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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times

BEIJING — In a break with its usual secrecy, the Chinese government on Tuesday released video of a deadly attack in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square last fall, along with a video purportedly made by the assailants.

The unusual step was designed to bolster Beijing’s claims that a recent string of attacks around China were the work of Islamic terrorists and not random acts of vengeance by disgruntled individuals.

Two pedestrians were killed and about 40 were injured in the October incident, in which a white vehicle drove through a crowd of tourists and then burst into flames in front of the Forbidden City in the center of the Chinese capital.

The video released Tuesday by the official New China News Agency was included in a 24-minute program, simply titled “Terrorism.”

One section, reportedly made before the attack, shows four people, including a toothless old woman, wearing black headbands and chanting, “God is great.”

The Chinese agency said three of the four — identified as the driver, his wife and his mother — were killed in the car that exploded at Tiananmen Square. In another section of the same video, another suspect is shown burning a Chinese and an American flag.

Chinese authorities also released high-resolution video, apparently captured by security cameras, of the vehicle jumping a curb, plowing through a crowd of pedestrians and bursting into flames under the iconic portrait of Mao Tse-tung. A black flag with Arabic script can be seen hanging from a window of the vehicle.

Besides the occupants of the vehicle, two tourists, one Chinese and one Filipino, were killed in the attack.

Chinese authorities say the attackers were inspired by the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, a shadowy organization seeking an independent state in Xinjiang, China’s northwestern-most region, which borders Pakistan and Afghanistan. Xinjiang is home to the Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking, mostly Muslim ethnic minority.

This month, three Uighur defendants were sentenced to death by a court in Urumqi, the Xinjiang capital, on charges of organizing the Tiananmen Square attack. Some of the video shown Tuesday was released during the trial, but not widely distributed.

One of the Uighurs sentenced to death was interviewed for the program on terrorism. Wearing an orange prison vest, he is quoted as saying that the attack was inspired by DVDs and Islamic propaganda on the Internet.

“We started to watch these in 2013,” he says, according to a translator. “I downloaded it to my telephone and watched many times. … I feel so pumped up when I see it. I want to participate in holy war.”

The program was released at a news conference Tuesday by the National Internet Information Office. Besides bolstering the government’s claim that Islamic terrorists are at work in China, the video was designed to justify a crackdown on foreign Internet sites.

“We have strengthened our control over domestic sites, but the Internet is borderless, and terrorists have hidden their videos on many famous foreign social media websites,” the narrator intones in the video, as a screenshot of Google’s home page is displayed.

© / Philippe Lopez

Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]