Saturday, December 4, 2021

Chris Cuomo Out at CNN: Network Terminates Prime-Time Host Amid New Revelations of Efforts to Protect His Brother (VIDEO)

Gawd, if they didn't fire the guy...

At NYT, "CNN Fires Chris Cuomo Amid Inquiry Into His Efforts to Aid His Brother":

The star anchor Chris Cuomo was fired by CNN on Saturday, completing a stunning downfall for the network’s top-rated host amid a continuing inquiry into his efforts to help his brother, Andrew M. Cuomo, then the governor of New York, stave off sexual harassment accusations.

The anchor was suspended on Tuesday after testimony and text messages released by the New York attorney general revealed a more intimate and engaged role in his brother’s political affairs than the network said it had previously known.

On Wednesday, Debra S. Katz, a prominent employment lawyer, informed CNN of a client with an allegation of sexual misconduct against Chris Cuomo. Ms. Katz said in a statement on Saturday that the allegation against the anchor, which was made by a former junior colleague at another network, was “unrelated to the Gov. Andrew Cuomo matter.”

It was not fully clear what role the allegation played in CNN’s decision to dismiss Mr. Cuomo. Ms. Katz is also the lawyer for Charlotte Bennett, a onetime aide to Andrew Cuomo who accused the former governor in February of sexual harassment.

Asked about the new allegation, a CNN spokeswoman said in a statement on Saturday night: “Based on the report we received regarding Chris’s conduct with his brother’s defense, we had cause to terminate. When new allegations came to us this week, we took them seriously, and saw no reason to delay taking immediate action.”

A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo, Steven Goldberg, said in a statement on Saturday, “These apparently anonymous allegations are not true.”

Ms. Katz said that her client “came forward because she was disgusted by Chris Cuomo’s on-air statements in response to the allegations made against his brother, Gov. Andrew Cuomo.” Ms. Katz cited a March 1 broadcast in which Chris Cuomo said: “I have always cared very deeply about these issues, and profoundly so. I just wanted to tell you that.”

Mr. Cuomo’s spokesman responded that the former anchor “fully stands by his on-air statements about his connection to these issues, both professionally and in a profoundly personal way. If the goal in making these false and unvetted accusations was to see Mr. Cuomo punished by CNN, that may explain his unwarranted termination.”

Earlier on Saturday, CNN said it had “retained a respected law firm to conduct a review” of the anchor’s involvement with Andrew Cuomo’s political team. “While in the process of that review, additional information has come to light,” CNN said. “Despite the termination, we will investigate as appropriate.”

As the gregarious and sometimes combative host of CNN’s 9 p.m. hour, Mr. Cuomo was at the peak of a broadcast journalism career that he had forged outside of his famed political family. But it was the troubles of his brother, who resigned the governorship in August, that ultimately embroiled Mr. Cuomo in a controversy that appeared to precipitate his dismissal.

“This is not how I want my time at CNN to end but I have already told you why and how I helped my brother,” Chris Cuomo said in a statement earlier on Saturday. “So let me now say as disappointing as this is, I could not be more proud of the team at ‘Cuomo Prime Time’ and the work we did as CNN’s #1 show in the most competitive time slot.”

Until last month, Mr. Cuomo had enjoyed the support of CNN’s president, Jeff Zucker, and he faced no discipline for his behind-the-scenes strategizing with Andrew Cuomo’s political aides, a breach of basic journalistic norms.

But documents released on Nov. 29 revealed that the anchor offered advice on Andrew Cuomo’s public statements and made efforts to uncover the status of pending articles at other news outlets, including The New Yorker and Politico, concerning harassment allegations against the governor.

Mr. Zucker — who had been steadfast in backing Mr. Cuomo, at one point saying the anchor was “human” and facing “very unique circumstances” — informed the anchor on Saturday that he was being fired. “It goes without saying that these decisions are not easy, and there are a lot of complex factors involved,” Mr. Zucker wrote in a memo to CNN staff. The spectacle of a high-profile anchor advising his powerful politician brother amid scandal was a longstanding headache for many CNN journalists, who privately expressed discomfort at actions that, in their view, compromised the network’s credibility. The CNN anchor Jake Tapper went public with his concerns in May, telling The New York Times that his colleague had “put us in a bad spot,” adding, “I cannot imagine a world in which anybody in journalism thinks that that was appropriate.”

Even so, the timing of Mr. Cuomo’s firing, on a Saturday at 5 p.m., caught many members of the CNN newsroom off guard.

The network’s decision earlier in the week to suspend Mr. Cuomo had left open the possibility that he might return to the channel at a later date. CNN’s chief media correspondent, Brian Stelter, speculated on air on Wednesday that it was “possible he’ll be back in January.”

The network said on Tuesday it would begin an internal review of Mr. Cuomo’s conduct. But its executives had not immediately planned to hire an outside law firm, according to a person familiar with the network’s internal decision-making process. That plan changed in recent days, and CNN declined on Saturday to identify the name of the law firm it had retained...



Sunday, November 28, 2021

Cyber Monday

It's tomorrow. 

Interestingly, online shopping was flat this year. Shoppers are getting back out to shopping centers, despite the smash-and-grab crime wave that's been sweeping the country. 

Thanks to everyone who clicks through at my Amazon links to purchase items. It's much appreciated.

Here's some good stuff. 

For the holidays, National Tree Company Pre-lit Artificial Mini Christmas Tree -  Includes Small Lights and Cloth Bag Base - for Tabletop or Desk - Burlap-4 ft, 4', Green.

Also, Enbrighten 37790, Black, Vintage Seasons LED Warm White & Color Changing Café String Lights, 48ft, 24 Premium Impact Resistant Lifetime Bulbs, Wireless, Weatherproof, Indoor/Outdoor, 48 Feet.

And, Achillea Scottish Tartan Plaid Cashmere Feel Winter Warm Scarf Unisex.

Plus, DEWALT 12V MAX LED Work Light, Hand Held (DCL510).

Here, CRAFTSMAN Home Tool Kit / Mechanics Tools Kit, 102-Piece (CMMT99448).

Nice, Beats Studio3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Over-Ear Headphones - Apple W1 Headphone Chip, Class 1 Bluetooth, 22 Hours of Listening Time, Built-in Microphone - Shadow Gray (Latest Model).

BONUS: Karl Ove Knausgaard, The Morning Star: A Novel.

Taliban Covert Operatives Seized Kabul, Other Afghan Cities From Within

Foreign policy is rarely the driving factor in voter choice, but Afghanistan needs to stay in the news, and G.O.P. candidates need to run campaign spots reminding voters of Biden's debacle in Kabul. 

Democrats are quite vulnerable on this issue, and with 11 months until the 2022 midterms, Biden's currently underwater in every single battleground state.

In any case, the Wall Street Journal continues its excellent coverage, here, "Success of Kabul’s undercover network, loyal to the Haqqanis, changed balance of power within Taliban after U.S. withdrawal":

KABUL—Undercover Taliban agents—often clean-shaven, dressed in jeans and sporting sunglasses—spent years infiltrating Afghan government ministries, universities, businesses and aid organizations.

Then, as U.S. forces were completing their withdrawal in August, these operatives stepped out of the shadows in Kabul and other big cities across Afghanistan, surprising their neighbors and colleagues. Pulling their weapons from hiding, they helped the Taliban rapidly seize control from the inside.

The pivotal role played by these clandestine cells is becoming apparent only now, three months after the U.S. pullout. At the time, Afghan cities fell one after another like dominoes with little resistance from the American-backed government’s troops. Kabul collapsed in a matter of hours, with hardly a shot fired.

“We had agents in every organization and department,” boasted Mawlawi Mohammad Salim Saad, a senior Taliban leader who directed suicide-bombing operations and assassinations inside the Afghan capital before its fall. “The units we had already present in Kabul took control of the strategic locations.”

Mr. Saad’s men belong to the so-called Badri force of the Haqqani network, a part of the Taliban that is designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. because of its links to al Qaeda. Sitting before a bank of closed-circuit TV monitors in the Kabul airport security command center, which he now oversees, he said, “We had people even in the office that I am occupying today.”

The 20-year war in Afghanistan was often seen as a fight between bands of Taliban insurgents—bearded men operating from mountain hide-outs—and Afghan and U.S. forces struggling to control rural terrain. The endgame, however, was won by a large underground network of urban operatives.

On Aug. 15, after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled Kabul, it was these men who seized the capital city while the Taliban’s more conventional forces remained outside.

Mohammad Rahim Omari, a midlevel commander in the Badri force, was working undercover at his family’s gasoline-trading business in Kabul before he was called into action that day. He said he and 12 others were dispatched to an Afghan intelligence service compound in the east of the city, where they disarmed the officers on duty and stopped them from destroying computers and files.

Other cells fanned out to seize other government and military installations and reached Kabul airport, where the U.S. was mounting a massive evacuation effort. They took control of the airport’s perimeter until better-armed Taliban troops arrived from the countryside in the morning. One agent, Mullah Rahim, was even dispatched to secure the Afghan Institute of Archaeology and its treasures from potential looters.

Mr. Omari said the Badri force had compartmentalized cells working on different tasks—armed fighters, fundraisers and those involved with propaganda and recruitment.

“Now these three types of mujahedeen have reunited,” he said. Mr. Omari himself is now deputy police chief in Kabul’s 12th District.

Their success has helped boost the influence of the Haqqanis within the overall Taliban movement. Badri was founded by Badruddin Haqqani, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan in 2012. It now is under the ultimate command of his brother, Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is in charge of Afghanistan’s internal security as its new interior minister.

Named after the Battle of Badr that was won by Prophet Muhammad in 624, the Badri force includes several subgroups. The best known is its special-operations unit, Badri 313, whose fighters in high-end helmets and body armor were deployed next to U.S. Marines at the Kabul airport in the two weeks between the fall of Kabul and the completion of the American airlift.

Kamran, who didn’t want his surname to be used, was tasked with taking over his alma mater, Kabul University, and the Ministry of Higher Education.

A 30-year-old from Wardak province west of Kabul, he said he became a Taliban recruiter when he was pursuing a master’s degree in Arabic at the university in 2017. He estimates that, over the years, he persuaded some 500 people, mostly students, to join the insurgency. To maintain his cover, he shaved his chin, wore sunglasses and dressed in suits or jeans.

“Many of our friends who had beards were targeted,” he recalled. “I was above suspicion. While many of our low-ranking friends were arrested, I wasn’t. Even though I was their leader.”

Many of his acquaintances—former classmates, teachers and guards—first realized he was a member of the Taliban when he showed up with a gun on Aug. 15, he said. “Many employees of the ministry and the entire staff of the university knew me. They were surprised to see me,” said Kamran, whose new job is head of security for Kabul’s several universities.

Kamran has since adopted the Taliban’s trademark look: a black turban, a white shalwar kameez and a long beard. As for his suits and jeans, they are gathering dust in his closet. “Those aren’t our traditional outfits,” he said. “I don’t think I will have to wear them again.” Similar Taliban cells operated in other major Afghan cities. In Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest metropolis, university lecturer Ahmad Wali Haqmal said he repeatedly asked Taliban leaders for permission to join the armed struggle against the U.S.-backed government after he completed his bachelor’s degree in Shariah law.

“I was ready to take the AK-47 and go because no Afghan can tolerate the invasion of their country,” he recalled. “But then our elders told us no, don’t come here, stay over there, work in the universities because these are also our people and the media and the world are deceiving them about us.”

The Taliban sent Mr. Haqmal to India to earn a master’s degree in human rights from Aligarh Muslim University, he said. When he returned to Kandahar, he was focused on recruitment and propaganda for the Taliban. After the fall of Kabul, he became the chief spokesman for the Taliban-run finance ministry.

Fereshta Abbasi, an Afghan lawyer, said she had long been suspicious about a man who worked alongside her at a fortified compound, Camp Baron near the Kabul airport, that hosted offices for development projects funded by the U.S. and other Western countries.

But it wasn’t until the day after the fall of Kabul—when the man appeared on television clutching a Kalashnikov rifle—that she discovered he was in fact a Taliban commander. “I was shocked,” said Ms. Abbasi, who is now based in London. The commander, Assad Massoud Kohistani, said in an interview with CNN that women should cover their faces...


Smokin' Sunday Women

 On Twitter.

More here and here.

And Bella Thorne.

Representative Rashida Tlaib Struggles to Defend Closure of Federal Prisons

She sponsored a House bill called the BREATHE Act.

It's the Black Live Matter bill. According to Wikipedia:

The BREATHE Act's most notable diversion from past reform efforts is its explicit demand that Congress repeal the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, colloquially known as the "crime bill." For example, the BREATHE Act would repeal the "three-strikes law," which when it passed in 1994 was seen as a rule that would deter repeat criminal activity, and prohibit use of the modern Taser, which was developed in the '90s by a private company and subsequently marketed as a way to prevent police killings as an alternative to firearms.They bill's supporters argue that these practices and policies have been harmful and dangerous.

The bill also stipulates that all federal prisons would be closed within ten years of passage into legislation. This is, in other words, bat-shit crazy.

More here, "The Ghost of Defund Comes for Rashida Tlaib."

And her embarrassing interview with Axios' Jonathan Swan:


Democrats Struggle Ahead of 2022

 I love it.

Frankly, there's little more I love than to see Democrats struggle. This like a Christmas present.

At NYT, "Democrats Struggle to Energize Their Base as Frustrations Mount":

Democrats across the party are raising alarms about sinking support among some of their most loyal voters, warning the White House and congressional leadership that they are falling short on campaign promises and leaving their base unsatisfied and unmotivated ahead of next year’s midterm elections.

President Biden has achieved some major victories, signing a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill and moving a nearly $2 trillion social policy and climate change bill through the House. But some Democrats are warning that many of the voters who put them in control of the federal government last year may see little incentive to return to the polls in the midterms — reigniting a debate over electoral strategy that has been raging within the party since 2016.

As the administration focuses on those two bills, a long list of other party priorities — expanding voting rights, enacting criminal justice reform, enshrining abortion rights, raising the federal minimum wage to $15, fixing a broken immigration system — have languished or died in Congress. Negotiations in the Senate are likely to further dilute the economic and climate proposals that animated Mr. Biden’s campaign — if the bill passes at all. And the president’s central promise of healing divisions and lowering the political temperature has failed to be fruitful, as violent language flourishes and threats to lawmakers flood into Congress.

Interviews with Democratic lawmakers, activists and officials in Washington and in key battleground states show a party deeply concerned about retaining its own supporters. Even as strategists and vulnerable incumbents from battleground districts worry about swing voters, others argue that the erosion of crucial segments of the party’s coalition could pose more of a threat in midterm elections that are widely believed to be stacked against it.

Already, Mr. Biden’s approval ratings have taken a sharp fall among some of his core constituencies, showing double-digit declines among Black, Latino, female and young voters. Those drops have led to increased tension between the White House and progressives at a time of heightened political anxiety, after Democrats were caught off-guard by the intensity of the backlash against them in elections earlier this month. Mr. Biden’s plummeting national approval ratings have also raised concerns about whether he would — or should — run for re-election in 2024.

Not all of the blame is being placed squarely on the shoulders of Mr. Biden; a large percentage of frustration is with the Democratic Party itself.

“It’s frustrating to see the Democrats spend all of this time fighting against themselves and to give a perception to the country, which the Republicans are seizing on, that the Democrats can’t govern,” said Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, who leads the A.M.E. churches across Georgia. “And some of us are tired of them getting pushed around, because when they get pushed around, African Americans get shoved.”

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, a leading House progressive, warned that the party is at risk of “breaking trust” with vital constituencies, including young people and people of color.

“There’s all this focus on ‘Democrats deliver, Democrats deliver,’ but are they delivering on the things that people are asking for the most right now?” she said in an interview. “In communities like mine, the issues that people are loudest and feel most passionately about are the ones that the party is speaking to the least.”

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and other Democrats acknowledge that a significant part of the challenge facing their party is structural: With slim congressional majorities, the party cannot pass anything unless the entire caucus agrees. That empowers moderate Democrats like Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia to block some of the biggest promises to their supporters, including a broad voting rights bill.

A more aggressive approach may not lead to eventual passage of an immigration or voting rights law, but it would signal to Democrats that Mr. Biden is fighting for them, said Faiz Shakir, a close adviser to Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Mr. Shakir and others worry that the focus on the two significant pieces of legislation — infrastructure and the spending bill — won’t be enough to energize supporters skeptical of the federal government’s ability to improve their lives.

“I’m a supporter of Biden, a supporter of the agenda, and I’m frustrated and upset with him to allow this to go in the direction it has,” said Mr. Shakir, who managed Mr. Sanders’s presidential run in 2020. “It looks like we have President Manchin instead of President Biden in this debate.”

He added: “It’s made the president look weak.”

The divide over how much attention to devote to staunch Democratic constituencies versus moderate swing voters taps into a political debate that’s long roiled the party: Is it more important to energize the base or to persuade swing voters? And can Democrats do both things at once?

White House advisers argue that winning swing voters, particularly the suburban independents who play an outsize role in battleground districts, is what will keep Democrats in power — or at least curb the scale of their midterm losses. They see the drop among core groups of Democrats as reflective of a challenging political moment — rising inflation, the continued pandemic, uncertainty about schools — rather than unhappiness with the administration’s priorities.

“It’s November of 2021, not September of 2022,” John Anzalone, Mr. Biden’s pollster, said. “If we pass Build Back Better, we have a great message going into the midterms, when the bell rings on Labor Day, about what we’ve done for people.”

Even pared back from the $3.5 trillion plan that Mr. Biden originally sought, the legislation that passed the House earlier this month offers proposals transforming child care, elder care, prescription drugs and financial aid for college, as well as making the largest investment ever to slow climate change. But some of the most popular policies will not be felt by voters until long after the midterm elections, nor will the impact of many of the infrastructure projects.

Already, Democrats face a challenging education effort with voters. According to a survey conducted by Global Strategy Group, a Democratic polling firm, only about a third of white battleground voters think that either infrastructure or the broader spending bill will help them personally. Among white Democratic battleground voters, support for the bills is only 72 percent...

Still more.


A Chaotic Rivalry Weekend Sets Up Final Sprint for College Football Playoff Spots (VIDEO)

I watched all three big games: Ohio State at Michigan, Oklahoma at Oklahoma State, and Alabama at Purdue.

All great, especially Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State, with four overtimes.

At WSJ, "The semifinal field is still wide open after Michigan defeated Ohio State, Oklahoma State beat Oklahoma and Alabama won ugly in the Iron Bowl":

In Ann Arbor, there was catharsis for Michigan fans. At Auburn, Alabama’s uncharacteristic mistakes set up a quadruple-overtime survival test for the Crimson Tide. And by the time the clock ran out in Stillwater, Okla., the top end of the college football standings had been completely reshuffled.

College’s football’s rivalry weekend brought a huge dose of unanticipated chaos to the College Football Playoff picture. No. 1 Georgia and upstart Cincinnati both remained undefeated. But elsewhere, the top end of the rankings got a major reshuffle.

Michigan has its eye on a playoff spot for the first time after defeating Ohio State 42-27 in a snowy Big House. First it must beat No. 16 Iowa in the Big Ten championship next weekend, however.

Oklahoma State is also eyeing a semifinal debut, having rallied from a nine-point deficit to beat Oklahoma for the first time in seven years and clinch a spot in the Big 12 title game.

Saturday was rougher for No. 3 Alabama, which was held to three points through 59 minutes of the Iron Bowl and needed a last-minute touchdown drive and four additional overtimes to take down a 6-5 Auburn team playing with its second-string quarterback who was visibly injured.

It was an unusually sloppy performance for the Crimson Tide, who tallied 11 penalties for 129 yards. Quarterback Bryce Young, a Heisman Trophy favorite, threw a crucial red-zone interception and completed less than half of his 52 passes, top receiver Jameson Williams got ejected from the game for targeting during a first half kick return and Alabama converted on fourth down just once in four tries. Auburn nearly clinched the game in regulation with just 10 points and 137 total yards of offense.

“I just had a feeling that the way we were playing on defense, that we were going to have some opportunities and be able to come back in the game,” said Alabama coach Nick Saban following the game. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of the way our players kept competing in the game.”

Oklahoma State also pulled off a second-half comeback in its rivalry game against No. 10 Oklahoma. The Cowboys headed into halftime tied at 24 only to see the Sooners open up a nine-point lead after a special teams gaffe, a missed field goal and a turnover in the third quarter.

Just when everything was going wrong, Oklahoma State clawed its way to a 37-33 lead. Steady defense sealed the deal, breaking up several deep balls to the end zone from Oklahoma’s freshman sensation, quarterback Caleb Williams, then sacking him on the final play of the game...