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Twitter Slaps “Manipulative Media” Warning on Biden Video Posted by Republican Leader

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  • Twitter added a “manipulated media” warning on a video that was made and uploaded by House Minority Whip Steve Scalise.
  • The video edited a clip of an interview between Joe Biden and Ady Barkan, an activist who speaks with a computerized voice by taking words Barkan had said earlier in a different context to make it sound like Biden was saying he supported defunding the police.
  • After receiving backlash and demands to apologize, Scalise defended the video, arguing that Biden had said he was open to redirecting funds, which he claimed was the same as defunding the police. He later deleted the video but did not apologize.
  • Biden has repeatedly said he does not support defunding the police, and Barkan himself has said that Biden did not say he supported defunding the police during their interview.

“Manipulated Media” Warning

Twitter placed a “manipulated media” warning on a video Sunday posted by House Minority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.)

“No police. Mob rule. Total chaos,” the second-highest-ranking Republican in the House wrote in the tweet sharing the video. “That’s the result of the Democrat agenda. Ask yourself: Is this what you want in your town next?”

The video included in the post showed a clip of an interview last month between Democratic nominee Joe Biden and Ady Barkan, an activist with ALS who speaks through a computerized voice.

 “Do we agree that we can redirect some of the funding for police?” Barkan asks.

“Yes. Absolutely,” Biden responded.

However, that was not the way Barkan posed the question in that interview. Barkan asked Biden if he was open to reforms that would redirect some of the responsibilities and funding from police into social services like wellness counselors who could respond to non-violent incidents.

Biden said yes, and laid out some of his own reforms that did not seem to involve shifting funds, and Barkan followed up with: “But do we agree that we can redirect some of the funding?”

Barkan did not add “for police,” but as The Verge explains: “The version Scalise tweeted edits in the words ‘for police,’ to the end of the question, words which Barkan says in a different context earlier in the video.” 

Scalise Receives Backlash

Many responded to the video by not only condemning Scalise for creating and uploading a video with manipulated audio, but also for intentionally capitalizing on the computerized voice of a disabled person for political gain.

“Your team changed his words using his computer voice because they could,” Liz Jaff, the president of Barkan’s Be A Hero political fund wrote on Twitter.

Barkan himself also took aim at the Minority Whip. 

“These are not my words,” he wrote on Twitter. “I have lost my ability to speak, but not my agency or my thoughts. You and your team have doctored my words for your own political gain. Please remove this video immediately. You owe the entire disability community an apology.”

Biden, for his part, retweeted that post, referring to the video as “doctored” and calling it “a flagrant attempt to spread misinformation at the expense of a man who uses assistive technology. It should be removed. Now.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also retweeted the Barkan’s post and echoed his demands for Scalise to take down the vide and apologize. 

Scalise Responds

Scalise defended the video in another tweet shortly after Barkan called for it to be taken down.

“Twice in one interview Biden says ‘yes’ & ‘yes absolutely’ to questions about ‘redirecting’ police funding,” he tweeted. “Dems & their partners in the media want to blame ‘editing’ to pretend this isn’t exactly what he believes.” 

In an emailed statement to The Washington Post, a spokesperson for Scalise said that the video was, “condensed … to the essence of what he was asking, as is common practice for clips run on TV and social media, no matter the speaker.”

“We paired the police portion with Barkan’s final question for clarity because we couldn’t include an entire 3-minute clip in a one minute montage,” the spokesperson added. “We believe Biden’s position and answer is clear regardless: When asked twice, he says ‘yes’ he is open to redirecting funding away from the police, and that is clear in our video.”

Scalise did eventually delete the video, though he did not apologize and continued to defend the video in a tweet he posted announcing the move.

“While Joe Biden clearly said ‘yes,’ twice, to the question of his support to redirect money away from police, we will honor the request of @AdyBarkan and remove the portion of his interview from our video,” he wrote.

Scalise also deleted the video from Facebook, but according to reports, Facebook did not flag the post as manipulated media even though it appeared to violate the platform’s guidelines— a point brought up by many social media users.

Under its current rules, Facebook defines manipulated videos as content that “would likely mislead someone into thinking that a subject of the video said words they did not actually say.” 

Biden and Defunding the Police

While the manipulated audio appeared to be the catalyst behind Twitter’s decision, it was also not the only problem with Scalise’s video. The other issue is that Biden has repeatedly said he does not want to defund the police, despite the fact that President Donald Trump has continually made false claims that he does.

Notably, many have cited the interview with Barkan as evidence that Biden wants to defund the police and made the same argument that Scalise did about any reallocation being the same as defunding.

But Barkan himself has said that is different and that Biden did not say he wanted to defund the police during their interview.

“Though Ady would have loved Joe Biden to announce in this interview that he is in favor of defunding the police, the Vice President never said it,” Jaff said in a statement following the interview last month. 

In fact, while Biden has proposed funding increases for community policing through social services, he has explicitly said he does not want to cut funding from police budgets. When asked if he supports defunding the police during an interview with ABC News last week, he again reiterated that he does not.

“I don’t want to defund police departments,” he said, referring to the fact that annual White House budgets under Trump have recommended billions of dollars worth of cuts to the Office of Justice Programs, which gives grants to local law enforcement. “The only guy that actually put in a bill to actually defund the police is Donald Trump.”

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (The Washington Post) (CNN)

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Supreme Court Begins Contentious New Term as Approval Rating Hits Historic Low

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The most volatile cases the court will consider involve affirmative action, voting rights, elections, and civil rights for the LGBTQ+ community.


High Court to Hear Numerous Controversial Cases

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday officially kicked off a new term that will be marked by a number of very contentious cases.

The justices, led by a conservative super-majority, will hear many matters that have enormous implications for the American people.

The first case the court will hear this term involves a major environmental dispute that will determine the scope of government authority under the Clean Water Act — a decision that could have a massive impact on U.S. water quality at a time when water crises’ have been heightened by climate change.

The case also comes amid increasing concerns about federal inaction regarding climate change, especially after the Supreme Court significantly limited the government’s power to act in this area at the end of its last term.

Cases Involving Race

Several of the most anticipated decisions also center around race, including a pair of cases that challenge affirmative action programs at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina.

For over four decades, the high court has repeatedly upheld that race can be a factor in college admissions to ensure a more equitable student body. Despite the fact that multiple challenges have been struck down in the past, the court’s conservative super majority could very well undo 40 years of precedent and undermine essential protections.

The high court will decide a legal battle that could significantly damage key voting protections for minorities set forth under the Voting Rights Act (VRA). The case in question stems from a lower court opinion that invalidated Alabama’s congressional map for violating a provision in the VRA prohibiting voting rules that discriminate on the basis of race.

Alabama had drawn its map so only one of its seven congressional districts was majority Black, despite the fact that nearly one in every three voting-age residents in the state are Black. 

States’ Power Over Elections 

Also on the topic of gerrymandering and elections, the justices will hear a case that could have a profound impact on the very nature of American democracy. The matter centers around a decision by the North Carolina Supreme Court to strike down the Republican-drawn congressional map on the grounds that it amounted to an illegal gerrymander that violated the state’s Constitution.

The North Carolina GOP appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, arguing that the U.S. Constitution’s Elections Clause gives state legislatures almost total control over how federal elections are carried out in their state under a theory called the independent state legislature doctrine.

“That argument, in its most extreme form, would mean that [sic] no state court and no state agency could interfere with the state legislature’s version of election rules, regardless of the rules set down in the state constitution,” NPR explained.

In other words, if the Supreme Court sides with the North Carolina Republicans, they would essentially be giving state legislatures unchecked power over how voting maps are designed and elections are administered.

LGBTQ+ Rights

Another notable decision the justices will make could have huge implications for the LGBTQ+ community and civil rights more broadly. That matter involved a web designer in Colorado named Lori Smith who refused to design websites for same-sex couples because she believed it violates her right to religious freedoms.

That belief, however, goes against a Colorado nondiscrimination law that bans businesses that serve the public from denying their services to customers based on sexual orientation or identity.

As a result, Smith argues that the Colorado law violates the right to free speech under the First Amendment. If the high court rules in her favor, it would undermine protections for the LGBTQ+ community in Colorado and likely other states with similar laws.

Experts also say such a ruling could go far beyond that. As Georgetown University’s Kelsi Corkran told NPR, “if Smith is correct that there’s a free speech right to selectively choose her customers based on the messages she wants to endorse,” the Colorado law would also allow white supremacists to deny services to people of color because that “would be a message of endorsement.”

Record-Low Approval Rating

The court’s high-stakes docket also comes at a time when its reputation has been marred by questions of legitimacy.

A new Gallup poll published last week found that the Supreme Court’s approval rating has sunk to a record low. Specifically, less than half of Americans said they have at least a “fair amount” of trust in the judicial branch — a 20% drop from just two years ago.

Beyond that, a record number of people also now say that the court is too conservative. Experts argue that these numbers are massively consequential, especially as the U.S. heads into yet another highly-contentious court term.

“The Supreme Court is at an important moment,” Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs told The Hill

“Trust in the institutions has vastly diminished, certainly among Democrats, and many have a close eye on how they rule on other vital matters. If decisions seem to keep coming from a very pointed political direction, frustration and calls for reform will only mount.”

See what others are saying: (The Hill) (CNN) (The Wall Street Journal)

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Biden Mistakenly Calls Out For Dead Lawmaker at White House Event

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The remarks prompted concerns about the mental state of the president, who previously mourned the congresswoman’s death in an official White House statement.


“Where’s Jackie?” 

Video of President Joe Biden publicly asking if a congresswoman who died last month was present at a White House event went viral Wednesday, giving rise to renewed questions about the leader’s mental acuity.

The remarks were made at the White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health, which Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-In.) had helped convene and organize before her sudden death in a car accident.

The president thanked the group of bipartisan lawmakers who helped make the event happen, listing them off one by one, and appearing to look around in search of Rep. Walorski when he reached her name.

“Jackie, are you here? Where’s Jackie?” he called. “I think she wasn’t going to be here to help make this a reality.” 

The incident flummoxed many, especially because Biden had even acknowledged her work on the conference in an official White House statement following her death last month.

“Jill and I are shocked and saddened by the death of Congresswoman Jackie Walorski of Indiana along with two members of her staff in a car accident today in Indiana,” the statement read.

“I appreciated her partnership as we plan for a historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health this fall that will be marked by her deep care for the needs of rural America.”

The Age Maximum Question

Numerous social media users and news outlets presented the mishap as evidence that Biden, who is 79, does not have the mental capacity to serve as president. Others, meanwhile, raised the possibility of imposing an age maximum for the presidency.

Most of the comments against the president came from the right, which has regularly questioned his mental stability. However, the idea of an age limit goes beyond Biden and touches on concerns about America’s most important leaders being too old.

While Biden is the oldest president in history, former President Donald Trump — who is 76 and has also had his mental state continually questioned — would have likewise held that title if he had won re-election in 2020.

These concerns extend outside the presidency as well: the current session of Congress is the oldest on average of any Congress in recent history, and the median ages are fairly similar among Republicans and Democrats when separated by chambers.

There is also a higher percentage of federal lawmakers who are older than the median age. Nearly 1 out of every 4 members are over the age of 70.

Source: Business Insider

What’s more, some of the people in the highest leadership positions are among the oldest members. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.), is the oldest-ever House Speaker at 82, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) — the president pro tempore of the Senate and third person in line for the presidency — is the same age, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is 80.

As a result, it is unsurprising that a recent Insider/Morning Consult poll found that 3 in 4 Americans support an age max for members of Congress, and more than 40% say they view the ages of political leaders as a “major” problem.

Those who support the regulations argue that age limits are standard practice in many industries, including for airplane pilots and the military, and thus should be imposed on those who have incredible amounts of power over the country.

However, setting age boundaries on Congress and the President would almost certainly necessitate changes to the Constitution, and because such a move would require federal lawmakers to curtail their own power, there is little political will.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Business Insider) (NBC News)

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Churches Protected Loophole in Abuse Reporting for 20 years, Report Finds

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In some cases, Clergy members failed to report abuse among their congregation, but state laws protected them from that responsibility.


A Nationwide Campaign to Hide Abuse

More than 130 bills seeking to create or amend child sexual abuse reporting laws have been neutered or killed due to religious opposition over the past two decades, according to a review by the Associated Press.

Many states have laws requiring professionals such as physicians, teachers, and psychotherapists to report any information pertaining to alleged child sexual abuse to authorities. In 33 states, however, clergy are exempt from those requirements if they deem the information privileged.

All of the reform bills reviewed either targeted this loophole and failed or amended the mandatory reporting statute without touching the loophole.

“The Roman Catholic Church has used its well-funded lobbying infrastructure and deep influence among lawmakers in some states to protect the privilege,” the AP stated. “Influential members of the Mormon church and Jehovah’s witnesses have also worked in statehouses and courts to preserve it in areas where their membership is high.”

“This loophole has resulted in an unknown number of predators being allowed to continue abusing children for years despite having confessed the behavior to religious officials,” the report continued.

“They believe they’re on a divine mission that justifies keeping the name and the reputation of their institution pristine,” David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, told the outlet. “So the leadership has a strong disincentive to involve the authorities, police or child protection people.”

Abuses Go Unreported

Last month, another AP investigation discovered that a Mormon bishop acting under the direction of church leaders in Arizona failed to report a church member who had confessed to sexually abusing his five-year-old daughter.

Merrill Nelson, a church lawyer and Republican lawmaker in Utah, reportedly advised the bishop against making the report because of Arizona’s clergy loophole, effectively allowing the father to allegedly rape and abuse three of his children for years.

Democratic State Sen. Victoria Steele proposed three bills in response to the case to close the loophole but told the AP that key Mormon legislators thwarted her efforts.

In Montana, a woman who was abused by a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses won a $35 million jury verdict against the church because it failed to report her abuse, but in 2020 the state supreme court reversed the judgment, citing the state’s reporting exemption for clergy.

In 2013, a former Idaho police officer turned himself in for abusing children after having told 15 members of the Mormon church, but prosecutors declined to charge the institution for not reporting him because it was protected under the clergy loophole.

The Mormon church said in a written statement to the AP that a member who confesses child sex abuse “has come seeking an opportunity to reconcile with God and to seek forgiveness for their actions. … That confession is considered sacred, and in most states, is regarded as a protected religious conversation owned by the confessor.”

See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (Deseret) (Standard Examiner)

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