I’m having difficulty getting started today. I’ve been dealing with a stomach virus since the weekend. I’m nauseated, have no energy, and feel weak an wobbly on my feet. I spoke to a doctor’s assistant at my health clinic who told me the stomach viruses going around now can last up to two weeks. She just told me to call back if I get any respiratory symptoms. Anyway, I’m not enjoying reading the news these days. I’ll just share some stories that caught my depleted interest this morning.
How about a little archaeology to start out?
The Times of Israel: Huge Kingdom of Judah government complex found near US Embassy in Jerusalem.
One of the largest collections of royal Kingdom of Judah seal impressions has been uncovered at a massive First Temple-period public tax collection and storage complex being excavated near the new United States Embassy in Jerusalem. The main Iron Age structure is exceptional in terms of both its size and architectural style, said Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Neri Sapir, who co-directed the excavation.
Uncovered only three kilometers (1.8 mile) outside the Old City, the compound is believed by Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists to have served as an administrative center during the reigns of Judean kings Hezekiah and Menashe (8th century to the middle of the 7th century BCE).
Over 120 jar handles stamped 2,700 years ago with ancient Hebrew script seal impressions were discovered at the site, clearly indicating the location’s use as a storage and tax center, according to an IAA press release Wednesday. Prevalent among the stamped inscriptions is “LMLK,” “LamMeLeKh,” or “Belonging to the King,” a way of marking that the foodstuffs stored in the jars had been tithed to the Judean ruler.
This trove of LMLK seal impressions adds to the over 2,000 similar seals previously discovered at excavations and allows archaeologists to rethink the administrative and tax collection systems of the Kingdom of Judah.
“This is one of the most significant discoveries from the period of the Kings in Jerusalem made in recent years. At the site we excavated, there are signs that governmental activity managed and distributed food supplies not only for shortage but administered agricultural surplus amassing commodities and wealth,” said IAA excavation co-directors Sapir and Nathan Ben-Ari in a press release Wednesday.
There’s much more fascinating information at the link.
Back in the 21st Century, American democracy is still threatened by a moron who thinks he’s brilliant and aspires to be dictator for life.
During a private campaign meeting in the Cabinet Room in early June, Trump brought up the test unprompted. In an extended riff, he talked about how well he had done — boasting that he’d been able to remember five different words, in order — and suggested challenging Biden to take the assessment, saying he was certain the former vice president would not fare as well.
Since then, the president has been speaking about the test publicly, telling Fox News’s Sean Hannity in a July 9 phone interview that he’d “aced it,” and again on Sunday, when he told the network’s Chris Wallace that he doubts Biden could answer all of the questions. On Wednesday evening, in another Fox News interview, Trump couldn’t resist revisiting what he said was the hardest part of the test — repeating the five words, in order.
Trump said he was first asked to repeat a set of words — “person,” “woman,” “man,” “camera,” “TV,” he said, offering a hypothetical example — and then, later in the assessment after some time had elapsed, he was again asked whether he remembered those same words, in order.
“And they say… ‘Go back to that question, and repeat them. Can you do it?’ ” Trump said, mimicking the doctors administering the exam. “And you go, ‘Person, woman, man, camera, TV.’ They say, ‘That’s amazing. How did you do that?’ I do it because I have, like, a good memory, because I’m cognitively there.”
But, as those of us with normal cognitive abilities know, the “test” Trump “aced” is routinely given to people who are suspected of having brain damage, dementia, or other cognitive deficits. It’s not a test of intelligence, as Trump seems to think. Back to the WaPo story:
Experts say the president’s fixation on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment — or MoCA, as it is sometimes called — is particularly puzzling because the test is normally administered only if someone is concerned that they or their loved ones may be experiencing dementia or other cognitive decline. Getting a perfect score — as Trump has repeatedly claimed he did — merely signifies that the test-taker probably does not have a cognitive impairment as measured by the exam.
“It’s not meant to measure IQ or intellectual skill in anyway,” said Ziad Nasreddine, the neurologist who created the test. “If someone performs well, what it means is they can be ruled out for cognitive impairment that comes with diseases like Alzheimer’s, stroke or multiple sclerosis. That’s it.”
Nasreddine continued: “The reason most people take the test is they or others start noticing mental decline. They forgot where they parked the car, can’t remember what groceries to buy by the time they get to the store. They keep forgetting to take their medication.”
Yesterday Federal agents in Portland, Oregon tear-gassed the city’s mayor.
The New York Times: Federal Officers Hit Portland Mayor With Tear Gas.
The mayor of Portland, Ted Wheeler, was left coughing and wincing in the middle of his own city Wednesday night after federal officers deployed tear gas into a crowd of protesters that Mr. Wheeler had joined outside the federal courthouse.
Mr. Wheeler, who scrambled to put on goggles while denouncing what he called the “urban warfare” tactic of the federal agents, said he was outraged by the use of tear gas and that it was only making protesters more angry.
“I’m not going to lie — it stings; it’s hard to breathe,” Mr. Wheeler said. “And I can tell you with 100 percent honesty, I saw nothing which provoked this response.”
He called it an “egregious overreaction” on the part of the federal officers, and not a de-escalation strategy….
But the Democratic mayor, 57, has also long been the target of Portland protesters infuriated by the city police’s own use of tear gas, which was persistent until a federal judge ordered the city to use it only when there was a safety issue. As Mr. Wheeler went through the crowds on Wednesday, some threw objects in his direction, and others called for his resignation, chanting, “Tear Gas Teddy.”
After a large wave of tear gas sent Mr. Wheeler away from the scene, some protesters mocked him, asking how it felt. Mr. Wheeler said that joining the protesters at the front of the line was just one way he was going to try to rid the city of the federal tactical teams.“
A lot of these people hate my guts,” Mr. Wheeler said in an interview, looking around at the crowd. But he said they were unified in wanting federal officers gone.
Also at The New York Times, Gary Hart has an op-ed about presidential power: How Powerful Is the President?
We have recently come to learn of at least a hundred documents authorizing extraordinary presidential powers in the case of a national emergency, virtually dictatorial powers without congressional or judicial checks and balances. President Trump alluded to these authorities in March when he said, “I have the right to do a lot of things that people don’t even know about.” No matter who occupies the office, the American people have a right to know what extraordinary powers presidents believe they have. It is time for a new select committee to study these powers and their potential for abuse, and advise Congress on the ways in which it might, at a minimum, establish stringent oversight.
Secret powers began accumulating during the Eisenhower years and have grown by accretion ever since. The rationale originally was to permit a president to exercise necessary control in the case of nuclear war, an increasingly remote possibility since the Cold War’s end. An obscure provision in the Communications Act of 1934 empowers the president to suspend broadcast stations and other means of communication following a “proclamation by the President” of “national emergency.” Powers like these have been deployed sparingly: A few days after the Sept. 11 attacks, a proclamation declaring a national emergency, followed by an executive order days later, invoked some presidential powers, including the use of National Guard and U.S. military forces.
What little we know about these secret powers comes from the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School, but we believe they may include suspension of habeas corpus, surveillance, home intrusion, arrest without a judicial warrant, collective if not mass arrests and more; some could violate constitutional protections.
A number of us have urged immediate congressional investigations concerning what these powers are and why they have been kept secret. Public hearings should be held before the November elections, especially with rumors rife that the incumbent president might interfere with the election or refuse to accept the result if he felt in jeopardy of losing.
Please read the rest of this important piece at the NYT.
More stories to check out:
Politico Magazine: State Department Insiders Ask: What Is Susan Pompeo Really Up To?
Jacksonville.com: RNC plans in jeopardy as Jacksonville council president opposes city bill.
Bloomberg City Lab: Philadelphia’s Top Prosecutor Is Prepared to Arrest Federal Agents.
The New York Times: Tracking the Real Coronavirus Death Toll in the United States.
NOTE: Today’s illustrations are from the Baroque Bohemian Cats Tarot Deck.
Have you heard the news?
Trump “aced” a cognitive “test” that is typically given to people who may have dementia or other cognitive deficits. He is very proud of his performance and claims the doctors couldn’t believe how well he did.
Maggie Haberman at The New York Times: Trump Says He ‘Aced’ Cognitive Test, but White House Won’t Release Details.
President Trump on Thursday volunteered to Sean Hannity, the Fox News host, that he “very recently” took a test at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center measuring his mental acuity and “aced” it, but the White House would not say when he took it or why.
Mr. Trump boasted that his success on the test surprised his doctors as he continued his attempt to make a campaign issue of whether his presumptive Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., was mentally fit.
“I actually took one when I — very recently, when I — when I was — the radical left were saying, is he all there? Is he all there? And I proved I was all there, because I got — I aced it. I aced the test,” Mr. Trump, 74, said in his interview with Mr. Hannity.
He went on to say that Mr. Biden should also take the test.
“And he should take the same exact test, a very standard test. I took it at Walter Reed Medical Center in front of doctors,” Mr. Trump said. “And they were very surprised. They said, that’s an unbelievable thing. Rarely does anybody do what you just did. But he should take that same test.”
Mr. Trump described taking the test after Mr. Hannity mentioned that Mr. Biden had said he had taken several cognitive tests. The president insisted that Mr. Biden must have meant tests he took for the coronavirus and that his rival “couldn’t pass” a cognitive test.
What kind of “test” did Trump take? Mediaite: What’s on the Cognitive Test That Trump Brags He ‘Aced?’ Drawing a Cube, Correctly Identifying a Camel, and More!
[T]he Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MOCA), the test that Trump first took as president in 2018 according to then-White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson.
The test is used to screen for mild cognitive issues, and consists of 8 sections with a total of 12 tasks, successful completion of which are awarded points. Those tasks are:
— Connecting lettered and numbered dots in order– Drawing a cube
— Drawing a clock (These tasks are worth up to five points)
— Correctly identifying pictures of a lion, a rhinoceros, and a camel (up to 3 points)
— Recalling a list of five words (no points)
— Reading a list of numbers (2 points)
— Reading a list of letters (1 point)
— Counting backwards from 100 by sevens (3 points)
— Repeating the phrases “I only know that John is the one to help today” and “The cat always
hid under the couch when dogs were in the room. (2 points)
— Explaining the similarities between objects like “train – bicycle” and “watch – ruler”
— Recalling the five words from earlier in the test, in any order (5 points)
— Knowing where you are, and what the date, time, and day of the week are. (6 points!)
According to Dr. Jackson, Trump is the first president to take the MOCA test, which means there’s no way of knowing whether President Barack Obama could play connect-the-dots or recognize a camel. But according to Trump, he’s done it at least twice now.
One more bit of humiliating news for Trump from NBC News:
Well before the call was made to postpone President Donald Trump’s Saturday re-election rally in New Hampshire, the warning lights were flashing red.
There were no signs of the typical throngs of supporters camped out days in advance for a good spot; the Republican governor said he would skip it, advising anyone at high risk to stay home over coronavirus concerns; fears of a repeat of Tulsa’s disappointing turnout weighed heavily; and then came the stormy weather reports, which could have further stifled attendance.
By the time the campaign announced that the Portsmouth event was off, citing “safety concerns” over a tropical storm barreling toward the Northeast on Friday afternoon, people close to the campaign said fears over low turnout also motivated the decision to scrap the event.
The coastal town is not currently expected to be hit directly by the storm, but the decision to reschedule over bad weather is a “convenient excuse” for the Trump 2020 team, one outside adviser told NBC News.
Unfortunately there actually is some serious news and comment to check out today.
The Washington Post Editorial Board: Trump’s commutation of Roger Stone’s sentence is an unforgivable betrayal of his office.
THERE ARE no doubt thousands of people in federal prison who deserved a presidential commutation more than Roger Stone. But after President Trump’s intervention on Friday, Mr. Stone will serve none of his prison sentence. The president may have had the power to help his longtime friend. But that does not make it any less a perversion of justice — indeed, it is one of the most nauseating instances of corrupt government favoritism the United States has ever seen.
There is no doubt about Mr. Stone’s guilt. During the 2016 presidential campaign, he tried to play intermediary between WikiLeaks, which had become a front for the Kremlin, and the Trump campaign, which reaped the benefits of WikiLeaks’s publication of stolen Democratic emails. A jury concluded that Mr. Stone obstructed Congress, lied to investigators and tampered with a witness in the investigations that followed the 2016 race — “covering up for the president,” as the judge in his case noted.
Though Attorney General William P. Barr moved to reduce Mr. Stone’s sentencing recommendation after conviction, even he called the case against Mr. Stone a “righteous” prosecution. He was sentenced to 40 months in prison and was due to surrender on Tuesday — thus prompting Mr. Trump’s Friday night action.
As Mr. Trump discussed granting clemency to his criminal friend, Mr. Barr publicly defended the sentence, perhaps to prevent a mutiny among Justice Department staff who signed up because they believe in the rule of law, not the arbitrary rule of an unusually petty man in the White House.
Now, the department’s career investigators and prosecutors must absorb yet another insult to their profession from political leaders who abuse their trust. We can only sympathize with their impossible position.
The Washington Post: Coronavirus update: U.S. death toll rises as new infections reach record levels.
The daily coronavirus death toll in the United States increased this week after months of decline, as new infections soared to record levels and hospitals in the South and West faced a crush of patients.
More than 4,200 deaths were reported nationally in the past seven days, and experts warn that the trend could continue to get worse. Texas, Arizona and South Carolina have all seen their death toll rise by more than 100 percent in the past four weeks. Four more states — Mississippi, Tennessee, California and Louisiana — have seen at least a 20 percent jump in that time span.
Here are some significant developments:
The United States reported its largest single-day caseload increase — more than 67,000 new infections — on Friday.
More than 131,000 people have died of coronavirus in the United States since the pandemic began, and at more than 3.1 million confirmed cases have been reported.
Republican governors who have opposed or even blocked orders mandating mask-wearing are watching from the sidelines as local officials impose strict measures to contain the spread.
More details at the link.
In Texas, Gov. Abbot is finally coming around to taking the virus seriously, not that it’s too late. The Texas Tribune: Gov. Greg Abbott warns if spread of COVID-19 doesn’t slow, “the next step would have to be a lockdown”
With Texas continuing to break records for new coronavirus deaths and hospitalizations this week, Gov. Greg Abbott reiterated Friday afternoon that things will continue to get worse. And if people keep flouting his new statewide mask mandate, he said, the next step could be another economic lockdown.
“Things will get worse, and let me explain why,” he told KLBK TV in Lubbock. “The deaths that we’re seeing announced today and yesterday — which are now over 100 — those are people who likely contracted COVID-19 in late May.
“The worst is yet to come as we work our way through that massive increase in people testing positive.”
Texans will also likely see an increase in cases next week, Abbott said, and people abiding by his face mask requirement might be the only thing standing between businesses remaining open and another shutdown.
“The public needs to understand this was a very tough decision for me to make,” Abbott told KLBK of his face mask mandate. “I made clear that I made this tough decision for one reason: It was our last best effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. If we do not slow the spread of COVID-19 … the next step would have to be a lockdown.”
Trump won’t like what Angela Merkel had to say about the pandemic. CNN: ‘You cannot fight the pandemic with lies’ — Angela Merkel knows how to insert a dagger.
Angela Merkel may not scream down the phone at President Donald Trump — but she knows how to insert a dagger.
Trump, as well as Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, must have felt his ears burning when the German Chancellor demolished their approaches to the coronavirus in a speech Thursday. “As we are experiencing firsthand, you cannot fight the pandemic with lies and disinformation any more than you can fight it with hate or incitement to hatred,” Merkel said. “The limits of populism and denial of basic truths are being laid bare.”
Merkel and Trump were destined to clash. A former scientist, she is cool, cautious, self-contained, fact-oriented and quiet despite her toughness. Trump is … none of those things. Late in 2016, the outgoing US President, who Merkel sometimes referred to as “Liebe (dear) Barack,” flew to Berlin on a mission — to convince her to run for another term. Once Trump was in the Oval Office, Obama reasoned, Merkel would need to lead the liberal international order.
One more from investigative journalist and novelist Jonathan Greenberg at The Washington Post: Twelve signs Trump would try to run a fascist dictatorship in a second term.
I first reported on Trump in 1982, when he conned me into putting him on the Forbes 400 rich list. That Trump was just a younger version of this Trump, and now I worry that what happened in June was a mere prelude; he’s certainly capable of a far worse Reichstag-fire-like event that would allow him to steal the 2020 election. And if he does win a second term, legitimately or not, his words and actions of the past four years provide 12 indicators that he would seek to replace our democracy with a fascist dictatorship.
Here are the twelve signs–head over to the WaPo to read more details.
1. Trump uses military power and federal law enforcement to suppress peaceful political protest.
2. Trump persistently lies about voter fraud, setting the stage for him to use emergency powers to seize control of the election or challenge the results if he loses.
3. Trump has repeatedly suggested that he might remain in office after a second term and has offered reason to doubt he’d leave peacefully after this first term.
5. With Fox News promoting Trump’s lies as truth, the president controls one of the most powerful propaganda machines ever created.
6. Trump believes that he has the power to do what he wants, regardless of Congress or the courts.
7. Trump acts as if he owns our government and can fire any official who defends the law.
8. Trump uses federal prosecutorial powers to investigate his opponents and anyone who dares scrutinize him or his allies for the many crimes they may have committed.
9. Trump viciously attacks his critics and has publicly implied that the Ukraine whistleblower should be hanged for treason.
10. Trump has messianic delusions that are supported with religious fervor by millions of his supporters.
11. Trump subscribes to a doctrine of genetic superiority and incites racial hatred to scapegoat immigrants and gain power.
12. Trump finds common ground with the world’s most ruthless dictators while denigrating America’s democratic allies.
Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers! What stories have you been following?