Sr. Bette Ann Jaster says the governor must make public the results of a risk assessment for a fracked-gas pipeline that runs by Indian Point. Video by Nancy Cutler/lohud Wochit
By Andrei KadomtsevJuly 28, 2020
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has made it clear that «the future of START-3 Treaty is foregone». During an online session of the Primakov Readings the minister pointed out that «it looks like the United States has already taken a decision not to prolong the treaty». What is meant is, in the first place, the US persistent attempts to turn two-party talks into three-party ones, with the participation of China. How dangerous is Washington’s reluctance to remain committed to strategic nuclear reduction?
Since the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty ceased to exist at Trump’s initiative in August last year, START-3 has been the only bilateral agreement between Russia and the USA which puts restrictions on the two countries’ nuclear missile potentials. START-3, signed in 2010, expires in February 2021. Under the conditions of the Treaty, it can be extended for another five years without resorting to the procedure of obtaining the approval of the two countries’ parliaments. This is particularly essential given the current confrontation between the Democrats and Republicans in the US Congress.
At present, the Russian Federation and the United States have three options to deal with strategic nuclear weapons: to prolong START-3, work out a new agreement, or suspend, for some time, any negotiations on strategic weapons restrictions. Both parties understand that the current state of bilateral relations leaves little hope of coming to agreement over a short period of time and without preparation. Meanwhile, prolongation of START-3 for five years would give Moscow and Washington extra time, a “strategic lull” of sorts, during which both countries would be able to maintain the high level, if not trust, then of awareness of each other’s policies on such an important issue as strategic stability.
In June, Russia and the US held talks in Vienna on the possibility of control and extension of START-3. The two sides agreed to continue consultations I the Austrian capital at the end of July – at the beginning of August. However, the course towards the destruction of the existing system of weapons control, which took upper hand in the US policy long before the arrival of Trump, leaves little hope of seeing the Treaty extended in the future.
According to Russia’s former Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, after the disintegration of the USSR, the US «felt the winner and openly proclaimed a departure from international agreements which, in the opinion of several US administrations, could tie US hands on the international scene, or in other words, stand in the way of US attempts to establish its domineering position all over the world». In the area of strategic stability, the United States first initiated the elimination of START, then – of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Washington «did its utmost to stop NATO countries from ratifying the modified version of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty». The United States «evaded a constructive dialogue on other areas of weapons control». Given this, START-3 became «more of an exception».
The US administration insists that negotiations on the reduction of nuclear weapons should be necessarily joined by China. Only in this case, Washington says, it would make sense to assume “restrictions and commitments” yet again. The United States is thereby trying to put forward its own conditions: either a three-party nuclear agreement between Moscow, Washington and Beijing, or a complete rejection of any commitments in the sphere of nuclear weapons. «Beijing rejects the idea». Moscow is interested in the prolongation of START-3 “without preliminary conditions”, Vladimir Putin pointed out repeatedly.
Throughout his presidency, Donald Trump has pursued a policy which is aimed, he says, at “ridding” America of “unwanted” commitments. Nevertheless, in the case of START-3, the true motives of the Trump administration cause disputes among observers. The Treaty enjoys wide-ranging support amidst the US expert community, while the White House’s intention to necessarily involve China is seen by many American observers as «unrealistic».
In all likelihood, what is meant is a tactical intention to first please the voters, many of which share Trump’s opinion that America “has taken too many commitments” over the past decades. And then, in case of reelection of the incumbent president, the next move will be to clinch “the best deal of all possible”. Some optimists still hope that a consistent refusal of the current administration to sign weapons control and strategic weapons reduction treaties, first of all, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the Treaty on Open Skies, is all but collecting “the best cards” “for bargaining” over new agreements.
As it seems, the Trump administration expects to get geopolitical dividends irrespective of what scenario talks on strategic offensive weapons will follow.
Clearly visible are Washington’s attempts to provoke Moscow into taking radical steps in response, which it could then use as a new justification of “consolidation” for NATO and the West as a whole.
Also visible is the economic reasons behind measures to destroy the system of strategic stability: unavoidable, though forced, retaliatory steps by Russia will be described as “aggressive plans” and the reaction to these plans will have to involve an increase of military spending on the part of Washington’s allies. In the first place, it will spill into purchasing costly US-made systems which are designed to “offset” the non-existent “threat from Moscow”.
Apparently, Washington plans to benefit from the situation even if Europe refuses to be dependent on the US interests and chooses to move in the direction of a more resolute and independent policy concerning the buildup of military potential. If that is the case, the US may attempt to worsen the EU split by making countries that are ready to partake in Washington’s strategic arms race hostile towards those that understood the danger and futility of such a policy back in the days of the Cold War.
Washington’s reasons for demanding that “Beijing join the agreements between Washington and Moscow on weapons control” appear questionable. On the one hand, in terms of military might, the United States expresses concern over China’s nuclear potential. Speaking at the Hudson Institute in May last year the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Robert Ashley pointed out that in 2018 China carried out more ballistic missile tests than the rest of the world taken together. According to General Ashley, China is likely to double its nuclear arsenal over the next ten years. But this is only «highly likely».
On the other hand, everyone knows that “the key priority of the Donald Trump administration in foreign policy is to contain China, both as an economic and a military superpower». There are grounds to assume that having reasonable doubts about its ability to subdue China in global competition, Trump opted for dragging China into the costly nuclear missile race. Particularly since in the conditions of the global corona crisis, the economic instruments of pressure that the US has at its disposal are rapidly losing their power. The top priority is to impose on Beijing a zugzwang, in which it will be forced to make a choice between the logic of economic development and «the logic of geopolitical confrontation», between reforms and «security and control priorities». Washington expects to put China in such a position where it will have to react to the rate and scope of an arms race imposed by a rich opponent.
Finally, the intention to destroy the global strategic stability framework bears the cynical expectations to sow seeds of distrust between Beijing and Moscow. US political and expert circles believe that Moscow, like Washington, is concerned about the fact that China, having signed none of the existing agreements on weapons reduction, is building up its missile arsenals without any restrictions. Thus, by provoking China into boosting its missile arsenals, it will be possible to “sell” Moscow a threat to global strategic stability on the basis of the assumption that none of the three nuclear powers can maintain parity with the combined potentials of the other two.
But Beijing has already given it to understand that it is fully aware of Washington’s intentions. At the beginning of July Director of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Arms Control Department Fu Cong said that «China is ready to enter three-party weapons control talks with the US and Russia if the United States agrees to cut its nuclear arsenals to the level of China». The Chinese Foreign Ministry also urged the United States to give a positive answer to Russia’s proposal to prolong START-3. This would create «conditions for the participation of other nuclear states in nuclear disarmament talks».
In addition, any attempts at “rationally” calculating hypothetical layouts and new configurations of forces among nuclear powers become useless because it is impossible to foresee the scope of destabilizing consequences of the collapse of START-3 for international security as a whole. According to Alexey Arbatov of the Russian Academy of Sciences, elimination of START-3 will jeopardize the entire system of international treaties on nuclear weapons, including the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. As recently as at the end of last year the United States made an attempt to question the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. And since one of the main principles of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is contained in Article 6, which deals with nuclear disarmament, «in the event the treaty flops, even if a chain reaction of pulling out of the treaty does not start, the treaty will lose its value. No one will attend these conferences, no one will observe IAEA guarantees, so the system risks falling to pieces very quickly».
In Asia, in case of China entering a strategic arms race with America, such leading powers as Japan, South Korea and Australia, may choose to take independent decisions in the area of strategic security. The strengthening of China’s strategic potential, particularly amid the new deterioration of bilateral relations, is bound to cause response action from India. This, in turn, will lead to a change of Pakistan’s nuclear policy. The most dramatic scenario in this case would be a nuclear arms race in Asia Pacific Region.
Thus, the multiplying hints by the United States at its desire to pull out of START-3 signals Washington’s readiness to blatantly abandon a nuclear dialogue as such. The looming threat of non-prolongation of START-3 creates conditions for the destruction of the established global strategic stability regime. Considering the present state of Chinese-American relations, in case of a new arms race, this time between the United States and China, the prospects of the two countries entering a meaningful dialogue in military and strategic sphere appear vague, to say the least.
At last, the cessation, or suspension of START-3, would mean disappearance of a unique legally binding mechanism of mutual control. Without such a mechanism the dialogue on nuclear disarmament will suffer a dramatic setback. This means that not only Russia and the United States, but any other countries willing to hold talks on the restriction or reduction of nuclear weapons will have to start the whole process from scratch.
From our partner International Affairs
News | The CEO Magazine
The Zircon hypersonic cruise missile being developed by Russia
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has implied he has developed nuclear weapons capable of travelling at hypersonic speed, which makes them difficult to trace and intercept.
Vladimir Putin, who has been President of Russia since 2012 and began a fourth term as President on 7 May 2018 before seeking to change the country’s constitution, also said his navy would have underwater nuclear drones.
Vladimir Putin’s defence ministry has said the new weaponry is now in its final testing phase, Independent reported.
Hypersonic weapons such as Russia’s 3M22 Zircon cruise missile fly so fast and low, at speeds of up to Mach 6 and at a low atmospheric-ballistic trajectory, that they can avoid traditional anti-missile defence systems.
The Zircon flies with an advanced fuel the Russians claim gives it a range of up to 1,000 kilometers. It is so fast that the air pressure in front of the weapon forms a plasma cloud as it moves, absorbing radio waves and making it practically invisible to active radar systems.
The Zircon cruise missile can be deployed on surface ships whereas the Poseidon underwater nuclear drone is designed to be carried by submarines.
Russia’s development of hypersonic weapons is to counter the US’s superiority in size, technology and sheer number of aircraft carriers. The US Navy intends to maintain a force of 12 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.
If a US ship were to detect a Zircon missile from 100 miles (161 km) away, it would have one minute to react, according to Popular Mechanics.
To intercept a Zircon missile, the US would either have to intercept it at launch or fly an object into its path.
Vladimir Putin said at an annual naval event in St Petersburg that the fleet would have an extra 40 new vessels in the coming year.
In addition, he implied the deployment of new hypersonic weapons is imminent
“The widespread deployment of advanced digital technologies that have no equals in the world, including hypersonic strike systems and underwater drones, will give the fleet unique advantages and increased combat capabilities,” said 67-year-old Vladimir Putin.
Russia’s defence ministry said in a statement published in Russian news agencies that testing was underway for its Belgorod submarines, the first with the capacity to carry Poseidon nuclear drones.
By Bob DroginDeputy Washington Bureau Chief
If you buy books linked on our site, The Times may earn a commission from Bookshop.org, whose fees support independent bookstores.
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a blue-ribbon commission and congressional committees uniformly blamed the U.S. national security apparatus for failing to “connect the dots” of evidence that might have exposed Osama bin Laden’s plot.
Less than two years later, President George W. Bush launched a ruinous war in Iraq based on a far greater intelligence failure, one that saw the CIA, Pentagon and other agencies effectively make up the evidence that the White House sought to justify invading a country that had not attacked — or even threatened to attack — the United States.
The serial mistruths, mistakes and misperceptions about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction and alleged support for Al Qaeda are laid out in devastating detail in Robert Draper’s authoritative new book, “To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America Into Iraq.”
This is well-trod history, but Draper mines newly declassified documents and tracks down previously unavailable CIA and Defense officials to flesh out the sordid story of the run-up to the March 2003 invasion, the start of a grinding conflict that would last eight years and claim nearly 4,500 American lives.
Why now? Two decades on, there are no new headlines to be pulled from the toxic personal and policy disputes of the Bush era. But Draper has written a compelling narrative of just how calamitous an ideology-first approach to fact-finding can be in the White House, and why Americans were so badly deluded.
Unlike President Trump, who utters falsehoods daily, Bush was a true believer — which is exactly what made him impervious to conflicting evidence or doubts about the supposed Iraqi threat.
That folly has given Americans just cause to question U.S. intelligence estimates and, perhaps worse, has gifted Trump with a regular foil for jabs at experts and specialists even in his own administration. The erosion of trust that fueled his base is just one of the many poisonous after-effects of the war.
The road to that war began a few days after the 2001 attacks, when Vice President Dick Cheney led his aides to CIA headquarters in Virginia. The nation’s top spy agency was frantically searching for a follow-up assault by bin Laden, who was based in Afghanistan.
But Cheney insisted the CIA needed to focus on Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, despite the CIA briefer’s conviction that there was no evidence of Iraqi involvement in the attacks. As one later said, it was like asking, “Did Belgium do this?”
Over the next year, Cheney and other ideologues would push their bogus theory, as well as increasingly dire but equally false claims that Hussein had secretly produced and stockpiled an arsenal of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.
President George W. Bush, left, with his key advisers on the Iraq War: Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and Air Force Gen. Richard Myers.
(Stephen Jaffe / AFP/Getty Images)
The Pentagon created its own so-called intelligence shop to funnel unsubstantiated reports to Cheney and Bush, many from informants with little credibility. Led by a deferential George Tenet, the CIA quickly fell in line, repeatedly strengthening its cautious assessments of the Iraqi threat to help the White House convince the public of an urgent danger.
Bush needed little convincing: he had ordered up Iraq war plans only two months after the Sept. 11 attacks. As Draper writes, the rush to war was driven by fear, not hard intelligence, and “by imagination, not facts.” It was thus difficult for critics to push back when Bush warned, in October 2002, that “we cannot wait for the final proof — the smoking gun — that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”
Yet Iraq had no nuclear program, no poison gases, no shells filled with deadly viruses. U.N. inspectors had scoured the country for months, but their failure to find illicit weapons was viewed in Washington only as proof that Iraq had cleverly hidden them.
Was Iraq in league with bin Laden, as Cheney claimed? An Al Qaeda operative confessed under torture by Egyptian officials that “he had heard from an unnamed associate” of such a link. The coerced, third-hand and uncorroborated claim was enough for the White House, even though it was later deemed false.
The White House also embraced a single-source report from an unnamed informant who told Czech intelligence that he was “70% sure” that Mohammed Atta, one of the 9/11 hijackers, had met with an Iraqi diplomat in Prague in April 2001.
FBI records showed that Atta was stateside during the alleged meeting, and the Iraqi diplomat was not in Prague. But White House demands for details on Atta’s whereabouts led one exhausted CIA analyst to respond tersely, “He’s still dead.”
Intelligence collection is a vast maw, and as one former CIA official told Draper, “You can always find what you want somewhere” amid the conflicting statements, unverified sightings, ambiguous imagery and likely falsehoods. That was especially true of the ultimate justification for the war — Hussein’s supposed weapons of mass destruction. Warnings were dismissed, supportive evidence barely examined, careful analysis cast aside.
A Pentagon memo to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in mid-2002 warned that U.S. intelligence on Iraq’s WMD programs was perhaps 90% “incomplete,” for example. He shelved the memo.
Administration claims that Iraq sought to buy yellowcake uranium from the African nation of Niger were laughably easy to disprove: A quick check on Google showed that the supposed letter of agreement was a fraud.
But the White House was not deterred. Most famously, the CIA championed an Iraqi engineer code-named Curveball who told German intelligence that Saddam could churn out anthrax, smallpox and other deadly biological agents on trucks. No wonder spies couldn’t find them!
The Germans warned that Curveball was unreliable and that no evidence backed up his claim; the CIA wasn’t allowed to interview him. But his imaginary mobile germ factories became a linchpin of the tissue-thin U.S. case for war. A year after the invasion, the CIA determined that Curveball was a fabricator, just as the Germans had claimed since 2001. (Full disclosure: Draper interviewed me and cites my book on the Curveball case.)
And on it went. The errors and deceit multiplied, as did rosy predictions of being greeted by the Iraqis as liberators. U.S. intelligence agents flooded into Iraq after the invasion to hunt for WMD — and found nothing.
It got worse. The Pentagon pushed the State Department aside in planning for the postwar period and then stood back as Iraq erupted in violence. A U.S. order to disband the Iraqi army planted the seeds of the insurgency and civil war that followed.
Bush ultimately bears the blame. He relied on a national security team who believed they should support his judgments, not question them. Congress embraced the faith-based intelligence, and so did a cheerleading media.
Draper has written the most comprehensive account yet of that smoldering wreck of foreign policy, one that haunts us today.
Bob Drogin, the Washington deputy bureau chief for The Times, is the author of “Curveball: Spies, Lies and the Con Man Who Caused a War.”
Is it coincidence that for a second time the Iraqi prime minister has met with high-level Iranian leaders before visiting the U.S.?
By Watch Jerusalem Staff • July 27
During his first international tour, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhimi met with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. During Tuesday’s meeting, Khamenei pressured Kadhimi to remove the United States’ presence from the country.
Khamenei stressed that it is the “corrupt” U.S. that interferes in Iraq and not Iran. He accused the U.S. of spreading destruction and sowing division in Iraq, as well as attempting to block Iran-Iraq cooperation. In making these allegations, Khamenei also noted America’s January attack in Iraq that killed the leader of Kataib Hezbollah and the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force general Qassem Suleimani. The U.S. “killed your guest at your house and explicitly confessed to the crime,” Khamenei said, referring to Suleimani. Analysts suggest that his comment could be a threat because Iraq failed to protect Suleimani in their country.
Kadhimi also met with other prominent Iranians during his time in Tehran, including the head of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani, who earlier this year, before Kadhimi took office, pressured Iraq to expel U.S. forces. Shamkhani told Kadhimi that U.S. forces in Iraq pose a “malicious terrorist” threat. Kadhimi acknowledged Iran’s support and said that the two countries would remain brothers.
Kadhimi also met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday. This meeting again emphasized the need to boost cooperation between the two countries. The pair vowed to increase annual trade to $20 billion, up from $12 billion. Rouhani emphasized that Iran would support Iraq in the fight against coronavirus and terrorism and would increase regional security. Kadhimi affirmed that Iraq will not allow aggression or threats to Iran from within its borders, adding, “We consider Iran a stable, powerful and prosperous country, and this is a reality which is in the interest of Iraq and the entire region.”
Just days before Kadhimi arrived in Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif visited Baghdad for the first time since Suleimani’s death. Zarif visited the site of Suleimani’s assassination and said, “Iran-Iraq relations will not be shaken.”
As Jerusalem Post’s Seth Frantzman wrote, Kadhimi’s string of high-level meetings with Iranian leaders represents “Iran’s maximum pressure on Iraq to remove U.S. forces.”
Kadhimi came to power in May this year after protests led to his predecessor’s resignation. As former intelligence chief and activist, he represents a centrist government attempting a difficult balancing act. Iraq has loyalties to both Iran and the U.S., while stuck in the midst of rising U.S.-Iran tensions. When speaking with Rouhani, he emphasized that Iraq’s foreign policy is based on “balance and avoiding alignment.” But will Kadhimi really be able to avoid taking sides amid the rising tensions?
Immediately following his visit to Tehran, Kadhimi will travel to Washington, D.C., where he will continue the strategic dialogue that started in June. At that first meeting, the U.S. agreed to reduce its troop presence in Iraq. The withdrawal has already begun—a major victory for Iran.
While Kadhimi is attempting to show that he is not aligned with either side, there is evidence to suggest that Iran has significant influence over Iraq’s leader, including in U.S. troop withdrawal.
Just one week before Kadhimi’s talks with the U.S. in June, Iranian Quds Force Cmdr. Ismail Qaani, Suleimani’s successor, visited Iraq and spoke with Kadhimi and Popular Mobilization Units leaders. And once again, mere days before Kadhimi resumes the second round of talks with the U.S., he visited multiple high-ranking Iranian officials.
Is this merely coincidence?
Perhaps so, but it takes on much greater significance with an understanding of Bible prophecy.
In Daniel 11:40 God prophesies, “And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over.” Here God describes a great clash between “the king of the north” and “the king of the south.” As our free booklet The King of the South proves in significant detail, this is a clash between a German-led Europe (the king of the north) and an Iran-led alliance of Islamic nations (the king of the south).
In a June 2003 article, Watch Jerusalem editor in chief Gerald Flurry asked “Is Iraq About to Fall to Iran?” He wrote: “So what will happen to Iraq when America and Britain can no longer support it? There is going to be a radical change in world events.”
In “America Is Back … ing Out,” our Watch Jerusalem Israel correspondent wrote: “Every important biblical prophecy that takes place in the Middle East occurs in a power vacuum created by America’s exit. In fact, Bible prophecy indicates that the U.S. will have vacated so entirely from the Middle East that it will not impact it at all.”
Iraq is no longer supported by America and Britain, and America is quite literally retreating from the country. As a result, we can see Iran coming in to fill the power vacuum left behind.
Mr. Flurry’s article explains one of the reasons Iraq is so crucial to Iran and how this alliance could lead to the push described in Daniel 11:40. He wrote:
Can you imagine the power Iran would have if it gained control of Iraq, which was at one time the third-leading exporter of oil in the world? Experts say Iraq has more oil than any country in the world except Saudi Arabia. …
The clash of these two kings would be hastened greatly if Iraqi oil were to fall into the hands of Iran. But even a close alliance between the two countries could achieve the same goal. Germany and Europe get over a third of their oil from the Middle East.
Daniel 11:40 through Daniel 12:13 happen during the “time of the end.” Oil and money give the king of the south power to “push” and trigger a world catastrophe!
An alliance between Iraq and Iran could hasten the prophesied clash of the king of the north and the king of the south. Kadhimi may play the centrist role, but under his rule, America is retreating from the country and Iran is making moves to step in. It may not happen right now, but the Bible says it will happen. Watch out for it and please read our free booklet The King of the Southso you can understand the events surrounding this great Daniel 11 clash.
More federal agents dispatched to Portland as protests rise in other cities
Demonstrators sit and kneel as tear gas fills the air during a protest at the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse in Portland, Ore., on Sunday. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)
The Trump administration is sending more federal agents to Portland, Ore., where protesters and local officials say the aggressive tactics have inspired more violent clashes and re-energized protests in cities across the nation.
The U.S. Marshals Service decided last week to send more deputies to Portland, according to an internal email reviewed by The Post, with personnel beginning to arrive last Thursday night. The Department of Homeland Security is also considering a plan to send an additional 50 U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel to the city, according to senior administration officials involved in the federal response who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal deliberations.
Such moves would mark a significant expansion of the federal force operating at the Portland federal courthouse — there were 114 federal agents there in mid-July — though it is unclear how many existing personnel could be sent home after the arrival of at least 100 reinforcements.
The Trump administration has responded to protests and vandalism in Oregon’s largest city with a shock-and-awe strategy, using a sudden escalation in force by camouflage-clad federal agents.
That may yet work as a campaign tactic, if it provides Trump a way to sell himself as a law-and-order candidate, the antidote to chaos that developed on his own watch.
But as a policing tactic, it has failed to suppress the protests. The escalation has been followed by larger, better-equipped and more aggressive crowds, and — as the new reinforcements showed — it exhausted federal resources before it exhausted the protesters.
“Every time we go out into this, we get better at it,” said Gregory McKelvey, 27, a community organizer in Portland. “When a flash bang first goes off in front of you, you run. But when you realize that one went off right in front of you and nothing happened to you, you’re less likely to run the next time. It makes people band together and say, ‘No, we’re not backing down.’ ”
As the nightly street battles in Portland have gotten more attention, they have triggered internal investigations into the conduct of federal agencies like the Marshals Service and CBP. Some federal law enforcement officials worry that agents in Portland may be losing control of the streets around the federal courthouse and losing the public debate over their handling of the unrest, according to three people familiar with the internal conversations who were not authorized to discuss them with reporters.
There is growing concern among federal law enforcement officials that some individuals in the crowds outside the courthouse have gotten more aggressive in recent days, and the number of federal agents on site may not be sufficient to handle them. Protesters have injured federal agents with large commercial-grade fireworks while others aimed lasers at their eyes, leading to several injuries, DHS officials said.
Now officials and demonstrators in other cities that have experienced ongoing protests against police violence fear federal agents will bring the same tactics to them.
In Seattle, protesters who saw camouflage-clad officers standing in their streets at a distance on Sunday wondered if they were federal agents who were seen snatching protesters off the streets of Portland.
“We don’t even know who we’re dealing with,” said one protester, Madeline, who declined to give their last name because they feared police retribution. Trump has said that federal officers have not been sent to Seattle.
Worried that this might change, a Seattle group has copied one strategy used in Portland: organizing a “Wall of Moms” to stand between protesters and police. Christine Edgar, one member of the Seattle group, said that so far the group had mixed results inserting themselves in between protesters and Seattle police.
“At several points, moms tried to get between police and protesters and were hurt doing that,” Edgar said. “Because we formed so quickly, we didn’t have a clear strategy on how to do that, but a lot of brave moms linked arms and did that whenever they could.”
In Aurora, Colo., Mayor Mike Coffman (R) worried that his local police were facing protesters who had been radicalized by the clashes they had heard about in Portland. On Saturday, after a protest over the death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain in Aurora police custody, someone broke windows in the city’s municipal complex.
Coffman wrote on Twitter that provocateurs unaffiliated with the main protest had “sought to bait the police into a confrontation and to destroy as much public property as possible.”
“#Aurora cannot become #Portland,” Coffman wrote.
A protest in Austin, turned fatal on Saturday, when a driver navigated his vehicle toward the marchers and fired at 28 year-old protester Garrett Foster, who had brought an assault rifle to a march, police said.
The driver — who was fired upon by a third armed man at the scene — was not injured, officials said, and police released him while their investigation continued.
On Sunday evening, other protesters remembered Foster, who had been a regular at past marches about police brutality. They said his death would inspire others to join the cause, chanting, “He didn’t die, he multiplied!”
But some worry that the incident will lead to more guns at the protests, increasing the chances of violence.
“It’s hard to see how more weapons in a charged environment will help keep things safer when it seems to do more to escalate situations,” said Jimmy Flannigan, a member of the nonpartisan Austin City Council, who supports the protesters.
Portland has been the scene of long-running protests over police mistreatment of minorities, with demonstrators’ anger increasingly focused at a large federal courthouse downtown. Confrontations between the heavily armed federal agents and black-clad protesters have intensified in recent weeks, and Trump administration officials have pledged to defeat the “violent anarchists” who they say are trying to burn down the building.
The decision to boost the size of the federal force is likely to anger local officials who have accused the Trump administration of making the situation worse, and called for the federal agents to leave the city. Congressional Democrats also have criticized the administration’s response, accusing the president of using conflict as a rallying point for his reelection.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) said the federal agents’ tactics had already worsened the unrest on Portland’s streets, and he was concerned the president would continue to escalate the tensions.
“I’m worried that Trump will force things to get even more out of hand and that will likely lead to worse violence,” Blumenauer said. “It doesn’t take much of a spark when you’ve got these extremes.”
Federal officials have also discussed creating a second, stronger fence around the courthouse that would be more resistant to nightly efforts to move or dismantle it, and would form a more secure area where protesters could not bring gas masks, shields or weapons, according to people familiar with the discussions. It’s unclear how seriously officials are considering this, however.
Outside the current fence, it is easy to see evidence that protesters have adapted to the escalated use of force.
Along the base of the reinforced iron fence that surrounds the federal courthouse in downtown Portland, a line of shields — homemade plywood rectangles with handles made of rope drilled through the center — sit, waiting for their moment.
On some, black marker announces that they’re free for the taking. Another pile of plastic storage-bin lids and barrel bottoms encircled by pool noodles — to better repel batons and projectiles — sits in the park across the street from the courthouse.
On Saturday, the largest crowd Portland protests have seen since the earliest days of the demonstrations that followed George Floyd’s death gathered in the street, chanting, shouting, dancing to drum beats and bouncing a beach ball through the air. On the side of the Multnomah County Justice Center, which houses the county jail, demonstrators projected the words, “Fed goons out of PDX.”
Though many newcomers had arrived carrying little more than a sign and wearing a cloth face covering — due to the still-raging coronavirus — the more seasoned in the crowd had amassed a small arsenal of protective equipment: helmets, knee pads, motorcycle armor, gas masks, respirators, a snorkeling mask jury-rigged to withstand tear gas.
At one point, some people in the crowd began to shoot fireworks up toward the broken windows of the federal courthouse. Federal agents burst through the plywood-reinforced doors of the building and rushed forward toward the fence line. They shot “less-lethal” munitions through dark squares cut into the boards.
Explosions burst into the night as protesters fell into a familiar choreography: Those without respirators fell back as tear gas clouded the air. Those who wore masks able to withstand the barrage of chemical agents ran forward, many carrying shields to press up against the fence and block federal officers from firing stun grenades, pepper pellets, rubber bullets and paintballs into the crowd.
Some began to shake the fence, pushing it back and forth to the beat of drums or chants. Others lobbed water bottles and other household objects — some of them still crying and coughing from the burn of the gas as they wound their arms back to throw. Volunteer medics pulled retching, coughing people to safety back behind the tree line of the park, where someone had strung up half a dozen box fans to repel the gas.
After a short break, with protesters returning to passing a beach ball and blowing bubbles into the air, the pattern repeated.
About half a dozen people were arrested in downtown Portland on Saturday after police declared a riot and ordered those gathered to leave the area. About 18 more were charged with federal offenses after being arrested near the courthouse last week.
As people gathered on Sunday, they joined in a chant led by a demonstrator with a microphone standing on the steps of the Justice Center.
“Portland, you scared?” he called.
“Hell no,” the crowd yelled back. “I ain’t scared.”
Lang reported from Portland, Ore. Eva Ruth Moravec in Austin; Rachel Lerman and Greg Scruggs in Seattle; Natalie Jones in Oakland; Adam Raymond in Louisville and Jennifer Oldham in Aurora, Colo. contributed to this report.
About 30K volunteers will receive shots in tests by Moderna for a coronavirus vaccine
In this March 16, 2020, photo, a subject receives a shot in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine by Moderna for COVID-19 at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
(Newser) – The early, small-scale testing is over, and now the largest trial to date for a COVID-19 vaccine is underway, reports the AP. This one involves the vaccine made by Moderna, and the first of 30,000 volunteers in the US will begin getting shots on Monday. Half will get the real thing, half a placebo, and researchers will then begin assessing how well it keeps people from contracting the coronavirus around the US. The Moderna vaccine is the first of a handful of candidates to reach this stage—another out of Oxford University begins its large-scale trial in August. Coverage:
• Reality check: Under the best-case scenario, an initial vaccine might be available by the end of the year, but the first one to emerge might be more about reducing the severity of the virus rather than eliminating it, reports Axios. “Maybe it doesn’t prevent you from getting infected, but it prevents you from getting hospitalized, or prevents you from dying,” says a John Hopkins expert. Still, even “that would be huge.”
• Reality check, II: Another issue is that if enough people decide to skip the vaccine—and polls suggest roughly half of Americans are either leaning that way or unsure—that makes it harder for “herd immunity” to emerge, reports the Atlantic. Then there’s the staggering logistics of getting 300 million doses ready for the US, or perhaps 600 million doses if a second dose is needed, as seems likely. “Even when a vaccine is introduced, I think we will have several months of significant infection or at least risk of infection to look forward to,” says Jesse Goodman, former chief scientist at the FDA.
• Side effects: The vaccines that emerge are likely to be “reactogenic,” reports STAT News, meaning they will have side effects including headache, fever, sore arms, fatigue, and chills. For example, one of the early volunteers in the Moderna trial sought medical care after his fever spiked to 103 after his second dose. Medical experts say it’s wise to begin explaining all of this now to Americans.
• Trump message: A separate story at Axios focuses on the political aspect of this for President Trump, predicting that his new strategy will be to focus heavily on vaccines and treatments. “If he … stays on message and offers people a light at the end of the COVID tunnel, he’s gonna be in a lot stronger position to win reelection than I think a lot of people think right now,” one administration official tells the outlet.
• Warp Speed: Moderna is one of a number of companies getting support from the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed project to produce a vaccine as quickly as possible, reports CNN. The company said Sunday it received another $472 million from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority toward that end.