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AP Photo by Noah Berger / Flames from the LNU Lightning Complex fires burn around a COVID-19/Stay safe sign in unincorporated Napa County, California. In Oregon, firefighters and law enforcement also had to battle false scare rumors of "rioters and looters.

Oregon's new fire scare

Wildfires are racing toward your home. The police on loudspeaker from their cruiser tell you there's a life-threatening fire emergency and you must evacuate.

But on Facebook you read about another threat, and you wave the cruiser away: "There's already reports that antifa's in town, going down the streets looting. I'm getting texts."

That was really happening last week in towns like Molalla, Oregon, according to The New York Times.

The upshot? Police faced a double problem: deadly fires and dangerous but widely discredited rumors on Twitter and Facebook that left-wing activists had been systematically setting blazes.

"We are inundated with questions about things that are FAKE stories," the Jackson County Sheriff's Office in Medford posted on Facebook. "One example is a story circulating that varies about what group is involved as to setting fires and arrests being made. THIS IS NOT TRUE!"

Law enforcement officials all across the state said they had been swamped with calls about social media misinformation and begged people to "STOP. SPREADING. RUMORS!" In the line of fire, the swirl of rumors actually helped goad some people into defying evacuation orders so they could stay and guard their homes, according to The Times.

How sad is it that the political fear-stoking of our time has not only created the summer of racial justice protests in Oregon but now presents a new and volatile complication in the catastrophic wildfires.

Please, people.

 

Politics prompts another whistleblower

Last week, we learned that a Department of Homeland Security official said in a whistleblower complaint that the head of DHS told him to stop reporting on the Russian threat to the U.S. election because it "made President Trump look bad."

The White House and DHS denied the allegations. Try not to laugh, no matter how desperately you might want to think this is just another bad 2016 deja vu joke.

In seriousness, Democrats see the accusations as merely the latest sign that the Trump administration is attempting to politicize the intelligence community and downplay clear, overt Russian attempts to interfere in this year's election, as Moscow did four years ago.

The DHS official, Brian Murphy, made the accusation in a formal whistleblower complaint filed Tuesday with the department's inspector general. Murphy ran the Office of Intelligence and Analysis at DHS until the end of July, when he was demoted to a lesser management job.

Murphy says the acting secretary of DHS, Chad Wolf, told him twice — once in May and again in July — to withhold reporting on potential Russian threats to the election because it cast the president in a bad light. Murphy says, however, that he was told to emphasize potential threats from China and Iran.

In Murphy's 22-page complaint, he also says there were multiple meetings this summer about downplaying the domestic threat posed by white supremacists and focusing more on militant leftist movements like antifa. Murphy says he was even told to "modify intelligence assessments to ensure they matched up with the public comments by President Trump."

Murphy says he declined to do so.

You may recall that the intelligence community in a formal statement last month reported that Russia is again trying to influence the election and favors Trump's re-election. The intelligence community also cites potential interference from China and Iran but considers them much lesser threats.

Donald Trump has repeatedly challenged U.S. intelligence conclusions that Russia interfered on his behalf in the 2016 election.

Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who heads the House Intelligence Committee, has called Murphy to testify before the committee on Sept. 21. He says the complaint "outlines grave and disturbing allegations that senior White House and Department of Homeland Security officials improperly sought to politicize, manipulate, and censor intelligence in order to benefit President Trump politically."

 

Even Politicizing 9/11

The Associated Press wrote Friday that the two 2020 candidates for president of the United States marked 9/11 "with very different tones" in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, last week.

"One spent time quietly consoling families. The other proclaimed America's might."

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic contender, was the consoler. Incumbent President Donald Trump was the proclaimer. Both traveled to rural Shanksville where hijacked Flight 93 crashed in a field, killing everyone on board after passengers fought with hijackers.

The AP wrote: [T]he political significance of their visits to Shanksville was hard to ignore: Pennsylvania is a crucial battleground state in the 2020 election. Trump won there by less than 1 percentage point four years ago, and Democrats hope they can return it to their column this year."

Biden insisted he would steer clear of politics on a national day of mourning taking place in the midst of another unfolding tragedy, the pandemic.

"I'm not gonna make any news today. I'm not gonna talk about anything other than 9/11," Biden told reporters. "We took all our advertising down. It's a solemn day, and that's how we're going to keep it, OK?"

The Trump campaign did not offer a similar promise, and jumped quickly to claim some Biden ads were still running.

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