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Lawmaker anger builds after White House aide mocks ‘dying’ McCain



Democratic lawmakers sounded a similar note.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said shortly after the story broke that it was “unacceptable” for anyone in the Trump administration to “cruelly mock veterans” like McCain, no matter their political or policy differences. “He gave so much for our nation,” Reed said, referring to the torture McCain endured as a POW in Vietnam.

McCain, 81, who has served in Congress since 1983 and was the GOP’s presidential nominee in 2008, was diagnosed nearly a year ago with an aggressive form of brain cancer. He has not returned to Capitol Hill for several months while undergoing treatment.

Reacting to Sadler’s reported comment, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., tweeted Friday, “Is part of being low and small that it’s irresistible to show just how low and small you are?”

“Our politics may be different but John McCain is an American hero,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., on Thursday. “The vile and repugnant attacks we’ve seen from POTUS, WH staff and the far right are disgusting and show how small they are next to this honorable man.”

Image: John McCain
Sen. John McCain has been absent from Capitol Hill for months while undergoing treatment for brain cancer.J. Scott Applewhite / AP file

The initial report of Sadler’s comment came the same day retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney mocked McCain during a TV appearance on the Fox Business network, arguing that torture had worked on the Arizona senator.

“The fact is, is John McCain — it worked on John,” McInerney said. “That’s why they call him ‘Songbird John.’”

NBC News reported last weekend that people close to McCain have asked Vice President Mike Pence to participate in the senator’s funeral, not President Trump. Former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush are expected to be eulogists at the funeral service, which is to be held at the Washington National Cathedral, a source close to McCain said.

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Washington hotels weigh inauguration profits against safety



It used to be that inauguration was the cash cow for the Washington hotel industry. But this year, given the recent riot on the Capitol and the ongoing pandemic, hotel executives and workers are torn between catching up on lost revenues and staying safe

In the past week, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser all asked visitors not to travel to the nation’s capital for the 59th presidential inauguration. But because hotels have suffered so much from a lack of tourists due to Covid-19, some hotels have tried to remain open and recover some losses.

“Inauguration is typically a shot in the arm for the D.C. economy,” said Elliott L. Ferguson, II, president and CEO of the marketing group Destination D.C., who noted that business has declined $522 million in the past year since 49 conventions and large-scale events that were booked have been canceled. “Given the current pandemic and security threats, as well as indoor dining and museums and attractions closed, we expect hotel availability to remain and a smaller economic impact in comparison to previous years.”

Mixed response

The inauguration comes at a time when many Washington businesses, especially hotels, are desperate to recover from the past year’s losses and have suffered far more than hotels in other cities, according to the D.C. Chamber of Commerce. Angela Franco, interim president and CEO of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, said the group lobbied for hotels to remain open throughout the inauguration. She pointed to a report from the D.C. Office of the Chief Financial Officer showing that each inauguration brings about $3 million in sales tax revenue. “The impact of Covid has been difficult … and now with everything that’s happening, I think it makes it a little more complicated,” she added.

Still given the safety concerns, some companies have come out forcefully against hosting guests. Airbnb announced it was canceling all reservations in the Washington metro area for the week and preventing any new reservations from being booked during that time. It added that all hosts and guests affected by the measure would be reimbursed at the company’s expense. VRBO told NBC News that it was not following competitors in the development of its plan, but that it instead “created a comprehensive refund policy” for any traveler to Washington who cancels a trip and will credit the host after BuzzFeed reported how some of its customers no longer felt safe visiting the Capital. On Tuesday, Expedia Group tweeted it would cancel new VRBO reservations in and around Washington through Friday.

But at hotels that wavered about closing, workers — especially ones who served guests who visited Washington during the capitol riot — expressed concerns. Based on feedback from its members, Unite Here Local 25, a labor union that represents employees from approximately 40 hotels, including the Trump International Hotel in Washington, requested hotels in the metropolitan area to close and “permit their staff to opt out of reporting to work” on Inauguration Day.

Members of the National Guard stand outside the Capitol on Jan. 14, 2021.Stefani Reynolds / Getty Images

“No worker, union or nonunion, should have to risk their life to go into work,” John Boardman, executive-secretary treasurer of Local 25, said. “Unfortunately, that is the situation we are not faced with.”

The hotel workers’ union representing more than 7,000 employees in the Washington area asked hotels to shut down unless they are hosting the National Guard or security personnel. On Dec. 30, 2020, Black Lives Matter D.C. asked hotels and other businesses to refuse service to white supremacists in advance of the Jan. 6 riot. Since then, that group has said that continuing reservations only puts people of color and D.C. residents at risk.

“We stand in solidarity with these employees,”said Nee Nee Taylor, a core organizer of BLM D.C. who shared concerns for hotel workers who had to deal with drunk rioters and people who refused to wear masks.

Despite activists like BLM calling on hotels to shut down operations, plenty of hotels like the Capital Hilton remain open. “We have no plans to cancel hotel reservations and look forward to welcoming the many inauguration-related suppliers, government officials, medical professionals, media representatives, military and law enforcement who are traveling to Washington, D.C.” Capital Hilton wrote in a statement. While most hotels like the Hyatt Regency Washington welcomed visitors for the inauguration, they still did not hum with the typical flow of visitors received during most inaugurations.

Other hotels will not take the risk. In an attempt to minimize harm on Inauguration Day, the independently owned Line Hotel in Adams Morgan, D.C. is closed to the public from Jan. 16 through Jan. 20. “All of us at LINE D.C. stand unequivocally against the violent insurrection that took place last week at the Capitol,” the hotel wrote in a statement.

Disappearing revenues

In past years, hotels have counted on inaugurations as some of their most profitable weeks. According to the hotel data research company STR, the average daily rate on the night of President Barack Obama’s second inauguration in 2013 was $251.26 and $362.32 in 2017 for Donald Trump’s inauguration. In a typical inauguration season, prices of hotel rooms can increase up to 927%,MarketWatch reports. During the 2017 inauguration, Airbnb said that more than 15,100 booked housing and estimated that it generated more than $10 million in economic activity for the area.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, visitor spending in the nation’s capital was down 80 percent, translating to a loss of $375 million in local tax revenue. According to STR, hotel revenue was down by $1.5 billion.

But with the National Mall closing and Bowser extending a citywide ban on indoor dining and other Phase 2 activities until 5 a.m. Jan. 22, hotel industry experts predict many rooms in the metropolitan area will remain empty.

Anxious workers

Last week, the riot against the Capitol stirred fear and forced many hotel workers to feel unsafe.

Bloomberg reporter William Turton tweeted a video that went viral showcasing visitors at a Hyatt lobby near Capitol Hill that weekend dressed in Trump gear, defying Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelinesand not wearing masks. In response, The Hyatt said guests who did not comply with company policies would be “asked to leave the premises” or be “given the option of remaining in their guestroom for the duration of their visit.” But the hotel faced backlash on Twitter for letting guests violate CDC guidelines.

In another area hotel, hotel workers faced similar challenges with guests who refused to wear masks and practice social distancing.

“It was definitely scary,” said Emma Bowers, a manager at a Washington area hotel who did not provide the specific hotel name because she was not authorized to speak by her employer. She worked the 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. shift on the day before the Capitol riot began. “I kept my pepper spray near by and one of my male co-workers spent the night in a room just in case I needed some help.”

Out of precaution, Bowers has requested Inauguration Day off and will have additional people at the front desk on duty. Several of her workers, including a worker whose husband is in chemotherapy, are afraid of contracting the virus from anti-maskers and have expressed their concerns about working on Inauguration Day.

“It’s disappointing that we have to put up with it and just, you know, take these people’s crap,” the hotel manager said as she expressed concerns over her staff’s safety. “Who knows what some of these people are capable of.”

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Gibraltar row explodes as Spain issued dire warning: 'NOTHING will cleave Rock from UK!'



GIBRALTAR’S Chief Minister Fabian Picardo issued a warning to the Spanish Government regarding their future relationship.

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Man arrested in New York after threatening on Facebook to kill Pelosi, AOC, Schumer



A Queens, N.Y. man who allegedly made repeated threats to murder Democratic members of Congress on social media, including threats to murder them at President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, was arrested Tuesday morning by FBI agents and NYPD officers.

Brendan Hunt of Ridgewood, Queens, a former Occupy Wall Street activist and part-time filmmaker and actor, was charged with knowingly making threats to murder U.S. officials based on posts he allegedly made in December and January on Facebook, Bitchute and Parler, sometimes under the alias “X-Ray Ultra.”

The son of a retired Queens family court judge, Hunt has worked for the New York state Office of Court Administration since 2016 as an assistant court analyst, according to a spokesperson for the office. He was suspended without pay following his arrest Tuesday. Blog posts on his website from 2011 feature articles and photos of the Occupy Wall Street protests, in which Hunt identified himself as a member of the drum circle in several photos. Nearly a decade later, he called President-elect Joe Biden a communist on social media while inciting others to take up arms during the inauguration, according to the FBI.

On Dec. 6, Hunt made several Facebook posts about killing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, both of New York. In one post, he wrote that he wanted Trump to “hold a public execution of Pelosi aoc schumer etc.,” according to court documents.

After the Jan. 6 Capitol riot by Trump supporters, according to the complaint, Hunt used two social media platforms frequented by far-right extremists to threaten to kill the same three Democrats during Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration.

His alleged “xyrayultra” account on Bitchute — a lightly moderated video uploading site preferred by right-wing extremists — posted a short video titled “KILL YOUR SENATORS” on Jan. 8. In the video, Hunt spoke directly to the camera saying, “[T]hey’re gonna come after us, they’re gonna kill us, so we have to kill them first . . . [S]o get your guns, show up to D.C. … If anybody has a gun, give me it, I’ll go there myself and shoot them and kill them.”

A few days later, Hunt allegedly made a similar comment on a post on Parler, an alternative social media platform that drew conservatives but also far-right extremists. Parler went offline the weekend following the Capitol riot after being cut off by major service providers that accused it of failing to police violent content.

In response to a Parler post saying Americans must act responsibly now, attributed by the FBI to now-pardoned former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Hunt again threatened the inauguration, according to the complaint. An account tied to the same email address as Hunt’s Facebook profile commented “lets go, jan 20, bring your guns.”

Hunt was taken into custody Tuesday morning and will be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

Hunt is not currently represented by counsel.

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