USA Today Contradicts Themselves on Haitians being "whipped" at the border, Minting a $1T coin?, Russian assassination in the UK Confirmed (The Five for 09/21/21)

[one]

As the nation’s eyes are on more than 12,000 immigrants currently under a bridge in Del Rio, TX, an image went viral yesterday, controversy around Border Patrol engaging illegal border crossers hit a moment of virality thanks to my own Congresswoman, Cori Bush.

Bush was roasted in her own comments section, including comments like “I’m a liberal, but this is just embarrassing” because the leather strap in the photo on the left is not a whip, but reigns for the horse.

My expectations of Bush (who pretty openly signals anti-Semitism, represents a district with a notable Jewish population), are quite low. So, this is frustrating but not unexpected.

I expected a bit more from USA Today. The headline for the most-read story today reads “Border Patrol agents on horses are cracking whips at Haitian immigrants. How is that OK?”

The first two lines of the opinion piece read:

Now U.S. Border Patrol agents are on horseback, whipping Haitian immigrants?

I couldn’t believe it. But it is true, and that is just revolting.

The opinion piece cites the El Paso Times as the source, which was reprinted by USA Today:

As the Haitians tried to climb onto the U.S. side of the river Sunday afternoon, the agent shouted: "Let's go! Get out now! Back to Mexico!"

The agent swung his whip menacingly, charging his horse toward the men in the river who were trying to return to an encampment under the international bridge in Del Rio after buying food and water in Ciudad Acuña, Mexico.

One migrant fell as he tried to dodge, others shielded their heads with their hands.

After a few minutes the agents retreated, allowing the migrants to return to the camp, where over 10,000 are waiting for the chance to open an asylum claim in the United States.

Observations:

  1. Both Cori Bush and the USA Today opinion piece state that Haitian refugees were whipped—they weren’t.

  2. Bush claims the refugees were handcuffed—they were allowed to return to their camp, and will open asylum claims.

  3. How USA Today allowed an opinion piece to run where the headline “cracked whips” and the opening lines, describing BEING whipped, are in direct contradiction to each other.

  4. Furthermore, the El Paso Times on-the-ground reporting, says the agent “swung his whip menacingly,” but does not state the agent attempted to, or successfully, hit anyone with the whip.

  5. A prominent national news outlet is allowing a glaring factual error on their most read news story…and (as far as we can observe) doesn’t care, because it’s driving clicks, and therefore dollars.

  6. Things Cori Bush and I agree on—the optics of Border Patrol agents on horseback…looks very bad. Haitian refugees, because of the desperation of their country, should be at the front of the line for Asylum.

  7. Things Cori Bush and USA Today opinion writer Elvia Diaz and I don’t agree on—whether or not facts matter in reporting.

I cut my teeth in on-the-ground reporting. As I’ve stated before, any reporter would have been fired for this kind of inaccuracy 15 years ago, as would any editor who allowed this to run.

The media isn’t the boogeyman responsible for all of our problems…but a big part of the current divisions in the U.S. are due to the reality that we can’t agree on solutions because we’re having different conversations about what’s happening.

“Trusted” national news outlets playing fast and loose with the facts only throws more fuel on that fire.

[two]

The Biden Administration’s proposal to raise the debt ceiling (a fixed amount on how much the U.S. can borrow to pay it’s bills) hit a major roadblock when Democratic Senators Kirsten Sinema (AZ) and Joe Manchin (WV) have issued statements against voting for another $3.5 trillion spending bill.

According to Business Insider, the Biden Administration is considering a novel approach, which Obama also kicked around…if Congress won’t borrow more money, the U.S. could mint a single coin “valued” at $1 trillion.

A new fight over the debt ceiling is brewing on Capitol Hill.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has firmly dug in on the GOP refusing to help renew the US's ability to pay off its bills, known as the debt ceiling. Instead, the Kentucky Republican said it's up to Democrats to raise it in order to finance their social spending plans on healthcare, education, and childcare. He insisted that he's not bluffing.

But the conundrum could have a coin-size solution. A loophole in the law that prescribes the types of coins that can legally be minted in the US theoretically allows the Treasury Department to mint a $1 trillion platinum coin, deposit it at the Federal Reserve, and then continue paying its bills as normal.

The debt ceiling places a fixed limit on the total amount of money the Treasury Department can borrow in order to fund government activities, and Congress has to vote to either raise or suspend that limit from time to time as the federal debt grows ever larger.

The Biden administration and Democrats are pressuring Republicans to back down, ruling out raising the debt limit on their own and reminding the GOP that it played a role in racking up $8 trillion in new debt under the Trump administration. There's no clear path out for lawmakers as they confront a barrage of deadlines this month, including another spending brawl that could end in a government shutdown.

Former President Barack Obama said in a 2017 interview with Crooked Media that senior officials had considered minting a coin to stave off a potentially catastrophic default.

On the surface, this is hilarious.

The whole thing reads like a Nicholas Cage movie where he has to steal a U.S. coin worth a trillion dollars.

Of course.

Because.

It’s.

The.

Only.

Way.

To.

Save.

It.

I stopped laughing when I realized how much the buying power of the average American will continue to decrease as inflation spirals out of control…and the $1T coin will only make that flywheel spin faster.

[three]

Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned in England in 2006.

A British court has confirmed what many have suspected for years about the alleged assassination of a Russian defector living in the UK via poisoning.

NPR reports:

The European Court of Human Rights has found the Kremlin responsible for the 2006 assassination by radiation poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian intelligence official who defected to the West.

Meanwhile, British police said Tuesday that they have identified a third suspect in a Russian-linked nerve agent attack on a former Russian double agent in southern England.

Litvinenko died in London weeks after drinking tea that was later found to have been laced with the deadly radioactive compound polonium-210.

In its ruling, the ECHR said it "cannot but conclude" that two Russian intelligence agents, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, had killed Litvinenko "acting as agents of the respondent State [Russia]."

The Kremlin denies responsibility, and Russia will face no immediate consequences. Because the assassination happened 15 years ago, the story isn’t grabbing many headlines…but it is another step towards open Russian aggression to Western Europe in particular and the west in general.

[four]

Another very consequential (and under-reported) story coming out of the UK. England’s Prince Andrew is being sued in a New York City court by a woman who claims the British royal raped her when she was a minor.

Reuters reports:

Britain's Prince Andrew has been served with a sexual assault lawsuit in the United States by lawyers for a woman who says she was forced to have sex with him at the London home of a friend of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, court papers show.

In a filing with the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, lawyers for Virginia Giuffre said they sent the civil lawsuit to the prince's Los Angeles-based lawyer Andrew Brettler by email and FedEx, and both copies had been received by Monday morning.

Under federal rules, the Duke of York has 21 days to respond or could face a default judgment. Giuffre's lawyers previously said they also served Andrew, who is Queen Elizabeth's second son, in Britain.

Andrew and his lawyers have denied Giuffre's claims. The 61-year-old prince has not been charged with crimes. Giuffre's Aug. 9 lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

Brettler did not respond to a request for comment. There was no comment from the prince's London legal team.

Giuffre, 38, accused Andrew of forcing her to have sex when she was underage at the London home of Epstein's longtime associate Ghislaine Maxwell.

She also said Andrew abused her at around the same time in Epstein's mansion in Manhattan and on Epstein's private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

At the time of the alleged suicide of pimp-to-the-rich-and-famous Jeffrey Epstein, rumors that Prince Andrew was involved in Epstein’s sex ring of underage girls circulated…which many threw off as nothing more than message board conspiracy theory.

That conspiracy theory is looking more credible as of today.

[five]

The biggest rift in U.S-Franco relations in nearly 200 years happened this week, when the longstanding American ally recalled the French ambassador out of Washington D.C.

The Associated Press reports:

France’s top diplomat declared Monday that there is a “crisis of trust” in the United States after a Pacific defense deal stung France and left Europe wondering about its longtime ally across the Atlantic.

France canceled meetings with British and Australian officials and worked to rally EU allies behind its push for more European sovereignty after being humiliated by a major Pacific defense pact orchestrated by the U.S. Speaking to reporters in New York, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said European countries won’t let Washington leave them behind when shaping its foreign policy,

Le Drian reiterated complaints that his country was sandbagged by the submarine deal between the U.S., Britain and Australia, which led to France losing a contract to sell subs to Australia. Washington, London and Canberra say the deal bolsters their commitment to the Indo-Pacific region, and it has widely been seen as an effort to counter an increasingly assertive China.

But Le Drian, who is in New York to represent France at the U.N. General Assembly, said it was a “brutal, unexpected and unexplained breach” of a contract – and a relationship.

The U.S., Australia and Britain insisted that the diplomatic crisis wouldn’t affect their longer-term relations with France, even after Paris recalled its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia for the first time in history because of the deal.

“There is a crisis of trust beyond the fact that the contract is being broken, as if Europe itself didn’t have any interest to defend in that region,” Le Drian said.

Arguing that the U.S. is “refocusing its fundamental interests, step by step, with de facto confrontation with China,” Le Drian noted pointedly that “Europeans too have their own fundamental interests.”

To summarize (because this one is a bit confusing), France was supposed to sell submarines to Australia. Instead, Australia broke the agreement and is buying more advanced subs from the U.S., to counter the growing threat of China’s navy.

France lost $60 billion in the failed deal, and have (temporarily, at least) cut diplomatic relations to the U.S. over these occurrences.

It’s a complicated story that’s been largely ignored (likely because it’s so difficult to compact down into a headline), but you shouldn’t take the lack of coverage for a lack of consequence.

The U.S. losing one of our oldest allies, if only temporarily, is a very big deal.

Until the next one,

-sth