September 27, 2021
The Good News
- Iceland elects Europe’s first female-majority parliament (AP)
- Aberdeen scientists develop ice stupas for Himalayan water crisis (BBC)
“Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” — Gloria Steinem
Cap(itol) In Hand
As of September 24, 645 people have been charged in connection with the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol Building. Investigators have focused on extremist right-wing groups in an effort to determine the extent of potential advance planning. Topping the list is the Oath Keepers, a self-styled militia that prosecutors say planned and practiced its attack weeks in advance.
Three U.S. military veterans were charged with criminal conspiracy in mid-January for helping organize and coordinate the movements of members of the paramilitary group. On April 16, a “founding lifetime member” of the Oath Keepers pleaded guilty to two counts of entering the Capitol armed with bear spray, “intending to stop or delay” the certification of the presidential election. He was the first of 74 people to plead guilty so far.
Justice Department officials added more prosecutors and agents as the cases became increasingly voluminous and complex. By July, 18 Oath Keepers had been charged with conspiracy. Initially, several defendants’ defense strategy was that they participated at the urging of President Trump. However, Congressional Republicans and others allied with Trump floated various conspiracy theories in a campaign of deflection. They first said the insurrection was provoked by antifa, then said Trump had no knowledge of any preplanning, and later, claimed the attacks could be described as “peaceful.”
In mid-June, an outlandish conspiracy theory advanced by Fox News host Tucker Carlson appeared to take hold. Carlson wildly contended the Biden administration was hiding the identity of many law enforcement officers who were present at the Capitol and who participated in the riot, while many who’d been arrested were “still in solitary confinement.” As proof, Carlson said court documents referring to “unindicted co-conspirators” actually meant they were government agents, ergo: “they’re FBI operatives.”
What now comes to light — perhaps complicating the government’s case against another far-right group — are confidential records of an informant’s real-time texts to his FBI handler during the march to the Capitol. The informant is a member of the Proud Boys, and his “inside version of events” is that his group was largely following a pro-Trump mob consumed by a herd mentality, not carrying out any type of pre-planned attack. At one point, the handler appeared not to grasp that the building had been breached; he asked the informant to keep him in the loop, especially if there was any violence. The records don’t address whether the informant was in a position to know what the group’s leadership had planned, why he was cooperating, or whether he could have been deliberately misleading his handler. But they do suggest federal law enforcement had far greater visibility into the assault as it was happening than was previously thought. (Insider, WaPo, CNN, DOJ, NYT)
Swiss Will Be An Everlasting Love
- On Sunday, 64.1% of voters in Switzerland approved a referendum allowing same-sex couples to marry. The “Marriage for All” measure had been supported by the country’s parliament and the governing Federal Council. Same-sex civil partnerships have been authorized since 2007.
- Most Western European countries already recognize same-sex marriage, but most of those in Central and Eastern Europe do not. Switzerland has a population of 8.5 million and has traditionally been conservative; not all women had the right to vote until 1990. Under the new law, same-sex partners will be able to adopt children together, and lesbian couples will be permitted to utilize regulated sperm donation.
- The measure facilitates citizenship for same-sex spouses as well. Also on Sunday, voters dismissed a proposal spearheaded by left-wing groups to raise taxes on returns from investments and capital — like dividends, or income from rental properties in Switzerland — as a way to ensure better redistribution and fairer taxation. (NPR)
Arrest Made In Nessa Murder
- Gender violence in England is showing no signs of slowing down. Over 180 women have been murdered since March 2020, and the latest to capture attention is a 28-year-old teacher, Sabina Nessa.
- Nessa was killed on September 17 after leaving her home in southeast London and taking a short walk through a park with plans to meet friends at a local pub. Her body was discovered in the nearby park the following day. On Sunday a 36-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murder at an address in East Sussex. (ABC, CNN)
Additional World News
- Labour conference: Angela Rayner stands by calling Boris Johnson ‘scum’ (BBC)
- Catalan Separatist Leader Is Freed In Italy Until A Hearing Over Extradition To Spain (NPR)
- Behave normally, UK transport minister tells Britons queuing for fuel (Reuters)
- In Reversal, Israel’s New Government Engages With Palestinian Authority (NYT, $)
- Turkish president defiant about turning to Russia for defense needs (Politico)
- Sudan: Ethiopian troops ‘repelled’ after al-Fashaga advance (BBC)
- A gangster standing trial for murder was shot dead in a courtroom by 2 rivals disguised as lawyers, say police (Yahoo)
On Hire Ground
- After scathing photos appeared last week of Border Patrol agents on horseback aggressively blocking Haitian immigrants from crossing the Rio Grande into Texas, President Biden condemned the images and promised there would be consequences. Texas Republican Governor Gregg Abbott appeared on “Fox News Sunday” and was asked by host Chris Wallace to respond to the photos.
- Abbott blamed the Biden administration and said the agents “wouldn’t have been in that situation had the Biden administration enforced the immigration laws.” Abbott said he wanted agents to know that if they risk losing their job, they would have a job in Texas. “I will hire you to help Texas secure our border,” he said.
- Wallace also asked Abbott to respond to accusations he was exceeding his authority in handling the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border. Abbott said he would step up and do whatever he had to do to protect the people of Del Rio and other communities in Texas because “the Biden administration is ignoring [them.]” (The Hill)
In The Hot Seat
- Police have arrested a 30-year-old woman on charges of sparking the Fawn Fire, now engulfing a forest in the northern part of Sacramento Valley in California. The woman walked out of the shrubs toward firefighters saying she was looking for medical help as they battled the flames overnight last Wednesday.
- Workers at a quarry in Shasta County said they had seen the woman trespassing before the wildfire erupted in a remote canyon. Police found a lighter in the woman’s pocket. Thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes to escape the fire, which officials said had destroyed 131 structures so far and is threatening hundreds more. (WaPo)
Additional USA News
- 3 dead, 50 injured, many questions after Amtrak train derails in Montana (USA Today)
- Washington state bus driver stabbed to death in front of elementary school students (NBC)
- What’s the price of Biden’s plan? Democrats drive for zero (AP)
- Pelosi may delay vote on Senate bipartisan infrastructure bill (ABC)
- These Republicans helped craft the infrastructure bill. They might not vote for it. (Politico)
- FBI investigating Missouri cops who let dog bite Black man (ABC)
- New York Expects Health Care Worker Shortages Ahead Of Vaccine Mandate Deadline (NPR)
- Rats running rampant in urban Illinois, alligators lumbering across Florida golf courses, wild boars taking over the streets of Italy’s Eternal City. Are nature’s creatures trying to tell us something? So many restaurants were forced to close during the pandemic that rodents had to find new food sources, and they’re hangry. “Rodents are experts at sniffing out food and shelter, and they’re resilient in their ways to obtain both,” said an Orkin entomologist. “Residential properties offer the ideal habitat for rodents, and once they’ve settled in, they’re capable of reproducing rapidly and in large quantities.”
- Something else capable of reproducing rapidly is the rubbish-seeking wild boars of Rome, where entire families are seen emerging from the vast parks surrounding the city, trotting down traffic-clogged streets in search of food, tipping over notoriously overflowing trash bins. Posting wild boar videos on social media has become a thing. But exasperated Romans are beginning to get fed up with the scavengers marching past their stores, strollers, and playgrounds. Over the centuries, Rome has been invaded by Gauls, Visigoths, and vandals, but this is just too much. It’s become a political liability for Mayor Virginia Raggi, who’s facing a local election this weekend.
- Experts say the situation is more complex than just formidable garbage collection problems. The boar population is booming. The region of Lazio surrounding Rome approved a new decree last month allowing selective hunting of boars in some parks, which until now had been strictly forbidden. The parks manager wants to increase the number that can be hunted, but animal rights groups have been adamantly opposed to mass culling. It’s true having to constantly step around feasting pigs on a sidewalk isn’t pleasant. At least it isn’t giant alligators. (Orkin, CNN, AP)
- Oldest fossil footprints in North America are teaching us about early humans (CNET)
- Valley Fever Is Spreading Through a Hotter, Drier Western US (Wired)
- Drones May Help Replant Forests—If Enough Seeds Take Root (Wired)
- Landsat 9, NASA’s most powerful Landsat satellite ever, is ‘go’ for launch on Monday (Space)
- Hubble’s new ‘Einstein Ring’ Photo Exemplifies the Vastness of Our Universe, Say Researchers (Weather Channel)
- ‘We’re going after creatives that greenwash fossil fuels’: the group targeting ad agencies (Guardian)
- Twitter denies Nicki Minaj claim that her account is locked (LAT, $)
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