Two weeks after the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, reported Covid infections in the state have risen nearly sixfold.
South Dakota counted 3,819 new cases in the past two weeks, including seven deaths, up from 644 cases in the 14 days preceding it. That makes it the state with the largest percent increase in Covid cases in the past two weeks.
The state’s rate of Covid-19 infections per capita in the past two weeks is in the bottom half of the country, but it’s the sharp and sudden increase in case counts that sets it apart.
Meade County, home to Sturgis, has counted 330 new cases in the last two weeks, up from the 20 reported in the two weeks before the rally, according to Johns Hopkins University’s case count. The 1,550 percent increase comes after the motorcycle rally, which usually draws around half a million people, possibly had its biggest year ever, according to County Sheriff Ron Merwin.
Hurricane Ida is bearing down on Louisiana on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Fortunately, the seawall protections are better now and Joe Biden is president instead of George W. Bush.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Hurricane Ida struck Cuba on Friday and threatened to slam into Louisiana with devastating force over the weekend, prompting evacuations in New Orleans and across the coastal region.
Ida intensified rapidly Friday from a tropical storm to a hurricane with top winds of 80 mph (128 kph) as it crossed western Cuba and entered the Gulf of Mexico. The National Hurricane Center predicted Ida would strengthen into an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane, with top winds of 140 mph (225 kph) before making landfall along the U.S. Gulf Coast late Sunday.
“This will be a life-altering storm for those who aren’t prepared,” National Weather Service meteorologist Benjamin Schott said during a Friday news conference with Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards.
The governor urged residents to quickly prepare, saying: “By nightfall tomorrow night, you need to be where you intend to be to ride out the storm.”
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell ordered a mandatory evacuation for a small area of the city outside the levee system. But with the storm intensifying so much over a short time, she said it wasn’t possible to do so for the entire city. That generally calls for using all lanes of some highways to leave the city.
“The city cannot order a mandatory evacuation because we don’t have the time,” Cantrell said.
City officials said residents need to be prepared for prolonged power outages, and asked elderly residents to consider evacuating. Collin Arnold, the city’s emergency management director, said the city could be under high winds for about ten hours.
Other areas across the coastal region were under a mix of voluntary and mandatory evacuations. The storm is expected to make landfall on the exact date Hurricane Katrina devastated a large swath of the Gulf Coast exactly 16 years earlier.
Ida is anticipated to reach at least Category 4 strength before landfall, the National Hurricane Center said, maintaining its earlier forecast.
“Ida is expected to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane when it approaches the northern Gulf Coast on Sunday,” National Hurricane Center forecasters said Saturday morning. At 8 a.m. ET, the storm sustained winds of 85 mph.
Officials throughout the state implored people to evacuate, with some issuing mandatory orders to do so.
A dangerous storm surge of 10 to 15 feet is expected from Morgan City, Louisiana, to the mouth of the Mississippi River on Sunday as Ida makes landfall, the NHC said.
Hurricane conditions are likely in areas along the northern Gulf Coast beginning Sunday, with tropical storm conditions expected to begin by late Saturday night or early Sunday morning. These conditions will spread inland over portions of Louisiana and Mississippi Sunday night and Monday.
Rainfall can amount to 8 to 16 inches, with isolated maximum totals of 20 inches possible across southeast Louisiana and southern Mississippi through Monday– which will likely lead to significant flash and river flooding impacts.
A hurricane warning remains in effect from Intracoastal City, Louisiana, to the mouth of the Pearl River and includes Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas and New Orleans.
In Louisiana, a hurricane watch is in effect from Cameron to west of Intracoastal City and the mouth of the Pearl River to the Mississippi-Alabama border. Tropical storm warnings and watches are also issued stretching east to the Alabama-Florida border.
The city is anticipating impacts from damaging winds of up to 110 mph, according to Collin Arnold, director of the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
I found this article at Yahoo News interesting: EXPLAINER: Is New Orleans protected from a hurricane?
New Orleans finds itself in the path of Hurricane Ida 16 years to the day after floodwalls collapsed and levees were overtopped by a storm surge driven by Hurricane Katrina. That flooding killed more than 1,000 people and caused billions in damage. But Ida arrives at the doorstep of a region transformed since 2005 by a giant civil works project and closer attention to flood control.
The system already has been tested by multiple storms, including 2012’s Isaac, with little damage to the areas it protects….
The federal government spent $14.5 billion on levees, pumps, seawalls, floodgates and drainage that provides enhanced protection from storm surge and flooding in New Orleans and surrounding suburbs south of Lake Pontchartrain. With the exception of three drainage projects, that work is complete.
“The post-Katrina system is so different than what was in place before,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesperson Matt Roe.
Starting with a giant surge barrier east of the city, the system is a 130-mile (210-kilometer) ring built to hold out storm surge of about 30 feet (9 meters). The National Hurricane Center on Friday projected Ida would bring a surge of 10 feet to 15 feet (3 to 4.6 meters) on the west bank.
At that level, it could come over the levees in some areas, said emergency manager Heath Jones of the Army Corps of Engineers’ New Orleans District.
“They’re designed to overtop in places” with protections against worse damage, including armoring, splash pads and pumps with backup generators, he said.
“We’ve built all that since Katrina,” and they’re designed for a worse storm than the Ida is expected to be, he said.
Governments as of Friday were not ordering people protected by the levees to evacuate, showing their confidence in the system.
A number of floodgates are being closed as the storm approaches. That includes massive gates that ships can normally sail through, such as ones that close off the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal near the Lower 9th Ward. That has reduced the risk of flooding in an area long viewed as among the city’s most exposed. At least one smaller floodgate on land has been removed for maintenance, though, with officials planning to close the gap with sandbags.
Read more at the Yahoo link.
The US drone strike in Afghanistan targeted a mid-level “planner” from the Islamic State’s local affiliate who was travelling in a car with one other person near the eastern city of Jalalabad, US official sources said on Saturday.
The strike came two days after Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing outside Kabul airport, as western forces running the airlift braced for more attacks.
The US president, Joe Biden, has promised to hunt down those responsible, striking in a place and time of his choosing.
The drone strike is likely to be in part aimed at reassuring a shaken US public that its government’s counter-terrorist capabilities in Afghanistan remain intact despite the chaotic withdrawal.
There is no indication that the target of the drone was involved in Thursday’s blast, which killed around 180 people, including 13 US marines.
The attack focused attention on ISKP, which had previously been seen as only a minor actor in Afghanistan and one of the weaker IS affiliates around the world.
The group was founded in 2014 by a few dozen disaffected Taliban commanders and defectors from other militants from the region and made early gains in districts close to the border with Pakistan in the eastern Nangarhar province, where the drone strike occurred around midnight on Friday night. The name Khorasan was given by medieval Islamic imperial rulers to a region including modern Afghanistan.
Read more about ISKP at the Guardian link.
The Washington Post: The 13 U.S. service members killed in the Kabul airport attack: What we know so far.
What’s happening in your neck of the woods? If you’re in the path of Ida, please stay safe!
News just broke of an explosion outside the Kabul airport in Afghanistan. The New York Times: An explosion is reported at Kabul airport, after warnings of a security threat.
An explosion rattled an area outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Thursday, the Pentagon confirmed, just hours after Western governments had warned of a security threat there.
Since the Taliban takeover of the city earlier this month, thousands of Afghan civilians and foreign citizens have gathered at the airport, which has a military and civilian side, desperate to be airlifted out of the country.
“We can confirm an explosion outside Kabul airport,” John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said in a post on Twitter. “Casualties are unclear at this time. We will provide additional details when we can.”
A U.S. military official confirmed that at least one explosion had occurred at the Abbey Gate, a main entryway to the international airport. Early reports indicated that the explosion was caused by at least one suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest. It was unclear how many people were injured or whether anyone was killed, but large crowds have been gathering at the gate in recent days.
I guess we’ll hear more details as the day goes on.
In other news, the Supreme Court’s conservative justices have decided to interfere with the U.S. President’s immigration powers. Ruth Marcus at The Washington Post: Opinion: Thanks to the Supreme Court, a federal judge in Texas is making foreign policy decisions.
Too bad all those Hillary haters refused to vote for her in 2016.
I hate to write about the pandemic again, but it’s still dominating the news because it’s getting worse.
The Washington Post: Hospitalizations hit 100,000 in United States for first time since January.
This is interesting, but not surprising from Joshua Green at Bloomberg News: Vaccinated Democratic Counties Are Leading the Economic Recovery.
With Covid-19 cases once again rising across the country, the U.S. is struggling to curb the latest, delta-driven surge, as hospitalizations and deaths have steadily climbed. But at least so far, the economy has proved highly resilient. There are many reasons for this, ranging from generous stimulus checks to the Federal Reserve’s commitment to buying bonds and holding interest rates low.
But some interesting new data on the overlap of electoral politics and economic dynamism suggest another reason: The geography of America’s economic engine is heavily concentrated in counties that Joe Biden won in 2020. These counties are much more heavily vaccinated than the rest of the country and thus better able to withstand the economic effects of Covid’s delta variant.
Read the rest at the link.
In the red counties and states, people are poisoning themselves rather than get vaccines. Miami Herald: Calls about animal dewormer as COVID treatment soar in Texas, poison center says.
The Texas Poison Center Network has received dozens of calls this month about people exposed to ivermectin, an animal dewormer some are using for COVID-19 treatment.
But the drug, which is flying off the shelves in many parts of the United States, is not a suitable treatment and health organizations are warning against its improper use….
Of the 150 people who have called the center this year regarding exposure to the drug, 54 said they intentionally misused it.
Common side effects of the drug are allergic reactions, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and hypotension, the center said.
“Patients who take concentrated forms that are used for large animals like horses and cows are more likely to experience severe side effects and toxicity,” Texas Poison Center said in a statement to McClatchy News. “Accidental poisonings in children may also occur when this medication is kept in the home and is improperly stored. As a result, the Texas Poison Center Network does not encourage the use of ivermectin outside of its intended use.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization have all also advised against using ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19 outside controlled clinical trials, McClatchy News reported earlier this month.
A large dose of ivermectin intended for a horse could cause a human to have complications that include “low blood pressure, rapid heart rates, seizures” along with damage to the liver and layers of skin falling off, Dr. Shane Speights, site dean at the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine, told KAIT8.
Florida has become the Coronavirus epicenter of the U.S. The New York Times: In Florida, the pandemic is worse now than it has ever been before.
More people in Florida are catching the coronavirus, being hospitalized and dying of Covid-19 now than at any previous point in the pandemic, underscoring the perils of limiting public health measures as the Delta variant rips through the state.
This week, 227 virus deaths were being reported each day in Florida, on average, as of Tuesday, a record for the state and by far the most in the United States right now. The average for new known cases reached 23,314 a day on the weekend, 30 percent higher than the state’s previous peak in January, according to a New York Times database. Across the country, new deaths have climbed to more than 1,000 a day, on average….
And hospitalizations in Florida have almost tripled in the past month, according to federal data, stretching many hospitals to the breaking point. The surge prompted the mayor of Orlando to ask residents to conserve water to limit the strain on the city’s supply of liquid oxygen, which is needed both to purify drinking water and to treat Covid-19 patients.
Even as cases continue to surge, with more than 17,200 people hospitalized with the virus across Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has held firm on banning vaccine and mask mandates. Several school districts have gone ahead with mask mandates anyway.
I wonder if DeSantis reads the newspapers or watches anything other than Fox News?
WINTER GARDEN, Fla. (WESH) — At West Side Crematory in Winter Garden, they’re overwhelmed with the remains of people that need to be cremated.
There’s an influx of bodies like they’ve never seen, worse than the first wave of COVID-19. The area where bodies are stored prior to being cremated is stacked to the ceiling. The staff is working day and night to honor the dead.
WESH 2 called 20 funeral homes and crematories and many were too busy to be part of our story. Some were too busy to even talk on the phone. One funeral director said that in a 30-minute period where he talked to his partner, four new cases came in.
Mike Marchetti, the area manager for Newcomer Funeral Homes, says as much as they don’t want to, sometimes they have to delay meetings with families and delay funerals because they only have so much staff.
“So the family comes in and they say we would like to have the funeral on Friday and we have to tell then ‘I’m sorry we can’t accommodate a funeral on Friday because our schedule is full,” Marchetti said.
A death care industry struggling to meet demands at a level they’ve never seen before, and families struggling to cope with grief at a level a community has ever seen before.
And then there’s South Dakota, where Governor Kristi Noem welcomed about 700,000 unmasked bikers to party in a a small town named Sturgis.
The Daily Beast: Warnings About the Sturgis Rally Have Come Tragically True.
In western South Dakota’s Meade County, more than one in three COVID-19 tests are currently returning positive, and over the last three weeks, seven-day average case counts have increased by 3,400 percent. This exponential growth in cases is likely attributable to the 81st Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which drew an estimated half a million visitors to Meade County and its environs from Aug. 6 through 15, potentially acting as a superspreader event….
…while Southern states have been the main drivers of this surge thus far, the recent spike in cases in South Dakota warrants special concern.
The state more broadly has witnessed a 686.8 percent increase in daily case counts over the past three weeks, currently more than 10 times the nationwide rate. Meade County’s post-Sturgis uptick is certainly a contributor to this state-level increase, but neighboring counties have experienced a sharp incline in cases, too—ranging from a 1,900 percent increase in the past three weeks in Butte to a 1,050 percent increase in Lawrence.
Those two counties are also key focal points for the rally, which is not, in reality, confined to Sturgis. And because the rally is widely attended by residents all across South Dakota, it’s not surprising that counties further away—like Charles Mix County, which saw a 1,500 percent increase—are experiencing an incline in cases, too.
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally represents the perfect storm for a superspreader event across this region: a large gathering with no testing, no masks, and no vaccination requirements. Though many (but not all) of the goings-on occurred outdoors and thus offered more protection against SARS-CoV-2 transmission than if they hadn’t been, the South Dakota Department of Transportation reported that 525,768 vehicles entered Sturgis over the 10 days of the rally. The sheer number of people in attendance paired with a lack of additional precautions presented prime conditions for viral transmission.
There’s much more at the link.
Sorry about all the bad news. Take care and hang in there, Sky Dancers!!
Good Day Sky Dancers!
Tropical Storm Claudette is making its way towards New Orleans today. We’re fortunate to be on the dry side of it so mostly we’ve got cooler temperatures and light rain ever so often. I’m actually happy to see the change since the heat was getting pretty relentless.
I was a bit out of it most of yesterday having spent part of the day Wednesday under anesthesia. The polyp is gone off to the lab so now I have to see if it’s worrisome or not. I haven’t read much but I did tune in to see the President sign the bill making Juneteenth a Federal Holiday which was a joy. We’ve recognized Juneteenth here annually. Here’s the link to last year’s edition written by me. BB gets the pleasure tomorrow. However, I had to write about one thing.
I got all teary-eyed watching 94 year old Opal Lee’s excitement during the ceremony. President Biden took a knee for her too. I wept again when I heard her story told by Rachel Maddow later that night. The youtube below has that bit of her show. Her story and her fight to get Juneteenth recognized as a federal holiday demostrate her greatness. This is from CNN.
As a little girl, Lee was the victim of a traumatic event, her first undeniable experience with racism.
One week after nine-year-old Lee moved with her family to an all-White neighborhood, a mob surrounded their home and threatened their lives.
“My dad came with a gun and the police told him if he busted a cap, they would let the mob have us,” she recalls.
Lee’s parents sent her to friends several blocks away “under the cover of darkness,” she tells CNN.”They burned furniture. They set the house on fire. It was terrible. It really was.”
Lee says outside newspapers in Texas reported the crime — but local papers from the community where the violence took place ignored it,
The date of the attack was Juneteenth.
Lee says her parents never spoke of the incident again.
“They buckled down, they worked hard. They bought another home, but we never discussed it,” she explains.
“I just know if we had had an opportunity to stay awhile they would have found out … we were just like them.”
“We wanted the same thing they wanted. A place to live,” she recalls.
“We wanted food, jobs that would pay a wage.”
So, about the supreme court and its two decisions yesterday which were extremely narrow. Here’s a little on that including the divine hissy fit that was Alito’s criticism of both. This is from Politico: “‘Alito was just pissed’: Trump’s Supreme Court breaks down along surprising lines. Thursday’s decisions laid bare an emerging rift within the court’s conservative majority.”
The key fault line in the Supreme Court that Donald Trump built is not the ideological clash between right and left — it’s the increasingly acrimonious conflict within the court’s now-dominant conservative wing.
Those rifts burst wide open on Thursday with two of the highest-profile decisions of the court’s current term. In both the big cases — involving Obamacare and a Catholic group refusing to vet same-sex couples as foster parents in Philadelphia — conservative justices unleashed sharp attacks that seemed aimed at their fellow GOP appointees for failing to grapple with the core issues the cases presented.
Some liberal legal commentators noted that the most carefully dissected rhetorical sparring is now taking place among members of the new six-justice conservative majority, with the three remaining liberal justices often left as mere spectators.
“We’re arguing about the battles among the conservatives and when that coalition breaks and where it goes,” lamented Harvard Law School lecturer Nancy Gertner, a former federal judge. “It’s a dramatic difference from only two or three years ago.”
Leading the charge from the right in both cases Thursday was Justice Samuel Alito, who penned caustic opinions taking his colleagues to task for issuing narrow rulings that seemed to him to be aimed at defusing political tensions rather than interpreting the law.
“After receiving more than 2,500 pages of briefing and after more than a half-year of post-argument cogitation, the Court has emitted a wisp of a decision that leaves religious liberty in a confused and vulnerable state. Those who count on this Court to stand up for the First Amendment have every right to be disappointed—as am I,” Alito wrote in the foster-care case, notwithstanding the Catholic charity’s unanimous victory.
In the Obamacare dispute, Alito sarcastically accused the majority of repeatedly indulging in flights of legal sophistry to avoid the politically unpalatable step of striking down the landmark health care law.
“No one can fail to be impressed by the lengths to which this Court has been willing to go to defend the ACA against all threats,” Alito wrote. “A penalty is a tax. The United States is a State. And 18 States who bear costly burdens under the ACA cannot even get a foot in the door to raise a constitutional challenge. Fans of judicial inventiveness will applaud once again. But I must respectfully dissent.”
Well, that’s interesting. Roberts, Kavanaugh and Barrett have seized the Supreme Court for now.”
Chief Justice John Roberts, along with Justices Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh, demonstrated their collective power at America’s highest court on Thursday.
They fueled the Supreme Court’s limited opinions on Obamacare and religious liberty, in action that marks a twist for the conservative-dominated bench and adds to the suspense of the next two weeks as the court finishes its annual term.
An overriding question going into the session that began last October was whether Roberts would still wield significant control, after former President Donald Trump appointed Barrett to succeed the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and created a 6-3 conservative-liberal bench.
But the latest developments suggest a possible 3-3-3 pattern, with Roberts, Barrett and Kavanaugh at the center-right, putting a check on their more conservative brethren who regularly push to overturn precedent.
I’ll believe this when I see it continue. My guess is they will not be so kind to anything dealing with women’s moral agency.
Still, many see a tendency to give people’s bigotry a pass when it comes to supposed “religious beliefs.” This is an Op-Ed at the LA Times by Erwin Chemerinsky.
Under long-standing constitutional law, religious beliefs do not provide an exemption from civil rights laws and cannot be used as an excuse for discrimination.
Yet the Supreme Court on Thursday in Fulton vs. City of Philadelphiaruled in favor of the ability of Catholic Social Services to participate in the city’s foster care program even though that organization discriminates based on sexual orientation. Although the grounds for the court’s unanimous ruling were narrow, the implications are broad and indicate a court that is inclined to allow discrimination based on religious beliefs.
The Fulton case involves the city’s decision to refuse to contract with organizations that engage in forbidden discrimination. Philadelphia routinely contracts with private social service agencies to help place children in foster homes. Those agencies are “delegated” the power of the government in determining whether individuals satisfy state requirements for becoming foster parents. Every contract is explicit in prohibiting these agencies from discriminating on the basis of race, sex, religion and sexual orientation.
Catholic Social Services has long participated in this program, but in recent years has declined to do so because of the contractual requirement that it not discriminate based on sexual orientation. It says that its religious beliefs prevent it from providing inspections of same-sex couples or placing children with those couples.
The organization challenged the nondiscrimination requirement as violating its 1st Amendment rights. The federal district court and the United States Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit rejected these arguments, but the Supreme Court reversed those decisions and ruled in the agency’s favor.
In 1990, the court in Employment Division vs. Smith ruled that free exercise of religion does not provide an exemption from a generally applied law. In that case, the court rejected a claim by Native Americans — based on their religious beliefs — for an exemption from a state law prohibiting use of peyote. But the court also said that laws cannot discriminate against religion.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing in the Fulton case, said that the Philadelphia law allowed for exceptions and this discretion meant it was not a sufficiently general law. The possibility of discrimination in exercising this discretion, he wrote, made Philadelphia’s requirement a violation of the free exercise of religion.
But there was no evidence that Philadelphia actually treated Catholic Social Services differently from other social service agencies or used its discretion in an impermissible way. And it is interesting that even the liberal justices — Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — did not raise this point. Perhaps they were glad to go along with a narrow ruling rather than risk one that changed the law and opened the door even more to discrimination based on religious beliefs.
Read his concerns about the findings at the link.
I have on last thing from The Atlantic and writer George Packer. I’ve known a lot of people that came here as part of a War Diaspora. I had childhood friends whose parents came from the Korean War Diaspora. My mother-in-law was a Japanese War Bride. Many of my students are children of the Vietnamese War Diaspora. We also have a lot of folks from Somalia and other engagements that never quite made it to the official War title too. I think this article is timely and correct. It’s Not Too Late to Avert a Historic Shame. As the U.S. military prepares to leave Afghanistan, it’s running out of time to evacuate the Afghans who have helped the United States.”
We do way too many war dances that leave way too many victims.
In the past few weeks, the outlook for Afghans who helped the United States in Afghanistan has gone from worrying to critical. As U.S. and NATO troops leave the country with breathtaking speed, the Taliban are attacking districts that had long been in the Afghan government’s hands, setting up checkpoints on major roads, and threatening provincial capitals. Many of the 18,000 Afghans who, along with their families, have applied for Special Immigrant Visas will soon have nowhere to hide, no armed force standing between them and their pursuers.
Think on that and read the rest at the link.
I’m going to try to get Temple out for one good walk in this weather before we get the bigger soaking so I’ll leave this space to you now. Enjoy listening to Mambo by Leonard Bernstein from Westside Story too! Oh, enjoy watching it too because the orchestra gets all into it completely shouting, dancing and grooving while they play. Plus, it includes cute little girls throwing flowers from a balcony. You need this in your life today!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Yesterday President Biden wrapped up his European trip by meeting with Vladimir Putin. It was a very different spectacle than the one in 2018 in Helsinki when the former guy humiliated himself and our country by rolling over for the Russian president.
The New York Times: A tale of two summits: Trump at Helsinki, and Biden at Geneva.
Helsinki, Finland, was where President Donald J. Trump had his own first face-to-face meeting with the Russian president, and the moment was highly anticipated, given the investigations then taking place into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and its reported ties to Mr. Trump’s campaign.
The meeting offered the American president a ripe opportunity to denounce the Kremlin on a public stage. He did not.
Instead, standing by Mr. Putin’s side, Mr. Trump dismissed the conclusions by U.S. intelligence agencies about Russian meddling and said, in essence, that he believed the Russian president’s denials as much as he believed his own intelligence advisers.
“They said they think it’s Russia,” Mr. Trump said. “I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia.” For good measure, he said, “President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”
Trump met alone with Russian president for 2 hours, and we still don’t know what happened between the two men. In contrast, Biden was open about his meeting with Putin.
“Where we have differences,” he said just moments into the news conference, “I wanted President Putin to understand why I say what I say, and why I do what I do, and how we’ll respond to specific kinds of actions that harm America’s interests.”
Mr. Biden said, “I told President Putin my agenda is not against Russia or anyone else. It’s for the American people.”
And he declared: “I also told him that no president of the United States could keep faith with the American people if they did not speak out to defend our democratic values, to stand up for the universal and fundamental freedoms that all men and women have in our view. That’s just part of the DNA of our country.”
To that end, he cited the jailing of the Russian opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny, and the detentions of two Americans in Russia.
Mr. Biden also offered a warning on cyberattacks.
“I pointed out to him: We have significant cyber-capabilities — and he knows it,” the president said.
Edward Luce at The Financial Times: Biden politely reads riot act to Putin.
Summitry, contrary to a former British prime minister, is nothing like tennis. The outcome is rarely “game, set and match”. By the wide-eyed standards of Joe Biden’s last four predecessors, all of whom held ill-fated summits with Vladimir Putin, Biden went into this one with low expectations.
There were no illusions about his meeting of minds with the Russian leader, let alone souls. The modesty of Biden’s goal — to stabilise relations with America’s chief military adversary — conveyed a realism that eluded earlier presidents.
All of which is far less exciting for the world media. Biden did not praise Putin’s ability to restore Russian freedom and prosperity, as Bill Clinton did in 2000 shortly after Putin was elected president. Nor did he get a sense of Putin’s soul, as George W Bush claimed in 2001, and trust what he saw. He did not aim for an ambitious “reset” of US-Russia relations, as Barack Obama fatefully did in 2009. Most notoriously Biden’s tone was a million miles from the one-man admiration society Donald Trump brought to Helsinki when he met Putin alone in 2018.
After more than two decades in power, this Russian bear was unlikely to change its habits. Biden’s aim is to coax and cajole Putin into a moderately less dangerous stance. That goal is more difficult than it sounds. At home, Biden faces derision from Republican and some foreign policy specialists for even meeting Putin. The act of sharing a stage with America’s president is seen as an unearned reward for an adversary who sponsors regular cyber attacks on the US, not to mention waging information warfare on western democracy.
Read the rest at FT.
Max Boot at The Washington Post: Opinion: Biden wiped the smirk off Putin’s face.
Biden established an easy rapport with his fellow democratic leaders at meetings with the Group of Seven, the European Union and NATO. “I think it’s great to have the U.S. president part of the club and very willing to cooperate,” French President Emmanuel Macron said. As a congenial insider, Biden was able to accomplish far more than a testy outsider such as Donald Trump ever could. Biden got fellow leaders to agree on a 15 percent global corporate minimum tax, on sending 1 billion doses of covid-19 vaccines to the developing world (not enough, but a start), on speaking out about the challenge posed by China, and on settling a long-festering European-American trade dispute over aircraft subsidies….
The meetings with allies were, in some sense, merely a prelude for meeting with one of the United States’ most effective foes — Vladimir Putin. One cannot imagine a starker contrast between Biden and his predecessor than in their handling of the Russian strongman. At Helsinki in July 2018, then-President Trump simpered and cowered. In a low point of a presidency with more low points than Death Valley, Trump accepted at face value Putin’s “extremely strong and powerful” denials of complicity in the 2016 election attack. Putin emerged from that meeting smirking like the cat that swallowed the canary.
As the historian Michael Beschloss noted, there was no such grin on Putin’s lips when he did his solo press conference after meeting with Biden on Wednesday. While Putin engaged in his usual dishonesty and whataboutism — he compared his jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny with the prosecution of the Capitol rioters — his manner was subdued and far from triumphant. He attacked the United States but was careful not to insult Biden personally. He even compared the current president favorably to his predecessor: “President Biden is an experienced statesman. He is very different from President Trump.” (Ouch. That’s got to sting for Putin’s biggest fanboy in the United States.)
In his own remarks, Biden struck all the right notes. He made clear that he raised human-rights concerns with Putin. “How could I be the president of the United States of America and not speak out against the violation of human rights?” he asked. It is almost unimaginable — had we not just witnessed the Trump presidency. Biden said he told Putin that, if Navalny dies in a Russian prison, the consequences would be “devastating for Russia.” He said he also raised Russia’s complicity in cyberattacks, its interference with humanitarian aid in Syria, and its invasion of Ukraine (he expressed support for Ukraine’s “territorial integrity”), while holding out the hope of cooperation on the Iranian nuclear program, stability in Afghanistan, nuclear arms control and other issues.
Now that he’s back home, Biden will sign a bill to create a new national holiday. The Washington Post: Congress votes overwhelmingly to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. The day commemorates the end of slavery in Texas in 1865.
As you know, yesterday the Supreme Court refused to keep Trump’s tax records secret any longer; they will finally be turned over to New York prosecutors who are investigation Trump and his businesses. The New York Times: Supreme Court Denies Trump’s Final Bid to Block Release of Tax Returns.
The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a last-ditch attempt by former President Donald J. Trump to shield his financial records, issuing a brief, unsigned order that ended Mr. Trump’s bitter 18-month battle to stop prosecutors in Manhattan from poring over his tax returns as they investigate possible financial crimes.
The court’s order was a decisive defeat for Mr. Trump, who had gone to extraordinary lengths to keep his tax returns and related documents secret, taking his case to the Supreme Court twice. There were no dissents noted.
From the start, Mr. Trump’s battle to keep his returns under wraps had tested the scope and limits of presidential power. Last summer, the justices rejected Mr. Trump’s argument that state prosecutors cannot investigate a sitting president, ruling that no citizen was above “the common duty to produce evidence.” This time, the court denied Mr. Trump’s emergency request to block a subpoena for his records, effectively ending the case.
The ruling is also a big victory for the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., a Democrat. He will now have access to eight years’ worth of Mr. Trump’s personal and corporate tax returns, as well as other financial records that Mr. Vance’s investigators view as vital to their inquiry into whether the former president and his company manipulated property values to obtain bank loans and tax benefits….
Prosecutors in Manhattan now face a monumental task. Dozens of investigators and forensic accountants will have to sift through millions of pages of financial documents. Mr. Vance has brought in an outside consulting firm and a former federal prosecutor with significant experience in white-collar and organized crime cases to drill down into the arcana of commercial real estate and tax strategies.
The Supreme Court’s order set in motion a series of events that could lead to the startling possibility of a criminal trial of a former U.S. president. At a minimum, the ruling wrests from Mr. Trump control of his most closely held financial records and the power to decide when, if ever, they would be made available for public inspection.
But the tax returns are not all prosecutors will get their hands on. Mike McIntire at The New York Times: Trump’s Tax Returns Aren’t the Only Crucial Records Prosecutors Will Get.
The New York Times last year provided more or less a preview of what awaits Mr. Vance, when it obtained and analyzed decades of income tax data for Mr. Trump and his companies. The tax records provide an unprecedented and highly detailed look at the byzantine world of Mr. Trump’s finances, which for years he has simultaneously bragged about and sought to keep secret.
The Times’s examination showed that the former president reported hundreds of millions of dollars in business losses, went years without paying federal income taxes and faces an Internal Revenue Service audit of a $72.9 million tax refund he claimed a decade ago.
Among other things, the records revealed that Mr. Trump had paid just $750 in federal income taxes in his first year as president and no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years. They also showed he had written off $26 million in “consulting fees” as a business expense between 2010 and 2018, some of which appear to have been paid to his older daughter, Ivanka Trump, while she was a salaried employee of the Trump Organization.
The legitimacy of the fees, which reduced Mr. Trump’s taxable income, has since become a subject of Mr. Vance’s investigation, as well as a separate civil inquiry by Letitia James, the New York attorney general….
The tax returns represent a self-reported accounting of revenues and expenses, and often lack the specificity required to know, for instance, if legal costs related to hush-money payments were claimed as a tax write-off, or if money from Russia ever moved through Mr. Trump’s bank accounts. The absence of that level of detail underscores the potential value of other records that Mr. Vance won access to with Monday’s Supreme Court decision.
In addition to the tax returns, Mr. Trump’s accountants, Mazars USA, must also produce business records on which those returns are based and communications with the Trump Organization. Such material could provide important context and background to decisions that Mr. Trump or his accountants made when preparing to file taxes.
John D. Fort, a former chief of the I.R.S. criminal investigation division, said tax returns were a useful tool for uncovering leads, but could only be fully understood with additional financial information obtained elsewhere.
“It’s a very key personal financial document, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle,” said Mr. Fort, a C.P.A. and the director of investigations with Kostelanetz & Fink in Washington. “What you find in the return will need to be followed up on with interviews and subpoenas.”
NYT investigative reporter Suzanne Craig posted a thread with links to more stories about possible criminal activities by the Trump crime family.
Trump is not happy. He released a statement, which you can read here.
Bess Levin at Vanity Fair: Trump Lashes Out At Supreme Court Tax Returns Call Like A Man Who Knows Prison Is In His Future.
In a statement on “The Continuing Political Persecution of President Donald J. Trump,” Trump rants that he is the victim of “the greatest political Witch Hunt in the history of our Country.” Referring to the case the court ruled on, which concerns a subpoena of Trump’s accountants by Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance, who has opened a criminal investigation into the ex-president, Trump says, “This is something which has never happened to a President before,” naturally failing to mention the fact that, among past POTUSes, only Trump has a reputation as a notorious con man. Nevertheless, he incomprehensibly continues:
“[This] is all Democrat-inspired in a totally Democrat location, New York City and State, completely controlled and dominated by a heavily reported enemy of mine, Governor Andrew Cuomo. These are attacks by Democrats willing to do anything to stop the almost 75 million people (the most votes, by far, ever gotten by a sitting president) who voted for me in the election—an election which many people, and experts, feel that I won. I agree!
The new phenomenon of “headhunting” prosecutors and AGs—who try to take down their political opponents using the law as a weapon—is a threat to the very foundation of our liberty. That’s what is done in third world countries. Even worse are those who run for prosecutorial or attorney general offices in far-left states and jurisdictions pledging to take out a political opponent. That’s fascism, not justice—and that is exactly what they are trying to do with respect to me, except that the people of our Country won’t stand for it. In the meantime, murders and violent crime are up in New York City by record numbers, and nothing is done about it. Our elected officials don’t care. All they focus on is the persecution of President Donald J. Trump. I will fight on, just as I have, for the last five years (even before I was successfully elected), despite all of the election crimes that were committed against me. We will win!”
So, just to reiterate, Trump—a person who incited a violent riot in the hopes of overturning the election—believes that crimes have been committed against him, and, despite the fact that he literally tried to use the Justice Department to investigate enemies, that he is the victim of political “persecution.”
Jonathan Chait: Donald Trump Is Extremely Mad Prosecutors Will See His Tax Returns.
Donald Trump’s yearslong quest to prevent the public, Congress, or law-enforcement officials from seeing his tax statements came to a resounding end with a unanimous Supreme Court ruling. He did not take the defeat in stride. Instead, the former president released a statement that, even by Trumpian standards, brims with anger.
Trump’s response bears every hallmark of an authentically Trump-authored text, as opposed to the knockoff versions produced by his aides. It is meandering, filled with run-on sentences, gratuitous insults, and exclamation points. Trump’s position on the tax returns rests on a series of assertions, ranging from his false claim that Robert Mueller found “No Collusion” to his insistence that he actually won the 2020 election to his extremely ironic complaint that prosecutors targeting their political opponents is “fascism, not justice.” (Trump, of course, spent his presidency publicly demanding his Attorneys General investigate his political rivals.)
The statement does contain one unambiguously true point: “This is something which has never happened to a president before.” That’s correct, because every president for the past several decades has voluntarily released his financial information. Only Trump refused….
His outpouring of rage that Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance will finally have access to his financial documents suggests the only plausible reason for Trump’s evident dismay: He is very scared of being charged with crimes.
Here’s a little comedy interlude:
More stories to check out today:
The Washington Post Editorial Board: Opinion: Now Republicans are offended by mean tweets?
Axios: Scoop: Biden’s OMB Plan B.
That’s it for me. What stories are you following? Are you watching the Senate hearing on the Capitol riot?