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Saturday Snippets: Freezing not happening in Arctic ‘ice factory’; GOP expanded state supreme courts

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• GOP has zero problem with expanding state supreme courts: While Republicans yowl about the possibility of “court packing” by Democrats, which would add two or more justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, Republican governors in Arizona and Georgia have signed bills passed by their Republican-dominated legislatures to expand the number of seats on their states’ respective supreme courts. Republicans in Florida and Iowa have unsuccessfully made the attempt to do the same. In Iowa, the Republican-controlled legislature approved a change that gives the governor effective control over the commission that names potential justices and judges throughout the court system. These and other such moves are part of a long-standing crusade by right-wingers to reshape the nation’s judiciary. Where judges run for office, outside groups have worked hard to get conservative candidates elected to state judicial seats. In 2018’s state supreme court elections, those groups provided about a fourth of the campaign money spent, according to figures compiled by the Brennan Center for Justice. Douglas Keith, the Center’s counsel, told the Associated Press, “There are just so many stories to point to from so many different states of legislators using every tool they have to give themselves and their allies an upper hand in the state’s most important courts.”



• Security company backs off its plan to send special forces to guard polling stations in Minnesota: Tennessee-based Atlas Aegis said in ads earlier this month that it was recruiting people with special-ops experience to “protect election polls, local businesses and residences from looting and destruction” in Minnesota in the weeks before the Nov. 3 election. Those hired would receive $ 700 plus $ 210 per diem. Their job, the company said would be to “protect election polls, local businesses and residences from looting and destruction.” Now the company says it will only hire guards to protect businesses, and it has pledged to stay out of Minnesota until January 2022. Atlas Aegis Chairman Anthony Caudle contradicted his company’s own ads, telling The Washington Post that the guards would not be “standing around and only allowing certain people in,” but that “they’re there to make sure that the ‘antifas’ don’t try to destroy the election sites.” After being apprised of the ads, Attorney General Keith Ellison and Secretary of State Steve Simon denounced any plans to send armed guards to polling places, and on Tuesday, the League of Women Voters and the Council on American-Islamic Relations sued in federal court, arguing that recruiting militias to observe polling places violates the Voting Rights Act. The suit, which will have its first hearing on Monday, also seeks to learn who hired Atlas Aegis for the work.

• Despite the national eviction moratorium, landlords are still tossing out renters: Via an executive order from the Centers for Disease Control, the Trump regime early last month imposed a four-month moratorium on evictions of renters who provide their landlord with a written declaration citing economic conditions for their inability to pay. But landlords are filing eviction notices anyway and taking the government to court. On Tuesday, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia heard the first challenge in the case of Richard Lee Brown, et al. v. Secretary Alex Azar, et al.. The case was filed by the New Civil Liberties Alliance and has been joined by the National Apartment Association, which represents some 85,000 landlords who own or manage 10 million rental units. The plaintiffs argue that the CDC lacks the constitutional authority to enact the moratorium. If the court were to issue an injunction against it, the impact would be huge. The Mortgage Bankers Association found that more than 6 million households missed their rent or mortgage payment in September. The Census Bureau say that 11 million people living in rental housing—one in six of the nation’s adult tenants—were late or behind on rent in September. 

• Drug-resistant superbug rising in hospitals overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients: Candida auris is a yeast that sticks to sheets, bed railings, doors, and medical devices, which means it can easily move from one person to another in a hospital. Feeding tubes, catheters, and respirator masks and tubes are the pathogen’s favored sites for infections. Because of mutations, drugs normally used to fight such infections don’t work well on superbugs, including this one. “Unfortunately, there have been places where we’ve seen a resurgence of C. auris,” said Tom Chiller, head of the mycotic diseases branch at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We’ve also seen it get into some of the acute care hospitals and also into some COVID-19 units … the concern there is that once it sets up shop in a place, it’s hard to get rid of.” Since it emerged in 2009, it has killed 30% to 60% of those it infects. In the United States, there have been 1,272 confirmed cases of C. auris in 2020, a fourfold increase over the total recorded during all of 2018, the most recent available data. The actual count is probably far higher, experts say. 

• Arkansas state senate candidate “sincerely” sorry for KKK costume: On Halloween 2000, Charles Beckham III and two pals dressed up in Klan regalia and terrorized a girls’ dormitory at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science. He was subsequently kicked out of the boarding school. Women interviewed after the incident was brought to light earlier this month said they were traumatized at the time. One of the students, Jennifer Leigh Ann Jackson, a white woman, said Beckham was known for his bigotry. “This was not some isolated event, like maybe he had a bad moment,” she said, asserting that he was proud of his “rebel” roots. Another said he displayed a Confederate flag on his pickup. Now 37, Beckham initially denied the allegations when they surfaced, going so far as to label it a Democratic campaign ploy to ruin his candidacy. But then the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette published court records of the incident. Beckham then retreated from his lies and issued an apology of a sort for his action, saying he was sorry “for any angst or grievances that I have caused anyone as a minor, as that is not the man that I am today,” and denouncing the Klan, saying he had never been a Klan terrorist. 

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