Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison called for an investigation into the “real legitimate evidence” that the crimes committed during Minneapolis’ George Floyd protests have been committed by outsiders who are part of “a very serious operation.”
During this morning’s press conference, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey all said that the criminal actors in this week’s protests seem to be from outside the community. Walz is now consulting with the Department of Homeland Security about the possibility of foreign intervention.
MSNBC host Joy Reid broke away from the presser to discuss the issue with Minnesota’s Attorney General Keith Ellison. In addition to the fact that Carter said that every person arrested last night was from outside the state, Ellison said there is video evidence of outside infiltration, too.
ELLISON: My reaction is that just a few days ago, on like the second day of protests, there was a man who was dressed in all black, he was a Caucasian person. He had a gas mask, black gloves, an umbrella. It was not raining, and he was smashing windows and apparently throwing incendiary devices into businesses that had nothing to do with the tragedy around Mr. Floyd. And so people, protesters photographed this.
The video is existing and you can see it. And they confronted him, who are you and he just walked away. That led me to believe that there is real legitimate evidence that this is a very serious operation being done to tarnish the legitimate protest that is going on. We need an investigation on who these people are and their identity and I will just say as I close, that when Jamar Clark protest was going on, a group of white supremacists went on Facebook announcing they were going to attack the protests, did so, but — and then shot people. They were caught and then they were prosecuted. So, we know that this kind of thing happens, it’s planned. We have no good reason to believe that it’s not happening now. It needs to be a separate and independent investigation.
REID: Do you believe this is an organized operation against the protesters and against the city of Minneapolis and against the state?
ELLISON: I have every — and against civil society. I have every reason to believe that the facts exist to launch that investigation and I will say this. The people who would go out on the street to protest for justice for Mr. Floyd are not going to burn down the historic social justice advocacy groups that are for the Native American community. The Bengali vegan restaurant, they’re not gonna do that. That’s not what these kind of folks do. They’re not gonna leave the south side of Minneapolis, come all the way to the north side and attack the only grocery store that low-income African Americans use all the time to get foods and as well as the Walgreens. It doesn’t make sense at all.
This violence is widespread. The people appear very well organized. There are pictures of these folks. We need to identify them and hold them accountable and prosecute them and we need to remember the Jamar Clark case where organized white supremacists were caught, committed assault, attempted murder and criminally prosecuted for attacking the protest. I think that there’s ample reason for us to investigate that and I absolutely urge that we do and I think that that is a critical factor of what’s going on here.
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A California church argued that restrictions on public gatherings treated houses of worship worse than many businesses.
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Friday turned away a request from a church in California to block enforcement of state restrictions on attendance at religious services.
The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s four-member liberal wing to form a majority.
“Although California’s guidelines place restrictions on places of worship, those restrictions appear consistent with the free exercise clause of the First Amendment,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote in an opinion concurring in the unsigned ruling.
“Similar or more severe restrictions apply to comparable secular gatherings, including lectures, concerts, movie showings, spectator sports and theatrical performances, where large groups of people gather in close proximity for extended periods of time,” the chief justice wrote. “And the order exempts or treats more leniently only dissimilar activities, such as operating grocery stores, banks and laundromats, in which people neither congregate in large groups nor remain in close proximity for extended periods.”
Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh noted dissents.
“The church and its congregants simply want to be treated equally to comparable secular businesses,” Justice Kavanaugh wrote in a dissenting opinion joined by Justices Thomas and Gorsuch. “California already trusts its residents and any number of businesses to adhere to proper social distancing and hygiene practices.”
“The state cannot,” Justice Kavanaugh wrote, quoting from an appeals court decision in a different case, “‘assume the worst when people go to worship but assume the best when people go to work or go about the rest of their daily lives in permitted social settings.’”
The court’s ruling was its first attempt to balance the public health crisis against the Constitution’s protection of religious freedom. And it expanded the Supreme Court’s engagement with the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, after rulings on voting in Wisconsin and prisons in Texas and Ohio.
The case was brought by the South Bay United Pentecostal Church in Chula Vista, Calif., which said Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, had lost sight of the special status of religion in the constitutional structure.
“The Covid-19 pandemic is a national tragedy,” lawyers for the church wrote in their Supreme Court brief, “but it would be equally tragic if the federal judiciary allowed the ‘fog of war’ to act as an excuse for violating fundamental constitutional rights.”
The brief, filed May 23, asked the justices to block a ruling the day before from a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, saying that the shutdown orders did not single out houses of worship for unfavorable treatment. The majority said state officials had struck an appropriate balance.
“We’re dealing here with a highly contagious and often fatal disease for which there presently is no known cure,” the majority wrote in an unsigned opinion that went on to quote a famous dissent from a 1947 Supreme Court decision. “In the words of Justice Robert Jackson, if a ‘court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact.’”
In dissent, Judge Daniel P. Collins wrote that California had failed “to honor its constitutional duty to accommodate a critical element of the free exercise of religion — public worship.”
“I do not doubt the importance of the public health objectives that the state puts forth,” Judge Collins wrote, “but the state can accomplish those objectives without resorting to its current inflexible and overbroad ban on religious services.”
“Today, I’m identifying houses of worship — churches, synagogues and mosques — as essential places that provide essential services,” he said, adding: “The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important, essential places of faith to open right now, for this weekend. If they don’t do it, I will override the governors.”
Three days later, Mr. Newsom issued additional guidance for houses of worship, requiring them to “limit attendance to 25 percent of building capacity or a maximum of 100 attendees, whichever is lower.”
“Plaintiffs’ sanctuary seats 600 persons, and each service normally brings in between 200 and 300 congregants,” the brief said. “Some of the larger houses of worship in California can seat 1,000 congregants or more. But under California’s guidelines, plaintiffs will only be permitted to welcome 100 congregants, with no explanation as to the justification for this arbitrary cap. In contrast, there is no percentage limitation for manufacturing and warehousing facilities — simply a social distancing requirement.”
“A review of California’s sector-specific guidelines shows that the only two industries with percentage caps are retail and houses of worship,” the brief said, “and retail is set at a 50 percent cap. Offices, manufacturing, food packaging, museums, and every other sector has no percentage cap.”
The court also acted on a second case on Friday, that one brought by two Chicago-area churches, Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church and Logos Baptist Ministries. They said an order from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, discriminated against houses of worship.
The order, lawyers for the churches told the Supreme Court, imposes “a unique 10-person limit on religious worship services that is not imposed on customers or employees of ‘big box’ retail stores, liquor stores, restaurants, office buildings, warehouses, factories or other businesses and activities which, like worship services, have been deemed ‘essential’” by Mr. Pritzker.
Lower courts had refused to block the order, saying the distinctions it drew were sensible.
“Gatherings at places of worship pose higher risks of infection than gatherings at businesses,” wroteJudge Robert W. Gettleman of the Federal District Court in Chicago. “The congregants do not just stop by Elim Church. They congregate to sing, pray and worship together. That takes more time than shopping for liquor or groceries.”
A unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in Chicago, refused to stay Judge Gettleman’s ruling while the churches pursued an appeal.
In a preliminary and unsigned assessment of the case, the panel wrote that “the executive order does not discriminate against religious activities, nor does it show hostility toward religion.”
“It appears instead to impose neutral and generally applicable rules,” the panel wrote. “The executive order’s temporary numerical restrictions on public gatherings apply not only to worship services but also to the most comparable types of secular gatherings, such as concerts, lectures, theatrical performances or choir practices, in which groups of people gather together for extended periods, especially where speech and singing feature prominently and raise risks of transmitting the Covid-19 virus.”
“Worship services,” the panel wrote, “do not seem comparable to secular activities permitted under the executive order, such as shopping, in which people do not congregate or remain for extended periods.”
On Thursday, Mr. Pritzker announced that he was lifting the 10-person limit on religious gatherings. That made the case moot, the state’s lawyers wrote in a Supreme Court brief.
In response, the churches urged the court to rule, saying the governor remained free to change his mind. “Churches are one whim away from being once again subjected to the restrictions they challenge in this case and which the governor obviously still favors,” lawyers for the churches wrote.
In its order turning down the churches’ request on Friday, the Supreme Court noted the new guidance, adding that it would allow the churches to file “a new motion for appropriate relief if circumstances warrant.”
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A new report from the Skagit County Public Health Department in Washington state published by the CDC Friday, shows how quickly the coronavirus spread after a choir practice became a “superspreader event” for the disease that infected 86% of attending members and killed two of them.
Now state health officials say the findings in the report, based on the experience of Skagit Valley Chorale that normally rehearses at the Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church on Tuesday evenings and once a month on a Saturday morning, could have significant implications for future church gatherings.
“It’s really important that people realize that by meeting, by gathering, 86% of them could become ill and the results and aftermath of that is hard to fathom,” Skagit County Health Officer Dr. Howard Leibrand said in a King 5 report.
The report from the health department showed how the 122-member chorale was likely exposed to a “superemitter” of the virus who attended choir practice on March 3 and March 10.
“One person at the March 10 practice had cold-like symptoms beginning March 7. This person, who had also attended the March 3 practice, had a positive laboratory result for SARS-CoV-2 by reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing,” the report said.
Of the 78 members who attended the March 3 practice, 51 or 65.4% of them got infected with the virus. All but one of the infected individuals from the March 3 practice were among the 60 members who also attended the March 10 practice, 86.7% of them tested positive for the disease. Among the 21 members who only attended the March 3 practice only one of them became ill.
“The 2.5-hour singing practice provided several opportunities for droplet and fomite transmission, including members sitting close to one another, sharing snacks, and stacking chairs at the end of the practice. The act of singing, itself, might have contributed to transmission through emission of aerosols, which is affected by loudness of vocalization,” the report said.
“Certain persons, known as superemitters, who release more aerosol particles during speech than do their peers, might have contributed to this and previously reported COVID-19 superspreading events,” the researchers added.
They explained that the findings from this event shows “the high transmissibility” of the coronavirus as well as “the possibility of superemitters contributing to broad transmission in certain unique activities and circumstances.”
“They were sitting closely together and spending time there and then they would switch chairs, share snacks, and they might have touched surfaces other people infected touched,” Lea Hamner, co-author of the report and communicable disease and epidemiology lead at Skagit County Health told King 5.
All of this activity occurred at a time when Skagit Valley had no reported cases yet even though the first coronavirus case was confirmed in Washington state on Jan. 21.
In a March 23 statement, the Skagit Valley Chorale said that during the dates they were holding rehearsals, schools, restaurants, churches, bowling alleys, banks, libraries, theaters, and other businesses also remained open.
“The advice from the state of Washington was to limit gatherings to 250 people. There were no recommendations from Skagit County Health Department regarding meeting sizes, but they did state that people over 60 should avoid ‘large public gatherings,’” the group said.
Still, the chorale’s board of directors tried to be careful. They urged all members to stay away from rehearsals on March 3 and March 10 if they showed any symptoms of illness, no matter the cause.
They also advised anyone who felt their health or safety was in jeopardy to not attend.
“Each member was left to determine for him/herself whether to attend. At no time was anyone pressured to attend if they were uncomfortable doing so,” the group said.
Despite the precautions taken, however, very few of the chorale members were spared from contracting the virus.
As a result of the high transmissibility of the virus the researchers recommend that people avoid face-to-face contact with others, not gather in groups, avoid crowded places, maintain physical distancing of at least 6 feet to reduce transmission, and wear cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
Alan Cross, a Southern Baptist pastor in California and the author ofWhen Heaven and Earth Collide: Racism, Southern Evangelicals, and the Better Way of Jesus, argued in a New York Times op-ed Thursday that while some churches are pushing to reopen despite the lack of a vaccine for the coronavirus — and there’s no guarantee that there ever will be a vaccine for COVID-19 — most churches are taking the virus seriously.
“While pastors defying closure orders have grabbed headlines, the reality is that over 90 percent of pastors and church leaders complied with shutdown orders in March and many are still waiting until later in May and into June before resuming public worship — even in states where restrictions are weakening,” he wrote. “Most pastors that I have engaged with take seriously the responsibility to navigate this national tragedy with wisdom, compassion and patience.”
In Alabama for example, even though Gov. Kay Ivey is now allowing churches to resume meeting, many churches in Alabama continue to use online services and plan to wait a bit longer before reopening for in-person services.
The largest church in the state, the Church of the Highlands, will continue to emphasize watching online services and Pastor Chris Hodges, said there were no plans to return to in-person group worship before May 31.
Ivey’s pastor, the Rev. Jay Wolf, pastor of Montgomery First Baptist who advised her on church safety issues, told AL.com that he believes it will be no sooner than May 31 before in-person services begin. Even then, he said, it might not even be safe for a large church to meet in person.
Bishop Stephen A. Davis, pastor of the 5,000-member Refresh Family Church, formerly known as New Birth Birmingham, told AL.com that right now, “We still think it’s too risky.”
“We’re waiting another couple of weeks just to be safe,” Davis said. “Just because the state reopens businesses doesn’t mean it’s safe to bring that many people together.”
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QAnon adherents, insofar as I’ve seen photosofthem at President Trump’s campaign rallies or attached to reports on the conspiracy theory they profess, are remarkable mainly for how normal they appear. They look like Midwestern moms or the guy in your neighborhood who lets everyone borrow his pickup.
Still, QAnon isn’t mainstream, at least not yet. A CNN poll published last month found 76 percent of Americans have never heard of it. But QAnon’s affection for Trump and visibility at his events are raising the theory’s profile — and the QAnon movement is evolving in a curious way: It’s spawning a new religion, maybe even the first of new breed of religious organization in America.
The QAnon movement started on 4chan, an anonymous message board influential in online culture but generally considered outside the bounds of the respectable internet, not least because it has repeatedly made the news in connection to child pornography. That makes the site an odd first home for QAnon, whose narrative centers on a cabal of powerful figures in government, business, academia, and media who make time for child sex trafficking and satanic sacrifice in their busy schedule of world domination. Q is the movement’s anonymous digital prophet whose forum posts (“Q drops,” now migrated from 4chan to a similar site called 8kun) reveal both the nature of the cabal and Trump’s heroic plan to defeat it. QAnon’s most fervent followers reach a point of obsession, clinging to it even at cost of total estrangement from their bewildered families.
An in-depth report on QAnon in The Atlantic‘s June issue closes with the suggestion that QAnon could become the latest in a series of “thriving religious movements indigenous to America.” But research from a Concordia University doctoral student, Marc-André Argentino, shows the church of QAnon already exists and seems poised to spread. Argentino attended an online QAnon church where, he reports, two-hour Sunday services with several hundred attendees consist of prayer, communion, and interpretation of the Bible in light of Q drops and vice versa. The leaders’ goal, Argentino says, “is to train congregants to form their own home congregations in the future and grow the movement.”
It’s not inconceivable that they’ll succeed, especially after pandemic restrictions ease and in-person gatherings resume. (The pandemic, of course, fits neatly into the QAnon narrative as a plot to oust Trump before the mass arrests and executions of cabal members can begin.) Many QAnon members express a desire for community, describing how they try to convert loved ones to their cause and browse QAnon hashtags to make like-minded friends. QAnon church would fill that need, as religious gatherings long have done.
That’s what makes me think the church of QAnon may be a portent of things to come: Traditional religiosity is declining in America, but humanity will not cease to be religious. It will merely diversify its sources of increasingly customized religiosity. From lapsed evangelicals, as many QAnon adherents seem to be, to religiously unaffiliated “nones,” people crave the community, meaning, and purpose church provides, even if they abandon or reject its teachings.
Satisfying that craving with politics and conspiracy theories isn’t new, but the QAnon church’s self-description as a church stands out. It’s one thing for outside observers to characterize a political movement as religious in its enthusiasm or expectations of loyalty; it’s another for participants to explicitly brand their own community as religious and start holding services.
Whether other groups, especially of dramatically different political persuasions, will make the same leap is difficult to say. Could we see something comparable on the left?
On the one hand, there is some unique resonance with this style of religiosity and the political right. QAnon builds on apocalyptic thinking common in parts of evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity in America. Q drops frequently include Bible passages, and the style of study of scripture and Q texts employed — the careful search for hidden prophetic meaning and correspondence to history and current events — is very much a creature of the religious right, an heir aberrant of Left Behind and The Late, Great Planet Earth.
On the other hand, one of the strangest things about QAnon is it’s a conspiracy theory born of victory, not defeat. Trump is president, after all. But typically, “conspiracy theories are for losers,” University of Miami political scientist Joseph Uscinski toldThe Daily Beast. “Normally you don’t expect the winning party to use them.” And perhaps this is why QAnon is taking a religious form: Having Trump in power allows for hope where most conspiracy theories offer only an account of evil. QAnon adherents believe their work decoding Q drops contributes to an achievable final triumph. Forming communities, then, has a purpose beyond commiseration.
If the victory-born nature of QAnon is thus significant, we might look for similar “churches” to pop up elsewhere as the national balance of power shifts. A Democratic president in the Trumpian mold — a populist demagogue prone to attributing every failure to sabotage — could inspire something similar. I wouldn’t expect the same Christian syncretism, but neopaganism (remember the story of the Brooklyn witches hexing Brett Kavanaugh?) or broadly new-age spiritualism might do the trick, producing a service with, say, meditation and a spell instead of prayer and communion.
Q, for one, would no doubt take this development in stride, adding it to the QAnon mythology for his followers — er, parishioners? — to parse next Sunday.
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Along with the deluded “Jesus is my vaccine” whackjobs, the conspiracy charlatans are peddling their own anti-science snake oil and superstition faster than any coronavirusvirus.
“Hundreds of you have requested that I watch and respond to the Plandemic movie ft. Dr. Judy Mikovits, recently published on social media. I decided to check it out and respond point by point to the biggest claims the conspiracy theory movie makes.”
Florida-based security firm Silvercorp USA has come under scrutiny following a failed attempt to topple Venezuela’s president.
“The former US soldier, who was pictured organising a Trump rally in North Carolina in October 2018, told a Miami TV station on Sunday he had decided to reveal the identity of his client as he was never paid, and instead had to raise money via “crowd-funding” donations, including from Venezuelan Uber drivers in Colombia. To back up his story, Mr Goudreau showed a copy of the alleged contract, and an audio recording in which he appears to be speak by telephone with Mr Guaido.”
In liberal democracies, the integrity, impartiality and professionalism of intelligence agencies matters. That’s why it is essential that intelligence agencies remain aloof, not only from the political debates of the day, but also from the policy decisions that individual governments may take. The intelligence community’s core task is to provide brutally realistic analysis on the threat environments we face so that governments can then make the best-informed policy decisions possible to preserve our common security.
The failures of the intelligence community before the Iraq war, the gullibility of much of the western media, as well as the cynical manipulation of both by the political class of the day, provide us with a stark reminder of what can go radically wrong. On 8 September 2002 the New York Times published one of this century’s most consequential news articles. The front-page story, supplied by the Bush administration, claimed that Saddam Hussein had stepped up his quest for weapons of mass destruction by acquiring key components for a nuclear weapon. In the UK, the Blair government’s “dodgy dossier” compounded the error. John Howard did the same in Australia. The problem was that it just wasn’t true. These were over-egged stories designed to soften the public up for what would become a disastrous war.
The invasion of Iraq in March 2003 casts a long shadow. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed, first in the invasion, then the ensuing chaos, then in the rise and fall of Islamic State. It strengthened Iran’s hand in both Iraq and Syria. It contributed to a massive outflow of refugees across the world, a factor in the resurgence of the far right across Europe. And Washington has spent nearly two decades trapped in a Middle Eastern mess of its own making, diverting much of its attention from China’s regional and global rise.
Lies were reported as facts. Credible sceptics were downplayed, ignored or attacked as unpatriotic “appeasers”. The thrill of landing a big “story” overtook the media’s fundamental duty to prevent the public from being deceived. Journalists who believed they were muscling up to a looming security threat turned out to be working instead against their own countries’ long-term interests. And in all this the Murdoch media were leading the pack across the anglosphere as the unrelenting cheerleaders for war – and vilifying those, like me, who opposed it.
This brings us to the Covid-19 pandemic and the public health and economic mayhem it has unleashed across the globe. The sheer magnitude of the damage means that the people of the world have every right to know how this came about. Whether China’s new class of “wolf warrior” diplomats care to recognise it or not, there are fundamental questions we can all legitimately demand answers to. These include the origin of the virus in Wuhan; whether the earliest genetic evidence of the outbreak has been properly preserved for independent research; the danger of wildlife “wet markets” in the transmission of such viruses; what delays occurred in notifying central authorities; why some local medical staff were either silenced or punished; what delay occurred in notifying the World Health Organization of human-to-human transmission, given China’s obligations under the relevant international health regulations. There are also fundamental questions on whether the WHO properly discharged its mandate to provide clear and early warnings to the international community. And whether national governments took all necessary actions to prepare for the virus reaching their own shores, or whether these warnings were effectively ignored – as appears to have been the case in the US.
But amid all these questions, and the parallel debate about the mechanism now needed to conduct an effective international inquiry, we suddenly have a unilateral declaration by the US president and his secretary of state that the body of evidence overwhelmingly points to the virus having leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where research projects have been under way into various categories of coronavirus borne by bats. They claim a “high degree of confidence” in this theory, citing compelling but as-yet undisclosed evidence – despite the US director of national intelligence issuing a rare public statement disparaging this theory.
The bitter lessons of Iraq appear to have been lost on Trump and the Murdoch empire that supports him
Enter the “global exclusive” story of Rupert Murdoch’s Australian Daily Telegraph last weekend, headlined “China’s batty science – bombshell dossier lays out the case against the People’s Republic”. The paper claims to have been leaked a 15-page research dossier prepared by unnamed “western governments” on the Chinese government’s culpability for the outbreak. The clear inference from the Telegraph report is that the document was prepared by the “Five Eyes” intelligence community linking the US, UK, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand intelligence services. Other Murdoch journalists, re-reporting the story, have expressly stated it was a Five Eyes document. While the article itself shies away from stating explicitly the document’s authorship, the newspaper goes on to detail a number of investigatory actions being undertaken by the Five Eyes to nail the Chinese state’s responsibility.
The most critical part of the Telegraph newspaper report deals with apparent divisions among the wider intelligence community on the authenticity of the “Wuhan laboratory leak” thesis. And it’s here that Murdoch’s paper becomes explicit in its assertion that the Five Eyes research dossier helps validate the as-yet-unproven claim by Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo that the virus was “invented” at the Wuhan laboratory. The article and associated stories are laced with colourful reporting about Chinese “bat virus” researchers – “bat men”, “bat women” and other tales from the Wuhan bat cave. Nonetheless, having delivered its political ordinance in support of Trump and Pompeo, the Murdoch story carefully and cleverly seeks to cover its traces by stating repeatedly that nothing is yet proven about the laboratory leak.
The Murdoch journalist in question, Sharri Markson, a few days later pops up as the prime interview on the Murdoch-owned US cable TV network Fox News. The interviewer is none other than Trump’s personal favourite, Tucker Carlson, who together with Sean Hannity are his cheerleaders-in-chief in the American media. Right on cue, Tucker chimes in that the dossier “is the most substantial confirmation of what we’ve suspected that we’ve had so far” and that “because it’s a multinational effort I think it would be hard to dismiss it as a political document”.
The truth is, at this stage, none of us know definitively whether the virus came from the Wuhan laboratory. The best we can do is accept the Australian government’s assertion that this is at best a 5% possibility. Politically, the bottom line is that the leak of this alleged Five Eyes intelligence dossier to the Murdoch media in Australia, before being resold back into the US political audience by the very same Murdoch media, appears designed to back Trump’s and Pompeo’s claim. But this time with the added “authenticity” factor of the dossier being “multinational” and not just a normal drop from the White House to Fox, which have become a dime a dozen.
This is all about US presidential politics. There are three issues in this campaign: Trump’s handling of the virus; how to dig the US out of its virus-induced economic hole; and who can be most hardline on China – the Donald or “Beijing Biden”, as the Republicans now seek to tag his Democratic opponent. There’s little else on the table. Therefore, using an intelligence leak pushing Chinese culpability, laundered through a foreign country, turbocharged with the credibility factor of being an alleged Five Eyes product, helps the partisan political cause. And let’s be clear: Murdoch is campaigning full-bore for Trump.
Here are questions now for the Australian government and potentially its Five Eyes partners. First, was this an “intelligence” product, or was it simply open source material derived from information in the public domain? Second, was it an authorised Five Eyes product, or was just prepared in the US? Third, who leaked it, given that leaking such material is a criminal offence – as the US has made plain in its handling of Chelsea Manning’s and Julian Assange’s cases that included the large-scale unauthorised release of classified Five Eyes material. Were any ministers of the Australian government complicit in this? Or was the US embassy in Canberra involved? If the Australian government is serious about the protection of classified documents, then why hasn’t a full police investigation been commissioned? Or is the government fearful of what it might discover if, as is likely, the leak has been driven by political and electoral interests within the US.
The extent to which the Australian intelligence community has sought to distance itself from the “dossier” suggests it does not wish to be in any way drawn into domestic politics – either Australian or American. The British intelligence community is reportedly doing the same. This is good. These institutions appear to have learnt from the Iraq war fiasco and the political abuse of intelligence agencies that occurred at that time. But on this question, the bitter lessons of Iraq appear to have been lost on Trump and the Murdoch empire that supports him.
China has much to answer for, including the ultimate origins of the virus. But if Trump’s claim in the Wuhan laboratory saga ultimately ends up being disproven, either by the Five Eyes or by US intelligence itself, then the irony is that the net political winner will be China. Remember the humiliation when no WMD were found in Iraq? Beijing would seek to exonerate itself as a result of egregious presidential overreach – once again aided and abetted by the Murdoch media. This is why the watchword of any sophisticated intelligence agency is caution in endorsing premature conclusions until all the facts are on the table.
Cardinal George Pell was aware of children being sexually abused within the Archdiocese of Ballarat, Australia’s child abuse royal commission found, and it was “implausible” that other senior church figures did not tell Pell abuse was occurring.
While the commission delivered its final report to parliament in December 2017 following a comprehensive five year inquiry into abuse in institutions throughout Australia, survivors and advocates have been forced to wait for the findings relating to Pell because of legal action against him. There was concern the findings would prejudice a jury, so they were withheld. Pell was acquitted in April of child sexual abuse charges and released from jail, clearing the way for the report to be made public.
The commission heard allegations in 2015 that when Pell was a priest in Ballarat, he tried to bribe a child sexual abuse victim, David Ridsdale, to keep quiet about his molestation at the hands of his uncle and then priest, Gerald Francis Ridsdale.
“George then began to talk about my growing family and my need to take care of their needs,” David Ridsdale told the royal commission. “He mentioned how I would soon have to buy a car or house for my family.” Pell repeatedly said he was not aware that Gerald Ridsdale was abusing children at the time.
But the royal commission found: “We are satisfied that in 1973 Father Pell turned his mind to the prudence of Ridsdale taking boys on overnight camps”.
“The most likely reason for this, as Cardinal Pell acknowledged, was the possibility that if priests were one-on-one with a child then they could sexually abuse a child or at least provoke gossip about such a prospect. By this time, child sexual abuse was on his radar, in relation to not only Monsignor Day but also Ridsdale. We are also satisfied that by 1973 Cardinal Pell was not only conscious of child sexual abuse by clergy but that he also had considered measures of avoiding situations which might provoke gossip about it.”
We do not accept that Bishop Pell was deceived, intentionally or otherwise Royal commission finding
The commission said, however, it was not satisfied that Pell sought to obtain David Ridsdale’s silence. “It is more likely that Mr Ridsdale misinterpreted an offer by Bishop Pell to assist as something more sinister,” the commission found. “There is no compelling reason for the then bishop to make such a statement. Knowledge about Ridsdale’s offending was widespread in the community, as we have set out earlier in this report. Finally, Mr Ridsdale’s interpretation of the discussion is not consistent with him seeking a private process.”
Gerald Ridsdale committed more than 130 offences against children as young as four between the 1960s and 1980s, including while working as a school chaplain at St Alipius boys’ school in Ballarat. He is now in prison.
Pell, who supported Ridsdale during his first court appearance for child sex offences in 1993, has always denied knowing of any child abuse occurring in Ballarat while he worked there as a priest and with a clerical group called the College of Consultors during the 1970s and 1980s. Pell also spent time living with Gerald Ridsdale in 1973, but has said he had no idea he was a paedophile.
The commission has previously heard Pell was involved in a College of Consultors decision to move Ridsdale from the Mortlake parish in Ballarat to Sydney in 1982. Evidence from the hearings has revealed priests and clergy staff accused of abusing children within the archdiocese of Melbourne were sometimes “dealt with” by the church by transferring them to other parishes. Pell said senior figures around him deceived him about the extent of abuse within the Catholic church.
But the commission found: “We are satisfied that Cardinal Pell’s evidence as to the reasons that the CEO deceived him was implausible. We do not accept that Bishop Pell was deceived, intentionally or otherwise”.
Pell had told the commission that investigating paedophile priest Peter Searson was not his responsibility because he believed the Catholic Education Office and the Bishop of Ballarat, Ronald Mulkearns, were handling allegations that Searson was abusing children. Pell gave evidence that he was handed a list of incidents and grievances about Searson in 1989, which included reports Searson had abused animals in front of children and was using children’s toilets. But Pell said this was not enough information for him to act.
The commission found “these matters, in combination with the prior allegation of sexual misconduct, ought to have indicated to Bishop Pell that Father Searson needed to be stood down”.
“It was incumbent on Bishop Pell, as an auxiliary bishop with responsibilities for the welfare of the children in the Catholic community of his region, to take such action as he could to advocate that Father Searson be removed or suspended or, at least, that a thorough investigation be undertaken of the allegations,” the previously redacted findings said.
“It was the same responsibility that attached to other auxiliary bishops and the vicar general when they received complaints. On the basis of what was known to Bishop Pell in 1989, we found that it ought to have been obvious to him at the time. We found that he should have advised the archbishop to remove Father Searson and he did not do so.”
Many of the findings around Pell and Searson were already public. The commission previously found Pell had the capacity and opportunity to urge the Archbishop to take action against Searson in order to protect the children of the parish and the Catholic community of his region.
Pell’s evidence was that he could not recall recommending a particular course of action to the then Bishop Ronald Mulkearns. During the comission’s hearings Pell conceded that, in retrospect, he might have been ‘a bit more pushy’ with all of the parties involved.
“We do not accept any qualification that this conclusion is only appreciable in retrospect,” the commission found.
Pell told the commission during a separate appearance in 2014 that he originally took comments about the extent of abuse within the church from victims’ rights groups “with a grain of salt”. Facing questions via videolink in Rome about the Melbourne Response, a scheme he introduced to the Catholic archdiocese of Melbourne in 1996 when he was Archbishop of Melbourne to investigate sexual abuse claims. He introduced the scheme in 1996 because dozens of sexual abuse complaints had come to the attention of the church, putting it under great pressure, he said.
To date, not one person has been convicted in Australia for the crime of concealment of child sexual abuse. NSW and Victoria have a concealment offence specifically related to child abuse, and in 2019 Tasmania and ACT embedded a general duty in criminal law to report child sexual abuse offences.
The pro-Trump preacher explained in a sermon Monday that it’s “scientifically impossible to be an atheist.”
… the word literally means “no God.” No God. That’s what it means. So you can’t go changing the definition now, or you could create a new word. If you want to come up with a new word to say “I don’t believe there’s a God,” then come up with a new word. But if you want to use the word “atheist,” scientifically, there’s no atheists because you can’t definitively say there is no God, and I’ll prove it to you.
Jesus Christ, it’s this old argument again… It’s the idea that atheists claim to have all the knowledge EVER, which they can’t, therefore a virgin gave birth to someone who later rose from the dead. Notice that Morris never quotes any prominent atheist who agrees with that definition. He’s not playing video clips. That’s because he’s a liar.
Atheists, more than religious people, I would argue, are perfectly willing to admit there’s plenty we don’t know. As opposed to Christians like Morris who opened up one book and claim to have all the answers. If someone wants to pretend God exists, then the burden of proof is on him.
There are other standard rebuttals here, but let’s go with the simplest one: He’s lying about the definition of atheist. He’s lying because he’s a pastor and he knows his followers will never call him out on it. He’s creating a straw man in order to knock it down.
No one has ever “changed” the definition. No one needs to change the definition. Morris just needs to learn how to read. Christian apologists love to pretend “atheist” means someone who declares with absolute certainty that God doesn’t exist. The reality is that it means someone who believes God doesn’t exist. There’s a difference. (Agnosticism is something else entirely.)
You can be an a-unicornist, too. It doesn’t mean you’ve scientifically proven unicorns are fictional; it means there’s no convincing evidence to the contrary, so you don’t buy into the myth.
It’s ironic that a guy who stretches the definition of Christianity has the audacity to tell atheists they don’t understand their own label.
An image from Godless magazine in 1934 depicting the Pope as a spider
Marx said religion was the opium of the people – and in the Soviet Union, atheism became government policy, enforced by the state and encouraged by anti-religious posters and magazines. These have been collected in Roland Elliott Brown’s new book from Fuel called Godless Utopia: Soviet Anti-Religious Propaganda
Godless at the Machine magazine, 1923 Godless at the Machine was one of two anti-religious propaganda magazines distributed by the Soviet state, which included satirical images and articles taking aim at the faithful. This image, called Red Flood, depicts the holy family assailed by the might of the state
Godless at the Machine magazine, 1924
Titled The Imperishable Ones, this image shows God saying: ‘You’ve let me down, my minions. I’m ashamed to be seen on Earth now!’ to a group of skeletons dressed in religious garb
The words on this anti-religious propaganda poster, which would have been posted on walls around the USSR, read: ‘A prison for heart and mind’
The most prominent cosmonaut atheist was Gherman Titov, whose flight in August 1961 followed Yuri Gagarin’s that April. In 1962, he told an audience at the Seattle world’s fair that he had seen no gods or angels in space, and that he believed in mankind’s strength and reason. This poster – titled There Is No God! –commemorates him
Cover of the poster collection In True Light, 1962
The cover of this collection of anti-religious posters shown in a Leningrad exhibition includes a fighting pencil and the light beam of truth exposing a babushka holding a bottle of holy water, a praying man with the Jehovah’s Witness magazine The Watchtower, a vodka-sipping priest, a man on his knees with a bottle of ‘holy tincture’ and a bottle of cognac
Godless magazine, 1934
Titled The True Face of the Catholic Church, this depicts a skeletal spider-pope overseeing the burning of books by Marx, Lenin and Darwin
This image depicts a priest climbing on a slumbering drunk in order to saw an electricity pylon with a crucifix. The slogan says: ‘Everybody understands that where work is being done – the priest and the drunk are both doing harm’
In this poster, the radio is broadcasting Ave, Maria, Slander of the USSR, Anti-Sovietism and Our Father – conflating religion with political attack. The caption reads: ‘Another gullible sectarian is glad to hear prayers from “over there”. They are, as a rule, stained with outright anti-Sovietism!’
The cover of a 1981 poster collection called Light Against Darkness shows a boy trying to wrest himself away from a babushka pulling him to a shadowy church
Kingdom of Jehovah Poster from the collection In True Light, 1962
The Soviets regarded Jehovah’s Witnesses as subversive agents. Newspaper Izvestia described them as an ‘international political organisation … deployed against communism … the sect of the Jehovists … carries out espionage activities on the directives of the USA.’ This poster depicts a witness with spying equipment in his eyes and ears, and whose caption reads: ‘Don’t believe in his meekness, he doesn’t care about the soul. Such a witness of Jehovah is a traitor to the motherland, a spy!’
Poster from the collection In True Light, 1962
Titled In ‘Holy’ Blinkers, this poster depicts two crafty figures leading an innocent third, using their Bible to prevent him looking right or left. As Izvestia put it: ‘The Soviet people are, with all determination, exposing the anti-people nature of the sectarians, no matter what god they may hide behind. For reasons of their own, sectarian preachers and their acolytes, cowering in remote and fetid holes, morally and physically deform people, tear them away from working and social life, and corrupt the youth’
Godless magazine, 1940
This image contrasts ‘God’s slaves’ on their knees and in the dark with the Soviet ‘masters of life’
Cultural Goods Poster, 1984
This poster depicts Jesus as a capitalist hawking his wares. The caption reads, ‘Under the shop window this weasel has set himself up nicely. There’s a foolish fashion that means they’ll snap his junk right up’
Women’s Emancipation Poster, 1977
It wasn’t only Christianity the Soviets attacked. This poster takes aim at Islam, depicting a Muslim man and his donkey riding on the back of a downtrodden woman. The caption reads: ‘The essence of his character is clear: it operates on two levels. Up above, he’s showing off his paper, down below, he’s true to Muhammad’
Planetarium Poster, undated
Here, the creepy man’s shadow becomes a cross with ‘religion’ written across it. In his pocket is a Bible. The caption reads: ‘Step across the ominous shadow and join the crowd in the joyful bustle of the day!’
Donald Trump’s political ally Alex Jones described his cannibal fetish in an online video with gruesome detail.
Stalking, killing, skinning, gutting, chopping up and eating his neighbors, to feed himself and his children.
Alex Jones; a serial conspiracy nut, makes loud emphasis on his “drinking blood” and “eating ass” as apparently his personal choice beverage and flesh portions.
Evoking his blood-craving Christian god; cannibal Jone’s pledged, “I swear to God, if it’s the last thing I do I’m going to get my hands around your throat.”
Jones is a like-minded political ally of Televangelist sycophant Donald Trump.
Trump praised Jones, massaging Jones’s ego by saying “Your reputation is amazing”
JONES: I’ll admit it. I will eat my neighbors, I’m not letting my kids die. I’m just bein’ honest. My superpower is bein’ honest.
JONES: I’m literally looking at my neighbors now and going: I’m ready to hang them up and gut them and skin them and chop them up, you know what? I’m ready. My daughters aren’t starving to death, I’ll eat my neighbors.
He will eat his neighbors to keep his daughters from starving to death. How … how exactly does he feed his daughters?
JONES: See? My superpower is bein’ honest. I’ll eat your ass. I will!
Alex Jones is being superpower honest about eating your ass.
JONES: I’m — combat model, optimal self-sufficiency, probably the leader. The point is have you thought about that yet …
Have we thought about Alex Jones eating our ass? Hard no.
JONES: … because I’m somebody that thought I could fix this and I’m starting to think about having to eat my neighbors. You think I like sizing up my neighbor, hell I’m gonna haul him up by a chain and chop his ass up?
It’s going to hurt Alex Jones to eat your ass more than it hurts you.
JONES: I’ll do it! My children aren’t going hungry! I will eat your ass!
These! Seem! Like! Unrelated! Thoughts!
JONES: And that’s why I want the globalists to know, I will eat your ass first.
Legs up, (((globalists)))! (When far-Right conspiracy theorists with pretty obvious mental issues mention “globalists,” they mean Jews.)
JONES: You’re not – we’re gonna dig you out of those bunkers, we’re gonna dig you out of those holes, you make us eat up – let me tell you something right now: I swear to god if it’s the last thing I do I’m gonna get my hands around your throat and you know that’s why you’re beggin’ for peace right now. You should’ve thought about that when you turned out Christ a long time ago. You wanna meet with me you satanist!? Meet with me!?
Oh boy. Wow. This has to do with Christ, somehow? Is that because of the (((globalists)))? Yes. Alex Jones is going to … strangle (((globalists))). For Jesus. Huh.
JONES: How about you get on your knees to Christ, you’d meet with my boss right now! But you can’t do it. You think you can meet with some low-level nobody? I’m nobody! You think Christ would eat somebody? He would never eat do that? He would never do that. I will.
Christ would not eat your ass. But Alex Jones would. Christ is the Prince of Peace, not the Prince of EAT YOUR ASS. Alex Jones is the ass-eat prince.
JONES: I’m not gonna watch my daughters starve to death!
And if asses must get eated to prevent that from happening, get Alex Jones a bib!