In Google’s early years, users would type in a query and get back a page of 10 “blue links” that led to different websites. “We want to get you out of Google and to the right place as fast as possible,” co-founder Larry Page said in 2004.
Today, Google often considers that “right place” to be Google, an investigation by The Markup has found.
We examined more than 15,000 recent popular queries and found that Google devoted 41 percent of the first page of search results on mobile devices to its own properties and what it calls “direct answers,” which are populated with information copied from other sources, sometimes without their knowledge or consent.
When we examined the top 15 percent of the page, the equivalent of the first screen on an iPhone X, that figure jumped to 63 percent. For one in five searches in our sample, links to external websites did not appear on the first screen at all.
A trending search in our data for “myocardial infarction” shows how Google has piled up its products at the top. It returned:
- Google’s dictionary definition.
- A “people also ask” box that expanded to answer related questions without leaving the search results page.
- A “knowledge panel,” which is an abridged encyclopedia entry with various links.
- And a “related conditions” carousel leading to various new Google searches for other diseases.
All of these appeared before search results by WebMD, Harvard University, and Medscape. In fact, a user would have to scroll nearly halfway down the page—about 42 percent—before reaching the first “organic” result in that search.
Google’s decision to place its products above competitors’ and to present “answers” on the search page has led to lawsuits and regulatory fines. A number of websites said it killed their revenues—and their companies. Founders of both innovative startups and companies that had been around for a decade or more told The Markup that once Google started placing its product first, they didn’t stand a chance.
Travel research firm Skift wrote in November that the entire online travel industry is suffering. “The fact that Google is leveraging its dominance as a search engine into taking market share away from travel competitors is no longer even debatable.”
The choice to highlight its own products has been deliberate: Internal emails unearthed by the European Commission in an antitrust investigation show Google staffers discussing the need to place its comparison-shopping product at the top of the search results to garner traffic. An email the following year noted traffic to the retooled product had more than doubled from four million to 10 million visits, and “most of this growth is from improved google.com integration.”
Sally Hubbard, an expert on antitrust and technology companies with the Open Markets Institute, said Google’s decisions in search have huge implications. “Imagine you go to the library, and the card catalog is picking and choosing what book to get based on what makes the library the most money.”
Google makes five times as much revenue through advertising on its own properties as it does selling ad space on third-party websites.
In a written statement, Google spokesperson Lara Levin took issue with The Markup counting “answers,” related queries, and similar results as “Google” in our analysis.
“Providing feedback links, helping people reformulate queries or explore topics, and presenting quick facts is not designed to preference Google. These features are fundamentally in the interest of users, which we validate through a rigorous testing process,” she said. “Sometimes, the most helpful information will be a link to another website—other times, it will be a map, a restaurant listing, a video or an image.”
Levin called The Markup’s methodology “flawed and misleading.” She criticized it for being “based on a non-representative sample of searches” and said using Google Trends makes it more likely that results would include Google “knowledge panels” than a random sample would. However, Google has not publicly released a random sample of searches for research.
In response to Page’s 2004 quote about the company’s mission to get people “out of Google,” Levin said times have changed: “As a search engine, Google’s mission is to quickly direct searchers to great information, wherever that information is, as Page went on to explain. At that time, that generally meant to direct people from search results to websites. As search technologies have developed, that’s not always the best way to assist people.”
She did not answer questions about whether those changes present the search engine with a conflict of interest.
Nearly nine in 10 U.S. web searches are performed on Google.
The effects of placing its own products on the search page can be stark: In the nine years since Google Flights and Google Hotels launched, those sites have become market leaders. They garnered almost twice as many U.S. site visits last year as each of their largest competitors, Expedia.com and Booking.com, even though we found Google Flights doesn’t always show users all the options.
“Google makes the most money when, long term, they can addict searchers to their platform,” said Rand Fishkin, a search engine analyst and frequent Google critic who found that 12 percent of real-world clicks on the search results page go to Google properties. “If Google can train you, don’t go to Genius.com, don’t go to TripAdvisor, don’t go to the restaurant’s website, just come to Google—always come to Google—then they win.”
Levin said some regulators have defended the company’s practices, pointing to the Federal Trade Commission’s 2013 ruling that highlighting its products on search “could be plausibly justified as innovations that improved Google’s product”; and a U.K. High Court finding in 2016 that returning Google Maps for location queries was not an abuse of market dominance.
Although the FTC decided not to take legal action, as Google notes, it did require the company to change some practices. Google agreed to allow websites to opt out of having their content scraped for Google Flights, Google Hotels, and local business listings.
And at least some FTC staffers had concluded that Google’s boosting its own properties in search rankings “led to a significant decrease in traffic for the websites of many vertical competitors,” according to an internal FTC report, half of which was accidentally provided to The Wall Street Journal. At the time, Google responded, “Speculation about consumer or competitor harm turned out to be entirely wrong.”
Levin said the company “continues to engage” with regulators conducting myriad active probes of Google’s parent company, Alphabet. Fifty U.S. attorneys general are currently investigating its ads and search business for potential antitrust violations. The Federal Trade Commission is examining past acquisitions by tech companies, including Google, for harm to competition. Politico reported that the Department of Justice will file an antitrust lawsuit against the company soon. The European Commission, which has already issued three multibillion-dollar fines against Alphabet for antitrust violations since 2017, launched a preliminary investigation into Google for Jobs in 2019.
“Google helped build the free internet. And now they’re helping dismantle what they built,” said Chris Cummings, CEO of Curiosity Media, which owns the translation website SpanishDict.com.
The site provides free translations and dictionary entries, many written by linguists and translators, he said. It is ad-supported and needs web traffic to survive. For years, he said, it grew as Google grew. But then Google began giving the top spot in searches to Google Translate, which is automated and asks users for corrections.
“The big loss is for consumers,” he added, “because nobody thinks that Google Translate is the most accurate translator.”
He said data from the Google Search Console tool for websites shows SpanishDict gets as high as 80 percent or more of the clicks when it’s the top result but only 2 percent when Google Translate appears above it.
“If we’re only getting 2 percent of the click-through, there’s no business to run here. We only exist because there are still some queries where they don’t put their stuff at the top,” he said. He said Google’s actions “have affected our ability to invest in the future.”
Levin did not respond to questions about Google Translate or its effect on SpanishDict.
SpanishDict.com showed up three times in our sample, each time below either Google Translate or Google’s dictionary.
Pushed Down the Page
To determine the amount of space Google dedicates on the search page to direct answers and its own products, we built a custom scraper to gather all trending Google searches for two months, starting in November 2019. Then we built another scraper to run the searches as they would appear on mobile devices, where the majority of searches now occur. We wrote more than 1,000 lines of code to parse and analyze the resulting dataset, which contained more than 1 million rows.
We found that the majority of links to and results for non-Google sites were pushed down to the bottom-middle of the page, where data shows users are less likely to click.
We categorized search results into four types: Google, non-Google, ads, and AMP, a web format created by Google four years ago. AMP pages are hosted by Google but created and monetized by publishers.
AMP has been controversial, with some publishers and developers saying it gives Google too much control over the web. The company tells website owners that using it makes them eligible “for more prominent presentation of thumbnail images in search results and in the Google Discover feed.” Because AMP has some features of a Google result and some features of a non-Google result, we gave it its own category.
Levin objected to that decision, saying AMP results should be non-Google. “Those are outbound links to publishers and other web creators. To suggest otherwise is not factual,” she said. She also said our results may be heavy on AMP content because our sample, Google Trends, leans toward breaking news, which triggers “top stories” carousels. The news stories in those carousels were often delivered in AMP in our data.
Direct answers include “featured snippets,” which excerpt content from websites, and “knowledge panels,” which show summaries and facts drawn from the “knowledge graph,” Google’s fact database curated from other sources. They also include weather, sports statistics, and dictionary definitions. All of these appeared on the first search results page, typically at the top, without the need to click through.
Google acknowledged in written comments to Congress last fall that one major reason people end a search is because Google’s modules provided the answer on the search page.
In our sample, Google featured its dictionary definitions before Urban Dictionary, Cambridge Dictionary, Dictionary.com, Wikipedia, Merriam Webster, and Investopedia, among others. And searches for song titles typically returned a YouTube video in the top spot, followed by the lyrics, displayed in full on the search results page.
Levin said Google does not give preference to YouTube, its subsidiary. Recent tests by The Wall Street Journal found that it did.
The quantity of Google results in some searches in our sample was quite large. A search for the Shania Twain song “Man! I Feel Like a Woman,” which was trending during our study, returned the following on the first page: links to four YouTube videos in various positions on the page; a box labeled “about” with some hyperlinked facts that led to new Google searches; a box labeled “people also search for,” which led to a new Google search; and a “people also ask” box. Together, direct answers and results leading to Google products took up 67 percent of the first search results page for that query. Non-Google results took up only 22 percent of the page.
Even some of the “traditional” results that appeared after the Google results in that query were touched by its hand. Genius.com and Biography.com’s results were delivered in AMP.
Competing with Advertisers
Travel websites are among those who say they have suffered from Google Search’s preferential treatment of Google products. TripAdvisor, which laid off 200 workers in January, pointed to Google “siphoning off quality traffic that would otherwise find TripAdvisor” as its “most significant challenge.”
In queries for specific airlines that appeared in our sample, Google presented Google Flights at the top of the results page, before links to the airlines’ own websites. A search for “nonstop flight” also returned Google Flights in the top spot, above competitors.
And travel sites aren’t just Google’s competitors; they’re also its customers. Together, Expedia and Booking spent $5.8 billion on Google advertising in the 12 months ending in September 2019, according Skift, the travel research firm.
“When they compete against their advertisers … I think it’s bad practice,” Barry Diller, chairman of Expedia Group, said during an earnings call in February in which he called Google an “existential” threat.
In the industry, Google Flights is not seen as the best product. It did not crack the top 10 of Frommer’s 2020 ranking of airfare search engines, for instance.
The Markup found that Google Flights did not always display the cheapest fares or all available flights, even when those fares and flights showed up in ITA Matrix, which is powered by the same software Google acquired in 2010 and used to launch Google Flights.
For example, a search on Google Flights for a one-way flight from Billings, Mont., to London’s Heathrow on Feb. 19 showed the cheapest flight was $1,068. The same search on Orbitz turned up a flight for $772, while ITA Matrix offered $766.69.
And when The Markup searched for a one-way flight from Morgantown, W.Va., to New York City on Feb. 21, Orbitz produced a long list of results, including a three-hour-and-40-minute journey that combined flights from Southern Airways and American Airlines with a stop in Pittsburgh for $253.47. The same search on ITA Matrix showed the same flight at a different time for $242.40. But a Google Flights search showed nothing: “Aw snap, no results.”
Kim Kardashian has broken her silence on Kanye West’s ongoing bipolar disorder episode.
On her Instagram Story, Kardashian, 39, shared she felt the need to comment on her husband’s health because of “the stigma and misconceptions about mental health” as he goes on Twitter tirades about his family, divorce and her friendship with Meek Mill.
“As many of you know, Kanye has bi-polar disorder. Anyone who has this or has a loved one in their life who does, knows how incredibly complicated and painful it is to understand,” she wrote. “I’ve never spoken publicly about how this has affected us at home because I am very protective of our children and Kanye’s right to privacy when it comes to his health. But today, I feel like I should comment on it because of the stigma and misconceptions about mental health.”
Kardashian also explained that families who struggle with someone who suffers from mental illness are “powerless unless the member is a minor.”
“People who are unaware or far removed from this experience can be judgmental and not understand that the individual themselves have to engage in the process of getting help no matter how hard family and friends try,” she continued.
The E! reality star defended her husband, 43, and said he can often be misunderstood, especially when it comes to his words and actions that “can cause strong opinions and emotions.”
“He is a brilliant but complicated person who on top of the pressures of being an artist and a black man, who experienced the painful loss of his mother, and has to deal with the pressure and isolation that is heightened by his bi-polar disorder,” she wrote. “Those who are close with Kanye know his heart and understand his words do not align with his intentions.”
Kardashian ended her message asking fans for compassion and empathy and thanked everyone who expressed concern for West’s wellbeing.
Most notably, she signed her message Kim Kardashian West.
“She is staying focused on helping him and his health right now,” a source close to Kardashian also told Page Six on Wednesday. “There’s no conversation about divorce.”
“Well, you know, one of the problems that I think we have is a lot of these sensitive topics we do not want to address but we do not want to address these sensitive topics so what we try to do is water them down and shout people down,” he said, per Fox News.
Walker, who just so happens to be a supporter of President Trump, challenged the decision of the NBA and NFL to put the phrase “Black Lives Matter” on their fields, courts and sports jersey and made a case that “some people may not believe in BLM.”
“I’m not sure what they stand for,” he said, “so how could the NFL say we will support BLM or we will do this here without having the players to say what they want because you cannot put that on a player who may disagree with you,” Walker explained.
Cuban said the decision by the NBA to paint it on several courts was driven by player requests.
“Wait, wait, no, no,” Walker interjected. “I think Mark is totally correct. We have to address it but you don’t address it by saying we will do it without knowing what it is you are doing. No one is coming up with solutions like we will put BLM well…,” he trailed off.
“Not to question you, Mark, but do you know what the organization stands for? Besides saying, Black Lives Matter. Because I say one of the things that we have to address is Americans’ lives matter.”
“Herschel, they’re not mutually exclusive,” Cuban fired back. Every life matters but when someone is in trouble you address them first. The Black community has had issues and I think, you know, systemic racism has been here for generations and it’s not going away unless we do something about it.”
Rioters Tear Down Statue and Erect BLM Statue, Here’s What Happened
Rioters have been vandalizing and tearing down statues all across America of those individuals who they claim to be racists.
But that has all been just a front. That’s not really what’s going on, because they’ve been tearing down statues of Frederick Douglass and other abolitionists, as well as decapitating a statue of Jesus.
This article may sound as though it’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I promise you that it is 100% the truth.
If you live in the state of California, I would seriously consider finding somewhere else to live because things may get really bad very soon (as though things weren’t bad enough already).
Black Lives Matter Leader Faces Child Porn Charges, Now We Know Why They Want To Defund The Police
Christopher DeVries is one of the leaders of the Black Lives Matter and Defund the Police movement.
DeVries, who worked at the Municipal Budget Committee for the town of Conway, New Hamshire, was arrested on six counts of possession of child sex abuse images.
Dr Fauci Claims New York is the Model to Follow – ‘They Did it Correctly’
Despite leading the country in deaths by a substantial margin, Dr Fauci claims New York is the model to follow when it comes to the virus.
Con Man Michael Avenatti Unable to Pay Legal Fees According to His Lawyer
According to his California attorney, Michael Avenatti is completely broke and unable to pay his legal fees, according to a report from Fox News.
A motion was filed by Dean Steward on Saturday which provided details about the tax woes of Avenatti and requests taxpayer assistance to help him cover his costs.
Cocoa Beach Police Officer Adrian Kosicki was walking along the beach with his wife on Thursday when they noticed a shark approaching the boy in the shallows just offshore, police wrote on Facebook.
Police shared a bystander’s video showing a shark fin cutting through the water’s surface as it swims toward the boy.
“Hey buddy! Hey, there’s a shark right there,” an onlooker says before another shouts, “There he is!”
The quick-thinking Kosicki jumped into the water and grabbed hold of the boy, dragging him through the surf toward shore as the shark swam “dangerously close,” police said. Kosicki and the boy reached the safety of the beach as the shark swam within just feet of them, according to the video.
The species of shark wasn’t immediately clear.
“We’re certainly not marine biologists, educated and trained to differentiate between the various species of sharks, their respective feeding habits and aggressiveness near swimmers,” police wrote. “We just do what we do best — protect the public from harm.”
Florida sees the most shark attacks during the months of July, August, September and October, when the water temperature rises and human activity increases in the waters, the Brevard Times reported.
Brevard County, where Cocoa Beach is located, has Florida’s second highest number of shark attacks behind Volusia County, according to the paper. Volusia County, home to Daytona Beach and New Smyrna Beach, is known as the shark bite capital of the world.
“Thanks to Adrian, we’ll never know what that shark’s intentions were, and that little boy will forever have a pretty cool story to tell,” police said. “Great job!”
Picture yourself watching Michael Jordan from Row 1 courtside with no fans in the building, just you sitting virtually alone with an unobstructed view of the greatest basketball player of all time.
Now picture sitting on the glass to witness Wayne Gretzky play, no one sitting in front of or around you as the greatest hockey player of all time performs his magic on ice.
Sitting in the dugout and watching Babe Ruth or Hank Aaron hit home runs.
Standing on the sideline watching Tom Brady or Joe Montana engineer a two-minute drill.
Or being courtside with no one around you watching Roger Federer or Serena Williams play.
Such was the scene at the Memorial Tournament’s opening round Thursday with Tiger Woods playing in his first tournament in five months — in front of no spectators for the first time in his career.
At 1:17 p.m., an announcer at the first tee barked out Woods’ name to introduce him to the smattering of tour officials and media who were on hand for his tee time alongside No. 1 ranked Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka.
And all you heard was, well, nothing.
No roar. No clapping. No knuckleheads bellowing, “Get in the hole’’ or “You da man’’ as he teed off.
It was silent.
It was weird.
As Woods, McIlroy and Koepka walked off the first tee and toward the adventures of their respective rounds, the only sounds you heard were the players’ clubs quietly clanking inside their bags as their caddies trudged on in the 90-degree heat.
Under normal circumstances, which is to say no pandemic restrictions and 30,000 fans at the event, the buzz around these three heavyweights of the game playing in the same group would be palpable. Thousands would have lined both sides of the fairways at the ropes.
The theater without the buzz of the fans as dulled to a degree, but it was fascinating nonetheless — despite the fact that none of the three made a significant charge up the leaderboard.
Woods, with a birdie on 18, finished with a 1-under 71 to stand in a tie for 18th while McIlroy was the low man in the group at 2-under and Koepka posted an even-par 72.
But the chance to see Woods so up-close in a major-championship-like field was unique. It’s something people would pay a lot of money for, and that privilege was not lost on the few who were in attendance.
“The energy wasn’t the same without the fans,’’ Woods said after his round. “That certainly was noticeable, mostly different. [But] I still felt the same eagerness, edginess, nerviness starting out, and it was good. It was a good feel. I haven’t felt this in a while.’’
Woods hadn’t played in a tournament since he finished last in the Genesis Invitational in February. Thursday marked 151 days since he’d last played in competition. He was 2-under after three holes, but failed to capitalize on it. Still, considering the layoff and the difficult conditions, it was a decent start.
“It’s been a while since I’ve played,’’ Woods said. “I got off to almost an ideal start and got a feel for the round early. I just didn’t make anything today. I had looks at birdies, but I really didn’t make much.
“I was very pleased the way I drove it, my feel for my irons. I just didn’t quite hit the putts hard enough. Most of my putts were dying, didn’t quite have enough oomph to it. I was a little bit rusty, but felt like overall it was a good start.’’
Woods, playing in his first tournament since before COVID-19 put a halt to all sports and has prohibited spectators from attending golf tournaments, said before the tournament that he’d spoken to some fellow players who’ve been playing the past month to pick their brain about pandemic-age golf.
The Truth opens in Paris, but not the monumental Paris of the Eiffel Tower or the Champs Elysees. The story takes place at one house, a big house, with enough trees and grass around it to insulate it from the city. Through the trees, you can glimpse a bus passing on a busy street. In winter, the city will be more visible and louder. For now, though, it’s a protected space for a family to get on each other’s nerves about the stuff that French movie families annoy each other about, and actual families experience with maybe less drama. The house, by the way, needs paint and work on the masonry exterior. Behind the house, there’s a prison – all of this part of the uneasy setting.
The Truth feels like a quintessential French film. It’s packed with self-indulgent characters making nasty observations about everyone, all filmed with a quick French-style restlessness.
There’s an actress grandmother (the legendary Catherine Deneuve) and her screenwriter daughter (equally legendary Juliette Binoche) with her actor husband (the American Ethan Hawke) and their young understandably confused daughter. The adults take plenty of shots at each other. Hawke says his career as an actor may be taking off — and there is a sneer in Deneuve’s voice as she repeats the French word for actor.
Family memories and rancor are hard enough to sort out, but when you add in three creators of fiction, who knows what’s true and what’s imagined. All through the film, these makers of stories are writing their fictions, or rehearsing lines or remembering old dramas, both actual and fictional. But for screenwriters and actors, what they write and the characters they play are plenty real for them. And what takes place on screen also holds reality for the audience – for us. And this is the shifty, fascinating world of The Truth.
Another layer of truths is that this very French-feeling movie is the work of the masterful Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-Eda, working in a country foreign to him. In a sense, The Truth is typical of Kore-eda’s Japanese films. It’s about a family facing relatively common problems of daily life, meaning no space people, superheroes, or explosions. It’s also Kore-eda’s way to uncover the fundamental ambiguities of life. He doesn’t much care about heroes or villains; he’s an observer who sees into the complications of how people relate to each other, how they hold back truth or avoid doing what needs to be done or get stuck in their ways.
In The Truth, though, Kore-eda seems immersed in French ways. Fabienne that actress grandmother, is far nastier and abrasive, and entitled, than any of Kore-eda’s Japanese characters. She grouses that the tea is either too tepid or too hot – not a chance she’ll ever make her own. She directs loud contempt for the poor aggrieved longtime housekeeper, and she’s been denigrating her daughter Lumir, probably since the girl was born.
The house looks like the big house of dozens of French films where too many people cram together with unhappy results. It’s a grand country house gone a bit shabby, so Kore-eda gives a new dimension to an old pattern of French movies. The Truth doesn’t offer a picture of the frivolous nature of the rich and their assumptions. Instead, these characters can’t figure out reality. Every shot in the film contains compromises and complexities.. You want to hate Fabienne for her ego-mania, but she’s still interesting and smart. So is the dynamic of this dysfunctional family because it leads ever deeper into the mysteries of how people get along with each other, and what finally may be true in our world. Although, at the end the daughter asks what true – and there’s no answer.
President Donald Trump’s intervention into a criminal case connected to his own conduct drew fierce rebukes Saturday from Democrats and a few lonely Republicans, with calls for investigations and legislation.
But it remained to be seen if Trump’s most recent defiance of the conventions of his office to commute the sentence of political confidant Roger Stone, just four months before Election Day, would matter to voters grappling with a deadly COVID-19 surge and a national discourse on racial justice.
Shortly before heading out Saturday morning for his Virginia golf club, Trump made unfounded accusations against his political foes while taking another swipe at special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, which led to convictions for six Trump aides or advisers, including Stone, a larger-than-life political character who embraced his reputation as a dirty trickster.
“Roger Stone was targeted by an illegal Witch Hunt that never should have taken place,” Trump tweeted. “It is the other side that are criminals, including Biden and Obama, who spied on my campaign – AND GOT CAUGHT!”
Trump has long sought vengeance against the Russia investigation that helped define his first two years in office. And now that the coronavirus pandemic has imperiled his reelection chances by crushing the economy and sending his poll numbers sliding, he has taken to testing the limits of his power in order to reward loyalty and fire up his conservative base.
Mueller himself spoke out — a rarity for the former FBI director — in an op-ed posted Saturday by The Washington Post in which he defended his investigation as “of paramount importance” and added: ”Stone was prosecuted and convicted because he committed federal crimes. He remains a convicted felon, and rightly so.”
The decision to commute the sentence of the 67-year-old Stone, who was convicted of lying to help the president and set to report to prison on Tuesday, was loudly celebrated by some in Trump’s orbit as a triumph over deep state prosecutorial overreach.
But the move announced Friday evening came over the advice of a number of the president’s senior advisers, who warned him it would be politically self-destructive to reward Stone for his silence. Trump had long floated the idea of clemency for Stone — as well as for other associates in legal trouble, including his former national security adviser Michael Flynn and campaign chairman Paul Manafort — which itself was viewed by some as witness tampering by encouraging them not to cooperate with prosecutors.
The reaction from Democrats was swift and furious.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Saturday called it “an act of staggering corruption,” saying legislation is needed to prevent a president from pardoning or commuting the sentence of someone who acted to shield that president from prosecution. House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff called it “offensive to the rule of law and principles of justice.”
And Trump’s Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, resurfaced a 2019 tweet in which he said that “Trump has surrounded himself with people who flout our laws — we shouldn’t be surprised that he thinks he is above the law.” He added: “Still true.”
Republicans largely stayed silent on the issue Saturday, reluctant again to challenge a president who remains very popular with rank-and-file GOP voters. But one loud voice was Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, who was also the lone GOP senator to vote to convict the president during his impeachment trial earlier this year.
“Unprecedented, historic corruption: an American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president,” Romney tweeted Saturday.
Sen. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, signaled dismay with the commutation, saying in a statement Saturday that it was a mistake while calling the Russia investigation “badly flawed” and a source of “frustration.” He added that Stone had been duly convicted and that any objections to the conviction and trial “should be resolved through the appeals process.”
Mark Sanford, the former South Carolina congressman who made a short-lived primary challenge to Trump, wrote: “So much for the Republican Party being the party of law and order. Have we not lost our minds in not condemning as a party the president’s corruption by Roger Stone.”
But most of Republicans who did speak out about the decision supported it. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Trump confidant, said Stone was convicted of a “nonviolent, first-time offense” and the president was “justified” in commuting the sentence.
Advisers who had previously talked Trump out of acting on Stone’s behalf awaited the possible fallout, but they considered that Congress may be too consumed with virus relief packages while wondering if the electorate long ago tuned out any talk of the complicated Russia investigation, particularly during a pandemic.
But Trump likely could not afford more political damage. He is decidedly trailing Biden, per his campaign’s own private admissions, and his effort to reboot his reelection bid took another blow when his planned rally Saturday night in New Hampshire was postponed. Campaign officials had deeply worried about low turnout. While an impending storm was blamed for the cancellation, sunny skies were seen in Portsmouth an hour before the president had been due to arrive.
By commuting Stone’s sentence, Trump evoked other controversial acts of clemency by his predecessors, though his was done in the height of an election year.
President George H. W. Bush pardoned former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger on Christmas Eve 1992, six weeks after he was defeated for reelection, prompting an uproar from Democrats and the independent counsel investigating the Iran-Contra affair. And President Bill Clinton waited until his final hours in office in 2001 to issue a raft of pardons, including of financier Marc Rich.
But one president who resisted the use of pardon was Richard Nixon, who privately discussed acts of clemency but never followed through even as many of his associates faced legal trouble during the Watergate scandal.
A few months after resigning, Nixon himself received a pardon from his successor Gerald Ford.
Stone, a former Nixon aide, told the AP he expressed his gratitude to Trump in a phone call.
“You know, he has a great sense of fairness,” Stone said. “We’ve been friends for many, many years, and he understands that I was targeted strictly for political reasons.”
Despite the best combined efforts of leftist Democrats and their Fake News minions to keep America in a total panic throughout the spring, the political manipulations of the Wuhan Flu “Pandemic” eventually became evident, as people began to notice that the streets across America were not littered with the bodies of the dead. As the days dragged on and the weather warmed, the devastating effects of everything except the virus began to take their collective toll on the nation.
The economy was in a shambles, domestic abuse and suicide rates skyrocketed, and the general health and wellbeing of Americans who had never been touched by the virus had nonetheless taken a huge hit. So, in defiance of the “experts” whose dire prognostications had been completely wrong, doors opened and people stepped cautiously out into the daylight. To their amazement, they lived to tell of the experience.
With Memorial Weekend approaching, the rebound across the nation was rapid and profound. Unemployment rates plummeted as Americans happily went back to work. Summer tourism began to recover, and Americans were once again making plans to get their lives back to the flourishing prosperity that they had been enjoying only a few months prior. But that which is good for America is, by definition, bad for the leftist Democrats and their strategy of maximizing the crisis to seize political power.
So it was that on May 25, when George Floyd was cruelly murdered in Minneapolis by a policeman who had a long history of abuses and excesses, leftists had their new “cause” on which they could exuberantly pounce, in order to continue their manipulations of the American people through crisis and pandemonium. Protests against the horrendous event quickly escalated into riots, with leftist Democrat politicians once again given center stage on the nightly news to raise racial discord and stoke the anger to a horrific crescendo.
Suddenly, the Wuhan virus pandemic was passé. Leftist Fake News minions completely reversed their opposition to public gatherings, virtually claiming that the “worthiness” of the cause of rioters and looters rendered them immune to any contagious disease. Leftists’ biggest fear, that the nation might be returning to normality just in time for the November election, were relieved. With George Floyd’s fate disappearing into the dust and smoke of looted and burning cities, leftists could now climb on to their phony “moral high ground” with almost unassailable clout.
Citing one contrived example after another, they decried “white privilege” and “systemic racism,” insisting that every vestige of American history be erased and replaced with leftist dogma and leftist icons. George Washington and Christopher Columbus were verboten, but Karl Marx remained. Somehow, violent assaults, vandalism, arson, and the destruction of small urban businesses (many of which were black owned), became a worthy tribute to George Floyd and all those other victims of a universally discredited white America.
Rising coronavirus cases in 39 U.S. states cast a shadow over the nation’s Fourth of July celebrations as health experts worried that holiday parties will cause a further spike in infections that could overwhelm hospitals.
After towns and cities across the country canceled annual fireworks displays to avoid large crowds gathering, many Americans launched bottle rockets and roman candles from streets and suburban backyards to commemorate Independence Day.
In the first four days of July alone, 15 states have reported record increases in new cases of COVID-19, which has infected nearly 3 million Americans and killed about 130,000, according to a Reuters tally.
Florida’s cases have risen by over 10,000 for three out of the last four days, including climbing by 10,059 on Sunday, surpassing the highest daily tally reported by any European country during the height of the coronavirus outbreak there. Cases are also soaring in Arizona, California and Texas and trending upwards in Midwest states that once had infections declining such as Iowa, Ohio and Michigan, according to a Reuters analysis of how much cases rose in the past two weeks compared with the prior two weeks.
In Phoenix, Arizona, people gathered on Saturday without masks or social distancing to listen to a speaker at a rally against restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus. Many in the crowd wore red, white and blue, and some held signs saying, “Capitalism makes sense. Socialism doesn’t. Go Trump 2020.”
“We opened way too early in Arizona,” Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said on ABC. She said the city was in a “crisis related to testing,” with people waiting in eight-hour lines in their cars to find out if they were infected.
During an Independence Day speech at the White House on Saturday, U.S. President Donald Trump claimed without evidence that 99% of coronavirus cases in the United States were “totally harmless.”
In Texas alone, the number of COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized rose to a record 7,890 on Saturday compared with 3,247 just two weeks ago. The Democratic mayor of Austin, Texas, warned during an interview with CNN that his city’s hospitals could reach capacity in two weeks and run out of intensive care unit (ICU) beds in 10 days. In Arizona, about 90% of ICU beds are full.
‘NO ROOM TO EXPERIMENT’
Trump, a Republican, has refused to wear a mask in public and has been reluctant to encourage Americans to do so, saying it was a personal choice. A July 4 celebration he attended at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota was “mask-optional” and had no social distancing.
Mixed messaging from governments has been a major factor in people not following coronavirus mitigation recommendations in Miami Beach, said its Democratic mayor, Dan Gelber.
Miami Beach’s coronavirus hospitalizations have doubled in the last 14 days and hospitals now have 158 people on ventilators, up from 64 two weeks ago, he told CNN.
“We’re spreading it because of this incredible activity, and too many people obviously are not taking seriously all of these admonishments to socially distance to wear masks,” he said.
In addition to rising cases, an alarming percentage of tests are coming back positive. The World Health Organization considers a positivity rate above 5% to be cause for concern because it suggests there are more cases in the community that have yet to be uncovered.
Ten states averaged double-digit positivity rates over the past week – Arizona (26%), Florida (18%), South Carolina (17%), Nevada (14%), Alabama (14%), Texas (14%), Mississippi (13%), Georgia (13%), Idaho (11%) and Kansas (10%), according to The COVID Tracking Project https://covidtracking.com/data/charts/state-percent-positive-and-average-tests-per-100k-people, a volunteer-run effort to track the outbreak.
Judge Lina Hidalgo of Harris County, a hard-hit county in Texas that includes Houston, said officials must be proactive in getting ahead of the virus and advocated a stay-at-home order. “We don’t have room to experiment. We don’t have room for incrementalism when we’re seeing these kinds of numbers,” she told ABC.
Thousands packed the streets in Chicago for an unofficial gay pride march despite Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the first openly gay mayor, canceling the official annual event because of her worries over the coronavirus.
Organizers insisted that the rally held in the city’s West Side Lakeview neighborhood was an attempt to “reclaim” the “grassroots” efforts to push gay pride, according to ABC 7.
The gay pride parade has roots in the Windy City going back to 1972 and has taken place in the Boystown area of the city until this year, when it was canceled over the coronavirus. But the cancellation did not deter avid pride marchers, who began gathering at noon on Sunday near the CTA Belmont station in the Lakeview neighborhood.
Hundreds flocked to the march flogged by social media posts until thousands were massed in close proximity for a two-mile demonstration into Uptown.
“The reason the march is so important is to highlight those lives that we lost and highlight the people whose lives may not have been lost, but have been wrecked just because they exist openly,” Ashabi Owagboriaye told ABC 7.
Organizers tried to tell marchers that masks were required in compliance with the city’s coronavirus rules.
But many photos posted to social media by pride enthusiasts showed large numbers of people without masks, in contradiction to the coronavirus response orders issued by Lightfoot.