Saturday, September 5th, 2020


Flowers Delivered

"Flowers' first three trials resulted in death sentences that were overturned by the Mississippi Supreme Court. His fourth and fifth trials ended in hung juries. Flowers' sixth trial, in 2010, sent him back to death row at Parchman prison, where he might have remained had the U.S. Supreme Court not decided to take up his case." If that sounds like a lot of trials for one crime, it's because it is. Curtis Flowers "endured nearly 23 years behind bars, six trials, four death sentences and, most recently, months of house arrest for murders he always maintained that he didn't commit, and for which the evidence of his guilt was weak." His charges have finally been dropped. This is a 23 year story that somehow feels entirely connected to America 2020.

+ American Public Media has been tracking this case for years, including a two season podcast called In the Dark.


Parental Cleave

"As companies wrestle with how best to support staff during the pandemic, some employees without children say that they feel underappreciated, and that they are being asked to shoulder a heavier workload. And parents are frustrated that their childless co-workers don't understand how hard it is to balance work and child care, especially when day care centers are closed and they are trying to help their children learn at home." NYT: Parents Got More Time Off. Then the Backlash Started. It's really pretty simple. I'll go to the office. You watch my kids. It's a classic win win (except both wins are for me.)


White Claw

"White supremacists present the gravest terror threat to the United States, according to a draft report from the Department of Homeland Security ... 'Foreign terrorist organizations will continue to call for Homeland attacks but probably will remain constrained in their ability to direct such plots over the next year' ... Russia 'probably will be the primary covert foreign influence actor and purveyor of disinformation and misinformation in the Homeland' ... None of the drafts Politico reviewed referred to a threat from Antifa." You can believe the hype from the White House, or America's own Dept of Homeland Security. White supremacists are greatest terror threat.

+ Nearly all Black Lives Matter protests are peaceful despite Trump narrative, report finds.

+ Meanwhile, the White House directed federal agencies to cancel race-related training sessions it calls 'Un-American propaganda.'


A Shot in the Dark

"The pharmaceutical companies are not the only ones pushing back. Senior regulators at the Food and Drug Administration have been discussing making their own joint public statement about the need to rely on proven science, according to two senior administration officials, a move that would breach their usual reticence as civil servants." NYT: Pharma Companies Plan Joint Pledge on Vaccine Safety. "The statement is meant to reassure the public that the companies will not seek a premature approval of vaccines under pressure from the Trump administration." (The makers of Lysol had to tell you not to ingest their product, North Carolina had to urge you not to vote twice, vaccine makers need to convince you that they won't be swayed to cut corners by the administration. The beat goes on. And on, and on.)


If You Build It…

"The staff all liked the idea, so the school's technology and shop teachers quickly designed and built a solar-powered wireless device on the back of a trailer and, in April, parked it in a local lot. Students flocked to the site ...The division has built 23 units that are scattered around the county, and students in its Career & Technical Education class are now working on 10 more. They're calling them WOW units, for Wireless on Wheels." COVID has made rural schools suddenly responsible for getting internet to kids in remote, unserved areas. (This is an inspiring story. But it's crazy that, decades into the internet revolution, millions of kids are being educated at CompuServe speeds.)


Trump Wants Hen Out of Fox House

Jennifer "Griffin said she confirmed Trump didn't think highly of those who served in the Vietnam War. 'When the President spoke about the Vietnam War, he said, 'It was a stupid war. Anyone who went was a sucker',' her source said. The source added that Trump was confused about why anyone would join the service: 'What's in it for them? They don't make any money.' She also claims the president said that the inclusion of 'wounded guys' in a military parade was 'not a good look' because 'Americans don't like that.' Griffin also reported Trump did not want flags to be lowered when Sen. John McCain died but later relented amid insistence from other officials." The fallout from the "losers" and "suckers" Trump troop comments continues: Trump Calls for Firing of Fox News Reporter Who Confirmed President Disparaged Veterans. (Maybe the media shouldn't let Trump be the editor and we should stick on this story for a while...)

+ Trump says Pentagon won't cut funding to 159-year-old newspaper, Stars and Stripes (after ordering that its funding be cut).

+ "We certainly had evidence that this was the case: that Trump, while gleefully wreaking havoc on America's political institutions and norms, was pulling his punches when it came to our historic adversary, Russia," Strzok writes. "Given what we knew or had cause to suspect about Trump's compromising behavior in the weeks, months, and years leading up to the election, moreover, it also seemed conceivable, if unlikely, that Moscow had indeed pulled off the most stunning intelligence achievement in human history: secretly controlling the president of the United States — a Manchurian candidate elected. WaPo on Peter Strzok's new book: FBI pondered whether Trump was ‘a Manchurian candidate.' (Trump fired back that he's never even been to Manchuria!!)

+ In other news, Trump refused to criticize Putin for the poisoning of Alexei Navalny. "We haven't had any proof yet."

+ While we're on this general topic: Russia is working to undermine confidence in voting by mail, DHS warns. And so is Trump. Talk about a weird coincidence.


Facebook Binding

"'I think we underestimate Facebook's power constantly,' Siva Vaidhyanathan, a professor of media studies at the University of Virginia, told me. 'It's really hard for human beings to picture in their head the actual size and influence of the platform. Something like one out of three people use the thing — it's like nothing we've encountered in human history. And I'm not sure Mark Zuckerberg is even willing to contemplate his influence. I'm not sure he'd ever sleep if he ever thought about how much power he has.'" The NYT's Charlie Warzel nails it. The problem is not just the decisions that Mark Zuckerberg makes. It's that any one person is in a position to make such impactful decisions. Mark Zuckerberg Is the Most Powerful Unelected Man in America.


Q Cards

"The name QAnon itself is a portmanteau: Q refers to the highest level of security clearance a Department of Energy employee can attain — credentials claimed by someone posting as 'Q' on anonymous message boards, beginning in 2017 with prognostications about a supposed ring of child abusers and sex offenders in the Democratic Party and the "deep state." Although their predictions started out very specific, when those were not fulfilled, they became more and more vague. And when we say vague, we mean incomprehensible." Here's Why BuzzFeed News Is Calling QAnon A 'Collective Delusion' From Now On. "QAnon is much bigger — and more dangerous — than other conspiracy theories."


Animal House Payments

"Northeastern University has dismissed 11 first-year students after they were caught violating social distancing rules, the school announced Friday, the latest and most aggressive attempt to prevent the pandemic from disrupting plans to return to Boston's campuses this fall. The students were caught at the Westin Hotel, which is being used as a temporary dormitory this semester, on Wednesday night without masks and not social distancing." Northeastern dismisses 11 first-year students for partying. They won't get their $36,500 tuition back.


Bottom of the News

"As he tried to make his way back, the water got choppier and he paddled harder before he tipped over and lost his paddle ... For several exhausting minutes he kept trying to right the kayak.'That's when I said, 'Alright, I think I might die today. I think this might be it'... 'I prayed to my lord and savior Jesus Christ for help.'" Albany man rescued from Lake George by priests on a floating tiki bar. (If this had taken place in California, the kayaker would have accused the priests of cultural appropriation and opted to drown.)

+ In Tel Aviv, a drone was filmed dropping suspected cannabis over city. Mazel Toke!