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Archive for September, 2020

Democrat says Republican ad claiming he protects pedophiles is aimed at QAnon followers

A New Jersey congressman targeted in a controversial ad by the National Republican Congressional Committee portraying him as a protector of pedophiles denounced it as a “crazy” and “crap” attack designed to exploit the fears stoked by the QAnon conspiracy cult.

“The more I watched it the more disgusted I became,” said Rep. Tom Malinowski during an interview for Yahoo News’ “Conspiracyland” podcast. “I remembered these ads play not just on cable television, they play on YouTube. At some point probably every 10-year-old kid in my district is going to see that ad when they’re watching their shows, and as much as I think it’s gonna hurt my opponent more than me it’s still really unpleasant that that kind of darkness, that that kind of fear, is being propagated in my community because of a political campaign.”

The ad — titled “Shadow” and for which, according to Malinowski, the NRCC has spent up to $500,000 to air — accuses the Democrat of opposing the National Sex Offender Registry. It shows a series of dark images of suburban neighborhoods and then delivers the menacing message that “sex offenders are living among us.” Malinowski, the ad states, “tried to make it easier for predators to hide in the shadows.”

The ad also claims that Malinowski, as the Washington director of Human Rights Watch 14 years ago, “led an effort to stop” the National Sex Offender Registry. In fact, another lobbyist at Human Rights Watch had written a letter in 2006 opposing certain provisions in a crime bill that would have required even those convicted of minor misdemeanor offenses to be listed on the registry for up to 20 years — not for dismantling or stopping the registry in its entirety. That lobbyist, Jennifer Daskal, who worked on domestic U.S. programs, told Yahoo News that Malinowski — who lobbied on national security and foreign policy issues — played no role in drafting or approving the letter, and Malinowski said he had nothing to do with it.

In the interview for “Conspiracyland,” a production of the Yahoo News “Skullduggery” podcast, Malinowski called the ad an obvious play by Republicans to appeal to the QAnon movement, whose followers believe that President Trump is saving children from an international cabal of pedophiles and Satan worshipers. QAnon’s startling rise has included the recent victory by one of its followers, Marjorie Taylor Greene, in a House GOP primary in Georgia. (Trump would go on to call Greene a “future Republican star.”)

“What this [ad] is doing is playing on and amplifying the paranoia and fear that this conspiracy-mongering cult is promoting to millions and millions of Americans and then taking advantage of it to help a political candidate,” Malinowski said.

QAnon conspiracy theorists at a protest at the state Capitol in Salem, Ore., in May. (John Rudoff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
QAnon conspiracy theorists at a protest at the state Capitol in Salem, Ore., in May. (John Rudoff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Malinowski, a freshman, is locked in a close reelection campaign in a swing district against New Jersey state Sen. Tom Kean Jr., the son of former Gov. Tom Kean, who chaired the 9/11 Commission.

Michael McAdams, a spokesman for the NRCC, rejected Malinowski’s assertion that the attack ads are designed to appeal to QAnon followers. “Trying to excuse Democratic candidates’ decisions to lobby on behalf of sex offenders … and vote against legislation protecting children from sex offenders because of an online conspiracy theory is truly pathetic,” McAdams said in an email to Yahoo News when asked about the ad and others run by the NRCC attacking Democratic candidates as being soft on sex trafficking and pedophiles.

Malinowski recently introduced a bipartisan resolution condemning QAnon and encouraging the FBI and other federal law enforcement to focus on preventing violence and harassment caused by “fringe political conspiracy theories.”

Malinowski said about 70 explicitly pro-QAnon candidates ran for Congress this year and a few are probably going to be elected.

“There are several million people who take part in QAnon forums on social media,” Malinowski said. “That’s a substantial number of people. It sounds absolutely crazy, but you know what else was crazy? ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ and the ancient anti-Semitic blood libel, which is exactly what this is. … Yes, it’s totally crazy but this has been around forever and it has contributed to really some of the worst events in all of human history.”

Malinowski said he has spoken with a number of Republican colleagues in the House of Representatives who privately “roll their eyes” at QAnon and who share his worry and disgust about “what Trump is doing to their party.” But, he added, these Republicans feel helpless and unsure how to fix things when the president himself has signaled his support for the movement.

Malinowski believes that Trump bears responsibility for how QAnon has grown.

“Remember one of the main things that he has led his followers to believe is that mainstream media and institutions cannot be trusted,” Malinowski said of Trump. “There is nothing true. And you know the saying: If nothing is true, anything is possible.”

Malinowski said he is contemplating legislation to attack the problem. He said social media companies merely shutting down accounts affiliated with QAnon is not enough because it’s just a “game of whack-a-mole.”

“What they need to be doing and are unwilling to do is change the way their algorithms work,” Malinowski said. “Most recruitment to extremist groups, including QAnon, in the U.S. is driven by Facebook’s algorithm or Google’s algorithm, because what these algorithms do is they know what everybody’s searching for, they have massive amounts of data on all of us, and they feed us precisely the information and the content that is most likely to keep us glued to the screen.”

Facebook itself estimates that more than 60 percent of recruitment to extremist groups is due to its algorithm, Malinowski said.

Many of the ideas for reform build on the understanding that the algorithm is vital to the movement’s growing power. Malinowski said that options include requiring people to opt in to algorithmic promotion so that they have more control over what content is pushed on them. He also said reformers have discussed taking away some of the immunity that federal law now gives social media companies for content they promote.

“The theory is they may not be responsible for the content, but if they write an algorithm that causes that content to reach millions of people based on data that suggests those people will like that content, then they are the recruiters,” Malinowski said. “Get a clean computer, look at some really nasty videos on YouTube like white supremacy stuff, and then watch the recommendation engine go to work, and sure enough it’s recommending more stuff just like that. And that is the driver of much of this problem.”

Kim Jong-un apologises for killing of South Korean official – South

Mr Kim said the incident should never have happened
Mr Kim said the incident should never have happened

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un has issued a rare personal apology for the killing of a South Korean official, Seoul says.

Mr Kim reportedly told South Korean leader Moon Jae-in that the “disgraceful affair” should not have happened.

South Korea has said the 47-year-old man was found by troops floating in the North’s waters.

He was then shot dead and his body was set alight, according to Seoul.

It is not known what the man was doing there. The South Korean government has said he may have been trying to defect to the North but his family has denied this.

The killing – the first of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade – has caused outrage in the South.

The border between the Koreas is tightly policed, and the North is thought to have a “shoot-to-kill” policy in place to prevent coronavirus from entering the country.

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What did Kim say in his apology?

The apology came in the form of a letter sent to President Moon which acknowledged that the incident should not have happened, according to South Korea’s presidential office, also known as the Blue House.

The South Korean island of Yeonpyeong sits near the border with the North
The South Korean island of Yeonpyeong sits near the border with the North

Mr Kim called it a “disgraceful affair” and said he felt “very sorry” for “disappointing” Mr Moon and the South Korean people, the Blue House said. It is the North’s first official comment on the incident.

The North also gave the South the results of its investigation – it said more than 10 shots were fired at the man, who had entered North Korean waters and then failed to reveal his identity and tried to flee, South Korea’s director of national security Suh Hoon said.

However the North insisted that it had not burned the man’s body but rather the “floating material” that was carrying him.

“The troops could not locate the unidentified trespasser during a search after firing the shots, and burned the device under national emergency disease prevention measures,” Mr Suh told a briefing, referring to the North Korean account.

The presidential office in Seoul has also decided to release recent letters between the two leaders.

In them Kim Jong-un said he understood “more than anyone the kind of pressure and hardship” required to overcome the coronavirus pandemic and damage from recent typhoons. It was the “heartfelt truth” that he shared the “pain and suffering of the Southern people”, he said.

Analysis box by Laura Bicker, Seoul correspondent
Analysis box by Laura Bicker, Seoul correspondent

This incident could have been a disaster for any hopes of rekindling talks between the South’s President Moon and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

As it is many South Koreans will not forgive or forget easily. They are shocked and outraged at what appears to have been the brutal killing of an unarmed civilian in North Korean waters. It is yet another reminder of North Korea’s often merciless regime.

It’s also worth noting that the North’s account of the killing does not match the details given by officials in the South. However, this rare personal apology from Kim Jong-un may go some way to assuage Southern anger.

If there had been no apology, Mr Kim’s warm letter to Mr Moon would have been wasted. By at least attempting to smooth things over, Mr Kim may be signalling his willingness to keep talking.

What happened to the man?

The father-of-two, who worked for the fisheries department, was on his patrol boat about 10km (6 miles) from the border with the North, near the island of Yeonpyeong, when he disappeared on Monday, the South Korean defence ministry said.

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He had left his shoes behind on the boat. South Korean media said he had recently divorced and had financial problems.

A North Korean patrol boat found the man, who was wearing a life jacket, at sea at around 15:30 local time on Tuesday.

They put gas masks on and questioned him from a distance before “orders from [a] superior authority” came in that the man be killed, South Korea said. He was shot dead in the water.

South Korea says North Korean troops then burned the corpse at sea.

What has the reaction been in the South?

President Moon Jae-in called the killing a “shocking” incident that could not be tolerated. He urged the North to take “responsible” measures over the attack.

The country’s National Security Council said the North could “not justify shooting and burning the corpse of our unarmed citizen who showed no sign of resistance”.

Officials said they had done a “thorough analysis of diverse intelligence”, but it was not clear how exactly they had gathered the information.

The military hotline between North and South was cut in June, and the inter-Korean liaison office, which was built to help both sides communicate, was destroyed by North Korea. But South Korean military is known to intercept the North’s radio communications, AFP news agency reports.

What is the background?

Mr Kim’s apology comes at a time when relations between the North and South are at a low point and there is a stand-off between Pyongyang and Washington over the North’s nuclear programme.

South Korea has in the past demanded apologies from the North but these have rarely been forthcoming. The North has refused to apologise for the sinking of a South Korean warship in 2010, in which 46 sailors died, and denies responsibility. It also refused to apologise for shelling a South Korean island the same year, killing two soldiers and two construction workers.

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  • Why was Korea divided?

North Korea may be taking extra-tough measures to prevent the coronavirus from entering the country because it is thought to be preparing for a huge military parade on 10 October to mark the 75th anniversary of the foundation of the ruling Workers’ Party.

Pyongyang closed its border with China in January to try to prevent the spread Covid-19. In July, North Korean state media said the country had raised its state of emergency to the maximum level.

Last month, the commander of the US military’s forces in South Korea, Robert Abrams, said the North had introduced a new “buffer zone” of one to two kilometres on the Chinese border, and that the country had special operation forces in place with orders to “shoot-to-kill” anyone coming across the border.

In the past, North Korea has also returned people who have wandered into their territory. In 2017, state news agency KCNA said officials would repatriate a South Korean fishing boat which “illegally” crossed the border, in what was seen as a rare humanitarian move.

2 charged over handling of virus outbreak at veterans home

BOSTON (AP) — Two former administrators of a Massachusetts veterans home where nearly 80 people sickened by the coronavirus died have been charged over their handling of the outbreak, the state attorney general said Friday.

It’s believed to be the first criminal case in the country brought against nursing home officials for actions during the pandemic, Attorney General Maura Healey said.

Former Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Superintendent Bennett Walsh and former Medical Director Dr. David Clinton were indicted by a grand jury on charges stemming from their decision in March to combine two dementia units, packing residents who were positive for the coronavirus into the same space as those with no symptoms, Healey said.

The veterans “risked their lives from the beaches of Normandy, to some the jungles of Vietnam, and to know that they died under the most horrific circumstances is truly shocking,” Healey told reporters.

A phone message was left Friday with a lawyer for Walsh. An email was sent to attorneys for Clinton. They could each face prison time if convicted of causing or permitting serious bodily injury or neglect of an elder, Healey said.

Relatives of veterans who died at the home said they hope “justice will prevail.”

“We now want our state to move forward and do the right thing to ensure this never happens again to any other veteran,” the family members said in an statement emailed by the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Coalition, a group advocating for improvements.

The charges come three months after a scathing independent report said “utterly baffling” decisions made by Walsh and other administrators allowed the virus to spread unchecked. The “worst decision” was to combine the two locked dementia units, both of which already housed some residents with the virus, said investigators led by former federal prosecutor Mark Pearlstein.

Healey said Walsh and Clinton were the ones ultimately responsible for the decision to combine the two units, which she said led to “tragic and deadly results.” More than 40 veterans were packed into a single unit that usually had 25 beds, and space was so limited that nine veterans — some with symptoms and some without — were sleeping in the dining room, Healey said.

“This never should have happened. It never should have happened from an infection controls standpoint,” Healey said.

Since March 1, 76 veterans who contracted the coronavirus at the home have died, officials said. The first veteran tested positive March 17. Even though he had shown symptoms for weeks, staff “did nothing to isolate” him until his test came back positive, allowing him to remain with three roommates, wander the unit and spend time in a common room, investigators found.

When a social worker raised concerns about combining the two dementia units, the chief nursing officer said that “it didn’t matter because (the veterans) were all exposed anyway and there was not enough staff to cover both units,” investigators said.

One staffer who helped move the dementia patients told investigators she felt like she was “walking (the veterans) to their death.” A nurse said the packed dementia unit looked “like a battlefield tent where the cots are all next to each other.”

As the virus took hold, leadership shifted from trying to prevent its spread “to preparing for the deaths of scores of residents,” the report said. On the day the veterans were moved, more than a dozen additional body bags were sent to the combined dementia unit, investigators said.

The next day, a refrigerated truck to hold bodies that wouldn’t fit in the home’s morgue arrived, the report said.

Walsh has defended his response, saying state officials initially refused in March to send National Guard aid even as the home was dealing with dire staffing shortages.

He was placed on administrative leave March 30, and the CEO of Western Massachusetts Hospital, Val Liptak, took over operations. Walsh was fired after the release of the report, but a judge invalidated his termination this week after his lawyer argued that only the board of trustees could hire and fire the superintendent.

The Massachusetts U.S. attorney’s office and U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division are also investigating whether officials violated residents’ rights by failing to provide proper medical care.

Attorneys general in other states, including Pennsylvania, have also launched investigations into coronavirus deaths at nursing homes. And earlier this month, federal agents searchedtwo nursing homes near Pittsburgh, one of which had the worst outbreak of any nursing home in Pennsylvania.

Justice Department officials wrote wrote the governors of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan last month seeking data on whether they violated federal law by ordering public nursing homes to accept recovering COVID-19 patients from hospitals.

The letters, sent from the head of the civil rights division, said the department hoped to determine whether the orders “may have resulted in the deaths of thousands of elderly nursing home residents.”

The Justice Department said it was evaluating whether to initiate investigations under a federal law known as the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, which protects the rights of people in nursing homes and other facilities. But the law applies only to nursing homes owned or run by the states.

Cop on leave after allegedly walking bike over protester’s head

Cop on leave after allegedly walking bike over protester’s head

A police officer in Seattle has been placed on leave after a video appeared to show him walking his bicycle over the head of a person lying in the street, the Seattle Police Department announced Thursday. The alleged incident came amid nationwide protests over a grand jury’s decision not to indict three Louisville officers for the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor.

The video, which was shared widely on social media, appeared to show a group of officers walking and riding their bicycles down the street during protests Wednesday night. One officer, who has not been identified, appears to walk both wheels of his bicycle over the head of a person laying on the ground, prompting outrage from nearby protesters.

The Office of Police Accountability opened an investigation, and police said the incident has been referred to the King County Sheriff’s Office for a potential criminal investigation. The Office of Police Accountability said it has received more than 30 complaints about the incident, adding that the department’s Force Investigation Team found “potential violations of SPD policy, as well as potential criminal conduct.”

The department did not specify if the officer would be paid while on leave.

Video: San Jose cop on leave after video shows rough arrest of woman

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Protesters gathered downtown Wednesday evening with signs that read “Justice for Breonna,” according to CBS affiliate KIRO. Police said more than a dozen people were arrested during the demonstrations. In the statement announcing the investigation, police accused protesters of assaulting officers with bottles and rocks, damaging property, setting fires, and hitting an officer in the head with a metal bat.

The arrests came as largely peaceful demonstrators took to the streets across the country to protest the grand jury decision. A CBS Denver crew saw police detain a man after he approached a group of protesters with a firearm, and San Diego police declared a protest in front of its headquarters an illegal assembly “in response to acts of violence & vandalism.”

Two police officers were shot in Louisville. One person has been taken into custody in connection with the shooting, and both officers are expected to survive. Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, who deployed 500 members of the state’s national guard on Wednesday ahead of the protests, said Thursday that he and President Trump agreed that it was not the time to send federal agents to the city.

Democratic election sweep win would add 7 million more jobs than a GOP one, analysis finds

A Democratic sweep this election cycle would bring a faster recovery to the job market than a Republican one, according to a new analysis, adding millions of more jobs, shrinking the unemployment rate faster, and boosting the number of workers in the labor force higher.

Under a scenario where Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden wins the presidency and both the Senate and the House of Representatives are controlled by Democrats, 18.6 million jobs would be added by 2024, according to the analysis from Moody’s Analytics.

Under the opposite scenario where President Donald Trump wins a second term and Republicans control both chambers of Congress, 11.2 million jobs would be created.

“Biden would implement much more aggressive fiscal support to the economy early on in his administration,” Mark Zandi, Moody’s Analytics chief economist who co-authored the report told Yahoo Money. “That provides a lot of juice to the economy early on in his term.”

The unemployment rate would recover much quicker under Democratic control, too, falling to 5.2% in 2022 compared with just 7.1% in a Republican-sweep scenario. The participation rate would also increase faster under the Democrats, reaching 63.6% in 2024, versus 62.1% in the Republican scenario.

The unemployment rate would recover much faster under Democratic control, falling to 5.2% in 2022 compared with just 7.1% in a Republican-sweep scenario. (David Foster/Yahoo Finance)
The unemployment rate would recover much faster under Democratic control, falling to 5.2% in 2022 compared with just 7.1% in a Republican-sweep scenario. (David Foster/Yahoo Finance)

The results change if opposite parties control Congress and the executive branch. If the Senate is controlled by Republicans and the House by Democrats, a presidential win by Biden would add 13.6 million jobs to the economy by 2024. If Trump wins, the Senate is under Republican control and the House under Democratic, the economy would create 11.8 million jobs.

In all the iterations, a Biden win would mean more jobs.

Biden’s economic policies suggest aggressive government spending, which would be financed by higher taxes on corporations and budget deficits. But that is offset by the benefits of the long-term economic growth, according to Zandi’s analysis.

“Biden borrows more, which is not as big of a problem because interest rates are at zero and the Federal Reserve has said they’ll remain there for the foreseeable future,” he said. “That makes it a lot easier to run larger deficits to support the economy and get the economy back to full employment.”

‘Trump has proposed very modest support’

Even though the government would borrow more under the Democrats, the federal debt-to-GDP ratio wouldn’t be much different if Republicans were in control. The ratio — a key measure of a country’s ability to pay off its debt— would be 129.7 under Biden and the Democrats by 2030 and 126.7 under Trump and the GOP.

President Donald J. Trump shakes hands with Former vice president Joe Biden as Former president Barack Obama looks on at the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump on January 20, 2017. (Photo by Jonathan Newton /The Washington Post via Getty Images)
President Donald J. Trump shakes hands with Former vice president Joe Biden as Former president Barack Obama looks on at the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump on January 20, 2017. (Photo by Jonathan Newton /The Washington Post via Getty Images)

“The Democrats are spending more, deficits are larger, but the GDP rises,” Zandi said. “The net impact of that is basically you land in the same place with regard to the nation’s debt load 10 years from now.”

Infrastructure would boost the economy the most in the short term, and Biden’s more aggressive spending in that area would fuel a quicker recovery.

Read more: Here’s what you need to know about unemployment benefits eligibility

Biden’s proposal calls for $2.4 trillion of infrastructure spending over the next decade, while Trump proposes an infrastructure plan worth $1 trillion over the same period, which would be offset by spending cuts.

“Trump has proposed very modest support to the economy,” Zandi said. “The only major spending initiative is around infrastructure, which is much smaller than Biden’s proposal.”

‘The other policy that lifts employment quickly is immigration’

Immigration policies are also important for a brisk recovery of the labor market.

“The other policy that lifts employment quickly is immigration,” Zandi said. “The more immigrants you have, both skilled and unskilled, it adds to the labor force and productivity growth and they quickly support economic activity.”

Biden’s immigration policy would increase the size of the workforce and help the recovery of the job market.

Another 870,000 Americans filed for new unemployment claims last week on a seasonally adjusted basis. (David Foster/Yahoo Finance)
Another 870,000 Americans filed for new unemployment claims last week on a seasonally adjusted basis. (David Foster/Yahoo Finance)

If Trump continues to pursue highly restrictive immigration policies in his second term, this would slow growth in the labor force and productivity, the analysis found. Trump’s policies would potentially decrease net immigration to 500,000 annually in his second term, or just half of what it was on average in the quarter-century prior to his administration.

Trump’s anti-trade policies is another reason why the recovery would be slower under a Republican sweep, according to Zandi, hurting sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation.

“[Trump] takes a very anti-trade policy position,” Zandi said.” We’re assuming he’s going to re-engage with these tariff wars, especially with China, and that does a lot of damage to the labor market.”

Louisville’s Police Force Feels Besieged on Two Fronts

A memorial in Louisville, Ky., Sept. 23, 2020, with a portrait of Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed by Louisville police on March 13, 2020, when they rammed in the door of her apartment after midnight to execute a search warrant. (Xavier Burrell/The New York Times)
A memorial in Louisville, Ky., Sept. 23, 2020, with a portrait of Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed by Louisville police on March 13, 2020, when they rammed in the door of her apartment after midnight to execute a search warrant. (Xavier Burrell/The New York Times)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — When gunshots rang out shortly before 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Lt. William Vogt of the Louisville Metro Police Department saw a fallen colleague just 15 feet away. He quickly dragged his fellow officer to safety, but then looked up to a scene that put him even more on edge: several of his colleagues with their guns drawn, facing a crowd of protesters.

“My thought is, ‘Please do not,’ ” Vogt, the head of the police’s special response team, said in an interview Thursday.

Some officers in Louisville feel besieged. Protesters are fed up with what they consider abusive policing. And clashes between police and protesters have escalated in the six months since Breonna Taylor was killed in her apartment by officers. Calm seems a long way off.

The tensions spilled onto the street Wednesday after a grand jury charged one former officer with wanton endangerment for firing recklessly but did not charge the two officers who shot Taylor. Amid protests in Louisville that night, two officers were shot.

Facing open hostility from residents, many officers say that city and police officials contributed to the anger in the community by being slow to release crucial details in the case. Officers accuse the top brass of not standing up for the rank and file.

Several officers said the city did not do the department any favors by reaching a $12 million settlement with Taylor’s family before the grand jury announcement. That gave the impression there was something fundamentally wrong with the Police Department before the facts of the case were made available, they said.

Shortly before the city’s curfew Wednesday, Vogt was staring down his worst nightmare: Two of his colleagues had been shot, and there was a chance that officers may open fire on protesters.

“It’s almost like a precipice,” he said. “You’re walking on that edge, and don’t know what incident will happen that is beyond your control and you will fall over.”

The Police Department has been drastically upended since Taylor’s killing.

The police chief, Steve Conrad, was fired after police and the Kentucky National Guard got into a shootout and killed a local restaurant owner during a night of protest. The interim chief, Robert J. Schroeder, is expected to retire at the end of the month and a new interim chief will step in temporarily until a permanent replacement is hired.

“For all of us it is a very tense and emotional time,” Schroeder said during a news conference Thursday. “I think our officers are in good spirits, given the conditions that we’re in in the city right now.”

The department has put in place several reforms. No-knock warrants — one of them was initially given for the raid on Taylor’s home before it was changed — have been banned. The city expanded the requirements for the use of body cameras. The city also plans to offer incentives for officers to live in the neighborhoods they patrol, to rely on social workers to help resolve some disputes and to introduce additional drug testing for officers.

The latest setback for the department came with the shootings Wednesday of Maj. Aubrey Gregory, a 21-year veteran who was struck in the hip, and Officer Robinson Desroches, who was shot in the stomach. Both men were expected to recover, police said.

Authorities charged Larynzo Johnson, 26, on Thursday with two counts of assault on a police officer and 14 counts of wanton endangerment.

Just a week before he was shot, Gregory gave an emotional account at a public hearing of the challenges the force has faced and the stress of having to police a city that some officers believe is hostile to them. He described leading a police response when protesters took over a city bridge in May, his officers surrounded by an angry crowd. “Their vehicles were attacked,” he said.

At the same moment his men were trying to help the surrounded squad cars, he said, other protesters began trying to tip over a police van near Metro Hall.

“As that occurs, shots ring out and people go down,” he said. “Not only was there gunfire, but there was also a large explosion from commercial-grade fireworks.”

Several protesters were injured but the crowd would not disperse, he said. In order for the officers to get to them, he said, he ordered the use of tear gas for the first time. They reached one victim, who was shot in his femoral artery, Gregory said, and rushed him to a hospital in a police vehicle.

Dewena Nance-Pittman, a 19-year-old junior at the University of Louisville who has been protesting Taylor’s killing for several months, said she thought the vitriol that officers faced from protesters was understandable given the history of police brutality against minority communities.

“Because of the way that Black people are over-policed, we’re just tired of always seeing police officers on guard whenever they see us,” she said. “Of course there’s always going to be hostility and retaliation.”

She felt little sympathy, she added, for the rage that officers had to endure during protests. “They knew what they were signing up for whenever they became a police officer,” she said.

In many ways, the differing perspectives of the police and protesters over the unrest rippling across the country represent colliding worldviews.

Critics see the police as a racist institution that needs to be aggressively overhauled, while many officers see the protesters as violent and lawless, overreacting to “a few bad apples” in their profession.

“You DO NOT DESERVE to be in this position,” Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, one of the officers involved in the fatal raid on Taylor’s apartment, wrote in an email to his colleagues this week. “The position that allows thugs to get in your face and yell, curse and degrade you. Throw bricks, bottles and urine on you and expect you to do nothing.”

Some officers in Louisville have closed ranks around their three colleagues who fired shots into Taylor’s apartment — Mattingly, and Detectives Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove — pointing out that they were shot at first. Others have privately expressed misgivings about Hankison, who was the only one to be fired and charged with a crime — a minor felony for recklessly firing his weapon. Hankison is planning to plead not guilty when he is arraigned, his lawyer, Stew Mathews, said Thursday.

Dr. Mike Freville, the department’s mental health counselor for nearly a decade, said he got an alert on his phone roughly two minutes after the officers were shot Wednesday and immediately went to the hospital where they were being treated. A room down the hall from the ER had been set aside for the dozens of other officers who had poured in.

“It was ranging from somebody just staring into space, some people talking — and some people weeping,” he said. “They feel sorry for the one that has been shot, and they sometimes feel guilty that they could not be closer to help, and they are thinking, ‘Wow, that could have been me.’ ”

In a sign of how much their stature in the community has changed, he said that officers who are assigned squad cars no longer use them to do errands while off duty.

“They get home as quickly as possible and don’t touch the car until they go back to work the next day,” he said. “They used to be able to run into a store in uniform — now they don’t do that. Part of their brain knows that the vast majority of the public still supports them, but they don’t hear from those people.”

Trump says staffer tested positive for COVID-19 but was ‘not near’ him

U.S. President Trump holds news conference at the White House in Washington
U.S. President Trump holds news conference at the White House in Washington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday said a White House staffer tested positive for COVID-19 but the individual was not “near” him or “associated with” him.

“It was not anybody that was near me,” Trump said at a press conference.

“It was one person,” Trump added. “It was not a person that I was associated with.”

The press briefing came one day after Trump met with three world leaders at the White House to sign a Middle East peace accord.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the foreign ministers of both Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were present to signed agreements to establish formal ties with Israel, becoming the first Arab states in a quarter century to break a longstanding taboo.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said at the press conference that the confirmed case “did not affect” the White House event and that the individual was not near members of the press.

(Reporting by Alexandra Alper, Andrea Shalal, Steve Holland, and Jan Wolfe; editing by Diane Craft)

Kayleigh McEnany Shows the Trump White House Does Not Feel Accountable to the Public at All

Photo credit: Alex Wong - Getty Images
Photo credit: Alex Wong – Getty Images

From Esquire

The most basic principle by which the current administration operates is that they have no obligations of any kind to the public they purportedly serve. They reject the notion that because their power is derived, nominally, from the will of the people, that they owe those same Americans an explanation when the administration does things in the name of the United States of America. They reject the notion they should be held accountable for what they say and do as officials in a representative government, whether by protesters in the street or by the free press in the White House Briefing Room. This is not the first administration to operate this way, but it’s certainly the most blatant.

That is what’s beneath all the lying and deceit, including about the deadly pandemic. It’s why they’re willing to manipulate scientific reports and intelligence, downplaying real threats and inflating others. It’s why they stonewall Congress when it exercises its oversight powers as outlined in the Constitution, and why inspectors general are forced out along with anyone else who might serve as an independent voice for the public interest. They’re not interested in the public interest.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was determined to spell this out properly in a briefing Wednesday, as the topic of the president’s Definitely Real Healthcare Plan came up. Once upon a time in July, the president promised to produce a plan with which he’d replace Obamacare—which would be destroyed by a lawsuit the administration is currently signed onto—in two weeks. Like pretty much all things the president promises will appear two weeks from now, it never happened and the political press basically forgot about it. When Ellesia Blaque asked him about it at the ABC town hall last night, he still didn’t have a plan. This is because, again, the president does not give a shit about the public or their access to healthcare. This is also why he cooks up insane lies about how it’s really Joe Biden who wants to nix protections for preexisting conditions. The consequences for actual American human beings are not part of his calculus.

When CNN’s Kaitlan Collins asked who was drafting up this Definitely Real Healthcare Plan, considering a number of Trump administration health officials have denied any knowledge of this effort, here was the response from the White House press secretary.

This is confusing until you remember the basic principle: they do not feel accountable to the public at all, and in fact, they resent any attempt to hold them accountable. That’s how you get this response from the White House press secretary—nominally tasked with informing the White House press about White House policy—when a White House reporter asked about White House policy. They don’t acknowledge the legitimacy of Collins’ role here at all, which is to represent the American public in attempting to hold people in power accountable for what they’re doing. You may not think the White House press corps or the political media at large do a particularly good job of representing the broader public or the average citizen, but that is their role here.

Because this is not about some food-fight feud or outrageous statement. It’s not Joe Biden’s cringey “Despacito” thing. It’s about whether people will be stripped of their access to healthcare—during a pandemic, no less—and left to go bankrupt or die as a result. Obamacare has a number of serious flaws, but the Republican replacement plans were catastrophes by comparison when the party had control of Congress and went after the Affordable Care Act in 2017. There was no plan at all in June 2019, when Trump announced he’d have a “phenomenal” plan in “two months.” There was no plan this July, when Trump said he’d have it in two weeks. This only came up again because a town-hall questioner had the courage to challenge him on it, so now they’re scrambling to crap out some half-assed thing that they can point to and lie about until Election Day. There is no regard for what actual effect this will have on Americans’ healthcare because, again, they do not believe they have any obligations to Americans. They don’t care!

Panel’s report blasts Boeing, FAA for crashes, seeks reforms

A House committee issued a scathing report Wednesday questioning whether Boeing and government regulators have recognized problems that caused two deadly 737 Max jet crashes and whether either will be willing to make significant changes to fix them.

Staff members from the Democrat-controlled Transportation Committee blamed the crashes that killed 346 people on the “horrific culmination” of failed government oversight, design flaws and a lack of action at Boeing despite knowing about problems.

The committee identified deficiencies in the Federal Aviation Administration approval process for new jetliners. But the agency and Boeing have said certification of the Max complied with FAA regulations, the 246-page report said.

“The fact that a compliant airplane suffered from two deadly crashes in less than five months is clear evidence that the current regulatory system is fundamentally flawed and needs to be repaired,” the staff wrote in the report released early Wednesday.

The report highlights the need for legislation to fix the approval process and deal with the FAA’s delegation of some oversight tasks to aircraft manufacturer employees, said Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon.

“Obviously the system is inadequate,” DeFazio said. “We will be adopting significant reforms.”

He wouldn’t give details, saying committee leaders are in talks with Republicans about legislation. He said the committee won’t scrap the delegation program, and he hopes to reach agreement on reforms before year’s end.

A Senate committee on Wednesday delayed making changes to a bipartisan bill giving the FAA more control over picking company employees who sign off on safety decisions.

The House report stems from an 18-month investigation into the October 2018 crash of Lion Air flight 610 in Indonesia and the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 in March of 2019. The Max was grounded worldwide shortly after the Ethiopia crash. Regulators are testing planes with revamped flight control software, and Boeing hopes to get the Max flying again late this year or early in 2021.

Relatives of people who died in the crashes said the report exposes the truth.

“It was an unforgivable crime, and Boeing still wants to return the aircraft to service quickly,” said Ababu Amha, whose wife was a flight attendant on the Ethiopia Airlines jet. “All those responsible for the accident should pay the price for their actions.”

Paul Njoroge of Toronto, whose wife, three young children and mother-in-law died in the Ethiopia crash while traveling to Kenya to see grandparents, said the report revealed Boeing’s culture of putting profit ahead of safety.

“There are instances in the report where some employees within Boeing tried to raise safety concern issues. But their concerns would be slammed by people within Boeing,” said Njoroge, who is among those suing the company. “This is an organization that should focus more on delivering safe planes.”

Eighteen months after the crash, Njoroge said he still relies on support from others. “It just doesn’t go away. It never leaves my mind,” he said.

The investigators mainly focused on the reason Boeing was able to get the jet approved with minimal pilot training: It convinced the FAA that the Max was an updated version of previous generation 737s.

But in fact, Boeing equipped the plane with software called MCAS, an acronym for Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, which automatically lowers the plane’s nose to prevent an aerodynamic stall. Initially, pilots worldwide weren’t told about the system, which Boeing said was needed because the Max had bigger, more powerful engines that were placed further forward on the wings than older 737s and tended to push the nose up.

In both crashes, MCAS repeatedly pointed the nose down, forcing pilots into unsuccessful struggles to keep the planes aloft.

Investigators said they found several instances in which Boeing concealed information about MCAS from the FAA and airlines.

The Chicago-based company didn’t disclose that MCAS worked off a single sensor that measures a plane’s pitch. It also didn’t disclose that a gauge that would have alerted pilots to a malfunctioning sensor didn’t work on most of the jets.

Boeing also concealed that it took a company test pilot over 10 seconds to determine that MCAS was operating and respond to it, a condition that the pilot found to be “catastrophic,” according to the report. Federal guidelines assume pilots will respond to this condition within four seconds.

Four Boeing employees working as “authorized representatives” with permission to act on the FAA’s behalf to validate aircraft systems knew about the pilot’s slow response. But there was no evidence that they reported this to the FAA, the report said.

Another authorized representative raised concerns in 2016 about hazards of MCAS repeatedly pointing the plane’s nose down, but those never made it to the FAA.

According to the report, Boeing wanted to keep details about MCAS from the FAA so it wouldn’t require additional pilot training. That would ruin Boeing’s sales pitch for the Max, that pilots of older 737s wouldn’t need extensive simulator training to fly the new planes.

Investigators found that under a 2011 contract with Southwest Airlines, Boeing would have had to knock $1 million off the price of each Max if simulator training was added.

“That drove a whole lot of really bad decisions internally at Boeing, and also the FAA did not pick up on these things,” DeFazio said.

He added that Boeing had an internal meeting in 2013 and agreed never to talk about MCAS outside the company. At one point, MCAS was listed in pilot training manuals, but an authorized representative approved its removal, he said.

In a statement, Boeing said it has worked to strengthen its safety culture and has learned from mistakes. The company said it has has incorporated many recommendations from committees and experts who have examined Max issues.

“Change is always hard and requires a daily commitment, but we as a company are dedicated to doing the work,” the statement said.

The FAA said it looks forward to making improvements, and changes already are being made based on internal and independent reviews.

“These initiatives are focused on advancing overall aviation safety by improving our organization, processes, and culture,” the FAA said, adding that it is requiring a number of Max design changes before it can fly again.

When it came to FAA oversight, investigators said they found multiple examples of agency managers overruling technical and safety experts at Boeing’s behest. A draft internal FAA safety culture survey said that many in the FAA believe leaders “are overly concerned with achieving the business oriented outcomes of industry stakeholders and are not held accountable for safety-related decisions,” the report stated.

In an interview with investigators, Keith Leverkuhn, former Boeing general manager for the Max who was promoted in the company, said he considered development of the Max a success despite the crashes.

“I do challenge the suggestion that the development was a failure,” the report quotes him as saying.

Investigators wrote that this raised doubts about Boeing’s ability to change.

“Only a genuine, holistic, and assertive commitment to changing the cultural issues unearthed in the committee’s investigation … can enhance aviation safety and truly help both Boeing and the FAA learn from the dire lessons of the 737 Max tragedies,” the report said.

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Airlines Writer David Koenig in Dallas and Elias Meseret in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, contributed to this report.

Lindsey Graham’s warning about Trump re-surfaces after report on president slurring fallen troops

Lindsey Graham
Lindsey Graham

Lindsey Graham Getty/Chip Somodevilla

A five-year-old tweet from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is getting renewed attention amid reports that President Donald Trump once disparaged dead American soldiers as “losers” and “suckers.”

The tweet in question came shortly after Trump attacked the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) for getting captured and tortured by enemy forces during the Vietnam War, and it slammed the future president for showing no appreciation for the sacrifices made by service members.

“At the heart of [Trump’s] statement is a lack of respect for those who have served,” he wrote. “A disqualifying characteristic to be president.”

In the years since the tweet, however, Graham has evolved to become one of Trump’s most loyal defenders, despite the fact that the president has continued attacking McCain even after his passing in 2018.