New York Attorney General Seeks To Dissolve NRA in Lawsuit Alleging Massive Fraud

NRA-logo-big

New York Attorney General Letitia James wants to dissolve the National Rifle Association (NRA). In a suit filed today, she accuses the leaders of the nation’s largest gun rights group of a long pattern of fraud.

James’ lawsuit—and a second suit, filed simultaneously by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine—allege that longtime NRA chief Wayne LaPierre and others in the group’s leadership fraudulently diverted millions of dollars from the NRA’s charitable mission to prop up their luxury lifestyles.

LaPierre “has spent millions of dollars of the NRA’s charitable assets for private plane trips for himself and his family, including trips for his family when he was not present,” James’ lawsuit alleges.

James seeks the dissolution of the NRA and removal of LaPierre as the group’s CEO, among other conditions.

Racine’s lawsuit accuses the NRA of illegally raiding the funds of its independent nonprofit foundation to plug budget gaps caused in part “by the NRA’s decision to continue to waste funds on improper, lavish spending.”

James announced the investigation last year amid a Machiavellian power struggle within the gun group. On one side was LaPierre and his loyalists, and on the other was former NRA head Oliver North and other disgruntled board members. “Former” tells you who won, but that internal drama spilled into court in a nasty lawsuit between the NRA and its largest contractor, the advertising firm Ackerman McQueen. 

Both sides accused the other of financial improprieties and extravagant spending. The Wall Street Journal reported last year that the NRA considered buying a $5 million mansion on a Dallas golf course for the LaPierres. The Daily Beast reported that the NRA spent $275,000 over 13 years on designer clothing for LaPierre and tens of thousands of dollars to fly in hair and makeup artists for LaPierre’s wife.

James’ lawsuit alleges that LaPierre and other NRA executives used Ackerman McQueen as a pass-through to conceal millions of dollars of questionable spending from NRA board members. The firm then billed the NRA for “out-pocket-expenses,” a practice that James says did not comply with IRS reporting requirements.

Whether or not the lawsuits’ allegations are true, the suits, brought by Democratic officials against one of the most divisive advocacy organizations in the country, are guaranteed to ignite a political firestorm.

The Washington Free Beacon reported yesterday that the NRA is planning to spend “tens of millions” in battleground states to reelect President Donald Trump. Jason Ouimet, the head of the NRA’s lobbying arm, told the Free Beacon that the NRA has added more than 1,000 new dues-paying members per day since June. 

There has been a record-breaking surge in gun sales over the past several months, driven by both the COVID-19 pandemic and the unrest following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Bloomberg News reports Trump’s response to the New York lawsuit: “I just heard about that. That’s a very terrible thing that just happened. I think the NRA should move to Texas and lead a very good and beautiful life. And I’ve told them that for a long time.”

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Calvary Chapel to Hold Prayer Service (for Trump) at Las Vegas Casino.

Last month, the Supreme Court decided Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley v. Sisolak. The Court, by a 5-4 vote, upheld Nevada’s shutdown orders. The state did not impose any caps on how many people could enter a casino. But the stat did impose a hard cap on how many people could enter a church, regardless of its size.

At the time, I quipped that houses of worship should rent space at casinos to meet en masse. And so they have.

President Trump‘s campaign is holding an “Evangelicals for Trump” event on Thursday at a Las Vegas hotel and casino, amid a controversial ban in the state on gatherings of more than 50 people in houses of worship while places like casinos are subject to a less stringent 50 percent capacity limit.

The event is scheduled to take place at the Ahern Hotel and Convention Center, one of the many joint hotels and casinos in Las Vegas. It will feature Trump spiritual adviser Pastor Paula White, megachurch Pastor Jentezen Franklin, Pastor Jack Hibbs of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills and others. The full event title is “Evangelicals for Trump: Praise, Prayer and Patriotism.”

“In a time when many Nevadans can’t go to church because of overreaching restrictions, President Trump’s campaign is bringing together evangelicals from across the community to pray, worship and discuss key issues facing Americans in the November election,” Trump 2020 deputy national press secretary Ken Farnaso said in a statement.

A pastor should offer a reading from the Holy Gospel according to John Roberts: Render unto Caesars Palace the things that are God’s. Too conspiratorial?

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Calvary Chapel to Hold Prayer Service (for Trump) at Las Vegas Casino.

Last month, the Supreme Court decided Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley v. Sisolak. The Court, by a 5-4 vote, upheld Nevada’s shutdown orders. The state did not impose any caps on how many people could enter a casino. But the stat did impose a hard cap on how many people could enter a church, regardless of its size.

At the time, I quipped that houses of worship should rent space at casinos to meet en masse. And so they have.

President Trump‘s campaign is holding an “Evangelicals for Trump” event on Thursday at a Las Vegas hotel and casino, amid a controversial ban in the state on gatherings of more than 50 people in houses of worship while places like casinos are subject to a less stringent 50 percent capacity limit.

The event is scheduled to take place at the Ahern Hotel and Convention Center, one of the many joint hotels and casinos in Las Vegas. It will feature Trump spiritual adviser Pastor Paula White, megachurch Pastor Jentezen Franklin, Pastor Jack Hibbs of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills and others. The full event title is “Evangelicals for Trump: Praise, Prayer and Patriotism.”

“In a time when many Nevadans can’t go to church because of overreaching restrictions, President Trump’s campaign is bringing together evangelicals from across the community to pray, worship and discuss key issues facing Americans in the November election,” Trump 2020 deputy national press secretary Ken Farnaso said in a statement.

A pastor should offer a reading from the Holy Gospel according to John Roberts: Render unto Caesars Palace the things that are God’s. Too conspiratorial?

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Nashville Promised a Crackdown on Mask-Defying Partiers. Then They Arrested a Homeless Man with a Drug and Drinking Problem.

nashville_1161x653

Not everyone in party town Nashville is going along with efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some have been refusing to wear masks in public, and some are…uh…having massive house parties that culminate in public sex.

In response, Nashville’s deputy chief of police told its City Council on Wednesday that the force would start citing and even arresting people who are flouting the law. The first ensuing arrest encapsulates the problems of using policing to enforce public health concerns.

The man arrested wasn’t some overprivileged drunken partier. He was an apparently homeless man by the name of Joseph Bryant, age 61.

The Tennessean reports that police saw Bryant walking on Broadway—Nashville’s nightlife corridor—at 6:30 Wednesday evening. They warned him to put on a mask. According to a police spokesman, Bryant did not do so even though he was carrying two in his pocket. When police encountered him again an hour later in the same area, he still was not wearing a mask.

“He was placed into custody and a physical arrest made due to the belief that his defiant behavior would continue if only cited a second time,” the spokesman told The Tennessean.


Joseph Bryant

The address Bryant gave the police was the address of the Nashville Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter a few blocks south of Broadway. (A representative from the shelter did not return a call from Reason.) So it looks like the person the police decided really needed to be punished for his COVID-19 defiance was a homeless man walking outdoors. His behavior may well stem not from defiance but from other issues.

This is what it looks like when we ask the police to enforce these types of public health measures. Enforcement inevitably trickles down toward those who have the least power and least ability to resist.

Even worse, according to the Tennessean, Bryant had not posted bond as of this morning. The booking log for the Davidson County Sheriff’s Department show’s that Bryant has still not been released. Bryant’s criminal history in Davidson County is available from the booking site; it shows a background of drug and public intoxication arrests over the past two years. He also has some criminal trespass and assault arrests and some arrests for patronizing prostitutes. Bryant is obviously a problem case for the Nashville police, and the fact that he was targeted for arrest isn’t necessarily a coincidence.

Meanwhile, Nashville’s jails, like jails and prisons elsewhere across the country, are potential incubators of COVID-19 infections. All of the top infection clusters across the United States have been behind bars. (One of them, the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, is about an hour away from Nashville.) Infections in jails in prisons are then, in turn, spreading back out into nearby communities. Jailing someone for refusing to wear a mask and then releasing him back into the community seems more like a recipe for spreading COVID-19 than for fighting it.

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Nashville Promised a Crackdown on Mask-Defying Partiers. Then They Arrested a Homeless Man with a Drug and Drinking Problem.

nashville_1161x653

Not everyone in party town Nashville is going along with efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some have been refusing to wear masks in public, and some are…uh…having massive house parties that culminate in public sex.

In response, Nashville’s deputy chief of police told its City Council on Wednesday that the force would start citing and even arresting people who are flouting the law. The first ensuing arrest encapsulates the problems of using policing to enforce public health concerns.

The man arrested wasn’t some overprivileged drunken partier. He was an apparently homeless man by the name of Joseph Bryant, age 61.

The Tennessean reports that police saw Bryant walking on Broadway—Nashville’s nightlife corridor—at 6:30 Wednesday evening. They warned him to put on a mask. According to a police spokesman, Bryant did not do so even though he was carrying two in his pocket. When police encountered him again an hour later in the same area, he still was not wearing a mask.

“He was placed into custody and a physical arrest made due to the belief that his defiant behavior would continue if only cited a second time,” the spokesman told The Tennessean.


Joseph Bryant

The address Bryant gave the police was the address of the Nashville Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter a few blocks south of Broadway. (A representative from the shelter did not return a call from Reason.) So it looks like the person the police decided really needed to be punished for his COVID-19 defiance was a homeless man walking outdoors. His behavior may well stem not from defiance but from other issues.

This is what it looks like when we ask the police to enforce these types of public health measures. Enforcement inevitably trickles down toward those who have the least power and least ability to resist.

Even worse, according to the Tennessean, Bryant had not posted bond as of this morning. The booking log for the Davidson County Sheriff’s Department show’s that Bryant has still not been released. Bryant’s criminal history in Davidson County is available from the booking site; it shows a background of drug and public intoxication arrests over the past two years. He also has some criminal trespass and assault arrests and some arrests for patronizing prostitutes. Bryant is obviously a problem case for the Nashville police, and the fact that he was targeted for arrest isn’t necessarily a coincidence.

Meanwhile, Nashville’s jails, like jails and prisons elsewhere across the country, are potential incubators of COVID-19 infections. All of the top infection clusters across the United States have been behind bars. (One of them, the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, is about an hour away from Nashville.) Infections in jails in prisons are then, in turn, spreading back out into nearby communities. Jailing someone for refusing to wear a mask and then releasing him back into the community seems more like a recipe for spreading COVID-19 than for fighting it.

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“Made in Hollywood, Censored by Beijing”

From the report:

This report examines the ways in which Beijing’s censors have affected and influenced Hollywood and the global filmmaking industry. Stories shape the way people think, and the stories told by Hollywood reach billions. As an anti-censorship organization dedicated to the celebration of open cultural and artistic expression, PEN America has sought to understand how one of the world’s most censorious regimes is extending its influence over the global locus for filmmaking here in the United States, shaping what is perhaps the world’s most influential artistic and cultural medium.

PEN America defends and celebrates freedom of expression in the United States and globally. Our work has included a decades-long advocacy engagement on China, where dozens of members of our sister PEN organization—the Independent Chinese PEN Center—have been imprisoned or persecuted by Beijing.1 The most influential of those colleagues was Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo, who was serving an 11-year prison sentence for his writings when he died of liver cancer.2 Our work has involved advocacy campaigns, detailed research reports, literary exchanges, and other efforts aimed at pushing back against Beijing’s censorship policies and its criminalization of dissent.

Over the last decade or more, as Beijing has expanded its global role as a world power, leading trade partner, sovereign investor, and cultural influence, these domestic patterns of censorship and control have extended beyond China’s borders. Beijing’s rising global influence has meant that the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) approach to censorship is making itself felt by publishers, authors, scholars, writers, journalists, and others who address topics of interest to China, regardless of their citizenship or where they are based….

We have seen this exportation of censorious pressure elsewhere, so much so that there is a long—and growing longer—list of examples from the last few years alone: the major academic publisher Cambridge University Press attempting to pull titles from access by Chinese audience due to fear of CCP retaliation;3 the consistent degradation of press freedoms and civil liberties in Hong Kong;4 New Zealand publishers finding their books censored by Chinese printers;5 academics and students across the globe facing intimidation when they speak out on issues the CCP considers sensitive;6 and global brands forced to apologize simply for printing the words “Taiwan” or “the Dalai Lama.”7

Increasingly, Beijing’s economic clout has allowed it to insist that others comply with its censorship strictures—or has led others to voluntarily internalize these strictures, even without being asked—as a prerequisite to doing business with or in the country. While individual compromises may seem minor or worthwhile in exchange for the opportunity to engage with China’s population, the collective global implications of playing by Beijing’s rules need to be recognized and understood before acquiescence to Chinese censorship becomes a new normal in countries that have prided themselves for their staunch free speech protections.

Hollywood is an important bellwether. The Chinese government, under Xi Jinping especially, has heavily emphasized its desire to ensure that Hollywood filmmakers—to use their preferred phrase—”tell China’s story well.”8 Within the pages of this report, we detail how Hollywood decision-makers and other filmmaking professionals are increasingly making decisions about their films—the content, casting, plot, dialogue, and settings—based on an effort to avoid antagonizing Chinese officials who control whether their films gain access to the booming Chinese market.

As U.S. film studios compete for the opportunity to access Chinese audiences, many are making difficult and troubling compromises on free expression: changing the content of films intended for international—including American—audiences; engaging in self-censorship; agreeing to provide a censored version of a movie for screening in China; and in some instances directly inviting Chinese government censors onto their film sets to advise them on how to avoid tripping the censors’ wires. These concessions to the power of the Chinese market have happened mostly quietly, with little attention and, often, little debate. Steadily, a new set of mores has taken hold in Hollywood, one in which appeasing Chinese government investors and gatekeepers has simply become a way of doing business.9

Footnotes and many more details here. Thanks to the Media Law Resource Center’s MediaLawDaily for the pointer.

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Newly Identified COVID-19 Cases Are Falling in Sunbelt States Where They Spiked This Summer

CoronavirusEpidemicDown

The summer surge in COVID-19 infections reported by several Sunbelt states, which has driven a nationwide rise in cases and deaths, seems to be subsiding. Recent data indicate that daily new cases, after rising dramatically in June and July, are either declining or leveling off in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, and Texas.

According to Worldometer’s tallies, which are based on numbers from state and local health departments, the seven-day average of newly reported infections in Arizona fell from a peak of nearly 3,700 on July 7 to less than 2,000 yesterday. Three other Sunbelt states also have seen substantial declines in their seven-day averages: from about 10,300 on July 25 to about 6,700 on August 5 in California; from about 11,900 on July 17 to about 7,300 on August 5 in Florida; and from about 10,100 on July 15 to about 8,300 on August 5 in Texas. In Georgia, meanwhile, the seven-day average peaked around 3,700 on July 24 and has since fallen slightly to about 3,300 as of yesterday.

Consistent with those trends, independent data scientist Youyang Gu’s model shows the COVID-19 reproductive number—the number of people infected by the average carrier—falling below one in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, and Texas. A reproductive number of less than one indicates a waning epidemic.

Lockdown supporters might surmise that increased government restrictions on social and economic activity explain these positive trends. Florida and Texas, for example, ordered bars to close on June 26 after allowing them to reopen on June 3 and May 22, respectively. Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott also reduced the number of customers restaurants are allowed to serve from 75 percent to 50 percent of capacity. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom closed bars, zoos, and museums on July 13, when he also banned indoor dining in restaurants.

It is certainly plausible that limiting the options for people to get together, especially indoors in close quarters, would reduce virus transmission. But it is difficult to disentangle the impact of government mandates from the impact of increased voluntary precautions, both of which can be expected in response to spikes in cases.

According to the current “best estimate” from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 40 percent of people infected by the COVID-19 virus do not develop symptoms. But among those who do, the CDC says, symptoms generally appear after about five days, although the lag can be as short as two days or as long as 14. Keeping in mind the typical delay between infection and symptoms that might motivate people to seek testing, the downward trends in California, Florida, and Texas, which began two to three weeks after the new rules were imposed, do not fit very well with the hypothesis that government restrictions are driving the decreases. And neither Arizona, where the seven-day average of daily new cases fell by 46 percent from July 7 to August 5, nor Georgia, where cases have declined slightly since late July, imposed new restrictions in response to rising infections.

What about face masks? Newsom imposed a statewide mandate in California on June 18, followed by Abbott in Texas on July 2. But Arizona, Florida, and Georgia have no such rules, although some local governments in those states require face masks in public places. And here, too, it is hard to tell how much impact government policy has, independent of voluntary steps taken by businesses and individuals.

If Californians and Texans are more inclined to wear masks now than they were in June and early July, is that because more businesses are requiring them, because the surge in cases made people more cautious, or because the governor made face coverings mandatory? The timing of the downward trends in California and Texas, which began more than a month after Newsom’s mask mandate and two weeks after Abbott’s, casts doubt on those orders’ effectiveness.

The seven-day average of COVID-19 fatalities has continued to rise in all of these states, as you would expect based on the typical lag between laboratory confirmation and death—about two weeks, per the CDC. But by the same token, the recent declines in newly identified cases should mean fewer deaths in the coming weeks than we otherwise would have seen, which is (relatively) good news. Gu’s projections show daily deaths declining in all five states during the next few months.

Daily new cases are also falling nationally, from a seven-day average of about 69,200 on July 25 to less than 60,000 on August 4, while the seven-day average of daily deaths may be leveling off. Gu, who has a good track record of predicting COVID-19 fatalities, is projecting that daily deaths in the United States will decline gradually during the next few months, from about 1,400 on August 4 to about 530 on November 1. He projects a total U.S. death toll of about 227,000 by then, up from about 157,000 yesterday.

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“Made in Hollywood, Censored by Beijing”

From the report:

This report examines the ways in which Beijing’s censors have affected and influenced Hollywood and the global filmmaking industry. Stories shape the way people think, and the stories told by Hollywood reach billions. As an anti-censorship organization dedicated to the celebration of open cultural and artistic expression, PEN America has sought to understand how one of the world’s most censorious regimes is extending its influence over the global locus for filmmaking here in the United States, shaping what is perhaps the world’s most influential artistic and cultural medium.

PEN America defends and celebrates freedom of expression in the United States and globally. Our work has included a decades-long advocacy engagement on China, where dozens of members of our sister PEN organization—the Independent Chinese PEN Center—have been imprisoned or persecuted by Beijing.1 The most influential of those colleagues was Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo, who was serving an 11-year prison sentence for his writings when he died of liver cancer.2 Our work has involved advocacy campaigns, detailed research reports, literary exchanges, and other efforts aimed at pushing back against Beijing’s censorship policies and its criminalization of dissent.

Over the last decade or more, as Beijing has expanded its global role as a world power, leading trade partner, sovereign investor, and cultural influence, these domestic patterns of censorship and control have extended beyond China’s borders. Beijing’s rising global influence has meant that the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) approach to censorship is making itself felt by publishers, authors, scholars, writers, journalists, and others who address topics of interest to China, regardless of their citizenship or where they are based….

We have seen this exportation of censorious pressure elsewhere, so much so that there is a long—and growing longer—list of examples from the last few years alone: the major academic publisher Cambridge University Press attempting to pull titles from access by Chinese audience due to fear of CCP retaliation;3 the consistent degradation of press freedoms and civil liberties in Hong Kong;4 New Zealand publishers finding their books censored by Chinese printers;5 academics and students across the globe facing intimidation when they speak out on issues the CCP considers sensitive;6 and global brands forced to apologize simply for printing the words “Taiwan” or “the Dalai Lama.”7

Increasingly, Beijing’s economic clout has allowed it to insist that others comply with its censorship strictures—or has led others to voluntarily internalize these strictures, even without being asked—as a prerequisite to doing business with or in the country. While individual compromises may seem minor or worthwhile in exchange for the opportunity to engage with China’s population, the collective global implications of playing by Beijing’s rules need to be recognized and understood before acquiescence to Chinese censorship becomes a new normal in countries that have prided themselves for their staunch free speech protections.

Hollywood is an important bellwether. The Chinese government, under Xi Jinping especially, has heavily emphasized its desire to ensure that Hollywood filmmakers—to use their preferred phrase—”tell China’s story well.”8 Within the pages of this report, we detail how Hollywood decision-makers and other filmmaking professionals are increasingly making decisions about their films—the content, casting, plot, dialogue, and settings—based on an effort to avoid antagonizing Chinese officials who control whether their films gain access to the booming Chinese market.

As U.S. film studios compete for the opportunity to access Chinese audiences, many are making difficult and troubling compromises on free expression: changing the content of films intended for international—including American—audiences; engaging in self-censorship; agreeing to provide a censored version of a movie for screening in China; and in some instances directly inviting Chinese government censors onto their film sets to advise them on how to avoid tripping the censors’ wires. These concessions to the power of the Chinese market have happened mostly quietly, with little attention and, often, little debate. Steadily, a new set of mores has taken hold in Hollywood, one in which appeasing Chinese government investors and gatekeepers has simply become a way of doing business.9

Footnotes and many more details here. Thanks to the Media Law Resource Center’s MediaLawDaily for the pointer.

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via IFTTT

Newly Identified COVID-19 Cases Are Falling in Sunbelt States Where They Spiked This Summer

CoronavirusEpidemicDown

The summer surge in COVID-19 infections reported by several Sunbelt states, which has driven a nationwide rise in cases and deaths, seems to be subsiding. Recent data indicate that daily new cases, after rising dramatically in June and July, are either declining or leveling off in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, and Texas.

According to Worldometer’s tallies, which are based on numbers from state and local health departments, the seven-day average of newly reported infections in Arizona fell from a peak of nearly 3,700 on July 7 to less than 2,000 yesterday. Three other Sunbelt states also have seen substantial declines in their seven-day averages: from about 10,300 on July 25 to about 6,700 on August 5 in California; from about 11,900 on July 17 to about 7,300 on August 5 in Florida; and from about 10,100 on July 15 to about 8,300 on August 5 in Texas. In Georgia, meanwhile, the seven-day average peaked around 3,700 on July 24 and has since fallen slightly to about 3,300 as of yesterday.

Consistent with those trends, independent data scientist Youyang Gu’s model shows the COVID-19 reproductive number—the number of people infected by the average carrier—falling below one in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, and Texas. A reproductive number of less than one indicates a waning epidemic.

Lockdown supporters might surmise that increased government restrictions on social and economic activity explain these positive trends. Florida and Texas, for example, ordered bars to close on June 26 after allowing them to reopen on June 3 and May 22, respectively. Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott also reduced the number of customers restaurants are allowed to serve from 75 percent to 50 percent of capacity. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom closed bars, zoos, and museums on July 13, when he also banned indoor dining in restaurants.

It is certainly plausible that limiting the options for people to get together, especially indoors in close quarters, would reduce virus transmission. But it is difficult to disentangle the impact of government mandates from the impact of increased voluntary precautions, both of which can be expected in response to spikes in cases.

According to the current “best estimate” from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 40 percent of people infected by the COVID-19 virus do not develop symptoms. But among those who do, the CDC says, symptoms generally appear after about five days, although the lag can be as short as two days or as long as 14. Keeping in mind the typical delay between infection and symptoms that might motivate people to seek testing, the downward trends in California, Florida, and Texas, which began two to three weeks after the new rules were imposed, do not fit very well with the hypothesis that government restrictions are driving the decreases. And neither Arizona, where the seven-day average of daily new cases fell by 46 percent from July 7 to August 5, nor Georgia, where cases have declined slightly since late July, imposed new restrictions in response to rising infections.

What about face masks? Newsom imposed a statewide mandate in California on June 18, followed by Abbott in Texas on July 2. But Arizona, Florida, and Georgia have no such rules, although some local governments in those states require face masks in public places. And here, too, it is hard to tell how much impact government policy has, independent of voluntary steps taken by businesses and individuals.

If Californians and Texans are more inclined to wear masks now than they were in June and early July, is that because more businesses are requiring them, because the surge in cases made people more cautious, or because the governor made face coverings mandatory? The timing of the downward trends in California and Texas, which began more than a month after Newsom’s mask mandate and two weeks after Abbott’s, casts doubt on those orders’ effectiveness.

The seven-day average of COVID-19 fatalities has continued to rise in all of these states, as you would expect based on the typical lag between laboratory confirmation and death—about two weeks, per the CDC. But by the same token, the recent declines in newly identified cases should mean fewer deaths in the coming weeks than we otherwise would have seen, which is (relatively) good news. Gu’s projections show daily deaths declining in all five states during the next few months.

Daily new cases are also falling nationally, from a seven-day average of about 69,200 on July 25 to less than 60,000 on August 4, while the seven-day average of daily deaths may be leveling off. Gu, who has a good track record of predicting COVID-19 fatalities, is projecting that daily deaths in the United States will decline gradually during the next few months, from about 1,400 on August 4 to about 530 on November 1. He projects a total U.S. death toll of about 227,000 by then, up from about 157,000 yesterday.

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University Investigating Music Theory Journal for Issue It Published

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education reports:

UNT’s Journal of Schenkerian Studies is under investigation following calls from around the country for it to be shuttered and for one of its advisers, UNT music theory professor Timothy Jackson, to be fired. The journal’s sin? Following criticism by scholar Philip Ewell that 19th century music theorist Heinrich Schenker, whose influence on music theory is “hard to overstate,” was an “ardent racist and German nationalist,” the journal presented an edition including debate among scholars on racial issues and music theory.

The issue led a group of graduate students to write to UNT College of Music Dean John Richmond on July 29, expressing concerns about the journal and, in particular, Jackson’s involvement in the issue. The students called for the journal to be dissolved, Jackson investigated and potentially fired from his teaching position, an anonymous contributor to be unmasked, and the issue to be publicly condemned by the university….

The graduate students claimed that Jackson had used the journal “to promote racism” by defending the music theorist after Ewell wrote that Schenker’s “racist views infected his music theoretical arguments.” Jackson’s article, one of several defending the composer in the 2019 edition of the journal, contextualized Schenker and his changing views on race, which were partially due to the rise of Nazi Germany. (Schenker was Jewish; his wife was arrested by the Nazi regime and died in Theresienstadt concentration camp.)

On July 31, after receiving similar calls for investigation and punishment from a group of faculty members, Richmond announced “a formal investigation” into the journal.

“Students and faculty can challenge the journal’s assertions and criticize Schenker as much as they want, and the journal is free to resolve internal disputes as it pleases — and we’ll defend its right to do so,” said Lindsie Rank, author of FIRE’s [letter to the university]. “But UNT is violating core principles of academic and editorial freedom — and the First Amendment — by initiating an investigation into the journal. Rigorous debate and discussion, not administrative censorship, is how we find truth.”

FIRE’s letter to UNT President Neal Smatresk reminds him of the public institution’s unassailable responsibilities to uphold the First Amendment rights of its faculty and students, and demands the immediate cessation of the investigation into the journal. FIRE also reminds Smatresk that the freedom to publish is protected not only by the First Amendment, but also by UNT’s own policies. If any editors acted in contrast to the journal’s editorial structure or internal policies, the resolution must be handled internally within the journal to preserve its right to editorial independence, but the university may not step in without violating its First Amendment obligations.

Even without formal punishment, an investigation can chill expression in violation of the First Amendment. Recent months have seen an alarming spate of such investigations. Last week, Auburn University announced it is “considering options” on how to respond to a lecturer’s anti-police tweets. On July 14, Fordham University investigated and punished a student for holding a legally-obtained gun in an off-campus Instagram memorialization of the Tiananmen Square massacre. On July 7, FIRE called on UCLA to end its investigation of a professor for quoting Martin Luther King, Jr.’s use of a racial slur in “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

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