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TBR News August 21, 2020

Aug 21 2020

The Voice of the White House

Comments for August 21, 2020:There is no doubt that Trump is headed for the Last Roundup but he only dimly realizes it. This is not because Trump is stupid but because Trump is a narcissist. These people are mentally ill and actually believe their own fantasies. Most of his top advisors have been jailed for criminal acts and it is only because Trump is a sitting President that they have not put the cuffs on him before. After is another question.

 

 

The Table of Contents

  • Steve Bannon, architect of Trump’s 2016 win, charged with defrauding border-wall donors
  • Steve Bannon pleads not guilty to fraud after arrest on luxury yacht
  • Fox host blames ‘deep state’ for Bannon arrest – Bannon says that’s for ‘nut cases’
  • What Is QAnon? The Craziest Theory of the Trump Era, Explained
  • Facebook removes QAnon conspiracy group with 200,000 members
  • What is QAnon? Baseless conspiracy theory gains traction
  • Obama returned to torment Trump in ways that only a member of the Oval Office club can
  • Trouble for Trump as Fox News praises ‘enormously effective’ Biden speech
  • Greenland’s ice sheet saw record mass loss in 2019, study finds
  • Encyclopedia of American Loons

 

 

 

Steve Bannon, architect of Trump’s 2016 win, charged with defrauding border-wall donors

August 20, 2020

by Sarah N. Lynch, Andy Sullivan

Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Steve Bannon, an architect of Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory, has been charged with defrauding Trump supporters in a campaign to help build the president’s signature wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, prosecutors said on Thursday.

As a top adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign who later served as White House chief strategist, Bannon helped articulate the right-wing populism and fierce opposition to immigration that have been hallmarks of Trump’s 3-1/2 years in office. Trump fired Bannon from his White House post in August 2017.

Bannon, 66, was among four people arrested on Thursday and charged by federal prosecutors in Manhattan with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. They each face up to 40 years in prison.

Bannon was arrested aboard a 150-foot-long (45-meter-long) yacht in Connecticut, according to a law enforcement source.

Prosecutors accused the defendants of defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors through a $25 million crowdfunding campaign called “We Build the Wall,” the Justice Department said. Prosecutors said Bannon received more than $1 million of that money through an unnamed nonprofit organization.

Bannon heads a nonprofit organization called Citizens of the American Public that received more than $4.4 million in contributions in 2018, government filings show.

The famously disheveled entrepreneur headed the right-wing Breitbart News before joining Trump’s campaign. Bannon later returned to that job, but quit after angering Trump. He has since promoted a variety of right-wing causes and candidates in the United States and abroad.

Trump told reporters at the White House that he feels “very badly” about Bannon’s charges but sought to distance himself from Bannon and the alleged scheme at the center of the case.

“I do think it’s a sad event,” Trump said. “I haven’t dealt with him at all now for years, literally years.”

Bannon represents the latest close Trump associate to face criminal charges, a list that also includes former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, longtime friend and adviser Roger Stone, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign deputy chairman Rick Gates. Trump last month commuted Stone’s prison sentence, using his power of executive clemency to benefit a political ally.

A lawyer for Bannon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump has struggled to build his signature border wall – a key 2016 campaign promise – in the face of court challenges, logistical hurdles and opposition from congressional Democrats. His administration has completed 30 new miles (48 km) of border fencing and replaced another 240 miles (386 km) of barriers along the 2,000-mile (3,200-km) border, government figures show.

More than 330,000 supporters have donated to private fund-raisers and profiteers who have promised to build the wall on their own, according to a 2019 Reuters investigation

The group built two wall sections on private land in New Mexico and Texas, drawing some fire from local residents who said proper permits were not obtained. The wall section in Texas has suffered from erosion problems, according to a report last month.

“I know nothing about the project other than … when I read about it, I didn’t like it. I said, ‘This is for government, this isn’t for private people,’ and it sounded to me like showboating,” Trump told reporters.

The Republican president also said he did not know the three others charged along with Bannon and did not believe he had ever met them.

BIDEN CAMPAIGN BLASTS TRUMP

The indictment comes as Trump trails in opinion polls behind Democratic challenger Joe Biden ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Biden’s campaign said the charges underscore that corruption surrounds Trump.

“He has consistently used his office to enrich himself, his family and his cronies, so is it really any surprise that yet another one of the grifters he surrounded himself with and placed in the highest levels of government was just indicted?” deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield asked on a conference call with reporters.

The charges are being handled by the same federal office that prosecuted Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen. The office’s top prosecutor, Geoffrey Berman, was abruptly ousted by Attorney General William Barr earlier this year.

Also charged on Thursday were Brian Kolfage, 38, Andrew Badolato, 56, and Timothy Shea, 49, who prosecutors said were involved in the effort.

Kolfage took $350,000 for his personal use, the indictment said. A triple-amputee U.S. Air Force veteran, Kolfage formerly ran a company that made millions of dollars running right-wing media websites. He first pledged to send donations to the U.S. government when he launched the effort in December 2018, but then said he would use the money to hire private contractors and build the wall on their own.

More recently, Kolfage started a business to sell protective face masks to protect against the novel coronavirus. His lawyer declined comment.

The donors thought the money would go toward helping to build a border wall, prosecutors said. But Kolfage, whom they described as the public face and founder of the operation, received thousands of dollars that he used to fund a lavish lifestyle.

Trump fired Bannon after the adviser publicly disagreed with the administration’s North Korea policy. Trump later said Bannon had “lost his mind.”

Board members of We Build the Wall include Erik Prince, a former government contractor and brother of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling.

Kolfage appeared in federal court in Florida on Thursday. Bannon is set to appear in federal court in Manhattan. The other two defendants are due to appear in courts in Florida and Colorado.

Additional reporting by Jan Wolfe, Jeff Mason, Mark Hosenball, Joseph Tanfani, Trevor Hunnicutt and Ted Hesson; Editing by Scott Malone and Will Dunham

 

Steve Bannon pleads not guilty to fraud after arrest on luxury yacht

Trump’s ex-adviser was arrested on Thursday for allegedly defrauding donors to ‘We Build the Wall’ campaign

August 20, 2020

by Victoria Bekiempis

The Guardian

Former Trump campaign manager Steve Bannon pleaded not guilty on Thursday hours after being arrested on a luxury yacht for allegedly skimming donations from an online fundraising campaign for the president’s controversial border wall with Mexico

Using a non-profit organization that he controlled, Bannon “received over $1m from the ‘We Build the Wall’ online campaign, at least some of which he used to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars in [his] personal expenses”, federal prosecutors in New York allege.

Wearing a white face mask, and looking sunburnt, Bannon appeared briefly in a federal court in downtown Manhattan just after 4pm ET, and his lawyer entered a not guilty plea.

Bannon was arrested at about 7.15am ET on a yacht off the coast of Connecticut, it was said in court, and he was brought to New York city several hours later.

Bannon will now be released on a $5m bond, backed by $1.75m in cash or real estate. He has until 3 September to get this collateral together, and is expected to leave the courthouse later Thursday, with photographers and reporters waiting to greet him.

The judge also said one bail condition was that Bannon would have “no use of private planes or private yachts or boats”, which follows reports he was arrested on the yacht of a Chinese businessman, who the New York Times reported was Guo Wengui.

The court appearance follows the announcement of the charges earlier on Thursday.

Three other men, Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea, were also arrested in this alleged scheme to defraud the non-profit, which authorities said raised more than $25m.

The charges, made by the Department of Justice’s southern district of New York (SDNY), were contained in an indictment unsealed in Manhattan federal court.

Federal prosecutors alleged that Bannon and three others “orchestrated a scheme to defraud hundreds of thousands of donors”.

According to the indictment, promises were made that 100% of the donated money would be used for the project.

But it alleged they faked invoices and sham “vendor” arrangements, among other ways, to hide what was really happening.

The men are facing one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Each count has a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.

Bannon was chief executive officer of Trump’s election campaign in its final months in 2016 and later served as the president’s chief strategist for seven months during the turbulent early phase of the administration. He was fired as a top adviser to the president in the summer of 2017, though recently Trump is said to have been talking about him positively.

After the indictment was unsealed, the White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, distanced the president from the scheme, saying he had “not been involved” with Bannon since the campaign and the early part of the administration, and he did not know the other people.

She said: “As everyone knows, President Trump has no involvement in this project and felt it was only being done in order to showboat, and perhaps raise funds. President Trump has previously and publicly stated the following: ‘I disagreed with doing this very small (tiny) section of wall, in a tricky area, by a private group which raised money by ads. It was only done to make me look bad, and perhaps it now doesn’t even work.’”

It has been previously reported by the New York Times that the president had given the private project his blessing.

Latest Trump associate to face prosecution

The arrests make Bannon the latest addition to a startlingly long list of Trump associates who have been prosecuted, including his former campaign chair Paul Manafort, his longtime lawyer Michael Cohen and his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Trump has also made clear that he is willing to use his near-limitless pardon power to help political allies escape legal jeopardy, most recently commuting the sentence of his longtime political adviser Roger Stone.

The attorney general, William Barr, told the Associated Press he had been made aware of the investigation into Bannon months ago but did not say whether Trump had been informed.

In a statement, acting US attorney Audrey Strauss said that the fund capitalized on donors’ interest in building a border wall while instead funneling millions of dollars to fund the “lavish lifestyle” of We Build the Wall founder and public face Brian Kolfage.

Philip Bartlett, inspector in charge of the US Postal Inspection Service’s (USPIS) New York field office, which was a partner on this investigation, said: “As alleged, not only did they lie to donors, they schemed to hide their misappropriation of funds by creating sham invoices and accounts to launder donations and cover up their crimes, showing no regard for the law or the truth.”

The We Build the Wall campaign started in 2018 as a GoFundMe by Kolfage, a military veteran, who has described some people crossing the southern border without documents as terrorists and drug traffickers and accused border wall critics as being cartel collaborators. The campaign created a video posted on YouTube of construction of metal barricades to attract anti-immigrant donors to the campaign.

After Kolfage brought Bannon and Badolato into the fundraising campaign,

“within days”, the pair gained “significant control” of this fundraiser, such as its messaging, donor outreach and finances, according to the indictment.

By spring 2019, the group had raised $22m out of its $1bn goal.

In a secret deal with the others, Kolfage, it was alleged, “covertly took for his personal use more than $350,000 in funds that donors had given to We Build the Wall”. To hide this, the men “devised a scheme” to direct money siphoned from We Build the Wall to Kolfage through a non-profit and a shell company that Shea controlled, using bogus invoices and “sham” vendor agreements.

Kolfage used the money for expenses, such as “home renovations, payments toward a boat, a luxury SUV, a golf cart, jewelry, cosmetic surgery, personal tax payments and credit card debt”. The other men each siphoned “hundreds of thousands” in donations, it was said, which they used on personal expenses such as “travel, hotels, consumer goods and personal credit card debts”.

When the men realized that they might be under federal investigation in October 2019, they tried hiding their scheme, using encrypted messaging apps.

Last year, the campaign was seen by the Guardian building a private border wall in south Texas despite a court injunction that ordered the work to be suspended.

“No one is above the law, not even a disabled war veteran or a millionaire political strategist,” said Bartlett, of USPIS.

Trump’s promise to build a wall across the 2,000-mile length of the US border with Mexico was a central part of his campaign to be president and supporters regularly chant “build the wall” at his rallies. Despite fierce opposition in Congress from Democrats, the Trump administration has pledged to erect or replace 450 to 500 miles by the end of 2020, at a cost of almost $18.5bn. While meeting this target is in doubt, construction of the wall has continued in some areas despite the coronavirus pandemic.

The White House said on Thursday 300 miles of border wall had been built, adding: “Our southern border is more secure than it has ever been.”

The Associated Press contributed reporting

 

Fox host blames ‘deep state’ for Bannon arrest – Bannon says that’s for ‘nut cases’

Lou Dobbs claims ‘the deep state launched agents’ to arrest Trump’s ex-adviser, who pleaded not guilty to fraud charge

August 21, 2020

by Martin Pengelly

The Guardian

Fox Business host Lou Dobbs has blamed the “deep state” conspiracy theory for the arrest of Steve Bannon, the former Trump campaign manager who on Thursday pleaded not guilty to a charge of skimming donations from a fundraising campaign for a border wall with Mexico.

Bannon himself is a key propagator of the theory that unknown government operatives are working against the Trump administration – but has also said the idea is “for nut cases” and should not be taken seriously.

Addressing the story on his show on Thursday night, Dobbs, one of Donald Trump’s favorite Fox hosts, said Bannon “was arrested this morning, not by the FBI or US Marshals but by inspectors of the US Postal Service while Bannon was cruising aboard a mega yacht, owned by a Chinese billionaire”.

“Yes, you heard that correctly – an elite police unit of the Postal Service. They’re called the US Postal Inspection Service and they had authority to arrest Bannon and they did so … Somehow, the deep state launched agents of the US Postal Service to arrest Mr Bannon.”

The “deep state” is supposedly a conglomeration of bureaucrats and law enforcement agents which exists to thwart Trump’s agenda. Bannon enthusiastically propagated the theory when he was Trump’s campaign manager in the 2016 election and then a senior adviser in the White House.

However, since leaving Trump’s employ he has repeatedly cast doubt on the theory.

In Deep State: Trump, the FBI and the Rule of Law by James B Stewart, published last October, Bannon said the “deep state conspiracy theory is for nut cases”, because “America isn’t Turkey or Egypt”.

There is a formidable government bureaucracy in the US, he told Stewart, but “there’s nothing ‘deep’ about it. It’s right in your face.”

Bannon also described to the journalist Michael Wolff, for his book Siege: Trump Under Fire, advice he gave to a ghostwriter working on Trump’s Enemies: How the Deep State is Undermining the Presidency, a book by Trump aides Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie.

As quoted by Wolff, Bannon said: “You do realize that none of this is true.”

 

What Is QAnon? The Craziest Theory of the Trump Era, Explained

AND YOU THOUGHT PIZZAGATE WAS NUTS

From celebrities to the grassroots, the right is obsessed with the idea there is a secret conspiracy where Hillary is headed for Gitmo. Here’s everything you need to know.

by Will Sommer

The Daily Beast

Plotters in the deep state tried to shoot down Air Force One and foil President Trump’s North Korea summit. A cabal of global elites, including top figures in Hollywood, the Democratic Party, and the intelligence agencies, are responsible for nearly all the evil in the world. And now Trump is going to fix it all with thousands of sealed indictments, sending the likes of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama straight to Guantanamo Bay.

Or at least that’s how the world is going for the believers of QAnon, the complex pro-Trump conspiracy theory that’s starting to having unpredictable effects in real life. The real  news can be bad for Trump, but in QAnon-world, the president and his supporters really are getting sick of winning.

Who Is “Q”?

QAnon springs from a series of cryptic clues that started to be posted online in October 2017. Starting on 4Chan before migrating to the even more fringe 8Chan, the anonymous person behind the clues  goes by “Q,” a reference to a high-level government security clearance. The “Anon” in “QAnon” refers to both Q himself, and to Q’s nameless supporters, the “anons.”

Q is supposed to be revealing this top-secret information via the clues, which QAnon fans have dubbed “breadcrumbs.” They’re written in a short bursts, in a reference-heavy style that’s part poem, part ransom note. Here’s one example from June:

Think SC vote to confirm (coming).

No Name action.

Every dog has its day.

Enjoy the show.

Q

“No Name” is Q’s nickname for John McCain, and “SC” is obviously the Supreme Court. As for “every dog has its day” — that’s the kind of cryptic Q remark that has spawned a cottage industry of PDFs and 24/7 livestreams analyzing the crumbs.

Since Q could be anyone with internet access and a working knowledge of conspiracy theories, there’s no reason to think that Q is a member of the Trump administration rather than, say, a troll or YouTube huckster. But incredibly, lots of people believe it.

In April, hundreds of QAnon believers staged a march in downtown Washington, D.C. with a vague demand for “transparency” from the Justice Department. “Q” shirts have become frequent sites at Trump rallies, with one QAnon believer scoring VIP access. In June, an armed man in an homemade armored truck shut down a highway near the Hoover Dam and held up signs referencing QAnon. And celebrities like comedian Roseanne Barr and former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling have signed on.

QAnon is unusual, according to University of Miami professor Joseph Uscinski, because it offers Republicans an alternate view of the world when they already control nearly the entire government. Usually, “conspiracy theories are for losers,” Uscinski said,

“Normally you don’t expect the winning party to use them, except when they’re in trouble,” Uscinski said.

The Origin Story

Since Q’s “breadcrumbs” are so vague, it’s impossible to nail down exactly what the storyline is supposed to be. But the general story, outlined in a pro-QAnon video endorsed by Schilling, is that every president before Trump was a “criminal president” in league with all the nefarious groups of conspiracy theories past: the global banking elite, death squads operating on orders from Hillary Clinton, deep-state intelligence operatives, and Pizzagate-style pedophile rings. In an effort to break this cabal’s grip, according to Q, the military convinced Trump to run for president.

Now Trump and his allies in the military are poised to arrest all these wrongdoers, shipping many of them off to Guantanamo Bay. That coming purge has been dubbed “The Storm” by QAnon fans, who claim Trump referenced it when he referenced “the calm before the storm” in October.

While the Storm is at the center of the QAnon narrative, it’s also flexible enough to fold in just anything that makes the news. Q is fond of hinting that each mass shooting is a false-flag attack organized by the cabal, and he used a blurry webcam picture of a flash of light near the Puget Sound to claim that the deep state had tried to shoot down Trump’s plane.QAnon fans are obsessed with finding proof that whoever is behind Q is actually connected to the Trump administration. During one Trump trip to Asia, Q posted some pictures of islands, which supporters seized on as proof that Q was on Air Force One. Q is also fond of predicting Trump tweets that, in retrospect, don’t exactly require top-secret clearance  — that Trump will tweet “Saturday” on Small Business Saturday, or “Juneteenth” on June 19th.

Fans also point to Trump using phrases “predicted” by Q as proof of the story’s legitimacy. After one supporter requested that Trump used the phrase “tip top” in the State of the Union Address, While Trump never said “tip top” in that speech, QAnon supporters felt vindicated three months later when Trump said it instead at the White House Easter Egg Roll. QAnon supporters have even claimed Trump uses his hands to make a “Q” sign as a signal to them.

QAnon supporters love to speculate about Q’s identity, predicting that it’s either a highly placed White House staffer or even Trump himself. Other, more mundane theories about Q’s identity abound, but there’s not much compelling evidence pointing in any direction.

Even when Q’s predictions disappoint, the QAnon community keeps going. Q hyped up the release of the Justice Department’s inspector general report on the FBI’s Hillary Clinton email investigation, for example, promising that it would contain the promised “Storm” of revelations about top Democrats and the deep state. When the report fizzled, however, Q promised that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, a frequent target of QAnon jabs, had tampered with the report. Trump had the real report, Q claimed, and that report’s release would solve everything.

Decoding It All

While QAnon has been the breakout conspiracy theory of the Trump era, not everyone on the right is on board. The farcical nature of QAnon’s clues has tended to alienate many younger, more internet-savvy people on the right, including members of the alt-right. QAnon also alienated a swathe of the right-wing conspiracy theory internet after Q denounced other internet personalities who had been speculating about the clues, accusing them of trying to profit off the movement. But QAnon has been a hit with older Trump supporters, leading to tech-illiterate baby boomers looking to spread the QAnon gospel asking for help in internet forums on “how to meme.”

Nine months after it started, QAnon world has accumulated an internal language of its own. The moderators of the QAnon forums and the interpreters of the clues call themselves “bakers,” a reference to the “breadcrumbs.” QAnon followers are fixated on which public officials are “white hats” or “black hats,” meaning whether they’re really working for Trump or are agents of the cabal. They urge one another to “follow the white rabbit,” which made Trump delivering his “tip top” speech next to the Easter Bunny all the more portentous.

QAnon believers even have a slogan, “Where we go one, we go all,” which they often abbreviate to “WWG1WGA.” It’s become a rallying cry for QAnon fans that Q has attributed to President John F. Kennedy, although it actually appears to come from the 1996 action movie White Squall.

That community of people deciphering the clues seems to be as important to QAnon believers as Q’s message itself. On QAnon forums, believers talk about the idea that the cabal they believe is responsible for most of the trouble in the United States will soon be swept away has given them hope. Despite obviously being fake, then, it doesn’t look like QAnon is going to go away anytime soon.

 

 

 

 

Facebook removes QAnon conspiracy group with 200,000 members

August 7, 2020

BBC News

Facebook has deleted a large group dedicated to sharing and discussing QAnon conspiracy theories.

QAnon is a wide-ranging, unfounded conspiracy theory that a “deep state” network of powerful government, business and media figures are waging a secret war against Donald Trump.

A Facebook spokeswoman said the group was removed for “repeatedly posting content that violated our policies”.

Last month both Twitter and TikTok also cracked down on QAnon content.

Twitter banned thousands of accounts and said it would block QAnon urls, while TikTok deleted hashtags that signposted QAnon videos.

The deleted Facebook group, called Official Q/Qanon, had nearly 200,000 members.

There are, however, many other QAnon groups that are currently still active on the platform.

QAnon followers are mainly supporters of the US president.

Reuters reports that Official Q/QAnon “crossed the line” on bullying, harassment, hate speech and the sharing of potentially harmful misinformation.

The FBI last year issued a warning about “conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists” and designated QAnon a potential domestic extremist threat.

What is QAnon?

By Shayan Sardarizadeh and Jack Goodman, BBC anti-disinformation team

QAnon is a wide-ranging, unfounded conspiracy theory that President Trump is having to fight against a clandestine “deep state” network of political, business, media and entertainment elites, often involving satanic plots and child trafficking.

QAnon began in October 2017 on the anonymous message board 4chan. A user claimed to have top-security clearance within the US government and signed off their posts anonymously as “Q” – hence the name QAnon. Q communicates in cryptic posts and claims to be involved directly in a secret Trump-led investigation of a global network of child abusers.

QAnon followed on from the “pizzagate” saga in 2016 – a fake theory about Democratic Party politicians running a paedophile ring out of a Washington pizza restaurant.

QAnon influencers have big audiences on social media. They urge followers to “do their own research” – in other words, watch YouTube videos and talk to other supporters – to solve Q’s puzzles. In its nearly three years of existence, the conspiracy has drawn huge traffic on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Reddit, attracting hundreds of thousands of dedicated followers. This includes celebrities and dozens of candidates running for Congress this year.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Q influencers have spread unfounded theories about coronavirus, calling it a “deep state” hoax and have promoted misinformation about face masks and vaccines.

 

What is QAnon? Baseless conspiracy theory gains traction

The QAnon conspiracy theory is centered on the baseless belief that Trump is waging a secret campaign against enemies in the “deep state.”

August 14, 2020

ABC News

WASHINGTON — A conspiracy theory centered around a diabolical plot to ruin the world is making its rounds on social media — and one congressional candidate is voicing her support for the baseless theory.

The QAnon conspiracy theory is centered on the baseless belief that Trump is waging a secret campaign against enemies in the “deep state” and a child sex trafficking ring run by satanic pedophiles and cannibals. For more than two years, followers have pored over tangled clues purportedly posted online by a high-ranking government official known only as “Q.”

The conspiracy theory emerged in a dark corner of the internet but has been creeping into the mainstream political arena. Trump has retweeted QAnon-promoting accounts and its followers flock to his rallies wearing clothes and hats with QAnon symbols and slogans.

“In this world view, there are pedophiles and Illuminati and just generally bad people everywhere. But they’re hiding in plain sight, secretly pulling the strings,” said Brooke Binkowski, an anti-disinformation expert.

Confusing social media users, followers sometimes use very real hashtags like #SaveTheChildren and many of them truly think that certain celebrities and major U.S. companies are part of a worldwide sex trafficking ring.

“[What] QAnon is convinced of is that they alone can find them. They have the capability, and that’s what they are going to do. That’s where the conspiracy theory part gets real dangerous,” Binkowski said.

They have a new champion in political newcomer Marjorie Taylor Greene, who upset the GOP establishment by winning her the Republican nomination for Georgia’s 14th Congressional District this week.

In a victory speech posted to social media, Greene said she decided to enter politics because the country is heading in the wrong direction.

“So the Republican establishment was against me. The DC swamp has been against me. And the lying fake news media hates my guts,” she said. “Yep, it’s a badge of honor.”

In a series of videos unearthed just after Greene placed first in the initial June 9 Republican primary, she complains of an “Islamic invasion” into government offices, claims Black and Hispanic men are held back by “gangs and dealing drugs,” and pushes an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who is Jewish, collaborated with the Nazis.

Leaders on the right have distanced themselves from Greene.

“I’m a very controversial person, but I even cringed at some of the things that she said,” said Debbie Dooley, president of the Atlanta tea party and a Republican activist.

In Washington, Trump came out in support of Greene on Wednesday, all but assuring she would be welcome by Republicans in Congress, despite splinters in the party over her candidacy.

“Congratulations to future Republican Star Marjorie Taylor Greene on a big Congressional primary win in Georgia against a very tough and smart opponent,” Trump tweeted. “Marjorie is strong on everything and never gives up – a real WINNER!”

The same sort of fake claims prompted a man to fire a rifle inside a popular Washington, D.C., pizza place as he attempted to “self-investigate” a conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring from there. And recently, a woman allegedly of worked with supporters of QAnon to have her son kidnapped from foster care can be put on trial.

“QAnon fans, believe that — or at least they act as though they believe that — Trump is the savior of the United States and that they are helping him overturn this deep state plot,” Binkowski said.

In July, Twitter banned accounts associated with QAnon content, as well as blocking URLs associated with it from being shared on the platform. Twitter also said that it would stop highlighting and recommending tweets associated with QAnon. Facebook, also removed several groups, accounts and pages against QAnon in May.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

Obama returned to torment Trump in ways that only a member of the Oval Office club can

The former president accused of being a foreigner detailed how deeply un-American his accuser really is

August 20, 2020

by Richard Wolffe

The Guardian

Like bankruptcy, political influence moves gradually, then suddenly. On the penultimate night of this unconventional Democratic convention, the pace of that transition visibly accelerated.

For most of the last four years, America’s political conversation has been dominated by the foghorn squeezed night and day by a hair-dried troll. This has been an alarmingly loud, but increasingly tedious monologue.

Without an appropriate adversary, Donald Trump has stalked and skulked the stage: alternately ignoring and inventing enemies, alienating friends and befriending alien forces. It has been a confusing and soulless spectacle. Like the evil genius Megamind, he desperately needs an opponent to define his own brand of mindless destruction.

On Wednesday, the animating force behind Trump’s animus reappeared on screen to declare the beginning of the end of the Trump era – or democracy as we know it.

Barack Obama has loomed large over everything that passes for a political thought inside the skull of his successor. If Obama enacted it or even liked it – from healthcare to a pandemic playbook to American democracy – it becomes, for Trump, a singular focus of his destructive powers.

Just the thought of a night’s speeches involving Obama and Hillary Clinton was enough to distract President Megamindless from his actual opponents on the ballot in just 11 weeks.

“Welcome, Barack and Crooked Hillary,” he tweeted in eager anticipation. “See you on the field of battle!”

Since we’re on first name terms, Donald, we regret to inform you that Barack and Hillary won’t be seeing you on any field. Joe and Kamala will be there instead.

In the meantime, Obama returned to torment Trump in ways that only a member of the Oval Office club can: “He’s shown no interest in putting in the work; no interest in finding common ground; no interest in using the awesome power of his office to help anyone but himself and his friends; no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.

“Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t. And the consequences of that failure are severe.”

Incompetence is one thing; impotence is another.

Beyond his own inability to do the job of president, Trump has no clue about what the job entails. That was the less-than-subtle message of Obama’s choice of location for his convention speech: in front of a Philadelphia museum about the writing of the constitution.

The former president accused of being a foreigner was detailing how deeply un-American his accuser really is.

All Trump could do was shout at his TV, via Twitter. “HE SPIED ON MY CAMPAIGN, AND GOT CAUGHT,” shouted the commander-in-chief on the field of battle that is the space between his remote control and his hypothalamus.

The political transition on show on the third night of the Democratic convention was not confined to the White House.

Political hacks like to talk about the passing of the torch, but party conventions rarely deliver on that promise. With the staging of Wednesday’s speakers – from Clinton to Obama to Kamala Harris – you could trace the party’s path over the last three decades.

For most of that time, the center of gravity in the center-left of American politics has been embodied by the Clintons and the many compromises they made to gain and exercise power. It is easy now to forget how skillfully they played the politics of white identity, from socially liberal sentiments to preserving middle-class privileges.

This convention was effectively their last hurrah, as the last Democratic nominee warned the party faithful to avoid the fatal mistakes of four years ago. “For four years, people have told me, ‘I didn’t realize how dangerous he was.’ ‘I wish I could go back and do it all over.’ Or worst, ‘I should have voted.’ Well, this can’t be another woulda coulda shoulda election,” Hillary Clinton said.

It is hard to imagine another convention where the Clintons will be the same force in Democratic politics. And if Joe Biden’s poll leads become electoral college reality in November, it is also hard to imagine that the Obamas will exert the same magic hold on their party. Sitting presidents, and their chosen successors, tend to reshape the political landscape, to the detriment of even beloved and historic predecessors.

That is one of the many reasons why Harris is such a fascinating addition to this already epic election. Citing her Indian mother’s example, Harris said she was committed “to a vision passed on through generations of Americans – one that Joe Biden shares. A vision of our nation as a beloved community – where all are welcome, no matter what we look like, where we come from, or who we love. A country where we may not agree on every detail, but we are united by the fundamental belief that every human being is of infinite worth, deserving of compassion, dignity and respect.”

This used to be political motherhood and apple pie. But after four years of far-right nationalism, neo-Nazi coddling and human rights abuses at the border, Harris looks and sounds like a dramatic turn from the Trump era.

That’s why the two most impactful moments of Wednesday’s convention programming – beyond the keynote speakers – were two videos.

One was the painfully moving story of 11-year-old Estela Juarez, separated from her mother – who came to the United States as a child herself – because of Trump’s demonization and deportation of immigrant parents. The other was an anthem for the voters who are likely to decide this contest: a celebration of female activists and change-makers, on the centenary of women’s suffrage in the United States.

If anyone combines the spirit of fired up women and inspirational immigrants, it’s Kamala Harris.

Like Biden, Harris is essentially a centrist Democrat with an extraordinary opportunity to enact sweeping changes to rebuild after the twin catastrophes of Covid-19 and Trump. Like Obama, they may have a short window to pass legislation to set the nation – and the world – on a new course on the pandemic, the economy, immigration and the climate crisis.

But unlike Obama, Harris has arrived at a time when she can invoke Martin Luther King Jr’s beloved community and spell out what it will take to create it.

“While this virus touches us all, let’s be honest. It is not an equal opportunity offender. Black, Latino and indigenous people are suffering and dying disproportionately. This is not a coincidence. It is the effect of structural racism,” she said, pointing to the chasm in education, healthcare and housing. “Let’s be clear: there is no vaccine for racism. We’ve got to do the work.”

Whether or not Biden and Harris can deliver for the movement for racial justice may be an even bigger test than whether or not they can lead America’s recovery from the pandemic.

At the end of her acceptance speech, Harris waved at a Zoom screen of applauding supporters, and pointed out imaginary fans in a crowd that couldn’t be with her.

Let’s be clear: we’ve got a lot of work to do before and after there’s a vaccine.

 

Trouble for Trump as Fox News praises ‘enormously effective’ Biden speech

Republican pundits accept success of Biden’s convention address as Trump’s bid to portray Democratic rival as radical leftist falls flat

August 21, 2020

by Tom McCarthy

The Guardian

Under pressure on on the last day of the Democratic convention, Joe Biden “hit a home run” with an “enormously effective” speech that blew “a big hole” in Donald Trump’s efforts to paint him as a mentally faltering captive of his party’s left wing.

And that was to hear Fox News hosts Dana Perino and Chris Wallace tell it.

“It was a very good speech,” added Karl Rove, a Republican strategist respected and reviled on either side of the aisle.

Democratic hopes were riding high that when Biden rose to accept the presidential nomination on Thursday night, he might deliver the kind of speech to get voters nodding their heads instead of nodding off, and cable pundits talking about “momentum”.

Broadcast to tens of millions, Biden’s speech marked the first truly national moment of the 2020 campaign, with the formal conclusion of the Democratic primary on one hand, and the first clear picture of the presidential showdown – Biden v Trump, Uncle Joe v Maga Don – on the other.

At a minimum, Democrats hoped, Biden would avoid the kind of verbal slips the Trump campaign has been using eagerly, if ironically given their own candidate’s cha-chas with incoherence, to attack him.

But when Biden was done speaking on Thursday in Wilmington, Delaware, with one arm around Dr Jill Biden, fireworks in the background and his smile as wide as the country, Democrats were not alone in realizing that their nominee had not only connected – he had nailed it.

“I went in there with expectations of adequate, and he knocked it out of the park,” said longtime Republican strategist Mike Murphy, a harsh Trump critic, on an overnight podcast Hacks on Tap. “It was so authentic to who Biden is, and … it caught the mood of the country, which is unity, steady, competence, ‘We can rise above this’.

“I thought Biden had the moment of his life, and he ought to feel really good about that.”

Trump sought to steal Biden’s big moment with campaign stops outside Biden’s home town of Scranton, Pennsylvania, that afternoon. After a speech at an airstrip the president visited a pizza parlor, where he was filmed hoisting a pie, without a face mask, as staff members, all wearing masks, snapped photos and waved excitedly.

“They supposedly have the best pizza,” Trump told reporters. “We’ll let you know in about a half-hour.”

Alert on Friday morning to a need to nip Biden’s moment in the bud, the Trump campaign deployed Vice-President Mike Pence on five morning shows, where he argued that Biden, a known quantity in Washington for 50 years, was a lurking socialist.

“It’s a choice between President Trump’s record and agenda of freedom and opportunity, versus a Democrat agenda driven by the radical left and Joe Biden’s vision that will result in socialism and decline for America,” Pence told Fox News.

In reply to criticism by Biden of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, Pence demonstrated the extraordinary ability of the two parties to talk past one another.

“The president keeps telling us the virus is going to disappear,” Biden said in his speech. “He keeps waiting for a miracle. Well, I have news for him, no miracle is coming.”

Pence told CNN: “We think there is a miracle around the corner.”

The biggest near-term opportunity for Trump and Republicans to draw a contrast with Biden will be through their own convention, which is scheduled to begin on Monday with more in-person, physical elements than the all-virtual Democratic event.

Controversially, Trump plans to accept the nomination on the grounds of the White House on Thursday, in apparent violation of laws requiring that political campaigning be kept separate from the conduct of office.

The president and vice-president are exempt from the law, but broad party participation in such a major campaign event is inevitable. Trump has invited most Republican lawmakers (though not Senator Mitt Romney, who voted for his impeachment and removal from office) to the White House lawn to watch his speech. The campaign plans to set off fireworks on the National Mall.

Unlike Democrats, Republicans also plan to convene delegates in-person in Charlotte, North Carolina. Trump had unconfirmed plans to visit the 336 delegates on Monday, although the Democratic governor of the state has led an effort to ensure that Republicans abide by public health guidelines.

“We were not going to let the governor’s partisan politics come between us and our commitment to North Carolina,” Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee – and Romney’s niece – told the New York Times.

That commitment had wavered. Trump announced earlier this summer that the convention would be moved to Florida, where a Republican governor had proposed no coronavirus restrictions. A large Covid-19 outbreak in that state returned the event to Charlotte.

With the force of his speech on Thursday night, Biden, 77, was seen as implicitly rebutting Trump’s accusation that he had lost a step. But Biden’s rebuttal of Trump’s other attack – that the former vice-president and six-term senator is a Trojan horse for the terrors of “socialism” – was explicit.

“While I will be a Democratic candidate, I will be an American president,” Biden said. “I will work as hard for those who didn’t support me as I will for those who did. That’s the job of a president. To represent all of us, not just our base or our party.”

Biden appeared to have won some converts. “Joe wows critics,” the Drudge Report, usually a clearinghouse for the most astringent conservative messaging, exclaimed on Friday morning.

Its banner headline? “Biden Barn Burner”.

 

 

Greenland’s ice sheet saw record mass loss in 2019, study finds

August 20, 2020

by Cassandra Garrison

Reuters

(Reuters) – Greenland’s ice sheet lost a record amount of mass last year, according to a study published on Thursday, a finding that could prompt scientists to redefine their worst-case scenario as they assess the effects of climate change.

The rate of ice loss had slowed for a two-year period amid cooler summers and higher snowfall in western Greenland through 2018. But last year, as warm air flowed northward from lower latitudes, the frozen island experienced a record loss in its ice mass, geoscientist and glaciologist Ingo Sasgen of the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany said.

That loss of 532 gigatons of ice – equivalent to about 66 tons of ice for each person on Earth – was 15% more than the previous record in 2012.

Greenland’s ice melt is of particular concern, as the ancient ice sheet holds enough water to raise sea levels by at least 20 feet (6 meters) if it were to melt away entirely.

The study adds to evidence that Greenland’s icy bulk is melting more quickly than anticipated amid climate warming. Another study last week indicated the island was no longer getting enough annual snowfall to replace ice lost to melting and calving at the glaciers’ edges.

“We are likely on the path of accelerated sea level rise,” Sasgen told Reuters. “More melting of the ice sheet is not compensated by periods when we have extreme snowfall.”

The study, published in the journal Communications Earth & Environment, used data collected by satellites to the gravitational force of the ice mass, which scientists can use to calculate how much snow and ice is locked within.

Other research has shown the melting is being helped by water pooling atop the ice and at meltwater streaming between the ice sheet and the bedrock beneath.

These studies are helping scientists refine their projections of how climate change will impact the Arctic, and how quickly. Sasgen compared the sobering process to getting difficult news from a doctor.

“It’s always depressing to see a new record,” Sasgen said.

But the studies offer insight into “where the problem is, and you also know to some extent what the treatment is,” Sasgen added.

“It is hard to tell if these (weather) patterns will be the new normal, and which pattern will occur with which frequency,” Sasgen said.

The Arctic already has been warming at least twice as quickly as the rest of the world for the past 30 years, as the amount of greenhouse gases accumulated in the atmosphere continues to rise. That warming has also affected the Arctic sea ice, which shrank to its lowest extent this July in 40 years of record keeping.

In terms of Greenland’s fate, “I would argue that we’ve been in a new normal for the past couple decades of accelerating mass loss,” said Laura Andrews, a glaciologist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center not involved in the new study. “Greenland is going to continue to lose mass.”

If the rate of ice loss experienced in 2019 were to continue, the annual impact on sea levels could cause increasing coastal flooding that affects up to 30 million more people each year by the end of the century, said Andrew Shepherd, a polar scientist at University of Leeds who specializes in ice sheet observation. Shepherd was not involved in the new research.

The new findings underline that “we need to prepare for an extra 10 centimeters (4 inches) of global sea level rise by 2100 from Greenland alone,” Shepherd said. “We have to invent a new worst-case climate warming scenario, because Greenland is already tracking the current one.”

Reporting by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Katy Daigle and Will Dunham

 

Encyclopedia of American Loons

 

Bertha Veronneau

 

So this is pretty obscure. We have no idea where Bertha Veronneau currently is, whether she is American, or whether she’s even alive. But the lunatic idiocy she represents is just too good to pass over. “Dr.” Veronneau, D.D.,D.Sc. (those credentials go for around $30 online at present, we believe) is one of those alternative medicine promoters who doesn’t really belong to any particular school of nonsense but instead imagines her way to whatever she wants as she goes along. And if you for instance should happen to wonder whether any of her claims has even the most tenuous anchoring in science, evidence or reality, you should be aware that, to the extent that Veronneau has even heard of science, it would all be wrong anyways.

Science textbooks, for instance, would never tell you that the heart has seven ventricles and pumps air, or that if you look at molecules through a microscope you can not only see them but observe that they have little red, blue and black dots in them (the black dots are metals), as suggested by the toy models you might have seen (“[r]emember there are two levels of all minerals, a higher which is always of vegetable origin, and the lower mineral, which is foreign to the human body, usually coming right out of the ground,” says Veronneau, and it’s the latter that a microscope will be useful to identify; moreover, “[a] chromosome is identified from a molecule by having a thicker membrane,” and “[i]f we lose chromosomes [there seem to be six of them], then we have a form of cancer”). Nor will medicine textbooks tell you that the liver chews things and sends kelp or alfalfa to the thyroid gland and penicillin to the salivary glands (here is Veronneau on how the heart works). There is just so much that simply isn’t there in the textbooks. It is probably a conspiracy.

As for her medical advice? Well, here’s a sample: “At this time of life of the intelligence of the Cosmos, we understand the Molecule (Ion, atom) to be the basis of all chemical substance, A chemical substance can be a monad, or a kenetic grouping. A determination of the quality of the substance is determined by the molecule as seen in the microscope. Is it of the human body, or is it toxic to the human body? This is important to know. Are we consuming foods and medicines, or applying lotions to our bodies that might cause deterioration. When a product has a side effect it is destroying something in your physical self. We need to learn to renew our bodies… rebuild. You cannot rebuild the body with toxic substance.” What really boggles the mind is that she apparently has followers who believe she’s onto something.

As for genes, “we have twenty-four,” and they “are different in appearance from a molecule, or chromosome, in that they do not have any sections, but in normal status are circular with a central dot.” And the “twenty-four genes, coming from our parenting, are accounted for in this manner: twelve male parentage and twelve female parentage; six of the twelve are from the father, plus three are from his father, and three from his mother; six are from the mother of the child, plus three from her mother, and three from her father.” You could, of course, try to read that passage again to identify the great insight, but it would probably be pointless with a limited brain like yours. You can read more of Veronneau’s insights about the DNA of blood here (recommended).

Diagnosis: We’re genuinely happy that there are people like Bertha Veronneau around. Keep in mind, though, that the distinction between her advice and the advice at, say, GreenMedInfo, is primarily a matter of eloquence.

 

Frances Cress Welsing

 

 

Frances Cress Welsing is a D.C. psychiatrist and completely batshit insane. She is particularly noted for her afrocentric “Cress Theory of Color Confrontation,” and The Isis Papers; The Keys to the Colors (1991). Welsing claims that there is a system practiced (consciously and unconsciously) by the global white minority to ensure their genetic survival by any means necessary, a system that attacks people of color (particularly of African descent) in all areas of activity, and that it is, accordingly, imperative that people of color (particularly of African descent) understand how the system of white supremacy works in order to dismantle it. So far, so good, perhaps – some over-the-top formulations, but that can probably be excused when dealing with a real issue.

But no. In The Isis Papers she formulates her pseudoscientific melanin theory, the gist of which is that white people are the genetically defective descendants of albino mutants, a mutation that may have caused them (justifiably, it seems) to have been forcibly expelled from Africa. And it is because “pure whitness” is so easily genetically lost during interracial breeding that light-skinned peoples have developed an aggressive colonial urge. She also ascribes plenty inherent and behavioral differences between black and white people to this “melanin deficiency,” since melanin is apparently a superconductor that absorbs all frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum, can convert sound energy to light energy, and work as a minicomputer to process information; a deficiency would accordingly be bad). Her evidence is apparently restricted to “her experiences as a psychiatrist”.

White people’s (accurate) sense of their own inferiority is exhibited in various cultural practices: “On both St. Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, the white male gives gifts of chocolate candy with nut … If his sweetheart ingests ‘chocolate with nuts’, the white male can fantasize that he is genetically equal to the Black male … Is it not also curious that when white males are young and vigorous, they attempt to master the large brown balls, but as they become older and wiser, they psychologically resign themselves to their inability to master the large brown balls? Their focus then shifts masochistically to hitting the tiny white golf balls in disgust and resignation – in full final realization of white genetic recessiveness.” I suppose such gibberish is standard fare in some branches of post-modern Freudianism – big claims are justified by vague associations between words in any manner the practitioner may fancy – but it is no less loony for that.

According to Welsing psychiatry (that is, her brand of psychiatry) seems to be some sort of primary science. Her “Unified Field Theory Psychiatry” encompasses and grounds biology, psychology, and physics, and is a prerequisite to understanding the etiology of a unified field of energy phenomena, in particular the “behavior-energy” underlying racial conflict (yes, it is quantum woo), as well as homosexuality and sexism. And no, she doesn’t like gays. According to Welsing black male homosexuality was imposed on blacks by the white man in order to reduce the black population; it is a sign of weakness, and homosexual patterns of behavior are simply expressions of black male self-submission to other males in the area of sex, as well as in economics, education, entertainment, labor, law, politics, religion, and war.

But this, readers, is just the beginning of Welsing’s “scientifically based” theories of race. According to Welsing there is a correlation between high blood pressure and blackness of skin due to the fact that melanin picks up energy vibrations from other people under stress – the darker the skin, the more melanin, and thus the more vibrations would supposedly be picked up. This apparently explains why George Washington Carver was so successful in discovering useful products from plants – he owed his success not to his MA in chemistry, but to the fact that he was dark-skinned: The plants “talked to his melanin and told him what they were good for” during his early morning strolls. It is hard to see how such ideas, if incorporated in a school curriculum (which is what Welsing and her group try to achieve – just like creationists, the point is to get the rubbish into schools, not to gather evidence), would have any long-term positive effects for the target groups.

But melanin can do more than talking to plants. According to Welsing (and repeated in particular by Hunter Adams) the Dogon of Mali discovered a dwarf companion of Sirius, Sirius B, which is invisible to the naked eye. They did so, according to Welsing, because the Dogon’s melanin, in addition to giving you ESP, functions in a manner similar to an infrared telescope, enabling them to detect Sirius B through the melanin in their pineal glands (yes, the pineal gland). Evidence, or plausible mechanism? Forget it – her justification is a matter of Freudian associations. She further claims that everything that happens on Earth is converted to energy and beamed up to Sirius B, and that the high melanin content of black people enables them to tap into that information. Thus, for instance, Greek oracles (who were apparently black, according to Welsing) were able to foresee the future, just as present-day blacks are able to do (but of course not melanin-deficient whites).

Diagnosis: Appalling pseudoscientific bullshit. And as with other pseudoscientce, it is all about outreach, not finding out what’s actually the case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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