Once again, there isn’t a lot of good news out there to talk about. The media is still “freaking out” about the Covid omicron variant, and we still don’t actually know much about it. Trump and his goons are still threatening U.S. democracy, and the DOJ appears to be doing nothing to stop them. Finally, in another media issue: CNN’s top talking head, Chris Cuomo needs to go, but the network is still dithering.
From Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post:
The media freaked out during Thanksgiving weekend over the discovery of the omicron variant. The New York Stock Exchange dropped 900 points. Both were irrational, exaggerated responses based on little information.
In any case, travel restrictions aren’t likely to keep the variant out of the U.S. On the other hand, according to the doctor who identified omicron, the people she saw who were infected had very mild symptoms.
The South African doctor who first identified the omicron variant that is spreading in the country and abroad has described the symptoms as she observed them in her patients, stating that the strain is so far producing “very, very mild” effects in them.
Dr Angelique Coetzee told BBC News that she had first noticed the symptoms in a young, male patient around the age of 30 whom she normally knew to be very healthy. He was “extremely tired” as well as having “body aches and pains with a bit of a headache,” a “scratchy” rather than sore throat, and no cough or loss of taste or smell, she said. The doctor was speaking about her experience of a small group of patients, and not making general comments about how all patients will experience it.
Coetzee tested the man for covid-19 and found him to be positive, then tested his family and found them all to have the virus, despite showing only “very, very mild symptoms,” she said. For the rest of the day, people kept presenting at her surgery with similar symptoms, and all tested positive. Noticing that the symptoms seemed to differ from the delta variant, which had hitherto been the most prevalent form of covid globally, she alerted the country’s vaccines committee, of which she is a member. They announced their resultant discovery of the omicron variant a few days later.
Perhaps reassuringly for those who are worrying about this new development, Coetzee noted that none of the cases she knew of were serious. “What we are seeing clinically in South Africa, and remember that I’m at the epicenter, that’s where I’m practicing, is extremely mild…We haven’t admitted anyone [to hospital]. I spoke to other colleagues of mine: The same picture,” she told the BBC.
Obviously, that could change, but it’s not time to panic yet.
The latest on Trump’s coup attempt at The Guardian: Trump called aides hours before Capitol riot to discuss how to stop Biden victory.
Hours before the deadly attack on the US Capitol this year, Donald Trump made several calls from the White House to top lieutenants at the Willard hotel in Washington and talked about ways to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election win from taking place on 6 January.
The former president first told the lieutenants his vice-president, Mike Pence, was reluctant to go along with the plan to commandeer his largely ceremonial role at the joint session of Congress in a way that would allow Trump to retain the presidency for a second term.
But as Trump relayed to them the situation with Pence, he pressed his lieutenants about how to stop Biden’s certification from taking place on 6 January, and delay the certification process to get alternate slates of electors for Trump sent to Congress.
The former president’s remarks came as part of strategy discussions he had from the White House with the lieutenants at the Willard – a team led by Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Boris Epshteyn and Trump strategist Steve Bannon – about delaying the certification.
Multiple sources, speaking to the Guardian on the condition of anonymity, described Trump’s involvement in the effort to subvert the results of the 2020 election.
Trump’s remarks reveal a direct line from the White House and the command center at the Willard. The conversations also show Trump’s thoughts appear to be in line with the motivations of the pro-Trump mob that carried out the Capitol attack and halted Biden’s certification, until it was later ratified by Congress.
The former president’s call to the Willard hotel about stopping Biden’s certification is increasingly a central focus of the House select committee’s investigation into the Capitol attack, as it raises the specter of a possible connection between Trump and the insurrection.
Trump also called the “command center” at the Willard multiple times on January 5.
Trump’s call to the lieutenants came a day after Eastman, a late addition to the Trump legal team, outlined at a 4 January meeting at the White House how he thought Pence could usurp his role in order to stop Biden’s certification from happening at the joint session.
At the meeting, which was held in the Oval Office and attended by Trump, Pence, Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, and his legal counsel, Greg Jacob, Eastman presented a memo that detailed how Pence could insert himself into the certification and delay the process.
The memo outlined several ways for Pence to commandeer his role at the joint session, including throwing the election to the House, or adjourning the session to give states time to send slates of electors for Trump on the basis of election fraud – Eastman’s preference.
The then acting attorney general, Jeff Rosen, and his predecessor, Bill Barr, who had both been appointed by Trump, had already determined there was no evidence of fraud sufficient to change the outcome of the 2020 election.
There’s a court hearing going on today about Trump’s attempts to exert executive privilege over his communications about the planned coup when he was “president.” From the CNN article:
A federal appeals court posed tough questions for lawyers for former President Donald Trump on Tuesday, as Trump attempts to convince the court that he should be able to keep records from his presidency from the House select committee that’s investigating the January 6 US Capitol riot.
“This all boils down to who decides. Who decides when it is in the best interest of the United States to disclose presidential records? Is it the current occupant of the White House or the former?” said Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.
The arguments are likely to be an uphill battle for the former President. The Biden administration and the House are aligned against him in wanting transparency about communications in the West Wing as Trump sought to overturn the 2020 election result and his supporters raided the Capitol. Trump lost his first round in court in the case, more quickly and resoundingly than his losses when he tried to claim broad protections from investigations while he was President.
Yet by raising major, unsettled questions about the power of former presidents to control information from their time in office, the case appears to be on a path to the Supreme Court.
Read more at the link.
Finally, CNN must fire Chris Cuomo. That link goes an Atlantic piece by David A. Graham. Yesterday, The New York Times published a shocking story on how Cuomo tried to help his brother Andrew escape accountability for his treatment of women: Chris Cuomo Played Outsize Role in Ex-Gov. Cuomo’s Defense.
Thousands of pages of new evidence and sworn testimony released on Monday show the extent to which former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo relied on a group of allies, including his younger brother, the CNN host Chris Cuomo, to strategize how to deflect and survive a cascade of sexual harassment charges that eventually engulfed him.
Beginning last December with the first public accusation by a former aide, Lindsey Boylan, the records lay out in unvarnished detail how the tight-knit group of advisers discussed a series of increasingly drastic steps to manipulate the press, discredit his accusers and retain a grip on power that became less and less tenable.
After debating the legality of the move, they agreed to pass Ms. Boylan’s personnel file to reporters, portraying her as politically motivated and unhinged. They sought — and failed — to rally dozens of former female aides and supporters to pen an op-ed defending him.
Chris Cuomo pressed to take on a greater role in crafting his brother’s defense, including phoning into strategy calls and using his media contacts to keep tabs on reporters pursuing stories about the governor. At one point, he even ran down a secondhand tip that another woman accusing the governor of unwanted advances at a wedding was lying. (She was not.)
“You need to trust me,” Chris Cuomo pleaded with Melissa DeRosa, the governor’s secretary, at one point in March, arguing that she should rely on him and other outside advisers like the political consultant Lis Smith and the pollster Jefrey Pollock.
He added: “We are making mistakes we can’t afford.”
Yet Cuomo appeared in his usual time slot last night.
An even more pointed headline from CNBC: CNN host Chris Cuomo used his media sources to find out info on brother Andrew’s accusers, records show.
CNN host Chris Cuomo used his sources in the media world to seek information on women who accused his brother Andrew Cuomo, then the governor of New York, of sexual harassment, according to documents released Monday by the New York Attorney General’s Office.
While Chris Cuomo has previously acknowledged advising his brother and his team on the response to the scandals, the records show that his role in helping the then-governor was much larger and more intimate than previously known.
Chris Cuomo was actively in touch with Melissa DeRosa, who was the then-governor’s top aide, about incoming media reports that detailed alleged sexual harassment by Andrew Cuomo, according to exhibits from the Attorney General’s probe and a transcript of his interview with the state’s investigators. He also lobbied to help the governor’s office as it sought to weather the storm of accusations, and he dictated statements for the then-governor to use.
“Please let me help with the prep,” Chris Cuomo said to DeRosa in one message in early March. Then, three days after the New York Times reported in March about how Andrew Cuomo attempted to kiss a woman, Anna Ruch, in an unwanted advance at a wedding, Chris Cuomo texted DeRosa: “I have a lead on the wedding girl.”
CNN says they are “conducting a thorough review of the documents.” Frankly, it’s difficult to understand why CNN kept Cuomo on after the initial revelations. If they don’t get rid of him now, they will lose all credibility as a news organization.
There are plenty of other stories out there. Which ones have caught your interest?
Aaaarrrrrhhhhh! So many damn things to do this time of year. So instead of complaining, let’s just get to it.
(That is a Canadian Letter Carrier, but the same can be said for its southern relative, Postalus Americanus)
Ya know, that never gets old!
This is an open thread.
Have a good night y’all!
I hope everyone is keeping warm this morning, as the deep freeze continues across most of the U.S. We’re expecting a little more snow this afternoon and evening, as winter storm Dion moves up the east coast. We’re fortunately that New England has suffered very little from this storm. Not too far south of us, it’s a wintry mess.
Winter Storm Dion is not done with the East Coast yet. It’s delivering a parting shot of quick, heavy snow that will blanket the entire I-95 corridor Tuesday morning, snarling traffic and flights as snow falls at the rate of 1-2 inches an hour.
“Dion is barreling in like a freight train,” said The Weather Channel’s winter weather expert Tom Niziol. “The snow is going to come down so heavily. We’re looking at very quick accumulations of 3-5 inches of snow. It’s going to overwhelm the streets and make a rough commute.”
The federal government is closed for a second day for non-emergency workers. Other employees are expected to telecommute Tuesday. All Washington D.C. area schools are closed as well.
“It’s been 1,048 days since Reagan National Airport had a 2 inch snowfall, but that could change Tuesday morning,” said The Weather Channel meteorologist Mike Seidel, reporting from Leesburg, Va.
1,650 flights were canceled nationwide Monday. Hundreds more flights are already canceled Tuesday morning.
“The good news is it’s a very quick storm,” said Niziol. “Conditions are already deteriorating Tuesday morning in Washington D.C. Philadelphia is after that. By about 10 a.m. Tuesday morning the entire I-95 corridor is covered by falling snow. By mid-afternoon the Northeast will improve and by the evening commute, Dion will be past Boston.”
Read the rest for the “state-by-state impacts.”
In Nevada, a couple and four children are missing after they went to “play in the snow” in the mountains. From the NY Daily News:
Rescue teams are scouring the Seven Troughs mountain range for James Glanton, Christina MacIntee, their two children, a niece and a nephew after the six went to go “play in the snow” in the remo[t]e northwest region, authorities told NBC News.
The family was reported missing late Sunday night and police are racing against time as temperatures dip far below the freezing level, according to reports.
“The temperatures out here are very cold. We would like to bring a successful end to this,” Pershing County Sheriff Richard Machado told KTVN. “We would like to find them as soon as we can.”
The six were last seen in a silver Jeep cruising at a mining area roughly 20 miles from their home.
Driving into the mountains in the middle of a snowstorm is definitely not a good idea. I just hope these people can be found alive.
Rescue teams racing against the clock and the bitter cold worked into the night and were hoping to resume an aerial search Tuesday for a couple and four children who have been missing since Sunday when they went to play in the snow in the remote mountains of northwest Nevada.
“It’s got to be brutal out there,” said Mark Turney, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. “Let’s hope they are found quick.”
The temperature was expected to drop below zero again Tuesday after plunging to minus-16 degrees the day before in Lovelock, the rugged area where the group was believed to be, about 100 miles northeast of Reno….
The family has not had any communication with others since they went missing, according to Sheila Reitz of the sheriff’s office.
They went to the Seven Troughs area on isolated federal land about noon on Sunday in a silver Jeep with a black top, authorities said. It was unclear what supplies they might have been carrying.
“I’m hoping they all huddled together and stayed in the Jeep,” said Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Chuck Allen, who added that the area has spotty cellular coverage. “That would be a best-case scenario.”
I have a bad feeling about this–but there’s always hope. I really really hope there will be a happy ending to this story.
When I woke up early this morning, NPR was broadcasting live from the funeral of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Here’s a link to the NPR live blog of the events. The BBC reports on President Obama’s speech:
Mr Obama delivered his address to huge cheers. He said: “It is hard to eulogise any man… how much harder to do so for a giant of history, who moved a nation towards justice.”
He spoke of how the example of Nelson Mandela had “set me on an improbable journey that finds me here today”.
Mr Obama said: “We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. While I will always fall short of Madiba (Mr Mandela’s clan name), he makes me want to be a better man.”
NPR reported there were also enthusiastic cheers for Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton.
SOWETO, South Africa —Nelson Mandela was memorialized in a boisterous stadium ceremony here Tuesday as a teacher and a racial healer, a transcendent figure who changed history and touched hearts in his native country and around the world.
Scores of thousands of South Africans braved a pouring rain to join dozens of world leaders, including President Obama and many other heads of state, for a four-hour service filled with emotional tributes and joyous song.
“It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailor as well; to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you,” Obama said, using the Xhosa tribal name that Mandela preferred. “He changed laws, but also hearts.”
South Africans from all walks of life, businesspeople to nurses to the unemployed, danced and clapped and sang in the hours leading up to the memorial service, their voices echoing across the stadium as if they were cheering at a soccer match. The rich crowded together with the poor, children with the elderly, all there to remember Mandela, the former South African president and African National Congress leader who died Thursday at the age of 95.
The anniversary of the Newtown, CT massacre is this Saturday, Dec. 14, but the town has decided against holding a public memorial.
Residents of Newtown, Conn., have decided against a public commemoration to mark the first anniversary this coming Saturday of the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, which left 20 first graders and six educators dead.
Instead, the town is endorsing a “year of service” and is asking residents to put a candle in their window on Dec. 14, the day of the shooting, to show their commitment to the idea of service to each other.
Newtown families have also announced the creation of the website “My Sandy Hook Family,” where people can post their remembrances.
Newtown resident and psychiatrist John Woodall is an expert on resilience and a member of the committee that decided not to hold a town-wide event for the anniversary. He speaks with Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson about the decision.
You can listen to the interview at the “Here and Now” link.
A year after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Mother Jones has analyzed the subsequent deaths of 194 children ages 12 and under who were reported in news accounts to have died in gun accidents, homicides, and suicides. They are spread across 43 states, from inner cities to tiny rural towns.
Following Sandy Hook, the National Rifle Association and its allies argued that arming more adults is the solution to protecting children, be it from deranged mass shooters or from home invaders. But the data we collected stands as a stark rejoinder to that view:
- 127 of the children died from gunshots in their own homes, while dozens more died in the homes of friends, neighbors, and relatives.
- 72 of the young victims either pulled the trigger themselves or were shot dead by another kid.
- In those 72 cases, only 4 adults have been held criminally liable.
- At least 52 deaths involved a child handling a gun left unsecured.
Additional findings include:
- 60 children died at the hands of their own parents, 50 of them in homicides.
- The average age of the victims was 6 years old.
- More than two-thirds of the victims were boys, as were more than three-quarters of the kids who pulled the trigger.
- The problem was worst over the past year in the South, which saw at least 92 child gun deaths, followed by the Midwest (44), the West (38), and the East (20).
Our investigation drew on hundreds of local and national news reports. In some cases specific details remain unclear—often these tragedies are just a blip on the media’s radar.
This has turned out to be a sad post, although I didn’t plan it that way. I’ll end with something interesting and not sad. A group of British scientists has analyzed the environments described in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings as “an exercise in how climate models work” and to demonstrate their validity. From the University Herald: ‘Lord Of The Rings’ Landscapes Analyzed And Compared To Real Places In British Study.
Scientists at Britain’s Bristol University compared the climates of famous “Lord of the Rings” sites such as Mordor and The Shire to regions of the world, the San Jose Mercury News reported. They also generated computer simulations of various middle earth landscapes based on information given in the book (notorious for their vast amount of details not always directly related to the plot).
For example, Los Angeles, western Texas, and Alice Springs in Australia have climates closest to Mordor, the site of Sauron’s fortress.
As a whole, however, “the climate of Middle Earth has a similar distribution to that of Western Europe and North Africa,” according to the researchers, one of whom identified himself as Radagast the Brown after the wizard who lives among J.R.R. Tokien’s fictional nature.
The above finding isn’t too surprising, given that Tolkein was from England. His landscapes either resembled the places he knew best or the place he likely found most exotic (Africa). The Shire, home to hobbits Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, could have easily stood for Lincolnshire or Liecestershire, as researchers found environmental similarities between all three, according to the press release.
I’ll end there and turn the floor over to you. What stories are you focusing on today? Please post your links in the comment thread–and have a great day!
The former President of South Africa and the man that came to personify racial apartheid in South Africa has died today at the age of 95. South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma announced his passing today on TV.
Here are some of Mr. Mandela’s most famous quotes. They are scattered about this blog thread.
It’s April 1964, and a crowd of black onlookers jostle in the back of a Johannesburg courtroom as Nelson Mandela rises from his chair before the judge. They sit segregated from the rest of the court, and have to crane their necks to catch a glimpse of the nationalist leader who has already served five years in prison. Armed guards are stationed at the exits of the room, “a high-domed chamber with an antique ceiling fan and a rococo atmosphere that suggests the American South,” as Robert Conley, the future founding host of All Things Considered, describes for The New York Times.
Not lost on this American writer is the commonality of history between the continents. A black man stands before a white judge defending an outlawed ideal he believes in. The moment mirrors America’s own civil-rights movement. Martin Luther King had written his Letter From a Birmingham Jail almost exactly a year earlier. But the mirror is a magnifier. However wrong, horrible, and unfair America’s treatment of black men and women was, in South Africa, it was objectively worse. Black Africans had no right to vote, no right to strike from work. Six years later, they would be denied citizenship in their own country.
Nelson Mandela was an incredibly complex and interesting man. Just as the case with Martin Luther King and his central role in creating the civil rights movement in the US, Mandela was symbolic, flawed, and rose to all he was able to accomplish through much struggle. His leadership as President will be studied for some time.
Take the great post-apartheid misery that South Africa suffered in the first two decades of democracy: the AIDS epidemic. Mandela failed as president to tackle the spread of HIV, even as terrifyingly large numbers of South Africans became infected. As early as 1991 he had grasped (judging from one of his private notebooks from that year) that the disease threatened a “crisis for the country.” Yet in office he did almost nothing to stop its spread.
He recalled later at an event I attended in Cape Town that after spending so many years in prison, he was shy when it came to talking about a sexually transmitted virus. South Africa, too, faced a host of other challenges on his watch—political violence, economic upheaval, ongoing racial tension. But his inaction on AIDS then gave way to the outright denial of the epidemic, and harassment of those who tried to tackle the spread of HIV, by his successor as president, Thabo Mbeki. The result was a pandemic that claimed millions of South African lives, many unnecessarily, as drugs to treat victims were long withheld.
To his immense credit, however, Mandela conceded his early error. After leaving the presidency, he became a significant part of a campaign for a new AIDS policy. In retirement, he would speak up for effective education and treatment, especially when his own son succumbed to the disease in 2005. To Mbeki’s fury, too, Madiba pushed within the ruling African National Congress for South Africa to tackle AIDS seriously. With the denialist Mbeki gone from office, thankfully the country has now come to grips with the pandemic.
Or take economic policy. After years in prison, Mandela emerged to lead South Africa still believing, in effect, in Soviet-style economics. It took advice from China’s leaders (among others) to change his mind. But he was willing to switch, to get South Africa’s Afrikaner state-run economy to open up and flourish.
“During my lifetime I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realized. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
President Obama will speak on Mandela at 5:20 est.