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‘Winking At QAnon’: Sen. Sasse Blasts GOP Courtship Of Violent Cult

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

When a violent mob of insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, some of them could be seen showing off the letter "Q" — representing the QAnon conspiracy cult. The attack itself was seen by many adherents as a culmination of the QAnon worldview.

Sen. Ben Sasse, a conservative Nebraska Republican who openly opposed efforts to overturn President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory, examines QAnon's influence on his party in an article published by The Atlantic this week. And the senator stresses that other Republicans need to publicly condemn QAnon and other extremists for the good of their party.

"Until last week, many party leaders and consultants thought they could preach the Constitution while winking at QAnon," Sasse explains. "They can't. The GOP must reject conspiracy theories or be consumed by them. Now is the time to decide what this party is about."

QAnon adherents ascribe to a false and delusional worldview in which the federal government of the United States, especially Democrats, has been infiltrated by an international cabal of child sex traffickers, pedophiles, Satanists and cannibals and that President Donald Trump was put in the White House to lead the struggle against the cabal. The conspiracy fiction has deep roots in anti-Semitic myths. Some QAnon supporters in the GOP have been elected to Congress, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

According to Sasse, no good can comr from having extremists like Greene in the Republican Party.

"The newly elected Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs," Sasse writes. "She once ranted that 'there's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles out, and I think we have the president to do it.' During her campaign, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had a choice: disavow her campaign and potentially lose a Republican seat, or welcome her into his caucus and try to keep a lid on her ludicrous ideas. McCarthy failed the leadership test and sat on the sidelines."

Sasse continues, "If the GOP is to have a future outside the fever dreams of internet trolls, we have to call out falsehoods and conspiracy theories unequivocally. We have to repudiate people who peddle those lies."

The Nebraska Republican warns that having Greene in Congress makes the GOP look unhinged.

"She's already announced plans to try to impeach Joe Biden on his first full day as president," Sasse notes. "She'll keep making fools out of herself, her constituents and the Republican Party."

Sasse points Jan. 6 insurrection as a tragic example of what can happen when Republicans promote or encourage unhinged conspiracy theorists. And he warns that fellow Republicans cannot be neutral where extremists like QAnon are concerned — they must take a stand.

"Whatever the RepublicanParty does, it faces an ugly fight," Sasse explains. "The fracture that so many politicians on the right have been trying desperately to avoid may soon happen. But if the party has any hope of playing a constructive, rather than destructive, part in America's future, it must do two things. First, Republicans must repudiate the nonsense that has set our party on fire…..Second, the party has to rebuild itself."

‘Cruz Would Want Us To Do This’: Stunning Video Of Rioters On Senate Floor

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Some Trump supporters in right-wing media insist antifa activists played a prominent role in the storming of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, but video after video has made it abundantly clear that the violence came from a passionately pro-Trump mob. And one of the Trump allies who rioters mentioned while ransacking the Capitol Building that day made it clear he thought he was following the wishes of Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

Cruz joined President Donald Trump in promoting the false claim that the outgoing president lost to President-elect Joe Biden in November because of widespread voter fraud. In video of the attack that has been released by The New Yorker, a man can be seen looking through a binder on the Senate floor and saying of Cruz, "Look, 'objection to counting the electoral votes of the State of Arizona.' He was gonna sell us out all along."

But a man in a red MAGA hat rose to Cruz' defense, telling the rioter, "Wait no, that's a good thing! That's a good thing! He's with us, he's with us."

Although the storming of the Capitol Building delayed the certification of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory, it didn't prevent it. The joint session of Congress later resumed, and Cruz voted to object to the electoral vote in Arizona.

The two men, in the video, can be seen continuing to look through the binder on the Senate floor, and one of them said, "There's gotta be something in here we can fucking use against these scumbags. This is a good one, him and Hawley or whatever. Hawley, Cruz."

The other man responded, "Hawley, Cruz? I think Cruz would want us to do this…. So, I think we're good."

The "Hawley" they were referring to was Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican who has drawn widespread criticism for contesting Biden's electoral college victory on January 6 — and for a photo that shows him waving at the MAGA mob before he entered the Capitol Building and expressing his solidarity.

The video shot by The New Yorker's Luke Mogelson also shows rioters, as they break into the Capitol Building, telling several police officers, "You're outnumbered, there's a fucking million of us out there. And we are listening to Trump, your boss."

Another one of the rioters can be seen saying, "Where's fucking Nancy Pelosi? Where the fuck is Nancy?" And another expresses his disdain for antifa, saying, "You afraid of antifa? Well, guess what? America showed up!"

The Boogaloo Boys Who Are Trying To Instigate Civil War

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Following the violent January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol Building, national security experts are pointing to the Boogaloo Bois as one of the extremist groups that law enforcement will need to keep a close eye on in the months ahead. Dallas-based journalist Michael J. Mooney examines Boogaloo's goals in an article published by The Atlantic this week, stressing that although they didn't have a "huge presence" in that attack, they have been inspired by it.

"The riot at the Capitol last Wednesday featured partisans of the long-gone country of South Vietnam, Falun Gong adherents, end-times Christians, neo-Nazis, QAnon believers, a handful of Orthodox Jews, and Daniel Boone impersonators," Mooney writes. "The Boogaloos weren't a huge presence in that mob. But according to federal officials, the attack on the Capitol has galvanized them and could inspire Boogaloo violence in D.C. and around the country between now and Inauguration Day."

Most of the far-right insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol Building were devotees of President Donald Trump and were hoping to prevent Congress from certifying the Electoral College victory of President-elect Joe Biden. But according to Mooney, "The Boogaloos don't appear interested in fighting for Donald Trump — they tend to despise him, mostly because they think he panders to the police. But for the past year, Boogaloo Bois all over the United States have been cheering on the country's breakdown, waiting for the moment when their nihilistic memes would come to life and the country would devolve into bloody chaos."

Many liberal and progressive activists, contrary to what right-wing media often claim, have stressed that they are not anti-police — that they want to reform law enforcement, not abolish it. But at Mooney points out, the Boogaloo Bois have expressed a visceral hatred of law enforcement in general.

"Some are likely just joking when they 'shit-post' about shooting cops or 'yeeting alphabet boys' — killing government law-enforcement agents," Mooney explains. "But others seem serious. They've already shown up heavily armed — and in their signature Hawaiian shirts — at protests and at state capitols. They've allegedly killed law-enforcement officers, talked about throwing Molotov cocktails at cops during the racial-justice protests this summer, and plotted to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. They say they want a total reset of society, even if they haven't thought very hard about what, exactly, should come next."

The Boogaloo Bois have made it clear that they want a civil war, and Mooney notes that he has "spent the past few months trying to figure" exactly why they want one. For his article, Mooney interviewed JJ MacNab, a fellow with the Program on Extremism at George Washington University

According to MacNab, "They really want to create their own in-world so the rest of us won't get their jokes. It's tribal. These are tribal markings: the shirts they wear, the jargon they speak, even the types of guns they like."

But Mooney writes that even though Boogaloo's beliefs are nebulous and seem incoherent at times, that doesn't mean they aren't dangerous.

Watching hordes of armed people storming the doors of Congress, facing off with any cop who offered resistance, killing a Capitol Police officer, and chasing another through the halls of a government building, I couldn't help thinking: These are the fantasies that Boogaloo Bois have been posting about for months," Mooney writes. "The riot may have captured their imagination."

How Militia Gangs Communicated During Capitol Riot

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Although Twitter and Facebook have been cracking down on some far-right users, extremists have found other ways to communicate — including the smartphone app Zello, which according to the Guardian, was useful to some far-right militia members during the siege of the U.S. Capitol Building last week.

"Zello has avoided proactive content moderation thus far," Guardian reporters Micah Loewinger and Hampton Stall explain. "Most coverage about Zello, which claims to have 150 million users on its free and premium platforms, has focused on its use by the Cajun Navy groups that send boats to save flood victims and grassroots organizing in Venezuela. However, the app is also home to hundreds of far-right channels, which appear to violate its policy prohibiting groups that espouse 'violent ideologies.'"

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Congressional Republican ‘Feared For Their Lives’ If They Supported Impeachment

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Numerous Republicans in Congress have been afraid to publicly criticize President Donald Trump or challenge his debunked and baseless election fraud claims because they don't want to face a GOP primary challenge or be voted out of office in 2022. But according to Rep. Jason Crow, a Colorado Democrat, their fears go beyond their political interests — some of them feared being targeted for violent attacks if they voted in favor of any articles of impeachment against the president.

Interviewed by NBC News' Chuck Todd on Wednesday, Crow discussed impeachment proceedings against Trump and said, "A number of things are happening on the Republican side. A very small handful, I think, are kind of morally bankrupt individuals who have given in to these conspiracy theories and are too far gone to be redeemed. But the majority of them are actually paralyzed with fear. You know, I had a lot of conversations with my Republican colleagues last night. A couple of them broke down in tears, talking to me and saying that they are afraid for their lives if they vote for this impeachment."

Crow continued, "My response was, not to be unsympathetic, 'Welcome to the club.' That's leadership. Our country is in a very challenging time. Many of us have felt that way for a long time because we've stood up for our democracy, and we expect them to do the same."

Right-wing pundit Guy Benson — a Townhall editor who is also known for his radio show and Fox News appearances — responded to Crow's comments and tweeted that some House Republicans are, in fact, fearing for their "lives/physical safety":

It isn't hard to see why members of Congress are worried about political violence during the final days of Trump's presidency. Crow's comments during his interview with Todd came a week after a mob of pro-Trump insurrectionists stormed the Capitol in the hope of preventing Congress from certifying President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory — and a week after extremists hoped to murder Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Trump demanded that Pence overturn the Electoral College results, which he didn't have the power to do, during the joint session of Congress held on Wednesday last week. Groups of extremists, believing that Pence had betrayed Trump, could be seen chanting "Hang Mike Pence" in Washington, D.C. And some of them set up a hangman's noose near the Capitol Building.

Also quite disturbing is a statement by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who said that when the Capitol Building was under siege, she feared for her life and feared that "QAnon and White supremacist sympathizers" in the House of Representatives would tell people in the mob where to find her.

Major Radio Network Shuts Down Conspiracy Propaganda By Talk Jocks

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

In AM talk radio, a long list of far-right pundits have been promoting the debunked conspiracy theory that President Donald Trump was the victim of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. But following the storming of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6 by a mob of violent extremists, domestic terrorists and white nationalists, Atlanta-based Cumulus Media has ordered its employees to quit promoting voter fraud conspiracy theories.

The Washington Post's Paul Farhi reports that in an internal memo — which was first reported by Inside Music Media — Brian Philips, executive vice president of content for Cumulus, wrote, "We need to help induce national calm NOW." Phillips went on to say that Cumulus and Westwood One, which syndicates Cumulus programming, "will not tolerate any suggestion that the election has not ended. The election has been resolved, and there are no alternate acceptable 'paths.'"

Phillips warned Cumulus employees, "If you transgress this policy, you can expect to separate from the company immediately."

Farhi explains, "The new policy is a stunning corporate clampdown on the kind of provocative and even inflammatory talk that has long driven the business model for Cumulus and other talk show broadcasters. And it came as Apple, Google and Amazon cut off essential business services to Parler, the pro-Trump social media network where users have promoted falsehoods about election fraud and praised the mob that assaulted the Capitol. Apple and Google removed the Parler app from the offerings for its smartphones, while Amazon suspended it from its Web-hosting services."

Mark Levin, Ben Shapiro and Dan Bongino are among the many far-right radio hosts who are employed by Cumulus and, as Farhi notes, "have amplified Trump's lies that the vote was 'rigged' or in some way fraudulent." Levin, in fact, encouraged Republicans in Congress not to honor the Electoral College results, which showed that President-elect Joe Biden won 306 electoral votes. In the popular vote, Biden defeated Trump by more than 7 million.

The mob that stormed the Capitol Building on January 6 was hoping to prevent Congress from ratifying Biden's Electoral College victory but only succeeded in delaying it. Hours after the attack, Congress resumed its joint session and ratified Biden's win.

One radio host who won't be directly affected by Cumulus' directive is Rush Limbaugh, whose program is broadcast on many Cumulus-owned stations but is syndicated by Premiere Networks. Cumulus owns and operates Westwood One.

Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers magazine, told the Post that Cumulus and other media companies "recognize they're in the hot seat right now because the national eye is on them" and that talk radio hosts "never expected" their comments on the 2020 election to "get out of hand" in the way they did on January 6.

"I would hope they put their personal feelings aside and come clean with their listeners," Harrison told the Post. "I encourage them to pursue the truth and to tell their audience something that Trump may not like."

How Kevin McCarthy Left Mitch McConnell 'Twisting' As Trump Pursued Coup

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Before the 2020 presidential election, many anti-Trump pundits predicted that if Joe Biden won decisively, President Donald Trump would likely refuse to concede. But some Trump allies made the same prediction behind closed doors, and according to Cook Political Report's Dave Wasserman, one of them was House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy:

Biden, it turned out, did enjoy a decisive victory, winning 306 electoral votes and defeating Trump by more than 7 million in the popular vote. Regardless, Trump has maintained that he was the real winner and promoted the debunked and baseless conspiracy theory that he was a victim of widespread voter fraud. Those dangerous theories came to violent fruition when his supporters stormed Congress while it was counting the Electoral College votes.

In mid-December, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell finally acknowledged Biden as president-elect and congratulated him. But as Wasserman noted in his tweet, McCarthy didn't make a joint statement with him. Instead, he supported Trump's conspiracy theories, at one point even declaring that the president had won the election, though he ended up walking that back. And now, Melanie Zanona and Olivia Beavers report in Politico, McCarthy and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise find themselves in damage-control mode following the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol Building.

According to Zanona and Beavers, McCarthy and Scalise "are facing backlash from their Republican colleagues for standing by President Donald Trump after he incited a violent mob to storm the Capitol this week, fueling a bitter divide in the GOP conference at a perilous moment for the party."

"Of the top three GOP leaders in the House, only Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney has directly condemned Trump's dangerous rhetoric and behavior," Zanona and Beavers note. "Cheney also vocally opposed the effort to object to the election results when Congress certified them on January 6."

McCarthy voted in favor of rejecting some of the votes that led to Biden's win.

A House Republican, quoted anonymously, told Politico, "There's a little bit of anger, but a lot of disappointment. And what you saw on display with Steve and Kevin was, eh, we're just gonna continue on with the narrative of the right — and they did not catch the moment. That's troublesome."

Two days after the storming of the Capitol Building, McCarthy issued a statement and finally acknowledged Biden as president-elect — an obvious attempt at damage control. The House minority leader stated, "Our country is not just divided. We are deeply hurt…. Partisans of all stripes first must unite as Americans and show our country that a peaceful transition of power has occurred."

Scalise, as Zanona and Beavers point out, was also in damage-control mode when he appeared on Fox News the same day McCarthy made that statement. Scalise told Fox News that Trump's rhetoric "didn't help and in fact, caused a lot of real division." Trump's response to the violence on January 6, Scalise said, "should have been an unequivocal, just complete, unequivocal calling out of what was going on at the time when people were storming the Capitol."

Rep. Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, is quite conservative but made it clear that she had no interest in joining fellow House Republicans who announced their plans to contest the Electoral College results on January 6. And according to one of Politico's sources, that will work to her political benefit in the months ahead.

Another House Republican who was quoted anonymously told Politico, "People are going to be looking at this moment when they look at who is going to lead the party. [Cheney's] political capital has risen significantly. She had the courage of her convictions."

Trump Faces Calls For Immediate Impeachment Following Capitol Rioting

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Violence erupted in the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday afternoon as far-right pro-Trump demonstrators — furious because Congress was meeting to certify President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory — clashed with police and stormed the Capitol Building. And Trump critics are saying that the president should be impeached for inciting violence.

He had encouraged the mobs to come to Washington D.C., and he continued to attack the electoral process after his supporters breached the Capitol's defenses. At the president's rally, his ally Rudy Giuliani called for "trial by combat." Later, Trump sent a few tweets urging them to "Stay peaceful!" but he didn't tell them to stand down or leave the federal buildings they had illegally infiltrated.

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Biden Chooses Merrick Garland For Attorney General

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

President-elect Joe Biden has decided to nominate Judge Merrick Garland for U.S. attorney general, according to Politico sources. Three Politico reporters — Tyler Pager, Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney — are reporting that Biden has chosen Garland over former Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.

In 2016, then-President Barack Obama nominated Garland for the U.S. Supreme Court following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, much to the consternation of Democrats, refused to even consider Obama's nominee or bring the nomination to the Senate floor. President-elect Joe Biden, however, will have a different political environment than Obama in 2016, as Democrats appear headed for a majority in the U.S. Senate.

Georgia Election Official Says Trump Campaign ‘Intentionally Misled’ The Public

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

With the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden only 16 days away, President Donald Trump is still making a last-ditch effort to overturn the election results in Georgia and other states that Biden won. But conservative Republican elections officials in Georgia, including Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his colleague Gabriel Sterling, are not budging and continue to stress that Biden won the Peach State fairly — and Sterling expressed his frustration with Trump during a press conference in Atlanta on Monday.

Trump and his legal allies, Sterling complained to reporters, have "intentionally misled the (Georgia) State Senate" as well as "voters and the people of the United States" about the election.


One of the totally debunked claims from pro-Trump attorneys, including Sidney Powell, is that Dominion Voting Systems' equipment was used to swing the election in Biden's favor — and Sterling slammed that claim as total nonsense during the press conference.

"No one is changing parts or pieces out of Dominion voting machines," Sterling told reporters. "I don't even know what that means. That's not a real thing. That's not happening."


Media Matters' Lis Power notes that while Sterling was debunking the Trump campaign's false claims, Fox News' Bill Hemmer cut away from the press conference and brought on Jason Miller, senior to the campaign, so that Miller could "lie more":


Senate Republicans Brawl Over Trump’s Coup Plot

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Tensions are escalating among Republicans in Congress over the January 6 certification of President-elect Joe Biden's victory over President Donald Trump in the Electoral College. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been urging Republicans not to contest Biden's certification, but Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri announced, this week, that he will defy McConnell's request — and CNN's Jake Tapper is reporting that "at least 140" House Republicans plan to "vote against the Electoral College results showing President-elect Biden won."

The Republicans who agree with McConnell and have publicly acknowledged Biden as president-elect include, among others, Nebraska's Ben Sasse, Utah's Mitt Romney, Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey and South Dakota's John Thune in the Senate to Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger in the House. And Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama has been feuding with Kinzinger and is quite vocal about his plans to contest the Electoral College results.

Politico's Alex Isenstadt reports that during a conference call with Senate Republicans on Dec. 31, McConnell demanded an explanation from Hawley:

Later, in an e-mail to Senate Republicans, Hawley noted that he was unable to join the conference call and reiterated his plan to contest the Electoral College results next week on January 6. Isenstadt tweeted a copy of that e-mail:

In a lengthy Facebook post, Sasse vehemently criticized Senate and House Republicans who are planning to contest the Electoral College results — warning that they are "playing with fire." And Sasse has even questioned their sincerity and accused them of acting not out of conviction, but out of fear of Trump's rabid MAGA base.

Trump and his legal team have been making the debunked and baseless claim that the president was the victim of widespread voter fraud, and according to Sasse, many House and Senate Republicans don't actually believe it. But they lack the courage to publicly say what they really think.

Sasse explained, "When we talk in private, I haven't heard a single congressional Republican allege that the election results were fraudulent — not one. Instead, I hear them talk about their worries about how they will look to President Trump's most ardent supporters."

Another reason for House and Senate Republicans to voice their objections to Biden's Electoral College certification — even if they know he won the election — is financial. Axios' Jonathan Swan notes that Hawley has been "fundraising off of his planned objection to the election results."

Swan reports that during the New Year's Eve Day conference call with GOP senators, McConnell described his January 6 vote as a "vote of conscience." According to Swan, an Axios source paraphrased McConnell as telling his fellow Republicans, "I'm finishing 36 years in the Senate, and I've cast a lot of big votes…. And in my view, just my view, this is will be the most consequential I have ever cast."

Trump’s Failure On Vaccine Distribution Is ‘Incomprehensible,’ Says Sen. Romney

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Unlike many other Republicans, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah has not downplayed the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic — and now, the conservative senator is stressing that the new coronavirus vaccines need to be distributed much more quickly.

In an official statement posted on his website on New Year's Day, Romney explained, "Unlike the development of the vaccines, the vaccination process itself is falling behind. It was unrealistic to assume that the health care workers already overburdened with COVID care could take on a massive vaccination program. So too is the claim that CVS and Walgreens will save the day: they don't have excess personnel available to inoculate millions of Americans. Nor are they equipped to deal with the rare but serious reactions which may occur. Doctor offices are well-suited, but the rate of patient throughput in doctor offices is predictably slow."

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Trumpist Lawyer Lin Wood Accused Of Violent, Delusional Behavior — By His Ex-Partners

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Far-right attorney L. Lin Wood has been in the headlines a great deal in recent weeks because of his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results and his unhinged tweets, including a December 1 post in which he predicted that the United States is "headed to civil war" and called for President Donald Trump to "declare martial law." But according to some former law partners, Wood's behavior was unhinged long before the election.

The ex-partners are Nicole Wade, Jonathan Grunberg and Taylor Wilson, who left the firm L. Lin Wood, P.C. and formed their own firm, Wade, Grunberg & Wilson, LLC.

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New Virus Mutation Is ‘Potential Catastrophe’

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Many health officials are being asked whether or not they believe that the new COVID-19 variant that has been spreading rapidly in the U.K. could reduce the efficacy of the vaccines now being distributed. Socoiologist Zeynep Tufekci notes that so far, "many scientists" believe that this variant "will not decrease vaccine efficacy much, if at all." But Tufekci, in an article published by The Atlantic on the last day of 2020, also warns that even if the variant slamming the U.K. doesn't limit the vaccines' efficacy, the variant's arrival is still terrible news.

"A more transmissible variant of COVID-19 is a potential catastrophe in and of itself," explains Tufekci, a native of Istanbul, Turkey who now lives in the United States. "If anything, given the stage in the pandemic we are at, a more transmissible variant is, in some ways, much more dangerous than a more severe variant. That's because higher transmissibility subjects us to a more contagious virus spreading with exponential growth — whereas the risk from increased severity would have increased in a linear manner, affecting only those infected."

Tufekci adds, "Increased transmissibility can wreak havoc in a very, very short time — especially when we already have uncontrolled spread in much of the United States. The short-term implications of all this are significant, and worthy of attention, even as we await more clarity from data. In fact, we should act quickly, especially as we await more clarity — lack of data and the threat of even faster exponential growth argue for more urgency of action."



Some cases of the new COVID-19 variant have already been found in the U.S. And Tufekci stresses that even though this variant doesn't appear to be any more likely to kill the infected person than the familiar COVID-19 strain that has been raging in the U.S., the fact that it is so infectious is major cause for concern.

"Severity increases affect only the infected person," Tufekci explains. "That infection is certainly tragic, and this new variant's lack of increase in severity or lethality thankfully means that it is not a bigger threat to the individual who may get infected. It is, however, a bigger threat to society because it can dramatically change the number of infected people. To put it another way, a small percentage of a very big number can easily be much, much bigger than a big percentage of a small number."

Tufekci notes that according to estimates by scientists, the new COVID-19 variant — which is being called "B117" — is around 50-70% more transmissible than "regular COVID-19." And she stresses that the variant might require even stricter precautions and social distancing measures.

"This uncertainty in understanding the variant's exact mechanisms means that we don't know if our existing tools — masks, distancing and disinfecting — are as effective as they were compared with an identical scenario with the regular variant," Tufekci writes. "To be clear, the variant is still a respiratory virus; so, the basic tools will not change, and they will all continue to work. In fact, they have become more important, but we may need to be stricter — less time indoors, better masks, better ventilation, more disinfection of high-touch surfaces — to get the same bang for our protective buck. It may be a small difference, or not. We don't know. We won't know for a while."

Giuliani Announces New Challenge To Wisconsin Election Results

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Although Joe Biden's inauguration is only three weeks away, President Donald Trump and many of his loyalists have yet to acknowledge the president-elect's victory. And that includes the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who has announced yet another election-related lawsuit challenging Biden's win in Wisconsin.

Making debunked and totally baseless claims of widespread voter fraud, Trump and his allies have filed one lawsuit after another in the hope of overturning the 2020 presidential election results — and most have already been dismissed or rejected in the federal courts. That includes the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to even consider a lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who asked the High Court to throw out the election results in four states that Biden won: Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia.

Giuliani, according to Independent reporter Justin Vallejo, is challenging a December 14 ruling by the Wisconsin Supreme Court — which rejected the Trump campaign's efforts to get more than 50,000 ballots thrown out in Wisconsin. The former New York City mayor is hoping that the U.S. Supreme Court will invalidate the Wisconsin Supreme Court's decision.

Vallejo notes that Trump's campaign "says its petition will present claims that ballots were counted by voters without identification, incomplete absentee ballots were counted, and ballots were collected by hand at events held before the election."

Previously, a lawsuit from the Trump campaign asked the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out the election results in Pennsylvania, but it refused to consider that case. And the justices later rejected Paxton's widely condemned lawsuit out of Texas.

When the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled against the Trump campaign on December 14, it was a 4-3 decision — and Justice Brian Hagedorn wrote, "Our laws allow the challenge flag to be thrown regarding various aspects of election administration. The challenges raised by the campaign in this case, however, come long after the last play or even the last game; the campaign is challenging the rulebook adopted before the season began."

During a recent appearance on the podcast of former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon — who is facing criminal fraud charges for allegedly defrauding donors to the We Build the Wall campaign — Trump campaign adviser Boris Epshteyn insisted that the campaign will continue to fight the election results in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and claimed that there will be "action out of Georgia" as well.

The House of Representatives and the Senate are scheduled to officially count the Electoral College results during a joint session of Congress on January 6. Some far-right Republicans, including Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama and Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, have vowed to challenge the election results that day. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has acknowledged Biden as president-elect and Sen. Kamala Harris of California as vice president-elect and is urging other Senate Republicans to do the same. Since Democrats still control the House of Representatives, and a majority of the Senate acknowledges Biden's win, Trump has no path to overturn the election in Congress, despite his hopes.

Kobach Denied Access To ‘Build The Wall’ Money Scammed By Bannon

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

While former Breitbart News Chairman Steve Bannon continues to battle federal criminal fraud charges in connection with the We Build the Wall campaign, one of the far-right Republicans who has been unable to access funds from that project is former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. And on Monday, December 28, Kobach went to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to plead his case.

Kobach — a "birther" known for his anti-immigrant views and voter suppression efforts — has not faced any criminal charges in connection with We Build the Wall, a crowdfunding project for a wall along the U.S./Mexico border. Those who have been charged with fraud include not only Bannon, who served as White House chief strategist in the Trump Administration in 2017, but also, We Build the Wall founder Brian Kolfage and Bannon allies Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea. Prosecutors allege that Bannon, Kolfage, Badolato and Shea deceived donors by not using 100% of the funds for the construction of a border wall, and instead used a lot of the money for personal expenses.

Federal prosecutors for the Southern District of New York, Law & Crime reporter Adam Klasfeld notes, allege that "Bannon pocketed at least $1 million of the money, and Kolfage took $350,000 plus went on a spending spree to buy a Jupiter Marine yacht called the Warfighter, a Range Rover SUV, a golf cart, jewelry, and cosmetic surgery."

Klasfeld adds that as general counsel for We Build the Wall, "Kobach was compensated handsomely in attorneys' fees that the government does not allege to be improper." And because Kobach has not been accused of criminal wrongdoing — unlike Kolfage, Badolato and Shea — he believes it is unfair that he is being cut off from We Build the Wall assets during the prosecution.

But U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres disagrees. On December 14, according to Klasfeld, "Torres rejected Kobach's argument that blocking the money interfered with his due process rights."

Torres wrote, "Although the Supreme Court has made clear that pretrial hearings on forfeiture may be required when the forfeiture order is challenged by a criminal defendant, particularly where their Sixth Amendment right to counsel is implicated, the law concerning the rights of third parties is less clear."

Now, Kobach — who ran for governor of Kansas in 2018 and lost to Democrat Laura Kelly — is hoping that the Second Circuit will disagree with Torres' ruling. Kobach's attorney, Justin S. Weddle, according to Klasfeld, is arguing "that the indictment" in the fraud case against Bannon and the others "concedes that any alleged fraud ended when We Build the Wall updated the website to disclose that Kolfage would be compensated."

Weddle told Law & Crime, "The government has frozen funds donated well after that date, which can have no logical or legal connection to the alleged fraud. Regardless of the government's intent, the result is that the government has frozen We Build the Wall's pursuit of its mission, which is the opposite of what its donors intended."

Kobach has a reputation for being an extremist even in Republican circles. When Barack Obama was president, Kobach promoted the racist "birther" conspiracy theory— which claimed, with zero evidence, that Obama wasn't really born in the U.S. and was really born in Kenya. Obama's birth certificate made it abundantly clear that he was born in Hawaii and is a life-long U.S. citizen, contrary to what Kobach and other birthers claimed.

In addition to embracing birtherism, Kobach is known for his anti-immigrant viewsand for promoting voter suppression. But Kobach's xenophobia couldn't get him past the finish line in Kansas' 2018 gubernatorial race. Even in a deep red state, Kobach lost to the Democratic nominee, Laura Kelly, by 5% — and Kelly is now governor or Kansas.

Congressional Republicans Feuding Over Trump’s Election Fraud ’Scam’

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Far-right Republican Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama has joined President Donald Trump in refusing to acknowledge Joe Biden as president-elect and pushing debunked claims of voter fraud. But another Republican, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, is slamming Brooks' voter fraud claims as nonsense, sparking a feud between the two GOP congressmen.

Kinzinger, according to Newsweek's Jason Lemon, "has suggested that those backing the president's conspiracy theories are doing so to raise money and garner more attention on social media" — and Kinzinger has dismissed the voter fraud claims as a "scam."


When Brooks appeared on Fox News' Fox and Friends on Monday morning, he accused the Illinois Republican of being soft on voter fraud.

"If he would do his homework," Brooks told the Fox and Friends hosts, "he would understand the evidence is overwhelming. He can either surrender to the people who support voter fraud, election theft — or he can fight for his country on this particular issue."

In truth, the wild claims Trump and his allies have pushed to back up the assertion that the election was stolen have been repeatedly debunked.

Brooks, on "Fox and Friends," claimed that "dozens" of House Republicans might join him in objecting to the Electoral College results when Congress meets for a joint session on January 6.

"There are dozens in the House of Representatives who have reached that conclusion, as I have. We're going to sponsor and co-sponsor objections to the Electoral College vote returns of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada and maybe more depending on where we collectively want to go," the Alabama lawmaker said.

Lemon, however, notes, "In order for the objections to be considered, a Republican senator must also sign on to a written objection. Although the effort is widely expected to fail, several GOP senators have suggested they may be open to supporting objections."

Kinzinger, in contrast to Brooks, acknowledges Biden as the United States' legitimate president-elect and has said that there is no proof of the type of widespread voter fraud that Brooks alleges. Appearing on CNN's State of the Union on Sunday, Kinzinger stressed, "I grew up as a Republican because I believe in smaller government and strong national defense, and that's being destroyed by conspiracies right now and anger. I really do worry about the future of my party."

Slamming Kinzinger on Twitter, Brooks tweeted:


Kinzinger tweeted in response:


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has acknowledged Biden as president-elect and Sen. Kamala Harris as vice president-elect, has been trying to discourage Senate Republicans from joining House Republicans in objecting to the Electoral College results. Sen. John Thune of South Dakota is siding with McConnell, saying that objections are likely to go down like a "shot dog." And Trump, in response, is attacking Thune as a RINO or Republican in Name Only:


The vote count for this year's presidential election showed Biden with 306 electoral votes, and he defeated Trump by more than 7 million in the popular vote.