Five Things That Happened While You Were Out: Aug. 28, 2020

Welcome to the weekend, CivMixers. The weather is looking to be fairly crummy. But days off are days off. Nothing to sneeze at there. I’m not complaining.

One of the big problems of the pandemic is the ever-changing information landscape. It’s difficult to know exactly who to believe and what’s true.

Some of this is politics, and I’m going to leave that one alone (for now). But also there’s the fact that we still just don’t know all that much about this virus, and are learning more about it all the time. And so it makes sense that protocols would change based on scientific revelations and research.

Sadly, some people in positions of power don’t seem to making decisions based on science. Case in point consider this: Two senior public relations experts advising the FDA have been fired from their positions after President Donald Trump and the agency’s head exaggerated the proven benefits of a blood plasma treatment for Covid-19.

One of the individuals who has been ousted was the FDA’s chief spokesperson, Emily Miller, who had held her (now former) job for just 11 days. She had had previously worked in communications for the re-election campaign of Sen. Ted Cruz and as a reporter for the conservative cable network One America News.

This does nothing to improve the level of trust – or lack thereof – that many Americans have in the federal government and its handling of the pandemic. Perhaps the silver lining is that at least the FDA took action to address a problem and didn’t let it linger.

In today’s 5 things…

1) Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Eliot Engel, announced today that his panel is moving to hold Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in contempt of Congress for repeatedly refusing to comply with subpoenas of records related to “his transparently political misuse of Department resources.”

This is an interesting move by Engel – and it could well be the last significant thing he does before leaving office. He lost a primary battle to a progressive challenger, Jamaal Bowman, but has continued to spar with Pompeo publicly in the weeks since the election.

“From Mr. Pompeo’s refusal to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry to his willingness to bolster a Senate Republican-led smear against the President’s political rivals to his speech to the RNC which defied his own guidance and possibly the law, he has demonstrated alarming disregard for the laws and rules governing his own conduct and for the tools the constitution provides to prevent government corruption,” Engel, long Pompeo’s fierce critic, said in a statement.

The committee’s contempt resolution will also cite Pompeo’s refusal to comply with a subpoena issued during the House impeachment inquiry last year. The House, as you’ll recall, impeached Trump in December for his pressure on Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden as his father, former VP Joe Biden, was running for the Democratic presidential nomination.

2) The pandemic did not deter thousands of people from gathering today at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. for what organizers – including the Rev. Al Sharpton – deemed the “Commitment March: Get Your Knee Off Our Necks.”

The event was devised in part to build on the passion for racial justice that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. summoned when he delivered his “I Have a Dream” address on that same spot 57 years ago.

A group of Black civil rights activists marched more than 700 miles from Wisconsin – site of the latest police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake – to be at this demonstration. Blake’s sister also attended, and told the crowd: “We will not be a footstool to oppression. Black America, I hold you accountable. You must stand. You must fight, but not with violence and chaos.”

Other speakers included King’s son Martin Luther King III; George Floyd’s sister, Bridget Floyd; and Breonna Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer.

3) Here’s a crazy story – with a happy ending – for your Friday reading: A three-year-old girl who was swept out to sea on an inflatable unicorn float at a beach in the town of Antirrio in southern Greece earlier this week was saved by a quick-thinking passing ferryboat captain.

The captain managed to steer his boat, which can hold more than 300 cars and 500 passengers, close enough to the child for someone to grab her without toppling her tipsy craft. He also had to keep the unicorn from getting caught up in the backwash of the ship’s engine.

He managed it all, and of course the rescue was captured on video and widely shared on social media. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called the captain to thank him and his crew.

4) I know a lot of folks out there are obsessively following the NXIVM sex cult story. I have to confess that I don’t see the allure. But, for those of you who continue to be fascinated by this ongoing saga, here’s the latest:

The cult’s convicted leader, Keith Raniere, has no remorse for his crimes and is even putting up a $25,000 prize for anyone to find holes in his case, prosecutors allege in court new papers requesting he be sentenced to life in prison.

As a result of the seriousness of his crimes, coupled with his lack of contrition, merits the stiff sentence they are seeking.

At his Oct. 27 sentencing, which has been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, Raniere faces 15 years to life behind bars.

5) To close the loop on the question of the mysterious closure of Best Buy at Crossgates: Albany County officials have said they’re aware of a positive coronavirus case at the store, even though the company itself has not confirmed that information.

A Best Buy spokeswoman told the TU in an emailed statement:

“Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our employees and customers, so we’ve decided to temporarily close in-store shopping at our Crossgates Mall store. We plan to re-open on Monday morning, August 31st. In the meantime, customers can still pick up online orders at the door and we are of course ready to serve you on BestBuy.com or on the Best Buy app.”

The store is scheduled to reopen Monday. County officials said they did not close the store, nor did they have discussions with the retailer about the incident.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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