Consequential Phone Tag
February 24, 2021
The Good News
- Atlanta creates the nation’s largest free food forest with hopes of addressing food insecurity (CNN)
- Yale scientists repair injured spinal cord using patients’ own stem cells (Yale)
“Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status.” — Laurence J. Peter
“Bureaucracy, the rule of no one, has become the modern form of despotism.” — Mary McCarthy
The Most Consequential Game Of Phone Tag
(Erin Scott-Pool via Getty Images)
“What the FBI sent, ma’am, on January 5 was in the form of an email,” he said, adding that he would think a warning “that something as violent as an insurrection at the Capitol would warrant a phone call or something.”
Robert Contee, acting chief of the Washington DC police, spoke those words. He was one of four officials in charge of security for the Capitol on January 6 who testified Tuesday at the first hearing held by a joint Senate committee investigating the security and intelligence failings leading up to the riot. Former US Capitol Police chief Steven Sund, former House sergeant-at-arms Paul Irving and former Senate sergeant-at-arms Michael Stenger also stated they had not seen the email warning of potential violence, apparently sent the evening before all hell broke loose.
Sund testified that intelligence reports compiled from information from Capitol Police, FBI, Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security, and the DC Metropolitan Police showed “the level of probability of acts of civil disobedience/arrests” on January 6 ranged from “remote” to “improbable.” Furthermore, the homeland security secretary had not issued an elevated or imminent alert, despite significant online chatter and numerous media reports that protesters were targeting the electoral vote count during the joint session of Congress. “Without the intelligence to properly prepare, the USCP was significantly outnumbered and left to defend the Capitol against an extremely violent mob,” Sund said.
Both Contee and Sund testified they called the National Guard for help shortly after the mob stormed the building. “I was stunned at the response from Department of the Army, which was reluctant to send the D.C. National Guard to the Capitol,” Sund said, adding later that “first 150 members of the National Guard were not sworn in on Capitol grounds until 5:40 p.m., four-and-a-half hours after I first requested them and three-and-a-half hours after my request was approved by the Capitol Police Board.”
Sund also blamed Irving and Stenger for the sluggish response, saying he tried to enlist the National Guard for help in the days before the riot, but Irving was “concerned about the ‘optics’ … and didn’t feel that the intelligence supported it,” and Stenger suggested waiting until January 6 to see if assistance was needed. Once the riot was underway, Sund said both men were slow to respond to his calls for help. Irving denied receiving Sund’s phone call.
Republicans on the committee defended the witnesses, claiming there was no evidence the slow response indicated officials were “complicit” in the attack. A recent poll found that 58% of Republicans believe the Capitol riot to be “mostly an antifa-inspired attack that only involved a few Trump supporters.” (NBC News)
“The Deadliest Middle East Construction Project Since The Pyramids”
(Etsuo Hara via Getty Images)
- On December 2, 2010, FIFA announced that Qatar would host the 2022 World Cup — a first for a Middle East nation. Over the next ten years, thousands of migrant laborers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka came to Qatar to work on the elaborate preparations for the world’s biggest football tournament.
- Sadly, during that period at least 6,500 of those workers died, according to an analysis by the Guardian. The findings were compiled from government sources, and mean that an average of 12 migrant workers from the five South Asian nations have died each week since the announcement was made.
- The total death toll is significantly higher because the figures don’t include deaths from other countries like the Philippines and Kenya that send large numbers of workers to Qatar. Also not included are deaths occurring in the final months of 2020. More deaths have undoubtedly occurred since preparations for the 2022 tournament continue. (Guardian)
In This Georgia, All Is Not Peachy
- Authorities in the South Caucasus country of Georgia have arrested top opposition leader Nika Melia, further deepening the political rift and plunging yet another ex-Soviet state into crisis. Melia, leader of the United National Movement, was dragged from his party headquarters early Tuesday in a scene broadcast on live television.
- Photos on Twitter showed a large contingent of riot police entering the building; security forces are said to have used tear gas to arrest dozens of Melia’s supporters inside.
- The unrest is the latest upheaval along Russia’s vast borders. Protests continue in Belarus over an August presidential election result that the opposition has denounced as fraudulent, and Kyrgyzstan recently had its third revolution in the past 15 years.
- Georgia borders the Black Sea and has a population of about 3.7 million people. It was considered more democratic than the other two nations, with ambitions of joining NATO. (WaPo, $)
Additional World News
- ‘Patriots’ Only: Beijing Plans Overhaul of Hong Kong’s Elections (NYT, $)
- E.U. imposes sanctions on Russian officials after Navalny imprisonment (WaPo, $)
- Some in France, Germany, UK, avoid AstraZeneca jab for Pfizer (Yahoo News)
- Facebook Restores News Content After Brokering Deal With Australian Regulators (NPR)
- Hong Kong plans to make politicians swear oath of loyalty to Beijing (Guardian)
- Princess Latifa: What are women’s rights in Dubai? (BBC)
- Biden readies his first major penalties on Russia (Politico)
- India, China complete troop pullout from disputed border (Al Jazeera)
- Israel beaches polluted with tar after oil spill (WaPo, $)
- How the Military Behind Myanmar’s Coup Took the Country Offline (NYT, $)
- The Biden administration rejects ‘maximum pressure’ diplomacy with Iran (WaPo, $)
- Equity In COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Takes Time And Effort, Clinics Find (NPR)
- Hamas-ruled Gaza launches coronavirus vaccination drive (AP)
- Not to be sniffed at: Agony of post-COVID-19 loss of smell (AP)
- First real-world coronavirus vaccine data in Britain show decline in infections, hospitalizations after first dose (WaPo, $)
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Shooting Down Shot Attempts
- The Rio Grande Valley is a four-county region that stretches across Texas’ southernmost tip, with a majority Hispanic population and a large number of undocumented and mixed-status families. It continues to be one of America’s most coronavirus-afflicted areas, with the highest hospitalization rates, deaths at more than twice the state average, overwhelmed hospitals, and refrigerated trucks serving as back-up morgues.
- So why did the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine in Edinburg turn away two people eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations last Saturday because they couldn’t prove they live in the US? After all, Texas Department of State Health Services says proof of residency and citizenship aren’t required to get the vaccine.
- One young man said his elderly father waited in line four hours only to be told by a worker that he wasn’t eligible for the shot. The elderly man was allegedly told “you don’t have a social, so we can’t help you at all. And it’s only for US citizens.” The school has apologized and said it is working to reschedule individuals wrongly turned away. (NPR)
Arizona Republicans Courting SCOTUS Votes
- A solidly conservative Supreme Court is scheduled to hear two cases next Tuesday that could shred what remains of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). The VRA is the landmark law that President Lyndon Johnson signed in 1965 to end white supremacist election laws.
- In 1982, President Ronald Reagan signed legislation expanding the law. He did so over the strident opposition of a young Justice Department lawyer named John Roberts, who wrote over two dozen memos arguing the 1982 law was “constitutionally suspect” and contrary to the most fundamental tenants [sic] of the legislative process on which the laws of this country are based.”
- Fast forward four decades and Roberts is not only Chief Justice, but the most moderate of the six justice conservative majority on the Supreme Court. Also, the Roberts Court has previously dealt two significant blows to the VRA. This time two cases involving the Democratic National Committee (DNC) are consolidated, as they both concern two Arizona laws that make it more difficult to vote.
- The first law requires voting officials to entirely discard ballots cast in the wrong precinct. The second prohibits many forms of “ballot collection,” where a voter gives their absentee ballot to someone else and that person delivers that ballot to the election office. If a majority of justices decide in favor of Arizona’s Republican attorney general and its Republican Party, their decision could effectively destroy the last protection against state-sponsored racially discriminatory voting practices. (Vox)
Additional USA News
- Biden considers regulating ‘ghost guns,’ other executive actions to curb gun violence (Politico)
- ‘A double standard going on’: Democrats accuse GOP and Manchin of bias on Biden nominations (Politico)
- Joe Biden’s 3 bad Afghanistan War options, explained (Vox)
- Senate Holds 1st Hearing On Capitol Insurrection (NPR) & Congress finally gets first chance for answers about the Jan. 6 insurrection (Politico)
- Biden Welcomes Canada’s Trudeau (Virtually) To White House For 1st Meeting (NPR)
- ‘We deserve more’: an Amazon warehouse’s high-stakes union drive (Guardian)
- Native Americans Finally Have a Cabinet Nominee. Will an Adopted Tlingit Take Her Down? (Politico)
- Opinion | How Biden Will End the Trump Sugar High for Israel and Saudi Arabia (Politico)
- “Power Companies Get Exactly What They Want”: How Texas Repeatedly Failed to Protect Its Power Grid Against Extreme Weather (ProPublica)
- Pandemic makes prostitution taboo in Nevada’s legal brothels (AP)
The Battle For The Bikini
- Next month, after seven years of hosting a men’s competition, Qatar’s capital city is hosting the FIVB World Tour women’s beach volleyball event. And while it’s difficult to imagine the same rules were imposed on the men, female players are being forbidden from wearing their usual bikinis on the court — they’re asked instead to wear shirts and long trousers. FIVB explains it’s “out of respect for the culture and traditions of the host country.”
- German beach volleyball stars Karla Borger and Julia Sude want Qatar’s rules committee to know they’re not just fooling around at Beach Blanket Bingo — they’re working! “We are there to do our job, but are being prevented from wearing our work clothes. This is really the only country and the only tournament where a government tells us how to do our job,” Borger told radio station Deutschlandfunk on Sunday.
- The women have declined to go along with the rules imposed by Qatari authorities. Borger said normally they would be happy to “adapt to any country,” but Doha’s extreme heat means bikinis aren’t just a sartorial choice, but a necessity. Teammate Sude noted that Qatar had made exceptions for female track and field athletes competing at the World Athletics Championships in Doha in 2019.
- Doha may not be as hot in March as in the summer months — maybe only around 86 degrees. But intense competition makes all players sweaty and uncomfortable, and the ladies just aren’t down with being treated differently. Borger questions whether it’s even “necessary to hold a tournament there at all.” (Guardian)
- Sacha Baron Cohen On ‘Borat’ Ethics And Why His Disguise Days Are Over (NPR)
- Coronaangst ridden? Overzoomed? Covid inspires 1,200 new German words (Guardian)
- Perseverance’s Video Cameras Capture Its Arrival On Mars (There’s Audio, Too) (NPR
- All Songs Considered: New Mix: José González, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Francis Of Delirium, More (NPR)
- The rise of Cameo, the message service that can earn athletes $30,000 a day (Guardian)
- From Sex and the City to Succession: will TV confront Covid or ignore it? (Guardian)
- Mount Etna illuminates night sky with 1,500-metre lava fountain (Guardian)
- Rock of ages: how chalk made England | Geology (Guardian)
- Scientists discover kangaroo painted more than 17,000 years ago is Australia’s oldest rock painting (CNN)
- Future Vaccines Depend on Test Subjects in Short Supply: Monkeys (NYT, $)
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