The Full Belmonte, 5/8/21

100% Pure News. Distilled.

  • “WASHINGTON — A stunningly disappointing jobs report Friday demonstrates the rocky road to economic recovery from the pandemic and complicates President Biden’s push to sell trillions of dollars in new infrastructure and social safety net spending funded by taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

    The 266,000 jobs added in April marked a steep drop from the previous month and came in far below analysts’ forecasts of nearly a million new hires driven by COVID restrictions easing. The unemployment rate edged up to 6.1 percent, the first increase since the recovery began, but for a good reason — more people were actively looking for work.

    Economists cautioned not to read too much into one report and said the economic recovery remained on track, with the more reliable three-month average of job gains at a robust 524,000. The stock market agreed, with major indexes rising despite the news.” Read more at Boston Globe

    From left to right: Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao. (AP)

  • “A federal grand jury on Friday indicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and three other former officers on charges of violating George Floyd’s civil rights last year during the arrest that caused his death, a move that could offer another measure of accountability in a case that sparked nationwide protests over abusive policing.

    Justice Department prosecutors said Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao, who took part in apprehending Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, will stand trial on two counts apiece. Former officer Thomas Lane will face a single charge in the case.

    The announcement came less than three weeks after Chauvin, who is White, was found guilty on three counts of murder and manslaughter in a state trial that focused on his use of force. Chauvin, 45, put his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as Floyd was prone on the pavement and complained of being unable to breathe — an incident captured on cellphone video. His sentencing is set for June 25.” Read more at Washington Post

  • “The Arizona Senate will hold off on a plan to contact voters as part of a Republican-commissioned election recount that raised concerns from the Justice Department about voter intimidation, state Senate President Karen Fann said Friday.

    The head of the department’s civil rights division, Pamela S. Karlan, wrote to Fann (R) on Wednesday suggesting that the recount of nearly 2.1 million ballots in the state’s largest county by a private contractor may not comply with federal law, leaving ballots at ‘risk of damage or loss.’ She also raised questions about the contractor’s stated plans to ‘identify voter registrations that did not make sense’ and interview voters via phone and ‘physical canvassing.’

    The ongoing audit run by Florida-based Cyber Ninjas has been widely criticized as fueling wild theories that fraud and other electoral problems led President Donald Trump to lose the presidential race. Officials in Maricopa County, which went for Joe Biden in November, say the results have been validated repeatedly.” Read more at Washington Post

  • “The Trump Justice Department secretly obtained Washington Post journalists’ phone records and tried to obtain their email records over reporting they did in the early months of the Trump administration on Russia’s role in the 2016 election, according to government letters and officials.

    In three separate letters dated May 3 and addressed to Post reporters Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller, and former Post reporter Adam Entous, the Justice Department wrote they were “hereby notified that pursuant to legal process the United States Department of Justice received toll records associated with the following telephone numbers for the period from April 15, 2017 to July 31, 2017.” The letters listed work, home or cellphone numbers covering that three-and-a-half-month period.

    Cameron Barr, The Post’s acting executive editor, said: ‘We are deeply troubled by this use of government power to seek access to the communications of journalists. The Department of Justice should immediately make clear its reasons for this intrusion into the activities of reporters doing their jobs, an activity protected under the First Amendment.’” Read more at Washington Post

  • “Pfizer and the German company BioNTech have become the first companies to apply to the US Food and Drug Administration for full approval of their Covid-19 vaccine for use in people 16 and older. The vaccine is currently being administered to adults in America under an emergency use authorization granted in December.

    The approval process is likely to take months.

    The companies said in a statement on Friday that they had submitted their clinical data, which includes six months of information on the vaccine’s safety and efficacy, to the FDA. They plan to submit additional material, including information about the manufacturing of the vaccine, in the coming weeks.” Read more at Boston Globe

  • “A sixth vaccine: The WHO authorized China’s Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use.” Read more at Axios 

  • “Two days after a federal judge struck down a national moratorium on evictions, the Biden administration said on Friday that it would accelerate the distribution of vast sums of rental aid that state and local governments have been slow to spend.

    The Treasury Department issued new rules meant to make it easier for tenants to gain access to the $46.5 billion in aid. They simplify applications, cover an expanded list of costs like moving expenses and hotel stays, and require programs to help tenants even if their landlords refuse to participate.

    Housing advocates praised the changes, which include an expansion of legal aid to tenants and a promise of advice to localities struggling to create the programs, which are intended to avert evictions caused by the economic shocks from the pandemic.” Read more at New York Times

  • “With a Covid-19 vaccination rate that ranks among the lowest in the country, Alabama is enlisting someone with experience leading the state to the top of the national rankings: Crimson Tide football coach Nick Saban. 

    Saban taped a public service announcement this week for the Alabama Department of Public Health urging Alabamians to get vaccinated, the state says. His endorsement comes as demand for the shot lags far behind supply in the state and the federal government is threatening to reallocate doses to places where residents want them more. 

    In advertisements set to run next week on television, radio and social media, Saban gives fans a compelling reason to get vaccinated: to help support Alabama’s football team. 

    ‘College football fans and players both want full stadiums this fall,’ Saban has been recorded saying. ‘Let’s make sure we can safely make this happen by getting vaccinated. Please get your Covid-19 vaccine. We want Bryant-Denny Stadium loud again this coming season—and Roll Tide!’ 

    Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville, Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey, Auburn basketball legend Charles Barkley and many of the state’s college football and basketball coaches have taped similar messages for the campaign. 

    But easily the most significant participant in this state crazed by college football is Saban, who won his sixth national title with the University of Alabama last season.” Read more at Wall Street Journal

  • “Former president Donald Trump is moving to handpick members of the House GOP leadership team — relentlessly attacking Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican, and endorsing Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York to replace her.

    He is plotting to take down Republican lawmakers who voted to impeach him for inciting the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection on the U.S. Capitol, while continuing to stoke the false claims of a stolen election that have become a dangerous rallying cry for the party.

    And he is playing host to a burbling stream of Republican well-wishers — including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif). and Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) — who travel to his private Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida to pay their respects, seek his support and post a photo of their ring-kissing on social media.” Read more at Washington Post

  • “WASHINGTON – Threats against members of Congress have more than doubled so far in 2021, compared to 2020, according to a watchdog report Friday about U.S. Capitol Police.

    The report comes as Congress grapples with how to bolster security after the Jan. 6 riot that left five dead and 140 police officers injured. The House Administration Committee scheduled a hearing Monday about threat assessment and counter-surveillance before and during the attack.” Read more at USA Today

  • “California's population declined last year for the first time in the state's recorded history.” Read more at Axios

  • “Oklahoma won a refund for hydroxychloroquine, once touted by former President Trump as a treatment for COVID-19.” Read more at Axios 

  • Two Republican members of Congress who have been among the most outspoken supporters of former president Donald Trump sought to carry the torch for his ‘America First’ movement, holding a rally in central Florida on Friday night where they mocked Democrats — and some fellow Republicans — and vowed that Trump’s influence on the GOP is here to stay.

    ‘America First’ isn’t going away. We’re going on tour!’ Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) declared, promising the event would be the first of similar rallies across the country. He teased appearances by Trump at those future events, describing the former president as the ‘undisputed leader’ of the Republican Party.

    Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) co-headlined the rally at the Villages, a retirement community northwest of Orlando for adults 55 and older where Trump enjoyed strong support and where heated golf cart parades and protests have periodically broken out.” Read more at Washington Post

    Attendees cheer Friday during a rally featuring Republican Reps. Matt Gaetz (Fla.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.). (Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP)

  • “The ‘wench auction’ was among the first to go in the exodus of classic-but-problematic Disney scenes. In 2018, the popular Pirates of the Caribbean ride got an overhaul when a redhead who had once been sold as a bride became a pirate instead.

    Two years later, the theme park giant announced it was overhauling the Splash Mountain flume ride to lose its story line inspired by Song of the South — an outdated Disney film that the company no longer makes available to view because of its rosy view of post-Civil War plantation life. More recently, the company announced updates to the classic Jungle Cruise ride to remove ‘negative depictions of ‘natives’’ and add new elements, just in time for a new movie out this summer

    ‘We want to make sure everybody has the best time - that guests from all over the world can connect with the stories we share and that how we bring those to life are respectful of the diverse world we live in,’ Chris Beatty, Walt Disney Imagineering creative portfolio executive, told D23, the official Disney fan club.

    Those are not likely to be the last changes at the parks as Disney examines its history with a more critical eye — and looks to the future with a bigger emphasis on inclusion. That initiative has even grown to include the way employees, known as cast members, present themselves on the job: They now have more flexibility around costume choices, nail styles, jewelry, visible tattoos, and gender-inclusive hairstyles, Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney parks, experiences and products, said in a blog post.” Read more at Boston Globe

  • Yesterday’s dismal jobs report only goes to prove whatever people already believed about government policy, writes Axios chief financial correspondent Felix Salmon.

    Democrats and progressives are convinced that the weak pace of job growth only serves to underscore the necessity of massive government spending to boost the economy. 

    • ‘The US economy is being propped up by fiscal transfers,’ writes economist Edward Harrison. ‘There is still weakness beneath that. And these jobs numbers prove this.’

    • In this view, the stimulus was barely big enough to generate anemic job growth, and anything smaller would have been disastrous. 

    • Between the lines: Mothers, in particular, are being left behind in this recovery, says Hamilton Project economist Lauren Bauer. The jobs report proves that more is needed to enable women and caregivers to re-enter the labor force.

    Republicans and the business lobby see the opposite dynamic. 

    • ‘The disappointing jobs report makes it clear that paying people not to work is dampening what should be a stronger jobs market,’ says U.S. Chamber of Commerce chief policy officer Neil Bradley. ‘One step policymakers should take now is ending the $300 weekly supplemental unemployment benefit.’

    • Weak job growth also throws into question the efficacy of massive government stimulus. If trillions of dollars in new spending can't provide a large bump to employment, that's evidence that it simply failed.

    The other side: President Biden repudiated that view today and said that he knew when he took office that the economic recovery would be a ‘marathon,’ not a ‘sprint.’ 

    • He denied that there is ‘measurable’ data to suggest people aren't looking for jobs because of enhanced unemployment benefits.” Read more at Axios

    • “SAN ANTONIO — For generations, the fight song at the University of Texas at Austin has been etched into the state’s very fabric. For students, the words ‘the eyes of Texas are upon you’ have been sung before and after every sporting event and commencement. Beyond the campus, the song is ever-present at weddings and funerals — and even space, where it was a wake-up call for astronauts on the Gemini, Apollo and Skylab missions.

      But since last summer, the anthem, which was first performed in 1903 at a minstrel show by white students who were likely in blackface, has divided the Longhorn community, pitting administrators and wealthy donors against students and faculty who want the university to abolish it and write a new alma mater.

      University leaders had hoped to quell the uproar over ‘The Eyes of Texas’ after a committee issued a report in March determining that the song had ‘no racist intent.’ But after administrators doubled down on the position that it would remain a central feature of university life, tension has escalated, with student campus tour guides going on strike, pleas from Black legislators to lose the song and threats by wealthy alumni to cut off donations if that were to happen.

      The dispute over the song has emerged as a flash point as universities across the country struggle to deal with traditions spawned in earlier eras. Many undergraduates at the flagship campus in Austin, the Texas capital that is often viewed as an oasis of progressive values in a state where Republicans wield immense power, have expressed disdain over the song’s enduring presence.” Read more at New York Times

      “Intimate, handwritten love letters from John F. Kennedy to his Swedish mistress are up for auction.

      The then-US senator from Massachusetts penned the eight page-collection — one full letter and two partial messages on government letterhead — to Gunilla von Post between 1955 and 1956, a few years into his marriage to Jacqueline Bouvier.

      ‘You are wonderful and I miss you,’ Kennedy wrote in a February 1956 letter. Then he called his time with von Post a ‘bright memory of my life.’

      The letters were in the possession of von Post until her 2011 death and revisit the Kennedy romance she first documented in her 1997 memoir, ‘Love, Jack.’ The letters, which have been put on the block by Boston-based RR Auction, are estimated to go for $30,000 as part of a larger sale of presidential memorabilia, according to CNN.” Read more at Boston Globe