set up stakeouts to prevent illegal stuffing of ballot boxes. Officials overseeing elections are ramping up security at polling places.

Voting rights groups said they were increasingly concerned by Ms. Engelbrecht.

She has “taken the power of rhetoric to a new place,” said Sean Morales-Doyle, the acting director of voting rights at the Brennan Center, a nonpartisan think tank. “It’s having a real impact on the way lawmakers and states are governing elections and on the concerns we have on what may happen in the upcoming elections.”

Some of Ms. Engelbrecht’s former allies have cut ties with her. Rick Wilson, a Republican operative and Trump critic, ran public relations for Ms. Engelbrecht in 2014 but quit after a few months. He said she had declined to turn over data to back her voting fraud claims.

“She never had the juice in terms of evidence,” Mr. Wilson said. “But now that doesn’t matter. She’s having her uplift moment.”

a video of the donor meeting obtained by The New York Times. They did not elaborate on why.

announce a partnership to scrutinize voting during the midterms.

“The most important right the American people have is to choose our own public officials,” said Mr. Mack, a former sheriff of Graham County, Ariz. “Anybody trying to steal that right needs to be prosecuted and arrested.”

Steve Bannon, then chief executive of the right-wing media outlet Breitbart News, and Andrew Breitbart, the publication’s founder, spoke at her conferences.

True the Vote’s volunteers scrutinized registration rolls, watched polling stations and wrote highly speculative reports. In 2010, a volunteer in San Diego reported seeing a bus offloading people at a polling station “who did not appear to be from this country.”

Civil rights groups described the activities as voter suppression. In 2010, Ms. Engelbrecht told supporters that Houston Votes, a nonprofit that registered voters in diverse communities of Harris County, Texas, was connected to the “New Black Panthers.” She showed a video of an unrelated New Black Panther member in Philadelphia who called for the extermination of white people. Houston Votes was subsequently investigated by state officials, and law enforcement raided its office.

“It was a lie and racist to the core,” said Fred Lewis, head of Houston Votes, who sued True the Vote for defamation. He said he had dropped the suit after reaching “an understanding” that True the Vote would stop making accusations. Ms. Engelbrecht said she didn’t recall such an agreement.

in April 2021, did not respond to requests for comment. Ms. Engelbrecht has denied his claims.

In mid-2021, “2,000 Mules” was hatched after Ms. Engelbrecht and Mr. Phillips met with Dinesh D’Souza, the conservative provocateur and filmmaker. They told him that they could detect cases of ballot box stuffing based on two terabytes of cellphone geolocation data that they had bought and matched with video surveillance footage of ballot drop boxes.

Salem Media Group, the conservative media conglomerate, and Mr. D’Souza agreed to create and fund a film. The “2,000 Mules” title was meant to evoke the image of cartels that pay people to carry illegal drugs into the United States.

said after seeing the film that it raised “significant questions” about the 2020 election results; 17 state legislators in Michigan also called for an investigation into election results there based on the film’s accusations.

In Arizona, the attorney general’s office asked True the Vote between April and June for data about some of the claims in “2,000 Mules.” The contentions related to Maricopa and Yuma Counties, where Ms. Engelbrecht said people had illegally submitted ballots and had used “stash houses” to store fraudulent ballots.

According to emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, a True the Vote official said Mr. Phillips had turned over a hard drive with the data. The attorney general’s office said early this month that it hadn’t received it.

Last month, Ms. Engelbrecht and Mr. Phillips hosted an invitation-only gathering of about 150 supporters in Queen Creek, Ariz., which was streamed online. For weeks beforehand, they promised to reveal the addresses of ballot “stash houses” and footage of voter fraud.

Ms. Engelbrecht did not divulge the data at the event. Instead, she implored the audience to look to the midterm elections, which she warned were the next great threat to voter integrity.

“The past is prologue,” she said.

Alexandra Berzon contributed reporting.

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In A Nod To JFK, President Biden Pushing ‘Moonshot’ To Fight Cancer

The president is seeking to rally the nation around developing treatments and therapeutics for the pervasive diseases.

President Joe Biden is set to channel John F. Kennedy on the 60th anniversary of the former president’s moonshot speech, as the incumbent tries to set the nation’s sights on “ending cancer as we know it.”

President Biden was traveling to Boston on Monday to highlight a new federally backed study that seeks to validate using blood tests to screen against multiple cancers — a potential game-changer in diagnostic testing to dramatically improve early detection of cancers. He also planned other announcements meant to better the lives of those suffering from cancer.

His speech at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum comes as President Biden seeks to rally the nation around developing treatments and therapeutics for the pervasive diseases that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks as the second-highest killer of people in the U.S. after heart disease. President Biden hopes to move the U.S. closer to the goal he set in February of cutting U.S. cancer fatalities by 50% over the next 25 years and to dramatically improve the lives of caregivers and those suffering from cancer.

Danielle Carnival, the White House cancer moonshot coordinator, told The Associated Press that the administration sees huge potential in the commencement of the blood diagnostic study on identifying and treating cancers.

“One of the most promising technologies has been the development of blood tests that offer the promise of detecting multiple cancers in a single blood test and really imagining the impact that could have on our ability to detect cancer early and in a more equitable way,” Carnival said. “We think the best way to get us to the place where those are realized is to really test out the technologies we have today and see what works and what really has an impact on extending lives.”

In 2022, the American Cancer Society estimates, 1.9 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed and 609,360 people will die of cancer diseases.

The issue is personal to President Biden, who lost his adult son Beau in 2015 to brain cancer. After Beau’s death, Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act, which dedicated $1.8 billion over seven years for cancer research and was signed into law in 2016 by President Barack Obama.

Obama designated President Biden, then vice president, to run “mission control” on directing the cancer funds as a recognition of President Biden’s grief as a parent and desire to do something about it. President Biden wrote in his memoir “Promise Me, Dad” that he chose not to run for president in 2016 primarily because of Beau’s death.

Despite President Biden’s attempts to hark back to Kennedy and his space program, the current initiative lacks that same level of budgetary support. The Apollo program garnered massive public investment — more than $20 billion, or more than $220 billion in 2022 dollars adjusted for inflation. President Biden’s “moonshot” effort is far more modest and reliant on private sector investment.

Still, President Biden has tried to maintain momentum for investments in public health research, including championing the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, modeled after similar research and development initiatives benefiting the Pentagon and intelligence community.

On Monday, President Biden will announce Dr. Renee Wegrzyn as the inaugural director of ARPA-H, which has been given the task of studying treatments and potential cures for cancers, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and other diseases. He will also announce a new National Cancer Institute scholars’ program to provide resources to early-career scientists studying treatments and cures for cancer.

Experts agree it’s far too early to say whether these new blood tests for finding cancer in healthy people will have any effect on cancer deaths. There have been no studies to show they reduce the risk of dying from cancer. Still, they say setting an ambitious goal is important.

Carnival said the National Cancer Institute Study was designed so that any promising diagnostic results could be swiftly put into widespread practice while the longer-term study — expected to last up to a decade — progresses. She said the goal was to move closer to a future where cancers could be detected through routine bloodwork, potentially replacing more invasive and burdensome procedures like colonoscopies, and therefore saving lives.

Scientists now understand that cancer is not a single disease, but hundreds of diseases that respond differently to different treatments. Some cancers have biomarkers that can be targeted by existing drugs that will slow a tumor’s growth. Many more targets await discovery.

“How do we learn what therapies are effective in which subtypes of disease? That to me is oceanic,” said Donald A. Berry, a biostatistician at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. “The possibilities are enormous. The challenges are enormous.”

Despite the challenges, he’s optimistic about cutting the cancer death rate in half over the next 25 years.

“We can get to that 50% goal by slowing the disease sufficiently across the various cancers without curing anybody,” Berry said. “If I were to bet on whether we will achieve this 50% reduction, I would bet yes.

Even without new breakthroughs, progress can be made by making care more equitable, said Dr. Crystal Denlinger, chief scientific officer for the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, a group of elite cancer centers.

And any effort to reduce the cancer death rate will need to focus on the biggest cancer killer, which is lung cancer. Mostly attributable to smoking, lung cancer now causes more cancer deaths than any other cancer. Of the 1,670 daily cancer deaths in the United States, more than 350 are from lung cancer.

Lung cancer screening is helping. The American Cancer Society says such screening helped drive down the cancer death rate 32% from its peak in 1991 to 2019, the most recent year for which numbers are available.

But only 5% of eligible patients are being screened for lung cancer.

“It’s tragic,” said Dr. Roy Herbst, a lung specialist at Yale Cancer Center.

“The moonshot is going to have to be a social fix as well as a scientific and medical fix,” Herbst said. “We’re going to have to find a way that screening becomes easier, that it’s fully covered, that we have more screening facilities.”

President Biden planned to urge Americans who might have delayed cancer screenings during the pandemic to seek them out swiftly, reminding them that early detection can be key to avoiding adverse outcomes.

He was also set to highlight provisions in the Democrats’ health care and climate change bill that the administration believes will lower out of pocket drug prices for some widely used cancer treatments. He will also celebrate new guarantees for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits, that cover their potential cancer diagnoses.

Dr. Michael Hassett of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, said President Biden’s goal to reduce cancer deaths could be met by following two parallel paths: one of discovery and the other making sure as many people as possible are reaping the advantages of existing therapies and preventive approaches.

“If we can address both aspects, both challenges, major advances are possible,” Hassett said.

In breast cancer, for example, many women who could benefit from a hormone-blocking pill either never start the therapy or stop taking it before the recommended five years, Hassett’s research has found.

“Those are big gaps,” Hassett said. “That’s a treatment that’s effective. But if many people aren’t taking that medication or if they’re taking it but stopping it before concluding the course of therapy, then the benefits that the medicine could offer aren’t realized.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Biden Accepts Invitation For Queen’s Funeral

By Associated Press
September 11, 2022

President Biden was the 13th and final U.S. president to meet the woman whose reign spanned seven decades.

President Joe Biden has formally accepted an invitation to attend the state funeral service for Queen Elizabeth II.

The White House said Sunday that the president will be accompanied by First Lady Jill Biden. The service will be held on Sept. 19.

Earlier in the day, President Biden remembered the words of comfort that the late monarch had provided to the United States following the Sept. 11 attacks more than two decades ago.

“Grief is the price we pay for love,” said President Biden, quoting part of the Queen’s message to America during remarks on the 21st anniversary of the attacks.

Speaking at a commemoration at the Pentagon, President Biden said the queen’s words remain as poignant as they did 21 years ago but the weight of loss also remains heavy.

“On this day, the price feels so great,” President Biden said. 

President Biden was the 13th and final U.S. president to meet the woman whose reign spanned seven decades.

The queen had met every American president since Dwight Eisenhower, with the exception of Lyndon Johnson. That’s because Johnson did not visit Britain during his presidency.

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden said in a statement the queen’s “legacy will loom large in the pages of British history, and in the story of our world.”

Every living former U.S. president – Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump – joined President Biden in mourning her passing and sending condolences to her family.

Source: newsy.com

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White House Flags Fly At Half-Staff To Honor Queen Elizabeth II

President Biden expressed gratitude for the queen’s consistency with the 14 U.S. presidents throughout her 70-year reign.

There’s a storied history between Queen Elizabeth II and U.S. presidents that reflects a deep bond between the two countries.

Over her 70-year reign, she met with 13 of 14 sitting presidents — with Lyndon Johnson being the exception.

“Queen Elizabeth II was a stateswoman of unmatched dignity and constancy who deepened the bedrock alliance between the United Kingdom and the United States. She helped make our relationship special,” President Joe Biden said in a statement after her passing.

Her official visits to the U.S. go back to 1951, when then-Princess Elizabeth was greeted by President Harry Truman in Washington.

“I think your visit will improve, if that’s possible, the cultural relations which exist between our two great countries,” he said.

Then in 1957, she visited as queen hosted by President Eisenhower at the White House. In 1976, during America’s bicentennial celebration, she attended a state dinner hosted by President Ford.

“Mr. President, the British and American people are as close today as two peoples have ever been,” the queen stated.

In 1991, she visited President George H.W. Bush and attended a state dinner. During her visit they planted a tree on the South Lawn of the White House, replacing one previously planted in honor of her father. Then in 2007, she visited the White House again meeting with his son, President George W. Bush.

“Administrations in your country and governments in mine may come and go but talk we will, listen we have to, disagree from time to time we may, but united we must always remain,” the queen stated during a toast.

Through the years, the queen was the constant.

“Queen Elizabeth really represents to our country the manifestation of the special relationship between the U.S. and Great Britain and for seven decades she has been the embodiment of that friendship,” said Anita McBride, former chief of staff to first lady Laura Bush and former assistant to George W. Bush, and a staff member in the George H.W. Bush administration. “The relationship I think she had with each of our presidents was one of great admiration and respect on their part, vis-a-vis her.”

McBride said of the relationship between the queen and the Bushes: “I think there was a long friendship, a bond that was very special.”

She recalled the care and attention that went into making the White House shine, and the excitement in the months of planning the visit with all hands on deck, down to coordinating colors of dresses.

“I think the other thing I remember about Queen Elizabeth’s visit in 2007 that was really meaningful to the Bushes was Queen Elizabeth and President George H.W. Bush visited the World War II memorial together,” said McBride. “Here are these two world leaders; of course, she was still a sitting world leader, he was a former, but who so much of their life, you know, was formed by that incredible pivotal, historical, dramatic event in world history.”

She said Laura Bush had a great respect for the queen, noting in private moments they had a sense of humor and laughed over their dogs. The 2007 visit was timed with the Kentucky Derby, which the queen attended. Laura Bush invited the winning jockey to White House for the state dinner, as the queen was an avid horse rider.

“What I particularly am grateful for, too, was Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were very gracious to those of us on the staff of the White House who really had been deeply involved in the planning of her visit. And she invited us to come over to Blair House, so she could say thank you to us. And I felt it was my time to say thank you to her for what she meant, what she represented the great respect I had for her and, and really the privilege that it was to work on her visit. So I’ll always be grateful for that,” McBride said.

Over the years, Queen Elizabeth also welcomed U.S. Presidents to Great Britain, including the Nixons, Reagans, Kennedys, Clintons, Obamas, Trumps and President Biden, and met presidents in other locations — George H.W. Bush at a Baltimore Orioles game and the Reagans at their ranch in California.

“They, I think, in some ways were the closest relationship of a president and the Queen of England,” said Barbara Perry, the presidential studies director at the University of Virginia Miller Center, about the Reagans and the queen. “She asked if she could come visit them there because she wanted to go horseback riding with President Reagan as they had done at Windsor.”

Perry said each president seemed to find their own relationship with the queen.

“I really do think it went from this father-daughter relationship to a, perhaps, a son-and-mother or son-and-grandmother relationship, and that each president seemed to find sort of a special link with her and vice versa,” Perry said.

But it reflected a significant and important relationship for the countries.

“Well, for example, in the case of the Reagan administration, particularly important as the cold war comes to its height, and ends then with the vice president under Reagan, when he becomes president Bush 41 was the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Soviet Union,” Perry said. “But again, to maintain that Atlantic Alliance that is embodied in NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, that had been conceived by FDR and Winston Churchill, who was the first prime minister that that the queen served with, was really important to keep that alliance going particularly at the height and peak of the Cold War.”

Following Queen Elizabeth’s death, President Biden ordered flags to fly at half staff and visited the British embassy in Washington, D.C., where people had placed flowers outside.

“Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was more than a monarch. She defined an era,” the president said in a statement.

Former American presidents reflected on her legacy.

“Her dignity, graciousness, and sense of duty have been an inspiration,” former President Jimmy Carter stated.

“Throughout her remarkable 70-year reign, she led Britain through great transformations with unfailing grace, dignity, and genuine care for the welfare of all its people.  In sunshine or storm, she was a source of stability, serenity, and strength,” former President Bill Clinton stated.

“Queen Elizabeth ably led England through dark moments with her confidence in her people and her vision for a brighter tomorrow. Our world benefited from her steady resolve, and we are grateful for her decades of service as sovereign. Americans in particular appreciate her strong and steadfast friendship,” stated former President George W. Bush.

“Back when we were just beginning to navigate life as President and First Lady, she welcomed us to the world stage with open arms and extraordinary generosity. Time and again, we were struck by her warmth, the way she put people at ease, and how she brought her considerable humor and charm to moments of great pomp and circumstance,” former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama stated.

“Her leadership and enduring diplomacy secured and advanced alliances with the United States and countries around the world. However, she will always be remembered for her faithfulness to her country and her unwavering devotion to her fellow countrymen and women,” stated former President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump.

Source: newsy.com

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Former President Barack Obama, First Lady Unveil White House Portraits

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden invited Obama and the former first lady back to their former home to unveil their official portraits.

Former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle returned to the White House on Wednesday for the unveiling of official portraits with a modern vibe: him standing expressionless against a white background and her seated on a sofa in the Red Room wearing a formal light blue dress.

“Barack and Michelle, welcome home,” President Joe Biden said before he invited the Obamas to the stage to unveil the portraits. Some in the audience gasped, others applauded.

“It’s great to be back,” Obama said when it was his turn to speak. He praised Biden — his vice president — as someone who became a “true partner and a true friend.”

The artist whom Barack Obama selected to paint his portrait says the “stripped down” style of his works helps create an “encounter” between the person in the painting and the person looking at it.

Robert McCurdy likes to present his subjects without any facial expression and standing against a white background, which is how America’s 44th and first Black president will be seen here for posterity, in a black suit and gray tie.

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden invited Obama and the former first lady back to their former home to unveil their official portraits. It was Mrs. Obama’s first visit since her husband’s presidency ended in January 2017. Obama himself visited in April to help celebrate the anniversary of the major health care law he signed.

The former first lady chose artist Sharon Sprung for her portrait.

The portraits do not look like any others in the collection to which they will be added, in terms of style and substance.

McCurdy told the White House Historical Association for the latest edition of its “1600 Sessions” podcast that his style is “stripped down for a reason.” He’s also done portraits of South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and the Dalai Lama, among others.

“They have plain white backgrounds, nobody gestures, nobody — there are no props because we’re not here to tell the story of the person that’s sitting for them,” McCurdy said. “We’re here to create an encounter between the viewer and the sitter.”

He compared the technique to a session with a psychiatrist in which the patient and doctor tell each other as little as possible about themselves “so that you can project onto them.”

“And we’re doing the same thing with these paintings,” McCurdy said. “We’re telling as little about the sitter as possible so that the viewer can project onto them.”

McCurdy works from a photograph of his subjects, selected from hundreds of images. He spends a year to 18 months on each portrait and said he knows he’s done “when it stops irritating me.”

Sprung, who also was interviewed for the podcast, described feeling as though she was in a “comedy sketch” when she met with the Obamas in the Oval Office.

She kept sinking into the couch she sat on while they sat on sturdier chairs. Then the president “flicked” away the printed talking points she had handed out to everyone in the room. Then she just “went still” and had to “gasp for air a little bit” when someone else in the meeting asked her why she paints. Then she started to cry.

“So who knows what put the interview over the top, but that’s how it went,” Sprung said.

She had planned on having Mrs. Obama stand in the portrait, “to give it a certain dignity,” but said the former first lady “has so much dignity that I decided to do it sitting just because … it was too much looking up at her. I’m that much shorter than her.”

Sprung worked on the portrait for eight months, day and night, the most time she’s ever spent on a single painting. She worked entirely from photographs taken in various locations on the State Floor of the White House. Getting the dress just right was the hardest part, she said.

“The color was so beautiful and I really wanted to get the strength of the color and the light,” said Sprung, who has done portraits of the late Rep. Patsy Mink, D-Hawaii, and Jeannette Rankin of Montana, the first woman elected to Congress.

Recent tradition, no matter political affiliation, has had the current president genially hosting his immediate predecessor for the unveiling — as Bill Clinton did for George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush did for Clinton and Obama did for the younger Bush.

Donald Trump, who criticized almost everything about Obama and deviated from many presidential traditions, held no ceremony for Obama. So President Biden, who was Obama’s vice president, scheduled one for his former boss.

Obama’s portrait is destined for display in the Grand Foyer of the White House, the traditional showcase for paintings of the two most recent presidents. Clinton’s and George W. Bush’s portraits currently hang there.

Mrs. Obama’s portrait likely will be placed with her predecessors along the hallway on the Ground Floor of the White House, joining Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush.

Both McCurdy and Sprung said it was hard to keep their work on the portraits secret. McCurdy said it wouldn’t have been a problem “if it had not gone on for so long.” Sprung said she had to turn the portrait to the wall whenever someone came into her studio in New York.

The White House Historical Association, a nonprofit organization that is funded through private donations and sales of books and an annual Christmas ornament, helps manage the portrait process and, since the 1960s, has paid for most of those in the collection.

Congress bought the first painting in the collection, of George Washington. Other portraits of early presidents and first ladies often came to the White House as gifts.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Elected Officials, Police Chiefs On Leaked Oath Keepers List

The Oath Keepers is a loosely organized conspiracy theory-fueled group that recruits current and former military, police and first responders.

The names of hundreds of U.S. law enforcement officers, elected officials and military members appear on the leaked membership rolls of a far-right extremist group that’s accused of playing a key role in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, according to a report released Wednesday.

The Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism pored over more than 38,000 names on leaked Oath Keepers membership lists and identified more than 370 people it believes currently work in law enforcement agencies — including as police chiefs and sheriffs — and more than 100 people who are currently members of the military.

It also identified more than 80 people who were running for or served in public office as of early August. The membership information was compiled into a database published by the transparency collective Distributed Denial of Secrets.

The data raises fresh concerns about the presence of extremists in law enforcement and the military who are tasked with enforcing laws and protecting the U.S. It’s especially problematic for public servants to be associated with extremists at a time when lies about the 2020 election are fueling threats of violence against lawmakers and institutions.

“Even for those who claimed to have left the organization when it began to employ more aggressive tactics in 2014, it is important to remember that the Oath Keepers have espoused extremism since their founding, and this fact was not enough to deter these individuals from signing up,” the report says.

Appearing in the Oath Keepers’ database doesn’t prove that a person was ever an active member of the group or shares its ideology. Some people on the list contacted by The Associated Press said they were briefly members years ago and are no longer affiliated with the group. Some said they were never dues-paying members.

“Their views are far too extreme for me,” said Shawn Mobley, sheriff of Otero County, Colorado. Mobley told the AP in an email that he distanced himself from the Oath Keepers years ago over concerns about its involvement in the standoff against the federal government at Bundy Ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada, among other things.

The Oath Keepers, founded in 2009 by Stewart Rhodes, is a loosely organized conspiracy theory-fueled group that recruits current and former military, police and first responders. It asks its members to vow to defend the Constitution “against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” promotes the belief that the federal government is out to strip citizens of their civil liberties and paints its followers as defenders against tyranny.

More than two dozen people associated with the Oath Keepers — including Rhodes — have been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack. Rhodes and four other Oath Keeper members or associates are heading to trial this month on seditious conspiracy charges for what prosecutors have described as a weekslong plot to keep then-President Donald Trump in power. Rhodes and the other Oath Keepers say that they are innocent and that there was no plan to attack the Capitol.

The Oath Keepers has grown quickly along with the wider anti-government movement and used the tools of the internet to spread their message during Barack Obama’s presidency, said Rachel Carroll Rivas, interim deputy director of research with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project. But since Jan. 6 and Rhodes’ arrest, the group has struggled to keep members, she said.

That’s partly because Oath Keepers had been associated so strongly with Rhodes that the removal of the central figure had an outsized impact, and partly because many associated with the group were often those who wanted to be considered respectable in their communities, she said.

“The image of being associated with Jan. 6 was too much for many of those folks,” she said.

Among the elected officials whose name appears on the membership lists is South Dakota state Rep. Phil Jensen, who won a June Republican primary in his bid for reelection. Jensen told the AP he paid for a one-year membership in 2014 but never received any Oath Keepers’ literature, attended any meetings or renewed his membership.

Jensen said he felt compelled to join because he “believed in the oath that we took to support the US Constitution and to defend it against enemies foreign and domestic.” He wouldn’t say whether he now disavows the Oath Keepers, saying he doesn’t have enough information about the group today.

“Back in 2014, they appeared to be a pretty solid conservative group, I can’t speak to them now,” he said.

ADL said it found the names of at least 10 people who now work as police chiefs and 11 sheriffs. All of the police chiefs and sheriffs who responded to the AP said they no longer have any ties to the group.

“I don’t even know what they’re posting. I never get any updates,” said Mike Hollinshead, sheriff of Idaho’s Elmore County. “I’m not paying dues or membership fees or anything.”

Hollinshead, a Republican, said he was campaigning for sheriff several years ago when voters asked him if he was familiar with the Oath Keepers. Hollinshead said he wanted to learn about the group and recalls paying for access to content on the Oath Keepers’ website, but that was the extent of his involvement.

Benjamin Boeke, police chief in Oskaloosa, Iowa, recalled getting emails from the group years ago and said he believes a friend may have signed him up. But he said he never paid to become a member and doesn’t know anything about the group.

Eric Williams, police chief in Idalou, Texas, also said in an email that he hasn’t been a member or had any interaction with the Oath Keepers in over 10 years. He called the storming of the Capitol “terrible in every way.”

“I pray this country finds its way back to civility and peace in discourse with one another,” he said.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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The Struggle And Rising Need For Veterans To Get Mental Health Care

Research shows nearly half of American veterans who need mental health care don’t get it.

The guilt felt by Connor McDaniel’s father, David, is overwhelming.  

“He had more personality than a whole bunch of people put together. I miss him terribly. I miss him every day,” David said. “I’m his father. I’m supposed to protect him, even from himself, and I failed. It’s very, very hard to deal with.”

Last year, the 26-year-old veteran sent his last email to his loved ones. 

“He felt like his entire life would’ve been a series of bad experiences.”

His family tried to stop him. His father called law enforcement for help.  

El Paso County sheriff’s deputies found McDaniel first, where he provoked them to shoot and kill him. 

The district attorney’s office ruled the shooting was justified.  

David is now fulfilling a promise to his son — that he would never be just another number.

“My son made it very clear in his note to us that he didn’t want to be a gun violence statistic, a veteran suicide statistic,” he said. 

David wants to ensure every veteran receives access to mental health care after they return home. And data shows the need is rising. 

 The Department of Veterans Affairs projects a 32% spike in outpatient mental health care over the next 10 years. And one-third of veterans who received care from the VA were diagnosed with at least one mental health condition.

But there are barriers to treatment. Stigma and shame are two of them, according to Bob McLaughlin with the Mount Carmel Veterans Service Center. 

“It’s about resiliency, right, and when that breaks — when people feel that they’re weak — that’s against the culture,” he said.

In a 2018 study from the peer-reviewed BMC Health Service Journal, researchers found a majority of veterans were worried about what others would think if they sought treatment.  

University of Memphis President Michael Rudd also says troops on active duty can face consequences for reaching out for help.  

“Ultimately, the concern is about the impact on career progression, the impact on your deployability, the impact on all sorts of things in terms of advancement,” he said. “That’s how stigma is maintained.”

Some veterans told the BMC that fear lingers long into retirement. 

In an effort to erase stigma, the VA created a national campaign called “The Veterans Know,” where former service members encourage each other to take charge of their mental health. 

“It really is quite empowering to hear veterans talk about their struggle, how they became aware of the struggle and then all the different kinds of ways that they got help,” Department of Defense Mental Health National Director for VA Christopher Loftis said.

Even when veterans look for treatment, the BMC study found that many had little confidence in the VA health care system. 

Veterans who were interviewed pointed to “appointment problems, staffing issues” and “limited follow-up” from providers and staff.  

“It’s just starting to build back up into another waitlist scandal,” Concerned Veterans of America Coalitions Director Joshua Stanwitz said. 

Before the problem hits a crisis point, like the waitlist scandal in 2014, Navy veteran Paula Pedene accused VA officials in Phoenix of lying to the federal government about shorter appointment wait times.

An audit from the VA Inspector General found systemic problems throughout the VA, discovering the average wait was really 115 days and at least 40 veterans died without the chance to see a doctor. 

“There was 111 VA facilities that were using the same methodology and manipulating the wait time data to make them look good,” Pedene said.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki stepped down in the wake of the scandal and then-president Barack Obama signed 19 executive orders to improve VA hospitals.  

On its website, the VA says it implemented new methods of calculating average wait times to be more accurate so patients can check how long it will take to see a provider. 

The wait times change daily, but when we last checked within 50 miles of Chicago, the wait was anywhere from 9 to 13 days. 

Under the VA Mission Act of 2018, which aims to provide broader access to health care, veterans should only wait a standard of 20 days after requesting a mental health appointment. 

Rural areas also face unique geographical hurdles, like in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

When we last checked, there is one treatment facility in the area with a 15-day wait.  

The center with the second-earliest availability is 95 miles away. 

If veterans can’t get the help they need, the VA Mission Act says the VA is supposed to pay other health care systems to take over, like community care.  

But an investigation from USA Today last year found in some cases, administrators overrule doctor recommendations to send vets outside the VA in order to retain patients. And once people are sent to community care, the average wait time is about 42 days.  

The VA told USA Today it’s following Mission Act requirements. And some doctors say expanded telehealth is easing struggles. 

“The way that psychiatrists and psychologists can work with someone in a rural area is very effective as well,” Zablocki VA Hospital Mental Health Division Manager Dr. Bert Berger said.

VA data shows the pandemic drove telehealth appointments to unprecedented heights, jumping nearly 2,000% between January 2020 and 2021. 

Officials told Congress last year about spending government funds to expand care and improve reach.  

Veterans Health Administration Acting Deputy Under Secretary Dr. Steven Lieberman said the VA distributed over 84,000 iPads and 20,000 cell phones. “It helped us accelerate the modernization of bandwith to reach over 2,100 locations with increased bandwith on modernized platforms.”

Today, the system is supporting over 100,000 remote users. 

Still, some veterans expressed distrust over using online services, telling BMC researchers they think the system will share private information.  

One Vietnam veteran confessed he was afraid that sharing about his time overseas would land him in jail.  

Other vets said they simply didn’t know anything about VA benefits before leaving the military. They struggled to understand how to find or use mental health services as veterans, instead of as active-duty members. 

The VA built Make the Connection, a website to link up veterans with resources and solutions for their mental health needs. 

There are also free, online tools for veterans to deal with sleep issues or anger management, plus a crisis line with 24/7 support for vets and their families. 

But Berger says it’s important for veterans to take the difficult first step and seek the support they need.  

“Veterans are proud,” he said. “They served their country. They don’t want to admit they have a problem or admit defeat in any way, so admitting that they have a mental health problem is really difficult.”

As for David McDaniel, he just wants to make sure troops know they aren’t alone when they come back from deployment, while keeping his son’s memory alive along the way.  

“I really do strongly feel like if we can make the ‘D’ disappear from PTSD, and it’s not such a stigma, and everybody who’s been in combat goes for some mental health, I think it will change things a lot.”

Source: newsy.com

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Democrats Defend Control Of U.S. Senate

Democrats seem to have found a bright spot for their chances in recent months over the battle for control of the U.S. Senate.

It’s Labor Day and we’re just over two months out from the general election. But despite legislative wins over the summer, Democrats across the country are fighting for reelection in the shadow of President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings. But they seem to have found a bright spot for democratic chances in recent months over the battle for control of the U.S. Senate.

Heidi Heitkamp served as a Democratic U.S. Senator in North Dakota. She was elected in 2012 but lost her seat in the 2018 midterms. 

“I think that there is a critical importance not to run away from the president,” the One Country Project Founder said.

Heitkamp is no stranger to hyper-partisan politics where even the word “bipartisanship” might not sit well with swing state voters.

“Well, I think the first thing is, don’t use the word “bipartisan,” she said. “I think you say, ‘Do you want to get stuff done?’ … Don’t talk in generalities. Talk in specifics. What [does] this means to people’s lives?”

But, if history is any indication, it might be nearly impossible for Democrats to hold on to the House of Representatives in the midterm elections.

But in the Senate, the president’s party remains on the offensive, hoping to expand their majority in 2022.

Ed Pagano served as President Barack Obama’s liaison to the Democratic-led U.S. Senate from 2012 to 2014. He was charged with pushing the Obama administration’s policies on Capitol Hill.  

“The control of the senate really is critical,” the Akin Gump Partner said. “It determines what bills are on the floor, what nominations move forward? Who is the chairman or the chair of the committees of jurisdiction?”  

Pagano is no stranger to just how hard it can be to get Republicans on board with a Democratic president’s agenda.

“Social issues? I don’t see any agreement. And as for spending, very little,” he continued.

Right now, the Senate has 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans. It’s a simple majority when Vice President Kamala Harris exercises her role as president of the Senate and casts the tie breaking vote for Democrats.

This year, Democrats are defending vulnerable Senators in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and New Hampshire. But on the offensive they’re looking to flip seats in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Three of those states are up for grabs, with incumbent Republicans not seeking re-election.

Despite the number of competitive races, recent polls show several Democratic candidates leading in key swing states.

“I think we’ve nominated some great candidates to deliver that message in the middle of the country. And then they’ve nominated just outrageously extreme candidates,” Heitkamp said.

But if Democrats lose just one seat in the Senate, they could end up in the same situation as President Obama’s final two years in office after he lost the Senate and the House with little Democrats to do other than hope for executive action — but leaving them virtually powerless to push through the president’s nominees. 

“Losing the Senate can actually be more detrimental because you lose the nominations/ You lose the ability to put in lifetime appointments on the judiciary,” Prime Policy Group Senior Adviser Marty Paone said. “I mean, you just look at the Merrick Garland failure for one.” 

And if Democrats do lose the Senate, it could mean a major roadblock to Biden’s agenda — something Republican Senate candidates are campaigning on, making the race all about President Biden in many of the 34 states with Senators up for re-election.

Source: newsy.com

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President Biden To Help Unveil Obama White House Portraits

President Biden will be the rare president to host a former boss for the unveiling; he was Obama’s vice president.

It’s been more than a decade since President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, welcomed back George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, for the unveiling of their White House portraits, part of a beloved Washington tradition that for decades managed to transcend partisan politics.

President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, are set to revive that ritual — after an awkward and anomalous gap in the Trump years — when they host the Obamas on Wednesday for the big reveal of their portraits in front of scores of friends, family and staff.

The Obama paintings will not look like any in the White House portrait collection to which they will be added: They were America’s first Black president and first lady.

The ceremony will also mark Michelle Obama’s first visit to the White House since Obama’s presidency ended in January 2017, and only the second visit for Barack Obama. He was at the White House in April to mark the 12th anniversary of the health care law he signed in 2010.

Portrait ceremonies often give past presidents an opportunity to showcase their comedic timing.

“I am pleased that my portrait brings an interesting symmetry to the White House collection. It now starts and ends with a George W,” Bush quipped at his ceremony in 2012.

Bill Clinton joked in 2004 that “most of the time, till you get your picture hung like this, the only artists that draw you are cartoonists.”

Recent tradition, no matter the party affiliation, has had the current president genially hosting his immediate predecessor for the unveiling — as Clinton did for George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush did for Clinton and Obama did for the younger Bush.

Then there was an unexplained pause when Donald Trump did not host Obama.

Two spokespeople for Trump did not respond to emailed requests for comment on the lack of a ceremony for Obama, and whether artists are working on portraits of Trump and former first lady Melania Trump.

The White House portrait collection starts with George Washington, America’s first president. Congress bought his portrait.

Other portraits of early presidents and first ladies often came to the White House as gifts. Since the middle of the last century, the White House Historical Association has paid for the paintings.

The first portraits financed by the association were of Lyndon Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson, and John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy, said Stewart McLaurin, president of the private, nonprofit organization established by first lady Kennedy.

Before presidents and first ladies leave office, the association explains the portrait process. The former president and first lady choose the artist or artists, and offer guidance on how they want to be portrayed.

“It really involves how that president and first lady see themselves,” McLaurin said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The collection includes an iconic, full-length portrait of Washington that adorns the East Room. It is the only item still in the White House that was in the executive mansion in November 1800 when John Adams and Abigail Adams became the first president and first lady to live in the White House.

Years later, first lady Dolley Madison saved Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of Washington from almost certain ruin. She had White House staff take it out of the city before advancing British forces burned the mansion in 1814. The painting was held in storage until the White House was rebuilt.

President and first lady portraits are seen by millions of White House visitors, though not all are on display. Some are undergoing conservation or are in storage.

Those that are on display line hallways and rooms in public areas of the mansion, such as the Ground Floor and its Vermeil and China Rooms, and the State Floor one level above, which has the famous Green, Blue and Red Rooms, the East Room and State Dining Room.

Portraits of Mamie Eisenhower, Pat Nixon, Lady Bird Johnson and Lou Henry Hoover grace the Vermeil Room, along with a full-length image of Jacqueline Kennedy. Michelle Obama’s portrait likely will join Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush along the Ground Floor hallway.

The State Floor hallway one floor above features recent presidents: John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Gerald Ford’s portrait and the likeness of Richard Nixon — the only president to resign from office — are on view on the Grand Staircase leading to the private living quarters on the second floor.

Past presidents’ images move around the White House, depending on their standing with the current occupants. Ronald Reagan, for example, moved Thomas Jefferson and Harry S. Truman out of the Cabinet Room and swapped in Dwight Eisenhower and Calvin Coolidge.

In the Clinton era, portraits of Richard Nixon and Reagan, idols of the Republican Party, lost their showcase spot in the Grand Foyer and were replaced with pictures of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Truman, heroes of the Democrats. Nancy Reagan temporarily moved Eleanor Roosevelt to a place of prominence in the East Room in 1984 to mark the centennial of her birth.

One of the most prominent spots for a portrait is above the mantle in the State Dining Room and it has been occupied for decades by a painting of a seated Abraham Lincoln, hand supporting his chin. It was placed there by Franklin Roosevelt.

Bill Clinton’s and George W. Bush’s portraits hang on opposing walls in the Grand Foyer.

Clinton’s would be relocated to make room for Barack Obama’s if the White House sticks to tradition and keeps the two most recent Oval Office occupants there, McLaurin said.

“That’s up to the White House, to the curators,” he said.

The association, which is funded through private donations and the sale of books and an annual White House Christmas ornament, keeps the portrait price well below market value because of the “extraordinary honor” an artist derives from having “their work of art hanging perpetually in the White House,” McLaurin said.

Details about the Obamas’ portraits will stay under wraps until Wednesday.

President Biden will be the rare president to host a former boss for the unveiling; he was Obama’s vice president. George H.W. Bush, who held Ronald Reagan’s ceremony, was Reagan’s No. 2.

Betty Monkman, a former White House curator, said during a 2017 podcast for the White House Historical Association that the ceremony is a “statement of generosity” by the president and first lady. “It’s a very warm, lovely moment.”

The White House portraits are one of two sets of portraits of presidents and first ladies. The National Portrait Gallery, a Smithsonian museum, maintains its own collection and those portraits are unveiled before the White House pair. The Obamas unveiled their museum portraits in February 2018.

Linda St. Thomas, chief spokesperson for the Smithsonian Institution, said in an email that a $650,000 donation in July from Save America, Trump’s political action committee, was earmarked for the couple’s museum portraits. Two artists have been commissioned, one for each painting, and work has begun, St. Thomas said.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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The Flaw in Biden’s Pro-Labor Record: Uber Drivers Are Still Waiting for Help

As a part-time Lyft driver in 2020, Nicole Moore was listening carefully when Joseph R. Biden Jr., a candidate for president, said the refusal by ride-hailing companies to treat their drivers as employees “deprives these workers of legally mandated benefits and protections.”

Labor activists like Ms. Moore, who runs an advocacy group in California called Rideshare Drivers United, hoped that Mr. Biden, as president, would spearhead a flurry of activity aimed at forcing companies in the gig economy like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash to classify drivers as employees rather than independent contractors. Such a change would mean paying the drivers a minimum wage, giving them benefits and making them eligible to unionize.

Instead, a year and a half into Mr. Biden’s presidency, little has been done at the federal level to address independent contractors. Enforcement of existing labor laws has not been notably beefed up. And the president’s nominee to lead the Labor Department’s enforcement division was voted down by the Senate, including by several Democrats.

labor issues and unions, and that they have been hamstrung by a recent court decision that extended a Trump-era rule making it easier for companies like Uber to argue their workers should be classified as independent contractors under federal law.

In statements, the White House and Labor Department emphasized the importance of addressing worker misclassification but did not single out gig companies like Uber.

“The president ran on an aggressive and comprehensive approach to addressing worker misclassification,” said Alexandra LaManna, a White House spokeswoman who used to be senior communications executive at Lyft. She added, “The policy of this administration is to strengthen worker power and a solution to worker misclassification is a key part of that agenda.”

passed the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which included language making it harder for companies to classify drivers as independent. The next month, Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh suggested to Reuters that “in a lot of cases gig workers should be classified as employees,” sending shares of gig companies’ stock tumbling.

Mr. Weil would have investigated whether gig companies were violating labor law and sought retroactive minimum pay for drivers.

a judge threw it out. The companies were also stymied in Massachusetts. But without the threat of federal enforcement, their state-by-state approach got legislation passed this year in Washington, Georgia and Alabama.

Ms. Moore said she was pessimistic about Mr. Biden’s following through on his promises.

“That was certainly the hope,” she said. “I’m old enough to learn that you can’t pin all your hopes on any one politician.”

Kate Conger contributed reporting.

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