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Pats spearhead food donation in Chelsea – Boston Herald

A group effort Saturday by the New England Patriots and Revolution as well as the Massachusetts Military Support Foundation donated enough food to provide 84,000 meals to the coronavirus-stricken city of Chelsea.

For the past five weeks, vital food packages have been distributed to veterans, military families and veteran service organizations. These packages contain non-perishable foods and nutritionist-developed recipes to provide three meals a day for two people for 14 days. More than 1.7 million meals have been assembled at Gillette Stadium. The food packages have been available for pick up at six different locations including Agawam, Dennis, Devens, Foxboro, Methuen and Sandwich. Meals have also been delivered to veterans, military families and veteran service organizations all across New England.

The food Saturday was delivered to Eastern Minerals headquarters in Chelsea, which currently serves as the city’s food distribution center, where it will then be distributed to those in need. This donation is made possible by the Kraft family and the Massachusetts Military Support Foundation.

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Sara Carter: The Cabal of Liars of Top Obama Officials Need to be Held Accountable

“This is a cabal of liars of the Obama administration senior officials,” said Sara Carter, a Fox News contributor and host of “The Sara Carter Show” on Fox News’s show “The Ingraham Angle” on Friday.

“And you have to ask yourself one question. They all stuck with the same exact propaganda, the same exact his information, that the Trump administration, that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia, even though they had no evidence whatsoever, and they manufactured that evidence against the president.”

“And this is why all of them need to be investigated” explained Carter. “What they did here is not only in effect of our national security, they basically told a lie across the globe and divided our nation for more than three years, and eventually someone is going to pay the price for this. And I think this is exactly why John Durham and Attorney General William Barr are conducting this investigation so thoroughly, because what they did was a crime against the American people.

“Why is it that Obama asks Comey and Yates, how should we treat Michael Flynn? Why does he ask that question to them in a private meeting in the Oval Office?” asked Raymond Arroyo, who hosted “The Ingraham Angle’ on Friday.

“I think that is pretty evident, because he along with Michael Flynn had a very divisive relationship,” responded Carter. “When Michael Flynn challenged him on the narrative that he was spreading that Al Qaeda was on the run and that ISIS was just this jayvee team, Michael Flynn was not going to accept that. He also was not going to accept the fact that there were serious problems within the intelligence community, and he challenged President Obama on that. I think in the beginning it was a good relationship. I remember that, they had a good relationship, and then it broke apart.”

“A lot of people don’t remember, was that meeting that President Trump, very first meeting he had with President Obama at the White House,” continued Sara Carter. “When President Obama put a seed in President Trump’s head, saying, I only have one person I want to warn you about, and that is Mike Flynn. And the reason they wanted Mike Flynn out was because he was the only one in the administration that really understood the intelligence community, and he was going to catch all of them and what they were doing, which was what they were trying to do was break the administration apart and remove President Trump.”


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The latest news on coronavirus pandemic

By The Associated Press

The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

— Obama criticizes Trump on handling of coronavirus.

— Fire strikes Moscow hospital treating COVID-19 patients.

— Drug remdesivir being shipped to six more states.

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WASHINGTON — Former President Barack Obama harshly criticized President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic as an “absolute chaotic disaster” during a conversation with ex-members of his administration, according to a recording obtained by Yahoo News.

Obama’s comments Friday came during a call with 3,000 people who served in his administration. He said combating the virus would have been bad even for the best of governments, but it’s been “an absolute chaotic disaster” when the mindset of “what’s in it for me” infiltrates government.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said that President Trump’s response “has been unprecedented and saved American lives.”

The United States has suffered nearly 80,000 deaths from COVID-19, the most of any nation.

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WASHINGTON — A trade group representing major airlines says its members support having the government do temperature checks of passengers as long as necessary during the coronavirus crisis.

Airlines for America said Saturday that the checks will add a layer of protection for passengers as well as airline and airport employees. Airline workers who come in contact with the public also would be checked.

The association said passenger screening is the responsibility of the Transportation Security Administration. “Having temperature checks performed by the TSA will ensure that procedures are standardized, providing consistency across airports so that travelers can plan appropriately.”

Last week, the group announced that airlines would require customer-facing employees and passengers to wear cloth face masks from check-in through the end of the trip.

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LAS VEGAS — Restaurants, hair salons and other Nevada businesses that closed or had their operations reduced under state-imposed restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus were able to reopen Saturday and allow customers inside their establishments.

Gov. Steve Sisolak on Thursday had said restaurants, salons and other nonessential businesses could reopen Saturday with limited capacity. He said hospitalization rates and positive tests had stabilized.

Sisolak ordered the closures on March 17.

The state reported over 300 deaths from the coronavirus outbreak as of Saturday, with over 6,000 cases of COVID-19.

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ROME — At least two people have died in separate avalanches in northern Italy on the first weekend Italians have been allowed to venture far afield after a two-month coronavirus lockdown.

The Trento Alpine Rescue service said the body of one man was found late Saturday on the Folgaria plateau after an avalanche separated him from his dog. The pet was found unharmed.

At the ski resort of Cortina, the body of a skier was found after a separate avalanche. His brother was rescued, the ANSA news agency said.

Italian authorities closed ski lifts early on in Italy’s lockdown and they remain closed, but skiers can still venture out on ungroomed, unmarked terrain.

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MOSCOW — A fire at a Moscow hospital treating people infected by the new coronavirus killed one patient and forced the evacuation of about 200 others.

News reports said the fire at the facility in the northern part of the city has been extinguished. No cause was immediately determined for the fire, which affected a ward of the hospital that had been repurposed for treating victims of the new coronavirus.

Mayor Sergei Sobyanin confirmed reports that a patient had died and said those evacuated would be transferred to other hospitals. It was not clear how many of the evacuees were suffering from COVID-19.

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NEW YORK — Two children and a teenager have now died in New York state from a possible complication from the coronavirus involving swollen blood vessels and heart problems, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.

More than 70 children in New York have been diagnosed with symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease — a rare inflammatory condition in children — and toxic shock syndrome. Most of them are toddlers and elementary-age children.

Cuomo announced the deaths of a 7-year old in Westchester County and a teenager in Suffolk County a day after discussing the death of a 5-year-old boy Thursday at a New York City hospital.

There is no proof that the virus causes the mysterious syndrome.

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WASHINGTON — U.S. regulators have approved a new type of coronavirus test that administration officials have promoted as a key to opening the country.

The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday announced emergency authorization for antigen tests developed by Quidel Corp. of San Diego. The test can rapidly detect fragments of virus proteins in samples collected from swabs swiped inside the nasal cavity, the FDA said in a statement.

The antigen test is the third type of test to be authorized by the FDA. Antigen tests can diagnose active infections by detecting the earliest toxic traces of the virus rather than the genetic code of the virus itself.

Currently, the only way to diagnose active COVID-19 is to test a patient’s nasal swab for the genetic material of the virus. While considered highly accurate, the tests can take hours and require expensive, specialized equipment mainly found at commercial labs, hospitals or universities.

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ROME — Italy says a near-record 4,008 people were released from hospitals in the past day after testing negative for COVID-19 as the country continues its cautious reopening after a two-month national lockdown.

Another 1,083 people tested positive, half of them in hard-hit Lombardy, bringing Italy’s confirmed number of cases to 218,268. Officials say the real number is as much as 10 times that.

Another 194 people died, one of the lowest day-to-day death tolls in recent weeks. The confirmed COVID-19 toll in the onetime European epicenter is 30,395.

Another 134 intensive care beds were freed up, bringing the total number close to 1,000. At the height of the outbreak, there were more than 4,000 people in ICUs, and the wards in Lombardy were nearly saturated.

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LONDON — The British government is making $3.1 billion (2 billion pounds) available to boost cycling and walking once lockdown restrictions are eased.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said at the government’s daily briefing that the package to put cycling and walking at “the heart of our transport policy” will be necessary, even after public transport networks get back to normal during the coronavirus pandemic. He said that because of the ongoing social distancing guidelines, trains and buses will operate at only 10% of capacity.

Shapps also said another 346 people who tested positive for COVID-19 have died in the U.K. in all settings, including hospitals and care homes. That increases the death toll in the U.K. to 31,587, the highest in Europe.

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ISTANBUL — Turkey reported 50 new COVID-19 deaths and 1,546 fresh cases Saturday as it prepared steps to return to normal life.

Total fatalities stand at 3,739, while infections number 137,115. According to figures posted on Twitter by Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, 89,480 patients have recovered.

Shopping malls, barber shops, hairdressers and beauty salons will open for business on Monday as Turkey starts easing restrictions.

Meanwhile, one of Turkey’s biggest soccer clubs, Besiktas, announced a player and a club employee had tested positive for the new coronavirus. Earlier this week, the Turkish Football Federation said matches behind closed doors would resume next month, prompting the resumption of limited training sessions.

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WASHINGTON — The federal government is sending supplies of the first drug that appears to help speed the recovery of some COVID-19 patients to six states, where it will be distributed by health departments.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Saturday that it is delivering 140 cases of the drug remdesivir to Illinois, 110 cases to New Jersey, 40 cases to Michigan, 30 cases each to Connecticut and Maryland and 10 cases to Iowa. Each case contains 40 vials of the drug, the department said in a statement.

“State and local health departments have the greatest insights into community-level needs in the COVID-19 response,” the statement said.

Earlier this week the government sent 565 cases to New York, 117 to Massachusetts, 94 to New Jersey, 38 to Indiana, 33 to Virginia, 30 to Rhode Island, and seven to Tennessee.

The company that makes the antiviral drug, California-based Gilead Sciences, has said it is donating its entire current stockpile to help in the U.S. pandemic response.

Remdesivir was cleared for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration last week.

The department says the doses have to go to more critical patients including those on ventilators or in need of supplemental oxygen.

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WASHINGTON — FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, is in self-quarantine for the next two weeks after coming in contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Stephanie Caccomo, a spokeswoman for the Food and Drug Administration, says Hahn tested negative for the virus after he learned of the contact. He wrote a note to staff on Friday to alert them to the contact.

Hahn was scheduled to testify before a Senate panel on Tuesday, along with infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci and CDC Director Robert Redfield.

The administration is not confirming the person Hahn had contact with that tested positive for the virus. But the news follows the confirmation that two people who work in the White House complex are known to have tested positive for the virus this week.

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BERLIN — A Germany union that represents workers in the food industry says recent coronavirus outbreaks in slaughterhouses were the result of “a sick system.”

Freddy Adjan, a senior NGG union official, says the meat industry has for years been relying on “dubious subcontractors” that exploit workers. “The employers aren’t just outsourcing the work, but handily also all responsibility to the subcontractors.”

The union wants comprehensive checks and rules for the industry, including for workers’ accommodation.

Adjan didn’t name specific companies. But a major meat producer in western Germany has come under fire after 180 workers in the town of Coesfeld tested positive for the virus. There’s also been a large outbreak at a slaughterhouse in northern Germany.

Adjan says “this crisis makes clear how overdue it is to press the stop button and end the ruinous price battle over meat.”

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ATHENS, Greece — Greek authorities announced one death from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 151.

There were 19 confirmed new infections to total 2,710. There are 28 people on ventilators and 86 people have exited intensive care.

Authorities are concerned about people flocking to beaches during the first weekend of relaxed quarantine measures. Young people also are congregating in public squares despite the ban on large groups and have occasionally clashed with police.

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MADRID — Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says loosening the nearly two-month lockdown will be for naught if people don’t obey social distancing rules.

He reminded Spaniards on Saturday, two days before 51% of the nation of 47 million will be allowed to sit at outdoor cafes, “the virus has not disappeared.”

On Monday, many regions not as hard hit by the virus will permit gatherings of up to 10 people and reopen churches, theaters, outdoor markets and other establishments with limits on occupancy.

Madrid and Barcelona will stay under stricter confinement. Two-meter social distancing rules remain in effect.

“The struggle goes on and will last until we find a vaccine,” Sanchez said. “Meanwhile, we have to live with the virus, that is why we must reinforce our health care system and strengthen its capabilities.”

Sánchez and Spain’s army have warned of possible surges in the coming months.

Spain’s health ministry reported 179 new confirmed deaths on Saturday, increasing the death toll to 26,478. A month ago, Spain was averaging 900 daily deaths.

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Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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Obama Worried Over Dropped Flynn Case, Warns in Leaked Call ‘Rule of Law Is at Risk’

The Justice Department’s official dismissal of the federal case against former Trump administration National Security Advisor Michael Flynn is not sitting well with former President Barack Obama.

According to Yahoo! News, Obama provided rare commentary on the matter Friday, referring to the decision as unprecedented and worrisome in a private online call with members of his former administration, now colloquially referred to as the Obama Alumni Association.

An audio recording of the call reveals the former president even alleged the “rule of law is at risk.”

“The news over the last 24 hours, I think, has been somewhat downplayed about the Justice Department dropping charges against Michael Flynn,” Obama said. “The fact that there is no precedent that anybody can find for someone who has been charged with perjury just getting off scot-free.

“That’s the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that basic — not just institutional norms — but our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk.

TRENDING: Joe Biden Shredded for Blunder-Filled Virtual Rally: ‘How Can a National Campaign Allow This To Happen?

“And when you start moving in those directions, it can accelerate pretty quickly as we’ve seen in other places,” Obama added.

He went on to suggest the Flynn decision should underline for left-wing political operatives the importance of the upcoming 2020 election, in which his former vice president, Joe Biden, is now the presumptive Democratic nominee.

According to The Associated Press, the charges against Flynn were dramatically dropped in a Thursday court filing brought by the Justice Department after a lengthy investigative case review conducted by U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen.

Amid then-special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to knowingly providing false statements in an interview with the FBI the previous January, Fox News reported.

Prior to President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the incoming national security advisor had been under scrutiny for alleged Logan Act violations resulting from foreign policy conversations with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transitionary period between the Obama and Trump administrations.

Despite his guilty plea, however, arguments raised by Flynn’s legal team over alleged potential evidentiary improprieties and prosecutorial misconduct prevented the courts from moving forward with sentencing — a matter further complicated by the subsequent withdrawal of the guilty plea after prosecutors retracted their recommendation that he serve no time behind bars. (The leniency guarantee was part of the original plea deal.)

Increasingly relevant among the concerns raised by the defense were allegations the FBI had withheld from Flynn the knowledge that false statements would constitute criminal activity and further advised against the presence of White House counsel during the interview.

FBI notes unsealed last week only served to further undermine the basis for the interview, indicating investigators had questioned whether their goal in interviewing him was to catch Flynn in a perjury trap.

RELATED: Barack Obama Laments Michael Jordan Not Supporting Democratic Political Causes

“What is our goal?” one of the notes read. “Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?”

The bombshell disclosure and immaterial nature of Flynn’s false statements would in turn lead the Justice Department to conclude the interview was “conducted without any legitimate investigative basis” and “untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn,” according to The AP.

“Through the course of my review of General Flynn’s case, I concluded the proper and just course was to dismiss the case,” Jensen said in a statement. “I briefed Attorney General Barr on my findings, advised him on these conclusions, and he agreed.”

Do you think General Flynn has been exonerated?

Brought about by Attorney General William Barr’s ordered investigation into the origins of the Russia probe, the development is yet another in a series of revelations which seems to call into question the legitimacy of both the procedure and foundations of the probe.

Obama’s remarks on the decision come the same week that the investigation seems to have uncovered a baseline knowledge of the probe and its activities among members of the Obama administration.

According to Fox News, recently unsealed notes from then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates reveal Obama and his FBI director, James Comey, were aware intelligence agents had wiretapped Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak in December 2016.

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

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Iceland uses coronavirus stimulus money to fight climate change

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Last week, the Icelandic government rolled out several new environmental policies and proposals addressing climate change as part of the country’s second COVID-19 economic stimulus package.

The plans included new funding for projects tackling climate change and a bid to ban certain single-use products.

In addition to the award of approximately $3.7 million to these projects, Icelandic Minister for the Environment Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson also introduced a bill to ban “unnecessary waste.”

The government’s investment will be used to increase carbon sequestration, accelerate switches to sustainable energy sources, and fund further climate research with the aim of meeting the terms of the United Nations’ Paris Climate Agreement.

ICELAND FOREST RANGERS ENCOURAGING CITIZENS TO HUG TREES DURING QUARANTINE

Around $1.3 million will be put to work aiming to naturally store carbon dioxide long-term in order to reduce levels of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere, according to The Reykjavik Grapevine.

A recent report in the newsletter Melting Glaciers revealed that glaciers in Iceland have been rapidly retreating for 25 years due to increasingly warming temperatures.

That said, skeptics have largely dismissed fears over man’s impact on global warming, saying climate change has been going on since the beginning of time. They’ve also claimed the dangers of a warming planet are being wildly exaggerated and question the impact that fossil fuels have had on climate change.

The grants in Iceland’s coronavirus relief include money for land reclamation projects, land quality recovery and creating new birch forests.

Last year, the first-ever study to determine how many trees the Earth could support showed that an area the size of the U.S. could be restored as forests with the potential of erasing nearly 100 years of carbon emissions.

Published in Science, “The global tree restoration potential” report found that there is enough suitable land to increase the world’s forest cover by one-third without affecting existing cities or agriculture. However, the amount of suitable land area diminishes as global temperatures rise. Even if global warming is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the area available for forest restoration could be reduced by one-fifth by 2050 because it would be too warm for some tropical forests.

Reforestation has long been a part of the Nordic country’s interest.

A girl holds a sign that reads ‘pull the emergency brake’ as she attends a ceremony in the area which once was the Okjokull glacier, in Iceland, Sunday, Aug. 18, 2019. With poetry, moments of silence and political speeches about the urgent need to fight climate change, Icelandic officials, activists and others bade goodbye to the first Icelandic glacier to disappear. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

When the Vikings first arrived in Iceland in the ninth century, the land was covered in 25 to 40 percent forest. Within a few centuries, almost all of the island’s trees were slashed and burned to make room for farming. This rapid deforestation has resulted in massive soil erosion that puts the 364,000-person island at risk for desertification.

The Icelandic Forest Service has since taken up the helm of bringing back the woodlands to the molten surface, and Iceland’s trees are slowly sprouting once again.

Icelandic Forest Service Director Þröstur Eysteinsson told National Geographic in a short documentary that he is optimistic in their pursuit.

“To see the forests growing to see that we’re actually doing some good is a very rewarding thing. A very satisfying thing,” he said.

“Knowing which trees to plant is actually harder than you’d think. We plant about three million seedlings per year in Iceland. Most people have simply, until now, you use what you have. Here in Iceland, it’s the native birch. [You] plant them and you expect that they grow. And then, the climate changes,” Eysteinsson continued.

“The winters have become milder. Many of the trees that we planted in the 1950s — especially Siberian Larchs — are literally dying after several decades of being reasonably good. [They’re] sitting there dead in the landscape and it’s difficult to find the money to do something else with the land. [It] becomes a problem,” he said.

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“Our aim is to produce the seed that we need here in Iceland that it will eventually all be of genetically well-adapted material,” he added.

In 2019, forestation activity took a leap with close to four million new trees planted — a million more than the year before.

The country aims to reach carbon neutrality before the year 2040.

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Trump drafts everyday Americans to adopt his battlefield rhetoric

A day later, the president was asked by reporters at the White House whether the new moniker was his way of telling the American people to swallow the fact that reopening the economy will result in more Covid-19 cases — and therefore more deaths.

“So I called these people warriors,” he responded, gesturing to nurses gathered behind him. “And I’m actually calling now … the nation warriors. We have to be warriors. We can’t keep our country closed down for years. And we have to do something.”

Trump has already dubbed himself a “wartime president,” invoking the language of military conflict as he confronts a “strong” and “tough” opponent — “the invisible enemy.”

But the past week marked a more deliberate messaging strategy as the White House shifted its efforts toward resuscitating a sputtering economy with the president’s own battle for reelection less than six months away.

Along with conscripting Americans as soldiers in the reopening effort, this week was also the first time Trump publicly compared the pandemic directly to two of the most notable national tragedies in modern American history.

“This is really the worst attack we’ve ever had. This is worse than Pearl Harbor. This is worse than the World Trade Center. There’s never been an attack like this,” he said at the White House on Wednesday. The comment immediately prompted questions about whether he viewed the outbreak, which has triggered conspiracy theories tied to its Chinese origins, as a deliberate act of war.

“I view it as a — well, I view the invisible enemy as a war. I don’t like how it got here because it could have been stopped,” he asserted later, correctly pointing out that coronavirus has killed many times the number of Americans as either attack.

Invoking the war metaphor is a natural impulse for leaders in crisis, even if it might not be the right fit for the current moment, said James J. Kimble, a Seton Hall University professor who studies war rhetoric.

“Almost any time there’s a national emergency of one sort or another … World War II is going to crop up. 9/11 starts to come up, too,” he said. “It’s sort of this existing cultural narrative — not really based so much on fact anymore, just a useful analogy.”

Those allusions by the president, he said, call forth a sense of urgency that general battlefield language might not, underscoring the notion that the outbreak was the kind of “surprise attack” that in America has often given way to a sense of unity afterward.

But the approach only goes so far in extending the label across the American public. “Where he’s going with it?” Kimble said. “OK, I’m a warrior. What does that mean?”

The wider American public is just the latest group Trump has drafted into battle. The designation has gradually broadened in scope as the crisis progressed.

In March, the White House constantly hailed the health care “warriors” on the front lines of the virus, as Trump described them in press briefings “running” into hospitals as if they were soldiers running into the line of fire.

Later it expanded to include other front-line workers, including truck drivers and grocery store workers — “such incredible bravery” — and touted the progress of a “unified national effort.”

It’s a tactic Trump has employed before in his presidency, with two other groups he asked to endure hardships on his behalf when he found himself in politically treacherous waters.

Earlier this year, when Washington was consumed with impeachment proceedings against the president, Trump repeatedly praised the Republican “warriors” in Congress who stood by his side.

Before that, he dubbed the nation’s battered farmers as warriors in his trade disputes with China, urging them to soldier through the financial hammering caused by retaliatory tariffs.

The same week he adopted the label of a “wartime president” was when he began to refer to the coronavirus as an “invisible enemy,” a description he’s used on a near-daily basis ever since.

That pivot came after weeks of criticism that Trump was not taking the virus seriously enough — just a week earlier he was still suggesting it would miraculously disappear — and questions about the White House’s fumbling of early testing efforts and the national lack of critical medical supplies.

While the nation’s testing capabilities are still not where experts say it needs to be for the economy to reopen, the Trump administration has significantly scaled up test production.

Social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home initiatives, meanwhile, have had the intended effect of flattening the curve of infections, preventing the kind of strain on hospital resources once feared.

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Barr uses the Justice Department for an evangelical Crusade and Inquisition

Last week Trump’s yes-man running the DOJ issued instructions to federal attorneys detailing their new job entailed serving as Inquisitors for the religious right in their Crusade to rule America. In this case the Crusade officially begins by using the Federal government, in concert with fundamentalist Christian conservatives, to punish state officials who dare to hold churches and religious leaders accountable to rules meant to preserve American lives.

Over the past four decades Christian fundamentalists have complained bitterly that the U.S. Constitution prevents them from forcing the rest of the population to comply with evangelicals’ religious edicts. Now that they have a so-called “god anointed” criminal in the Oval Office, and an honest-to-dog evangelical sleaze-bag running the Department of Justice, Christian fundamentalists are closer than ever to their goal of ruling America by Christian theocracy.

Although it is still in its infancy, the current iteration of American theocracy is run by a tyrannical dictator who certainly directed America’s top law enforcement officer to initiate a Christian Crusade and Inquisition. The initial steps include ferreting out state officials opposed to the evangelical belief that they, like their “anointed one” Trump, are above the law. It is the beginning of America under theocratic tyranny and sadly few Americans are appalled.

Anyone who believes Attorney General William Barr tasked federal attorneys with seeking out cases of so-called “religious persecution” due to the various shelter-in-place orders is an idiot. Barr has threatened to use the Department of Justice to enforce whatever the religious fanatics demand long before any shelter-in-place orders were issued and continued unabated even while Trump claimed the novel coronavirus was going to magically disappear.

According to Barr, there is a “militant secularist” movement intent on punishing evangelicals for no apparent reason; except to force Christians to abandon their beliefs. And, the dirty liar said that the poor beleaguered Christians never, never ever, try to force their agenda on anyone. Barr offered Cardinal Timothy Dolan, a fierce advocate for more religion in government, some Trumpian alternative reality. With a straight face Barr told Dolan:

The problem today is not that religious people are trying to impose their views on non-religious people, It’s the opposite — it’s that militant secularists are trying to impose their values on religious people, and they’re not accommodating the freedom of religion of people of faith.

We believe in the separation of church and state. But what permits a limited government and minimal command and control of the populationis the fact that they are a people that are capable of disciplining themselves according to moral values.”

Now, setting aside the rank hypocrisy, and flagrant lie, regarding secular people imposing their will on evangelicals, what should enrage every American is that Barr, almost certainly at Trump’s command, is echoing the evangelical agenda from a federal government agency. And, it is noteworthy that Barr betrays the idea of church/state separation by claiming that people can only have freedom if they live according to moral values evangelicals are anxious to define and implement.

Since that January interview, Barr has joined Trump and consulted conservative Christians for directions on battling (Democratic) governors because they failed to exempt evangelicals from stay at home orders. Orders Barr is well aware exist to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19 to safeguard tens-of-thousands of Americans’ lives. Always persecuted Christians consider safeguarding American lives an infringement on their religious freedom and Barr is not going to stand for it. Especially since he is head of the powerful Justice Department with a criminal in the Oval Office supporting his Crusade and Inquisition.

Even before Barr directed federal attorneys to give a rapid response to complaints lodged by Christian fundamentalists who oppose their Bible’s command to “obey the government” (and pay taxes), he was threatening to join any evangelical group’s lawsuit against state governors, especially Democrats. Barr threatened:

We’re looking carefully at a number of these rules that are being put into place. And if people bring lawsuits, we file statements siding with the plaintiffs.”

It is too bad Barr fails to spend as much time perusing legal precedent regarding religious freedom as he does conspiring with conservative religious groups to punish Democratic Governors for trying to protect their citizens’ lives. None other than now deceased uber-religious, and uber-conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia expressed the High Court’s ruling on religious freedom and obeying the law.

Like other large gatherings affected by shelter-in-place orders, religious services are governed by lawful directives. Longtime Republican David Frum noted over at “The Atlantic” that churches “are neither specially targeted nor specially exempted” from any valid State rules. Justice Antonin Scalia explained the High Court’s determination regarding the application of general rules to religious groups in a 1990 Supreme Court decision that neither Barr nor his evangelical masters believe is applicable in Trump’s theocracy. Scalia wrote:

We have never held that an individual’s religious beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that the State is free to regulate.

There is little doubt that the various shelter-in-place rules are not only valid, all of the states are free to issue them – particularly to preserve human life. However, evangelicals are not interested in preserving human life; they exist to preserve fetuses and zygotes. In fact, their demand to gather in large groups informs they have little regard for their fellow congregants lives and apparently neither does Attorney General Barr or his corrupt boss Trump.

Most Americans are unaware that using the federal government to implement a Christian theocracy is a crusade most of Trump’s administration subscribes to. It is no coincidence that many of Trump’s closest advisors and cabinet members are members of The Council for National Policy (CNP) whose mission is enforcing “Judeo-Christian values” under the Constitution by 2020. Obviously, using the Justice Department to do the theocrats’ bidding is crucial to the Council for National Policy’s plan to advance its theocratic mission.

Barr’s DOJ’s actions are in concert with those of an ALEC-like religious movement known as “Project Blitz.” The highly secretive evangelical legislative movement is working in conjunction with CNP to advance legislation founded on using “religious freedom” as a trojan horse for a Christian theocracy. Like the American Legislative Exchange Council, Project Blitz works to pass state-level legislation in hopes of reaching the theocratic majority on the Supreme Court to make religion by government edict “constitutional.”

Of course Trump could not possibly care less about evangelicals’ plan for America, but he does care deeply about doing anything the evangelical right demands to sustain their undying electoral support. That includes using the White House to call for church donations, suing states to restrict abortion and contraceptive access, as well as politicizing the Department of Justice to punish, mostly, Democratic governors for protecting their citizenry instead of pandering to religion.

Now, Attorney General Barr has taken pandering to religion to the next level by conferring with evangelical leaders for direction on how best to use the power of the federal government to punish anyone who fails to toe the evangelical line; even if it means spreading an incredibly virulent disease throughout the population with fervent Republican support for their long-dreamt-of Crusade and Inquisition to transform America into Christian theocracy.

It is a horribly sad commentary, but evangelical Republicans will almost certainly succeed because most Americans are too terrified of standing up to the religious right.

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As Obama Prepares to Join Campaign, Trump Moves to Discredit Russia Probe Started Under His Watch

In a leaked private call, former President Barack Obama outlined plans to campaign for Joe Biden, and he renewed his criticism of President Donald Tump in the wake of the Justice Department’s attempt to drop charges against Michael Flynn.

Obama conveyed his belief that the “rule of law is at risk” to a conference of around 3,000 administration alumni on Friday, emphasizing the importance of working to elect his former vice president in November.

A spokesperson for Obama confirmed to Newsweek the accuracy of the recording, which was obtained by Yahoo News. The spokesperson said that the focus of the call was to discuss electing “Biden and Democrats up and down the ballot this fall.”

“The news over the last 24 hours I think has been somewhat downplayed—about the Justice Department dropping charges against Michael Flynn,” Trump’s former national security advisor who pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI, Obama said in the call.

The Trump administration has worked to discredit the Russia investigation, which generated the Flynn case, and its foundations. Trump himself has repeatedly called the probe a “witch hunt,” especially after the special counsel’s final report did not offer evidence of a criminal conspiracy with Russian officials.

The same day as the Obama conference call, Trump dragged Biden into the fray, accusing the former vice president of being “involved in this very much,” referring to the Russia probe.

The Biden campaign did not immediately return a request for comment.


Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to guests at the Obama Foundation Summit on the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology on October 29, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. The Summit is an annual event hosted by the Obama Foundation.
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Obama has wavered on making a direct entrée into the 2020 campaign. These latest comments are certain to enflame an already tumultuous week for the now-terminated investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, which had been conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office and two congressional committees.

The investigation has already yielded prosecutions of six Trump associates and, owing to this latest flare-up from the Flynn case, it is likely to be a major touchpoint for the 2020 campaign.

A collection of new documents released this week further heightened fallout from the probe.

After receiving a request from Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley, the current and former chairmen of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Department of Justice unveiled a less-redacted copy of a “scope memo” outlining Mueller’s remit in late 2017.

The memo, from Rod Rosenstein, then the deputy attorney general overseeing the FBI’s Russia inquiry, explains that Mueller’s reach included potential dealings between former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Russia, Ukraine and bank executives.

Manafort was later sentenced to 7.5 years in prison following two separate prosecutions for tax fraud, bank fraud, money laundering and witness tampering.

Mueller’s expansive mandate, as outlined in the newly released memo, also included probes of George Papadopolous and Carter Page, two campaign associates, for potential Russian coordination.

Papadopolous was given a two-week jail sentence following a guilty plea for lying to the FBI. Mueller’s investigation “did not establish that Page coordinated with the Russian government in its efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election,” according to a final report released last year.

But ongoing scrutiny of the process that led to FBI surveillance of Page has spurred critics to question the bureau’s candor, especially in highly sensitive investigations such as the Russia matter and its predecessors. A report released by the Department of Justice inspector general in December found “serious performance failures” in the FBI’s multiple applications to surveil Page.

The newly released memo also shows that Mueller was given wide latitude to investigate Flynn, including for potential crimes involving acting as an unregistered agent for Turkey, making false statements to the FBI, failing to report foreign contacts and conversing with Russian officials.

That final mandate has irked critics, who believe that Rosenstein was conveying an authority to probe potential violations of the Logan Act, a law which has never before sustained a conviction and some scholars believe is unconstitutional.

Flynn’s case has become among the most contested of the Mueller team’s prosecutions. Trump has repeatedly voiced his view that the prosecution was a sham and has floated the prospect of a pardon.

Flynn’s attorneys have recently sought to withdraw his guilty plea. And new evidence was obtained showing what Flynn’s defenders believe to be improprieties surrounding the FBI’s fateful 2017 interview, which spurred the charges against Flynn of lying to federal investigators.

In internal notes from the time of the Flynn interview, FBI officials wondered what the goal of their conversation would be.

“Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?” one note said.

The Department of Justice then made the stunning move of requesting that Flynn’s prosecution be withdrawn, saying that the 2017 interview was not material to the FBI’s investigation, a prerequisite for a successful prosecution.

Also this week, the House Intelligence Committee published thousands of pages of transcripts from closed-door interviews while its Russia investigation was still active. Most of the contents of the interviews have already been characterized publicly, but the documents provide a clearer picture of how House lawmakers were conducting a politically charged probe.

“Counsel, it sounds like what you’re saying then is you have not been instructed to invoke privilege,” Congressman Adam Schiff, then the ranking member on the Intelligence Committee, said in February 2018, butting heads with counsel during an interview with Hope Hicks. “You’ve merely been instructed to refuse to answer questions. We don’t recognize that as a valid claim of privilege.”

Claims of privilege and refusals to answer questions would become a familiar refrain in the House’s probe.

Hicks, then the White House communications director, divulged later in the interview that senior Trump associates had discussed concerns Manafort was stealing from the campaign.

An interview the following month with Corey Lewandowski, a former Trump campaign manager in 2016, contained multiple expletives, including one that was directed at Democratic lawmakers, who themselves used expletives when conducting the interview.

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In ongoing church-state COVID-19 clashes, two more victories for religious freedoms

For the second time, a federal judge has issued a restraining order against Kentucky officials who moved to block church services during the coronavirus shutdown.

U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove ruled Friday night in favor of Tabernacle Baptist Church of Nicholasville and against Democratic Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s order that threatened criminal penalties for violations of a prohibition on in-person church services.

Last month, a federal judge issued a similar order for a church in the Louisville area. These cases and others in Mississippi, New York, and Washington state have highlighted the clash between secular and ecclesiastical authorities in states that have tried to shutdown activity in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Attorney General William Barr has sided with religious freedom advocates, saying the Justice Department would cast a jaundiced eye on efforts to curtail worship.

“If social distancing is good enough for Home Depot and Kroger, it is good enough for in-person religious services which, unlike the foregoing, benefit from constitutional protection,” Mr. Van Tatenhove wrote. “The Constitution will endure. It would be easy to put it on a shelf in times like this, to be pulled down and dusted off when more convenient. But that is not our tradition. Its enduring quality requires that it be respected even when it is hard.”

Attorneys for the church welcomed the decision.

“Judge Van Tatenhove recognized that Governor Beshear’s order unlawfully prohibit religious worship and violates the First Amendment,” said Roger Byron, senior counsel with First Liberty, a religious non-profit that represented the church along with attorneys at WilmerHale.

“The state cannot forbid people to assemble in a room for a religious reason but allow them to assemble in a room for a secular reason,” said Matthew Martens, a partner at WilmerHale. “The governor’s order does just that, and that is a textbook violation of the free exercise of religion.”

The church will continue to abide by social distancing guidelines and take strict sanitization steps after each service, the attorneys said.

The ruling came hours after a federal court hearing in Washington at which state officials dropped their opposition to a one-on-one Bible study class. Joshua Freed, a Republican candidate for governor this November, had filed motions arguing a ban on his proposal to move his Bible study session outdoors and involve just two people practicing social distancing was an improper infringement on his First Amendment rights.

Washington Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s shelter-in-place rules that were extended to religious gatherings were too extreme, according to Mr. Freed’s lawyers.

“The governor conceded that Mr. Freed can have a one-on-one Bible study and that he will not enforce the rules against home Bible studies on a one-on-one basis,” said Hiram Sasser, executive general counsel at First Liberty. “The governor’s attorneys, during the proceeding, made various statements that indicate the governor may not take any steps to enforce any shut down orders that affect religious activities even beyond the Bible study at issue.”

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