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Book: Top US officer feared Trump could order China strike



Book: Top US officer feared Trump could order China strike

WASHINGTON — Fearful of Donald Trump’s actions in his final weeks as president, the United States’ top military officer twice called his Chinese counterpart to assure him that the two nations would not suddenly go to war, a senior defense official said Tuesday after the conversations were described in excerpts from a forthcoming book.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley told Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army that the United States would not strike. One call took place on Oct. 30, 2020, four days before the election that defeated Trump. The second call was on Jan. 8, 2021, just two days after the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of the outgoing chief executive.

Trump said Milley should be tried for treason if the report was true.

Milley went so far as to promise Li that he would warn his counterpart in the event of a U.S. attack, according to the book “Peril,” written by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the book. Details from the book, which is set to be released next week, were first reported by The Washington Post on Tuesday.

“General Li, I want to assure you that the American government is stable and everything is going to be okay,” Milley told him in the first call, according to the book. “We are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you.”

“If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise,” Milley reportedly said.

According to the defense official, Milley’s message to Li on both occasions was one of reassurance. The official questioned suggestions that Milley told Li he would call him first, and instead said the chairman made the point that the United States was not going to suddenly attack China without any warning — whether it be through diplomatic, administrative or military channels.

Milley also spoke with a number of other chiefs of defense around the world in the days after the Jan. 6 riot, including military leaders from the United Kingdom, Russia and Pakistan. A readout of those calls in January referred to “several” other counterparts that he spoke to with similar messages of reassurance that the U.S. government was strong and in control.

The second call was meant to placate Chinese fears about the events of Jan. 6. But the book reports that Li wasn’t as easily assuaged, even after Milley promised him: “We are 100 percent steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.”

Trump responded Tuesday with a sharply worded statement dismissing Milley as a “Dumbass,” and insisting he never considered attacking China.

Still, he said that if the report was true, “I assume he would be tried for TREASON in that he would have been dealing with his Chinese counterpart behind the President’s back and telling China that he would be giving them notification ‘of an attack.’ Can’t do that!”

“Actions should be taken immediately against Milley,” Trump said.

Milley believed the president suffered a mental decline after the election, agreeing with a view shared by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a phone call they had Jan. 8, according to officials.

Pelosi had previously said she spoke to Milley that day about “available precautions” to prevent Trump from initiating military action or ordering a nuclear launch, and she told colleagues she was given unspecified assurances that there were longstanding safeguards in place.

Milley, according to the book, called the admiral overseeing the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, the military unit responsible for Asia and the Pacific region, and recommended postponing upcoming military exercises. He also asked senior officers to swear an “oath” that Milley had to be involved if Trump gave an order to launch nuclear weapons, according to the book.

Officials in January and on Tuesday confirmed that Milley spoke with Pelosi, which was made public by the House speaker at the time. The officials said the two talked about the existing, long-held safeguards in the process for a nuclear strike. One official said Tuesday that Milley’s intent in speaking with his staff and commanders about the process was not a move to subvert the president or his power, but to reaffirm the procedures and ensure they were understood by everyone.

It’s not clear what, if any, military exercises were actually postponed. But defense officials said it is more likely that the military postponed a planned operation, such as a freedom of navigation transit by a U.S. Navy ship in the Pacific region. The defense officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Milley was appointed by Trump in 2018 and later drew the president’s wrath when he expressed regret for participating in a June 2020 photo op with Trump after federal law enforcement cleared a park near the White House of peaceful protesters so Trump could stand at a nearby damaged church.

In response to the book, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., sent President Joe Biden a letter Tuesday urging him to fire Milley, saying the general worked to “actively undermine the sitting Commander in Chief.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called the report “deeply concerning,” telling reporters at the Capitol, “I think the first step is for General Milley to answer the question as to what exactly he said.”

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said he had no concerns that Milley might have exceeded his authority, telling reporters that Democratic lawmakers “were circumspect in our language but many of us made it clear that we were counting on him to avoid the disaster which we knew could happen at any moment.”

A spokesperson for the Joint Staff declined to comment.

Milley’s second warning to Beijing came after Trump had fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper and filled several top positions with interim officeholders loyal to him.

The book also offers new insights into Trump’s efforts to hold on to power despite losing the election to Biden.

Trump refused to concede and offered false claims that the election had been stolen. He repeatedly pressed his vice president, Mike Pence, to refuse to certify the election results at the Capitol on Jan. 6, the event that was later interrupted by the mob.

Pence, the book writes, called Dan Quayle, a former vice president and fellow Indiana Republican, to see if there was any way he could acquiesce to Trump’s request. Quayle said absolutely not.

“Mike, you have no flexibility on this. None. Zero. Forget it. Put it away,” Quayle said, according to the book.

Pence ultimately agreed. He defied Trump to affirm Joe Biden’s victory.

Trump was not pleased.

“I don’t want to be your friend anymore if you don’t do this,” Trump replied, according to the book, later telling his vice president: “You’ve betrayed us. I made you. You were nothing.”

“Peril” describes Trump’s relentless efforts to convince Attorney General William Barr that the election had been stolen. Barr is quoted as telling Trump, “The Justice Department can’t take sides, as you know, between you and the other candidate.” According to the book, Barr had determined that allegations about rigged voting machines “were not panning out.” Barr also expressed disgust with Rudolph Giuliani and others insisting Trump had won, calling them a “clown car.”


Associated Press writers Hillel Italie in New York and Lisa Mascaro and Lolita Baldor contributed reporting.

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Paramount May Retreat From Theatrical to Focus on Streaming—Why?



Paramount May Retreat From Theatrical to Focus on Streaming—Why?
The future of Hollywood is being decided part and parcel. Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

When The Walt Disney Company gobbled up 20th Century Fox, it removed one of the six major movie studios from the Hollywood hierarchy. With Fox plucked from the pecking order, Netflix—the most prolific film studio in the world—stepped in to fill the void. But Netflix, as proud couch potatoes and cineastes both know, operates in a completely different ecosystem than its theatrical compatriots, and the ravenous streamer’s direct-to-consumer model has only grown more valuable during the pandemic. How much more? From March 15, 2020 to Sept. 15, 2021, Netflix’s stock price jumped from $298.84 to $577.76 — up 93 percent. Thus nearly every major studio is racing to become the next Netflix, rather than the other way around, and the status quo has been forever altered.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Paramount Pictures is now said to be “scaling back on its theatrical tentpole productions to focus on titles that will service Paramount+.” While Paramount parent company ViacomCBS has made no such official statement, it did recently depose Paramount chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos, one of the last remaining studio heads with actual film experience, for the more streaming friendly Brian Robbins. Even without confirmation of a new strategy, the mere idea of a storied 109-year-old studio responsible for some of the most influential cinema of the last century stepping back from the medium is a red flag for the industry. Couple that with the deluge of sell-offs and streaming/theatrical same-day hybrid releases the pandemic has brought on, and it’s clear that Hollywood finds itself in the midst of a metamorphosis.

What led Hollywood to this point, what does it mean for the major players involved, and how can the growing void be filled? Let’s explore.

Avengers: Endgame
Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame Marvel

Why movie theaters are going out of fashion

Paramount is reportedly retreating from the 12-month grind of building out a versatile theatrical release slate. This comes just a few short years after the Murdoch family surveyed the landscape and waved the white flag on Fox. Why? Over the last 15 years, we’ve seen the box office move into three separate tiers:

  1. Big-budget tentpole franchises: Marvel, Star Wars, DC and other IP-driven, $100 million-plus blockbusters
  2. Low-budget rolls of the dice: movies that are low risk but high reward when they connect, like the horror franchises (Paranormal Activity, Insidious, The Purge) that made Blumhouse Productions a player
  3. Mid-budget comedies and awards-seeking dramas and passion projects: typically in the $50 million to $100 million range, these sorts of films are gradually disappearing from the theatrical slate as they move to streaming.

With shifting audience behaviors putting pressure on profits for both movie theaters and studios, Wall Street has begun valuing the long-term upside of streaming. As a result, nearly every major entertainment media conglomerate has restructured in order to prioritize subscription business, which has the dual benefit of making income more predictable and lowering costs.

“For Paramount, or Disney, or any of the major studios, there are two big costs to consider with theatrical moviemaking: production and distribution,” David Offenberg, Associate Professor of Entertainment Finance in LMU’s College of Business Administration, told Observer. “You have to spend money to make a movie and you have to spend money to get it in front of consumers. Both are risky because if audiences don’t like the film, it’s incredibly difficult to recoup that money.”

Offenberg notes that navigating the film industry has become even more challenging at a time when streaming services are losing money. Netflix just reached the black this year and major players such as Disney+ and HBO Max aren’t expected to be profitable until at least 2024. Studios must make careful bets on what to produce and distribute as a result.

The easiest way to reduce distribution costs is to send a film straight to streaming, which sets up the entire dilemma for Paramount. Each major studio outside of Sony (which does not have a premium in-house SVOD service) has the choice of whether or not to put a film into theaters, or save between $50 million and $150 million in marketing by rerouting it to streaming. You can take a guess which route anxious executives who aren’t in love with the final product will choose. So it’s only natural that the theatrical market will contract further.

We’re still in the embryonic stages of SVOD cinema and it’s difficult to gauge how well a direct-to-streaming film performs in terms of matching the revenue generation of traditional release (the early returns are, uhh, not great). Without box office and all the subsequent windows a studio has to resell a film, streamers must measure a movie’s ability to acquire new customers and how significantly that movie helps to retain customers and reduce churn.

Box Office
Emily Blunt in Paramount’s A Quiet Place Part II. Paramount

What is Hollywood’s new normal?

If THR‘s report is accurate, we can expect Paramount to leverage the IP it currently owns and develop films based on IP from its television library as well (which may explain the new Paw Patrol and SpongeBob movies). The advantage of a streaming service is that it provides parent companies with ample data about audience viewing habits, so it can tailor films to specific audiences and hyper-target those audiences with promotion. But that doesn’t mean Paramount, or any other major studio, is going to abandon movie theaters — especially not after keeping A Quiet Place II off Paramount+ for 45 days and seeing it earn $297 million at the box office worldwide, or more than seven times its $39 million budget.

“Studios can walk and chew gum at the same time,” Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Box Office Pro, told Observer. “While the streaming wars are raging, there are different financial realities depending on the type of content being distributed. Paramount obviously has a high interest in beefing up their at-home content model, but they also have made it clear that theatrical windows remain important following the success of A Quiet Place Part II and the delays of Top Gun Maverick and the Mission: Impossible sequels to more favorable global corridors next year.”

Robbins sees an industry still committed to traditional releases. Take Sony, for example. The studio has sold a small crop of films to streaming that either had minimum box office potential to begin with or weren’t going to be in a position to draw the necessary audience at this current juncture. At the same time, it has maintained theatrical exclusivity for upcoming blockbusters such as Venom: Let There Be Carnage and Spider-Man: No Way Home.

“In the wake of Disney also re-committing to exclusive windows for the remainder of its 2021 releases, plus the established 2022 re-commitment by Warner Bros., it looks to me more like the balancing act we’ve anticipated is beginning to emerge across the industry,” Robbins argues. “Studios are certainly still open to experiment and adjust on the fly if needed but aggressive pandemic models and strategies are slowly fading as a middle-ground approach begins to take root and these companies aim to ensure both their theatrical and at-home goals are met.”

Recent box office numbers support the idea of a gradual theatrical recovery and barring any unforeseen bombshells 2022 is poised to be a true bounce back stabilizing year for cinema. A mutually beneficial middle-ground is possible and, as Robbins notes, likely taking shape before our eyes. But that also doesn’t mean the overarching priorities of major studios have changed as long as Wall Street continues to value streaming.

“On one hand, we are seeing a theatrical push from the industry. On the other hand, it’s a half-hearted push, isn’t it?” Offenberg asks. “Hollywood isn’t doing what France does, where prior to the pandemic Netflix waited 36 months after a film came out in French theaters to receive a movie. I would consider it a real theatrical push if a studio showed a real commitment to prioritizing theatrical revenue over streaming revenue. None of them are going to do that right now.”

John Wick Lionsgate
Lionsgate’s John Wick Lionsgate

Ripple effects and filling the void

We’ve gone from six major theatrical studios to three consistent theatrical biggies (Disney, WB, Universal), one prolific streamer (Netflix), two bit players (Paramount, Sony), and two tech-backed streamers with a foot in both streaming and theatrical (Amazon, Apple). Reducing the number of buyers is never an ideal situation for talent, who are already fighting against a disparity in power with the studios. But even as some of the bigger studios disappear or shrink, there’s an increasing number of non-native Hollywood companies that want in on content, such as the yet-to-be-named company backed by Blackstone Group and overseen by former senior Disney executives Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs that acquired Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine.

Some believe that boutique studios such as A24 and Neon could benefit from the winnowing of major players. But they make the types of films that aren’t doing well in theaters. Streamers would be more open to acquiring their content, most likely on a cost-plus model which means there’s very little upside for the film companies that are financing them. They’re somewhat capped by selling to streamers and slowly getting capped by box office performance.

“It’s bad news for A24 and Neon,” Offenberg said. “Fewer theaters to monetize their films and consumers now have the expectation that theaters are where you go to see superhero and horror films, not where you go to see thought-provoking cinema. I don’t think they’re going to fill in the gaps left by the majors, who have good economic reason for abandoning those spaces.”

The one company that stands a chance of benefiting is Lionsgate, home of the John Wick and Hunger Games franchises. They have a big enough distribution system in place and know-how in distribution. If they can find the right kind of films outside of horror and superhero-action (which requires a waterfall of luck) they could make those unique offerings shine with theatrical releases. But they’ll have to get creative. In this day and age, success goes beyond just content itself, especially for new IP. Mini-majors such as Lionsgate need to figure out how to monetize beyond just box office and licensing, whether that be through consumer products, creating digital environments for audiences similar to Fortnite, or something else entirely.

Movie Math is an armchair analysis of Hollywood’s strategies for big new releases.

Paramount May Retreat From Theatrical to Focus on Streaming—Why?

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Police action-thriller ‘Copshop’ comes out guns blazing



Police action-thriller ‘Copshop’ comes out guns blazing



Rated R. At AMC Boston Common, AMC South Bay, Regal Fenway and suburban theaters.

Grade: B+

Scotsman Gerard Butler once again stands tall as an action-film star in “Copshop,” an off-the-hook police action-thriller with a serious “John Wick” vibe. Butler, who also produced, plays mystery man Bob Viddick, who gets himself locked up in a remote Nevada police precinct next to the cell holding Teddy Murretto (Frank Grillo, TV’s “Billions”). Viddick describes himself as, not a psychopath, but a “professional.” Murretto is a criminal who got himself arrested by sucker punching Nevada police officer Valerie Young (Alexis Louder, “The Tomorrow War”). Young describes Murretto as “a day ahead of the devil.” Well, the devil’s day has come.

“Copshop,” which was scripted by newcomer Kurt McLeod and Joe Carnahan (“The A-Team,” “The Grey”), the film’s director, from a story by Mark Williams (TV’s “Ozark”), doesn’t strike you as very realistic or particularly original. Carnahan’s work has also been mostly over-the-top. But as a guns-a-blazing, body-count, blood fest, it’s pretty amusing.

The Nevada attorney general, a total prop, was killed a few days earlier, signaling to us that something deeply corrupt is going on. Murretto keeps asking about the welfare of his “ex and kid,” and we don’t hold out much hope. Viddick tries to win Young’s confidence after she is wounded in a shootout with a genuine psychopath named Anthony Lamb (a standout Toby Huss), and she locks herself in the cell area with Viddick and Murretto. A policeman at the station named Huber (Ryan O’Nan) is dirty and up to no good. Lamb arrives at the station in a van, carrying flowers and balloons and begins mowing down everyone in sight. Viddick does all he can to get to Murretto, including teaching him some good, old-fashioned “pirate code.”

Alexis Louder stars as Valerie Young in Joe Carnahan’s ‘COPSHOP,’ an Open Road Films and Briarcliff Entertainment release. Credit : Kyle Kaplan / Open Road Films / Briarcliff Entertainment

Carnahan brings back the revolving industrial fan, the biggest cliche of 1980s music videos, as a backdrop to much of the action, which is mostly limited to the remote desert station. But you don’t feel closed in because Carnahan otherwise makes good use of the space. In his early 50s, Butler still has the rugged good looks and physicality to play these roles and that King of Sparta screen presence and swagger. There is a shootout in the desert between good-guys-gone-bad that is very nicely staged.

Clinton Shorter’s retro score sets the Sam Peckinpah-esque mood, along with an homage to Curtis Mayfield’s “Freddy’s Dead” from Mayfield’s legendary, Grammy-nominated “Super Fly” score. The filmmakers also owe a debt to John Carpenter’s 1976 gem “Assault on Precinct 13.” Credit also goes to “Copshop” fight coordinator Cory DeMeyers (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”).

Another acting standout is female lead Louder, who was “Nigerian Woman #2” in “Black Panther” and turns her supporting role here into an audition for bigger and even better things.

(“Copshop” contains profanity and graphic violence.)

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3 babies recently born to Afghan refugees at Wisconsin’s Fort McCoy



3 babies recently born to Afghan refugees at Wisconsin’s Fort McCoy

SPARTA, Wis. — There’s new life at the Fort McCoy military base in western Wisconsin where more than 12,000 Afghan refugees are staying.

Three babies have been born to Afghan evacuees in recent days, according to Fort McCoy spokeswoman Cheryl Phillips.

“From all indications, the babies and mothers are doing well,” Phillips said.

Phillips declined to provide more details on the births, including whether the babies were born on base or at a local hospital, the State Journal reported.

Roughly 12,500 Afghan refugees are temporarily staying at Fort McCoy as of this week.

Fort McCoy, 40 miles (64 kilometers) east of La Crosse and the Minnesota border, is one of eight military bases in the U.S. that is housing refugees who fled from Afghanistan after the Taliban toppled Afghanistan’s U.S.-backed government on Aug. 15.

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Moderna says vaccine’s effectiveness wanes over time



Moderna says vaccine’s effectiveness wanes over time

(WXIN) — Moderna released information this week indicating protection from its COVID vaccine wanes over time as U.S. regulators try to determine the need for booster shots. The drugmaker shared information from a phase three study showing that breakthrough cases were less frequent in those who’ve been more recently vaccinated.

Researchers compared about 14,000 people in Moderna’s 2020 vaccine study who had gotten a first dose about a year ago with another 11,000 vaccinated last winter, roughly eight months ago. As delta surged in July and August, Moderna concluded that the more recently vaccinated group had a 36% lower rate of “breakthrough” infections than did those vaccinated longer ago.

According to Moderna data, there were 88 breakthrough cases out of 11,431 people vaccinated between December 2020 and March 2021. The company identified 162 breakthrough cases out of 14,746 people vaccinated from July 2020 through October 2020.

There were also fewer severe cases of COVID-19 in individuals who had been more recently vaccinated, Moderna said. The company believes the results show the need for booster shots, as the vaccine’s efficacy appears to wane over time. The analysis still needs to be peer-reviewed.

Pfizer-BioNTech is also seeking approval of an additional booster shot of its COVID-19 vaccine. A key Food and Drug Administration vaccine advisory panel will convene this week to examine the need for booster shots in the U.S.

Pfizer said protection against COVID-19 is holding in the U.S. However, the company gave an extra dose to 306 people six to eight months after they received their second dose; the booster shot resulted in a threefold increase in virus-fighting antibodies.

Support for the booster shot has been mixed. While the Biden administration hoped to begin distributing doses on Sept. 20, the FDA has taken a cautious tone thus far. The agency will have the final say on the booster campaign and doesn’t necessarily have to follow the recommendations of its advisory panel. Booster shots have been approved for individuals with compromised immune systems.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Madrid: Denounce your hate Valor Christian



Madrid: Denounce your hate Valor Christian

Valor Christian High School has hit the headlines as of late for dominating in 5A sports, but also for waving a proverbial anti-LGBTQ banner for all current and potential students, teachers, and employees to see.

The school does not embrace, love, and respect all as its leaders have stated, especially not students, families, or coaches who misalign with their anti-gay beliefs.

Valor has pushed out two LGBTQ athletic coaches within a year. Inoke Tonga, a devout Christian and openly gay man in August. And Lauren Benner, 2019 school coach of the year and the girls’ lacrosse head coach who lost her job in spring 2020.

Both faced similar interrogations with intrusive questioning about their sexuality and intimate relationships. They were asked to denounce their sexuality to keep their jobs. In other words, turn straight for pay. Convert or leave.

“My jaw was on the floor in disbelief,” Brenner wrote in an Instagram post. “I felt like I had just gone through a time travel machine that shot me back 50 years.”

This regressive ideology leaves toxic stress in the student body. It reinforces that it’s not safe to be gay. Examples of stigma, discrimination, and bias like these are detrimental to LGBTQ youth. This has the potential to deteriorate the mental health of students.

A protective tool deployed by LGBTQ people is pride. There’s power in embracing your authentic self. It’s the strongest weapon to defeat bigotry’s hate and embrace divine joy.

Take it from Keely Antonio, a Valor class of 2018 alum, who is out and proud now but was not in high school.

“I gotta be honest when I was there, during that time, I don’t think I would have been comfortable doing that,” Antonio told The Denver Post.

Surviving high school has led her to a life of helping others. Now she helps to empower LGBTQ+ adults.  She partnered and co-created Coming Out Happy with her girlfriend, Dani Max. The coaching duo helps others reconnect with their authentic selves.

Antonio was happy to learn that Tonga and Brenner chose to live their truth over her alma mater.

“I’m so proud that they are standing up for what they feel is right,” she said. “It gives me chills and brings tears to my eyes.”

The former coaches had the power to walk away with pride. But what about the students who are stuck in an institution that torments them. Classmates, allies, parents and alumni came together to show support.

“My obligation as someone called to love others as the Lord does is to speak out against bigotry and stand up,” Lucy Sarkissian a current student said.

The coaches’ dismissals sparked others to break the silence. Cole Watson, a 2018 alumni, started collecting statements online from survivors of Valor’s anti-LGBTQ culture.

“This has to change, and I’m hoping that sharing these stories can help catalyze it,” he said.

The online document has grown to 15 pages long and captures over a decade of incidents. It’s filled with anonymous and attributed statements. Together they describe a hellscape for LGBTQ students at Valor. It reveals the school’s history of discriminatory culture and harmful conditions.

“This school pushed me to suicidal ideation, and it took me YEARS to recover,” Watson wrote about his own experience.

Maxwell Wolf, a bisexual and trans alum, shares about the abuse survived at home and school.

“I have deep and lasting trauma as a result of Valor’s treatment,” Wolf’s statement said. “I was deeply depressed and suicidal because I was hopeless.”

“They failed me as a school, as Christians, and as people,” Wolf continued.

Educational institutions whether public or private have no right to damage young people. LGBTQ youth deserve safer spaces in all schools, including religious ones.

Antonio believes LGBTQ people have the right to divine and beautiful purpose.

“This life is short and you deserve to create a life that feels good and aligned with who you are,” she said.

LGBTQ youth deserve to be all three if they want. Christian, gay and alive.

Tonga agreed in a recent social media post with a rainbow background. He asked for people to pray together, to fight for one another and console each other during the hard times.

“The best way to get our message across is to lead fervently with love,” he said.

LGBTQ+ students, family members and alumni have demonstrated fervent love and acceptance, the type Jesus Christ embodied.

Religious leaders take note. The sermon is in session, and this is how you live your value.

Mimi Madrid is a Denver-raised writer who has worked in non-profits serving youth, LGBTQ, and Latinx communities.

To send a letter to the editor about this article, submit online or check out our guidelines for how to submit by email or mail.

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Goldberg: Biden’s vax stance will feed pandemic culture war



Goldberg: Biden’s vax stance will feed pandemic culture war

Maybe President Biden should handle COVID-19 the way he’s handled Afghanistan.

It’s a strange thought, given how badly he botched the U.S. withdrawal. But at least Afghanistan Joe had a clear idea about what we needed to do. COVID Joe has no such exit strategy. He’s making it up as he goes.

“I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not extending a forever exit,” Biden proclaimed on Aug. 31 — and he meant it.

However, he has no problem with a forever exit from the pandemic.

In his address unveiling his COVID plan, Biden failed to offer anything like an exit strategy or even a description of what victory might look like.

In fairness, one reason he didn’t is because he can’t. As with terrorism, permanent and total victory is impossible. As Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, explains: “SARS-CoV-2 will become an endemic virus settling alongside the other four strains of coronaviruses that circulate widely among us.” In February, 9 out of 10 leading immunologists, virologists and other experts surveyed by the British scientific journal Nature said it’s here to stay.

Part of Biden’s problem is that he already had his “mission accomplished” moment in July. And while it’s not his fault that the delta variant wrecked his victory lap — and his poll numbers on his handling of the pandemic — his response is clearly improvised, probably counterproductive, and very, very political.

Last week, Biden issued a sweeping mandate that all private businesses with 100 or more employees require workers to get vaccinated or receive a weekly coronavirus test. The mere fact that the administration is using a nebulous and constitutionally problematic authority under the Occupational Safety and Health Act suggests that it essentially rummaged around to find a power it didn’t think it had or would need. Such workarounds are its stock in trade. The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is trying to overturn state bans on mask mandates, and Biden’s now-voided extension of the eviction moratorium was pushed through by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Biden’s mandate on private businesses will probably involve no end of legal and bureaucratic headaches. The president’s defenders are already calling it a testing mandate, not a vaccination mandate — as Justice Department lawyers will surely argue in future lawsuits. Technically, employees of large businesses will have to be tested weekly but can opt out if they’re vaccinated. But Biden didn’t frame it as a testing mandate, he framed it as a vaccine mandate.

That raises constitutional concerns, as does his vow, “If these governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I’ll use my power as president to get them out of the way.”

When Donald Trump declared he had “total” authority to fight COVID-19, Democrats rightly condemned his thumbless grasp of the Constitution. “We don’t have a king in this country. We didn’t want a king, so we have a Constitution and we elect a president. … All other powers remain to the states,” said Andrew Cuomo, then governor of New York and a liberal darling.

Now, because a Democrat is promising to ride roughshod over governors, Democrats celebrate.

This explains why Biden relishes this fight. He’s already achieved one of his goals — to change the subject from handing Afghanistan to the Taliban in time for the anniversary of 9/11. But the other political calculation is that he doesn’t need the support of people ideologically (and foolishly) opposed to getting vaccinated, but he does need the support of those who despise such people.

By pandering on vaccination, Biden isn’t dialing down the culture war dynamic of the pandemic, he’s intensifying it. Once he was on the side of constitutional and democratic norms, now he’s waving those aside.

Worse, he’s sending the signal to many of those most fed up with the pandemic that this will never end. That “never exit” message may seem smart politically, but it doesn’t encourage steadfastness or compliance. It fosters exhaustion and ever more polarization.

Jonah Goldberg is editor-in-chief of The Dispatch.

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Gen. Mark Milley says calls to China were ‘perfectly’ within scope of job



Gen. Mark Milley says calls to China were ‘perfectly’ within scope of job

ATHENS, Greece — The top U.S. military officer said Friday that calls he made to his Chinese counterpart in the final stormy months of Donald Trump’s presidency were “perfectly within the duties and responsibilities” of his job.

In his first public comments on the conversations, Gen. Mark Milley said such calls are “routine” and were done “to reassure both allies and adversaries in this case in order to ensure strategic stability.” The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke to The Associated Press and another reporter traveling with him to Europe.

Milley has been at the center of a firestorm amid reports he made two calls to Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army to assure him that the United States was not going to suddenly go to war with or attack China.

Descriptions of the calls made last October and in January were first aired in excerpts from the forthcoming book “Peril” by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. The book says Milley told Li that he would warn Li in the event of an attack.

Milley on Friday offered only a brief defense of his calls, saying he plans a deeper discussion about the matter for Congress when he testifies at a hearing later in September.

“I think it’s best that I reserve my comments on the record until I do that in front of the lawmakers who have the lawful responsibility to oversee the U.S. military,” Milley said. “I’ll go into any level of detail Congress wants to go into in a couple of weeks.”

Milley and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are scheduled to testify Sept. 28 before the Senate Armed Services Committee, in what initially was going to be a hearing on the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan and the chaotic evacuation of Americans, Afghans and others from that country.

Now, however, Milley is expected to face tough questioning on the telephone calls, which came during Trump’s turbulent last months in office as he challenged the results of the 2020 election. The second call, on Jan. 8, came two days after a violent mob attacked the U.S. Capitol in an effort to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s White House victory.

A special House committee that is investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol has asked for details about Milley’s calls. U.S. Reps. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., leaders of the committee, have also sought records related to the November election, the transfer of power from Trump to Biden and the riot.

Milley was appointed Joint Chiefs chairman by Trump in 2019 and has remained in that post in the Biden administration. As chairman, Milley is the top military adviser to the president and to the defense secretary.

The White House and the Pentagon chief have said they continue to have full trust and confidence in Milley.

The new book says Milley, fearful of Trump’s actions late in his term, twice called his Chinese counterpart to assure him that the U.S. was not going to attack China. One call took place on Oct. 30, four days before the American election. The second call was on Jan. 8, less than two weeks before Biden’s inauguration and two days after the insurrection at the Capitol by supporters of Trump.

Some U.S. lawmakers have said Milley overstepped his authority, and they have called for Biden to fire him. Trump blasted Milley as treasonous, called him “a complete nutjob” and said Milley “never told me about calls being made to China.”

Biden told reporters after the disclosures in the book that “I have great confidence in Gen. Milley.”

Milley’s office, in a statement this week, said the calls were intended to convey “reassurance” to the Chinese military and were in line with his responsibilities as Joint Chiefs chairman.

The statement from Milley spokesman Col. Dave Butler also said that the calls were “staffed, coordinated and communicated” with the Pentagon and other federal agencies.

According to the book, which the AP obtained, Milley assured his Chinese counterpart in the first call that “the American government is stable and everything is going to be okay.” It said he told Li, “We are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you.”

“If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise,” Milley reportedly said.

Milley spoke with a number of other military leaders around the world after the Jan. 6 riot; they included leaders from the United Kingdom, Russia and Pakistan. A description of those calls in January referred to “several” other counterparts that Milley spoke to with similar messages of reassurance that the U.S. government was strong and in control.

The second call was meant to placate Chinese fears about the events of Jan. 6. But the book reports that Li wasn’t as easily assuaged, even after Milley promised him: “We are 100 percent steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.”

In response to the book, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., urged Biden to fire Milley, saying the general worked to “actively undermine” the American commander in chief, Trump.

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Carthage man arrested on rape charges



Carthage man arrested on rape charges

CARTHAGE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – On Tuesday, September 14, State Police arrested 29-year-old Tyler Henson, of Carthage, accused of having sexual intercourse with a female under the age of 17, in the town of Pamelia.

Henson was charged with three counts of third-degree Rape, and two counts of third-degree Criminal Sex Act both felonies.

Henson was arraigned in the city of Watertown Court and was released on his own recognizance.

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Broe looks to replace Cherry Creek office building with residential project



Broe looks to replace Cherry Creek office building with residential project

Broe Real Estate Group recently broke ground on a new office building in Cherry Creek.

Now, it’s looking to potentially demolish an existing one about half a mile away and build a residential project in its place.

The firm, a division of Denver-based The Broe Group, has asked the city to rezone its 50 S. Steele St. property, a 1.4-acre site across from the eastern end of the Cherry Creek Shopping Center.

The property is home to a 10-story office building built in 1973, as well as a sizable parking lot. But Broe is asking the city to increase the zoning to C-MX-12, which allows structures up to 12 stories.

“The applicant is requesting to rezone the property to facilitate mixed use redevelopment of the site, and their tentative plan is to build a mixed-use building with ground floor retail and residential units above,” documents prepared by city staff state.

Denver’s Planning Board recommended approval of the request on Wednesday afternoon, with all seven members present voting in favor. The matter now goes to the City Council.

Broe has owned the 50 S. Steele St. property since at least the 1990s, according to property records.

The building is topped with signage for Keller Williams Integrity Real Estate and law firm Riggs Abney. Other tenants include Nova Home Loans and SonderCenters.

In its rezoning application, the company said it began talking to the surrounding community about the possible change in 2019 and 2020, then resumed those efforts this year “after a brief pandemic-related hiatus.”

“Enhancements to the surrounding streetscape and pedestrian network are just a few notable examples of stakeholder-driven feedback to strengthen the development’s impact (on) the fabric of the neighborhood,” the company wrote.

The application notes that several nearby structures are 12 stories or more. But the property immediately to the north is zoned for just five stories.

Developers in Denver are not currently required to incorporate income-restricted units in new housing projects, although that will likely change soon. But Broe has agreed to voluntarily restrict 12.5 percent of units in a new residential project at the site to those making up to 80 percent of the area median income, according to documents prepared by city staff.

Thomas Gounley, BusinessDen

The building is topped with signage for Keller Williams Integrity Real Estate and law firm Riggs Abney.

Broe is planning about a 480-unit project, according to the documents, meaning there would be about 60 income-restricted units. Development plans for the project have not yet been submitted to the city for review.

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Editorial: Haiti learns hard way not to trust Biden



Editorial: Haiti learns hard way not to trust Biden

With a friend like Joe Biden, who needs natural disasters?

On Aug. 14, a 7.2 earthquake hit the island nation of Haiti. At least 2,189 people were killed and 12,000 injured. Tens of thousands of homes were destroyed. It was followed by a tropical storm, and preceded by the assassination of its prime minister. A month later, the need for clean water, food and shelter continues.

On Wednesday, the Biden administration deported 86 Haitian nationals from the U.S. back to their native country, despite the multiple disasters that await.

Say it ain’t so, Joe.

Wasn’t Donald Trump supposed to  be the heartless one?

Human rights advocates are outraged, The Hill reported.

“That ICE would continue to carry out the mass deportations of our Haitian neighbors — with Haiti in the midst of its worst political, public health and economic crises yet — is cruel and callous,” said Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.).

When the earthquake hit, Biden made a statement: the U.S. had Haiti’s back.

“The United States remains a close and enduring friend to the people of Haiti, and we will be there in the aftermath of this tragedy,” he said in part.

And by “there” he meant “over here,” sending any of you who make it “here” back over “there.”

Biden has Haiti’s back the same way he had Afghanistan’s.

“Just one month after this devastating earthquake and storm that resulted in the deaths of over 2,200 Haitians, injured 12,000 people, damaged or destroyed 120,000 homes and displaced hundreds of thousands of people, the administration sent a plane full of families to Haiti under Title 42, including children under the age of 3, without offering them legal protection and the opportunity to file for asylum,” said Guerline Jozef, co-founder and executive director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance.

Migrants expelled under Title 42 are repatriated to their home countries without the possibility of requesting asylum under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Defenders of Haitian migrants are particularly enraged about the Biden administration’s decision to repatriate Haitians, as the Department of Homeland Security recently designated Haiti for Temporary Protected Status, a program that suspends deportations to countries that have been hit by natural or manmade disasters.

A devastating 7.2 earthquake would certainly qualify. Lack of clean water, shelter, food would also tick the boxes.

“The news of renewed Haitian deportation flights is the type of morally indefensible news we would have expected from the Trump administration, not the Biden administration. Given the instability and suffering on the ground in Haiti, the last thing we should be doing is deporting Haitians. These deportation flights should stop, full stop,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice.

For a man who cleared his schedule to slam Trump as often as he could, that comparison must sting.

After an earthquake nearly leveled Haiti in 2010, Barack Obama’s administration halted deportations to Haiti for more than a year.

It was the decent thing to do. It was the right thing to do.

“The Biden administration has a moral obligation to lead with compassion and support those fleeing from the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Haiti,” Pressley said.

It’s stunning that the president needs to be reminded what this country stands for.

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