Aug. 1-25, 2022 News

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Editor’s Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative news and view in August 2022

 

Aug. 26

Top Headlines

 

mar a lago aerial Custom

 

Trump Probes, Reactions, Riots, Supporters

 

U.S. Political Violence, Gun Laws, Dirty Tricks

 

More On Student Loans

 

Forced Birth Laws, Privacy Rights

 

U.S. Law, Security, Immigration, Crime

 

More On Ukraine War

 

More World News, Human Rights, Disasters

 

Pandemic, Public Health

 
U.S. Media, Education, Sports, Culture

 

Energy, Climate, Environment, Disasters

U.S. Mass Shootings, Political Violence, Gun Laws

 

More On U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

 

Top Stories

 

mar a lago aerial Custom

Politico, Trump Mar–a-Lago affidavit reveals ‘handwritten notes,’ highly classified material led to warrant request, Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney, Aug. 26, 2022. Federal investigators obtained a search warrant for former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate earlier this month by pointing to a raft of highly classified material they’d already obtained from there, according to a legal affidavit unsealed Friday.

politico CustomRecords the FBI obtained from Trump’s Florida home in advance of the Aug. 8 search bore indications they contained human source intelligence, intercepts under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and signals intelligence, as well as other tags indicating high sensitivity. Several of those tightly-controlled documents contained Trump’s “handwritten notes,” the partially-redacted affidavit detailing the Justice Department investigation says.

FBI logoIn those boxes, agents found 184 unique documents, 25 of which were marked “top secret,” 92 of which were marked “secret,” and 67 of which were marked “confidential”–the lowest level of national security classification.

Prosecutors also added in another court filing unsealed Friday that the ongoing criminal probe into government records stashed at Trump’s Florida home has involved “a significant number of civilian witnesses” whose safety could be jeopardized if their identities were revealed.

 ap logoAssociated Press, Biden rallies for Democrats, slams ‘semi-fascism’ in GOP, Zeke Miller, and Aamer Madhani, Aug. 26, 2022. President Joe Biden called on Democrats Thursday “to vote to literally save democracy once again” — and compared Republican ideology to “semi-fascism” — as he led a kickoff rally and a fundraiser in Maryland 75 days out from the midterm elections.

Addressing an overflow crowd of thousands at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Biden said: “Your right to choose is on the ballot this year. The Social Security you paid for from the time you had a job is on the ballot. The safety of your kids from gun violence is on the ballot, and it’s not hyperbole, the very survival of our planet is on the ballot.”

“You have to choose,” Biden added. “Will we be a country that moves forward or a country that moves backward?”

The events, in the safely Democratic Washington suburbs, were meant to ease Biden into what White House aides say will be an aggressive season of championing his policy victories and aiding his party’s candidates. He is aiming to turn months of accomplishments into political energy as Democrats have seen their hopes rebound amid the legacy-defining burst of action by Biden and Congress.

ap logoAssociated Press, Powell: Fed could keep lifting rates sharply ‘for some time,’ Christopher Rugaber, Aug. 26, 2022. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell delivered a stark message Friday: The Fed will likely impose more large interest rate hikes in coming months and is resolutely focused on taming the highest inflation in four decades.

jerome powellPowell, right, acknowledged that the Fed’s continued tightening of credit will cause pain for many households and businesses as its higher rates further slow the economy and potentially lead to job losses.

“These are the unfortunate costs of reducing inflation,” Powell said in the written version of a high-profile speech he is giving at the Fed’s annual economic symposium in Jackson Hole. “But a failure to restore price stability would mean far greater pain.”

federal reserve system CustomPowell’s message may disappoint investors who were hoping for a signal that the Fed might soon moderate its rate increases later this year if inflation were to show further signs of easing.

After hiking its key short term rate by three-quarters of a point at each of its past two meetings — part of the Fed’s fastest pace of rate increases since the early 1980s — Powell said the Fed might ease up on that pace “at some point” — suggesting that any such slowing isn’t near.

The Fed chair made clear that he expects rates to remain at levels that should slow the economy “for some time.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Putin Calls for Sharp Expansion of Russian Army, Ivan Nechepurenko and Anton Troianovski, Aug. 26, 2022 (print ed.). Signals Kremlin Is Bracing for Long War in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin’s decree raises the target number of service members by about 137,000. Military leaders tried to prepare Ukraine for a difficult fight ahead.

President Vladimir V. Putin on Thursday ordered a sharp increase in the size of his armed forces, a reversal of years of efforts by the Kremlin to slim down a bloated military and the latest sign that the Russian president, despite heavy battlefield losses, is bracing for a long war in Ukraine.

The decree, released by Mr. Putin’s office and posted on the Kremlin website, raised the target number of active-duty service members by about 137,000, to 1.15 million, as of January of next year, and ordered the government to set aside money to pay for the increase. Military analysts puzzled over how such a sharp increase could be managed.

It was the first time in five years that Mr. Putin had issued an order changing the overall head count of the Russian armed forces. Officials offered no explanation for the move, and there was little mention of it on state television. U.S. military officials estimate that Russia has suffered up to 80,000 casualties — including both deaths and injuries — during Mr. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Some analysts described the move as a clear signal that, after a full six months of fighting, Mr. Putin had no plans to relent.

“This is not a move that you make when you are anticipating a rapid end to your war,” said Dara Massicot, a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation. “This is something you do when you are making some kind of plan for a protracted conflict.”

ny times logoNew York Times, With Attacks and Mockery, Ukraine Pokes the Russian Bear, Andrew E. Kramer, Aug. 26, 2022. Driven by anger at Russia and the need to rally support, Ukraine is regularly goading its much more powerful antagonist.

It was pure performance art, pointedly aimed at irking the Kremlin: a mock parade staged by Ukraine featuring dozens of captured Russian tanks in Kyiv’s central avenue.

More substantively, Ukraine has delivered strikes into the heart of Russian strongholds once considered untouchable, including an explosion at a base in Crimea that destroyed eight warplanes.

And lest their actions go unnoticed, the Ukrainian government’s social media sites went into high gear after these and other episodes, posting a flurry of taunting one-liners that mocked its adversary.

“An unsuccessful attempt to launch Russian tankers into space,” read one post accompanying a video showing a Russian tank blowing up, the turret soaring into the sky. It was posted on the official Facebook site of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

In ways big and small, Ukraine’s leadership is goading its much more powerful antagonist, driven by deep anger at Russia, a newfound confidence after battlefield victories, the need to rally support at home and abroad, and a large dose of psychological warfare intended to unnerve the enemy.

In doing so, it is upending the longstanding diplomatic maxim about the need to tread carefully in dealings with the Kremlin.

“There is an axiomatic policy — don’t poke the bear — that’s been around for decades,” said Cliff Kupchan, chairman of the Eurasia Group, a political risk assessment firm in Washington. “The Ukrainians are turning that policy on its head. And the bear has proven remarkably pokable.”

“The question is, how much is too much, and is there too much?” Mr. Kupchan said. “It’s obviously not a question we want to get answered.”

 ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: As Russia Seeks More Troops, Both Sides Dig In for War of Attrition, Anton Troianovski, Aug. 26, 2022. There has been little movement on the front line in recent weeks, even as the leaders of Ukraine and Russia face pressure to show battlefield results.

President Vladimir V. Putin’s decision this week to expand the size of his military offered further evidence for a conviction taking hold in both Russia and Ukraine: The two sides are settling in for the long haul in a war that could last another year, or longer.

Mr. Putin, secure in his power and having silenced dissent, appears to have little incentive to stop the war, which he has now waged for more than six months without declaring a nationwide draft that could have provoked domestic discontent.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, warning his nation on Friday that the coming winter would be “the most difficult in our history,” is being bolstered by a largely unified West and a defiant populace in his insistence that there will be no compromise with an invading army.

The conflict has settled into a war of attrition, with little movement along the front line in recent weeks, even as both Mr. Zelensky and Mr. Putin face growing political pressure to show results on the battlefield.

Ukraine has held off from mounting a large-scale counteroffensive despite claiming for months that one was coming, and Russia has avoided sharply escalating its assault despite warning that it would retaliate against Ukrainian attacks in the Russian-controlled peninsula of Crimea.

“Expectations that this will end by Christmas or that this will end by next spring” are misguided, said Ruslan Pukhov, a defense analyst who runs the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, a privately-owned think tank in Moscow.

Ukraine, benefiting from a continuing flow of Western weapons like the $3 billion package that President Biden pledged this week, has the resources and morale to continue to resist the Russian assault. Russia, fighting the war at peacetime strength without mass call-ups of military-age men, appears to have the resources to keep waging a brutal war of attrition — but not to mount a decisive new offensive.

The largely static period on the battlefield coincides with increasing expectations — fueled by Ukraine itself — that Mr. Zelensky’s military will mount some kind of significant offensive, to show that it can make good use of Western-provided weapons and reassure allies that the economic sacrifices they are making will pay off.

Mr. Putin, as well, faces domestic pressure from far-right nationalists who want stepped-up aggression in Ukraine, particularly after recent strikes on Crimea and the killing of the ultranationalist commentator Daria Dugina in a car bombing last weekend. But the Russian leader, in control of the state media and the political system, is well-situated to ignore such calls, analysts say.

Instead, Mr. Putin insists that his forces are advancing in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region “step by step.”

However, Russia has failed to capture a single major population center since early July. And for Mr. Putin, who justified the invasion by falsely claiming that Ukraine was committing a “genocide” of Russian speakers in the Donbas, anything short of full control of the region would be seen as a major defeat.

Here’s what we know:

  • There has been little movement on the front line in recent weeks, even as Zelensky and Putin face pressure to show battlefield results.
  • Russia and Ukraine brace for a war of attrition.
  • Zelensky is under pressure over when and how to launch a long-anticipated counteroffensive.
  • The Zaporizhzhia plant is back online, but humanitarian woes and nuclear fears persist.
  • Britain braces for a surge in energy prices as the war in Ukraine further stretches markets.
  • Russian news media covers the war with ‘blatant lies and demagogy.’
  • Russia’s plans for ‘sham’ referendums in occupied territories brings back bad memories in Ukraine.
  • Cluster munitions have killed nearly 700 in Ukraine, a study reports.

 

Trump Probes, Reactions, Riots, Supporters

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 ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: Donald Trump Is Not Above the Law, Editorial Board, Aug. 26, 2022. Over the course of this summer, the nation has been transfixed by the House select committee’s hearings on the events of Jan. 6, 2021, and how or whether Donald Trump might face accountability for what happened that day. The Justice Department remained largely silent about its investigations of the former president until this month, when the F.B.I. searched his home in Palm Beach, Fla., in a case related to his handling of classified documents. The spectacle of a former president facing criminal investigation raises profound questions about American democracy, and these questions demand answers.

Mr. Trump’s unprecedented assault on the integrity of American democracy requires a criminal investigation. The disturbing details of his postelection misfeasance, meticulously assembled by the Jan. 6 committee, leaves little doubt that Mr. Trump sought to subvert the Constitution and overturn the will of the American people. The president, defeated at the polls in 2020, tried to enlist federal law enforcement authorities, state officials and administrators of the nation’s electoral system in a furious effort to remain in power. When all else failed, he roused an armed mob that stormed the Capitol and threatened lawmakers.

This board is aware that in deciding how Mr. Trump should be held accountable under the law it is necessary to consider not just whether criminal prosecution would be warranted but whether it would be wise. No American president has ever been criminally prosecuted after leaving office.

The risks of political escalation are obvious. The Democratic and Republican parties are already in the thick of a cycle of retribution that could last generations.

Mr. Garland has been deliberate, methodical and scrupulous in his leadership of the Justice Department’s investigations of the Jan. 6 attack and the transfer of documents to Mr. Trump’s home. But no matter how careful he is or how measured the prosecution might be, there is a real and significant risk from those who believe that any criticism of Mr. Trump justifies an extreme response.

Yet it is a far greater risk to do nothing when action is called for. Aside from letting Mr. Trump escape punishment, doing nothing to hold him accountable for his actions in the months leading up to Jan. 6 could set an irresistible precedent for future presidents. Why not attempt to stay in power by any means necessary or use the power of the office to enrich oneself or punish one’s enemies, knowing that the law does not apply to presidents in or out of office?

More important, democratic government is an ideal that must constantly be made real. America is not sustained by a set of principles; it is sustained by resolute action to defend those principles.

Immediately after the Jan. 6 insurrection, cabinet members reportedly debated privately whether to remove Mr. Trump from power under the authority of the 25th Amendment. A week after the attack, the House impeached Mr. Trump for the second time. This editorial board supported his impeachment and removal from office; we also suggested that the former president and lawmakers who participated in the Jan. 6 plot could be permanently barred from holding office under a provision of the 14th Amendment that applies to any official who has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” or given “aid or comfort” to those who have done so. But most Republicans in the Senate refused to convict Mr. Trump, and Congress has yet to invoke that section of the 14th Amendment against him. As a result, the threat that Mr. Trump and his most ardent supporters pose to American democracy has metastasized.

Even now, the former president continues to spread lies about the 2020 election and denounce his vice president, Mike Pence, for not breaking the law on his behalf. Meanwhile, dozens of people who believe Mr. Trump’s lies are running for state and national elected office. Many have already won, some of them elevated to positions that give them control over how elections are conducted. In June the Republican Party in Texas approved measures in its platform declaring that Mr. Biden’s election was illegitimate. And Mr. Trump appears prepared to start a bid for a second term as president.

Mr. Trump’s actions as a public official, like no others since the Civil War, attacked the heart of our system of government. He used the power of his office to subvert the rule of law. If we hesitate to call those actions and their perpetrator criminal, then we are saying he is above the law and giving license to future presidents to do whatever they want.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Georgia judge skeptical of claims of political bias in 2020 election probe, Matthew Brown, Tom Hamburger and Ann E. Marimow, Aug. 26, 2022 (print ed.). With the midterm elections approaching, a new wave of political and legal tensions erupted into public view.

The judge presiding over the grand jury investigation into possible election interference by Donald Trump and his allies expressed skepticism Thursday over arguments from Republicans that the prosecution, led by a Democratic district attorney, was politically motivated.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert C.I. McBurney did not immediately rule on a request from Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) to toss a subpoena for his testimony from Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (D).

“It is not my space” to focus on politics, McBurney said as lawyers for Kemp argued that the subpoena had already become a political issue this election season. “I don’t think it is the right forum” to debate the political ramifications of the case, said the judge.

With the midterm elections approaching, the investigation has expanded dramatically, reaching Trump’s inner circle and edging closer to the former president himself. Hours after the hearing ended Thursday, newly filed records showed prosecutors are seeking testimony from Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows, lawyer Sidney Powell and cybersecurity expert Phil Waldron.

In recent days, a new wave of political and legal tensions erupted into public view, with Kemp’s attorney and others accusing prosecutors of politicizing the sensitive case.

The Georgia criminal investigation into Trump and his allies, explained

Kemp, who resisted pressure from Trump to overturn Georgia’s election results, is considered a key witness. Prosecutors said in a filing this week they would like to ask the governor about calls he received from Trump and others pressing him to contest the state’s election results.

Kemp is running for reelection against Democrat Stacey Abrams, a former state lawmaker and voting rights advocate whom he narrowly beat in 2018. Last week, Abrams tweeted that the governor’s “refusal to testify shows that he will do anything to win an election. Kemp wants credit for ‘standing up’ to Trump but refuses to testify against the former president and said he would welcome his endorsement.”

In court on Thursday, lawyers for the governor cited Abrams’ comments as an example of the politicization of the ongoing inquiry.

ny times logoNew York Times, Redacted Affidavit Used in Trump Search to Be Unsealed, Glenn Thrush and Alan Feuer, Aug. 26, 2022 (print ed.). Judge Orders Justice Dept. to Release Document by Friday.

A federal judge in Florida on Thursday ordered that a redacted version of the affidavit used to obtain a warrant for former President Donald J. Trump’s Florida residence be unsealed by noon on Friday — paving the way for the disclosure of potentially revelatory details about a search with enormous legal and political implications.

The decision by Judge Bruce E. Reinhart came just hours after the Justice Department submitted its proposal for extensive redactions to the document, in an effort to shield witnesses from intimidation or retribution if it is made public, officials said.

Judge Reinhart appeared to accept the requested cuts and, moving more quickly than government lawyers had expected, directed the department to release the redacted affidavit in a brief two-page order issued from Federal District Court in Southern Florida. The order said that he had found the Justice Department’s proposed redactions to be “narrowly tailored to serve the government’s legitimate interest in the integrity of the ongoing investigation.”

The redactions, he added, were also “the least onerous alternative to sealing the entire affidavit.”

In its most complete form, the document would reveal important details about the government’s justification for taking the extraordinary step of searching Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8.

The ruling is a significant legal milepost in an investigation that has swiftly emerged as a major threat to Mr. Trump, whose lawyers have offered a confused and at times stumbling response. But it is also an inflection point for Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, who is trying to balance protecting the prosecutorial process by keeping secret details of the investigation, and providing enough information to defend his decision to request a search.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: The point of no return with fascism in America, Wayne Madsen, Aug. 25-26, 2022. The United States wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallsits precariously on the same precipice the Weimar Republic of Germany found itself in 1932.

The parties that generally favored German democracy – the Social Democrats, German People’s Party (DVP), and the Center Party all backed the aging president of the republic, Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, in the 1932 presidential election. His opponent that year was Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. The Nazis made a mockery of anyone who was opposed to Hitler and that included the much-respected Hindenburg.

wayne madesen report logoToday, the United States has politically separated into two camps – one that favors democracy and includes Democrats, the few bona fide independents who hold significant political offices, and a group of Republicans who have been ostracized from their party by those favoring the anti-democratic and fascist policies of Donald Trump’s transformed Republican Party.

 

Former U.S. President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower in Manhattan for his scheduled testimony on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022 (Associate Press photo by Julia Nikhinson).

Former U.S. President Trump leaves Trump Tower in Manhattan for his scheduled testimony on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022 (Associate Press photo by Julia Nikhinson). He answered only one question during four hours of them in an interview with the New York State attorney general, his lawyer said.

Recent Headlines

 

More On Student Loans

 joe biden student debt ed secretary

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona listens as President Joe Biden speaks about student loan debt forgiveness in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022, in Washington (AP Photo by Evan Vucci).

 ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Two Big Questions About Student Debt Relief, Paul Krugman, right, Aug. 26, 2022. On Wednesday, President Biden paul krugmanannounced a plan to reduce most students’ debt by $10,000, with lower-income students eligible for twice that amount. The debt forgiveness was much less generous than many progressives wanted but more generous than many expected. Assuming it survives legal challenges, it will be a big deal for millions of Americans, although the overall economic impact will, as I’ll explain, be limited.

There are two big questions about this plan. First, will it, as critics claim, significantly increase inflation? The answer, if you do the math, is a clear no. Second, is it a good policy? The answer should be: Compared with what?

About the math: What you need to have is a sense of scale. If you’re worried about inflation, the relevant number here isn’t the eventual cost to taxpayers, which might be several hundred billion dollars. It is, rather, the effect on private spending. And I just don’t see any way to claim that this effect will be large.

But is it a good program?

The right is inveighing against debt relief on moral grounds. “If you take out a loan, you pay it back. Period,” tweeted the House Judiciary G.O.P. On which planet? America has had regularized bankruptcy procedures, which take debt off the books, since the 19th century; the idea has been to give individuals and businesses with crippling debts a second chance.

And many people have taken advantage of those procedures. For example, businesses owned by a real estate mogul named Donald Trump filed for bankruptcy on six occasions. During the pandemic, many business owners received government loans that were subsequently forgiven.

But, you may argue, student borrowers weren’t struggling to cope with a pandemic. True. But many student borrowers were suckered in by the misleading marketing of for-profit colleges; millions ran up debts but never received a degree. Millions more went into debt only to graduate into a labor market devastated by the global financial crisis, a market that took many years to recover.

So don’t think of this as a random giveaway. Many though not all of those who will benefit from debt forgiveness are, in fact, victims of circumstances beyond their control.

ap logoAssociated Press, Student loan relief highlights burden on Black borrowers, Annie Ma, Aug. 26, 2022. Gabrielle Perry, a 29-year-old epidemiologist in New Orleans, expects $20,000 of her $135,000 student loan debt to be wiped out under the plan announced this week by President Joe Biden. She is happy for the relief, but disappointed he isn’t fully canceling student debt that weighs especially heavy on African Americans.

For her, it’s discouraging that Biden isn’t doing more to help a constituency that played a critical role in his presidential campaign. Perry, who cares for and financially supports her disabled mother, said those obligations act as a societal tax on Black people, preventing the growth of generational wealth.

“You are ensuring that your little brothers and sisters have what they need for school,” Perry said. “You are helping your parents pay off their rent, their house. So your quote-unquote wealth doesn’t even have time to be built because you’re trying to help your family survive.”

Black borrowers on average carry about $40,000 in federal student loan debt, $10,000 more than white borrowers, according to federal education data. The disparity reflects a racial wealth gap in the U.S. — one that some advocates say the debt relief plan does not do enough to narrow.

One in four Black borrowers would see their debt cleared entirely under the administration’s plan, which cancels $10,000 in federal student loan debt for those with incomes below $125,000 a year, or households that earn less than $250,000. The plan includes an additional $10,000 in relief for Pell Grant recipients, who are more than twice as likely to be Black.

While white families are more likely to see a transfer of wealth from one generation to the next, the opposite is true of Black families, where children are more likely to have to support a parent once they obtain some level of financial security, said Andre M. Perry, senior fellow at the Brookings Institute.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Biden Student Loan Plan Squarely Targets the Middle Class, Jim Tankersley, Aug. 26, 2022 (print ed.). President Biden is offering what independent analysts suggest would be his most targeted assistance yet to middle-class workers — while trying to repair what he casts as a broken bridge to the middle class.

The big winners from President Biden’s plan to forgive hundreds of billions of dollars in student loans are not rich graduates of Harvard and Yale, as many critics claim.

In fact, the benefits of Mr. Biden’s proposals will fall squarely on the middle class. According to independent analyses, the people eligible for debt relief are disproportionately young and Black. And they are concentrated in the middle band of Americans by income, defined as households earning between $51,000 and $82,000 a year.

The debt relief program, which by some estimates will cost as much as a half-trillion dollars over the course of a decade, will impose a future burden on American taxpayers. It has fueled criticism on several fronts, including that it could encourage colleges to raise tuition costs even faster than they already are. Some conservative and Democratic economists say it could add significantly to what is already the highest inflation rate in four decades, though evidence suggests those claims are overstated.

But in choosing to extend more generous debt relief than even many of his allies had expected, Mr. Biden is offering what independent analysts suggest would be his most targeted assistance yet to middle-class workers, while attempting to repair what he casts as a broken bridge to the middle class for young people across the country.

Nearly 90 percent of affected borrowers earn $75,000 a year or less, the Education Department projects. Ivy League graduates make up less than 1 percent of federal student borrowers nationwide.

“Most of the benefits are going to go to the middle class,” said Constantine Yannelis, an economist at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business who co-authored a study on the distributional effects of student debt relief that will soon be published in the Journal of Financial.

Time Magazine, Some of Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Critics Went to College for Less Than $400 per Year, Charlotte Alter, Aug. 25, 2022. When the Biden Administration announced Wednesday that it would cancel $10,000 of federal student loans for Americans making under $125,000 per year, and $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients at the same income level, the backlash was predictable. Critics, often older people who had gone to college before the 1980s, called the policy a giveaway to the college educated, and unfair to those who had paid their way through school.

time logo ogWhile I was reporting my book, The Ones We’ve Been Waiting For, I spent months researching why the student debt crisis has hit younger generations so hard— and why many older Americans don’t seem to understand the unique financial predicament of millennials and Gen Z. One key reason is that college affordability has radically transformed over the last 50 years. Many of the older conservatives who are angry at the idea that taxpayers might pay for student loan forgiveness went to school at a time when the government was heavily subsidizing higher education, and therefore tuition was far less expensive. For them, working their way through school without debt was feasible; for modern millennials and Gen Z, it’s often financially impossible.

Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell called Biden’s loan forgiveness plan “student loan socialism” and said it was a “slap in the face to every family who sacrificed to save for college.” But when McConnell graduated from the University of Louisville in 1964, annual tuition cost $330 (or roughly $2,500 when adjusted for inflation); today, it costs more than $12,000, a 380% increase. When House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who called the policy a “debt transfer scam,” graduated from California State University, Bakersfield in 1989, tuition was less than $800; today, it’s more than $7,500, a 400% increase when adjusted for inflation. Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, a moderate Democrat who is running for re-election this year, told Axios she disagreed with the policy because “it doesn’t address the root problems” of college affordability; when Cortez Masto graduated from the University of Nevada in 1986, tuition was a little more than $1,000— today, it’s roughly three times as expensive.

And don’t forget Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, who called the policy “UNFAIR” on Twitter. He graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in 1955, when annual tuition cost roughly $159, or between $40 and $53 per quarter. Today, it costs more than $8,300, a nearly 500% increase even when adjusted for inflation.

ap logoAssociated Press, Legality of student loan plan relies on pandemic, 2003 law, Mark Sherman, Aug. 24, 2022. The Biden administration is tying its authority to cancel student debt. Skeptics of the administration’s ability to act on its own, without new legislation, had once included President Joe Biden himself and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

But in a legal opinion released Wednesday, the Justice Department said that the HEROES Act of 2003 gives the administration “sweeping authority” to reduce or eliminate student debt during a national emergency, ”when significant actions with potentially far-reaching consequences are often required.”

The law was adopted with overwhelming bipartisan support at a time when U.S. forces were fighting two wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq. It gives the Education secretary authority to waive rules relating to student financial aid programs in times or war or national emergency.

Former President Donald Trump declared a national emergency in 2020 because of the pandemic, and it remains in effect.

But neither Trump nor Biden, until the president’s announcement on Wednesday, had tried to wipe out so much student debt at one time.

washington post logoWashington Post, Here’s who qualifies for the student loan forgiveness policy — and other questions about Biden’s plan, answered, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel and Jeff Stein, Aug. 26, 2022 (print ed.). The Biden administration announced it would cancel up to $10,000 in federal student loans for roughly 43 million borrowers. Here’s what you need to know.

 

U.S. Law, Security, Crime, Immigration

 

lloyd austin o

ny times logoNew York Times, Austin Orders Overhaul to Protect Civilians During U.S. Combat Operations, Eric Schmitt, Charlie Savage and Azmat Khan, Aug. 26, 2022 (print ed.). A Pentagon plan directs changes to military doctrine, planning and training. Secretary Lloyd Austin, shown above in a file photo, said the agency must prioritize protecting noncombatants.

The Pentagon on Thursday announced sweeping changes aimed at reducing risks to civilians in U.S. military operations by fostering a culture in which those in the field view preventing such harm as a core part of their missions.

A 36-page action plan directs broad changes at every level of military planning, doctrine, training and policy in not only counterterrorism drone strikes but also in any future major conflict. It includes emerging war-fighting tactics like attacks on satellites and computer systems.

The directive contains 11 major objectives aimed at helping commanders and operators better understand the presence of noncombatants before any operations begin. It requires them to consider potential consequences for civilians in any airstrike, raid or other combat action.

ny times logoNew York Times Magazine, How a Corporate Law Firm Led a Political Revolution, David Enrich, Aug. 25, 2022. The untold story of Jones Day’s push to move the American government and courts to the right.

For much of its history, Jones Day was a juggernaut in the field of corporate litigation. A global goliath with more than 40 offices and about 2,500 lawyers, it raked in billions a year in fees from tobacco, opioid, gun and oil companies, among many other giant corporations in need of a state-of-the-art defense.

More than most of its competitors, the firm had an army of litigators who had perfected the art of exploiting tiny legal wrinkles, of burying outmatched opponents in paperwork and venue changes and procedural minutiae. But over the past two decades, Jones Day has been building a different kind of legal practice, one dedicated not just to helping Republicans win elections but to helping them achieve their political aims once in office. Chief among those aims was dismantling what Don McGahn — the Jones Day partner who helped run Trump’s campaign and then became his White House counsel — disparagingly referred to as the “administrative state.” To do that, the firm was bringing all the ruthless energy and creativity of corporate law to the political realm.

 

djt melania epstein maxwell headshot

From left: American real estate developer Donald Trump and his girlfriend (and future wife), former model Melania Knauss, financier (and future convicted sex offender) Jeffrey Epstein, and British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell pose together at the Mar-a-Lago club, Palm Beach, Florida, February 12, 2000. Getty Images.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ghislaine Maxwell’s Own Lawyers Are Now Suing Her, Colin Moynihan, Aug. 26, 2022 (print ed.). The law firm Haddon, Morgan and Foreman has accused Ms. Maxwell and her brother of failing to pay nearly $900,000 in legal fees related to her sex abuse defense.

As Ghislaine Maxwell’s conspiracy and sex trafficking trial drew to a close last year, one of her lawyers rose to provide what would be the defense’s final word.

“Ghislaine Maxwell is an innocent woman wrongfully accused of crimes she did not commit,” the lawyer, Laura Menninger, told jurors.

Ms. Menninger’s Colorado law firm is now suing Ms. Maxwell and her brother, Kevin Maxwell, for nearly $900,000 in legal fees. The firm, Haddon, Morgan and Foreman, is also suing a man named Scott Borgerson, whom it describes as having married Ms. Maxwell, saying that he has attempted to shelter her assets from creditors.

In a lawsuit filed in Denver, the firm said that it had concerns long before Ms. Maxwell’s criminal trial began in Federal District Court in Manhattan about her “willingness and ability to meet her financial obligations.” The suit said the firm was persuaded to stick with the case and Mr. Maxwell personally guaranteed payment.

But, the firm added, he had failed to make payments despite repeated promises, even as its lawyers continued to “devote all necessary resources to Ms. Maxwell’s defense.”

On Nov. 29, the day that Ms. Maxwell’s trial opened, the suit said, Mr. Maxwell guaranteed one of the firm’s shareholders that he would pay outstanding fees and provide a trial retainer.

“In reality,” the suit said, “Mr. Maxwell had no present intention of doing so.”

In a statement, Ian Maxwell, a brother of Ghislaine and Kevin Maxwell, said: “Given this matter is now the subject of civil proceedings neither Kevin nor Ghislaine Maxwell nor any other member of the Maxwell family will be commenting on it.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Oklahoma Executes Man Despite Clemency Recommendation, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Aug. 26, 2022 (print ed.). James Coddington, who was convicted of murdering a co-worker with a hammer, is the first of 25 men the state is aiming to execute over the next 28 months.
Oklahoma executed a man on Thursday for killing a co-worker in 1997, rejecting the recommendation of a state pardon board as it carried out the first in a series of 25 executions scheduled over the next 28 months.

James Coddington, 50, who admitted killing 73-year-old Albert Hale with a hammer, was executed by lethal injection at a state prison in McAlester, Okla.

Oklahoma resumed carrying out some executions in October 2021 after a pause of nearly seven years that followed a series of botched executions. But most of the state’s capital sentences remained on hold while a lawsuit over the use of a sedative in executions went to trial. When a judge upheld the use of the drug, Oklahoma scheduled 25 executions through December 2024, beginning with the one on Thursday.

Politico, Two plead guilty to trafficking Ashley Biden’s diary, property, Josh Gerstein, Aug. 26, 2022 (print ed.). These are the first charges in a federal probe of how the journal of the president’s daughter was sold to the conservative Project Veritas outlet.

Two Florida residents pleaded guilty on Thursday to conspiring to trafficking in stolen goods for selling a diary and other personal effects of President Joe Biden’s daughter Ashley Biden, the Justice Department said.

The criminal charges are the first to emerge from a federal investigation into how, prior to the 2020 presidential election, the journal reached the conservative video outlet Project Veritas. The group has said it paid for rights to publish the diary, but never did so because it couldn’t authenticate it. Contents from the diary later emerged on a more obscure conservative site.

Last November, the FBI carried out search warrants at the home of the founder of Project Veritas, James O’Keefe, and those of two of his colleagues, in connection with the investigation. None of those individuals have been charged, but O’Keefe has denounced the raids as an attack on press freedom.

In a Manhattan federal court hearing on Thursday, Aimee Harris, 40, of Palm Beach and Robert Kurlander, 58, of Jupiter each pleaded guilty to a single conspiracy charge stemming from their involvement in selling the journal, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan said in a statement.

The charging document filed on Thursday says that after Harris told Kurlander what she had discovered, he texted her that they could “make a SHIT TON of money” off of the journal. The pair tried to offer the diary to the Trump campaign, but an unidentified representative of the campaign turned them down and suggested they give the materials to the FBI.

Both defendants pleaded guilty as part of agreements with prosecutors. Kurlander has agreed to cooperate with investigators as part of his deal, Williams’ office said. Details of the plea agreement were not immediately available.

O’Keefe has said his group was told that the diary and Ashley Biden’s other effects were abandoned by her when she left a Delray Beach, Fla., home where she’d been staying. The group eventually turned the materials over to police.

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World News, Human Rights, Disasters

ny times logoNew York Times, How China Could Choke Taiwan With a Blockade, Chris Buckley, Pablo Robles, Marco Hernandez and Amy Chang Chien, Aug. 26, 2022 (print ed.). News China is honing its ability to blockade Taiwan, giving Beijing the option of cutting off the self-ruled island in its campaign to take control of it.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. responds to Iran’s latest demands on reviving nuclear deal, Karen DeYoung, Aug. 26, 2022 (print ed.). The Biden administration has completed its review of the proposed “final” text of a revived Iran nuclear deal, and of Iran’s response to the proposal, and sent its answer to European Union negotiation coordinators, the State Department said Wednesday.

Iran said it has begun its own “detailed review” of the U.S. reply, according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani.

The trading of response documents marked the latest step in an apparent endgame after nearly a year and a half of negotiations over a return to the 2015 agreement — lifting sanctions on Iran in exchange for its submission to strict curbs on its nuclear program and international monitoring — with no guarantee that a new deal will be reached.

“We are closer now than we were just a couple of weeks ago,” National Security Council communications coordinator John Kirby told reporters. “Gaps remain. We’re not there yet.”

The U.S. move came as Israel, whose national security adviser has been consulting in Washington this week, renewed its opposition to the deal. Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, speaking to reporters Wednesday in Jerusalem, said his government was “not against any agreement. We are against this agreement, because it is a bad one. Because it cannot be accepted as it is written right now.”

U.S. officials have said the terms of the new text are largely an update of the original agreement. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal in 2018, reimposing lifted sanctions and adding many more. In response, Iran resumed its pre-deal nuclear program and speeded it up, increasing the quantity and quality of its uranium enrichment far beyond the prescribed limits that it had previously adhered to and blocking some inspection measures.

Experts urge return to Iran nuclear deal as prospects dim

Israel, and opponents of a new deal in Congress, have said that the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions will provide Iran with hundreds of billions of dollars to finance terrorist activities, and the early expiration of some of its provisions will quickly allow Iran to revive plans to manufacture a nuclear weapon. Administration officials dispute the dollar calculations and say that the reinstatement of limits on the Iranian nuclear program, even with some expiration dates, will provide several years’ relief from an imminent nuclear threat and room for further negotiations.

Recent Headlines

 

Media, Education, Sports News

 

sean hannity uncredited

ny times logoNew York Times, Sean Hannity and Other Fox Stars Face Depositions in Defamation Suit, Jeremy W. Peters, Aug. 26, 2022 (print ed.). The depositions are one of the clearest indications yet of how aggressively Dominion is moving forward with its suit against the media company.

Some of the biggest names at Fox News have been questioned, or are scheduled to be questioned in the coming days, by lawyers representing Dominion Voting Systems in its $1.6 billion defamation suit against the network, as the election technology company presses ahead with a case that First Amendment scholars say is extraordinary in its scope and significance.

fox news logo SmallSean Hannity became the latest Fox star to be called for a deposition by Dominion’s legal team, according to a new filing in Delaware Superior Court. He is scheduled to appear on Wednesday.

Tucker Carlson is set to face questioning on Friday. Lou Dobbs, whose Fox Business show was canceled last year, is scheduled to appear on Tuesday. Others who have been deposed recently include Jeanine Pirro, Steve Doocy and a number of high-level Fox producers, court records show.

 

alex jones briana sanchez pool

InfoWars radio host Alex Jones on Trial in Austin, TX in a civil trial (Pool photo by Briana Sanchez).

ny times logoNew York Times, Alex Jones Accused of Hiding Assets From Sandy Hook Families, Elizabeth Williamson, Aug. 26, 2022 (print ed.). The Infowars fabulist has been funneling millions out of his empire while claiming bankruptcy, the Sandy Hook families suing him say.

News Sandy Hook victims’ families asked a federal bankruptcy court on Thursday to order the Infowars conspiracy broadcaster Alex Jones to relinquish control over his company, saying he has “systematically transferred millions of dollars” to himself and his relatives while claiming to be broke.

In a filing in the bankruptcy court in Houston, the families of nine Sandy Hook victims said they sought to have a bankruptcy trustee who is already monitoring the case take control of Free Speech Systems, the parent company of Mr. Jones’s misinformation-peddling media outlet. The families are also seeking a court-appointed oversight committee to restrict Mr. Jones’s ability to control Infowars’s finances.

Mr. Jones’s claimed insolvency is at the heart of his efforts to avoid paying for the damage done by his Sandy Hook lies. Earlier this month, a Texas jury ordered him to pay the parents of a child killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting nearly $50 million in compensatory and punitive damages for spreading the falsehood that they helped stage the massacre.

ny times logoNew York Times, George Foreman Is Accused of Sexual Abuse, David W. Chen, Aug. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Two women filed lawsuits in Los Angeles County alleging that Foreman, a former boxing champion, forced them to have sex with him as minors in the 1970s. Foreman denied the accusations. David W. Chen

Two women filed lawsuits Wednesday in California alleging that George Foreman, the former world heavyweight boxing champion, sexually abused them when they were teenagers in California in the 1970s.

george foreman twitterAccording to the lawsuits, the women, using the pseudonyms Gwen H. and Denise S. to protect their identities, initially met Foreman, shown on his Twitter portrait, when they were under 10 years old through their fathers. One man was a boxer and sparring partner of Foreman, while the other was a boxing manager and longtime adviser to Foreman.

Foreman then groomed the girls for several years, according to the complaints, before forcing them to have sex with him in places ranging from a San Francisco hotel to an apartment in Beverly Hills. The two women, who are both in their early 60s, filed the complaints in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Representatives for Foreman referred inquiries about the lawsuits — in which he is identified only as “DOE 1” — to a statement he released last month, announcing that he was anticipating a lawsuit.

“Over the past six months, two women have been trying to extort millions of dollars each from me and my family. They are falsely claiming that I sexually abused them over 45 years ago in the 1970s. I adamantly and categorically deny these allegations,” Foreman said.

He added: “I will work with my lawyers to fully and truthfully expose my accusers’ scheme and defend myself in court. I don’t pick fights, but I don’t run away from them either.”

The claims were filed under a California law allowing survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file civil lawsuits. The law, which went into effect in January 2020 and expires at the end of 2022, has resulted in thousands of claims accusing coaches, teachers, clergy and others of sexual abuse.

While numerous claims have been settled, only a few have gone to trial. 

ny times logoNew York Times, Djokovic, Still Unvaccinated, Says He Will Miss U.S. Open, Matthew Futterman, Aug. 26, 2022 (print ed.). Novak Djokovic, who has had Covid-19 at least twice, said he could not travel to New York. The U.S. restricts entry for unvaccinated foreigners.

novak djokovicIn January, Novak Djokovic, right, went before a panel of judges in Australia, seeking special permission to play tennis in the country while being unvaccinated against Covid-19. After a last-ditch hearing, he was turned away.

Since then, countries like France and Britain have relaxed their travel restrictions, which allowed Djokovic, who has had Covid-19 at least twice but has steadfastly refused to get vaccinated, to compete. Yet on Thursday, Djokovic was forced to withdraw from the U.S. Open. Still not vaccinated, he was not allowed to come to New York.

The United States has lifted many of its restrictions related to the coronavirus and travel, but unvaccinated foreigners are still not allowed to enter the country, leaving one of the top stars in men’s tennis unable to play in one of the most important tournaments of the year.

ny times logoNew York Times, Twitter’s Former Security Chief Accuses It of ‘Egregious Deficiencies,’ Lauren Hirsch and Kate Conger, Aug. 24, 2022 (print ed.). A whistle-blower’s complaint to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department come at a perilous time for the social network.

twitter bird CustomTwitter’s former head of security has accused the company of “extreme, egregious deficiencies” in its spam- and hacker-fighting practices, according to a whistle-blower complaint.

The complaints by Peiter Zatko, the former executive, said that the shortcomings in enforcing security, privacy and content moderation policies dated to 2011. Mr. Zatko, a well-known hacker who is known in the security community as Mudge, joined Twitter in late 2020 and was terminated by the company in January.

His complaints were sent to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission on July 6. They were first reported by The Washington Post and CNN.

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Energy, Climate, Disasters, Environment

 

climate change photo

 

washington post logoWashington Post, Record rain is hitting drought-stricken areas. That’s not good news, Matthew Cappucci and Kasha Patel, Aug. 26, 2022 (print ed.). A warmer climate is driving precipitation to higher extremes in both flooding and drought.

On Monday morning, the Dallas-Fort Worth area awoke to disaster. Rain was pouring down at the rate of 2 to 3 inches per hour. Highways became lethal lagoons, brooks became basins, and thousands of people scrambled to higher ground.
10 steps you can take to lower your carbon footprint

Just a day earlier, the city had been facing one of its worst droughts on record, with farmers forced to thin their herds as reservoirs rapidly shrank. Twenty-nine percent of the Lone Star State was encapsulated within a top-tier level 4 out of 4 “exceptional” drought. Very dry conditions took a heavy toll on crops and forced widespread water restrictions.

The extreme case of atmospheric caprice highlighted a growing issue plaguing communities across the United States and the world: weather whiplash.

This summer, several locations around the United States have experienced these wild, rapid swings from one weather extreme to another. About half of the country has undergone at least a moderate drought this summer. Parts of the West, the Midwest and Texas have experienced exceptional and historic drought conditions.

ap logoAssociated Press, Britain to see 80% spike in energy bills as crisis deepens, Sylvia Hui, Aug. 26, 2022. U.K. residents will see an 80% increase in their annual household energy bills, the country’s energy regulator announced Friday, following a record 54% spike in April. That will bring costs for the average customer from 1,971 pounds ($2,332) a year to 3,549 pounds.

The latest price cap — the maximum amount that gas suppliers can charge customers per unit of energy — will take effect Oct. 1, just as the cold months set in. And bills are expected to rise again in January to 4,000 pounds.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Forced Birth Laws, Privacy, #MeToo, Trafficking

washington post logoWashington Post, New restrictions from major abortion funder could further limit access, Caroline Kitchener, Aug. 26, 2022 (print ed.). Abortion providers say the restrictions from The National Abortion Federation are unnecessary and burdensome for patients already facing steep obstacles to abortion care. The new rules could impact thousands of patients a year, providers say.

New restrictions from one of the country’s largest abortion funding organizations could add new obstacles for many patients in antiabortion states seeking the procedure elsewhere.

Since Roe v. Wade was overturned in June, patients have flooded clinics in states where abortion is legal — with many driving long distances to receive a medication abortion, a two-part regimen that includes mifepristone and misoprostol. These patients usually take the mifepristone in the clinic before driving home with the misoprostol, to be taken between 24 and 48 hours later.

The National Abortion Federation and its NAF Hotline Fund will now require patients who receive their funding to take both abortion pills in a state where abortion is legal, according to emails sent on Aug. 22 and obtained by The Washington Post. The nonprofit, which is backed largely by billionaire Warren Buffett, helped fund at least 10 percent of all abortions in the United States in 2020. The new rules could impact thousands of patients a year, providers say.

Patients in need of abortion funding can either call the NAF’s hotline or request financial help at a clinic authorized to offer support. Under NAF’s new regulations, which go into effect on Aug. 29, patients whose procedures are funded by the NAF will now need to affirm to clinic staff that they will not take their second pill in a state where abortion is illegal.

Clinics need only impose the NAF’s new restrictions on patients who receive NAF funding, according to an email to abortion providers from NAF Hotline Fund Operations Director Chloe Hanson Hebert. The restrictions will disproportionately impact poor women and women of color, several providers said.

These new restrictions go beyond what is explicitly required by abortion bans enacted since Roe was reversed. The various bans in antiabortion states prohibit providers from performing abortions within the state’s borders, but don’t bar providers elsewhere from prescribing pills to out-of-state patients they know will be returning home.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Justice Department wins one of two challenges to abortion bans, Jennifer Rubin, Aug. 25, 2022. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, the Justice Department does not have many options for challenging state abortion bans.

There aren’t many federal judicial circuits where right-wing judges don’t dominate the courts of appeal. So the department must take its opportunities when it spots them.

 ap logoAssociated Press, Michigan panel recommends abortion proposal for ballot, Joey Cappelletti, Aug. 25, 2022. Michigan’s Bureau of Elections recommended Thursday that the state’s election board give final approval to a potential ballot initiative seeking to enshrine abortion rights into the state’s constitution.

Michigan’s Bureau of Elections recommended Thursday that the state’s election board give final approval to a potential ballot initiative seeking to enshrine abortion rights into the state’s constitution.

michigan mapThe Bureau of Elections said in a staff report that after examining petition sheets and a random sample of signatures, state officials determined that the petition contains 596,379 valid signatures –- close to 150,000 more than was required.

The report came after the Reproductive Freedom for All campaign turned in 753,759 signatures last month, a record-breaking number of signatures for a ballot initiative in the state. The Reproductive Freedom for All ballot initiative would affirm into Michigan’s Constitution the right to make pregnancy-related decisions without interference.

The Bureau of Election’s report also addressed an anti-abortion group’s challenge to the proposed amendment last week, which claimed that lack of spacing in the amendment’s text created “strings of gibberish” and made the amendment “impossible to understand.”

 

luke bowen texas right to life

 

luke bowen right to life panel

Crooks & Liars from Current Revolt, Commentary: Texas Right To Life Political Director Arrested for Solicitation of a Minor, Conover Kennard, Aug. 25, 2022. Luke Bowen is the Political Director for Texas Right to Life. (Shown above, center, and in promo for Pro-Life panel not associated with charges.)

Lucas (Luke) Dane Bowen, right, Political Director of Texas Right to Life, was arrested on 8/3/2022 for alleged solitication of a minor. According to TransparencyUSA.org, Bowen was actively working with/for Texas right to life this year. Update: Texas Right to Life has informed Current Revolt that Luke Bowen’s employment with the non-profit was terminated on August 3rd.

luke bowen mugshotWhen Republicans claim that Democrats are doing something evil, it’s just a matter of projection. I’m sure QAnon will be all over this, right? According to Current Revolt, Texas Right to Life told the outlet that Luke Bowen’s employment with the non-profit was terminated on August 3rd — the very day he was arrested for alleged solicitation of a minor.

Again, again, again, right to life people aren’t taking away women’s rights to help children. It’s never been about children. It’s about control. They will force 10-year-olds to give birth. They are forcing a woman to give birth to a headless baby. Women’s lives mean nothing to them. Children’s lives are irrelevant to these “pro-life” soul-sucking conservatives. Don’t forget to vote.

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Halts Part of Idaho’s Abortion Ban, Saying It Violates Health Law, Glenn Thrush, Aug. 25, 2022 (print ed.). The Justice Department sued Idaho this month, but its ability to influence policies in Republican states with so-called trigger laws is limited.

A federal judge in Idaho blocked part of the state’s strict abortion ban on Wednesday, delivering a limited but significant victory to the Biden administration, which has tried to use its limited power to protect reproductive rights since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

This month, the Justice Department sued Idaho, one of the most conservative states in the country, arguing that the law would prevent emergency room doctors from performing abortions necessary to stabilize the health of women facing medical emergencies.

Judge B. Lynn Winmill of the Federal District Court in Idaho wrote that doctors in the state could not be punished for acting to protect the health of endangered mothers, in a preliminary injunction issued a day before the ban was to be enacted.

New York State civil inquiry. Letitia James, the New York attorney general, has been conducting a civil investigation into Mr. Trump and his family business. The case is focused on whether Mr. Trump’s statements about the value of his assets were part of a pattern of fraud or were simply Trumpian showmanship.

Manhattan criminal case. Alvin L. Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, has been investigating whether Mr. Trump or his family business intentionally submitted false property values to potential lenders. But the inquiry faded from view after signs emerged suggesting that Mr. Trump was unlikely to be indicted.

The memo to Mr. Barr never mentioned the word “pardon,” instead characterizing that and similar episodes as Mr. Trump merely praising or condemning witnesses based on whether they cooperated with investigators. The memo argues that this could be interpreted as Mr. Trump merely not wanting the witnesses to lie and make up false claims against him.

To back up its assessments, the memo repeatedly stresses that Mr. Mueller’s investigation did not find sufficient evidence to charge any Trump campaign associate in a conspiracy with Russia.

“Once again, this conclusion is buttressed by the absence of any clear evidence that these witnesses had information that would prove the president had committed a crime,” Mr. Engel and Mr. O’Callaghan wrote.

Ryan Goodman, a New York University law professor, called the memo a “get out of jail free” card, adding: “It’s hard to stomach a memo that amounts to saying someone is not guilty of obstruction for deliberately trying to induce witnesses not to cooperate with law enforcement in a major criminal investigation.”

Recent Headlines

 

More On Ukraine War

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Updates: Live Briefing: War in Ukraine, Adela Suliman, Rachel Pannett, John Hudson, Robyn Dixon, Karina Tsui and Sammy Westfall, Aug. 26, 2022 (print ed.). Death toll in Chaplyne rail attack rises to 25; Biden to call Zelensky.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, around which international fears of a nuclear accident have centered in recent days amid accusations by both Ukraine and Russia of shelling near the facility, was disconnected from the grid entirely for the first time Thursday, according to its operator, Energoatom, after transmission lines were cut. Russia occupies the plant, but Ukrainian staffers continue to operate it.

The facility in southeastern Ukraine is now being powered from a neighboring geothermal plant and the city of Enerhodar, and is expected to get its power back in a few hours, according to Energoatom, which blamed “the actions of the invaders” for the cutoff.

A Russian proxy official in Zaporizhzhia, Vladimir Rogov, speaking on state TV, blamed the shutdown on Ukrainian shelling. Yevgeny Balitsky, the Russian-installed leader of the Zaporizhzhia region, said on Telegram that a unit of the power plant has been restored to function after a fire near the plant was extinguished. He said work was underway to restart a second power unit.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

Key developments

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to increase the size of the Russian military from 1.9 million to 2.04 million, Russian media outlets reported. The personnel increase of 137,000 is to take effect on Jan. 1. The Kremlin still terms the war in Ukraine a “special military operation.”
  • Victims of a Russian missile attack on Chaplyne include an 11-year-old who died under the rubble of a house and a 6-year-old caught in a car fire, Kirill Timoshenko, a Ukrainian presidential aide, said on Telegram. He said 25 people were killed in total and 31 injured. Russia claimed that it used an Iskander missile to kill 200 Ukrainian service members there and destroy 10 units of military equipment headed to the eastern Donbas region. The claim could not be independently verified. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky promised to make Moscow pay for “everything they have done.” He said in his nightly address that “Chaplyne is our pain today.” The attack came exactly six months into the war and on Ukraine’s Independence Day.
  • Biden is expected to call Zelensky on Thursday to discuss an almost $3 billion U.S. military aid package. Biden said he was “proud to announce our biggest tranche of security assistance to date,” which will include air defense systems, artillery and munitions. Since January 2021, the Pentagon said, the United States has committed more than $13.5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron met with Rafael Mariano Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in Paris on Thursday to underline his “grave concern” about the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant. He also reiterated French support for an IAEA mission to be deployed to Ukraine “as soon as possible,” the Élysée Palace said in a statement.
  • Russian rockets targeted the Vyshgorod area directly north of Kyiv early Thursday, but no casualties were reported, regional governor Oleksiy Kuleba said on Telegram. “There were no casualties or injuries among civilians. There were no fires or destruction of residential buildings or infrastructure,” Kuleba said. Russian forces largely avoided Kyiv on Independence Day, despite air raid sirens and warnings of strikes on the capital. Instead, they targeted front lines near cities such as such as Kharkiv, Mykolaiv and Dnipro with artillery attacks, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said.

Battlefield updates

  • Tensions continue to mount around the Zaporizhzhia power plant, with Russia maintaining “an enhanced military presence at the site,” according to a daily intelligence briefing from Britain’s Defense Ministry. It said that while Russia occupies the facility, the principal risks include “disruption to the reactors’ cooling systems, damage to its back-up power supply, or errors by workers operating under pressure.” United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet called on Putin to demilitarize the area around the plant, something Russia has previously rejected.
  • Moscow has “instructed officials to begin preparing” for staged referendums in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine that “could begin in a matter of days or weeks,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said. Ukrainian officials have warned for months that Moscow is planning to hold rigged elections and use the results as a pretext to illegally annex more of Ukraine’s territory.
  • Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu insisted that a slowdown in attacks was all part of a plan. Shoigu said Russia has intentionally slowed its attacks to avoid civilian casualties, an explanation offered repeatedly by Russian officials to explain apparent military setbacks.
  • The Washington Post’s visual forensics team has analyzed and catalogued a database of 251 videos since the war began, exposing the horrors of the conflict. Russia’s invasion is one of the most documented wars ever. Citizens, public officials and soldiers have regularly posted videos that show bodies in neighborhoods, trails of missiles streaking through the skies and smoldering ruins.

Global impact

  • Pope Francis will not meet with the head of the Russian Orthodox church, who supports the war in Ukraine, next month, according to Russian state media. Francis was due to meet Patriarch Kirill, a close Putin ally, on the sidelines of a summit of global religious leaders in Kazakhstan in September.
  • Facebook and Twitter say they have disrupted a web of accounts covertly seeking to promote narratives supporting the interests of the United States and its allies, including on the war in Ukraine, while opposing countries such as Russia, China and Iran. The report from social media analytics firm Graphika and Stanford University showed a rare instance in which a U.S.-sponsored campaign targeting foreign audiences, mostly in Asia and the Middle East, was found to violate the companies’ rules.
  • British front pages Thursday were filled with outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s surprise visit to Kyiv. Many criticized the lame-duck leader for making his third appearance in the country on its Independence Day, but others praised his consistent support of Ukraine. He also pledged $64 million more in military aid. When asked in Kyiv whether he wished he was as popular in Britain as in Ukraine, Johnson simply answered, “Yes.” He leaves office on Sept. 6.
  • Officials in Riga, Latvia, dismantled a prominent Soviet monument Thursday. In a live-streamed video, onlookers could be seen cheering as the obelisk collapsed.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Governance Analysisn head as his running mate

washington post logo

Politico, Crist to pick Miami teachers union head as his running mate, Matt Dixon, Aug. 26, 2022. Karla Hernández-Mats has been president of United Teachers of Dade since 2016. Democrat Charlie Crist will pick Karla Hernández-Mats, the head of Miami-Dade County’s largest teachers union, as his running mate as he seeks to unseat Gov. Ron DeSantis.

politico CustomCrist is expected to formally announce his pick during a Saturday rally in Miami that he’s holding to officially kick off his general election campaign. Crist trounced Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried 59-34 in Tuesday night’s primary and is now preparing for an uphill battle against DeSantis, who is a heavy favorite.

The Hernández-Mats pick, first reported by CBS Miami, was greeted with high praise from Democrats. The Crist campaign declined to comment for this story.

“Love it!” said state Sen. Shev Jones (D-Miami) in a text. “I think it’s a thoughtful and bright move. Karla has ALWAYS had her ear to the ground for people, and she’s a natural galvanizer. Great pick!”

Florida Sen. Jason Pizzo, also a Miami Democrat, described her as “bright, warm and tough.”

Since 2016, Hernández-Mats has served as president of the United Teachers of Dade, which touts itself as the largest teachers union in the southeast. She is also on the governance board of the Florida Education Association, which is the state’s largest teacher’s union.

FEA support of Crist played a pivotal role in the primary. The organization not only endorsed him, but pushed for the rest of the state’s labor organization to follow suit with a primary endorsement, even as some did not want to endorse before the general election. It led to a contested fight during the AFL-CIO’s summer convention in Orlando, which Crist ultimately won.

“We’re thrilled by Charlie Crist’s choice for his running mate. Karla Hernández-Mats will be a great lieutenant governor of and for all the people of Florida,” Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar said. “She’s a mom with two kids in our public schools, a teacher focused on students with special needs, and cares deeply about children, families and communities.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke Accused of Misleading Investigators, Maggie Astor, Aug. 25, 2022 (print ed.). A watchdog report stems from Ryan Zinke’s tenure as interior secretary during the Trump administration. He is now seeking a House seat in Montana.

ryan zinke oRyan Zinke, right, a former interior secretary during the Trump administration, intentionally misled investigators looking into his department’s decision not to act on two Native American tribes’ requests to open a new casino in Connecticut, the Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General concluded in a report released on Wednesday.

Mr. Zinke, who served as interior secretary from 2017 to 2019, is now the Republican nominee for a congressional seat in Montana. He is widely expected to win the general election this November.

The 44-page report on Wednesday focused not on the casino decision itself — litigation over that was resolved separately — but on whether Mr. Zinke and his former chief of staff had been honest about it.

ny times logoNew York Times, For Lindsey Graham, a Showdown in Georgia, Danny Hakim and Richard Fausset, Aug. 25, 2022 (print ed.). The senator from South Carolina is fighting efforts to force him to testify before a grand jury investigating election interference by Donald J. Trump and his allies.

Six days after major news organizations declared Donald J. Trump the loser of the 2020 presidential election, his allies were applying a desperate full-court press in an effort to turn his defeat around, particularly in Georgia.

The pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell went on television claiming that there was abundant evidence of foreign election meddling that never ultimately materialized. Another lawyer, L. Lin Wood, filed a lawsuit seeking to block the certification of Georgia’s election results.

That same day, Nov. 13, 2020, Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican and one of Mr. Trump’s most ardent supporters, made a phone call that left Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, immediately alarmed. Mr. Graham, he said, had asked if there was a legal way, using the state courts, to toss out all mail-in votes from counties with high rates of questionable signatures.

The call would eventually trigger an ethics complaint, demands from the left for Mr. Graham’s resignation and a legal drama that is culminating only now, nearly two years later, as the veteran lawmaker fights to avoid testifying before an Atlanta special grand jury that is investigating election interference by Mr. Trump and his supporters.

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U.S. Mass Shootings, Political Violence, Gun Laws

 

uvalde shooting victims 5 25 2022

ny times logoNew York Times, Uvalde Fires Its School Police Chief in Response to Shooting, Edgar Sandoval, Aug. 25, 2022 (print ed.). The chief, Pete Arredondo, has been criticized for waiting too long to rescue students and teachers (shown above) trapped in two classrooms with the gunman.

pete arredondoFacing intense pressure from parents, the school board in Uvalde, Texas, on Wednesday terminated its school police chief, Pete Arredondo, right, who directed the district’s police response to a mass shooting at an elementary school in which the gunman was allowed to remain in a pair of classrooms for more than 75 minutes.

The unanimous vote, which Mr. Arredondo, through his lawyer, called “an unconstitutional public lynching,” represented the first direct accountability over what has been widely seen as a deeply flawed police response, one that left trapped and wounded students and teachers to wait for rescue as police officers delayed their entry into the two adjoining classrooms where the gunman was holed up.

Cheers broke out in the room as one of the board members, Laura Perez, made a motion: “I move that good cause exists to terminate the noncertified contract of Pete Arredondo, effective immediately,” she said.

pro publica logoPro Publica, Investigation: Why Outlawing Ghost Guns Didn’t Stop America’s Largest Maker of Ghost Gun Parts, Anjeanette Damon, Aug. 24, 2022. Unregistered, unserialized weapons produced with Polymer80 parts have turned up at crime scenes across the country, but state-level efforts to close ghost gun loopholes continue to fall short.

Recent Headlines

 

Public Health, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Officials ‘cautiously optimistic’ about falling monkeypox cases, Dan Diamond, Aug. 26, 2022. The worldwide monkeypox outbreak may have peaked, amid evidence that gay men are curbing risky sexual behaviors and more people are getting vaccinated. 

After three months of surging monkeypox cases, the worldwide outbreak may have peaked, amid evidence that gay men are curbing risky sexual behaviors and more people are getting vaccinated against a virus that spreads by close contact and has overwhelmingly affected men who have sex with men.

New U.S. cases of monkeypox have fallen by about 25 percent in the past two weeks, from 444 cases a day on Aug. 10 to 337 on Aug. 24, according to The Washington Post’s rolling seven-day average. Nearly 17,000 Americans have been diagnosed with monkeypox since the virus emerged in mid-May.

Globally, new cases fell by 21 percent from last week, the World Health Organization reported Thursday.

Even as public health experts cheered the slowdown in new infections, they cautioned that the virus continues to pose a risk — especially in smaller communities outside U.S. urban centers and in developing countries amid vaccine shortages, limited surveillance and insufficient testing — and could increasingly spill beyond the gay and bisexual community. Epidemiologists and health officials also report ongoing challenges with the White House’s new vaccine strategy to stretch the number of doses available.

ny times logoNew York Times, Amazon Says It Will Shut Down Amazon Care, Karen Weise, Aug. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Amazon told employees in an email on Wednesday that it is shutting down Amazon Care, its in-house foray into providing primary and urgent health care. The move comes a month after Amazon announced plans to buy a much larger competitor, One Medical, in a $3.9 billion deal.

Amazon for years has wanted to find its own ways to enter the health care industry, which company executives think provides a big opportunity for expansion.

ny times logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2New York Times, Jill Biden Tests Positive for Coronavirus Again in ‘Rebound’ Case, Zach Montague, Aug. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Her experience mirrors that of President Biden, who was forced to return to isolation last month after his initial bout with Covid-19

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Aug. 25

Top Headlines

 

U.S. Mass Shootings, Political Violence, Gun Laws

 

Trump Probes, Reactions, Riots, Supporters

 

U.S. Forced Birth Laws, Privacy Rights

 

U.S. Political Violence, Gun Laws, Dirty Tricks

 

More On Student Loans

 

More On U.S. Law, Immigration, Crime

 

U.S. Midterm Elections: Florida, New York, Oklahoma Results

 

More On Ukraine War

 

Energy, Climate, Environment, Disasters

More On U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

 

More World News, Human Rights, Disasters

 

Pandemic, Public Health

 
U.S. Media, Education, Sports, Culture

 

Top Stories

 

joe biden black background resized serious file

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden to cancel up to $10,000 in student debt for most borrowers and $20,000 for Pell recipients, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel and Jeff Stein, Aug. 25, 2022 (print ed.). The president is also set to extend a pause on federal student loan payments through Dec. 31.

White House officials are planning to cancel up to $20,000 in student debt for recipients of Pell Grants as part of their broader announcement on Wednesday of student debt forgiveness, four people familiar with the matter said.

democratic donkey logoThe extra debt forgiveness for Pell recipients would be in addition to the expected cancellation of up to $10,000 in student debt for most other borrowers. The White House’s plans are only expected to apply to Americans earning under $125,000 per year, or $250,000 per year for married couples who file taxes jointly, the people familiar said.

Roughly 43 million federal student loan borrowers would be eligible for some level of forgiveness, including 20 million who could have their debt completely canceled, according to internal documents shared with The Washington Post. The White House estimates that 90 percent of relief will go to people earning less than $75,000.

USTR seal Custom 2The president is also expected to announce that he will extend a pandemic-era pause on federal student loan payments that was first implemented under the Trump administration. That moratorium will now be extended until Dec. 31, or beyond the midterm elections, the people said.

The people spoke on the condition of anonymity to reflect private White House conversations and cautioned the details could change. President Biden is returning to Washington for the announcement today.

The announcement would put to rest months of deliberation over whether Biden would use his executive authority to forgive a portion of the federal student debt burden. It arrives ahead of congressional midterm elections and could give the Democrats a boost with some voters, but also threaten their standing with those who say the amount is not enough — or too much.

ny times logoNew York Times, Redacted Affidavit Used in Trump Search to Be Unsealed, Glenn Thrush and Alan Feuer, Aug. 25, 2022. Judge Orders Justice Dept. to Release Document by Friday.

A federal judge in Florida on Thursday ordered that a redacted version of the affidavit used to obtain a warrant for former President Donald J. Trump’s Florida residence be unsealed by noon on Friday — paving the way for the disclosure of potentially revelatory details about a search with enormous legal and political implications.

The decision by Judge Bruce E. Reinhart came just hours after the Justice Department submitted its proposal for extensive redactions to the document, in an effort to shield witnesses from intimidation or retribution if it is made public, officials said.

Judge Reinhart appeared to accept the requested cuts and, moving more quickly than government lawyers had expected, directed the department to release the redacted affidavit in a brief two-page order issued from Federal District Court in Southern Florida. The order said that he had found the Justice Department’s proposed redactions to be “narrowly tailored to serve the government’s legitimate interest in the integrity of the ongoing investigation.”

The redactions, he added, were also “the least onerous alternative to sealing the entire affidavit.”

In its most complete form, the document would reveal important details about the government’s justification for taking the extraordinary step of searching Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8.

The ruling is a significant legal milepost in an investigation that has swiftly emerged as a major threat to Mr. Trump, whose lawyers have offered a confused and at times stumbling response. But it is also an inflection point for Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, who is trying to balance protecting the prosecutorial process by keeping secret details of the investigation, and providing enough information to defend his decision to request a search.

ny times logoNew York Times, California to Ban the Sale of New Gasoline Cars, Coral Davenport, Lisa Friedman and Brad Plumer, Aug. 25, 2022 (print ed.). The decision, to take effect by 2035, will likely speed a wider transition to electric vehicles as many other states often follow California’s standards.

California regulators on Thursday will vote to put in place a sweeping plan to restrict and ultimately ban the sale of gasoline-powered cars, state officials said, a move that the state’s governor described as the beginning of the end for the internal combustion engine.

The new policy, detailed Wednesday morning in a news conference, is widely expected to accelerate the global transition toward electric vehicles. Not only is California the largest auto market in the United States, but more than a dozen other states typically follow California’s lead when setting their own auto emissions standards.

If those states follow through, and most are expected to adopt similar rules, the restrictions would apply to about a third of the United States auto market.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Putin Calls for Sharp Expansion of Russian Army, Ivan Nechepurenko and Anton Troianovski, Aug. 25, 2022. Signals Kremlin Is Bracing for Long War in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin’s decree raises the target number of service members by about 137,000. Military leaders tried to prepare Ukraine for a difficult fight ahead.

President Vladimir V. Putin on Thursday ordered a sharp increase in the size of his armed forces, a reversal of years of efforts by the Kremlin to slim down a bloated military and the latest sign that the Russian president, despite heavy battlefield losses, is bracing for a long war in Ukraine.

The decree, released by Mr. Putin’s office and posted on the Kremlin website, raised the target number of active-duty service members by about 137,000, to 1.15 million, as of January of next year, and ordered the government to set aside money to pay for the increase. Military analysts puzzled over how such a sharp increase could be managed.

It was the first time in five years that Mr. Putin had issued an order changing the overall head count of the Russian armed forces. Officials offered no explanation for the move, and there was little mention of it on state television. U.S. military officials estimate that Russia has suffered up to 80,000 casualties — including both deaths and injuries — during Mr. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Some analysts described the move as a clear signal that, after a full six months of fighting, Mr. Putin had no plans to relent.

“This is not a move that you make when you are anticipating a rapid end to your war,” said Dara Massicot, a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation. “This is something you do when you are making some kind of plan for a protracted conflict.”

Here’s what we know:

  • The Russian president signed a decree to add 137,000 service members to the military starting next year.
  • Ukraine is hitting Russian forces behind the front lines, but has a long way to go, a top official cautions.
  • The U.S. State Department and Yale identify 21 detention sites in Russian-controlled territory.
  • The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant was briefly cut off from Ukraine’s grid, leading to outages, officials say.
  • Biden and Zelensky reaffirm their alliance as the war enters its seventh month.
  • Russia’s plans for ‘sham’ referendums in occupied territories brings back bad memories in Ukraine.

ny times logoNew York Times, Defiant Under Russian Strikes, Ukrainians Celebrate a Nation ‘Reborn,’ Andrew E. Kramer, Aug. 25, 2022 (print ed.). At least 22 people were killed in a missile strike, officials said. Celebrating the country’s Independence Day, Ukrainian leaders urged resolve.

Under the blare of air raid sirens, Ukrainians celebrated their Independence Day with a show of defiance against Russia’s invasion on Wednesday, despite the uncertain course of a war that has lasted half a year and brought horror to nearly every part of the country.

In Kyiv, mass gatherings were banned, drones flew a Ukrainian flag above the city and a concert was recorded for the holiday in a bomb shelter, reflecting fears that Russia would launch dramatic strikes on civilian centers to spoil the occasion, which commemorates Ukraine’s 1991 separation from the Soviet Union.

The biggest strike came not in Kyiv but in a small town in eastern Ukraine, where a rail station was hit with a missile strike that crushed passenger cars and set them afire. A least 22 civilians were killed, and 50 were wounded, with the toll expected to rise.

“This is how we live every day,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said after the attack.

But in Kyiv, Ukrainian leaders delivered speeches aimed at rallying foreign backers as much as their citizens at home and the tens of thousands of soldiers huddled in trenches and towns at the front.

In a slickly produced address, prerecorded for security reasons, Mr. Zelensky stood before a column of burned and wrecked Russian tanks on a central avenue in the capital and declared Ukraine a nation “reborn” in conflict. Ukraine, he said, has a renewed sense of cultural and political identity that is now wholly separate from Russia.

 

A photograph by Agence France-Presse showed three bodies on the side of a road, one with hands apparently tied behind the back in Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, on Saturday.Credit...Ronaldo Schemidt/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images A photograph by Agence France-Presse showed three bodies on the side of a road, one with hands apparently tied behind the back in Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, on Saturday, April 2, 2022 (Photo by Ronaldo Schemidt Agence France-Presse via Getty Images).

A photograph by Agence France-Presse showed three bodies on the side of a road, one with hands apparently tied behind the back in Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, on Saturday, April 2, 2022 (Photo by Ronaldo Schemidt Agence France-Presse via Getty Images).

ny times logoNew York Times, As War Hits Milestone, Ukraine and Russia Are Both Reshaped, Anton Troianovski, Andrew E. Kramer and Steven Erlanger, Aug. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Half a year after Russian forces first made their move, here is how the conflict appears to the combatants, and to a continent plunged into turmoil. In Ukraine, a delicate sense of normalcy masks a staggering toll. In Russia, new ultranationalist rules have snuffed out any vestiges of dissent.

Russian FlagFor six months, a major land war has sown horror in Europe.

It is a war in which violence and normality coexist — death and destruction at the 1,500-mile front and packed cafes in Kyiv, just a few hundred miles to the west.

ukraine flagIt is a war fought in trenches and artillery duels, but defined in great part by the political whims of Americans and Europeans, whose willingness to endure inflation and energy shortages could shape the next stage of the conflict.

And it is a war of imagery and messaging, fought between two countries whose deep family ties have helped turn social media into a battlefield of its own.

No one knows how it will end. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, having silenced dissent, has proclaimed that “by and large, we haven’t started anything yet in earnest.” President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, emboldened by a defiant populace and a mostly united West, has played down the chances of a settlement and urged his people not to bend.

Will Western backing hold as Europe braces for the possibility of a winter with little Russian oil and gas? Will Mr. Putin, after strikes in Crimea and the killing of a nationalist commentator, escalate the war? And will Mr. Zelensky be able to sustain his nation’s determination against a nuclear-armed foe?

 

lloyd austin o

ny times logoNew York Times, Austin Orders Overhaul to Protect Civilians During U.S. Combat Operations, Eric Schmitt, Charlie Savage and Azmat Khan, Aug. 25, 2022. A Pentagon plan directs changes to military doctrine, planning and training. Secretary Lloyd Austin, shown above in a file photo, said the agency must prioritize protecting noncombatants.

The Pentagon on Thursday announced sweeping changes aimed at reducing risks to civilians in U.S. military operations by fostering a culture in which those in the field view preventing such harm as a core part of their missions.

A 36-page action plan directs broad changes at every level of military planning, doctrine, training and policy in not only counterterrorism drone strikes but also in any future major conflict. It includes emerging war-fighting tactics like attacks on satellites and computer systems.

The directive contains 11 major objectives aimed at helping commanders and operators better understand the presence of noncombatants before any operations begin. It requires them to consider potential consequences for civilians in any airstrike, raid or other combat action.

 

U.S. Mass Shootings, Political Violence, Gun Laws

 

uvalde shooting victims 5 25 2022

ny times logoNew York Times, Uvalde Fires Its School Police Chief in Response to Shooting, Edgar Sandoval, Aug. 25, 2022 (print ed.). The chief, Pete Arredondo, has been criticized for waiting too long to rescue students and teachers (shown above) trapped in two classrooms with the gunman.

pete arredondoFacing intense pressure from parents, the school board in Uvalde, Texas, on Wednesday terminated its school police chief, Pete Arredondo, right, who directed the district’s police response to a mass shooting at an elementary school in which the gunman was allowed to remain in a pair of classrooms for more than 75 minutes.

The unanimous vote, which Mr. Arredondo, through his lawyer, called “an unconstitutional public lynching,” represented the first direct accountability over what has been widely seen as a deeply flawed police response, one that left trapped and wounded students and teachers to wait for rescue as police officers delayed their entry into the two adjoining classrooms where the gunman was holed up.

Cheers broke out in the room as one of the board members, Laura Perez, made a motion: “I move that good cause exists to terminate the noncertified contract of Pete Arredondo, effective immediately,” she said.

pro publica logoPro Publica, Investigation: Why Outlawing Ghost Guns Didn’t Stop America’s Largest Maker of Ghost Gun Parts, Anjeanette Damon, Aug. 24, 2022. Unregistered, unserialized weapons produced with Polymer80 parts have turned up at crime scenes across the country, but state-level efforts to close ghost gun loopholes continue to fall short.

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Trump Probes, Reactions, Riots, Supporters

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Georgia judge skeptical of claims of political bias in 2020 election probe, Matthew Brown, Tom Hamburger and Ann E. Marimow, Aug. 25, 2022. With the midterm elections approaching, a new wave of political and legal tensions erupted into public view.

The judge presiding over the grand jury investigation into possible election interference by Donald Trump and his allies expressed skepticism Thursday over arguments from Republicans that the prosecution, led by a Democratic district attorney, was politically motivated.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert C.I. McBurney did not immediately rule on a request from Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) to toss a subpoena for his testimony from Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (D).

“It is not my space” to focus on politics, McBurney said as lawyers for Kemp argued that the subpoena had already become a political issue this election season. “I don’t think it is the right forum” to debate the political ramifications of the case, said the judge.

With the midterm elections approaching, the investigation has expanded dramatically, reaching Trump’s inner circle and edging closer to the former president himself. Hours after the hearing ended Thursday, newly filed records showed prosecutors are seeking testimony from Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows, lawyer Sidney Powell and cybersecurity expert Phil Waldron.

In recent days, a new wave of political and legal tensions erupted into public view, with Kemp’s attorney and others accusing prosecutors of politicizing the sensitive case.

The Georgia criminal investigation into Trump and his allies, explained

Kemp, who resisted pressure from Trump to overturn Georgia’s election results, is considered a key witness. Prosecutors said in a filing this week they would like to ask the governor about calls he received from Trump and others pressing him to contest the state’s election results.

Kemp is running for reelection against Democrat Stacey Abrams, a former state lawmaker and voting rights advocate whom he narrowly beat in 2018. Last week, Abrams tweeted that the governor’s “refusal to testify shows that he will do anything to win an election. Kemp wants credit for ‘standing up’ to Trump but refuses to testify against the former president and said he would welcome his endorsement.”

In court on Thursday, lawyers for the governor cited Abrams’ comments as an example of the politicization of the ongoing inquiry.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: The point of no return with fascism in America, Wayne Madsen, Aug. 25, 2022. The United States wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallsits precariously on the same precipice the Weimar Republic of Germany found itself in 1932.

The parties that generally favored German democracy – the Social Democrats, German People’s Party (DVP), and the Center Party all backed the aging president of the republic, Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, in the 1932 presidential election. His opponent that year was Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. The Nazis made a mockery of anyone who was opposed to Hitler and that included the much-respected Hindenburg.

wayne madesen report logoToday, the United States has politically separated into two camps – one that favors democracy and includes Democrats, the few bona fide independents who hold significant political offices, and a group of Republicans who have been ostracized from their party by those favoring the anti-democratic and fascist policies of Donald Trump’s transformed Republican Party.

 

Former U.S. President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower in Manhattan for his scheduled testimony on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022 (Associate Press photo by Julia Nikhinson).

Former U.S. President Trump leaves Trump Tower in Manhattan for his scheduled testimony on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022 (Associate Press photo by Julia Nikhinson). He answered only one question during four hours of them in an interview with the New York State attorney general, his lawyer said.

Politico, How Trump has spent his days since the feds searched his home, Meridith McGraw and Daniel Lippman, Aug. 25, 2022. The stakes may be high but the summer schedule goes on.

politico CustomAs he finds himself, once more, in legal jeopardy—standing at the epicenter of a media storm of his own making, his political future changing course in real time—Donald Trump has done what Donald Trump likes to do.

He’s played golf, engaged in a bit of politicking, and mingled with friends and guests at his Bedminster golf club.

washington post logoWashington Post, Archives asked for records in 2021 after Trump lawyer agreed they should be returned, email says, Josh Dawsey and Jacqueline Alemany, Aug. 25, 2022 (print ed.).  About two dozen boxes of presidential records stored in then-President Donald Trump’s White House residence were not returned to the National Archives and Records Administration in the final days of his term even after Archives officials were told by a Trump lawyer that the documents should be given back, according to an email from the top lawyer at the record-keeping agency.

“It is also our understanding that roughly two dozen boxes of original presidential records were kept in the Residence of the White House over the course of President Trump’s last year in office and have not been transferred to NARA, despite a determination by Pat Cipollone in the final days of the administration that they need to be,” wrote Gary Stern, the agency’s chief counsel, in an email to Trump lawyers in May 2021, according to a copy reviewed by The Washington Post.

The email shows NARA officials were concerned about Trump keeping dozens of boxes of official records even before he left the White House — concerns that only grew in the coming months as Trump repeatedly declined to return the records. It also showed that Trump’s lawyers had concerns about Trump taking the documents and agreed that the boxes should be returned — at least according to the top Archives officials — while Trump kept the documents.

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U.S. Forced Birth Laws, Privacy, #MeToo, Trafficking

 

luke bowen texas right to life

 

luke bowen right to life panel

Crooks & Liars from Current Revolt, Commentary: Texas Right To Life Political Director Arrested for Solicitation of a Minor, Conover Kennard, Aug. 25, 2022. Luke Bowen is the Political Director for Texas Right to Life. (Shown above, center, and in promo for Pro-Life panel not associated with charges.)

Lucas (Luke) Dane Bowen, right, Political Director of Texas Right to Life, was arrested on 8/3/2022 for alleged solitication of a minor. According to TransparencyUSA.org, Bowen was actively working with/for Texas right to life this year. Update: Texas Right to Life has informed Current Revolt that Luke Bowen’s employment with the non-profit was terminated on August 3rd.

luke bowen mugshotWhen Republicans claim that Democrats are doing something evil, it’s just a matter of projection. I’m sure QAnon will be all over this, right? According to Current Revolt, Texas Right to Life told the outlet that Luke Bowen’s employment with the non-profit was terminated on August 3rd — the very day he was arrested for alleged solicitation of a minor.

Again, again, again, right to life people aren’t taking away women’s rights to help children. It’s never been about children. It’s about control. They will force 10-year-olds to give birth. They are forcing a woman to give birth to a headless baby. Women’s lives mean nothing to them. Children’s lives are irrelevant to these “pro-life” soul-sucking conservatives. Don’t forget to vote.

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Halts Part of Idaho’s Abortion Ban, Saying It Violates Health Law, Glenn Thrush, Aug. 25, 2022 (print ed.). The Justice Department sued Idaho this month, but its ability to influence policies in Republican states with so-called trigger laws is limited.

A federal judge in Idaho blocked part of the state’s strict abortion ban on Wednesday, delivering a limited but significant victory to the Biden administration, which has tried to use its limited power to protect reproductive rights since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

This month, the Justice Department sued Idaho, one of the most conservative states in the country, arguing that the law would prevent emergency room doctors from performing abortions necessary to stabilize the health of women facing medical emergencies.

Judge B. Lynn Winmill of the Federal District Court in Idaho wrote that doctors in the state could not be punished for acting to protect the health of endangered mothers, in a preliminary injunction issued a day before the ban was to be enacted.

New York State civil inquiry. Letitia James, the New York attorney general, has been conducting a civil investigation into Mr. Trump and his family business. The case is focused on whether Mr. Trump’s statements about the value of his assets were part of a pattern of fraud or were simply Trumpian showmanship.

Manhattan criminal case. Alvin L. Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, has been investigating whether Mr. Trump or his family business intentionally submitted false property values to potential lenders. But the inquiry faded from view after signs emerged suggesting that Mr. Trump was unlikely to be indicted.

The memo to Mr. Barr never mentioned the word “pardon,” instead characterizing that and similar episodes as Mr. Trump merely praising or condemning witnesses based on whether they cooperated with investigators. The memo argues that this could be interpreted as Mr. Trump merely not wanting the witnesses to lie and make up false claims against him.

To back up its assessments, the memo repeatedly stresses that Mr. Mueller’s investigation did not find sufficient evidence to charge any Trump campaign associate in a conspiracy with Russia.

“Once again, this conclusion is buttressed by the absence of any clear evidence that these witnesses had information that would prove the president had committed a crime,” Mr. Engel and Mr. O’Callaghan wrote.

Ryan Goodman, a New York University law professor, called the memo a “get out of jail free” card, adding: “It’s hard to stomach a memo that amounts to saying someone is not guilty of obstruction for deliberately trying to induce witnesses not to cooperate with law enforcement in a major criminal investigation.”

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More On Student Loans

washington post logoWashington Post, Here’s who qualifies for the student loan forgiveness policy — and other questions about Biden’s plan, answered, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel and Jeff Stein, Aug. 25, 2022. The Biden administration announced it would cancel up to $10,000 in federal student loans for roughly 43 million borrowers. Here’s what you need to know.

New York Times, Analysis: Biden Student Loan Plan Squarely Targets the Middle Class, Jim Tankersley, Aug. 25, 2022. President Biden is offering what independent analysts suggest would be his most targeted assistance yet to middle-class workers — while trying to repair what he casts as a broken bridge to the middle class.

The big winners from President Biden’s plan to forgive hundreds of billions of dollars in student loans are not rich graduates of Harvard and Yale, as many critics claim.

In fact, the benefits of Mr. Biden’s proposals will fall squarely on the middle class. According to independent analyses, the people eligible for debt relief are disproportionately young and Black. And they are concentrated in the middle band of Americans by income, defined as households earning between $51,000 and $82,000 a year.

The debt relief program, which by some estimates will cost as much as a half-trillion dollars over the course of a decade, will impose a future burden on American taxpayers. It has fueled criticism on several fronts, including that it could encourage colleges to raise tuition costs even faster than they already are. Some conservative and Democratic economists say it could add significantly to what is already the highest inflation rate in four decades, though evidence suggests those claims are overstated.

But in choosing to extend more generous debt relief than even many of his allies had expected, Mr. Biden is offering what independent analysts suggest would be his most targeted assistance yet to middle-class workers, while attempting to repair what he casts as a broken bridge to the middle class for young people across the country.

Nearly 90 percent of affected borrowers earn $75,000 a year or less, the Education Department projects. Ivy League graduates make up less than 1 percent of federal student borrowers nationwide.

“Most of the benefits are going to go to the middle class,” said Constantine Yannelis, an economist at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business who co-authored a study on the distributional effects of student debt relief that will soon be published in the Journal of Financial.

Time Magazine, Some of Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Critics Went to College for Less Than $400 per Year, Charlotte Alter, Aug. 25, 2022. When the Biden Administration announced Wednesday that it would cancel $10,000 of federal student loans for Americans making under $125,000 per year, and $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients at the same income level, the backlash was predictable. Critics, often older people who had gone to college before the 1980s, called the policy a giveaway to the college educated, and unfair to those who had paid their way through school.

time logo ogWhile I was reporting my book, The Ones We’ve Been Waiting For, I spent months researching why the student debt crisis has hit younger generations so hard— and why many older Americans don’t seem to understand the unique financial predicament of millennials and Gen Z. One key reason is that college affordability has radically transformed over the last 50 years. Many of the older conservatives who are angry at the idea that taxpayers might pay for student loan forgiveness went to school at a time when the government was heavily subsidizing higher education, and therefore tuition was far less expensive. For them, working their way through school without debt was feasible; for modern millennials and Gen Z, it’s often financially impossible.

Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell called Biden’s loan forgiveness plan “student loan socialism” and said it was a “slap in the face to every family who sacrificed to save for college.” But when McConnell graduated from the University of Louisville in 1964, annual tuition cost $330 (or roughly $2,500 when adjusted for inflation); today, it costs more than $12,000, a 380% increase. When House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who called the policy a “debt transfer scam,” graduated from California State University, Bakersfield in 1989, tuition was less than $800; today, it’s more than $7,500, a 400% increase when adjusted for inflation. Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, a moderate Democrat who is running for re-election this year, told Axios she disagreed with the policy because “it doesn’t address the root problems” of college affordability; when Cortez Masto graduated from the University of Nevada in 1986, tuition was a little more than $1,000— today, it’s roughly three times as expensive.

And don’t forget Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, who called the policy “UNFAIR” on Twitter. He graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in 1955, when annual tuition cost roughly $159, or between $40 and $53 per quarter. Today, it costs more than $8,300, a nearly 500% increase even when adjusted for inflation.

 

2022 U.S. Midterm Elections: Florida, New York, Oklahoma Results

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Here’s how Democrats can recapture the crime issue, Jennifer Rubin, right, Aug. 25, 2022. Republicans, trapped in their jennifer rubin new headshotown right-wing media chamber and forever in the thrall of defeated former president Donald Trump, apparently thought it was a great idea to attack law enforcement and defend tax cheats ahead of the midterms. Even former vice president Mike Pence recognized that demonizing the FBI was a bad idea.

“Our party stands with the men and women who stand on the thin blue line at the federal and state and local level, and these attacks on the FBI must stop,” Pence said last week. “Calls to defund the FBI are just as wrong as calls to defund the police.”

If Democrats are savvy, they can recapture the crime issue that Republicans — increasingly attracted to violence and disorder — seem all too willing to give up. The party can go about this in several ways.

First, Democrats can go directly after Republicans for defending Trump for removing top-secret documents from the White House. The facts are damning, yet the GOP remains willing to regurgitate whatever lame accusations Trump levels at law enforcement. Republicans didn’t bat an eye when he left an implicitly threatening message for the attorney general. Republicans have echoed Trump’s dangerous rhetoric instigating violence against the FBI, as well as his continued defense of the Jan. 6 insurrectionists who assaulted police officers

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats Sense a Shift in the Political Winds, but It May Not Be Enough, Jonathan Weisman, Aug. 25, 2022 (print ed.). A series of strong election showings, culminating in a New York win, have buoyed Democratic confidence, but a daunting map may still cost them the House.

Energized abortion-rights voters. Donald J. Trump back in the spotlight. Stronger-than-expected special elections, including a surprising win early Wednesday in New York.

Democratic leaders, once beaten down by the prospect of a brutal midterm election in the fall, are daring to dream that they can maintain control of Congress this November.

An unexpected victory by Pat Ryan, a Democrat, in a special House election to fill a vacancy in New York’s Hudson Valley offered Democrats solid evidence that their voters were willing to come out and that their message was resonating. It followed strong Democratic showings in other special elections, in Nebraska, Minnesota and upstate New York, since the Supreme Court repealed Roe v. Wade. Mr. Ryan placed abortion rights front and center while his Republican opponent, Marc Molinaro, sidestepped the issue to focus on the problems his party still believes will drive voters — inflation, crime, the economy. It didn’t work.

Politico, Analysis: Democrats gain momentum: 5 takeaways from the last big primary night of 2022, David Siders, Gary Fineout and Matt Dixon, Aug. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Trump’s candidates are still chalking up wins, but the headwinds facing Democrats appear to have eased.

politico CustomA New York special election seen as the last, best test of the electorate’s midterm leanings confirmed what Democrats hoped and Republicans feared: Predictions of a red wave may be overblown.

To be sure, Donald Trump had a winning night. But so did Ron DeSantis, who demonstrated Trump isn’t the only Republican in Florida with a political machine.

republican elephant logoPrimaries in four more states, including New Hampshire, are yet to come. But Tuesday marked the last of the year’s major, multi-state contests, leaving the shape of the general election landscape all but complete.

Here are five takeaways from a key primary night in Florida and New York:

1) New York’s ‘canary in a coal mine.’ It would have been easy to write Nebraska off as a fluke, after Democrats ran better than expected in a House race there last month. But then came Minnesota, where Democrats again beat expectations. And then, in New York on Tuesday, the dam broke.

“Well, shit,” one Republican strategist texted late Tuesday, as results from a Hudson Valley special election filtered in.

It would have been a victory for Democrats if they’d even kept it close. Instead, Democrat Pat Ryan beat Republican Marc Molinaro in a district that Joe Biden narrowly won in 2020, but that would have appeared to favor Republicans in a normal midterm climate.The New York race to succeed Democrat Antonio Delgado in a New York House district is likely a better indicator than the House races in Minnesota or Nebraska. For one thing, it’s the most current data we have. But more than that, it’s a competitive district where both parties spent real money and tested their general election messaging — abortion for Democrats, the economy for Republicans. It was about as close to a November test run as we’re going to get.

“This is a Republican versus a Democrat. They’re not crazy. No one’s off the wall,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a longtime Democratic strategist based in New York. “That’s why it’s a good test.”

 

pat ryan

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrat Pat Ryan Wins in New York House Race That Turned on Abortion, Grace Ashford, Aug. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Mr. Ryan, above, prevailed in the Hudson Valley special election, a contest that was seen as a potential test of the impact abortion might have on the midterms.

Pat Ryan, a Democratic county executive in New York’s Hudson Valley, has won a special House election on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press, in a contest that was seen as a potential test of the impact that the recent Supreme Court decision on abortion might have on the midterm elections.

democratic donkey logoThe result in the closely watched race, which was considered a tossup, will keep the swing-district seat, formerly held by Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado, under Democratic control.

Mr. Ryan was able to keep his early lead, ultimately winning 52 percent of the vote to his Republican opponent Marc Molinaro’s 48 percent, with nearly 95 percent of votes cast.

Mr. Ryan sought to highlight abortion as the predominant issue in his campaign and contrast his support for protecting abortion access nationwide with the position of Mr. Molinaro, who believes that the decision ought to rest with states.

In speeches and campaign ads, Mr. Ryan, the Ulster County executive and a combat veteran, urged voters in the 19th District to see the election as a crucial opportunity to send a message decrying attacks on abortion access, voting rights and, more broadly, democratic principles.

“Choice was on the ballot. Freedom was on the ballot, and tonight choice and freedom won,” Mr. Ryan said on Twitter early Wednesday. “We voted like our democracy was on the line because it is.”

Though polls show that a majority of voters support some access to abortion, Democrats have been wrestling with how best to translate that into support for the party.

Mr. Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive, largely avoided the topic of abortion, focusing instead on day-to-day voter anxieties, from crime and inflation to the price of baby formula.

Wayne Madsen Report, Commentary: Pro-democracy candidates held their own in primary races in FL and NY, Wayne Madsen, left, Aug. 24-25, 2022. In two wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallstates that represent a microcosm of American voters — Florida and New York — candidates generally committed to democracy and the rule of law defeated a Republican hodgepodge of Qanon believers, Adolf Hitler admirers, and, in one case, an admirer of Russia and Vladimir Putin.

The election returns also pointed to a collapse in the corporate media’s insistence that the Republicans will score victories at the expense of Democrats in this year’s midterm elections.

wayne madesen report logoIn the race to fill the 23rd congressional seat of sex scandal-plagued Republican Tom Reed, who resigned in May, Joe Sempolinski, a former Reed staffer, edged out Republican Max Della Pia to finish Reed’s term in the U.S. House. Della Pia, a retired Air Force colonel, is on the ballot for the seat in November. Della Pia received a surprising 47 percent of the vote against Sempolinski’s 53 percent in the normally Republican-leaning district.

Sempolinski is not running in the November general election, becoming one of the most short-lived incumbents in Congress. The winner of the Republican primary for the 23rd’s general election is Nick Langworthy, who defeated the racist and Hitler-admiring Carl Paladino in the GOP primary.

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U.S. House candidates Sarah Palin, Mary Peltola and Nick Begick III. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

 

Energy, Climate, Disasters, Environment

 

climate change photo

 

 washington post logoWashington Post, Record rain is hitting drought-stricken areas. That’s not good news, Matthew Cappucci and Kasha Patel, Aug. 25, 2022. A warmer climate is driving precipitation to higher extremes in both flooding and drought.

On Monday morning, the Dallas-Fort Worth area awoke to disaster. Rain was pouring down at the rate of 2 to 3 inches per hour. Highways became lethal lagoons, brooks became basins, and thousands of people scrambled to higher ground.
10 steps you can take to lower your carbon footprint

Just a day earlier, the city had been facing one of its worst droughts on record, with farmers forced to thin their herds as reservoirs rapidly shrank. Twenty-nine percent of the Lone Star State was encapsulated within a top-tier level 4 out of 4 “exceptional” drought. Very dry conditions took a heavy toll on crops and forced widespread water restrictions.

The extreme case of atmospheric caprice highlighted a growing issue plaguing communities across the United States and the world: weather whiplash.

This summer, several locations around the United States have experienced these wild, rapid swings from one weather extreme to another. About half of the country has undergone at least a moderate drought this summer. Parts of the West, the Midwest and Texas have experienced exceptional and historic drought conditions.

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More On Ukraine War

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Live Briefing: War in Ukraine, Adela Suliman, Rachel Pannett, John Hudson, Robyn Dixon, Karina Tsui and Sammy Westfall, Aug. 25, 2022. Death toll in Chaplyne rail attack rises to 25; Biden to call Zelensky.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, around which international fears of a nuclear accident have centered in recent days amid accusations by both Ukraine and Russia of shelling near the facility, was disconnected from the grid entirely for the first time Thursday, according to its operator, Energoatom, after transmission lines were cut. Russia occupies the plant, but Ukrainian staffers continue to operate it.

The facility in southeastern Ukraine is now being powered from a neighboring geothermal plant and the city of Enerhodar, and is expected to get its power back in a few hours, according to Energoatom, which blamed “the actions of the invaders” for the cutoff.

A Russian proxy official in Zaporizhzhia, Vladimir Rogov, speaking on state TV, blamed the shutdown on Ukrainian shelling. Yevgeny Balitsky, the Russian-installed leader of the Zaporizhzhia region, said on Telegram that a unit of the power plant has been restored to function after a fire near the plant was extinguished. He said work was underway to restart a second power unit.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

Key developments

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to increase the size of the Russian military from 1.9 million to 2.04 million, Russian media outlets reported. The personnel increase of 137,000 is to take effect on Jan. 1. The Kremlin still terms the war in Ukraine a “special military operation.”
  • Victims of a Russian missile attack on Chaplyne include an 11-year-old who died under the rubble of a house and a 6-year-old caught in a car fire, Kirill Timoshenko, a Ukrainian presidential aide, said on Telegram. He said 25 people were killed in total and 31 injured. Russia claimed that it used an Iskander missile to kill 200 Ukrainian service members there and destroy 10 units of military equipment headed to the eastern Donbas region. The claim could not be independently verified. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky promised to make Moscow pay for “everything they have done.” He said in his nightly address that “Chaplyne is our pain today.” The attack came exactly six months into the war and on Ukraine’s Independence Day.
  • Biden is expected to call Zelensky on Thursday to discuss an almost $3 billion U.S. military aid package. Biden said he was “proud to announce our biggest tranche of security assistance to date,” which will include air defense systems, artillery and munitions. Since January 2021, the Pentagon said, the United States has committed more than $13.5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron met with Rafael Mariano Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in Paris on Thursday to underline his “grave concern” about the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant. He also reiterated French support for an IAEA mission to be deployed to Ukraine “as soon as possible,” the Élysée Palace said in a statement.
  • Russian rockets targeted the Vyshgorod area directly north of Kyiv early Thursday, but no casualties were reported, regional governor Oleksiy Kuleba said on Telegram. “There were no casualties or injuries among civilians. There were no fires or destruction of residential buildings or infrastructure,” Kuleba said. Russian forces largely avoided Kyiv on Independence Day, despite air raid sirens and warnings of strikes on the capital. Instead, they targeted front lines near cities such as such as Kharkiv, Mykolaiv and Dnipro with artillery attacks, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said.

Battlefield updates

  • Tensions continue to mount around the Zaporizhzhia power plant, with Russia maintaining “an enhanced military presence at the site,” according to a daily intelligence briefing from Britain’s Defense Ministry. It said that while Russia occupies the facility, the principal risks include “disruption to the reactors’ cooling systems, damage to its back-up power supply, or errors by workers operating under pressure.” United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet called on Putin to demilitarize the area around the plant, something Russia has previously rejected.
  • Moscow has “instructed officials to begin preparing” for staged referendums in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine that “could begin in a matter of days or weeks,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said. Ukrainian officials have warned for months that Moscow is planning to hold rigged elections and use the results as a pretext to illegally annex more of Ukraine’s territory.
  • Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu insisted that a slowdown in attacks was all part of a plan. Shoigu said Russia has intentionally slowed its attacks to avoid civilian casualties, an explanation offered repeatedly by Russian officials to explain apparent military setbacks.
  • The Washington Post’s visual forensics team has analyzed and catalogued a database of 251 videos since the war began, exposing the horrors of the conflict. Russia’s invasion is one of the most documented wars ever. Citizens, public officials and soldiers have regularly posted videos that show bodies in neighborhoods, trails of missiles streaking through the skies and smoldering ruins.

Global impact

  • Pope Francis will not meet with the head of the Russian Orthodox church, who supports the war in Ukraine, next month, according to Russian state media. Francis was due to meet Patriarch Kirill, a close Putin ally, on the sidelines of a summit of global religious leaders in Kazakhstan in September.
  • Facebook and Twitter say they have disrupted a web of accounts covertly seeking to promote narratives supporting the interests of the United States and its allies, including on the war in Ukraine, while opposing countries such as Russia, China and Iran. The report from social media analytics firm Graphika and Stanford University showed a rare instance in which a U.S.-sponsored campaign targeting foreign audiences, mostly in Asia and the Middle East, was found to violate the companies’ rules.
  • British front pages Thursday were filled with outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s surprise visit to Kyiv. Many criticized the lame-duck leader for making his third appearance in the country on its Independence Day, but others praised his consistent support of Ukraine. He also pledged $64 million more in military aid. When asked in Kyiv whether he wished he was as popular in Britain as in Ukraine, Johnson simply answered, “Yes.” He leaves office on Sept. 6.
  • Officials in Riga, Latvia, dismantled a prominent Soviet monument Thursday. In a live-streamed video, onlookers could be seen cheering as the obelisk collapsed.

 

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine during a news conference in Kyiv on Thurday. “We have a special people, an extraordinary people,” he said (Photo by Lynsey Addario for The New York Times).

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine during a news conference in Kyiv this spring. “We have a special people, an extraordinary people,” he said (Photo by Lynsey Addario for The New York Times).

ny times logoNew York Times, Calculating the war’s human cost: Thousands are dead and over six million have been pushed from their homes, Alan Yuhas, Aug. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Six months after Russia invaded Ukraine, the human and financial tolls are incalculable. But the figures that have emerged paint a bleak picture.

  • Day after day for 181 days, the grim ledger of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine grows longer with each missile strike, burst of gunfire and report of atrocities.
  • russian flag wavingUkrainian civilians have paid a heavy price: 5,587 are confirmed dead, and the true number is believed to be in the tens of thousands. The number of refugees has surpassed 6.6 million.
  • Military losses have been heavy on both sides, with about 9,000 Ukrainians and as many as 25,000 Russians said to be killed.
  • Ukraine has lost control of 20 percent of its territory to Russian forces and their proxies in recent years.
  • The destruction has already cost Ukraine at least $113.5 billion, and it may need more than $200 billion to rebuild.
  • Donor nations have pledged to give Ukraine more than $83 billion in total.
  • Ukrainian agricultural production and other countries that depend on it have been hit hard. Even with grain ships on the move again, the world hunger crisis is dire.

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More On U.S. Politics, Governance Analysis

ny times logoNew York Times, Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke Accused of Misleading Investigators, Maggie Astor, Aug. 25, 2022 (print ed.). A watchdog report stems from Ryan Zinke’s tenure as interior secretary during the Trump administration. He is now seeking a House seat in Montana.

ryan zinke oRyan Zinke, right, a former interior secretary during the Trump administration, intentionally misled investigators looking into his department’s decision not to act on two Native American tribes’ requests to open a new casino in Connecticut, the Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General concluded in a report released on Wednesday.

Mr. Zinke, who served as interior secretary from 2017 to 2019, is now the Republican nominee for a congressional seat in Montana. He is widely expected to win the general election this November.

The 44-page report on Wednesday focused not on the casino decision itself — litigation over that was resolved separately — but on whether Mr. Zinke and his former chief of staff had been honest about it.

ny times logoNew York Times, For Lindsey Graham, a Showdown in Georgia, Danny Hakim and Richard Fausset, Aug. 25, 2022 (print ed.). The senator from South Carolina is fighting efforts to force him to testify before a grand jury investigating election interference by Donald J. Trump and his allies.

Six days after major news organizations declared Donald J. Trump the loser of the 2020 presidential election, his allies were applying a desperate full-court press in an effort to turn his defeat around, particularly in Georgia.

The pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell went on television claiming that there was abundant evidence of foreign election meddling that never ultimately materialized. Another lawyer, L. Lin Wood, filed a lawsuit seeking to block the certification of Georgia’s election results.

That same day, Nov. 13, 2020, Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican and one of Mr. Trump’s most ardent supporters, made a phone call that left Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, immediately alarmed. Mr. Graham, he said, had asked if there was a legal way, using the state courts, to toss out all mail-in votes from counties with high rates of questionable signatures.

The call would eventually trigger an ethics complaint, demands from the left for Mr. Graham’s resignation and a legal drama that is culminating only now, nearly two years later, as the veteran lawmaker fights to avoid testifying before an Atlanta special grand jury that is investigating election interference by Mr. Trump and his supporters.

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Public Health, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Amazon Says It Will Shut Down Amazon Care, Karen Weise, Aug. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Amazon told employees in an email on Wednesday that it is shutting down Amazon Care, its in-house foray into providing primary and urgent health care. The move comes a month after Amazon announced plans to buy a much larger competitor, One Medical, in a $3.9 billion deal.

Amazon for years has wanted to find its own ways to enter the health care industry, which company executives think provides a big opportunity for expansion.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jill Biden Tests Positive for Coronavirus Again in ‘Rebound’ Case, Zach Montague, Aug. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Her experience mirrors that of President Biden, who was forced to return to isolation last month after his initial bout with Covid-19.

ny times logoNew York Times, C.I.A. Begins Compensating Victims of Havana Syndrome, Julian E. Barnes, Aug. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Officers and diplomats have reported ailments arising from mysterious incidents since 2016. But lawyers for some say future cases may be harder to adjudicate.

About a dozen people suffering from debilitating symptoms that have become known as Havana syndrome have either received the payments or been approved to receive them, the people familiar with the program said.

Several of the recipients are former C.I.A. officers who were injured while serving in Havana in 2016 and 2017. However, payments are also being processed for current and former officers whose injuries occurred elsewhere.

 

anthony fauci graphic Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Fauci plans to step down in December after half a century in government, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Aug. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s preeminent infectious-disease expert who achieved unprecedented fame while enduring withering political attacks as the face of the coronavirus pandemic response under two presidents, plans to step down in December after more than a half-century of public service, he announced Monday.

anthony fauci george w bushFauci, 81, shown above in a file photo and at right receiving from then-President George W. Bush one of the physician’s many honors over his long career, has led the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984. He joined the parent agency, the National Institutes of Health, in 1968 as a 27-year-old doctor who had just finished medical residency and was quickly identified as a rising star. Most recently, Fauci has also served as President Biden’s chief medical adviser since the start of his administration.

Fauci’s tenure as director of the infectious-diseases institute made him an adviser to seven presidents and put him on the front lines of every modern-day scourge, including AIDS, the 2001 anthrax scares, Ebola, Zika and the coronavirus pandemic. During the nearly four decades Fauci led the agency, it grew from a little-known institute with a $350 million annual budget to a globally recognized powerhouse with a budget exceeding $6 billion.

“Because of Dr. Fauci’s many contributions to public health, lives here in the United States and around the world have been saved,” said Biden, who as vice president worked with Fauci on the nation’s response to Ebola and Zika during the Obama administration. “Whether you’ve met him personally or not, he has touched all Americans’ lives with his work.”

While Fauci is one of the most cited researchers of all time and has been widely known in scientific circles for decades, it was the coronavirus pandemic that catapulted him to worldwide fame — and ignited criticism from some Republican politicians and threats from the public.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Administration Plans for New Booster Campaign Soon After Labor Day, Sharon LaFraniere and Noah Weiland, Aug. 24, 2022 (print ed.). A top F.D.A. regulator cited compelling data for redesigned coronavirus vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

The Biden administration plans to offer the next generation of coronavirus booster shots to Americans 12 and older soon after Labor Day, a campaign that federal officials hope will reduce deaths from Covid-19 and protect against an expected winter surge.

Dr. Peter Marks, the top vaccine regulator for the Food and Drug Administration, said in an interview on Tuesday that while he could not discuss timing, his team was close to authorizing updated doses that would target the versions of the virus now circulating.

Even though those formulations have not been tested in humans, he said, the agency has “extremely good” data showing that the shots are safe and will be effective. “How confident am I?” he said. “I’m extremely confident.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Your first brush with coronavirus could affect how a fall booster works, Carolyn Y. Johnson, Aug. 24, 2022 (print ed.). It’s a phenomenon known by the forbidding name of original antigenic sin, and, in the case of the coronavirus, it prompts a constellation of questions.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2In the beginning, when the coronavirus was new, the quest for a vaccine was simple. Everyone started out susceptible to the virus. Shots brought spectacular protection.

But the next chapters of life with the virus — and the choice of booster shots for the fall and beyond — will be complicated by the layers of immunity that now ripple through the population, laid down by past infections and vaccinations.

When it comes to viral infections, past is prologue: The version of a virus to which we’re first exposed can dictate how we respond to later variants and, maybe, how well vaccines work.

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U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

ny times logoNew York Times Magazine, How a Corporate Law Firm Led a Political Revolution, David Enrich Aug. 25, 2022. The untold story of Jones Day’s push to move the American government and courts to the right.

For much of its history, Jones Day was a juggernaut in the field of corporate litigation. A global goliath with more than 40 offices and about 2,500 lawyers, it raked in billions a year in fees from tobacco, opioid, gun and oil companies, among many other giant corporations in need of a state-of-the-art defense.

More than most of its competitors, the firm had an army of litigators who had perfected the art of exploiting tiny legal wrinkles, of burying outmatched opponents in paperwork and venue changes and procedural minutiae. But over the past two decades, Jones Day has been building a different kind of legal practice, one dedicated not just to helping Republicans win elections but to helping them achieve their political aims once in office. Chief among those aims was dismantling what Don McGahn — the Jones Day partner who helped run Trump’s campaign and then became his White House counsel — disparagingly referred to as the “administrative state.” To do that, the firm was bringing all the ruthless energy and creativity of corporate law to the political realm.

ny times logoNew York Times, Oklahoma Executes Man Despite Clemency Recommendation, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Aug. 25, 2022. James Coddington, who was convicted of murdering a co-worker with a hammer, is the first of 25 men the state is aiming to execute over the next 28 months.
Oklahoma executed a man on Thursday for killing a co-worker in 1997, rejecting the recommendation of a state pardon board as it carried out the first in a series of 25 executions scheduled over the next 28 months.

James Coddington, 50, who admitted killing 73-year-old Albert Hale with a hammer, was executed by lethal injection at a state prison in McAlester, Okla.

Oklahoma resumed carrying out some executions in October 2021 after a pause of nearly seven years that followed a series of botched executions. But most of the state’s capital sentences remained on hold while a lawsuit over the use of a sedative in executions went to trial. When a judge upheld the use of the drug, Oklahoma scheduled 25 executions through December 2024, beginning with the one on Thursday.

Politico, Two plead guilty to trafficking Ashley Biden’s diary, property, Josh Gerstein, Aug. 25, 2022. These are the first charges in a federal probe of how the journal of the president’s daughter was sold to the conservative Project Veritas outlet.

Two Florida residents pleaded guilty on Thursday to conspiring to trafficking in stolen goods for selling a diary and other personal effects of President Joe Biden’s daughter Ashley Biden, the Justice Department said.

The criminal charges are the first to emerge from a federal investigation into how, prior to the 2020 presidential election, the journal reached the conservative video outlet Project Veritas. The group has said it paid for rights to publish the diary, but never did so because it couldn’t authenticate it. Contents from the diary later emerged on a more obscure conservative site.

Last November, the FBI carried out search warrants at the home of the founder of Project Veritas, James O’Keefe, and those of two of his colleagues, in connection with the investigation. None of those individuals have been charged, but O’Keefe has denounced the raids as an attack on press freedom.

In a Manhattan federal court hearing on Thursday, Aimee Harris, 40, of Palm Beach and Robert Kurlander, 58, of Jupiter each pleaded guilty to a single conspiracy charge stemming from their involvement in selling the journal, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan said in a statement.

The charging document filed on Thursday says that after Harris told Kurlander what she had discovered, he texted her that they could “make a SHIT TON of money” off of the journal. The pair tried to offer the diary to the Trump campaign, but an unidentified representative of the campaign turned them down and suggested they give the materials to the FBI.

Both defendants pleaded guilty as part of agreements with prosecutors. Kurlander has agreed to cooperate with investigators as part of his deal, Williams’ office said. Details of the plea agreement were not immediately available.

O’Keefe has said his group was told that the diary and Ashley Biden’s other effects were abandoned by her when she left a Delray Beach, Fla., home where she’d been staying. The group eventually turned the materials over to police.

 

donald watkinsDonald V. Watkins, Personal Opinion: Watkins Released From Prison! Donald V. Watkins, shown above, Aug. 25, 2022. On August 28, 2019, I walked into the Federal Prison Camp at Talladega as Inmate No. 36223-001. I was the camp’s only political prisoner. Today, I walked out of the Federal Prison Camp at La Tuna in Anthony, New Mexico as a free man.

My experience as Inmate No. 36223-001 was a long and hard one, but it was nothing compared to the hell that George Jones and I experienced when we desegregated the University of Alabama’s law school from 1970 to 1973. The presence of God was with me on both journeys.

I left about 200 fellow inmates at La Tuna who took very good care of me throughout my stay. They came from all ethnic backgrounds and walks of life. I drew upon their strength as much as they drew upon mine.

As I departed La Tuna, I silently celebrated the 45 inmates I had freed during my three-years in captivity. At least five of these inmates were completely innocent of the criminal charges against them. Each one of the innocent inmates was a living example of the systemic failure of the federal criminal justice system.

In each case involving the innocent defendants, the trial judge, prosecutor, and court-appointed lawyer were all paid from the same source (the U.S. Treasury).. The prosecutors had regular ex parte contact with the federal magistrates and trial judges, prior to and after the defendant’s indictment. From the outset, the outcome in these cases was “rigged” in favor of the prosecution.

These cases highlight the most glaring flaw in the American criminal justice system. Federal judges routinely shower prosecutors with gratuitous favoritism, while cleverly working to gut the constitutional rights of defendants for ideological and partisan reasons.

I believe my “emancipation” work for these 45 prisoners establishes a new record in American jurisprudence for a single lawyer during a three-year period. I also proudly hold the record for defeating 85 felony counts in a single-defendant criminal case (i.e., USA v. Richard Scrushy, 2003-2005).

I use the term “emancipation” to describe my work because state and federal inmates are legally and technically “slaves” under the Slavery Exception Clause of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. If there is any question about the status of prisoners in the United States, it was laid to rest in Ruffin v. Commonwealth, 62 Va. 790 (1871), when the Virginia Supreme Court affirmed their status as “slaves.” Sadly, America is the only country in the Western Hemisphere that authorizes slavery in its constitution and practices it regularly in penal colonies.

My tour of duty in prison passed quickly because I was busy, day and night, helping scores of deserving inmates secure the justice that eluded them from those who pretend to be the official guardians of justice in the federal system. In retrospect, this was my finest hour as a lawyer.

The friendship bonds I formed with fellow inmates and staff members in prison will last a lifetime. My interaction with these inmates and staff members also increased my sphere of knowledge and influence on America’s diverse ethnic, cultural, and political landscape.

The Politicization of Injustice

As an attorney who has been on the frontlines of the fight for the fair administration of justice for 48 years, I have seen case after case where federal judges with lifetime appointments in office have failed to administer fair justice. I have seen them use all of their brainpower to find new and creative ways to administer injustice with pride. The victims of this judicial abuse are usually people of color, poor people, gay people, Muslims, and women.

The politicization of the federal criminal justice system is one of the reasons public respect for and confidence in the federal courts, from the U.S. Supreme Court down to trial courts, is at an all-time low. Today, less than 1 out of 5 Americans respect federal judges. Tragically, the federal judiciary has transformed itself from a revered institution of government into a den of mostly robe-wearing, political hustlers who pretend to be judges and justices. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ vote appears to be “for sale” to any right-wing advocacy group that is willing to hire his wife as a “consultant.”

In the Deep South, many federal judges have become more dangerous to our individual rights and freedoms than the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, the Ku Klux Klan, and the White Citizens Council. I have seen their brand of injustice on an up-close and personal basis. Today, injustice is the rule of law, and not an exception to the rule.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ex-Detective Admits Misleading Judge Who Approved Breonna Taylor Raid, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Aug. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Kelly Goodlett pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, becoming the first officer to be convicted in the fatal police operation.

A former police detective admitted on Tuesday that she had helped mislead a judge into wrongly authorizing a raid of Breonna Taylor’s apartment in Louisville, Ky., setting in motion the nighttime operation in which the police fatally shot Ms. Taylor.

The former detective, Kelly Goodlett, pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of conspiracy, admitting that she had worked with another officer to falsify a search warrant application and had later lied to cover up their act. In pleading guilty, Ms. Goodlett became the first police officer to be convicted over the March 2020 raid, during which the police were searching for evidence of drug dealing by Ms. Taylor’s former boyfriend, Jamarcus Glover.

Inside a courtroom in downtown Louisville, Ms. Goodlett, 35, admitted that she had known there was not enough evidence to support approving the warrant, but had nonetheless failed to object when a fellow detective falsely wrote that the police knew Mr. Glover was receiving packages at Ms. Taylor’s home.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Mental Illness Not a Useful Means to Predict Gun Violence, Experts Say, Shaila Dewan, Aug. 23, 2022 (print ed.). Blaming mass murder on mental illness is a time-honored impulse, used by law enforcement and politicians alike. But many killers, if not most, had never been diagnosed with a serious psychiatric disorder, and experts prefer to focus on warning signs like a life crisis.

The freshman who walked into the high school cafeteria in Marysville, Wash., in 2014 with his father’s .40-caliber Beretta did not fit anyone’s profile of a mass murderer. He was a crack athlete. He embraced his Native American traditions, wearing a headdress at tribal events and offering freshly killed deer to his grandmother. He was popular, so much so that he had just been elected homecoming prince.

He had no history of mental illness — just what several classmates described as an uncharacteristically bad mood that week. It was only after he killed four fellow students and wounded another that the armchair diagnosis of his mental state began.

Blaming mass murder on mental illness is a time-honored impulse, used by law enforcement and politicians alike. “Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun,” President Donald J. Trump said in 2019 in response to mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. After a teenage gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in May, Gov. Greg Abbott said, “Anybody who shoots somebody else has a mental health challenge. Period.”

Such explanations satisfy a deep longing to understand the incomprehensible. And they appeal to common sense — how could a person who kills indiscriminately be in their right mind?

Yet America’s mass killers fit no single profile and certainly no pattern of insanity — many, if not most, had never been diagnosed with a serious psychiatric disorder. Background checks can prevent someone with a diagnosis of mental illness from acquiring a gun, but psychologists say there is a wide divide between a clinical diagnosis and the type of emotional disturbance that precedes many mass killings.

The real problem, those experts say, is that mental illness is not a useful means to predict violence. About half of all Americans will experience mental health issues at some point in their lives, and the vast majority of people with mental illness do not kill.

“Do you or do you not have a mental health diagnosis?” said Jillian Peterson, a co-founder of the Violence Project, a research center that has compiled a database of mass shootings from 1966 on and studied perpetrators in depth. “In many cases, it doesn’t really matter. It’s not the main driver.”

Instead, many experts have come to focus on warning signs that occur whether or not actual mental illness is present, including marked changes in behavior, demeanor or appearance, uncharacteristic fights or arguments, and telling others of plans for violence, a phenomenon known as “leakage.”

This focus is far from perfect — it can be exceedingly difficult to weed out serious threats from many more that are idle, impetuous or exaggerated. But the warning signs approach has benefits: It can work even when the mental health system does not, and it sidesteps the complaint that blaming mass shootings on mental illness increases negative attitudes and stigma toward those who suffer from it.

Mississippi Free Press, ‘A Wrong Never Righted’: Court Upholds Mississippi’s 1890 Jim Crow Voting Law, Ashton Pittman, Aug. 24, 2022. The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals voted to uphold a Jim Crow law that Mississippi’s white-supremacist leaders adopted in 1890 in an attempt to disenfranchise Black residents for life. White lawmakers designated certain crimes that they believed Black people were more likely to commit as lifelong disenfranchising crimes.

The court’s conservative majority admitted that the Jim Crow law was “steeped in racism,” but said the State had made enough changes in the 132 years since to override its white supremacist taint. A 2018 analysis found that the law still disproportionately disenfranchises Black Mississippians compared to white residents.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Mississippi Center For Justice, which filed the lawsuit against the State of Mississippi in 2017, said it will appeal the ruling in Harness v. Watson to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“This provision was part of the 1890 plan to take the vote away from Black people who had attained it in the wake of the Civil War,” said Rob McDuff, an attorney with MCJ who argued that the Jim Crow violates the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of Equal Protection under the law. “Unfortunately, the Court of Appeals is allowing it to remain in place despite its racist origins. Despite this setback, we will continue this battle and seek review in the U.S. Supreme Court.”

‘To Secure The Supremacy of the White Race’

During the Reconstruction era, newly emancipated Black Mississippians made enormous gains as Black men gained the right to vote. But in 1890, white Mississippi lawmakers began drafting a new constitution riddled with Jim Crow laws. The new system instituted an explicitly white-supremacist regime, with its drafters bent on disenfranchising, criminalizing and denying opportunity to the state’s Black residents.

The legislative committee that drafted Mississippi’s 1890 Constitution was initially explicit in its white-supremacist goals. They adopted a resolution declaring that “it is the duty of this Com. to perform its work in such a manner as to secure permanent white rule in all departments of state government and without due violence to the true principles of our republican system of government.”

They later revised the resolution, changing “white rule” to “intelligent rule.” Contrary to popular misconception, Jim Crow laws usually masqueraded as colorblind. But on the floor of the Mississippi Constitutional Convention, lawmakers were open about their intent.

James K. Vardaman, a former Mississippi speaker of the House, governor and U.S. senator, seen here in 1912, was known as “The Great White Chief.” He said he and other Mississippi lawmakers designed the 1890 Mississippi State Constitution to “eliminate” Black voting power. Photo courtesy U.S. Library of Congress.

“I will agree that this is a government by the people and for the people, but what people? When this declaration was made by our forefathers, it was for the Anglo-Saxon people. That is what we are here for today—to secure the supremacy of the white race,” Franklin County delegate J.H. McGehee said to applause from his fellow lawmakers at the 1890 convention as he vowed to strip voting rights from Black residents “even if it does sacrifice some of my white children, or my white neighbors or their children.”

After the state adopted that law as part of its constitution, along with other provisions like poll taxes and literacy tests, James K. Vardaman, one of its drafters, explained the goal: “There is no use to equivocate or lie about the matter … Mississippi’s constitutional convention of 1890 was held for no other purpose than to eliminate the n–ger from politics. Not the ‘ignorant and vicious’, as some of the apologists would have you believe, but the n–ger.” Supporters hailed Vardaman, who served as a Mississippi governor and U.S. senator, as the state’s “Great White Chief.”

The 1890 provision at issue is Section 241 of the Mississippi Constitution, which originally permanently disenfranchised people who committed the following crimes: bribery, burglary theft, arson, obtaining money or goods under false pretense, perjury, forgery, embezzlement and bigamy. In their effort to only include crimes they believed Black people were most likely to commit, the white-supremacist drafters of the 1890 Constitution did not originally include murder and rape as disenfranchising crimes.

“If Section 241 had never been amended, the provision would violate the Equal Protection Clause,” the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals’ majority said in its ruling Wednesday. “… Critically, however, it has been amended.”

The State amended the Constitution in 1950, removing burglary as a disenfranchising crime. Later, in 1968, the 5th Circuit’s opinion says, the State made additional changes by voter referendum, including by adding “the ‘non-black’ crimes of ‘murder’ and ‘rape’ to the disenfranchising crimes in Section 241.”

“After careful consideration of the record and applicable precedents, we reconfirm that Section 241 in its current form does not violate the Equal Protection Clause,” the court said in an en banc opinion after a vote of all justices in the circuit. “Plaintiffs failed to meet their burden of showing that the current version of Section 241 was motivated by discriminatory intent. In addition, Mississippi has conclusively shown that any taint associated with Section 241 has been cured.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Charges to Be Dropped Against Officers in Killing of Rayshard Brooks, Richard Fausset, Aug. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Mr. Brooks was shot to death in 2020 after two Atlanta officers tried to arrest him. A prosecutor said that the officers “committed no crimes.”

More than two years after Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old Black man, was fatally shot by a white police officer in the parking lot of an Atlanta fast-food restaurant, a prosecutor has determined that the officer who fired, as well as another officer on the scene, “committed no crimes” in the incident.

The decision to drop charges against the two Atlanta officers was announced in a news conference on Tuesday by Pete Skandalakis, a veteran former Georgia prosecutor appointed to handle the case by Chris Carr, the Georgia attorney general. Mr. Skandalakis and another former prosecutor, Danny Porter, presided over a multimedia presentation about the June 2020 incident, which showed how Mr. Brooks, after resisting being handcuffed, sparked a violent fight with the officers, during which Mr. Brooks took Officer Devin Brosnan’s Taser and fired it at the officers.

The prosecutors said that these actions gave the other officer, Garrett Rolfe, justification to use deadly force. Mr. Rolfe fired three shots at Mr. Brooks, hitting him twice, in the back and buttocks.

“It is my conclusion that the use of deadly force was objectively reasonable and that they did not act with criminal intent,” Mr. Porter said.
Image

Mr. Rolfe was initially charged with 11 counts, including murder, and Mr. Brosnan faced a number of lesser charges. The prosecutors said they would move to vacate those charges. Mr. Rolfe was fired from the Police Department the day after the shooting, but reinstated in May 2021 by the city’s civil service review board. Both men have been on paid administrative leave pending resolution of their case.

washington post logoWashington Post, Man sentenced in scheme to defraud Rep. Gaetz’s father of $25 million, María Luisa Paúl, Aug. 24, 2022 (print ed.). A federal judge on Monday sentenced a Florida businessman to a little over five years in prison for his role in a 2021 plot to defraud the father of Rep. Matt Gaetz matt gaetz official(R-Fla.), right, of $25 million as the congressman found himself under investigation for possible sex crimes.

Stephen M. Alford, below left, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in November. This week, Alford was sentenced to 63 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, according to court documents.

stephen alfordRandall Lockhart, Alford’s public defender, did not immediately respond to a request from The Washington Post for comment. Gaetz has not been charged with any crime.

The scheme was first made public on March 30, 2021, when Gaetz appeared on Fox News hours after the New York Times first reported that the congressman was under investigation. Gaetz claimed the Times’s story was a “planted leak” meant to distract from the real crime — a shakedown of him and his father.

“What is happening is an extortion of me and my family,” Gaetz said.

According to court records, Alford and another man somehow learned that Gaetz was under a Department of Justice probe before the don gaetzinvestigation was publicly reported. Don Gaetz — the congressman’s father, right, and a former Florida Senate president — received a text message on March 16, 2021, with a request to discuss the investigation into his son, according to the indictment in Alford’s case.

The Justice Department was investigating Joel Greenberg, a former Seminole County, Fla., tax collector and an associate of Gaetz’s. During that probe, investigators uncovered information that could implicate the congressman, The Post previously reported. A spokesperson for Gaetz did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Tuesday. The congressman has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

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World News, Human Rights, Disasters

ny times logoNew York Times, How China Could Choke Taiwan With a Blockade, Chris Buckley, Pablo Robles, Marco Hernandez and Amy Chang Chien, Aug. 25, 2022. News China is honing its ability to blockade Taiwan, giving Beijing the option of cutting off the self-ruled island in its campaign to take control of it.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. responds to Iran’s latest demands on reviving nuclear deal, Karen DeYoung, Aug. 25, 2022. The Biden administration has completed its review of the proposed “final” text of a revived Iran nuclear deal, and of Iran’s response to the proposal, and sent its answer to European Union negotiation coordinators, the State Department said Wednesday.

Iran said it has begun its own “detailed review” of the U.S. reply, according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani.

The trading of response documents marked the latest step in an apparent endgame after nearly a year and a half of negotiations over a return to the 2015 agreement — lifting sanctions on Iran in exchange for its submission to strict curbs on its nuclear program and international monitoring — with no guarantee that a new deal will be reached.

“We are closer now than we were just a couple of weeks ago,” National Security Council communications coordinator John Kirby told reporters. “Gaps remain. We’re not there yet.”

The U.S. move came as Israel, whose national security adviser has been consulting in Washington this week, renewed its opposition to the deal. Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, speaking to reporters Wednesday in Jerusalem, said his government was “not against any agreement. We are against this agreement, because it is a bad one. Because it cannot be accepted as it is written right now.”

U.S. officials have said the terms of the new text are largely an update of the original agreement. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal in 2018, reimposing lifted sanctions and adding many more. In response, Iran resumed its pre-deal nuclear program and speeded it up, increasing the quantity and quality of its uranium enrichment far beyond the prescribed limits that it had previously adhered to and blocking some inspection measures.

Experts urge return to Iran nuclear deal as prospects dim

Israel, and opponents of a new deal in Congress, have said that the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions will provide Iran with hundreds of billions of dollars to finance terrorist activities, and the early expiration of some of its provisions will quickly allow Iran to revive plans to manufacture a nuclear weapon. Administration officials dispute the dollar calculations and say that the reinstatement of limits on the Iranian nuclear program, even with some expiration dates, will provide several years’ relief from an imminent nuclear threat and room for further negotiations.

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Media, Education, Sports News

 

sean hannity uncredited

ny times logoNew York Times, Sean Hannity and Other Fox Stars Face Depositions in Defamation Suit, Jeremy W. Peters Aug. 25, 2022. The depositions are one of the clearest indications yet of how aggressively Dominion is moving forward with its suit against the media company.

Some of the biggest names at Fox News have been questioned, or are scheduled to be questioned in the coming days, by lawyers representing Dominion Voting Systems in its $1.6 billion defamation suit against the network, as the election technology company presses ahead with a case that First Amendment scholars say is extraordinary in its scope and significance.

fox news logo SmallSean Hannity became the latest Fox star to be called for a deposition by Dominion’s legal team, according to a new filing in Delaware Superior Court. He is scheduled to appear on Wednesday.

Tucker Carlson is set to face questioning on Friday. Lou Dobbs, whose Fox Business show was canceled last year, is scheduled to appear on Tuesday. Others who have been deposed recently include Jeanine Pirro, Steve Doocy and a number of high-level Fox producers, court records show.

 

alex jones briana sanchez pool

InfoWars radio host Alex Jones on Trial in Austin, TX in a civil trial (Pool photo by Briana Sanchez).

ny times logoNew York Times, Alex Jones Accused of Hiding Assets From Sandy Hook Families, Elizabeth Williamson, Aug. 25, 2022. The Infowars fabulist has been funneling millions out of his empire while claiming bankruptcy, the Sandy Hook families suing him say.

News Sandy Hook victims’ families asked a federal bankruptcy court on Thursday to order the Infowars conspiracy broadcaster Alex Jones to relinquish control over his company, saying he has “systematically transferred millions of dollars” to himself and his relatives while claiming to be broke.

In a filing in the bankruptcy court in Houston, the families of nine Sandy Hook victims said they sought to have a bankruptcy trustee who is already monitoring the case take control of Free Speech Systems, the parent company of Mr. Jones’s misinformation-peddling media outlet. The families are also seeking a court-appointed oversight committee to restrict Mr. Jones’s ability to control Infowars’s finances.

Mr. Jones’s claimed insolvency is at the heart of his efforts to avoid paying for the damage done by his Sandy Hook lies. Earlier this month, a Texas jury ordered him to pay the parents of a child killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting nearly $50 million in compensatory and punitive damages for spreading the falsehood that they helped stage the massacre.

ny times logoNew York Times, George Foreman Is Accused of Sexual Abuse, David W. Chen, Aug. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Two women filed lawsuits in Los Angeles County alleging that Foreman, a former boxing champion, forced them to have sex with him as minors in the 1970s. Foreman denied the accusations. David W. Chen

Two women filed lawsuits Wednesday in California alleging that George Foreman, the former world heavyweight boxing champion, sexually abused them when they were teenagers in California in the 1970s.

george foreman twitterAccording to the lawsuits, the women, using the pseudonyms Gwen H. and Denise S. to protect their identities, initially met Foreman, shown on his Twitter portrait, when they were under 10 years old through their fathers. One man was a boxer and sparring partner of Foreman, while the other was a boxing manager and longtime adviser to Foreman.

Foreman then groomed the girls for several years, according to the complaints, before forcing them to have sex with him in places ranging from a San Francisco hotel to an apartment in Beverly Hills. The two women, who are both in their early 60s, filed the complaints in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Representatives for Foreman referred inquiries about the lawsuits — in which he is identified only as “DOE 1” — to a statement he released last month, announcing that he was anticipating a lawsuit.

“Over the past six months, two women have been trying to extort millions of dollars each from me and my family. They are falsely claiming that I sexually abused them over 45 years ago in the 1970s. I adamantly and categorically deny these allegations,” Foreman said.

He added: “I will work with my lawyers to fully and truthfully expose my accusers’ scheme and defend myself in court. I don’t pick fights, but I don’t run away from them either.”

The claims were filed under a California law allowing survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file civil lawsuits. The law, which went into effect in January 2020 and expires at the end of 2022, has resulted in thousands of claims accusing coaches, teachers, clergy and others of sexual abuse.

While numerous claims have been settled, only a few have gone to trial. 

ny times logoNew York Times, Djokovic, Still Unvaccinated, Says He Will Miss U.S. Open, Matthew Futterman, Aug. 25, 2022. Novak Djokovic, who has had Covid-19 at least twice, said he could not travel to New York. The U.S. restricts entry for unvaccinated foreigners.

novak djokovicIn January, Novak Djokovic, right, went before a panel of judges in Australia, seeking special permission to play tennis in the country while being unvaccinated against Covid-19. After a last-ditch hearing, he was turned away.

Since then, countries like France and Britain have relaxed their travel restrictions, which allowed Djokovic, who has had Covid-19 at least twice but has steadfastly refused to get vaccinated, to compete. Yet on Thursday, Djokovic was forced to withdraw from the U.S. Open. Still not vaccinated, he was not allowed to come to New York.

The United States has lifted many of its restrictions related to the coronavirus and travel, but unvaccinated foreigners are still not allowed to enter the country, leaving one of the top stars in men’s tennis unable to play in one of the most important tournaments of the year.

Washington Post, Novak Djokovic announces he will not play in U.S. Open, Cindy Boren

ny times logoNew York Times, Twitter’s Former Security Chief Accuses It of ‘Egregious Deficiencies,’ Lauren Hirsch and Kate Conger, Aug. 24, 2022 (print ed.). A whistle-blower’s complaint to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department come at a perilous time for the social network.

twitter bird CustomTwitter’s former head of security has accused the company of “extreme, egregious deficiencies” in its spam- and hacker-fighting practices, according to a whistle-blower complaint.

The complaints by Peiter Zatko, the former executive, said that the shortcomings in enforcing security, privacy and content moderation policies dated to 2011. Mr. Zatko, a well-known hacker who is known in the security community as Mudge, joined Twitter in late 2020 and was terminated by the company in January.

His complaints were sent to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission on July 6. They were first reported by The Washington Post and CNN.

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Aug. 24

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U.S. Midterm Elections: Florida, New York, Oklahoma Results

 

Trump Probes, Reactions, Riots, Supporters

 

U.S. Forced Birth Laws, Privacy Rights

 

U.S. Political Violence, Gun Laws

 

U.S. Law, Immigration, Crime

 

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Energy, Climate, Environment, Disasters

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Shown above is the receipt for property that was seized during the execution of a search warrant by the FBI at former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla. on Aug. 12, 2022 (Associated Press Photo by Jon Elswick).

Shown above is the receipt for property that was seized during the execution of a search warrant by the FBI at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla. on Aug. 12, 2022 (Associated Press Photo by Jon Elswick).

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Without Presidential Protections, Trump Struggles for a Strategy, Maggie Haberman, Glenn Thrush and Alan Feuer, Aug. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Facing legal peril in the documents investigation, former President Trump has turned to his old playbook of painting himself as persecuted amid stumbles. An errant court filing by his lawyers offers insight into the confusion and uncertainty the investigation has exposed inside Mr. Trump’s camp.

Justice Department log circularOn Tuesday, a Florida judge informed two lawyers representing former President Donald J. Trump, neither of them licensed in the state, that they had bungled routine paperwork to take part in a suit filed following the F.B.I.’s search this month of Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home and private club.

“A sample motion can be found on the Court’s website,” the judge instructed them in her order.

Mr. Trump has projected his usual bravado, and raised millions of dollars online from outraged supporters, since federal agents descended on the property more than two weeks ago and carted off boxloads of material including highly classified documents. But something is different this time — and the errant court filing offered a glimpse into the confusion and uncertainty the investigation has exposed inside Mr. Trump’s camp.

The documents investigation represents the greatest legal threat Mr. Trump has faced in years, and he is going into the battle shorn of the protective infrastructure and constitutional armor of the presidency. After years of burning through lawyers, he has struggled to hire new ones, and has a small group of lawyers of varying experience.

He is facing a Justice Department he no longer controls, run by a by-the-book attorney general, Merrick B. Garland, who has pursued various investigations into Mr. Trump methodically and quietly.

Mr. Trump is serving as his own communications director and strategic adviser, seeking tactical political and in-the-moment public relations victories, sometimes at the risk of stumbling into substantive legal missteps.

One example came late on Monday, when a conservative writer allied with Mr. Trump made public a letter that the National Archives had sent to Mr. Trump’s legal team in May. Spun by Mr. Trump and his allies as evidence that President Biden had played a role in the case after saying he was not involved, the letter confirmed information damaging to the former president’s case, including that Mr. Trump had retained more than 700 pages of documents with classification markings, including some at the most restricted level.

Then, hours after informing Mr. Trump’s lawyers on Tuesday about one basic mistake they had made, the judge handling their request for the appointment of a special master to review the documents seized from Mar-a-Lago came back with some pointed questions. Judge Aileen M. Cannon, who was appointed by Mr. Trump, asked the team to respond by Friday about whether she even had jurisdiction to hear Mr. Trump’s request, and what precisely his motion was asking her to do.

But as has become standard operating practice in Mr. Trump’s world, the primary focus there is not about legal claims, or even political ones, but the state of mind of the man at the center of the crisis. He feels other people’s actions toward him haven’t gotten enough attention, some of his advisers say privately, regardless of whether the facts actually bear out his grievances.

 

joe biden black background resized serious file

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden to cancel up to $10,000 in student debt for most borrowers and $20,000 for Pell recipients, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel and Jeff Stein, Aug. 24, 2022. The president is also set to extend a pause on federal student loan payments through Dec. 31.

White House officials are planning to cancel up to $20,000 in student debt for recipients of Pell Grants as part of their broader announcement on Wednesday of student debt forgiveness, four people familiar with the matter said.

democratic donkey logoThe extra debt forgiveness for Pell recipients would be in addition to the expected cancellation of up to $10,000 in student debt for most other borrowers. The White House’s plans are only expected to apply to Americans earning under $125,000 per year, or $250,000 per year for married couples who file taxes jointly, the people familiar said.

Roughly 43 million federal student loan borrowers would be eligible for some level of forgiveness, including 20 million who could have their debt completely canceled, according to internal documents shared with The Washington Post. The White House estimates that 90 percent of relief will go to people earning less than $75,000.

USTR seal Custom 2The president is also expected to announce that he will extend a pandemic-era pause on federal student loan payments that was first implemented under the Trump administration. That moratorium will now be extended until Dec. 31, or beyond the midterm elections, the people said.

The people spoke on the condition of anonymity to reflect private White House conversations and cautioned the details could change. President Biden is returning to Washington for the announcement today.

The announcement would put to rest months of deliberation over whether Biden would use his executive authority to forgive a portion of the federal student debt burden. It arrives ahead of congressional midterm elections and could give the Democrats a boost with some voters, but also threaten their standing with those who say the amount is not enough — or too much.

ny times logoNew York Times, California to Ban the Sale of New Gasoline Cars, Coral Davenport, Lisa Friedman and Brad Plumer, Aug. 24, 2022. The decision, to take effect by 2035, will likely speed a wider transition to electric vehicles as many other states often follow California’s standards.

California regulators on Thursday will vote to put in place a sweeping plan to restrict and ultimately ban the sale of gasoline-powered cars, state officials said, a move that the state’s governor described as the beginning of the end for the internal combustion engine.

The new policy, detailed Wednesday morning in a news conference, is widely expected to accelerate the global transition toward electric vehicles. Not only is California the largest auto market in the United States, but more than a dozen other states typically follow California’s lead when setting their own auto emissions standards.

If those states follow through, and most are expected to adopt similar rules, the restrictions would apply to about a third of the United States auto market.

ny times logoNew York Times, Defiant Under Russian Strikes, Ukrainians Celebrate a Nation ‘Reborn,’ Andrew E. Kramer, Aug. 24, 2022. At least 22 people were killed in a missile strike, officials said. Celebrating the country’s Independence Day, Ukrainian leaders urged resolve.

Under the blare of air raid sirens, Ukrainians celebrated their Independence Day with a show of defiance against Russia’s invasion on Wednesday, despite the uncertain course of a war that has lasted half a year and brought horror to nearly every part of the country.

In Kyiv, mass gatherings were banned, drones flew a Ukrainian flag above the city and a concert was recorded for the holiday in a bomb shelter, reflecting fears that Russia would launch dramatic strikes on civilian centers to spoil the occasion, which commemorates Ukraine’s 1991 separation from the Soviet Union.

The biggest strike came not in Kyiv but in a small town in eastern Ukraine, where a rail station was hit with a missile strike that crushed passenger cars and set them afire. A least 22 civilians were killed, and 50 were wounded, with the toll expected to rise.

“This is how we live every day,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said after the attack.

But in Kyiv, Ukrainian leaders delivered speeches aimed at rallying foreign backers as much as their citizens at home and the tens of thousands of soldiers huddled in trenches and towns at the front.

In a slickly produced address, prerecorded for security reasons, Mr. Zelensky stood before a column of burned and wrecked Russian tanks on a central avenue in the capital and declared Ukraine a nation “reborn” in conflict. Ukraine, he said, has a renewed sense of cultural and political identity that is now wholly separate from Russia.

 

A photograph by Agence France-Presse showed three bodies on the side of a road, one with hands apparently tied behind the back in Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, on Saturday.Credit...Ronaldo Schemidt/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images A photograph by Agence France-Presse showed three bodies on the side of a road, one with hands apparently tied behind the back in Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, on Saturday, April 2, 2022 (Photo by Ronaldo Schemidt Agence France-Presse via Getty Images).

A photograph by Agence France-Presse showed three bodies on the side of a road, one with hands apparently tied behind the back in Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, on Saturday, April 2, 2022 (Photo by Ronaldo Schemidt Agence France-Presse via Getty Images).

ny times logoNew York Times, As War Hits Milestone, Ukraine and Russia Are Both Reshaped, Anton Troianovski, Andrew E. Kramer and Steven Erlanger, Aug. 24, 2022. Half a year after Russian forces first made their move, here is how the conflict appears to the combatants, and to a continent plunged into turmoil. In Ukraine, a delicate sense of normalcy masks a staggering toll. In Russia, new ultranationalist rules have snuffed out any vestiges of dissent.

Russian FlagFor six months, a major land war has sown horror in Europe.

It is a war in which violence and normality coexist — death and destruction at the 1,500-mile front and packed cafes in Kyiv, just a few hundred miles to the west.

ukraine flagIt is a war fought in trenches and artillery duels, but defined in great part by the political whims of Americans and Europeans, whose willingness to endure inflation and energy shortages could shape the next stage of the conflict.

And it is a war of imagery and messaging, fought between two countries whose deep family ties have helped turn social media into a battlefield of its own.

No one knows how it will end. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, having silenced dissent, has proclaimed that “by and large, we haven’t started anything yet in earnest.” President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, emboldened by a defiant populace and a mostly united West, has played down the chances of a settlement and urged his people not to bend.

Will Western backing hold as Europe braces for the possibility of a winter with little Russian oil and gas? Will Mr. Putin, after strikes in Crimea and the killing of a nationalist commentator, escalate the war? And will Mr. Zelensky be able to sustain his nation’s determination against a nuclear-armed foe?

 

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine during a news conference in Kyiv on Thurday. “We have a special people, an extraordinary people,” he said (Photo by Lynsey Addario for The New York Times).

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine during a news conference in Kyiv this spring. “We have a special people, an extraordinary people,” he said (Photo by Lynsey Addario for The New York Times).

ny times logoNew York Times, Calculating the war’s human cost: Thousands are dead and over six million have been pushed from their homes, Alan Yuhas, Aug. 24, 2022. Six months after Russia invaded Ukraine, the human and financial tolls are incalculable. But the figures that have emerged paint a bleak picture.

  • Day after day for 181 days, the grim ledger of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine grows longer with each missile strike, burst of gunfire and report of atrocities.
  • Ukrainian civilians have paid a heavy price: 5,587 are confirmed dead, and the true number is believed to be in the tens of thousands. The number of refugees has surpassed 6.6 million.
  • Military losses have been heavy on both sides, with about 9,000 Ukrainians and as many as 25,000 Russians said to be killed.
  • Ukraine has lost control of 20 percent of its territory to Russian forces and their proxies in recent years.
  • The destruction has already cost Ukraine at least $113.5 billion, and it may need more than $200 billion to rebuild.
  • Donor nations have pledged to give Ukraine more than $83 billion in total.
  • Ukrainian agricultural production and other countries that depend on it have been hit hard. Even with grain ships on the move again, the world hunger crisis is dire.

 

2022 U.S. Midterm Elections: Florida, New York, Oklahoma Results

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats Sense a Shift in the Political Winds, but It May Not Be Enough, Jonathan Weisman, Aug. 24, 2022. A series of strong election showings, culminating in a New York win, have buoyed Democratic confidence, but a daunting map may still cost them the House.

Energized abortion-rights voters. Donald J. Trump back in the spotlight. Stronger-than-expected special elections, including a surprising win early Wednesday in New York.

Democratic leaders, once beaten down by the prospect of a brutal midterm election in the fall, are daring to dream that they can maintain control of Congress this November.

An unexpected victory by Pat Ryan, a Democrat, in a special House election to fill a vacancy in New York’s Hudson Valley offered Democrats solid evidence that their voters were willing to come out and that their message was resonating. It followed strong Democratic showings in other special elections, in Nebraska, Minnesota and upstate New York, since the Supreme Court repealed Roe v. Wade. Mr. Ryan placed abortion rights front and center while his Republican opponent, Marc Molinaro, sidestepped the issue to focus on the problems his party still believes will drive voters — inflation, crime, the economy. It didn’t work.

ny times logoNew York Times, Crist to Face DeSantis in Florida, Staff Reports, Aug. 24, 2022 (print ed.). In Florida, Democrats chose Representative Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor, as their nominee to try to defeat Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Daniel Goldman, the former assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the first impeachment case against Donald J. Trump, captured the Democratic nomination for an open House seat covering parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan, according to The Associated Press.

The victory on Tuesday in the heavily Democratic district all but assures Mr. Goldman a seat in Congress come 2023; he will face Benine Hamdan, a little-known Republican candidate, in November.

Nick Langworthy, the New York State Republican Party chairman, defeated Carl Paladino in a primary in New York’s 23rd Congressional District on Tuesday, delivering a win for the party establishment against perhaps its most polarizing figure.

Mr. Langworthy, who has overseen the state party since 2019, was declared the winner by The Associated Press. With an estimated 94 percent of votes reported, he had won 52 percent of the vote to Mr. Paladino’s 48 percent.

Politico, Analysis: Democrats gain momentum: 5 takeaways from the last big primary night of 2022, David Siders, Gary Fineout and Matt Dixon, Aug. 24, 2022. Trump’s candidates are still chalking up wins, but the headwinds facing Democrats appear to have eased.

politico CustomA New York special election seen as the last, best test of the electorate’s midterm leanings confirmed what Democrats hoped and Republicans feared: Predictions of a red wave may be overblown.

To be sure, Donald Trump had a winning night. But so did Ron DeSantis, who demonstrated Trump isn’t the only Republican in Florida with a political machine.

republican elephant logoPrimaries in four more states, including New Hampshire, are yet to come. But Tuesday marked the last of the year’s major, multi-state contests, leaving the shape of the general election landscape all but complete.

Here are five takeaways from a key primary night in Florida and New York:

1) New York’s ‘canary in a coal mine.’ It would have been easy to write Nebraska off as a fluke, after Democrats ran better than expected in a House race there last month. But then came Minnesota, where Democrats again beat expectations. And then, in New York on Tuesday, the dam broke.

“Well, shit,” one Republican strategist texted late Tuesday, as results from a Hudson Valley special election filtered in.

It would have been a victory for Democrats if they’d even kept it close. Instead, Democrat Pat Ryan beat Republican Marc Molinaro in a district that Joe Biden narrowly won in 2020, but that would have appeared to favor Republicans in a normal midterm climate.The New York race to succeed Democrat Antonio Delgado in a New York House district is likely a better indicator than the House races in Minnesota or Nebraska. For one thing, it’s the most current data we have. But more than that, it’s a competitive district where both parties spent real money and tested their general election messaging — abortion for Democrats, the economy for Republicans. It was about as close to a November test run as we’re going to get.

“This is a Republican versus a Democrat. They’re not crazy. No one’s off the wall,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a longtime Democratic strategist based in New York. “That’s why it’s a good test.”

new york map cities

 ny times logoNew York Times, Democrat Pat Ryan Wins in New York House Race That Turned on Abortion, Grace Ashford, Aug. 24, 2022. Mr. Ryan prevailed in the Hudson Valley special election, a contest that was seen as a potential test of the impact abortion might have on the midterms.

Pat Ryan, a Democratic county executive in New York’s Hudson Valley, has won a special House election on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press, in a contest that was seen as a potential test of the impact that the recent Supreme Court decision on abortion might have on the midterm elections.

The result in the closely watched race, which was considered a tossup, will keep the swing-district seat, formerly held by Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado, under Democratic control.

Mr. Ryan was able to keep his early lead, ultimately winning 52 percent of the vote to his Republican opponent Marc Molinaro’s 48 percent, with nearly 95 percent of votes cast.

Mr. Ryan sought to highlight abortion as the predominant issue in his campaign and contrast his support for protecting abortion access nationwide with the position of Mr. Molinaro, who believes that the decision ought to rest with states.

In speeches and campaign ads, Mr. Ryan, the Ulster County executive and a combat veteran, urged voters in the 19th District to see the election as a crucial opportunity to send a message decrying attacks on abortion access, voting rights and, more broadly, democratic principles.

“Choice was on the ballot. Freedom was on the ballot, and tonight choice and freedom won,” Mr. Ryan said on Twitter early Wednesday. “We voted like our democracy was on the line because it is.”

Though polls show that a majority of voters support some access to abortion, Democrats have been wrestling with how best to translate that into support for the party.

Mr. Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive, largely avoided the topic of abortion, focusing instead on day-to-day voter anxieties, from crime and inflation to the price of baby formula.

ny times logoNew York Times, Nadler Routs Maloney in Marquee Showdown of Bruising New York Primaries, Nicholas Fandos, Aug. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Representative Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, handily defeated his longtime jerry nadler smilecongressional neighbor, Carolyn B. Maloney, in a bruising three-way primary battle on Tuesday that was preordained to end one of the powerful Democrats’ political careers.

The star-crossed skirmish in the heart of Manhattan was unlike any New York City — or the Democratic Party writ large — had seen in recent memory. Though few ideological differences were at stake, it pitted two committee chairs who have served side by side in Washington since the 1990s against each other, and cleaved party faithful into rival factions.

democratic donkey logoAllies had tried to pull Mr. Nadler off the collision course into a neighboring race after the state’s calamitous redistricting process unexpectedly combined their West and East Side districts this spring. But he pushed forward, relying on his reputation as an old-school progressive and leading foil to Donald J. Trump to win over voters in one of the nation’s most liberal districts.

“Here’s the thing: I’m a New Yorker, just like Bella Abzug, Ted Weiss and Bill Fitts Ryan,” Mr. Nadler, 75, told supporters after his victory, referencing liberal lions who represented New York in Congress. “We New Yorkers just don’t know how to surrender.”

He thanked Ms. Maloney, saying that the two had “spent much of our adult life working together to better New York and our nation.”

The victory all but assures Mr. Nadler, the son of a Jewish chicken farmer, a 16th full term in Congress, as well as Ms. Maloney’s political retirement.

He won the contest for New York’s redrawn 12th District with 56 percent of the vote, compared with Ms. Maloney’s 24 percent, with 93 percent of votes counted. A third candidate, Suraj Patel, earned 19 percent, siphoning crucial votes away from Ms. Maloney, whom he nearly beat two years ago.

Wayne Madsen Report, Commentary: Pro-democracy candidates held their own in primary races in FL and NY, Wayne Madsen, left, Aug. 24, 2022. In two wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallstates that represent a microcosm of American voters — Florida and New York — candidates generally committed to democracy and the rule of law defeated a Republican hodgepodge of Qanon believers, Adolf Hitler admirers, and, in one case, an admirer of Russia and Vladimir Putin.

The election returns also pointed to a collapse in the corporate media’s insistence that the Republicans will score victories at the expense of Democrats in this year’s midterm elections.

wayne madesen report logoIn the race to fill the 23rd congressional seat of sex scandal-plagued Republican Tom Reed, who resigned in May, Joe Sempolinski, a former Reed staffer, edged out Republican Max Della Pia to finish Reed’s term in the U.S. House. Della Pia, a retired Air Force colonel, is on the ballot for the seat in November. Della Pia received a surprising 47 percent of the vote against Sempolinski’s 53 percent in the normally Republican-leaning district.

Sempolinski is not running in the November general election, becoming one of the most short-lived incumbents in Congress. The winner of the Republican primary for the 23rd’s general election is Nick Langworthy, who defeated the racist and Hitler-admiring Carl Paladino in the GOP primary.

 

U.S. House candidates Sarah Palin, Mary Peltola and Nick Begick III. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

U.S. House candidates Sarah Palin, Mary Peltola and Nick Begick III. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

Alaska Public Media, Peltola gains in Alaska’s updated special U.S. House election results, Liz Ruskin, Aug. 23, 2022. Democrat Mary Peltola has slightly increased her lead in the special U.S. House race.

The Division of Election released an update Tuesday in the three-way contest to see who will serve the remainder of the late Congressman Don Young’s term. With an additional 22,000 votes counted, Peltola gained over Republican rivals Sarah Palin and Nick Begich.

Peltola is now 7.5 percentage points ahead of Palin. She was 6 points ahead last week.

Peltola has 38.9% of the vote, Palin has 31.4% and Begich has 28.2%.

The ballots included in Tuesday’s update are early, absentee and questioned ballots from districts all over the state.

Thousands of ballots remain uncounted. The Division of Elections expects to provide new updates on Friday but the winner won’t be determined until the end of the month. Ballots postmarked on Election Day have until Aug. 31 to arrive. After the deadline is met, the Division of Elections will determine who finished last. That candidate will be eliminated and his or her ballots will be redistributed according to the voter’s second choice, if there is one.

If the current order holds, Palin could win the seat if enough of Begich’s voters chose her as their second.

This is the first election in Alaska to be decided by ranked choice voting. The winner of the special election will take office in September. The term expires in January.

 

Trump Probes, Reactions, Riots, Supporters

 

Shown above is the receipt for property that was seized during the execution of a search warrant by the FBI at former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla. on Aug. 12, 2022 (Associated Press Photo by Jon Elswick).

Shown above is the receipt for property that was seized during the execution of a search warrant by the FBI at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla. on Aug. 12, 2022 (Associated Press Photo by Jon Elswick).

Politico, Documents recovered at Mar-a-Lago were among government’s most classified, letter shows, Kyle Cheney, Andrew Desiderio and Lara Seligman, Aug. 24, 2022 (print ed.). The National Archives found more than 700 pages of classified material — including “special access program materials,” politico Customsome of the most highly classified secrets in the government — in 15 boxes recovered from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in January, according to correspondence between the National Archivist and his legal team.

The May 10 letter — posted late Monday on the website of John Solomon, a conservative journalist and one of Trump’s authorized liaisons to the National Archives to review papers from his presidency — showed that NARA and federal investigators had grown increasingly alarmed about potential damage to national security caused by the warehousing of these documents at Mar-a-Lago, as well as by Trump’s resistance to sharing them with the FBI.

djt hands up mouth open CustomThese records included 700 pages of classified material, according to the letter, sent by National Archivist Debra Wall to Trump’s attorney, Evan Corcoran, and it doesn’t include records recovered by the Justice Department and FBI during a June meeting and the Aug. 11 search of the Mar-a-Lago premises.

Wall’s letter describes earlier correspondence in which Trump’s team objected to disclosing the contents of the 15 boxes to the FBI.

“As you are no doubt aware, NARA had ongoing communications with the former President’s representatives throughout 2021 about what appeared to be missing Presidential records, which resulted in the transfer of 15 boxes of records to NARA in January 2022,” Wall wrote. “In its initial review of materials within those boxes, NARA identified items marked as classified national security information, up to the level of Top Secret and including Sensitive Compartmented Information and Special Access Program materials.”

The letter also revealed that an assessment of threats to national security posed by Trump’s possession of the documents was already underway, well before members of Congress were informed.

Senate Intelligence Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Vice Chair Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have already asked the intelligence community to provide such an assessment, and the broader entity on Capitol Hill that’s privy to the most sensitive national security secrets has asked to view the documents themselves.

U.S. officials in the national security community expressed shock and concern at the former president’s cavalier treatment of classified material. One official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic, said they were astonished at the “recklessness” of the move.

It can take up to a decade to declassify certain information, said one former defense official who still holds a security clearance, so the fact that Trump took hundreds of pages of classified material is “one of the worst things I’ve ever heard.”

“There’s no gray area here. I’m just appalled,” the person said.

The correspondence also shows that even though NARA retrieved the 15 boxes in January, Justice Department and FBI investigators didn’t see their contents until May, after extended negotiations with Trump’s representatives. The letter also shows that in the interim, DOJ asked President Joe Biden to authorize NARA to provide the records to investigators despite an effort by Trump to claim executive privilege over the records. Wall indicated she had rejected Trump’s claim because of the significance of the documents to national security.

Palmer Report, Analysis: January 6th Committee is back in the game with a vengeance, Bill Palmer, Aug. 24, 2022. The January 6th public hearings about Donald Trump’s election overthrow crimes, which were dominating the headlines for weeks on end, have since given way to the DOJ’s moves against Trump in a separate criminal probe over the classified documents he stole.

bill palmer report logo headerBut it’s important to recall that when the January 6th Committee decided to take a break from public hearings, it wasn’t due to a lack of evidence, or public interest. In fact it was the opposite. The committee made such headway, it ended up getting flooded with supplemental evidence and witnesses from all sides, and it decided to spend August working behind the scenes so that it could hold even higher-stakes public hearings in September. It’s just coincidence that the DOJ search warrant has kicked the Trump classified documents into the headlines during that interim stretch.

So just what has the January 6th Committee been doing? We’ve seen the media reports that it obtained Alex Jones’ text messages, and that it obtained voluntary testimony from multiple Trump cabinet members. What will come of that? We don’t know yet. The committee appears to have been intentionally lying low lately, choosing not to give any preliminary findings to the media, so Trump’s other criminal scandal could have the spotlight. But now that’s changing, in a big way.

The January 6th Committee sent investigators all the way to Denmark last week in order to watch January 6th-related documentary footage involving Donald Trump and Roger Stone. More to the point, the committee appears to have decided to tip off the media about it, in order to get it into the headlines.

The only reason for the committee to put something like this out there, is that it’s preparing to retake its share of the spotlight. It looks like the committee has decided to start rattling the cages of people like Roger Stone, and steer the public toward remembering that Trump’s election overthrow plot was just as criminal as his classified documents scandal. In other words, the January 6th Committee is back – and just in time to help finish Trump off.

Rolling Stone, Trump Tells His Lawyers: Get ‘My’ Top Secret Documents Back, Asawin Suebsaeng and Adam Rawnsley, Aug. 23, 2022. The ex-president is desperate to recover the classified trove taken from Mar-a-Lago — and is pushing his legal team on a long-shot maneuver to return them.

rolling stone logoIn the weeks after the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago raid, former President Donald Trump repeatedly made a simple-sounding but extraordinary ask: he wanted his lawyers to get “my documents” back from federal law enforcement.

Trump wasn’t merely referring to the alleged trove of attorney-client material that he insists was scooped up by the feds during the raid, two people familiar with the matter tell Rolling Stone. The ex-president has been demanding that his team find a way to recover “all” of the official documents that Trump has long referred to as “mine” — including the highly sensitive and top secret ones.

Sources close to Trump agree with outside legal experts that such a sweeping legal maneuver would be a long-shot, at best. “I hate to break it to the [former] president, but I do not think he is going to get all [the] top-secret documents back,” says one Trump adviser. “That ship has probably sailed.”

Further, several longtime Trump advisers say they want absolutely nothing to do with the now-infamous boxes of documents, fearing that any knowledge of them could invite an unwanted knock on the door from the feds. “Who would want any of that back? … If it is what they say it is, keep them the hell away,” a second adviser says.

Still, the former president’s legal team appears to be working to retrieve at least some of the papers seized during the Aug. 8 federal search. In recent days, the Trump team — led by former federal prosecutor Evan Corcoran — has been quietly prepping additional legal arguments and strategies to try to pry back material that the feds removed from the ex-president’s Florida abode and club, the sources say. Those measures include drafting a so-called “Rule 41(g) motion,” which allows “a person aggrieved by an unlawful search and seizure of property” to “move for the property’s return,” according to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.

This would be a follow-up measure to the lawsuit, filed Monday by Trump and his attorneys, calling for the appointment of a special master to review the Mar-a-Lago materials for potentially privileged materials. It is unclear when the ex-president’s lawyers plan to file a subsequent motion, which people close to Trump expect to be more narrowly tailored than what the former president apparently wants.

“The motion he already filed is so absolutely terrible, that it’s hard to contemplate him filing something even more aggressive and even more unlikely to succeed,” says Ken White, a criminal defense attorney and former federal prosecutor.

“However,” White added, Trump is “basically trying to litigate the ultimate issue in the case, which is whether he had the right to possess and keep those things, even after he was asked to return them. It’s very unlikely that the court would accept that invitation to litigate that…He would have to prove that those things were illegally taken, and — based on what we know — that is going to be very difficult to prove…He’s going to have to make some very unusual legal arguments, which, if they’re anything like the motion that was just filed, is going to be a very uphill climb.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge in Trump Search Case Issues Written Order Seeking Redactions, Alan Feuer, Aug. 23, 2022 (print ed.). The order was made on the same day former President Trump’s lawyers asked another judge to appoint an independent special master to review the material seized.

The federal magistrate judge in Florida who signed the warrant authorizing the search of former President Donald J. Trump’s private club and residence issued a formal order on Monday directing the government to propose redactions to the sealed affidavit used to justify the search, saying that he remained inclined to make portions of it public.

bruce reinhart wikipediaBut the judge, Bruce E. Reinhart, right, repeated in his order the note of caution he struck in court last week. The government, he added, could still persuade him to keep the whole affidavit sealed, and an extensively redacted version might result in what he described as “a meaningless disclosure.”

Hours after Judge Reinhart issued the order, lawyers for Mr. Trump filed a motion asking another federal judge in Florida — one whom Mr. Trump named to the bench — to appoint an independent arbiter, known as a special master, to review the documents seized during the search for any that fell outside the scope of the warrant or that were protected by executive privilege or attorney-client privilege.

The motion, which was filled with bombastic complaints about the search — “The government has long treated President Donald J. Trump unfairly,” it said at one point — also asked the Justice Department to provide an “informative receipt” of what was taken from Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s home and club in Florida, on Aug. 8. His lawyers wrote that the inventory left at the property by the agents who conducted the search was “legally deficient” and did “little to identify” the seized material.

If the judge who received the motion, Aileen M. Cannon, appoints a special master in the case, it will almost certainly drag out the process of reviewing the multiple boxes of documents that were seized and slow down the government’s investigation into whether Mr. Trump obstructed a federal inquiry and wrongfully retained national defense documents.

Special masters were appointed in other high-profile searches involving Mr. Trump — including the one conducted in 2018 at the office of Michael D. Cohen, the former president’s longtime personal lawyer. In the Cohen case, lawyers for Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen moved quickly to request a special master. This time, it took Mr. Trump’s legal team two weeks to ask for an independent review.

“The department is aware of this evening’s motion,” said Anthony Coley, a spokesman for the Justice Department. “The United States will file its response in court.”

Judge Reinhart’s order earlier in the day effectively put in writing a ruling he made from the bench last Thursday, after arguments from news media companies that wanted the entire affidavit unsealed and federal prosecutors who wanted to keep it fully under wraps. In both his written order and his oral ruling, Judge Reinhart instructed the Justice Department to file a redacted version of the affidavit to him under seal by this Thursday at noon, accompanied by a memo explaining its justifications for the proposed redactions.

In his order, Judge Reinhart acknowledged that it was “a foundational principle of American law that judicial proceedings should be open to the public,” but offered three reasons for keeping much of the affidavit under seal, including some that were never fully explored at the hearing last week, in Federal District Court in West Palm Beach, Fla.

He said there was “a significant likelihood” that releasing the full affidavit could harm the safety of witnesses who helped the government’s investigation, leading to “witness intimidation or retaliation.”

“Given the public notoriety and controversy about this search, it is likely that even witnesses who are not expressly named in the affidavit would be quickly and broadly identified over social media and other communication channels, which could lead to them being harassed and intimidated,” Judge Reinhart wrote.

He also expressed concern about revealing the identity of the F.B.I. agent who swore to the affidavit, particularly when there have been “increased threats against F.B.I. personnel since the search.”

Days after the search at Mar-a-Lago, an armed man attacked the F.B.I.’s Cincinnati field office and died in a shootout with the local police. Not long after that, a Pennsylvania man was arrested after posting messages online threatening the F.B.I., including at least one that directly mentioned the attack outside Cincinnati.

Judge Reinhart further noted in his written order that releasing the full affidavit could also put Mr. Trump in danger, given that the document “discusses physical aspects” of Mar-a-Lago, which is “protected by the United States Secret Service.”

“Disclosure of those details,” Judge Reinhart wrote, “could affect the Secret Service’s ability to carry out its protective function.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Exclusive: Files copied from voting systems were shared with Trump supporters, election deniers, Jon Swaine, Aaron C. Davis, Amy Gardner and Emma Brown, Aug. 23, 2022 (print ed.). Sensitive election system files obtained by attorneys working to overturn President Donald Trump’s 2020 defeat were shared with election deniers, conspiracy theorists and right-wing commentators, according to records reviewed by The Washington Post.

A Georgia computer forensics firm, hired by the attorneys, placed the files on a server, where company records show they were downloaded dozens of times. Among the downloaders were accounts associated with a Texas meteorologist who has appeared on Sean Hannity’s radio show; a podcaster who suggested political enemies should be executed; a former pro surfer who pushed disproven theories that the 2020 election was manipulated; and a self-described former “seduction and pickup coach” who claims to also have been a hacker.

Plaintiffs in a long-running federal lawsuit over the security of Georgia’s voting systems obtained the new records from the company, Atlanta-based SullivanStrickler, under a subpoena to one of its executives. The records include contracts between the firm and the Trump-allied attorneys, notably Sidney Powell. The data files are described as copies of components from election systems in Coffee County, Ga., and Antrim County, Mich.

A series of data leaks and alleged breaches of local elections offices since 2020 has prompted criminal investigations and fueled concerns among some security experts that public disclosure of information collected from voting systems could be exploited by hackers and other people seeking to manipulate future elections.

Recent Headlines

 

pro publica logoU.S. Political Violence, Gun Laws

Pro Publica, Investigation: Why Outlawing Ghost Guns Didn’t Stop America’s Largest Maker of Ghost Gun Parts, Anjeanette Damon, Aug. 24, 2022. Unregistered, unserialized weapons produced with Polymer80 parts have turned up at crime scenes across the country, but state-level efforts to close ghost gun loopholes continue to fall short.

 

 

Defendants Barry Croft, left, and Adam Fox

Defendants Barry Croft, left, and Adam Fox

Detroit Free Press, Jury convicts Adam Fox, Barry Croft Jr. in Whitmer kidnapping plot, Tresa Baldas and Arpan Lobo, Aug. 24, 2022 (print ed.). In a do-over for the government, a federal jury Tuesday convicted two men charged with plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer out of anger over her handling of the pandemic, ending a dramatic trial that highlighted the growth of violent extremism in America.

The jury deliberated for about eight hours over two days before delivering the guilty verdicts against Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr., who were convicted on all counts and face up to life in prison for crimes they insisted were hatched by the FBI.

The verdicts drew praise from many in law enforcement and the legal community, especially Whitmer, whom prosecutors said was the target of extremists who wanted to settle their differences with violence.

The guilty verdicts came down on Whitmer’s birthday.

gretchen whitmer o horizontal Custom“Today’s verdicts prove that violence and threats have no place in our politics and those who seek to divide us will be held accountable. They will not succeed,” Whitmer (shown in a file photo) said in a statement, adding:

“But we must also take a hard look at the status of our politics. Plots against public officials and threats to the FBI are a disturbing extension of radicalized domestic terrorism that festers in our nation, threatening the very foundation of our republic,” Whitmer said. “I cannot — I will not — let extremists get in the way of the work we do. They will never break my unwavering faith in the goodness and decency of our people.”

Fox and Croft, who will be sentenced at a later date, were convicted of kidnapping conspiracy and conspiracy to possess weapons of mass destruction. Croft was convicted on an additional weapons charge.

The historic case ends with four men going to prison and two others going free, two years after the FBI arrested all six on federal charges they plotted to kidnap the governor from her vacation home out of anger over her lockdown orders and mask mandates, and blow up a bridge near her home to slow down law enforcement. Five defendants were arrested in an FBI sting outside an Ypsilanti warehouse, where prosecutors said the men thought they were going to make a down payment on explosives, pick up free military gear, and then head to Buffalo Wild Wings for free beer and chicken. But it was all a ruse.Croft was arrested at a gas station in New Jersey. Eight more individuals face state charges in the case.

“This verdict brings important accountability for perpetrators of violence against public officials,” said former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Barbara McQuade. “Bringing these plotters to justice will cause others to think twice before engaging in similar conduct in the future.”

McQuade applauded federal prosecutors in Grand Rapids for “having the courage” to retry the case, saying: “It would have been easy for them to simply move on to the next case to avoid the possible embarrassment of a second mistrial or acquittal,” McQuade said. “But instead, they fulfilled their duty to protect the public.”

Defense: ‘We will most certainly appeal’

Neither Fox nor Croft had any discernible reaction as U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker read the verdicts, both staring forward and occasionally leaning over to speak to their attorneys. Fox’s mother, who attended every day of the retrial, shook her head as Jonker read the verdict.

The defense long argued that this was a case of entrapment, that the defendants were merely tough-talking potheads who were venting about their government, and that rogue FBI agents and informants set them up.

“We will most certainly appeal,” Fox’s lawyer, Christopher Gibbons, said after the verdict. “Obviously, there was controversy in the trial.”

The defense raised numerous issues during the trial, creating some tense moments in the courtroom. Defense attorneys accused the judge of favoring the prosecution by repeatedly cutting them off during questioning, calling their arguments “crap,” and setting time limits only on the defense attorneys — telling them they could only take as much time to question witnesses as the prosecution.

The defense also took issue with the judge’s handling of a juror who came under investigation for alleged misconduct on the second day of trial. That juror allegedly told coworkers that his or her mind was made up about the case from the get-go, and was excited to be on the jury.

The judge dealt with the issue privately in his chambers, not allowing either the prosecution or the defense to be part of the proceeding.

“I think justice should happen in public,” Croft’s lawyer, Joshua Blanchard, said while leaving the courthouse Tuesday.

Blanchard had made a filing regarding the potentially problematic juror, and asked the judge to unseal it after the verdict — but Jonker said that will be explored in the future.

FBI vindicated

Throughout the trial, the prosecution argued the men did a lot more than talk — they took action to carry out their plan, including casing Whitmer’s vacation home twice, building explosives, holding secret meetings, and practicing breaking-and-entering drills in shoot-houses they built that mimicked her cottage.

In the end, the jury sided with the government, delivering a major victory not only to the prosecutors, but to the FBI, whose reputation came under assault during both trials, with the defense repeatedly blasting agents and informants, calling them liars and manipulators with overreaching powers.

  • MLive.com, Defense attorneys ‘pursuing all avenues’ for men found guilty in Gov. Whitmer kidnap plot

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Forced Birth Laws, Privacy, Freedoms

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Halts Part of Idaho’s Abortion Ban, Saying It Violates Health Law, Glenn Thrush, Aug. 24, 2022. The Justice Department sued Idaho this month, but its ability to influence policies in Republican states with so-called trigger laws is limited.

A federal judge in Idaho blocked part of the state’s strict abortion ban on Wednesday, delivering a limited but significant victory to the Biden administration, which has tried to use its limited power to protect reproductive rights since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

This month, the Justice Department sued Idaho, one of the most conservative states in the country, arguing that the law would prevent emergency room doctors from performing abortions necessary to stabilize the health of women facing medical emergencies.

Judge B. Lynn Winmill of the Federal District Court in Idaho wrote that doctors in the state could not be punished for acting to protect the health of endangered mothers, in a preliminary injunction issued a day before the ban was to be enacted.

New York State civil inquiry. Letitia James, the New York attorney general, has been conducting a civil investigation into Mr. Trump and his family business. The case is focused on whether Mr. Trump’s statements about the value of his assets were part of a pattern of fraud or were simply Trumpian showmanship.

Manhattan criminal case. Alvin L. Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, has been investigating whether Mr. Trump or his family business intentionally submitted false property values to potential lenders. But the inquiry faded from view after signs emerged suggesting that Mr. Trump was unlikely to be indicted.

The memo to Mr. Barr never mentioned the word “pardon,” instead characterizing that and similar episodes as Mr. Trump merely praising or condemning witnesses based on whether they cooperated with investigators. The memo argues that this could be interpreted as Mr. Trump merely not wanting the witnesses to lie and make up false claims against him.

To back up its assessments, the memo repeatedly stresses that Mr. Mueller’s investigation did not find sufficient evidence to charge any Trump campaign associate in a conspiracy with Russia.

“Once again, this conclusion is buttressed by the absence of any clear evidence that these witnesses had information that would prove the president had committed a crime,” Mr. Engel and Mr. O’Callaghan wrote.

Ryan Goodman, a New York University law professor, called the memo a “get out of jail free” card, adding: “It’s hard to stomach a memo that amounts to saying someone is not guilty of obstruction for deliberately trying to induce witnesses not to cooperate with law enforcement in a major criminal investigation.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Is a Fetus a Person? An Anti-Abortion Strategy Says Yes, Kate Zernike, Aug. 23, 2022 (print ed.). So-called fetal personhood laws would make abortion murder, ruling out all or most of the exceptions for abortion allowed in states that already ban it.

Even as roughly half the states have moved to enact near-total bans on abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, anti-abortion activists are pushing for a  long-held and more absolute goal: laws that grant fetuses the same legal rights and protections as any person.

So-called fetal personhood laws would make abortion murder, ruling out all or most of the exceptions for abortion allowed in states that already ban it. So long as Roe established a constitutional right to abortion, such laws remained symbolic in the few states that managed to pass them. Now they are starting to have practical effect. Already in Georgia, a fetus now qualifies for tax credits and child support, and is to be included in population counts and redistricting.

The laws also open up questions well beyond abortion, about immigration and who is entitled to public benefits.

They have the potential to criminalize common health care procedures and limit the rights of a pregnant woman in making health care decisions.

The U.S. Supreme Court decision returning the regulation of abortion to the states has opened new interest in the laws, and a new legal path for them.

In Indiana, where this month the Republican-controlled legislature banned abortion starting at conception — one of the strictest laws in the nation — some conservative lawmakers objected that the law included exceptions for rape and incest. “This bill justifies the wicked, those murdering babies, and punishes the righteous, the preborn human being,” one lawmaker said, pushing instead for a fetal personhood law with no exceptions.

In Georgia, a law granting fetal personhood to fetuses after around six weeks of pregnancy took effect after the overturning of Roe. But Georgia Right to Life and other conservative groups are petitioning Governor Brian Kemp to call a special legislative session to pass a fetal personhood amendment to the state constitution. It would eliminate any exceptions for abortion allowed in the law, by declaring a “paramount right to life of all human beings as persons at any stage of development from fertilization to natural death.”

washington post logoWashington Post, After Roe, teens are teaching themselves sex ed, because the adults won’t, Hannah Natanson, Aug. 24, 2022 (print ed.). They say it’s crucial to learn about more than abstinence, especially if abortion is unavailable.

Sweating in the sun, two dozen teenagers spread themselves across picnic blankets in a grassy park and prepared to discuss the facts of life they never learned in school.

Behind them on a folding table, bouquets of pamphlets offered information teachers at school would never share — on the difference between medical and surgical abortions, and how to get them. Beside the pamphlets sat items adults at school would never give: pregnancy tests and six-packs of My Way Emergency Contraceptive.

Emma Rose Smith, 17, rose from the blankets, tucked her pale-blonde hair behind her ears and turned off the music on a small, black speaker. She faced the assembled high-schoolers, all members of her newfound group, Teens for Reproductive Rights, and began talking about the nonprofit Abortion Care Tennessee. Her words hitched at first, then tumbled in a rush.

“A little bit about them,” Emma Rose said, “is they’re an organization that funds people’s abortions if they can’t afford it. Also, by the way, there’s another organization that we can also talk about later, when we give you guys, like, resources, that actually does free mail-in abortion pills.”

Twelve days after the teens’ picnic, abortion would become illegal in Tennessee, a measure made possible by the Supreme Court’s June decision, in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, overturning Roe v. Wade. The students wouldn’t hear anything about it in school: State law does not require sex education, and it holds that schools in areas with high pregnancy rates must offer “family life education” focused on abstinence.

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Energy, Climate, Disasters, Environment

 

climate change photo

Associated Press, Drought changes landscape in southwest China, Mark Schiefelbein, Aug. 24, 2022. River bottoms partially exposed by drought ap logocreate a rare sight that becomes an urban beach at dusk to escape the withering heat. Farmlands baked by the sun leave rice stalks yellowed, the famed hot pepper plants all but bereft of fruit, the reservoirs reduced to a puddle of water and cracked earth.

The very landscape of Chongqing, a megacity that also takes in surrounding farmland and steep and picturesque mountains, has been transformed by an unusually long and intense heat wave and an accompanying drought.
Full Coverage: Photography

Chinese meteorologists are calling it the nation’s strongest heat wave since record keeping began in 1961, based on its intensity, geographic area and duration. Now into its third month, it has surpassed the previous record of 61 days in 2013. Temperatures are topping 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in cities and villages across southern China. Chongqing in the southwest has been hit particularly hard.

At Longquan village in the rolling hills south of urban Chongqing, a farmer walks across cracked mud at the bottom of a community reservoir that was once full of water. The reservoir’s retaining wall sprang a leak a few months ago, and with the heat and drought, only a puddle a few meters (yards) across remains.

To the north, Li Siming walks through his fields yellowing rice plants in Mu’er town as the sound of jets landing at a nearby airport echoed off the hillsides. With the supply limited, the communal water that would normally go to his rice crops was diverted to fruit orchards instead.

“We pray to the god, but the god wouldn’t rain. We ask the local government, but the government wouldn’t give us water,” Li said.

He is using expensive tap water to irrigate his fields. He estimates his harvest from 3 hectares (7 acres) of land will be 400 kilograms (880 pounds) of rice — less than a third of his usual one. Farmers have moved forward the harvest by half a month so the crops won’t dry up, but before the grains are fully developed.

Recent Headlines

 

More On Ukraine War

 

United Nations

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Updates: U.S. intelligence agencies warned that Russia could step up attacks on Ukrainian civilian infrastructure, Farnaz Fassihi, Aug. 24, 2022 (print ed.). The U.N. Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday afternoon at the request of Russia to discuss the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine, where nearby fighting has raised the risk of a nuclear accident.

Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for attacks in and around Zaporizhzhia, Europe’s largest nuclear plant, including recent shelling that fell dangerously close to the reactors. The Russian military took control of the site in March but Ukrainian technicians still operate the facility.

As U.S. intelligence agencies warn that Russia may redouble attacks to coincide with the six-month anniversary of its invasion on Wednesday, which is also Ukraine’s Independence Day, the fighting around the nuclear plant looms as one of the gravest risks in the prolonged conflict. Hostilities in the south are intensifying as Russia aims to fortify its defensive positions in lands it has seized, and Ukraine tries to muster a counteroffensive.

António Guterres, the secretary general of the United Nations, has said the situation around the Zaporizhzhia facility is “critical” and warned of a catastrophic nuclear accident if the plant and the area surrounding it are not demilitarized. The U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has requested secure access for its inspectors since at least June. It remains unclear when or whether Russia or Ukraine would grant access.

In his overnight address, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine accused Russia of “playing around” with international bodies and assailed Moscow for having “the audacity to convene the U.N. Security Council to discuss its own provocations.”

Russia is expected on Tuesday to base its argument on a letter its mission to the United Nations circulated among council members last week. In the letter, Russia claimed without evidence that Ukraine was attacking the Zaporizhzhia plant and that the United States and Ukraine were planning to cause a minor accident there for which they would blame Russia.

Russia has made similar allegations to the Security Council about chemical and biological attacks. The United States and Ukraine have denied those allegations as baseless.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Nuclear Plant Is Held Hostage in Ukraine Amid Warnings of Disaster, Marc Santora and Andrew E. Kramer, Aug. 24, 2022 (print ed.). With Russia controlling the Zaporizhzhia plant, Ukrainians working at gunpoint are all that stand in the way of a catastrophe. Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of planning attacks on the facility, as the U.S. and its allies call for a demilitarized zone.

Officials from the United States, the European Union and the United Nations have called for the creation of a demilitarized zone, as Ukraine and Russia each accuse the other of preparing attacks on the plant — leading many to fear that Zaporizhzhia is in greater peril than ever.

 

Alexander Dugin, a far-right writer and ideologue known as “Putin’s brain,” is seen in 2016 in his studio in Moscow (Photo by Francesca Ebel of the Associated Press).

Alexander Dugin, a far-right writer and ideologue known as “Putin’s brain,” is seen in 2016 in his studio in Moscow (Photo by Francesca Ebel of the Associated Press).

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia blames Ukraine for car explosion that killed Putin ally’s daughter, Mary Ilyushina, Annabelle Timsit and Robyn Dixon, Aug. 23, 2022 (print ed.). The killing of Daria Dugina, below right, daughter of ideologue Alexander Dugin who helped shape the Kremlin’s narrative about Ukraine, has emerged as a flash point for the war.

Image Tweeted by @AlexKokcharovRussia blamed Ukraine for a car explosion that killed the daughter of Alexander Dugin, a Russian nationalist and fervent ideological ally of President Vladimir Putin, prompting Dugin to issue a statement calling for military “victory” as vengeance — an exhortation that could lead to an escalation in the war.

“Our hearts yearn for more than just revenge or retribution,” Dugin said in the statement. “It’s too small, not the Russian style. We only need our Victory. My daughter laid her maiden life on its altar. So win, please!” In the statement, which portrayed Russians as victims rather than the aggressor-invaders perpetrating a war, Dugin called the bombing that killed his daughter, Daria Dugina, “a terrorist attack carried out by the Nazi Ukrainian regime.”

Ukraine has denied involvement in the killing of Dugina, chief editor of a Russian disinformation website who was herself under U.S. sanctions. Kyiv also has warned about a spike in Russian attacks on Ukrainian cities ahead of the country’s Independence Day.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Economic Aid for Americans, Once Plentiful, Falls Off at a Painful Moment, Jim Tankersley, Aug. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Food insecurity is rising again, as relief provided by President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package wanes and prices continue to rise.

For the better part of last year, the pandemic eased its grip on Oregon’s economy. Awash in federal assistance, including direct checks to individuals and parents, many of the state’s most vulnerable found it easier to afford food, housing and other daily staples.

Most of that aid, which was designed to be a temporary bridge, has run out at a particularly bad moment. Oregon, like states across the nation, has seen its economy improve, but prices for everything from eggs to gas to rent have spiked. Demand is growing at food banks like William Temple House in Northwest Portland, where the line for necessities like bread, vegetables and toilet paper stretched two dozen people deep on a recent day.

“I’m very worried, like I was in the first month of the pandemic, that we will run out of food,” said Susannah Morgan, who runs the Oregon Food Bank, which helps supply William Temple House and 1,400 other meal assistance sites.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russians at Daria Dugina memorial call for victory over Ukraine, Robyn Dixon and Mary Ilyushina, Aug. 24, 2022 (print ed.). russian flag wavingRussians on Tuesday bade farewell to Daria Dugina, daughter of far-right ideologue Alexander Dugin, as calls grew in Russia for a tougher approach in the war against Ukraine, and the U.S. State Department warned that Moscow was likely to step up attacks on Ukrainian civilian targets and government institutions in coming days.

washington post logoWashington Post, New weapons for Ukraine suggest preparation for closer combat, Alex Horton, Aug. 23, 2022 (print ed.). The Pentagon is sending new weapons and equipment to Ukraine that will better prepare its military to fight Russian troops at closer ranges, potentially signaling that Kyiv and its backers see an opportunity to retake lost ground after weeks of grinding artillery duels along the front lines.

ukraine flagUkrainian officials have been openly discussing an offensive on the Russian-held strategic port city of Kherson, but there is little evidence along the front lines that Ukraine is prepared to execute an operation that would require large numbers of troops, armored vehicles and powerful close-range weapons to overcome the numerically superior Russian military.

The latest package appears to be a first step toward addressing some of the shortfalls in the weaponry Ukrainian forces would need to launch a counterattack, particularly across mined areas in the approach to well-entrenched Russian positions. A successful offensive would include an ability to attack from a variety of distances.

The nearly $800 million in assistance announced Friday will include 40 bomb-resistant vehicles equipped with rollers that help detonate mines, as well as lighter howitzers that are easier to move than the more powerful guns the United States has previously sent. The aid will also include recoilless rifles with a range of few hundred meters and missile launchers limited to less than three miles — much closer than the current distance between Ukrainian and Russian units in many places.

“The mine-clearing is a really good example of how the Ukrainians will need this sort of capability to be able to push their forces forward and retake territory,” a senior U.S. defense official told reporters Friday. “These are capabilities that are enhancing the Ukrainians’ mobility as they look at this very challenging environment in southern Ukraine, in particular.” The official spoke on the condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the Pentagon.

What to know about Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

The armored vehicles known as MRAPs, a key vehicle in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, would shield troops from explosions and small-arms fire while triggering mines with rollers that project from the front like lobster antennae.

But the next chapters of life with the virus — and the choice of booster shots for the fall and beyond — will be complicated by the layers of immunity that now ripple through the population, laid down by past infections and vaccinations.

When it comes to viral infections, past is prologue: The version of a virus to which we’re first exposed can dictate how we respond to later variants and, maybe, how well vaccines work.

ny times logoNew York Times, Foes Agree on Nuclear Disaster Risk in Ukraine, but Little Else, Richard Pérez-Peña and Farnaz Fassihi, Aug. 24, 2022 (print ed.). At the U.N. Security Council, Russia and its critics traded barbs over the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, with each side accusing the other of courting disaster.

As United Nations officials pleaded for inspection and demilitarization of the battle-scarred nuclear power plant caught in Russia’s war on Ukraine, countries traded harsh words at the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday but moved no closer to resolving the intensifying crisis, which has hung over the war for months.

At the Security Council meeting, the second in two weeks on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the United States and its allies accused Russia, which controls the plant, of peddling lies about the situation there and blaming others for its own actions, while Russia leveled similar charges at them. The Council’s member nations emerged from the 80-minute meeting with no evident movement toward inspection or improved security.

Russian forces have held the sprawling Zaporizhzhia complex and Enerhodar, the town encompassing it, since early March, and the remaining residents live under a harrowing occupation, exhausted and fearful as many of them work to keep the plant operating safely.

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More On U.S. Politics, Governance Analysis

ny times logoNew York Times, Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke Accused of Misleading Investigators, Maggie Astor, Aug. 24, 2022. A watchdog report stems from Ryan Zinke’s tenure as interior secretary during the Trump administration. He is now seeking a House seat in Montana.

Ryan Zinke, a former interior secretary during the Trump administration, intentionally misled investigators looking into his department’s decision not to act on two Native American tribes’ requests to open a new casino in Connecticut, the Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General concluded in a report released on Wednesday.

Mr. Zinke, who served as interior secretary from 2017 to 2019, is now the Republican nominee for a congressional seat in Montana. He is widely expected to win the general election this November.

The 44-page report on Wednesday focused not on the casino decision itself — litigation over that was resolved separately — but on whether Mr. Zinke and his former chief of staff had been honest about it.

ny times logoNew York Times, For Lindsey Graham, a Showdown in Georgia, Danny Hakim and Richard Fausset, Aug. 24, 2022. The senator from South Carolina is fighting efforts to force him to testify before a grand jury investigating election interference by Donald J. Trump and his allies.

Six days after major news organizations declared Donald J. Trump the loser of the 2020 presidential election, his allies were applying a desperate full-court press in an effort to turn his defeat around, particularly in Georgia.

The pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell went on television claiming that there was abundant evidence of foreign election meddling that never ultimately materialized. Another lawyer, L. Lin Wood, filed a lawsuit seeking to block the certification of Georgia’s election results.

That same day, Nov. 13, 2020, Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican and one of Mr. Trump’s most ardent supporters, made a phone call that left Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, immediately alarmed. Mr. Graham, he said, had asked if there was a legal way, using the state courts, to toss out all mail-in votes from counties with high rates of questionable signatures.

The call would eventually trigger an ethics complaint, demands from the left for Mr. Graham’s resignation and a legal drama that is culminating only now, nearly two years later, as the veteran lawmaker fights to avoid testifying before an Atlanta special grand jury that is investigating election interference by Mr. Trump and his supporters.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: An Unusual $1.6 Billion Donation Bolsters Conservatives, Kenneth P. Vogel and Shane Goldmacher, Aug. 23, 2022 (print ed.). A low-profile Republican financier donated his company to a new group run by the influential operative Leonard A. Leo.

A new conservative nonprofit group scored a $1.6 billion windfall last year via a little-known donor — an extraordinary sum that could give Republicans and their causes a huge financial boost ahead of the midterms, and for years to come.

barre seidThe source of the money was Barre Seid, right, an electronics manufacturing mogul, and the donation is among the largest — if not the largest — single contributions ever made to a politically focused nonprofit. The beneficiary is a new political group controlled by Leonard A. Leo, an activist who has used his connections to Republican donors and politicians to help engineer the conservative dominance of the Supreme Court and to finance battles over abortion rights, voting rules and climate change policy.

This windfall will help cement Mr. Leo’s status as a kingmaker in conservative big money politics. It could also give conservatives an advantage in a type of difficult-to-trace spending that shapes elections and political fights.

The cash infusion was arranged through an unusual series of transactions that appear to have avoided tax liabilities. It originated with Mr. Seid, a longtime conservative donor who made a fortune as the chairman and chief executive of an electrical device manufacturing company in Chicago now known as Tripp Lite.

Rather than merely giving cash, Mr. Seid donated 100 percent of the shares of Tripp Lite to Mr. Leo’s nonprofit group before the company was sold to an Irish conglomerate for $1.65 billion, according to tax records provided to The New York Times, corporate filings and a person with knowledge of the matter.

The nonprofit, called the Marble Freedom Trust, then received all of the proceeds from the sale, in a transaction that appears to have been structured to allow the nonprofit group and Mr. Seid to avoid paying taxes on the proceeds.

For perspective, the $1.6 billion that the Marble trust reaped from the sale is slightly more than the total of $1.5 billion spent in 2020 by 15 of the most politically active nonprofit organizations that generally align with Democrats, according to an analysis by The Times. That spending, which Democrats embraced to aid the campaigns of Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his allies in Congress, dwarfed the roughly $900 million spent by a comparable sample of 15 of the most politically active groups aligned with the Republican Party.

The Marble Freedom Trust could help conservatives level the playing field — if not surpass the left — in such nonprofit spending, which is commonly referred to as dark money because the groups involved can raise and spend unlimited sums on politics while revealing little about where they got the money or how they spent it.

In a statement, Mr. Leo cited some of the left’s biggest donors and an advisory firm that helps manage the nonprofit groups they fund.

“It’s high time for the conservative movement to be among the ranks of George Soros, Hansjörg Wyss, Arabella Advisors and other left-wing philanthropists, going toe-to-toe in the fight to defend our constitution and its ideals,” Mr. Leo said. Mr. Seid and an associate did not respond to messages seeking comment.

The funds are difficult to trace through public records. Tripp Lite is a private company that is not subject to corporate disclosure rules for public companies. On its tax filing, Marble indicated that the $1.6 billion came from the “sale of gifted company and subsidiaries,” but indicated that it withheld identifying information “to protect donor confidentiality.”

Ray D. Madoff, a professor of tax law at Boston College who is the director of the school’s Forum on Philanthropy and the Public Good, said the structure of the transaction was most likely legal but did appear to allow a donor to avoid federal tax obligations from the sale of the company.

Here is how it works: Marble Freedom Trust is registered under a section of the tax code — 501(c)4 — for organizations that focus primarily on what the Internal Revenue Service calls “social welfare” and as a result are exempt from paying taxes. Such groups are allowed to engage in political advocacy, but their supporters are not entitled to deduct donations from their income taxes. Supporters can, however, donate assets that a nonprofit can sell and avoid capital gains taxes on the sale.

ap logoAssociated Press, AP-NORC poll: Most in US say they want stricter gun laws, Sara  Burnett, Aug. 23, 2022. Most U.S. adults want to see gun laws made stricter and think gun violence is increasing nationwide, according to a new poll that finds broad public support for a variety of gun restrictions, including many that are supported by majorities of Republicans and gun owners.

The poll by the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows 71% of Americans say gun laws should be stricter, including about half of Republicans, the vast majority of Democrats and a majority of those in gun-owning households.

The poll was conducted between July 28 and Aug. 1, after a string of deadly mass shootings — from a New York grocery store to a school in Texas and a July 4 parade in Illinois — and a 2020 spike in gun killings that have increased attention on the issue of gun violence. Overall, 8 in 10 Americans perceive that gun violence is increasing around the country, and about two-thirds say it’s increasing in their state, though less than half believe it’s increasing in their community, the poll shows.

The question of how to prevent such violence has long divided politicians and many voters, making it difficult to change gun laws. In June, a conservative majority on the Supreme Court expanded gun rights, finding a constitutional right to carry firearms in public for self-defense.

Later that same month, President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan gun safety bill. The package, approved in the wake of shootings like the one that killed 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, was both a measured compromise and the most significant bill addressing gun violence to be approved in Congress in decades — an indication of how intractable the issue has become.

Recent Headlines

 

Public Health, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Amazon Says It Will Shut Down Amazon Care, Karen Weise, Aug. 24, 2022. Amazon told employees in an email on Wednesday that it is shutting down Amazon Care, its in-house foray into providing primary and urgent health care. The move comes a month after Amazon announced plans to buy a much larger competitor, One Medical, in a $3.9 billion deal.

Amazon for years has wanted to find its own ways to enter the health care industry, which company executives think provides a big opportunity for expansion.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jill Biden Tests Positive for Coronavirus Again in ‘Rebound’ Case, Zach Montague, Aug. 24, 2022. Her experience mirrors that of President Biden, who was forced to return to isolation last month after his initial bout with Covid-19.

ny times logoNew York Times, C.I.A. Begins Compensating Victims of Havana Syndrome, Julian E. Barnes, Aug. 24, 2022. Officers and diplomats have reported ailments arising from mysterious incidents since 2016. But lawyers for some say future cases may be harder to adjudicate.

About a dozen people suffering from debilitating symptoms that have become known as Havana syndrome have either received the payments or been approved to receive them, the people familiar with the program said.

Several of the recipients are former C.I.A. officers who were injured while serving in Havana in 2016 and 2017. However, payments are also being processed for current and former officers whose injuries occurred elsewhere.

 

anthony fauci graphic Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Fauci plans to step down in December after half a century in government, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Aug. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s preeminent infectious-disease expert who achieved unprecedented fame while enduring withering political attacks as the face of the coronavirus pandemic response under two presidents, plans to step down in December after more than a half-century of public service, he announced Monday.

anthony fauci george w bushFauci, 81, shown above in a file photo and at right receiving from then-President George W. Bush one of the physician’s many honors over his long career, has led the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984. He joined the parent agency, the National Institutes of Health, in 1968 as a 27-year-old doctor who had just finished medical residency and was quickly identified as a rising star. Most recently, Fauci has also served as President Biden’s chief medical adviser since the start of his administration.

Fauci’s tenure as director of the infectious-diseases institute made him an adviser to seven presidents and put him on the front lines of every modern-day scourge, including AIDS, the 2001 anthrax scares, Ebola, Zika and the coronavirus pandemic. During the nearly four decades Fauci led the agency, it grew from a little-known institute with a $350 million annual budget to a globally recognized powerhouse with a budget exceeding $6 billion.

“Because of Dr. Fauci’s many contributions to public health, lives here in the United States and around the world have been saved,” said Biden, who as vice president worked with Fauci on the nation’s response to Ebola and Zika during the Obama administration. “Whether you’ve met him personally or not, he has touched all Americans’ lives with his work.”

While Fauci is one of the most cited researchers of all time and has been widely known in scientific circles for decades, it was the coronavirus pandemic that catapulted him to worldwide fame — and ignited criticism from some Republican politicians and threats from the public.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Administration Plans for New Booster Campaign Soon After Labor Day, Sharon LaFraniere and Noah Weiland, Aug. 24, 2022 (print ed.). A top F.D.A. regulator cited compelling data for redesigned coronavirus vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

The Biden administration plans to offer the next generation of coronavirus booster shots to Americans 12 and older soon after Labor Day, a campaign that federal officials hope will reduce deaths from Covid-19 and protect against an expected winter surge.

Dr. Peter Marks, the top vaccine regulator for the Food and Drug Administration, said in an interview on Tuesday that while he could not discuss timing, his team was close to authorizing updated doses that would target the versions of the virus now circulating.

Even though those formulations have not been tested in humans, he said, the agency has “extremely good” data showing that the shots are safe and will be effective. “How confident am I?” he said. “I’m extremely confident.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Your first brush with coronavirus could affect how a fall booster works, Carolyn Y. Johnson, Aug. 24, 2022 (print ed.). It’s a phenomenon known by the forbidding name of original antigenic sin, and, in the case of the coronavirus, it prompts a constellation of questions.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2In the beginning, when the coronavirus was new, the quest for a vaccine was simple. Everyone started out susceptible to the virus. Shots brought spectacular protection.

But the next chapters of life with the virus — and the choice of booster shots for the fall and beyond — will be complicated by the layers of immunity that now ripple through the population, laid down by past infections and vaccinations.

When it comes to viral infections, past is prologue: The version of a virus to which we’re first exposed can dictate how we respond to later variants and, maybe, how well vaccines work.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

ny times logoNew York Times, Uvalde Fires Its School Police Chief in Response to Shooting, Edgar Sandoval, Aug. 24, 2022. The chief, Pete Arredondo, has been criticized for waiting too long to rescue students and teachers trapped in two classrooms with the gunman.

Facing intense pressure from parents, the school board in Uvalde, Texas, on Wednesday terminated its school police chief, Pete Arredondo, who directed the district’s police response to a mass shooting at an elementary school in which the gunman was allowed to remain in a pair of classrooms for more than 75 minutes.

The unanimous vote, which Mr. Arredondo, through his lawyer, called “an unconstitutional public lynching,” represented the first direct accountability over what has been widely seen as a deeply flawed police response, one that left trapped and wounded students and teachers to wait for rescue as police officers delayed their entry into the two adjoining classrooms where the gunman was holed up.

Cheers broke out in the room as one of the board members, Laura Perez, made a motion: “I move that good cause exists to terminate the noncertified contract of Pete Arredondo, effective immediately,” she said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ex-Detective Admits Misleading Judge Who Approved Breonna Taylor Raid, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Aug. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Kelly Goodlett pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, becoming the first officer to be convicted in the fatal police operation.

A former police detective admitted on Tuesday that she had helped mislead a judge into wrongly authorizing a raid of Breonna Taylor’s apartment in Louisville, Ky., setting in motion the nighttime operation in which the police fatally shot Ms. Taylor.

The former detective, Kelly Goodlett, pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of conspiracy, admitting that she had worked with another officer to falsify a search warrant application and had later lied to cover up their act. In pleading guilty, Ms. Goodlett became the first police officer to be convicted over the March 2020 raid, during which the police were searching for evidence of drug dealing by Ms. Taylor’s former boyfriend, Jamarcus Glover.

Inside a courtroom in downtown Louisville, Ms. Goodlett, 35, admitted that she had known there was not enough evidence to support approving the warrant, but had nonetheless failed to object when a fellow detective falsely wrote that the police knew Mr. Glover was receiving packages at Ms. Taylor’s home.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Mental Illness Not a Useful Means to Predict Gun Violence, Experts Say, Shaila Dewan, Aug. 23, 2022 (print ed.). Blaming mass murder on mental illness is a time-honored impulse, used by law enforcement and politicians alike. But many killers, if not most, had never been diagnosed with a serious psychiatric disorder, and experts prefer to focus on warning signs like a life crisis.

The freshman who walked into the high school cafeteria in Marysville, Wash., in 2014 with his father’s .40-caliber Beretta did not fit anyone’s profile of a mass murderer. He was a crack athlete. He embraced his Native American traditions, wearing a headdress at tribal events and offering freshly killed deer to his grandmother. He was popular, so much so that he had just been elected homecoming prince.

He had no history of mental illness — just what several classmates described as an uncharacteristically bad mood that week. It was only after he killed four fellow students and wounded another that the armchair diagnosis of his mental state began.

Blaming mass murder on mental illness is a time-honored impulse, used by law enforcement and politicians alike. “Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun,” President Donald J. Trump said in 2019 in response to mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. After a teenage gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in May, Gov. Greg Abbott said, “Anybody who shoots somebody else has a mental health challenge. Period.”

Such explanations satisfy a deep longing to understand the incomprehensible. And they appeal to common sense — how could a person who kills indiscriminately be in their right mind?

Yet America’s mass killers fit no single profile and certainly no pattern of insanity — many, if not most, had never been diagnosed with a serious psychiatric disorder. Background checks can prevent someone with a diagnosis of mental illness from acquiring a gun, but psychologists say there is a wide divide between a clinical diagnosis and the type of emotional disturbance that precedes many mass killings.

The real problem, those experts say, is that mental illness is not a useful means to predict violence. About half of all Americans will experience mental health issues at some point in their lives, and the vast majority of people with mental illness do not kill.

“Do you or do you not have a mental health diagnosis?” said Jillian Peterson, a co-founder of the Violence Project, a research center that has compiled a database of mass shootings from 1966 on and studied perpetrators in depth. “In many cases, it doesn’t really matter. It’s not the main driver.”

Instead, many experts have come to focus on warning signs that occur whether or not actual mental illness is present, including marked changes in behavior, demeanor or appearance, uncharacteristic fights or arguments, and telling others of plans for violence, a phenomenon known as “leakage.”

This focus is far from perfect — it can be exceedingly difficult to weed out serious threats from many more that are idle, impetuous or exaggerated. But the warning signs approach has benefits: It can work even when the mental health system does not, and it sidesteps the complaint that blaming mass shootings on mental illness increases negative attitudes and stigma toward those who suffer from it.

Mississippi Free Press, ‘A Wrong Never Righted’: Court Upholds Mississippi’s 1890 Jim Crow Voting Law, Ashton Pittman, Aug. 24, 2022. The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals voted to uphold a Jim Crow law that Mississippi’s white-supremacist leaders adopted in 1890 in an attempt to disenfranchise Black residents for life. White lawmakers designated certain crimes that they believed Black people were more likely to commit as lifelong disenfranchising crimes.

The court’s conservative majority admitted that the Jim Crow law was “steeped in racism,” but said the State had made enough changes in the 132 years since to override its white supremacist taint. A 2018 analysis found that the law still disproportionately disenfranchises Black Mississippians compared to white residents.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Mississippi Center For Justice, which filed the lawsuit against the State of Mississippi in 2017, said it will appeal the ruling in Harness v. Watson to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“This provision was part of the 1890 plan to take the vote away from Black people who had attained it in the wake of the Civil War,” said Rob McDuff, an attorney with MCJ who argued that the Jim Crow violates the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of Equal Protection under the law. “Unfortunately, the Court of Appeals is allowing it to remain in place despite its racist origins. Despite this setback, we will continue this battle and seek review in the U.S. Supreme Court.”

‘To Secure The Supremacy of the White Race’

During the Reconstruction era, newly emancipated Black Mississippians made enormous gains as Black men gained the right to vote. But in 1890, white Mississippi lawmakers began drafting a new constitution riddled with Jim Crow laws. The new system instituted an explicitly white-supremacist regime, with its drafters bent on disenfranchising, criminalizing and denying opportunity to the state’s Black residents.

The legislative committee that drafted Mississippi’s 1890 Constitution was initially explicit in its white-supremacist goals. They adopted a resolution declaring that “it is the duty of this Com. to perform its work in such a manner as to secure permanent white rule in all departments of state government and without due violence to the true principles of our republican system of government.”

They later revised the resolution, changing “white rule” to “intelligent rule.” Contrary to popular misconception, Jim Crow laws usually masqueraded as colorblind. But on the floor of the Mississippi Constitutional Convention, lawmakers were open about their intent.

James K. Vardaman, a former Mississippi speaker of the House, governor and U.S. senator, seen here in 1912, was known as “The Great White Chief.” He said he and other Mississippi lawmakers designed the 1890 Mississippi State Constitution to “eliminate” Black voting power. Photo courtesy U.S. Library of Congress.

“I will agree that this is a government by the people and for the people, but what people? When this declaration was made by our forefathers, it was for the Anglo-Saxon people. That is what we are here for today—to secure the supremacy of the white race,” Franklin County delegate J.H. McGehee said to applause from his fellow lawmakers at the 1890 convention as he vowed to strip voting rights from Black residents “even if it does sacrifice some of my white children, or my white neighbors or their children.”

After the state adopted that law as part of its constitution, along with other provisions like poll taxes and literacy tests, James K. Vardaman, one of its drafters, explained the goal: “There is no use to equivocate or lie about the matter … Mississippi’s constitutional convention of 1890 was held for no other purpose than to eliminate the n–ger from politics. Not the ‘ignorant and vicious’, as some of the apologists would have you believe, but the n–ger.” Supporters hailed Vardaman, who served as a Mississippi governor and U.S. senator, as the state’s “Great White Chief.”

The 1890 provision at issue is Section 241 of the Mississippi Constitution, which originally permanently disenfranchised people who committed the following crimes: bribery, burglary theft, arson, obtaining money or goods under false pretense, perjury, forgery, embezzlement and bigamy. In their effort to only include crimes they believed Black people were most likely to commit, the white-supremacist drafters of the 1890 Constitution did not originally include murder and rape as disenfranchising crimes.

“If Section 241 had never been amended, the provision would violate the Equal Protection Clause,” the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals’ majority said in its ruling Wednesday. “… Critically, however, it has been amended.”

The State amended the Constitution in 1950, removing burglary as a disenfranchising crime. Later, in 1968, the 5th Circuit’s opinion says, the State made additional changes by voter referendum, including by adding “the ‘non-black’ crimes of ‘murder’ and ‘rape’ to the disenfranchising crimes in Section 241.”

“After careful consideration of the record and applicable precedents, we reconfirm that Section 241 in its current form does not violate the Equal Protection Clause,” the court said in an en banc opinion after a vote of all justices in the circuit. “Plaintiffs failed to meet their burden of showing that the current version of Section 241 was motivated by discriminatory intent. In addition, Mississippi has conclusively shown that any taint associated with Section 241 has been cured.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Charges to Be Dropped Against Officers in Killing of Rayshard Brooks, Richard Fausset, Aug. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Mr. Brooks was shot to death in 2020 after two Atlanta officers tried to arrest him. A prosecutor said that the officers “committed no crimes.”

More than two years after Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old Black man, was fatally shot by a white police officer in the parking lot of an Atlanta fast-food restaurant, a prosecutor has determined that the officer who fired, as well as another officer on the scene, “committed no crimes” in the incident.

The decision to drop charges against the two Atlanta officers was announced in a news conference on Tuesday by Pete Skandalakis, a veteran former Georgia prosecutor appointed to handle the case by Chris Carr, the Georgia attorney general. Mr. Skandalakis and another former prosecutor, Danny Porter, presided over a multimedia presentation about the June 2020 incident, which showed how Mr. Brooks, after resisting being handcuffed, sparked a violent fight with the officers, during which Mr. Brooks took Officer Devin Brosnan’s Taser and fired it at the officers.

The prosecutors said that these actions gave the other officer, Garrett Rolfe, justification to use deadly force. Mr. Rolfe fired three shots at Mr. Brooks, hitting him twice, in the back and buttocks.

“It is my conclusion that the use of deadly force was objectively reasonable and that they did not act with criminal intent,” Mr. Porter said.
Image

Mr. Rolfe was initially charged with 11 counts, including murder, and Mr. Brosnan faced a number of lesser charges. The prosecutors said they would move to vacate those charges. Mr. Rolfe was fired from the Police Department the day after the shooting, but reinstated in May 2021 by the city’s civil service review board. Both men have been on paid administrative leave pending resolution of their case.

washington post logoWashington Post, Man sentenced in scheme to defraud Rep. Gaetz’s father of $25 million, María Luisa Paúl, Aug. 24, 2022 (print ed.). A federal judge on Monday sentenced a Florida businessman to a little over five years in prison for his role in a 2021 plot to defraud the father of Rep. Matt Gaetz matt gaetz official(R-Fla.), right, of $25 million as the congressman found himself under investigation for possible sex crimes.

Stephen M. Alford, below left, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in November. This week, Alford was sentenced to 63 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, according to court documents.

stephen alfordRandall Lockhart, Alford’s public defender, did not immediately respond to a request from The Washington Post for comment. Gaetz has not been charged with any crime.

The scheme was first made public on March 30, 2021, when Gaetz appeared on Fox News hours after the New York Times first reported that the congressman was under investigation. Gaetz claimed the Times’s story was a “planted leak” meant to distract from the real crime — a shakedown of him and his father.

“What is happening is an extortion of me and my family,” Gaetz said.

According to court records, Alford and another man somehow learned that Gaetz was under a Department of Justice probe before the don gaetzinvestigation was publicly reported. Don Gaetz — the congressman’s father, right, and a former Florida Senate president — received a text message on March 16, 2021, with a request to discuss the investigation into his son, according to the indictment in Alford’s case.

The Justice Department was investigating Joel Greenberg, a former Seminole County, Fla., tax collector and an associate of Gaetz’s. During that probe, investigators uncovered information that could implicate the congressman, The Post previously reported. A spokesperson for Gaetz did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Tuesday. The congressman has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Recent Headlines

 

World News, Human Rights, Disasters

 ny times logoNew York Times, Najib Razak, Malaysia’s Former Prime Minister, Is Headed to Prison, Richard C. Paddock, Aug. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Mr. Najib, convicted in a scandal involving the disappearance of billions from the government investment fund known as 1MDB, has exhausted his avenues of appeal.

malaysia flagMalaysia’s former prime minister, Najib Razak, who was convicted two years ago of participating in a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal, was headed for prison Tuesday to start serving a 12-year sentence after the nation’s highest court rejected his final appeal.

A five-judge federal court panel, headed by the nation’s chief justice, unanimously upheld Mr. Najib’s conviction on seven corruption counts after finding that his appeal was “devoid of any merits.”

The prospect of Mr. Najib, 69, going to prison concluded a stunning fall for the British-educated son of one prime minister and nephew of another who spent nearly his entire adult life in politics and held numerous cabinet posts.

washington post logoWashington Post, Conservative leadership race is making some Tories miss Boris Johnson, William Booth, Aug. 24, 2022 (print ed.). The Conservative Party rank-and-file who demanded the mop-headed British prime minister resign in July are no longer so sure, now that they’ve had a good sniff at the candidates to replace him.

A few weeks ago, the survey group Opinium Research published a remarkable poll that found that Conservative Party members, overwhelmingly, preferred Johnson to the two candidates now competing to replace him: 63 percent wanted Johnson to remain leader of the party, and therefore prime minister, compared to 22 percent for Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, who appears to be the front-runner for the top job.

washington post logoWashington Post, Video captures 130-foot superyacht sinking off the southern coast of Italy, Annabelle Timsit, Aug. 24, 2022. A superyacht sank off the southern coast of Italy over the weekend in a spectacular capsizing captured on video and shared on Twitter by the Italian coast guard.

The video compilation shows the MY Saga, a roughly 130-foot vessel, struggling against the waves before slowly sinking into the water. The yacht was sailing from Gallipoli to Milazzo, Sicily, on Saturday, local news outlets reported, when it began to take on water and eventually sank some hours later about nine nautical miles off the port of Catanzaro.

All crew members and passengers were rescued and uninjured, the coast guard said on Twitter. It said it launched an investigation to determine what happened.

Recent Headlines

 

Media, Education, Sports News

ny times logoNew York Times, Twitter’s Former Security Chief Accuses It of ‘Egregious Deficiencies,’ Lauren Hirsch and Kate Conger, Aug. 24, 2022 (print ed.). A whistle-blower’s complaint to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department come at a perilous time for the social network.

twitter bird CustomTwitter’s former head of security has accused the company of “extreme, egregious deficiencies” in its spam- and hacker-fighting practices, according to a whistle-blower complaint.

The complaints by Peiter Zatko, the former executive, said that the shortcomings in enforcing security, privacy and content moderation policies dated to 2011. Mr. Zatko, a well-known hacker who is known in the security community as Mudge, joined Twitter in late 2020 and was terminated by the company in January.

His complaints were sent to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission on July 6. They were first reported by The Washington Post and CNN.

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Aug. 23

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U.S. Midterm Elections: Florida, New York, Oklahoma Results

 

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Trump Probes, Reactions, Riots, Supporters

 

U.S. Forced Birth Laws, Privacy Rights

 

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U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

 

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djt handwave file

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Trump Had More Than 300 Classified Documents at Mar-a-Lago, Maggie Haberman, Jodi Kantor, Adam Goldman and Ben Protess, Aug. 23, 2022 (print ed.). The initial batch of documents retrieved by the National Archives from former President Donald J. Trump in January included more than 150 marked as classified, a number that ignited intense concern at the Justice Department and helped trigger the criminal investigation that led F.B.I. agents to swoop into Mar-a-Lago this month seeking to recover more, multiple people briefed on the matter said.

In total, the government has recovered more than 300 documents with classified markings from Mr. Trump since he left office, the people said: that first batch of documents returned in January, another set provided by Mr. Trump’s aides to the Justice Department in June and the material seized by the F.B.I. in the search this month.

Justice Department log circularThe previously unreported volume of the sensitive material found in the former president’s possession in January helps explain why the Justice Department moved so urgently to hunt down any further classified materials he might have.

And the extent to which such a large number of highly sensitive documents remained at Mar-a-Lago for months, even as the department sought the return of all material that should have been left in government custody when Mr. Trump left office, suggested to officials that the former president or his aides had been cavalier in handling it, not fully forthcoming with investigators, or both.

The specific nature of the sensitive material that Mr. Trump took from the White House remains unclear. But the 15 boxes Mr. Trump turned over to the archives in January, nearly a year after he left office, included documents from the C.I.A., the National Security Agency and the F.B.I. spanning a variety of topics of national security interest, a person briefed on the matter said.

Mr. Trump went through the boxes himself in late 2021, according to multiple people briefed on his efforts, before turning them over.

The highly sensitive nature of some of the material in the boxes prompted archives officials to refer the matter to the Justice Department, which within months had convened a grand jury investigation.

Aides to Mr. Trump turned over a few dozen additional sensitive documents during a visit to Mar-a-Lago by Justice Department officials in early June. At the conclusion of the search this month, officials left with 26 boxes, including 11 sets of material marked as classified, comprising scores of additional documents. One set had the highest level of classification, top secret/sensitive compartmented information.

The National Archives found more than 150 sensitive documents when it got a first batch of material from former President Trump in January. That previously unreported count helps explain why the Justice Department moved so urgently to hunt down any further classified materials he might have.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Without Presidential Protections, Trump Struggles for a Strategy, Maggie Haberman, Glenn Thrush and Alan Feuer, Aug. 23, 2022. Facing legal peril in the documents investigation, former President Trump has turned to his old playbook of painting himself as persecuted amid stumbles. An errant court filing by his lawyers offers insight into the confusion and uncertainty the investigation has exposed inside Mr. Trump’s camp.

On Tuesday, a Florida judge informed two lawyers representing former President Donald J. Trump, neither of them licensed in the state, that they had bungled routine paperwork to take part in a suit filed following the F.B.I.’s search this month of Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home and private club.

“A sample motion can be found on the Court’s website,” the judge instructed them in her order.

Mr. Trump has projected his usual bravado, and raised millions of dollars online from outraged supporters, since federal agents descended on the property more than two weeks ago and carted off boxloads of material including highly classified documents. But something is different this time — and the errant court filing offered a glimpse into the confusion and uncertainty the investigation has exposed inside Mr. Trump’s camp.

The documents investigation represents the greatest legal threat Mr. Trump has faced in years, and he is going into the battle shorn of the protective infrastructure and constitutional armor of the presidency. After years of burning through lawyers, he has struggled to hire new ones, and has a small group of lawyers of varying experience.

He is facing a Justice Department he no longer controls, run by a by-the-book attorney general, Merrick B. Garland, who has pursued various investigations into Mr. Trump methodically and quietly.

Mr. Trump is serving as his own communications director and strategic adviser, seeking tactical political and in-the-moment public relations victories, sometimes at the risk of stumbling into substantive legal missteps.

One example came late on Monday, when a conservative writer allied with Mr. Trump made public a letter that the National Archives had sent to Mr. Trump’s legal team in May. Spun by Mr. Trump and his allies as evidence that President Biden had played a role in the case after saying he was not involved, the letter confirmed information damaging to the former president’s case, including that Mr. Trump had retained more than 700 pages of documents with classification markings, including some at the most restricted level.

Then, hours after informing Mr. Trump’s lawyers on Tuesday about one basic mistake they had made, the judge handling their request for the appointment of a special master to review the documents seized from Mar-a-Lago came back with some pointed questions. Judge Aileen M. Cannon, who was appointed by Mr. Trump, asked the team to respond by Friday about whether she even had jurisdiction to hear Mr. Trump’s request, and what precisely his motion was asking her to do.

But as has become standard operating practice in Mr. Trump’s world, the primary focus there is not about legal claims, or even political ones, but the state of mind of the man at the center of the crisis. He feels other people’s actions toward him haven’t gotten enough attention, some of his advisers say privately, regardless of whether the facts actually bear out his grievances.

Politico, Documents recovered at Mar-a-Lago were among government’s most classified, letter shows, Kyle Cheney, Andrew Desiderio and Lara Seligman, Aug. 23, 2022. The National Archives found more than 700 pages of classified material — including “special access program materials,” politico Customsome of the most highly classified secrets in the government — in 15 boxes recovered from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in January, according to correspondence between the National Archivist and his legal team.

The May 10 letter — posted late Monday on the website of John Solomon, a conservative journalist and one of Trump’s authorized liaisons to the National Archives to review papers from his presidency — showed that NARA and federal investigators had grown increasingly alarmed about potential damage to national security caused by the warehousing of these documents at Mar-a-Lago, as well as by Trump’s resistance to sharing them with the FBI.

djt hands up mouth open CustomThese records included 700 pages of classified material, according to the letter, sent by National Archivist Debra Wall to Trump’s attorney, Evan Corcoran, and it doesn’t include records recovered by the Justice Department and FBI during a June meeting and the Aug. 11 search of the Mar-a-Lago premises.

Wall’s letter describes earlier correspondence in which Trump’s team objected to disclosing the contents of the 15 boxes to the FBI.

“As you are no doubt aware, NARA had ongoing communications with the former President’s representatives throughout 2021 about what appeared to be missing Presidential records, which resulted in the transfer of 15 boxes of records to NARA in January 2022,” Wall wrote. “In its initial review of materials within those boxes, NARA identified items marked as classified national security information, up to the level of Top Secret and including Sensitive Compartmented Information and Special Access Program materials.”

The letter also revealed that an assessment of threats to national security posed by Trump’s possession of the documents was already underway, well before members of Congress were informed.

Senate Intelligence Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Vice Chair Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have already asked the intelligence community to provide such an assessment, and the broader entity on Capitol Hill that’s privy to the most sensitive national security secrets has asked to view the documents themselves.

U.S. officials in the national security community expressed shock and concern at the former president’s cavalier treatment of classified material. One official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic, said they were astonished at the “recklessness” of the move.

It can take up to a decade to declassify certain information, said one former defense official who still holds a security clearance, so the fact that Trump took hundreds of pages of classified material is “one of the worst things I’ve ever heard.”

“There’s no gray area here. I’m just appalled,” the person said.

The correspondence also shows that even though NARA retrieved the 15 boxes in January, Justice Department and FBI investigators didn’t see their contents until May, after extended negotiations with Trump’s representatives. The letter also shows that in the interim, DOJ asked President Joe Biden to authorize NARA to provide the records to investigators despite an effort by Trump to claim executive privilege over the records. Wall indicated she had rejected Trump’s claim because of the significance of the documents to national security.

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge in Trump Search Case Issues Written Order Seeking Redactions, Alan Feuer, Aug. 23, 2022 (print ed.). The order was made on the same day former President Trump’s lawyers asked another judge to appoint an independent special master to review the material seized.

The federal magistrate judge in Florida who signed the warrant authorizing the search of former President Donald J. Trump’s private club and residence issued a formal order on Monday directing the government to propose redactions to the sealed affidavit used to justify the search, saying that he remained inclined to make portions of it public.

bruce reinhart wikipediaBut the judge, Bruce E. Reinhart, right, repeated in his order the note of caution he struck in court last week. The government, he added, could still persuade him to keep the whole affidavit sealed, and an extensively redacted version might result in what he described as “a meaningless disclosure.”

Hours after Judge Reinhart issued the order, lawyers for Mr. Trump filed a motion asking another federal judge in Florida — one whom Mr. Trump named to the bench — to appoint an independent arbiter, known as a special master, to review the documents seized during the search for any that fell outside the scope of the warrant or that were protected by executive privilege or attorney-client privilege.

The motion, which was filled with bombastic complaints about the search — “The government has long treated President Donald J. Trump unfairly,” it said at one point — also asked the Justice Department to provide an “informative receipt” of what was taken from Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s home and club in Florida, on Aug. 8. His lawyers wrote that the inventory left at the property by the agents who conducted the search was “legally deficient” and did “little to identify” the seized material.

aileen cannonIf the judge who received the motion, Aileen M. Cannon, left, appoints a special master in the case, it will almost certainly drag out the process of reviewing the multiple boxes of documents that were seized and slow down the government’s investigation into whether Mr. Trump obstructed a federal inquiry and wrongfully retained national defense documents.

Special masters were appointed in other high-profile searches involving Mr. Trump — including the one conducted in 2018 at the office of Michael D. Cohen, the former president’s longtime personal lawyer. In the Cohen case, lawyers for Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen moved quickly to request a special master. This time, it took Mr. Trump’s legal team two weeks to ask for an independent review.

“The department is aware of this evening’s motion,” said Anthony Coley, a spokesman for the Justice Department. “The United States will file its response in court.”

Judge Reinhart’s order earlier in the day effectively put in writing a ruling he made from the bench last Thursday, after arguments from news media companies that wanted the entire affidavit unsealed and federal prosecutors who wanted to keep it fully under wraps. In both his written order and his oral ruling, Judge Reinhart instructed the Justice Department to file a redacted version of the affidavit to him under seal by this Thursday at noon, accompanied by a memo explaining its justifications for the proposed redactions.

In his order, Judge Reinhart acknowledged that it was “a foundational principle of American law that judicial proceedings should be open to the public,” but offered three reasons for keeping much of the affidavit under seal, including some that were never fully explored at the hearing last week, in Federal District Court in West Palm Beach, Fla.

He said there was “a significant likelihood” that releasing the full affidavit could harm the safety of witnesses who helped the government’s investigation, leading to “witness intimidation or retaliation.”

“Given the public notoriety and controversy about this search, it is likely that even witnesses who are not expressly named in the affidavit would be quickly and broadly identified over social media and other communication channels, which could lead to them being harassed and intimidated,” Judge Reinhart wrote.

He also expressed concern about revealing the identity of the F.B.I. agent who swore to the affidavit, particularly when there have been “increased threats against F.B.I. personnel since the search.”

Days after the search at Mar-a-Lago, an armed man attacked the F.B.I.’s Cincinnati field office and died in a shootout with the local police. Not long after that, a Pennsylvania man was arrested after posting messages online threatening the F.B.I., including at least one that directly mentioned the attack outside Cincinnati.

Judge Reinhart further noted in his written order that releasing the full affidavit could also put Mr. Trump in danger, given that the document “discusses physical aspects” of Mar-a-Lago, which is “protected by the United States Secret Service.”

“Disclosure of those details,” Judge Reinhart wrote, “could affect the Secret Service’s ability to carry out its protective function.”

 

United Nations

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: U.S. intelligence agencies warned that Russia could step up attacks on Ukrainian civilian infrastructure, Farnaz Fassihi, Aug. 23, 2022. The U.N. Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday afternoon at the request of Russia to discuss the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine, where nearby fighting has raised the risk of a nuclear accident.

Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for attacks in and around Zaporizhzhia, Europe’s largest nuclear plant, including recent shelling that fell dangerously close to the reactors. The Russian military took control of the site in March but Ukrainian technicians still operate the facility.

As U.S. intelligence agencies warn that Russia may redouble attacks to coincide with the six-month anniversary of its invasion on Wednesday, which is also Ukraine’s Independence Day, the fighting around the nuclear plant looms as one of the gravest risks in the prolonged conflict. Hostilities in the south are intensifying as Russia aims to fortify its defensive positions in lands it has seized, and Ukraine tries to muster a counteroffensive.

António Guterres, the secretary general of the United Nations, has said the situation around the Zaporizhzhia facility is “critical” and warned of a catastrophic nuclear accident if the plant and the area surrounding it are not demilitarized. The U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has requested secure access for its inspectors since at least June. It remains unclear when or whether Russia or Ukraine would grant access.

In his overnight address, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine accused Russia of “playing around” with international bodies and assailed Moscow for having “the audacity to convene the U.N. Security Council to discuss its own provocations.”

Russia is expected on Tuesday to base its argument on a letter its mission to the United Nations circulated among council members last week. In the letter, Russia claimed without evidence that Ukraine was attacking the Zaporizhzhia plant and that the United States and Ukraine were planning to cause a minor accident there for which they would blame Russia.

Russia has made similar allegations to the Security Council about chemical and biological attacks. The United States and Ukraine have denied those allegations as baseless.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Nuclear Plant Is Held Hostage in Ukraine Amid Warnings of Disaster, Marc Santora and Andrew E. Kramer, Aug. 23, 2022. With Russia controlling the Zaporizhzhia plant, Ukrainians working at gunpoint are all that stand in the way of a catastrophe. Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of planning attacks on the facility, as the U.S. and its allies call for a demilitarized zone.

Officials from the United States, the European Union and the United Nations have called for the creation of a demilitarized zone, as Ukraine and Russia each accuse the other of preparing attacks on the plant — leading many to fear that Zaporizhzhia is in greater peril than ever.

 

Alexander Dugin, a far-right writer and ideologue known as “Putin’s brain,” is seen in 2016 in his studio in Moscow (Photo by Francesca Ebel of the Associated Press).

Alexander Dugin, a far-right writer and ideologue known as “Putin’s brain,” is seen in 2016 in his studio in Moscow (Photo by Francesca Ebel of the Associated Press).

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia blames Ukraine for car explosion that killed Putin ally’s daughter, Mary Ilyushina, Annabelle Timsit and Robyn Dixon, Aug. 23, 2022 (print ed.). The killing of Daria Dugina, below right, daughter of ideologue Alexander Dugin who helped shape the Kremlin’s narrative about Ukraine, has emerged as a flash point for the war.

Image Tweeted by @AlexKokcharovRussia blamed Ukraine for a car explosion that killed the daughter of Alexander Dugin, a Russian nationalist and fervent ideological ally of President Vladimir Putin, prompting Dugin to issue a statement calling for military “victory” as vengeance — an exhortation that could lead to an escalation in the war.

“Our hearts yearn for more than just revenge or retribution,” Dugin said in the statement. “It’s too small, not the Russian style. We only need our Victory. My daughter laid her maiden life on its altar. So win, please!” In the statement, which portrayed Russians as victims rather than the aggressor-invaders perpetrating a war, Dugin called the bombing that killed his daughter, Daria Dugina, “a terrorist attack carried out by the Nazi Ukrainian regime.”

Ukraine has denied involvement in the killing of Dugina, chief editor of a Russian disinformation website who was herself under U.S. sanctions. Kyiv also has warned about a spike in Russian attacks on Ukrainian cities ahead of the country’s Independence Day.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Economic Aid for Americans, Once Plentiful, Falls Off at a Painful Moment, Jim Tankersley, Aug. 23, 2022. Food insecurity is rising again, as relief provided by President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package wanes and prices continue to rise.

For the better part of last year, the pandemic eased its grip on Oregon’s economy. Awash in federal assistance, including direct checks to individuals and parents, many of the state’s most vulnerable found it easier to afford food, housing and other daily staples.

Most of that aid, which was designed to be a temporary bridge, has run out at a particularly bad moment. Oregon, like states across the nation, has seen its economy improve, but prices for everything from eggs to gas to rent have spiked. Demand is growing at food banks like William Temple House in Northwest Portland, where the line for necessities like bread, vegetables and toilet paper stretched two dozen people deep on a recent day.

“I’m very worried, like I was in the first month of the pandemic, that we will run out of food,” said Susannah Morgan, who runs the Oregon Food Bank, which helps supply William Temple House and 1,400 other meal assistance sites.

 

anthony fauci graphic Custom

 washington post logoWashington Post, Fauci plans to step down in December after half a century in government, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Aug. 23, 2022. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s preeminent infectious-disease expert who achieved unprecedented fame while enduring withering political attacks as the face of the coronavirus pandemic response under two presidents, plans to step down in December after more than a half-century of public service, he announced Monday.

anthony fauci george w bushFauci, 81, shown above in a file photo and at right receiving from then-President George W. Bush one of the physician’s many honors over his long career, has led the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984. He joined the parent agency, the National Institutes of Health, in 1968 as a 27-year-old doctor who had just finished medical residency and was quickly identified as a rising star. Most recently, Fauci has also served as President Biden’s chief medical adviser since the start of his administration.

Fauci’s tenure as director of the infectious-diseases institute made him an adviser to seven presidents and put him on the front lines of every modern-day scourge, including AIDS, the 2001 anthrax scares, Ebola, Zika and the coronavirus pandemic. During the nearly four decades Fauci led the agency, it grew from a little-known institute with a $350 million annual budget to a globally recognized powerhouse with a budget exceeding $6 billion.

“Because of Dr. Fauci’s many contributions to public health, lives here in the United States and around the world have been saved,” said Biden, who as vice president worked with Fauci on the nation’s response to Ebola and Zika during the Obama administration. “Whether you’ve met him personally or not, he has touched all Americans’ lives with his work.”

While Fauci is one of the most cited researchers of all time and has been widely known in scientific circles for decades, it was the coronavirus pandemic that catapulted him to worldwide fame — and ignited criticism from some Republican politicians and threats from the public.

 

Defendants Barry Croft, left, and Adam Fox

Defendants Barry Croft, left, and Adam Fox

Detroit Free Press, Jury convicts Adam Fox, Barry Croft Jr. in Whitmer kidnapping plot, Tresa Baldas and Arpan Lobo, Aug. 23, 2022. In a do-over for the government, a federal jury Tuesday convicted two men charged with plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer out of anger over her handling of the pandemic, ending a dramatic trial that highlighted the growth of violent extremism in America.

The jury deliberated for about eight hours over two days before delivering the guilty verdicts against Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr., who were convicted on all counts and face up to life in prison for crimes they insisted were hatched by the FBI.

The verdicts drew praise from many in law enforcement and the legal community, especially Whitmer, whom prosecutors said was the target of extremists who wanted to settle their differences with violence.

The guilty verdicts came down on Whitmer’s birthday.

gretchen whitmer o horizontal Custom“Today’s verdicts prove that violence and threats have no place in our politics and those who seek to divide us will be held accountable. They will not succeed,” Whitmer (shown in a file photo) said in a statement, adding:

“But we must also take a hard look at the status of our politics. Plots against public officials and threats to the FBI are a disturbing extension of radicalized domestic terrorism that festers in our nation, threatening the very foundation of our republic,” Whitmer said. “I cannot — I will not — let extremists get in the way of the work we do. They will never break my unwavering faith in the goodness and decency of our people.”

Fox and Croft, who will be sentenced at a later date, were convicted of kidnapping conspiracy and conspiracy to possess weapons of mass destruction. Croft was convicted on an additional weapons charge. (More details below in section on Political Violence.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Ex-Detective Admits Misleading Judge Who Approved Breonna Taylor Raid, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Aug. 23, 2022. Kelly Goodlett pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, becoming the first officer to be convicted in the fatal police operation.

A former police detective admitted on Tuesday that she had helped mislead a judge into wrongly authorizing a raid of Breonna Taylor’s apartment in Louisville, Ky., setting in motion the nighttime operation in which the police fatally shot Ms. Taylor.

The former detective, Kelly Goodlett, pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of conspiracy, admitting that she had worked with another officer to falsify a search warrant application and had later lied to cover up their act. In pleading guilty, Ms. Goodlett became the first police officer to be convicted over the March 2020 raid, during which the police were searching for evidence of drug dealing by Ms. Taylor’s former boyfriend, Jamarcus Glover.

Inside a courtroom in downtown Louisville, Ms. Goodlett, 35, admitted that she had known there was not enough evidence to support approving the warrant, but had nonetheless failed to object when a fellow detective falsely wrote that the police knew Mr. Glover was receiving packages at Ms. Taylor’s home.

 

2022 U.S. Midterm Elections: Florida, New York, Oklahoma Results

ny times logoNew York Times, Nadler Routs Maloney in New York; Crist to Face DeSantis in Florida, Staff Reports, Aug. 23, 2022. Representative Jerrold Nadler ousted his longtime congressional neighbor, Carolyn B. Maloney, in a clash of titans in the heart of Manhattan. In Florida, Democrats chose Representative Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor, as their nominee to try to defeat Gov. Ron DeSantis.

jerry nadler smileRepresentative Jerrold Nadler, right, ousted Carolyn B. Maloney in Manhattan, while Hudson Valley voters picked a Democrat in a special House election centered on abortion. Daniel Goldman won in a newly drawn district in New York City.

Representative Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, handily defeated his longtime congressional neighbor, Carolyn B. Maloney, in a bruising three-way primary battle on Tuesday that was preordained to end one of the powerful Democrats’ political careers.

The star-crossed skirmish in the heart of Manhattan was unlike any New York City — or the Democratic Party writ large — had seen in recent memory. Though few ideological differences were at stake, it pitted two committee chairs who have served side by side in Washington since the 1990s against each other, and cleaved party faithful into rival factions.

Daniel Goldman, the former assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the first impeachment case against Donald J. Trump, captured the Democratic nomination for an open House seat covering parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan, according to The Associated Press.

The victory on Tuesday in the heavily Democratic district all but assures Mr. Goldman a seat in Congress come 2023; he will face Benine Hamdan, a little-known Republican candidate, in November.

Nick Langworthy, the New York State Republican Party chairman, defeated Carl Paladino in a primary in New York’s 23rd Congressional District on Tuesday, delivering a win for the party establishment against perhaps its most polarizing figure.

Mr. Langworthy, who has overseen the state party since 2019, was declared the winner by The Associated Press. With an estimated 94 percent of votes reported, he had won 52 percent of the vote to Mr. Paladino’s 48 percent.

 

Investigations

washington post logoWashington Post, Exclusive: Files copied from voting systems were shared with Trump supporters, election deniers, Jon Swaine, Aaron C. Davis, Amy Gardner and Emma Brown, Aug. 23, 2022 (print ed.). Sensitive election system files obtained by attorneys working to overturn President Donald Trump’s 2020 defeat were shared with election deniers, conspiracy theorists and right-wing commentators, according to records reviewed by The Washington Post.

A Georgia computer forensics firm, hired by the attorneys, placed the files on a server, where company records show they were downloaded dozens of times. Among the downloaders were accounts associated with a Texas meteorologist who has appeared on Sean Hannity’s radio show; a podcaster who suggested political enemies should be executed; a former pro surfer who pushed disproven theories that the 2020 election was manipulated; and a self-described former “seduction and pickup coach” who claims to also have been a hacker.

Plaintiffs in a long-running federal lawsuit over the security of Georgia’s voting systems obtained the new records from the company, Atlanta-based SullivanStrickler, under a subpoena to one of its executives. The records include contracts between the firm and the Trump-allied attorneys, notably Sidney Powell. The data files are described as copies of components from election systems in Coffee County, Ga., and Antrim County, Mich.

A series of data leaks and alleged breaches of local elections offices since 2020 has prompted criminal investigations and fueled concerns among some security experts that public disclosure of information collected from voting systems could be exploited by hackers and other people seeking to manipulate future elections.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: An Unusual $1.6 Billion Donation Bolsters Conservatives, Kenneth P. Vogel and Shane Goldmacher, Aug. 23, 2022 (print ed.). A low-profile Republican financier donated his company to a new group run by the influential operative Leonard A. Leo.

A new conservative nonprofit group scored a $1.6 billion windfall last year via a little-known donor — an extraordinary sum that could give Republicans and their causes a huge financial boost ahead of the midterms, and for years to come.

barre seidThe source of the money was Barre Seid, right, an electronics manufacturing mogul, and the donation is among the largest — if not the largest — single contributions ever made to a politically focused nonprofit. The beneficiary is a new political group controlled by Leonard A. Leo, an activist who has used his connections to Republican donors and politicians to help engineer the conservative dominance of the Supreme Court and to finance battles over abortion rights, voting rules and climate change policy.

This windfall will help cement Mr. Leo’s status as a kingmaker in conservative big money politics. It could also give conservatives an advantage in a type of difficult-to-trace spending that shapes elections and political fights.

The cash infusion was arranged through an unusual series of transactions that appear to have avoided tax liabilities. It originated with Mr. Seid, a longtime conservative donor who made a fortune as the chairman and chief executive of an electrical device manufacturing company in Chicago now known as Tripp Lite.

Rather than merely giving cash, Mr. Seid donated 100 percent of the shares of Tripp Lite to Mr. Leo’s nonprofit group before the company was sold to an Irish conglomerate for $1.65 billion, according to tax records provided to The New York Times, corporate filings and a person with knowledge of the matter.

The nonprofit, called the Marble Freedom Trust, then received all of the proceeds from the sale, in a transaction that appears to have been structured to allow the nonprofit group and Mr. Seid to avoid paying taxes on the proceeds.

For perspective, the $1.6 billion that the Marble trust reaped from the sale is slightly more than the total of $1.5 billion spent in 2020 by 15 of the most politically active nonprofit organizations that generally align with Democrats, according to an analysis by The Times. That spending, which Democrats embraced to aid the campaigns of Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his allies in Congress, dwarfed the roughly $900 million spent by a comparable sample of 15 of the most politically active groups aligned with the Republican Party.

The Marble Freedom Trust could help conservatives level the playing field — if not surpass the left — in such nonprofit spending, which is commonly referred to as dark money because the groups involved can raise and spend unlimited sums on politics while revealing little about where they got the money or how they spent it.

In a statement, Mr. Leo cited some of the left’s biggest donors and an advisory firm that helps manage the nonprofit groups they fund.

“It’s high time for the conservative movement to be among the ranks of George Soros, Hansjörg Wyss, Arabella Advisors and other left-wing philanthropists, going toe-to-toe in the fight to defend our constitution and its ideals,” Mr. Leo said. Mr. Seid and an associate did not respond to messages seeking comment.

The funds are difficult to trace through public records. Tripp Lite is a private company that is not subject to corporate disclosure rules for public companies. On its tax filing, Marble indicated that the $1.6 billion came from the “sale of gifted company and subsidiaries,” but indicated that it withheld identifying information “to protect donor confidentiality.”

Ray D. Madoff, a professor of tax law at Boston College who is the director of the school’s Forum on Philanthropy and the Public Good, said the structure of the transaction was most likely legal but did appear to allow a donor to avoid federal tax obligations from the sale of the company.

Here is how it works: Marble Freedom Trust is registered under a section of the tax code — 501(c)4 — for organizations that focus primarily on what the Internal Revenue Service calls “social welfare” and as a result are exempt from paying taxes. Such groups are allowed to engage in political advocacy, but their supporters are not entitled to deduct donations from their income taxes. Supporters can, however, donate assets that a nonprofit can sell and avoid capital gains taxes on the sale.

Democracy Project, Voting Rights Advocacy: A Constellation of Anti-Voting Groups Threaten Democracy, Marc Elias, right, Aug. 18, 2022. Republican marc eliasleaders of the anti-voting movement recently held a “gourmet dinner” at an “undisclosed location” to discuss my voting rights litigation. The event was billed as the inaugural leadership dinner for a group called the Honest Elections Project. I was not invited to attend.

There is a constellation of well-funded, right-wing groups that use the legal and political system to make voting more difficult and free and fair elections less likely. They range from mere vote suppressors to full-on election deniers. Most oppose expanding voting rights and support strict voting laws. Many seek to gut the Voting Rights Act entirely; others want it interpreted so narrowly as to be ineffective. None of these organizations supported Congress’ efforts to enact new pro-voter legislation.
These right-wing groups work closely with the RNC and with state legislatures to advance anti-voting legislation.

The American Constitutional Rights Union, Foundation for Government Accountability, Judicial Watch, Lawyers Democracy Fund, Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) and Restoring Integrity and Trust in Elections are just a few of the groups fighting against voting rights in court. America First Legal Foundation, Election Integrity Network, Heritage Foundation and True the Vote also support anti-democracy legal efforts. The conservative American Legislative Exchange Council advances model anti-voting legislation for state legislatures.

We recently got a preview of how these groups will operationalize their legal efforts in court in the future. Earlier this year, a Florida federal judge struck down most of the state’s “Big Lie” voter suppression law. In doing so, the court found that Florida Republicans had intentionally discriminated against Black voters and had violated the constitutional rights of Floridians seeking to participate in the democratic process. On appeal, six national anti-voting groups filed separate “friend of the court” briefs opposing the lower court’s decision — in addition to the briefs by the state defendants and the Republican Party.

For many years, the Republican National Committee (RNC) was legally barred from participating in election monitoring or voter suppression efforts as a consequence of the GOP’s ugly history of targeting minority voters in the 1980s. When that bar was lifted in 2017, the RNC picked up where it had left off and ran so-called “election integrity” programs with state parties.

These anti-voting legal groups offer a path for Republicans to wield majority political power without majority support.

Now, in the post-Trump era, the RNC directly partners with voter suppression groups and efforts that two years ago would have been unthinkable. The party’s dismal court results following the 2020 election coupled with MAGA supporters’ distrust of the party establishment has left the GOP operating in the penumbra of the current stars of the election denier and voter suppression movement.
It’s not just what these groups do, but who runs them.

On PILF’s board of directors, for example, are Cleta Mitchell and John Eastman, both of whom served as lawyers for former President Donald Trump. Mitchell participated in the infamous telephone call during which Trump demanded that the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) find 11,000 votes and declare Trump the winner. Eastman, who has been in the news recently for having a search warrant executed against him, helped craft the January 2021 insurrection plan.

The Honest Elections Project — the host of the secret dinner — was formed in February 2020 and is connected to Federalist Society founder Leonard Leo.

The newest of these groups, Restoring Integrity and Trust in Elections, was co-founded by former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr (R) and Karl Rove, who served as former senior advisor and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush. Casino billionaire Steve Wynn provides the organization’s financial backing as its finance chair.

This group is notably more competent and well-resourced than the legal buffoonery who led Trump’s post-election antics. Though I am no fan of Barr, he is unlikely to hire lawyers who claim Hugo Chávez rigged elections from the grave or threaten to release the mythological Kraken. With Rove on its board as well, Barr is almost certainly not going to hold press conferences in a landscaping parking lot.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mental Illness Not a Useful Means to Predict Gun Violence, Experts Say, Shaila Dewan, Aug. 23, 2022 (print ed.). Blaming mass murder on mental illness is a time-honored impulse, used by law enforcement and politicians alike. But many killers, if not most, had never been diagnosed with a serious psychiatric disorder, and experts prefer to focus on warning signs like a life crisis.

The freshman who walked into the high school cafeteria in Marysville, Wash., in 2014 with his father’s .40-caliber Beretta did not fit anyone’s profile of a mass murderer. He was a crack athlete. He embraced his Native American traditions, wearing a headdress at tribal events and offering freshly killed deer to his grandmother. He was popular, so much so that he had just been elected homecoming prince.

He had no history of mental illness — just what several classmates described as an uncharacteristically bad mood that week. It was only after he killed four fellow students and wounded another that the armchair diagnosis of his mental state began.

Blaming mass murder on mental illness is a time-honored impulse, used by law enforcement and politicians alike. “Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun,” President Donald J. Trump said in 2019 in response to mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. After a teenage gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in May, Gov. Greg Abbott said, “Anybody who shoots somebody else has a mental health challenge. Period.”

Such explanations satisfy a deep longing to understand the incomprehensible. And they appeal to common sense — how could a person who kills indiscriminately be in their right mind?

Yet America’s mass killers fit no single profile and certainly no pattern of insanity — many, if not most, had never been diagnosed with a serious psychiatric disorder. Background checks can prevent someone with a diagnosis of mental illness from acquiring a gun, but psychologists say there is a wide divide between a clinical diagnosis and the type of emotional disturbance that precedes many mass killings.

The real problem, those experts say, is that mental illness is not a useful means to predict violence. About half of all Americans will experience mental health issues at some point in their lives, and the vast majority of people with mental illness do not kill.

“Do you or do you not have a mental health diagnosis?” said Jillian Peterson, a co-founder of the Violence Project, a research center that has compiled a database of mass shootings from 1966 on and studied perpetrators in depth. “In many cases, it doesn’t really matter. It’s not the main driver.”

Instead, many experts have come to focus on warning signs that occur whether or not actual mental illness is present, including marked changes in behavior, demeanor or appearance, uncharacteristic fights or arguments, and telling others of plans for violence, a phenomenon known as “leakage.”

This focus is far from perfect — it can be exceedingly difficult to weed out serious threats from many more that are idle, impetuous or exaggerated. But the warning signs approach has benefits: It can work even when the mental health system does not, and it sidesteps the complaint that blaming mass shootings on mental illness increases negative attitudes and stigma toward those who suffer from it.

 

Political Violence In United States

 

Defendants Barry Croft, left, and Adam Fox

Defendants Barry Croft, left, and Adam Fox

Detroit Free Press, Jury convicts Adam Fox, Barry Croft Jr. in Whitmer kidnapping plot, Tresa Baldas and Arpan Lobo, Aug. 23, 2022 (continued from above). In a do-over for the government, a federal jury Tuesday convicted two men charged with plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer out of anger over her handling of the pandemic, ending a dramatic trial that highlighted the growth of violent extremism in America.

The jury deliberated for about eight hours over two days before delivering the guilty verdicts against Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr., who were convicted on all counts and face up to life in prison for crimes they insisted were hatched by the FBI.

The men were judged by a second, more diverse jury than in the first trial, which ended with no convictions for the government. Two men were acquitted in that trial and the jury deadlocked on charges against Fox and Croft Jr., triggering a mistrial that prompted the government to try again.

The historic case ends with four men going to prison and two others going free, two years after the FBI arrested all six on federal charges they plotted to kidnap the governor from her vacation home out of anger over her lockdown orders and mask mandates, and blow up a bridge near her home to slow down law enforcement. Five defendants were arrested in an FBI sting outside an Ypsilanti warehouse, where prosecutors said the men thought they were going to make a down payment on explosives, pick up free military gear, and then head to Buffalo Wild Wings for free beer and chicken. But it was all a ruse.Croft was arrested at a gas station in New Jersey. Eight more individuals face state charges in the case.

“This verdict brings important accountability for perpetrators of violence against public officials,” said former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Barbara McQuade. “Bringing these plotters to justice will cause others to think twice before engaging in similar conduct in the future.”

McQuade applauded federal prosecutors in Grand Rapids for “having the courage” to retry the case, saying: “It would have been easy for them to simply move on to the next case to avoid the possible embarrassment of a second mistrial or acquittal,” McQuade said. “But instead, they fulfilled their duty to protect the public.”

Defense: ‘We will most certainly appeal’

Neither Fox nor Croft had any discernible reaction as U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker read the verdicts, both staring forward and occasionally leaning over to speak to their attorneys. Fox’s mother, who attended every day of the retrial, shook her head as Jonker read the verdict.

The defense long argued that this was a case of entrapment, that the defendants were merely tough-talking potheads who were venting about their government, and that rogue FBI agents and informants set them up.

“We will most certainly appeal,” Fox’s lawyer, Christopher Gibbons, said after the verdict. “Obviously, there was controversy in the trial.”

The defense raised numerous issues during the trial, creating some tense moments in the courtroom. Defense attorneys accused the judge of favoring the prosecution by repeatedly cutting them off during questioning, calling their arguments “crap,” and setting time limits only on the defense attorneys — telling them they could only take as much time to question witnesses as the prosecution.

The defense also took issue with the judge’s handling of a juror who came under investigation for alleged misconduct on the second day of trial. That juror allegedly told coworkers that his or her mind was made up about the case from the get-go, and was excited to be on the jury.

The judge dealt with the issue privately in his chambers, not allowing either the prosecution or the defense to be part of the proceeding.

“I think justice should happen in public,” Croft’s lawyer, Joshua Blanchard, said while leaving the courthouse Tuesday.

Blanchard had made a filing regarding the potentially problematic juror, and asked the judge to unseal it after the verdict — but Jonker said that will be explored in the future.

FBI vindicated

Throughout the trial, the prosecution argued the men did a lot more than talk — they took action to carry out their plan, including casing Whitmer’s vacation home twice, building explosives, holding secret meetings, and practicing breaking-and-entering drills in shoot-houses they built that mimicked her cottage.

In the end, the jury sided with the government, delivering a major victory not only to the prosecutors, but to the FBI, whose reputation came under assault during both trials, with the defense repeatedly blasting agents and informants, calling them liars and manipulators with overreaching powers.

MLive.com, Defense attorneys ‘pursuing all avenues’ for men found guilty in Gov. Whitmer kidnap plot, Cory Morse, Aug. 23, 2022. A jury convicted Barry Croft Jr. and Adam Fox of conspiring to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday,

Reader comment: Pro-tip: if someone from the FBI comes up to you and asks you to help kidnap the governor, just say no.

Reader comment 2: I am always curious about the entrapment thing. If someone tries to get me to murder their husband, I know that is wrong to do, How could they talk me into it unless I wanted to participate? Besides, those two were talking smack loong before the FBI got involved It’s their big mouths that got the FBI interested in them. The old “loose lips, sinks ships” thing.

New York Times, Charges to Be Dropped Against Officers in Killing of Rayshard Brooks, Richard Fausset, Aug. 23, 2022. Mr. Brooks was shot to death in 2020 after two Atlanta officers tried to arrest him. A prosecutor said that the officers “committed no crimes.”

More than two years after Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old Black man, was fatally shot by a white police officer in the parking lot of an Atlanta fast-food restaurant, a prosecutor has determined that the officer who fired, as well as another officer on the scene, “committed no crimes” in the incident.

The decision to drop charges against the two Atlanta officers was announced in a news conference on Tuesday by Pete Skandalakis, a veteran former Georgia prosecutor appointed to handle the case by Chris Carr, the Georgia attorney general. Mr. Skandalakis and another former prosecutor, Danny Porter, presided over a multimedia presentation about the June 2020 incident, which showed how Mr. Brooks, after resisting being handcuffed, sparked a violent fight with the officers, during which Mr. Brooks took Officer Devin Brosnan’s Taser and fired it at the officers.

The prosecutors said that these actions gave the other officer, Garrett Rolfe, justification to use deadly force. Mr. Rolfe fired three shots at Mr. Brooks, hitting him twice, in the back and buttocks.

“It is my conclusion that the use of deadly force was objectively reasonable and that they did not act with criminal intent,” Mr. Porter said.
Image

Mr. Rolfe was initially charged with 11 counts, including murder, and Mr. Brosnan faced a number of lesser charges. The prosecutors said they would move to vacate those charges. Mr. Rolfe was fired from the Police Department the day after the shooting, but reinstated in May 2021 by the city’s civil service review board. Both men have been on paid administrative leave pending resolution of their case.

Recent Headlines

 

Trump Probes, Reactions, Riots, Supporters

 

Shown above is the receipt for property that was seized during the execution of a search warrant by the FBI at former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla. on Aug. 12, 2022 (Associated Press Photo by Jon Elswick).

Shown above is the receipt for property that was seized during the execution of a search warrant by the FBI at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla. on Aug. 12, 2022 (Associated Press Photo by Jon Elswick).

Palmer Report, Opinion: Legal experts point to the newly reported detail that ensures Donald Trump is going down, Bill Palmer, right, Aug. 23, 2022. Even as Donald Trump tries making absurd legal filings that bill palmeraren’t going to help him, the DOJ is now two weeks into processing the classified documents it seized from Trump’s home. Trump could be indicted tomorrow or next year, but the point is that we’re on indictment watch. And now a new detail has surfaced which helps ensure Trump is indeed going down.

bill palmer report logo headerLast night the New York Times reported that after the Feds asked Donald Trump to return the classified documents in late 2021, he personally went through the boxes of documents, and decided to return some of them but not others. Check out what the legal experts have to say:

This new revelation overwhelmingly wipes out any reasonable doubt argument that Trump could have made about not having understood that the documents were classified when he took them, or claiming that staffers stole the documents and put them in his basement without his knowledge. Even if those things were true, they stopped being relevant once the Feds informed Trump that he was in illegal possession of the documents, and he looked over the documents but decided not to give some of them back.

It’ll be interesting to eventually learn who in Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago orbit is giving up these details to the media and to the Feds. It could be anyone from a family member, to a visiting Republican politician, to a building employee. But it has to be someone close enough to Trump to have witnessed him rummaging through boxes of classified documents in his basement. No wonder Trump tried so hard to get the name unsealed of whoever is cooperating against him. Trump wants to know who has sent him to prison.

Politico, Analysis: Trump’s throw-everything-against-the-wall response to the Mar-a-Lago search, Kyle Cheney, Josh Gerstein and Nicholas Wu, Aug. 22, 2022 (print ed.). Here is a thorough run down of what the former president’s team has argued, so far.

politico CustomAs she entered the federal courthouse in West Palm Beach on Thursday to bear witness to a hearing on the potential release of the FBI’s basis for searching Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump’s attorney Christina Bobb paused to ask one of the law enforcement officers outside a question.

Where, exactly, did she need to go?

Soon, Bobb found a front-row seat and sat quietly throughout, telling reporters she was just there to observe.

The moment underscored an increasingly apparent truth about Donald Trump’s legal strategy in the week since the FBI searched his Mar-a-Lago home: He and his team haven’t settled on a singular approach and appear in the dark about what may come next. Trump has often used litigation to delay but has been loath to go on offense, particularly when he’s likely to lose. His vow Friday to make a “major motion” appeared in keeping with that approach.

While it’s unclear whether the former president or any of his top allies are at imminent risk of criminal charges, they have sketched out competing and sometimes conflicting positions that may come into play as the investigation — now in its “early stages” — accelerates.

ny times logoNew York Times, How a Storied Phrase Became a Partisan Battleground, Jazmine Ulloa, Aug. 22, 2022 (print ed.). A touchstone of political and social discourse, the phrase “the American dream” is being repurposed — some say distorted — particularly by Republicans of color.

For decades, politicians have used the phrase “the American dream” to describe a promise of economic opportunity and upward mobility, of prosperity through hard work. It has been a promise so powerful that it drew immigrants from around the world, who went on republican elephant logoto fulfill it generation after generation. Political figures in both parties employed the phrase to promote both their own policies and their own biographies.

Now, a new crop of Republican candidates and elected officials are using the phrase in a different way, invoking the same promise but arguing in speeches, ads and mailings that the American dream is dying or in danger, threatened by what they see as rampant crime, unchecked illegal immigration, burdensome government regulations and liberal social policies. Many of these Republicans are people of color — including immigrants and the children of immigrants, for whom the phrase first popularized in 1931 has a deep resonance.

 

lindsey graham npr

ny times logoNew York Times, Federal Appeals Court Halts Graham Testimony Before Atlanta Grand Jury, Richard Fausset, Aug. 22, 2022 (print ed.). A federal appeals court temporarily blocked Senator Lindsey Graham, above, Republican of South Carolina, on Sunday from testifying in the investigation into efforts by President Donald J. Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia. The appeals court instructed a lower court to determine whether Mr. Graham should be exempt from answering certain kinds of questions, given his status as a federal lawmaker.

The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit gives a temporary reprieve to Mr. Graham, who has been fighting prosecutors’ efforts to bring him before a special grand jury. After a protracted bout of legal sparring, Mr. Graham, at the end of last week, appeared to have failed in his efforts to remain above the matter and had been expected to testify behind closed doors on Tuesday in a downtown Atlanta courthouse.

Mr. Graham has argued, among other things, that he should be exempt from testifying under the U.S. Constitution’s speech and debate clause, which prohibits asking lawmakers about their legitimate legislative functions. The appeals court laid out further steps on Sunday that must be taken before Mr. Graham gives any testimony.

First, the court ruled, a Federal District Court must determine whether Mr. Graham is “entitled to a partial quashal or modification of the subpoena to appear before the special purpose grand jury” based on the speech and debate clause issue. After that, the appeals court said, it will take up the issue “for further consideration.”

Lawyers for Mr. Graham have said that he was informed by Fulton County prosecutors that he was a witness, not a target, in the case.

Even so, prosecutors want Mr. Graham’s testimony for a number of reasons. Among them are two phone calls that he made just after the 2020 election to Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, in which Mr. Graham inquired about ways to help Mr. Trump by invalidating certain mail-in votes.

They also want him to answer other questions about what they have called “the multistate, coordinated efforts to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere.” Prosecutors have said in court documents that they expect Mr. Graham’s testimony “to reveal additional sources of information” related to their investigation.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Forced Birth Laws, Privacy, Freedoms

ny times logoNew York Times, Is a Fetus a Person? An Anti-Abortion Strategy Says Yes, Kate Zernike, Aug. 23, 2022 (print ed.). So-called fetal personhood laws would make abortion murder, ruling out all or most of the exceptions for abortion allowed in states that already ban it.

Even as roughly half the states have moved to enact near-total bans on abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, anti-abortion activists are pushing for a  long-held and more absolute goal: laws that grant fetuses the same legal rights and protections as any person.

So-called fetal personhood laws would make abortion murder, ruling out all or most of the exceptions for abortion allowed in states that already ban it. So long as Roe established a constitutional right to abortion, such laws remained symbolic in the few states that managed to pass them. Now they are starting to have practical effect. Already in Georgia, a fetus now qualifies for tax credits and child support, and is to be included in population counts and redistricting.

The laws also open up questions well beyond abortion, about immigration and who is entitled to public benefits.

They have the potential to criminalize common health care procedures and limit the rights of a pregnant woman in making health care decisions.

The U.S. Supreme Court decision returning the regulation of abortion to the states has opened new interest in the laws, and a new legal path for them.

In Indiana, where this month the Republican-controlled legislature banned abortion starting at conception — one of the strictest laws in the nation — some conservative lawmakers objected that the law included exceptions for rape and incest. “This bill justifies the wicked, those murdering babies, and punishes the righteous, the preborn human being,” one lawmaker said, pushing instead for a fetal personhood law with no exceptions.

In Georgia, a law granting fetal personhood to fetuses after around six weeks of pregnancy took effect after the overturning of Roe. But Georgia Right to Life and other conservative groups are petitioning Governor Brian Kemp to call a special legislative session to pass a fetal personhood amendment to the state constitution. It would eliminate any exceptions for abortion allowed in the law, by declaring a “paramount right to life of all human beings as persons at any stage of development from fertilization to natural death.”

washington post logoWashington Post, After Roe, teens are teaching themselves sex ed, because the adults won’t, Hannah Natanson, Aug. 23, 2022. They say it’s crucial to learn about more than abstinence, especially if abortion is unavailable.

Sweating in the sun, two dozen teenagers spread themselves across picnic blankets in a grassy park and prepared to discuss the facts of life they never learned in school.

Behind them on a folding table, bouquets of pamphlets offered information teachers at school would never share — on the difference between medical and surgical abortions, and how to get them. Beside the pamphlets sat items adults at school would never give: pregnancy tests and six-packs of My Way Emergency Contraceptive.

Emma Rose Smith, 17, rose from the blankets, tucked her pale-blonde hair behind her ears and turned off the music on a small, black speaker. She faced the assembled high-schoolers, all members of her newfound group, Teens for Reproductive Rights, and began talking about the nonprofit Abortion Care Tennessee. Her words hitched at first, then tumbled in a rush.

“A little bit about them,” Emma Rose said, “is they’re an organization that funds people’s abortions if they can’t afford it. Also, by the way, there’s another organization that we can also talk about later, when we give you guys, like, resources, that actually does free mail-in abortion pills.”

Twelve days after the teens’ picnic, abortion would become illegal in Tennessee, a measure made possible by the Supreme Court’s June decision, in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, overturning Roe v. Wade. The students wouldn’t hear anything about it in school: State law does not require sex education, and it holds that schools in areas with high pregnancy rates must offer “family life education” focused on abstinence.

Recent Headlines

 

Energy, Climate, Disasters, Environment

 

climate change photo

 

 washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Another 1-in-1,000 interval flood’: Dallas area sees rescues, cars floating down water-filled roads, Annabelle Timsit and Zach Rosenthal, Aug. 23, 2022 (print ed.). The National Weather Service in Forth Worth extended its warning in and around Dallas County about potentially “life threatening flash flooding.”

Flash floods struck the Dallas-Fort Worth area overnight into Monday, sparking rescue efforts as roads flooded and abandoned cars floated away in striking footage shared on social media.

The National Weather Service in Fort Worth extended its flash flood warning in and around Dallas County until 10 a.m. Central time, warning of a continued risk for “life-threatening flash flooding.” The office said up to 8 inches of rain had fallen in the hard-hit area, with more rainfall still to come.
10 steps you can take to lower your carbon footprint

The risk of damage from the floods was “considerable,” it said, warning residents not to drive on flooded roads and to move immediately to higher ground. Flash flood warnings have also been issued for Fort Worth and Canton, Texas.

ny times logoNew York Times, With Climate Law, Democrats Hope to Counter Court Ruling on E.P.A., Lisa Friedman, Aug. 23, 2022 (print ed.). When the Supreme Court restricted the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to fight climate change this year, the reason it gave was that Congress had never granted the agency the broad authority to shift America away from burning fossil fuels.

Now it has.

Throughout the landmark climate law, passed this month, is language written specifically to address the Supreme Court’s justification for reining in the E.P.A., a ruling that was one of the court’s most consequential of the term. The new law amends the Clean Air Act, the country’s bedrock air-quality legislation, to define the carbon dioxide produced by the burning of fossil fuels as an “air pollutant.”

That language, according to legal experts as well as the Democrats who worked it into the legislation, explicitly gives the E.P.A. the authority to regulate greenhouse gases and to use its power to push the adoption of wind, solar and other renewable energy sources.

“The language, we think, makes pretty clear that greenhouse gases are pollutants under the Clean Air Act,” said Senator Tom Carper, the Delaware Democrat who led the movement to revise the law. With the new law, he added, there are “no ifs, ands or buts” that Congress has told federal agencies to tackle carbon dioxide, methane and other heat-trapping emissions from power plants, automobiles and oil wells.
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This month, in the hours before the bill passed the Senate, Republicans waged a last-minute, mostly unsuccessful predawn battle to remove the language from the legislation. Later that day, the Senate approved the climate-and-tax bill by a vote of 51 to 50, along party lines, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tiebreaking vote.

Republicans objected to the language, and to the fact that it appeared in a budget bill, a category of legislation focused on government spending and revenue. “It’s buried in there,” Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, said on Fox News Business ahead of the Senate vote. “The Democrats are trying to overturn the Supreme Court’s West Virginia vs. E.P.A. victory,” he added, referring to the ruling that curbed the E.P.A.’s ability to tackle global warming. Mr. Cruz did not respond to requests to discuss his opposition.

Throughout the landmark climate law is language intended to address the Supreme Court’s justification for reining in the Environmental Protection Agency.

In a first, the measure legally defines greenhouse gases as pollution, which explicitly gives the E.P.A. the authority to regulate them, experts say.

ny times logoNew York Times, Con Ed Dumps Hot, Dirty Water From River Park Pier, Records Show, Patrick McGeehan and Anne Barnard, Aug. 23, 2022.  Environmental advocates say Hudson River Park and New York officials have failed to alert the public to waste that may be harming the ecosystem.

New York City’s largest utility company has been dumping millions of gallons of wastewater — some of it heated to above 90 degrees and some containing toxic metals like chromium and lead — into the Hudson River in a park with special protections for fish and other aquatic life, public records show.

The utility company, Consolidated Edison, has had permits to discharge the water into the river for more than 20 years from its plant on an industrial pier at the park’s north end. But an adviser to the trust charged with running the park recently discovered the dumping, prompting a dispute over whether Con Ed should be allowed to continue the practice or even remain in the park.

The utility uses the water to fill and flush giant boilers in a steam plant and to cool high-voltage electrical cables before dumping it into the river under the pier, according to those records and Con Edison officials.

A drone view of the River Po, near Bergantino, Italy, on July 15, 2022 (Photo by Manuel Romano VIA NurPhoto).A drone view of the River Po, near Bergantino, Italy, on July 15, 2022 (Photo by Manuel Romano VIA NurPhoto).

CNN, Investigation: The world’s rivers are drying up in drought and heat. Here’s how 6 look from space, Natalie Croker, Renée Rigdon, Judson Jones, Carlotta Dotto and Angela Dewan, Aug. 20, 2022. A painful lack of rain and relentless heat waves are drying up rivers in the US, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Many are shrinking in length and breadth. Patches of riverbed poking out above the water are a common sight. Some rivers are so desiccated, they have become virtually impassable.

The human-caused climate crisis is fueling extreme weather across the globe, which isn’t just impacting rivers, but also the people who rely on them. Most people on the planet depend on rivers in some way, whether for drinking water, to irrigate food, for energy or to ship goods.

See how six of them look from space.

  • Colorado River
  • The Yangtze River
  • The Rhine River
  • The River Po
  • The Loire River
  • The Danube River

Recent Headlines

 

More On Ukraine War

washington post logoWashington Post, Russians at Daria Dugina memorial call for victory over Ukraine, Robyn Dixon and Mary Ilyushina, Aug. 23, 2022. Russians on Tuesday bade farewell to Daria Dugina, daughter of far-right ideologue Alexander Dugin, as calls grew in Russia for a tougher approach in the war against Ukraine, and the U.S. State Department warned that Moscow was likely to step up attacks on Ukrainian civilian targets and government institutions in coming days.

washington post logoWashington Post, New weapons for Ukraine suggest preparation for closer combat, Alex Horton, Aug. 23, 2022 (print ed.). The Pentagon is sending new weapons and equipment to Ukraine that will better prepare its military to fight Russian troops at closer ranges, potentially signaling that Kyiv and its backers see an opportunity to retake lost ground after weeks of grinding artillery duels along the front lines.

Ukrainian officials have been openly discussing an offensive on the Russian-held strategic port city of Kherson, but there is little evidence along the front lines that Ukraine is prepared to execute an operation that would require large numbers of troops, armored vehicles and powerful close-range weapons to overcome the numerically superior Russian military.

The latest package appears to be a first step toward addressing some of the shortfalls in the weaponry Ukrainian forces would need to launch a counterattack, particularly across mined areas in the approach to well-entrenched Russian positions. A successful offensive would include an ability to attack from a variety of distances.

The nearly $800 million in assistance announced Friday will include 40 bomb-resistant vehicles equipped with rollers that help detonate mines, as well as lighter howitzers that are easier to move than the more powerful guns the United States has previously sent. The aid will also include recoilless rifles with a range of few hundred meters and missile launchers limited to less than three miles — much closer than the current distance between Ukrainian and Russian units in many places.

“The mine-clearing is a really good example of how the Ukrainians will need this sort of capability to be able to push their forces forward and retake territory,” a senior U.S. defense official told reporters Friday. “These are capabilities that are enhancing the Ukrainians’ mobility as they look at this very challenging environment in southern Ukraine, in particular.” The official spoke on the condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the Pentagon.

What to know about Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

The armored vehicles known as MRAPs, a key vehicle in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, would shield troops from explosions and small-arms fire while triggering mines with rollers that project from the front like lobster antennae.

But the next chapters of life with the virus — and the choice of booster shots for the fall and beyond — will be complicated by the layers of immunity that now ripple through the population, laid down by past infections and vaccinations.

When it comes to viral infections, past is prologue: The version of a virus to which we’re first exposed can dictate how we respond to later variants and, maybe, how well vaccines work.

pavel filatyevRussian paratrooper Pavel Filatyev, right (Courtesy of Pavel Filatyev.)

 washington post logoWashington Post, A Russian soldier’s journal: ‘I will not participate in this madness,’ Mary Ilyushina, Aug. 22, 2022 (print ed.). A war-wounded soldier, now in hiding, writes that Russia’s leaders “simply decided to shower Ukraine with our corpses.” Russian paratrooper Pavel Filatyev spent more than a month fighting in Ukraine after his poorly equipped unit was ordered to march from its base in Crimea for what commanders called a routine exercise.

In early April, the 34-year-old Filatyev was evacuated after being wounded. Over the next five weeks, deeply troubled by the devastation caused by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bloody invasion, he wrote down his recollections in hopes that telling his country the truth about the war could help stop it.

His damning 141-page journal, posted this month on Vkontakte, Russia’s equivalent of Facebook, is the most detailed day-by-day account to date of the attacks on Kherson and Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine as seen through the eyes of a Russian soldier.

ukraine flagThe document describes an army in disarray: commanders clueless and terrified, equipment old and rusty, troops pillaging occupied areas in search of food because of a lack of provisions, morale plummeting as the campaign stalled. He tells of soldiers shooting themselves in the legs to collect the $50,000 promised by the government to injured servicemen. He describes units being wiped out by friendly fire. He blasts Russian state media for trying to justify a war that the Kremlin had no “moral right” to wage.

ny times logoNew York Times, Foes Agree on Nuclear Disaster Risk in Ukraine, but Little Else, Richard Pérez-Peña and Farnaz Fassihi, Aug. 23, 2022. At the U.N. Security Council, Russia and its critics traded barbs over the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, with each side accusing the other of courting disaster.

As United Nations officials pleaded for inspection and demilitarization of the battle-scarred nuclear power plant caught in Russia’s war on Ukraine, countries traded harsh words at the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday but moved no closer to resolving the intensifying crisis, which has hung over the war for months.

At the Security Council meeting, the second in two weeks on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the United States and its allies accused Russia, which controls the plant, of peddling lies about the situation there and blaming others for its own actions, while Russia leveled similar charges at them. The Council’s member nations emerged from the 80-minute meeting with no evident movement toward inspection or improved security.

Russian forces have held the sprawling Zaporizhzhia complex and Enerhodar, the town encompassing it, since early March, and the remaining residents live under a harrowing occupation, exhausted and fearful as many of them work to keep the plant operating safely.

ny times logoNew York Times, More Ukraine Live Updates: U.N. Security Council Meeting to Focus on Threat to Nuclear Plant, Farnaz Fassihi, Aug. 23, 2022. Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for attacks in and around Zaporizhzhia, Europe’s largest nuclear plant, including recent russian flag wavingshelling that fell dangerously close to the reactors. The Russian military took control of the site in March but Ukrainian technicians still operate the facility.

Here’s what else we know:

  • Fighting around the Russia-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear facility poses one of the gravest risks as the war nears the six-month mark.
  • A Security Council meeting on the nuclear plant comes at Moscow’s request.
  • The U.S. warns of Russian attacks ahead of Ukraine’s Independence Day.
  • At a televised memorial for Daria Dugina, many call for vengeance.
  • The U.N. warns Russia that show trials of P.O.W.s would constitute a war crime.
  • Ukrainians flood a Red Cross hotline for help finding missing loved ones.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Elections, Analysis

ny times logoNew York Times, What to Watch in Tuesday’s Primaries in Florida and New York, Katie Glueck, Aug. 23, 2022. Democrats in Florida will choose who will face Gov. Ron DeSantis, and House races across New York could set the tone for November. Follow updates.

A race to take on Ron DeSantis. A battle of House committee chairs. A special election that will test the political power of abortion rights.

A series of high-profile races will unfold on Tuesday in New York and Florida as the 2022 midterm primaries arrive in two of the nation’s most populous states.

 

val demings headshot

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Don’t underestimate Val Demings. She’s got Marco Rubio pegged, Jennifer Rubin, right, Aug. 22, 2022. Rep. Val Demings jennifer rubin new headshot(D-Fla.) is in her third House term, but her decades of experience in law enforcement come through whatever the topic. It not only peppers her language but also provides her with a perspective that differs starkly from that of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), whose seat she’s seeking in November. Her opponent has achieved little while in the Senate, other than shape-shifting from a critic of former president Donald Trump into one of his most frequently mocked sycophants.

In a phone interview, I asked Demings about the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturning Roe v. Wade. She says she learned an expression in police work: “Don’t relax too soon.”

Unfortunately, Democrats did just that, failing for decades to codify Roe. Now, she says, with abortion rights being restricted, “people cannot believe it.”

Demings points to Rubio’s track record in voting no on virtually every Democratic initiative, even the bipartisan infrastructure bill that will pour billions into the state. “Politics is an interesting game,” she says ruefully. “He doesn’t want what will appear to give a win to Democrats and President Biden.”

On the law-enforcement front, Rubio voted not only against the bipartisan gun legislation but also against the American Rescue Plan, which would have helped keep first responders on the job. Demings also notes that Rubio “voted against a bipartisan commission to investigate Jan. 6.” Finding the truth about the armed assault on the Capitol apparently “didn’t advance his agenda,” she says.

washington post logoWashington Post, In Upstate N.Y., a test for Democrats running on abortion to stop GOP wave, David Weigel, Aug. 23, 2022 (print ed.). Tuesday’s special election in a swing district has become a crucial testing ground for both major parties’ political strategies around abortion — an issue that could factor heavily into the midterm elections

Politico, N.H. Republicans damage Senate chances in rough primary, Natalie Allison, Aug. 23, 2022 (print ed.). Moderate Republican candidates tend to do better in New Hampshire. But the GOP field is tacking sharply right.

politico CustomSenate Republicans’ primary season is ending like it began — with a divisive contest in a battleground state that risks damaging the party’s hopes of retaining control of the Senate.

The New Hampshire primary on Sept. 13 is the last competitive race on the calendar. A few months ago, it was just one of a handful of toss-ups on the GOP map, ranked as leaning Democratic but potentially in play.

But now, with GOP candidates in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin trailing their Democratic opponents, New Hampshire could provide Republicans a critical pickup — if their candidates don’t get in the way.

A St. Anselm College poll found that just 44 percent of voters across parties approve of incumbent Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan’s job performance, suggesting that the right Republican candidate could benefit from that dissatisfaction.

But recent polling shows the frontrunner to be Don Bolduc, a candidate who lost a 2020 Senate primary and has since championed Donald Trump’s false election conspiracies and may have limited appeal to general election voters.

“The Democrats have to be praying for Don Bolduc,” said Fergus Cullen, a former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party.

Cullen believes that Bolduc’s lead — which the St. Anselm poll has at 32 percent — is his ceiling, and is based merely on name recognition from Bolduc’s unsuccessful 2020 race. The second-place candidate is state Senate president Chuck Morse, who registered just 16 percent support in the poll, and former Londonderry town manager Kevin Smith ranked third with just 4 percent.

  beto orourke rally

washington post logoWashington Post, Beto O’Rourke’s risky quest for votes in deep-red Texas, Jada Yuan, Photos by Nick Oxford, Aug. 23, 2022 (print ed.). On a road trip to find untapped votes, the Democratic challenger for governor faces armed protesters, shouting matches and a stolen catalytic converter.

Everyone in this 3,087-person Panhandle city knows that Beto O’Rourke (shown in a file photo above) is coming to campaign for governor today. It’s a major event, a big-time politician coming all the way out here, deep into rural oil country, where the landscape is dotted with pump jacks and cattle and grain elevators, and the worst drought in 10 years has sucked up all the water in the Canadian River so it’s just a dry bed of red dirt.

“People are buzzing! It’s a big buzz,” says Suzanne Bellsnyder, who owns the one coffee shop downtown. Local gossip networks have already alerted her that Beto (he’s achieved one-name celebrity status in these parts, like Cher) is next door having lunch. It’s a Saturday afternoon, and he’ll be speaking in a park, with the temperature hitting 105 degrees.

People are buzzing in a good way? Like, excited?

She smiles. Well, what do you think? Beto mustered only 8 percent of the vote here in 2018 when he ran as the Democratic candidate for Senate against the Republican incumbent, Sen. Ted Cruz. That’s 138 votes out of 1,710 cast in all of Hansford County. “We don’t even have a Democrat primary,” says Bellsnyder, who is the former chair of the county’s Republican Party. “I mean, they hold one, but 12 people vote or something.” (Fact check: It was actually eight people in 2018 and 14 in 2022.)

The buzz had started in right-wing Facebook groups, where a protest was being planned. There was chatter about whether to bring guns. “Did you see the guy with the AR-15?” Beto asks me a few days later. “He was wearing it, coming toward the door, which is not unusual for us.” It’s also not unusual for a dozen shouting Republicans to confront Beto outside a town hall meeting of 337 people and then post videos on Twitter saying they’d run him out of town.

Maybe it’s a fool’s errand or just a kamikaze mission of hope, but Beto is holding more than 70 public events in 49 days trying to convince people in mostly small, rural and often incredibly red towns around the state that he should be their next governor. It’s part of a campaign strategy fueled by the fact that four years ago he came closer than any Democrat in a generation to winning a statewide office in his Senate race — within 220,000 votes, or 2.6 percent. Which in Texas counts as close.

Beto is targeting GOP strongholds that former president Donald Trump won with 70, 80 or even 90 percent of the vote just two years ago, making his schedule public and inviting the entire community to join. If there are votes out there to push him over the top, that means turning over every couch cushion in every corner of the state — even in conservative oil, agriculture and ranching country where many people are thrilled with two-term incumbent Republican governor Greg Abbott, who signed a trigger law banning most abortions and who has spent the summer busing migrants to D.C. and New York City, while blaming it all on President Biden.

Could a victory for Beto lie not in liberal cities such as Austin or Houston but in spending these last precious three months of the campaign driving his Toyota Tundra to the least populous, most Republican parts of the state, mining for untapped votes?

  • Washington Post, Outlook Book Review: Beto O’Rourke’s book spotlights Texans’ struggles for voting rights, Lee Drutman, Aug. 21, 2022 (print beto orourke got to try booked.). O’Rourke, the Democratic candidate for governor, presents himself as a listener and an advocate for the state’s progressive activists.  And so, the title of his new book, We’ve Got to Try, is also a fitting mantra for the indefatigable runner — that is, jogger — who also ran for Senate in 2018, and for president in 2020, after coming to Congress in 2012 by improbably unseating an incumbent.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Cheney wants to stop the MAGA GOP. Another Republican just wants out, Jennifer Rubin, right, Aug. 23, 2022. When jennifer rubin new headshotshe was running for reelection, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) faced an unspoken contradiction. She had made clear that she considered House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) unfit for the speakership, yet her presence in the general election would make that outcome more likely, not less. Her primary defeat last week solved that problem but raised another.

During a weekend interview with ABC News’s Jonathan Karl, she explained that she is going after election deniers in Congress:…

Cheney: I’m going to be very focused on working to ensure that we do everything we can not to elect election deniers. … And I’m going to work against those people, I’m going to work to support their opponents; I think it matters that much.

Karl: Will you be getting involved in campaigns against those Republican candidates that are challenging or denying of the results of the election?

Cheney: Yes.

Karl: Including your Republican colleagues here in Congress?

Cheney: Yes.

We live in a binary political system, so it follows that if McCarthy — Cheney says “he’s been completely unfaithful to the Constitution and demonstrated a total lack of understanding of the significance and the importance of the role of speaker” — and his party are a menace to our democracy, then democracy defenders must beat them. And Cheney intends to help them do so, in federal and state races.

ap logoAssociated Press, AP-NORC poll: Most in US say they want stricter gun laws, Sara  Burnett, Aug. 23, 2022. Most U.S. adults want to see gun laws made stricter and think gun violence is increasing nationwide, according to a new poll that finds broad public support for a variety of gun restrictions, including many that are supported by majorities of Republicans and gun owners.

The poll by the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows 71% of Americans say gun laws should be stricter, including about half of Republicans, the vast majority of Democrats and a majority of those in gun-owning households.

The poll was conducted between July 28 and Aug. 1, after a string of deadly mass shootings — from a New York grocery store to a school in Texas and a July 4 parade in Illinois — and a 2020 spike in gun killings that have increased attention on the issue of gun violence. Overall, 8 in 10 Americans perceive that gun violence is increasing around the country, and about two-thirds say it’s increasing in their state, though less than half believe it’s increasing in their community, the poll shows.

The question of how to prevent such violence has long divided politicians and many voters, making it difficult to change gun laws. In June, a conservative majority on the Supreme Court expanded gun rights, finding a constitutional right to carry firearms in public for self-defense.

Later that same month, President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan gun safety bill. The package, approved in the wake of shootings like the one that killed 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, was both a measured compromise and the most significant bill addressing gun violence to be approved in Congress in decades — an indication of how intractable the issue has become.

ap logoAssociated Press, Grand jury weighs possible charges against North Carolina AG, Hannah Schoenbaum, Aug. 22, 2022. A local North Carolina grand jury on Monday advanced its consideration of possible criminal charges against state Attorney General Josh Stein and two aides over an investigation into a political ad targeting Stein’s 2020 election opponent.

After hearing from a State Bureau of Investigation agent, the Wake County grand jury asked in writing that the Wake district attorney’s office submit an indictment for consideration “against any and each” of three people, including Stein himself.

The Democratic attorney general, his 2020 campaign manager Eric Stern and current state Justice Department chief of staff Seth Dearmin — a former Stein campaign manager — were identified in Monday’s “presentment” document signed by the jury foreperson. They have not been charged with any crime.

Stein, a potential 2024 candidate for governor, lashed out in a statement at what he called a “nonsense investigation.”

The investigation stems from a State Board of Elections complaint filed in fall 2020 by Stein’s Republican opponent, Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill. He accused Stein’s campaign of circulating a political ad that violated a 91-year-old libel law.

The O’Neill campaign said Stein’s commercial, which accused the Republican of letting more than a thousand rape kits go untested, was “false and derogatory” because police rather than prosecutors are responsible for testing rape kits. Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman’s office began investigating in 2021.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden nears decision on canceling $10,000 in student loans as allies feud, Jeff Stein and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, Aug. 23, 2022. Borrowers are scheduled to resume loan payments Aug. 31 unless White House extends current pauses. The White House’s close allies are feuding over whether the administration should cancel up to $10,000 in student debt for millions of American borrowers, as President Biden nears a decision that is expected to come on Wednesday.

With the Inflation Reduction Act now signed into law, White House officials have in recent days revived discussions over student debt cancellation. They face an Aug. 31 deadline, which is when loan payments are set to resume after a pandemic-driven pause. Internal White House discussions have centered on temporarily extending that pause and simultaneously canceling $10,000 per borrower for those below an income threshold, but the president has not yet communicated a decision, according to two people familiar with the matter, speaking on the condition of anonymity to reflect private conversations. Another person familiar with the talks said $10,000 is among the options being considered.

  • Washington Post, As many as one in six U.S. tree species is threatened with extinction, Sarah Kaplan, Aug. 23, 2022.

washington post logoWashington Post, Herschel Walker, criticizing climate law, asks, ‘Don’t we have enough trees around here?’ John Wagner, Aug. 23, 2022 (print ed.). Georgia Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker is criticizing the sweeping climate, health-care and deficit-reduction bill signed into law by President Biden, arguing that it includes wasteful spending to combat global warming and asking, “Don’t we have enough trees around here?”

The former NFL football player, who was encouraged to run by former president Donald Trump, has made head-scratching comments that have drawn ridicule. In a July 9 appearance, he spoke about climate change, suggesting that Georgia’s “good air decides to float over” to China, replacing China’s “bad air,” which goes back to Georgia, where “we got to clean that back up.”

 

paul pelosi cbs

ap logoAssociated Press via Politico, Paul Pelosi gets 5 days in jail, 3 years of probation in DUI, Staff Report, Aug. 23, 2022. The husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pleaded guilty to misdemeanor driving under the influence charges related to a May crash in California’s wine country.

Paul Pelosi, shown above in a mug shot, was arrested following a May 28 crash in Napa County, north of San Francisco, after a DUI test showed he had a blood alcohol content of .082%, just over the legal limit. | Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

The husband of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pleaded guilty Tuesday to misdemeanor driving under the influence charges related to a May crash in California’s wine country and was sentenced to five days in jail and three years of probation.

Paul Pelosi already served two days in jail and received conduct credit for two other days, Napa County Superior Court Judge Joseph Solga said. Paul Pelosi will work eight hours in the court’s work program in lieu of the remaining day, Solga said during Paul Pelosi’s sentencing, which he did not attend.

State law allows for DUI misdemeanor defendants to appear through their attorney unless ordered otherwise by the court.

As part of his probation, Paul Pelosi will also be required to attend a three-month drinking driver class, and install an ignition interlock device, where the driver has to provide a breath sample before the engine will start. He will also have to pay nearly $7,000 in fines, the judge said.

Paul Pelosi was arrested following a May 28 crash in Napa County, north of San Francisco, after a DUI test showed he had a blood alcohol content of .082%, just over the legal limit.

Officers responding to the crash after 10 p.m. near the wine country town of Yountville said they found Pelosi in the driver’s seat of a 2021 Porsche Carrera and the other driver standing outside a sport utility vehicle, according to the complaint.

California Highway Patrol officers reported that Pelosi was “unsteady on his feet, his speech was slurred, and he had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage.”

Pelosi offered to officers his driver’s license along with an “11-99 Foundation” card when asked for identification, the complaint says. The 11-99 Foundation supports CHP employees and their families.

Prosecutors filed the case as a misdemeanor because of injuries to the 48-year-old driver of the SUV. They have declined to identify the driver, saying the person has requested privacy.

In an interview with investigators from the district attorney’s office, the driver reported pain in his upper right arm, right shoulder and neck the day after the crash. He said he also had headaches.

Al.com, Perry Hooper Jr., former Alabama lawmaker, charged with sex abuse in Montgomery, Carol Robinson, Aug. 23, 2022. A former state legislator is facing a felony sex charge.

Perry Oliver Hooper Jr., 67, is charged with first-degree sex abuse, Montgomery police Capt. Saba Coleman confirmed Tuesday.

Details of the allegations against Hooper have not been disclosed and records on the case are not yet listed in Alabama’s online court system. Coleman said the alleged incident happened about 8 p.m. Aug. 16, 2022, in the 100 block of Commerce Street.

Hooper Jr., a Republican, served in the Alabama House of Representatives from District 73 until 2003, and remains active in the GOP. He was the co-chair of the Donald Trump 2016 presidential campaign in Alabama. He is the son of Perry Hooper Sr. who served as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court from 1995 to 2001.

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Public Health, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Administration Plans for New Booster Campaign Soon After Labor Day, Sharon LaFraniere and Noah Weiland, Aug. 23, 2022. A top F.D.A. regulator cited compelling data for redesigned coronavirus vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

The Biden administration plans to offer the next generation of coronavirus booster shots to Americans 12 and older soon after Labor Day, a campaign that federal officials hope will reduce deaths from Covid-19 and protect against an expected winter surge.

Dr. Peter Marks, the top vaccine regulator for the Food and Drug Administration, said in an interview on Tuesday that while he could not discuss timing, his team was close to authorizing updated doses that would target the versions of the virus now circulating.

Even though those formulations have not been tested in humans, he said, the agency has “extremely good” data showing that the shots are safe and will be effective. “How confident am I?” he said. “I’m extremely confident.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Your first brush with coronavirus could affect how a fall booster works, Carolyn Y. Johnson, Aug. 23, 2022. It’s a phenomenon known by the forbidding name of original antigenic sin, and, in the case of the coronavirus, it prompts a constellation of questions.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2In the beginning, when the coronavirus was new, the quest for a vaccine was simple. Everyone started out susceptible to the virus. Shots brought spectacular protection.

But the next chapters of life with the virus — and the choice of booster shots for the fall and beyond — will be complicated by the layers of immunity that now ripple through the population, laid down by past infections and vaccinations.

When it comes to viral infections, past is prologue: The version of a virus to which we’re first exposed can dictate how we respond to later variants and, maybe, how well vaccines work.

ny times logoNew York Times, Newsom Vetoes Bill for Drug-Injection Sites in California, Jill Cowan, Aug. 23, 2022. Gov. Gavin Newsom said he supported the idea of supervised facilities to reduce overdoses, but that the state was not yet prepared to put it into practice.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 washington post logoWashington Post, Man sentenced in scheme to defraud Rep. Gaetz’s father of $25 million, María Luisa Paúl, Aug. 23, 2022. A federal judge on Monday sentenced a Florida businessman to a little over five years in prison for his role in a 2021 plot to defraud the father of Rep. Matt Gaetz matt gaetz official(R-Fla.), right, of $25 million as the congressman found himself under investigation for possible sex crimes.

Stephen M. Alford, below left, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in November. This week, Alford was sentenced to 63 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, according to court documents.

stephen alfordRandall Lockhart, Alford’s public defender, did not immediately respond to a request from The Washington Post for comment. Gaetz has not been charged with any crime.

The scheme was first made public on March 30, 2021, when Gaetz appeared on Fox News hours after the New York Times first reported that the congressman was under investigation. Gaetz claimed the Times’s story was a “planted leak” meant to distract from the real crime — a shakedown of him and his father.

“What is happening is an extortion of me and my family,” Gaetz said.

According to court records, Alford and another man somehow learned that Gaetz was under a Department of Justice probe before the don gaetzinvestigation was publicly reported. Don Gaetz — the congressman’s father, right, and a former Florida Senate president — received a text message on March 16, 2021, with a request to discuss the investigation into his son, according to the indictment in Alford’s case.

The Justice Department was investigating Joel Greenberg, a former Seminole County, Fla., tax collector and an associate of Gaetz’s. During that probe, investigators uncovered information that could implicate the congressman, The Post previously reported. A spokesperson for Gaetz did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Tuesday. The congressman has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

ny times logoNew York Times, Woman Opens Fire in Midtown Atlanta, Killing 2 and Injuring 1, Michael Levenson, Aug. 23, 2022 (print ed.). A pair of afternoon shootings by the woman, who was later arrested at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, were not random, the police said.

Adam Simjee and his girlfriend, Mikayla Paulus (Family photo via GoFundMe and the New York Times).

Adam Simjee and his girlfriend, Mikayla Paulus (Family photo via GoFundMe and the New York Times).

ny times logoNew York Times, Student Fatally Shot by Woman He Stopped to Help, Livia Albeck-Ripka, Aug. 22, 2022 (print ed.). Adam Simjee was with his girlfriend in a national forest in Alabama when a woman flagged them down, claiming she had car trouble.

A 22-year-old man was fatally shot in a national forest in Alabama last week by a woman pretending to be a stranded driver after the man and his girlfriend pulled over to help, the authorities said.

The man, Adam Simjee, and his girlfriend, Mikayla Paulus, both students at the University of Central Florida, were driving in Talladega National Forest, about 80 miles east of Birmingham, on the morning of Aug. 14 when they were flagged down by a woman claiming her car would not start, according to a statement from the Clay County Sheriff’s Office posted by television station WBRC.

The woman, Yasmine Hider, pulled out a gun and made the couple walk back into the woods, according to the statement. Mr. Simjee then pulled out his own gun, leading to an “exchange of gunfire” in which Ms. Hider was shot several times in the torso and Mr. Simjee was shot in the back, the statement said.

Ms. Paulus, 20, who was not injured, tried to revive her boyfriend by administering CPR but he died at the scene, the authorities said.

Ms. Hider was transported to a Birmingham hospital where she had surgery for her injuries. The authorities said she may be part of a group of people “living off the grid” in tents in the national forest who were reported to be “armed and potentially violent.”

The sheriff’s office said Ms. Hider faces charges that include one count of murder, two counts of kidnapping and two counts of robbery.

Ms. Paulus told the authorities that at the time of the shooting, a second woman, later identified as Krystal Diane Pinkins, 36, had been standing in the woods.

Ms. Hider, the assailant, had called out to Ms. Pinkins to help her but she fled, according to officials. It was at this point that Ms. Paulus was able to get her phone and call 911, the statement said.

A tracking team from the Alabama Department of Corrections found what the authorities described as a “base camp” about half a mile from the scene of the shooting where they said they found Ms. Pinkins near a group of tents.

As officers ordered her to the ground, “a 5-year-old child ran from the woods holding a loaded shotgun,” the sheriff’s office statement said. The officers instructed the child, later identified as Ms. Pinkins’s son, to put down the shotgun but he kept going toward his mother before eventually putting it on the ground, officials said.

Ms. Pinkins was charged with one count of murder, two counts of kidnapping, two counts of robbery as well as endangering the welfare of a child. She remains in the Clay County Jail, according to sheriff’s records. Her son was taken into state care.

On Wednesday, David Law, a Clay County district court judge, ordered those involved in the case, including lawyers, witnesses, law enforcement personnel and “anyone else affiliated” with the case, not to discuss it because it could affect Ms. Pinkins’s right to a fair trial.

Ms. Paulus, Mr. Simjee’s girlfriend, cited the order on Facebook on Thursday. She said she and Mr. Simjee’s family wanted “an unbiased jury pool so that we can get the justice we deserve for losing the best man in our lives.”

 washington post logoWashington Post, Arkansas officers suspended after video shows beating during arrest, Bryan Pietsch, Aug. 23, 2022 (print ed.). Three law enforcement officers in Arkansas were taken off duty after video circulated online showing them apparently beating a man during an arrest.

The Crawford County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Sunday evening that two of its deputies, who were seen in the video, had been suspended. The sheriff’s office requested that the Arkansas State Police investigate their conduct.

The city of Mulberry, about 130 miles northwest of Little Rock, said its police department had put one of its officers, who they confirmed was in the video, on administrative leave.

The arrest happened about 10:40 a.m. Sunday outside a convenience store in Mulberry, state police said.

The expletive-ridden video, which was shared widely on social media, showed three officers pinning the suspect, Randall Worcester, a 27-year-old from Goose Creek, S.C., on the ground in a parking lot. One of them punched Worcester in the head repeatedly, as a person recording from a nearby car gasped, saying, “Oh … this is bad.”

Recent Headlines

 

World News, Human Rights, Analysis

 ny times logoNew York Times, Najib Razak, Malaysia’s Former Prime Minister, Is Headed to Prison, Richard C. Paddock, Aug. 23, 2022. Mr. Najib, convicted in a scandal involving the disappearance of billions from the government investment fund known as 1MDB, has exhausted his avenues of appeal.

malaysia flagMalaysia’s former prime minister, Najib Razak, who was convicted two years ago of participating in a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal, was headed for prison Tuesday to start serving a 12-year sentence after the nation’s highest court rejected his final appeal.

A five-judge federal court panel, headed by the nation’s chief justice, unanimously upheld Mr. Najib’s conviction on seven corruption counts after finding that his appeal was “devoid of any merits.”

The prospect of Mr. Najib, 69, going to prison concluded a stunning fall for the British-educated son of one prime minister and nephew of another who spent nearly his entire adult life in politics and held numerous cabinet posts.

washington post logoWashington Post, Qatar deports migrant workers protesting alleged abuse before World Cup, Marina Lopes, Aug. 23, 2022. Qatar detained and deported dozens of migrant workers who took part in a protest because their employer did not pay them, according to labor rights activists. The emirate is hosting the World Cup in three months, and it has depended on foreign labor to build infrastructure, including gleaming stadiums, for the flagship men’s soccer tournament.

This month, at least 60 workers were detained for participating in the rare protest, outside the offices of Al Bandary International Group, a major construction and hospitality firm, according to Equidem, a London-based labor rights organization. Some of the demonstrators, who came from countries such as Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Egypt and the Philippines, had not been paid for as many as seven months, Equidem said, adding that most of them have been sent home.

washington post logoWashington Post, Conservative leadership race is making some Tories miss Boris Johnson, William Booth, Aug. 23, 2022. The Conservative Party rank-and-file who demanded the mop-headed British prime minister resign in July are no longer so sure, now that they’ve had a good sniff at the candidates to replace him.

A few weeks ago, the survey group Opinium Research published a remarkable poll that found that Conservative Party members, overwhelmingly, preferred Johnson to the two candidates now competing to replace him: 63 percent wanted Johnson to remain leader of the party, and therefore prime minister, compared to 22 percent for Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, who appears to be the front-runner for the top job.

ny times logoNew York Times, David A. Kay, Who Searched for Nuclear Weapons in Iraq, Dies at 82, Clay Risen, Aug. 23, 2022 (print ed.). He scoured the country for weapons of mass destruction after the U.S. invasion in 2003, but his search proved fruitless.

David A. Kay, a nuclear weapons expert who led a fruitless hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq after the United States invasion in 2003, then resigned his position after determining that the case for going to war over Saddam Hussein’s suspected stockpile of unconventional weapons was deeply flawed, died on Aug. 13 at his home in Ocean View, Del. He was 82.

His wife, Anita Kay, said the cause was cancer.

Dr. Kay had extensive experience in Iraq. As an official with the International Atomic Energy Agency, he had led a similar hunt for evidence of a chemical, biological or nuclear weapons program in the country after the first Persian Gulf war, in 1991. The Iraqi government repeatedly stymied that effort, and it continued to do so after he left the agency in 1993.

As the George W. Bush administration began to build a case for invading Iraq in 2002, Dr. Kay became one of the most prominent defenders of its assertion that Mr. Hussein had, despite U.N. surveillance, continued and expanded his efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Of Dictators and Trade Surpluses, Paul Krugman, Aug. 23, 2022 (print ed.). According to a new NBC News poll, U.S. voters now paul krugmanconsider “threats to democracy” the most important issue facing the nation, which is both disturbing and a welcome sign that people are paying attention.

It’s also worth noting that this isn’t just an American issue. Democracy is eroding worldwide; according to the latest survey from the Economist Intelligence Unit, there are now 59 fully authoritarian regimes out there, home to 37 percent of the world’s population.

Of these 59 regimes, however, only two — China and Russia — are powerful enough to pose major challenges to the international order.

The two nations are, of course, very different. China is a bona fide superpower, whose economy has by some measures overtaken the United States’. Russia is a third-rate power in economic terms, and events since Feb. 24 suggest that its military was and is weaker than most observers imagined. It does, however, have nukes.

One thing China and Russia have in common, however, is that both are currently running very large trade surpluses. Are these surpluses signs of strength? Are they evidence that autocracy works?

No, in both cases the surpluses are signs of weakness. And the current situation offers a useful corrective to the common notion — favored, among others, by Donald Trump — that a country that sells more than it buys is somehow a “winner.”

More World News, Human Rights Analysis

 

Media, Education, Sports News

ny times logoNew York Times, Twitter’s Former Security Chief Accuses It of ‘Egregious Deficiencies,’ Lauren Hirsch and Kate Conger, Aug. 23, 2022. A whistle-blower’s complaint to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department come at a perilous time for the social network.

twitter bird CustomTwitter’s former head of security has accused the company of “extreme, egregious deficiencies” in its spam- and hacker-fighting practices, according to a whistle-blower complaint.

The complaints by Peiter Zatko, the former executive, said that the shortcomings in enforcing security, privacy and content moderation policies dated to 2011. Mr. Zatko, a well-known hacker who is known in the security community as Mudge, joined Twitter in late 2020 and was terminated by the company in January.

His complaints were sent to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission on July 6. They were first reported by The Washington Post and CNN.

Daily Mail, Gary Busey, 78, is seen sitting in a public park in California with his pants down smoking a cigar the day after being charged with groping three women at horror movie convention, Andrea Cavallier, Updated Aug. 23, 2022. Actor Gary Busey was caught in shocking photos with his pants down in the middle of the day at a public California park as he appeared to perform a lewd act and then lit up a cigar a day after being charged with groping three woman at a New Jersey horror movie convention.

The actor was charged Friday with four counts of sexual contact and harassment following multiple alleged incidents at the convention last weekend — as cops say they expect more victims to come forward.

Busey didn’t seem bothered about the charges the next day as shocking images showed him getting out of his car wearing a shirt that referenced the 1991 film ‘Point Break,’ in which he had a supporting role, and making his way to a bench at the lookout point, where he sat down, pulled out his phone and then pulled down his pants.

Busey, who lives in Malibu, faces two counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual contact, one count of attempted criminal sexual contact and one count of harassment, following the allegations made in New Jersey.

Busey is widely known as a character actor, largely in supporting roles, though he came to attention and was nominated for an Oscar for best actor for playing the title role in the 1978 film ‘The Buddy Holly Story.’

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Aug. 22

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Investigations

 

U.S. Media, Education, Sports, Culture

 

Political Violence In United States

 

Trump Probes, Reactions, Riots, Supporters

 

U.S. Forced Birth Laws, Privacy, Freedoms

 

Energy, Climate, Environment, Disasters

 

More On Ukraine War

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Trump Had More Than 300 Classified Documents at Mar-a-Lago, Maggie Haberman, Jodi Kantor, Adam Goldman and Ben Protess, Aug. 22, 2022. The initial batch of documents retrieved by the National Archives from former President Donald J. Trump in January included more than 150 marked as classified, a number that ignited intense concern at the Justice Department and helped trigger the criminal investigation that led F.B.I. agents to swoop into Mar-a-Lago this month seeking to recover more, multiple people briefed on the matter said.

In total, the government has recovered more than 300 documents with classified markings from Mr. Trump since he left office, the people said: that first batch of documents returned in January, another set provided by Mr. Trump’s aides to the Justice Department in June and the material seized by the F.B.I. in the search this month.

The previously unreported volume of the sensitive material found in the former president’s possession in January helps explain why the Justice Department moved so urgently to hunt down any further classified materials he might have.

And the extent to which such a large number of highly sensitive documents remained at Mar-a-Lago for months, even as the department sought the return of all material that should have been left in government custody when Mr. Trump left office, suggested to officials that the former president or his aides had been cavalier in handling it, not fully forthcoming with investigators, or both.

The specific nature of the sensitive material that Mr. Trump took from the White House remains unclear. But the 15 boxes Mr. Trump turned over to the archives in January, nearly a year after he left office, included documents from the C.I.A., the National Security Agency and the F.B.I. spanning a variety of topics of national security interest, a person briefed on the matter said.

Mr. Trump went through the boxes himself in late 2021, according to multiple people briefed on his efforts, before turning them over.

The highly sensitive nature of some of the material in the boxes prompted archives officials to refer the matter to the Justice Department, which within months had convened a grand jury investigation.

Aides to Mr. Trump turned over a few dozen additional sensitive documents during a visit to Mar-a-Lago by Justice Department officials in early June. At the conclusion of the search this month, officials left with 26 boxes, including 11 sets of material marked as classified, comprising scores of additional documents. One set had the highest level of classification, top secret/sensitive compartmented information.
The National Archives found more than 150 sensitive documents when it got a first batch of material from former President Trump in January.
That previously unreported count helps explain why the Justice Department moved so urgently to hunt down any further classified materials he might have.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Turn out Donald Trump stole classified CIA secrets, Bill Palmer, right, Aug. 22, 2022. In the two weeks since the Feds seized bill palmerclassified documents that Donald Trump had stolen and hidden in his home, his apologists have floated various excuses for why he had the documents. One of the most popular narratives has been that Trump simply wanted to use the documents to help him remember his time in office so he could write a memoir. But new reporting shatters that narrative.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump stole more than three hundred classified documents in total, including documents that were classified by the NSA and CIA, according to a new report tonight from the New York Times. These agencies don’t deal in the kind of somewhat harmless, just barely classified documents that Trump’s allies have suggested he took. These agencies deal in state secrets.

Moreover, the NYT is now confirming that Trump personally went through at least some of these boxes of classified documents. And while Trump did voluntarily turn over some of the classified documents earlier this year, the Feds ended up seizing documents that were at the “highest level of classification” – meaning Trump kept the good stuff for himself.

This new reporting also confirms that not one but two of Donald Trump’s lawyers signed a statement for the Feds earlier this year, asserting that all the classified documents at Mar-a-Lago had been returned. If it can be proven that they knew there were still dozens of boxes of classified information in Trump’s home at the time they signed that statement, then they’ll face criminal charges themselves, and they’ll have to decide whether to flip on Trump.

But let’s not lose track of the real headline here. Donald Trump didn’t just steal souvenirs that happened to be classified. He stole secrets that had been classified by the CIA and NSA. We’re talking state secrets here. We still don’t know if Trump actually tried to sell these secrets or blackmail anyone with them. But you don’t steal state secrets from the CIA unless you have really ugly intentions. No wonder the DOJ has classified this as an espionage investigation in its unsealed search warrant of Trump’s home.

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge in Trump Search Case Issues Written Order Seeking Redactions, Alan Feuer, Aug. 22, 2022. The order was made on the same day former President Trump’s lawyers asked another judge to appoint an independent special master to review the material seized.

The federal magistrate judge in Florida who signed the warrant authorizing the search of former President Donald J. Trump’s private club and residence issued a formal order on Monday directing the government to propose redactions to the sealed affidavit used to justify the search, saying that he remained inclined to make portions of it public.

But the judge, Bruce E. Reinhart, repeated in his order the note of caution he struck in court last week. The government, he added, could still persuade him to keep the whole affidavit sealed, and an extensively redacted version might result in what he described as “a meaningless disclosure.”

Hours after Judge Reinhart issued the order, lawyers for Mr. Trump filed a motion asking another federal judge in Florida — one whom Mr. Trump named to the bench — to appoint an independent arbiter, known as a special master, to review the documents seized during the search for any that fell outside the scope of the warrant or that were protected by executive privilege or attorney-client privilege.

The motion, which was filled with bombastic complaints about the search — “The government has long treated President Donald J. Trump unfairly,” it said at one point — also asked the Justice Department to provide an “informative receipt” of what was taken from Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s home and club in Florida, on Aug. 8. His lawyers wrote that the inventory left at the property by the agents who conducted the search was “legally deficient” and did “little to identify” the seized material.

If the judge who received the motion, Aileen M. Cannon, appoints a special master in the case, it will almost certainly drag out the process of reviewing the multiple boxes of documents that were seized and slow down the government’s investigation into whether Mr. Trump obstructed a federal inquiry and wrongfully retained national defense documents.

Special masters were appointed in other high-profile searches involving Mr. Trump — including the one conducted in 2018 at the office of Michael D. Cohen, the former president’s longtime personal lawyer. In the Cohen case, lawyers for Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen moved quickly to request a special master. This time, it took Mr. Trump’s legal team two weeks to ask for an independent review.

“The department is aware of this evening’s motion,” said Anthony Coley, a spokesman for the Justice Department. “The United States will file its response in court.”

Judge Reinhart’s order earlier in the day effectively put in writing a ruling he made from the bench last Thursday, after arguments from news media companies that wanted the entire affidavit unsealed and federal prosecutors who wanted to keep it fully under wraps. In both his written order and his oral ruling, Judge Reinhart instructed the Justice Department to file a redacted version of the affidavit to him under seal by this Thursday at noon, accompanied by a memo explaining its justifications for the proposed redactions.

In his order, Judge Reinhart acknowledged that it was “a foundational principle of American law that judicial proceedings should be open to the public,” but offered three reasons for keeping much of the affidavit under seal, including some that were never fully explored at the hearing last week, in Federal District Court in West Palm Beach, Fla.

He said there was “a significant likelihood” that releasing the full affidavit could harm the safety of witnesses who helped the government’s investigation, leading to “witness intimidation or retaliation.”

“Given the public notoriety and controversy about this search, it is likely that even witnesses who are not expressly named in the affidavit would be quickly and broadly identified over social media and other communication channels, which could lead to them being harassed and intimidated,” Judge Reinhart wrote.

He also expressed concern about revealing the identity of the F.B.I. agent who swore to the affidavit, particularly when there have been “increased threats against F.B.I. personnel since the search.”

Days after the search at Mar-a-Lago, an armed man attacked the F.B.I.’s Cincinnati field office and died in a shootout with the local police. Not long after that, a Pennsylvania man was arrested after posting messages online threatening the F.B.I., including at least one that directly mentioned the attack outside Cincinnati.

Judge Reinhart further noted in his written order that releasing the full affidavit could also put Mr. Trump in danger, given that the document “discusses physical aspects” of Mar-a-Lago, which is “protected by the United States Secret Service.”

“Disclosure of those details,” Judge Reinhart wrote, “could affect the Secret Service’s ability to carry out its protective function.”

 

Alexander Dugin, a far-right writer and ideologue known as “Putin’s brain,” is seen in 2016 in his studio in Moscow (Photo by Francesca Ebel of the Associated Press).

Alexander Dugin, a far-right writer and ideologue known as “Putin’s brain,” is seen in 2016 in his studio in Moscow (Photo by Francesca Ebel of the Associated Press).

washington post logoWashington Post, Car explosion kills daughter of key Putin ally Alexander Dugin, Russia says, Rachel Pannett, Annabelle Timsit and Mary Ilyushina, Aug. 22, 2022 (print ed.). The daughter of Alexander Dugin, above, a far-right Russian nationalist who helped shape the ideas behind President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, was killed Saturday when the car she was driving exploded near Moscow, according to Russia’s main investigative authority.

Russia’s Investigative Committee said it was looking into the incident and had opened a criminal murder case.

A Toyota Land Cruiser “went off at full speed on a public highway” and caught fire, it said, after an “explosive device planted under the bottom of the car on the driver’s side” blew up. The driver, identified by the committee as “journalist and political scientist Daria Image Tweeted by @AlexKokcharovDugina,” died at the scene. It said early evidence pointed to “a murder for hire.”

Dugina, 29, shown in an image Tweeted by @AlexKokcharov  at right, was driving her father’s car from a festival they both attended when the blast occurred, engulfing the car in flames, Dugin’s friend Andrey Krasnov told the state-run media outlet Tass. Krasnov said she “was driving another car but she took his car today.” He said he believed her father was the target of an attack, “or maybe the two of them.”

  • Washington Post, Perspective: The far-right mystical writer who helped shape Putin’s view of Russia
  • Washington Post, Ukraine live briefing: Kyiv denies killing Putin ally’s daughter

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia blames Ukraine for car explosion that killed Putin ally’s daughter, Mary Ilyushina, Annabelle Timsit and Robyn Dixon, Aug. 22, 2022. The killing of Daria Dugina, daughter of ideologue Alexander Dugin who helped shape the Kremlin’s narrative about Ukraine, has emerged as a flash point for the war.

Russia blamed Ukraine for a car explosion that killed the daughter of Alexander Dugin, a Russian nationalist and fervent ideological ally of President Vladimir Putin, prompting Dugin to issue a statement calling for military “victory” as vengeance — an exhortation that could lead to an escalation in the war.

“Our hearts yearn for more than just revenge or retribution,” Dugin said in the statement. “It’s too small, not the Russian style. We only need our Victory. My daughter laid her maiden life on its altar. So win, please!” In the statement, which portrayed Russians as victims rather than the aggressor-invaders perpetrating a war, Dugin called the bombing that killed his daughter, Daria Dugina, “a terrorist attack carried out by the Nazi Ukrainian regime.”

Ukraine has denied involvement in the killing of Dugina, chief editor of a Russian disinformation website who was herself under U.S. sanctions. Kyiv also has warned about a spike in Russian attacks on Ukrainian cities ahead of the country’s Independence Day.

Adam Simjee and his girlfriend, Mikayla Paulus (Family photo via GoFundMe and the New York Times).

Adam Simjee and his girlfriend, Mikayla Paulus (Family photo via GoFundMe and the New York Times).

ny times logoNew York Times, Student Fatally Shot by Woman He Stopped to Help, Livia Albeck-Ripka, Aug. 22, 2022 (print ed.). Adam Simjee was with his girlfriend in a national forest in Alabama when a woman flagged them down, claiming she had car trouble.

A 22-year-old man was fatally shot in a national forest in Alabama last week by a woman pretending to be a stranded driver after the man and his girlfriend pulled over to help, the authorities said.

The man, Adam Simjee, and his girlfriend, Mikayla Paulus, both students at the University of Central Florida, were driving in Talladega National Forest, about 80 miles east of Birmingham, on the morning of Aug. 14 when they were flagged down by a woman claiming her car would not start, according to a statement from the Clay County Sheriff’s Office posted by television station WBRC.

The woman, Yasmine Hider, pulled out a gun and made the couple walk back into the woods, according to the statement. Mr. Simjee then pulled out his own gun, leading to an “exchange of gunfire” in which Ms. Hider was shot several times in the torso and Mr. Simjee was shot in the back, the statement said.

Ms. Paulus, 20, who was not injured, tried to revive her boyfriend by administering CPR but he died at the scene, the authorities said.

Ms. Hider was transported to a Birmingham hospital where she had surgery for her injuries. The authorities said she may be part of a group of people “living off the grid” in tents in the national forest who were reported to be “armed and potentially violent.”

The sheriff’s office said Ms. Hider faces charges that include one count of murder, two counts of kidnapping and two counts of robbery.

Ms. Paulus told the authorities that at the time of the shooting, a second woman, later identified as Krystal Diane Pinkins, 36, had been standing in the woods.

Ms. Hider, the assailant, had called out to Ms. Pinkins to help her but she fled, according to officials. It was at this point that Ms. Paulus was able to get her phone and call 911, the statement said.

A tracking team from the Alabama Department of Corrections found what the authorities described as a “base camp” about half a mile from the scene of the shooting where they said they found Ms. Pinkins near a group of tents.

As officers ordered her to the ground, “a 5-year-old child ran from the woods holding a loaded shotgun,” the sheriff’s office statement said. The officers instructed the child, later identified as Ms. Pinkins’s son, to put down the shotgun but he kept going toward his mother before eventually putting it on the ground, officials said.

Ms. Pinkins was charged with one count of murder, two counts of kidnapping, two counts of robbery as well as endangering the welfare of a child. She remains in the Clay County Jail, according to sheriff’s records. Her son was taken into state care.

On Wednesday, David Law, a Clay County district court judge, ordered those involved in the case, including lawyers, witnesses, law enforcement personnel and “anyone else affiliated” with the case, not to discuss it because it could affect Ms. Pinkins’s right to a fair trial.

Ms. Paulus, Mr. Simjee’s girlfriend, cited the order on Facebook on Thursday. She said she and Mr. Simjee’s family wanted “an unbiased jury pool so that we can get the justice we deserve for losing the best man in our lives.”

 

Imran Khan (shown above in a May 24, 2022 photo by AFP)

ny times logoNew York Times, Former Pakistan Prime Minister Charged Under Terrorism Act, Salman Masood and Christina Goldbaum, Aug. 22, 2022 (print ed.). The move against Imran Khan (shown above in a May 24, 2022 photo by AFP) is a major escalation of the power struggle between the government and the former leader and risks renewed public unrest.

Pakistan’s former prime minister, Imran Khan, was charged under the country’s antiterrorism act on Sunday, in a drastic escalation of the tense power struggle between the country’s current government and its former leader that threatens to set off a fresh round of public unrest and pakistan flag wavingturmoil.

The charges came a day after Mr. Khan, the former cricket star who was ousted from power in a no-confidence vote in April, gave an impassioned speech to hundreds of supporters at a rally in the capital, Islamabad, condemning the recent arrest of one of his top aides and threatening senior police officers and a judge involved in the case.

“We will not spare you,” Mr. Khan said, vowing to file legal cases against them.

The police report detailing the charges against the former prime minister said that his comments amounted to a deliberate and illegal attempt to intimidate the country’s judiciary and police force, local news outlets reported.

Mr. Khan has not yet been arrested and is in Islamabad, according to Fawad Chaudhry, a senior leader of his political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. Mr. Khan has not yet commented publicly on the charges.

Mr. Khan was forced out of office in April, but since then he has proved that he remains a powerful force in Pakistani politics.

In recent months, the charismatic populist leader has drawn tens of thousands of people to his rallies across the country, and his party has successfully parlayed that influence into electoral success. In July, it won a sweeping victory in local elections in the most populous province, Punjab, and this month it also fared well in voting in the country’s economic hub, Karachi.

 

Investigations

 

Leonard Leo outside the U.S. Supreme Court during the 2017 confirmation hearing for Justice Neil Gorsuch (Photo by Mark Peterson via Redux).

Leonard Leo outside the U.S. Supreme Court during the 2017 confirmation hearing for Justice Neil Gorsuch (Photo by Mark Peterson via Redux).

Pro Publica, Investigation: How a Secretive Billionaire Handed His Fortune to the Architect of the Right-Wing Takeover of the pro publica logoCourts, Andrew Perez, The Lever, and Andy Kroll and Justin Elliott, ProPublica, Aug. 22, 2022. (This story was co-published with The Lever.)  In the largest known political advocacy donation in U.S. history, industrialist Barre Seid funded a new group run by Federalist Society co-chair Leonard Leo, who guided Trump’s Supreme Court picks and helped end federal abortion rights.

An elderly, ultra-secretive Chicago businessman has given the largest known donation to a political advocacy group in U.S. history — worth $1.6 billion — and the recipient is one of the prime architects of conservatives’ efforts to reshape the American judicial system, including the Supreme Court.

Through a series of opaque transactions over the past two years, Barre Seid, a 90-year-old manufacturing magnate, gave the massive sum to a nonprofit run by Leonard Leo, who co-chairs the conservative legal group the Federalist Society.

The donation was first reported by The New York Times on Monday. The Lever and ProPublica confirmed the information from documents received independently by the news organizations.

Our reporting sheds additional light on how the two men, one a judicial kingmaker and the other a mysterious but prolific donor to conservative causes, came together to create a political war chest that will likely supercharge efforts to further shift American politics to the right.

As President Donald Trump’s adviser on judicial nominations, Leo helped build the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority, which recently eliminated Constitutional protections for abortion rights and has made a series of sweeping pro-business decisions. Leo, a conservative Catholic, has both helped select judges to nominate to the Supreme Court and directed multimillion dollar media campaigns to confirm them.

Leo derives immense political power through his ability to raise huge sums of money and distribute those funds throughout the conservative movement to influence elections, judicial appointments and policy battles. Yet the biggest funders of Leo’s operation have long been a mystery.

Seid, who led the surge protector and data-center equipment maker Tripp Lite for more than half a century, has been almost unknown outside a small circle of political and cultural recipients. The gift immediately vaults him into the ranks of major funders like the Koch brothers and George Soros.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: An Unusual $1.6 Billion Donation Bolsters Conservatives, Kenneth P. Vogel and Shane Goldmacher, Aug. 22, 2022. A low-profile Republican financier donated his company to a new group run by the influential operative Leonard A. Leo.

A new conservative nonprofit group scored a $1.6 billion windfall last year via a little-known donor — an extraordinary sum that could give Republicans and their causes a huge financial boost ahead of the midterms, and for years to come.

barre seidThe source of the money was Barre Seid, right, an electronics manufacturing mogul, and the donation is among the largest — if not the largest — single contributions ever made to a politically focused nonprofit. The beneficiary is a new political group controlled by Leonard A. Leo, an activist who has used his connections to Republican donors and politicians to help engineer the conservative dominance of the Supreme Court and to finance battles over abortion rights, voting rules and climate change policy.

This windfall will help cement Mr. Leo’s status as a kingmaker in conservative big money politics. It could also give conservatives an advantage in a type of difficult-to-trace spending that shapes elections and political fights.

The cash infusion was arranged through an unusual series of transactions that appear to have avoided tax liabilities. It originated with Mr. Seid, a longtime conservative donor who made a fortune as the chairman and chief executive of an electrical device manufacturing company in Chicago now known as Tripp Lite.

Rather than merely giving cash, Mr. Seid donated 100 percent of the shares of Tripp Lite to Mr. Leo’s nonprofit group before the company was sold to an Irish conglomerate for $1.65 billion, according to tax records provided to The New York Times, corporate filings and a person with knowledge of the matter.

The nonprofit, called the Marble Freedom Trust, then received all of the proceeds from the sale, in a transaction that appears to have been structured to allow the nonprofit group and Mr. Seid to avoid paying taxes on the proceeds.

For perspective, the $1.6 billion that the Marble trust reaped from the sale is slightly more than the total of $1.5 billion spent in 2020 by 15 of the most politically active nonprofit organizations that generally align with Democrats, according to an analysis by The Times. That spending, which Democrats embraced to aid the campaigns of Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his allies in Congress, dwarfed the roughly $900 million spent by a comparable sample of 15 of the most politically active groups aligned with the Republican Party.

The Marble Freedom Trust could help conservatives level the playing field — if not surpass the left — in such nonprofit spending, which is commonly referred to as dark money because the groups involved can raise and spend unlimited sums on politics while revealing little about where they got the money or how they spent it.

In a statement, Mr. Leo cited some of the left’s biggest donors and an advisory firm that helps manage the nonprofit groups they fund.

“It’s high time for the conservative movement to be among the ranks of George Soros, Hansjörg Wyss, Arabella Advisors and other left-wing philanthropists, going toe-to-toe in the fight to defend our constitution and its ideals,” Mr. Leo said. Mr. Seid and an associate did not respond to messages seeking comment.

The funds are difficult to trace through public records. Tripp Lite is a private company that is not subject to corporate disclosure rules for public companies. On its tax filing, Marble indicated that the $1.6 billion came from the “sale of gifted company and subsidiaries,” but indicated that it withheld identifying information “to protect donor confidentiality.”

Ray D. Madoff, a professor of tax law at Boston College who is the director of the school’s Forum on Philanthropy and the Public Good, said the structure of the transaction was most likely legal but did appear to allow a donor to avoid federal tax obligations from the sale of the company.

Here is how it works: Marble Freedom Trust is registered under a section of the tax code — 501(c)4 — for organizations that focus primarily on what the Internal Revenue Service calls “social welfare” and as a result are exempt from paying taxes. Such groups are allowed to engage in political advocacy, but their supporters are not entitled to deduct donations from their income taxes. Supporters can, however, donate assets that a nonprofit can sell and avoid capital gains taxes on the sale.

Democracy Project, Voting Rights Advocacy: A Constellation of Anti-Voting Groups Threaten Democracy, Marc Elias, right, Aug. 18, 2022. Republican marc eliasleaders of the anti-voting movement recently held a “gourmet dinner” at an “undisclosed location” to discuss my voting rights litigation. The event was billed as the inaugural leadership dinner for a group called the Honest Elections Project. I was not invited to attend.

There is a constellation of well-funded, right-wing groups that use the legal and political system to make voting more difficult and free and fair elections less likely. They range from mere vote suppressors to full-on election deniers. Most oppose expanding voting rights and support strict voting laws. Many seek to gut the Voting Rights Act entirely; others want it interpreted so narrowly as to be ineffective. None of these organizations supported Congress’ efforts to enact new pro-voter legislation.
These right-wing groups work closely with the RNC and with state legislatures to advance anti-voting legislation.

The American Constitutional Rights Union, Foundation for Government Accountability, Judicial Watch, Lawyers Democracy Fund, Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) and Restoring Integrity and Trust in Elections are just a few of the groups fighting against voting rights in court. America First Legal Foundation, Election Integrity Network, Heritage Foundation and True the Vote also support anti-democracy legal efforts. The conservative American Legislative Exchange Council advances model anti-voting legislation for state legislatures.

We recently got a preview of how these groups will operationalize their legal efforts in court in the future. Earlier this year, a Florida federal judge struck down most of the state’s “Big Lie” voter suppression law. In doing so, the court found that Florida Republicans had intentionally discriminated against Black voters and had violated the constitutional rights of Floridians seeking to participate in the democratic process. On appeal, six national anti-voting groups filed separate “friend of the court” briefs opposing the lower court’s decision — in addition to the briefs by the state defendants and the Republican Party.

For many years, the Republican National Committee (RNC) was legally barred from participating in election monitoring or voter suppression efforts as a consequence of the GOP’s ugly history of targeting minority voters in the 1980s. When that bar was lifted in 2017, the RNC picked up where it had left off and ran so-called “election integrity” programs with state parties.

These anti-voting legal groups offer a path for Republicans to wield majority political power without majority support.

Now, in the post-Trump era, the RNC directly partners with voter suppression groups and efforts that two years ago would have been unthinkable. The party’s dismal court results following the 2020 election coupled with MAGA supporters’ distrust of the party establishment has left the GOP operating in the penumbra of the current stars of the election denier and voter suppression movement.
It’s not just what these groups do, but who runs them.

On PILF’s board of directors, for example, are Cleta Mitchell and John Eastman, both of whom served as lawyers for former President Donald Trump. Mitchell participated in the infamous telephone call during which Trump demanded that the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) find 11,000 votes and declare Trump the winner. Eastman, who has been in the news recently for having a search warrant executed against him, helped craft the January 2021 insurrection plan.

The Honest Elections Project — the host of the secret dinner — was formed in February 2020 and is connected to Federalist Society founder Leonard Leo.

The newest of these groups, Restoring Integrity and Trust in Elections, was co-founded by former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr (R) and Karl Rove, who served as former senior advisor and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush. Casino billionaire Steve Wynn provides the organization’s financial backing as its finance chair.

This group is notably more competent and well-resourced than the legal buffoonery who led Trump’s post-election antics. Though I am no fan of Barr, he is unlikely to hire lawyers who claim Hugo Chávez rigged elections from the grave or threaten to release the mythological Kraken. With Rove on its board as well, Barr is almost certainly not going to hold press conferences in a landscaping parking lot.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mental Illness Not a Useful Means to Predict Gun Violence, Experts Say, Shaila Dewan, Aug. 22, 2022. Blaming mass murder on mental illness is a time-honored impulse, used by law enforcement and politicians alike. But many killers, if not most, had never been diagnosed with a serious psychiatric disorder, and experts prefer to focus on warning signs like a life crisis.

The freshman who walked into the high school cafeteria in Marysville, Wash., in 2014 with his father’s .40-caliber Beretta did not fit anyone’s profile of a mass murderer. He was a crack athlete. He embraced his Native American traditions, wearing a headdress at tribal events and offering freshly killed deer to his grandmother. He was popular, so much so that he had just been elected homecoming prince.

He had no history of mental illness — just what several classmates described as an uncharacteristically bad mood that week. It was only after he killed four fellow students and wounded another that the armchair diagnosis of his mental state began.

Blaming mass murder on mental illness is a time-honored impulse, used by law enforcement and politicians alike. “Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun,” President Donald J. Trump said in 2019 in response to mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. After a teenage gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in May, Gov. Greg Abbott said, “Anybody who shoots somebody else has a mental health challenge. Period.”

Such explanations satisfy a deep longing to understand the incomprehensible. And they appeal to common sense — how could a person who kills indiscriminately be in their right mind?

Yet America’s mass killers fit no single profile and certainly no pattern of insanity — many, if not most, had never been diagnosed with a serious psychiatric disorder. Background checks can prevent someone with a diagnosis of mental illness from acquiring a gun, but psychologists say there is a wide divide between a clinical diagnosis and the type of emotional disturbance that precedes many mass killings.

The real problem, those experts say, is that mental illness is not a useful means to predict violence. About half of all Americans will experience mental health issues at some point in their lives, and the vast majority of people with mental illness do not kill.

“Do you or do you not have a mental health diagnosis?” said Jillian Peterson, a co-founder of the Violence Project, a research center that has compiled a database of mass shootings from 1966 on and studied perpetrators in depth. “In many cases, it doesn’t really matter. It’s not the main driver.”

Instead, many experts have come to focus on warning signs that occur whether or not actual mental illness is present, including marked changes in behavior, demeanor or appearance, uncharacteristic fights or arguments, and telling others of plans for violence, a phenomenon known as “leakage.”

This focus is far from perfect — it can be exceedingly difficult to weed out serious threats from many more that are idle, impetuous or exaggerated. But the warning signs approach has benefits: It can work even when the mental health system does not, and it sidesteps the complaint that blaming mass shootings on mental illness increases negative attitudes and stigma toward those who suffer from it.

 

Media, Education, Sports News

 

CNN

CNN “Reliable Sources” host Brian Stelter, fired this week by new management at CNN that also cancelled his long-running show on Sundays, speaks at the National Press Club on April 25, 2019 (Justice Integrity Project photo by Andrew Kreig).

Politico, Stelter on CNN: ‘I’m going to be rooting for this place for the rest of my life,’ Olivia Olander, Aug. 22, 2022 (print ed.). “So much of the media ecosystem in 2022 is garbage, but so much of it is spectacular,” Stelter said in his closing remarks to the canceled “Reliable Sources.”

politico Custom“Reliable Sources” host Brian Stelter said he’ll be “rooting for” CNN for the rest of his life as he signed off his final broadcast Sunday, following the show’s cancellation this week.

“So much of the media ecosystem in 2022 is garbage, but so much of it is spectacular,” he said in his closing remarks. “The hard part is sorting out the treasure from the trash.”

CNNThe network announced Thursday that “Reliable Sources” had been canceled after three decades, and that Stelter, who had hosted the show since 2013, will depart the network. The host thanked CNN’s current leadership “for letting us say goodbye,” and also thanked former CNN President Jeff Zucker by name.

“I’m going to be rooting for this place for the rest of my life,” Stelter said at one point.

Stelter and his guests on the final broadcast both reflected on changes in media since the show premiered in 1992, and on how news media might look in the future.

“It’s loony to say the media is the enemy of the people. The media is the people,” Stelter said, addressing developments in media in the last 30 years. “And people are flawed, and opinionated, and hopeful, and believing in accountability.”

Stelter hosted journalist Carl Bernstein on Sunday’s program, as well as media critics Eric Deggans, Jodie Ginsberg and David Zurawik. Journalist Brian Karem, who was the first guest on “Reliable Sources” in 1992, also made an appearance as the last guest.

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: My final column: 2024 and the dangers ahead, Margaret Sullivan, right, Aug. 22, 2022 (print ed.). Before signing off, margaret sullivan 2015 photoMargaret Sullivan offers advice to her fellow journalists on how to cover a perilous election.

After a recent announcement that I’ve decided to retire this column and leave The Post, a Vanity Fair reporter asked me by email about the media’s performance in covering threats to democracy. That certainly was a fair question, since it’s been one of my most frequent subjects here.

I’m “encouraged one day, despairing the next,” I told her, adding that the next election cycle is going to be a real test for the reality-based press.

This is my last column for The Washington Post — my plans include teaching at Duke University and publishing a book this fall, both a personal memoir and a tell-all about what I’ve seen in my four decades in journalism. So I’ll explain more about what I meant.

Here’s the good news: The media has come a long, long way in figuring out how to cover the democracy-threatening ways of Donald Trump and his allies, including his stalwart helpers in right-wing media. It is now common to see headlines and stories that plainly refer to some politicians as “election deniers,” and journalists are far less hesitant to use the blunt and clarifying word “lie” to describe Trump’s false statements. That includes, of course, the former president’s near-constant campaign to claim that the 2020 presidential election was rigged to prevent him from keeping the White House.

And yet, I worry that it’s not nearly enough. I don’t mean to suggest that journalists can address the threats to democracy all by themselves — but they must do more.

The deeper question is whether news organizations can break free of their hidebound practices — the love of political conflict, the addiction to elections as a horse race — to address those concerns effectively.

For the sake of democracy, they must.

So my prescription — and it’s only a start — is less live campaign coverage, more context and thoughtful framing, and more fearless straight talk from news leaders about what’s at stake and why politics coverage looks different. The latter could take many forms: editors’ notes on stories, columns written by news directors and posted prominently on websites, public appearances, and more.

washington post logoWashington Post, TikTok and Meta ban self-described misogynist Andrew Tate, Brittany Shammas, Aug. 22, 2022 (print ed.). In videos splashed across the internet, Andrew Tate, a onetime kickboxing champion turned self-styled men’s-help guru, has argued that women are the property of their husbands and should “have kids, sit at home, be quiet and make coffee.”

He has claimed that he needs authority over the women he dates, saying, “You can’t be responsible for a dog if it doesn’t obey you.” He has said he would attack a woman who accused him of cheating and described himself as “absolutely a misogynist.”

His fans have called him the king of toxic masculinity.

Tate’s content has rapidly spread across social media this summer, racking up millions of views and raising concerns about the impact on boys and young men who come across it. After seeing his popularity spike in recent months, he has bragged about his reach.

Now, Tate has been barred from TikTok, Facebook and Instagram.

In a statement to The Washington Post, a TikTok representative said Tate’s account was removed for violating the company’s policies that bar “content that attacks, threatens, incites violence against, or otherwise dehumanizes an individual or a group” based on attributes including sex. Meta said it had removed Tate’s official accounts on Facebook and Instagram, pointing to policies against dangerous organizations and individuals.

Tate, a 35-year-old American-born, British-raised resident of Romania who ran an online “education and coaching” program called Hustler’s University, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday.

ny times logoNew York Times, Chief of Israeli Spyware Firm NSO to Step Down as It Revamps, Kalley Huang, Aug. 22, 2022 (print ed.). The chief executive of the Israeli spyware company NSO Group is stepping down as part of a corporate reorganization to focus on business with member countries of NATO, the company said in a statement on Sunday.

The reorganization comes after the United States government blacklisted NSO Group last November over its spyware Pegasus. When announcing the blacklisting, the Biden administration said that NSO Group had acted “contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.”

The move, which barred American companies from doing any business with the Israeli firm, followed reports by a coalition of news organizations last July that governments used Pegasus to target journalists, dissidents and opposition politicians in countries including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Mexico.

“The company is reorganizing to prepare for its next phase of growth,” said Shalev Hulio, NSO Group’s chief executive and one of its three co-founders.

Pegasus can covertly and remotely extract everything from mobile phones — including messages, photos, videos and contacts — without users having to click on a phishing link to provide access. It also can turn a mobile phone into a listening and tracking device.

NSO Group says it sells its spyware to law enforcement and intelligence agencies to help to prevent crime and terrorism.

Yaron Shohat, NSO Group’s chief operating officer, will lead the company and manage its reorganization until a successor is found for Mr. Hulio, the company said.

This is not the first time Mr. Hulio has given up the top job. He stepped down late last year and was replaced by NSO’s co-president, Isaac Benbenisti. But Mr. Benbenisti resigned less than two weeks afterward, following NSO Group’s addition to the American blacklist.

Recent Headlines

 

Political Violence In United States

 

U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Lawmakers demand data noting uptick in social media posts ‘calling for civil war,’ Cat Zakrzewski, Aug. 21, 2022 (print ed.). House Oversight Committee leaders called on eight social networks, including Meta, Truth Social and Gab, to turn over details about how they’re responding following the FBI search of former president Donald Trump’s residence.

House Oversight Committee leaders are demanding social media companies take “immediate action” to address a flood of violent online threats against law enforcement, following the FBI’s search of former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

The lawmakers sent letters Friday to the executives of eight social media companies, including Facebook parent company Meta and the fringe right-wing platform Gab, demanding details about the number of threats against law enforcement. The letters cite a “spike in social media users calling for civil war” and other violence against law enforcement after Trump and some Republican members of Congress lashed out against the FBI.

The letters say these online threats have contributed to attacks against law enforcement, citing the threats that the gunman who tried to breach the FBI’s Cincinnati field office earlier this month shared on Trump’s social network, Truth Social.

“We are concerned that reckless statements by the former president and Republican Members of Congress have unleashed a flood of violent threats on social media that have already led to at least one death and pose a danger to law enforcement officers across the United States,” said the letters written by House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) and House national security subcommittee Chairman Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.). “We urge you to take immediate action to address any threats of violence against law enforcement that appear on your company’s platforms.”

FBI attacker was prolific contributor to Trump’s Truth Social website

The letters request information about how the companies respond to threats of violence, including how many threats against law enforcement were removed and how many were reported to authorities. The lawmakers also ask for plans to ensure platforms aren’t used to incite further violence against law enforcement, and for documents about any advertising that appeared alongside violent comments.

Lawmakers also sent letters to executives from Twitter, TikTok, Truth Social, Rumble, Gettr and Telegram, canvassing mainstream social networks, as well as alternative social networks favored by Trump’s supporters.

Law enforcement leaders have been sounding the alarm about threats to federal agents for a week, as top GOP leaders have accused the FBI, without evidence, of carrying out a politicized attack on Trump. The politicians have tapped into long-running hostility among Trump and his followers toward arms of the federal government, which some call the “Deep State.” The FBI and Department of Homeland Security issued a joint bulletin last week warning about an “increase in violent threats posted on social media against federal officials and facilities.”

 Recent Headlines

 

Trump Probes, Reactions, Riots, Supporters

 

Shown above is the receipt for property that was seized during the execution of a search warrant by the FBI at former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla. on Aug. 12, 2022 (Associated Press Photo by Jon Elswick).

Shown above is the receipt for property that was seized during the execution of a search warrant by the FBI at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla. on Aug. 12, 2022 (Associated Press Photo by Jon Elswick).

Politico, Analysis: Trump’s throw-everything-against-the-wall response to the Mar-a-Lago search, Kyle Cheney, Josh Gerstein and Nicholas Wu, Aug. 22, 2022 (print ed.). Here is a thorough run down of what the former president’s team has argued, so far.

politico CustomAs she entered the federal courthouse in West Palm Beach on Thursday to bear witness to a hearing on the potential release of the FBI’s basis for searching Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump’s attorney Christina Bobb paused to ask one of the law enforcement officers outside a question.

Where, exactly, did she need to go?

Soon, Bobb found a front-row seat and sat quietly throughout, telling reporters she was just there to observe.

The moment underscored an increasingly apparent truth about Donald Trump’s legal strategy in the week since the FBI searched his Mar-a-Lago home: He and his team haven’t settled on a singular approach and appear in the dark about what may come next. Trump has often used litigation to delay but has been loath to go on offense, particularly when he’s likely to lose. His vow Friday to make a “major motion” appeared in keeping with that approach.

While it’s unclear whether the former president or any of his top allies are at imminent risk of criminal charges, they have sketched out competing and sometimes conflicting positions that may come into play as the investigation — now in its “early stages” — accelerates.

New York Times, How a Storied Phrase Became a Partisan Battleground, Jazmine Ulloa, Aug. 22, 2022 (print ed.). A touchstone of political and social discourse, the phrase “the American dream” is being repurposed — some say distorted — particularly by Republicans of color.

For decades, politicians have used the phrase “the American dream” to describe a promise of economic opportunity and upward mobility, of prosperity through hard work. It has been a promise so powerful that it drew immigrants from around the world, who went on republican elephant logoto fulfill it generation after generation. Political figures in both parties employed the phrase to promote both their own policies and their own biographies.

Now, a new crop of Republican candidates and elected officials are using the phrase in a different way, invoking the same promise but arguing in speeches, ads and mailings that the American dream is dying or in danger, threatened by what they see as rampant crime, unchecked illegal immigration, burdensome government regulations and liberal social policies. Many of these Republicans are people of color — including immigrants and the children of immigrants, for whom the phrase first popularized in 1931 has a deep resonance.

 

lindsey graham npr

ny times logoNew York Times, Federal Appeals Court Halts Graham Testimony Before Atlanta Grand Jury, Richard Fausset, Aug. 22, 2022 (print ed.). A federal appeals court temporarily blocked Senator Lindsey Graham, above, Republican of South Carolina, on Sunday from testifying in the investigation into efforts by President Donald J. Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia. The appeals court instructed a lower court to determine whether Mr. Graham should be exempt from answering certain kinds of questions, given his status as a federal lawmaker.

The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit gives a temporary reprieve to Mr. Graham, who has been fighting prosecutors’ efforts to bring him before a special grand jury. After a protracted bout of legal sparring, Mr. Graham, at the end of last week, appeared to have failed in his efforts to remain above the matter and had been expected to testify behind closed doors on Tuesday in a downtown Atlanta courthouse.

Mr. Graham has argued, among other things, that he should be exempt from testifying under the U.S. Constitution’s speech and debate clause, which prohibits asking lawmakers about their legitimate legislative functions. The appeals court laid out further steps on Sunday that must be taken before Mr. Graham gives any testimony.

First, the court ruled, a Federal District Court must determine whether Mr. Graham is “entitled to a partial quashal or modification of the subpoena to appear before the special purpose grand jury” based on the speech and debate clause issue. After that, the appeals court said, it will take up the issue “for further consideration.”

Lawyers for Mr. Graham have said that he was informed by Fulton County prosecutors that he was a witness, not a target, in the case.

Even so, prosecutors want Mr. Graham’s testimony for a number of reasons. Among them are two phone calls that he made just after the 2020 election to Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, in which Mr. Graham inquired about ways to help Mr. Trump by invalidating certain mail-in votes.

They also want him to answer other questions about what they have called “the multistate, coordinated efforts to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere.” Prosecutors have said in court documents that they expect Mr. Graham’s testimony “to reveal additional sources of information” related to their investigation.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Forced Birth Laws, Privacy, Freedoms

ny times logoNew York Times, Is a Fetus a Person? An Anti-Abortion Strategy Says Yes, Kate Zernike, Aug. 22, 2022. So-called fetal personhood laws would make abortion murder, ruling out all or most of the exceptions for abortion allowed in states that already ban it.

Even as roughly half the states have moved to enact near-total bans on abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, anti-abortion activists are pushing for a  long-held and more absolute goal: laws that grant fetuses the same legal rights and protections as any person.

So-called fetal personhood laws would make abortion murder, ruling out all or most of the exceptions for abortion allowed in states that already ban it. So long as Roe established a constitutional right to abortion, such laws remained symbolic in the few states that managed to pass them. Now they are starting to have practical effect. Already in Georgia, a fetus now qualifies for tax credits and child support, and is to be included in population counts and redistricting.

The laws also open up questions well beyond abortion, about immigration and who is entitled to public benefits.

They have the potential to criminalize common health care procedures and limit the rights of a pregnant woman in making health care decisions.

The U.S. Supreme Court decision returning the regulation of abortion to the states has opened new interest in the laws, and a new legal path for them.

In Indiana, where this month the Republican-controlled legislature banned abortion starting at conception — one of the strictest laws in the nation — some conservative lawmakers objected that the law included exceptions for rape and incest. “This bill justifies the wicked, those murdering babies, and punishes the righteous, the preborn human being,” one lawmaker said, pushing instead for a fetal personhood law with no exceptions.

In Georgia, a law granting fetal personhood to fetuses after around six weeks of pregnancy took effect after the overturning of Roe. But Georgia Right to Life and other conservative groups are petitioning Governor Brian Kemp to call a special legislative session to pass a fetal personhood amendment to the state constitution. It would eliminate any exceptions for abortion allowed in the law, by declaring a “paramount right to life of all human beings as persons at any stage of development from fertilization to natural death.”

Recent Headlines

 

Energy, Climate, Disasters, Environment

 

climate change photo

 

 washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Another 1-in-1,000 interval flood’: Dallas area sees rescues, cars floating down water-filled roads, Annabelle Timsit and Zach Rosenthal, Aug. 22, 2022. The National Weather Service in Forth Worth extended its warning in and around Dallas County about potentially “life threatening flash flooding.”

Flash floods struck the Dallas-Fort Worth area overnight into Monday, sparking rescue efforts as roads flooded and abandoned cars floated away in striking footage shared on social media.

The National Weather Service in Fort Worth extended its flash flood warning in and around Dallas County until 10 a.m. Central time, warning of a continued risk for “life-threatening flash flooding.” The office said up to 8 inches of rain had fallen in the hard-hit area, with more rainfall still to come.
10 steps you can take to lower your carbon footprint

The risk of damage from the floods was “considerable,” it said, warning residents not to drive on flooded roads and to move immediately to higher ground. Flash flood warnings have also been issued for Fort Worth and Canton, Texas.

ny times logoNew York Times, With Climate Law, Democrats Hope to Counter Court Ruling on E.P.A., Lisa Friedman, Aug. 22, 2022. When the Supreme Court restricted the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to fight climate change this year, the reason it gave was that Congress had never granted the agency the broad authority to shift America away from burning fossil fuels.

Now it has.

Throughout the landmark climate law, passed this month, is language written specifically to address the Supreme Court’s justification for reining in the E.P.A., a ruling that was one of the court’s most consequential of the term. The new law amends the Clean Air Act, the country’s bedrock air-quality legislation, to define the carbon dioxide produced by the burning of fossil fuels as an “air pollutant.”

That language, according to legal experts as well as the Democrats who worked it into the legislation, explicitly gives the E.P.A. the authority to regulate greenhouse gases and to use its power to push the adoption of wind, solar and other renewable energy sources.

“The language, we think, makes pretty clear that greenhouse gases are pollutants under the Clean Air Act,” said Senator Tom Carper, the Delaware Democrat who led the movement to revise the law. With the new law, he added, there are “no ifs, ands or buts” that Congress has told federal agencies to tackle carbon dioxide, methane and other heat-trapping emissions from power plants, automobiles and oil wells.
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This month, in the hours before the bill passed the Senate, Republicans waged a last-minute, mostly unsuccessful predawn battle to remove the language from the legislation. Later that day, the Senate approved the climate-and-tax bill by a vote of 51 to 50, along party lines, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tiebreaking vote.

Republicans objected to the language, and to the fact that it appeared in a budget bill, a category of legislation focused on government spending and revenue. “It’s buried in there,” Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, said on Fox News Business ahead of the Senate vote. “The Democrats are trying to overturn the Supreme Court’s West Virginia vs. E.P.A. victory,” he added, referring to the ruling that curbed the E.P.A.’s ability to tackle global warming. Mr. Cruz did not respond to requests to discuss his opposition.

Throughout the landmark climate law is language intended to address the Supreme Court’s justification for reining in the Environmental Protection Agency.

In a first, the measure legally defines greenhouse gases as pollution, which explicitly gives the E.P.A. the authority to regulate them, experts say.

 

A drone view of the River Po, near Bergantino, Italy, on July 15, 2022 (Photo by Manuel Romano VIA NurPhoto).A drone view of the River Po, near Bergantino, Italy, on July 15, 2022 (Photo by Manuel Romano VIA NurPhoto).

CNN, Investigation: The world’s rivers are drying up in drought and heat. Here’s how 6 look from space, Natalie Croker, Renée Rigdon, Judson Jones, Carlotta Dotto and Angela Dewan, Aug. 20, 2022. A painful lack of rain and relentless heat waves are drying up rivers in the US, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Many are shrinking in length and breadth. Patches of riverbed poking out above the water are a common sight. Some rivers are so desiccated, they have become virtually impassable.

The human-caused climate crisis is fueling extreme weather across the globe, which isn’t just impacting rivers, but also the people who rely on them. Most people on the planet depend on rivers in some way, whether for drinking water, to irrigate food, for energy or to ship goods.

See how six of them look from space.

  • Colorado River
  • The Yangtze River
  • The Rhine River
  • The River Po
  • The Loire River
  • The Danube River

Recent Headlines

 

More On Ukraine War

pavel filatyevRussian paratrooper Pavel Filatyev, right (Courtesy of Pavel Filatyev.)

 washington post logoWashington Post, A Russian soldier’s journal: ‘I will not participate in this madness,’ Mary Ilyushina, Aug. 22, 2022 (print ed.). A war-wounded soldier, now in hiding, writes that Russia’s leaders “simply decided to shower Ukraine with our corpses.” Russian paratrooper Pavel Filatyev spent more than a month fighting in Ukraine after his poorly equipped unit was ordered to march from its base in Crimea for what commanders called a routine exercise.

In early April, the 34-year-old Filatyev was evacuated after being wounded. Over the next five weeks, deeply troubled by the devastation caused by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bloody invasion, he wrote down his recollections in hopes that telling his country the truth about the war could help stop it.

His damning 141-page journal, posted this month on Vkontakte, Russia’s equivalent of Facebook, is the most detailed day-by-day account to date of the attacks on Kherson and Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine as seen through the eyes of a Russian soldier.

ukraine flagThe document describes an army in disarray: commanders clueless and terrified, equipment old and rusty, troops pillaging occupied areas in search of food because of a lack of provisions, morale plummeting as the campaign stalled. He tells of soldiers shooting themselves in the legs to collect the $50,000 promised by the government to injured servicemen. He describes units being wiped out by friendly fire. He blasts Russian state media for trying to justify a war that the Kremlin had no “moral right” to wage.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: Russia Opens Investigation Into Blast That Killed Daughter of Putin Ally, Anton Troianovski, Ivan Nechepurenko and Jeffrey Gettleman, Aug. 22, 2022 (print ed.). Daria Dugina’s father, Aleksandr Dugin, is said to be a key influence in shaping President Vladimir Putin’s views, including on the war in Ukraine. Follow updates.

russian flag wavingThe Russian authorities said on Sunday that a car bomb killed the adult daughter of a prominent Russian ultranationalist whose writings helped lay the ideological foundation for President Vladimir V. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

The authorities said they had opened a murder investigation into the death of the woman, Daria Dugina, after a Toyota Land Cruiser exploded on a highway 20 miles west of Moscow and burst into flames, scattering pieces across the road. State news media identified her as the daughter of Aleksandr Dugin, an outspoken supporter of Russia’s war in Ukraine, whose car she was driving.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the incident. Russian news media said that associates of Mr. Dugin believed that he, not his daughter, was the target.

A Ukrainian official disavowed his country’s involvement. But pro-Kremlin commentators and politicians quickly blamed Ukraine and demanded revenge, injecting new uncertainty into a war that has lasted nearly six months.

Russian investigators said that an explosive device had been planted underneath the car on the driver’s side and that the attack was believed to have been “a premeditated crime.”

Mr. Dugin is a self-educated political philosopher frequently described as “Putin’s brain,” although the actual relationship between the two men is opaque and, some experts on the Kremlin say, often overstated. But Mr. Dugin has long been one of the most visible proponents of the idea of an imperial Russia at the helm of a “Eurasian” civilization locked in an existential conflict in the West.

Ms. Dugina, 29, was a journalist and commentator who shared the hawkish worldview of her father and had been placed under sanctions by the U.S. and British governments for spreading disinformation about Ukraine.

Russia’s Investigative Committee — the country’s version of the F.B.I. — said in a statement that Ms. Dugina had died at the scene of the blast in the Odintsovo district, an affluent area of Moscow’s suburbs. Images and videos circulating on Russian social media showed a vehicle engulfed in flames and a man who appeared to be Mr. Dugin pacing back and forth, holding his hands to his head. These images could not be immediately verified.

Zakhar Prilepin, a popular conservative writer, said in a post on his Telegram channel that Mr. Dugin and his daughter were at a nationalist festival on Saturday but had left in different cars. Russian state media described the festival as a relatively low-security event. The state-run news agency Tass cited an unnamed law-enforcement source as saying that there were no security checks at the entrance to the parking lot where the car driven by Ms. Dugina had been parked.

The incident came as the Kremlin faces intensifying questions over its war effort in Ukraine and why it is not doing more to prevent attacks deep behind the front lines. Prominent supporters of the war — already angry over recent Ukrainian sabotage attacks in Crimea — quickly took to social media with claims that Ukraine was behind Ms. Dugina’s death.

“Ukraine certainly had nothing to do with yesterday’s explosion,” Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukraine’s president, said in televised comments on Sunday morning. “We are not a criminal state like the Russian Federation, much less a terrorist one.”

Denis Pushilin, the head of Russia-backed separatists in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, wrote on the Telegram social network that the “terrorists of the Ukrainian regime” were behind the car bombing.

While it remained unclear how or if Mr. Putin would respond to Ms. Dugina’s death, the calls for vengeance underscored how the Ukrainian invasion’s most fervent supporters could still become inconvenient allies for the Kremlin — especially if the Russian leader seeks to avoid an escalation of the war.

“For the Kremlin, any ideologized people can be both useful and dangerous,” said Marat Guelman, a Russian political expert now based in Montenegro who advised the Kremlin in the early years of Mr. Putin’s rule. “Right now, they are useful. But soon they will become dangerous.”

Here’s what else you need to know:

  • Daria Dugina was a Russian hawk who railed against the West’s ‘global hegemony.’
  • Aleksandr Dugin, a chief promoter of Russia’s war in Ukraine, is sometimes called ‘Putin’s philosopher.’
  • Another night of Ukrainian attacks in Crimea spurs a wave of criticism in Russia.
  • A Russia-backed official escapes a blast in Mariupol, as Moscow presses its offensive in the east.
  • Albania says it arrested Russians and a Ukrainian suspected of spying on a weapons factory.
  • The wives of Azov fighters take to the streets of Kyiv to highlight prisoners of war.

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U.S. Elections, Analysis

 

val demings headshot

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Don’t underestimate Val Demings. She’s got Marco Rubio pegged, Jennifer Rubin, right, Aug. 22, 2022. Rep. Val Demings jennifer rubin new headshot(D-Fla.) is in her third House term, but her decades of experience in law enforcement come through whatever the topic. It not only peppers her language but also provides her with a perspective that differs starkly from that of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), whose seat she’s seeking in November. Her opponent has achieved little while in the Senate, other than shape-shifting from a critic of former president Donald Trump into one of his most frequently mocked sycophants.

In a phone interview, I asked Demings about the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturning Roe v. Wade. She says she learned an expression in police work: “Don’t relax too soon.”

Unfortunately, Democrats did just that, failing for decades to codify Roe. Now, she says, with abortion rights being restricted, “people cannot believe it.”

Demings points to Rubio’s track record in voting no on virtually every Democratic initiative, even the bipartisan infrastructure bill that will pour billions into the state. “Politics is an interesting game,” she says ruefully. “He doesn’t want what will appear to give a win to Democrats and President Biden.”

On the law-enforcement front, Rubio voted not only against the bipartisan gun legislation but also against the American Rescue Plan, which would have helped keep first responders on the job. Demings also notes that Rubio “voted against a bipartisan commission to investigate Jan. 6.” Finding the truth about the armed assault on the Capitol apparently “didn’t advance his agenda,” she says.

washington post logoWashington Post, In Upstate N.Y., a test for Democrats running on abortion to stop GOP wave, David Weigel, Aug. 22, 2022. Tuesday’s special election in a swing district has become a crucial testing ground for both major parties’ political strategies around abortion — an issue that could factor heavily into the midterm elections

Politico, N.H. Republicans damage Senate chances in rough primary, Natalie Allison, Aug. 22, 2022. Moderate Republican candidates tend to do better in New Hampshire. But the GOP field is tacking sharply right.

politico CustomSenate Republicans’ primary season is ending like it began — with a divisive contest in a battleground state that risks damaging the party’s hopes of retaining control of the Senate.

The New Hampshire primary on Sept. 13 is the last competitive race on the calendar. A few months ago, it was just one of a handful of toss-ups on the GOP map, ranked as leaning Democratic but potentially in play.

But now, with GOP candidates in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin trailing their Democratic opponents, New Hampshire could provide Republicans a critical pickup — if their candidates don’t get in the way.

A St. Anselm College poll found that just 44 percent of voters across parties approve of incumbent Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan’s job performance, suggesting that the right Republican candidate could benefit from that dissatisfaction.

But recent polling shows the frontrunner to be Don Bolduc, a candidate who lost a 2020 Senate primary and has since championed Donald Trump’s false election conspiracies and may have limited appeal to general election voters.

“The Democrats have to be praying for Don Bolduc,” said Fergus Cullen, a former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party.

Cullen believes that Bolduc’s lead — which the St. Anselm poll has at 32 percent — is his ceiling, and is based merely on name recognition from Bolduc’s unsuccessful 2020 race. The second-place candidate is state Senate president Chuck Morse, who registered just 16 percent support in the poll, and former Londonderry town manager Kevin Smith ranked third with just 4 percent.

  beto orourke rally

washington post logoWashington Post, Beto O’Rourke’s risky quest for votes in deep-red Texas, Jada Yuan, Photos by Nick Oxford, Aug. 22, 2022 (print ed.). On a road trip to find untapped votes, the Democratic challenger for governor faces armed protesters, shouting matches and a stolen catalytic converter.

Everyone in this 3,087-person Panhandle city knows that Beto O’Rourke (shown in a file photo above) is coming to campaign for governor today. It’s a major event, a big-time politician coming all the way out here, deep into rural oil country, where the landscape is dotted with pump jacks and cattle and grain elevators, and the worst drought in 10 years has sucked up all the water in the Canadian River so it’s just a dry bed of red dirt.

“People are buzzing! It’s a big buzz,” says Suzanne Bellsnyder, who owns the one coffee shop downtown. Local gossip networks have already alerted her that Beto (he’s achieved one-name celebrity status in these parts, like Cher) is next door having lunch. It’s a Saturday afternoon, and he’ll be speaking in a park, with the temperature hitting 105 degrees.

People are buzzing in a good way? Like, excited?

She smiles. Well, what do you think? Beto mustered only 8 percent of the vote here in 2018 when he ran as the Democratic candidate for Senate against the Republican incumbent, Sen. Ted Cruz. That’s 138 votes out of 1,710 cast in all of Hansford County. “We don’t even have a Democrat primary,” says Bellsnyder, who is the former chair of the county’s Republican Party. “I mean, they hold one, but 12 people vote or something.” (Fact check: It was actually eight people in 2018 and 14 in 2022.)

The buzz had started in right-wing Facebook groups, where a protest was being planned. There was chatter about whether to bring guns. “Did you see the guy with the AR-15?” Beto asks me a few days later. “He was wearing it, coming toward the door, which is not unusual for us.” It’s also not unusual for a dozen shouting Republicans to confront Beto outside a town hall meeting of 337 people and then post videos on Twitter saying they’d run him out of town.

Maybe it’s a fool’s errand or just a kamikaze mission of hope, but Beto is holding more than 70 public events in 49 days trying to convince people in mostly small, rural and often incredibly red towns around the state that he should be their next governor. It’s part of a campaign strategy fueled by the fact that four years ago he came closer than any Democrat in a generation to winning a statewide office in his Senate race — within 220,000 votes, or 2.6 percent. Which in Texas counts as close.

Beto is targeting GOP strongholds that former president Donald Trump won with 70, 80 or even 90 percent of the vote just two years ago, making his schedule public and inviting the entire community to join. If there are votes out there to push him over the top, that means turning over every couch cushion in every corner of the state — even in conservative oil, agriculture and ranching country where many people are thrilled with two-term incumbent Republican governor Greg Abbott, who signed a trigger law banning most abortions and who has spent the summer busing migrants to D.C. and New York City, while blaming it all on President Biden.

Could a victory for Beto lie not in liberal cities such as Austin or Houston but in spending these last precious three months of the campaign driving his Toyota Tundra to the least populous, most Republican parts of the state, mining for untapped votes?

washington post logoWashington Post, Outlook Book Review: Beto O’Rourke’s book spotlights Texans’ struggles for voting rights, Lee Drutman, Aug. 21, 2022 (print beto orourke got to try booked.). O’Rourke, the Democratic candidate for governor, presents himself as a listener and an advocate for the state’s progressive activists.

As you may have heard, Beto O’Rourke is running for governor of Texas. It’s still a red state. But the Democrat is undaunted. And so, the title of his new book, We’ve Got to Try, is also a fitting mantra for the indefatigable runner — that is, jogger — who also ran for Senate in 2018, and for president in 2020, after coming to Congress in 2012 by improbably unseating an incumbent.

Lee Drutman is a senior fellow at New America, a co-host of the podcast “Politics in Question” and the author of “Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop: The Case for Multiparty Democracy in America.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Purple politics could keep the Senate blue, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, Aug. 22, 2022 (print ed.). Sen. Maggie Hassan is one of the leading champions of politics colored not in red and blue but in ej dionne w open necklilac or violet. The New Hampshire Democrat, who got elected six years ago by a margin of just 1,017 votes, uses an unmistakably New England locution to describe her state’s voters: “Wicked independent.” So it’s not surprising that one of her very favorite words is “bipartisan.”

She likes to catalogue the long list of bills passed during this Congress with both Democratic and Republican votes — on infrastructure, science and semiconductors, postal reform, gun safety, and help for veterans exposed to toxic substances — and insists that this is the way her state’s voters want politics to be done.

The proudly purple reelection campaign Hassan is waging is a reminder that to win a majority in a U.S. Senate that structurally tilts toward conservatives — Wyoming and South Dakota have the same number of senators as California and New York — Democrats need to prevail in states that are by no means reliably progressive.

This makes bipartisanship a good calling card for potentially vulnerable Senate incumbents, and it’s valuable in swing House districts, too. Hassan’s two Democratic House colleagues here, Reps. Chris Pappas and Ann Kuster, are also stressing the bipartisan victories in Congress.

In this very swingy state, no one in this trio pretends that 2022 will be easy for any of them. But they all sense a mood swing in the Democrats’ favor.

As for Hassan, the fact that congressional Republicans unanimously opposed the bill — and that her leading GOP opponents vying in a Sept. 13 primary have criticized the bill — allows her to give her moderation a populist tilt. She assails “extreme” Republicans who are “regurgitating Big Pharma’s talking points and Big Oil’s talking points.” Count on “Big Pharma” and “Big Oil” to play starring bad-guy roles in Democratic campaigns all over the country.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘We Don’t Want DeSantis to Just Walk Into the White House,’ Patricia Mazzei, Aug. 22, 2022 (print ed.). Democrats hope to defeat Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, right, in November. But first they need a challenger who can win in a state where they tend to fall short.

ron desantis oOn the first day of early voting in Broward County, Florida’s Democratic mecca, Jared Brown, a 41-year-old lawyer who until recently had never attended a Democratic Party meeting, drove to the polls in suburban Hollywood, slipped on a party T-shirt and grabbed a clipboard to go knock on voters’ doors.

He was motivated by anger.

Anger at Republicans in general — for appointing conservative judges, redirecting money from public schools and governing in a way that struck him as “authoritarian” — and anger at one Republican in particular: Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose polarizing persona has come to suck up all of the state’s political oxygen.

“It’s too offensive,” Mr. Brown said of the culture wars stoked by the governor and state lawmakers. “If you don’t fight them now,” he added, “it’s just not going to get any better.”

democratic donkey logoGoing into Tuesday’s primary election, Florida Democrats like Mr. Brown are angry, especially at the ascendant Mr. DeSantis and the way he seems to them to act like someone who already has his eye on the White House. But it is not clear that in the choices they have to challenge him — Representative Charlie Crist, who served as governor from 2007 to 2011, and Nikki Fried, the state’s agriculture commissioner — they have someone who can beat him.

“DeSantis is running for president,” said Ann Ralston, 69, as she prepared for a long, sweaty day volunteering for no fewer than seven down-ballot Democratic candidates, whose logos she had pinned on her clothes, turning herself into a human billboard. “It’s a foregone conclusion,” she said.

Ms. Fried and Mr. Crist have each cast themselves as the more viable alternative and the truer Democrat, but each is defined as much by their perceived limitations as their strengths: Mr. Crist for already losing two statewide races since being elected governor, and Ms. Fried for her short time in public life.

To win, Democrats are fighting history as well as themselves. After four election cycles of close losses, the national donors whom they need to help finance expensive statewide campaigns appear unengaged this time. So do some voters.

ny times logoNew York Times, The New York Race Being Watched by A.O.C. , Nancy Pelosi and the Clintons, Katie Glueck and Nicholas Fandos, Aug. 22, 2022 (print ed.). Big Democratic names are on both sides of the primary battle between Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney and his progressive challenger, State Senator Alessandra Biaggi.

Less than three months before the November midterm elections, the man tasked with protecting the imperiled Democratic House majority was contemplating a more immediate challenge: securing his own political survival in a primary contest this week.

democratic donkey logo“How am I doing on the vote?” Representative Sean Patrick Maloney of New York asked a voter as he worked a barbecue here last Wednesday afternoon, dousing a hot dog in mustard and relish and commiserating with older attendees about impatiently awaiting the birth of grandchildren.

“I see your commercial every 10 seconds,” the voter told him.

New York’s tumultuous primary season, which draws to a close on Tuesday, has no shortage of hard-fought, high-drama contests. But because of Mr. Maloney’s standing as the chair of the House Democratic campaign arm — and given the cast of prominent politicians who have gotten involved in the race — perhaps no New York primary is of greater national consequence than the battle for the newly redrawn 17th District, which includes parts of Westchester County and the Hudson Valley.

Mr. Maloney, backed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former President Bill Clinton, is fending off a primary challenge from State Senator Alessandra Biaggi, a left-leaning lawmaker who defeated a powerful incumbent in 2018, and now has the support of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and a panoply of progressive organizations.

By every standard metric — fund-raising, television presence, available polling, endorsements and the assessments of several local elected officials — Mr. Maloney heads into Primary Day with a strong advantage. But New Yorkers are unaccustomed to voting in August, and low-turnout elections can be especially unpredictable.

 Recent Headlines

 

Public Health, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Amid covid surge, Iran cut corners to approve yet-unproven vaccine, Yeganeh Torbati, Aug. 22, 2022 (print ed.). The government ignored a top health official’s warning to greenlight a lucrative vaccine developed by a company close to Ayatollah Khamenei.

As Iranian regulators considered endorsing a locally developed coronavirus vaccine a year ago, a top health official issued a stern warning, saying the test results were insufficient and the vaccine’s approval could undermine efforts to contain the country’s raging Iran Flagepidemic.

Deputy Health Minister Farid Najafi wrote to his boss that allowing use of the vaccine by the general public before it met scientific standards “is a serious and historic decision that will determine the future of public confidence in the health system.”

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2But the vaccine had influential backers. It was the highly touted project of a company called Barkat, part of a sprawling corporate empire close to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right.

Less than a week later, Health Minister Saeed Namaki announced that the vaccine had received emergency approval. At the time, Barkat had not even begun its Phase 3 clinical trial, meant to confirm the vaccine’s effectiveness and identify possible side effects, Iranian researchers later reported in a medical journal. That trial started two days later, the researchers said. The results are still not public.

In approving Barkat’s vaccine, the government demonstrated how a largely unaccountable Iranian state often pursues policies that benefit those connected to the regime, speciously identifying the Iranian elite’s interests with those of the public. But rarely had the stakes been higher. At the time, Iran was suffering the Middle East’s worst coronavirus outbreak and was on the brink of its deadliest wave yet.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

washington post logoWashington Post Magazine, Current Supreme Court is damaging to the country, law scholar warns, Interview by KK Ottesen, right, a DC-based photographer kk ottesenand journalist, Aug. 16, 2022. Constitutional law scholar Laurence Tribe, 80, is a professor emeritus at Harvard University, where he has taught since 1968, counting among his former students Barack Obama, Elena Kagan, John Roberts, Merrick Garland, Jamie Raskin, Adam Schiff and Ted Cruz.

laurence tribeTribe, left, has argued dozens of cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and served on President Biden’s bipartisan Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court of the United States.

Do you consider the Supreme Court to be in crisis now?

Yes. I have no doubt that the court is at a point that is far more dangerous and damaging to the country than at any other point, probably, since Dred Scott. And, in a way, because we even find Justice [Clarence] Thomas going back and citing Dred Scott favorably in his opinion on firearms, the court is dragging the country back into a terrible, terrible time. So I think that it’s never been in greater danger or more dangerous.

How did we get to that point?

Well, I think a combination of a long game on the part of the far right — ever since 1980, they’ve been very concerned with building toward the kind of court that Robert Bork really would have represented — along with lots of lucky breaks. When, for example, Thurgood Marshall left a little earlier than he might have, Clarence Thomas gets that seat. At the other end, when Ruth Ginsburg stays longer, perhaps, than she should have, Amy Coney Barrett gets that seat. When there is an opportunity to put Merrick Garland on the court on [Antonin] Scalia’s death, they sort of played a hard game, and we end up with [Neil] Gorsuch.

washington post logoWashington Post, Arkansas officers suspended after video shows beating during arrest, Bryan Pietsch, Aug. 22, 2022. Three law enforcement officers in Arkansas were taken off duty after video circulated online showing them apparently beating a man during an arrest.

The Crawford County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Sunday evening that two of its deputies, who were seen in the video, had been suspended. The sheriff’s office requested that the Arkansas State Police investigate their conduct.

The city of Mulberry, about 130 miles northwest of Little Rock, said its police department had put one of its officers, who they confirmed was in the video, on administrative leave.

The arrest happened about 10:40 a.m. Sunday outside a convenience store in Mulberry, state police said.

The expletive-ridden video, which was shared widely on social media, showed three officers pinning the suspect, Randall Worcester, a 27-year-old from Goose Creek, S.C., on the ground in a parking lot. One of them punched Worcester in the head repeatedly, as a person recording from a nearby car gasped, saying, “Oh … this is bad.”

 

Attorney Gen. William Barr, center, announces his version of the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, flanked by aides Rod Rosenstein and Edward O'Callaghan (C-SPAN photo).

Attorney Gen. William Barr, center, announces his version of the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller in 2019, flanked by aides Rod Rosenstein and Edward O’Callaghan, while keeping the text of the Mueller Report largely secret for weeks while news coverage focused on the Barr verbal version, supplemented by his written excerpts (C-SPAN photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Court orders release of Trump obstruction memo in Mueller probe, Rachel Weiner, Aug. 20, 2022 (print ed.). A federal appeals court has ordered the release of a secret Justice Department memo discussing whether President Donald Trump obstructed the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The unanimous panel decision issued Friday echoes that of a lower court judge, Amy Berman Jackson, who last year accused the Justice Department of dishonesty in its justifications for keeping the memo hidden.

The panel of three judges, led by Chief Judge Sri Srinivasan, said that whether or not there was “bad faith,” the government “created a misimpression” and could not stop release under the Freedom of Information Act.

The memo was written by two senior Justice Department officials for then-attorney general William P. Barr, who subsequently told Congress that there was not enough evidence to charge Trump with obstruction of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s inquiry. A redacted version was released last year but left under seal the legal and factual analysis.

Department officials argued that the document was protected because it involved internal deliberations over a prosecutorial decision. But the judges agreed with Jackson that both Mueller and Barr had clearly already concluded that a sitting president could not be charged with a crime. The discussion was over how Barr would publicly characterize the obstruction evidence Mueller had assembled, the Justice Department conceded on appeal.

el shafee elsheikh

ny times logoNew York Times, Islamic State Militant Sentenced to 8 Life Terms in Killing of U.S. Hostages, Glenn Thrush and Adam Goldman, Aug. 20, 2022 (print ed.). In April, a jury found El Shafee Elsheikh, above, guilty on four counts of hostage-taking and four counts of conspiracy after a two-week trial. A key member of an Islamic State cell known as the Beatles was sentenced to life in prison on Friday for his role in the abduction, abuse and deaths of four Americans in Syria, ending a long and wrenching effort by their families to bring him to justice.

In April, a jury found El Shafee Elsheikh, 34, guilty on four counts of hostage-taking and four counts of conspiracy after a two-week trial. Former captives detailed relentless beatings, sexual abuse, waterboarding and killings by three young Britons, who were nicknamed the Beatles for their accents and their incessant banter.

james foley isis 2012 via abcThe relatives of the four Americans — the journalists James Foley, right, and Steven J. Sotloff as well as the aid workers Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig — watched intently, at times linking arms, as Judge Thomas S. Ellis III of Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia sentenced Mr. Elsheikh to eight concurrent life terms without parole.

“It is a hollow victory,” said Diane Foley, Mr. Foley’s mother, who noted the sentence was handed down on the eighth anniversary of her son’s beheading. “Our families have lost our loved ones forever.”

thomas ellis iiiJudge Ellis, left, commenting on the declining interest in the case over the years, urged reporters covering the hearing, and the country at large, “to not forget what happened here.”

Mr. Elsheikh, who remained polite, relaxed and largely impassive in his court appearances, already knew he would be confined to a life behind bars before the sentencing on Friday. He was slated to serve five life terms under mandatory federal guidelines, but lawyers for the Justice Department had requested a heavier punishment.

Yet on Friday, Mr. Elsheikh seemed more fidgety than usual, apparently discomfited by the stiff, green prison jumpsuit he was wearing; he scratched, at times frenetically, under his collar as he listened to family members and one freed hostage, detail his actions.

“It was stressful,” Carl Mueller, the father of Ms. Mueller, said of sitting only a few yards away from Mr. Elsheikh. “I’ve spent so much time staring at the back of his head. But it’s worth it, knowing he’s getting what he deserved.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Transgender girls allowed to play girls’ sports in Utah, judge rules, Glynn A. Hill, Aug. 22, 2022 (print ed.). A Salt Lake City judge on Friday temporarily halted a Utah law that banned transgender girls from competing in girls sports. The decision came as he considered a lawsuit by the families of three transgender students and opened the door for those students to compete in girls’ sports this school year, though a state-created commission will make that determination.

The law, which includes a section outlining the ban, took effect in July after Utah’s Republican-led legislature overrode a veto by Republican Gov. Spencer Cox. Anticipating a potential injunction against the law, Republican lawmakers prescribed the creation of a commission that will determine whether a transgender girl has an unfair advantage — considering the child’s height and weight, for instance, as it weighs those decisions.

In granting the preliminary injunction Friday, Judge Keith Kelly of the Third Judicial District Court in Salt Lake City said the attorneys representing the families of the three transgender girls showed the law has already caused harm by “singling them out for unfavorable treatment as transgender girls.” He added that the injunction allows transgender girls to compete in girls’ sports “only when it is fair.”

The injunction comes two days after the state legislature’s Education Interim Committee inquired about how the Utah High School Activities Association, the organization that oversees state high school activities, handles complaints about transgender students’ participation in sports.

David Spatafore, the association’s legislative representative, said it has received a handful of complaints, including some in which parents argued that a “female athlete doesn’t look feminine enough.”

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World News, Human Rights, Analysis

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Of Dictators and Trade Surpluses, Paul Krugman, Aug. 22, 2022. According to a new NBC News poll, U.S. voters now paul krugmanconsider “threats to democracy” the most important issue facing the nation, which is both disturbing and a welcome sign that people are paying attention.

It’s also worth noting that this isn’t just an American issue. Democracy is eroding worldwide; according to the latest survey from the Economist Intelligence Unit, there are now 59 fully authoritarian regimes out there, home to 37 percent of the world’s population.

Of these 59 regimes, however, only two — China and Russia — are powerful enough to pose major challenges to the international order.

The two nations are, of course, very different. China is a bona fide superpower, whose economy has by some measures overtaken the United States’. Russia is a third-rate power in economic terms, and events since Feb. 24 suggest that its military was and is weaker than most observers imagined. It does, however, have nukes.

One thing China and Russia have in common, however, is that both are currently running very large trade surpluses. Are these surpluses signs of strength? Are they evidence that autocracy works?

No, in both cases the surpluses are signs of weakness. And the current situation offers a useful corrective to the common notion — favored, among others, by Donald Trump — that a country that sells more than it buys is somehow a “winner.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Colombia, largest cocaine supplier to U.S., considers decriminalizing, Samantha Schmidt and Diana Durán, Aug. 22, 2022 (print ed.). Gustavo Petro, the country’s first leftist president, is calling for “a new international convention that accepts that the war on drugs has failed.”

It’s the largest producer of cocaine in the world, the source of more than 90 percent of the drug seized in the United States. It’s home to the largest Drug Enforcement Administration office overseas. And for decades, it’s been a key partner in Washington’s never-ending “war on drugs.”

Now, Colombia is calling for an end to that war. It wants instead to lead a global experiment: decriminalizing cocaine.

Two weeks after taking office, the country’s first leftist government is proposing an end to “prohibition” and the start of a government-regulated cocaine market. Through legislation and alliances with other leftist governments in the region, officials in this South American nation hope to turn their country into a laboratory for drug decriminalization.

“It is time for a new international convention that accepts that the war on drugs has failed,” President Gustavo Petro said in his inaugural address this month.

It’s a radical turn in this historically conservative country, one that could upend its longstanding — and lucrative — counternarcotics relationship with the United States. U.S. officials past and present are signaling concern; the drug was responsible for an estimated 25,000 overdose deaths in the United States last year.

“The United States and the Biden administration is not a supporter of decriminalization,” said Jonathan Finer, the White House deputy national security adviser, who met with Petro here before his inauguration.

A former DEA official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because his current employer had not authorized him to speak on the matter, said he feared the move would limit the agency’s ability to collaborate with the Colombians on drug trafficking investigations.

“It would incrementally kill the cooperation,” he said. “It would be devastating, not just regionally, but globally. Everyone would be fighting from the outside in.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Hungary’s Orban, a Scourge of Liberals, Faces a New Foe: Economics, Andrew Higgins and Benjamin Novak, Aug. 22, 2022 (print ed.). The Hungarian leader is being confronted with soaring inflation and a depreciating currency linked to unsustainable spending by his government.

He has won four consecutive elections, bent the judiciary and the news media to his will, rewritten the Constitution and turned a small East European backwater into an unlikely beacon for “America First” Republicans and an outsize liberal bugbear.

viktor orbánBut Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, right, and his governing party, Fidesz, now confront forces resistant to his implacable political will: the laws of economics as the government struggles with a big budget deficit and ordinary Hungarians with soaring inflation.

“Reality is suddenly knocking on Orban’s door,” said Peter Bod, a former minister and the governor of Hungary’s central bank under a previous conservative government. Hungary now has such a poor credit rating, he added, “we are between Botswana and Tobago,” referring to Trinidad and Tobago.

Widespread grumbling over Hungary’s economic woes, particularly inflation and a rapidly depreciating national currency, and regular street protests in Budapest, the capital, do not threaten the government: It does not face a general election until 2026.

hungary flagBut they have put Europe’s most vociferous critic of the European Union and a stalwart defender of national sovereignty in an uncomfortable position: going cap in hand to Brussels to beg the “Eurocrats” he has spent years reviling to cough up tens of billions of dollars whose payment has been stalled by his defiance of the bloc’s rules.

At the same time, Mr. Orban has started to roll back the budget-busting measures — popular but very expensive price controls on electricity and gasoline — that helped Fidesz secure a landslide victory in an April election.

“Everybody here voted for Fidesz, but a lot of us now feel betrayed,” said Robert Abraham, 48, a professional drummer in Retsag, a down-at-heel town in a district that gave the Fidesz candidate 60 percent of its vote in April.

Mr. Abraham is not really bothered by the expected jump next month in electricity prices when the government scales back subsidies: He heats his family’s home and stove with firewood. But the price of that, he said, had doubled since Election Day.

To try to calm anger among people like Mr. Abraham, the government recently relaxed restrictions on tree cutting in forests. But this infuriated green activists and others, who protested this week in defense of Hungary’s threatened forests.

For Ilona Debre, a Christian from a nearby village who said she was disgusted by Mr. Orban’s self-declared role as a defender of Christian values, the economic mess provides hope that “God will finally punish this government.” That, she added, is a long shot because “Hungary is a nation of sheep,” but “we are still hoping that Brussels will knock Orban on the head by not giving him any more money.”

Unlike other European countries, Hungary has kept the supply of oil and natural gas relatively stable, thanks to a policy of cozying up to the Kremlin at a time when the rest of Europe is trying to wean itself off Russian energy.

The Hungarian energy market, however, has been distorted by the government’s pre-election decision to impose a cap on the price of gas paid by consumers. Last week, Dallas, a small gas station outside Retsag worried about running out of supplies, placed a 2.6 gallon limit for each customer, except for those willing to pay a much higher market price.

“This is typical socialist economic policy — price fixing always leads to shortages,” said Lajos Bokros, an economics professor and a former finance minister who presided over a harsh 1990s austerity program and helped privatize state assets like electricity companies. Those companies are now back in the state’s hand after Mr. Orban nationalized them.

Feted as a hero by free-market Republicans in the United States, Mr. Orban has been flexible in his economic ideology, promoting a mishmash of socialist price controls and state work programs, crony capitalism and extremely low corporate taxes that dismays Hungary’s free-market champions.

He rarely misses a chance to taunt Germany and boast about protecting homegrown businesses but has for years wooed German companies, particularly its carmakers, with sweetheart deals, while stamping on local business people who cross him.

“I was amazed that they loved him so much in Texas,” Mr. Bod, the former central bank governor, said. “There is no free market here.” On top of that, he added, “You can’t carry a gun here, but you can get a free abortion.”

Hungary’s inflation rate of nearly 14 percent in July, higher than the July average rate of nearly 9 percent in countries that use Europe’s common currency, the euro, has been driven in part by the war in Ukraine. But economists say that inflation in Hungary, fueled by loose monetary and fiscal policies, was on the rise long before Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

Those policies juiced economic growth, forecast at around 4 percent this year, higher than in most of Europe, but left the government with a big deficit, high debt-servicing costs and no obvious way to fill the hole other than with money from the bloc.

In an assessment last week, the credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s revised Hungary’s economic outlook to “negative” from “stable.” The agency warned that without money from Brussels, Hungary’s economic growth rate and its government accounts could suffer badly.

Another rating agency, Fitch, provided a slightly more upbeat assessment, giving Hungary a “stable” outlook in July. But it still voiced alarm over “high public debt, a record of unorthodox fiscal-and-monetary policy moves and a worsening of governance indicators.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Singapore to Repeal Ban on Sex Between Consenting Men, Richard C. Paddock, Aug. 22, 2022 (print ed.). Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore said on Sunday that the government would repeal the country’s colonial-era law criminalizing sex between men, a step long sought by gay rights advocates, but that it would propose a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

singapore flagReversing his opposition to decriminalizing gay sex, Mr. Lee said he believed that the conservative nation was willing to accept the idea of sex between consenting men and revoke the law, known as Section 377A. Gay rights advocates had long sought to overturn it, arguing that it stigmatizes gay men and promotes discrimination. The law, enacted in 1938 during British rule, does not apply to women.

“The government will repeal Section 377A and decriminalize sex between men,” Mr. Lee said in his televised National Day Rally speech, an annual policy address. “I believe this is the right thing to do and something that Singaporeans will accept.”

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A drone view of the River Po, near Bergantino, Italy, on July 15, 2022 (Photo by Manuel Romano VIA NurPhoto).

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, As FBI comes under threat, its leader tries to stay out of fray, Perry Stein, Ellen Nakashima, Hannah Allam and Josh Dawsey, Aug. 21, 2022 (print ed.). After news broke of the FBI’s search for classified documents at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, the ex-president and many of his supporters declared open season on the bureau. Despite calls for a more forceful response to the vitriol and violent rhetoric, Christopher A. Wray has avoided jumping into the public fight.

christopher wray oFrom the moment news broke of the FBI’s search for classified documents at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, the former president and many of his supporters declared open season on the bureau.

FBI agents who carried out the search were doxed in posts on Trump’s social media network. Violent rhetoric swirled online. One man attempted to breach an FBI field office in Ohio and, after a police chase and six-hour standoff, was shot dead. A Pennsylvania man was arrested and charged with threatening to kill FBI agents. All the while, Trump and other high-profile conservatives piled on, declaring to millions of followers that the FBI was politically compromised and must be dismantled. Some of Trump’s allies cried, “Defund the FBI” — and worse.

FBI logoIn the face of this vitriol, the FBI issued a joint intelligence bulletin warning of an increase in threats, quietly hardened its facilities and scrubbed personal information from websites to protect personnel from possible danger. As he absorbed all this, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray stayed largely out of public view, in keeping with a norm for the nation’s top law enforcement agency.

Then, on Wednesday, Wray confided in a weekly video call with senior FBI officials that he was “pissed” about the attacks and threats of violence, according to one law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share private discussions. That flash of anger was a rare hint at the private frustrations of a leader who has seemed determined to avoid the political scandals that dogged his far more publicity-friendly predecessor, James B. Comey.

The past two weeks have presented Wray with one of his most significant leadership challenges in the five years since Trump nominated him to lead the FBI. Despite calls for a more forceful response, including from some former law enforcement officials, Wray has avoided jumping into the public fight over the Justice Department’s investigation of Trump’s handling of classified documents.

 

President Joe Biden announces sanctions against Russia on March 8 following its invasion of Ukraine beginning Feb. 24, 2022.

President Joe Biden announces sanctions against Russia on March 8 following its invasion of Ukraine beginning Feb. 24, 2022.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Russia’s spies misread Ukraine and misled Kremlin as war loomed, Greg Miller and Catherine Belton, Aug. 21, 2022 (print ed.). In the final days before the invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s security service began sending cryptic instructions to informants in Kyiv. Pack up and get out of the capital, the Kremlin collaborators were told, but leave behind the keys to your homes.

The directions came from senior officers in a unit of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) with a prosaic name — the Department of Operational Information — but an ominous assignment: ensure the decapitation of the Ukrainian government and oversee the installation of a pro-Russian regime.

The messages were a measure of the confidence in that audacious plan. So certain were FSB operatives that they would soon control the levers of power in Kyiv, according to Ukrainian and Western security officials, that they spent the waning days before the war arranging safe houses or accommodations in informants’ apartments and other locations for the planned influx of personnel.

“Have a successful trip!” one FSB officer told another who was being sent to oversee the expected occupation, according to intercepted communications. There is no indication that the recipient ever made it to the capital, as the FSB’s plans collapsed amid the retreat of Russian forces in the early months of the war.

The communications exposing these preparations are part of a larger trove of sensitive materials obtained by Ukrainian and other security services and reviewed by The Washington Post. They offer rare insight into the activities of the FSB — a sprawling service that bears enormous responsibility for the failed Russian war plan and the hubris that propelled it.

An agency whose domain includes internal security in Russia as well as espionage in the former Soviet states, the FSB has spent decades spying on Ukraine, attempting to co-opt its institutions, paying off officials and working to impede any perceived drift toward the West. No aspect of the FSB’s intelligence mission outside Russia was more important than burrowing into all levels of Ukrainian society.

 

Alexander Dugin, a far-right writer and ideologue known as “Putin’s brain,” is seen in 2016 in his studio in Moscow (Photo by Francesca Ebel of the Associated Press).

Alexander Dugin, a far-right writer and ideologue known as “Putin’s brain,” is seen in 2016 in his studio in Moscow (Photo by Francesca Ebel of the Associated Press).

washington post logoWashington Post, Car explosion kills daughter of key Putin ally Alexander Dugin, Russia says, Rachel Pannett, Annabelle Timsit and Mary Ilyushina, Aug. 21, 2022. The daughter of Alexander Dugin, above, a far-right Russian nationalist who helped shape the ideas behind President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, was killed Saturday when the car she was driving exploded near Moscow, according to Russia’s main investigative authority.

Russia’s Investigative Committee said it was looking into the incident and had opened a criminal murder case.

A Toyota Land Cruiser “went off at full speed on a public highway” and caught fire, it said, after an “explosive device planted under the bottom of the car on the driver’s side” blew up. The driver, identified by the committee as “journalist and political scientist Daria Image Tweeted by @AlexKokcharovDugina,” died at the scene. It said early evidence pointed to “a murder for hire.”

Dugina, 29, shown in an image Tweeted by @AlexKokcharov  at right, was driving her father’s car from a festival they both attended when the blast occurred, engulfing the car in flames, Dugin’s friend Andrey Krasnov told the state-run media outlet Tass. Krasnov said she “was driving another car but she took his car today.” He said he believed her father was the target of an attack, “or maybe the two of them.”

  • Washington Post, Perspective: The far-right mystical writer who helped shape Putin’s view of Russia
  • Washington Post, Ukraine live briefing: Kyiv denies killing Putin ally’s daughter

 

Imran Khan (shown above in a May 24, 2022 photo by AFP)

ny times logoNew York Times, Former Pakistan Prime Minister Charged Under Terrorism Act, Salman Masood and Christina Goldbaum, Aug. 21, 2022. The move against Imran Khan (shown above in a May 24, 2022 photo by AFP) is a major escalation of the power struggle between the government and the former leader and risks renewed public unrest.

Pakistan’s former prime minister, Imran Khan, was charged under the country’s antiterrorism act on Sunday, in a drastic escalation of the tense power struggle between the country’s current government and its former leader that threatens to set off a fresh round of public unrest and pakistan flag wavingturmoil.

The charges came a day after Mr. Khan, the former cricket star who was ousted from power in a no-confidence vote in April, gave an impassioned speech to hundreds of supporters at a rally in the capital, Islamabad, condemning the recent arrest of one of his top aides and threatening senior police officers and a judge involved in the case.

“We will not spare you,” Mr. Khan said, vowing to file legal cases against them.

The police report detailing the charges against the former prime minister said that his comments amounted to a deliberate and illegal attempt to intimidate the country’s judiciary and police force, local news outlets reported.

Mr. Khan has not yet been arrested and is in Islamabad, according to Fawad Chaudhry, a senior leader of his political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. Mr. Khan has not yet commented publicly on the charges.

Mr. Khan was forced out of office in April, but since then he has proved that he remains a powerful force in Pakistani politics.

In recent months, the charismatic populist leader has drawn tens of thousands of people to his rallies across the country, and his party has successfully parlayed that influence into electoral success. In July, it won a sweeping victory in local elections in the most populous province, Punjab, and this month it also fared well in voting in the country’s economic hub, Karachi.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘It’s a rip-off’: GOP spending under fire as Senate hopefuls seek rescue, Isaac Arnsdorf, Aug. 20, 2022 (print ed.). A cash crunch at campaigns and the National Republican Senatorial Committee set off a panic as Republican candidates emerged from bruising primaries playing catch-up in polls and advertising.

Republican Senate hopefuls are getting crushed on airwaves across the country while their national campaign fund is pulling ads and running low on cash — leading some campaign advisers to ask where all the money went and to demand an audit of the committee’s finances, according to Republican strategists involved in the discussions.

republican elephant logoIn a highly unusual move, the National Republican Senatorial Committee this week canceled bookings worth about $10 million, including in the critical states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Arizona. A spokesman said the NRSC is not abandoning those races but prioritizing ad spots that are shared with campaigns and benefit from discounted rates. Still, the cancellations forfeit cheaper prices that came from booking early, and better budgeting could have covered both.

“The fact that they canceled these reservations was a huge problem — you can’t get them back,” said one Senate Republican strategist, who like others spokes on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters. “You can’t win elections if you don’t have money to run ads.”

The NRSC’s retreat came after months of touting record fundraising, topping $173 million so far this election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission disclosures. But the committee has burned through nearly all of it, with the NRSC’s cash on hand dwindling to $28.4 million by the end of June.

As of that month, the committee disclosed spending just $23 million on ads, with more than $21 million going into text messages and more than $12 million to American Express credit card payments, whose ultimate purpose isn’t clear from the filings. The committee also spent at least $13 million on consultants, $9 million on debt payments and more than $7.9 million renting mailing lists, campaign finance data show.

Trump’s dominance in GOP comes in focus, worrying some in party

“If they were a corporation, the CEO would be fired and investigated,” said a national Republican consultant working on Senate races. “The way this money has been burned, there needs to be an audit or investigation because we’re not gonna take the Senate now and this money has been squandered. It’s a rip-off.”

 

donald trump money palmer report Custom

Palmer Report, Analysis: Where did the money go? Bill Palmer, right, Aug. 20, 2022. When it was reported this week that the National Republican bill palmerSenatorial Committee was slashing TV ad budgets in some of the most competitive U.S. Senate races, it made sense on some level. The Republicans are running terrible candidates who aren’t exactly attracting fundraising momentum. And Donald Trump’s toxic unpopularity has put a damper on all things GOP when it comes to general election.

But even with these things factored in, how could the NRSC be this broke? It’s still only August. And if anything, when the purse strings tighten, you start by cutting ad budgets in the least competitive states. If it’s this early and the NRSC is already cutting ad buys in the highest profile Senate races, something doesn’t add up.

If it all feels suspicious to you, it turns out you’re not the only one. Some Republican strategists are now sounding the alarm about how the NRSC can be this broke and are demanding an audit, per the Washington Post. To give you an idea of how absurd the NRSC’s finances are, it somehow racked up $12 million in American Express credit card payments, while only spending $23 million on television rick scott abcads. In other words, a huge chunk of the money that’s coming in is going out the door on… credit card purchases?

One big clue may be that the NRSC is run by Republican Senator Rick Scott, left. He’s best known for having defrauded Medicaid out of billions of dollars when he was a health care industry CEO. Now that he’s in charge of the NRSC, the NRSC’s books predictably come off as a fraudulent mess. Scott is also closely aligned with Donald Trump, who has long viewed the Republican Party as his personal piggy bank. So where did the money go?

In any case, it creates an opportunity for the Democrats, whose opponents are facing a cash crunch. Here are the nine Democratic Senate candidates running in the most competitive races: Pennsylvania – Ohio – Florida – North Carolina – Wisconsin – Arizona – Georgia – New Hampshire – Nevada.

 

Media, Education, Sports News

 

CNN

CNN “Reliable Sources” host Brian Stelter, fired this week by new management at CNN that also cancelled his long-running show on Sundays, speaks at the National Press Club on April 25, 2019 (Justice Integrity Project photo by Andrew Kreig).

Politico, Stelter on CNN: ‘I’m going to be rooting for this place for the rest of my life,’ Olivia Olander, Aug. 21, 2022. “So much of the media ecosystem in 2022 is garbage, but so much of it is spectacular,” Stelter said in his closing remarks to the canceled “Reliable Sources.”

politico Custom“Reliable Sources” host Brian Stelter said he’ll be “rooting for” CNN for the rest of his life as he signed off his final broadcast Sunday, following the show’s cancellation this week.

“So much of the media ecosystem in 2022 is garbage, but so much of it is spectacular,” he said in his closing remarks. “The hard part is sorting out the treasure from the trash.”

CNNThe network announced Thursday that “Reliable Sources” had been canceled after three decades, and that Stelter, who had hosted the show since 2013, will depart the network. The host thanked CNN’s current leadership “for letting us say goodbye,” and also thanked former CNN President Jeff Zucker by name.

“I’m going to be rooting for this place for the rest of my life,” Stelter said at one point.

Stelter and his guests on the final broadcast both reflected on changes in media since the show premiered in 1992, and on how news media might look in the future.

“It’s loony to say the media is the enemy of the people. The media is the people,” Stelter said, addressing developments in media in the last 30 years. “And people are flawed, and opinionated, and hopeful, and believing in accountability.”

Stelter hosted journalist Carl Bernstein on Sunday’s program, as well as media critics Eric Deggans, Jodie Ginsberg and David Zurawik. Journalist Brian Karem, who was the first guest on “Reliable Sources” in 1992, also made an appearance as the last guest.

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: My final column: 2024 and the dangers ahead, Margaret Sullivan, right, Aug. 21, 2022. Before signing off, margaret sullivan 2015 photoMargaret Sullivan offers advice to her fellow journalists on how to cover a perilous election.

After a recent announcement that I’ve decided to retire this column and leave The Post, a Vanity Fair reporter asked me by email about the media’s performance in covering threats to democracy. That certainly was a fair question, since it’s been one of my most frequent subjects here.

I’m “encouraged one day, despairing the next,” I told her, adding that the next election cycle is going to be a real test for the reality-based press.

This is my last column for The Washington Post — my plans include teaching at Duke University and publishing a book this fall, both a personal memoir and a tell-all about what I’ve seen in my four decades in journalism. So I’ll explain more about what I meant.

Here’s the good news: The media has come a long, long way in figuring out how to cover the democracy-threatening ways of Donald Trump and his allies, including his stalwart helpers in right-wing media. It is now common to see headlines and stories that plainly refer to some politicians as “election deniers,” and journalists are far less hesitant to use the blunt and clarifying word “lie” to describe Trump’s false statements. That includes, of course, the former president’s near-constant campaign to claim that the 2020 presidential election was rigged to prevent him from keeping the White House.

And yet, I worry that it’s not nearly enough. I don’t mean to suggest that journalists can address the threats to democracy all by themselves — but they must do more.

The deeper question is whether news organizations can break free of their hidebound practices — the love of political conflict, the addiction to elections as a horse race — to address those concerns effectively.

For the sake of democracy, they must.

So my prescription — and it’s only a start — is less live campaign coverage, more context and thoughtful framing, and more fearless straight talk from news leaders about what’s at stake and why politics coverage looks different. The latter could take many forms: editors’ notes on stories, columns written by news directors and posted prominently on websites, public appearances, and more.

 

chris stirewalt testifies cbs

ny times logoNew York Times, A Former Fox News Insider Spills the Beans, Blake Hounshell and Jeremy W. Peters, Aug. 20, 2022 (print ed.). Chris Stirewalt (shown above in testimony this year before the House Jan. 6 committee) was part of a pivotal decision to declare Joe Biden the winner of Arizona in 2020. Now he’s speaking out about a network he says incites “black-helicopter-level paranoia and hatred.”

fox news logo SmallAfter a decade at Fox News, Chris Stirewalt was suddenly shown the door in January 2021, becoming a casualty of restructuring — or, at least, that was how Fox described his and other layoffs that swept out longtime journalists who were part of the network’s news division.

Stirewalt, who was part of the team at Fox News that projects election results and who testified before the House Jan. 6 committee this summer, suspects there was a bigger reason behind his firing, which he explains in his new book, Broken News: Why the Media Rage Machine Divides America and How to Fight Back, to be released next week.

chris stirewalt broken news“I got canned after very vocal and very online viewers — including the then-president of the United States — became furious when our Decision Desk was the first to project that Joe Biden would win the former G.O.P. stronghold of Arizona in 2020,” Stirewalt writes.

Coming at 11:20 p.m., well before the other networks declared that Biden would win the state, the Fox call was extremely controversial and consequential. It infuriated Donald Trump and threw a wrench into his attempt to falsely declare himself the winner of the 2020 election. He ordered his campaign aides to demand that Fox retract the call, to no avail.

Despite the pressure to reverse its decision, and the ratings crash Fox suffered in the next few weeks after Trump urged people to watch other networks, the network didn’t buckle because the Decision Desk analysts insisted that the data backed up their projections. And they were right.

A spokeswoman for Fox News said, “Chris Stirewalt’s quest for relevance knows no bounds,” and disputed the idea that his departure from the network had anything to do with the Arizona call. She added that Arnon Mishkin, the head of the Decision Desk, would be returning for the November midterm elections.

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