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Belgian king reiterates regrets for colonial past in Congo but does not apologize

Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi (second left) and his wife Denise Nyakeru Tshisekedi (far left) look on as Belgium's King Philippe (far right) and Queen Mathilde (second right) sign a guest book on June 8.

Belgian king reiterates regrets for colonial past in Congo but does not apologize

Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi (second left) and his wife Denise Nyakeru Tshisekedi (far left) look on as Belgium's King Philippe (far right) and Queen Mathilde (second right) sign a guest book on June 8.

Prince Andrew has settled with the woman who accused him of sex abuse. Where does he go from here?

And just like that it’s all over. Britain’s Prince Andrew, the Queen’s second son, has reached a deal with Virginia Giuffre to settle her civil sex abuse lawsuit against him.

Giuffre alleges she was trafficked by convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein and forced to perform sex acts with his friends, including the senior royal. She also said the Duke of York had been aware she was underage in the US at the time.
Giuffre brought the case last August under the Child Victims Act, a state law enacted in New York in 2019 which temporarily extended the statute of limitations in child sex abuse cases, giving survivors more time to seek justice.
Andrew, 61, repeatedly rejected the allegations against him. Just weeks ago, his lawyers had demanded a jury trial to clear their client’s name.
But now the looming courtroom showdown is off. On Tuesday, the two sides reached an out-of-court settlement for an undisclosed figure.
In a letter to federal Judge Lewis Kaplan, the parties stated that while the full financial terms of the agreement hey dude would not be revealed, “Prince Andrew intends to make a substantial donation to Ms. Giuffre’s charity in support of victims’ rights.”
According to the court document filed by Giuffre’s attorneys, the parties plan to file a stipulation of dismissal of the case within 30 days.
So, with news of the case’s pending conclusion, let’s unpack a few things.
Andrew has claimed to have no recollection of ever meeting Giuffre or of posing for the infamous photo showing the royal with his arm around the teenager.
A photograph appearing to show Prince Andrew with Jeffrey Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre and, in the background, Ghislaine Maxwell.

His lawyers have spent months trying to undermine Giuffre, arguing her claims were motivated by money. They wrote in a blistering court filing in October that: “Giuffre has initiated this baseless lawsuit against Prince Andrew to achieve another payday at his expense.”
And while Andrew neither confirmed nor denied Giuffre’s claims in Tuesday’s court filing, he has now agreed to a likely multi-million dollar settlement with a woman who leveled grave accusations of sexual abuse against the senior royal.
UK newspapers twisted the knife on Wednesday with numerous headlines suggesting the deal amounted to anywhere between £10 and 12 million ($13-$16 million). The Daily Mail splashed with “Duke’s final ‘£10 million humiliation,” The Sun red wing boots newspaper ran with “His final disgrace,” while The Daily Telegraph reported “Queen to help pay for £12m settlement.”
Questions over how Andrew will foot the bill remain. There have been suggestions that the Queen may contribute — but that could be damaging for the monarch, were it ever to be confirmed.
To date, the Queen has largely avoided becoming the target of public anger over the saga that has engulfed her son. She remains revered, and ‘the firm’ has gone to great lengths to distance itself from the civil suit.
The Queen and her son chat at the Windsor Horse Show in 2017.

A closer look at the phrasing of the document is also revealing. It states that “Prince Andrew has never intended to malign Ms. Giuffre’s character, and he accepts that she has suffered both as an established victim of abuse and as a result of unfair public attacks.”
His team is now recognizing her trauma and praising her bravery at coming forward.
“Prince Andrew regrets his association with Epstein, and commends the bravery of Ms. Giuffre and other survivors in standing up for themselves and others,” the document continues.
Royals hope for jubilee reset after tumultuous 12 months
One of the big criticisms of Prince Andrew has been over his lack of empathy for Epstein’s victims. Giuffre’s lawyer, David Boies, had provided a view of the case from her perspective in January when he told the BBC it was important to his client that the matter “be resolved in a way that vindicates her and vindicates the other victims.” Sigrid McCawley, another attorney for Giuffre, said Tuesday that she was “very pleased with the resolution” of the lawsuit.
Then there’s the question of why this has happened now. The settlement comes at a crucial juncture in the case, as it moved into the discovery stage, during which both sides could demand disclosure of documents and the parties involved would have had to sit for depositions.
Andrew was less than a month away from having to give a statement under oath to Giuffre’s lawyers, who were reportedly planning to fly to London to question him in person. If ever there was a moment to strike a deal, this was it.
Prince Andrew and Jeffrey Epstein (far right) pictured together at the Ascot horse races.

CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson says it was “a significant development and off ramp” for the duke as with litigation “you always will have revelations that occur.”
“In depositions, for example, where you raise your hand and you swear to tell the truth … in the event that he perjures himself, he opens himself up to some other issues and then obviously it stays in the news,” he continues.
“Not to mention a legal perspective, where after depositions, after discovery, and you go to court and you could lose, and that’s when all types of details may come out that you may not want.”
Jackson thinks the duke was left without any option other than to settle, since hoka shoes for women letting the case drag on “would do him no good nor anyone else related to him any good.”
“I think this was the best option to explore and ultimately to take,” he adds.
However, the end of the lawsuit doesn’t mean we’ll see the ninth-in-line to the British throne returning to public duties anytime soon. For the former naval officer, that ship has well and truly sailed.
His handling of the crisis since Giuffre’s allegations first emerged years ago has left his reputation in tatters.
The court of public opinion designated him persona non grata after that car-crash interview with the BBC in 2019, during which he was coy about his years-long friendship with Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell. He said he was at a pizza parlor on the night it is alleged that he had sex with Giuffre. He also said he was medically incapable of sweating, countering allegations from Giuffre that he had perspired profusely before they had sex in 2001, when she was 17.
A settlement leaves many of the issues raised in that interview unresolved.
And it’s important to note that the recently convicted Maxwell is now facing life in prison for sex trafficking.
Legal experts say prosecutors could consider continuing their work investigating the crimes of the British socialite and Epstein to determine whether others should be charged — especially if she decides to cooperate.
Prince Andrew has kept a low profile since stepping back from public duties as a senior royal.

These days the prince spends much of his time on the Windsor estate and is often surrounded by photographers when he attempts to leave his home.
Analysis: Queen left with no choice but to cast Prince Andrew adrift. But is it enough?
A Buckingham Palace spokesperson told CNN the palace would not be commenting on the latest developments in the case on Tuesday, once again saying it was a matter for the Duke and his legal team.
But the settlement will likely be welcomed within the palace since it means the court case will no longer cast a shadow over the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations this summer.
The family has gone to great lengths to distance itself from the scandal surrounding Andrew, with the Queen stripping him of his HRH status as well as his royal patronages and affiliations last month, to make it clear his exile from the royal frontline was permanent.
It’s worth noting that Andrew still has a constitutional role. He remains a Counsellor of State — and along with Charles, William and Harry — could be called on to pick up some of the Queen’s duties if she were temporarily incapacitated due to illness or if she was traveling.
Street art featuring Prince Andrew is seen in the Shoreditch area of London on July 1, 2020.

Andrew’s relinquishment of his public-facing royal role doesn’t change his counsellor status — it would take an act of parliament to revoke that.
How the prince will move on from this remains to be seen.
The carefully-crafted settlement letter states that: “He pledges to demonstrate his regret for his association with Epstein by supporting the fight against the evils of sex trafficking, and by supporting its victims.”
That suggests he might become some sort of campaigner for sex abuse survivors — but reputation management experts have previously expressed doubt over Andrew’s ability to repair his image. And it is unclear just how welcome any offer of help from him would be to charities or support groups.
While the prospect of an embarrassing public trial is off the table, by settling he has failed to clear his name, and the damage to his reputation has been done.

Kyrsten Sinema could be the 50th vote for — or against — Biden’s ambitious agenda. So what does she want?

Last week, President Biden came before Congress to kick-start the next phase of his presidency, calling on lawmakers to pass $4.1 trillion worth of legislation meant to modernize America’s infrastructure, combat climate change, expand education and shore up the safety net for working families — “a fundamental reorientation of the role of government not seen since the days of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society and Roosevelt’s New Deal,” in the words of the New York Times. And as if that weren’t enough, Biden promised sweeping bills on immigration, guns, policing and voting rights too.

“Autocrats think that democracy can’t compete in the 21st century with autocracies, because it takes too long to get consensus,” Biden said. “We have to prove democracy still works, that our government still works and we can deliver for our people.”

There are only two ways, however, that any of the president’s big post-pandemic plans are surviving a 50-50 Senate. Every single Democrat could agree to take the parliamentary shortcut known as reconciliation, which allows for a simple majority vote on certain, and often narrowly defined, types of budgetary legislation. Alternatively, all 50 Senate Democrats could agree to alter or do away with the legislative filibuster, which currently ensures that no major bill can pass with fewer than 60 votes.

Otherwise, much of Biden’s legislative agenda is DOA. And Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona could be the one to kill it.

U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) returns to the chamber following a recess at the U.S. Capitol during U.S. President Donald Trump's Senate impeachment trial in Washington, U.S., January 31, 2020. (Amanda Voisard/Reuters)
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema at the U.S. Capitol in January 2020.

As the first openly bisexual senator in U.S. history — and the first to list her religion as “none” — Sinema has built her brand on breaking the rules.

When the pandemic shuttered salons, Sinema hid her undyed hair beneath colorful wigs. She teaches cycling classes and completes Ironman triathlons on her days off. A proud centrist, she voted with President Donald Trump more than half the time after her election to the Senate in 2018 — tying Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of MAGA-red West Virginia for the highest crossover rate and far exceeding any other Democrat from a state as purple as Arizona.

With a puckish, performative thumbs-down, Sinema voted in March against raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, infuriating progressives who’d hoped for a leftward swerve under Biden. Then last month she fanned the flames with an Instagram selfie that showed her sipping sangria in magenta eyeglasses and flashing a big golden word ring.

“F*** Off,” it read in gleeful cursive letters.

Yet while Sinema has gone out of her way to defy the usual laws of political gravity — and to claim the maverick mantle of her fellow Arizonan, the late Sen. John McCain — there is one rule she refuses to break: the filibuster.

“When you have a place that’s broken and not working, and many would say that’s the Senate today, I don’t think the solution is to erode the rules,” Sinema told the Wall Street Journal last month. “I think the solution is for senators to change their behavior and begin to work together, which is what the country wants us to do.”

This refusal is about to make her one of the most pivotal players in what could be the defining drama of Biden’s presidency.

Screenshot from Kristen Sinema's instagram story (Kyrsten Sinema via Instagram)
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema wearing a ring that says “F*** Off.” 

For months now, Manchin, the Senate’s senior Blue Dog Democrat and one of Sinema’s self-professed role models, has hogged the limelight on Capitol Hill. “The most powerful Joe in Washington,” Business Insider declared. “Sen. Joe Manchin [is] running America,” added the Dallas Morning News. “Your highness,” quipped one Senate colleague as he passed Manchin in the hall.

The reason, pundits say, is simple. “He’s the 50th Democratic vote in a tied Senate,” explains David Lieber, who covered Manchin in Charleston, W.Va., “and if he doesn’t like something, it won’t happen.”

Yet Sinema’s disruptive potential may exceed Manchin’s. So far her flashy style has attracted more attention than her ambitions; D.C. types have called her “colorful” at least as often as they’ve called him “powerful.” Yet Sinema’s approach to politics differs from Manchin’s in ways that could make her even more problematic for Biden in the months ahead.

“Right now, Sinema is playing it very, very cagey, and I think that’s because she figures there’s no reason to prematurely take political hits,” says Arizona Republic columnist Robert Robb, a close observer of the state’s politics for more than 40 years. “But ultimately, in all likelihood, it’s gonna come down to her.”

Kyrsten Lea Sinema was born in Tucson, Ariz., in 1976. She was raised as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When her parents divorced, her mother and stepfather moved the family to the Florida Panhandle. For three years, they lived in an abandoned gas station — a destabilizing ordeal that Sinema has long touted (in vivid if contradictory detail) as the reason she went into public service. Education ultimately saved her. At 16, Sinema graduated as valedictorian of her high school; at 18, she graduated from Brigham Young University. She soon left the Mormon church and became a social worker.

Kyrsten Sinema, member-elect of the United States House of Representatives from Arizona's 9th congressional district is photographed in the Sunnyslope neighborhood of Phoenix, Arizona Wednesday December 19, 2012. (Laura Segall for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Kyrsten Sinema, then member-elect of the U.S. House of Representatives from Arizona’s Ninth Congressional District, in Phoenix in December 2012.

When Sinema first entered Arizona politics in the early 2000s, she was a Ralph Nader-supporting spokeswoman for the local Green Party who pushed against the death penalty and organized dozens of post-9/11 antiwar protests. “Until the average American realizes that capitalism damages her livelihood while augmenting the livelihoods of the wealthy,” Sinema wrote in a 2002 letter to the Arizona Republic, “the Almighty Dollar will continue to rule.”

After failed independent bids for the Phoenix City Council and the Arizona House of Representatives, she joined the Democratic Party in 2004. She won a state House seat later that year, then went on to describe herself as a “Prada socialist” and “the most liberal member of the Arizona State Legislature.”

Yet as Sinema ascended the political ranks — first to party leadership, then to the state Senate and finally, in 2012, as a candidate for the U.S. House — something changed.

She has been frank about her evolution. “A person who chooses to be a bomb thrower in the legislature is choosing to remove himself or herself from the work of the body: negotiating on bills, working to find compromises, and sometimes teaming up with unusual allies to promote or kill legislation,” Sinema wrote in her 2009 book “Unite and Conquer: How to Build Coalitions That Win — and Last,” noting that her first two years in the state House of Representatives — her time as a bomb thrower — were a “miserable” experience.

“It didn’t fit me,” she continued. “I do love to give fiery speeches. But I also love people. I love talking with people, working together and making friends.”

Reps. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Aaron Schock, R-Ill., say goodbye after at the bottom of the House Steps after the last vote of the week in the Capitol, December 4, 2014. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images)
Then-Reps. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Aaron Schock, R-Ill., at the U.S. Capitol in December 2014.

Only Sinema knows whether this move to the middle stemmed from conviction or calculation. Either way, it worked; she hasn’t lost another election. During her six years in the House, Sinema was one of just half a dozen Democrats in the chamber to vote for a GOP bill that would punish so-called sanctuary cities by withholding federal funds; one of just seven who voted to create a select committee to investigate the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya; and one of just three who voted to make permanent some of the cuts in Trump’s tax bill.

Sinema also joined the GOP in voting for legislation that would deregulate the banking industry, provide $1.6 billion for a border wall with Mexico, weaken Obamacare’s employer mandate and prevent Syrian and Iraqi refugees from being resettled in the United States until tighter vetting processes could be implemented. She even voted against Nancy Pelosi for House minority leader — twice.

In 2018, Sinema ran to replace retiring Republican Sen. Jeff Flake. During her campaign, Sinema insisted that Trump was “not a thing,” adding “it is never about party” with her. She intentionally omitted her political affiliation from her ads and pointedly refused to endorse her party’s candidate for governor; when asked if she was a “proud Democrat,” she couldn’t bring herself to answer yes.

She wound up winning more independents and more crossover voters than her Republican opponent, Martha McSally. It was enough for a 2-point victory, making her the first Democratic U.S. senator elected from Arizona in 30 years.

For Sinema, the lesson was obvious: In a place like Arizona, moderation is the only path to statewide success. “It’s easy — and too often, expected — for elected leaders to line up on either side of a partisan battle,” she recently explained. “What’s harder is getting out of our comfort zones and building bipartisan coalitions that get things done for everyday Americans — and that is the approach I promised Arizonans I will use.” (Sinema did not respond to Yahoo News’ request for an interview.)

A man rides a bicycle past campaign signs for Arizona U.S. senatorial candidates Krysten Sinema and Martha McSally following the U.S. Midterm elections in Scottsdale, Arizona, U.S. November 7, 2018. (Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters)
A man rides a bicycle past campaign signs for senatorial candidates Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema in Scottsdale, Ariz., in November 2018.

Being a successful candidate, however, isn’t the same as being an effective lawmaker — especially after your own party secures a Senate majority. Until this year, Sinema spent her entire career, from Phoenix to Washington, D.C., serving under at least partial Republican rule. In that scenario, promising to build “bipartisan coalitions” made sense as a legislative strategy and an electoral pitch. How else do you “get things done,” the thinking went, or persuade swing voters you actually want to?

But now that Democrats have unified control of government — and with Sinema having positioned herself as a tiebreaking vote — the calculus has changed. In the coming weeks and months, Biden’s relentless legislative push will test her like never before. Bipartisanship might be Sinema’s dream, but neither Republican nor Democratic leaders in Congress seem to believe it benefits them politically to prioritize it right now.

“I can tell you this, I am going to do everything I can to get the biggest, boldest change we can, because I think the people I represent depend on it,” Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told the New York Times last week. “My party depends on it. But most of all, the future of my country depends on it.”

As a result, Sinema may finally be forced to choose which matters more to her: getting stuff done or making a point.

It’s not much of a stretch to say that Biden’s entire post-COVID-19 agenda hangs in the balance. Manchin is typically cited as Democrats’ main internal obstacle, and it’s true that he also opposes filibuster reform.

“There is no circumstance in which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster,” he wrote last month in a Washington Post op-ed after repeatedly signaling his openness to various reforms of the procedure. “The time has come to end these political games, and to usher in a new era of bipartisanship.”

As with Sinema, there may be more than idealism at work here. Moderates need base voters and swing voters to win reelection — so not actually having to vote for or against partisan priorities such as gun control helps them (in theory) to avoid alienating either constituency.

Yet Manchin and Sinema operate differently. As Lieber, the former West Virginia Statehouse reporter, recently put it, Manchin is a “horsetrader supreme.” In March, Manchin upended Biden’s carefully negotiated $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill when he said he’d vote for a Republican amendment to shorten the time frame for expanded unemployment benefits. After a half-day scramble that eventually produced some relatively minor adjustments, Manchin returned to the fold and the bill passed through budget reconciliation on a party-line vote — as Manchin basked in coverage that now claimed he had “forced difficult changes … rather than simply going along with what Biden wants,” according to Vox.

Chairman Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., arrives for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee confirmation hearing for Tommy P. Beaudreau, nominee for deputy Interior secretary, in Dirksen Building on Thursday, April 29, 2021. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images)
Sen. Joe Manchin at a hearing on Capitol Hill on Thursday. 

This is Manchin’s brand, and it’s how he has been winning elections in reddening West Virginia since 1982 — including two for governor in the 2000s and a 3-point Senate victory in 2018, two years after Trump won there with his largest vote share in the country (68.5 percent). He has some room to maneuver.

Sinema is on shakier ground. “She’s different from Joe Manchin,” says Yuval Levin, a political analyst at the American Enterprise Institute. “He’s really spent his entire career being the guy he is now — a force of resistance against the left of his party. And he’s very comfortable there. I think Sinema’s somewhat less comfortable.”

Like Manchin, Sinema ultimately voted to pass Biden’s COVID relief bill with zero Republican votes. But unlike Manchin, she did not make a show of gumming up the works in the name of centrism. Instead, her office eventually justified her decision by arguing, as the Los Angeles Times recently reported, that “Republican proposals in the final bill, such as relief for restaurants and money for homeless children, made the measure bipartisan, even if the vote tally did not.”

Whether that rationale is enough to get Sinema on board for Biden’s new jobs and families proposals — which the administration may also try to pass via reconciliation — remains to be seen. “Protecting jobs and expanding economic opportunities for everyday Americans are goals that unite all Americans,” Sinema tweeted after Biden’s speech. “I’ll continue to uphold the Arizona values of finding common ground and using common sense as I work with colleagues in both parties.”

But the shifting sands of Arizona politics may leave Sinema with less leeway than the well-established Manchin — which means that her role in either advancing or stymieing Biden’s agenda could prove more volatile. Manchin is a proven survivor in a state that has gone from ancestrally Democratic to deep-red Republican over the course of his political career. Sinema began her career in a GOP state — the home of McCain and conservative firebrand Barry Goldwater — that has moved markedly leftward since 2016.

UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 21: Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., speaks to supporters at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 570 in Tucson, Ariz., on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images)
Then a candidate for U.S. Senate, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema speaks to supporters in Tucson, Ariz., in October 2018.

And so in the wake of Sinema’s “F*** Off” selfie and the seemingly self-satisfied thumbs-down that preceded it, both local and national progressives have made her a target of their ire and activism, with Arizona Democratic Party education coordinator Brianna Westbrook describing Sinema’s actions as “a gut punch to the people that worked their ass off to elect her.”

Our Revolution, the Bernie Sanders-affiliated super-PAC, is sending daily fundraising emails trashing Sinema, who is up for reelection in 2024, as a “bully.” Progress Arizona is rallying against Sinema (and in favor of filibuster reform) next month in Phoenix. And one Arizona Democratic Party committee member is even pushing the party to end any “written, verbal and financial support” for her future campaigns.

“If Biden continues to be an advocate of something close to the Bernie Sanders agenda, and if Sinema’s the one keeping that from becoming law, I could see enough of a revolt among Democratic primary voters to give her deep concern,” says Robb, the Arizona Republic columnist.

The risk seems to be real — and not limited to the left. In late March, a Civiqs tracking poll showed that Sinema’s approval rating in Arizona had fallen a net 17 points since the start of February to 29 percent favorable and 40 percent unfavorable, with an even larger drop (30 points, on net) among Arizona Democrats. Independents, meanwhile, went from viewing Sinema favorably (by 6 points) to viewing her unfavorably (by 20 points) over the same period; her ratings among Republicans barely budged. In contrast, Democrat Mark Kelly, Sinema’s less idiosyncratic Arizona Senate colleague, enjoyed steadily positive numbers among independents and the broader electorate.

“It’s always been a safe bet in the past that by defending the filibuster you would earn lots of plaudits from the Beltway crowd and lots of centrist Democrats and Republicans alike,” explained Democratic strategist Adam Jentleson, the author of “Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy.” “But I think things have shifted on this issue. I think a consensus has built that Republican obstruction has gotten so extreme that filibuster reform is necessary. … Some kind of a shift is going to have to come here. She’s too far out to the right for the people she represents in Arizona.”

Adam Jentleson, center, appears with his boss Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., right, and artist Michael Heizer, before an easement signing ceremony in the Capitol to help protect Nevada's Basin and Range National Monument that contains Heizer's modern art sculpture
Adam Jentleson, center, with then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., right, and artist Michael Heizer at the Capitol in December 2016. 

On the other hand, adds Robb, “pushing the Biden agenda through on straight-line partisan votes just completely contradicts the branding Sinema successfully presented to the Arizona electorate. She has to worry about the center even more than she has to worry about the left. I don’t know what she’s going to do.”

So far, Sinema has navigated the Biden era’s choppy legislative currents by modeling the kind of “behavior” she says she wants her colleagues to emulate. She has partnered with Utah Republican Mitt Romney on one proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $11 an hour — lower than her own state’s threshold of $12.15, but higher than the current federal benchmark of $7.25 — and another to create educational savings accounts that would help low-income students save for college and reduce their debt. Sinema has also teamed up with Texas Republican John Cornyn on a bill to address the recent influx of migrants at the southern border.

“She clearly wants to represent — for the reasons that every senator would have — the main interests in Arizona,” says political scientist Norman Ornstein, the co-author of “The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track.” “She also wants to draw a fine line here of working in a way that doesn’t blow up the Biden policy agenda, which would be catastrophic for Democrats more generally, while also trying to demonstrate to a variety of groups back home that she is striking the right kind of balance. That’s no easy task.”

It’s possible that some of Sinema’s bipartisan ideas will make it into Biden’s final jobs or families packages, enabling her to declare victory and vote for the bills through reconciliation even if no Republicans technically join her in the end. As Sinema told Politico earlier this year, “Bipartisanship is always my first choice” but “I also want to make sure that we’re getting stuff done for Arizonans. They need help … and I don’t want to see a process that gets bogged down in petty partisanship.”

It’s also possible, Robb notes, that Biden’s plan “will unravel before she even has to vote on it, and then the Senate defaults back to searching for a more limited infrastructure bill that can get at least some Republican votes” — a more comfortable position for Sinema.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, May 4, 2021. (Alex Edelman/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
President Biden in the State Dining Room of the White House on Tuesday. 

Yet the rest of Biden’s priorities — immigration, guns, policing, voting rights — probably can’t pass through reconciliation, which is designed only for spending measures. At that point, Sinema will have to decide whether fighting for the filibuster is more important to her — and her brand — than passing Democratic policies. “I want to restore the 60-vote threshold for all elements of the Senate’s work,” she told a constituent in February, claiming that it creates a “bipartisan process” that results in “better, commonsense legislation” and is “not meant to impede the things we want to get done” — even though its effect in recent years has been precisely the opposite.

Schumer has said he will give Sinema & Co. one last chance to break that pattern and see if they can corral 10 Republican votes on legislation such as H.R. 1, the party’s comprehensive voting, elections and ethics bill — of which Sinema herself is an outspoken supporter and co-sponsor. “We will look at every option,” Schumer recently told MSNBC. “I have some colleagues who are not now … for going at it alone. They want to try bipartisanship. I’m willing to give them a little time to try that bipartisanship.”

The question is what leaders like Biden and Schumer will do once that seemingly doomed effort fails — and which rules, exactly, Sinema might be willing to break in response.

COVID cases are suddenly falling in 4 hard-hit Northeastern states. Does that mean herd immunity is on the way?

Eager to know when parts of America are finally approaching herd immunity against COVID-19? Then pay close attention to what’s happening in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Triggered by reopenings and fueled by the rise of more contagious variants, COVID numbers suddenly shot up across all four states last month. But then, just as suddenly, cases began to plummet right at the start of April — and they’re still plummeting today, even as restrictions are being lifted.

Could this swift reversal — which occurred despite rising mobility and mixing — herald the local onset of something like herd immunity (that is, the point when the virus starts to run out of unprotected hosts to infect)?

People walk by a sign for both a Covid-19 testing clinic and a Covid vaccination location outside of a Brooklyn hospital on March, 29 2021 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
A person walks by a sign for a COVID-19 testing site and a COVID vaccination location outside a Brooklyn hospital in March.

“I do think this pattern is significant, and the leading factor is the combination of natural immunity from infection and vaccine-induced immunity,” says Yahoo News Medical Contributor Dr. Kavita Patel, a Brookings Institution health scholar and a primary care internist. “Between the two, you’re starting to cover the majority of the population in these states. We’re progressing toward herd immunity kind of by hook or crook.”

We may never actually know when a particular state (or the U.S. as a whole) crosses the herd immunity threshold, which experts describe as the point when 75 to 90 percent of a particular population is protected by antibodies. For one thing, true herd immunity — the goal of getting so many Americans vaccinated that COVID-19 can never spread again — is probably unattainable; vaccine demand is declining, hesitancy persists in certain pockets of the country, variants keep emerging and most of the rest of the world remains unshielded by prior infection or immunization.

But there’s another, more immediate way to look at what vaccination and natural immunity have the power to do, together: end the emergency of the U.S. pandemic, reduce COVID-19 to a manageable risk and let normal life resume even before 75 percent of a particular population has been fully dosed.

This is not to say that the pandemic isn’t still raging across the country. “I do not think we are even close to real herd immunity,” Howard Forman, a professor of public health at Yale University, tells Yahoo News.

To his point, cases continue to rise in states such as North Carolina, Oregon and Nevada — and on Thursday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said his state, which was also hit hard last spring, is “seeing the beginning of a fourth surge” that is “starting, unfortunately, at a higher level than where the other waves started from.”

Still, “the more people who are immune,” Forman explains, “the less steep the inclines.”

Patel agrees. “We’re not likely to get to ‘zero COVID,’” she says. “But it’s like a dimmer switch. When you have about 30 percent immunity, you start to see cases go down. At 50 percent, you start to see precipitous drops. And certain pockets of the country seem to be getting there first.”

Which is where New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut come in.

People prepare to be administered the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine at the Northwell Health pop-up coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination site at the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center in Staten Island on April 08, 2021 in New York City. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
The Northwell Health pop-up COVID-19 vaccination site at the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center on April 8 in New York City.

The stats are suggestive. The daily average of new COVID-19 cases increased by 79 percent in New York during the last week of March. In New Jersey, it increased by 59 percent between Feb. 21 and April 1. In Connecticut, it increased by 99 percent over the last three weeks of March. And in Massachusetts, it increased by 64 percent over the same period.

Yet since the start of April, average daily cases have declined by 46 percent in New York, 29 percent in New Jersey, 30 percent in Massachusetts and 40 percent in Connecticut — even as rules on bars, restaurants, movie theaters and other businesses have been getting looser and looser.

Testing across all four states, meanwhile, has hovered around the same level for months, suggesting that the actual number of infections is falling, as opposed to just the number of infections being detected.

The question is, why now?

In theory, if New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut were progressing toward herd immunity, two factors would be contributing: immunity from prior infection and immunity from vaccination.

The reason it’s tempting to see the recent downturn in cases across these four states as an early sign of emerging population-level protection is that all four of them boast some of America’s highest levels of both.

They were hit hardest, for starters, by the pandemic’s first wave last spring, suffering the highest death and hospitalization rates in the country. At the same time, testing was scarce, so case counts — though also higher than anywhere else in the U.S. early on — could capture only a tiny fraction of the number of residents who got infected, survived and emerged with some degree of natural immunity. Then all four states experienced sizable winter surges, just like the rest of the U.S., expanding that existing base of protection.

Medical workers tend to a patient at a Brooklyn hospital that has seen a rise in coronavirus-related cases on December 15, 2020 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Medical workers tend to a patient at a Brooklyn hospital in December. 

At covid19-projections.com, Youyang Gu, an independent data scientist trained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, spent much of the first year of the pandemic using a data-driven approach with a layer of artificial intelligence to forecast the virus’s trajectory. Gu stopped updating his true infection estimates on Feb. 21, but at the time, he estimated that 38.9 percent of New Jerseyans, 34.5 percent of New Yorkers, 26.4 percent of Connecticuters and 26.3 percent of Bay Staters had already gotten COVID.

Some other states — namely the ones with low levels of mask wearing and lax restrictions — have seen higher rates of infection; South Dakota (47.5 percent as of Feb. 21) comes to mind.

But few other states have also administered at least one vaccine dose to as many of their residents as New York (44 percent), New Jersey (47.4 percent), Massachusetts (50 percent) and Connecticut (50.3 percent), on top of such a large existing foundation of natural immunity.

It is the combination of these two kinds of immunity that could be at least starting to starve the coronavirus of vulnerable people to infect and depressing case counts across four of America’s previously hardest-hit states, even as they’ve continued to phase out official mitigation measures and combat more contagious variants.

Meanwhile, the march toward immunity may be getting an additional boost, experts theorize, from the particular politics and demographics of such states. All states, for instance, gave older Americans early access to vaccination; younger adults qualified only recently. Yet while vaccination rates among seniors have been relatively consistent regardless of their partisan leanings, that’s not the case among non-seniors.

According to a New York Times analysis, the rate of full vaccination for older adults in Republican-leaning counties is just 5 percent lower than the national average. But the rate for younger adults in those same counties is 18 percent below average. In other words, bluer states such as New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut are likely vaccinating younger Americans at a higher rate than redder states — and last year younger Americans accounted for more than 70 percent of the virus’s spread, according to a study by Imperial College London’s Department of Mathematics.

A woman squints as she receives her second dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at the mobile Covid-19 vaccination clinic,run by Hartford Healthcare at Saint Charles Borromeo Catholic Church's McGivney community center in Bridgeport, Connecticut on April 20, 2021. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)
A woman receives her second dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a community center in Bridgeport, Conn., on Tuesday. 

“Elderly people are being vaccinated at a relatively high rate no matter where you are, but getting younger people vaccinated (versus older) is underrated in getting this under control,” Forman says. “Vaccinating 18-to-40-year-olds has a much bigger impact on cases than vaccinating the same number of 65-to-90-year-olds.”

Likewise, Patel believes that the specific demographics of more urban communities may also be working in favor of immunity.

“Poor Black and brown communities got hit harder in all these regions, which means they have a higher level of natural immunity,” Patel says. “So even though they’re not getting as much vaccine, that helps. Then we’ve got the whiter, wealthier communities [in big cities] getting vaccinated at a really high rate. You do the math, you add them up and you get a lot more people with immunity. It may actually be a better demographic formula for getting to herd immunity than the mix in some smaller rural areas.”

To be sure, other forces might be at work here as well. Warming weather and seasonality likely play a part. So does the fact that New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut have kept their public mask mandates in place; that simple precaution, combined with commonsense behavior like not gathering indoors, unmasked and unvaccinated, probably acts to further slow the virus’s spread among the shrinking number of residents who still don’t have any immunity.

But unlike previous declines, this one doesn’t seem to be happening because people are changing their behavior and taking more precautions. They’re taking fewer, yet cases continue to fall. Something else seems to be exerting downward pressure on the virus.

In this photo made Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, Kavita Patel poses for a photo in Creve Coeur, MO. (Jeff Roberson/AP Photo)
Dr. Kavita Patel in Creve Coeur, Mo., in 2017. 

It would be premature to claim that herd immunity has arrived in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts or Connecticut. And declining infections certainly don’t mean these states are anywhere near “zero COVID” or that they ever will be. Vaccination is still critical, and medical experts continue to advise that everyone able to get vaccinated should do so as soon as possible.

But April’s sudden, simultaneous downturn in cases across four states with some of America’s highest combined levels of immunity is a sign of progress — and a glimpse at what might lie ahead in communities that keep their foot on the gas.

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!

Why does the elder sister who braves the wind and waves become a hot singer? How do you comment?

#The elder sister who braves the wind and waves is just on the hot search list, ranking 43rd. #Meng Jia’s lip synching: Meng Jia’s lip synching, Wang Feifei’s tumbling, Zhang Hanyun’s delay in lip synching Do you think this level of error can be forgiven?

#The elder sister who braves the wind and waves is just on the hot search list, ranking 43rd. #Meng Jia’s lip synching: Meng Jia’s lip synching, Wang Feifei’s tumbling, Zhang Hanyun’s delay in lip synching Do you think this level of error can be forgiven?

This is the response

It’s a fake song again. Can you really sing it

It’s all lip synching. Don’t talk about anyone

Good, good. Support bloggers

There are thousands of difficulties for those who have no will.

Mistakes can be forgiven

Of course, it’s true singing. Can you faint?

There are also a lot of singers lip synching, they are recorded in advance, not by himself

Lip synching is shameful, stop lip synching

I don’t understand. The feeling should be true