis; there’s no Gary Cohn; there’s no one to check him anymore. Whatever my differences were with General John Kelly, after he left, this thing has completely unspooled….
He’s gonna drop out of the race because it’s gonna become very clear. Okay, it’ll be March of 2020. He’ll likely drop out by March of 2020. It’s gonna become very clear that it’s impossible for him to win. And is this the kind of guy that’s gonna want to be that humiliated and lose as a sitting president? He’s got the self-worth in terms of his self-esteem of a small pigeon. It’s a very small pigeon. Okay. And so you think this guy’s gonna look at those poll numbers and say—he’s not gonna be able to handle that humiliation. And by the way, he is smart enough to know that that entire Congress hates his guts.
Of course Scaramucci isn’t the first to predict that Trump will have to drop out. Tom Joseph has been documenting Trump’s rapidly advancing dementia symptoms on Twitter for a long time now. Here’s his latest thread on the subject:
Check out his Twitter feed to read more.
Last Tuesday Trump gave a speech to union workers in Pittsburgh. It wasn’t supposed to be a campaign event, but he turned it into one. The Washington Post:
MONACA, Pa. — President Trump criticized the media, mocked his Democratic challengers, critiqued the Academy Awards, lamented losing money while president and boasted of his poll numbers while visiting a construction site here to give remarks about U.S. energy production.
The president spoke for more than an hour, meandering between his prepared remarks and a campaign-style speech listing grievances and currying votes. He touched on his 2016 victory in Pennsylvania, his love of trucks, “fake news,” China, trade, immigration, the Green New Deal, windmills, the Paris climate accord, former president Barack Obama’s $60 million book deal, Iran, veterans and New York energy policies.
Standing in a room full of construction workers in the middle of the day, many wearing their fluorescent work vests, Trump urged them to support his reelection and to convince their union leaders to do the same…..
Trump’s visit to Royal Dutch Shell’s Pennsylvania Petrochemical Complex here, about 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, was an official White House trip intended to promote the administration’s energy policies.
Yesterday the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the workers were told they would have to attend the speech or lose a day’s pay. They were also ordered not to protest.
The choice for thousands of union workers at Royal Dutch Shell’s petrochemical plant in Beaver County was clear Tuesday: Either stand in a giant hall waiting for President Donald Trump to speak or take the day off with no pay.
“Your attendance is not mandatory,” said the rules that one contractor relayed to employees, summarizing points from a memo that Shell sent to union leaders a day ahead of the visit to the $6 billion construction site. But only those who showed up at 7 a.m., scanned their ID cards, and prepared to stand for hours — through lunch but without lunch — would be paid.
That company and scores of other contractors on site and their labor employees all have their own contracts with Shell. Several said the contracts stipulate that to get paid, workers must be onsite.
Those who decided not to come to the site for the event would have an excused but non-paid absence, the company said, and would not qualify for overtime pay on Friday.
Shell spokesman Ray Fisher explained that the workers onsite have a 56-hour workweek, with 16 hours of overtime built in. That means those workers who attended Mr. Trump’s speech and showed up for work Friday, meeting the overtime threshold, were being paid at a rate of time and a half, while those who didn’t go to hear the president were being paid the regular rate, despite the fact that both groups did not do work on the site Tuesday.
Show up to cheer for Trump or lose a day’s pay and overtime to boot.
Yesterday, The New York Times’ Glenn Thrush reported that President Obama tried to caution Joe Biden about running for president in 2020 and has been warning Biden that he needs younger advisers.
The two men spoke at least a half dozen times before Mr. Biden decided to run, and Mr. Obama took pains to cast his doubts about the campaign in personal terms.
“You don’t have to do this, Joe, you really don’t,” Mr. Obama told Mr. Biden earlier this year, according to a person familiar with the exchange.
Mr. Biden — who thinks he could have defeated Donald Trump four years ago — responded by telling Mr. Obama he could never forgive himself if he turned down a second shot at Mr. Trump.
Mr. Obama has said he will not make an endorsement in the primary, and has offered every candidate his counsel. But he has taken an active interest in the inner workings of his friend’s campaign, to an extent beyond anything offered to other candidates.
In his interactions with Mr. Biden — the pair had a quiet lunch in Washington last month — Mr. Obama has hammered away at the need for his campaign to expand his aging inner circle.
He has communicated his frustration that Mr. Biden’s closest advisers are too old and out of touch with the current political climate — urging him to include more younger aides, according to three Democrats with direct knowledge of the discussion.
Biden also met with Biden’s advisers and issued a warning:
In March, Mr. Obama took the unusual step of summoning Mr. Biden’s top campaign advisers, including the former White House communications director Anita Dunn and Mr. Biden’s longtime spokeswoman, Kate Bedingfield, to his Washington office for a briefing on the campaign’s digital and communications strategy with members of his own staff, including his senior adviser, Eric Schultz.
When they were done, Mr. Obama offered a pointed reminder, according to two people with knowledge of his comments:
Win or lose, they needed to make sure Mr. Biden did not “embarrass himself” or “damage his legacy” during the campaign.
Well Biden has already put his foot in his mouth numerous times, but he’s still leading in the polls. I can only hope voters will wake up before the primaries begin.
Yesterday, Benjamin Netanyahu banned Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from traveling to Israel, after he was egged on by Trump. Later in the day, Netanyau told Tlaib she could come to visit her grandmother who lives in the occupied West Bank, with certain restrictions on her freedom of speech. Tlaib declined to accept the conditions. Now Democrats in the House are considering an official response.
Senior Democratic members of Congress are considering action against top emissaries of the Israeli government and the Trump administration for their roles in Israel’s decision to bar two House members from entering the country.
About a dozen lawmakers, including senior Jewish members, began discussions on Friday morning over ways to communicate a “deep lack of confidence and trust” in Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, and the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, according to two sources familiar with the discussions.
The group is weighing issuing a statement of no confidence in Dermer and opening an inspector general investigation into Friedman’s conduct, the sources said.
Israel banned Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota from a planned visit to Israel and the West Bank this weekend, provoking outrage among Democrats and several Republicans, including some who have harshly criticized the two lawmakers on policy grounds.
So . . . that’s it for me. what stories are you following today?
Hi Sky Dancers!
I’m a little slow getting started this morning because I was waylaid reading something at ProPublica that was truly shocking and long. Again, I have to say that in this day and age I am no longer surprised by these kinds of things but I can still be shocked by the level of cruelty rampant in our country these days.
This is the story of a Border Agent who used a 4000 pound truck to assault a fleeing migrant. It took awhile to get justice but justice finally has been done. Justice is something I feel like we wait for with baited breath continually because there is so little to be had these days and as it is said “No Justice. No Peace”.
Read this with eyes wide open. It’s gruesome.
Here’s the narrative as written by ProPublica’s A.C. Thompson.
It was late November 2017, and Matthew Bowen, a veteran Border Patrol agent, was seething. A fellow Border Patrol agent in Texas had just been found dead in the field, and Bowen was certain someone who’d been crossing the border illegally was responsible for murdering him.
“Snuffed out by some dirtbag,” Bowen, stationed in Nogales, Arizona, said in a text later obtained by federal authorities.
Bowen, if lacking in evidence, wasn’t alone in his anger and suspicion. President Donald Trump, nearing the end of his first year in office and already frustrated in his bid to construct a wall on the southern border, had promised to “seek out and bring to justice those responsible” for the Texas agent’s death. Brandon Judd, the head of the union that represents Border Patrol agents, declared to Fox News and other media outlets that the Texas agent had been “ambushed.”
Bowen’s work record suggested his distaste for the mix of migrants and drug traffickers crossing the border illegally could be dangerous. He’d been the subject of multiple internal investigations over excessive force during his 10-year career, court records show. In one, he’d been accused of giving a handcuffed suspect what agents called a “rough ride,” slamming the brakes on his all-terrain vehicle in a way that flung the suspect into the ground.
Bowen, though, had stayed on the job. And with the news of the Texas agent’s death, his disgust for illegal border-crossers seemed only to have deepened.
“Mindless murdering savages,” he texted to another agent that November.
Two weeks later, Bowen climbed behind the wheel of a Border Patrol pickup truck and used it to strike a Guatemalan migrant in a dusty parking lot in southern Arizona. Bowen eventually was arrested by federal authorities in May 2018 and charged with using his Ford F-150 pickup, a 4,000-pound vehicle, to menace the man as he tried to flee Bowen and other agents on foot. The truck, according to an affidavit filed by prosecutors in court, hit the man twice and came within inches of running him over. Prosecutors accused Bowen of using “deadly force against a person who was running away from him and posed no threat.”
This doesn’t appear to be a stand alone thing:
From the AP we get this headline today: ” Claim: Migrant children molested in US-funded foster care”. This is Trumpist America and it’s one big bag of crimes against humanity.
After local Guatemalan officials burned down an environmental activist’s home, he decided to leave his village behind and flee to the United States, hoping he’d be granted asylum and his little boy, whose heart was failing, would receive lifesaving medical care.
But after crossing the border into Arizona in May of last year, Border Patrol agents tore the man’s 7-year-old son from his arms and sent the father nearly 2,000 miles (3,220 kilometers) away to a detention center in Georgia. The boy, now 8, went into a U.S.-funded foster home for migrant children in New York.
The foster care programs are aimed at providing migrant children with care while authorities work to connect them with parents, relatives or other sponsors. But instead the boy told a counselor he was repeatedly sexually molested by other boys in the foster home.
A review of 38 legal claims obtained by The Associated Press — some of which have never been made public — shows taxpayers could be on the hook for more than $200 million in damages from parents who said their children were harmed while in government custody.
The father and son are among dozens of families — separated at the border as part of the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy — who are now preparing to sue the federal government, including several who say their young children were sexually, physically or emotionally abused in federally funded foster care.
With more than 3,000 migrant children taken from their parents at the border in recent years, many lawsuits are expected, potentially totaling in the billions. Families who spoke to the AP and FRONTLINE did so on the condition of anonymity over fears about their families’ safety.
“How is it possible that my son was suffering these things?” the father said. “My son is little and couldn’t defend himself.”
The families — some in the U.S., others already deported to Central America — are represented by grassroots immigration clinics and nonprofit groups, along with some of the country’s most powerful law firms. They’re making claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act as a precursor to filing lawsuits. The FTCA allows individuals who suffer harm as a direct result of federal employees to sue the government.
“It’s the tip of the iceberg,” said Erik Walsh, an attorney at Arnold & Porter, which has one of the world’s leading pro bono programs.
The firm has so far filed 18 claims on behalf of nine families, totaling $54 million, and Walsh says dozens more are likely coming.
The government has six months to settle FTCA claims from the time they’re filed. After that, the claimants are free to file federal lawsuits.
What kind of country do we live in that a Judge has to order the Justice Department to do this? From NYT: “Migrant Children Are Entitled to Toothbrushes and Soap, Federal Court Rules.”
A federal appeals court panel ruled on Thursday that the government must provide detained migrant children with basic hygiene supplies such as toothbrushes and sleeping mats, ending a debate that incited national outrage after a Justice Department lawyer argued against the need to do so.
The exchange in June between the lawyer and a panel of openly aghast federal judges spread rapidly in the national media. The case grew in significance days later, when a group of lawyers told reporters they had observed distressed migrant children held in cramped, dirty conditions and without sufficient food or clean water at a Border Patrol station in Clint, Tex.
The lawyers said they saw infants being cared for by other detainees, some as young as 7 years old.
Lawmakers sprang into action, decrying the conditions. Hundreds of children were transferred out of the station, which was cleaned up, and the top Border Patrol agentwho oversaw the facility was reassigned before resigning from his job.
“It’s a major victory for children in federal immigration custody,” Elora Mukherjee, one of the lawyers who visited the Clint facility and who has served as an official monitor on the ongoing court case for several years, said of the court’s decision.
Yet, in another court finding we have this via ABC: “Court allows Trump admin asylum restrictions to take place along most of border”.
Reversing the move everywhere outside the 9th Circuit means those who cross the border into California or Arizona will be able to seek asylum, while those entering into New Mexico and Texas will be barred unless they’re from Mexico, according to Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, a former immigration lawyer and policy analyst at the American Immigration Council.
“If this situation continues, smugglers may encourage more people to cross in California or Arizona instead of New Mexico or Texas,” Reichlin-Melnick said Friday. “This could have very dangerous consequences — Arizona has long been one of the deadliest places to cross the border, and temperatures are extreme now.”
The court said in its decision that “the district court failed to discuss whether a nationwide injunction is necessary to remedy Plaintiff’s alleged harm.”
From Think Progress yesterday, I read about the horrors that are now occurring in my backyard “Immigrants detained during mass ICE raids could be held in abusive Louisiana facility. Over 100 immigrants were pepper-sprayed at Louisiana ICE facilities earlier in August.”
Of the over 600 undocumented immigrants who were arrested in mass workplace raids across Mississippi this week, approximately 400 could be detained at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities in Louisiana, BuzzFeed News reported.
One of the facilities where a number of the immigrants reportedly will be detained is the ICE Processing Center in Pine Prairie where the outlet reported earlier this month that 100 immigrants were pepper-sprayed following a peaceful demonstration in the facility’s courtyard.
ICE officials did not immediately respond to requests for confirmation of the plans.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News this week, Bryan Cox, an ICE spokesman, described the pepper spray incident as “brief” and “calculated.” The incident occurred just one day after 30 immigrants were pepper-sprayed at an ICE facility in Bossier Parish, Louisiana, to “deescalate” a “small disturbance around lunchtime.”
According to lawyers for several migrants at the facilities, however, the conditions in the detention centers are far worse than has been reported: The total number of immigrants pepper-sprayed at the Pine Prairie facility was in fact over 100, a legal representative with the Southern Poverty Law Center told The Independent. And a prior NBC Newsreport revealed officers had allegedly detained at least one transgender migrant in isolation for four months, “because of the way [she] looked.”
Others have suffered equally dire fates.
The SPLC reported in April that, in addition to arbitrary solitary confinement, migrants at Pine Prairie were allegedly being held in “deplorable” conditions. Among other things, detainees were forced to consume “barely edible food,” and were kept in “foul” smelling, moldy rooms. Some have been held in the barbed-wire-encircled processing facility for months.
At the Bossier Parish facility, things are no better, migrants say. “There are lots of cops who came from another prison, they beat up the Cubans, they pepper spray them and handcuff them,” one man told attorney Lara Nochomovitz — who represents detained immigrants at the facility — in a text message obtained by Mother Jones earlier this month.
Four States are now taking the Trump administration to court over its new immigration policies severely cutting into aid to immigrants. This piece details California’s efforts via KCRA3. Why do all the worst of his policies impact children the most cruelly?
alifornia and three other states on Friday filed the latest court challenge to new Trump administration rules blocking green cards for many immigrants who use public assistance including Medicaid, food stamps and housing vouchers.
Nearly half of Americans would be considered a burden if the same standards were applied to U.S. citizens, said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
The lawsuit he filed in federal court in San Francisco follows others this week including those by Washington and 12 other states and by two California counties. Joining California are Maine, Oregon and Pennsylvania, as well as the District of Columbia.
The multiple lawsuits all contest one of the Republican administration’s most aggressive moves to restrict legal immigration. Spokesmen for the White House and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The new rules set to take effect in October would broaden a range of programs that can disqualify immigrants from legal status if they are deemed to be a burden to the United States – what’s known as a “public charge.”
Becerra said working families across the nation rely on similar safety net programs. The impact is particularly great in California, which has more than 10 million immigrants. Half of the state’s children have an immigrant parent, he said.
His lawsuit argues that the rule creates unnecessary new obstacles for immigrants who want to legally live in the United States. It also discourages them from using health, nutrition, housing and other programs for fear it will erode their chances of being granted lawful status.
Today, I could write about the recession that is almost certainly in process due to Trump’s ignorant trade policies. I could write about what’s going on in Hong Kong or Russia. World chaos is pretty much the course these days. These countries are experiencing pro-democracy protests which are worthy of coverage. We still have the issue of denial of Congress members entrance into Israel because of a tweet by the deranged occupant of the White House. Or, there’s always the horror of another Trumpist Hatefest where he even fat shamed a supporter. Yeah, that guy with that body, fat shamed some one. Unbelievable hmm?
Instead, day in and day out I worry about the health and well being of the most vulnerable to his policies. Immigrant and asylum seeking children deserve our best not our pathological worst treatment.
Have a peaceful weekend. Please be kind to yourself and others. I love you all.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
For the first time in ages, I’m not finding a lot of political news breaking news this morning. The Hong Kong protests may be approaching a crisis, and Trump isn’t helping. Other than that, the Jeffrey Epstein story is dominating the news along with the shooting of police officers in Philadelphia.
Donald Trump’s top aides are urging him to back Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters, but the president isn’t interested, multiple people familiar with the administration’s internal debates say.
In recent days, national security adviser John Bolton, China hands at both the National Security Council and the State Department, and several economic advisers have pushed for a more assertive posture on the Hong Kong demonstrations, which have paralyzed the former British colony and roiled markets.
They are finding little traction with a president focused more narrowly on trade negotiations with Xi Jinping — and worried that criticizing the Chinese leader’s efforts to stamp out dissent in Hong Kong will scuttle the possibility of inking a deal this winter.
As the protests have intensified over the past month, the president has remained determined to keep China’s human rights abuses from complicating his trade negotiations, going so far as to make a unilateral concession to Xi in the run-up to the G-20 Summit in June, according to three people briefed on the conversation. Aspects of the conversation were first reported by the Financial Times.
But after the initial publication of this report, the president appeared to reverse himself, issuing the latest in a series of contradictory remarks on the issue on Wednesday evening — this time demanding that Xi “deal humanely with Hong Kong.”
Raise your hand if you believe Trump cares about human rights.
A crackdown could be coming.
SHENZHEN, China/HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hundreds of China’s People’s Armed Police conducted exercises at a sports stadium in Shenzhen on Thursday, as the U.S. State Department expressed concern that they could be deployed across the border in Hong Kong to break up protests wracking the city.
But Western and Asian diplomats in Hong Kong said Beijing has little appetite for rolling the PAP or the People’s Liberation Army onto Hong Kong’s streets.
Men in fatigues could be seen in a stadium at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Centre, and shouts and whistles could be heard by a Reuters journalist on Thursday morning.
Later in the day, police carried out exercises in which they divided into two groups, one wearing black t-shirts similar to those worn by some protesters in Hong Kong.
A bit more:
Ten weeks of increasingly violent confrontations between police and protesters have plunged the city into its worst crisis since it reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
The protests represent one of the biggest challenges for Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.
On Wednesday the U.S. State Department said it was deeply concerned about reports that Chinese police forces were gathering near the border with Hong Kong and urged the city’s government to respect freedom of speech.
In Shenzhen, paramilitary police marched in and out of the stadium near a retail complex where shoppers milled about.
The stadium parking lot was filled with more than 100 dark-painted paramilitary vehicles, including troop trucks, armored personnel carriers, buses and jeeps. At least three were armored front-end loaders, and two vehicles carried water cannons.
I haven’t been following this story closely, but it’s certainly concerning. I’ll be paying more attention going forward.
This news just broke. The New York Times:Israel Denies Entry to Omar and Tlaib After Trump’s Call to Block Them.
Mr. Trump’s intervention was an extraordinary step to influence an allied nation and punish his political opponents at home.
The two congresswomen, Representatives Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, both freshmen, are the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. Both are outspoken adversaries of Mr. Trump and have been vocal in their support of the Palestinians and the boycott-Israel movement.
The president has targeted them in speeches and Twitter postings that his critics have called racist and xenophobic.
As usual, the NYT can’t bring itself to state the truth–that Trump is in fact racist and xenophobic.
The Washington Post has new information on the Jeffrey Epstein autopsy: Autopsy finds broken bones in Jeffrey Epstein’s neck, deepening questions around his death.
An autopsy found that financier Jeffrey Epstein suffered multiple breaks in his neck bones, according to two people familiar with the findings, deepening the mystery about the circumstances around his death.
Among the bones broken in Epstein’s neck was the hyoid bone, which in men is near the Adam’s apple. Such breaks can occur in those who hang themselves, particularly if they are older, according to forensics experts and studies on the subject. But they are more common in victims of homicide by strangulation, the experts said….
The office of New York City’s chief medical examiner, Barbara Sampson, completed an autopsy of Epstein’s body Sunday. But Sampson listed the cause of his death as pending….
Asked about the neck injuries, Sampson said in a statement that no single factor in an autopsy can alone provide a conclusive answer about what happened.
“In all forensic investigations, all information must be synthesized to determine the cause and manner of death. Everything must be consistent; no single finding can be evaluated in a vacuum.”
The details add to the bizarre circumstances surrounding Epstein’s death, which have launched a wave of questions and conspiracy theories about how he could have died in federal custody. Even President Trump has egged on speculation, without evidence, that Epstein — whose alleged victims say they were pushed to have sex with his powerful and celebrity friends — might have been killed to keep him from spilling the secrets of others.
It’s also odd that guards didn’t check on Epstein for hours before he died and that supposedly both guards fell asleep for three hours and the falsified records.
According to The New York Post, Epstein was upbeat the last time he spoke to his attorneys.
Jeffrey Epstein was confident he could fight the child sex trafficking charges against him and was in “great spirits” just hours before his jailhouse death on Saturday morning — even telling one of his lawyers, “I’ll see you Sunday,” The Post has learned.
The convicted pedophile also told his lawyers that the neck injuries he suffered in an earlier incident at the Metropolitan Correctional Center were inflicted by his hulking, ex-cop cellmate, which led the lawyers to request that he be taken off a suicide watch, according to a source familiar with Epstein’s case.
Epstein’s optimism behind bars — expressed during daily visits with his lawyers that lasted up to 12 hours each — was so great that it struck some of those around him as “delusional,” the source said.
“He thought he was going to win the double-jeopardy motion” that his defense lawyers were planning to file in connection with his 2008 Florida prostitution conviction, the source said.
More Epstein stories to check out:
New York Magazine: Jeffrey Epstein’s Bodyguard on His Former Boss’s Lifestyle, Cruelty, Suicide.
The standoff in Philadelphia is over. CBS News: Philadelphia suspected gunman in custody after hourslong standoff and six officers shot.
A suspect is in custody in Philadelphia after an hourslong standoff and shootout that left six officers shot and another injured in a related vehicle crash, authorities said. Two officers and three other people who had been trapped in the building with the shooter were freed after several hours.
CBS Philadelphia says the suspect’s lawyer told the station the suspect is 36-year-old Maurice Hill, though police haven’t released his name. The alleged gunman surrendered shortly after midnight. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross told reporters it was teargas that got the suspect to give up.
Attorney Shaka Johnson said Hill called him to the scene of the standoff while he was barricaded inside. “Maurice called me in a panic, obviously,” Johnson told CBS Philadelphia. “He did not want this to end violently and he really was sort of taking an opportunity to speak his peace. I told him, ‘You gotta surrender, man.”‘
Hill wasn’t injured in the shootout, according to Johnson, who added that Hill was brought to a hospital to be checked out, then released with officers surrounding him overnight. Charges haven’t been announced.
CBS News has learned Hill has a long criminal history.
Police had initially responded around 5 p.m. on a narcotics warrant and things “went awry almost immediately,” Ross said.
More background at the link above.
I’ll end with a feel-good immigration story from Buzzfeed News: A Woman Tweeted A Picture Of A Man Who Had Shown Her Kindness As A Child Refugee. Within 36 Hours They Were Reunited.
A former child refugee has been reunited with a man who bought her a bike when she was 5 years old, thanks to a Twitter appeal to find him that went viral.
Mevan Babakar lived in a refugee camp near Zwolle in the Netherlands with her parents in the 1990s. She is currently taking a sabbatical from her job at a fact-checking organization in London to retrace the journey her family took after fleeing Iraq during the Gulf War.
On Monday she tweeted a picture of the man who worked at the refugee camp, asking for people’s help in identifying him. She wrote that when he gave her a bike, “My five-year-old heart exploded with joy. I just want to know his name. Help?”
The tweet was retweeted thousands of times, and people also got in touch with Babakar, 29, to say the man and his wife had helped them, too. Within 24 hours, not only had the man been found, but he was close enough for Babakar to meet him in person that day.
They were reunited in Germany, where the man, Egbert, lives. Babakar said meeting Egbert “felt like I’d been transported back in time. I felt safe, like I’d seen a family member I hadn’t seen in a long time.”
“It was hugely surreal and kind of overwhelming, a lot of emotions at once,” she told BuzzFeed News from the phone in the Netherlands.
Egbert remembered Babakar and her mother from all those years ago, and the three of them plan to stay in touch and meet up in the future. “My mum is very excited to meet him,” Babakar said, adding that Egbert had told a local journalist that if there was anyone he could have seen again from his time working at the refugee camp, “it would have been Mevan and her mother.”
What stories have you been following?
Had to share this…
Yesterday the Trump administration announced two shocking new policies: destructive rules changes to both legal immigration and the Endangered Species Act. Rachel Maddow addressed these two stories last night.
Dakinikat addressed the immigration issue exhaustively in her post yesterday, so I’ll focus on the new endangered species issue; but here’s one important piece on immigration from a historian:
The Washington Post: The Danger of Vilifying Poor Immigrants, by Hidetaka Hirota
Supporters of the president’s immigration policies welcome this change because they think it targets undocumented immigrants, or “illegal aliens,” who they believe have no right to stay in the United States. Many who subscribe to this view are themselves descended from European immigrants. And in making their argument against undocumented immigrants, they emphasize that their European ancestors came legally and respected the law — in contrast to today’s immigrants. But they have gotten the history wrong, especially if their ancestors arrived in the United States during the 19th century.
This view of the past is shaped by two misconceptions: that Europeans who were admitted in the 19th century were “legal” and that unauthorized entry is a new problem caused by contemporary immigration, especially from Latin America. This misguided history has contributed to the vilification of today’s Latinx immigrants — resulting in such extreme enforcement policies as expedited removal, family separation and indefinite detention.
In reality, European immigrants in the 19th century were probably not as legal as their descendants think they were.
Hirota explains that in the 19th century, cities and states tried to keep poor immigrants out and deport those who were here, but “the scale of immigration was simply too large for local and state officials to strictly enforce the pauper exclusion provisions of the immigration law.” For example:
Between 1846 and 1855, about 1.5 million Irish men and women fled famine-stricken Ireland, migrating to the United States. This rapid migration of very impoverished immigrants overwhelmed the operation of state-level immigration control, allowing people to enter the United States without proper inspection and bonds.
There have always been nativists like Trump who tried to keep immigrants out of the U.S., but desperate people kept coming anyway–in massive numbers. I’d like to see Trump prove that his grandfather, grandmother, mother, first and third wives came here legally.
Trump’s attack on endangered species
National Geographic, May 6, 2019: One million species at risk of extinction, UN report warns.
THE BONDS THAT hold nature together may be at risk of unraveling from deforestation, overfishing, development, and other human activities, a landmark United Nations report warns. Thanks to human pressures, one million species may be pushed to extinction in the next few years, with serious consequences for human beings as well as the rest of life on Earth.
“The evidence is crystal clear: Nature is in trouble. Therefore we are in trouble,” said Sandra Díaz, one of the co-chairs of the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. A 40-page “Summary for Policy Makers” of the forthcoming full report (expected to exceed 1,500 pages) was released May 6 in Paris.
Based on a review of about 15,000 scientific and government sources and compiled by 145 expert authors from 50 countries, the global report is the first comprehensive look in 15 years at the state of the planet’s biodiversity. This report includes, for the first time, indigenous and local knowledge as well as scientific studies. The authors say they found overwhelming evidence that human activities are behind nature’s decline. They ranked the major drivers of species decline as land conversion, including deforestation; overfishing; bush meat hunting and poaching; climate change; pollution; and invasive alien species.
The tremendous variety of living species—at least 8.7 million, but possibly many more—that make up our “life-supporting safety net” provide our food, clean water, air, energy, and more, said Díaz, an ecologist at the National University of Cordoba in Argentina, in an interview. “Not only is our safety net shrinking, it’s becoming more threadbare and holes are appearing.”
Read more at the link. Also at National Geographic, see a slideshow of different endangered species in each of the 50 states.
On Monday, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced they were pushing through changes to the Endangered Species Act that will, in effect, weaken protections for species, and possibly give industry more leeway to develop areas where threatened animals live. A draft proposal of these rule changes was announced last summer. And now the rules go into effect in 30 days after they are officially published in the federal register (which the New York Times expects will happen this week).
The Trump administration’s alterations don’t change the letter of the ESA, which was passed in 1973 during the Nixon administration. But they do change how the federal government will enforce it. Here are two of the biggest changes. (Read the full new finalized rules here.)
Currently, species that are listed as “threatened” are defined as “any species which is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future.” (Threatened is a designation that’s less severe than “endangered.”) The new rules constrain what is meant by “foreseeable future” and give significant discretion in interpreting what that means.
“The Services will describe the foreseeable future on a case-by-case basis,” the new rule states. Discretion is not a problem per se, but as the Washington Post explained last year, this could mean that in determining protections for plants and animals, regulators could ignore the far-flung effects of climate change that may occur several decades from now. Polar bears are threatened now, but they’ll be in even more peril in the future, when there’s less and less sea ice. There’s now more leeway for the government to determine if disappearing ice 40 years from now contributes to the threat Arctic animals face today.
The second big change is more of a giveaway to industry.
Until now, the agencies that enforce the ESA have had to base their decisions of whether to protect a species solely on scientific data, “without reference to possible economic or other impacts of such determination.”
The new rule removes that phrase. “The Act does not prohibit the [government] from compiling economic information or presenting that information to the public,” the rule argues. It does clarify that it’s allowed to do so “as long as such information does not influence the listing determination.” (But that’s confusing: Why strike the phrase from the guidelines in that case?)
That change, conservation groups fear, opens the door to business interests coming into discussions of whether a species should be protected. The new rule also gives the agencies more leeway to determine if an area that’s unoccupied by a species (but where it could also conceivably live) should be protected.
Read the rest at Vox.
The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board: Editorial: Trump guts the Endangered Species Act. Polar bears and bald eagles, take notice.
The Trump administration announced reckless and potentially devastating new rules Monday that will weaken the Endangered Species Act, which currently bestows a mantle of protection over 1,663 species of animals and plants. Of those, 1,275 are considered endangered and close to extinction. Another 388 are listed as threatened — the polar bear is one — and at risk of becoming endangered.
In the 46 years since it was signed into law by President Richard Nixon, the Endangered Species Act has protected imperiled wildlife and brought many species back from the brink of extinction. The law is credited with saving such species as the bald eagle (which recovered sufficiently to be delisted), as well as the California condor and the grizzly bear, both of which are still considered endangered. So are the right whale, the San Joaquin kit fox, and the rusty patched bumblebee….
These irresponsible and short-sighted changes will lead to further extinctions, damage the ecosystem and set back the nation’s efforts to protect wildlife — all as a gift to industry, which finds the law costly and burdensome. The new rules will no doubt clear the way for building, mining and oil and gas drilling in sensitive areas.
The new rules come in the wake of a report from the United Nations earlier this year that more than 1 million plants and animals around the world face extinction, some within decades, owing to human development, climate change and other threats….
It’s unconscionable — and dangerous — to be removing protections at a time when scientists warn that a million species could become extinct. The new rules should be legally challenged and overturned. They undermine a progressive and far-sighted, environmentally conscious law that has worked well for nearly half a century.
Associated Press, via MSN: States vow suit over endangered species rollback.
California and Massachusetts say they’ll go to court to fight the Trump administration’s overhaul of the Endangered Species Act.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (hahv-YEHR’ beh-SEH’-rah) said Monday that they planned to sue. It came hours after the administration announced broad changes to the way the government would enforce endangered species protections.
Both Democratic state prosecutors pointed to a United Nations report earlier this year warning that more than 1 million species globally are in danger of extinction.
Becerra told reporters that “this is not the time to go low, go slow or go backward.”
Several conservation groups also have promised court fights. The administration says the changes will reduce regulatory burdens while still protecting struggling species.
I can only hope these lawsuits are successful, but if we want to save ourselves and our environment we are going to have to get rid of this evil, destructive administration.
What else is happening? What stories are you following today?
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
I’m working through a migraine right now. My left eye decided to go rogue so we’ll see how long I can get through this before both my body and spirit become weaker. I’m disheartened by the continued cruelty at the heart of Trump’s White Supremacist approach to immigration and it’s getting increasingly challenging for me to keep up with the news.
This latest headline via Politico–“Trump to restrict immigration based on use of public benefits”–just completely blows away the idea that it’s just “illegal” immigration that Trump hates. It’s all immigrants but especially the ones who don’t fit his deplorable and shallow standards. No matter if you’re legal or not and struggling, Trump has decided you shouldn’t be here. This is a lot from a Trust Fund baby who cannot manage to feed himself without breaking the law.
The Trump Administration issued a rule Monday that allows federal officials to deny green cards to legal immigrants who have received certain public benefits or who are deemed likely to do so in the future.
The “public charge” regulation — pushed by White House senior adviser Stephen Miller and other hard-line officials — is the latest part of President Donald Trump’s vast immigration crackdown. While Trump has railed against migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, the new regulation represents his most ambitious effort yet to restrict legal immigration as he gears up for his 2020 reelection campaign.
Acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli praised the regulatory change at a White House press briefing Monday morning.
“We want to see people coming to this country who are self-sufficient,” he said. “That’s a core principle of the American dream. It’s deeply embedded in our history, and particularly our history related to legal immigration.”
Conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation have touted the measure as a way to limit immigration to self-sufficient foreigners who won’t be a drain on public resources. The Republican Study Committee — a group that includes roughly three-quarters of House GOP lawmakers — praised the regulation as “a step in the right direction” in a budget proposal released in May.
I would just like to say that I have no idea how many immigrants actually have come into this country that are “self-sufficient” at all times but I would venture to think not many. Every one of us who survived Katrina was given debit cards and food stamps to help us get through that disaster including foreign students and others. Does that count against folks too? I remember thinking “Happy 50th birthday Kathy, you’re homeless AND on food stamps!!”
So, what is the purpose of this? Via WAPO: “Trump administration tightens rule that could deny green cards, citizenship to immigrants who need public assistance.”
The new policy for “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds,” which appeared Monday on the Federal Register’s website and will take effect in two months, sets new standards for obtaining permanent residency and U.S. citizenship. The Trump administration has been seeking to limit those immigrants who might draw on taxpayer-funded benefits, such as many of those who have been fleeing Central America, while allowing more highly skilled and wealthy immigrants into the United States.
Wealth, education, age and English-language skills will take on greater importance in the process for obtaining a green card, as the change seeks to redefine what it means to be a “public charge,” as well as who is likely to be one under U.S. immigration law.
Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, told reporters at a White House briefing that his agency is moving to more clearly define a long-standing element of U.S. immigration law.
“Through the public charge rule, President Trump’s administration is reinforcing the ideals of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility, ensuring that immigrants are able to support themselves and become successful here in America,” Cuccinelli said.
The move comes as part of a broader effort by the Trump administration to build new bureaucratic obstacles to the U.S. immigration system, at the same time that the president seeks to put physical barriers on the Mexico border. The administration has slashed the number of refugees admitted to the United States, tightened access to the asylum system and expanded the power of the government to detain and deport those lacking legal status.
Many asylum seekers and immigrants from countries with political upheaval rely on sponsorship in order to pull their lives together. There are many, many Americans whose families have historically come to the United States to avoid turmoil and starvation. The diaspora from the Irish Potato Famine comes to mind.
My mother traced our family roots back when you had to get microfiche from all over and do a lot of digging. She prided herself on getting at the point that each and every family line relatives first stepped foot on US soil. Each one of them came because they saw something here and they wanted to be a part of it so they came of their own free will and desire to be better . The most riveting stories to me were those of my father’s family that came from the Alsace Lorraine area that was captured by Napoleon.
My Jewish ancestors and Huguenot French ancestors from Alsace Lorraine came with nothing to their name after that invasion because once returned to France, their stores, farms and homes in the region were deeded to the Church in Rome. They were called Pennsylvanian Dutch even though they were neither and worked their way west to become farmers culminating with my father being the first to get a degree in the line that lead to me. That’s the big American Dream story for any one in this country today even if their ancestors didn’t have a choice in coming to America.
There is no difference between the dreams of these immigrants or my earlier ones many who signed the Declaration of Independence and fought for the Union or the one British Great grandfather I had that joined many in coming through Ellis Island or any immigrant that comes here today. I helped sponsor my Lama from Nepal and two of his children are here, graduated university, and his youngest son is finishing Med School having worked his way in restaurants to get through university. The family is indigenous Tsherpa.
The Diaspora of black Americans from the South have similar themes. Escaping the Jim Crow laws of the South and the terror of the KKK, many black families went north to make better lives for themselves and their families. This is a truly American story and you don’t have to be born here to appreciate the Dream. Hard working folks that take any job available to take their families to education and higher levels should be welcomed any where in the US.
So this deliberate cruelty to people wishing to better themselves that may need some help from us tears at my heart and sensibilities.
This is from Adam Serwer last month writing for The Atlantic: “What Americans Do Now Will Define Us Forever. If multiracial democracy cannot be defended in America, it will not be defended elsewhere.” He wrote this shortly after the “Send Her Back” chants were heard.
The conservative intelligentsia flocked to the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C., this week for the National Conservatism Conference, an opportunity for people who may never have punched a time clock to declare their eternal enmity toward elites and to attempt to offer contemporary conservative nationalism the intellectual framework that has so far proved elusive.
Yoram Hazony, the Israeli scholar who organized the conference, explicitly rejected white nationalism, barring several well-known adherents from attending, my colleague Emma Green reported. But despite Hazony’s efforts, the insistence that “nationalism” is, at its core, about defending borders, eschewing military interventions, and promoting a shared American identity did not prevent attendees from explicitly declaring that American laws should favor white immigrants.
Some other attendees, such as National Review’s Rich Lowry, took pains to distance themselves from the president’s brand of nationalism. “We have to push back against Donald Trump when he does things to increase that breach between the right and African Americans,” Lowry said. But in the fall of 2017, when Trump attempted to silence black athletes protesting police brutality, Lowry praised his “gut-level political savvy,” writing, “This kind of thing is why he’s president.”
The conference stood solidly within the conservative intellectual tradition, as a retroactive attempt by the right-wing intelligentsia to provide cover for what the great mass of Republican voters actually want. Barry Goldwater did not break the Solid South in 1964 because the once Democratic voters of the Jim Crow states had suddenly become principled small-government libertarians; voters who backed Donald Trump in 2016 did not do so because they believed a nonracial civic nationalism had been eroded by liberal cosmopolitanism.
The consensus that American civic nationalism recognizes all citizens regardless of race, creed, color, or religion was already fragile before Trump took office. That principle has been lauded, with varying degrees of sincerity, by presidents from both parties, and in particular by the first black president, who reveled in reminding audiences that “in no other country in the world is my story even possible.” The nationalism that conservatives say they wish to build in fact already existed, but it was championed by a president whose persona was so deformed by right-wing caricature that they could not perceive it. Instead, they embraced the nationalism that emerged as a backlash to his very existence and all it represented.
Trump’s nationalist innovation is not taking pride in his country, supporting a principled non-interventionism, or even advocating strict enforcement of immigration laws. The only thing new Trump brings to the American nationalism of recent decades is a restoration of its old ethnic-chauvinist tradition.
These are undoubtedly sons and daughters of immigrants deemed unfit for US immigration by the No Nothings and the anti immigration furor that started in the 1920s as a result of the massive immigration from parts of Europe deemed unworthy of saving. The US immigration Act of 1965 was supposed to end the idea that some races were worthy of immigrating and others were not.
Changes Introduced by the Immigration Act of 1965
Among the key changes brought by the Hart-Celler Act:
- Quotas based on nation of origin were abolished. For the first time since the National Origins Quota system went into effect in 1921, national origin was no longer a barrier to immigration. “With the end of preferences for northern and western Europeans, immigrants were selected based on individual merit rather than race or national origin,” Chin says. “Accordingly, there were many more immigrants from Asia, Africa and other parts of the world which had traditionally been discriminated against.” The act also established new immigration policies that looked at reuniting families and giving priority to skilled laborers and professionals.
- It restricted immigration from Mexico and Central and South America. According to Chin, there were no numerical limitations on immigration until 1921, but Western Hemisphere immigration had been exempt. “Based on the Monroe Doctrine—and the desire for the free flow of labor, especially agricultural labor—there had been no cap under the National Origins Quota System,” he says. “The 1965 act established a cap on Western Hemisphere immigration for the first time. It also followed on the unwise elimination of the [guest worker] Bracero Program in 1964. These decisions disrupted traditional patterns of labor movement and agricultural production in the United States in ways we are still grappling with.”
- It changed immigration demographics and increased immigrant numbers. According to a report by the Pew Research Center, in 1965, 84 percent of the U.S. population consisted of non-Hispanic whites; in 2015, that number was 62 percent. “Without any post-1965 immigration, the nation’s racial and ethnic composition would be very different today: 75 percent white, 14 percent black, 8 percent Hispanic and less than 1 percent Asian,” the report finds.Comparing 1965 to 2015, the Hispanic population rose from 4 percent to 18 percent; and Asians grew from 1 percent to 6 percent. “This fast-growing immigrant population also has driven the share of the U.S. population that is foreign-born from 5 percent in 1965 to 14 percent today and will push it to a projected record 18 percent in 2065,” the report continues, noting that no racial or ethnic group will claim a majority of the U.S. population.
This was imagined by President Kennedy and signed into law by LBJ so it was a centerpiece to all of the Key Civil Rights/Voting Rights efforts whose goal was to end racial discrimination in all walks of life. It only can be seen in the same light as Civil Rights and Voting Rights. These are rights that the Republicans–under Trumpist Rule–also seek to undermine.
I was 11 when I immigrated to San Antonio from Mexico. When I turned 14, my tourist visa expired and I became undocumented. After more than a decade without papers, I became a United States citizen on Aug. 8, 2014.
I naively believed that when I legally became an American, with a passport that proves I belong here, all the fears I had while living undocumented would be erased: fears of being separated from my family, of being detained, of being deported, of never being fully accepted in this country. But the election of Donald Trump, his racist and harmful lies about immigrants, the policies enacted by his Administration and the violence he has incited against brown people have removed the rose-colored glasses through which I once viewed this country. I now see America more clearly for what it is: a place where the color of your skin is the most important factor. And if you’re black, brown or any other nonwhite ethnicity, it’s the thing that can make you a target of hate.
Trump has spent his entire presidency building upon the anti-immigrant and anti-Latino rhetoric he put forth when he disparaged Mexicans as rapists and drug smugglers at his campaign launch. Last October, as thousands of Central American migrants made their way to our southern border to seek asylum, Trump tweeted, in part, “This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!” In May, while speaking of migrants during a rally in Panama City Beach, Fla., he asked, “How do you stop these people? You can’t.” One woman had an idea: “Shoot them!” she shouted. The crowd cheered and clapped. “That’s only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement,” Trump responded with a smirk.
Trump claims that he doesn’t have a problem with immigrants so long as they enter this country the “right way.” In that same October tweet, he wrote, “Please go back, you will not be admitted into the United States unless you go through the legal process.” In reality, seeking asylum is a legal way to enter the country, but not only has Trump called our asylum laws “ridiculous,” his Administration has taken action to restrict the options for those seeking refuge. His treatment of migrants has already had deadly consequences with more than two dozen deaths in U.S. custody since 2017, including at least seven children. Now Trump’s rhetoric has turned deadly as well. On Aug. 3, a white nationalist opened fire in a crowded Walmart in El Paso as “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas,” he wrote in a manifesto prior to the shooting. The shooter didn’t stop to ask any of the 22 people he killed for their papers, or if they came to the U.S. “the right way,” or if they immigrated “legally.” That’s because it isn’t actually about legality. It is about our brown skin in America.
Trump’s amped up re-election rhetoric is making the country unsafe for People of Color and religious minorities. These are the same people who have historically come to our country for safe haven. He is making it a living hell instead and quite purposefully so.
Still, activism continues to stop this and the Jewish Community is keenly aware of how badly all of this can end. Many have taken to the streets.
Please have a nice and safe week and remember to be kind to yourself and others!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
So damn true…
Look…the New York Times got a headline right!
That’s all I can do for today…this is an open thread.