• Trump found some new sleazeball lawyers for his impeachment defense team, after the last ones all ran off

    Reuters: "Former U.S. President Donald Trump's office on Sunday said trial lawyers David Schoen and Bruce L. Castor will lead Trump's legal team during his Senate impeachment trial."

    This announcement follows the not-entirely-surprising news just yesterday that Trump and *all of the lawyers* on his legal team had suddenly parted ways.

    Who knows what tomorrow's installment will bring.

  • 'The Anatomy of a Lie,' NYT reconstruct of 'Trump's failed 77-day effort to subvert democracy and overturn the 2020 election'

    "Hours after the United States voted, the president declared the election a fraud — a lie that unleashed a movement that would shatter democratic norms and upend the peaceful transfer of power." — NYT 1/31/2021

    Just out on Sunday night, this extensive New York Times reconstruct of Donald Trump's failed 77-day attempt to subvert American democracy, and overthrow the 2020 presidential election. That's quite the shared byline, too, a lot of reporting power.

    Excerpt:

    Across those 77 days, the forces of disorder were summoned and directed by the departing president, who wielded the power derived from his near-infallible status among the party faithful in one final norm-defying act of a reality-denying presidency.

    Throughout, he was enabled by influential Republicans motivated by ambition, fear or a misplaced belief that he would not go too far.

    In the Senate, he got early room to maneuver from the majority leader, Mitch McConnell. As he sought the president's help in Georgia runoffs that could cost him his own grip on power, Mr. McConnell heeded misplaced assurances from White House aides like Jared Kushner that Mr. Trump would eventually accede to reality, people close to the senator told The Times. Mr. McConnell's later recognition of Mr. Biden's victory would not be enough to dissuade 14 Republican senators from joining the president's last-ditch bid to nullify millions of Americans' votes.

    Likewise, during the campaign, Attorney General William P. Barr had echoed some of Mr. Trump's complaints of voter fraud. But privately the president was chafing at Mr. Barr's resistance to his more authoritarian impulses — including his idea to end birthright citizenship in a legally dubious pre-election executive order. And when Mr. Barr informed Mr. Trump in a tense Oval Office session that the Justice Department's fraud investigations had run dry, the president dismissed the department as derelict before finding other officials there who would view things his way.

    More: 77 Days: Trump's Campaign to Subvert the Election

  • Jello Mold Timelapse [VIDEO]

    There's something peaceful about watching this lime green blob of Jell-o gelatin succumb to entropy, and sprout a crown of mold. From Temponaut on YouTube. This channel produces interesting time-lapse videos. The gross ones are my favorites! Grody slow destruction is the best. [Video Link]

  • Trump's legal team a wreck, lawyers all leave one week before impeachment trial begins

    Former president Donald Trump's legal team didn't last long.

    As of Saturday night, CNN is reporting that all five lawyers identified as part of Trump's impeachment defense — Butch Bowers, Deborah Barbier, Josh Howard, Johnny Gasser, and Greg Harris — have departed.

    Kaitlan Collins, CNN White House Correspondent: "With a little more than a week before his impeachment trial is set to begin, President Trump's legal team is up in the air. Butch Bowers and Deborah Barbier, who were expected to be two of the lead attorneys, are no longer on the team."

    Collins adds, "A third attorney, Josh Howard, who was also recently added to Trump's defense team, has also left, I'm told. Trump wanted the attorneys to argue there was mass election fraud and it was stolen from him rather than focus on proposed arguments about constitutionality."

    Trump is not planning to appear in person to defend himself against the charge that he incited the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, reports NBC News:

    As of last week, South Carolina attorneys Butch Bowers and Deborah Barbier were expected to join the team, but now a source familiar with the matter says it was a "mutual decision" to part ways. (…) Those close to the former president are unable to identify anyone on his legal team with just over a week to go until the trial begins on Feb. 9.

    From Reuters:

    Forty-five Senate Republicans backed a failed effort last Tuesday to halt Trump's impeachment trial, in a show of party unity that some cited as a clear sign he will not be convicted of inciting insurrection at the Capitol.

  • Trump's failures with first Wuhan evacuees "increased the risk of infection transmission to American public," federal watchdog concludes

    • Special counsel also criticizes HHS general counsel for 'attempts to shame the whistleblower.'

    The Trump administration's incompetence in managing the first Wuhan evacuees one year ago at the beginning of the COVID pandemic "increased the risk of infection transmission … to the American public as a whole," a federal watchdog concludes in documents obtained by the Washington Post.

    Dan Diamond at the Washington Post reports:

    As the first American evacuees from Wuhan, China, touched down at a California military base a year ago, fleeing the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, they were met by U.S. health officials with no virus prevention plan or infection-control training — and who had not even been told to wear masks, according to a federal investigation.

    Later, those officials were told to remove protective gear when meeting with the evacuees to avoid "bad optics," and days after those initial encounters, departed California aboard commercial airline flights to other destinations.

    The "most troubling finding" is that the government's handling of the Wuhan evacuees "increased the risk of infection transmission not only to deployed [government] personnel, but also to the American public as a whole," Special Counsel Henry Kerner wrote in a letter to President Biden on Thursday.

    More: U.S. handling of American evacuees from Wuhan increased coronavirus risks, watchdog finds

  • Phone battery explodes after man bites into it [VIDEO]

    Store surveillance video captured this wild scene in China: a phone battery exploding after a man bites into it. The clip has gone viral on Chinese social media.

    From Storyful:

    The man can be seen putting the phone battery into his mouth before it suddenly explodes dangerously close to the woman's face.

    A shortened version of the footage went viral on Chinese social media sites two days later, with many commentators asking whether the woman was hurt and wondering if the man had bitten the battery to test its authenticity.

    In a January 23 post, the woman addressed these inquiries: "I'm the person involved," she wrote. "…I haven't been disfigured; thanks for your concern. He didn't [bite the battery] because he wanted to test its authenticity; actually my partner just has the habit of putting things into his mouth and nibbling on them. I'm okay, just my bangs were burnt a little bit. My first reaction was 'Are my eyebrows okay?'"

    She added that the battery her partner had bitten into wasn't a genuine iPhone battery.

  • Biden to visit Walter Reed in Bethesda, Maryland to visit with wounded service members

    President Joe Biden tomorrow afternoon (Friday, January 29th) will travel to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland to visit with wounded service members. [via]

  • On Twitter, many follow @robinhood en masse not realizing it's The Robin Hood Society of Sherwood, UK

    Ah, yes, another case of mistaken social media handle identity.

    The World Wide Robin Hood Society, based in the heart of Sherwood, Nottingham, England, has a bunch of new followers on Twitter.

    CNN's Brian Fung observed, "People appear to be following @robinhood en masse without realizing that the handle belongs to the Robin Hood society in the UK, not the stock trading platform."

    Oops.

    The Robin Hood you are probably looking for, if you're looking for the account related to the whole GameStop stock short shenanigins, is @RobinhoodApp.

    More about all of this malarkey in Rob's earlier post.

  • WHO-led team of scientists is in Wuhan investigating COVID-19 pandemic origins in China

    A World Health Organization-led team investigating the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic will meet Chinese scientists on Friday and plans to visit labs, markets and hospitals in Wuhan, reports Reuters.

    "The team plans to visit hospitals, laboratories and markets. Field visits will include the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Huanan market, Wuhan CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) laboratory," the WHO said in a tweet.

    Reuters:

    The team left its quarantine hotel in Wuhan on Thursday to begin field work, two weeks after arriving in the Chinese city where the virus emerged in late 2019.

    The mission has been plagued by delays, concern over access and bickering between China and the United States, which has accused China of hiding the extent of the initial outbreak and criticised the terms of the visit, under which Chinese experts conducted the first phase of research.

  • Cicely Tyson, 1924-2021

    Actress, human rights activist, and Black American icon Cicely Tyson has died. She was 96.

    Miles Davis was Mr. Cicely Tyson.

    She died just two days after her memoir was released.

  • Feds seize 5 pipe bombs + 47 guns from California man accused of threatening to blow up offices of Democratic party, Twitter, Governor Gavin Newsom

    The FBI said Wednesday they have seized five pipe bombs and 47 firearms from a California man they say threatened to blow up a Democratic party office, the headquarters of Twitter, and the offices of California Governor Gavin Newsom. The suspect allegedly believes
    Donald Trump should remain President.

    Here is the news release from the Department of Justice.

    From the Los Angeles Times:

    Federal prosecutors charged Ian Benjamin Rogers, 43, of Napa County, for possessing five homemade pipe bombs that investigators found when they searched his home and auto repair business on Jan. 15. They also confiscated additional bomb-making material along with 49 firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

    According to an FBI affidavit, Rogers made multiple threats in text messages to attack Democratic targets and ensure that Trump stayed in office.

    In the texts, Rogers stated, "Let's see what happens then we act" and later added, "I'm thinking sac office first target" and "Then maybe bird and face offices."

    Here is the news release from the Department of Justice:

    Ian Benjamin Rogers was charged yesterday in a federal criminal complaint with possessing five pipe bombs that were unregistered destructive devices, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Craig D. Fair.

    "We allege that Ian Benjamin Rogers possessed homemade pipe bombs and the materials to make more," said U.S. Attorney Anderson.  "We draw a bright line between lawlessness and our constitutional freedoms.  We will prosecute illegal weapons stockpiles regardless of the motivation of the offender."   

    "The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Napa County Sheriff's Office, and the Napa Special Investigations Bureau discovered five pipe bombs and other explosive material during our joint investigation," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Craig D. Fair. "The FBI investigates all credible threats, and our highest priority is ensuring public safety. We urge the public to remain vigilant. We need the community's support in reporting threatening behavior and suspicious activity to local law enforcement or the FBI."

    The criminal complaint alleges that Rogers, 43, of Napa, possessed five pipe bombs discovered by law enforcement officers and agents during a search of his business on January 15, 2021.  The complaint states that on that date, Rogers was arrested and a search warrant was served on Roger's home and business in Napa County.  Upon his arrest, at Roger's business officers found a large gun safe.  Inside the safe, the officers and agents discovered and seized several guns and the five pipe bombs.  They also identified other materials at the scene that could be used to manufacture destructive devices, including black powder, pipes, endcaps, and manuals, including The Anarchist Cookbook, U.S. Army Improvised Munitions Handbook, and Homemade C-4 A Recipe for Survival. 

    At least 49 guns were seized from Roger's home and business along with thousands of rounds of ammunition.  Officers and agents also discovered a sticker on Roger's vehicle window that is commonly used by so-called "Three-Percenters," people who ascribe to extreme anti-government, pro-gun beliefs. 

    Rogers was arrested on January 15, 2021, and appeared in Napa County state criminal court on state illegal firearm charges.  He is being held in state custody in lieu of a $5 million bail as he awaits a preliminary hearing.  Federal prosecutors intend to seek Rogers's appearance in federal court on the charges in the complaint upon the issuance of a federal order to transfer Rogers to the United States District Court in San Francisco.  The date of such appearance has not yet been set. 

    The charges contained in the criminal complaint are mere allegations.  As in any criminal case, the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

    Rogers is charged with unlawful possession of unregistered destructive devices, in violation of 26 U.S.C. §§ 5861(d), 5845(a)(8), and 5845(f).  If convicted, the charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.  However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.   

    The United States Attorney's Office Special Prosecutions Section is prosecuting the case.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Napa County Sheriff's Office, and the Napa Special Investigations Bureau.

  • Kellyanne Conway investigated by cops over nude photo of teen daughter Claudia on Twitter

    Former Donald Trump spokesmonster Kellyanne Conway is the subject of a police investigation into a topless photo of Kellyanne Conway's 16-year-old daughter, Claudia — which Claudia says Kellyanne posted as a Twitter 'fleet.'

    Claudia has 1.6 million followers on TikTok, and posts about alleged abuse by her mom there.

    Police visited the Conway family's estate in New Jersey on Tuesday, reports the New York Post.

    Just before noon, four officers with the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office and Alpine Police Department showed up with papers in hand at the Conways' brick-faced home in tony Alpine and spent about an hour inside before leaving.

    Alpine Police Chief Christopher Belcolle confirmed that a probe was underway.

    "An investigation is being conducted. No additional information can be released," Belcolle said, noting that records regarding juveniles are not made public.

    On Monday, Claudia Conway took to her TikTok account to address a topless photo of herself that apparently was tweeted on her mother's Twitter Fleets — which automatically deletes posts after 24 hours.

    More at the NY Post.

  • Biden White House to hold first Covid response team press briefing Wednesday January 27

    Regular COVID press briefings to be held 3x a week with Fauci and others

    "The Biden White House is holding its first Covid response team press briefing tomorrow. @PressSec says they'll be held three times a week. Briefers are Fauci, Nunez-Smith, Slavitt, Walensky and Zients."

    — Jennifer Epstein [@jeneps], White House reporter at Bloomberg News.

    Here's a screenshot of the press email that just went out tonight, Tuesday January 26.

  • China's Ant Group plans to sell EyeVerify, U.S.-based biometric security firm that scans your eyeballs

    China's Ant Group plans to sell off its U.S.-based biometric security firm EyeVerify, which identifies you by scanning your eyeballs. The sale comes as tension grows between Beijing and Washington over how and where sensitive user data is hosted, the Financial Times reports.

    From Reuters:

    EyeVerify, based in Kansas City, Missouri, designs eye verification technology for mobile devices which is used by U.S. banks including Wells Fargo.

    Ant bought EyeVerify for $100 million in 2016, a purchase which was approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), the panel that scrutinises deals for potential national security risks.

    A senior Ant executive told the FT that the company had not collected data from EyeVerify's eyeball scans.

    More at the Financial Times (paywall): Ant plans sale of prized US asset as user data scrutiny intensifies

  • Pharmacist pleads guilty to sabotaging 500 doses of Moderna COVID vaccine, federal charges could bring up to 20 years in prison

    PHOTO via Grafton Police Department. Pharmacist Stephen Brandenburg in a police booking mugshot.

    From the U.S. Department of Justice announcement, "Hospital Pharmacist to Plead Guilty to Attempting to Spoil Hundreds of COVID Vaccine Doses" —

    A Wisconsin pharmacist has agreed to plead guilty to charges filed today in federal court that he attempted to render hundreds of doses of COVID-19 vaccine ineffective.

    According to court documents filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Steven R. Brandenburg, 46, of Grafton, Wisconsin, was charged with two counts of attempting to tamper with consumer products with reckless disregard for the risk that another person will be placed in danger of death or bodily injury. Brandenburg has agreed to plead guilty to the charges, which each carry a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment. 

    As detailed in the court documents, while working as a hospital pharmacist in Grafton, Wisconsin, on two successive overnight shifts in late December, Brandenburg purposefully removed a box of COVID-19 vaccine vials manufactured by Moderna—which must be stored at specific cold temperatures to remain viable—from the hospital's refrigeration unit intending to render the vaccines inert and no longer effective. According to the plea agreement, Brandenburg stated that he was skeptical of vaccines in general and the Moderna vaccine specifically. Brandenburg had communicated his beliefs about vaccines to his co-workers for at least the past two years.

    After leaving the vaccines out for several hours each night, Brandenburg returned the vaccines to the refrigerator to be used in the hospital's vaccine clinic the following day. Before the full extent of Brandenburg's conduct was discovered, 57 people received doses of the vaccine from these vials.

    "Tampering with vaccine doses in the midst of a global health crisis calls for a strong response, as reflected by the serious charges the United States has brought today," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton of the Department of Justice's Civil Division. "The Department of Justice will continue to work with its law enforcement partners to ensure the public receives safe and effective vaccines."

    "Distributing the COVID-19 vaccine is critical to overcoming this pandemic, which continues to end lives and upend our economy," said U.S. Attorney Matthew D. Krueger. "As these charges show, the Justice Department will pursue anyone—and especially any medical professional—who tampers with the vaccine."

    "The FDA has ensured that the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine meets the agency's rigorous standards for quality, safety, and efficacy," said FDA Assistant Commissioner for Criminal Investigations Catherine A. Hermsen. "Those who knowingly tamper with this vaccine place American patients' health at risk. Today's announcement should serve as a reminder that this kind of illicit tampering activity will not be tolerated."

    "Pharmacists rank among some of the most trusted professionals," said FBI Milwaukee Special Agent in Charge Robert Hughes. "This individual used his special access to tamper with vials of the much needed COVID-19 vaccine. The FBI takes allegations of consumer product tampering very seriously and will use all available resources to bring those to justice who intentionally put the public's health at risk."

    This matter was investigated by the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Criminal Investigations, the Milwaukee Field Office of the FBI, and the Village of Grafton Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin C. Knight of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, and Senior Litigation Counsel Ross S. Goldstein and Trial Attorney Rachel Baron of the Department of Justice Civil Division's Consumer Protection Branch. 

    The claims made in the information are allegations that, if the case had proceeded to trial, the government would have had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to convict the defendant. The plea agreement expresses the defendant's intention to plead guilty, but the defendant has not yet formally entered a plea in this matter.

    More at ABC News.

  • U.S. Treasury resumes efforts to place Harriet Tubman on $20 dollar bill

    With the incoming Biden administration, the U.S. Treasury Department is now resuming efforts to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, White House and Treasury officials said on Monday.

    Tubman was an enslaved African-American woman who escaped, and became a legendary abolitionist.

    Treasury says honoring her on the $20 bill would reflect the history and diversity of the United States.

    From Reuters:

    The redesigned bill was initially to be unveiled in 2020, but those efforts were delayed by the Treasury after former President Donald Trump called them an example of "pure political correctness."

    White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the Treasury was revisiting the effort, which was first announced 2016 under former President Barack Obama, but floundered under Trump.

    "It's important that our notes are… reflective of the history and diversity of our country and Harriet Tubman's image gracing the new $20 note would certainly reflect that," Psaki said. "So we are exploring ways to speed up that effort."

    Treasury spokeswoman Alexandra LaManna said a fresh push to put Tubman's image on the widely used $20 bill was underway.

    More at Reuters.