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The Supreme Court could effectively end Roe v. Wade sooner than most realize

August 31, 2021 in Blogs

By John Stoehr

The Editorial Board‘s Mia Brett has been raising awareness of a new Texas law that, in effect, creates a market for abortion vigilantism. Even so, the new law hasn’t gotten nearly the attention it deserves. As Slate‘s Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern said today, the United States Supreme Court has just two days to decide Roe‘s fate and barely anyone in the Washington press corps has bothered to take notice.

While I yield to no one is my zest for criticizing members of the press corps, I think there’s a good reason for this lack of attention. It’s the same reason the Democrats are not as mobilized as they should be — why they have not spent the capital necessary to codify Roe, to turn it into statutory law. The reason is pretty simple: most people don’t think anything’s going to happen to Roe. I say this knowing full well the Democrats raise holy hell every time a justice retires or dies, but you’ll also notice they haven’t spent the capital necessary to codify Roe.

The lack of urgency comes from an additional source. Most people believe the anti-abortionists. Most people take them at their word. This, too, should be unsurprising, given the press corps tells us over and over and over the reason they want to outlaw abortion is because of their genuinely held religious belief in the sanctity of life. Given that most people most of the time have other things to do than pay attention to politics, it stands to reason most people most of the time believe what the press corps says anti-abortionists believe. And if they believe in the sanctity of life, outlawing abortion can’t be all bad.

I think things would be quite different if most people most of the time understood clearly the fight against legal abortion and reproductive rights is really a fight against democratic modernity itself. I think things would be quite different if it was clear opposition to legal abortion is rooted in the desire not only to maintain centuries-old hierarchies of power but to replicate and expand them. I think things would be quite different if anti-abortionists were honest with themselves and their enemies in that the point of it all has nothing to do with “life” or babies, but instead everything to do with sex, …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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'Horrific' Caldor Fire forces South Lake Tahoe residents to evacuate

August 31, 2021 in Blogs

By Common Dreams

California’s Caldor Fire forced tens of thousands of people to flee South Lake Tahoe on Monday, an extreme weather disaster that experts said provides further evidence of the need to rapidly slash greenhouse gas emissions and transition to clean energy.

The Caldor Fire, one of 83 large blazes currently torching the U.S. West, has burned more than 191,000 acres and is just 16% contained. The rapid growth of the fire, which began on August 14, prompted more evacuation warnings over the weekend, and those were soon upgraded to evacuation orders.

While “nearly 30,000 residents had already been evacuated from the eastern half of El Dorado County,” The Sacramento Bee reported that “the entire city of South Lake Tahoe and surrounding areas along the west and south shores were ordered to evacuate” on Monday morning, just hours before the Caldor Fire entered the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Most South Lake Tahoe evacuees were on the road by 11:00 am PT on Monday, according to the newspaper, “with stragglers rushing to get their belongings into vehicles.”

“Police drove through residential areas, using loudspeakers and sirens to order people to leave and directing them to head north on heavily congested Highway 50, along the east shore of Tahoe, as the main route out of town,” The Sacramento Bee reported.

Jason Pohl, a journalist at the newspaper, called the miles of standstill traffic “an emergency manager’s nightmare.”

Hours after almost all of South Lake Tahoe’s roughly 22,000 residents fled, “the fire pushed beyond Echo Summit and into Christmas Valley, a few miles south of the city, intensifying fears about the danger to populated areas along the south shore of the lake,” The Sacramento Bee noted.

By Monday evening, flames had jumped Highway 88 and Highway 89, according to reporters at the newspaper, who added Tuesday that “winds and critically dry conditions could continue to push the Caldor Fire deeper into the basin.” The fire, which has already destroyed close to 500 homes, is now threatening approximately 34,000 buildings.

Both California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) declared states of emergency on Monday, as officials worry that flames from the Caldor Fire could cross state lines in the coming days. In addition, the U.S. Forest Service is closing all national …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Biden gives a powerful response to critics as US leaves Afghanistan: 'Not going to extend this forever war'

August 31, 2021 in Blogs

By Mark Sumner

On Tuesday afternoon, President Joe Biden stepped in front of the cameras to address the nation on the end of the war in Afghanistan. Anyone who turned up the volume expecting Biden to be quietly introspective or spend this time in apologetic contemplation is now deeply regretting that decision, as Biden made what might be the boldest, least political decisions in recent American history — he told the truth, nothing but the truth, and the whole damned ugly truth when it came to ending this war.

A forceful, determined, and deadly serious Biden faced the camera and made it clear that what America has done in the last two decades was largely a mistake. The primary objective of the invasion, ending the haven for al Qaeda, was complete within weeks of the war’s outset. The secondary objective, to kill Osama bin Laden, was completed over a decade ago.

This may be the first time that the nation got a speech that wasn’t all about justifying the actions in Afghanistan—or any war, for that matter. Biden bluntly spelled out the cost in injuries, the cost in lives, and the incredible cost in dollars that came with every single day of an occupation that no one knew how to “win.” Biden made it clear that the only choices he had were to ignore the deal made with the Taliban and go back into Afghanistan with tens of thousands of troops and no end in sight, or to leave as quickly and efficiently as possible.

And in the process, he delivered a solidly pro-military and anti-war speech, celebrating the soldiers for their sacrifice while making it clear that the point of all that sacrifice was not worth it. Biden’s message was both strong and unflinching, “I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not extending a forever exit,” declared the President of the United States.


President Biden delivers remarks on ending the war in Afghanistan — 8/31/2021

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Throughout the speech, Biden repeated the same sets of facts driving home that the soldiers, diplomats, and intelligence teams on the ground had done outstanding work. They had given their all, and they deserve the nation’s gratitude. The fault with Afghanistan was not in the military or Afghanistan; it was in Washington D.C., and with an American government that, having locked itself into an …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Alabama parole board’s cruel and unprecedented increase in denials

August 31, 2021 in Blogs

By Filter

Representative Chris England, the chairman of the Alabama Democrats, does not mince words when it comes to former prosecutor Leigh Gwathney, the president of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles, who was appointed by Governor Kay Ivey in 2019.

“What I hope is becoming as clear to you as it is to me is that Leigh Gwathney must go,” Rep. England tweeted August 28. “She has almost single-handedly destroyed all of the progress we have made over the last few years. We can not make this work as long as she is in the way.”

The board has only three members, and whether they choose to release people on is up to their discretion without oversight—even from the board’s staff. The other two members, Dwayne Spurlock and Darryl Littleton, have past careers as a chief federal probation officer and an Alabama State Trooper, respectively.

According to a new report from the Alabama ACLU’s Smart Justice Project, grants of parole to people in low-security prisons have hit “historic lows,” falling by 77 percent between 2017 and 2021. Paroles from work centers fell by a shocking 93 percent.

This occurred, the report noted, “despite the state’s unconstitutional prison overcrowding and the elevated risk of infection and death that incarcerated populations face from coronavirus.” And it was due to “an unprecedented increase in decisions to deny parole by Alabama’s parole board.”

Even when parole is granted, there are serious racial equity concerns with the process. This year, about 30 percent of white applicants are being released on parole, compared with only around 10 percent of Black applicants.

Those familiar with Gov. Ivey’s history of criminal justice appointments should raise an eyebrow. Back in 2016, she replaced Charles Todd Henderson—the Jefferson County (Birmingham) district attorney-elect who couldn’t take office because he was charged with felony perjury due to his conduct in a child custody case—with Mike Anderton.

While Henderson ran on curbing the death penalty, Anderton, who served as a deputy prosecutor in that office, once claimed that a man with an IQ score of 56 was “faking” his intellectual disability to avoid death row; a key witness in a wrongful murder conviction was also found to have been paid …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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After 9/11: 5 Cultural Moments That Helped Americans Move Forward

August 31, 2021 in History

By Lakshmi Gandhi

From David Letterman’s emotional monologue to George W. Bush’s World Series first pitch, these collective experiences helped the nation process its shock and grief.

While the United States was still reeling after the September 11 terrorist attacks, it was the country’s comedians, musicians and screen stars, along with a symbolic sports moment, that played a prominent initial role in helping America collectively process its shock and grief.

Pop culture’s response to the attacks was all the more remarkable because the entertainment world essentially ground to a halt just minutes after the Twin Towers fell. In television, “even cable channels that…didn’t have news operations were either carrying a feed of news coverage, or some of them just put up a card that says we said ‘We are temporarily suspending programming,’” says Bob Thompson of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. “Sporting events stopped. Award shows were postponed. Broadway wasn’t doing shows. It was a complete shutdown of entertainment.”

But the world of late night comedy, in particular, began planning how to return on air almost immediately. “Clearly, late night TV has become the entertainment industry’s first responders, and that really comes to the fore the week after September 11,” says Thompson, noting that several late night moments from that week have become embedded into our collective memory.

From emotional late night monologues to star-studded telethons and a presidential first pitch at the World Series, here are five indelible pop culture moments that helped Americans move forward after September 11.

WATCH: Commemorating the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, The HISTORY® Channel will premiere three documentary specials, starting on September 10. Watch a preview for all three specials now.

The Return of Late Night Television

At the height of his popularity, David Letterman was considered the dean of late night. That was never more apparent than on Sept 17, 2001, less than a week after the attacks, when “The Late Show With David Letterman” returned to the airwaves from the Ed Sullivan Theater in Midtown Manhattan with a somber opening monologue that touched on the emotions many viewers were probably experiencing: grief, confusion, admiration for first responders—and solidarity with ordinary New Yorkers. “It’s terribly sad here in New York City, we’ve lost 5,000 fellow New Yorkers and you can feel it, you can feel it, you can see it. It’s terribly sad,” Letterman told …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Legal expert warns of a ‘death spiral’ that could end with the US becoming a ‘one-party autocratic state’

August 31, 2021 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

Some experts on U.S. election law have been warning that the most dangerous part of Republican voter suppression bills isn’t the ways in which they make voting more difficult — it is the ways in which they seek to change the administration of elections. Liberal Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent and legal scholar Neil H. Buchanan sound the alarm in articles published this week, and both of them offer some possible remedies.

Sargent explains, “There is a critical way Congress can minimize the possibility of another January 6: by addressing glaring legal vulnerabilities in the presidential electoral process that encouraged Donald Trump’s movement to try to overturn his loss, creating the conditions for the worst outbreak of U.S. political violence in recent times. We’re talking about revising the Electoral Count Act (ECA) of 1887. That may sound dry and unexciting, but it would shore up hidden weaknesses that made the 2020 breakdown possible.”

Following the 2020 election, then-President Donald Trump and his attorneys tried to pressure fellow Republicans into helping him overturn the election results in states that now-President Joe Biden won. It didn’t work; for example, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a conservative Republican, maintained that Biden won Georgia fairly — and in Arizona, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey certified Biden’s Electoral College victory in his state. Neither Raffensperger nor Ducey caved into Trump’s efforts to bully them. Checks and balances held up in 2020, but Sargent fears that they won’t in future elections — which is why he believes the Electoral Count Act of 1887 needs to be strengthened.

“The ECA’s language, which sets the process for Congress to count presidential electoral votes, is vague and prone to abuse,” Sargent notes. “The ECA sets a ‘safe harbor’ deadline: If a state certifies its electors six days before the Electoral College meets, Congress must count them, but it can technically throw out a particular electoral vote if it decides it was not ‘regularly given.’ This phrase is supposed to indicate serious corruption or illegality but isn’t defined, leaving it open to bad-faith congressional objections to those electors.”

Sargent points out that there are “ways” in which the ECA, if abused, “can result in stolen elections.”

According to Sargent, “One is if a state sends one slate of electors — a valid one reflecting the state’s popular vote — and both chambers decline to count …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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10 Things You May Not Know About U.S. Basketball's Shocking 1972 Olympics Loss

August 31, 2021 in History

By Sean Keane

The Americans’ controversial defeat—their first in Olympic basketball competition—led to a hit movie in Russia and even CIA interest.

On September 10, 1972, five days after the infamous Munich Massacre of 11 Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists, the Soviet Union defeated the United States in the gold-medal basketball game at the Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany. The 51-50 loss was the first defeat in 64 games in Olympic competition for the American men, whose team was composed of college players.

READ MORE: Munich Massacre

The Soviets won the gold-medal contest after confusion over timeouts and the game clock led to the final three seconds being replayed twice. From the United States missing its best player to CIA interest in the result, here is what you may not know about the historic upset:

1. Some Push for Delay of ‘Fun and Games’

This Palestinian was one of a group that took 12 Israeli athletes hostage during the Munich Olympics of 1972.

Russell Mcphedran/The Sydney Morning Herald/Fairfax Media/Getty Images

In an editorial following the Munich Massacre, the New York Times advocated for delaying Olympic competition, writing, “Munich threatens to become a symbol of callousness that is utterly repugnant to the Olympic ideal. For millions all over the world, this indecent haste on the part of the International Olympic Committee to go back to fun and games is unacceptable.”

READ MORE: When World Events Disrupted Olympics

But competition resumed after only a 34-hour suspension.

Years later, U.S. captain Kenny Davis told the Louisville Courier Journal, “If they had asked us, ‘Do you want to go home now and forget this whole thing?’ I think everybody on our team would’ve said, ‘Yes, let’s go. But looking back on it, I think they did the right thing.”

2. How The Final Seconds Play Out

With three seconds left, Doug Collins hit two free throws to give the U.S. a 50-49 lead. As the Soviets inbounded the ball, assistant coach Sergei Bashkin rushed to the scorer’s table, insisting his team had called timeout. The Soviets were allowed to inbound again, though no officials noticed the game clock had not been reset to three seconds. The Soviets’ pass went astray, and the Americans …read more

Source: HISTORY

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One million people demonstrate in New York City against nuclear weapons

August 31, 2021 in History

By History.com Editors

A stunningly large and diverse crowd descends upon New York City’s Central Park on June 12, 1982, demanding nuclear disarmament and an end to the Cold War arms race. By the end of the day, estimates place the number of attendees at over a million, making it the largest disarmament rally in American history.

The United States and the Soviet Union had been in an arms race since World War II, and the Cold War felt particularly hot in the early 1980s. Taking office in 1981, President Ronald Reagan was a staunch proponent of building up America’s nuclear arsenal and vehemently opposed the idea of disarmament treaties. His rhetoric gave new life to the anti-war movement, which had been relatively quiet since its heyday in the late 1960s and early ’70s, when protestors fought against the Vietnam War and accompanying draft. Fearing that Reagan would prefer nuclear war to nuclear disarmament, organizers got to work on a mass demonstration in Midtown Manhattan to coincide with the United Nations Second Special Session on Disarmament.

The rally in Central Park brought together activists from all over the world and all corners of the antiwar movement. Delegations arrived from across North America and and as far afield as Bangladesh and Zambia. Groups of Roman Catholic priests rubbed elbows with rabbis and members of the Communist Party, and protestors’ signs illustrated the range of their political demands: the New York Times recorded posters reading “U.S. Out of El Salvador,” “Houses Not Bomb Shelters,” “A Feminist World Is a Nuclear-Free Zone,’” and, more to the point, “I Hate Nuclear War.” Many called for an immediate end to all nuclear arms programs, but others were less radical, calling simply for the resumption of disarmament negotiations. Activists pointed out the contrast between Reagan’s profligate defense spending and his stingy approach to social programs, and drew connections between the administration’s belligerent attitude toward Russia and its actions in El Salvador, where the CIA was engaged in funding, supplying and coordinating a terror campaign waged by the right-wing Contra rebels. In keeping with its message, the rally was entirely peaceful, and many attendees camped overnight in the park after the crowd began to disperse around 6 p.m.

The 1982 rally and UN special session did not immediately lead to new disarmament treaties, but five years later the U.S. and U.S.S.R. signed the …read more

Source: HISTORY

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The National Museum of African American History and Culture opens

August 31, 2021 in History

By History.com Editors

More than 15 years after it was first established, the National Museum of African American History and Culture opens on the National Mall on September 24, 2016. Barack Obama, the nation’s first African American president, leads the ceremony and officially opens the museum by ringing the Freedom Bell, a bell from an African American Baptist church founded in 1776.

As far back as 1915, there had been proposals for a museum recognizing the achievements of African Americans. In 1929, President Herbert Hoover approved a commission to create such an institution, but it never received funding. Various attempts were made to pass legislation establishing a museum through Congress, including multiple bills introduced by Georgia congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis, but even after the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution joined the effort in the 1990s it still took more than a decade.

Finally, in 2003, Congress approved and President George W. Bush signed legislation allocating $17 million to plan the museum and choose a site. Eventually, it was decided that the museum would sit on the National Mall, the newest addition to what is literally a long line of museums stretching from the Washington Monument to the Capitol. The final design, however, was like nothing else in the area: an inverted step pyramid, encased in a bronze screen that references historic iron grilles from African American communities in Charleston, South Carolina and New Orleans, Louisiana. In the words of David Adjaye, a British architect of Ghanaian descent who was part of the design team, the building was meant to provide a “punch” at the end of the “row of palaces” that was the rest of the Mall. The building rises five stories into the air and reaches equally deep underground.

The museum was completed with just months left in Obama’s second term. At the opening ceremony, the president shed tears as he talked about watching the museum’s construction and imagining how he would one day tour it with his grandchildren. In addition to two former presidents, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and entertainers like Will Smith and Oprah Winfrey, Obama was joined by four generations of an African American family, the Bonners. 99-year-old Ruth Bonner, whose father was born into slavery, helped him ring the Freedom Bell along with her daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter. The NMAAHC drew 2.4 million visitors in its …read more

Source: HISTORY

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President Trump announces he and the first lady tested positive for COVID-19

August 31, 2021 in History

By History.com Editors

Amid a resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic, and after almost a year of questioning medical advice and flaunting rules about mask-wearing, President Donald Trump announces that he and First Lady Melania Trump have tested positive for COVID-19 in an early-morning tweet on October 2, 2020. Coming a week after a White House gathering celebrating his nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court and just 48 hours after his first debate against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, Trump’s announcement precipitates several days of uncertainty in Washington and around the country.

“You don’t have to do it,” Trump told the nation on April 3, the first time he addressed the Center for Disease Control’s recommendation that Americans wear masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus. “I don’t think I’m going to be doing it.” Trump never fully embraced masks or social distancing, and reportedly chastised aides who wore masks in his presence even as case numbers began to climb for a second time in the fall of 2020. Masks were few and far between at the September 26 ceremony announcing Barrett’s nomination, an event that became infamous over the next week as a number of high-profile attendees later tested positive for COVID.

When news broke that Hope Hicks, one of Trump’s advisors, had tested positive, speculation swirled that Trump and the First Family could have contracted the virus. Around 1 a.m. on October 2, Trump confirmed his diagnosis, tweeting “Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!”

Although those close to him kept the seriousness of his condition secret even from others in the West Wing, the president’s fever became debilitating and he was placed on oxygen. The FDA hurriedly approved an experimental treatment of monoclonal antibodies, and doctors warned that someone in his condition—74 and medically obese, Trump was considered to be at high very high risk—should be taken to the hospital. Reluctantly, Trump went to the hospital later in the day on October 2, a Friday, and remained there over the weekend.

Although doctors warned that his departure from Walter Reed was premature, Trump returned to the White House on Monday and made a full recovery. Trump claimed he had “learned a lot” about COVID from his experience, but he and his supporters continued to question the effectiveness …read more

Source: HISTORY