The Full Belmonte, 5/29/21

100% Pure News. Distilled.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, has made a clear choice that his and his party’s fortunes depend on putting the events of Jan. 6 behind them.Credit...Erin Scott for The New York Times

  • “WASHINGTON — Republicans on Friday blocked the creation of an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, using their filibuster power in the Senate for the first timethis year to doom a full accounting of the deadliest attack on Congress in centuries.

    The vote was a stark display of loyalty to former President Donald J. Trump and political self-interest by Republicans determined to shield themselves from an inquiry that could tarnish their party. They feared an investigation that would remind voters of the consequences of Mr. Trump’s election lies and how Republican lawmakers indulged them, spurring their supporters to violence.

    It all but guaranteed that there would be no comprehensive nonpartisan inquiry into the attack’s root causes, the former president’s conduct as his supporters threatened lawmakers and the vice president, or any connections between his allies in Congress and the rioters.

    While members of both political parties agreed in its immediate aftermath that an investigation was needed, most Republicans have since toiled to put the episode behind them, and some have actively sought to deny or play down the reality of what happened.” Read more at New York Times

  • “An unexpected Senate meltdown this week is prompting Democrats to re-evaluate what they can realistically accomplish this year in Congress.

    Senators were up until 2:52 a.m. on Friday trying to hammer out a deal on how to move forward on a bipartisan bill to improve U.S. competitiveness with China. In the end, the two sides couldn’t reach an agreement and had to punt the legislation into next month.

    Less than 12 hours later, a bill to establish a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol failed on a mostly party-line vote, even though it passed the House a week earlier with 35 Republicans supporting it.

    The Senate’s May work period, which wrapped up Friday afternoon, was supposed to be devoted to securing a significant bipartisan win with the China bill.

    Instead, the Senate left town for a weeklong recess without getting either one of Senate Majority Leader Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) top priorities passed.

    Schumer was left frustrated, as were many Democrats and several Republicans, after two consecutive late nights and a rare Friday session failed to get any legislation passed.

    The Democratic leader and his colleagues are now taking a harder look at what they can hope to accomplish with Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as Senate minority leader and former President Trump as the de facto GOP leader. 

    Schumer circulated a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter to Democratic senators Friday afternoon that said, ‘We have … seen the limits of bipartisanship and the resurgence of Republican obstructionism.’

    He noted that after moving pieces of the China competitiveness bill through six different committees and accepting ‘dozens’ of GOP amendments, Republicans still delayed passage of the bill by two weeks.

    Schumer, speaking at a press conference, later insisted that he and President Biden still want to get as much done as possible with Republicans through regular order, without having to resort to the budget reconciliation process that would let Democrats pass major legislation without any GOP support.

    ‘It is frustrating, but that’s not going to stop us where we can from working in a bipartisan way. That’s the preferred way to go. It’s just not possible in many different areas with this Republican Senate and it won’t stop us from acting,’ he said.

    Schumer noted that there were more votes on amendments to the China bill this week than there have been during entire years under the Senate Republican majority when McConnell was majority leader.

    He also complained that McConnell made no effort to rein in a group of Republican conservatives, led by Sens. Ron Johnson (Wis.), Rand Paul(Ky.), and Rick Scott (Fla.), from forcing the Senate to use all the procedural time required to process the bill — which would have forced senators to work well into the Memorial Day weekend to finish it. 

    ‘McConnell’s nowhere on the floor, nowhere around to try to prevent that from happening,’ Schumer said.

    The one-two punch of having to postpone action on the China bill, after 68 senators voted to end debate on the core components of the bill, and the failure of a motion to begin debate on the Jan. 6 legislation left even the most ardent proponents of bipartisanship rethinking what the prospects were for working across the aisle going forward.” Read more at The Hill

    Two siblings who survived the Tulsa Race Massacre, Hughes Van Ellis and Viola Ford Fletcher, attended a rally in the city on Friday. 
    Two siblings who survived the Tulsa Race Massacre, Hughes Van Ellis and Viola Ford Fletcher, attended a rally in the city on Friday. Credit...Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press
    • “In a weekend of events commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, one scheduled for Memorial Day at the city’s minor league baseball stadium was to have been a main attraction. It was to be televised, with John Legend performing, and Stacey Abrams giving the keynote speech before thousands.

      But the event, called ‘Remember and Rise,’ was abruptly called off on Thursday, with the organizers citing ‘unexpected circumstances with entertainers and speakers.’ Its sudden cancellation came amid an intensifying debate over who should compensate the few survivors of the massacre, which left between 100 and 300 dead and destroyed more than 1,000 homes and businesses, and their descendants.” Read more at New York Times

  • “WASHINGTON — President Biden’s $6 trillion budget bets on the power of government to propel workers, families and businesses to new heights of prosperity in a rapidly changing economy, by redistributing income and wealth from high earners and corporations to grow the middle class.

    The inaugural budget request of Mr. Biden’s presidency reduces spending levels compared to last year, when lawmakers dispensed trillions of dollars to people, businesses and local governments to help them survive the pandemic recession. But it sets the nation on a new and higher spending path, with total federal outlays rising to $8.2 trillion by 2031 and deficits running above $1.3 trillion throughout the next decade.

    That spending represents an attempt to expand the size and scope of federal engagement in Americans’ daily lives, including guaranteeing two years of prekindergarten and two years of free community college, reducing the costs of child care, granting paid leave for workers, sending monthly government payments to parents and paving the way for electric cars and trucks to take over the nation’s highways and cul-de-sacs.

    Mr. Biden would borrow trillions over the next decade to fund those programs, swelling the national debt to a record size as a share of the economy, in hopes of putting the country on more solid fiscal footing for decades to come.” Read more at New York Times

  • “In his fiscal 2022 budget request, President Biden made official his opposition to the Hyde Amendment, a decades-old ban on federal funding for abortions that he long supported before reversing his stance during the presidential campaign.

    Biden’s decision to omit the Hyde language from his spending proposal makes good on his campaign promise to get rid of it and signals his support for abortion rights at a time when several conservative states are trying to limit them.

    In the early days of the Democratic primary, other candidates criticized Biden over his long-standing support for the Hyde Amendment. In June 2019, Biden declared he could no longer support limits on funding for abortions in an environment where the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion is under attack in Republican-majority states, saying ‘circumstances have changed.’” Read more at Washington Post

  • “With shortcomings in Japan’s fight against the pandemic becoming clear, few Japanese want to host the Olympics in July. Isabel Reynolds and Marika Katanuma look at the tough choice facing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga over whether to hold or cancel the Games.” Read more at Bloomberg

    The Olympic rings on the Odaiba waterfront in Tokyo.

    Photographer: Charly Triballeu/AFP Getty Images

  • “Big Business and the GOP Remain at Odds Even With Trump Gone
    It seemed as if corporate America and the Republican party might mend their frayed ties once Donald Trump left the White House. But as Peter Coywrites, relations are even worse now.” Read more at Bloomberg

  • “First U.S. City to Back Reparations Meets Hard Reality
    Evanston, Illinois is the first U.S. city to agree to pay reparations to Black residents for harm they suffered under structural racism. Susan Berfield  and Jordyn Holman look at the hard questions that have surfaced.” Read more at Bloomberg

  • “Fear of Variant Poses Deadly New Dilemma for Boris Johnson
    After Johnson’s former chief adviser declared he was unfit to lead the U.K. out of the pandemic, his ministers fear he’ll face a bigger battle with his party if the coronavirus variant first detected in India derails his plan to lift restrictions next month, Tim Ross and Kitty Donaldson write.” Read more at Bloomberg

  • “Pipelines Balked When ‘Blinking Red’ Hack Alert Went Off in 2012
    U.S. authorities are preparing to ditch voluntary rules that failed to stop the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack. As Ari Natter and Jennifer Dlouhy explain, that would be a defeat for energy companies that for decades stymied legislation aimed at thwarting cyberattacks.” Read more at Bloomberg

  • “Brazil Let 70 Million Shots Get Away and Sealed Its Covid Fate
    The severity of Covid-19 in Brazil, with 450,000 lives lost, has often been attributed to President Jair Bolsonaro. But as Julia LeiteAndrew Rosatiand Simone Iglesias report, a congressional probe is making clear that incompetence at nearly every level of government is also at fault.” Read more at Bloomberg

  • “After Truce, Israel Confronts Aftermath of Arab-Jewish Violence
    Deadly attacks from Arab and Jewish mobs that spilled over from fighting in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip shook an uneasy coexistence in Israel. Now the country is facing up to uncomfortable truths about its treatment of its Arab citizens, Gwen Ackerman and  Fadwa Hodali report.” Read more at Bloomberg

  • “Cuba Readies Homegrown Covid Vaccines in Big Bet as Cases Surge
    Cuba is taking a high-risk gamble that it can solve a worsening Covid-19 crisis on its own. Jim Wyss looks into how the communist nation is inoculating hundreds of thousands of people with locally made shots even as they’re still being tested.” Read more at Bloomberg

  • “Hackers linked to Russia’s main intelligence agency surreptitiously seized an email system used by the State Department’s international aid agency to burrow into the computer networks of human rights groups and other organizations of the sort that have been critical of President Vladimir Putin, Microsoft Corp. disclosed Thursday.

    Discovery of the breach comes only three weeks before President Biden is scheduled to meet Putin in Geneva, and at a moment of increased tension between the two nations — in part because of a series of increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks emanating from Russia.

    The newly disclosed attack was also particularly bold: By breaching the systems of a supplier used by the federal government, the hackers sent out genuine-looking emails to more than 3,000 accounts across more than 150 organizations that regularly receive communications from the United States Agency for International Development. Those emails went out as recently as this week, and Microsoft said it believes the attacks are ongoing.

    The email was implanted with code that would give the hackers unlimited access to the computer systems of the recipients, from ‘stealing data to infecting other computers on a network,’ Tom Burt, a Microsoft vice president, wrote Thursday night.” Read more at Boston Globe

  • “Lawyers for the Justice Department urged a federal judge on Friday to dismiss lawsuits against former president Donald Trump, former attorney general William P. Barr and other officials for last June’s violent clearing of demonstrators from Lafayette Square by U.S. military and police.

    Trump and other U.S. officials are immune from civil lawsuits over police actions taken to protect a president and to secure his movements, government lawyers said of the actions taken ahead of a photo op of Trump holding a Bible in front of the historic St. John’s Church. A crowd of more than 1,000 largely peaceful demonstrators were protesting the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis before the park was cleared.

    A year to the week after Floyd’s death, Justice Department lawyers argued that the lawsuits should also be tossed because last November’s presidential election made future violations unlikely. The government said the square has been reopened, and President Biden’s administration does not share Trump’s stated hostility toward Floyd and the racial justice movement.” Read more at Washington Post

  • “The board of trustees at the University of North Carolina is under intensifying pressure to grant tenure to Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times Magazine journalist who is scheduled to start as a professor at its journalism school in July.

    Ms. Hannah-Jones, who helped create The Times’s 1619 Project, a series that has drawn criticism from conservatives because of its re-examination of slavery in American history, said she was considering legal action after the university’s board did not formally consider the matter of her tenure.

    In a statement on Thursday, Ms. Hannah-Jones, who earned a master’s degree from the university’s journalism school in 2003, said she had retained legal counsel to respond to the board’s ‘failure to consider and approve my application for tenure — despite the recommendation of the faculty, dean, provost and chancellor.’ She said she would be represented by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Inc., Levy Ratner, P.C., and Ferguson Chambers & Sumter, P.A.

    ‘I had no desire to bring turmoil or a political firestorm to the university that I love,’ Ms. Hannah-Jones said in a statement issued by the Legal Defense Fund, ‘but I am obligated to fight back against a wave of anti-democratic suppression that seeks to prohibit the free exchange of ideas, silence Black voices and chill free speech.’” Read more at New York Times

Bill Cosby left court after being convicted in 2018 of drugging and molesting a woman.MATT SLOCUM/ASSOCIATED PRESS/FILE

  • “PHILADELPHIA — Actor Bill Cosby won’t be paroled this year after refusing to participate in sex offender programs during his nearly three years in state prison in Pennsylvania.

    The 83-year-old Cosby has long said he would resist the treatment programs and refuse to acknowledge wrongdoing even if it means serving the full 10-year sentence. This is the first year he was eligible for parole under the three- to 10-year sentence handed down after his 2018 conviction.

    Cosby spokesperson Andrew Wyatt called the decision ‘appalling’ and said Cosby ‘vehemently proclaims his innocence.’

    Cosby meanwhile hopes the state Supreme Court, which heard his appeal in December, will reverse his conviction in the first celebrity trial of the #MeToo era. Cosby’s lawyers say the trial was flawed because five other accusers were allowed to testify to support the sexual assault complaint filed by a former Temple University basketball team manager. They also say the judge should not have let the jury hear Cosby’s damaging testimony from accuser Andrea Constand’s related civil suit.” Read more at Boston Globe

  • “Fox News once devoted its 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. time slots to relatively straightforward newscasts. Now those hours are filled by opinion shows led by hosts who denounce Democrats and defend the worldview of former President Donald J. Trump.

    For seven years, Juan Williams was the lone liberal voice on ‘The Five,’ the network’s popular afternoon chat show. On Wednesday, he announced that he was leaving the program, after months of harsh on-air blowback from his conservative co-hosts. Many Fox News viewers cheered his exit on social media.

    Donna Brazile, the former Democratic Party chairwoman, was hired by Fox News with great fanfare in 2019 as a dissenting voice for its political coverage. She criticized Mr. Trump and spoke passionately about the Black Lives Matter movement, which other hosts on the network often demonized. Ms. Brazile has now left Fox News; last week, she quietly started a new job at ABC.

    Onscreen and off, in ways subtle and overt, Fox News has adapted to the post-Trump era by moving in a single direction: Trumpward.” Read more at New York Times

    • “Beer me, bud
      Ethan, this slobbery, jowly chunk of love, is a very important dog. He was just selected as Busch’s ‘chief tasting officer’ for their Dog Brew, a non-alcoholic bone broth for dogs. As you can tell, he's ridiculously proud of himself. Just four months ago, Ethan was abandoned, dehydrated, malnourished and fighting for his life in the parking lot of the Humane Society in Louisville, Kentucky. With some medical care and love from his new adoptive family, Ethan is now thriving. As a celebrated Busch employee, Ethan is responsible for  ‘taste-testing, quality control, and fulfilling duties as an ambassador for the product,’ the company said. He certainly seems up for the task.” Read more at CNN