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Author: Fraser Dixon

August 18, 2021

US likely to authorize COVID-19 booster shots

US health authorities are soon expected to recommend an extra dose of the COVID-19 vaccine eight months after Americans received their second shot, according to sources who spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.

The impending decision comes as the Delta variant is rapidly spreading through the population and preliminary evidence indicates that the vaccine’s effectiveness starts wearing off after eight months.

Experts are concerned that the need for booster shots may further discourage people already skeptical of the vaccine’s effectiveness.

“We have to really make sure that while we’re spending a lot of time and effort on third doses that we don’t undermine our campaign for first vaccinations,” said Lawrence Gostin, a public health specialist at Georgetown University. “That’s truly the existential crisis in the United States.”

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August 18, 2021

Democrats at odds over Biden agenda

Democratic legislators are persisting with their strategy to advance President Joe Biden’s agenda next week: daring a group of centrists within their party to object and risk derailing hoards of cash slated to go towards infrastructure projects and social programs.

During a private conference call on Tuesday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) strongly urged Democrats to vote to allow Democrats to move forward on their $3.5 trillion budget resolution, the $1.2 trillion Senate-passed infrastructure package, and a voting rights bill named for the late Rep. John Lewis (D-GA).

“Remember the psychology of consensus. We are in this together, we have the leader of our party and we are pursuing the attainment of that agenda on behalf of the people, for the people,” Hoyer said.

Centrist Democrats think these measures should be passed one at a time rather than all at once. Nine moderate House Democrats, led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), are vowing to defeat the budget resolution unless leadership immediately calls a vote on the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package passed through the Senate last week.

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August 18, 2021

FBI joins ongoing investigation into QAnon-related leak of voting machine logins

In Colorado, the FBI joined a state district attorney’s probe into the County Clerk’s office about how voting machine logins ended up in a QAnon-affiliated video.

Mesa County’s voting machine logins were featured in a video posted this month on a QAnon-affiliated Telegram channel dedicated to election fraud claims in the 2020 presidential election.

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold pointed the finger at Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, saying that her office established a verifiable chain of custody for the machinery. Griswold says that Peters brought a “non-employee” to a “trusted build” meeting where credentials were visible to attendees.

“I think this is troubling for the entire state of Colorado, to have someone in a trusted position, literally trusted to protect democracy, allow this type of situation to occur,” Griswold told reporters Thursday. “To be very clear, Mesa County Clerk and Recorder allowed a security breach and, by all evidence at this point, assisted it.”

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August 18, 2021

House Democrat refers to Afghanistan withdrawal as a ‘catastrophe’

Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, said that the hectic withdrawal of military forces from Afghanistan under the Biden administration is a “catastrophe” and that the White House “owed our Afghan allies of 20 years a real plan.”

Though the situation has inspired bipartisan criticism, Langevin’s comments marked one of the harshest reprimands Though the situation has inspired bipartisan criticism, Langevin’s comments marked one of the harshest reprimands from Biden’s own party. According to an op-ed Langevin wrote on Tuesday, he and fellow members of Congress sent a letter to Biden recommending ways to improve stability in Afghanistan, but it went unanswered.

“Public executions and forced marriages are reportedly back. People are fleeing. The Taliban are in Kabul, and the government has fallen. This is a catastrophe,” Langevin wrote in.

“At minimum, the Biden administration owed our Afghan allies of 20 years a real plan. They also owed it to our military service members and their families, particularly the men and women in uniform and their families who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Not to mention the women and girls of Afghanistan who are now experiencing a devastating new reality,” the lawmaker wrote.

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August 18, 2021

Unyielding Biden stands ‘squarely behind’ withdrawal from Afghanistan

President Joe Biden said that he stands “squarely behind” his decision to pull US troops out of Afghanistan, amid stark criticism from both parties over the way his administration handled the rapid withdrawal. The situation has been referred to as the “biggest crisis of his presidency.”

“I stand squarely behind my decision,” the president said in his address to the nation. “After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw US forces. That’s why we’re still there. We were clear-eyed about the risk.

“We planned for every contingency, but I always promised the American people that I would be straight with you. The truth is, this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated. So, what’s happened? Afghanistan’s political leaders gave up and fled the country. The Afghan military collapsed sometimes without trying to fight.”

Biden did not admit to any fault, saying that the events of the past few days had made him feel vindicated. He said that US troops should not fight a war that Afghan soldiers are unwilling to fight themselves.

“We gave them every chance to determine their own future. We could not provide them with the will to fight for that future,” Biden said.

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August 18, 2021

House Foreign Affairs Committee member warns US is sending message of ‘weakness’ to adversaries

House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Rep. Michael McCaul warned that the US is engaging in “dangerous foreign policy,” and sending a message of “weakness” to allies and adversaries alike.

“My fear is that President Biden is projecting weakness, not strength, and that is very dangerous in the international community,” McCaul said, adding that the nation’s “standing in the world has been greatly diminished.”

“I worry we are sending the wrong message to our allies and adversaries of weakness, our allies are questioning whether they can trust us, and our enemies no longer fear us,” McCaul said. “That is dangerous foreign policy to be engaged in.”

McCaul said that the image of the Taliban flag being raised over the US embassy in Kabul will damage the United States’ interests abroad. “The winners here are the terrorists, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Russia, Iran, and China,” McCaul said.

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August 17, 2021

Rick Scott floats idea of removing Biden from office over Afghanistan

Good morning Americans,

Sen. Rick Scott, the chair of the Senate GOP campaign arm, floated the possibility of using the 25th Amendment to remove President Joe Biden from office. “After the disastrous events in Afghanistan, we must confront a serious question: Is Joe Biden capable of discharging the duties of his office or has time come to exercise the provisions of the 25th Amendment?” Scott tweeted on Monday. Under the previously unused 25th Amendment, the vice president and the majority of the Cabinet could remove the president by declaring him unfit for office. While this is extremely unlikely, it does echo former President Trump’s calls for Biden to step down due to the Taliban’s advancements in Afghanistan.

President Biden and former President Trump are pointing fingers at each other over who is to blame for the fall of Afghanistan amid the botched evacuation attempts. Over the weekend, Biden said that the withdrawal of US troops was originally negotiated by the Trump administration. In turn, Trump is leading the charge among the GOP to criticize Biden’s handling of the withdrawal, going so far as to call for Biden’s resignation in a statement made on Sunday. Some say both leaders hold some responsibility. “I’ve said countless times that withdrawing our troops emboldens our enemies and puts our allies in grave danger. And yet, both President Trump and President Biden made their announcements anyway — broadcasting to our enemies that we were leaving and telling our allies around the world that we had given up,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger, an Air Force veteran, said in a statement. “The reality we face now is sad, and the aftermath will be dangerous and devastating.”

Mainstream media outlets criticized President Biden’s botched withdrawal of troops, including those that are typically left-leaning. CNN’s Jake Tapper called the situation a “tragic foreign policy disaster.” Tapper went on to sharply criticize Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, asking him: “This is not just about the overall idea of leaving Afghanistan. This is about leaving hastily and ineptly. Secretary Blinken, how did President Biden get this so wrong?” The Atlantic published a story entitled “Biden’s Betrayal of Afghans Will Live in Infamy.” CNN’s Tim Naftali was one of many to compare the situation to the infamous fall of Saigon. “This is the Saigon moment for President Biden and this will be an albatross around his neck for the rest of time,” Naftali said.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Miley, warned that the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban could accelerate the possible threat of terrorist groups reforming in the country. The US’s highest-ranking military officer reportedly issued his warning during a phone briefing between top officials in the Biden administration and a bipartisan group of members of Congress. Back in June, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin revealed that the likelihood of the resurgence of terrorist groups in Afghanistan. “I would assess it as medium, it would take possibly two years for them to develop that capability,” Lloyd said at the time. Miley reportedly said that the timeline would be shortened in light of the current goings-on.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Nov. 3 in a major Second Amendment case on whether the Constitution guarantees the right to carry guns outside of the home. The challenge, backed by the National Rife Association, is in reference to a century-old New York law which requires some applicants to demonstrate “proper cause” to obtain concealed carry licenses. Previously, lower courts upheld the law, though challengers argue that the rules violate the Second Amendment. “Repetition of an error does not cure the error; it just heightens the need for this Court’s review,” the appeal to the Supreme Court read.

North Carolina lawmakers are working to pass a bill that could put an end to the state’s reputation as the go-to place to bring child brides. According to the Associated Press, “The proposed legislation would raise the minimum marriage age from 14 to 16 and limit the age difference between a 16-year-old and their spouse to four years.” Drew Reisinger, the register of deeds in Buncombe County, said that Two-thirds of marriage applications in Buncombe County last year that involved at least one person under 18 originated from people who lived outside of North Carolina. Reisinger added that a 49-year-old man and 17-year-old girl recently came from Kentucky seeking a license.

Be well,

Fraser Dixon

Sources

August 16, 2021

Census data indicates possible ‘bloodbath’ for GOP

Hello Americans,

Census data indicates that New York Democrats are poised to strengthen their political power and possibly wipe away Republican congressional seats. 2020 Census figures show that New York City’s population grew to a record 8.8 million people, while the more conservative upstate New York had a more tepid growth. New York Democrats have the final say on new congressional district maps, and experts think they may take the opportunity to redraw congressional lines to block in Dem victories for years to come. “I think New York could turn into a bloodbath for Republicans,” said Dave Wasserman, US House editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “Democrats could convert the existing 19-8 delegation into a 23-3 delegation through redistricting alone.”

Meanwhile, a recent poll indicates that many Republicans are uneasy about the country’s direction — and their party’s future. According to a survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, just 15% approve of Joe Biden, and 66% still say he was illegitimately elected. When it comes to their own party, 41% said they are optimistic about the future of the GOP, and 33% say they are pessimistic. “It’s nonstop,” said Dennis Herzog, a Wisconsin resident who identifies as a staunch Republican. “I don’t care who is in office. Just do what’s right for the people and stop picking certain sides.”

Former President Donald Trump took aim at the Biden administration amid the situation in Afghanistan, rising inflation, and the border crisis. “Tragic mess in Afghanistan, a completely open and broken Border, crime at record levels, oil prices through the roof, inflation rising, and taken advantage of by the entire world—DO YOU MISS ME YET?” Trump said in an emailed statement. Trump’s email arrived as the situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate. US officials believe the Taliban could capture Kabul within the next month, despite Biden’s previous estimation that it would take over a year after the withdrawal of troops.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that his state is rolling out a mobile unit to administer monoclonal antibody treatments to coronavirus patients. “There’s clear benefits to this early treatment for keeping people out of the hospital and reducing mortality,” DeSantis said. The treatment can be used to treat patients with mild to moderate symptoms who are 12 or older. The treatment is not suitable for those who have developed severe symptoms. The treatment is administered by intravenous infusion, and the process can take up to an hour. Former President Donald Trump received Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody treatment when he contracted COVID-19 last year.

A New Jersey man charged in the Nov. 2020 shooting death of an 18-year-old was released from prison two days before the murder as part of an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Jerry D. Crawford, 25, who was serving time on burglary charges, was released on “public health emergency credits” to mandatory parole supervision on Nov. 4, according to state Department of Corrections officials. In the wake of deaths and escalating infection rates in state prisons, the emergency plan enabled thousands of inmates to be released early.

81-year-old David Lidstone was arrested for refusing to vacate his cabin in the New Hampshire woods, where he’s lived for almost 30 years. Lidstone’s solar panel-adorned cabin lies near the Merrimack River, where he has grown his own food, cut his own firewood, and tended to his animals. “River Dave,” as he’s known by locals, is accused of squatting for 27 years, as the owner of the land seeks to tear down the cabin. Lidstone has been in jail since July 15 on a civil contempt sanction. “You came with your guns, you arrested me, brought me in here, you’ve got all my possessions. You keep ’em,” Lidstone told a judge. “I’ll sit here with your uniform on until I rot, sir.”

Stay safe,

Fraser Dixon

Sources

August 15, 2021

Biden’s Secretary of Homeland Security says border crisis “unsustainable” in leaked audio

Hello Americans,

Leaked audio surfaced wherein the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, says the current border crisis is “unsustainable,” prompting a fervent response from top GOP members. “The other day I was in Mexico, and I said, if our border is our first line of defense, we’re going to lose and this is unsustainable,” Mayorkas said as he spoke to Border Patrol agents in Texas on Thursday. “We can’t continue like this, our people in the field cant continue and our system isn’t built for it.” His remarks come days after the announcement that July saw a massive increase in migrant encounters. “Even Biden’s own DHS Secretary is saying the border crisis is ‘unsustainable.’ When will Biden and Harris finally take action?” RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel tweeted.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey went so far as to call for Mayorkas’s resignation in light of the leaked audio. “Unlike Secretary Mayorkas, Arizonans understand that strong borders are essential to public safety and national security. The Biden-Harris administration’s record of failure on this issue has led to this moment. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, through their words and their actions, have signaled to the world that America’s southern border is wide open and unprotected,” Ducey said in a press release. The Arizona governor is not the first to call for Mayorkas to resign, as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called for it back in March. “[It] is time for DHS Secretary Mayorkas to change course or change jobs,” Graham said.

A senior Biden State Department official deleted a tweet voicing concern for women in Afghanistan amid reports that the Taliban are forcing women out of banking jobs. “Woke up with a heavy heart, thinking about all the Afghan women and girls I worked with during my time in Kabul,” said Molly Montgomery, the deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of European and Eurasian affairs in a now-deleted tweet. “They were the beneficiaries of many of the gains we made, and now they stand to lose everything. We empowered them to lead, and now we are powerless to protect them.” There has been no word from the State Department regarding whether Montgomery was told to delete her post.

NASA increased the odds of the Bennu asteroid hitting Earth within the next century. Scientists previously pegged the odds of a collision at 1 in 2,700, but those numbers were adjusted to 1 in 1,750 by the year 2300. Davide Farnocchia, who works with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, stressed that Earth-bound beings should not be overly concerned. “We shouldn’t be worried about it too much,” Farnocchia said. Lindley Johnson, a planetary defense officer for NASA, predicted that if the Earth was struck by Bennu, the area destroyed would equal the asteroid’s size 100 times over.

At least one individual was glad to see New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s resignation: former President Donald Trump. “Friend, Andrew Cuomo has got real problems – he handled COVID horribly and he’s DESTROYED New York – and it’s about time he resigned,” Trump said in a fundraising email through his Save America PAC. “To tell you the truth, this guy is a TOTAL LOSER, and New York, as well as the entire Country, is better off without him.” Cuomo initially denied the findings in the investigation conducted by New York Attorney General Letitia James, saying that “the facts are much different than what has been portrayed.” He reversed course and announced his resignation last week, saying he would step down in 14 days.

Florida authorities say a toddler found an unsecured handgun inside an apartment and fatally shot a woman while she was on a work-related video call. According to news outlets, the woman was the toddler’s mother. Altamonte Springs police issued a news release that stated someone on the video call contacted emergency services after spotting the toddler and hearing a noise. The person reported that the woman, 21-year old Shamaya Lynn, fell backward and never returned to the video call. “Officers and paramedics did their best in rendering aid to Mrs. Lynn, but she was found with a fatal gunshot wound to the head,” police said.

Stay safe,

Fraser Dixon

Sources

August 14, 2021

Biden takes long vacation as Afghanistan falls to Taliban

Good morning Americans,

President Biden deployed 3,000 US troops to Kabul to help evacuate US embassy workers as the Taliban continues to gain city after city in Afghanistan. Republican leaders are staunchly criticizing Biden for embarking on a long weekend vacation as the terrorist group gains ground. “He also owes the American public an answer on what he plans to do to make sure the region doesn’t turn into a breeding ground for more violent extremism that will lead to large-scale global attacks of terrorism,” said Kevin McCarthy, House Minority Leader. The commander-in-chief took no questions as he left the White House Thursday afternoon for a trip to Delaware. Biden last commented on the situation on Tuesday before he decided to deploy additional troops.

In related news, Taliban insurgents stormed the offices of Azizi Bank in Kandahar and ordered nine female employees to leave their posts. The armed men escorted them home and told the women that they were not to return to their jobs, but they were allowed to send male relatives in their place. “It’s really strange to not be allowed to get to work, but now this is what it is,” said Noor Khatera, a 43-year-old woman who had worked in the accounts department of Azizi Bank. Two days later, armed Taliban members stormed into Bank Milli in Herat, admonishing the women workers for showing their faces in public. “The United States and others Western powers fear that the Taliban will roll back many of the freedoms won by women,” according to Reuters.

In an update to the ongoing Russia probe, the federal prosecutor leading the investigation has been presenting evidence before a grand jury. According to the AP, the move “is a potential sign that [prosecutor John] Durham may be mulling additional criminal charges beyond the one he brought last year against a former FBI lawyer who admitted altering an email about a Trump campaign aide who’d been under FBI surveillance.” The Wall Street Journal reported that Durham is considering possible charges against some FBI employees.

Andrew Cuomo’s impeachment probe will be suspended since he resigned from his position, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced on Friday. “[T]he Assembly will suspend its impeachment investigation upon the governor’s resignation taking effect on August 25,” Heastie said. The Assembly’s attorneys concluded that New York’s state constitution bars them from impeaching an official who has already stepped down, despite the presence of credible evidence. “Underscoring the depth of this investigation, this evidence concerned not only sexual harassment and misconduct but also the misuse of state resources in relation to the publication of the governor’s memoir as well as improper and misleading disclosure of nursing home data during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Heastie said. “This evidence — we believe — could likely have resulted in articles of impeachment had he not resigned.”

Alejandra Mayorkas, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, recently confirmed that July saw 212,000 migrant encounters — a 13% increase over the 188,000 in June. The latest figures come as the Biden administration faces staunch criticism for its border strategy. Mayorkas described the situation as “one of the toughest challenges we face.” Biden’s critics within the GOP assign blame to the rollback of Trump-era border protections. “As record after record is broken on the border, Biden and Harris are failing Americans with the raging crisis they created,” said Republican National Committee communications director Danielle Alvarez in a statement. 

The CDC’s eviction moratorium is still in place — for now. US District Judge Dabney Friedrich denied landlords’ request to put the new eviction moratorium on hold, though she did rule that the freeze is illegal. The Alabama landlords challenging the order will likely appeal her ruling on the extended moratorium, which expires on Oct. 3. President Biden acknowledged that the legality of the freeze was questionable, but the ensuing legal battle would give states time to distribute the rental assistance funds to people in need. Only about $3 billion of the allotted $25 billion had been distributed through June, according to the Treasury Department.

Be well,

Fraser Dixon

Sources

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