Lazy Caturday Reads

Photograph from Walter Chandoha: The Cat Photographer (Aperture, 2015)

Good Morning!!

The photographs in today’s post are by famous cat photographer Walter Chandoha.

Lately the media has been following the trial of Derek Chauvin in Minnesota, and understandably they have called attention other cases of Black men being killed by cops. Yesterday a man was shot and killed by police in Portland, Oregon. 

The Oregonian: Portland police fatally shoot man in Lents Park.

Portland police responding to a call of a man with a gun Friday morning in Lents Park fatally shot the man after he drew what appeared to be a firearm, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the investigation.

The man died at the scene.

Investigators recovered what appeared to be a replica firearm with an orange tip on it, the sources said. A witness videotaped the shooting and provided the footage to police.

Police had received multiple calls about the man in the park with a gun shortly after 9:30 a.m.

Two officers who confronted the man fired less-lethal, 40-millimeter munitions at him, and an East Precinct officer shot him with a firearm, Acting Chief Chris Davis said.

Witnesses said they heard two gunshots.

Emergency medics tried to revive the man, but he was pronounced dead beside a fence by the park’s ball field off Southeast 92nd Avenue.

Police said the officer who fired the fatal shot is an 8-year veteran of the department. The bureau did not release the officer’s name.

Dozens of demonstrators gathered at the scene shortly after the shooting, screaming at officers from the park’s perimeter.

The gun wasn’t even real. The story says that the Oregonian usually doesn’t “typically does not identify a person’s race unless it is relevant.” In this case it was relevant, because the victim of the shooting was a white man.

How often do cops kill white people? According to a piece at Substack by Columbia University Professor John McWhorter, who is Black, it happens a lot: The Victorians had to Accept Darwin. We Need to Accept that Cops Kill White People as Easily as They Kill Black People.

The death of Daunte Wright in Minneapolis necessitates a new mental habit among us enlightened American souls.

We embrace assorted cognitive exercises as people with access to higher wisdom, such as understanding that a disadvantaged background can make it harder to excel, or that subtle bias can infect our thinking and actions.

walter-chandoha-cat-photography-inspiration-16Okay, but we need another one.

Whenever the national media reports on a black person killed by cops, we must ask ourselves “Would a white cop not have done that if the person were white?”

Because: we are taught that white (and even non-white) cops ice black people (usually men) out of racism. It’s possibly subconscious, but in the heat of the moment, they revert animalistically to their white supremacist assumption of black animality and pull that trigger.

This is why so many can only bristle at the idea that George Floyd did not die because he was black.

It’s why now, when the cop who killed Daunte Wright not only says she mistook her gun for a taser, and is even recorded as having done so, legions of people still insist on parsing it as evidence of “racism.” The idea is, I suppose, that she wouldn’t have made that mistake, would have been more prudent, if Daunte Wright was instead a white guy named Donald White.

The article is worth a read. McWhorter argues that poor people of any race are more likely to be killed by cops and because more Black people live in poverty, they are more likely to interact with the police and more likely to become their victims. I think he’s saying that the problem is not just racism, but economics–and policing itself.

Black people are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by cops, and exactly 2.5 times more likely to be poor, and data shows that poverty makes you more likely to encounter the cops, as even intuition confirms. This is why somewhat more black people are killed by cops than what our proportion in the population would predict.

Photograph from Walter Chandoha: The Cat Photographer (Aperture, 2015)

Accounts of this issue that pretend people like me have not presented figures like this – i.e. most mainstream media discussions — are out of court, even if their authors feel it’s their duty to pull people’s eyes away from “irreligious” ideas. Ignore the numbers and, even if you are writing about descendants of African slaves, you are simply plain wrong.

Reflect also: most people who take to the streets about cases like Daunte Wright are not thinking about the fact that black people are killed by cops 2.5 times more than their representation in the population would predict. They are protesting because all they see in the news is the black people killed, and have no way of imagining that whites are regularly killed in the same way and in much greater numbers.

 

Once more. Every time the media broadcasts the murder by cop of a black person, ask yourself if it’s really true that a cop wouldn’t have done it to a white person – and then go to, for example, the Washington Post database and see cops doing just that.

And upon that, we will settle upon an honest national conversation about the cops as murdering people in race-neutral fashion. Or at least we should.

Food for thought.

There’s quite a bit of news today about Trump loyalists. It even appears that some of them may finally get their comeuppance.

NBC News: Justice Department sues Trump ally Roger Stone, alleging millions in unpaid taxes.

The Justice Department on Friday sued Roger Stone, a longtime ally of former President Donald Trump, accusing Stone and his wifeNydia, of owing nearly $2 million in unpaid federal income taxes and fees.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, says the couple underpaid their income taxes by $1,590,361 from 2007 to 2011. It further says Stone, 68, did not pay his full tax bill in 2018, coming up $407,036 short. The couple, the suit alleges, used a commercial entity to “shield their personal income from enforced collection and fund a lavish lifestyle despite owing nearly $2 million in unpaid taxes, interest and penalties.” [….]

Stone was on his way to federal prison in July 2020 when then-president Trump commuted his sentence. Stone was sentenced earlier that year to serve 40 months in prison for lying to Congress about his efforts to connect with WikiLeaks in hopes of digging up dirt on Trump’s 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton. The lead prosecutor in the case said Stone had lied because the “truth looked bad for Donald Trump.” Stone was convicted of all seven counts against him….

Walter-Chandoha-cats8The Stones deposited more than $1 million in accounts belonging to a commercial entity, Drake Ventures, instead of personal accounts, thereby frustrating collection efforts, the government said in the filing.

From those accounts, the pair covered a down payment on a Fort Lauderdale condominium, paid for personal expenses and covered some of their tax liabilities, the lawsuit alleges, calling the entity an “alter ego” of the Stones.

Additionally, the filing wants to thwart the Stones’ transfer of their $525,000 Florida condominium to an entity known as the Bertran Family Revocable Trust, which the government says is controlled by Nydia Stone and has as beneficiaries their children, Adria Stone and Scott Stone.

A tax lien was being sought against the property, it said. The suit also seeks a judgment for $1,590,361.89.

The government also said the Stones at one point entered into an agreement to cover taxes owed through monthly installments of nearly $20,000, but stopped paying. Additionally, the filing alleges that in 2018, Stone filed his federal income tax return as “a married individual filing separately from his spouse” and owes an additional $407,036.84 for that year alone.

Politico: Pompeos violated rules on use of State Department resources, IG finds.

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo violated federal ethics rules governing the use of taxpayer-funded resources when he and his wife, Susan, asked State Department employees to carry out tasks for their personal benefit more than 100 times, a government watchdog has determined.

POLITICO obtained a copy of the report on the Pompeos, which was put together by the State Department’s inspector general’s office….

By digging through emails and other documents and interviewing staff members, investigators uncovered scores of instances in which Mike or Susan Pompeo asked State Department staffers to handle tasks of a personal nature, from booking salon appointments and private dinner reservations to picking up their dog and arranging tours for the Pompeos’ political allies. Employees told investigators that they viewed the requests from Susan Pompeo, who was not on the federal payroll, as being backed by the secretary….

Mike Pompeo, in an interview with investigators, insisted that the requests were often small and the types of things friends do for friends. His lawyer, William Burck, slammed a draft version of the report he received as a politically biased “compilation of picayune complaints cherry-picked by the drafters.”

Cat-Photog-2The inspector general’s office, however, defended the investigation, noting that many of the rules governing such interactions are clear, do not make exceptions for small tasks, and that the Pompeos’ requests ultimately added up to use a significant amount of the time of employees paid by taxpayers….

Susan Pompeo, for instance, asked staff members to buy a T-shirt for a friend; arrange for flowers to be sent to friends recovering from sickness; and help her book hair salon appointments when she was in New York during the U.N. General Assembly and had to meet with foreign dignitaries. One year, a senior adviser to the secretary and a senior Foreign Service officer came in on a weekend “to envelope, address, and mail personal Christmas cards for the Pompeos,” the report states.

State Department staff members also found themselves given more intense assignments, such as planning events, including for groups with which the Pompeos were affiliated but in a non-governmental capacity.

The apparently personal Pompeo tasks required time either when they were on-duty or off-duty, the report states. The Pompeos did not separately compensate the staffers for the non-State Department-related work, the report states.

Of course all this personal work was paid for with taxpayer money.

David Ignatius has an interesting opinion piece in The Washington Post on Kash Patel, whom Trump installed in the Defense Department late in his administration. Opinion: How Kash Patel rose from obscure Hill staffer to key operative in Trump’s battle with the intelligence community.

In the Trump administration’s four-year battle with the intelligence community, a recurring character was a brash lawyer named Kashyap P. “Kash” Patel. He appeared so frequently, in so many incarnations, that he was almost a “Zelig” figure in President Donald Trump’s confrontation against what he imagined as the “deep state.”

Patel repeatedly pressed intelligence agencies to release secrets that, in his view, showed that the president was being persecuted unfairly by critics. Ironically, he is now facing Justice Department investigation for possible improper disclosure of classified information, according to two knowledgeable sources who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the probe. The sources said the investigation resulted from a complaint made this year by an intelligence agency, but wouldn’t provide additional details….

http___com.ft.imagepublish.prod.s3.amazonawsWhile other Trump staffers, most prominently adviser Stephen Miller, became near-household names, Patel, now 41, flew largely beneath the radar during the Trump administration. In the span of four years, he rose from an obscure Hill staffer to become one of the most powerful players in the national security apparatus. The saga of his battles with the intelligence bureaucracy shows how the last administration empowered its lieutenants to challenge what it saw as the deep state.

At the start of the Trump administration, Patel was senior counsel for Rep. Devin Nunes when the California Republican chaired the House Intelligence Committee in 2017 and 2018 and emerged as a leading critic of the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III into the Trump campaign’s alleged links to Russia. Patel then joined Trump’s National Security Council staff as senior director for counterterrorism. In 2020, he was a senior adviser to acting director of national intelligence Richard Grenell and his successor, John Ratcliffe, helping lead their efforts to remove senior career intelligence officers.

Patel’s most prominent role was his final job, as chief of staff for acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller in the administration’s last two months. In that position, according to sources close to events, he challenged the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, and very nearly became acting director of the CIA himself.

As with so many other still-mysterious aspects of the Trump presidency, there’s a riddle at the center of Patel’s many activities. Beyond the basic goal of advancing Trump’s personal agenda, was there a larger mission? Was there a systematic plan, for example, to gain control of the nation’s intelligence and military command centers as part of Trump’s effort to retain the presidency, despite his loss in the November 2020 election? Or was this a more capricious campaign driven by Trump’s personal pique and score-settling without a clear strategy?

At least he’s out of government now, thank goodness. Read all about Patel at the WaPo link. 

I’ll end there. What stories have you been following? As always, this is an open thread.


Thursday Reads

Evariste Carpentier

By Evariste Carpenpier

Good Morning!!

Wow! There sure is a lot of news out there today. I don’t know how much I can cover in a post, but I’ll do my best. 

1. After 20 long years, President Biden is finally going to pull troops out of Afghanistan, against the wishes of military leadership.

Politico: How Biden’s team overrode the brass on Afghanistan.

The military spent more than a decade urging three different American presidents to stay in Afghanistan. With President Joe Biden’s decision this week to withdraw all U.S. forces by Sept. 11, they finally lost the battle.

“We cannot continue this cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan, hoping to create ideal conditions for the withdrawal and expecting a different result,” Biden said Wednesday in a speech announcing the decision. “I’m now the fourth United States president to preside over American troop presence in Afghanistan. Two Republicans, two Democrats. I will not pass this responsibility on to a fifth.”

As Biden weighed a full exit from the country this spring, top military leaders advocated for keeping a small U.S. presence on the ground made up primarily of special operations forces and paramilitary advisers, arguing that a force of a few thousand troops was needed to keep the Taliban in check and prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a haven for terrorists, according to nine former and current U.S. officials familiar with the discussions.

Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as the four-star commanders of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, Central Command and Special Operations Command, were emphatic proponents of this strategy, the current and former officials said, some of whom spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive planning.

But in the end, Biden and his top national security deputies did what no previous president has done successfully — they overrode the brass.

More from Susan Glasser at The The New Yorker: Biden Finally Got to Say No to the Generals.

On Wednesday, Joe Biden announced the close of the two-decade-long American war in Afghanistan, giving the U.S. military a deadline of the upcoming twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks to withdraw all remaining troops. “It’s time to end the Forever War,” he said, in a speech that was both deeply personal and politically emphatic. Speaking from the White House Treaty Room, where George W. Bush had declared the start of the fight, to root out Al Qaeda and its Taliban enablers, Biden declared that there would be no more extensions of the American military presence, rebuffing pleas of the teetering, pro-Western Afghan government and his own generals. It’s finally, really, for-better-or-worse over. I guess this is how eras end: not with a culminating battle or some movie-thriller crescendo but with a Tuesday-morning leak to the Washington Post and, a day later, a fifteen-minute Presidential speech confirming the historic decision.

Karin Jureck, Behind the News

Karin Jureck, Behind the News

Biden pulled the plug in an unsentimental, sober address, with the only passionate notes reserved for the U.S. military personnel who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq over the two decades, including his late son Beau. “War in Afghanistan was never meant to be a multigenerational undertaking,” he said. The President seemed genuinely sick and tired of the endless pleas for just a little more time. “So when will it be the right moment to leave?” he said, pointedly summarizing the arguments that he had dismissed. “One more year? Two more years? Ten more years?” he asked.

On Wednesday, he made the case that the U.S. had long since accomplished its original objectives of neutralizing the Al Qaeda threat from Afghan territory and bringing justice to the 9/11 perpetrator Osama bin Laden. But no amount of clear-eyed argument from Biden could erase the embarrassing historical fact that Afghanistan has now banished another superpower. America did not lose the war—not exactly—but it did not win, either. And, as Biden pointed out, it could never, in recent years, provide a plausible explanation of what achieving its goals would look like.

Read more at the link.

See also at ABC News: Blinken visits Afghanistan after Biden’s withdrawal decision to press for diplomacy. And at The Daily Beast: The Promise and the Tragedy of Biden’s Afghanistan Speech, by Spencer Ackerman

2. After four years of Trump sucking up to Vladimir Putin, President Biden has laid down the law to Russia.

The New York Times: Biden Administration to Impose Tough Sanctions on Russia.

The Biden administration is set to announce on Thursday a string of long-awaited measures against Russia, including far-reaching financial sanctions, for the hacking of government and private networks and a range of other activity, according to people who have been briefed on the moves.

The sanctions will be among what President Biden’s aides say are “seen and unseen” steps in response to the hacking, known as SolarWinds; to the C.I.A.’s assessment that Russia offered to pay bounties to militants in Afghanistan to kill American troops; and to Russia’s yearslong effort to interfere in United States elections, according to American officials and others who have been briefed on the actions.

The moves will include the expulsion of a limited number of diplomats, much like the Obama administration did in response to the Russian efforts to influence the election five years ago. But it is unclear whether this set of actions will prove sufficient to deter Russia from further hacking, influence operations or efforts to threaten European countries.

The sanctions are meant to cut deeper than previous efforts to punish Russia for interfering in elections, targeting the country’s sovereign debt, according to people briefed on the matter. Administration officials were determined to draft a response that would impose real costs on Moscow, as many previous rounds of sanctions have been shrugged off.

Daniel R. Celantano, Reading the news

Daniel R. Celantano, Reading the News

“It will not simply be sanctions,” Jake Sullivan, the president’s national security adviser, said in February. He has frequently said it will include “a mix of tools seen and unseen,” though there have been disagreements in the administration about how many of the steps to make public.

Restrictions on sovereign debt affect a nation’s ability to raise dollar-denominated bonds, with lenders fearful of being cut off from American financial markets. The United States has used similar techniques against Iran, among others.

Russian bond prices have fluctuated in recent weeks in anticipation of possible sanctions. Russia has relatively little debt, making it potentially less vulnerable to the tactic. And rising oil prices will benefit the country’s economy.

Nevertheless, any broad sanctions on Russia’s financial sector would amount to a significant escalation in the costs that the United States has been willing to impose on Moscow. And part of the administration’s concern has been whether Russian entities could retaliate by exploiting “back doors” implanted in American systems.

See also The Washington Post: Biden administration imposes significant economic sanctions on Russia over cyberspying, efforts to influence presidential election.

3. Democrats are seriously considering expanding the Supreme Court.

NBC News: Democrats to introduce bill to expand Supreme Court from 9 to 13 justices.

Congressional Democrats will introduce legislation Thursday to expand the Supreme Court from nine to 13 justices, joining progressive activists pushing to transform the court.

The move intensifies a high-stakes ideological fight over the future of the court after President Donald Trump and Republicans appointed three conservative justices in four years, including one who was confirmed days before the 2020 election.

The Democratic bill is led by Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee. It is co-sponsored by Reps. Hank Johnson of Georgia and Mondaire Jones of New York.

The Supreme Court can be expanded by an act of Congress, but the legislation is highly unlikely to become law in the near future given Democrats’ slim majorities, which include scores of lawmakers who are not on board with the idea. President Joe Biden has said he is “not a fan” of packing the court.

But it represents an undercurrent of progressive fury at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for denying a vote in 2016 to President Barack Obama’s pick to fill a vacancy, citing the approaching election, before confirming Trump nominee Amy Coney Barrett the week before the election last year.

The anger has taken hold within the Democratic Party, and the new push indicates that it has not dissipated in an era when the party controls the White House and both chambers of Congress.

The lawmakers, who intend to announce the introduction of the bill outside the Supreme Court building, will be joined by progressive activists Aaron Belkin, who leads Take Back the Court; Chris Kang, a co-founder and chief counsel of Demand Justice; and Meagan Hatcher-Mays of Indivisible, according to an advisory notice. All three groups advocate adding justices.

Read more at Vox: A new bill would add 4 seats to the Supreme Court, by Ian Millhauser

4. In Minnesota, another officer is charged in the senseless killing of a Black man.

Minneapolis Star-Tribune:  Officer charged with second-degree manslaughter in killing of Daunte Wright.

Former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly A. Potter was charged Wednesday with second-degree manslaughter in the death of Daunte Wright, joining just a handful of officers who have faced charges after shooting someone they said they intended to shock with a Taser.

Haynes King, Recent News

Haynes King, Recent News

Potter, a 26-year veteran of the department who resigned Tuesday, was arrested and booked into the Hennepin County jail shortly after noon. Bodycam footage from the shooting Sunday shows her shouting “Taser!” three times before killing Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, with a single shot from her Glock 9-millimeter handgun. Police officials blamed the death on human error.

Protests over Wright’s killing have focused on how Potter, who is white, carried out a sequence of events that led to the death of a Black motorist who had been stopped for a minor traffic violation. Wright cooperated with Potter and another police officer at first, but a criminal complaint filed Wednesday showed how the encounter turned violent after one of the officers told Wright he was being arrested on a warrant.

Potter fired her gun 12 seconds after Wright pulled himself free from the officers.

Potter was released from jail Wednesday evening after posting $100,000 bond. Her attorney, Earl Gray, was unavailable for comment.

5. The Matt Gaetz scandal grows worse every passing day.

The Daily Beast: Matt Gaetz’s Wingman Paid Dozens of Young Women—and a 17-Year-Old.

As new details emerge about Rep. Matt Gaetz’s role in an alleged sex ring, The Daily Beast has obtained several documents showing that the suspected ringleader of the group, Joel Greenberg, made more than 150 Venmo payments to dozens of young women, and to a girl who was 17 at the time.

The payment from Greenberg, an accused sex trafficker, to the 17-year-old took place in June 2017. It was for $300 and, according to the memo field, was for “Food.”

Greenberg’s relationship with Gaetz, and the money Greenberg paid to women, is a focal point for the Justice Department investigation into Gaetz. And the new documents obtained by The Daily Beast—containing years of online financial transactions—establish a clear pattern: Greenberg paid multiple young women (and at least one girl) hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of dollars on Venmo in one transaction after another.

Nearly a year after Greenberg’s June 2017 payment, Gaetz Venmo’d Greenberg to “Hit up ___,” using a nickname for the teen. She was 18 years old by then, and as The Daily Beast reported, Greenberg described the payment as being for “School.”

It was one of at least 16 Venmo payments to 12 different women listed as being for “School.” Typically, the payments were for around $500, but also went higher than $1,000 in the transactions obtained by The Daily Beast.

Gaetz made only one previously unreported transaction in the newly obtained documents: a payment from the Florida congressman to the former Seminole County tax commissioner for $300 on November 1, 2018, with the love hotel emoji (“🏩”) in the memo field. The Daily Beast was unable to tie that transaction directly to any woman, but confirmed that Greenberg booked one night for that date at The Alfond Inn, a luxury hotel in Winter Park, Florida.

Click the Daily Beast link to read the rest.

6. House hearing on law enforcement and the Capitol insurrection.

NPR: Ahead Of Hearing, Capitol Police Says It Needs Help To Address Insurrection Failures.

Members of Congress on Thursday will hear for the first time public testimony from the U.S. Capitol Police inspector general that will detail the most extensive findings yet in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Charles Sims, Reading the news

Charles Sims, Reading the News

The inspector general, Michael Bolton, will tell a congressional committee in prepared remarks that the agency must pivot from its reactionary role as a police department to one that works in a protection posture to deal with rising threats to the Capitol.

U.S. Capitol Police responded Wednesday to reports of Bolton’s findings by acknowledging that “much additional work needs to be done,” but that it will need “significant resources” from Congress to implement the new changes.

“January 6 was a pivotal moment in USCP, U.S. and world history that demonstrated the need for major changes to the way USCP operates,” the agency said in a statement.

Lawmakers will hear more about those major changes needed in a hearing before the House Administration Committee that will feature Bolton and his findings after submitting to them a 104-page report detailing a litany of concerns.

The panel’s chair, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, called for the testimony after receiving a briefing from Bolton last month. Lofgren, D-Calif., has said the report provides “detailed and disturbing findings and important recommendations.”

Bolton’s report — which was labeled law enforcement sensitive and was obtained by NPR but has not been made public in its entirety — said Capitol Police mishandled intelligence gathering ahead of the attack. Bolton said some of the agency’s own intelligence offered a “more alarming” warning that Congress itself was a target.

 Some scary insurrection stories:

The Washington Post: Armed ‘quick reaction force’ was waiting for order to storm Capitol, Justice Dept. says.

As the Capitol was overrun on Jan. 6, armed supporters of President Donald Trump were waiting across the Potomac in Virginia for orders to bring guns into the fray, a prosecutor said Wednesday in federal court.

Reading the Newspaper, Georgio Gosti

Reading the Newspaper, Georgio Gosti

The Justice Department has repeatedly highlighted comments from some alleged riot participants who discussed being part of a “quick reaction force” with stashes of weapons. Defendants have dismissed those conversations as bluster. But in a detention hearing for Kenneth Harrelson, accused of conspiring with other members of the Oath Keepers militia group to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election win, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey S. Nestler said the government has evidence indicating otherwise.\“This is not pure conjecture,” Nestler said. In a court filing this week, he noted, prosecutors obtained cellphone and video evidence from the day before the riot showing that Harrelson asked someone about the quick reaction force. He then went to a Comfort Inn in the Ballston area of Arlington for about an hour before driving into D.C., prosecutors said. The day after the riot, surveillance video from the hotel shows him moving “what appears to be at least one rifle case down a hallway and towards the elevator,” according to the court records….

“We believe that at least one quick reaction force location was here and that Mr. Harrelson and others had stashed a large amount of weapons there,” Nestler said. “People affiliated with this group were in Ballston, monitoring what was happening at the Capitol and prepared to come into D.C. and ferry these weapons into the ground team that Kenneth Harrelson was running at a moment’s notice, if anyone said the word.”

The Washington Post: 17 requests for backup in 78 minutes.

At 1:13 p.m. on Jan. 6, a D.C. police commander facing a swelling crowd of protesters on the west side of the U.S. Capitol made an urgent call for more officers in riot gear. “Hard gear at the Capitol! Hard gear at the Capitol!” Cmdr. Robert Glover shouted into his radio.

​​​​​Glover and a team of D.C. police officers had rushed to the besieged complex moments earlier at the behest of Capitol Police. By the time they arrived, the Capitol grounds were already being overrun by a mob intent on overturning President Donald Trump’s electoral defeat.

Over the next 78 minutes, Glover requested backup at least 17 times, according to a Washington Post analysis of the events, and the mob on the west side eventually grew to at least 9,400 people, outnumbering officers by more than 58 to one.

The Post reviewed police radio communications, synchronized them with hours of footage and drew on testimony and interviews with police supervisors to understand how failures of preparation and planning played out that day. The examination reveals how police were hampered by an insufficient number of officers and shortages of less-lethal weapons and protective equipment and also provides a glimpse into communications breakdowns within the police response.

Read about it at the WaPo.

That’s a hell of a lot of news. What did I miss?


Tuesday Reads

Jae Schalekamp, Oh Forsythia

Jae Schalekamp, Oh Forsythia!

Good Morning!!

I’ve been stuck inside for the past few weeks with chronic pain difficulties. Yesterday, I got out for the first time in quite awhile, and I was happy to see that Spring has finally arrived in the Boston area. Forsythia is blooming along with cherry blossoms, and light green leaves are beginning to form on some trees. It gave me a good feeling, even though we still have some tough times ahead as a country. Still, we are rid of Trump and we finally have a president who is working hard to deal with the pandemic that has taken nearly 563 million deaths in the U.S. and 136.7 million worldwide.

Here’s the latest pandemic news and it’s not good:

The New York Times: U.S. Calls for Pause on Johnson & Johnson Vaccine After Rare Clotting Cases.

Federal health agencies on Tuesday called for an immediate pause in use of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose coronavirus vaccine after six recipients in the United States developed a rare disorder involving blood clots within about two weeks of vaccination.

All six recipients were women between the ages of 18 and 48. One woman died and a second woman in Nebraska has been hospitalized in critical condition.

Nearly seven million people in the United States have received Johnson & Johnson shots so far, and roughly nine million more doses have been shipped out to the states, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

All for Forsythia, Cindy Mac

All for Forsythia, Cindy Mac

“We are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution,” Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, and Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the C.D.C., said in a joint statement. “Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare.”

While the move was framed as a recommendation to health practitioners in the states, the federal government is expected to pause administration of the vaccine at all federally run vaccination sites. Federal officials expect that state health officials will take that as a strong signal to do the same. Within two hours of the announcement, Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio, a Republican, advised all health providers in his state to temporarily stop giving Johnson & Johnson shots. New York State and Connecticut quickly followed suit.

Axios: The warning signs of a longer pandemic.

All the things that could prolong the COVID-19 pandemic — that could make this virus a part of our lives longer than anyone wants — are playing out right in front of our eyes.

The big picture: Right now, the U.S. is still making fantastic progress on vaccinations. But as variants of the virus cause new outbreaks and infect more children, the U.S. is also getting a preview of what the future could hold if our vaccination push loses steam — as experts fear it soon might.

Driving the news: The British variant is driving another surge in cases in Michigan, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has resisted reimposing any of the lockdown measures she embraced earlier in the pandemic.

  • Variants are beginning to infect more kids, even as schools are on the fast track back to reopening, making the pandemic “a brand new ball game,” as University of Minnesota epidemiologist Michael Osterholm recently put it.
  • New research confirms that our existing vaccines don’t work as well against the South African variant.

Between the lines: This is a preview of the longer, darker coronavirus future the U.S. may face without sufficient vaccinations — one that many experts see as pretty likely.

Although the pace of vaccinations is still strong, there’s a growing fear that it’s about to slow down. In some parts of the country, particularly the South, demand for shots has already slowed down enough to create a surplus of available doses.

Read more at Axios.

Flower Garden, Gustav Klimt

Flower Garden, Gustav Klimt

The trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd continues in Minneapolis, but that didn’t stop another Minnesota police officer from killing another black man. Here’s the latest on the shooting of Daunte Wright and the protests that have followed.

The Washington Post: Officer Kim Potter fatally shot Daunte Wright, police said. She’s a 26-year vet, served as union president.

Potter, 48, is a 26-year veteran and has served as her police union’s president, the Star Tribune reported. At an earlier news conference, where authorities played a nearly one-minute dash-cam recording of the fatal incident, Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon said it appears that Potter intended to fire her Taser but instead made an “accidental discharge” from her gun.

Potter has been suspended pending the results of a Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigation, the agency said. On Monday, Brooklyn Center leaders dismissed the city manager, potentially giving Mayor Mike Elliot the ability to fire the chief or officers in the department.

Washington County Attorney Pete Orput said he expects to complete a “thorough yet expedited” review of potential criminal charges in the case by no later than Wednesday, he told the Star Tribune.\“I’m hoping Wednesday, but I want to have the opportunity to give my condolences to his family and explain to them my decision,” Orput said. The suburban city of about 30,000 residents has been rocked by Wright’s killing as the Minneapolis area watches the ongoingtrial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis officer charged with murder after kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes.

The chain of events that ended with yet another fatal police shooting of a Black man in Minnesota began in what has become a typical tragedy — with a traffic stop for a minor infraction.

The man, Daunte Wright, 20, who died Sunday after a run-in with police in a suburb of Minneapolis, was driving an SUV with expired license plates, and he also ran afoul of a Minnesota law that prohibits motorists from hanging air fresheners and other items from their rearview mirrors.

“He was pulled over for having an expired registration on the vehicle,” Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon said Monday. “When the officer went over, an item hanging from the rearview mirror was spotted.”

Almond Blossom, Vincent van Gogh

Almond Blossom, Vincent Van Gogh

It was after that, Gannon said, that the officers discovered that a “gross misdemeanor warrant” for Wright’s arrest had been issued.

Minutes later, a gunshot rang out, and Wright joined the ranks of other Black motorists who have died after having been pulled over by police, a group that includes Philando Castile, 32, who was fatally shot in 2016 by a Minneapolis police officer after he was stopped for a broken taillight. His final moments were recorded in a powerful video.

Gannon said Monday that he believes the officer meant to pull a Taser in Sunday’s shooting but instead pulled her service weapon.

Read more at NBC News.
Minneapolis Star Tribune: Protesters, police clash at Brooklyn Center police station.

Demonstrators clashed with law enforcement officers in Brooklyn Center for the second night in a row Monday following the fatal shooting of a 20-year-old Black man by a police officer.

Protesters had been on hand throughout the day outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department, but the scene escalated after the start of a 7 p.m. curfew across four Twin Cities metro counties instituted by Gov. Tim Walz.

About 300 people attended a separate, peaceful vigil for Daunte Wright earlier in the evening at the site of the traffic stop that ended with his shooting.

“Right now, this community, this city, this state, our nation, our country, our world is broken,” said the Rev. Jeanette Rupert, who also works as an ICU nurse and said she came to speak at the vigil before her night shift. “We have had the knees on our neck for so long.”

Piet Mondrian, Amaryllis

Piet Mondrian, Amaryllis

Coming amid the high-profile criminal trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in George Floyd’s death, Wright’s fatal shooting in the suburb directly north of Minneapolis also ignited a clash late Sunday between demonstrators and law enforcement officers.

By shortly before 8 p.m. Monday, police began to warn demonstrators, who still numbered in the hundreds, that they were in violation of curfew. Officers began to move toward the fence in formation and issued orders to disperse.

Authorities fired multiple rounds of tear gas, along with rubber bullets and flash grenades. Protesters dispersed from areas hit by tear gas were regrouping and retaliating by throwing water bottles and launching fireworks. Later, lines of police in riot gear pushed groups of protesters away from the station. At a strip mall near the police station, looters broke into several businesses, including a Dollar Tree store where flames were later spotted.

At a 12:30 a.m. Tuesday news conference, Minnesota State Patrol Col. Matt Langer said that 40 people were arrested Monday night at the Brooklyn Center protest. Some were booked into the Hennepin County jail, some cited and released, he said. Several law enforcement officers suffered minor injuries from thrown debris; no protester injuries were reported, he said.

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Brooklyn Center mayor takes on oversight of police department, fires city manager.

Brooklyn Center leaders were poised to fire the city’s police chief Monday evening, following the police shooting of a 20-year-old Black man Sunday afternoon that touched off a night of unrest in the city.

At an emergency afternoon meeting, the City Council voted to give authority over the police department to the mayor’s office and to fire City Manager Curt Boganey, who’d been with the city since 2005, Council Member Dan Ryan said during a virtual council workshop….

Wright’s death triggered confrontations with police and looting in the city of about 31,000, where most residents are people of color. Mayor Mike Elliott, who took office in 2019, is the first person of color to serve as mayor.

Cottonwood Tree in Spring, Georgia O'Keefe

Cottonwood Tree in Spring, Georgia O’Keefe

“We recognize that this couldn’t have happened during a worse time,” Elliott said at a news conference Monday. “We are all collectively devastated and we have been for over a year now by the killing of George Floyd.”

At a virtual council workshop, Council Member Kris Lawrence-Anderson said she voted to remove the city manager because she feared for her property and retaliation by protestors if she had voted to keep him.

“He was doing a great job. I respect him dearly,” she said. “I didn’t want repercussions at a personal level.”

In remarks Monday afternoon, President Joe Biden called Wright’s death “tragic” and urged “peace and calm.”

“There is absolutely no justification, none, for looting,” Biden said. “No justification for violence.”

Read much more at the link.
Those are the two biggest stories of the day. But much more is happening. I’ll add a few more links in the comment thread. What’s on your mind today?

Lazy Caturday Reads

Jean-Metzinger-French-1883-1956-The-cat-c.-1915

Jean Metzinger, French, 1883-1956

Good Morning!!

Before I get to today’s news, here’s a little comic relief. This was in yesterday’s Boston Globe, but I can’t get past their rigid paywall. But I found the story at The Pest Control Daily: Boston Public Backyard used to have child alligators — sure, alligators — and other people fed them rodents. The “public backyard” is the Boston Public Garden, adjacent to the Boston Common. I had heard about cows grazing on the Common, but not about alligators in the Public Garden.

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There are several newspaper articles from this period referring to the alligators who lived in a basin – or pond – near the entrance to Arlington Street amid a “magnificent” row of lilies. Reports vary, but for some time there were between three and four alligators on the site, strikingly complementing the many other exotic features of the public garden at the time.

A story in the September 19, 1901 issue of the Boston Post said three of the city’s alligators were given by “a Charlestown woman” who “became afraid of them and introduced them to the city of Boston.” The fourth alligator was given to the city by a man from Chelsea, though it’s just unclear why.

An article that appeared in an August 9, 1901 issue of the Boston Globe said the alligators – known as babies – belonged to William Doogue, the city’s superintendent for common and public reasons.

orordatpb5s61Doogue oversaw the public garden from 1878 to 1906, according to Friends of the Public Garden, a nonprofit advocating Boston Common, the public garden, and the nearby Commonwealth Avenue Mall and known for its exceptional green thumb….

The alligators have certainly rubbed some city dwellers the wrong way. But it wasn’t so much their presence that was annoying – people often huddled around the pool looking for them – it was how they were sometimes fed.

“Some objections to feeding live rats and mice to those in the public garden pond,” read the headline of the August Globe article.

The newspaper reported that in “warm weather” the alligators were put in the public garden and fed by park officials once a week….

“Live rats exposed to hungry alligators,” read a headline in the Boston Post on August 9, 1901. “The public garden exhibit attracts morbid interest from women and children.”

The article says, “The city doesn’t feed them in the summer … the city doesn’t have to” because “the alligators make their own living by entertaining the public”.

The story included an illustration of primitively dressed people gathered around a small pond-like structure and watched a man kneel to feed the alligators with the animals’ mouths wide open.

Apparently this was seen as a low-life activity. There is much more detail at the link about the feeding of the alligators. Apparently they were moved to the Franklin Park Zoo during the colder months, and their presence in the Boston Garden lasted for about 6 years.

White Supremacist News

Remember those neo-Nazi marchers in Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us?” Fox News’ Tucker Carlson was trending on Twitter all day yesterday after he parroted a white supremacist conspiracy theory that liberals are trying to replace white people with immigrants.

Fortunato Depero, Elasticità di gatti (1936–1939)

Fortunato Depero, Elasticità di gatti (1936–1939)

Media Matters: Tucker Carlson, the face of Fox News, just gave his full endorsement to the white nationalist conspiracy theory that has motivated mass shootings.

For decades, white nationalists have invoked the specter of nonwhite immigration, multiculturalism, and declining birthrates to argue for the existence of a vast conspiracy aimed at eliminating white populations as a dominant demographic. On Fox News, Tucker Carlson is distributing the language, grievances, goals, and inherent call to action of the conspiracy theory to massive audiences.

On the April 8 broadcast of Fox News Primetime, Carlson offered perhaps his most explicit justification yet for the core belief of the “great replacement” conspiracy theory: that a wave of “Third World” invaders is coming to replace you and reshape your environment, and that you, the audience, should do something about it.

The Fox News host claimed that “what’s true” is that “the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World,” and no one should “sit back and take that.”

More from Media Matters: White nationalists praise Tucker Carlson’s full embrace of their “replacement” conspiracy theory.

After the Anti-Defamation League called on Fox News to fire Carlson for his remarks, white supremacist and far-right personalities were quick to make their approval known.

White supremacist and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes explained what Carlson actually meant in his statements, lamenting that Carlson wasn’t more direct and theorizing that he probably had to dial it back in order to avoid consequences at Fox….

Other racist and extreme far-right media personalities and social media accounts also backed Carlson, celebrating him for broadcasting “what nationalists have been talking about for decades” and defending him against criticism.

Matt Gaetz Updates

The Washington Post: House opens ethics investigation into Florida Republican Matt Gaetz.

The House Ethics Committee announced Friday it would investigate claims that Rep. Matt Gaetz engaged in sexual misconduct and illicit drug use and showed images of naked women on the House floor, opening a new front in the growing scandal enveloping the Florida Republican.

Jean-Metzinger-Still-life-with-cat-and-fish-1950.

Jean Metzinger, Still Life with Cat and Fish, 1950

Gaetz responded hours later with a defiant speech before a welcoming crowd at former president Donald Trump’s Miami-area hotel and golf club, dismissing the claims against him as an attempt by the political establishment to silence his political views.

“Let me assure you, I have not yet begun to fight for the country I love, and for the nation that I know benefits from America First principles,” he said to cheers at an event sponsored by Women for America First, a group that sponsored the rally at the White House Ellipse before the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. “I’m built for the battle, and I’m not going anywhere. The smears against me range from distortions of my personal life to wild — and I mean wild — conspiracy theories.”

The news of the investigation came a day after Gaetz’s friend, Joel Greenberg, who has been charged with sex trafficking of a minor among other offenses, signaled to a federal judge through his lawyer that he was negotiating a plea deal with prosecutors that could help them in an ongoing probe into whether Gaetz paid for sex or trafficked a woman across state lines for sex.

Click the link for more details.

Fred Grimm at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Scandal leaves Florida’s congressional provocateur with few friends.

His fellow congressional Republicans have risen as one to defend Matt Gaetz.

Oh, sorry. My bad. Make that two.

Jim Jordan of Ohio — Abbott to Gaetz’s Costello in their Capitol Hill clown act — came through for Matt. Sort of. After Gaetz denied allegations that he had been galivanting with escorts and even a 17-year-old girl, with allusions to orgies and illicit drug use, Jordan managed a four-word tweet: “I believe Matt Gaetz.” Which seemed an understated reaction from the likes of Jordan, whose usual outbursts have been unfettered by propriety, truth or the national interest.

You’d think the pugnacious Jim Jordan, of all people, would have come up with a more defiant defense of his fellow provocateur. But no.

Still life with cat and lobster, Pablo Picasso

Still life with cat and lobster, Pablo Picasso

Which left Marjorie Taylor Greene from Planet QAnon as his defender-in-chief. “Take it from me rumors and headlines don’t equal truth. I stand with @mattgaetz,” tweeted the Georgia congresswoman, a propagator of astounding untruths, slanders and conspiracy theories. Not sure that character references from the woman who suggested California wildfires had been ignited by Jewish space lasers can rehabilitate Gaetz’s mucky reputation.

Support was also slow coming from Mar-a-Lago, although Gaetz had been Donald Trump’s most outlandish congressional defender through two impeachments and an insurrection. Yet, the ex-president kept quiet in the week after The New York Times reported that the FBI has widened an investigation of former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg — who faces a slew of federal charges — to include his former best buddy and fellow philanderer. The Times said the FBI is looking into allegations that Greenberg and Gaetz arranged sexual trysts with paid escorts, including a 17-year girl. (Which Gaetz denies.)

It wasn’t until reports surfaced that, during Trump’s final days in office, Gaetz had sought a preemptive pardon for any federal charges that might come his way, that the ex-president finally said something. Not much, but something. His office issued a carefully worded, unTrumpian statement: “Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon,” adding, like an afterthought, “It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him.”

I just can’t get enough of Gaetzgate.

Coronavirus News

The Washington Post: Trump officials celebrated efforts to change CDC reports on coronavirus, emails show.

Trump appointees in the Department of Health and Human Services last year privately touted their efforts to block or alter scientists’ reports on the coronavirus to more closely align with President Donald Trump’s more optimistic messages about the outbreak, according to newly released documents from congressional investigators.

Still life with grey cat, Jean Metzinger

Still life with grey cat, Jean Metzinger

The documents provide further insight into how senior Trump officials approached last year’s explosion of coronavirus cases in the United States. Even as career government scientists worked to combat the virus, a cadre of Trump appointees was attempting to blunt the scientists’ messages, edit their findings and equip the president with an alternate set of talking points.

Science adviser Paul Alexander wrote to HHS public affairs chief Michael Caputo on Sept. 9, touting two examples of where he said officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had bowed to his pressure and changed language in their reports, according to an email obtained by the House’s select subcommittee on the coronavirus outbreak.

Pointing to one change — in which CDC leaders allegedly changed the opening sentence of a report about the spread of the virus among younger people after Alexander pressured them — Alexander wrote to Caputo, calling it a “small victory but a victory nonetheless and yippee!!!”

In the same email, Alexander touted another example of a change to a weekly report from the CDC that he said the agency made in response to his demands. The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, or MMWRs, which offer public updates on scientists’ findings, had been considered sacrosanct for decades and untouchable by political appointees in the past.

Two days later, Alexander appealed to White House adviser Scott Atlas to help him dispute an upcoming CDC report on coronavirus-related deaths among young Americans.

“Can you help me craft an op-ed,” Alexander wrote to Atlas on Sept. 11, alleging the CDC report was “timed for the election” and an attempt to keep schools closed even as Trump pushed to reopen them.

Thank goodness these horrible people are gone now. But Fox News is continuing the anti-vax brainwashing.

CNN: Nearly 40% of Marines have declined Covid-19 vaccine.

Nearly 40% of US Marines are declining Covid-19 vaccinations, according to data provided to CNN on Friday by the service, the first branch to disclose service-wide numbers on acceptance and declination.

1940-Le-chat-au-papillon

Le Chat au Papillon, Jean Metzinger, 1940

As of Thursday, approximately 75,500 Marines have received vaccines, including fully vaccinated and partially vaccinated service men and women. About 48,000 Marines have chosen not to receive vaccines, for a declination rate of 38.9%.

CNN has reached out to the other services for acceptance and declination rates.

The corresponding acceptance rate for vaccinations among Marines — 61.1% — is not far off the military estimate of two-thirds, or about 66%.

Another 102,000 Marines have not yet been offered the vaccines. The total number of Marines includes active-duty, reserves and Individual Mobilization Augmentee Marines.

The declination rate at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, one of the prominent Marine Corps bases, was far higher, at 57%, according to another set of data provided to CNN. Of 26,400 Marines who have been offered vaccinations, 15,100 have chosen not to receive them, a number that includes both II Marine Expeditionary Force and Marine Corps Installation East — Camp Lejeune. Another 11,500 active-duty Marines are scheduled to be offered the vaccines.

I’ll end there. I tried to keep it somewhat light today. What stories are you following?


Thursday Reads: Are We Headed for a Fourth Wave?

Ole Ring, Danish painter, 1902-1972, natural landscape,

Ole Ring, Danish painter, 1902-1972, natural landscape,

Good Morning!!

I’m going to focus on Covid-19 news today, because–despite the fact that 110 million Americans have been vaccinated–it looks like we are headed into a dangerous surge of new cases. Here’s the latest:

CNN: Fauci says new Covid-19 cases are at a disturbing level as the US is primed for a surge.

The number of new Covid-19 cases has plateaued at a “disturbingly high level,” and the US is at risk from a new surge, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned on Wednesday.

While lower than the peak earlier this year, there were still more than 61,000 new cases reported on Wednesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. And the lack of continued significant decreases in infections is a concern, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told CNN’s Anderson Cooper, particularly given the spread of variants.

“It’s almost a race between getting people vaccinated and this surge that seems to want to increase,” Fauci said, noting Europe is experiencing a spike much like the one experts worry about for the US.

The US is vaccinating people quickly, with just over 33% of the population — more than 109 million people — having received at least one dose of the vaccine and all 50 states committed to opening vaccinations to all adults by April 19.

Those vaccines may be behind the decrease in Covid-19 fatalities, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday.

This is also concerning: Walensky says that the British variant of the virus is now causing most U.S. cases.

The New York Times: More Contagious Virus Variant Is Now Dominant in U.S., C.D.C. Chief Says.

A highly infectious variant of the coronavirus that was first identified in Britain has become the most common source of new infections in the United States, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday. The worrisome development comes as officials and scientists warn of a possible fourth surge of infections.

Suzanne Valadon, Sous-Bois, 1914

Suzanne Valadon, Sous Bois, 1914

Federal health officials said in January that the B.1.1.7 variant, which began surging in Britain in December and has since slammed Europe, could become the dominant source of coronavirus infections in the United States, leading to a huge increase in cases and deaths.

At that point, new cases, hospitalizations and deaths were at an all-time high. From that peak, the numbers all declined until late February, according to a New York Times database. After several weeks at a plateau, new cases and hospitalizations are increasing again. The average number of new cases in the country has reached nearly 65,000 a day as of Tuesday, concentrated mostly in metro areas in Michigan as well as in the New York City region. That is an increase of 19 percent compared with the figure two weeks ago.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the C.D.C. director, who warned last week that she felt a recurring sense of “impending doom,” said on Wednesday that 52 of the agency’s 64 jurisdictions — which include states, some major cities and territories — are now reporting cases of these so-called “variants of concern,” including B.1.1.7.

More on the British variant:

B.1.1.7, the first variant to come to widespread attention, is about 60 percent more contagious and 67 percent more deadly than the original form of the coronavirus, according to the most recent estimates. The C.D.C. has also been tracking the spread of other variants, such as B.1.351, first found in South Africa, and P.1, which was first identified in Brazil.

The percentage of cases caused by variants is clearly increasing. Helix, a lab testing company, has tracked the relentless increase of B.1.1.7 since the beginning of the year. As of April 3, it estimated that the variant made up 58.9 percent of all new tests.

That variant has been found to be most prevalent in Michigan, Florida, Colorado, California, Minnesota and Massachusetts, according to the C.D.C. Until recently, the variant’s rise was somewhat camouflaged by falling infection rates over all, leading some political leaders to relax restrictions on indoor dining, social distancing and other measures.

Doctors and hospitals are seeing more infections in young people. 

CNN: Youth sports and other extracurriculars are spreading Covid-19, health officials say.

After-school activities are creating clusters where coronavirus can spread among children, said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Peder Mørk Mønsted, Danish, View of Fredensborg, 1893

Peder Mørk Mønsted, Danish, View of Fredensborg, 1893

“We know that these increases are due, in part, to more highly transmissible variants, which we are very closely monitoring,” Walensky said Monday at the White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing.

The virus was linked to high school wrestling tournaments in Florida last December where 38 people tested positive, according to a CDC report published in January.

In Minnesota, the B.1.1.7 variant of SARS-CoV-2 spread through Carver County with at least 68 cases linked to youth sport activities including hockey, wrestling and basketball, according to the Minnesota Department of Health….

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned about the spread of Covid-19 among children who participate in youth sports.

“We’re finding out that it’s the team sports where kids are getting together, obviously many without masks, that are driving it, rather than in the classroom spread,” Fauci told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos Tuesday on “Good Morning America.” “When you go back and take a look and try and track where these clusters of cases are coming from in the school, it’s just that.

The New York Times: Is the U.S. heading for a new wave? The Upper Midwest may offer a hint.

As states lift restrictions and coronavirus variants spread, scientists and federal health officials have warned that a fourth surge of cases could arise in the United States even as the nation’s vaccination campaign gathers speed. The seeds of such a surge may now be sprouting in the Upper Midwest and the Northeast.

Michigan is in tough shape. New cases and hospitalizations there have more than doubled in the last two weeks, and the six metro areas in the United States with the greatest number of new cases relative to their population are all in Michigan.

Several other states in the Upper Midwest, including Minnesota and Illinois, have also reported significant increases in new cases and hospitalizations. And in the Northeast, New York and New Jersey have continued to see elevated case counts.

Illinois is seeing a spike in cases as well. The daily average for new cases there has jumped about 56 percent in the past two weeks, to about 2,832 a day. Hospitalizations have risen about 28 percent from two weeks ago. Wisconsin and North Dakota have also seen their average case counts jump 50 percent or more in the last two weeks.

Stat reports that Biden has so far declined to increase the number of vaccine doses available to Michigan, despite the precipitous rise in cases: Biden officials rebuff appeals to surge Covid-19 vaccine to Michigan amid growing crisis.

Amid Michigan’s worst-in-the-nation coronavirus surge, scientists and public health officials are urging the Biden administration to flood the state with additional vaccine doses.

Henri Lebasque, Summer Woman

Henri Lebasque, Summer Woman

So far, though, their plea has fallen on deaf ears. Instead, the federal government is sticking to a vaccine-allocation strategy that largely awards doses to states and territories based on their population. As a result, most jurisdictions are still receiving similar per-capita vaccine supplies, regardless of how many people there are getting sick — or how many excess vaccine doses they have. 

Experts have cast a surge in Michigan’s vaccine supply as a critical tool in combating the state’s most recent Covid-19 crisis. The state is currently recording nearly 7,000 new cases per day, just shy of its all-time peak in December. Hospitalizations and deaths, which tend to lag a few weeks behind increasing case counts, are also on the rise. 

“I would be surging a lot of vaccines to Michigan right now,” said Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. “To me, this is a no-brainer policy, and I would be curious to hear why the Biden team hasn’t done this.” 

During a media briefing on Wednesday, White House officials acknowledged that Michigan’s situation is dire. They gave no indication, though, that they would send additional vaccines there to help quell the surge, when STAT asked. They argued that it is too early in the national vaccine campaign to begin targeting supply based on case rates. 

Read more at Stat.

From An Diamond and Fenit Nirappil at The Washington Post: ‘A moment of peril’: Biden sees infections climb on his watch.

More than 100 million Americans have gotten at least one shot of vaccine and more than 200 million doses have been sent to states, a dramatic acceleration of the bumpy vaccine operation it inherited. Virus-related cases and deaths, which peaked in January, have fallen by about two-thirds since President Biden’s inauguration.

Gustave Léonard de Jonghe

Gustave Léonard de Jonghe

But the Biden White House is seeing new infections climb on its own watch — a potential crisis that could erase many of the hard-won gains of the president’s first 75 days, should the numbers keep rising. After railing for a year about the last administration’s response and vowing a more muscular strategy, Biden is encountering the limits of his own authority. The president can help secure and distribute supplies and medicines, issue guidance and urge caution — but like President Donald Trump before him, he has few tools when governors decide to lift coronavirus protections at the wrong moment, manufacturers botch vaccine production, or Americans refuse to wear masks or get vaccinated.

“We need you to spread the word,” Biden told faith leaders last week, saying he was worried about Americans becoming “cavalier” about the virus. “They’re going to listen to your words more than they are me as president of the United States.”

Biden also has no more sway than Trump over a mutating virus that scientists have only begun to understand. The Washington Post’s rolling seven-day national average of coronavirus cases is more than 65,000 new cases per day, an 19 percent uptick since the middle of last month, even as many states drop public health restrictions and new variants spread. More than 146,000 new cases were reported on Thursday and Friday, the highest two-day count in several weeks, according to state data tracked by The Post.

David Axe at The Daily Beast: There’s One Truly Alarming Reason to Worry About the Latest COVID Surge—Even With Vaccines.

…the [current] surge—driven by the spread of dangerous new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and a reckless rush by governors and mayors to end a year of mask mandates and social distancing rules—isn’t just an immediate threat to unvaccinated people.

It also represents a long-term danger to the whole country. More cases mean more opportunities for the novel coronavirus to mutate. And the more the pathogen mutates, the greater the chance it will evolve into an even deadlier variant—“lineage” is the scientific term—than even the ones we’re dealing with now.

It’s even possible that, given time and a certain critical mass of cases, SARS-CoV-2 could mutate into a lineage that can overpower our vaccines.

Nicolaas van der Waay

Nicolaas van der Waay

That’s the worst-case scenario—and potentially the biggest cause for concern as the spring surge spreads across the United States. “The greater the spread of the virus populations to new individuals, because of relaxation of social measures, the more the chances of new mutations,” Edwin Michael, an epidemiologist at the Center for Global Health Infectious Disease Research at the University of South Florida, told The Daily Beast.

If all this sounds like conjecture—it’s not. The steady mutation of the novel coronavirus over the 16 months since it first took root in China is a big reason America’s experiencing another surge.

Any given patient’s load of the virus mutates every two weeks, on average. Niema Moshiri, a geneticist at the University of California-San Diego, compared each case to a slot machine that an infection pulls twice a month. Jackpot is a new and deadlier lineage.

Now imagine tens of millions of Americans with active COVID infections, with each case pulling that handle every 14 days. The more gamblers, and the more time they have to gamble, the better chances of a big win for SARS-CoV-2. Our goal, Moshiri said, should be “to lessen the number of parallel slot machines we give to the virus.”

A few more related stories to check out:

USA Today: Colorado vaccination site shuts down after 11 ‘adverse reactions’ to Johnson & Johnson jabs: Latest COVID-19 updates.

The New York Times: Top Official Warned That Covid Vaccine Plant Had to Be ‘Monitored Closely.’  “An Operation Warp Speed report last June flagged staffing and quality control concerns at Emergent BioSolutions’ factory in Baltimore. The troubled plant recently had to throw out up to 15 million doses.”

David Corn at Mother Jones: Will the Public Ever Get a Full Accounting of Trump’s Disastrous COVID Response?

What else is happening? As always, this is an open thread.