The Full Belmonte, 5/9/21

100% Pure News. Distilled.

  • The Republican Party’s efforts to limit voting rights are making inroads.

    “Florida and Texas became the latest states to move toward limiting voter access after November’s elections, joining Republican-backed measures in Georgia, Montana and Iowa. Other states including Arizona, Michigan and Ohio are considering their own bills.

    On Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida signed a law that restricts absentee ballots, a popular method of voting in that state, and expands a current rule that prohibits outside groups from canvassing close to polling places. Critics say the new law will disproportionately hurt people of color.

    The Texas House of Representatives passed a similar measure last week that would also greatly empower partisan poll watchers. If Gov. Greg Abbott signs the bill, which he supports, Texas will become one of the most difficult states in the nation in which to cast a ballot.

    Without an effective legislative or legal strategy, Democrats are applying pressure on their allies in Washington and trying to energize supporters ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

    The sweeping new measures echo the fictional narrative from Donald Trump and his allies that the electoral system is rigged against him. Between the new laws, the vilification of Representative Liz Cheney and a bizarre recount in Arizona, it has become clear just how absolute Trump’s grip on Republicans remains, our political correspondent writes.” Read more at New York Times

Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA, via Shutterstock

  • “A ransomware attack forced the shutdown of one of the largest U.S. pipelines, which carries 45 percent of the East Coast’s fuel supplies.

    The operator of the system, Colonial Pipeline, said it had halted systems for its 5,500 miles of pipeline, which transports gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel from Texas up the East Coast to New York, in an effort to contain the breach on its computer networks. It was not immediately clear who the hacker was, but a federal agency is investigating.

    Attacks on critical infrastructure have accelerated in recent months after two breaches, one by Russia’s main intelligence service and another by Chinese hackers, underscored the vulnerability of the networks. In the coming weeks, the Biden administration is expected to issue an executive order to bolster security of federal and private systems.” Read more at New York Times

Kiana Hayeri for The New York Times

  • “Explosions outside a high school in Afghanistan’s capital killed at least 50 people and wounded dozens more, many of them teenage girls leaving class.

    The attack has underscored fears about the nation’s future, with rights groups raising alarms that the U.S. troop withdrawal will endanger women if the Taliban widen their grip over parts of the country.

    Streets and roads were packed on Saturday as Kabul’s residents prepared for the end of the holy month of Ramadan. So far no group has claimed responsibility.

    The blast capped a particularly violent week in Afghanistan: At least 44 civilians and 139 government forces were killed in the country, the highest weekly death toll since October.” Read more at New York Times

  • “LONDON — First Minister Nicola Sturgeon promised Saturday to push ahead with another Scotland independence referendum after her party gained a strong showing in Scottish Parliament elections, setting up a potential clash with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

    Sturgeon said that an independence referendum was the ‘will of the country,’ with her Scottish National Party and pro-independence allies taking a majority of the 129 seats after all the votes were counted.

    That will probably boost calls to redo a 2014 independence referendum — dubbed ‘indyref2’ — which could lead to the crackup of the United Kingdom under the strains of Brexit and its deep divisions.

    The final tally showed that Sturgeon's SNP won 64 seats, one seat short of a majority. But she said that, along with the Green Party, there would be overall support in the Parliament to again bring the independence question back to voters.” Read more at Washington Post

  • “An unexpected slowdown in hiring nationwide has prompted some Republican governors to start slashing jobless benefits in their states, hoping that the loss of generous federal aid might force more people to try to return to work.

    The new GOP cuts chiefly target the extra $300 in weekly payments that millions of Americans have received for months in addition to their usual unemployment checks. Arkansas on Friday became the latest to announce plans to cancel the extra benefits, joining Montana and South Carolina earlier in the week, in a move that signals a new effort on the part of Republicans to try to combat what they see as a national worker shortage.

    Republican policymakers have long opposed these heightened unemployment payments and unanimously voted against extending them earlier this year. But party leaders nationwide have grown more emboldened in recent days, particularly as the U.S. government on Friday released new data showing the economy added only 266,000 jobs in April.” Read more at Washington Post

Bo greeting President Obama in 2012. “For more than a decade, Bo was a constant, gentle presence in our lives — happy to see us on our good days, our bad days, and everyday in between,” Mr. Obama wrote on Twitter. Credit...Doug Mills/The New York Times

  • “Bo, the Portuguese water dog who became the first presidential pet in the Obama White House, romping in the halls of power, died on Saturday.

    Bo, who was 12, had cancer, Michelle Obama said on Instagram. President Barack Obama said the family had lost ‘a true friend and loyal companion.’” Read more at New York Times

  • “The stars of ‘Saturday Night Live’ were well aware that there was plenty of controversy leading up to Tesla CEO and SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s stint as host — and made sure to address it during the broadcast.

    ‘A space rocket that was spinning out of control just minutes ago crashed into the ocean. And for once, we know it’s not Elon’s fault,’ Colin Jost said during ‘Weekend Update,’ referencing the debris from a Chinese space rocket booster that reentered the Earth’s atmosphere over the Indian Ocean. ‘A lot of people have been wondering: Why is he hosting our show? And now we know it’s because he needed an alibi.’

    Indeed, that was question ever since the controversial billionaire — who gained even more notoriety recently by spreading misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic and downplaying the risks — was announced as SNL host. Even several cast members did not seem thrilled about this decision, and a source told Page Six that creator Lorne Michaels would excuse anyone who didn’t want to participate in the episode.

    SNL announced Elon Musk as a host. The disgust on Twitter may be just what the show is after.

    Yet even though Musk tried to tease that something controversial might happen (‘Let’s find out just how live Saturday Night Live really is’ he tweeted with a devil emoji), the show proceeded mostly as usual. After a very earnest Mother’s Day opening sketch, where the cast appeared with their moms as musical guest Miley Cyrus sang a cover of her godmother Dolly Parton’s ‘Light of a Clear Blue Morning,’ Musk arrived for his monologue.

    ‘I’m actually making history tonight as the first person with Asperger’s to host SNL,’ he said, to much applause from the audience. ‘Or at least the first to admit it. So I won’t make a lot of eye contact with the cast tonight. But don’t worry, I’m pretty good at running ‘human’ in emulation mode.’

    This announcement — which appears to be the first time Musk has publicly said he has Asperger’s syndrome, a condition on the autism spectrum — got plenty of pickup online Saturday night. Although many social media users quickly corrected Musk’s assertion that he was the first, and pointed out that former SNL cast member Dan Aykroyd, who returned to host in 2003, has spoken out over the years about his Asperger’s diagnosis as a child.

    Then Musk attempted to explain his tweets, known to have quite an impact on the stock market. ‘Look, I know I sometimes say or post strange things, but that’s just how my brain works. To anyone I’ve offended, I just want to say: I reinvented electric cars and I’m sending people to mars on a rocket ship. Did you think I was also going to be a chill, normal dude?’” Read more at New York Times

  • “Debris from a huge section of a Chinese Long March 5B rocket reentered the Earth's atmosphere over the Indian Ocean near the Maldives, China's space agency said.

    The U.S. Space Command said it could confirm that the rocket reentered over the Arabian Peninsula at about 10:15 p.m. EDT, but that ‘it is unknown if the debris impacted land or water.’

    The news comes after days of uncertainty, with experts saying the rocket's size and speed made it nearly impossible to pinpoint what might happen as it fell to earth. The section was roughly 100 feet long and and is among the biggest pieces of space debris to fall to Earth.

    The debris came from the largest section of the rocket, which launched the main module of China’s first permanent space station into orbit. Usually, discarded rocket stages reenter the atmosphere soon after liftoff, normally over water, and don’t go into orbit.” Read more at USA Today

  • “Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Saturday granted posthumous pardons for 34 Black victims of lynchings in the state, a sweeping action he said would be a step toward rectifying the killings of youths and men who were denied due process.

    Hogan announced the pardons on a rainy morning in Towson, standing feet away from a building that was once a jail. There, nearly 136 years ago, 
    75 men, their faces concealed with masks, pulled 15-year-old Howard Cooper from his cell and hanged him from a nearby sycamore tree.

    Historians say Cooper, who had been accused of rape and was scheduled to be executed, was lynched before his attorneys could appeal his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. At a ceremony to memorialize Cooper on Saturday, Hogan decried how the teenager’s life was ‘taken so violently and so senselessly by an angry mob unwilling to give him the due process he was entitled to.’ Hogan declared he would posthumously pardon Cooper as well as 33 other victims of lynching in the state between 1854 and 1933.” Read more at Washington Post

  • “An Alabama police officer was convicted of murder on Friday for the 2018 shooting of a man who called 911 to report his suicidal thoughts and had a gun to his ownhead.

    William ‘Ben’ Darby, a 28-year-old officer in Huntsville, Ala., faces between 20 years and life in prison for fatally shooting Jeffrey Parker, 49, on April 3, 2018, prosecutors said.

    Darby, who was found guilty by jurors during the second day of deliberations, was previously cleared of wrongdoing by a Huntsville review board, which concluded he was justified in using deadly force. The officer, who claimed he shot Parker in self-defense, had strong financial support from a city that put public funding toward his defense. He also received public support from Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle (R) and the police department during and after Friday’s verdict.” Read more at Washington Post

  • The N.C.A.A. has long stopped college athletes from making money from their fame. That may soon change.

    Under pressure to reshape college sports, Mark Emmert, the N.C.A.A. president, told The Times he would push to let athletes make endorsement deals this year. Emmert said he would recommend that college sports’ governing bodies approve new rules by July 1, when laws on such contracts go into effect in five states.

    The changes promise to reshape a multibillion-dollar industry and test the N.C.A.A.’s generations-long assertions that student-athletes should be amateurs who play mainly for scholarships, and that college sports appeal to fans partly because the players are not professionals.” Read more at New York Times

  • “Regulators in California will require the nation’s largest cluster of warehouses used by Amazon and others to drastically clean up their emissions.

    The new rules would force the operators of some 3,000 mega-warehouses larger than 100,000 square feet to slash pollution from trucks that serve those facilities. The regulations have set a precedent for regulating the exploding e-commerce industry; they could also speed up the electrification of freight trucks.

    The pollution has taken a particularly heavy toll in Southern California, which suffers from the nation’s worst air quality. Minority neighborhoods have been disproportionately affected.” Read more at New York Times

  • Tawny Kitaen, known for her role in ‘Bachelor Party’ and starring in various rock music videos, has died. She was 59. 

    The Orange County Coroner's office confirmed her death in a press release, using her legal name Tawny Kitaen Finley and revealing that she died at her home in Newport Beach, Calif. on Friday. The cause of death was not immediately released.” Read more at USA Today