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Former Biden Staffer’s New Sexual-Assault Claims Spell Trouble for Time’s Up

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  • Tara Reade, who worked for Joe Biden’s Senate office in 1993, accused the former vice president of sexually assaulting her while she was employed by him.
  • Reade made the remarks while speaking with podcaster Katie Halper last week, bringing the new accusations to the public for the first time.
  • Reade had previously come forward last year with several other women who alleged that Biden touched or kissed them in ways that made them uncomfortable.
  • In an article published the day before, The Intercept’s Ryan Grim reported that Time’s Up, which helps accusers get their stories out, had refused to assist Reade.

New Allegations

Tara Reade first gained media attention in April of last year, when she became one of several women to publicly accuse former Vice President Joe Biden of innappropriate touching and kissing.

Reade, who worked in Biden’s Senate office in 1993, told The Union that Biden touched her several times in ways that made her feel uncomfortable. She also alleged that her responsibilities in Biden’s office were cut back after other staffers told her he wanted her to serve drinks at an event because he liked her legs and she refused.

Following Reade’s decision to come forward, a now-deleted Medium post surfaced where she wrote favorably about Russian leader Vladimir Putin, prompting accusations that she was a Russian asset and questions about her credibility.

After that, she largely went quiet. Then, last Tuesday, her story resurfaced when The Intercept’s Ryan Grim reported that the organization Time’s Up, which was founded at the beginning of the #MeToo movement to help accusers get their stories out, had refused to help Reade.

According to Grim, Reade “decided that she wanted to continue telling her story and push back against what she saw as online defamation.”

To do so, Reade went to get help from the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit housed within the National Women’s Law Center. She spoke to a program director in January who referred her to some attorneys.

Grim said Reade was encouraged by the conversation and that Time’s Up was not worried about the fact that she was a vocal supporter of Biden’s rival presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Then in February, Reade was told Time’s Up could not help her because Biden was a candidate for federal office, and they could risk losing their nonprofit status if they went forward with her case, Grim reported.

“The public relations firm that works on behalf of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund is SKDKnickerbocker, whose managing director, Anita Dunn, is the top adviser to Biden’s presidential campaign,” Grim added at the end of his story.

Accusations on Podcast

The day after Grim published his article, podcaster Katie Halper shared a clip from her upcoming episode of The Katie Halper Show where she interviewed Reade.

Reade spoke to Halper in detail about an alleged sexual assault by Biden in 1993 separate from the harrassment claims, bringing the new accusations to the public for the first time. Reade said the backlash she recieved from coming forward with the harassment claims last year was so severe, she felt silenced. 

She said that she had gone to give Biden his gym bag, but when she got to him, Biden pushed her up against the wall and began ouching her with his hands.

“He went down my skirt but then up inside it and he penetrated me,” Reade said, adding that he did so with his fingers.

She said that after a while she pulled away from him. He seemed frustrated, and told Reade he thought she liked him.

“It’s like he implied that I had done this,” she added. “And for me, it was like everything shattered.” 

“I looked up to him. He was like my father’s age. He was this champion of women’s rights in my eyes and I couldn’t believe it was happening, she continued. “It seemed surreal.” 

Reade claimed that after it was over, Biden told her she was “nothing” to him and that she was going to be fine before walking away. 

Reade said she told three people after this happened: her mother, her brother, and a friend. Her mother, who has since passed on, encouraged her to contact the police. Her brother, however, says he told her to just let it go.

Halper and other reporters, including Grim, spoke with Reade’s brother and the anonymous friend to verify that they had been told this account in 1993, and they confirmed that they had. 

Times Up Inconsistencies

Biden’s team denied the allegations in a statement Friday.

“Women have a right to tell their story, and reporters have an obligation to rigorously vet those claims,” Biden’s deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said. “We encourage them to do so, because these accusations are false.”

But others, citing Grim’s article, felt as though there was something more nefarious going on behind the scenes.

One Twitter user alleged that the Reade’s story “was quashed because Times Up Legal Defense Fund’s PR firm managing director Anita Dunn is a major @joebiden campaign advisor.”

Another described the interaction as a “catch and kill operation.”

However, in an article published in Salon on Tuesday, writer Amanda Marcotte appread to provide a bit more context.

Marcotte said Reade told Salon she was not interested in suing Biden and that she was trying to find a lawyer to stop the smears about her being a Russian asset. At least one law firm Marcotte spoke to confirmed that it did not take Reade’s case and another indicated they made the same decision.

“Reade indicated that she was less interested in legal action and more in public relations representation,” Marcotte wrote. “But Time’s Up is primarily a legal organization, and is not in the business of running PR for accusers who aren’t going through the court system.”

That remark, however, received pushback from Grim as well as political pundit Krystal Ball.

In a tweet, Grim said that Marcotte’s statement was false, and shared a screenshot from the Time’s Up website that said they would help fund “media and storytelling.”

“This seems completely invented by Marcotte,” Ball responded. “Unless I’m wrong, Time’s Up didn’t even offer that as the reason.”

But Marcotte responded to Grim’s tweet, pointing out that her article explicitly said that Time’s Up only offered PR to people with legal cases and “no lawyer would take Reade on as a client.”

She also provided a screenshot and link to the website for Time’s Up legal defense fund, where it clearly states that in order for an accuser to get PR work from SKDKnickerbocker, “You must have an attorney to complete the evaluation and qualify for assistance.”

That, however, did not stop Ball from making the same accusations on Wednesday during her show Rising with Krystal & Saagar.

“Marcotte argues that Time’s Up doesn’t assist victims with PR efforts, something which the organization itself never argued,” Ball said. “And which is a fact belied by the mission statement which is posted on their website.”

See what others are saying: (The Intercept) (Salon) (Jezebel)

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SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section

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  • The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June. 
  • The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
  • Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary. 
  • It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.

College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay

College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.

Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”

The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary. 

While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S. 

Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.

With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.

The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test

In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.

In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.

According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.

For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The New York Times)

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Biden To Block Trump’s Order Lifting COVID-19 Travel Ban

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  • President Trump issued an executive order Monday lifting a ban on travelers from the Schengen area of Europe, the U.K., Ireland, and Brazil. 
  • Trump said the policy will no longer be needed starting Jan. 26, when the CDC will start requiring all passengers from abroad to present proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a flight.
  • The move was cheered by the travel industry; however, incoming White House press secretary Jennifer Psaki warned that Biden’s administration does not intend to lift the travel restrictions. 

Trump Order End To COVID-19 Travel Ban

President Donald Trump issued an executive order Monday ending his administration’s ban on travelers from the Schengen area of Europe, the U.K., Ireland, and Brazil.

That ban was put in place last spring in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus in the U.S. In his announcement, however, Trump said the policy will no longer be needed starting Jan. 26, when new rules from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention go into effect.

Starting that day, the CDC will require all passengers from abroad to present proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a flight.

The recommendation to lift the ban reportedly came from Alex Azar, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. According to Trump’s proclamation, “the Secretary reports high confidence that these jurisdictions will cooperate with the United States in the implementation of CDC’s January 12, 2021, order and that tests administered there will yield accurate results.”

It’s worth noting that the ban will stay in place for travelers from Iran and China. Still, Trump’s announcement was generally cheered by members of the travel industry who have been pushing to lift the ban and require preflight testing instead. 

Biden To Block Trump’s Order

Soon after the news broke, the incoming White House press secretary for President-elect Joe Biden, Jennifer Psaki, warned that Biden would block Trump’s order.

“With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel,” she wrote on Twitter.

“On the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26.  In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” she added.

With that, it seems unlikely that Trump’s order will actually take effect. 

It’s also worth noting that this is one of many executive orders Trump has issued just before inauguration day.

Source: Whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions

Some of these orders could soon be overturned once Biden takes office Wednesday. Biden is also expected to roll out his own wave of executive orders in his first 10 days as president.

See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (The New York Times) (CNN)

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New COVID-19 Variant Could Become Dominant in the U.S. by March, CDC Warns

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  • The CDC warned Friday that a new highly transmissible COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
  • The strain was first reported in the United Kingdom in December and is now in at least 10 states.
  • The CDC used a modeled trajectory to discover how quickly the variant could spread in the U.S. and said that this could threaten the country’s already overwhelmed healthcare system.

CDC Issues Warning

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the new COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.

While it is not known to be more deadly, it does spread at a higher rate, which is troubling considering the condition the U.S. is already in. Cases and deaths are already on the rise in nearly every state and globally, 2 million lives have been lost to the coronavirus. 

The variant was first reported in the United Kingdom in mid-December. It is now in 30 countries, including the U.S., where cases have been located in at least ten states. Right now, only 76 cases of this variant have been confirmed in the U.S., but experts believe that number is likely much higher and said it will increase significantly in the coming weeks. It is already a dominant strain in parts of the U.K.

Modeled trajectory shows that growth in the U.S. could be so fast that it dominates U.S. cases just three months into the new year. This could pose a huge threat to our already strained healthcare system.

Mitigating Spread of Variant

“I want to stress that we are deeply concerned that this strain is more transmissible and can accelerate outbreaks in the U.S. in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC told the New York Times. “We’re sounding the alarm and urging people to realize the pandemic is not over and in no way is it time to throw in the towel.”

The CDC advises that health officials use this time to limit spread and increase vaccination as much as possible in order to mitigate the impact this variant will have. Experts believe that current vaccines will protect against this strain.

“Effective public health measures, including vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, will be essential,” the CDC said in their report.

“Strategic testing of persons without symptoms but at higher risk of infection, such as those exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or who have frequent unavoidable contact with the public, provides another opportunity to limit ongoing spread.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (New York Times) (NBC News)

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