US President Barack Obama landed in Afghanistan late Sunday on a surprise visit to salute the sacrifices of US troops in America's longest war. Obama slipped out of the White House after dark on Saturday and flew in secret across the globe, landing…
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A leader of the Proud Boys who was charged on Wednesday for his role in the Capitol riot boasts an arrest record that includes an assault on an officer of the peace, and on Jan. 6 led a mob of his fellow members as the right-wing man-centric gang turned on the police. He also has a history of encouraging sexual violence, and dined with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., at former President Trump's Washington hotel.
<p>A since-deleted Instagram post from Nov. 7, 2019, shows self-described Proud Boy organizer Joe Biggs seated beside a beaming Graham at a banquette dinner in the BLT Prime restaurant at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. At the time, Biggs was well known in far-right circles after a seven-year stint as an on-air personality for Alex Jones' Infowars network. Biggs, who <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/joe-biggs-531b31b0/" target="_blank">describes</a> his position as "investigative reporter," used the platform to peddle ludicrous but well-trodden conspiracy theories, such as the elaborate set of falsehoods known as <a href="http://www.reddit.com/r/conspiracy/comments/5gtnro/infowars_deleted_this_video_regarding_pizzagate/?compact=true" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Pizzagate</a> and the hypothesis that Hillary Clinton and the Democrats were responsible for the murder of <a href="https://www.reddit.com/r/WayOfTheBern/comments/6dt7ov/breaking_news_or_smoking_gun_joe_biggs_has/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Seth Rich</a>.</p><p>Cassandra Fairbanks, a journalist for the right-wing publication Gateway Pundit, confirmed the Graham-Biggs summit in a <a href="https://twitter.com/berkeleyantifa/status/1312036085648683008" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">tweet</a> on Oct. 1 of last year, one day after Trump declined to denounce the Proud Boys in his first debate with Joe Biden.</p><p>"Can confirm. I was sitting at a table near them," Fairbanks wrote. "Whoooops @SenLindseyGraham." She deleted the tweet the following day. Graham at the time appeared to be losing ground in his high-profile campaign against Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison. (In the end, the senator was easily re-elected.)</p><p>(In January 2019, Biggs posted in a since removed tweet: "Trump Intl Hotel is like my cheers now. On a first name basis with everyone. Pretty F'n cool.")</p><p>In other now-deleted social media posts from his evening with Graham, Biggs suggested that Trump would also join them for dinner, writing "awaiting @realDonaldTrump to have dinner with us," and "about to see @RealDonaldTrump at the Trump International DC." No documented evidence exists of a meeting, but Trump was in fact slated to be at the hotel that evening, according to his <a href="https://factba.se/topics/calendar-map-detail.php?&filter=fundraisers" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">official White House schedule</a>, which noted that he would give "remarks at a fundraising committee reception" at 8 p.m.</p><p>At the time, the National Republican Senatorial Committee was hosting a two-day "Save the Senate" fundraiser at the hotel, featuring Trump as well as then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, along with several senators and candidates expected to face tight races the next fall. Another photo, this one posted on the second day of the fundraiser but since lost to the sands of time, shows Biggs mugging in the Trump International lobby with Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes. </p><p>Biggs' appearance that weekend was perhaps incidental to the GOP event. He had traveled to the capital to show support for longtime Trump ally Roger Stone, who was standing trial in Washington at the time. In a video interview ahead of the trip, Biggs says he would be joined by fellow Proud Boy royalty Enrique Tarrio and McInnes, as well as deplatformed conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. "It's going to be a busy next week or two," Biggs said.</p><p>The Proud Boys initiation process requires aspirants, among other things, to <a href="https://www.vox.com/2018/10/15/17978358/proud-boys-gavin-mcinnes-manhattan-gop-violence" target="_blank">renounce</a> masturbation and recite the names of five brands of breakfast cereal while fighting other members. The final requirement involves "a major fight for the cause," founder McInnes told <a href="http://www.metro.us/gavin-mcinnes-explains-what-a-proud-boy-is-and-why-porn-and-wanking-are-bad/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Metro.us</a> in a 2017 interview.</p><p>"You get beat up, kick the crap out of an antifa" and possibly get arrested, McInnes explained.</p><p>For Biggs, the violent tendencies appear to go further. In 2017, <a href="https://www.mediamatters.org/right-side-broadcasting/new-host-unofficial-version-trump-tv-encouraged-date-rape-and-punching" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Media Matters</a> revealed that Biggs had posted a number of tweets promoting date rape and sexual violence in 2012 while serving in the U.S. Army. "Every kiss begins with ... Roofies," he wrote at one point, as well as, "I like to reason with her (reason=chloroform) and then just drink a lot of beer and release," and "I'm gonna punch some bitches in the face real soon. But first I have to jerk off. You fucking fags."</p><p>In a <a href="https://www.rawstory.com/2017/01/every-kiss-begins-with-roofies-host-of-unofficial-trump-tv-promoted-rape-and-sexual-violence/" target="_self">statement</a>, Biggs said those posts "were a cry for help" while he was going through a dark time, having just departed the Army on medical retirement.</p><p>"I became very depressed and turned to alcohol and the over-abuse of painkillers that had been prescribed to me while I was in," he said. "You see you can take the soldier out of the war but you can't take the war out of the soldier."</p><p>While serving in Afghanistan as an Army sergeant, Biggs was involved in a gruesome suicide-bombing incident captured in Michael Hastings' book "The Operators." At the end of the episode, Hastings quotes Biggs describing a group of eight- and nine-year-old Afghan boys as "little terrorist bastards." </p><p>Biggs was also arrested on a domestic violence charge in 2007 in Cumberland County, North Carolina, home to Fort Bragg, where he was stationed at the time. At this writing, no further information on that case is available.</p><p>Four years after his medical discharge, Biggs was arrested in Austin, Texas, for assault on a uniformed officer of the peace. A court filing detailing the fracas indicates that Biggs was drunk at the time, a detail he later confirmed in an Infowars <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wabM5QtYCoY" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">interview</a>, which featured short video clips Biggs had recorded on the scene, but lacked sound or subtitles. A grand jury declined to return charges.</p><p>Police officers appear to have become major antagonists for the Proud Boys during the Jan. 6 Capitol assault. The group, whose members have often joined the crowds at Back the Blue <a href="https://www.ithaca.com/news/hundreds-show-up-in-opposition-to-back-the-blue-protest-proud-boys/article_7580cf14-1795-11eb-8e0f-fb668ab6a3fb.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">rallies</a>, has since the 2020 election repeatedly found itself at odds with law enforcement: A <a href="https://www.newsweek.com/police-clash-proud-boys-trump-supporters-protest-salem-oregon-1558503" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">clash</a> with cops in Oregon four days before the Capitol siege resulted in multiple arrests. By the day of the riot, the Proud Boys <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6Dgv4TlxcM" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">had developed a new slogan</a>: "Back the Yellow," referring to <a href="https://www.fastcompany.com/90560741/why-the-far-right-proud-boys-co-opted-these-polo-shirts" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">their bumblebee-style palette</a>.</p><p>Two days before the Capitol insurrection attempt, Washington, D.C., police arrested Proud Boy chairman Enrique Tarrio on weapons and vandalism charges, after he burned a Black Lives Matter banner he'd stolen from a historic Black church during a protest event the previous month. (Police also found him in possession of high-capacity ammunition magazines. As a convicted felon, Tarrio is not allowed to own firearms.)</p><p>A judge released Tarrio without bail but barred him from the city until his next court date, precluding his participation in the violence that unfolded two days later.</p><p>Asked after nightfall on the day of the riot whether anyone was "backing the blue," far-right media personality Nick DeCarlo, who has since been indicted, told a livestream host, "No, absolutely not. In fact, there were much more people today shouting, 'Fuck these guys, they're traitors to us, they don't protect us. Look at what they're doing.'"</p><p>On the morning of the riot, Proud Boy leader Ethan Nordean — aka "Rufio Panman" — tried out the group's new anti-police mantra through a bullhorn on fellow members gathered at the Capitol.</p><p>"Looking good, gentlemen, looking sharp. Back the yellow," Nordean says in a speech captured on <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6Dgv4TlxcM" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">video</a>, before apparently directly addressing police. "You have to prove it to us now. You took our boy in and you let our stabber go. You guys have to prove your shit to us now. We'll do your goddamn job for you."</p><p>Here, Nordean appears to be juxtaposing Tarrio's arrest two days earlier ("you took our boy in") with the failure to bring charges against a man allegedly involved in stabbing of several Proud Boys during their Dec. 12 march in Washington. There are no police visible in the video — at least not in uniform.</p><p>Nordean then name-checks Joe Biggs, who appears to be standing, with his face covered, in the center of the motley crew — some wielding baseball bats, one wearing tactical camo gear, a few in <a href="https://www.themarshallproject.org/2020/06/08/the-short-fraught-history-of-the-thin-blue-line-american-flag" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Thin Blue Line</a> regalia and one sporting a derby hat suggestive of a ska concert. As they follow Nordean and Biggs to the Capitol, the person filming the video pitches a souvenir.</p><p>"We got 'Enrique did nothing wrong' shirts. If you wanna buy 'em, come find 'em," he says, putting a spin on Stone's "Roger Stone did nothing wrong" catchphrase. The narrator then asks a man next to him to show off his shirt. The man, who is wearing a Trump shirt and carrying a bat, turns to the camera, his face covered by a Thin Blue Line mask.</p><p>Soon after that, the group of Proud Boys converge with a mob of Trump supporters fresh from the then-president's fevered speech at the Ellipse. Together they quickly dismantle police barricades, overrun a few officers and make their way toward the Capitol.</p><p>The government has charged Biggs with impeding Congress, as well as illegal entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. He was released to home confinement, with oversight. The court believes he may try to obstruct justice.</p>
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January 22, 2021
New York state was to run out of coronavirus vaccines on Friday, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, increasing pressure on President Joe Biden's administration to speed up deliveries.
"NYS will use up our first dose vaccine allocations today. But our next allocation is coming throughout the week," Cuomo wrote on Twitter.
<p>"Providers should ONLY schedule appointments for allocations they know they'll receive. We want to avoid all cancelations," he added.</p><p>Biden took office this week with a pledge to reenergize America's faltering vaccination program.</p><p>Only 16.5 million vaccines have been administered to Americans and Biden is calling for 100 million shots in 100 days.</p><p>Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio have over the past week been calling on America's federal government to speed up the delivery of vials.</p><p>In an open letter to Biden on Friday, De Blasio said more than 500,000 doses had been administered in the city of eight million people. </p><p>"We're burning through our supply," de Blasio tweeted.</p><p>"We need more doses IMMEDIATELY so we can protect the most vulnerable residents in our city," he added.</p><p>Biden signed a spate of new measures to strengthen the US fight against the virus on his first full day in office Thursday, including increasing the use of masks and testing.</p><p>Experts say his government will find it difficult to quicken deliveries due to the still limited manufacturing capacities for the only two vaccines already approved in the US -- those of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.</p><p>The virus has already killed more than 400,000 people in the US, the world's hardest-hit country.</p><p>On Friday, Biden said deaths would likely top 600,000, giving his highest estimate yet for the country's eventual toll.</p><p>More than 26,000 people have died in New York City alone.</p>
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January 22, 2021
The supermarket chain Kroger announced that it is removing a militia group associated with the Jan. 6 Capitol riots from its Community Rewards program, ABC9 reports.
The Indiana Oath Keepers were removed from the program, which Kroger describes as a "customer-directed giving program in which thousands of IRS-approved 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations participate." The Oath Keepers had posted the Community Rewards program on their website as a way to collect donations.
<p>"We were dismayed to learn today this group is part of the Community Rewards program," Kroger's statement read. "Given the concerning nature of the allegations against this organization, we have immediately removed the group from receiving customer-directed funds. Kroger has not directed any corporate grants or charitable dollars to the organization."</p><p>Read the full report over at <a href="https://www.wcpo.com/news/local-news/kroger-pulls-militia-group-oath-keepers-from-community-rewards-donation-program" target="_blank">ABC9</a>. </p>
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