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FBI probe of Capitol siege uncovers evidence that suggests riot was coordinated with national players

January 30, 2021 in Blogs

By Meaghan Ellis

As the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) continues its probe into the U.S. Capitol riots, more evidence suggests the assault on the federal building was a coordinated plot.

According to The Washington Post, FBI agents across the United States working to navigate through the disturbing events that unfolded at the U.S. Capitol are being tasked with determining the true intent of those who traveled to Washington, D.C.

While the “Save America” rally and siege on the Capitol have been widely referred to as protests and riots, the bureau is now making it very clear how the Jan. 6 chaos is, in fact, distinctly different from other acts of civil unrest.

While a typical political rally is defined as a First Amendment rights-protected gathering of “like-minded people,” investigators argue that it differs greatly from “organizing an armed assault on the seat of American government.” In determining which rallygoers fall into one of the two specific categories, investigators have uncovered evidence that points to more coordinated plans of assault on the U.S. Capitol.

The task now is to distinguish which people belong in each category, and who played key roles in committing or coordinating the violence.

With many believing that President Joe Biden would be a peril for the United States, Trump supporters made detailed plans weeks in advance to prepare for their siege on the Capitol. One example is the investigation into Jessica Marie Watkins, the Ohio woman who formed her own far-right militia for the insurrection.

According to prosecutors’ court documents, Watkins began planning shortly after the presidential election suggesting the possibility of America being over with Biden being in office.

“If he is, our way of life as we know it is over. Our Republic would be over. Then it is our duty as Americans to fight, kill and die for our rights. . . . If Biden gets the steal, none of us have a chance in my mind. We already have our neck in the noose. They just haven’t kicked the chair yet.”

The publication also reports that law enforcement officials have also speculated about the reason for the pipe bombs which “may have been a deliberate distraction meant to siphon law-enforcement away from the Capitol building at the crucial moment.”

Another example focuses on the Proud Boys and leaders of other right-wing organizations. Based on footage from the insurrection, along with court filings, investigators have …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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'It's a mess': Biden's team exposes the chaotic Trump White House they inherited

January 30, 2021 in Blogs

By Meaghan Ellis

President Joe Biden has been in office for 10 days and, already, his administration has uncovered a number of chaotic issues inherited from the Trump administration.

According to Politico, Biden’s team had a prioritized focus on combatting the raging coronavirus pandemic, but instead of completely focusing on their 200-page pandemic response plan, this week has been largely dedicated to “trying to wrap their hands around the mushrooming crisis — a process officials acknowledge has been humbling, and triggered a concerted effort to temper expectations about how quickly they might get the nation back to normal.”

While the Biden administration’s work should be well underway, they are still working to locate more than 20 million doses of coronavirus vaccines that have already been shipped to states. According to Biden’s administration, they inherited a deeply flawed for maintaining proper records and inventory of vaccine distribution.

Julie Morita, a member of Biden’s transition team, explained how detrimental the flawed transfer of power was and how it, subsequently, hindered the progression of efforts to mitigate the virus and effectively carry out vaccine distribution.

“Nobody had a complete picture,” said Morita. “The plans that were being made were being made with the assumption that more information would be available and be revealed once they got into the White House.”

One individual described as a person “with knowledge of the vaccine effort who’s not authorized to discuss the work” also weighed in with an analogy of the Biden administration’s uphill battle despite having a solid plan to move forward.

“It’s the Mike Tyson quote: ‘Everybody’s got a plan until they get punched in the mouth,’” that person said, adding, “They are planning. They are competent. It’s just the weight of everything when you sit down in that chair. It’s heavy.”

The latest news comes as the Biden administration works to locate the 8,700 ventilators that Trump’s White House donated to other nations. According to The Washington Post, a new report published by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) indicates that there is very little information to explain the roll-out of ventilators. The United States reportedly spent more than $200 million on the distribution process.

“These ventilators were not in State or AID’s strategic plan,” said David Gootnick, GAO director of international affairs. “They could not articulate for us the criteria they used for what ventilators went to what countries.”

But despite the hurdles the Biden administration is …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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‘Conspiring against us’: Dem lawmaker warns that QAnon Congresswoman and others may have ulterior motives

January 30, 2021 in Blogs

By Meaghan Ellis

Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) has no patience for Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and she did not mince words when it came to expressing her concerns about the newly-elected congresswoman and QAnon believer.

During an appearance on “The Reidout” with MSNBC host Joy Reid, Bush explained how difficult it is to work around someone like Greene. Describing the Republican lawmaker as a “white supremacist,” Bush verbalized her apprehension about Greene and her intent for holding public office. According to Bush, she believes the QAnon believer could be conspiring against members of Congress.

“I’m here to do a job for the people of St Louis, they deserve that, and when I cannot do is continue to look over my shoulder wondering if a white supremacist in Congress by the name of Marjorie Taylor Greene, or anyone else, because there are others, that they are doing something or conspiring against us,” Bush said.

Bush went on to discuss the work she and her team are planning for their local area. “Our focus has to be on St. Louis and the work that we can get done,” Bush continued, adding “And also my team deserves better. They should not have to come to work and have to wonder if that door is going to open, that does not have a peephole, that that door is going to open and it’s somebody that does not want to do them well.”

Bush’s latest interview comes after a whirlwind week for Greene. An overwhelming number of people have called for Greene’s resignation due to her mounting list of controversies including her controversial stance on QAnon and the resurfacing of her insensitive and disturbing remarks actions regarding the Parkland shooting. However, Greene has pushed back against the calls for her resignation vowing not to do so.

In a statement to CBS News, Greene said, “They are coming after me because I’m a threat to their goal of Socialism. They are coming after me because they know I represent the people, not the politicians. They are coming after me because like President Trump, I will always defend conservative values. They want to take me out because I represent the people. And they absolutely hate it.”

<Img align="left" border="0" height="1" width="1" alt="" style="border:0;float:left;margin:0;padding:0;width:1px!important;height:1px!important" hspace="0" …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Florida rabbi arrested in connection with deadly US Capitol riot

January 30, 2021 in Blogs

By Meaghan Ellis

A rabbi in Florida is now the latest person of interest in connection with the deadly U.S. Capitol riots that erupted on Jan. 6 amid the Electoral College certification.

According to WFLA-TV, the U.S. Department of Justice has arrested Michael Stepakoff, of Tampa Bay, Fla., on a string of charges for his role in the U.S. Capitol siege. A criminal complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court of Washington D.C., details the incriminating evidence that led to Stepakoff’s arrest.

Federal authorities have revealed that there is “surveillance video which shows him standing inside the Capitol building during the raid and a Facebook post the FBI says was made by his wife, which states he was inside the building and asks the public for prayers for his safety,” according to FOX-13.

On Friday, Jan. 29, Stepakoff, who is the rabbi at the Palm Harbor-based messianic synagogue Temple New Jerusalem, appeared in court on a number of charges including “knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and knowingly engages in disorderly or disruptive conduct in any restricted building or grounds.”

Despite the charges brought against him and the surveillance footage of him inside of the Capitol, his attorney Rick Terrana argues that the evidence does not make his client guilty of a crime.

“I’m not sure to what extent his presence there makes him guilty of any crime,” said Stepakoff’s attorney, Rick Terrana. “He just followed the crowd over to the Capitol just intending to be nothing more than a spectator and ended up going into the Capitol after it was opened up, an hour or so after this incident that we all saw on TV.”

As of Saturday, Jan. 30, more than 170 people have been arrested for participating in the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) investigation will be ongoing.

…read more

Source: ALTERNET

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These 5 states are the most well-placed to legalize marijuana in 2021

January 30, 2021 in Blogs

By Phillip Smith

In 2020, the number of states that ended pot prohibition reached 15 (and the District of Columbia), as voters in four states—Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota—legalized marijuana through the initiative process. Since 2021 is not an election year, any states that attempt to legalize marijuana this year will have to go through the much more cumbersome legislative process, but at least a handful of them are poised to do so.

It is no coincidence that the early progress toward state-level legalization has been led by states that allow for voter initiatives. State legislatures badly trail public opinion on the issue, and beyond that, the legislative process itself is messy, beset with horse-trading, and progress of a bill is beholden to key legislative gatekeepers—the committee chairs and majority leaders. And because crafting legislation is a complex process, getting a legalization bill through both chambers and signed by a governor generally takes not one, but two to three or even more years.

Legalization bills are likely to appear in nearly every state that has not already freed the weed and are expected to be an uphill struggle in 2021 for most of them.

But the five states listed below have already been grappling with marijuana reform for years, have governors who are backing legalization, and will only be emboldened by the Democrats’ majorities in the U.S. House and Senate (which could pass federal legalization in 2021) to push these bills forward. If all goes well, by the end of 2021, the number of legal marijuana states could reach 20.

Here are the five best prospects for 2021.

Connecticut

Marijuana legalization has been fermenting in the legislature for several years now, but in November 2020, Democrats added to their legislative majorities, increasing the odds that the issue will finally move forward in 2021. Governor Ned Lamont (D) reiterated his call for legalization in his State of the State address, saying, “I am working with our neighboring states and look forward to working with our tribal partners on a path forward to modernize gaming in our state, as well as the legislature on legalization of marijuana. Sports betting, internet gaming, and legalized marijuana are happening all around us. Let’s not surrender these opportunities to out-of-state markets or even worse, underground markets.” And House Speaker Matthew Ritter (D) is vowing to take the issue to the voters if the legislature …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Jewish Republicans 'offended and appalled' by anti-Semitic QAnon congresswoman

January 29, 2021 in Blogs

By Raw Story

The Republican Jewish Coalition issued a statement on Friday condemning Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).

The statement came one day after Greene was exposed for pushing an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that the California wildfires were started by a giant laser in space.

In their statement, the Republican Jewish Coalition noted the group broke with tradition to support Greene’s primary opponent, “because we found Greene’s past behavior deeply offensive. She repeatedly used offensive language in long online video diatribes, promoted bizarre political conspiracy theories, and refused to admit a mistake after posing for photos with a long-time white supremacist leader. It is unfortunate that she prevailed in her election despite this terrible record.”

“The RJC has never supported or endorsed Marjorie Taylor Greene. We are offended and appalled by her comments and her actions. We opposed her as a candidate and we continue to oppose her now. She is far outside the mainstream of the Republican Party, and the RJC is working closely with the House Republican leadership regarding next steps in this matter,” the group wrote.

…read more

Source: ALTERNET

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How the American craving for fascism persists

January 29, 2021 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

Jason Stanley, a Yale University professor and author of the 2018 book, “How Fascism Works: the Politics of Us and Them,” had a lot to say about fascism during Donald Trump’s four years in office — offering extensive analysis of Trump’s authoritarian leanings and divisive us-versus-them politics. Stanley looks back on the Trump era during an interview with Vox’s Sean Illing and stresses that although Trump is gone from the White House, a craving for fascism hasn’t disappeared from U.S. politics.

Different political science experts have had different views on what constitutes fascism, but in general, fascism is understood to be far-right authoritarianism — whereas communism is far-left authoritarianism. Past dictators who are typically cited as examples of fascists include Germany’s Adolf Hitler, Italy’s Benito Mussolini or Spain’s Francisco Franco in Europe and Chile’s Gen. Augusto Pinochet or Paraguay’s Alfredo Stroessner in Latin America. And a fascist, as Stanley has pointed out, doesn’t have to be an actual dictator.

Stanley, during his post-Trump era interview with Vox, explained, “It’s not helpful to think of fascism as a regime type, and it’s not helpful to think of it as a set of coherent beliefs. Fascism is usually a cult of the leader who promises national restoration in the face of supposed humiliation by immigrants, minorities and leftists. Fascism takes many different forms in different countries, however. The Ku Klux Klan in the United States has long been regarded as the first functionally fascist organization by scholars like Robert O. Paxton.”

Although Trump is gone from the White House, Stanley stressed that his movement is still very much alive. According to Stanley, Trump is still “creating a fascist social and political movement with himself as the leader.”

“I don’t care if, in his heart, he’s just doing it for power — that is what fascists will often do,” Stanley told Vox. “When you see what’s happening as the creation of a fascist social and political movement, then you expect certain things to happen. You expect political violence, you would expect naked attempts to steal an election. So, we must take Trump literally.”

Stanley added that as long as Americans feel they are being abused financially, fascists will try to make inroads in the United States.

“As long as we have this catastrophic banking and finance system and somebody can come along and say, ‘Look at how badly the elites are ruling you, look at …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Democratic Rep. Cori Bush demands change after confrontation with Marjorie Taylor Greene

January 29, 2021 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

Far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene hasn’t been shy about expressing her total disdain for progressive Democrats serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Ilhan Omar. And according to Business Insider, another Democratic progressive, Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri, is changing offices after being “berated” by Greene in a hallway inside the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

Business Insider’s Grace Panetta reports, “In a statement to Insider, Bush said the incident in question occurred on January 13 when she was walking to the floor to vote — one week after the January 6 insurrection on the U.S. Capitol. She said Greene ‘came up from behind’ her ‘ranting loudly into her phone while not wearing a mask.’ After Bush asked Greene to put on a mask, Bush said Greene ‘responded by berating her,’ with a member of Greene’s staff telling her to ‘stop inciting violence with Black Lives Matter.’”

Bush is not the first progressive in the House to express concerns about sharing the Capitol Building with some of the more far-right House Republicans. Ocasio-Cortez has said that when far-right extremists attacked the Capitol Building on January 6, she literally feared for her life — and feared that some of the QAnon sympathizers in Congress would tell the insurgents where she was taking shelter.

Greene has been a supporter of the QAnon movement. QAnon supporters were among the extremists who stormed the Capitol Building, along with members of the Proud Boys.

House Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have been speaking out against Greene this week in response to reports that she has a history of advocating violence against Democrats — including Pelosi herself. And a few conservative House Republicans have called Greene out as well, including Rep. Adam Kinzinger — who has described the Georgia congresswoman as “cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.”

…read more

Source: ALTERNET

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'How about a counter-argument based on fact?': Warren destroys CNBC host in wealth tax debate

January 29, 2021 in Blogs

By Common Dreams

“There is no evidence that anyone is going to leave this country because of a two-cent wealth tax.”

That’s the two cents Sen. Elizabeth Warren shared on Thursday in response to CNBC host Sara Eisen’s fear-mongering about the alleged consequences of requiring the super-rich to pay their fair share in taxes.

After Eisen asserted that a wealth tax “might… chase wealthy people out of this country as we’ve seen has happened with…other wealth taxes,” the Democratic senator from Massachusetts asked: “Can we just keep in mind, right now, in America, who’s paying taxes?”

“You know the bottom 99% last year paid about 7.5% of their total wealth in taxes,” said Warren. “The top 0.001%, you know how much they paid? They paid about 3.2%.”

“If they added a two-cent wealth tax,” Warren noted, “they’d still be paying less than most of the people in this entire nation… Someone has to pay to keep this nation going. And right now, what the 0.001%, the wealthiest people in this country, have said is: ‘Let’s let everyone else pay for it.’”

The reason for that, Warren explained, is because the mega-rich want to continue to increase their wealth as much and as quickly as possible.

“Can we have just a little fairness here?” the senator pleaded.

After Eisen chimed in to say she was simply playing devil’s advocate, Warren retorted: “How about a counter-argument… that’s based on fact?”

The fact is, Warren said, “The wealthiest in this country are paying less in taxes than everyone else.”

“You’re telling me that they would forfeit their American citizenship if they had to… step up and pay a little more?” the senator asked. “I’m just calling your bluff on that. That’s not going to happen.”

Warren’s defense of a wealth tax comes as the ongoing GameStop saga has provoked renewed scrutiny of Wall Street’s role in intensifying inequality, leading to calls for greater financial regulation and redistributive policies such as a financial transactions tax.

In her appearance on CNBC, Warren pointed out the stark disconnect between the stock market and the real economy. The apparent rigging of the rules to favor hedge funds over ordinary people has been exposed not only by trading app Robinhood’s heavy-handed and widely-condemned crackdown on Redditors who tried to out-maneuver the masters of casino capitalism, but …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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A new sign suggests part of Mueller's investigation may have survived Bill Barr

January 29, 2021 in Blogs

By Roger Sollenberger

Florida man Douglass Mackey, a notorious white nationalist and right-wing social media troll, was arrested this week on charges of conspiring with others to deprive citizens of their right to vote ahead of the 2016 election, the Department of Justice announced on Wednesday.

“According to the allegations in the complaint, the defendant exploited a social media platform to infringe one of the most basic and sacred rights guaranteed by the Constitution: the right to vote,” Nicholas McQuaid, acting Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division, said in a press release. “This complaint underscores the department’s commitment to investigating and prosecuting those who would undermine citizens’ voting rights.”

It also suggests that the Russia investigation, at least in part, survived the tenure of former Attorney General Bill Barr.

According to the complaint, Mackey’s Twitter account had nearly 60,000 followers, and in February 2016 the MIT Media Lab ranked him 107th in its list of the most influential personalities ahead of the election, higher than NBC News and Stephen Colbert. Prosecutors say that in the months before the election, Mackey collaborated with unnamed co-conspirators to encourage Hillary Clinton supporters to cast votes via text messages or social media — which are not viable or legal voting methods in any state.

The conspiracy charge against Mackey, who was arrested in West Palm Beach, could indicate that the Justice Department has been probing a broader network. Three of his co-conspirators were identified by HuffPost reporter Luke O’Brien, who wrote an in-depth 2018 profile of Mackey: white nationalist financier Jeff Giesea; conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich, who has ties to onetime national security adviser turned QAnon hero Michael Flynn; and Jack Posobiec, a far-right provocateur with ties to neo-Nazi groups and longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone. The pro-Trump group, who called themselves “MAGA3X,” fueled the Pizzagate social media campaign that smeared Hillary Clinton and other Democratic leaders in the run-up to the 2016 election.

Notably, both Stone and Flynn came under the focus of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the weaponization of social media in 2016. Flynn had repeatedly shared content from the Russian-linked account @TEN_GOP, which shared disinformation to tens of thousands of followers under the auspices of the Tennessee Republican Party. Stone, a misinformation mastermind, also imprinted …read more

Source: ALTERNET