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Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley roots against gerrymander he helped engineer



Reformers are hoping that by taking up both cases, each targeting a different party, the Supreme Court is preparing to, for the first time, set real restrictions on partisan gerrymandering.

For O’Malley, who ran for president in 2016, that would be well worth losing the map he helped draw and the one extra congressional seat Democrats gained from it.

“Our country and our democracy is not served well by partisan redistricting,” O’Malley said in a recent interview. “And if this is one of the ways we make progress for our republic, we’re glad to be a part of it.”

O’Malley was deposed by the plaintiffs in the Maryland case, who were stunned when he immediately copped to drawing the maps with partisan intent and told them he was rooting for their cause.

“I said, ‘Good luck, I hope you’re successful,'” O’Malley said of his deposition. “They scheduled me for four hours and I think we were done in, including the break, like 40 minutes.”

Currently, racial gerrymandering is prohibited, but it’s perfectly legal to draw legislative districts in a way that favors one party and punishes another.

That helps explain how states like Pennsylvania and North Carolina, which vote roughly 50-50 in presidential elections, end up with lopsided congressional delegations where Republicans outnumber Democrats almost 3 to 1.

Today, gerrymandering is virtually synonymous with Republican gerrymandering, but that’s mainly because the 2010 Tea Party wave election put the GOP in power just as states were engaging in their decennial redistricting process.

Democrats gerrymander, too, as Maryland shows, just not nearly to the extent Republicans have.

“I did everything in my power to draw a map that would be more favorable to the election of a Democratic congressional delegation,” O’Malley said. “In 2010, many of us in Maryland felt an obligation to push back against rank, extreme, Republican gerrymandering that was going on in many states across the United states.”

He compared it to the way Democrats use super PACs, even though the party ultimately wants to do away with them.

Of course, it’s relatively easy for O’Malley to speak out now, since he’s out office and doesn’t have to worry about protecting incumbents in the state capital.

In Annapolis, meanwhile, Democrats have defended their map and blocked attempts by Maryland’s current governor, Republican Larry Hogan, to advance the kinds of redistricting reforms that Democrats champion in other (often Republican-controlled) states.

“For three years, my administration has proposed reforms to create a nonpartisan system for drawing district lines. But legislators are content with the broken status quo, in which elected officials pick their constituents. Voters deserve better,” Hogan wrote in a recent op-ed in The Washington Post.

When the president of the Maryland Senate, a Democrat, gave his own deposition in the case, he plead ignorance.

“Did partisan factors play a role in the Maryland Senate consideration of the 2011 congressional map?” the lawyers asked.

The state Senate leader replied, “I don’t believe so.”

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More than 20,000 Haitians are gathered in Colombia for possible migration to U.S.



WASHINGTON — U.S. officials are tracking large groups of Haitians in Latin America, including more than 20,000 in Colombia, who like the thousands now massed on the Texas border may soon try to reach the U.S., according to an internal document obtained by NBC News.

The Department of Homeland Security document also said the DHS Office of Professional Responsibility, the agency’s internal watchdog, is investigating an incident in which a Border Patrol agent on horseback in Del Rio, Texas, grabbed a Haitian migrant by the shirt. The incident, captured by a news photographer, drew widespread criticism Monday, prompting White House press secretary Jen Psaki to describe it as “horrific.”

In addition to the 20,000 Haitians gathered in northern Colombia, DHS is also monitoring groups of about 1,500 in Panama and 3,000 in Peru, the document said. A senior DHS official said it remains to be seen when and whether those migrants will come to the U.S., but they have begun “staging” in the various countries, potentially signaling they are planning to travel in large numbers.

Like the surge of 15,000 Haitian migrants who arrived in Del Rio over the past week, most of the migrants in Central and South America left Haiti years ago, many of them after the 2010 earthquake, and have been living in other countries.

Recent economic conditions in those countries, as well as what Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas described as misinformation about the Biden administration’s willingness to take in Haitians, have triggered many to seek protections in the U.S.

When DHS has previously monitored caravans of migrants headed to the U.S. border in large numbers, there has been a two to three-week lag between their departure and their arrival. But many of the recently arrived Haitians took buses through Mexico, expediting their arrival and increasing their numbers.

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CIA director’s team member reported Havana Syndrome symptoms during India trip



A CIA official reported symptoms consistent with so-called Havana Syndrome, a mysterious affliction that has struck diplomats, spies and other government workers at home and abroad, two sources familiar with the matter told NBC News on Monday.

The unidentified employee was traveling with CIA director Bill Burns during a trip to India this month. The employee was immediately tested as part of a protocol the CIA has established to deal with the mysterious brain symptoms typically associated with Havana Syndrome and is receiving medical treatment, the sources said.

The incident was first reported by CNN.

This is the latest reported case of a U.S. government employee reporting symptoms associated with the mysterious ailment. Havana Syndrome first came into public view in 2017 after U.S. diplomats and other government workers stationed in Cuba reported feeling unusual physical sensations after hearing strange high- and low-pitched sounds. U.S. government employees have also reported cases while in China and the Washington, D.C. area.

In late August, at least two U.S. diplomats were medically evacuated from Vietnam after Havana Syndrome incidents were reported in the capital city of Hanoi ahead of Vice President Kamala Harris’ arrival.

“The health and well-being of American public servants is of paramount importance to the administration, and we take extremely seriously any report by our personnel of an anomalous health incident,” a senior administration official said Monday night. “It is a top priority for the U.S. government to determine the cause of these incidents as quickly as possible and that we ensure any affected individuals get the care they need.”

Many people who have experienced Havana Syndrome report experiencing vertigo, dizziness, fatigue, nausea and intense headaches. Some describe it as being hit by an invisible blast wave. Some have no longer been able to work.

The India incident has raised questions about whether a foreign adversary had intentionally targeted the CIA director’s staff, but the sources said the agency is unclear what exactly could have caused the incident. The case is one of a number of new incidents in recent months involving CIA personnel who experienced what U.S. officials call “anomalous health incidents,” the sources said.

A CIA spokeswoman declined to confirm the case in India but said the U.S. government and the agency are taking every incident seriously.

“Director Burns has made it a top priority to ensure officers get the care they need and that we get to the bottom of this,” the spokeswoman said. “We’ve strengthened efforts to determine the origins of the incidents, including assembling a team of our very best experts — bringing an intensity and expertise to this issue akin to our efforts to find Bin Ladin.”

The spokeswoman added that a panel of experts has been convened from across intelligence agencies “to work collectively to increase our understanding of the possible mechanisms that could be causing [anomalous health incidents].”

Many U.S. officials suspect the incidents, which have caused permanent brain injuries in some victims, are a result of an attack or surveillance operation by Russian spies, but the evidence is inconclusive.

The National Academies of Sciences said in a report last year the most likely cause of the injuries was directed microwave energy, but that conclusion is being debated in the scientific community.

Last week, deputy CIA director David Cohen said the agency is getting closer to solving the mystery, but there are limitations.

“In terms of have we gotten closer, I think the answer is yes — but not close enough to make analytic judgment that people are waiting for,” he said.

Josh Lederman contributed.

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Boris Johnson tells jab-sceptic Brazilian President to get 'great' AstraZeneca vaccine



BORIS JOHNSON has told the jab-sceptic Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to get a dose of the “great” Anglo-Swedish AstraZeneca vaccine.

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