Making The Ron Call
November 5, 2021
It’s time to play… Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader (if that 5th grader read a TON of news). Test your knowledge of recent world news with this short quiz. Submissions must be made by 12pm EST Monday, 11/8. The winner, announced Wednesday, will win bragging rights for the week as well as a free Daily Pnut t-shirt.
“People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.” — Søren Kierkegaard
Making The Ron Call
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has clearly hitched his “presidential aspirations” wagon to Donald Trump’s wing of the Republican party. He supported new laws restricting voting rights, barring “disruptive protests,” and requiring public universities and colleges to survey students, faculty, and staff about their beliefs and viewpoints to support “intellectual diversity.” He’s threatened budget cuts if universities and colleges are found to be “indoctrinating” students, by an as-yet-unknown standard. DeSantis is hostile to transgender athletes, and has vigorously curtailed health measures meant to stem the spread of the coronavirus. He opposed President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which sent $1,400 checks to most Florida adults.
The latest political and public relations firestorm to engulf DeSantis involves the University of Florida’s (UF) decision to bar three professors from testifying as expert witnesses in a lawsuit brought by a civil rights organization challenging the state’s new restrictive voting rights law. UF officials told the three that because the school was a state institution, participating in a lawsuit against the state was a “conflict of interest to the executive branch of the State of Florida and [would] create a conflict for the University of Florida.” Last year, four professors at UF’s law school were told they could not identify their affiliation with the school in a court brief opposing a state law restricting voting rights for former felons.
The ban is an extraordinary limit on speech that raises questions of academic freedom and First Amendment rights. In a federal filing Friday, the plaintiff’s lawyers said they wanted to question DeSantis on whether he was involved in the decision. The governor has maintained all his communications about the voting rights law are protected from disclosure because discussions about legislative policy are privileged. Plaintiffs contend the federal questions in the case — including whether the law discriminates against minority groups — supersede any state protections.
As governor, DeSantis appoints six of the 13 UF trustees; the board’s chairman, Morteza Hosseini, is a prominent Republican donor and DeSantis adviser. Hosseini arranged for UF to hire and grant tenure to a California professor, Dr. Joseph A. Ladapo, whom DeSantis quickly appointed as Florida Surgeon General and Secretary of the Florida Department of Health in September. On Monday the body that sets the accreditation for UF said it will be investigating the state’s flagship university over its decision to bar the trio of faculty members from offering expert testimony against the state, to determine whether “academic freedom” and “undue political influence” standards were violated. (WaPo, Tampa Bay News, NYT, Law and Crime, Miami Herald, Gainesville News)
- Tourists in Cancún, Mexico were enjoying a lovely day outside their luxurious Hyatt Ziva hotel when gangs armed with “long guns” entered the beach and seized one man at gunpoint. Panicked visitors and staff rushed for shelter, and at least one person was injured after being struck with the butt of a weapon. Two men were killed in what officials described as a confrontation between drug dealers; there were no reports of tourists being seriously hurt.
- In October, two women from California and Germany were killed and three other tourists were injured at a restaurant in the beach resort of Tulum, after being caught in the crossfire between suspected gang members. Cancún and the Mayan Riviera to the south attract millions of tourists annually and are a major source of income for Mexico. But the region has been plagued by violence as drug cartels dispute territories and run extortion rackets. (Guardian)
A Rudy Awakening
- The federal criminal investigation of Rudy Giuliani has zeroed in on evidence that in the spring of 2019, three Ukrainian government prosecutors agreed to award contracts valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to Giuliani and two other American attorneys as a way to gain political and personal influence with the Trump administration.
- Investigators believe that Victoria Toensing and Joe DiGenova, who worked closely with Giuliani, probably violated federal laws requiring Americans working for foreign governments or interests to register as foreign agents with the U.S. Justice Department, and fully disclose details of any actions undertaken on behalf of the foreign interests.
- Prosecutors in the southern district of New York compiled a list of more than two dozen specific acts by the three attorneys to advance the personal and political interests of the Ukrainian prosecutors and their political factions. Investigators previously uncovered extensive detailed plans approved by Giuliani in which the Ukrainians would announce and promote an investigation of Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, to help boost Trump’s chances of reelection. (Guardian)
Additional World News
- Facebook deletes Ethiopia PM’s post that urged citizens to ‘bury’ rebels (BBC)
- Indians celebrate festival of light amid COVID-19 fears (AP)
- Iranian claims that U.S. tried to detain tanker false, Pentagon says (Reuters)
- First pill to treat Covid gets approval in UK (BBC)
- ANC records worst poll result, admits S.Africans ‘disappointed’ with the party (Reuters)
- Erdogan: Turkey investigates posts about president’s health (BBC)
- Man charged over abduction of 4-year-old Cleo Smith (CNN)
- The Justice Department filed suit Thursday against the State of Texas over key components of the state’s Republican-led voting legislation that Governor Abbott signed into law in September. The federal lawsuit alleges that Senate Bill 1 (SB 1) violates part of the Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Act by imposing restrictions at polling locations and through absentee ballots.
- The Texas law bans overnight and drive-thru early voting, both of which were popular in Houston’s Harris County last year during the pandemic. SB 1 was passed over the objections of Democratic lawmakers, many of whom fled the state earlier this year in an unsuccessful attempt to block its passage. In June, the Justice Department sued Georgia, arguing that limits on absentee ballots in a new state law will disproportionately affect Black voters. (justice.gov, NBC News)
Out Of Balance
- Prosecutors in Brunswick, Georgia, who are trying the case of three white defendants accused of chasing down and videotaping their murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man, raised objections that several Black potential jurors were cut because of their race. Jury selection had taken two weeks.
- On Wednesday, when the process finished narrowing a panel of 48 to a final jury of 12, prosecutor Linda Dunikoski noted only a single Black juror made the panel. She argued that defense lawyers had struck eight Black potential jurors because of their race, and the Supreme Court has held that it’s unconstitutional for attorneys to strike potential jurors solely based on race or ethnicity.
- Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley acknowledged that “intentional discrimination” by attorneys for the white defendants appeared to have shaped jury selection. But a defense attorney argued: “I can give you a race-neutral reason for any one of these [strikes]”, and the judge ruled that satisfied Georgia law. He was therefore unable to intervene, and would seat the 11 white jurors and one Black juror. (CBS News)
Additional USA News
- High-stakes hearing Thursday in Trump effort to block release of presidential documents (CNN)
- Surge in Colorado Covid cases could force hospitals to ration services (Guardian)
- After 7 years in a Bali jail for helping murder her mom, ‘suitcase killer’ Heather Mack faces new charges in U.S. (WaPo, $)
- Vaccine rule for larger employers, federal contractors and certain health care workers to take effect January 4 (CNN)
- Carper comes out in support of nixing filibuster on voting rights (The Hill)
- Biden says families separated at the border under Trump won’t receive $450,000 (CNN)
- Embattled Fulton County, Georgia, election chief Richard Barron is resigning (CNN)
Q The Conspiracies
- Hundreds of devoted QAnon followers, some carrying signs and folding chairs, gathered in the rain at the AT&T Discovery Plaza in downtown Dallas on Tuesday. The believers were assembled at the site overlooking where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated at 12:30 pm on November 22, 1963. They were there because of a QAnon conspiracy theory, which postulates that Donald Trump is lying in wait to destroy a secret cabal of blood-drinking, child-sex-trafficking members of the liberal elite.
- According to a prophecy foretold online, JFK’s son, JFK Jr., would appear at that spot, emerging from anonymity to become Trump’s vice president when the former president is reinstated. Never mind that John-John died after crashing his six-seater plane in the Atlantic Ocean off Martha’s Vineyard in 1999. Several theories suggest he didn’t die, and is either inconspicuously living under a pseudonym or as a financial services manager from Pittsburgh. Some claim he is Q.
- Believers speculated Trump would return to the White House and when Kennedy Jr. emerged, Trump would be reinstated and make the Democrat his successor when he stepped down. “We’re expecting a parade,” said an attendee from Nebraska named Ginny who could have been wearing a “Trump-Kennedy 2024” shirt. “JFK is going to be here.” Attendees like Ginny claimed to see dead celebrities, including Robin Williams and Michael Jackson. But when 12:30 p.m. came and no dead people reappeared, the crowd recited the Pledge of Allegiance, and slowly began to disperse. Some lingered for more than an hour, and a few vowed that John-John would definitely show up at a Rolling Stones concert at the Cotton Bowl later that night. (Rolling Stone, Independent, WaPo)
- Doug the ugly New Zealand potato could be world’s biggest (AP)
- Big whales eat far more than scientists previously thought (NPR)
- The Cutest Way to Fight Climate Change? Send in the Otters (Wired)
- ‘Eternals’ Won’t Be Playing Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain & Oman (Deadline)
- These Philadelphians Created an App to Prevent Gun Violence (Wired)
- FAA Has Referred 37 Air Passengers For Criminal Prosecution (HuffPost)
- A New 10-Year Plan for the Cosmos (NYT, $)
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU