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What Happened Today: September 21, 2022
Biden condemns Putin’s nuclear saber-rattling at the U.N.; Federal health officials call for nationwide anxiety screening; The U.S. Government’s Vast New Privatized Censorship Regime
The Big Story
Speaking to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, President Joe Biden condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin for his country’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. “This war is about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state, plain and simple, and Ukraine’s right to exist as a people,” Biden said. Castigating Putin for his “irresponsible nuclear threats,” Biden’s address had a distinct Cold War flavor and referenced Putin’s own bellicose announcement made earlier on Wednesday.
In a rare broadcast to the Russian people, Putin declared “a partial mobilization,” calling up some 300,000 reserve military members into active service. The mass mobilization is a “necessary and urgent” response, Putin said, to the West having “crossed all lines” when it began supplying advanced military weaponry to Ukraine. In response to the “nuclear blackmail” perpetrated against Russia by Western nations, Putin warned that Russia has “lots of weapons” at the ready and that “if the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people,” a reference to the forthcoming sham referendums in occupied Ukrainian territory.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told Reuters on Wednesday that Putin “has made a big miscalculation,” adding that NATO was prepared for the “long haul” of a protracted war. “The only way to end this war is to prove that President Putin will not win on the battlefield.”
In the Back Pages: The U.S. Government’s Vast New Privatized Censorship Regime
→ In his first appearance in New York since assuming the presidency of Iran last year, Ebrahim Raisi blasted the United States for having “trampled upon the nuclear accord,” and he criticized Western sanctions as a “punishment on the people of Iran.” The Iranian president also brought with him a photograph of Major General Qassim Suleimani, the Revolutionary Guards Corps leader responsible for carrying out Iranian military operations across the Middle East, including some that led to the deaths of hundreds of U.S. soldiers, and who was assassinated in 2020 on orders from former president Donald Trump. “The proper pursuit of justice in the face of a crime that the American president admitted putting his signature on will not be abandoned,” Raisi said. He was equally harsh in his comments on Israel, saying that the Middle East had never previously been home to “an occupying savage power such as the Zionist regime.” Before his election, Raisi was the target of U.S. sanctions in 2019, in part because of his role leading the executions of several thousands of political prisoners in the late 1980s.
→ Following a terrorist attack that took place in Holon, Israel, last Wednesday, in which an 84-year-old woman was followed and then beaten to death in broad daylight, police have announced that they’ve found the lead suspect in an abandoned warehouse in Tel Aviv, dead by apparent suicide. This comes after the Israel Defense Forces arrested five people, including members of the suspect’s family, during raids in the West Bank this past week. The suspect had a work permit to enter Israel. “This is a shocking attack by a despicable and cowardly terrorist who murdered an elderly woman who could not fight back,” said a spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid. Since March, more than 20 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians in terror attacks.
→ Polling in a potential GOP showdown against former president Donald Trump appears increasingly sunny for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis—at least in Florida. In January, polls of Republican voters in Florida put Trump 7 percentage points ahead of the governor; now DeSantis has an 8-point edge on the former president, 48% to 40%. DeSantis’ fundraising machine is also kicking into high gear; a Friday financial filing disclosed that he raised $175 million, a new record for a gubernatorial campaign. All this good news for DeSantis, however, doesn’t change the fact that Trump remains the favorite candidate for primary voters nationwide, trouncing DeSantis in recent polls, 52% to 19%.
→ Tweet of the Day:
Though popular in Florida, DeSantis remains less so in Martha’s Vineyard. Three of the Venezuelans who arrived in the United States seeking asylum before being airlifted to Martha’s Vineyard have filed a class action lawsuit against the governor, charging that he deployed a “premeditated, fraudulent, and illegal scheme” to advance his own personal, financial and political interests. The Martha’s Vineyard stunt has also drawn scrutiny from Texas, where Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar announced an investigation into whether the transport of migrants amounts to criminal activity. DeSantis dismissed the critiques as “virtue signaling,” and soon after a spokesperson from his office added that opponents were “using illegal immigrants for political theater.”
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→ In yesterday’s Scroll, we noted the alarming rise of anxiety and depression in the United States, as well as the concomitant increase of prescription drug use to combat what’s become a mental health crisis, epitomized by the 41% increase in antidepressant use among teenagers since 2017. Now a panel of medical experts appointed by the Department of Health and Human Services is recommending that all Americans under the age of 65 be screened for anxiety by their primary care providers. The task force had reached the conclusion that such screening was necessary even before the COVID-19 pandemic, during which the rate of anxiety and depression among American adults increased from 36% to 41%. “It’s a crisis in this country,” Dr. Lori Pbert, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School and a member of the task force, said. “Our only hope is that our recommendations throw a spotlight on the need to create greater access to mental health care—and urgently.”
→ A week after New York City announced that the elevated levels of arsenic discovered in the drinking water at the Jacob Riis Houses in lower Manhattan—a health scare mismanaged by the administration of Mayor Eric Adams—were the result of a lab error and that the water is, in fact, safe to drink, a new analysis by The Guardian finds that 1 in 20 households in Chicago tested positive for levels of lead above federal guidelines. The study, which was conducted in partnership with the engineer who uncovered the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, reviewed data collected by Chicago officials that the city has not released. It found “that nine of the top 10 zip codes with the largest percentages of high test results were neighborhoods with majorities of Black and Hispanic residents, and there were dozens of homes with shockingly high lead levels. One home, in the majority-Black neighborhood of South Chicago, had lead levels [...] 73 times the Environmental Protection Agency limit.”
→ Graph of the Day:
More than half of car sales in the United States will be electric by 2030, according to a Bloomberg analysis, with the tax incentives packed into the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act considerably hastening that timeline. Bloomberg’s earlier projections, made before the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, expected 43% of car sales in the United States in 2030 to be electric; that number, in the wake of the bill, grew to 52%. Such growth marks an extraordinary shift in the automobile market, which as of 2021 only saw 5% of its sales going to electric vehicles. This surge in demand, however, is driving a surge in the price of lithium, a vital component in electric batteries, causing worry that there might not be enough lithium to reach these EV milestones or that the compound will become too expensive amid global demand.
→ An independent trustee appointed by the Department of Justice will take a more substantial role in the bankruptcy of Alex Jones’ Infowars after a federal judge in Texas said the ongoing “lack of candor” forced him to dismiss Jones’ attorney and the restructuring officer tasked with preparing the company’s bankruptcy.
The DOJ trustee will be allowed to bring in new legal assistants to help on the case, but anyone hired must have “no connection to any of these cases,” the judge said.
Jones declared bankruptcy for the parent company of Infowars, Free Speech Systems, in July, citing a debt of $54 million to another company called PQPR, an outfit that’s owned by both Jones and members of his family.
The judge, Christopher Lopez, said the potential “insider relationships” as well as Jones’ own elaborate spending on travel and consumer goods were causing problems for the restructuring of the bankrupt business.
Jones has been found guilty in several defamation cases brought against him by families of victims in the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School after he claimed the murder of 20 young children was a hoax and the families crisis actors hired by the government. Already liable for roughly $46 million in damages, Jones will likely owe tens of millions more as several other cases brought against him by families continue.
Attorneys representing the families say Jones has used the bankruptcy of his companies as a legal diversion to avoid paying the families their damages.
Additional reporting and writing provided by The Scroll’s associate editor, David Sugarman
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The U.S. Government’s Vast New Privatized Censorship Regime
Censorship of “wrongthink” by Big Tech at the behest of the government is government censorship, which violates the First Amendment
By Jenin Younes
One warm weekend in October of 2020, three impeccably credentialed epidemiologists—Jayanta Bhattacharya, Sunetra Gupta, and Martin Kulldorff, of Stanford, Oxford, and Harvard Universities respectively—gathered with a few journalists, writers, and economists at an estate in the Berkshires where the American Institute for Economic Research had brought together critics of lockdowns and other COVID-19-related government restrictions. On Sunday morning, shortly before the guests departed, the scientists encapsulated their views—that lockdowns do more harm than good, and that resources should be devoted to protecting the vulnerable rather than shutting society down—in a joint communiqué dubbed the “Great Barrington Declaration,” after the town in which it was written.
The declaration began circulating on social media and rapidly garnered signatures, including from other highly credentialed scientists. Most mainstream news outlets and the scientists they chose to quote denounced the declaration in no uncertain terms. When contacted by reporters, Drs. Anthony Fauci and Francis Collins of the National Institutes of Health publicly and vociferously repudiated the “dangerous” declaration, smearing the scientists—all generally considered to be at the top of their fields—as “fringe epidemiologists.” Over the next several months, the three scientists faced a barrage of condemnation: They were called eugenicists and anti-vaxxers; it was falsely asserted that they were “Koch-funded” and that they had written the declaration for financial gain. Attacks on the Great Barrington signatories proliferated throughout social media and in the pages of The New York Times and The Guardian.
Yet emails obtained pursuant to a FOIA request later revealed that these attacks were not the products of an independent, objective news-gathering process of the type that publications like the Times and The Guardian still like to boast. Rather, they were the fruits of an aggressive attempt to shape the news by the same government officials whose policies the epidemiologists had criticized. Emails between Fauci and Collins revealed that the two officials had worked together and with media outlets such as Wired and The Nation to orchestrate a “takedown” of the declaration.
Nor did the targeting of the scientists stop with the bureaucrats they had implicitly criticized. Bhattacharya, Gupta, and Kulldorff soon learned that their declaration was being heavily censored on social media to prevent their scientific opinions from reaching the public. Kulldorff—then the most active of the three online—soon began to experience censorship of his own social media posts. For example, Twitter censored one of Kulldorff’s tweets, which asserted that, “Thinking that everyone must be vaccinated is as scientifically flawed as thinking that nobody should. COVID vaccines are important for older, higher-risk people and their caretakers. Those with prior natural infection do not need it. Not children.” Posts on Kulldorff’s Twitter and LinkedIn criticizing mask and vaccine mandates were labeled misleading or removed entirely. In March of 2021, YouTube took down a video depicting a roundtable discussion that Bhattacharya, Gupta, Kulldorff, and Dr. Scott Atlas had with Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, in which the participants critiqued mask and vaccine mandates.
Because of this censorship, Bhattacharya and Kulldorff are now plaintiffs in Missouri v. Biden, a case brought by the attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana as well as the New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA), which is representing them and two other individuals, Dr. Aaron Kheriaty and Jill Hines. The plaintiffs allege that the Biden administration and a number of federal agencies coerced social media platforms into censoring them and others for criticizing the government’s COVID-19 policies. In doing so, the Biden administration and relevant agencies had turned any ostensible private action by the social media companies into state action, in violation of the First Amendment. As the Supreme Court has long recognized and Justice Clarence Thomas explained in a concurring opinion just last year, “The government cannot accomplish through threats of adverse government action what the Constitution prohibits it from doing directly.”
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