Comedian Jackie Mason, known for his rapid-fire befuddled observations in a decades-long standup career, died at a New York hospital Saturday at the age of 93, long-time friend and collaborator Raoul Felder said on Saturday night.
“He died peacefully with several close friends and family at his side,” Felder said. Mason had been hospitalized for two weeks with difficulty breathing, Felder said.
Although he was born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, Mason came of age in New York, with brief career turns as an amateur boxer and ordained rabbi before getting into comedy. Mason was a master of the “Borscht Belt” style of standup, leaning heavily on Jewish culture and expressions. In his later years, Mason curated a vlog called “The Ultimate Jew” on his website.
Felder said that Mason loved attention from fans throughout his career.
“He would talk to anybody on the street, even when he was at the height of his fame,” Felder said.
He added that Mason’s on-stage persona as a man whose wheels were constantly turning was no act. “I would get phone calls that would start with, ‘Let me ask you something,’ and I knew he had thought of a hypothetical lawsuit to right some terrible wrong,” said Felder, who is an attorney.
Many younger fans knew Mason best for his long-running association with “The Simpsons.” Mason’s voice appeared in 11 episodes as Rabbi Hyman Krustofsky, the father of Krusty the Clown, until his character died on the show in 2014.
Mason is survived by his wife and manager, Jyll Rosenfeld.
US President Joe Biden said he believes that children under the age of 12 could be eligible to receive a Covid-19 vaccine “soon,” predicting that the government could green light the rollout for young Americans in the next few months.
“Soon, I believe,” Biden Said when asked by Don Lemon when most children under 12 would be able to get the Covid-19 vaccine.
“Soon, in the sense that I do not tell any scientists what they should do. I do not interfere. So, they are doing the examinations now, the testing now, and making the decision now,” he said, adding that scientists will make a decision “when they are ready” and have “done all the science that needs to be done” to determine the appropriate vaccination for different age groups.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday said it is “very likely” that data about Covid-19 vaccines in children under 12 may be available by early winter.
“Very likely when you do the age de-escalation study — so we’ve gone from 12 to nine, nine to six, six to two and then six months to two years — likely by late fall, early winter, we’ll have enough data,” Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at a Senate hearing. “But that doesn’t mean that then it’s all of a sudden going to be allowed to happen. That will be a regulatory decision that the FDA will have to make,” he said.
Biden also indicated that he expects the Covid-19 vaccines, which currently are approved under emergency use authorization, to get full approval from the US Food and Drug Administration “quickly.”
“The expectation — they’re not promising me any specific date — but my expectation talking to the group of scientists we put together … is that sometime, maybe in the beginning of the school year, at the end of August, beginning of September, October, they’ll get a final approval saying the (US Food and Drug Administration) said, ‘No, this is it. It’s good.'”
Stressing that he doesn’t “tell any scientist what they should do,” Biden also said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will likely issue guidance saying “everyone under the age of 12 should probably be wearing a mask in school.”
Currently, none of the three Covid-19 vaccines used in the US is available to children under the age of 12. With many schools across the United States now just weeks from reopening for the fall semester, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are still conducting clinical trials to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the vaccines in children under 12.
Data for children ages 5 to 11 could come sometime in September, and depending on the findings, the company said it could ask the FDA to authorize emergency use of the vaccine that same month.
Data for 2-to-5-year-olds could arrive soon after. For the youngest children, Pfizer said it could potentially get data in October or November, and shortly thereafter ask the FDA to authorize emergency use.
For now at least, the UK government’s approach will further strain relations with the European Union, still the country’s biggest trading partner by a long way.
At the heart of the issue is the Northern Ireland Protocol, which was included in the Brexit deal to avoid the return of a physical border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and Ireland, which is a member of the European Union.
Border checks and guard posts disappeared following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to the island of Ireland after 30 years of violent conflict between Catholic nationalists, who want a unified country, and Protestants who are loyal to the United Kingdom.
The European Union worried that a physical barrier could once again become a source of tension, and it would not agree to police the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland to protect the integrity of the EU market. Johnson, who helped lead the campaign for Brexit, instead agreed that Northern Ireland would remain subject to EU market rules, and to check goods flowing from the United Kingdom to Northern Ireland.
But those new checks on goods moving between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland have created chaos, upending supply chains, adding costs to businesses and reducing the availability of certain products in Northern Ireland supermarkets. According to the UK government, at least 200 businesses in Britain have stopped servicing the nation due to post-Brexit red tape.
On Thursday, the British Generic Manufacturers Association, a trade body for manufacturers of generic medicines, said onerous new trading rules have forced its companies to put on notice over 2,000 medicines for withdrawal from Northern Ireland.
The UK government now wants “significant change” to the Protocol, which it acknowledges in a paper published this week is the cause of “most of the current friction” with the European Union. It is effectively trying to renegotiate a deal it agreed to seven months ago, putting forward proposals that it knows the European Union cannot accept.
The paper “reads like a client’s submission to their divorce lawyer — full of blame-shifting, faux sadness and passive aggression,” Winters and Michael Gasiorek of the UK Trade Policy Observatory wrote in a blog on Thursday.
“It reflects weakness and can only serve to diminish the Government’s international standing,” they added.
The United Kingdom has a lot at stake. Brexit has added costs to British exporters, knocking trade with their most important market and hurting economic growth in the long run. It needs new trade deals to offset some of the damage caused by Brexit.
But if it fails to honor treaties it has already signed, the UK government might find it more difficult to secure agreements on favorable terms with other countries, including the United States.
“We will not agree to a renegotiation of the Protocol,” European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič said in a statement on Wednesday. “Respecting international legal obligations is of paramount importance,” he added.
This sentiment is shared by Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand — a country with which Britain is currently engaged in trade talks and which has the power to prevent it from joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
The CPTPP is an 11-country free trade pact that includes Mexico, Australia, Canada and Singapore. While it won’t compensate for the economic losses arising from Brexit, it has nonetheless been described by UK Trade Secretary Liz Truss as a “glittering post-Brexit prize.”
In a speech to the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs earlier this month, Ardern said that New Zealand had agreed to negotiations that will pave the way for the United Kingdom to join the partnership.
“CPTPP is our highest quality agreement,” she added. “Those aspiring to join will have to be able to meet its high standards.”
Some trade experts interpreted the comment as being directed at Britain. “If it wasn’t intended for the UK it was a completely wasted breath,” Winters said.
Even more pointed warnings have come from other quarters. For any UK government, a trade deal with the United States would be by far the biggest economic victory of a post-Brexit Britain.
That has always looked a long shot, given that neither former President Donald Trump nor current President Joe Biden have had much appetite to sign up to major international treaties, amid a broader shift away from trade liberalization.
But the UK government’s recent actions aren’t helping its cause. In a statement this week, US Democratic Congressman Brendan Boyle rebuked the UK government’s approach to Northern Ireland and highlighted “strong bipartisan” support for the Good Friday Agreement.
“The British government negotiated the Northern Ireland Protocol, agreed to it, and its Parliament voted for it. Yet almost immediately after it went into effect, the British government has tried to evade its responsibilities under the protocol,” he said.
“Their latest statement and proposed changes just continues this trend and serves only to further destabilize Northern Ireland,” he added.
While Biden has been clear that his focus lies mainly on domestic issues, he has also repeatedly warned Britain against making the Good Friday Agreement a “casualty of Brexit.”
“Biden has a specific interest in Northern Ireland and its stability, and does view the UK as the antagonist in that discussion,” said Sam Lowe, a senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform.
“Ongoing disputes with the EU over Northern Ireland and threats to renege on commitments creates a problem with the US, but I’m not convinced it creates huge problems with any other countries,” he added.
David Henig, UK director at the European Centre for International Political Economy, said that other countries may view the spat over Northern Ireland as a unique case.
“Other countries will certainly be aware that the UK is going back on [its agreements with the European Union], but each negotiation is separate,” Henig said. “It will not be viewed as a particularly good thing but I’m not sure that they won’t segregate it away from their own discussions. Northern Ireland clearly is a special case.”
With grace periods on checks on some goods flowing between Britain and Northern Ireland set to expire at the end of September, including animal products such as chilled meats, more political wrangling between the United Kingdom and European Union lies ahead.
“I can quite easily see this carrying on for quite a while without a change,” said Henig.
“The state of uncertainty might become the status quo,” added Lowe.
Northern Ireland will bear the brunt of this sorry state of affairs. But Johnson’s dream of a “global Britain” will also suffer consequences.
It was a bad week for the Big Lie — former President Donald Trump and his allies’ false claims that widespread fraud is to blame for his 2020 election loss.
In one battleground state, Republican senators issued a report that eviscerated Trump’s lies about voter fraud. In another, a judge undercut Trump’s supporters’ hopes to examine nearly 150,000 mail-in ballots. And one of Trump’s closest allies, Rudy Giuliani, was suspended from practicing law in New York.
Trump and his conspiracy-minded supporters have eagerly been anticipating the conclusion of the problem-plagued audit of Maricopa County’s results in Arizona, but regardless of its final report, it will have no impact on the 2020 election results, as the election was already certified. Trump repeated his election lies at a rally in Ohio Saturday night, but last week’s blows underscored the reality that their options to continue contesting the 2020 election are narrowing.
In Michigan, the Republican-led state Senate Oversight Committee said in a report released Wednesday that there was “no evidence of widespread or systematic fraud” in the state’s 2020 election. The report included a stinging condemnation of the lies about voter fraud pushed by Trump and his supporters.
Our clear finding is that citizens should be confident the results represent the true results of the ballots cast by the people of Michigan,” the committee, chaired by Republican state Sen. Ed McBroom, said in its report. “The Committee strongly recommends citizens use a critical eye and ear toward those who have pushed demonstrably false theories for their own personal gain.”
Then, in Georgia on Thursday, a judge dismissed most of a lawsuit that claimed fraudulent mail-in ballots had been cast in Fulton County, the state’s largest county, in last year’s election — a blow to the pro-Trump plaintiffs’ bid to conduct an in-person examination of nearly 150,000 mail-in ballots with high-powered microscopes.
The judge dismissed seven of the lawsuit’s nine claims against Fulton County officials, only allowing the plaintiffs’ request for digital images of the ballots under the state’s open records law to move forward. Biden won the state by 12,000 votes, and Georgia officials have already audited the 2020 results three times, including a hand recount.
“Last year, I told President Trump and others who push the Big Lie to ‘put up or shut up.’ It’s been six months and no proof of wrongdoing has been produced. Enough is enough — this whole circus must end,” Robb Pitts, the chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, said in a statement.
The same day, Giuliani, who had been Trump’s personal lawyer and one of Trump’s closest allies in advancing lies about the 2020 election, was suspended from practicing law in New York state by an appellate court that found he made “demonstrably false and misleading statements” about the 2020 election.
In a ruling released following disciplinary proceedings, the court concluded that “there is uncontroverted evidence” that Giuliani, the former Manhattan US attorney, “communicated demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers and the public at large in his capacity as lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump and the Trump campaign in connection with Trump’s failed effort at reelection in 2020.”
Giuliani’s “conduct immediately threatens the public interest and warrants interim suspension from the practice of law,” the court wrote.
Trump has railed against the actions that challenge his lies about the 2020 election. He attacked his political opponents on Saturday in front of an Ohio crowd that chanted “Trump won” and issued statements last week riven with more falsehoods.
Targeting Michigan’s McBroom and state Senate Republican leader Mike Shirkey, he included both senators’ phone numbers in a statement that said: “Call those two Senators now and get them to do the right thing, or vote them the hell out of office!”
In another statement, he complained about the Justice Department’s Georgia lawsuit: “Actually, it should be the other way around! The PEOPLE of Georgia should SUE the State, and their elected officials, for running a CORRUPT AND RIGGED 2020 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION—and for trying to suppress the VOTE of the AMERICAN PEOPLE in Georgia.”
Of Giuliani, he said: “Can you believe that New York wants to strip Rudy Giuliani, a great American Patriot, of his law license because he has been fighting what has already been proven to be a Fraudulent Election?”
Arizona audit wrapping up
Another important moment could come when the results of the so-called audit ordered up by state Senate Republicans and conducted by Cyber Ninjas — a Florida-based company with no experience auditing elections, led by a chief executive who had advanced Trump’s lies about voter fraud on social media — are released.
The Twitter account for the audit tweeted Friday night that “paper examination and counting are finished today.” And the individual hand count which looked at two races, the 2020 presidential and US Senate contest, finished days ago, according to Arizona audit spokesman Randy Pullen.
But the Arizona Senate Republicans have not stated when their report will be released.
Everybody is anxiously awaiting the result!” Trump said in a Wednesday statement.
That, though, was another falsehood.
Trump’s most ardent supporters are awaiting the report on the audit’s findings — which is likely to be delivered first to state Senate Republicans, who would then determine how to release
However, experts in conducting and auditing elections and observers of Arizona’s proceedings have repeatedly said that the Cyber Ninjas’ methods are deeply flawed and could easily introduce errors into its final tallies. Those problems have made the audit’s findings more likely to be used as a propaganda tool by Trump’s supporters than a document that is taken seriously outside the “Stop the Steal” movement — a rallying cry adopted by Trump and his supporters.
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat who is running for governor, has maintained a list of problems that observers on the floor of the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix have noticed.
Among the recent updates: “insecure cybersecurity practices” used by Cyber Ninjas; misplaced ballots; and auditors writing directly on the original labels on Maricopa County’s ballot boxes, which Hobbs’ document notes “violates the agreements and questions the reliability and integrity of all the county records.”
Justice Department targets Georgia law
The legal battles and audits are only one front of the ongoing fight over the 2020 election. In Republican-led states, including Florida, Georgia and Iowa, GOP lawmakers and governors have already enacted new laws that will make voting more difficult. Republican lawmakers in Michigan, Arizona, Texas and other states are also advancing restrictive voting measures.
President Joe Biden’s Justice Department said Friday it is suing the state of Georgia over its new restrictive voting law.
President Joe Biden’s Justice Department said Friday it is suing the state of Georgia over its new restrictive voting law.
Republicans had cast the measure as necessary to boost confidence in elections after the 2020 election and Trump’s repeated and unsubstantiated claims of fraud, but Democrats in the state have called the new law voter suppression and likened it to Jim Crow-era voting laws.
“These legislative actions occurred at a time when the Black population in Georgia continues to steadily increase and after a historic election that saw record voter turnout across the state, particularly for absentee voting, which Black voters are now more likely to use than White voters,” Justice Department Civil Rights Division leader Kristen Clarke said in a news conference. “Our complaint challenges several provisions of SB 202 on the grounds that they were adopted with the intent to deny or abridge, Black citizens, equal access to the political process.”
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, issued a defiant statement in response to the department’s announcement, calling the lawsuit “born out of the lies and misinformation the Biden administration has pushed against Georgia’s Election Integrity Act from the start.”