The Full Belmonte, 1/31/21
100% Pure News. Distilled.
“An order requiring people to wear a face mask while using public transportation in the US goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Monday. It was issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and includes buses, trains, taxis, airplanes, boats, subways or ride-share vehicles traveling into and within the US.” Read at CNN
U.S. health officials are waiting to see if more contagious coronavirus variants upend the country’s progress in its battle against the virus.
Most communities remain at an extremely high risk of contracting the virus, like New York City, above. But transmission seems to be slowing throughout the country, with the number of new average cases 40 percent lower on Jan. 29 than at the U.S. peak three weeks earlier.
Still, the average reported daily death rate over the past seven days was above 3,000, and we are by no means out of the woods yet.
Variants threaten to send case rates to a new high if they take hold, as health officials have warned may be the case by March.
Maryland and South Carolina identified their first cases of the variant from South Africa. A variant from Brazil was detected in Minnesota this week, and one from Britain has been detected in at least 30 states.
‘It is a pivotal moment,’ one virologist said. ‘It is a race with the new variants to get a large number of people vaccinated before those variants spread.’
In recent days, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax have each announced that their vaccines provided strong protection against Covid-19 but that their efficacy rate dropped against the South African variant.” Read more at New York Times
“In Georgia, Arizona and other states won by President Biden, some leading Republicans stood up in November to make what in any other year would be an unremarkable statement: The race is over, and we lost, fair and square.
But that was then. Now, in statehouses nationwide, Republicans who echoed former president Donald Trump’s baseless claims of rampant fraud are proposing to make it harder to vote next time — ostensibly to convince the very voters who believed them that elections can be trusted again. And even some colleagues who defended the legitimacy of the November vote are joining them.” Read more at Boston Globe
“Former President Donald Trump insisted that the radical left was endangering the country as right-wing extremism was building ominously. Federal law enforcement agencies followed suit.
Key resources and domestic security agencies were diverted away from violent white supremacists to focus on cases involving anarchists or those involved with the antifa movement. Some investigators felt pressured to find evidence, which never materialized, that antifa adherents were terrorists.
The scale and intensity of the threat from the right became stunningly clear on Jan. 6, when a pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol.
Separately, prosecutors announced the first federal conspiracy charges against members of the Proud Boys in connection with the riot.” Read more at New York Times
“In Arizona and Oregon, they rebuked opponents of Donald Trump’s assault on democracy. In Hawaii, they defended followers of the QAnon conspiracy movement. And in Texas, they adopted a slogan with dark historical connotations: ‘We are the storm.’
To understand the future of the Republican party, start with the army of increasingly radicalised foot soldiers who shape it at state level.
Far from responding to the loss of the White House to Joe Biden by tacking to the political centre, local parties appear to be racing to the extreme right by giving safe harbour to white nationalism, QAnon – an antisemitic theory involving Satan-worshipping cannibals and a child sex trafficking ring – and ‘the big lie’ that the presidential election was stolen by Democrats.
‘The central story of American politics right now is that one of the two parties is ‘radicalizing against democracy’ in front of our eyes,’ tweeted Chris Hayes, an author and host on the MSNBC network. ‘There are tons of other stories as well, but they all come after that, I think.’
The Republican party has been drifting towards rightwing populism for years, with notable examples including the Tea Party movement, the nomination of Sarah Palin for vice-president and the total capitulation to Trump.
Moderate Republicans hoped that Trump’s failures at the ballot box – he was the first president since 1932 to lose re-election, the House and the Senate – might generate an ‘autopsy’ similar to that which followed Mitt Romney’s defeat eight years ago and a reset aimed at broadening its appeal.
But recent evidence suggests that state parties are embracing Trumpism with renewed zeal, along with the fantasies of the far-right fringe. The most explosive demonstration came on 6 January, when a violent mob stormed the US Capitol in Washington in a bid to overturn Trump’s election defeat while displaying the Confederate flag, a sweatshirt that said ‘Camp Auschwitz’ and ‘Q’ shirts and ‘Q’ banners.” Read more at The Guardian
Riot police detain a man during a rally in support of the jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Photograph: Pavel Korolyov/AFP/Getty
“Moscow police have paralysed the centre of the Russian capital as protests in support of the jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny continued for a second consecutive weekend.
At least 3,000 people including Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, were detained at rallies across the country as supporters of the Kremlin critic took to the streets to protest against his jailing, despite biting cold and the threat of arrest.
Taking unprecedented security measures, riot police and national guards troops shut down central metro stations in Moscow and blocked off streets to prevent a repeat of last week’s record protests, some of the largest in the last decade.
Forced out of the centre, a crowd of thousands chanting ‘Putin is a thief’ marched toward Moscow’s Komsomolskaya Square, a major rail artery outside the security cordons, as police in body armour made hundreds of arrests.
Behind them sped dozens of armoured police vans used for mass arrests. ‘Moscow looks like a fortress today,’ said Maria Lazareva, a protester who found herself trapped between two lines of riot police just off of Komsomolskaya Square. ‘They can stop us when there are not enough of us but as more come it’s going to be impossible to keep us penned in.’
Hundreds chanted ‘Freedom!’ as they continued toward the Matrosskaya Tishina jail in Moscow where Navalny is being held before a parole hearing this week that could lead to him sent to prison for years. Navalny was arrested earlier this month after returning to Russia after a suspected FSB poisoning.
Police in St Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city, took similar security precautions, shutting down Nevsky Prospekt, the city’s main avenue, to prevent protesters from gathering there.
But thousands still gathered on sidestreets and faced off with riot police, who beat truncheons against their metal riot shields in an effort to scare off crowds calling for Navalny’s release.
For a second week running, police at moments appeared close to be losing control of the situation. In Moscow, protesters ran out into the streets, blocking traffic. In St Petersburg, one police officer was filmed pulling a pistol on protesters and others were filmed using a taser to subdue a demonstrator.
The Kremlin’s goal on Sunday was to show that it was ready to take extraordinary measures to prevent Navalny supporters from gathering in big cities across the country. In many places, police chased the opposition leader’s supporters out of the city centre and into the outskirts. In Ekaterinburg, police made arrests on the frozen Iset river, and in Vladivostok, police followed protesters on to the frozen ice of the Amur Bay.
For a second consecutive week, the Biden administration condemned the crackdown on protests, marking a significant departure from the Trump White House. ‘The US condemns the persistent use of harsh tactics against peaceful protesters and journalists by Russian authorities for a second week straight,’ said US secretary of state, Antony Blinken. ‘We renew our call for Russia to release those detained for exercising their human rights, including Aleksey Navalny.’
Police had detained nearly 2,300 people by 4pm, according to the OVD-Info protest monitoring website. OVD-Info counted 4,000 arrests across the country after last week’s demonstrations, leaving many opposition supporters behind bars.
Police this week also arrested Navalny’s senior aides for allegedly violating coronavirus restrictions during last week’s protests. The largely leaderless crowds in Moscow on Sunday were directed via the Telegram messaging app, which as of late Sunday afternoon had directed them away from the jail back toward the city centre.
The remote directions were reminiscent of the protests in neighbouring Belarus, where Telegram channels opposed to the government of Alexander Lukashenko would direct protesters to sites around the city each week as the government clamped down.
To galvanise support at home, in an online video viewed more than 100m times Navalny has accused Putin of being the ultimate owner of a sumptuous Black Sea palace, something the Kremlin leader has denied. On the eve of the protests, Arkady Rotenberg, a businessman and Putin’s former judo sparring partner, said he owned the property.” Read more at The Guardian
“FBI agents around the country are working to unravel the various motives, relationships, goals and actions of the hundreds of Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Some inside the bureau have described the Capitol riot investigation as their biggest case since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and a top priority of the agents’ work is to determine the extent to which that violence and chaos was preplanned and coordinated.
Investigators caution there is an important legal distinction between gathering like-minded people for a political rally — which is protected by the First Amendment — and organizing an armed assault on the seat of American government. The task now is to distinguish which people belong in each category, and who played key roles in committing or coordinating the violence.” Read more at Washington Post
Butch Bowers was in Trump’s defence team for his impeachment trial in the Senate but has left in a ‘mutual decision’. Photograph: Mary Ann Chastain/AP
“Donald Trump has abruptly parted ways with the two lead lawyers working on his defence for his Senate impeachment trial, a source familiar with the situation said, leaving the former US president’s legal strategy in disarray.
Butch Bowers and Deborah Barberi, two South Carolina lawyers, are no longer on Trump’s team, the source said, describing the move as a ‘mutual decision’.
Three other lawyers associated with the team, Josh Howard of North Carolina and Johnny Gasser and Greg Harris of South Carolina, also parted ways with Trump, another source said.
A third source said Trump had differences with Bowers over strategy ahead of the trial. The president is still contending that he was the victim of mass election fraud in the 3 November election won by Joe Biden.
It leaves Trump’s defence team in turmoil as he prepares for a trial starting on 9 February to consider an article of impeachment passed by the House of Representatives charging him with inciting his supporters to storm the US Capitol on 6 January.
It was unclear who would now represent the former president at the trial. His White House lawyers at his first impeachment trial last year, Pat Cipollone and Patrick Philbin, are not expected to be a part of the proceedings.
‘The Democrats’ efforts to impeach a president who has already left office is totally unconstitutional and so bad for our country,’ said Jason Miller, a Trump adviser.
‘In fact, 45 senators have already voted that it is unconstitutional. We have done much work, but have not made a final decision on our legal team, which will be made shortly,’ Miller said.
Forty-five Senate Republicans backed a failed effort last Tuesday to halt Trump’s impeachment trial, in a show of party unity that some cited as a clear sign he will not be convicted of inciting insurrection at the Capitol.” Read more at The Guardian
“One of the largest vaccination sites in the country briefly shut down Saturday afternoon because maskless, anti-vaccine protesters blocked the entrance, officials said.
For nearly an hour, thousands of motorists in line to get a coronavirus vaccine shot at Dodger Stadium were stalled as about 50 people demonstrating against immunization efforts caused officials to temporarily close the site’s gates, Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman David Ortiz told The Washington Post. The protest had no impact on the number of shots given Saturday at the site, which can vaccinate 8,000 people a day, Ortiz said.
No arrests were made, according to police.” Read more at Washington Post
“In Oregon, the man accused of running into seven pedestrians and cyclists appears in court Thursday. Paul Rivas pleaded not guilty to 14 counts, including second-degree murder in the death of a 77-year-old. He was detained after a speeding Honda SUV hit people and crashed in Portland.” Read more at CNN
“House Democrats this week are pushing legislation to bar lawmakers from carrying firearms anywhere on Capitol Hill — an old idea getting new attention in the fraught days since the deadly attack on the Capitol earlier in the month.
Sponsored by Reps. Jared Huffman and Jackie Speier, both California Democrats, the proposal would repeal a decades-old rule exempting lawmakers from an otherwise blanket ban on guns across the Capitol complex.
The lawmaker carve-out has been in place since 1967, and members of both parties have quietly taken advantage of it in the decades since then, virtually without incident.
But the issue has been elevated to new heights this year after a handful of House Republicans, most of them new to Congress, have expressed a desire to bring concealed firearms onto the chamber floor, where current guidelines prohibit them.
Those rhetorical threats to defy the rules — combined with an episode last week when Capitol Police officers intervened to prevent Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) from bringing a gun into the chamber — has heightened the urgency among Democratic gun reformers to expand the firearm ban to include not only staffers and the public, but also lawmakers.” Read more at The Hill
© Getty Images
“Gun sales are on the rise across the U.S. with some experts predicting that gun reform policies championed by the Biden administration as well as the continuing uncertainty around the pandemic will keep gun sales high in 2021.
A record number of background checks were performed in the past year, according to data released by the FBI, reaching over 39.6 million background checks for firearms in 2020.
And while there’s no official data on exactly how many guns are sold in the U.S., background checks serve as a good proxy, according to Adam Winkler, Author of the book ‘Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America.’
Experts attribute the demand to fear and uncertainty that was sparked by the coronavirus pandemic, protests over racial injustice from last summer and the 2020 presidential election.” Read more at The Hill
“Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) said Saturday that she spoke with former President Trump as she faces growing bipartisan criticism over past social media posts in which she expressed support for violence against Democrats.
‘I had a GREAT call with my all time favorite POTUS, President Trump! I’m so grateful for his support and more importantly the people of this country are absolutely 100% loyal to him because he is 100% loyal to the people and America First,’ Greene tweeted.
A spokesperson for Trump did not offer a comment about the conversation with Greene.
The call comes as a growing chorus of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle rebukes Greene after internet sleuths and journalists uncovered a trove of social media remarks showing the Georgia Republican indicating support for comments that advocated for the deaths of top Democrats.” Read more at The Hill
“Democrats are mulling how to reshape the federal judiciary after Republicans moved at record speed to confirm conservative judges over the past four years.
Former President Trump, aided by a GOP-controlled Senate, set the second-fastest pace on record for judicial appointments, allowing him to stack the courts with picks, including three Supreme Court justices, who were overwhelmingly white, younger and ideologically conservative.
President Biden has 50 vacancies to fill: three on the influential circuit courts and 47 in district courts. That number will eventually grow, including an opening on the powerful D.C. circuit court once Merrick Garland is confirmed as attorney general.
As Democrats plot their strategy, they are floating expanding the number of lower court seats, an idea that could have some bipartisan support…
Expanding the number of court seats would require legislation in Congress, including GOP support in the Senate….
Nominations need only a simple majority to be confirmed in the Senate after Democrats nixed the 60-vote filibuster for executive and lower court nominees in 2013 and Republicans got rid of the same threshold for the Supreme Court in 2017. Republicans also changed the rules in 2019 to reduce the amount of debate time for most executive nominees and district judges, a change that will now benefit Democrats.” Read more at The Hill
“Robinhood pitched itself to unsophisticated investors as the antithesis of Wall Street. It didn’t say that it also entirely relies on Wall Street.
Those two realities collided this week when legions of armchair investors on the trading app who had been buying up options and shares of GameStop banded together to squeeze hedge funds by driving stock prices to dizzying levels.
The frenzy forced Robinhood to find emergency cash to continue to be able to trade. The company also stopped customers from buying a number of heavily traded stocks, which prompted rare bipartisan condemnation and a rush by both parties to side with the young traders disrupting the markets.
The story of Robinhood’s distress followed a similar arc to those of Facebook and Google — Silicon Valley darlings that are now caught in the cross hairs of an angry public and lawmakers.” Read more at New York Times
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