Aug. 2022 News, Views

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

 

 

Aug. 18

Top Headlines

 

U.S. Public Health, Liabilities

 

U.S. Election Results, Analysis

 

Global Threats, Scandals

 

More On Trump Probes, Reactions, Riots, Supporters

 

Energy, Climate, Environment, Disasters

 

U.S. Economy, Governance

 

More On Ukraine War

 

Political Violence In United States

 

Pandemic, Public Health

 

U.S. Law, Immigration, Crime

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Anniversary Update: U.S. Afghan Departure

 

More World News, Human Rights Analysis

 

U.S. Forced Birth Laws, Privacy, Freedoms

 

U.S. Media, Education, Sports, Culture

 

Top Stories

 

Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, Donald J. Trump, and then Trump Golf Properties Chief Operating Officer Carolyn Kepcher in a publicity photo from Trump's former television show nearly two decades ago

Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, Donald J. Trump, and then-Trump Golf Properties Chief Operating Officer Carolyn Kepcher in a publicity photo from Trump's former television show nearly two decades ago "The Apprentice," on which they each had recurring roles as talent judges before Kepcher was replaced in 2006 as a judge by Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump.

ny times logoNew York Times, Allen Weisselberg, a Top Trump Executive, Pleads Guilty in Tax Scheme, Jonah E. Bromwich, Ben Protess and William K. Rashbaum, Aug. 18, 2022. Mr. Weisselberg has refused to cooperate in the Manhattan district attorney’s broader investigation into Donald J. Trump and his family business.

One of Donald J. Trump’s most trusted executives pleaded guilty on Thursday to conspiring with Mr. Trump’s company to carry out a long-running tax scheme, an admission that painted a damning picture of the former president’s family business but did not advance a broader investigation into the man himself.

As part of the plea deal with the Manhattan district attorney’s office, the executive, Allen H. Weisselberg, is required to testify at the company’s trial if prosecutors choose to call on him, and to admit his role in conspiring with Mr. Trump’s company to carry out the tax scheme. That testimony could tilt the scales against the company, the Trump Organization, as it prepares for an October trial related to the same accusations.

“Yes, your honor,” Mr. Weisselberg said again and again in response to detailed questions from the judge, Juan Merchan, who asked whether he and the Trump Organization committed the criminal conduct underlying each of the 15 counts.

Under the terms of the plea deal, if Mr. Weisselberg testifies truthfully at the upcoming trial, he will receive a five-month sentence. Mr. Weisselberg, who was facing up to 15 years in prison, must also pay nearly $2 million in taxes, penalties and interest after accepting lavish tax-free perks including leased Mercedes-Benzes, an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and private school tuition for his grandchildren.

The plea deal does not require Mr. Weisselberg to cooperate with the district attorney’s broader criminal investigation of Mr. Trump, and his admissions will not implicate the former president. His willingness to accept jail time rather than turn on Mr. Trump underscores the extent of his loyalty to a family he has served for nearly a half-century, and it helped stymie the larger effort to indict Mr. Trump.

Mr. Weisselberg was indicted alongside Mr. Trump’s family business last year and accused of participating in a scheme in which some employees were compensated with special off-the-books perks and benefits. Mr. Weisselberg, prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorney’s office said, avoided paying taxes on $1.76 million of his income over the last 15 years.

In refusing to cooperate against Mr. Trump, Mr. Weisselberg fended off intense pressure from prosecutors. They saw Mr. Weisselberg as the ideal cooperator in their wider investigation focused on the former president and his business practices: He entered the Trump orbit in the early 1970s as a junior bookkeeper for Mr. Trump’s father and climbed the ranks at the Trump Organization in the decades that followed, developing an encyclopedic knowledge of its finances.

Despite not securing Mr. Weisselberg’s cooperation, the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, may still gain a victory from the deal. Prosecutors now can point to Mr. Weisselberg’s admissions that he conspired with the Trump Organization — damning evidence against the company — when they face off at trial. And Mr. Weisselberg, an accountant who served a vital role as the company’s financial gatekeeper, will be branded as a felon.

“In one of the most difficult decisions of his life, Mr. Weisselberg decided to enter a plea of guilty today to put an end to this case and the yearslong legal and personal nightmares it has caused for him and his family,” his lawyer, Nicholas A. Gravante Jr., said in a statement. “Rather than risk the possibility of 15 years in prison, he has agreed to serve 100 days. We are glad to have this behind him.” Mary E. Mulligan, another one of his lawyers, declined to comment.

In his own statement, Mr. Bragg emphasized that the plea “directly implicates the Trump Organization in a wide range of criminal activity,” adding that, “We look forward to proving our case in court against the Trump Organization.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s dominance in GOP comes into focus, worrying some in his party, Hannah Knowles, Josh Dawsey and David Weigel, Aug. 18, 2022 (print ed.). Rep. Liz Cheney’s defeat by a wide margin marked the fourth loss by a House Republican who voted to impeach Trump last year on charges that he incited a riot.

Donald Trump is securing his grip on the Republican Party less than three months before the midterms, with GOP primary voters surging to the polls in Wyoming to oust his most vocal GOP critic, scores of nominees for state and federal offices amplifying his false claims and bellicose rhetoric, and many prominent party figures echoing his evidence-free attacks about the FBI search of his home.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), Trump’s staunchest Republican opponent in Congress, lost her primary Tuesday in a landslide to Harriet Hageman, whom the former president endorsed with the sole mission of dislodging Cheney. The race attracted more voters than any Republican primary in Wyoming’s 132-year history — serving as a stark example of how Trump has kept his hold on the party after losing the presidency in 2020.

Hageman’s victory marked the fourth and final primary defeat of a House Republican who voted to impeach Trump last year on charges that he incited a riot. Of the 10 who cast that vote, only two are now possibilities to retain their seats next year, both advancing from all-party primaries with unusual rules. The other four opted not to run for reelection.

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge May Release Affidavit in Trump Search, but Only After Redaction, Patricia Mazzei and Alan Feuer, Aug. 18, 2022. The federal judge’s redaction order came as he said he was inclined to unseal parts of the affidavit used in the search of former President Trump’s home. The decision struck a middle course between the Justice Department, which wanted to keep the affidavit under wraps, and media organizations.

A federal judge ordered the government on Thursday to propose redactions to the highly sensitive affidavit that was used to justify a search warrant executed by the F.B.I. last week at former President Donald J. Trump’s private home and club, saying he was inclined to unseal parts of it.

Ruling from the bench, the judge, Bruce E. Reinhart, said it was “very important” that the public have as “much information” as it can about the historic search at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s Florida residence, noting that there were portions of the affidavit that “could be presumptively unsealed.”

“Whether those portions would be meaningful for the public or the media,” Judge Reinhart added, was not for him to decide. He acknowledged that the redaction process can often be extensive and effectively turn documents into “meaningless gibberish.”

Judge Reinhart’s decision appeared to strike a middle course between the Justice Department, which had wanted to keep the affidavit entirely under wraps as its investigation into Mr. Trump’s handling of classified documents continued, and a group of news organizations, which requested that it be released in full to the public.

Warrant affidavits — which are written and sworn to by federal agents before searches take place — contain detailed information about criminal investigations and are almost always kept under seal until charges are filed.

As part of his ruling, Judge Reinhart ordered the government to send him under seal proposed redactions to the warrant affidavit by next Thursday at noon. He said he would review the suggestions and decide if he agreed with them. But he did not set a specific date for the affidavit to be released.

“This is going to be a considered, careful process,” Judge Reinhart said.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to Judge Reinhart’s ruling, but privately, officials said they were shocked by the decision.

The hearing, in Federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida, emerged from an effort last week by a coalition of news organizations to unseal the affidavit — a document that should disclose the contours of the broader investigation into Mr. Trump’s handling of the sensitive files — chief among them, what led prosecutors to believe there was probable cause that evidence of a crime existed at Mar-a-Lago. Among the news organizations making the request were The New York Times, The Washington Post and Dow Jones & Company.

It is unlikely, however, that any critical details of the inquiry, including issues related to probable cause or the identities of witnesses who were interviewed by prosecutors will make it into the redacted version of the affidavit.

At the request of the Justice Department, Judge Reinhart has already unsealed the warrant itself and two attachments to it. Those documents revealed, among other things, that prosecutors have been looking into whether Mr. Trump violated the Espionage Act, mishandled government records and obstructed justice by removing boxes of material from the White House at the end of his tenure.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jan. 6 Grand Jury Has Subpoenaed White House Documents, Alan Feuer, Maggie Haberman and Luke Broadwater, Aug. 18, 2022 (print ed.). The subpoena, issued in May to the National Archives, demanded all documents the agency had provided to the House committee’s parallel investigation.

Federal prosecutors investigating the role that former President Donald J. Trump and his allies played in the events leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol have issued a grand jury subpoena to the National Archives for all the documents the agency provided to a parallel House select committee inquiry, according to a copy of the subpoena obtained by The New York Times.

nara logoThe subpoena, issued to the National Archives in May, made a sweeping demand for “all materials, in whatever form” that the archives had given to the Jan. 6 House committee. Those materials included records from the files of Mr. Trump’s top aides, his daily schedule and phone logs and a draft text of the president’s speech that preceded the riot.

It was signed by Thomas P. Windom, the federal prosecutor who has been leading the Justice Department’s wide-ranging inquiry into what part Mr. Trump and his allies may have played in various schemes to maintain power after the former president’s defeat in the 2020 election — chief among them a plan to submit fake slates of pro-Trump electors in states actually won by Joseph R. Biden Jr.

The subpoena was not related to a separate investigation into Mr. Trump’s retention and handling of classified documents that were removed from the White House at the end of his tenure and taken to Mar-a-Lago, his private club and residence in Palm Beach, Fla. That inquiry led this month to a court-approved search of Mar-a-Lago during which federal agents carted off several boxes of sensitive materials.

Asking the National Archives for any White House documents pertaining to the events surrounding Jan. 6 was one of the first major steps the House panel took in its investigation. And the grand jury subpoena suggests that the Justice Department has not only been following the committee’s lead in pursuing its inquiry, but also that prosecutors believe evidence of a crime may exist in the White House documents the archives turned over to the House panel.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump fundraises millions off FBI search at Mar-a-Lago, Josh Dawsey and Isaac Arnsdorf, Aug. 18, 2022. The former president’s political fundraising surged to over $1 million a day last week after sagging earlier this year.

Former president Donald Trump bombarded his supporters with more than 100 emails asking for money based on the FBI’s search of the Mar-a-Lago Club for classified materials last week. They paid off.

Contributions to Trump’s political action committee topped $1 million on at least two days after the Aug. 8 search of his Palm Beach, Fla., estate, according to two people familiar with the figures. The daily hauls jumped from a level of $200,000 to $300,000 that had been typical in recent months, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss nonpublic information.

The donations stayed unusually high for several more days and are still above average, both of these people said, though they have leveled off in recent days. There are more contributors than usual, these people said, and the average donation has climbed.

The influx comes at a crucial time for Trump as he considers an early announcement for a 2024 presidential campaign and has seen dwindling returns on his online fundraising solicitations earlier this year. The former president’s PAC brought in $36 million in the first half of the year, dropping below $50 million in a six-month period for the first time since he left office, according to Federal Election Commission data.

The cash bonanza also provides a concrete sign that Trump is reaping some political benefits from the revelation that he is under investigation by the Justice Department for potential violations of laws including the Espionage Act. Trump and his supporters have repeatedly boasted in emails, social media posts and right-wing media articles that the search warrant would backfire on President Biden and rally Republicans around Trump. The search prompted sympathetic statements from politicians such as Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and former vice president Mike Pence, who are not reflexively full-throated in defending Trump. And on Tuesday, Wyoming primary voters delivered a resounding defeat to Rep. Liz Cheney, whose leadership as a Republican on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol made her a top priority for Trump to unseat.

ny times logoNew York Times, Former Vice President Mike Pence called on Republicans to stop assailing the F.B.I. after the Mar-a-Lago search, Alan Feuer and Luke Broadwater, Aug. 18, 2022 (print ed.). Former Vice President Mike Pence also said he would consider talking to the Jan. 6 committee if he were “summoned to testify.”

mike pence oFormer Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday called on Republicans to stop attacking the nation’s top law enforcement agencies over the F.B.I.’s search of Mar-a-Lago, former President Donald J. Trump’s Palm Beach, Fla., home.

Congressional Republicans, including members of leadership, have reacted with fury to the Aug. 8 search, which is part of an investigation into Mr. Trump’s handling of classified material. Some lawmakers have called to “defund” or “destroy” the F.B.I., even as more moderate voices have chastised their colleagues for their rhetoric.

Speaking at a political event in New Hampshire, Mr. Pence said that Republicans could hold the Justice Department and the F.B.I. accountable for their decisions “without attacking the rank-and-file law enforcement personnel.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Florida court rules 16-year-old is not ‘sufficiently mature’ for abortion, Brittany Shammas and Kim Bellware, Aug. 18, 2022. A Florida appeals court on Monday upheld a ruling that denied a 16-year-old an abortion out of concern she lacked the maturity to make the decision, despite her statements that she “is not ready to have a baby.”

The teenager, described in court documents as “almost seventeen years-old and parentless” and identified only as Jane Doe 22-B, had submitted a handwritten petition seeking a waiver of the state’s parental notification and consent requirements. Under Florida law, an abortion generally cannot be performed on a minor without the consent of a parent or guardian.

In her petition, according to the appeals court, the teenager wrote that she is still in school and doesn’t have a job, and that “the father is unable to assist her.” Court records indicate she was 10 weeks pregnant at the time she sought a court’s permission to end her pregnancy.

Jane Doe 22-B lives with a relative and has an appointed guardian.

She is pursuing a GED through a program that supports young women who have experienced trauma. She suffered “renewed trauma,” according to the appeals court’s ruling, after the death of a friend. She decided to seek an abortion shortly afterward.

Escambia County Circuit Judge Jennifer Frydrychowicz denied the petition in what one judge with the 1st District Court of Appeal, Scott Makar, said appeared to be “a very close call.” The appeals court upheld Frydrychowicz’s ruling, with a majority of the three-judge panel agreeing that the lower court’s order and findings “are neither unclear nor lacking” in a way that would require reconsideration.

The decision was condemned by Florida lawmakers who support abortion access. State Rep. Anna Eskamani (D) wrote on Twitter that there is “Lots of cruelty in Florida’s anti-abortion policies.”
“Instead of trusting and listening to her,” she wrote of the 16-year-old, “the state forces her to give birth.”

Florida legal experts said it’s difficult to grasp the full context of the case because details from the trial court are sealed, though they questioned why the girl was not appointed a lawyer and why she checked a box on her petition saying she didn’t request one.

Thirty-five states have judicial bypass laws, which allow minors to ask the court to grant them permission to get an abortion where they would otherwise need a parent or guardian’s approval. Florida has among the tougher standards, according to Mary Ziegler, a law professor at the University of California at Davis who formerly taught in Florida on the history, politics and law of reproductive health care. State lawmakers expanded Florida’s parental-involvement law in 2020, requiring that teens not only notify a parent but also obtain their consent.

 

U.S. Public Health, Liabilities

ny times logoNew York Times, CVS, Walgreens and Walmart Must Pay $650.5 Million in Ohio Opioids Case, Jan Hoffman, Aug. 18, 2022 (print ed.). The pharmacy chains were ordered to bear partial responsibility for the crisis, in the first ruling by a federal judge to assign a firm figure against them. The move followed a November verdict that found the companies continued to sell prescription painkillers while ignoring flagrant signs of abuse.

cvs logoA federal judge on Wednesday ordered three of the nation’s largest pharmacy chains — CVS, Walgreens and Walmart — to pay $650.5 million to two Ohio counties, ruling that the companies must be held accountable for their part in fueling the opioid epidemic.

The decision is a companion piece to a November jury verdict that found the companies had continued to dispense mass quantities of prescription painkillers over the years while ignoring flagrant signs that the pills were being abused.

walmart logoThe ruling is the first by a federal judge that assigns a firm money figure against the pharmacy chains for their roles in the opioid crisis. Here, the judge, Dan A. Polster of United States District Court in northern Ohio, who has overseen more than 3,000 cases in the opioid litigation, ruled that the pharmacies bore responsibility for one-third of the amount that Ohio’s hard-hit Lake and Trumbull counties need to address the continuing damage wrought by the epidemic.

Drug manufacturers and drug distributors, two other groups in the pharmaceutical chain that have been sued, also bear responsibility, he said.

Mark Lanier, the Texas lawyer who led the plaintiffs’ trial team, said of the pharmacy chains: “These companies are rending the fabric of society apart. They should not only show remorse, they should show they need to rectify what they’ve done. And they won’t do it. So the judge is doing it.”

Representatives for CVS, Walgreens and Walmart expressed their disappointment in Judge Polster’s ruling and said their companies would appeal. Fraser Engerman, a spokesman for Walgreens, described the judge’s analysis as flawed, and said the company would appeal. “We never manufactured or marketed opioids nor did we distribute them to the ‘pill mills’ and internet pharmacies that fueled this crisis,” he said.

Michael DeAngelis, a CVS spokesman, also said the company would appeal, adding, “Pharmacists fill legal prescriptions written by D.E.A.-licensed doctors who prescribe legal, F.D.A.-approved substances to treat actual patients in need.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Citing C.D.C.’s Botched Covid Response, Director Calls for Reorganization, Sharon LaFraniere, Aug. 18, 2022 (print ed.).  Among other flaws, the public guidance during the coronavirus pandemic was “confusing and overwhelming,” the agency said.

rochelle walensky 2Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, left, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Wednesday delivered a sweeping rebuke of her agency’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, saying it had failed to respond quickly enough and cdc logo Customneeded to be overhauled.

In a meeting with senior staff, Dr. Walensky outlined in broad terms a plan to reorganize the agency’s structure to prioritize public health needs and efforts to curb continuing outbreaks, and to put less emphasis on publication of scientific papers about rare diseases.

The steps announced on Wednesday grew out of an external review Dr. Walensky had ordered in April, after months of scathing criticism of the C.D.C.’s response to the pandemic. Its public messages on masking and other mitigation measures were sometimes so confusing or abruptly modified that they seemed more like internal drafts than carefully considered proclamations.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Inside America’s monkeypox crisis — and the mistakes that made it worse, Dan Diamond, Fenit Nirappil and Lena H. Sun, Aug. 18, 2022. The nation’s top health officials believed they had finally hit upon a solution to quell weeks of public criticism about the straggling government response to the monkeypox outbreak spreading across the country this summer.

They would stretch the nation’s limited supply of the only FDA-approved vaccine for monkeypox by splitting doses to cover five times as many people — an admission, after repeated reassurances by top government officials, that the United States did not have enough shots for every at-risk American, after all.

But after Health and Human Services officials announced their proposal on Aug. 4, Paul Chaplin, chief executive of Bavarian Nordic, the vaccine’s manufacturer, called a senior U.S. health official and accused the Biden administration of breaching its contracts with his company by planning to use the doses in an unapproved manner. Even worse, said two people with knowledge of the episode, Chaplin threatened to cancel all future vaccine orders from the United States, throwing into doubt the administration’s entire monkeypox strategy.

“People are begging for monkeypox vaccines, and we’ve just pissed off the one manufacturer,” said one official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment.

The behind-the-scenes clash with Bavarian Nordic, which has not previously been reported, was just the latest episode in a monkeypox response beset by turf wars, ongoing surprises and muddled messaging, with key partners frequently finding themselves out of sync as they race to catch up to a rapidly unfolding crisis.

For two months, the Biden administration has been chased by headlines about its failure to order enough vaccines, speed treatments and make tests available to head off an outbreak that has grown from one case in Massachusetts on May 17 to more than 13,500 this week, overwhelmingly among gay and bisexual men. And 100 days after the outbreak was first detected in Europe, no country has more cases than the United States — with public health experts warning the virus is on the verge of becoming permanently entrenched here.

“I think there’s a potential to get this back in the box, but it’s going to be very difficult at this point,” Scott Gottlieb, who led the Food and Drug Administration under President Donald Trump and has advised the Biden administration on its response to public health outbreaks, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” last week.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The reemergence of polio is a public health emergency. And a tragedy, Leana S. Wen, right, Aug. 18, 2022 (print ed.). leana wenThanks to highly effective vaccines, cases of polio paralysis fell to below 100 in the 1960s. The last case of wild-type polio that originated in the United States was in 1979. My generation of physicians thought we’d never encounter this disease.

That’s no longer true. Because of low vaccination rates, polio is back and appears to be spreading in at least one part of the country. Other vaccine-preventable diseases will also reemerge unless we take urgent steps to reverse this tragic trend.

In July, an unvaccinated 20-year-old man residing in Rockland County, N.Y., was diagnosed with polio, which resulted in paralysis in his legs. He hadn’t traveled abroad during the presumed exposure period, which means he contracted the virus locally.

Mary T. Bassett, commissioner of the New York State Health Department, said that her agency is “treating the single case of polio as just the tip of the iceberg of much greater potential spread.” This is because most polio infections are mild or asymptomatic. Symptoms, if present, mimic many other viral illnesses. They include fever, fatigue, diarrhea and sore throat. And because polio was believed to be eradicated, clinicians are not looking for it. The one diagnosed case severe enough to cause paralysis raises the concern that there could be dozens — even hundreds — of other infected people who could be unknowingly transmitting the virus to others.

In addition, poliovirus has been found in wastewater in Rockland County and nearby Orange County, including in a sample taken in April. This suggests spread could have been underway for months. Last week, the virus was also detected in New York City’s sewage.

The good news is that the polio vaccines are at least 99 percent effective at preventing paralytic polio. These vaccines are protective for many years — probably a lifetime. This is what made polio eradication possible; it’s estimated that we reached herd immunity when 80 percent of the population developed immunity. Nationwide, the numbers are good: 92 percent of children have received at least three doses of the polio vaccine by age 2 (the first three doses are given at 2 months, 4 months and between 6 and 18 months; a fourth dose is administered between 4 and 6 years old).

The bad news is that some communities are falling far below the 80 percent threshold. In Rockland County, only 60 percent of 2-year-olds have received their first three vaccine doses as of this month, a decline from 67 percent in July 2020. In some Zip codes, coverage is as low as 37 percent.

There is almost certainly an outbreak of polio in New York that’s spreading among the unvaccinated. This is a public health emergency and should be an urgent call to action across the country for those who are unvaccinated to begin their inoculations now. It’s critical for children to complete their entire four-dose vaccine series. And adults who were never vaccinated should do so to prevent permanent paralysis to themselves as well as to help stop spread to others, including to children who are too young to be fully vaccinated.

washington post logoWashington Post, Boston Children’s Hospital says it faces threats after right-wing tweets, Derek Hawkins and Meena Venkataramanan, Aug. 18, 2022.Last week, Twitter accounts popular on the far right circulated what the hospital called misinformation about its transgender care.

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U.S. Election Results, Analysis

 

liz cheney screengrab capitol

ny times logoNew York Times, After Loss, Liz Cheney Begins Difficult Mission of Thwarting Donald Trump, Jonathan Martin, Aug. 18, 2022 (print ed.).  Ms. Cheney is clear about her goal, but the path is murky: A presidential run is possible, she said, and she has a new political outfit aimed at Mr. Trump. Liz Cheney is clear about her goal, but the path is murky: A presidential run is possible, she acknowledged, and she has a new political outfit aimed at the former president and his 2020 election lies.

Hours after her landslide loss, Representative Liz Cheney wasted no time Wednesday taking her first steps toward what she says is now her singular goal: blocking Donald J. Trump from returning to power.

Ms. Cheney announced that her newly rebranded political organization, the Great Task, would be dedicated to mobilizing opposition to Mr. Trump. And in an early morning television interview, she for the first time acknowledged what many have suspected: She is “thinking” about running for president in 2024, she said on NBC’s “Today Show,” and would decide in the “coming months.”

Despite the effort to shift quickly from her defeat to her future, Ms. Cheney and her advisers remained vague about precisely how the congresswoman, who lost to a Trump-backed primary challenger by 37 points in Wyoming on Tuesday, planned to build a movement that could thwart a figure with a strong hold on many of his party’s voters and a set of imposing advantages.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Cheney's loss predicated by Trumpist death threats, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 22 books and former Navy intelligence officer, Aug. 17-18, 2022. Wyoming wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallRepresentative Liz Cheney (R-WY), the co-chair of the House Select Committee on the January 6th insurrection, faced constant death threats from supporters of Donald Trump and his hand-picked opponent to Cheney, Harriet Hageman.

wayne madesen report logoIn a state like Wyoming, where handshaking retail campaigning is a key to electoral success, being forced to host small political events in living rooms proved to be an electoral disaster for Ms. Cheney. Death threats against other Republican and Democratic opponents of Trump have been reported from around the country, a fact that led some Republicans in the House to decide not to seek re-election.

The worst example of such political violence was the January 6th storming by Trump supporters, including neo-Nazis, far-right militias, and Qanon supporters, of the U.S. Capitol during its certification of the 2021 presidential election.

Dozens of insurrectionists said they were intent on executing Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, and the members of the House Democratic "Squad" -- Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Presley.

washington post logoWashington Post, Florida Democrats face first test in bid to defeat Gov. Ron DeSantis, Tim Craig, Aug. 18, 2022. The Florida primary vote offers a lens into Democrats’ strategy against a rising star of the Republican Party.

Nikki Fried believes this should be her year to advance to a one-on-one battle against Florida’s ambitious governor, Republican Ron DeSantis.

democratic donkey logoHer pitch: Democrats need to motivate voters with a fiery liberal message — protecting abortion rights, legalizing marijuana and capping skyrocketing rent prices — if the nominee stands a chance against DeSantis, a potential 2024 presidential contender trying to position himself as the next leader of the nation’s conservative movement.

But at a campaign event last week in her hometown, Fried, 44, wandered along a sea wall in Miami for about 15 minutes waiting for a crowd to show up.

“This election is the most important election of our generation,” she told two dozen supporters and family members who eventually gathered, urging them to help turn the tide of her campaign. “Not just the general election, but also this primary.”

Less than one week from the Aug. 23 election, Fried finds herself locked in an increasingly nasty and often lonely contest with former governor and Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) over who is the most electable candidate against DeSantis — a race that could offer a window into how Democrats might approach a run against him in 2024.

Most political analysts say Crist has a lead, with high-profile Democratic politicians, several major unions and the editorial boards of most of Florida’s largest newspapers lining up to endorse him. His backers contend his background as a onetime moderate Republican and affable, consensus-driven style will draw in voters turned off by DeSantis’s often aggressive brand of politics centered on fanning the nation’s culture wars.

The race has highlighted simmering fissures within the Florida Democratic Party and on the political left more broadly that could carry over into the general election campaign. Whereas the Fried camp says a candidate with solid liberal credentials is the best way to energize the base, Crist’s supporters contend the only way to win against DeSantis is to find someone who will draw voters from the center of the aisle.

If elected, Fried would become Florida’s first female governor and the first Democrat to hold the office in more than two decades. But in an especially painful blow to Fried, several influential women’s rights organizations have decided to stay neutral in the primary.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why Liz Cheney’s defeat will help this Massachusetts Democrat, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, Aug. 18, 2022 (print ed.). The Trumpian ej dionne w open neckdomination of the Republican Party reflected in Liz Cheney’s landslide defeat in Wyoming on Tuesday is about more than one brave dissenter. It promises to destroy the last vestiges of moderate Republicanism in states where a different kind of GOP is hanging by a thread.

One very likely beneficiary: Massachusetts’ Democratic attorney general, Maura Healey, who has a good shot — the right expression for a former basketball star — at becoming a national figure.

Currently running more than 30 points ahead of both of her potential Republican opponents, Healey is poised to become the state’s first elected female governor and the nation’s first openly lesbian governor. (It’s a title she might share with Oregon’s Democratic nominee for governor, House Speaker Tina Kotek.)

Resist the temptation to think that electing a Democratic governor in blue Massachusetts is no big deal. Since 1991, Democrats have held the top job for only eight years (under Deval Patrick) because voters here like to balance a perpetually Democratic state legislature with Republican chief executives, as long as they’re reasonable and moderate.

mary peltola Anchorage Daily News, Early results in Alaska’s special U.S. House election show a close race, Iris Samuels, Updated Aug. 18, 2022. With voting complete in Alaska’s special U.S. House race on Tuesday — the state’s first ranked choice election — Democrat Mary Peltola, right, was leading Republicans Sarah Palin and Nick Begich III in early returns with the most first-place votes, but the winner won’t be known until the last ballots are counted later this month.

As of Wednesday afternoon., the Alaska Division of Elections had counted over 157,000 ballots in the race that will determine Alaska’s next representative in Congress, in a special election to replace 49-year Rep. Don Young, who died unexpectedly in March.

The Division will continue to accept ballots until Aug. 31, as long as they were postmarked on or before election day. Once the last ballots are counted — if no candidate crosses the 50% threshold needed to win under the state’s new ranked choice voting system — the candidate in last place will be eliminated and the second-place votes of that candidate’s supporters will be redistributed.

All three candidates running in the special election are also running in the general election to fill the next U.S. House term that will begin in January. All three are expected to advance to the November general election ballot.

Peltola, a Yup’ik former state lawmaker from Bethel and the only Democrat in the race, took an early lead in the special election with nearly 38% of first-place votes.

Palin, propelled by her name recognition, was in second place with almost 31.9% of first-place votes. Begich, a businessman making his first run at statewide elected office, was in third place with 28.5%.

The day after voting ended, political pundits said that all candidates still had possible paths to victory under the new ranked choice voting system, though Begich’s chances of closing the gap needed to win were increasingly slim.

With 395 of 402 precincts reporting and additional mail-in ballots yet to be counted, the voter turnout was over 26%.

With votes left to count, around 1.5% of voters gave their support to write-in candidates, which included moderate Republican Tara Sweeney, an Iñupiaq whose six-figure campaign has drawn support from Alaska Native corporations. Because write-in candidates didn’t get significant support, their second-place votes will be distributed among the remaining candidates once the Division of Elections begins tabulating the vote after the last ballots are counted.

Results of the special U.S. House race are not expected to be certified until Sept. 2. Once results are certified, the race winner will be sworn into office to serve out the last four months of Young’s term. But at the same time, the new U.S. representative will likely be campaigning ahead of the November election.

ny times logoNew York Times, This Democrat Could Become the First Alaska Native in Congress, Jazmine Ulloa, Aug. 18, 2022 (print ed.). Mary Peltola, a former state lawmaker, surprised even some of her own supporters by leading Sarah Palin in a congressional primary. Get midterms news.

For 50 years, Alaska’s lone House seat was held by the same larger-than-life Republican — a sharp-edged congressman with a history of incendiary remarks.

The woman leading the race to replace Representative Don Young after Tuesday’s electoral contests is in many ways his opposite: a Democrat with a reputation for kindness, even to the Republicans she is trying to beat.

On Election Day, Mary Peltola, 48, exchanged well wishes over text with her more famous and more outspoken Republican rival on the ballot, Sarah Palin. The two have been close since they were both expectant mothers working together in Alaska’s Statehouse, Ms. Palin as governor and Ms. Peltola as a lawmaker.

“I think respect is just a fundamental part of getting things done and working through problems,” Ms. Peltola told reporters Tuesday, explaining her approach to campaigning as the first vote tallies rolled in.

Ms. Peltola, 48, was leading Ms. Palin, 58, in unofficial results on Wednesday, a strong showing that thrilled and surprised Democrats eager to see her become the first Alaska Native in Congress and the first woman ever to hold the seat.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: For Republicans gone bananas, a new fashion line, Dana Milbank, right, author of the new book, The Destructionists: The Twenty-Five-Year Crack-Up of the Republican Party, Aug. 18, 2022 (print ed.). Retail politics ain’t dana milbank newestwhat it used to be.

Trump-endorsed congressional candidate Bo Hines, the Republican nominee from North Carolina’s 13th District, weighed in recently on all the talk about the United States becoming a banana republic, one of those nominal democracies where the rule of law is shaky. But Hines, a former college football player, spoke as if everybody was referring to Banana Republic, the clothing retailer.

The Destructionists: The Twenty-Five-Year Crack-Up of the Republican Party“A lot of people have likened the situation going on right now, is, you know, they say we’re in a Banana Republic,” he told radio host John Fredericks. “I think that’s an insult to Banana Republics across the country. I mean, at least the manager of Banana Republic, unlike our president, knows where he is and why he’s there and what he’s doing.”

Misunderstanding a universal idiom, particularly while maligning President Biden’s mental acuity, suggests Hines is just not very PetSmart. On an intelligence scale of 1 to 10, he’s Five Below.

But this is the season for retail gaffes. The campaign of Mehmet Oz, Republican nominee for Senate from Pennsylvania, made a video of the candidate shopping at a Redner’s supermarket, which Oz misidentified as “Wegner’s,” apparently confusing it with Wegmans. He filled his arms with broccoli, asparagus, carrots, guacamole and salsa — supermarkets have carts, Dr. Oz — then, blaming Biden for high prices, complained: “That’s $20 for the crudités and this doesn’t include the tequila.”

Only a man who owns 10 houses (while claiming two) would refer to a veggie plate as “crudités.” And salsa for a veggie dip? Call the Gazpacho Police!

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Global Threats, Scandals

ny times logoNew York Times, In England, Ukrainian Recruits Are Training for Frontline Battles, Cora Engelbrecht, Aug. 18, 2022 (print ed.). British military instructors are training around 10,000 Ukrainian Army recruits and staff before they head into the fight back home.

Ukrainian recruits waged a mock battle directed by British commanders on Monday in southeast England at a training village designed to resemble the scenes of battle unfolding on the front lines of Ukraine more than a thousand miles away.

A British commander, flanked by a Ukrainian interpreter, shouted orders. Ukrainian conscripts, in camouflage fatigues, traversed a street strewn with grenade canisters, burning debris and overturned cars. A “wounded” man was brought out on a stretcher, moaning.

At the village in Kent, the battles were pretend, but for these soldiers, real ones were probably only weeks away.

 

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: U.S. struggled to convince allies, and Zelensky, of risk of invasion, Shane Harris, Karen DeYoung, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Ashley Parker and Liz Sly, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). This account, in previously unreported detail, shines new light on the road to war and the military campaign in Ukraine, drawn from in-depth interviews with dozens of senior U.S., Ukrainian, European and NATO officials.

russian flag wavingOn a sunny October morning, the nation’s top intelligence, military and diplomatic leaders filed into the Oval Office for an urgent meeting with President Biden. They arrived bearing a highly classified intelligence analysis, compiled from newly obtained satellite images, intercepted communications and human sources, that amounted to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war plans for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

For months, Biden administration officials had watched warily as Putin massed tens of thousands of troops and lined up tanks and missiles along Ukraine’s borders. As summer waned, Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, had focused on the increasing volume of intelligence related to Russia and Ukraine. He had set up the Oval Office meeting after his own thinking had gone from uncertainty about Russia’s intentions, to concern he was being too skeptical about the prospects of military action, to alarm.

The session was one of several meetings that officials had about Ukraine that autumn — sometimes gathering in smaller groups — but was notable for the detailed intelligence picture that was presented. Biden and Vice President Harris took their places in armchairs before the fireplace, while Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, joined the directors of national intelligence and the CIA on sofas around the coffee table.

Tasked by Sullivan with putting together a comprehensive overview of Russia’s intentions, they told Biden that the intelligence on Putin’s operational plans, added to ongoing deployments along the border with Ukraine, showed that all the pieces were now in place for a massive assault.

The U.S. intelligence community had penetrated multiple points of Russia’s political leadership, spying apparatus and military, from senior levels to the front lines, according to U.S. officials.

Much more radical than Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and instigation of a separatist movement in eastern Ukraine, Putin’s war plans envisioned a takeover of most of the country.

Using mounted maps on easels in front of the Resolute Desk, Milley showed Russian troop positions and the Ukrainian terrain they intended to conquer. It was a plan of staggering audacity, one that could pose a direct threat to NATO’s eastern flank, or even destroy the post-World War II security architecture of Europe.

As he absorbed the briefing, Biden, who had taken office promising to keep the country out of new wars, was determined that Putin must either be deterred or confronted, and that the United States must not act alone. Yet NATO was far from unified on how to deal with Moscow, and U.S. credibility was weak. After a disastrous occupation of Iraq, the chaos that followed the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and four years of President Donald Trump seeking to undermine the alliance, it was far from certain that Biden could effectively lead a Western response to an expansionist Russia.

Ukraine was a troubled former Soviet republic with a history of corruption, and the U.S. and allied answer to earlier Russian aggression there had been uncertain and divided. When the invasion came, the Ukrainians would need significant new weaponry to defend themselves. Too little could guarantee a Russian victory. But too much might provoke a direct NATO conflict with nuclear-armed Russia.

This account, in previously unreported detail, shines new light on the uphill climb to restore U.S. credibility, the attempt to balance secrecy around intelligence with the need to persuade others of its truth, and the challenge of determining how the world’s most powerful military alliance would help a less-than-perfect democracy on Russia’s border defy an attack without NATO firing a shot.

The first in a series of articles examining the road to war and the military campaign in Ukraine, it is drawn from in-depth interviews with more than three dozen senior U.S., Ukrainian, European and NATO officials about a global crisis whose end is yet to be determined. Some spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence and internal deliberations.

The Kremlin did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Inside Ukraine’s captured nuclear plant, explosions and constant fear, Loveday Morris, Ievgeniia Sivorka and John Hudson, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). Workers from the Zaporizhzhia facility describe disappearances at the hands of Russian soldiers and fear of nuclear catastrophe.

There’s no warning when incoming fire slams into the grounds of Europe’s largest nuclear plant, sending workers scrambling for cover.

“It’s kaboom — then everybody runs,” said one employee, messaging from Enerhodar, the Russian-held town on the banks of the Dnieper River that is home to Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.

Another employee, who sometimes works suspended off the ground to service equipment, said the vibrations are often so strong from outgoing Russian artillery fire that managers make him stop working.

The workers were among six from the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant who spoke to The Washington Post, describing the daily terror of working at the nuclear facility that Russia has used as a shield for its attacks in recent weeks.

Five of them had fled to Ukrainian territory in recent days and weeks as engineers and operational staff members join columns of cars leaving, adding worker shortages to a long list of concerns about the plant’s functioning.

Their accounts provide a window on the deteriorating security situation at the plant, which has triggered global concerns about the potential for a nuclear catastrophe. Some Ukrainian officials say stirring panic could be precisely Moscow’s aim, in the hope that international pressure will force Kyiv to make territorial concessions. Others say they fear Russia is laying the groundwork for a “false flag” attack it will blame on Ukrainian forces.

washington post logoWashington Post, A U.S.-Russia nuclear war could starve 5 billion to death, study says, Marina Lopes, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). Some two-thirds of the world could starve to death in the event of a nuclear war between Russia and the United States, according to a Rutgers University-led study published Monday. Nuclear conflict would lead to “catastrophic” disruptions in food supplies, as sun-blocking soot and ash wilt crops around the world, researchers wrote in the peer-reviewed study published in the journal Nature Food.

Even a smaller-scale nuclear war between Pakistan and India would devastate food supplies, slash global production by 7 percent within five years and kill up to 2.5 billion people. Food insecurity in these cases would be deadlier than the nuclear blasts, the study predicts.

“The data tell us one thing: We must prevent a nuclear war from ever happening,” climate scientist Alan Robock, co-author of the study, said in a statement.

The researchers examined how wind patterns could spread smoke and fire from nuclear attacks and cloud skies above major food exporters such as the United States and China. The lack of sunlight would collapse harvests and could lead to a 90 percent drop in animal, fishing and crop yields worldwide within four years of a conflict between major nuclear powers.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and stepped-up Chinese military drills near Taiwan have renewed fears of nuclear conflict. After war broke out in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his nuclear forces were “combat ready,” stoking fears of possible nuclear conflict with the West 30 years after the end of the Cold War. (Russian officials later attempted to soften Putin’s warning.)

China has conducted numerous drills around Taiwan following recent trips by U.S. lawmakers to the island, which Beijing claims as its territory. Instability in the Taiwan Strait comes as Western experts warn that Beijing is accelerating a buildup of its nuclear arsenal.

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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).

ny times logoNew York Times, Former President Trump is facing several active investigations. We break them down here, Staff Reports, Aug. 18, 2022 (print ed.). Former President Donald J. Trump’s legal jeopardy appeared to intensify significantly when federal agents issued a search warrant for his Florida club and home as part of an investigation into his handling of classified material.

But the active investigation is one of several into the former president’s business dealings and political activities.

Here are some of the most notable cases:

  • Classified documents inquiry
  • Georgia election interference case
  • Jan. 6 investigations
  • New York State civil inquiry
  • Manhattan criminal case

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump is rushing to hire seasoned lawyers — but he keeps hearing ‘No,’ Isaac Arnsdorf, Josh Dawsey, Carol D. Leonnig, Jacqueline Alemany and Rosalind S. Helderman, Aug. 18, 2022 (print ed.). The former president’s current legal team includes a Florida insurance lawyer who’s never had a federal case, a past general counsel for a parking garage company and a former host at far-right One America News.

Former president Donald Trump and close aides have spent the eight days since the FBI searched his Florida home rushing to assemble a team of respected defense lawyers. But the answer they keep hearing is “no.”

The struggle to find expert legal advice puts Trump in a bind as he faces potential criminal exposure from a records dispute with the National Archives that escalated into a federal investigation into possible violations of the Espionage Act and other statutes.

“Everyone is saying no,” said a prominent Republican lawyer, who like some others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential conversations.

Trump is no stranger to legal proceedings, and his scramble to hire lawyers in the face of an ominous federal probe recalls his predicament in the summer of 2017, when he was under scrutiny from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III in the Russia probe. Once again, Trump is struggling to find a veteran criminal defense lawyer with a strong track record of dealing with the Justice Department in a sprawling, multipronged investigation.

Longtime confidants and advisers of Trump have grown extremely worried about Trump’s current stable of lawyers, noting that most of them have little to no experience in cases of this type, according to two people familiar with the internal discussions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Giuliani appears before Georgia grand jury for six hours in election probe, Matthew Brown and Tom Hamburger, Aug. 18, 2022 (print ed.). The former New York City mayor has been told he is a target of a criminal probe into efforts to overturn the 2020 election. The former New York City mayor’s appearance came as the state’s governor, Republican Brian Kemp, fought a subpoena seeking his testimony.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis achieved a long-sought goal Wednesday, with former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani appearing for six hours before a grand jury investigating efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Giuliani, who is now the highest-profile member of former president Donald Trump’s inner circle to appear before grand jurors, was informed this week that he is a target of the inquiry.

It is not clear what Giuliani said in his closed-door appearance. It came as Willis, a Democrat, also saw new challenges to her inquiry.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) filed a 121-page motion late Wednesday alleging that the sweeping probe was being pursued “for improper political purposes,” and asking the court to kill a subpoena requiring his testimony later this month.

Giuliani’s attorneys declined to offer substantive details of his appearance, citing grand jury secrecy rules, but one of them said it had gone smoothly.

 

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Donald Trump Is Going After One of the Most Conservative Institutions in the U.S. Government, Garrett M. Graff, Aug. garrett graff twitter18, 2022. Of all the weird and historically discordant moments and news stories of the Donald Trump era, few seem stranger than watching the former president and his allies demonize the F.B.I. as some sort of rogue “woke” Democratic deep state mob. This has been happening for several years now, but in the days since the F.B.I. searched Mr. Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago, the bureau has attracted particularly withering criticism for its supposedly leftist persecution of Mr. Trump, and Republicans have even begun to call to “defund the corrupt F.B.I.”

Historically, though, the F.B.I. has been arguably the most culturally conservative and traditionally white Christian institution in the entire U.S. government. It’s an institution so culturally conservative, even by the standards of law enforcement, that Democratic presidents have never felt comfortable — or politically emboldened — enough to nominate a Democrat to head the bureau.

FBI logoThat’s right: Far from being a bastion of progressive thinking, every single director of the F.B.I. has been a Republican-aligned official, going all the way back to its creation. Such history suggests that the issue here is Mr. Trump and not institutional bias.

Its current director, Christopher Wray, who oversaw the agents conducting last week’s search of Mar-a-Lago, was nominated by Mr. Trump himself and came to the job with sterling Republican credentials: He was the head of the criminal division in George W. Bush’s Justice Department, a member of the conservative Federalist Society and a clerk for Judge J. Michael Luttig, a Republican judicial icon.

Mr. Wray replaced the F.B.I. director Mr. Trump fired, James Comey, who had been nominated by Barack Obama and was the former deputy attorney general of George W. Bush’s Justice Department. His predecessor Robert Mueller, who served in the Justice Department for both Bush presidencies, was nominated by George W. Bush.

Politico, DOJ says release of Mar-a-Lago affidavit would harm ongoing criminal probe, Kyle Cheney, Aug. 16, 2022 (print ed.). The Justice Department intends to unseal additional documents connected to the FBI search at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate but is urging a federal court to maintain the secrecy of the sworn affidavit describing the basis for the search.

politico CustomThe DOJ is particularly concerned that the release of details from the affidavit might harm ongoing efforts to interview witnesses, given the threats to federal agents in wake of the Mar-a-Lago search.

“If disclosed, the affidavit would serve as a roadmap to the government’s ongoing investigation, providing specific details about its direction and likely course, in a manner that is highly likely to compromise future investigative steps,” U.S. Attorney Juan Gonzalez and Justice Department counterintelligence chief Jay Bratt said in a filing urging the continued secrecy of the affidavit.

“The fact that this investigation implicates highly classified materials further underscores the need to protect the integrity of the investigation and exacerbates the potential for harm if information is disclosed to the public prematurely or improperly,” the DOJ officials wrote.

Justice Department log circularInstead, DOJ is urging the court to unseal a redacted document that includes additional filings connected to the search warrant, including a cover sheet, DOJ’s motion to seal the warrant on Aug. 5 and the judge’s sealing order issued the same day.

Among DOJ’s concerns about releasing the underlying information is that witnesses might stop cooperating, particularly “given the high-profile nature of this matter.”

“Disclosure of the government’s affidavit at this stage would also likely chill future cooperation by witnesses whose assistance may be sought as this investigation progresses, as well as in other high-profile investigations,” Gonzalez and Bratt say, adding “This is not merely a hypothetical concern, given the widely reported threats made against law enforcement personnel in the wake of the August 8 search.”

Throughout the filing, DOJ makes references to its ongoing criminal investigation connected to the search — a probe that last week’s release of the search warrant revealed to include potential crimes related to the mishandling of classified materials and presidential records, as well as obstruction of Justice. Revealing the affidavit, DOJ noted Monday, would jeopardize that probe.

“Here, the government has a compelling, overriding interest in preserving the integrity of an ongoing criminal investigation,” the DOJ officials argued.

The filing cites news reports about an uptick in threats against FBI agents as well as an attack by an armed man against an FBI building in Cincinnati last week.

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mar a lago aerial Custom

 

U.S. Economy, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Federal Reserve Officials See Inflation Staying ‘Uncomfortably High,’ Ben Casselman, Aug. 18, 2022 (print ed.). Minutes from the Fed’s meeting in July showed officials remained committed to raising rates until inflation cooled meaningfully. Follow updates.

Federal Reserve officials viewed their efforts to tame inflation as beginning to have an effect, according to the minutes of their meeting in July, but they also remained committed to further raising interest rates as prices stay too high for comfort.

federal reserve system CustomFed policymakers in recent months have become increasingly aggressive in their efforts to curb inflation, which this spring hit a four-decade high. In June, the central bank raised its benchmark interest rate three-quarters of a percentage point, the largest increase since 1994. They followed that up with another, equally large rate increase last month.

It is a near certainty that the Fed will raise rates again when central bank officials next meet Sept. 20-21. The question is by how much. Another three-quarter-point increase would be a strong indication that policymakers are determined not to relax their efforts until they see clear evidence that inflation has slowed. A half-point increase, though still large by historical standards, would suggest that the Fed believes it can ease up, if only slightly.

washington post logoWashington Post, The fabulously wealthy are fueling a booming luxury ranch market out West, Karen Heller, Aug. 17, 2022. Moguls are lavishing ever-larger fortunes on ranches out West, prompted in part by the pandemic.

It’s 10 miles down a private road to reach the main lodge situated on 5,000 gasp-inducing acres with a barn, guesthouses and manager’s residence. The property is John Ford-worthy, the territory of myth and dreams, a verdant valley teeming with wildlife under a trio of spectacular 11,000-foot peaks. List price: $71 million.

America remains one of the last countries where so many individuals own colossal swaths of land, some controlling acreage larger than Delaware. The West, a lodestar in the nation’s story, holds an enduring allure for modern land barons. It’s where the notion of American exceptionalism and pioneer masculinity are burnished in myth, movies, television, land acquisition, country music laments and so much truck advertising. A dazzling ranch has become a weekend oasis for rich men — and they’re mostly men — to realize their cowboy dreams.

he nation is home to 735 billionaires (according to Forbes) and plenty of quasi-billionaires, and many of them are buying. (Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos has amassed 420,000 acres in Far West Texas around his Blue Origin suborbital spaceflight company, making him the nation’s 24th largest landowner.) The private plane market is booming, making it easier for the wealthy to travel from one of their places to the others. Many of them like to tour prospective properties by helicopter, rented for $4,600 an hour, billed to the client. In this Gilded Age, titans want to get dirty and dusty and wade hip-deep into a stream. They’re acquiring properties that require two days to traverse by horse.

In 2007, the 100 largest private landowners owned a combined 27 million acres of property. Fourteen years later, they control 42.2 million acres, according to the Land Report, the publication of private land ownership — an increase of 56 percent.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Arizona Republican Party’s Anti-Democracy Experiment, Robert Draper, Aug. 16, 2022 (print ed.). First, it turned against the establishment. Now it has set its sights on democracy — the principles, the process and even the word itself.

arizona mapArizona has become a bellwether for the rest of the nation, and not just because of its new status as a swing state and the first of these to be called for Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

It was and has continued to be the nexus of efforts by former President Donald Trump and his Republican allies to overturn the 2020 election results. At the same time, party figures from Trump down to Rose Sperry have sought to republican elephant logoblacklist every Arizona G.O.P. official who maintained that the election was fairly won — from Gov. Doug Ducey to Rusty Bowers, speaker of the state’s House of Representatives. Such leaders have been condemned as RINOs, or Republicans in name only, today’s equivalent of the McCarthy era’s “fellow travelers.”

The aggressive takeover of the Arizona G.O.P. by its far-right wing was made manifest on primary night earlier this month, when a slate of Trump-endorsed candidates — the gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, the U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters, the state attorney general candidate Abraham Hamadeh and the secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem — all prevailed.

As a group, they maintain that the 2020 election was stolen, have promoted conspiracy theories about Covid and have vowed to protect Arizona’s schools from gender ideology, critical race theory and what McCarthyites denounced 70 years ago as “godless communism.”

They have cast the 2022 election as not just history-defining but potentially civilization-ending. As Lake told a large crowd in downtown Phoenix the night before the primary: “It is not just a battle between Republicans and Democrats. This is a battle between freedom and tyranny, between authoritarianism and liberty and between good and evil.”

A week later, in response to the F.B.I.’s executing a search warrant at Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, Lake posted a statement on Twitter: “These tyrants will stop at nothing to silence the Patriots who are working hard to save America.” She added, “America — dark days lie ahead for us.” Far from offering an outlier’s view, Lake was articulating the dire stance shared by numerous other Republicans on the primary ballot and by the reactionary grass-roots activists who have swept them into power.

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Energy, Climate, Disasters, Environment

 

climate change photo

 

ny times logoNew York Times, Mexico Sees Its Future in Fossil Fuels, Not Renewables, Oscar Lopez, Aug. 18, 2022 (print ed.). President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s push to bring the energy sector under state control has left the country’s climate goals behind.

mexico flag1On a recent scorching afternoon in his home state of Tabasco, the president of Mexico celebrated his government’s latest triumph: a new oil refinery.

andrés lópez obrador wThough not yet operational, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, right, hailed the refinery as a centerpiece in his grand campaign to secure Mexico’s energy independence.

“We ignored the sirens’ song, the voices that predicted, in good faith, perhaps, the end of the oil age and the massive arrival of electric cars and renewable energies,” he told the cheering crowd.

At a moment when scientists are sounding alarms about the need to move away from fossil fuels that contribute to catastrophic climate change, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked a global shift in the opposite direction, with the United States and European countries moving to increase oil and gas production to counter bans on Russian energy.

But Mexico is going even further.

Driven by Mr. López Obrador’s long-held goal to wrest control of the energy sector from private companies and allow state firms to dominate the market, the government is undermining efforts to expand renewable power and staking the nation’s future on fossil fuels.

The policy is central to Mr. López Obrador’s ambition to reverse what he sees as corrupt privatization of the industry, guarantee Mexican energy sovereignty and return the country to the glory days when oil created thousands of jobs and helped bolster the economy.On a recent scorching afternoon in his home state of Tabasco, the president of Mexico celebrated his government’s latest triumph: a new oil refinery.

Though not yet operational, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador hailed the refinery as a centerpiece in his grand campaign to secure Mexico’s energy independence.

 washington post logoWashington Post, National Academy of Sciences sanctions White House climate official, Maxine Joselow, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). The National Academy of Sciences said Jane Lubchenco violated its code of conduct before joining the Biden administration.

The nation’s most prestigious scientific body said Tuesday that it has barred a key White House official focused on climate change, Jane Lubchenco, from participating in its publications and activities for five years.

The decision by the National Academy of Sciences marks a rare rebuke of Lubchenco, a marine ecologist who serves as deputy director for climate and environment at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The NAS said Lubchenco violated its code of conduct before joining the Biden administration last year.

While serving as an editor for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Lubchenco accepted an article for publication that was later retracted because it relied on outdated data, and because she has a personal relationship with one of the authors, who is her brother-in-law.

“I accept these sanctions for my error in judgment in editing a paper authored by some of my research collaborators — an error for which I have publicly stated my regret,” Lubchenco said in a statement.

An NAS spokeswoman confirmed that the sanctions were related to the retraction. A spokeswoman for the White House science office declined to comment further.

Axios first reported the move Tuesday.

Congressional Republicans had previously voiced concern about the incident, saying Lubchenco’s actions appeared to violate the administration’s scientific integrity principles.

“As an editor at PNAS, Dr. Lubchenco demonstrated a clear disregard for rules meant to prevent conflicts of interest in publishing peer-reviewed studies,” Republican members of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee wrote in a February letter to President Biden. “Now, Dr. Lubchenco is playing a leading role in developing and overseeing this Administration’s best practices for scientific integrity.”

The Office of Science and Technology Policy was established in 1976 and is responsible for overseeing the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which coordinates climate research across 13 federal agencies. Every four years, this program produces the federal government’s most definitive and comprehensive report on climate science, known as the National Climate Assessment. The fifth such report is expected next year.

Lubchenco, who ran the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration during President Barack Obama’s first term, presided in February over a first-of-its-kind roundtable with some of the nation’s leading climate scientists. The discussion centered on the urgent need to combat global warming and to counter arguments for delaying climate action.

washington post logoWashington Post, A reversal could be on the way for the surprisingly quiet Atlantic hurricane season, Matthew CappuccI, Aug. 18, 2022 (print ed.). After a quiet week ahead, activity could increase as we enter the historically busiest time of hurricane season.

Despite nearly unanimous predictions that there would be above-average activity, it’s been an ominously quiet start to hurricane season — though that could still change in the coming weeks.

washington post logoWashington Post, California’s giant sequoias are burning up. Will logging save them? Joshua Partlow, Photos by Ryan Christopher Jones, Aug. 16, 2022. The question of how to protect California's remaining giant sequoias, and how to manage America’s remaining forests in an era of climate-magnified megafires, has divided scientists and the public.

In Yosemite National Park, a fight over how to protect the world’s largest trees in a warming world.

Summer wildfires, in the era of climate change, mean something different now for giant sequoias. These trees evolved with fire, and need it to reproduce, but the scale of recent megafires — burning in hotter, dryer conditions across far greater areas — have overwhelmed many of the groves tucked high in the California mountains. Six of the seven largest wildfires in California history have occurred in the past two years, and in that period, up to nearly one fifth of all naturally-occurring large giant sequoias on Earth have been killed.

“What is new and shocking is these large areas, one hundred acres or more, where every single sequoia is killed,” said Nate Stephenson, an emeritus scientist in forest ecology at the U.S. Geological Survey. “There is no evidence anything like that has happened in the past one thousand years, probably many thousands of years.”

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More On Ukraine War

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Strikes pound Kharkiv; U.N. chief to discuss grain deal, nuclear risk, Ellen Francis and Kendra Nichols, Aug. 18, 2022. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres is in Ukraine to review progress on a deal to release the country’s grain exports, and strikes overnight pummeled Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

Key developments

  • The U.N. chief will meet the leaders of Ukraine and Turkey and visit a Black Sea port at the heart of the grain deal to alleviate the global food crisis. Guterres is expected to address the nuclear threat from fighting around the Zaporizhzhia plant in Ukraine. The U.N. atomic energy watchdog has warned of a potential disaster and appealed for access to visit the facility, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, which Russia now controls.
  • Russia said a proposal for a demilitarized zone around the nuclear plant was “unacceptable” after the United Nations called for a withdrawal of military forces and equipment. Russian Foreign Ministry official Ivan Nechayev told a news briefing Thursday that implementing it “would make the plant even more vulnerable.” Ukrainian workers have described a daily terror inside the plant in interviews with The Washington Post.
  • Ukraine is activating a unit under the command of its special forces to attack far behind Russian lines, its defense minister said in an interview. Kyiv hopes this will undermine Russia’s ability to hold the front lines ahead of a potential counteroffensive, he said. Explosions in Crimea over the past week drew attention to the strategy as Ukrainian officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told The Post that special forces were responsible.
  • Kharkiv had one of its “most tragic” nights in the war, the region’s governor said early Thursday, describing Russian strikes that shook sleeping residents awake and battered their homes. Oleh Synyehubov said shelling in one part of the region killed seven people and injured 17 others. In a district of the city of the same name, a strike on a dormitory killed two people and injured 18 more, he said. A local official said the dormitory housed residents with hearing impairments who could not hear the sirens.

Battlefield updates

  • Rescuers worked through the night in Kharkiv to douse fires and clear rubble, photos showed. An escalation in artillery fire prompted Human Rights Watch to denounce the assault on the northeastern region this week. The U.S.-based group said it documented attacks on health-care facilities and populated areas using explosive weapons and cluster munitions.
  • In gas masks and hazmat suits, Ukrainian emergency workers conducted a nuclear response drill in the nearby city of Zaporizhzhia. Ukraine’s interior minister has said the country must prepare for any scenario as recent shelling in the region around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant triggers alarm.
  • Russia has reportedly replaced the commander of its Black Sea fleet in Crimea, according to state news agency RIA, which reported that the order came from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Global impact

  • Estonia experienced “the most extensive cyber attacks” since 2007, it said Thursday, after the country removed a Soviet-era World War II monument from a region near the Russian border. Hacker group Killnet claimed responsibility for the attack on online payment and public services, but an Estonian official said it was “ineffective.”
  • In an interview with The Post at the presidential office, Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky discussed U.S. warnings about Russia preparing to launch a full-scale invasion. Read excerpts here, and find The Post’s months-long examination of the road to the war in Ukraine here.
  • Chinese troops will travel to Russia for joint military exercises, with countries including India and Belarus. China’s Defense Ministry said the drills were unrelated to the “current international situation” and part of a cooperation agreement with Russia’s military. U.S. officials have criticized what they describe as Beijing’s “alignment” with Moscow during the war in Ukraine.

washington post logoWashington Post, In Ukraine, a Russian mercenary group steps out of the shadows, Mary Ilyushina, Aug. 18, 2022 (print ed.). The notorious Wagner Group is recruiting. Murderers are welcome.

For years, the Wagner private military company has done Moscow’s dirty work in eastern Ukraine, Libya, Syria and parts of Africa. The Kremlin always officially denied any relationship with Wagner, whose soldiers for hire have been accused of massacres and other human rights violations.

But now, Wagner and its mercenaries have suddenly emerged from the shadows in the Ukraine war, openly celebrated on Russian state media and lauded as heroes of President Vladimir Putin’s bloody invasion. A recent special report on the most-watched state TV channel trumpeted the group’s gains on the Ukrainian front lines — an unthinkable acknowledgment of Wagner even just a few months ago.

Pro-Kremlin reporters lionize the members of the group, named for the right-wing German classical composer Richard Wagner, as “musicians” in an “orchestra.” And Wagner is using glitzy advertising across Russia to sign up new members. Its efforts include recruitment campaigns in prisons.

  • Washington Post, Editorial: Alexei Navalny will not be silent, Editorial Board, Aug. 18, 2022.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Updates: Ukrainian officials warned of a buildup of Russian long-range missile systems in Belarus, Marc Santora and Shashank Bengali, Aug. 18, 2022 (print ed.). A top military commander cited the placement of missiles 15 miles from Ukraine’s northern border. The U.N. secretary general arrived in the country for talks with the president and Turkey’s leader aimed at keeping grain exports flowing.

As Russian forces fail to gain ground in eastern Ukraine and fortify defensive positions in the south, Ukrainian officials are warning of a buildup of Russian long-range missile systems to the north, in Belarus, which has served as a key staging ground for Moscow in the war.

Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, the top commander of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, said in a statement on Tuesday that the positioning of Russian missile systems along the Ukrainian border in Belarus “raises concerns.” He specifically cited missiles placed at the Zyabrovka airfield, about 15 miles from the border.

While it is not the first time that Ukrainian officials have warned about a threat from the north, the statement took on added urgency after explosions on Tuesday at a Russian ammunition depot in Crimea, the second Russian military target on the peninsula to be hit by blasts in a week.

Ukraine has not publicly claimed responsibility for the blasts — or the explosions last week at the Saki air base on Crimea — but a senior Ukrainian official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that both had been orchestrated by the military and covert operators.

As Ukraine increasingly strikes Russian targets deep behind the front lines, with the aid of Western weapons, and orchestrates clandestine assaults against Moscow’s supply lines in eastern and southern Ukraine, the buildup in Belarus has served as a reminder that Russian forces still surround Ukraine from three sides. Russia also retains an overwhelming advantage in heavy weapons.

Anton Geraschenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, tweeted on Wednesday that Russia had concentrated “a large number of surface-to-air missile systems” at Zyabrovka, including the S-400, one of Russia’s most advanced antiaircraft weapons.

Yuriy Ihnat, a spokesman for the Air Force Command of Ukraine’s armed forces, also emphasized the threat of a potential Russian attack from Belarus in comments to reporters on Tuesday, while noting that the Ukrainian military regularly observes the movement of Russian troops and equipment around Belarus, Moscow’s most pliant ally.

In the early stages of Russia’s invasion, which began in February, President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus allowed Russian troops to use its territory to launch a ground operation to try to capture Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, although the effort ultimately failed.

Since then, Russia has continued to use Belarus as a staging ground for bombardments. In late July, Ukraine said that 25 missiles had been fired by Russian forces in Belarus toward northern regions of Ukraine. This week, Ukraine’s Air Force said that Russian fighter jets had used Belarusian airspace to launch missiles against the northern city of Zhytomyr.

“There has always been a certain threat from the territory of Belarus, and let me remind you that it was its territory that Russia used from the first days of the full-scale invasion,” Mr. Ihnat said, adding: “We must definitely be prepared for possible missile strikes.”

The buildup comes as a vital link in the supply lines for Russia’s occupation forces in southern Ukraine, the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, comes under attack.

The explosions in Crimea have undermined Moscow’s control of the peninsula, which it illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014. President Vladimir V. Putin has called Crimea Russia’s “holy land.”

While the extent of the damage from the blasts remains unclear, Ukrainian officials are preparing for a response from Moscow, which labeled the explosion at the ammunition depot an “act of sabotage” — an apparent acknowledgment that the war is spreading to what the Kremlin considers Russian territory. Last week, after the blasts at the air base, Russian media reported that the commander of the Kremlin’s Black Sea naval fleet, which is based in Crimea, was replaced.

The British defense intelligence agency said on Wednesday that “Russian commanders will highly likely be increasingly concerned with the apparent deterioration in security across Crimea, which functions as rear base area for the occupation.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Updates: Nuclear agency reports cyberattack attempt; grain ship appears in Syria, Ellen Francis and Rachel Pannett, Aug. 18, 2022 (print ed.). Satellite images show the first grain ship from Ukraine in Syria. Ukrainian forces strike Russia in Crimea for the second ukraine flagtime in a week.

Ukraine’s nuclear agency reported a cyberattack attempt, and fighting around Europe’s largest nuclear power plant triggered a flurry of diplomatic calls. Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

Key developments

  • The Ukrainian nuclear energy agency accused Russia of a cyberattack on its website, which it said had failed. Energoatom said the hacking efforts did not “significantly affect” the company’s official site. While Tuesday’s attack did not appear to impact Ukraine’s power grid, the state company that oversees the country’s nuclear plants described it as “unprecedented.”
  • U.N. chief António Guterres will meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ukraine’s western city of Lviv on Thursday. The secretary general is also expected to visit a Black Sea port involved in a U.N.-backed deal to release Ukrainian grain and ease the global food crisis.
  • Satellite images appeared to show the first grain ship from Ukraine under the deal docked in Syria, where the government is a close ally of Russia. A photo published by U.S.-based firm Planet Labs shows the Razoni vessel at Syria’s port of Tartus, according to the Associated Press, which said the buyer in Lebanon, where the shipment was initially headed, had refused the order.

Battlefield updates

  • Ukrainian forces reportedly struck Russian targets in Crimea for the second time in a week. The peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014, is a military supply hub for its forces and a popular destination for its tourists. The Kremlin said Tuesday’s explosion was an “act of sabotage” as nearby residents fled. A Ukrainian official said it was the work of the same special forces said to be behind last week’s attack on a Russian air base in Crimea.
  • russian flag wavingZelensky accused Russia of “nuclear terrorism” in a call with French President Emmanuel Macron, while the U.N. chief held talks with Moscow on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine. As Kyiv and Moscow trade blame for shelling near the facility, which is under Russian control, Russia’s defense minister said his country has “no need to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.”
  • Ukrainian workers from the Zaporizhzhia plant described a daily terror of explosions and nuclear catastrophe in interviews with The Washington Post.
  • People help evacuate a man from near the site of an explosion in Crimea on Tuesday. (Viktor Korotayev/Kommersant Publishing House/AP)

Global impact

  • A vessel loaded with grain for the Horn of Africa set sail from Ukraine, the first shipment of food aid under the U.N.-brokered deal. The Brave Commander is headed for Ethiopia, where millions of people are facing drought and hunger.
  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States will give $68 million to the World Food Program to buy Ukrainian wheat to help “address the world’s pressing food crisis.”

 ny times logoNew York Times, Sleepy Greek Port Becomes U.S. Arms Hub, as Ukraine War Reshapes Region, Niki Kitsantonis and Anatoly Kurmanaev
Aug. 18, 2022. The flow of U.S. military supplies through Greece has angered Russia and Turkey. Now, firms with ties to Russia and America are competing for control.

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Political Violence In United States

 

Hadi Matar, 24, center, arrives for an arraignment in the Chautauqua County Courthouse in Mayville, N.Y., Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. Matar, who is accused of carrying out a stabbing attack against “Satanic Verses” author Salman Rushdie has entered a not-guilty plea in a New York court on charges of attempted murder and assault. An attorney for Matar entered the plea on his behalf during an arraignment hearing. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Hadi Matar, 24, center, arrives for an arraignment in the Chautauqua County Courthouse in Mayville, N.Y., Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. Matar, who is accused of carrying out a stabbing attack against “Satanic Verses” author Salman Rushdie has entered a not-guilty plea in a New York court on charges of attempted murder and assault. An attorney for Matar entered the plea on his behalf during an arraignment hearing. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘I’m Done With Him’: A Mother’s Anger Over Rushdie Attack, Chelsia Rose Marcius, Tracey Tully and Ana Facio-Krajcer, Aug. 18, 2022 (print ed.). Hadi Matar, 24, kept to himself and was changed by a 2018 trip to the Middle East.

Hadi Matar had resented being pushed to pursue schoolwork. At 24, he worked a low-level job at a discount store, made clumsy attempts at boxing and became increasingly focused on religion. Now, accused of trying to kill a pre-eminent figure of free expression, Mr. Matar has lost even the support of his mother.

“I’m done with him,” Silvana Fardos said in a brief interview, disavowing Mr. Matar, who is accused of repeatedly stabbing the author Salman Rushdie in a brazen daytime attack at an intellectual retreat in western New York.

This week, a portrait of Mr. Matar as a troubled recluse began to emerge. Ms. Fardos said that she had not talked to him since he was charged with attempting to kill Mr. Rushdie on Friday. The writer has lived in and out of hiding since Iran’s supreme leader in 1989 issued an edict calling for his death after he published “The Satanic Verses,” which provoked outrage among some Muslims.

salman rushdie hMr. Rushdie, right, who was stabbed roughly 10 times, was hospitalized with what relatives have described as life-altering injuries. His agent has said he was likely to lose an eye.

The F.B.I., which is leading the investigation, has disclosed no clear motive for the attack. Iran’s Foreign Ministry this week blamed the prizewinning author himself, and denied any role.

But as national and international news crews continued to hover outside Ms. Fardos’s northern New Jersey house on Tuesday, she confirmed that her son returned from a 2018 trip to the Middle East a changed man — reclusive and increasingly focused on his role as a follower of Islam.

“I have nothing to say to him,” Ms. Fardos said Monday as she walked quickly toward the two-story brick home in Fairview, asking for privacy, her face shielded by a mask, glasses and hat.

Onlookers at the Chautauqua Institution near Buffalo who came to listen to Mr. Rushdie, 75, deliver a speech, subdued Mr. Matar before he was taken into custody.

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Pandemic Public Health, Disasters

ny times logoNew York Times, Wastewater Disease Tracking: A Journey From the Sewer to the Lab, Aliza Aufrichtig and Emily Anthes, Photographs and video by Jonah Markowitz, Aug. 17, 2022. Here’s how a scrappy team of scientists, public health experts and plumbers is embracing wastewater surveillance as the future of disease tracking.

The Covid-19 pandemic has turned sewage into gold.

People who are infected with the coronavirus shed the pathogen in their stool. By measuring and sequencing the viral material present in sewage, scientists can determine whether cases are rising in a particular area and which variants are circulating.

People excrete the virus even if they never seek testing or treatment. So wastewater surveillance has become a critical tool for keeping tabs on the virus, especially as Covid-19 testing has increasingly shifted to the home.

The institutions and localities that invested in wastewater surveillance over the last two years are discovering that it can be used to track other health threats, too. The Sewer Coronavirus Alert Network has already begun tracking the monkeypox virus in wastewater. And last week, New York City officials announced that polio had been detected in the city’s sewage.

Six months ago, NYC Health + Hospitals, a large, local health care system, began piloting its own wastewater surveillance system to track the coronavirus and the flu. Monkeypox and polio monitoring will start as soon as next week. There are a variety of approaches to wastewater surveillance. Here’s a visual guide to how the coronavirus tracking process works in one New York hospital.

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside America’s rapidly unfolding monkeypox crisis — and the mistakes that made it worse, Dan Diamond, Fenit Nirappil and Lena H. Sun, Aug. 18, 2022 (print ed.). Early mistakes by the Biden administration left hundreds of thousands of gay men facing the threat of an agonizing illness and the potential for broader circulation of monkeypox.

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U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

jonathan toebbe diana toebbe

washington post logoWashington Post, Plea deals upended for pair accused of peddling nuclear sub secrets, Paul Duggan, Aug. 17, 2022. A judge said the proposed prison terms for Jonathan Toebbe and his wife, Diana (shown above), were too lenient, given the potential damage to national security.

A federal judge Tuesday rejected plea bargains for a Navy engineer and his wife who allegedly tried to sell military secrets, saying the prison terms called for by the deals were too lenient for a couple accused of offering U.S. nuclear submarine data to a foreign government.

Jonathan Toebbe, 43, a civilian engineer for the Navy, and Diana Toebbe, 46, a private-school teacher, lived in Annapolis, Md., before they were arrested in October in a case involving a year-long FBI sting and cloak-and-dagger elements that seemed straight out of a spy novel, including the attempted transfer of confidential submarine data hidden in a peanut butter sandwich, authorities said.

In plea bargains with federal prosecutors — signed early this year and initially accepted by a federal magistrate — the couple admitted to violating the Atomic Energy Act. The deals called for Jonathan Toebbe to be sentenced to 12½ to 17½ years in prison, while his wife would get a three-year term. But the couple withdrew their guilty pleas Tuesday after U.S. District Judge Gina M. Groh, in Martinsburg, W.Va., threw out the agreements rather than impose the required sentences.

“It’s not in the best interest of this community or, in fact, this country to accept these plea agreements,” she said from the bench. “I don’t find any justifiable reason for accepting either one of these plea agreements.”

For nearly an hour before Groh’s surprise ruling, two defense lawyers and an assistant U.S. attorney had argued, to no avail, that the prison terms called for in the deals were appropriate.

The 12½-to-17½-year range for Jonathan Toebbe is “not a slap on the wrist,” his lawyer, Nicholas J. Compton, told the judge. “It’s significant punishment.” Diana Toebbe’s attorney, Barry P. Beck, said a shorter term was right for his client because “she’s not why we’re here today. We’re here because her husband had an ill-conceived idea to make money, and she agreed to go along with it.”

Although she has raised doubts about plea deals in the past, Groh said, “In the end, I generally honor plea agreements negotiated by the parties, even when they have binding [sentencing] ranges” that she does not entirely agree with. In this case, however, “I find the sentencing options available to me to be strikingly deficient,” the judge said.

U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld of the Northern District of West Virginia, where the case is being handled, said his office “will move forward” and “be ready” for a trial. “I respect the decision by the Court to reject the plea agreements,” he said in a statement.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judiciary can’t stop support staff from political activity, court says, Rachel Weiner, Aug. 18, 2022. In March 2018, while weighing candidates for governor in Maryland, Lisa Guffey wanted to attend an event featuring Democrat Ben Jealous.

She was told she could not. Her employer, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AOUSC), had two days earlier imposed new rules barring all employees from expressing political views, attending political events or engaging in political activity.

This week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit deemed those restrictions unconstitutional.

“The government cannot condition public employment on the complete surrender of a citizen’s First Amendment rights,” wrote the majority of the three-judge panel in an opinion released Tuesday.
Lisa Guffey, 55, fought successfully for her right to engage in political activity outside of her administrative work in the U.S. federal court system. (Shala Graham)

Guffey, 55, of Silver Spring, Md., said in an interview that the rules immediately struck her as unconstitutional, but she complied with them until the courts agreed.

“I can be both an active private citizen and a public servant and I’m glad the court recognized that,” she said. “There is no conflict between my work and what I did on my own time as a private citizen of this country, of the state of Maryland, of Montgomery County.”

A spokeswoman for the Justice Department declined to comment. In court arguments, the government defended the rules as comparable to those of other judicial employees and necessary to “preserve the integrity and impartiality of the judicial branch.”

But the court found that such rules cannot apply to administrators who play no role in judicial rulings or decisions. Guffey assesses resources and operations for federal public defender offices and court-appointed attorneys. A second plaintiff, Christine Smith, previously dealt with information technology needs of those offices. She now leads cybersecurity assessments. Neither sought to affiliate themselves with the judiciary while engaging in politics.

Their work is so anonymous, the court said, that any fear that their political engagement would lead to real or perceived political manipulation of judiciary was “novel, implausible, and unsubstantiated.” To begin with, the court said, “there is nothing in the record to suggest” that “the public is aware” of the AOUSC.

Guffey and Smith filed their suit in 2018; a district judge granted an injunction blocking the government from enforcing most of the restrictive rules in 2020. The appellate court broadened the injunction to include all the new policies but said its ruling could only apply to the two plaintiffs. The small number of the 1,100 AOUSC employees who advise judges on their own ethics or deal with Congress could potentially be subject to different rules.

washington post logoWashington Post, DeSantis sued by prosecutor suspended over stance on abortion-related crime, Kim Bellware and Lateshia Beachum, Aug. 18, 2022 (print ed.). A Florida prosecutor has sued Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in a bid to be reinstated after he was dismissed from his post for pledging he would not prosecute cases stemming from Florida’s 15-week abortion ban and potential bans on gender-affirming care.

Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren (D) argued his Aug. 4 suspension was unlawful on First Amendment grounds and characterized his removal as “retaliation” by DeSantis against a critic and political rival, according to a federal complaint filed Wednesday in the Northern District of Florida.

DeSantis suspends elected Democratic prosecutor who signed pledge on abortion cases

In a video message, Warren said that in addition to violating his free speech rights, DeSantis broke Florida law.

“He’s violated the Florida Constitution by removing me from office without any legal justification, throwing out the results of a fair and free election,” Warren said.

DeSantis’s office dismissed Warren’s federal complaint as “baseless.”

“It’s not surprising Warren, who was suspended for refusing to follow the law, would file a legally baseless lawsuit challenging his suspension. We look forward to responding in court,” a spokesperson for DeSantis said in a statement.

Warren has been in office since 2016 and was reelected in 2020 with more than 53 percent of the vote.

DeSantis suspending Warren and replacing him with a person of his choosing sets a concerning tone for democracy in Florida, Louis Virelli, professor of law at Stetson University College of Law, told The Washington Post.

“A small step from here is if I, as governor, don’t think a state attorney is being hard enough on a particular crime, I’m going to replace you with a person I prefer,” Virelli said. “It’s overriding voters’ choice.”

Virelli said the complaint is one of the few options available to Warren if he wants to keep his job.

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Anniversary Update: U.S. Afghan Departure

washington post logoWashington Post, A year after U.S. drone strike killed Afghan civilians, their relatives are on a path to resettlement, Abigail Hauslohner, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). The Biden administration has moved out of Afghanistan nearly four dozen family members of the 10 civilians killed in a U.S. drone strike.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: One year’s hindsight on Afghanistan: A good decision, horribly executed, David Ignatius, right, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). A year after david ignatiusthe fall of Kabul, the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan looks better as a pragmatic decision to end a costly war. But haunting images remain from an unnecessarily chaotic exit that reflected a chain of policy misjudgments.

“The last year has borne out the wisdom of getting out,” argues a senior White House official. Though I was skeptical at the time, his judgment seems correct. Imagine if we were still fighting the Taliban when Russia invaded Ukraine in February, or as China threatened Taiwan. As for the terrorism threat, last month’s drone killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri suggests it might be manageable from a distance, as the administration has argued.

What’s still agonizing, though, is the decision-making process, in which different parts of the administration pursued what amounted to contradictory policies. The Pentagon wanted to get out as fast as possible once President Biden decided in April 2021 to withdraw. But the State Department sought to maintain its embassy and diplomatic presence in Kabul, even as the country was crumbling.

 

World News, Human Rights, Analysis

washington post logoWashington Post, Israel shuts leading Palestinian human rights groups, citing terror links, Miriam Berger, Aug. 18, 2022  Israel shut the offices of five leading Palestinian rights organizations in an early-morning raid in Ramallah on Thursday, tightening its restrictions on civil society nearly a year after it labeled the organizations terrorist groups in an internationally criticized move.

Israel says the organizations have ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an armed group that has carried out deadly attacks against Israel, which the rights groups deny.

They accuse Israel of targeting them because of their political activism against Israeli rule and work documenting alleged abuses in the occupied territories.

washington post logoWashington Post, Blast kills 21 in Kabul mosque, including influential cleric, Haq Nawaz Khan, Aug. 18, 2022. A bomb blast in a mosque in the Khair Khana area of Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, killed 21 worshipers including a prominent prayer leader on Wednesday evening, Taliban officials and residents said..

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but a year since the Taliban takeover of the country, the rival Islamic State continues to stage assaults, particularly on places of worship.

washington post logoWashington Post, Outrage in India as men convicted of rape, murder walk free, Niha Masih, Aug. 18, 2022. Bilkis Bano was five-months pregnant when she was attacked by a Hindu mob in 2002 as anti-Muslim violence gripped the western Indian state of Gujarat.

Bano, then 21, was gang-raped by sword-wielding men from her neighborhood. Fourteen of her family members were killed, including her 3-year-old daughter, who was snatched from her arms and bashed against a rock.
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This week, 11 men serving a life sentence for the crimes were released from prison on remission by the Gujarat state government, sparking widespread outrage and an emotional appeal for justice from Bano.

In a statement issued Wednesday through her lawyer, Bano said the news left had her “numb” and “bereft.”

“I trusted the system, and I was learning slowly to live with my trauma,” she said, adding that the release had shaken her faith in the justice system. “No one enquired about my safety and well-being before taking such a big and unjust decision.”

The development comes as a shock to the country that has struggled to address widespread sexual violence against women. In recent years, authorities have made laws stricter and instituted harsher punishments, but conviction rates for rape remain low.

An 8-year-old girl’s gang rape and murder trigger new outrage over India’s rape culture

Women’s rights groups said that the release of the perpetrators on Aug. 15, an anniversary of the country’s 75 years of independence, was a blow to every rape victim.

“It shames us that the day we should celebrate our freedoms and be proud of our independence, the women of India instead saw gang-rapists and mass murderers freed as an act of State largesse,” the groups said in a statement.

It was also a setback for survivors of the Gujarat riots, who have fought long and hard for justice. The riots erupted in 2002 after a train fire blamed on Muslims killed a group of Hindu pilgrims. More than 1,000 people were killed in days of vigilante violence that followed, most of them Muslims. Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat at the time, is now India’s prime minister. Under his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, hate speech and violence against Muslims has risen sharply.

The men released this week have received a hero’s welcome. In one video from outside the prison, they are given sweets. Local media said the men were later honored with garlands by members of Hindu nationalist groups affiliated with the BJP.
Sujal Mayatra, the official who led the panel in Gujarat that recommended the men’s release, said the decision was based on various factors.

“They had completed 14 years of tenure. We enquired about their conduct and parole time,” he said. “The nature of crime and victim’s safety was also taken into consideration.”

In India, life sentences are meant to last until death, but convicts are eligible to seek early release after 14 years. While the latest remission policy says those convicted of rape and murder cannot be released prematurely, the policy at the time of the Bano case did not make that distinction.

In a 2017 BBC interview, Bano said she was fleeing the violence in a group of 17 that included her mother and young siblings in March 2002 when a mob accosted them.

As India marks its first 75 years, Gandhi is downplayed, even derided

Besides raping Bano and killing her daughter, the men gang-raped her cousin before murdering her and her 2-day-old baby. Bano was one of only three people from the group to survive the massacre.

Human rights lawyer Vrinda Grover, who has been part of efforts to reform legislation on violence against women, described the government’s decision as “grossly arbitrary and discriminatory.”

“The mask of the government being concerned about sexual violence against women has slipped. This is a majoritarian state signaling impunity for hate crimes,” she said.

 ny times logoNew York Times, As China’s Economy Stumbles, Homeowners Boycott Mortgage Payments, Daisuke Wakabayashi, Aug. 18, 2022 (print ed.). In an act of defiance, people who bought real estate from indebted property developers are refusing to pay back loans on their unfinished apartments.

For decades, buying property was considered a safe investment in China. Now, instead of building a foundation of wealth for the country’s middle class, real estate has become a source of discontent and anger.

In more than 100 cities across China, hundreds of thousands of Chinese homeowners are banding together and refusing to repay loans on unfinished properties, one of the most widespread acts of public defiance in a country where even minor protests are quelled.

The boycotts are part of the fallout from a worsening Chinese economy, slowed by Covid lockdowns, travel restrictions and wavering confidence in the government. The country’s economy is on a path for its slowest growth in decades. Its factories are selling less to the world, and its consumers are spending less at home. On Monday, the government said youth unemployment had reached a record high.

Compounding these financial setbacks are the troubles of a particularly vulnerable sector: real estate.

“Life is extremely difficult, and we can no longer afford the monthly mortgage,” homeowners in China’s central Hunan Province wrote in a letter to local officials in July. “We have to take risks out of desperation and follow the path of a mortgage strike.”

The mortgage rebellions have roiled a property market facing the fallout from a decades-long housing bubble. It has also created unwanted complication for President Xi Jinping, who is expected to coast to a third term as party leader later this year on a message of social stability and continued prosperity in China.

washington post logoWashington Post, Female Saudi activist gets record 34 years in prison for critical tweets, Sarah Dadouch and Annabelle Timsit, Aug. 18, 2022 (print ed.). Saudi Arabia quietly sentenced a woman last week to 34 years in prison over her Twitter activity, marking the longest Saudi sentence ever for a peaceful activist and launching a fresh wave of fear among the government’s detractors, three rights group said.

The woman, Salma al-Shehab, was detained in January 2021 in Saudi Arabia, where she was on vacation, days before the Saudi citizen and mother of two was set to return to her home in Britain, according to rights groups. The charges faced by the 33-year-old all revolved around her Twitter activity, according to court documents.

Shehab had been active on the social media platform during campaigns demanding the abolition of the country’s guardianship system, which gives men legal control over certain aspects of female relatives’ lives. She had called for the freeing of Saudi prisoners of conscience.

Despite promises, Saudi executions already nearly double from last year

According to court records obtained by The Washington Post, Shehab was accused of using a social media website “to disrupt public order, undermine the security of society and stability of the state, and support those who had committed criminal actions according to the counterterrorism law and its financing.”

The documents said she supported such individuals “by following their social media accounts and rebroadcasting their tweets,” and that she spread false rumors. The documents went on to say that after she appealed an initial conviction, it was decided that her prison sentence was too short, “considering her crimes,” and that her previous sentence failed to “achieve restraint and deterrence.”

On top of a 34-year sentence and subsequent 34-year travel ban, which begins after the prison sentence ends, the court ruled that her mobile phone be confiscated, and her Twitter account be “closed down permanently.”

The charges are familiar: Sowing sedition and destabilizing the state are accusations frequently used against activists in the kingdom who speak up against the status quo. Saudi Arabia has long wielded its counterterrorism law against its citizens whose protests are deemed unacceptable, especially if they criticize the de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

In late 2021, the initial ruling against Shehab gave her six years in prison. When she appealed, however, it was increased to 34 — the country’s longest sentence against a peaceful activist, according to several human rights groups.

Rights groups have repeatedly warned about the government’s recent use of the counterterrorism law. In April, Human Rights Watch said laws such as “the notoriously abusive counterterrorism law and the anti-cybercrime law, include vague and overly broad provisions that have been widely interpreted and abused.” The rulings are also often characterized by inconsistent and harsh sentences.

As the sentence includes the closure of her Twitter account, at least one rights group is trying to make sure her account is not shut down, said Lina al-Hathloul, the head of monitoring and communications at ALQST, a London-based Saudi rights group.

washington post logoWashington Post, Prominent Catholic leader in Canada accused of sexual assault, Amanda Coletta and Chico Harlan, Aug. 17, 2022. Cardinal Marc Ouellet is a key figure inside the Vatican bureaucracy, leading the department that vets and manages bishops. He has been mentioned as a candidate for pope.

— Cardinal Marc Ouellet, one of the most prominent Catholic leaders in Canada, was accused of sexual assault in legal documents filed Tuesday in a Quebec court.

canadian flagOuellet, considered a candidate for pope in recent conclaves, is one of scores of church clergy, employees and volunteers accused of sexual misconduct in a class-action lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Quebec.

In the lawsuit, a woman identified only as “F.” accuses Ouellet of inappropriate touching and comments when he was archbishop of Quebec and she was a pastoral intern. She said the alleged abuse left her feeling “troubled” and gave her a sense of “deep unease,” and eventually prompted her to complain to Pope Francis last year.

The Archdiocese of Quebec said Tuesday that it “took note” of the allegations and “will not have any comment.” A Vatican spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Ouellet, 78, is one of the most important figures inside the Vatican bureaucracy, leading the department that vets and manages bishops. He has a reputation in the ideologically divided Church as being middle-of-the-road.

He was named cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2003, served as a lieutenant to Pope Benedict XVI and now holds near-weekly meetings with Pope Francis, who has allowed Ouellet to stay in his role far beyond the normal five-year term.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Forced Birth Laws, Privacy, Freedoms

 ny times logoNew York Times, In Mississippi, What Will Republicans Do to Help New Mothers? Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Aug. 18, 2022. The state that spurred the overturning of abortion rights is among 17 that decided not to extend new mothers’ Medicaid coverage for a year.

 washington post logoWashington Post, FTC threatens to sue firm allegedly revealing abortion clinic visits, Cat Zakrzewski, Aug. 18, 2022. A lawsuit against the agency shows how it might defend health data after the Supreme Court left states free to outlaw abortion.

The Federal Trade Commission is threatening to sue an adtech company it alleges reveals people’s visits to sensitive locations, including women’s reproductive health clinics, according to a lawsuit against the agency.

The agency’s proposed complaint, against Idaho-based Kochava, argues the company violates laws that prohibit “unfair or deceptive practices” by allowing its customers to license data collected from mobile devices that can identify people and track their visits to health-care providers.

In addition to women’s reproductive health clinics, the agency argues that the data can be used to trace people to therapists’ offices, addiction recovery centers and other medical facilities. Because the coordinates the company collects included a time stamp, they can be used to identify when a person visited a location.

Kochava revealed the threat in a Friday lawsuit, where the company says that the agency “wrongfully alleges” that it is in violation of consumer protection laws. The FTC declined to comment.

The action is an early indication of how the agency might assert itself as a defender of health-related data, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June. The FTC action comes as prominent Democrats, privacy advocates and technologists warn that people’s digital trails could become evidence in abortion prosecutions, and after cases where details like search history and Facebook messages about the procedure have been used as evidence against women.

Texts, web searches about abortion have been used to prosecute women

In the absence of a comprehensive federal privacy law, there are limited steps that Democrats in Washington can take to protect reproductive health data. The Biden White House has turned to the Federal Trade Commission to take up the mantle, urging the agency in a July executive order to take steps that would protect people’s privacy when they’re seeking reproductive health services.

However the more than 100-year-old agency has struggled to gain the resources and technological expertise needed to police emerging privacy threats. The FTC historically moves slowly in building and bringing cases against companies. FTC privacy cases can take years to resolve, but Kochava has already announced some changes to its privacy practices around sensitive health data. Kochava said the FTC sent it a proposed complaint “in or about July and August,” roughly three months since the news of the Supreme Court decision first leaked.

washington post logoWashington Post, Planned Parenthood to spend record $50 million on midterm elections, Amy B Wang, Aug. 18, 2022 (print ed.). The record investment underscores how much reproductive rights advocates believe abortion will be a motivating issue for voters after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Planned Parenthood’s advocacy and political organizations will spend a record $50 million on November’s midterm elections in an effort to elect abortion rights supporters across the country.

The record investment underscores how much reproductive rights advocates believe abortion will be a motivating issue for voters in this year’s midterm elections, a few months after a Supreme Court decision in June overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that for nearly half a century guaranteed the right to an abortion in the United States.

“Abortion rights are going to play a huge role in this election,” Jenny Lawson, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes, the group’s political action committee, told The Washington Post. “The stakes have truly, truly never been higher.”

Lawson said Planned Parenthood will focus initially on nine states — Georgia, Nevada, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Arizona, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Michigan and Wisconsin — where gubernatorial or down-ballot races could determine abortion access in the state or federally. For example, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan currently have Democratic governors who have prevented their Republican-led state legislatures from enacting statewide abortion restrictions.

ny times logoNew York Times, After the reversal of Roe, readership has surged at publications aimed at women, Katie Robertson, Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.). The surge of readers has buoyed a part of the digital media world that has gradually declined in recent years.

Jezebel, a feminist website started by Gawker Media in 2007, saw an 18 percent increase in traffic after a leaked draft of the decision was published by Politico in May. The 19th, which covers gender and politics and takes its name from the 19th Amendment, reported a 63 percent jump in readership for its abortion-related stories. And The Cut, New York magazine’s women’s site, said traffic to its abortion rights coverage increased nearly threefold in June compared with the previous month.

Now readers are hunting out a feminist perspective and looking to writers who have closely covered the fight over abortion rights for years.

“We are able to cover this in an unflinching and honest way, with a perspective that I think a lot of traditional media outlets sort of aren’t able to do,” said Laura Bassett, the editor in chief of Jezebel.

Ms. Bassett previously covered women’s rights and health for nearly a decade at HuffPost. She took over Jezebel in September 2021. One of her first moves, she said, was to hire a reproductive rights reporter based in Texas, anticipating the Supreme Court’s decision.

Most have now closed their doors. xoJane, founded by the former editor of Sassy and Jane, Jane Pratt, folded in 2016. In 2018, The Hairpin (a sister site to The Awl), Lenny Letter (an online newsletter by the actor and writer Lena Dunham) and Rookie Mag (a magazine from the then-teen style icon Tavi Gevinson) shut down. The popular blog Feministing closed in 2019 after 15 years. The same year, Vice Media eliminated its women’s vertical, Broadly. Bitch Media, a feminist publisher and magazine that was started in 1996, shuttered in June.

The remaining publications have found their moment.

Recent Headlines

 

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).

ny times logoNew York Times, Brian Stelter Leaving CNN After Cancellation of ‘Reliable Sources,’ Benjamin Mullin, Aug. 18, 2022. Chris Licht, the new chairman of CNN, has told employees that he is retooling the network’s programming.

Brian Stelter, the top media reporter at CNN, is leaving the network after executives decided to cancel his Sunday show, “Reliable Sources,” in one of the first big programming moves under new leadership at the company.

CNNThe final edition of the show will be on Sunday, a spokesman for CNN said on Thursday.

The cancellation of “Reliable Sources” — a show that has aired for about three decades — is a striking change by Chris Licht, the new chairman of CNN, who took over this spring after the sudden resignation of Jeff Zucker. Mr. Zucker left after failing to disclose a romantic relationship with another top CNN executive.

Under Mr. Licht, right, CNN has eschewed the “breaking news” banners that once heralded stories large and small, and political news shows have chris licht wtried to book more conservative voices. He has given few other public clues about any possible broader changes at the cable network.

But leaders of CNN’s new corporate parent, Warner Bros. Discovery, have suggested that they want the network’s programming to have more straight news reporting and fewer opinionated takes from hosts. David Zaslav, the company’s chief executive, has said that he wants a network for both Republicans and Democrats. John Malone, an influential Warner Bros. Discovery shareholder, said that he wanted the network to “evolve back to the kind of journalism that it started with” in an interview with CNBC last year.

That new focus seemed to put Mr. Stelter, who has been critical of former President Donald J. Trump and his treatment of the press, in possible jeopardy. On average, during that time slot, more people watched Mr. Stelter’s show in recent years than they did MSNBC, but fewer people watched it than Fox News, according to data from Nielsen.

In an email to The New York Times, Mr. Malone said that he had “nothing to do with” the cancellation of Mr. Stelter’s show. Mr. Malone said he wants “the ‘news’ portion of CNN to be more centrist, but I am not in control or directly involved.”

The decision to cancel the show is part of CNN’s “refreshed Sunday lineup,” the company spokesman said on Thursday. The lineup will include a number of new programs, such as “Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace,” an interview program featuring the veteran Sunday show interlocutor.

More changes are expected. Mr. Licht, a veteran producer who helped conceive MSNBC’s popular “Morning Joe” round table, told employees in a town-hall meeting that he intends to be involved in the network’s morning programming. He has also said that he is planning to retool some of the evening programming, including at 9 p.m., where the departure of Chris Cuomo has left a critical gap in prime time.

The company praised Mr. Stelter for his work at the network. “We appreciate his contributions to the network and wish him well as he embarks on new endeavors,” the CNN spokesman said.

The Atlantic, Commentary: How to Kill a Newspaper, Andrew Travers (the former editor of The Aspen Times), Aug. 18, 2022. How a Soviet-born developer and a West Virginia billionaire destroyed a 141-year-old Colorado newspaper.

atlantic logo horizontalHere in Aspen, the air is thin, the snow is perfect, and money is everywhere. This is a singular American town in many respects. Among them is this: Aspen had, until very recently, two legitimate daily newspapers, The Aspen Times and the Aspen Daily News. At a moment when local newspapers face manifold threats to their existence and more and more American cities become news deserts, Aspen was the opposite: a news geyser.

I joined The Aspen Times as an editor in 2014, after a seven-year tenure at the Aspen Daily News. The Times has published since 1881, when Aspen was a silver-mining boomtown, through its postwar rebirth as a ski resort, and now as the home of ideas festivals, wine festivals, $50 entrees, and an awe-inspiring collection of private jets, many owned by billionaires deeply concerned about climate change. The paper, which was based for much of its history in a purple-painted building between a drugstore and the Hotel Jerome, developed a reputation for shoe-leather reporting and accountability journalism.

On Thanksgiving 2021, the start of ski season, the Times editorial team numbered 13, including four reporters who had been covering our town since at least the 1990s. We were treated well by our parent company, Swift Communications. Our paper was profitable, owing largely to real-estate advertising. We seemed to be a safe harbor for small-town journalists.

We were wrong.

My story is populated by blue bloods and thin-skinned billionaires, including the owners of the Pittsburgh Pirates, a litigious Soviet-born developer, and the wealthy cousin of a U.S. Supreme Court justice.

Aspen is strange, but this is a story that could actually take place anywhere. It’s about what happens to the public interest when billionaires collide, and when newsrooms are bullied into suppressing coverage by people with great mountains of money and battalions of lawyers. And it speaks to a deepening crisis for the free press, which has been comprehensively betrayed in Aspen.

ny times logoNew York Times, Watson Suspended for 11 Games and Fined $5 Million in Sexual Misconduct Case, Jenny Vrentas and Ken Belson, Aug. 18, 2022. The N.F.L. initially sought a yearlong suspension of Deshaun Watson, the Cleveland Browns quarterback, who was accused of misconduct by over two dozen women.

Deshaun Watson, the Cleveland Browns quarterback, agreed to be suspended for 11 games and pay a record $5 million fine after the N.F.L. appealed what many thought was a lenient six-game suspension for accusations by more than two dozen women of sexual misconduct in massage appointments.

nfl logo croppedThe league announced Thursday that Watson must undergo evaluation by behavioral experts, followed by a treatment program. The fine, as well as an additional $1 million each from the league and the Browns, will be donated to groups that work to prevent sexual assault.

The agreed upon penalties, among the most severe in league history, come as the N.F.L. has faced heightened scrutiny over its treatment of women and after backlash to the initial suspension handed down by an arbitrator earlier this month, which some said wasn’t harsh enough to deter others and did not address the scope of accusations against Watson.

  • New York Times, Big Ten Signs Record TV Deal for College Conference, Alan Blinder and Kevin Draper, Aug. 18, 2022. The agreement, worth more than $1 billion a year, is split between Fox, NBC and CBS, and is the richest annual deal for any college sports league.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Anne Frank adaptation, 40 more books pulled from Texas school district, María Luisa Paúl, Aug. 18, 2022. Book challenges are nothing new, but they’ve feverishly ramped up over the past year, as a growing movement on the right embraces them as a political talking point.

An April report from PEN America, a free speech advocacy organization, found 1,586 books were banned in 86 school districts from July 2021 to March 2022, affecting over 2 million students. Texas — where a legislator distributed a watch list of 850 books last year — ranked above the 25 other states that have bans, with 713 book bans, according to the report.

 

Sacheen Littlefeather, shown at the 1973 Academy Awards (Globe photos via Zuma Press).

Sacheen Littlefeather, shown at the 1973 Academy Awards (Globe photos via Zuma Press).

washington post logoWashington Post, Academy apologizes to Native American woman who declined Brando’s Oscar, Julian Mark, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). Sacheen Littlefeather declined the best actor award on Marlon Brando’s behalf in 1973 and gave a speech about the mistreatment of Native people.

The year was 1973. The venue: the Oscars. Marlon Brando had just been named best actor for his portrayal of Vito Corleone in “The Godfather.” But he did not walk onstage to accept the award.

Instead, a 26-year-old woman wearing moccasins and a Native American buckskin dress strode up the steps. After waving away the golden Oscar statuette, she introduced herself as Sacheen Littlefeather, an Apache, and said Brando was refusing the award.

“And the reasons for this being, are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry,” she said to a mixture of applause and boos from the audience, adding that the poor treatment extended to television, as well as a tense standoff at Wounded Knee in South Dakota.

She distinctly recalled seeing mouths agape while looking out at the mostly White audience. John Wayne was ready to rush the stage but was held back by security staffers, she said in a recent interview, published in A.Frame. And at Brando’s home after the ceremony, Littlefeather claimed she was shot at.

washington post logoWashington Post, Syria denies holding U.S. journalist Austin Tice, who was abducted there a decade ago, Sarah Dadouch, Aug. 18, 2022 (print ed.). Syria denied on Wednesday that it is holding missing U.S. journalist Austin Tice, who was abducted in Syria a decade ago at the height of the civil war that has torn apart the country.

Syria FlagIn a statement, the Foreign Ministry addressed President Biden’s claim last week that Tice is being held by the Syrian government, calling it “invalid accusations against the Syrian government of kidnapping or arresting U.S. citizens, among them Austin Tice, a service member in the U.S. Army.” It added that Tice and others had entered illegally.

“Syria emphasizes that any official dialogue or communication with the U.S. government side will only be public and based on the rule of respecting the sovereignty and independence and unity of the Syrian Arab Republic’s land,” the statement said.

It also placed the fault squarely on the U.S. government, saying it had broken the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations when it “not only turned a blind eye but encouraged tens of U.S. citizens to travel to Syria and enter its lands illegally and without permission from its government, through nonofficial border crossings or by sneaking into areas that are controlled by terrorist armed groups.”
Freelance journalist Austin Tice. (Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service/Getty Images)

austin tice CustomTice, left, was abducted in Damascus on Aug. 14, 2012, just days after his 31st birthday. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps and later became a journalist covering Syria, including for The Washington Post.

“We know with certainty that he has been held by the Syrian regime,” Biden said in a statement on Aug. 10. “We have repeatedly asked the government of Syria to work with us so that we can bring Austin home.”

In early May, Biden met with Tice’s parents, Marc and Debra, and promised to work on securing his release.

“The Tice family deserves answers, and more importantly, they deserve to be swiftly reunited with Austin,” Biden said. “We stand with Austin’s many loved ones, and we will not rest until we bring Austin home. Ten years is far, far too long. So is every additional day.”

Tice was last seen in a video posted on YouTube soon after his disappearance showing him blindfolded and being led through rugged terrain by armed men in white robes.

Tice served as a Marine in Iraq and Afghanistan and then graduated from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He attended the law school there until 2012, when he decided to cover Syria as a freelance journalist.

Journalists covering the conflict without invitation from the Syrian government had to enter the country illegally through Turkey or other neighboring countries. Tice won a Polk Award for his reporting on the war for McClatchy newspapers.

In August 2020, Kash Patel, the U.S. counterterrorism chief, and Roger D. Carstens, the presidential envoy for hostage affairs, traveled to Damascus in the first contacts between the two governments in 10 years. They brought up Tice, but Syrian media said officials refused to discuss the case until the United States agreed to discuss its withdrawal from the country.

washington post logoWashington Post, Vance, DeSantis rally puts ‘highly unusual’ restrictions on press, Jeremy Barr, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). Journalists must agree to give access to their footage to the event organizer, pro-Trump GOP youth group Turning Point Action, and explain how they intend to use it

ron desantis oJournalists hoping to cover a Republican rally featuring Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, right, and Senate candidate J.D. Vance in Ohio will have to agree to give organizers access to any footage they take, and could face questions about what it will be used for.

That is among the controversial restrictions placed on journalists as a condition of receiving a press pass to cover Friday’s event, which is being organized by Turning Point Action, a conservative nonprofit led by activist Charlie Kirk.

The press policy also restricts journalists to specific events and parts of the venue, and bars them from recording speakers who do not wish to be filmed. Turning Point Action has warned that violators could be kicked out of the event.

“These are highly unusual conditions,” according to Monica Nieporte, the president and executive director of the Ohio News Media Association, which represents outlets across the state.

In particular, Nieporte called out organizers’ demand for access to journalists’ footage — something that many newsrooms would consider an attempt to meddle with coverage. “We do not agree that the Unite & Win Rally has any standing to be asking for blanket access to the content that is created by journalists in exchange for permission to cover their event,” she told The Washington Post. “The journalists work for their media outlet and not for the Vance campaign. Their content is owned by their employer.”

She said her group has not been asked by member organizations to fight the restrictions, but she warned: “We strongly discourage our members from agreeing to any conditions which could lead to their content being censored or altered by a third party not affiliated with their media outlet.”

Kirstin McCudden, vice president of editorial for the Freedom of the Press Foundation, said Turning Point Action’s demand that journalists explain and provide access to their footage “runs contrary to the role of the media as objective watchdogs” — though she said it’s becoming more common as a way to shield politicians from the press.

“Unfortunately, it’s the public electorate that loses when journalists can’t freely cover candidates,” McCudden added.

Andrew Kolvet, a spokesperson for Turning Point Action, said the press pass preconditions “protect the organization from being taken advantage of by organizations or companies — usually non-traditional press — that don’t intend to report on the event at all, but rather want to monetize raw footage/pics. These policies also maintain guest and speaker privacy in green rooms, backstage, etc., and protect our underage attendees.”

“That said,” he added, “we frequently [waive] certain clauses for legitimate press outlets that are covering the event in good faith, as we’ve offered to do with Washington Post reporters for the very events in question.”

The restrictions were met with outrage on social media from some journalists who cover Ohio and national news.

Politico, Saudi golf venture LIV quietly enlisted the help of a global PR titan, Hailey Fuchs and Daniel Lippman, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). An Edelman subsidiary wrapped up a contract with the highly-criticized venture earlier this year. The project was never filed with the Justice Department.

The arrangement illustrates the degree to which LIV Golf has been able to lean on establishment institutions and professionals even amid a controversial rollout of a tour that has roiled professional golf and captured lawmakers’ attention in Washington.

politico CustomAs the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tournament prepared for its launch this year, it quietly contracted the public relations giant Edelman for help.

The relationship, which ended in March, was never filed with the Department of Justice under foreign lobbying rules.

Another reason it never surfaced was because it was done through subsidiaries. United Entertainment Group, a marketing agency under Daniel J. Edelman Holdings, was contracted by golf marketing firm Performance54 to help launch LIV Golf.

The arrangement illustrates the degree to which LIV Golf has been able to lean on establishment institutions and professionals even amid a controversial rollout of a tour that has roiled professional golf and captured lawmakers’ attention in Washington. Ari Fleischer, who was press secretary in the Bush White House, has done public relations work for LIV, and former President Donald Trump has offered his own endorsement of the tour — by holding an event at his Bedminster, N.J., golf club in late July. Trump National Doral will also host the tour in October.

liv golf logoIn recent months, the tour has created a schism in the golf world, as a number of major PGA players have decamped for LIV Golf, enticed by hefty prize money and other perks. It also has faced a barrage of allegations of “sportwashing,” or using sports to boost one’s reputation, amid a wave of criticism over its human rights record. In July, months after the Edelman work ended, the National Press Club explicitly called on public relations firms to reject Saudi “blood money” and abstain from accepting a contract with LIV Golf.

Edelman, one of the country’s largest PR firms, has worked in the past for the PGA Tour, which declined to comment for this story.

According to Department of Justice records, Edelman did not register as an agent for LIV Golf under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires certain disclosures for those entities and individuals doing public relations for a foreign principal. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) has called for the DOJ to investigate LIV Golf and potential FARA violations around the tour.

In a statement, Kate Meissner, an Edelman spokesperson, said the firm does not currently have a relationship with LIV Golf. However, she confirmed that United Entertainment Group was enlisted by Performance54 for a project last year that has since concluded. Meissner maintained that the project did not fall under FARA requirements.

When asked about the project’s details, she said the firm has “confidentiality commitments with all of our clients and are unable to share specific information.”

Earlier this year, Edelman signed a contract with the Saudi Ministry of Culture, for which the company proposed a PR campaign replete with celebrities and influencers — including actress Priyanka Chopra and DJ Steve Aoki — to sell a positive image of Saudi Arabia. Edelman is also registered to represent the Saudi Data Artificial Intelligence Agency.

In an interview, Bill McCarren, executive director of the National Press Club, emphasized that Edelman did not need the Saudi business and reiterated his group’s call for all PR firms to abstain from working with LIV Golf.

“It suggests that the life and health of journalists is not a major concern for the PR firm,” he said. “It’s pretty obvious that this is an intentional activity to, designed to rehabilitate the Saudi reputation after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.”

U.S. Intelligence confirmed that top Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, were responsible for the 2018 murder and dismemberment of Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist.

Edelman is not the only major public relations firm that has worked for a Saudi golf client.

Hill+Knowlton Strategies, which is registered to represent the Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information, worked as part of the tournament press team for the February 2022 Saudi International tournament, which is not a LIV event. In an email obtained by POLITICO, a Hill+Knowlton employee offered support for travel and accommodation for a reporter to attend.

In recent weeks, controversy around the LIV golf series increased after a number of family members of 9/11 victims urged Trump to cancel the scheduled tournament at his New Jersey golf club. They noted Trump had previously cast blame on Saudi Arabia for the terrorist attacks and that it was “incomprehensible to us that a former president of the United States would cast our loved ones aside for personal financial gain.”
Saudi golf venture LIV quietly enlisted the help of a global PR titan.

ny times logoNew York Times, 10 Years After Disappearing in Syria, Freedom Is Elusive for U.S. Journalist, Raja Abdulrahim, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). There are signs that efforts to free Austin Tice, who disappeared in Syria in 2012 and who the U.S. believes is being held by the Syrian government, are reviving. But his family says the U.S. needs to do more.

Ten years after the American journalist Austin Tice disappeared in Syria as the country descended into a brutal civil war, and was believed to have been held captive by the government of President Bashar al-Assad since, his release still remains elusive.

While one of his employers says that efforts to secure his freedom are picking up steam, his family remains unconvinced that the Biden administration is doing enough to push the Syrian government, partly due to the diplomatic complications stemming from the lack of formal relations between the United States and Syria.

McClatchy, the U.S. newspaper company for which the journalist had been freelancing, among others, said this week that a multinational effort to free Mr. Tice is showing signs of revival and that there had been direct contacts between the U.S. and Syrian governments.

A spokeswoman for McClatchy said Monday that the progress was the culmination of intense activity by the Biden administration and the journalism industry leading up to the 10th anniversary of Mr. Tice’s disappearance. But the company’s chief executive, Tony Hunter, has also said recently that there had not been much movement on the issue since May.

“For McClatchy, this anniversary was an opportunity to shine a light on Austin’s decade-long plight,” said the spokeswoman, Susan Firey. “And, in tandem, to shine a light on the decade-long inaction of three administrations.”

Last week Debra and Marc Tice, the parents of Mr. Tice, who disappeared in August 2012 outside Damascus, wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Post in which they noted the family weddings, graduations and other family get-togethers their son had missed in 10 years of captivity, and urged President Biden to step up diplomatic efforts to free him.

The United States has “engaged extensively” to get Mr. Tice back to the United States, including by directly contacting Syrian officials and working through third parties, according to a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case. However, the official said the Syrian government has not yet agreed to discuss Mr. Tice’s case.

Last week, President Biden said in a statement that his administration has repeatedly asked Syria’s government to work with them to bring Mr. Tice home.

“On the tenth anniversary of his abduction, I am calling on Syria to end this and help us bring him home,” President Biden said in the statement, adding that the United States was certain that the journalist was being held by the Syrian government.

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 Aug. 17

Top Headlines 

President Biden hands Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va) the pen used to sign into law the Inflation Reduction Act (Photo by Demetrius Freeman for The Washington Post).

 

U.S. Public Health, Liabilities

 

U.S. Election Results, Analysis

 

Global Threats, Scandals

 

More On Trump Probes, Reactions, Riots, Supporters

 

Energy, Climate, Environment, Disasters

 

U.S. Economy, Governance

 

More On Ukraine War

 

Political Violence In United States

 

Pandemic, Public Health

 

U.S. Law, Immigration, Crime

jonathan toebbe diana toebbe

 

Anniversary Update: U.S. Afghan Departure

 

More World News, Human Rights Analysis

 

U.S. Forced Birth Laws, Privacy, Freedoms

 

U.S. Media, Education, Sports, Culture

 

Top Stories

 

President Biden hands Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va) the pen used to sign into law the Inflation Reduction Act (Photo by Demetrius Freeman for The Washington Post).

President Biden hands Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va) the pen used to sign into law the Inflation Reduction Act (Photo by Demetrius Freeman for The Washington Post).

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden signs sweeping bill to tackle climate change, lower health-care costs, Amy B Wang, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). President Biden on Tuesday signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act, an ambitious measure that aims to tamp down on inflation, lower prescription drug prices, tackle climate change, reduce the deficit and impose a minimum tax on profits of the largest corporations.

At a bill signing ceremony in the State Dining Room of the White House, Biden praised the legislation as among the most significant measures in the history of the country.

“Let me say from the start: With this law, the American people won and the special interests lost,” Biden said.

His administration had begun amid “a dark time in America,” Biden added, citing the coronavirus pandemic, joblessness and threats to democracy.

“And yet we’ve not wavered, we’ve not flinched and we’ve not given in,” Biden said. “Instead, we’re delivering results for the American people. We didn’t tear down. We built up. We didn’t look back. We look forward. And today — today offers further proof that the soul of America is vibrant, the future of America is bright, and the promise of America is real.”

The House passed the bill Friday in a 220-207 vote, days after the Senate narrowly passed it on a party-line vote, with Vice President Harris serving as the tiebreaker. The bill’s passage marked one of the most successful legislative efforts by congressional Democrats this session, ahead of contentious midterm elections — and also one that seemed increasingly unlikely for about a year and a half.

On Tuesday, Biden said signing the bill into law was something he had looked forward to doing for 18 months. At one point, he glanced at Manchin and quipped, “Joe, I never had a doubt,” to some laughter. After Biden inked his signature — and Schumer proclaimed, “It’s now law!” — the president handed the pen he used to Manchin and shook his hand.

On Tuesday, Schumer personally thanked Manchin “for working hard to get this done,” and credited Biden and the Democratic caucus for their persistence. The president, Schumer added, knew precisely when to step in and when to let negotiations play out.

“I am confident this bill will endure as one of the greatest legislative feats in decades: it will lower costs, create millions of good-paying jobs, and is the boldest climate bill ever,” Schumer said. “Now in normal times, getting these bills done would be a huge achievement, but to do it now, with only 50 Democratic votes in the Senate, over an intransigent Republican minority, is nothing short of amazing.”

To pay for the spending, the bill would raise hundreds of billions in revenue through new tax provisions — the biggest of which will fall on the country’s large corporations. It would also give the badly underfunded Internal Revenue Service its biggest budget increase in its history — a provision House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) criticized as one that would result in “an army of IRS agents to spy on your bank accounts.”

As White House officials have repeatedly said over the last week, Biden emphasized again Tuesday that no one making under $400,000 a year would pay “a penny more” in taxes. He also made an implicit pitch for Democrats in November’s midterm elections, noting that no Republicans had voted for the Inflation Reduction Act.

“Let’s be clear: In this historic moment, Democrats sided with the American people and every single Republican in the Congress sided with the special interests,” Biden said. “Every single Republican in Congress voted against lowering prescription drug prices, against lowering health-care costs, against the fair tax system. Every single Republican, every single one, voted against tackling the climate crisis, against lowering our energy costs, against creating good-paying jobs.

  • Washington Post, 5 ways the Inflation Reduction Act could save you money

washington post logoWashington Post, DHS watchdog refuses to recuse himself from missing Jan. 6 texts inquiry, draws fresh rebukes from lawmakers, Maria Sacchetti, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). Watchdog delays misconduct probe with GOP help.

The Department of Homeland Security’s chief watchdog has rejected calls from leading Democratic legislators to recuse himself from the investigation into the erasure of text messages that Secret Service agents exchanged during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, drawing fresh rebukes from lawmakers on Tuesday.

us dhs big eagle logo4Inspector General Joseph Cuffari said in a letter made public Tuesday that he would not share investigative documents or allow his top lieutenants to sit for transcribed interviews before House committees investigating the attack, nor would he provide documents that lawmakers requested.

Cuffari said forcing him to step aside “has no legal basis” and “would upend the very independence that Congress has established for Inspectors General,” according to the letter he sent to House oversight committees on Aug. 8.

The House committees on Homeland Security and Oversight and Reform published his letter Tuesday, along with their response accusing Cuffari of delaying their inquiry into one of the most grievous attacks in U.S. history. Cuffari surprised legislators last month with a letter accusing the Secret Service of erasing text messages from the time of the attack after he had asked for them.

Homeland Security watchdog previously accused of misleading investigators, report says

But committee members soon learned that Cuffari and his staff had known about the missing messages for months, failed to notify Congress or the Homeland Security secretary and canceled steps to retrieve them. Lawmakers said the messages could contain crucial evidence because Secret Service agents shadow presidents and other top officials and may have witnessed their actions that day.

“Your obstruction of the Committees’ investigations is unacceptable, and your justifications for this noncompliance appear to reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of Congress’s authority and your duties as an Inspector General,” Reps. Carolyn B. Maloney, chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Bennie G. Thompson, chair of the Jan. 6 committee and the House Committee on Homeland Security, wrote to Cuffari Tuesday.

“If you continue to refuse to comply with our requests, we will have no choice but to consider alternate measures to ensure your compliance,” they wrote.

The committees would not elaborate on what those steps might be, a spokeswoman said.

Ahead of the Jan. 6 committee's next hearing, members asked the Secret Service agency to turn over reportedly deleted text messages from joseph cuffarithe Capitol attack. (Video: The Washington Post)

Cuffari, right, was nominated by former president Donald Trump, whose supporters stormed the Capitol in a failed attempt to overthrow the 2020 presidential election.

The lawmakers said in a letter that Cuffari’s refusal is part of a pattern of resistance to their efforts to delve into complaints about his office. They said they have written to him three times since May to request documents about allegations that his office “censored findings of domestic abuse and sexual harassment” by DHS workers, his failure to promptly notify Congress about the Secret Service missing texts, and new reports that documented his “repeated failures” to recover the messages.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal officials say Colorado River lows will compel unprecedented cuts in water use, Joshua Partlow and Karin Brulliard, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). The Bureau of Reclamation declared that the Lower Colorado River Basin has reached a point where states will be required to make further reductions in water use.

As the historic drought in the U.S. Southwest pushes the nation’s largest reservoirs to record lows, the Biden administration Tuesday announced that water shortages along the Colorado River had passed a threshold for the first time that will require unprecedented water cuts in Arizona and Nevada.

But the federal government left unresolved the looming question of how seven Western states will divide what’s left of the dwindling river in the years ahead. Those states blew past Monday’s deadline, set by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in June, to reach a voluntary agreement on how to reduce water use by 2 million to 4 million acre-feet — up to a third of the river’s annual average flow.

Deputy Interior Secretary Tommy Beaudreau on Tuesday told reporters there was “still time” to find consensus, and Reclamation officials did not say when they might impose their own cuts if no deal is reached.

The announcement underscored both how dire drought conditions have become in the Colorado River basin and the challenge of getting competing states to cut vital water supplies that sustain cities, agriculture and hydropower for millions of people.

The Colorado River’s decline has drained three-quarters of the water from the nation’s largest reservoirs, falling closer than ever to levels where hydroelectric dams can’t generate power and millions will lose access to drinking water and irrigation supplies. By declaring Tuesday that the Lower Colorado River Basin has reached what’s called a “Tier 2” shortage, the bureau is requiring cuts in water use that will diminish what Arizona gets by 21 percent, Nevada by 8 percent and the country of Mexico by 7 percent.

“The system is approaching a tipping point, and without action we cannot protect the system and the millions of Americans who rely on this critical resource,” M. Camille Calimlim Touton, commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, said during a news conference. “Protecting the system means protecting the people of the American West.”

washington post logoWashington Post, She was the only one to survive a lightning strike. She wonders why, Emily Davies, Aug. 17, 2022. Amber Escudero-Kontostathis was among four people hospitalized after a lightning strike in Lafayette Square this month. The other three died.

amber escudero kontostathis family photoWhen Amber Escudero-Kontostathis, shown at right in a family photo, regained consciousness days after she was struck by lightning, she had a bad feeling that there were other victims.

So the 28-year-old grabbed the iPad beside her hospital bed and typed “Lightning Strike D.C.” into a Google search. She saw headlines that three people had died, and one person had survived during a storm near the White House. But it wasn’t until she saw two familiar faces in pictures that she grew distressed.

“I just remember reading an article and being like, ‘There is no way,’ ” she said in an interview Tuesday with The Washington Post. “But then I looked at photos of the older couple.”

Officials say Escudero-Kontostathis had ended up huddled with the couple — Donna Mueller, 75, and James Mueller, 76 — and 29-year-old Brooks A. Lambertson, a bank official in town from Los Angeles, as a storm rolled in on Aug. 4. But Escudero-Kontostathis said her last memory was talking with the Muellers, who were in D.C. to celebrate their 56th wedding anniversary, earlier that day.

Strangers huddled together under a tree. Then lightning struck.

Escudero-Kontostathis approached them as part of her work with the International Rescue Committee, canvassing the area for donations to help refugees in Ukraine. They bonded over the Muellers’ home state of Wisconsin, where Escudero-Kontostathis had recently traveled for a family reunion, and the joys of visiting the Green Bay Packers stadium, Escudero-Kontostathis recalled.

She recommended that they check out the National Museum of African American History and Culture and Planet Word while in D.C.

The next thing she knew, Escudero-Kontostathis said, she was lying in a hospital bed, with IVs puncturing her body. A picture of the Muellers was now flashing on her iPad. They were killed, the article said. Somehow, she was still alive.

 

U.S. Public Health, Liabilities

ny times logoNew York Times, CVS, Walgreens and Walmart Must Pay $650.5 Million in Ohio Opioids Case, Jan Hoffman, Aug. 17, 2022. The pharmacy chains were ordered to bear partial responsibility for the crisis, in the first ruling by a federal judge to assign a firm figure against them. The move followed a November verdict that found the companies continued to sell prescription painkillers while ignoring flagrant signs of abuse.

cvs logoA federal judge on Wednesday ordered three of the nation’s largest pharmacy chains — CVS, Walgreens and Walmart — to pay $650.5 million to two Ohio counties, ruling that the companies must be held accountable for their part in fueling the opioid epidemic.

The decision is a companion piece to a November jury verdict that found the companies had continued to dispense mass quantities of prescription painkillers over the years while ignoring flagrant signs that the pills were being abused.

walmart logoThe ruling is the first by a federal judge that assigns a firm money figure against the pharmacy chains for their roles in the opioid crisis. Here, the judge, Dan A. Polster of United States District Court in northern Ohio, who has overseen more than 3,000 cases in the opioid litigation, ruled that the pharmacies bore responsibility for one-third of the amount that Ohio’s hard-hit Lake and Trumbull counties need to address the continuing damage wrought by the epidemic.

Drug manufacturers and drug distributors, two other groups in the pharmaceutical chain that have been sued, also bear responsibility, he said.

Mark Lanier, the Texas lawyer who led the plaintiffs’ trial team, said of the pharmacy chains: “These companies are rending the fabric of society apart. They should not only show remorse, they should show they need to rectify what they’ve done. And they won’t do it. So the judge is doing it.”

Representatives for CVS, Walgreens and Walmart expressed their disappointment in Judge Polster’s ruling and said their companies would appeal. Fraser Engerman, a spokesman for Walgreens, described the judge’s analysis as flawed, and said the company would appeal. “We never manufactured or marketed opioids nor did we distribute them to the ‘pill mills’ and internet pharmacies that fueled this crisis,” he said.

Michael DeAngelis, a CVS spokesman, also said the company would appeal, adding, “Pharmacists fill legal prescriptions written by D.E.A.-licensed doctors who prescribe legal, F.D.A.-approved substances to treat actual patients in need.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Citing C.D.C.’s Botched Covid Response, Director Calls for Reorganization, Sharon LaFraniere, Aug. 17, 2022. Among other flaws, the public guidance during the coronavirus pandemic was “confusing and overwhelming,” the agency said.

rochelle walensky 2Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, left, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Wednesday delivered a sweeping rebuke of her agency’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, saying it had failed to respond quickly enough and cdc logo Customneeded to be overhauled.

In a meeting with senior staff, Dr. Walensky outlined in broad terms a plan to reorganize the agency’s structure to prioritize public health needs and efforts to curb continuing outbreaks, and to put less emphasis on publication of scientific papers about rare diseases.

The steps announced on Wednesday grew out of an external review Dr. Walensky had ordered in April, after months of scathing criticism of the C.D.C.’s response to the pandemic. Its public messages on masking and other mitigation measures were sometimes so confusing or abruptly modified that they seemed more like internal drafts than carefully considered proclamations.

ny times logoNew York Times, Prosecutors Struggle to Catch Up to a Tidal Wave of Pandemic Fraud, David A. Fahrenthold, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). Investigators say there was so much fraud in federal Covid-relief programs that — even after two years of work and hundreds of prosecutions — they’re still just getting started.

In the midst of the pandemic the government gave unemployment benefits to the incarcerated, the imaginary and the dead. It sent money to “farms” that turned out to be front yards. It paid people who were on the government’s “Do Not Pay List.” It gave loans to 342 people who said their name was “N/A.”

FBI logoAs the virus shuttered businesses and forced people out of work, the federal government sent a flood of relief money into programs aimed at helping the newly unemployed and boosting the economy. That included $3.1 trillion that former President Donald J. Trump approved in 2020, followed by a $1.9 trillion package signed into law in 2021 by President Biden.

But those dollars came with few strings and minimal oversight. The result: one of the largest frauds in American history, with billions of dollars stolen by thousands of people, including at least one amateur who boasted of his criminal activity on YouTube.

Now, prosecutors are trying to catch up.

There are currently 500 people working on pandemic-fraud cases across the offices of 21 inspectors general, plus investigators from the F.B.I., the Secret Service, the Postal Inspection Service and the Internal Revenue Service.

The federal government has already charged 1,500 people with defrauding pandemic-aid programs, and more than 450 people have been convicted so far. But those figures are dwarfed by the mountain of tips and leads that investigators still have to chase.

Agents in the Labor Department’s inspector general’s office have 39,000 investigations going. About 50 agents in a Small Business Administration office are sorting through two million potentially fraudulent loan applications.

Officials already concede that the sheer number of cases means that some small-dollar thefts may never be prosecuted. Earlier this month, President Biden signed bills extending the statute of limitations for some pandemic-related fraud to 10 years from five, a move aimed at giving the government more time to pursue cases. “My message to those cheats out there is this: You can’t hide. We’re going to find you,” Mr. Biden said during the signing at the White House.

Investigators say they hope the extra time will allow them to ensure that those who defrauded the government are ultimately punished, restoring a deterrent that had vanished in a flood of lies and money.

Trillions of dollars flowed into federal relief programs, with few strings and minimal oversight, resulting in one of the largest frauds in U.S. history. Investigators say there was so much fraud that — even after hundreds of prosecutions — they’re still just getting started.

 

U.S. Election Results, Analysis

 

liz cheney screengrab capitol

ny times logoNew York Times, After Loss, Liz Cheney Begins Difficult Mission of Thwarting Donald Trump, Jonathan Martin. Aug. 17, 2022. Ms. Cheney is clear about her goal, but the path is murky: A presidential run is possible, she said, and she has a new political outfit aimed at Mr. Trump. Liz Cheney is clear about her goal, but the path is murky: A presidential run is possible, she acknowledged, and she has a new political outfit aimed at the former president and his 2020 election lies.

Hours after her landslide loss, Representative Liz Cheney wasted no time Wednesday taking her first steps toward what she says is now her singular goal: blocking Donald J. Trump from returning to power.

Ms. Cheney announced that her newly rebranded political organization, the Great Task, would be dedicated to mobilizing opposition to Mr. Trump. And in an early morning television interview, she for the first time acknowledged what many have suspected: She is “thinking” about running for president in 2024, she said on NBC’s “Today Show,” and would decide in the “coming months.”

Despite the effort to shift quickly from her defeat to her future, Ms. Cheney and her advisers remained vague about precisely how the congresswoman, who lost to a Trump-backed primary challenger by 37 points in Wyoming on Tuesday, planned to build a movement that could thwart a figure with a strong hold on many of his party’s voters and a set of imposing advantages.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Cheney's loss predicated by Trumpist death threats, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 22 books and former Navy intelligence officer, Aug. 17, 2022. Wyoming wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallRepresentative Liz Cheney (R-WY), the co-chair of the House Select Committee on the January 6th insurrection, faced constant death threats from supporters of Donald Trump and his hand-picked opponent to Cheney, Harriet Hageman.

wayne madesen report logoIn a state like Wyoming, where handshaking retail campaigning is a key to electoral success, being forced to host small political events in living rooms proved to be an electoral disaster for Ms. Cheney. Death threats against other Republican and Democratic opponents of Trump have been reported from around the country, a fact that led some Republicans in the House to decide not to seek re-election.

The worst example of such political violence was the January 6th storming by Trump supporters, including neo-Nazis, far-right militias, and Qanon supporters, of the U.S. Capitol during its certification of the 2021 presidential election.

Dozens of insurrectionists said they were intent on executing Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, and the members of the House Democratic "Squad" -- Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Presley.

ny times logoNew York Times, This Democrat Could Become the First Alaska Native in Congress, Jazmine Ulloa, Aug. 17, 2022. Mary Peltola, a former state lawmaker, surprised even some of her own supporters by leading Sarah Palin in a congressional primary. Get midterms news.

For 50 years, Alaska’s lone House seat was held by the same larger-than-life Republican — a sharp-edged congressman with a history of incendiary remarks.

The woman leading the race to replace Representative Don Young after Tuesday’s electoral contests is in many ways his opposite: a Democrat with a reputation for kindness, even to the Republicans she is trying to beat.

On Election Day, Mary Peltola, 48, exchanged well wishes over text with her more famous and more outspoken Republican rival on the ballot, Sarah Palin. The two have been close since they were both expectant mothers working together in Alaska’s Statehouse, Ms. Palin as governor and Ms. Peltola as a lawmaker.

“I think respect is just a fundamental part of getting things done and working through problems,” Ms. Peltola told reporters Tuesday, explaining her approach to campaigning as the first vote tallies rolled in.

Ms. Peltola, 48, was leading Ms. Palin, 58, in unofficial results on Wednesday, a strong showing that thrilled and surprised Democrats eager to see her become the first Alaska Native in Congress and the first woman ever to hold the seat.

ny times logoNew York Times, Liz Cheney, Trump’s Chief Antagonist, Loses House Primary in a Landslide, Jonathan Martin, Blake Hounshell and Emily Cochrane, Updated Aug. 17, 2022. Harriet Hageman, former President Donald J. Trump’s pick, defeated Ms. Cheney, above, in a G.O.P. House primary in Wyoming. In Alaska, Senator Lisa Murkowski and Sarah Palin, and their leading rivals, all advanced in their races.

Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming was resoundingly defeated by Harriet Hageman in her Republican primary on Tuesday, handing Donald J. Trump his most prized trophy yet in his long campaign to purge the Republican Party of his critics.

Ms. Hageman, a lawyer in Cheyenne with little political following before she was lifted by Mr. Trump’s endorsement, trounced Ms. Cheney, the daughter of a former vice president, by more than 30 percentage points, with more than 90 percent of the vote counted.

Former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska and two leading rivals advanced to the November election for Alaska’s open House seat, according to The Associated Press.

lisa murkowski oMary Peltola, a Democrat, and Nick Begich III, a Republican from Alaska’s most prominent Democratic political dynasty, advanced along with Ms. Palin.

Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, right, a centrist Republican seeking a fourth full term in Washington, advanced to the general election along with her chief rival, Kelly Tshibaka, in the state’s Senate primary race, according to The Associated Press.

Ms. Murkowski and Ms. Tshibaka each earned enough votes to advance to the general election in the fall as part of Alaska’s new open primary system. Ms. Murkowski is hoping to fend off a conservative backlash over her vote in the Senate to convict former President Donald J. Trump of inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Cheney’s loss is suddenly an afterthought in the GOP embrace of Trump, Philip Bump, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). Ten days ago, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) was already almost certainly going to lose her reelection bid. There wasn’t a lot of polling in the race, but what there was showed Cheney down by more than 20 points — the sort of margin that disinclines pollsters from spending their money conducting more polls. Cheney’s once-defiant rhetoric about the contest had become tinged with resignation.

republican elephant logoThe contest was not between Cheney and Harriet Hageman, declared the winner on Tuesday night of the Republican nomination for the state’s sole House seat. It was, instead, between Liz Cheney and Donald Trump, and Trump had the upper hand. Cheney’s earnest effort to draw a line between her Republican Party and Trump’s, a line running directly through the Capitol riot, showed that her Republican Party simply didn’t have very many members. Maybe in the suburbs of Virginia, but certainly not in Wyoming.

Lots of things can be identified as the starting point for the road that led to Cheney’s defeat on Tuesday night. I’d offer this one, a news conference from late February 2021 on the eve of Trump’s appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

kevin mccarthyHouse Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), right, was asked if Trump should speak and quickly supported the idea. The period of less than a week during which McCarthy had expressed concern about Trump’s actions surrounding the Capitol riot was no longer even visible in his rearview mirror. It was ancient history — a lost, forgotten civilization.

Then the reporter asked Cheney. As McCarthy awkward fiddled with paper at the microphone, Cheney was blunt: Trump should not play a role in the future of the party.

“On that high note,” McCarthy concluded, “thank you very much.” With unintentional symbolism, he departed in one direction. Cheney left in another.

Over the next 18 months, McCarthy — the embodiment of the establishment’s friendliness to Trump — and Cheney dug into their positions. Cheney backed the creation of a select committee to probe the riot and was named its vice chair. Not through McCarthy’s doing, mind you. He opposed the committee and refused to appoint any Republicans to participate.

In addition to exploring how Trump attempted to retain power after his 2020 loss, Cheney made obvious that one of her desired outcomes was to put obstacles between Trump and any return to the White House. (She said so explicitly in her concession speech.) Most Republicans — even ones who hoped they themselves might defeat Trump in the 2024 primary — either supported Trump over the committee or kept their thoughts to themselves.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Liz Cheney went against the ‘clear’ path. Now she leads an anti-Trump movement, Paul Kane, Aug. 17, 2022. Rep. Liz Cheney had it all two years ago.

She won her 2020 primary with 73 percent of the vote, she was already the No. 3 ranking House GOP leader, and she was well on her way to becoming the first female Republican speaker.

All the Wyoming Republican had to do was keep quiet, like almost all her male GOP colleagues had decided to do.

republican elephant logo“I could easily have done the same again, the path was clear, but it would have required that I go along with President Trump’s lie about the 2020 election,” Cheney told a crowd of about 100 supporters gathered in a valley inside the Teton Mountain range. “It would have required that I enable his ongoing efforts to unravel our democratic system and attack the foundations of our republic.

“That was a path I could not and would not take.”

Cheney used her defiant concession speech Tuesday night, after losing badly in the GOP primary to Trump’s handpicked candidate, to promise a sustained campaign against the ex-president and his allies. She surrendered her rising-star status in Congress in a sacrificial manner toward a higher calling to take on the most powerful figure in her increasingly conspiratorial political party.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: A Cheney presidential run would be a herculean task in a party beyond redemption, Jennifer Rubin, right, Aug. 17, 2022. jennifer rubin new headshotRep. Liz Cheney’s stoicism and even optimism in the face of an electoral drubbing should set an example for all elected officials: There are worse things than losing your job.

As she said Tuesday night after her Republican primary loss, she could have gone along with the “big lie” to keep her House seat. But she declared: “No office in this land is more important than the principles that we are all sworn to protect.” She simply could not join the mob of sniveling Republicans willing to lie to voters and defend an insurrection leader.

Cheney denounced those who still insist that President Biden did not win the 2020 election and staunchly condemned the recent incitement of

Certainly, her work on the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack has laid out a powerful case against Donald Trump’s betrayal of his office and utter unfitness to hold power. When the committee resumes public hearings in September, and when it issues its report, we’ll be able to fully appreciate Cheney’s contribution toward educating those Americans still capable of being educated.

But here is the rub: How can she appeal to voters within a party so deeply in thrall to a delusional and narcissistic habitual liar? If Republicans in the state that knows her best rejected her, her prospects in presidential primaries look remote.

Yet what seems like a quixotic mission might not be, if you consider Cheney’s mind-set. Her highest goal is not keeping or winning office; it is protecting our democracy, rousing the country from its slumber and preventing Trump from again holding office. Her role would be to hammer home Trump’s unfitness for public office and how incompatible the MAGA lie-based, authoritarian movement is with U.S. democracy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Six drastic plans Trump is already promising for a second term, Isaac Arnsdorf, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). The former president’s recent speeches have begun specifying new policies he’d pursue if he returns to the White House, with an emphasis on crime, voting and shrinking the government.

President Donald Trump officialFor the first time since leaving office, former president Donald Trump has started getting specific about what he would do if he wins a second term in the White House.

The pitches he’s made onstage over the past month in speeches from D.C. to Dallas to Las Vegas are a stark contrast from ordinary stump speeches. He promises a break from American history if elected, with a federal government stacked with loyalists and unleashed to harm his perceived enemies.

There has never been a potential candidate like Trump: a defeated former president whose followers attacked the Capitol, who still insists he never lost, and who openly pledges revenge on those he views as having wronged him.

As his 2016 campaign and administration showed time and again, from the border wall to the Muslim ban, he and his aides worked furiously to translate rally slogans into official policy — whether or not there were legal or political barriers to overcome. And if Trump does return to the White House in 2025, this time he will be surrounded by fewer advisers interested in moderating or restraining his impulses.

Instead, his administration would probably be staffed by dedicated loyalists, and would have the advantage of an emboldened conservative majority on the Supreme Court. He and his advisers would also have more experience in how to exert power inside the federal bureaucracy and exploit vulnerabilities in institutions and laws.

Trump has strongly hinted that he wants to run for president again and has been considering an early announcement ahead of the November midterms. Last week’s search of his Mar-a-Lago residence and club added urgency for those of his advisers who favor an early launch, a person with direct knowledge told The Washington Post, but Trump hasn’t committed to a timeline.

A Trump spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

Here are six specific proposals that have recently surfaced in Trump’s speeches — and what each plan might look like if he pursued it from the White House.

  • Execute drug dealers
  • Move homeless people to outlying ‘tent cities’
  • Deploy federal force against crime, unrest and protests
  • Strip job protections for federal workers
  • Eliminate the Education Department
  • Restrict voting to one day using paper ballots

 Recent Headlines

 

Global Threats, Scandals

 

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: U.S. struggled to convince allies, and Zelensky, of risk of invasion, Shane Harris, Karen DeYoung, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Ashley Parker and Liz Sly, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). This account, in previously unreported detail, shines new light on the road to war and the military campaign in Ukraine, drawn from in-depth interviews with dozens of senior U.S., Ukrainian, European and NATO officials.

russian flag wavingOn a sunny October morning, the nation’s top intelligence, military and diplomatic leaders filed into the Oval Office for an urgent meeting with President Biden. They arrived bearing a highly classified intelligence analysis, compiled from newly obtained satellite images, intercepted communications and human sources, that amounted to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war plans for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

For months, Biden administration officials had watched warily as Putin massed tens of thousands of troops and lined up tanks and missiles along Ukraine’s borders. As summer waned, Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, had focused on the increasing volume of intelligence related to Russia and Ukraine. He had set up the Oval Office meeting after his own thinking had gone from uncertainty about Russia’s intentions, to concern he was being too skeptical about the prospects of military action, to alarm.

The session was one of several meetings that officials had about Ukraine that autumn — sometimes gathering in smaller groups — but was notable for the detailed intelligence picture that was presented. Biden and Vice President Harris took their places in armchairs before the fireplace, while Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, joined the directors of national intelligence and the CIA on sofas around the coffee table.

Tasked by Sullivan with putting together a comprehensive overview of Russia’s intentions, they told Biden that the intelligence on Putin’s operational plans, added to ongoing deployments along the border with Ukraine, showed that all the pieces were now in place for a massive assault.

The U.S. intelligence community had penetrated multiple points of Russia’s political leadership, spying apparatus and military, from senior levels to the front lines, according to U.S. officials.

Much more radical than Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and instigation of a separatist movement in eastern Ukraine, Putin’s war plans envisioned a takeover of most of the country.

Using mounted maps on easels in front of the Resolute Desk, Milley showed Russian troop positions and the Ukrainian terrain they intended to conquer. It was a plan of staggering audacity, one that could pose a direct threat to NATO’s eastern flank, or even destroy the post-World War II security architecture of Europe.

As he absorbed the briefing, Biden, who had taken office promising to keep the country out of new wars, was determined that Putin must either be deterred or confronted, and that the United States must not act alone. Yet NATO was far from unified on how to deal with Moscow, and U.S. credibility was weak. After a disastrous occupation of Iraq, the chaos that followed the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and four years of President Donald Trump seeking to undermine the alliance, it was far from certain that Biden could effectively lead a Western response to an expansionist Russia.

Ukraine was a troubled former Soviet republic with a history of corruption, and the U.S. and allied answer to earlier Russian aggression there had been uncertain and divided. When the invasion came, the Ukrainians would need significant new weaponry to defend themselves. Too little could guarantee a Russian victory. But too much might provoke a direct NATO conflict with nuclear-armed Russia.

This account, in previously unreported detail, shines new light on the uphill climb to restore U.S. credibility, the attempt to balance secrecy around intelligence with the need to persuade others of its truth, and the challenge of determining how the world’s most powerful military alliance would help a less-than-perfect democracy on Russia’s border defy an attack without NATO firing a shot.

The first in a series of articles examining the road to war and the military campaign in Ukraine, it is drawn from in-depth interviews with more than three dozen senior U.S., Ukrainian, European and NATO officials about a global crisis whose end is yet to be determined. Some spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence and internal deliberations.

The Kremlin did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

ny times logoNew York Times, In England, Ukrainian Recruits Are Training for Frontline Battles, Cora Engelbrecht Aug. 17, 2022. British military instructors are training around 10,000 Ukrainian Army recruits and staff before they head into the fight back home.

Ukrainian recruits waged a mock battle directed by British commanders on Monday in southeast England at a training village designed to resemble the scenes of battle unfolding on the front lines of Ukraine more than a thousand miles away.

A British commander, flanked by a Ukrainian interpreter, shouted orders. Ukrainian conscripts, in camouflage fatigues, traversed a street strewn with grenade canisters, burning debris and overturned cars. A “wounded” man was brought out on a stretcher, moaning.

At the village in Kent, the battles were pretend, but for these soldiers, real ones were probably only weeks away.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Inside Ukraine’s captured nuclear plant, explosions and constant fear, Loveday Morris, Ievgeniia Sivorka and John Hudson, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). Workers from the Zaporizhzhia facility describe disappearances at the hands of Russian soldiers and fear of nuclear catastrophe.

There’s no warning when incoming fire slams into the grounds of Europe’s largest nuclear plant, sending workers scrambling for cover.

“It’s kaboom — then everybody runs,” said one employee, messaging from Enerhodar, the Russian-held town on the banks of the Dnieper River that is home to Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.

Another employee, who sometimes works suspended off the ground to service equipment, said the vibrations are often so strong from outgoing Russian artillery fire that managers make him stop working.

The workers were among six from the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant who spoke to The Washington Post, describing the daily terror of working at the nuclear facility that Russia has used as a shield for its attacks in recent weeks.

Five of them had fled to Ukrainian territory in recent days and weeks as engineers and operational staff members join columns of cars leaving, adding worker shortages to a long list of concerns about the plant’s functioning.

Their accounts provide a window on the deteriorating security situation at the plant, which has triggered global concerns about the potential for a nuclear catastrophe. Some Ukrainian officials say stirring panic could be precisely Moscow’s aim, in the hope that international pressure will force Kyiv to make territorial concessions. Others say they fear Russia is laying the groundwork for a “false flag” attack it will blame on Ukrainian forces.

washington post logoWashington Post, A U.S.-Russia nuclear war could starve 5 billion to death, study says, Marina Lopes, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). Some two-thirds of the world could starve to death in the event of a nuclear war between Russia and the United States, according to a Rutgers University-led study published Monday. Nuclear conflict would lead to “catastrophic” disruptions in food supplies, as sun-blocking soot and ash wilt crops around the world, researchers wrote in the peer-reviewed study published in the journal Nature Food.

Even a smaller-scale nuclear war between Pakistan and India would devastate food supplies, slash global production by 7 percent within five years and kill up to 2.5 billion people. Food insecurity in these cases would be deadlier than the nuclear blasts, the study predicts.

“The data tell us one thing: We must prevent a nuclear war from ever happening,” climate scientist Alan Robock, co-author of the study, said in a statement.

The researchers examined how wind patterns could spread smoke and fire from nuclear attacks and cloud skies above major food exporters such as the United States and China. The lack of sunlight would collapse harvests and could lead to a 90 percent drop in animal, fishing and crop yields worldwide within four years of a conflict between major nuclear powers.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and stepped-up Chinese military drills near Taiwan have renewed fears of nuclear conflict. After war broke out in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his nuclear forces were “combat ready,” stoking fears of possible nuclear conflict with the West 30 years after the end of the Cold War. (Russian officials later attempted to soften Putin’s warning.)

China has conducted numerous drills around Taiwan following recent trips by U.S. lawmakers to the island, which Beijing claims as its territory. Instability in the Taiwan Strait comes as Western experts warn that Beijing is accelerating a buildup of its nuclear arsenal.

washington post logoWashington Post, Former Australian PM criticized for secretly taking five cabinet jobs, Adela Suliman, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). It has emerged that the scott morrison 2016former prime minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, right, took up five other ministerial positions while he was in power, unbeknown to the Australian public and many of his colleagues — prompting outrage in the country and online.

“This has been government by deception,” Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, left, told reporters on Tuesday. He accused his predecessor of “trashing democracy” by taking on multiple government jobs and not informing the public.

anthony albaneseMorrison, who is still a lawmaker but was replaced as prime minister during an election in May, was appointed as minister of health, finance, home affairs, treasury and industry between March 2020 and May 2021, Albanese said. These were all significant cabinet roles, which already had ministers in place — and Morrison gained extensive additional powers by being sworn in as a minister for those departments.

Some of Morrison’s colleagues have expressed outrage and surprise stating they had no idea they were sharing their jobs with their boss.

australian flag wavingAlbanese said Morrison’s secret appointments had been revealed following an investigation, and that it was not clear whether Morrison retained his positions until he was voted out earlier this year.

“It is completely extraordinary that these appointments were kept secret by the Morrison government from the Australian people,” Albanese said.

 

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).

ny times logoNew York Times, Former President Trump is facing several active investigations. We break them down here, Staff Reports, Aug. 17, 2022. Former President Donald J. Trump’s legal jeopardy appeared to intensify significantly when federal agents issued a search warrant for his Florida club and home as part of an investigation into his handling of classified material.

But the active investigation is one of several into the former president’s business dealings and political activities.

Here are some of the most notable cases:

  • Classified documents inquiry
  • Georgia election interference case
  • Jan. 6 investigations
  • New York State civil inquiry
  • Manhattan criminal case

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump is rushing to hire seasoned lawyers — but he keeps hearing ‘No,’ Isaac Arnsdorf, Josh Dawsey, Carol D. Leonnig, Jacqueline Alemany and Rosalind S. Helderman, Aug. 17, 2022. The former president’s current legal team includes a Florida insurance lawyer who’s never had a federal case, a past general counsel for a parking garage company and a former host at far-right One America News.

Former president Donald Trump and close aides have spent the eight days since the FBI searched his Florida home rushing to assemble a team of respected defense lawyers. But the answer they keep hearing is “no.”

The struggle to find expert legal advice puts Trump in a bind as he faces potential criminal exposure from a records dispute with the National Archives that escalated into a federal investigation into possible violations of the Espionage Act and other statutes.

“Everyone is saying no,” said a prominent Republican lawyer, who like some others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential conversations.

Trump is no stranger to legal proceedings, and his scramble to hire lawyers in the face of an ominous federal probe recalls his predicament in the summer of 2017, when he was under scrutiny from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III in the Russia probe. Once again, Trump is struggling to find a veteran criminal defense lawyer with a strong track record of dealing with the Justice Department in a sprawling, multipronged investigation.

Longtime confidants and advisers of Trump have grown extremely worried about Trump’s current stable of lawyers, noting that most of them have little to no experience in cases of this type, according to two people familiar with the internal discussions.

ny times logoNew York Times, Plea Deal Requires Weisselberg to Testify at Trump Organization Trial, Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum and Jonah E. Bromwich, Aug. 17, 2022. Allen Weisselberg, the company’s longtime chief financial officer, is expected to plead guilty to a long-running tax scheme and to take the stand.

Allen H. Weisselberg, for decades one of Donald J. Trump’s most trusted executives, has reached a deal to plead guilty on Thursday and admit to participating in a long-running tax scheme at the former president’s family business — a serious blow to the company that could heighten its risk in an upcoming trial on related charges.

Mr. Weisselberg will have to admit to all 15 felonies that prosecutors in the Manhattan district attorney’s office accused him of, according to people with knowledge of the matter. And if he is called as a witness at the company’s trial in October, he will have to testify about his role in the scheme to avoid paying taxes on lavish corporate perks, the people said.

But Mr. Weisselberg will not implicate Mr. Trump or his family if he takes the stand in that trial, the people said, and he has refused to cooperate with prosecutors in their broader investigation into Mr. Trump, who has not been accused of wrongdoing.

Even so, his potential testimony will put the Trump Organization at a disadvantage and is likely to make Mr. Weisselberg a central witness at the October trial, where the company will face many of the same charges.

On cross-examination, the Trump Organization’s lawyers could accuse Mr. Weisselberg of pleading guilty only to spare himself a harsher sentence; under the terms of the plea deal, Mr. Weisselberg, who was facing up to 15 years in prison, will spend as little as 100 days behind bars. They might also argue that it would be unfair to hold the Trump Organization accountable for a crime that was not committed by the Trump family, who control the company.

But Mr. Weisselberg’s testimony — an acknowledgment from one of the Trump Organization’s top executives that he committed the crimes listed in the indictment — would undercut any effort by the company’s lawyers to contend that no crime was committed.

The indictment placed Mr. Weisselberg at the center of a conspiracy that prosecutors said allowed him to avoid paying taxes on leased Mercedes-Benzes, an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and private school tuition for his grandchildren.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jan. 6 Grand Jury Has Subpoenaed White House Documents, Alan Feuer, Maggie Haberman and Luke Broadwater, Aug. 17, 2022. The subpoena, issued in May to the National Archives, demanded all documents the agency had provided to the House committee’s parallel investigation.

Federal prosecutors investigating the role that former President Donald J. Trump and his allies played in the events leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol have issued a grand jury subpoena to the National Archives for all the documents the agency provided to a parallel House select committee inquiry, according to a copy of the subpoena obtained by The New York Times.

The subpoena, issued to the National Archives in May, made a sweeping demand for “all materials, in whatever form” that the archives had given to the Jan. 6 House committee. Those materials included records from the files of Mr. Trump’s top aides, his daily schedule and phone logs and a draft text of the president’s speech that preceded the riot.

It was signed by Thomas P. Windom, the federal prosecutor who has been leading the Justice Department’s wide-ranging inquiry into what part Mr. Trump and his allies may have played in various schemes to maintain power after the former president’s defeat in the 2020 election — chief among them a plan to submit fake slates of pro-Trump electors in states actually won by Joseph R. Biden Jr.

The subpoena was not related to a separate investigation into Mr. Trump’s retention and handling of classified documents that were removed from the White House at the end of his tenure and taken to Mar-a-Lago, his private club and residence in Palm Beach, Fla. That inquiry led this month to a court-approved search of Mar-a-Lago during which federal agents carted off several boxes of sensitive materials.

Asking the National Archives for any White House documents pertaining to the events surrounding Jan. 6 was one of the first major steps the House panel took in its investigation. And the grand jury subpoena suggests that the Justice Department has not only been following the committee’s lead in pursuing its inquiry, but also that prosecutors believe evidence of a crime may exist in the White House documents the archives turned over to the House panel.

ny times logoNew York Times, Former Vice President Mike Pence called on Republicans to stop assailing the F.B.I. after the Mar-a-Lago search, Alan Feuer and Luke Broadwater, Aug. 17, 2022. Former Vice President Mike Pence also said he would consider talking to the Jan. 6 committee if he were “summoned to testify.”

mike pence oFormer Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday called on Republicans to stop attacking the nation’s top law enforcement agencies over the F.B.I.’s search of Mar-a-Lago, former President Donald J. Trump’s Palm Beach, Fla., home.

Congressional Republicans, including members of leadership, have reacted with fury to the Aug. 8 search, which is part of an investigation into Mr. Trump’s handling of classified material. Some lawmakers have called to “defund” or “destroy” the F.B.I., even as more moderate voices have chastised their colleagues for their rhetoric.

Speaking at a political event in New Hampshire, Mr. Pence said that Republicans could hold the Justice Department and the F.B.I. accountable for their decisions “without attacking the rank-and-file law enforcement personnel.”

Politico, DOJ says release of Mar-a-Lago affidavit would harm ongoing criminal probe, Kyle Cheney, Aug. 16, 2022 (print ed.). The Justice Department intends to unseal additional documents connected to the FBI search at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate but is urging a federal court to maintain the secrecy of the sworn affidavit describing the basis for the search.

politico CustomThe DOJ is particularly concerned that the release of details from the affidavit might harm ongoing efforts to interview witnesses, given the threats to federal agents in wake of the Mar-a-Lago search.

“If disclosed, the affidavit would serve as a roadmap to the government’s ongoing investigation, providing specific details about its direction and likely course, in a manner that is highly likely to compromise future investigative steps,” U.S. Attorney Juan Gonzalez and Justice Department counterintelligence chief Jay Bratt said in a filing urging the continued secrecy of the affidavit.

“The fact that this investigation implicates highly classified materials further underscores the need to protect the integrity of the investigation and exacerbates the potential for harm if information is disclosed to the public prematurely or improperly,” the DOJ officials wrote.

Justice Department log circularInstead, DOJ is urging the court to unseal a redacted document that includes additional filings connected to the search warrant, including a cover sheet, DOJ’s motion to seal the warrant on Aug. 5 and the judge’s sealing order issued the same day.

Among DOJ’s concerns about releasing the underlying information is that witnesses might stop cooperating, particularly “given the high-profile nature of this matter.”

“Disclosure of the government’s affidavit at this stage would also likely chill future cooperation by witnesses whose assistance may be sought as this investigation progresses, as well as in other high-profile investigations,” Gonzalez and Bratt say, adding “This is not merely a hypothetical concern, given the widely reported threats made against law enforcement personnel in the wake of the August 8 search.”

Throughout the filing, DOJ makes references to its ongoing criminal investigation connected to the search — a probe that last week’s release of the search warrant revealed to include potential crimes related to the mishandling of classified materials and presidential records, as well as obstruction of Justice. Revealing the affidavit, DOJ noted Monday, would jeopardize that probe.

“Here, the government has a compelling, overriding interest in preserving the integrity of an ongoing criminal investigation,” the DOJ officials argued.

The filing cites news reports about an uptick in threats against FBI agents as well as an attack by an armed man against an FBI building in Cincinnati last week.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Walker, Pollard, Hanssen, Trump . . . America's most traitorous spies, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 22 books, former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst, Aug. 15-16, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2022. Donald Trump, with his affectation for Eastern European models during the Cold War, should have registered with the FBI early on as a potential spy for America's enemies.

wayne madesen report logoCzechoslovak State Security (ŠtB) certainly believed that to be the case when they tripled their efforts to ensure that their two assets, Ivana Zelníčková and her father, Miloš Zelníček, applied a full-court press on Trump beginning in 1976 when Ivana first met Trump.

A year later, ŠtB asset Ivana Zelníčková married Trump. The first Mrs. Trump and Warsaw Pact intelligence asset worked her way into top-level executive jobs in the Trump Organization, including president of the Trump Castle Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, later becoming the manager of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. These positions and her marriage to Donald Trump gave Ivana, and the ŠtB and, by default, the Soviet KGB, important access to the movers and shakers of American politics, business, and media.

Ivana Trump, the mother of Donald Trump, Jr., Eric, and Ivanka, would continue to have access to her ex-husband and his business and political operations long after their divorce in 1992. These benefits included her use of Mar-a-Lago for one month a year pursuant to her divorce settlement with Donald.

[Documentation here.]

Since Trump's circle of acquaintances over the years has included notorious spies and sex blackmailers, where does that place Trump in the world of espionage against the United States? We know that Trump has stolen the nation's most sensitive secrets, but for how long has this gone on?

washington post logoWashington Post, Damning new Pence leaks reveal a big truth about Trump — and the GOP, Greg Sargent, right, Aug. 16, 2022. Throughout the greg sargentsordid saga of Donald Trump’s post-presidency, Mike Pence has shown Republicans another way. By defending his refusal to subvert the 2020 election results, Pence has illustrated — in the face of Trump’s fury — that you can prioritize constitutional governance above loyalty to Trump and still call yourself a Republican.

Something similar may be unfolding with the scandal surrounding government documents that Trump improperly — and possibly illegally — had at his Mar-a-Lago resort, where federal agents searched the premises last week.

Pence allies are now quietly drawing attention to sharp differences in how the men handled their documents as Trump’s presidency ended. Sources tell the New York Times that Pence aides scrupulously followed protocol in organizing his government papers — a contrast obviously intended to reflect badly on Trump.

This disparity captures something essential about this situation. Pence is demonstrating that Republicans should want to handle documents responsibly, that maybe Trump’s conduct in this regard might have been — gasp! — less than perfect. That’s not a position many Republicans dare to articulate.

The Times quotes numerous sources blaming Mark Meadows for failing to oversee the handling of Trump’s documents, effectively throwing the former White House chief of staff under the bus. The Times then adds this contrast with Pence:

As Mr. Trump sought to hold on to power, two of Mr. Pence’s senior aides — Marc Short, his chief of staff, and Greg Jacob, his counsel — indexed and boxed all of his government papers, according to three former officials with knowledge of the work.
Mr. Jacob spent the bulk of his final few days in government preparing the final boxes, with the goal of ensuring that Mr. Pence left office without a single paper that did not belong to him, one of the officials said.

It’s hard to imagine these points being made without at least tacit awareness on Pence’s part. So after Trump’s endless abuse, Pence allies might be slipping in the shiv at a vulnerable moment. (Also recall that Jacob revealed damning details to the Jan. 6 select committee about Trump’s pressure on Pence to steal the election.)

Proof, Investigative Commentary: Donald Trump’s January 6 Coup Plot Infiltrated the Pentagon, Seth Abramson, left, Aug. 14-16, 2022. It’s no longer seth abramson graphicpossible to look away from a simple fact: the civilian leadership at the Pentagon under former president Trump is now implicated seth abramson proof logoin his coup conspiracy—and Congress must investigate it.

Note: This 250-page report on the coup plot at the Pentagon functions as the fourth book in the Proof series, Proof of Coup: How the Pentagon Shaped An Insurrection.

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

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mar a lago aerial Custom

 

U.S. Economy, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Federal Reserve Officials See Inflation Staying ‘Uncomfortably High,’ Ben Casselman, Aug. 17, 2022. Minutes from the Fed’s meeting in July showed officials remained committed to raising rates until inflation cooled meaningfully. Follow updates.

Federal Reserve officials viewed their efforts to tame inflation as beginning to have an effect, according to the minutes of their meeting in July, but they also remained committed to further raising interest rates as prices stay too high for comfort.

federal reserve system CustomFed policymakers in recent months have become increasingly aggressive in their efforts to curb inflation, which this spring hit a four-decade high. In June, the central bank raised its benchmark interest rate three-quarters of a percentage point, the largest increase since 1994. They followed that up with another, equally large rate increase last month.

It is a near certainty that the Fed will raise rates again when central bank officials next meet Sept. 20-21. The question is by how much. Another three-quarter-point increase would be a strong indication that policymakers are determined not to relax their efforts until they see clear evidence that inflation has slowed. A half-point increase, though still large by historical standards, would suggest that the Fed believes it can ease up, if only slightly.

washington post logoWashington Post, The fabulously wealthy are fueling a booming luxury ranch market out West, Karen Heller, Aug. 17, 2022. Moguls are lavishing ever-larger fortunes on ranches out West, prompted in part by the pandemic.

It’s 10 miles down a private road to reach the main lodge situated on 5,000 gasp-inducing acres with a barn, guesthouses and manager’s residence. The property is John Ford-worthy, the territory of myth and dreams, a verdant valley teeming with wildlife under a trio of spectacular 11,000-foot peaks. List price: $71 million.

America remains one of the last countries where so many individuals own colossal swaths of land, some controlling acreage larger than Delaware. The West, a lodestar in the nation’s story, holds an enduring allure for modern land barons. It’s where the notion of American exceptionalism and pioneer masculinity are burnished in myth, movies, television, land acquisition, country music laments and so much truck advertising. A dazzling ranch has become a weekend oasis for rich men — and they’re mostly men — to realize their cowboy dreams.

he nation is home to 735 billionaires (according to Forbes) and plenty of quasi-billionaires, and many of them are buying. (Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos has amassed 420,000 acres in Far West Texas around his Blue Origin suborbital spaceflight company, making him the nation’s 24th largest landowner.) The private plane market is booming, making it easier for the wealthy to travel from one of their places to the others. Many of them like to tour prospective properties by helicopter, rented for $4,600 an hour, billed to the client. In this Gilded Age, titans want to get dirty and dusty and wade hip-deep into a stream. They’re acquiring properties that require two days to traverse by horse.

In 2007, the 100 largest private landowners owned a combined 27 million acres of property. Fourteen years later, they control 42.2 million acres, according to the Land Report, the publication of private land ownership — an increase of 56 percent.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Arizona Republican Party’s Anti-Democracy Experiment, Robert Draper, Aug. 16, 2022 (print ed.). First, it turned against the establishment. Now it has set its sights on democracy — the principles, the process and even the word itself.

arizona mapArizona has become a bellwether for the rest of the nation, and not just because of its new status as a swing state and the first of these to be called for Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

It was and has continued to be the nexus of efforts by former President Donald Trump and his Republican allies to overturn the 2020 election results. At the same time, party figures from Trump down to Rose Sperry have sought to republican elephant logoblacklist every Arizona G.O.P. official who maintained that the election was fairly won — from Gov. Doug Ducey to Rusty Bowers, speaker of the state’s House of Representatives. Such leaders have been condemned as RINOs, or Republicans in name only, today’s equivalent of the McCarthy era’s “fellow travelers.”

The aggressive takeover of the Arizona G.O.P. by its far-right wing was made manifest on primary night earlier this month, when a slate of Trump-endorsed candidates — the gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, the U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters, the state attorney general candidate Abraham Hamadeh and the secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem — all prevailed.

As a group, they maintain that the 2020 election was stolen, have promoted conspiracy theories about Covid and have vowed to protect Arizona’s schools from gender ideology, critical race theory and what McCarthyites denounced 70 years ago as “godless communism.”

They have cast the 2022 election as not just history-defining but potentially civilization-ending. As Lake told a large crowd in downtown Phoenix the night before the primary: “It is not just a battle between Republicans and Democrats. This is a battle between freedom and tyranny, between authoritarianism and liberty and between good and evil.”

A week later, in response to the F.B.I.’s executing a search warrant at Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, Lake posted a statement on Twitter: “These tyrants will stop at nothing to silence the Patriots who are working hard to save America.” She added, “America — dark days lie ahead for us.” Far from offering an outlier’s view, Lake was articulating the dire stance shared by numerous other Republicans on the primary ballot and by the reactionary grass-roots activists who have swept them into power.

Recent Headlines

 

Energy, Climate, Disasters, Environment

 

climate change photo

 

ny times logoNew York Times, Mexico Sees Its Future in Fossil Fuels, Not Renewables, Oscar Lopez, Aug. 17, 2022. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s push to bring the energy sector under state control has left the country’s climate goals behind.

mexico flag1On a recent scorching afternoon in his home state of Tabasco, the president of Mexico celebrated his government’s latest triumph: a new oil refinery.

andrés lópez obrador wThough not yet operational, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, right, hailed the refinery as a centerpiece in his grand campaign to secure Mexico’s energy independence.

“We ignored the sirens’ song, the voices that predicted, in good faith, perhaps, the end of the oil age and the massive arrival of electric cars and renewable energies,” he told the cheering crowd.

At a moment when scientists are sounding alarms about the need to move away from fossil fuels that contribute to catastrophic climate change, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked a global shift in the opposite direction, with the United States and European countries moving to increase oil and gas production to counter bans on Russian energy.

But Mexico is going even further.

Driven by Mr. López Obrador’s long-held goal to wrest control of the energy sector from private companies and allow state firms to dominate the market, the government is undermining efforts to expand renewable power and staking the nation’s future on fossil fuels.

The policy is central to Mr. López Obrador’s ambition to reverse what he sees as corrupt privatization of the industry, guarantee Mexican energy sovereignty and return the country to the glory days when oil created thousands of jobs and helped bolster the economy.On a recent scorching afternoon in his home state of Tabasco, the president of Mexico celebrated his government’s latest triumph: a new oil refinery.

Though not yet operational, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador hailed the refinery as a centerpiece in his grand campaign to secure Mexico’s energy independence.

 Recent Headlines

 

More On Ukraine War

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: Ukrainian officials warned of a buildup of Russian long-range missile systems in Belarus, Marc Santora and Shashank Bengali, Aug. 17, 2022. A top military commander cited the placement of missiles 15 miles from Ukraine’s northern border. The U.N. secretary general arrived in the country for talks with the president and Turkey’s leader aimed at keeping grain exports flowing.

As Russian forces fail to gain ground in eastern Ukraine and fortify defensive positions in the south, Ukrainian officials are warning of a buildup of Russian long-range missile systems to the north, in Belarus, which has served as a key staging ground for Moscow in the war.

Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, the top commander of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, said in a statement on Tuesday that the positioning of Russian missile systems along the Ukrainian border in Belarus “raises concerns.” He specifically cited missiles placed at the Zyabrovka airfield, about 15 miles from the border.

While it is not the first time that Ukrainian officials have warned about a threat from the north, the statement took on added urgency after explosions on Tuesday at a Russian ammunition depot in Crimea, the second Russian military target on the peninsula to be hit by blasts in a week.

Ukraine has not publicly claimed responsibility for the blasts — or the explosions last week at the Saki air base on Crimea — but a senior Ukrainian official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that both had been orchestrated by the military and covert operators.

As Ukraine increasingly strikes Russian targets deep behind the front lines, with the aid of Western weapons, and orchestrates clandestine assaults against Moscow’s supply lines in eastern and southern Ukraine, the buildup in Belarus has served as a reminder that Russian forces still surround Ukraine from three sides. Russia also retains an overwhelming advantage in heavy weapons.

Anton Geraschenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, tweeted on Wednesday that Russia had concentrated “a large number of surface-to-air missile systems” at Zyabrovka, including the S-400, one of Russia’s most advanced antiaircraft weapons.

Yuriy Ihnat, a spokesman for the Air Force Command of Ukraine’s armed forces, also emphasized the threat of a potential Russian attack from Belarus in comments to reporters on Tuesday, while noting that the Ukrainian military regularly observes the movement of Russian troops and equipment around Belarus, Moscow’s most pliant ally.

In the early stages of Russia’s invasion, which began in February, President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus allowed Russian troops to use its territory to launch a ground operation to try to capture Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, although the effort ultimately failed.

Since then, Russia has continued to use Belarus as a staging ground for bombardments. In late July, Ukraine said that 25 missiles had been fired by Russian forces in Belarus toward northern regions of Ukraine. This week, Ukraine’s Air Force said that Russian fighter jets had used Belarusian airspace to launch missiles against the northern city of Zhytomyr.

“There has always been a certain threat from the territory of Belarus, and let me remind you that it was its territory that Russia used from the first days of the full-scale invasion,” Mr. Ihnat said, adding: “We must definitely be prepared for possible missile strikes.”

The buildup comes as a vital link in the supply lines for Russia’s occupation forces in southern Ukraine, the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, comes under attack.

The explosions in Crimea have undermined Moscow’s control of the peninsula, which it illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014. President Vladimir V. Putin has called Crimea Russia’s “holy land.”

While the extent of the damage from the blasts remains unclear, Ukrainian officials are preparing for a response from Moscow, which labeled the explosion at the ammunition depot an “act of sabotage” — an apparent acknowledgment that the war is spreading to what the Kremlin considers Russian territory. Last week, after the blasts at the air base, Russian media reported that the commander of the Kremlin’s Black Sea naval fleet, which is based in Crimea, was replaced.

The British defense intelligence agency said on Wednesday that “Russian commanders will highly likely be increasingly concerned with the apparent deterioration in security across Crimea, which functions as rear base area for the occupation.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Nuclear agency reports cyberattack attempt; grain ship appears in Syria, Ellen Francis and Rachel Pannett, Aug. 17, 2022.  Satellite images show the first grain ship from Ukraine in Syria. Ukrainian forces strike Russia in Crimea for the second ukraine flagtime in a week.

Ukraine’s nuclear agency reported a cyberattack attempt, and fighting around Europe’s largest nuclear power plant triggered a flurry of diplomatic calls. Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

Key developments

  • The Ukrainian nuclear energy agency accused Russia of a cyberattack on its website, which it said had failed. Energoatom said the hacking efforts did not “significantly affect” the company’s official site. While Tuesday’s attack did not appear to impact Ukraine’s power grid, the state company that oversees the country’s nuclear plants described it as “unprecedented.”
  • U.N. chief António Guterres will meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ukraine’s western city of Lviv on Thursday. The secretary general is also expected to visit a Black Sea port involved in a U.N.-backed deal to release Ukrainian grain and ease the global food crisis.
  • Satellite images appeared to show the first grain ship from Ukraine under the deal docked in Syria, where the government is a close ally of Russia. A photo published by U.S.-based firm Planet Labs shows the Razoni vessel at Syria’s port of Tartus, according to the Associated Press, which said the buyer in Lebanon, where the shipment was initially headed, had refused the order.

Battlefield updates

  • Ukrainian forces reportedly struck Russian targets in Crimea for the second time in a week. The peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014, is a military supply hub for its forces and a popular destination for its tourists. The Kremlin said Tuesday’s explosion was an “act of sabotage” as nearby residents fled. A Ukrainian official said it was the work of the same special forces said to be behind last week’s attack on a Russian air base in Crimea.
  • russian flag wavingZelensky accused Russia of “nuclear terrorism” in a call with French President Emmanuel Macron, while the U.N. chief held talks with Moscow on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine. As Kyiv and Moscow trade blame for shelling near the facility, which is under Russian control, Russia’s defense minister said his country has “no need to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.”
  • Ukrainian workers from the Zaporizhzhia plant described a daily terror of explosions and nuclear catastrophe in interviews with The Washington Post.
  • People help evacuate a man from near the site of an explosion in Crimea on Tuesday. (Viktor Korotayev/Kommersant Publishing House/AP)

Global impact

  • A vessel loaded with grain for the Horn of Africa set sail from Ukraine, the first shipment of food aid under the U.N.-brokered deal. The Brave Commander is headed for Ethiopia, where millions of people are facing drought and hunger.
  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States will give $68 million to the World Food Program to buy Ukrainian wheat to help “address the world’s pressing food crisis.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Blasts Hit Russian Ammunition Depot in Crimea, Michael Schwirtz, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). The explosions came a week after blasts at a Russian air base on the peninsula destroyed several fighter jets. A senior Ukrainian official said that an elite military unit was responsible for Tuesday's attack.

Huge explosions rocked a Russian ammunition depot on the occupied Crimean Peninsula on Tuesday morning, delivering another embarrassing blow to Moscow’s forces a week after blasts at a Russian air base in the same region destroyed several fighter jets.

A senior Ukrainian official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the operation, said that an elite Ukrainian military unit operating behind enemy lines was responsible for the explosions. Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that the episode was an “act of sabotage,” according to the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.

The apparent use of covert forces behind enemy lines underscored the inventiveness of Ukraine’s forces. Since the war began, they have adopted unconventional tactics in the hopes of leveling the playing field while trying to repel attacks from a much larger and better equipped Russian military.

Although Ukraine’s leaders did not publicly claim responsibility, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed that the explosions had occurred.

The adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, also appeared to hint at Ukrainian involvement. “A reminder: Crimea of normal country is about the Black Sea, mountains, recreation and tourism, but Crimea occupied by Russians is about warehouses explosions and high risk of death for invaders and thieves. Demilitarization in action,” he wrote on Twitter.
At least two civilians were wounded in the blasts in the northern part of the peninsula, and as many as 3,000 were evacuated from the area around the weapons depot, the Kremlin-installed head of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, said on Telegram. The explosion occurred at a temporary ammunition storage site near a military base, he said.

The ammunition then continued exploding after the initial blast. “At the moment detonations are continuing,” Mr. Aksyonov said.

Until this month, Crimea appeared well protected from Ukrainian attacks. Even Ukraine’s most advanced weapons systems do not have the range to hit Russian military targets there, and its planes are incapable of making it through Russia’s air defenses on the peninsula.

A senior Ukrainian official said that an elite military unit operating behind enemy lines was responsible for Tuesday’s attacks. Follow updates.

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Political Violence In United States

 

Hadi Matar, 24, center, arrives for an arraignment in the Chautauqua County Courthouse in Mayville, N.Y., Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. Matar, who is accused of carrying out a stabbing attack against “Satanic Verses” author Salman Rushdie has entered a not-guilty plea in a New York court on charges of attempted murder and assault. An attorney for Matar entered the plea on his behalf during an arraignment hearing. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Hadi Matar, 24, center, arrives for an arraignment in the Chautauqua County Courthouse in Mayville, N.Y., Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. Matar, who is accused of carrying out a stabbing attack against “Satanic Verses” author Salman Rushdie has entered a not-guilty plea in a New York court on charges of attempted murder and assault. An attorney for Matar entered the plea on his behalf during an arraignment hearing. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘I’m Done With Him’: A Mother’s Anger Over Rushdie Attack, Chelsia Rose Marcius, Tracey Tully and Ana Facio-Krajcer, Aug. 17, 2022. Hadi Matar, 24, kept to himself and was changed by a 2018 trip to the Middle East.

Hadi Matar had resented being pushed to pursue schoolwork. At 24, he worked a low-level job at a discount store, made clumsy attempts at boxing and became increasingly focused on religion. Now, accused of trying to kill a pre-eminent figure of free expression, Mr. Matar has lost even the support of his mother.

“I’m done with him,” Silvana Fardos said in a brief interview, disavowing Mr. Matar, who is accused of repeatedly stabbing the author Salman Rushdie in a brazen daytime attack at an intellectual retreat in western New York.

This week, a portrait of Mr. Matar as a troubled recluse began to emerge. Ms. Fardos said that she had not talked to him since he was charged with attempting to kill Mr. Rushdie on Friday. The writer has lived in and out of hiding since Iran’s supreme leader in 1989 issued an edict calling for his death after he published “The Satanic Verses,” which provoked outrage among some Muslims.

Mr. Rushdie, who was stabbed roughly 10 times, was hospitalized with what relatives have described as life-altering injuries. His agent has said he was likely to lose an eye.

The F.B.I., which is leading the investigation, has disclosed no clear motive for the attack. Iran’s Foreign Ministry this week blamed the prizewinning author himself, and denied any role.

But as national and international news crews continued to hover outside Ms. Fardos’s northern New Jersey house on Tuesday, she confirmed that her son returned from a 2018 trip to the Middle East a changed man — reclusive and increasingly focused on his role as a follower of Islam.

“I have nothing to say to him,” Ms. Fardos said Monday as she walked quickly toward the two-story brick home in Fairview, asking for privacy, her face shielded by a mask, glasses and hat.

Onlookers at the Chautauqua Institution near Buffalo who came to listen to Mr. Rushdie, 75, deliver a speech, subdued Mr. Matar before he was taken into custody.

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran denies involvement in Rushdie attack, says he brought it on himself, Jennifer Hassan, Aug. 16, 2022 (print ed.). Iran denied any salman rushdie hinvolvement Monday in last week’s attack that left author Salman Rushdie, right, with severe injuries after he was stabbed in the neck and abdomen onstage at an event in western New York.

In its first public reaction to the stabbing, Iran said Rushdie and his supporters were to blame for the attack, more than three decades after Tehran issued a directive for Muslims to kill Rushdie because of his book “The Satanic Verses,” published in 1988.

Recent Headlines

 

Pandemic Public Health, Disasters

 

fda logo

washington post logoWashington Post, FDA moves to make over-the-counter hearing aids available to millions, Eugene Scott, and Katie Shepherd, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday moved to make hearing aids available to consumers to buy over the counter without a prescription or medical exam, a long-awaited goal for nearly 30 million consumers.

“As early as mid-October, Americans will be able to purchase more affordable hearing aids over the counter at pharmacies and stores across the country,” President Biden said in a statement Tuesday. “This action makes good on my commitment to lower costs for American families, delivering nearly $3,000 in savings to American families for a pair of hearing aids and giving people more choices to improve their health and wellbeing.”

The president called on the FDA to make hearing aids available over the counter last year in his Promoting Competition in the American Economy executive order to help lower costs and increase competition in certain industries.

The devices will be available for individuals 18 and older with mild to moderate hearing loss.

The move comes more than four years after Congress ordered the FDA to craft regulations for over-the-counter devices. The new regulations will create a new category of hearing aids that will supersede state-level regulations requiring patients to visit physicians or audiologists to get prescriptions and fittings.

ny times logoNew York Times, Wastewater Disease Tracking: A Journey From the Sewer to the Lab, Aliza Aufrichtig and Emily Anthes, Photographs and video by Jonah Markowitz, Aug. 17, 2022. Here’s how a scrappy team of scientists, public health experts and plumbers is embracing wastewater surveillance as the future of disease tracking.

The Covid-19 pandemic has turned sewage into gold.

People who are infected with the coronavirus shed the pathogen in their stool. By measuring and sequencing the viral material present in sewage, scientists can determine whether cases are rising in a particular area and which variants are circulating.

People excrete the virus even if they never seek testing or treatment. So wastewater surveillance has become a critical tool for keeping tabs on the virus, especially as Covid-19 testing has increasingly shifted to the home.

The institutions and localities that invested in wastewater surveillance over the last two years are discovering that it can be used to track other health threats, too. The Sewer Coronavirus Alert Network has already begun tracking the monkeypox virus in wastewater. And last week, New York City officials announced that polio had been detected in the city’s sewage.

Six months ago, NYC Health + Hospitals, a large, local health care system, began piloting its own wastewater surveillance system to track the coronavirus and the flu. Monkeypox and polio monitoring will start as soon as next week. There are a variety of approaches to wastewater surveillance. Here’s a visual guide to how the coronavirus tracking process works in one New York hospital.

New York Times, Former President Trump is facing several active investigations. We break them down here.

washington post logoWashington Post, First lady Jill Biden tests positive for coronavirus, Amy B Wang, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). First lady Jill Biden has tested positive for coronavirus, and she will isolate and begin a course of antiviral treatment, according to the White House.

jill biden headshot wh“After testing negative for COVID-19 on Monday during her regular testing cadence, the First Lady began to develop cold-like symptoms late in the evening,” her spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander said in a statement. “She tested negative again on a rapid antigen test, but a PCR test came back positive.”

Alexander noted that Jill Biden, 71, right, is “double-vaccinated, twice boosted and only experiencing mild symptoms.” The first lady has been prescribed the antiviral therapy Paxlovid and will isolate from others for at least five days, in accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Close contacts of the First Lady have been notified,” Alexander said. “She is currently staying at a private residence in South Carolina and will return home after she receives two consecutive negative COVID tests.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside America’s rapidly unfolding monkeypox crisis — and the mistakes that made it worse, Dan Diamond, Fenit Nirappil and Lena H. Sun, Aug. 17, 2022. Early mistakes by the Biden administration left hundreds of thousands of gay men facing the threat of an agonizing illness and the potential for broader circulation of monkeypox.

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U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

jonathan toebbe diana toebbe

washington post logoWashington Post, Plea deals upended for pair accused of peddling nuclear sub secrets, Paul Duggan, Aug. 17, 2022. A judge said the proposed prison terms for Jonathan Toebbe and his wife, Diana (shown above), were too lenient, given the potential damage to national security.

A federal judge Tuesday rejected plea bargains for a Navy engineer and his wife who allegedly tried to sell military secrets, saying the prison terms called for by the deals were too lenient for a couple accused of offering U.S. nuclear submarine data to a foreign government.

Jonathan Toebbe, 43, a civilian engineer for the Navy, and Diana Toebbe, 46, a private-school teacher, lived in Annapolis, Md., before they were arrested in October in a case involving a year-long FBI sting and cloak-and-dagger elements that seemed straight out of a spy novel, including the attempted transfer of confidential submarine data hidden in a peanut butter sandwich, authorities said.

In plea bargains with federal prosecutors — signed early this year and initially accepted by a federal magistrate — the couple admitted to violating the Atomic Energy Act. The deals called for Jonathan Toebbe to be sentenced to 12½ to 17½ years in prison, while his wife would get a three-year term. But the couple withdrew their guilty pleas Tuesday after U.S. District Judge Gina M. Groh, in Martinsburg, W.Va., threw out the agreements rather than impose the required sentences.

“It’s not in the best interest of this community or, in fact, this country to accept these plea agreements,” she said from the bench. “I don’t find any justifiable reason for accepting either one of these plea agreements.”

For nearly an hour before Groh’s surprise ruling, two defense lawyers and an assistant U.S. attorney had argued, to no avail, that the prison terms called for in the deals were appropriate.

The 12½-to-17½-year range for Jonathan Toebbe is “not a slap on the wrist,” his lawyer, Nicholas J. Compton, told the judge. “It’s significant punishment.” Diana Toebbe’s attorney, Barry P. Beck, said a shorter term was right for his client because “she’s not why we’re here today. We’re here because her husband had an ill-conceived idea to make money, and she agreed to go along with it.”

Although she has raised doubts about plea deals in the past, Groh said, “In the end, I generally honor plea agreements negotiated by the parties, even when they have binding [sentencing] ranges” that she does not entirely agree with. In this case, however, “I find the sentencing options available to me to be strikingly deficient,” the judge said.

U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld of the Northern District of West Virginia, where the case is being handled, said his office “will move forward” and “be ready” for a trial. “I respect the decision by the Court to reject the plea agreements,” he said in a statement.

washington post logoWashington Post, A progressive prosecutor clashed with DeSantis. Now he’s out of a job, Lori Rozsa, Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.). State Attorney Andrew Warren was waiting for a grand jury to issue indictments in two rape and murder cases he had been working on for three years when he glanced down at his phone and saw an email from an attorney for Gov. Ron DeSantis.

It said he was suspended from his job.

Stunned, Warren quickly went to his office to consult with his staff. Not long after, there was a knock at the door. An armed major from the county sheriff’s office and a man in a suit from the governor’s office carrying a copy of DeSantis’ executive order suspending him were looking for him.

“He said, essentially, ‘The governor has suspended you and you need to leave the office now,’” Warren, a Democrat, recalled of DeSantis’ aide. “So within maybe seven minutes from getting the email, I was outside, on the street. The major offered me a ride home because they took my car.”

The dramatic ouster has alarmed many in Florida, who say DeSantis — widely considered a potential 2024 presidential candidate — usurped the will of the voters by removing a twice-elected local official who disagreed with him politically. Warren had initiated police reforms unpopular with some local law enforcement officers, and in the past year signed two statements pledging not to use his office to “criminalize” health care, including prosecuting women who get abortions and people seeking gender-affirming medical treatments.

In announcing the suspension, DeSantis excoriated Warren for being a “woke” prosecutor more interested in social justice than in enforcing the law. He warned of a “pathogen” spreading in U.S. cities — progressive prosecutors trying to reduce incarceration rates they see as overly punitive and that disproportionately impact people of color. He said prosecutors like Warren have caused “catastrophic results” in other states.

“We are not going to let that get a foothold here in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said a news conference in Tampa, while across town Warren was being physically ejected from his office. The governor was flanked by more than a dozen officers who hailed the move to oust Warren.

The clash comes as political parties pay more attention to state attorney elections than they have in the past and as prosecutors around the country are now faced with a slate of new laws restricting or outright banning abortion care after the fall of Roe v. Wade. For Warren, who left a job as a federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., to run for office in his home state, the suspension was the latest in a series of dust-ups with the governor. He said he was not planning to ignore the law, only that he planned to exercise prosecutorial discretion.

Politico, Former Rep. T.J. Cox arrested by FBI in California, Anthony Adragna, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). The former congressman was charged with "15 counts of wire fraud, 11 counts of money laundering, one count of financial institution fraud, and one count of campaign contribution fraud."

politico CustomThe FBI arrested former one-term Rep. T.J. Cox on dozens of charges related to financial fraud, according to public records with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office.

The arrest took place around 8:30 a.m. at the federal courthouse in Fresno, Calif., according to the records. A statement from the tj coxJustice Department said the former congressman was charged with “15 counts of wire fraud, 11 counts of money laundering, one count of financial institution fraud, and one count of campaign contribution fraud.”

Cox came to Congress in the 2018 Democratic wave, defeating Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.) in a battleground district. He lost his 2020 rematch with Valadao by about 1,500 votes. Cox mulled running again in 2022, but ultimately endorsed Democrat Rudy Salas in the race.

If convicted in the 28-count indictment, Cox faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for wire fraud and money laundering, according to the Justice Department.

ny times logoNew York Times, Two of New York’s Oldest Mafia Clans Charged in Money Laundering Scheme, Troy Closson, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). Nine members and associates of the Genovese and Bonanno families were charged in a case that centered on secret gambling parlors in Queens and Long Island.

For nearly a decade, families visited a small coffee shop in suburban Long Island for pastries and gelato. Many were unaware of the longstanding operation playing out just feet away from them: Mafia members were running a secret underground gambling den in the store.

The business was one of several across the island and in Queens that served as a front for two of New York’s oldest crime families and their illegal moneymaking schemes, according to two federal indictments unsealed Tuesday. When other gambling clubs threatened their fortunes, a Nassau County detective offered to conduct police raids on the rival clubs in exchange for payments, prosecutors said.

On Tuesday, nine reputed members and associates of the Genovese and Bonanno clans — including the detective — were charged in a racketeering case brought by the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn that centered on the illegal parlors and the money laundering and extortion schemes.

Federal prosecutors said that for 10 years, the gambling activities brought in “substantial revenue” for the two families as they hid under the cover of businesses like a soccer club and a shoe repair store. The Long Island coffee shop alone typically earned them more than $10,000 per week, funds that were laundered up to the crime families’ leaders.

Recent Headlines


Anniversary Update: U.S. Afghan Departure

washington post logoWashington Post, A year after U.S. drone strike killed Afghan civilians, their relatives are on a path to resettlement, Abigail Hauslohner, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). The Biden administration has moved out of Afghanistan nearly four dozen family members of the 10 civilians killed in a U.S. drone strike.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: One year’s hindsight on Afghanistan: A good decision, horribly executed, David Ignatius, right, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). A year after david ignatiusthe fall of Kabul, the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan looks better as a pragmatic decision to end a costly war. But haunting images remain from an unnecessarily chaotic exit that reflected a chain of policy misjudgments.

“The last year has borne out the wisdom of getting out,” argues a senior White House official. Though I was skeptical at the time, his judgment seems correct. Imagine if we were still fighting the Taliban when Russia invaded Ukraine in February, or as China threatened Taiwan. As for the terrorism threat, last month’s drone killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri suggests it might be manageable from a distance, as the administration has argued.

What’s still agonizing, though, is the decision-making process, in which different parts of the administration pursued what amounted to contradictory policies. The Pentagon wanted to get out as fast as possible once President Biden decided in April 2021 to withdraw. But the State Department sought to maintain its embassy and diplomatic presence in Kabul, even as the country was crumbling.

 

World News, Human Rights, Analysis

ny times logoNew York Times, As China’s Economy Stumbles, Homeowners Boycott Mortgage Payments, Daisuke Wakabayashi, Aug. 17, 2022. In an act of defiance, people who bought real estate from indebted property developers are refusing to pay back loans on their unfinished apartments.

For decades, buying property was considered a safe investment in China. Now, instead of building a foundation of wealth for the country’s middle class, real estate has become a source of discontent and anger.

In more than 100 cities across China, hundreds of thousands of Chinese homeowners are banding together and refusing to repay loans on unfinished properties, one of the most widespread acts of public defiance in a country where even minor protests are quelled.

The boycotts are part of the fallout from a worsening Chinese economy, slowed by Covid lockdowns, travel restrictions and wavering confidence in the government. The country’s economy is on a path for its slowest growth in decades. Its factories are selling less to the world, and its consumers are spending less at home. On Monday, the government said youth unemployment had reached a record high.

Compounding these financial setbacks are the troubles of a particularly vulnerable sector: real estate.

“Life is extremely difficult, and we can no longer afford the monthly mortgage,” homeowners in China’s central Hunan Province wrote in a letter to local officials in July. “We have to take risks out of desperation and follow the path of a mortgage strike.”

The mortgage rebellions have roiled a property market facing the fallout from a decades-long housing bubble. It has also created unwanted complication for President Xi Jinping, who is expected to coast to a third term as party leader later this year on a message of social stability and continued prosperity in China.

washington post logoWashington Post, Female Saudi activist gets record 34 years in prison for critical tweets, Sarah Dadouch and Annabelle Timsit, Aug. 17, 2022. Saudi Arabia quietly sentenced a woman last week to 34 years in prison over her Twitter activity, marking the longest Saudi sentence ever for a peaceful activist and launching a fresh wave of fear among the government’s detractors, three rights group said.

The woman, Salma al-Shehab, was detained in January 2021 in Saudi Arabia, where she was on vacation, days before the Saudi citizen and mother of two was set to return to her home in Britain, according to rights groups. The charges faced by the 33-year-old all revolved around her Twitter activity, according to court documents.

Shehab had been active on the social media platform during campaigns demanding the abolition of the country’s guardianship system, which gives men legal control over certain aspects of female relatives’ lives. She had called for the freeing of Saudi prisoners of conscience.

Despite promises, Saudi executions already nearly double from last year

According to court records obtained by The Washington Post, Shehab was accused of using a social media website “to disrupt public order, undermine the security of society and stability of the state, and support those who had committed criminal actions according to the counterterrorism law and its financing.”

The documents said she supported such individuals “by following their social media accounts and rebroadcasting their tweets,” and that she spread false rumors. The documents went on to say that after she appealed an initial conviction, it was decided that her prison sentence was too short, “considering her crimes,” and that her previous sentence failed to “achieve restraint and deterrence.”

On top of a 34-year sentence and subsequent 34-year travel ban, which begins after the prison sentence ends, the court ruled that her mobile phone be confiscated, and her Twitter account be “closed down permanently.”

The charges are familiar: Sowing sedition and destabilizing the state are accusations frequently used against activists in the kingdom who speak up against the status quo. Saudi Arabia has long wielded its counterterrorism law against its citizens whose protests are deemed unacceptable, especially if they criticize the de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

In late 2021, the initial ruling against Shehab gave her six years in prison. When she appealed, however, it was increased to 34 — the country’s longest sentence against a peaceful activist, according to several human rights groups.

Rights groups have repeatedly warned about the government’s recent use of the counterterrorism law. In April, Human Rights Watch said laws such as “the notoriously abusive counterterrorism law and the anti-cybercrime law, include vague and overly broad provisions that have been widely interpreted and abused.” The rulings are also often characterized by inconsistent and harsh sentences.

As the sentence includes the closure of her Twitter account, at least one rights group is trying to make sure her account is not shut down, said Lina al-Hathloul, the head of monitoring and communications at ALQST, a London-based Saudi rights group.

washington post logoWashington Post, Prominent Catholic leader in Canada accused of sexual assault, Amanda Coletta and Chico Harlan, Aug. 17, 2022. Cardinal Marc Ouellet is a key figure inside the Vatican bureaucracy, leading the department that vets and manages bishops. He has been mentioned as a candidate for pope.

— Cardinal Marc Ouellet, one of the most prominent Catholic leaders in Canada, was accused of sexual assault in legal documents filed Tuesday in a Quebec court.

canadian flagOuellet, considered a candidate for pope in recent conclaves, is one of scores of church clergy, employees and volunteers accused of sexual misconduct in a class-action lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Quebec.

In the lawsuit, a woman identified only as “F.” accuses Ouellet of inappropriate touching and comments when he was archbishop of Quebec and she was a pastoral intern. She said the alleged abuse left her feeling “troubled” and gave her a sense of “deep unease,” and eventually prompted her to complain to Pope Francis last year.

The Archdiocese of Quebec said Tuesday that it “took note” of the allegations and “will not have any comment.” A Vatican spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Ouellet, 78, is one of the most important figures inside the Vatican bureaucracy, leading the department that vets and manages bishops. He has a reputation in the ideologically divided Church as being middle-of-the-road.

He was named cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2003, served as a lieutenant to Pope Benedict XVI and now holds near-weekly meetings with Pope Francis, who has allowed Ouellet to stay in his role far beyond the normal five-year term.

ny times logoNew York Times, Kenya Election Live Updates: William Ruto Is Declared Winner as Questions Linger, Declan Walsh, Abdi Latif Dahir and Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Aug. 16, 2022 (print ed.). Four of the country’s seven election commissioners would not verify the result, raising the specter of another legal challenge in a nation with a history of disputed votes.

kenya flagKenya’s vice president, William Ruto, won the country’s presidential election, the head of the electoral commission said Monday, days after a cliffhanger vote in a country that is pivotal to the economy and security of East Africa.

Mr. Ruto gained 50.5 percent of the vote, narrowly defeating Raila Odinga, a former prime minister, who received 48.85 percent, according to the chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, Wafula W. Chebukati. That percentage is enough to avert a runoff vote.

But minutes before the result was announced, four of the seven commission members said they could not verify the outcome. The statement raised questions about the legitimacy of the result and is likely to feature in any challenge in Kenya’s Supreme Court by supporters of Mr. Odinga.

A legal challenge could, in the short term, prolong a period of uncertainty in a nation whose democracy is closely watched by the continent and the world.

Kenyan law allows for an election result to be challenged within one week — a prospect that many observers viewed as a near certainty.

Soon after the results were announced, Mr. Ruto accepted victory, thanked his supporters and vowed to work for the good of the country.

“There is no room for vengeance, there is no room for looking back, we are looking into the future,” he said. “I am acutely aware that our country is at a stage where we need all hands on deck to move it forward. We do not have the luxury to look back.”

Celebrations broke out in the streets of Eldoret town, a stronghold for Mr. Ruto’s in the Rift Valley, with a deafening cacophony of cars and motorcycle honks, whistling and screaming taking over the streets in the downtown area.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Ruto vows ‘no room for vengeance’ as the nation awaits his rival’s next move.
  • Why this election matters: Kenya’s stability is vital.
  • William Ruto: A barefoot student who became a power broker.
  • Raila Odinga is once more at the heart of electoral uncertainty.
  • At the forefront of voters’ minds: Rising prices and persistent corruption.
  • Dueling scenes of jubilation and grief reflect Kenya’s winner-takes-all politics.
  • Ruto vows ‘no room for vengeance’ as the nation awaits his rival’s next move.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Forced Birth Laws, Privacy, Freedoms

washington post logoWashington Post, Planned Parenthood to spend record $50 million on midterm elections, Amy B Wang, Aug. 17, 2022. The record investment underscores how much reproductive rights advocates believe abortion will be a motivating issue for voters after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Planned Parenthood’s advocacy and political organizations will spend a record $50 million on November’s midterm elections in an effort to elect abortion rights supporters across the country.

The record investment underscores how much reproductive rights advocates believe abortion will be a motivating issue for voters in this year’s midterm elections, a few months after a Supreme Court decision in June overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that for nearly half a century guaranteed the right to an abortion in the United States.

“Abortion rights are going to play a huge role in this election,” Jenny Lawson, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes, the group’s political action committee, told The Washington Post. “The stakes have truly, truly never been higher.”

Lawson said Planned Parenthood will focus initially on nine states — Georgia, Nevada, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Arizona, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Michigan and Wisconsin — where gubernatorial or down-ballot races could determine abortion access in the state or federally. For example, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan currently have Democratic governors who have prevented their Republican-led state legislatures from enacting statewide abortion restrictions.

ny times logoNew York Times, After the reversal of Roe, readership has surged at publications aimed at women, Katie Robertson, Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.). The surge of readers has buoyed a part of the digital media world that has gradually declined in recent years.

Jezebel, a feminist website started by Gawker Media in 2007, saw an 18 percent increase in traffic after a leaked draft of the decision was published by Politico in May. The 19th, which covers gender and politics and takes its name from the 19th Amendment, reported a 63 percent jump in readership for its abortion-related stories. And The Cut, New York magazine’s women’s site, said traffic to its abortion rights coverage increased nearly threefold in June compared with the previous month.

Now readers are hunting out a feminist perspective and looking to writers who have closely covered the fight over abortion rights for years.

“We are able to cover this in an unflinching and honest way, with a perspective that I think a lot of traditional media outlets sort of aren’t able to do,” said Laura Bassett, the editor in chief of Jezebel.

Ms. Bassett previously covered women’s rights and health for nearly a decade at HuffPost. She took over Jezebel in September 2021. One of her first moves, she said, was to hire a reproductive rights reporter based in Texas, anticipating the Supreme Court’s decision.

Most have now closed their doors. xoJane, founded by the former editor of Sassy and Jane, Jane Pratt, folded in 2016. In 2018, The Hairpin (a sister site to The Awl), Lenny Letter (an online newsletter by the actor and writer Lena Dunham) and Rookie Mag (a magazine from the then-teen style icon Tavi Gevinson) shut down. The popular blog Feministing closed in 2019 after 15 years. The same year, Vice Media eliminated its women’s vertical, Broadly. Bitch Media, a feminist publisher and magazine that was started in 1996, shuttered in June.

The remaining publications have found their moment.

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Media, Religion, Education, Sports News

washington post logoWashington Post, Syria denies holding U.S. journalist Austin Tice, who was abducted there a decade ago, Sarah Dadouch, Aug. 17, 2022. Syria denied on Wednesday that it is holding missing U.S. journalist Austin Tice, who was abducted in Syria a decade ago at the height of the civil war that has torn apart the country.

Syria FlagIn a statement, the Foreign Ministry addressed President Biden’s claim last week that Tice is being held by the Syrian government, calling it “invalid accusations against the Syrian government of kidnapping or arresting U.S. citizens, among them Austin Tice, a service member in the U.S. Army.” It added that Tice and others had entered illegally.

“Syria emphasizes that any official dialogue or communication with the U.S. government side will only be public and based on the rule of respecting the sovereignty and independence and unity of the Syrian Arab Republic’s land,” the statement said.

It also placed the fault squarely on the U.S. government, saying it had broken the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations when it “not only turned a blind eye but encouraged tens of U.S. citizens to travel to Syria and enter its lands illegally and without permission from its government, through nonofficial border crossings or by sneaking into areas that are controlled by terrorist armed groups.”
Freelance journalist Austin Tice. (Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service/Getty Images)

austin tice CustomTice, left, was abducted in Damascus on Aug. 14, 2012, just days after his 31st birthday. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps and later became a journalist covering Syria, including for The Washington Post.

“We know with certainty that he has been held by the Syrian regime,” Biden said in a statement on Aug. 10. “We have repeatedly asked the government of Syria to work with us so that we can bring Austin home.”

In early May, Biden met with Tice’s parents, Marc and Debra, and promised to work on securing his release.

“The Tice family deserves answers, and more importantly, they deserve to be swiftly reunited with Austin,” Biden said. “We stand with Austin’s many loved ones, and we will not rest until we bring Austin home. Ten years is far, far too long. So is every additional day.”

Tice was last seen in a video posted on YouTube soon after his disappearance showing him blindfolded and being led through rugged terrain by armed men in white robes.

Tice served as a Marine in Iraq and Afghanistan and then graduated from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He attended the law school there until 2012, when he decided to cover Syria as a freelance journalist.

Journalists covering the conflict without invitation from the Syrian government had to enter the country illegally through Turkey or other neighboring countries. Tice won a Polk Award for his reporting on the war for McClatchy newspapers.

In August 2020, Kash Patel, the U.S. counterterrorism chief, and Roger D. Carstens, the presidential envoy for hostage affairs, traveled to Damascus in the first contacts between the two governments in 10 years. They brought up Tice, but Syrian media said officials refused to discuss the case until the United States agreed to discuss its withdrawal from the country.

washington post logoWashington Post, Vance, DeSantis rally puts ‘highly unusual’ restrictions on press, Jeremy Barr, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). Journalists must agree to give access to their footage to the event organizer, pro-Trump GOP youth group Turning Point Action, and explain how they intend to use it

Journalists hoping to cover a Republican rally featuring Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Senate candidate J.D. Vance in Ohio will have to agree to give organizers access to any footage they take, and could face questions about what it will be used for.

That is among the controversial restrictions placed on journalists as a condition of receiving a press pass to cover Friday’s event, which is being organized by Turning Point Action, a conservative nonprofit led by activist Charlie Kirk.

The press policy also restricts journalists to specific events and parts of the venue, and bars them from recording speakers who do not wish to be filmed. Turning Point Action has warned that violators could be kicked out of the event.

“These are highly unusual conditions,” according to Monica Nieporte, the president and executive director of the Ohio News Media Association, which represents outlets across the state.

In particular, Nieporte called out organizers’ demand for access to journalists’ footage — something that many newsrooms would consider an attempt to meddle with coverage. “We do not agree that the Unite & Win Rally has any standing to be asking for blanket access to the content that is created by journalists in exchange for permission to cover their event,” she told The Washington Post. “The journalists work for their media outlet and not for the Vance campaign. Their content is owned by their employer.”

She said her group has not been asked by member organizations to fight the restrictions, but she warned: “We strongly discourage our members from agreeing to any conditions which could lead to their content being censored or altered by a third party not affiliated with their media outlet.”

Kirstin McCudden, vice president of editorial for the Freedom of the Press Foundation, said Turning Point Action’s demand that journalists explain and provide access to their footage “runs contrary to the role of the media as objective watchdogs” — though she said it’s becoming more common as a way to shield politicians from the press.

“Unfortunately, it’s the public electorate that loses when journalists can’t freely cover candidates,” McCudden added.

Andrew Kolvet, a spokesperson for Turning Point Action, said the press pass preconditions “protect the organization from being taken advantage of by organizations or companies — usually non-traditional press — that don’t intend to report on the event at all, but rather want to monetize raw footage/pics. These policies also maintain guest and speaker privacy in green rooms, backstage, etc., and protect our underage attendees.”

“That said,” he added, “we frequently [waive] certain clauses for legitimate press outlets that are covering the event in good faith, as we’ve offered to do with Washington Post reporters for the very events in question.”

The restrictions were met with outrage on social media from some journalists who cover Ohio and national news.

Politico, Saudi golf venture LIV quietly enlisted the help of a global PR titan, Hailey Fuchs and Daniel Lippman, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). An Edelman subsidiary wrapped up a contract with the highly-criticized venture earlier this year. The project was never filed with the Justice Department.

The arrangement illustrates the degree to which LIV Golf has been able to lean on establishment institutions and professionals even amid a controversial rollout of a tour that has roiled professional golf and captured lawmakers’ attention in Washington.

politico CustomAs the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tournament prepared for its launch this year, it quietly contracted the public relations giant Edelman for help.

The relationship, which ended in March, was never filed with the Department of Justice under foreign lobbying rules.

Another reason it never surfaced was because it was done through subsidiaries. United Entertainment Group, a marketing agency under Daniel J. Edelman Holdings, was contracted by golf marketing firm Performance54 to help launch LIV Golf.

The arrangement illustrates the degree to which LIV Golf has been able to lean on establishment institutions and professionals even amid a controversial rollout of a tour that has roiled professional golf and captured lawmakers’ attention in Washington. Ari Fleischer, who was press secretary in the Bush White House, has done public relations work for LIV, and former President Donald Trump has offered his own endorsement of the tour — by holding an event at his Bedminster, N.J., golf club in late July. Trump National Doral will also host the tour in October.

liv golf logoIn recent months, the tour has created a schism in the golf world, as a number of major PGA players have decamped for LIV Golf, enticed by hefty prize money and other perks. It also has faced a barrage of allegations of “sportwashing,” or using sports to boost one’s reputation, amid a wave of criticism over its human rights record. In July, months after the Edelman work ended, the National Press Club explicitly called on public relations firms to reject Saudi “blood money” and abstain from accepting a contract with LIV Golf.

Edelman, one of the country’s largest PR firms, has worked in the past for the PGA Tour, which declined to comment for this story.

According to Department of Justice records, Edelman did not register as an agent for LIV Golf under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires certain disclosures for those entities and individuals doing public relations for a foreign principal. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) has called for the DOJ to investigate LIV Golf and potential FARA violations around the tour.

In a statement, Kate Meissner, an Edelman spokesperson, said the firm does not currently have a relationship with LIV Golf. However, she confirmed that United Entertainment Group was enlisted by Performance54 for a project last year that has since concluded. Meissner maintained that the project did not fall under FARA requirements.

When asked about the project’s details, she said the firm has “confidentiality commitments with all of our clients and are unable to share specific information.”

Earlier this year, Edelman signed a contract with the Saudi Ministry of Culture, for which the company proposed a PR campaign replete with celebrities and influencers — including actress Priyanka Chopra and DJ Steve Aoki — to sell a positive image of Saudi Arabia. Edelman is also registered to represent the Saudi Data Artificial Intelligence Agency.

In an interview, Bill McCarren, executive director of the National Press Club, emphasized that Edelman did not need the Saudi business and reiterated his group’s call for all PR firms to abstain from working with LIV Golf.

“It suggests that the life and health of journalists is not a major concern for the PR firm,” he said. “It’s pretty obvious that this is an intentional activity to, designed to rehabilitate the Saudi reputation after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.”

U.S. Intelligence confirmed that top Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, were responsible for the 2018 murder and dismemberment of Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist.

Edelman is not the only major public relations firm that has worked for a Saudi golf client.

Hill+Knowlton Strategies, which is registered to represent the Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information, worked as part of the tournament press team for the February 2022 Saudi International tournament, which is not a LIV event. In an email obtained by POLITICO, a Hill+Knowlton employee offered support for travel and accommodation for a reporter to attend.

In recent weeks, controversy around the LIV golf series increased after a number of family members of 9/11 victims urged Trump to cancel the scheduled tournament at his New Jersey golf club. They noted Trump had previously cast blame on Saudi Arabia for the terrorist attacks and that it was “incomprehensible to us that a former president of the United States would cast our loved ones aside for personal financial gain.”
Saudi golf venture LIV quietly enlisted the help of a global PR titan.

ny times logoNew York Times, 10 Years After Disappearing in Syria, Freedom Is Elusive for U.S. Journalist, Raja Abdulrahim, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). There are signs that efforts to free Austin Tice, who disappeared in Syria in 2012 and who the U.S. believes is being held by the Syrian government, are reviving. But his family says the U.S. needs to do more.

Ten years after the American journalist Austin Tice disappeared in Syria as the country descended into a brutal civil war, and was believed to have been held captive by the government of President Bashar al-Assad since, his release still remains elusive.

While one of his employers says that efforts to secure his freedom are picking up steam, his family remains unconvinced that the Biden administration is doing enough to push the Syrian government, partly due to the diplomatic complications stemming from the lack of formal relations between the United States and Syria.

McClatchy, the U.S. newspaper company for which the journalist had been freelancing, among others, said this week that a multinational effort to free Mr. Tice is showing signs of revival and that there had been direct contacts between the U.S. and Syrian governments.

A spokeswoman for McClatchy said Monday that the progress was the culmination of intense activity by the Biden administration and the journalism industry leading up to the 10th anniversary of Mr. Tice’s disappearance. But the company’s chief executive, Tony Hunter, has also said recently that there had not been much movement on the issue since May.

“For McClatchy, this anniversary was an opportunity to shine a light on Austin’s decade-long plight,” said the spokeswoman, Susan Firey. “And, in tandem, to shine a light on the decade-long inaction of three administrations.”

Last week Debra and Marc Tice, the parents of Mr. Tice, who disappeared in August 2012 outside Damascus, wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Post in which they noted the family weddings, graduations and other family get-togethers their son had missed in 10 years of captivity, and urged President Biden to step up diplomatic efforts to free him.

The United States has “engaged extensively” to get Mr. Tice back to the United States, including by directly contacting Syrian officials and working through third parties, according to a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case. However, the official said the Syrian government has not yet agreed to discuss Mr. Tice’s case.

Last week, President Biden said in a statement that his administration has repeatedly asked Syria’s government to work with them to bring Mr. Tice home.

“On the tenth anniversary of his abduction, I am calling on Syria to end this and help us bring him home,” President Biden said in the statement, adding that the United States was certain that the journalist was being held by the Syrian government.

 

gannett logo Custom

frank gannett

Frank Gannett (1876-1957), right, founded the newspaper chain that bears his name. Photo (cc) 2009 by History Rewound.

Media Nation, Gannett lays off journalists, closes papers and keeps the numbers to itself, Dan Kennedy, Aug. 15, 2022. What more can be said about the latest round of Gannett layoffs? This one was telegraphed well in advance, and I wrote about what was coming three times (here, here and here) before the hammer finally came down on Friday.

We don’t know the extent of the damage; The Associated Press reported that the “company declined to provide details about the number of people losing their jobs.”

The number 400 has been bandied about, but is that 400 journalists or 400 total employees? In any case, that number has not been verified. We do know that the cuts were broad and deep, from Worcester County, where, according to Grafton Common, the chain’s weekly papers were decimated, all the way up to the flagship paper, USA Today.

Los Angeles Times reporter Jeong Park has provided one way of looking at what happened. Gannett owns about 250 newspapers and other properties, and, before Friday, it employed about 4,000 reporters, editors and photographers. Our three national papers together also employ about 4,000 journalists — The New York Times (1,700), The Washington Post (1,000) and The Wall Street Journal (1,300). And, unlike Gannett, they’re all growing.

Gannett’s losses in the most recent quarter were so vast that it seems likely management will come back for another bite at the apple in a few months. After all, they’ve been on a rampage in Eastern Massachusetts, closing a number of weeklies in 2021 and 19 earlier this year (the company also merged nine papers into four). They’ve pretty much given up on local coverage, too.

Meanwhile, the company’s top executives pay themselves millions of dollars, and even the part-time board members are getting north of $200,000. And it’s been reported that CEO Michael Reed bought another 500,000 shares of Gannett stock last Tuesday, paying $1.22 million.

This feels like the end game, but it probably isn’t. There are always more papers to close, more people to lay off and more websites to strip of any real journalistic content. My heart goes out to the folks who lost their jobs on Friday. I hope they all land on their feet — and I also hope that many of them will look into the possibility of starting independent news projects in the communities they used to cover. The need and the opportunity are there.

Barrett Media, Ronan Farrow: Local News ‘Dying Rather Than Adapting,’ Jonah E. Bromwich and Jan Ransom, Aug. 15, 2022. “It was clear even ronan farrowthen — this is the better part of a decade ago now — that there was a real shortfall in that kind of local reporting.”

Ronan Farrow joined The Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz for an interview released Monday morning, and noted the downfall of local news outlets while discussing his upcoming HBO documentary Endangered.

“When I started out, and I was in network news and in cable news, I really prioritized putting local reporters on and picking up stories that local investigative reporters had done.

“In general, it was clear even then — this is the better part of a decade ago now — that there was a real shortfall in that kind of local reporting. And that is what creates accountability. It’s an institution — journalism, that is — that’s enshrined in the constitution for a reason. Right? It’s specifically protected because it does provide a check on power and corruption. And you see the consequences of an absence of trust in the facts and an absence of good journalism in national politics and you see it locally.”

Farrow pointed out one of the subjects featured in his documentary is Miami Herald photojournalist Carl Juste, and often worried about whether he would still have a job or not, which is something Farrow pointed out many in the media feel.

“There are experiments that seem to be working in how you make national journalism sustainable. There’s contribution based models. There’s things like ProPublica, there’s what The Guardian is doing, there’s subscription based models that are starting to work. The New Yorker has a successful subscription based model. But, fundamentally, local news outlets are just dying rather than adapting is what the numbers show us. Too often.”

According to HBO, the documentary chronicles “a year in the life of four journalists as world leaders denigrate the press, distrust of the media is on the rise, and journalists are facing situations more typically encountered in war zones.”

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President Biden hands Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va) the pen used to sign into law the Inflation Reduction Act (Photo by Demetrius Freeman for The Washington Post).

President Biden hands Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va) the pen used to sign into law the Inflation Reduction Act (Photo by Demetrius Freeman for The Washington Post).

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden signs sweeping bill to tackle climate change, lower health-care costs, Amy B Wang, Aug. 16, 2022. President Biden on Tuesday signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act, an ambitious measure that aims to tamp down on inflation, lower prescription drug prices, tackle climate change, reduce the deficit and impose a minimum tax on profits of the largest corporations.

At a bill signing ceremony in the State Dining Room of the White House, Biden praised the legislation as among the most significant measures in the history of the country.

“Let me say from the start: With this law, the American people won and the special interests lost,” Biden said.

His administration had begun amid “a dark time in America,” Biden added, citing the coronavirus pandemic, joblessness and threats to democracy.

“And yet we’ve not wavered, we’ve not flinched and we’ve not given in,” Biden said. “Instead, we’re delivering results for the American people. We didn’t tear down. We built up. We didn’t look back. We look forward. And today — today offers further proof that the soul of America is vibrant, the future of America is bright, and the promise of America is real.”

The House passed the bill Friday in a 220-207 vote, days after the Senate narrowly passed it on a party-line vote, with Vice President Harris serving as the tiebreaker. The bill’s passage marked one of the most successful legislative efforts by congressional Democrats this session, ahead of contentious midterm elections — and also one that seemed increasingly unlikely for about a year and a half.

On Tuesday, Biden said signing the bill into law was something he had looked forward to doing for 18 months. At one point, he glanced at Manchin and quipped, “Joe, I never had a doubt,” to some laughter. After Biden inked his signature — and Schumer proclaimed, “It’s now law!” — the president handed the pen he used to Manchin and shook his hand.

On Tuesday, Schumer personally thanked Manchin “for working hard to get this done,” and credited Biden and the Democratic caucus for their persistence. The president, Schumer added, knew precisely when to step in and when to let negotiations play out.

“I am confident this bill will endure as one of the greatest legislative feats in decades: it will lower costs, create millions of good-paying jobs, and is the boldest climate bill ever,” Schumer said. “Now in normal times, getting these bills done would be a huge achievement, but to do it now, with only 50 Democratic votes in the Senate, over an intransigent Republican minority, is nothing short of amazing.”

To pay for the spending, the bill would raise hundreds of billions in revenue through new tax provisions — the biggest of which will fall on the country’s large corporations. It would also give the badly underfunded Internal Revenue Service its biggest budget increase in its history — a provision House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) criticized as one that would result in “an army of IRS agents to spy on your bank accounts.”

As White House officials have repeatedly said over the last week, Biden emphasized again Tuesday that no one making under $400,000 a year would pay “a penny more” in taxes. He also made an implicit pitch for Democrats in November’s midterm elections, noting that no Republicans had voted for the Inflation Reduction Act.

“Let’s be clear: In this historic moment, Democrats sided with the American people and every single Republican in the Congress sided with the special interests,” Biden said. “Every single Republican in Congress voted against lowering prescription drug prices, against lowering health-care costs, against the fair tax system. Every single Republican, every single one, voted against tackling the climate crisis, against lowering our energy costs, against creating good-paying jobs.

  • Washington Post, 5 ways the Inflation Reduction Act could save you money

washington post logoWashington Post, DHS watchdog refuses to recuse himself from missing Jan. 6 texts inquiry, draws fresh rebukes from lawmakers, Maria Sacchetti, Aug. 16, 2022. Watchdog delays misconduct probe with GOP help.

The Department of Homeland Security’s chief watchdog has rejected calls from leading Democratic legislators to recuse himself from the investigation into the erasure of text messages that Secret Service agents exchanged during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, drawing fresh rebukes from lawmakers on Tuesday.

Inspector General Joseph Cuffari said in a letter made public Tuesday that he would not share investigative documents or allow his top lieutenants to sit for transcribed interviews before House committees investigating the attack, nor would he provide documents that lawmakers requested.

Cuffari said forcing him to step aside “has no legal basis” and “would upend the very independence that Congress has established for Inspectors General,” according to the letter he sent to House oversight committees on Aug. 8.

The House committees on Homeland Security and Oversight and Reform published his letter Tuesday, along with their response accusing Cuffari of delaying their inquiry into one of the most grievous attacks in U.S. history. Cuffari surprised legislators last month with a letter accusing the Secret Service of erasing text messages from the time of the attack after he had asked for them.

Homeland Security watchdog previously accused of misleading investigators, report says

But committee members soon learned that Cuffari and his staff had known about the missing messages for months, failed to notify Congress or the Homeland Security secretary and canceled steps to retrieve them. Lawmakers said the messages could contain crucial evidence because Secret Service agents shadow presidents and other top officials and may have witnessed their actions that day.

“Your obstruction of the Committees’ investigations is unacceptable, and your justifications for this noncompliance appear to reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of Congress’s authority and your duties as an Inspector General,” Reps. Carolyn B. Maloney, chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Bennie G. Thompson, chair of the Jan. 6 committee and the House Committee on Homeland Security, wrote to Cuffari Tuesday.

“If you continue to refuse to comply with our requests, we will have no choice but to consider alternate measures to ensure your compliance,” they wrote.

The committees would not elaborate on what those steps might be, a spokeswoman said.

Ahead of the Jan. 6 committee's next hearing, members asked the Secret Service agency to turn over reportedly deleted text messages from the Capitol attack. (Video: The Washington Post)

Cuffari was nominated by former president Donald Trump, whose supporters stormed the Capitol in a failed attempt to overthrow the 2020 presidential election.

The lawmakers said in a letter that Cuffari’s refusal is part of a pattern of resistance to their efforts to delve into complaints about his office. They said they have written to him three times since May to request documents about allegations that his office “censored findings of domestic abuse and sexual harassment” by DHS workers, his failure to promptly notify Congress about the Secret Service missing texts, and new reports that documented his “repeated failures” to recover the messages.

 

mark finchem cnn july 22 2022

CNN, Investigation: Arizona Republican secretary of state nominee kept 'Treason Watch List' and posted about stockpiling ammunition on Pinterest, Andrew Kaczynski and Em Steck, Aug. 16, 2022. The Republican nominee for secretary of state in Arizona is a self-proclaimed member of the far-right extremist group the Oath Keepers who repeatedly shared anti-government conspiracies and posts about stockpiling ammunition on social media.

CNNFile team uncovered previously unreported posts from Mark Finchem, an Arizona state representative who won his party's nomination with the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, on several social media websites linked from his since-deleted former Twitter account.
The posts included a Pinterest account with a "Treason Watch List," and pins of photos of Barack Obama alongside imagery of a man clad in Nazi attire making a Nazi salute; Finchem also shared photos of the Holocaust claiming it could happen in the United States.

arizona mapThe Oath Keepers, of which Finchem self-identified as a member since 2014, is an anti-government, far-right militia composed of former and active military and law enforcement that purports to defend the US Constitution. The group is perhaps best known for providing security for the January 6, 2021, "Stop the Steal" rally preceding the Capitol riot. Eleven members, including its leader, were charged by the Justice Department with "seditious conspiracy" related to the Capitol attack.

Finchem, who attended the January 6 rally before the attack on the US Capitol but has denied he participated in the riot and has not been charged with any crimes, campaigned extensively on the false claim the election was stolen from former President Donald Trump. If Finchem wins his race against Democrat Adrian Fontes, a former county clerk of Maricopa County, Arizona, Finchem would be tasked with running the state's elections in 2024. In Arizona, the secretary of state is second in line to the governorship.

Finchem said CNN is not credible and declined to comment.

Finchem's most extreme content came on the social media platform Pinterest, which allows users to save, categorize and share posts called pins into digital mood boards. While Finchem has some light-hearted and conventional boards on food, fashion and dogs, he also has a board titled "Treason Watch List," featuring photos of Jesse Jackson, former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and former Secretary of State John Kerry.

In another board labeled "Thought Provoking," Finchem pinned a number of extremist posts, comparing Democrats to Nazis and invoking the Holocaust to argue against gun control, along with posts calling for stockpiling ammunition.

ny times logoNew York Times, Prosecutors Struggle to Catch Up to a Tidal Wave of Pandemic Fraud, David A. Fahrenthold, Aug. 16, 2022. Investigators say there was so much fraud in federal Covid-relief programs that — even after two years of work and hundreds of prosecutions — they’re still just getting started.

In the midst of the pandemic the government gave unemployment benefits to the incarcerated, the imaginary and the dead. It sent money to “farms” that turned out to be front yards. It paid people who were on the government’s “Do Not Pay List.” It gave loans to 342 people who said their name was “N/A.”

FBI logoAs the virus shuttered businesses and forced people out of work, the federal government sent a flood of relief money into programs aimed at helping the newly unemployed and boosting the economy. That included $3.1 trillion that former President Donald J. Trump approved in 2020, followed by a $1.9 trillion package signed into law in 2021 by President Biden.

But those dollars came with few strings and minimal oversight. The result: one of the largest frauds in American history, with billions of dollars stolen by thousands of people, including at least one amateur who boasted of his criminal activity on YouTube.

Now, prosecutors are trying to catch up.

There are currently 500 people working on pandemic-fraud cases across the offices of 21 inspectors general, plus investigators from the F.B.I., the Secret Service, the Postal Inspection Service and the Internal Revenue Service.

The federal government has already charged 1,500 people with defrauding pandemic-aid programs, and more than 450 people have been convicted so far. But those figures are dwarfed by the mountain of tips and leads that investigators still have to chase.

Agents in the Labor Department’s inspector general’s office have 39,000 investigations going. About 50 agents in a Small Business Administration office are sorting through two million potentially fraudulent loan applications.

Officials already concede that the sheer number of cases means that some small-dollar thefts may never be prosecuted. Earlier this month, President Biden signed bills extending the statute of limitations for some pandemic-related fraud to 10 years from five, a move aimed at giving the government more time to pursue cases. “My message to those cheats out there is this: You can’t hide. We’re going to find you,” Mr. Biden said during the signing at the White House.

Investigators say they hope the extra time will allow them to ensure that those who defrauded the government are ultimately punished, restoring a deterrent that had vanished in a flood of lies and money.

Trillions of dollars flowed into federal relief programs, with few strings and minimal oversight, resulting in one of the largest frauds in U.S. history.
Investigators say there was so much fraud that — even after hundreds of prosecutions — they’re still just getting started.

 

djt rudy new giuliani Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Giuliani Is Target of Georgia Criminal Inquiry on Election Interference, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, Aug. 16, 2022 (print ed.). Lawyers for Rudolph W. Giuliani have been told that he is a target of a criminal investigation in Georgia into election interference by Donald J. Trump and his advisers, one of Mr. Giuliani’s lawyers said on Monday.

rudy giuliani recentMr. Giuliani, who spearheaded efforts to keep Mr. Trump in power as his personal lawyer, emerged in recent weeks as a central figure in the inquiry being conducted by Fani T. Willis, the district attorney of Fulton County, Ga., which encompasses most of Atlanta. Earlier this summer, prosecutors questioned witnesses before a special grand jury about Mr. Giuliani’s appearances before state legislative panels in December 2020, when he spent hours peddling false conspiracy theories about secret suitcases of Democratic ballots and corrupted voting machines.

For Mr. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, the developments are the latest in a widening swath of trouble, though he got some good news recently when it emerged that he was unlikely to face charges in a federal criminal inquiry into his ties to Ukraine during the 2020 presidential campaign.

washington post logoWashington Post, Michigan plot to breach voting machines points to a national trend, Patrick Marley and Tom Hamburger, Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.). A state police inquiry found evidence of a conspiracy that has echoes elsewhere in the country as election deniers seek proof of 2020 fraud.

michigan mapEight months after the 2020 presidential election, Robin Hawthorne didn’t expect anyone to ask for her township’s voting machines.

The election had gone smoothly, she said, just as others had that she’d overseen for 17 years as the Rutland Charter Township clerk in rural western Michigan. But now a sheriff’s deputy and investigator were in her office, questioning her about her township’s three vote tabulators, suggesting that they somehow had been programmed with a microchip to shift votes from Donald Trump to Joe Biden and asking her to hand one over for inspection.

dana nessel o“What the heck is going on?” she recalled thinking.

The surprise visit may have been an “out-of-the-blue thing,” as Hawthorne described it, but it was one element of a much broader effort by figures who deny the outcome of the 2020 vote to access voting machines in a bid to prove fraud that experts say does not exist.

In states across the country — including Colorado, Pennsylvania and Georgia — attempts to inappropriately access voting machines have spurred investigations. They have also sparked concern among election authorities that, while voting systems are broadly secure, breaches by those looking for evidence of fraud could themselves compromise the integrity of the process and undermine confidence in the vote.

In Michigan, the efforts to access the machines jumped into public view this month when the state’s attorney general, Dana Nessel (D), left, requested a special prosecutor be assigned to look into a group that includes her likely Republican opponent, Matthew DePerno.

The expected GOP nominee, Nessel’s office wrote in a petition filed Aug. 5 based on the findings of a state police investigation, was “one of the prime instigators” of a conspiracy to persuade Michigan clerks to allow unauthorized access to voting machines. Others involved, according to the filing, included a state representative and the sheriff in Barry County, Dar Leaf.

washington post logoWashington Post, First lady Jill Biden tests positive for coronavirus, Amy B Wang, Aug. 16, 2022. First lady Jill Biden has tested positive for coronavirus, and she will isolate and begin a course of antiviral treatment, according to the White House.

jill biden headshot wh“After testing negative for COVID-19 on Monday during her regular testing cadence, the First Lady began to develop cold-like symptoms late in the evening,” her spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander said in a statement. “She tested negative again on a rapid antigen test, but a PCR test came back positive.”

Alexander noted that Jill Biden, 71, right, is “double-vaccinated, twice boosted and only experiencing mild symptoms.” The first lady has been prescribed the antiviral therapy Paxlovid and will isolate from others for at least five days, in accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Close contacts of the First Lady have been notified,” Alexander said. “She is currently staying at a private residence in South Carolina and will return home after she receives two consecutive negative COVID tests.”

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. Elections Live Updates: Election deniers march toward power in key 2024 battlegrounds, Amy Gardner, Aug. 16, 2022 (print ed.). GOP nominees who dispute the 2020 results could be positioned to play a critical role in the next presidential election.

 

Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani hawking their false claims that they could prove election fraud caused Democratic nominee Joe Biden's presidential victory in 2020.

Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani hawking their false claims that they could prove election fraud caused Democratic nominee Joe Biden's presidential victory in 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, How Trump’s election denialism took over the GOP, JM Rieger, Aug. 15, 2022 (video). Former president Donald Trump’s false claims election claims began in 2016, but did not become a key litmus test for Republican candidates until after the 2020 election. Here’s how it happened.

 

Trump Defense Secretary Mark Esper, shown in a file photo at right with then-President Trump, has published a harsh assessment of Trump's willingness to break law and other norms to retain power and punish his perceived opponents..

Trump Defense Secretary Mark Esper, shown in a file photo at right with then-President Trump, has published a harsh assessment of Trump's willingness to break law and other norms to retain power and punish his perceived opponents.

Proof, Investigative Commentary: Donald Trump’s January 6 Coup Plot Infiltrated the Pentagon, Seth Abramson, left, Aug. 14-16, 2022. It’s no longer seth abramson graphicpossible to look away from a simple fact: the civilian leadership at the Pentagon under former president Trump is now implicated seth abramson proof logoin his coup conspiracy—and Congress must investigate it.

Note: This 250-page report on the coup plot at the Pentagon functions as the fourth book in the Proof series, Proof of Coup: How the Pentagon Shaped An Insurrection.

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).


Global Threats, Scandals

 

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: U.S. struggled to convince allies, and Zelensky, of risk of invasion, Shane Harris, Karen DeYoung, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Ashley Parker and Liz Sly, Aug. 16, 2022. This account, in previously unreported detail, shines new light on the road to war and the military campaign in Ukraine, drawn from in-depth interviews with dozens of senior U.S., Ukrainian, European and NATO officials.

russian flag wavingOn a sunny October morning, the nation’s top intelligence, military and diplomatic leaders filed into the Oval Office for an urgent meeting with President Biden. They arrived bearing a highly classified intelligence analysis, compiled from newly obtained satellite images, intercepted communications and human sources, that amounted to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war plans for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

For months, Biden administration officials had watched warily as Putin massed tens of thousands of troops and lined up tanks and missiles along Ukraine’s borders. As summer waned, Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, had focused on the increasing volume of intelligence related to Russia and Ukraine. He had set up the Oval Office meeting after his own thinking had gone from uncertainty about Russia’s intentions, to concern he was being too skeptical about the prospects of military action, to alarm.

The session was one of several meetings that officials had about Ukraine that autumn — sometimes gathering in smaller groups — but was notable for the detailed intelligence picture that was presented. Biden and Vice President Harris took their places in armchairs before the fireplace, while Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, joined the directors of national intelligence and the CIA on sofas around the coffee table.

Tasked by Sullivan with putting together a comprehensive overview of Russia’s intentions, they told Biden that the intelligence on Putin’s operational plans, added to ongoing deployments along the border with Ukraine, showed that all the pieces were now in place for a massive assault.

The U.S. intelligence community had penetrated multiple points of Russia’s political leadership, spying apparatus and military, from senior levels to the front lines, according to U.S. officials.

Much more radical than Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and instigation of a separatist movement in eastern Ukraine, Putin’s war plans envisioned a takeover of most of the country.

Using mounted maps on easels in front of the Resolute Desk, Milley showed Russian troop positions and the Ukrainian terrain they intended to conquer. It was a plan of staggering audacity, one that could pose a direct threat to NATO’s eastern flank, or even destroy the post-World War II security architecture of Europe.

As he absorbed the briefing, Biden, who had taken office promising to keep the country out of new wars, was determined that Putin must either be deterred or confronted, and that the United States must not act alone. Yet NATO was far from unified on how to deal with Moscow, and U.S. credibility was weak. After a disastrous occupation of Iraq, the chaos that followed the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and four years of President Donald Trump seeking to undermine the alliance, it was far from certain that Biden could effectively lead a Western response to an expansionist Russia.

Ukraine was a troubled former Soviet republic with a history of corruption, and the U.S. and allied answer to earlier Russian aggression there had been uncertain and divided. When the invasion came, the Ukrainians would need significant new weaponry to defend themselves. Too little could guarantee a Russian victory. But too much might provoke a direct NATO conflict with nuclear-armed Russia.

This account, in previously unreported detail, shines new light on the uphill climb to restore U.S. credibility, the attempt to balance secrecy around intelligence with the need to persuade others of its truth, and the challenge of determining how the world’s most powerful military alliance would help a less-than-perfect democracy on Russia’s border defy an attack without NATO firing a shot.

The first in a series of articles examining the road to war and the military campaign in Ukraine, it is drawn from in-depth interviews with more than three dozen senior U.S., Ukrainian, European and NATO officials about a global crisis whose end is yet to be determined. Some spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence and internal deliberations.

The Kremlin did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Inside Ukraine’s captured nuclear plant, explosions and constant fear, Loveday Morris, Ievgeniia Sivorka and John Hudson, Aug. 16, 2022. Workers from the Zaporizhzhia facility describe disappearances at the hands of Russian soldiers and fear of nuclear catastrophe.

There’s no warning when incoming fire slams into the grounds of Europe’s largest nuclear plant, sending workers scrambling for cover.

“It’s kaboom — then everybody runs,” said one employee, messaging from Enerhodar, the Russian-held town on the banks of the Dnieper River that is home to Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.

Another employee, who sometimes works suspended off the ground to service equipment, said the vibrations are often so strong from outgoing Russian artillery fire that managers make him stop working.

The workers were among six from the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant who spoke to The Washington Post, describing the daily terror of working at the nuclear facility that Russia has used as a shield for its attacks in recent weeks.

Five of them had fled to Ukrainian territory in recent days and weeks as engineers and operational staff members join columns of cars leaving, adding worker shortages to a long list of concerns about the plant’s functioning.

Their accounts provide a window on the deteriorating security situation at the plant, which has triggered global concerns about the potential for a nuclear catastrophe. Some Ukrainian officials say stirring panic could be precisely Moscow’s aim, in the hope that international pressure will force Kyiv to make territorial concessions. Others say they fear Russia is laying the groundwork for a “false flag” attack it will blame on Ukrainian forces.

washington post logoWashington Post, A U.S.-Russia nuclear war could starve 5 billion to death, study says, Marina Lopes, Aug. 16, 2022. Some two-thirds of the world could starve to death in the event of a nuclear war between Russia and the United States, according to a Rutgers University-led study published Monday. Nuclear conflict would lead to “catastrophic” disruptions in food supplies, as sun-blocking soot and ash wilt crops around the world, researchers wrote in the peer-reviewed study published in the journal Nature Food.

Even a smaller-scale nuclear war between Pakistan and India would devastate food supplies, slash global production by 7 percent within five years and kill up to 2.5 billion people. Food insecurity in these cases would be deadlier than the nuclear blasts, the study predicts.

“The data tell us one thing: We must prevent a nuclear war from ever happening,” climate scientist Alan Robock, co-author of the study, said in a statement.

The researchers examined how wind patterns could spread smoke and fire from nuclear attacks and cloud skies above major food exporters such as the United States and China. The lack of sunlight would collapse harvests and could lead to a 90 percent drop in animal, fishing and crop yields worldwide within four years of a conflict between major nuclear powers.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and stepped-up Chinese military drills near Taiwan have renewed fears of nuclear conflict. After war broke out in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his nuclear forces were “combat ready,” stoking fears of possible nuclear conflict with the West 30 years after the end of the Cold War. (Russian officials later attempted to soften Putin’s warning.)

China has conducted numerous drills around Taiwan following recent trips by U.S. lawmakers to the island, which Beijing claims as its territory. Instability in the Taiwan Strait comes as Western experts warn that Beijing is accelerating a buildup of its nuclear arsenal.

washington post logoWashington Post, Former Australian PM criticized for secretly taking five cabinet jobs, Adela Suliman, Aug. 16, 2022. It has emerged that the scott morrison 2016former prime minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, right, took up five other ministerial positions while he was in power, unbeknown to the Australian public and many of his colleagues — prompting outrage in the country and online.

“This has been government by deception,” Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, left, told reporters on Tuesday. He accused his predecessor of “trashing democracy” by taking on multiple government jobs and not informing the public.

anthony albaneseMorrison, who is still a lawmaker but was replaced as prime minister during an election in May, was appointed as minister of health, finance, home affairs, treasury and industry between March 2020 and May 2021, Albanese said. These were all significant cabinet roles, which already had ministers in place — and Morrison gained extensive additional powers by being sworn in as a minister for those departments.

Some of Morrison’s colleagues have expressed outrage and surprise stating they had no idea they were sharing their jobs with their boss.

australian flag wavingAlbanese said Morrison’s secret appointments had been revealed following an investigation, and that it was not clear whether Morrison retained his positions until he was voted out earlier this year.

“It is completely extraordinary that these appointments were kept secret by the Morrison government from the Australian people,” Albanese said.

 

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, DOJ says release of Mar-a-Lago affidavit would harm ongoing criminal probe, Kyle Cheney, Aug. 16, 2022 (print ed.). The Justice Department intends to unseal additional documents connected to the FBI search at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate but is urging a federal court to maintain the secrecy of the sworn affidavit describing the basis for the search.

politico CustomThe DOJ is particularly concerned that the release of details from the affidavit might harm ongoing efforts to interview witnesses, given the threats to federal agents in wake of the Mar-a-Lago search.

“If disclosed, the affidavit would serve as a roadmap to the government’s ongoing investigation, providing specific details about its direction and likely course, in a manner that is highly likely to compromise future investigative steps,” U.S. Attorney Juan Gonzalez and Justice Department counterintelligence chief Jay Bratt said in a filing urging the continued secrecy of the affidavit.

“The fact that this investigation implicates highly classified materials further underscores the need to protect the integrity of the investigation and exacerbates the potential for harm if information is disclosed to the public prematurely or improperly,” the DOJ officials wrote.

Justice Department log circularInstead, DOJ is urging the court to unseal a redacted document that includes additional filings connected to the search warrant, including a cover sheet, DOJ’s motion to seal the warrant on Aug. 5 and the judge’s sealing order issued the same day.

Among DOJ’s concerns about releasing the underlying information is that witnesses might stop cooperating, particularly “given the high-profile nature of this matter.”

“Disclosure of the government’s affidavit at this stage would also likely chill future cooperation by witnesses whose assistance may be sought as this investigation progresses, as well as in other high-profile investigations,” Gonzalez and Bratt say, adding “This is not merely a hypothetical concern, given the widely reported threats made against law enforcement personnel in the wake of the August 8 search.”

Throughout the filing, DOJ makes references to its ongoing criminal investigation connected to the search — a probe that last week’s release of the search warrant revealed to include potential crimes related to the mishandling of classified materials and presidential records, as well as obstruction of Justice. Revealing the affidavit, DOJ noted Monday, would jeopardize that probe.

“Here, the government has a compelling, overriding interest in preserving the integrity of an ongoing criminal investigation,” the DOJ officials argued.

The filing cites news reports about an uptick in threats against FBI agents as well as an attack by an armed man against an FBI building in Cincinnati last week.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Walker, Pollard, Hanssen, Trump . . . America's most traitorous spies, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 22 books, former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst, Aug. 15-16, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2022. Donald Trump, with his affectation for Eastern European models during the Cold War, should have registered with the FBI early on as a potential spy for America's enemies.

wayne madesen report logoCzechoslovak State Security (ŠtB) certainly believed that to be the case when they tripled their efforts to ensure that their two assets, Ivana Zelníčková and her father, Miloš Zelníček, applied a full-court press on Trump beginning in 1976 when Ivana first met Trump.

A year later, ŠtB asset Ivana Zelníčková married Trump. The first Mrs. Trump and Warsaw Pact intelligence asset worked her way into top-level executive jobs in the Trump Organization, including president of the Trump Castle Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, later becoming the manager of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. These positions and her marriage to Donald Trump gave Ivana, and the ŠtB and, by default, the Soviet KGB, important access to the movers and shakers of American politics, business, and media.

Ivana Trump, the mother of Donald Trump, Jr., Eric, and Ivanka, would continue to have access to her ex-husband and his business and political operations long after their divorce in 1992. These benefits included her use of Mar-a-Lago for one month a year pursuant to her divorce settlement with Donald.

[Documentation here.]

Since Trump's circle of acquaintances over the years has included notorious spies and sex blackmailers, where does that place Trump in the world of espionage against the United States? We know that Trump has stolen the nation's most sensitive secrets, but for how long has this gone on?

 Eric Herschmann represented Donald Trump in the former president’s first impeachment trial and later joined the White House as a senior adviser. | Senate Television via Getty Images

Eric Herschmann represented Donald Trump in the former president’s first impeachment trial and later joined the White House as a senior adviser. | Senate Television via Getty Images

Politico, Justice Department subpoenas former Trump White House lawyer Eric Herschmann, Betsy Woodruff Swan, Aug. 16, 2022 (print ed.). He's the latest onetime top aide to the former president to receive a summons from a federal grand jury investigating the Jan. 6 attack.

politico CustomHerschmann represented Donald Trump in the former president’s first impeachment trial and later joined the White House as a senior adviser. He did not work in the White House counsel’s office, but did provide Trump with legal advice. Because of that responsibility, there will likely be litigation over the scope of the subpoena and over how executive and attorney-client privileges may limit Herschmann’s ability to comply.

Herschmann is not the first former Trump White House lawyer to receive a DOJ subpoena. Pat Cipollone, who served as White House counsel, and Patrick Philbin, who served as deputy counsel, have also been subpoenaed.

During the tumultuous final weeks of Trump’s term, Herschmann clashed with other aides and advisers who pushed the defeated president to fight the election results. He was also present for many of the most consequential meetings in that period of time. Among them was a high-stakes meeting where most of the Trump Justice Department’s top brass threatened to resign rather than work under a colleague who wanted to advance spurious claims of widespread voter fraud.

 lindsey graham on djt washington post logoWashington Post, Graham must testify in Ga. probe of effort to overturn 2020 election, judge rules, Eugene Scott, Aug. 16, 2022 (print ed.). A federal judge on Monday denied Sen. Lindsey O. Graham’s (R-S.C.) request to quash his subpoena in Georgia prosecutors’ investigation into potential criminal interference in the 2020 presidential election by President Donald Trump and his allies, signaling he must testify in the probe.

lindsey graham graphic testimonyGraham (whose 2016 comment on Trump is shown above) had argued that he should be exempt from testifying because of speech or debate clause protections, sovereign immunity and his position as a high-ranking government official. U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May rejected all three arguments.

“The Court finds that the District Attorney has shown extraordinary circumstances and a special need for Senator Graham’s testimony on issues relating to alleged attempts to influence or disrupt the lawful administration of Georgia’s 2022 elections,” the judge wrote.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D) requested a special grand jury earlier this year. It began meeting in June and has identified more than 100 people of interest. The panel has already heard testimony from Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) and his staff, Georgia Attorney General Christopher M. Carr (R), state lawmakers and local election workers.

GOP fake electors ‘targets’ in Georgia election fraud inquiry

Graham is of interest to the committee for phone calls he made to Raffensperger about Georgia’s election system. Willis claims Graham made multiple phone calls to Raffensperger and his staff after the election requesting that they reexamine certain absentee ballots “to explore the possibility of a more favorable outcome for former president Donald Trump.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Pennsylvania Man Charged With Threatening F.B.I. After Mar-a-Lago Search, Alan Feuer, Aug. 16, 2022 (print ed.). Prosecutors say the man posted violent threats on Gab, a social media app popular with the far right.

Federal prosecutors charged a Pennsylvania man on Monday with posting multiple violent threats against the F.B.I. online in the days that followed the bureau’s search of former President Donald J. Trump’s private club and residence in Florida.

The man, Adam Bies, 46, compared federal agents to K.G.B. and Nazi officers and threatened to kill them, prosecutors said in a complaint. Mr. Bies posted the messages on Gab, the far-right social media app, and wrote under the pseudonym Adam Kenneth Campbell. He explained in a chat log obtained by investigators that he used the false name “so that corporate Murica’” could not “Google” him “out of a job.”

In one of the messages, posted on Aug. 10, two days after the search of Mr. Trump’s club, Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Bies wrote of the F.B.I., “You’ve declared war on us and now it’s open season on YOU,” according to the complaint.

Politico, Analysis: Why Donald Trump’s declassification claim might not be that outlandish, Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney, Aug. 16, 2022 (print ed.).  The Scooter Libby case under George W. Bush showed that presidents can declassify materials without a clear paper trail.

politico CustomFormer President Donald Trump claims to have verbally declassified the sensitive records the FBI seized from his Mar-a-Lago compound. It’s not as unprecedented or outlandish an argument as widely believed — if he can prove it happened.

Justice Department log circularNearly 20 years ago, Justice Department prosecutors wrestled with the vexing question of whether President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney could unilaterally authorize Cheney’s chief of staff Scooter Libby to leak to select journalists the key findings of a then-highly-classified intelligence community-wide report on Iraq’s efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

Libby’s claim of the direct but unrecorded disclosure order from Bush and Cheney may have contributed to a decision by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald not to charge Libby with releasing classified information to New York Times reporter Judith Miller and others.

Instead, in 2005, Fitzgerald brought perjury and obstruction of justice charges against Libby, forgoing any charge over the release of the National Intelligence Estimate findings or over the issue Fitzgerald was named to investigate: whether anyone in the Bush White House or elsewhere in government leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame to journalists.

“The Libby case might have been the first time in memory that the question of unilateral presidential declassifications arose,” said Steven Aftergood, a leading authority on classified information policy. “It was giving one-time permission to a particular individual to disclose information to another particular individual … It highlights the fact that the president purports to, or does, stand outside of the classification system.”

The Libby case is not an apples-to-apples parallel to the current dispute over Trump’s handling of classified materials, but it shows that past prosecutors have seen some nuance in exactly how a president may be able to declassify information without a clear paper trail.

One problem for Trump is that he’s no longer president and his possession of tangible copies of apparently sensitive national security records implicated a host of potential legal concerns. And, as in Libby’s case, there are other charges that could be brought against Trump besides those dealing with classified information. But the episode from the aftermath of the Iraq invasion in 2003 highlights the difficulty in pursuing prosecutions of classified information in cases that have direct links to the Oval Office.

“The issue was and remains murky,” said Aftergood, a former analyst with the Federation of American Scientists.

Recent Headlines

 mar a lago aerial Custom

 

Upcoming U.S. Elections 

washington post logoWashington Post, Alaska vote tests Trump’s influence, Palin’s bid and a new election system, Nathaniel Herz, Aug. 16, 2022 (print ed.). Two simultaneous elections will be held Tuesday — with voters casting ballots under unusual new conditions.

Sarah Palin’s bid to join the U.S. House, Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s effort (she is shown at right) to keep her Senate seat and Donald Trump’s influence on both of their lisa murkowski oraces will be tested Tuesday in two simultaneous elections in Alaska — with voters casting ballots under unusual new conditions.

On one side of the ballot, Alaskans will vote in a three-way special general election to fill the remainder of the House term left open by Republican Don Young, who was the chamber’s longest-serving member until his sudden death in March. The 45th president has endorsed Palin, a former governor and vice presidential nominee, over fellow Republican Nick Begich III and Democrat Mary Peltola. The election will be Alaska’s first using a ranked-choice system that voters passed in 2020.

Definitive results probably will not be determined for at least two weeks. State elections officials say they won’t start counting second choices and redistributing votes until the deadline for absentee ballots to arrive, and political observers see a race without a runaway candidate.

The ballot’s other side features Murkowski’s Senate primary, where she faces Trump-endorsed Republican Kelly Tshibaka, a former department commissioner in Alaska’s state government. Throughout the primary season, Trump has sought to oust Republicans across the country whom he perceives as hostile to him. After Murkowski voted against Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court in 2018, Trump attacked her sharply and predicted her political demise.

Unlike in 2010, when Murkowski lost the Republican primary to a tea party candidate and won the general election only after a write-in campaign, she is favored to advance Tuesday to the November general election. That’s because of Alaska’s new open primary system, in which all 19 U.S. Senate candidates are appearing on a single, nonpartisan ballot, with the top four advancing to the November vote.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Will Palin win? How badly will Cheney lose? What to watch in tonight’s primaries, Amber Phillips, Aug. 16, 2022. On Tuesday, some of the biggest anti-Trump names in Republican politics will be on the ballot. Here’s what we’re watching in primaries in Alaska and Wyoming.

1. How badly will Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) lose her primary? One of Wyoming’s best-known politicians no longer feels safe in her home state. Due to concern over death threats, Cheney holds invite-only events at her house rather than campaign publicly, reports the New York Times’s Jonathan Martin.

Support for her has imploded since she first voted to impeach Donald Trump over the Jan. 6 attack, and then took a leading role in the ensuing congressional investigation. Wyoming voted for Trump in 2020 by 70 percent in the presidential election, and Cheney’s passionate invocations of Trump’s threats to democracy haven’t changed many minds there. In fact, Trump’s election lies have completely remade the entire Republican Party, a recent Pew Survey finds, to the point where most voters who identify strongly as Republican want to hear their elected officials parrot it.

So Cheney is expected to lose her primary Tuesday to Trump-backed Harriet Hageman, who falsely says the 2020 election was “rigged.” And that means Cheney will lose her job, which she’s held for five years. She will join a growing list of House Republicans who supported Trump’s impeachment to lose their jobs in primaries.

“If the cost of standing up for the Constitution is losing the House seat, then that’s a price I’m willing to pay,” she told Martin.

2. Will Sarah Palin be Alaska’s next member of Congress?

 

mike lindell cyber symposium

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Another year, another high-profile voter-fraud summit goes bust, Philip Bump, Aug. 16, 2022 (print ed.). It was just over a year ago that MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell convened supporters and data experts in South Dakota for a multiday summit (portrayed above) at which he pledged to show his evidence that foreign actors had interfered in the 2020 election.

As presented, the idea was straightforward: Lindell, who believed fervently that the election had been stolen, would finally offer up the raw information that he claimed showed how voting machines had been hacked and the results altered from overseas. This wasn’t his analysis, obviously; he’d hired guys who said they’d uncovered a pattern that could be replicated by others. But when the moment came … it couldn’t. The data was invalid and/or useless. There was no proof. None has since emerged.

But Lindell was in a corner. He’d kept stringing people along for months, promising a big reveal. Whether he knew he didn’t have anything or not, someone did. And this is how cons work: The stakes keep getting increased until the whole thing collapses.

This episode sprang to mind immediately when I started watching “The Pit,” a symposium held in Arizona over the weekend by 2022′s in-vogue election conspiracy theorists, the leaders of the group True the Vote. Same elevation of hype. Same collapse of what was promised.

If you’re at all familiar with True the Vote, this won’t surprise you.

rick wilson screengrabIn his book Everything Trump Touches Dies, former GOP consultant Rick Wilson, left, describes being engaged by the group at some point before the 2016 election. Wilson and his team prepared to help True the Vote get their message — “millions upon millions of illegal votes are cast in every election” — out to the public.

“[T]here was just one problem,” Wilson writes. “As the leading voter fraud prevention group in the country, True the Vote couldn’t provide enough data to make a convincing case even for us, far less to paint a picture of a massive conspiracy to push illegal voters to the polls.”

He tells that story as context for disparaging Donald Trump’s post-2016 insistence that millions of votes had been cast illegally — a claim that Trump adopted wholesale from a tweet by Gregg Phillips of True the Vote. Phillips never provided evidence for the claim, something that he tried to explain away Saturday as his extrapolation of data on the number of noncitizens who vote in the United States (something that happens extremely rarely).

By 2020, True the Vote’s reputation wasn’t terrific. Then the group got lucky, convincing filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza that they had data showing a widespread effort to collect and cast ballots in swing states. The result was “2000 Mules,” a movie that became a sensation on the right this year because it offered what had long been missing: apparent evidence of enough fraud to have affected the election results.

In reality, of course, the film shows no such thing. It shows no example of anyone casting ballots at more than one drop box, as is alleged, and it shows none of the purported data that Phillips collected to cobble together his estimates of how many “mules” were at work. The only map purporting to show someone visiting multiple drop boxes was fictional, as Phillips admitted to The Washington Post.

D’Souza, like Trump and Wilson, was dependent on True the Vote and Phillips in particular for the claims made in the film. The film documents the downside of that credulity: a filmed interaction in which Phillips suggests that their data analysis solved a murder (to D’Souza’s fawning astonishment) was later shown to have not occurred.

After “2000 Mules” was released, True the Vote, like Lindell before them, promised to release all of the data undergirding their purported investigation. In May, they said they would soon “pull the ripcord,” making all of their information public within a few weeks.

Then it didn’t happen.

Finally, True the Vote announced “The Pit.” The hustle is ever-evolving.

ny times logoNew York Times, Senate G.O.P. Campaign Arm Slashes TV Ad Buys in Three States, Shane Goldmacher, Aug. 16, 2022 (print ed.). In a sign that fund-raising trouble is taking a serious toll, a key political committee cancels ad plans in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The Republicans’ Senate campaign committee has slashed its television ad reservations in three critical battleground states for the fall, a likely sign of financial troubles headed into the peak of the 2022 midterm election season.

republican elephant logoThe National Republican Senatorial Committee has cut more than $5 million in Pennsylvania, including its reservations in the Philadelphia media market, according to two media-tracking sources.

Reservations in Wisconsin, in the Madison and Green Bay markets, have also been curtailed, by more than $2 million. And in Arizona, all reservations after Sept. 30 have been cut in Phoenix and Tucson, the state’s only two major media markets, amounting to roughly $2 million more.

washington post logoWashington Post, Six drastic plans Trump is already promising for a second term, Isaac Arnsdorf, Aug. 16, 2022. The former president’s recent speeches have begun specifying new policies he’d pursue if he returns to the White House, with an emphasis on crime, voting and shrinking the government.

President Donald Trump officialFor the first time since leaving office, former president Donald Trump has started getting specific about what he would do if he wins a second term in the White House.

The pitches he’s made onstage over the past month in speeches from D.C. to Dallas to Las Vegas are a stark contrast from ordinary stump speeches. He promises a break from American history if elected, with a federal government stacked with loyalists and unleashed to harm his perceived enemies.

There has never been a potential candidate like Trump: a defeated former president whose followers attacked the Capitol, who still insists he never lost, and who openly pledges revenge on those he views as having wronged him.

As his 2016 campaign and administration showed time and again, from the border wall to the Muslim ban, he and his aides worked furiously to translate rally slogans into official policy — whether or not there were legal or political barriers to overcome. And if Trump does return to the White House in 2025, this time he will be surrounded by fewer advisers interested in moderating or restraining his impulses.

Instead, his administration would probably be staffed by dedicated loyalists, and would have the advantage of an emboldened conservative majority on the Supreme Court. He and his advisers would also have more experience in how to exert power inside the federal bureaucracy and exploit vulnerabilities in institutions and laws.

Trump has strongly hinted that he wants to run for president again and has been considering an early announcement ahead of the November midterms. Last week’s search of his Mar-a-Lago residence and club added urgency for those of his advisers who favor an early launch, a person with direct knowledge told The Washington Post, but Trump hasn’t committed to a timeline.

A Trump spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

Here are six specific proposals that have recently surfaced in Trump’s speeches — and what each plan might look like if he pursued it from the White House.

  • Execute drug dealers
  • Move homeless people to outlying ‘tent cities’
  • Deploy federal force against crime, unrest and protests
  • Strip job protections for federal workers
  • Eliminate the Education Department
  • Restrict voting to one day using paper ballots

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: That red wave is looking more like a ripple. Here’s why, Dana Milbank, right, Aug. 16, 2022 (print ed.).  Suddenly, the dana milbank newest2022 midterms are looking much better for Democrats, and there’s a simple explanation: Donald Trump is back on the ballot, metaphorically speaking.

In the last few days, a historical anomaly has emerged, a glitch in the electoral matrix: For the first time in the modern era, momentum has shifted toward an incumbent president’s party at this point in a midterm election year.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Nevada and Minnesota: Two very different races, but the same Democratic message, Jennifer Rubin, right, Aug. 16, 2022. jennifer rubin new headshotYou wouldn’t think that Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District and Minnesota’s 2nd have much in common.

But in both swing districts, the Democrats’ accomplishments this summer — and Republican opposition to a host of popular measures — have provided Democratic women running for reelection with a smorgasbord of issues to win over key swing voters. They also are leaning into the abortion issue, which their opponents are struggling to play down at a time when the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has created a ferocious backlash.

Rep. Susie Lee (D-Nev.) reels off the list of items she and other Democrats have delivered. “Over 90,000 people in Nevada will see the Affordable Care Act subsidies extended,” she told me. That amounts to as much as $4,500 for a family. The $4 billion for drought relief is critical in a district where extreme heat has reduced Lake Mead to 27 percent of capacity. Las Vegas ranks as the second-fastest-warming U.S. city, according to one climate nonprofit, with Reno in first. “This disproportionately affects our workers,” Lee says.

Just as important is what Republicans have opposed en masse: semiconductor investment, a $35 cap on insulin and anti-gouging legislation to combat high gas prices. “I think Nevada voters understand Democrats have taken action,” she says. “I think Republicans like a talking point. We have solutions.”

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U.S. Economy, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, The Arizona Republican Party’s Anti-Democracy Experiment, Robert Draper, Aug. 16, 2022 (print ed.). First, it turned against the establishment. Now it has set its sights on democracy — the principles, the process and even the word itself.

arizona mapArizona has become a bellwether for the rest of the nation, and not just because of its new status as a swing state and the first of these to be called for Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

It was and has continued to be the nexus of efforts by former President Donald Trump and his Republican allies to overturn the 2020 election results. At the same time, party figures from Trump down to Rose Sperry have sought to republican elephant logoblacklist every Arizona G.O.P. official who maintained that the election was fairly won — from Gov. Doug Ducey to Rusty Bowers, speaker of the state’s House of Representatives. Such leaders have been condemned as RINOs, or Republicans in name only, today’s equivalent of the McCarthy era’s “fellow travelers.”

The aggressive takeover of the Arizona G.O.P. by its far-right wing was made manifest on primary night earlier this month, when a slate of Trump-endorsed candidates — the gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, the U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters, the state attorney general candidate Abraham Hamadeh and the secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem — all prevailed.

As a group, they maintain that the 2020 election was stolen, have promoted conspiracy theories about Covid and have vowed to protect Arizona’s schools from gender ideology, critical race theory and what McCarthyites denounced 70 years ago as “godless communism.”

They have cast the 2022 election as not just history-defining but potentially civilization-ending. As Lake told a large crowd in downtown Phoenix the night before the primary: “It is not just a battle between Republicans and Democrats. This is a battle between freedom and tyranny, between authoritarianism and liberty and between good and evil.”

A week later, in response to the F.B.I.’s executing a search warrant at Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, Lake posted a statement on Twitter: “These tyrants will stop at nothing to silence the Patriots who are working hard to save America.” She added, “America — dark days lie ahead for us.” Far from offering an outlier’s view, Lake was articulating the dire stance shared by numerous other Republicans on the primary ballot and by the reactionary grass-roots activists who have swept them into power.

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Energy, Climate, Disasters, Environment

 

climate change photo

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why Republicans Turned Against the Environment, Paul Krugman, right, Aug. 16, 2022 (print ed.). In 1990 Congress passed an paul krugmanamendment to the Clean Air Act of 1970, among other things taking action against acid rain, urban smog and ozone.

The legislation was highly successful, greatly reducing pollution at far lower cost than business interest groups had predicted.

What’s really striking from today’s perspective, however, is the fact that the 1990 legislation passed Congress with overwhelming, bipartisan majorities. Among those voting Yea was a first-term senator from Kentucky named Mitch McConnell.

That was then. This is now: The Inflation Reduction Act — which, despite its name, is mainly a climate bill with a side helping of health reform — didn’t receive a single Republican vote. So why the scorched-earth G.O.P. opposition?

The immediate answer is that the Republican Party has turned strongly anti-environmental over time. But why?

What has happened, I’d argue, is that environmental policy has been caught up in the culture war — which is, in turn, largely driven by issues of race and ethnicity. This, I suspect, is why the partisan divide on the environment widened so much after America elected its first Black president.

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More On Ukraine War

ny times logoNew York Times, Blasts Hit Russian Ammunition Depot in Crimea, Michael Schwirtz, Aug. 16, 2022. The explosions came a week after blasts at a Russian air base on the peninsula destroyed several fighter jets. A senior Ukrainian official said that an elite military unit was responsible for Tuesday's attack.

Huge explosions rocked a Russian ammunition depot on the occupied Crimean Peninsula on Tuesday morning, delivering another embarrassing blow to Moscow’s forces a week after blasts at a Russian air base in the same region destroyed several fighter jets.

A senior Ukrainian official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the operation, said that an elite Ukrainian military unit operating behind enemy lines was responsible for the explosions. Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that the episode was an “act of sabotage,” according to the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.

The apparent use of covert forces behind enemy lines underscored the inventiveness of Ukraine’s forces. Since the war began, they have adopted unconventional tactics in the hopes of leveling the playing field while trying to repel attacks from a much larger and better equipped Russian military.

Although Ukraine’s leaders did not publicly claim responsibility, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed that the explosions had occurred.

The adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, also appeared to hint at Ukrainian involvement. “A reminder: Crimea of normal country is about the Black Sea, mountains, recreation and tourism, but Crimea occupied by Russians is about warehouses explosions and high risk of death for invaders and thieves. Demilitarization in action,” he wrote on Twitter.
At least two civilians were wounded in the blasts in the northern part of the peninsula, and as many as 3,000 were evacuated from the area around the weapons depot, the Kremlin-installed head of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, said on Telegram. The explosion occurred at a temporary ammunition storage site near a military base, he said.

The ammunition then continued exploding after the initial blast. “At the moment detonations are continuing,” Mr. Aksyonov said.

Until this month, Crimea appeared well protected from Ukrainian attacks. Even Ukraine’s most advanced weapons systems do not have the range to hit Russian military targets there, and its planes are incapable of making it through Russia’s air defenses on the peninsula.

A senior Ukrainian official said that an elite military unit operating behind enemy lines was responsible for Tuesday’s attacks. Follow updates.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Fights Efforts to Declare It an Exporter of ‘Blood Diamonds,’ Dionne Searcey, Aug. 16, 2022. As a major diamond producer, Russia earns billions of dollars that other nations say help finance war.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to global soul-searching about overreliance on Russian oil and gas, but a new drama is unfolding over another of Russia’s major exports: diamonds.

Russia is the world’s largest supplier of small diamonds. For years, engagement rings, earrings and pendants for sale in the United States and beyond have included diamonds mined from deep in the permafrost in Russia’s northeast.

Now, the United States and other countries are taking action that could officially label Russian diamonds as “conflict diamonds,” claiming their sale helps pay for Russia’s deadly aggression in Ukraine.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Ukraine Updates: Russia claims ‘act of sabotage’ in Crimea depot explosion, Annabelle Timsit and Katerina Ang, Aug. 16, 2022. An ammunition depot was on fire near Dzhankoi. Three foreign nationals could face the death penalty in eastern Ukraine.

Key developments

  • A top Ukrainian official pointed to more “explosions” in occupied Crimea as Russia said the destruction of an ammunition depot there was an “act of sabotage.” Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.
  • A blast near Dzhankoi in Russian-occupied Crimea was “demilitarization in action,” Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, tweeted, without openly claiming responsibility for the explosion. Russia’s Defense Ministry said a fire at a depot near Dzhankoi caused ammunition stored inside to detonate, and called it an “act of sabotage,” state media reported. The incident came nearly a week after a powerful attack on a Russian air base in Crimea showcased a new ability by Ukrainian forces to carry out attacks far behind the war’s front lines.
  • Zelensky, in an interview with The Post, said that “one can’t wage war with drones,” as he defended his government’s response to U.S. intelligence warnings of a possible Russian invasion. He said Western countries did not send Ukraine the advanced weapons it needed — including U.S. multiple-launch precision rocket systems, or HIMARS — before the war began.
  • Kyiv said supporting powers were not specific enough in their warnings, and Zelensky himself suspected that some Western officials wanted him to flee so they could negotiate a settlement with Moscow over Ukraine, The Post found as part of its months-long examination of the road to war in Ukraine. “I’m sure someone was really worried about what would happen to me and my family,” Zelensky told The Post. “But someone probably wanted to just end things faster.”
  • The United Nations and Russia discussed safety around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres spoke with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Monday about how to ensure the safe functioning of Europe’s largest nuclear plant, which is under Russian control, as strikes around the plant have intensified in recent days. Kyiv and Moscow have blamed each other for the strikes, which have sent local residents fleeing.
  • Russia has “no need to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine,” Shoigu, Russia’s defense minister, said Tuesday at a conference in Moscow. Russia’s nuclear arsenal exists mainly “to deter a nuclear attack,” and its use “is limited to emergency circumstances” outlined in publicly available documents, he said.

Battlefield updates

  • Russia’s Black Sea fleet is “struggling” to effectively control the waters off Crimea’s coast following Russian forces’ withdrawal from Snake Island and the sinking of Russia’s flagship, the Moskva, in April, the British Defense Ministry said. British analysts said the “limited effectiveness” of the fleet “undermines Russia’s overall invasion strategy” by neutralizing the threat of an amphibious assault on Odessa.
  • Russia’s main military priority is eastern Ukraine, and its forces “conducted multiple offensive operations east and southeast of Siversk” in the Donetsk region on Monday, according to the Institute for the Study of War, a U.S.-based think tank. Russia “made limited territorial gains” Monday in ground attacks around Bakhmut, a city south of Siversk, ISW analysts said.
  • Russian-backed forces made further attempts to “break Ukrainian defenses” around the city of Donetsk on Monday, according to ISW. The British Defense Ministry said Sunday that Russian forces focused the fighting on Pisky, a village outside Donetsk near the city’s airport, in a probable effort to secure the highway leading into Donetsk from the west.
  • Russia “conducted limited offensive operations” near the city of Kharkiv in the north on Monday as part of its effort to support its eastern offensive, ISW said. Russian forces targeted towns and villages around Kharkiv with airstrikes, Ukrainian officials said.

Global impact

  • Three foreign nationals could face the death penalty in eastern Ukraine after a court in the separatist Donetsk region charged them Monday with being mercenaries, the Russian state news agency Tass reported. The three — nationals of Croatia, Sweden and Britain — pleaded not guilty. Their next court hearing will take place in early October, Tass said.
  • Five more ships left Ukrainian ports loaded with grain as part of a U.N.-backed initiative involving Ukraine and Russia, Turkey’s Defense Ministry said. Countries around the world are dealing with shortages of wheat, corn and other staples as a result of the war.
  • Finland could significantly pare back visas for Russian nationals amid a debate in the European Union about whether such cuts are feasible or justified. The Finnish foreign minister said Tuesday that the government has discussed limiting visa applications for Russians to one-fifth or one-tenth of the current number, with priority given to those needing to enter Finland for work, school or family reasons. Ukraine’s Zelensky told The Post that the E.U. should close its borders to all Russian nationals, arguing that everyday Russians should bear some cost for the invasion.
  • Thai instant-noodle manufacturers have asked authorities for permission to raise prices beyond a government-mandated cap as they face higher costs for ingredients and fuel, in large part due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, The Washington Post’s Bryan Pietsch reports.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Claims Strike on Russian Mercenary Base, Ivan Nechepurenko and Cassandra Vinograd, Aug. 16, 2022 (print ed.). Reports of a strike in the Luhansk region of Ukraine’s east emerged on Sunday night; In the Kherson region in the south, Russia has withstood a barrage of Ukrainian attacks, but little territory has exchanged hands.

ukraine flagA Ukrainian strike hit a Russian base in eastern Ukraine that housed mercenaries from a private military group with close ties to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Ukrainian officials have claimed.

Reports of a strike in the Luhansk region on a base for the organization, the Wagner Group, began to emerge on Sunday night when a channel on Telegram that is widely associated with the group posted pictures that purported to show the site of the strike. The New York Times has independently verified that the images are from a building in the Russian-occupied town of Popasna that a Russian journalist had earlier identified as a Wagner base.

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s minister of internal affairs, shared similar images on Twitter and said that Ukraine had used the American-supplied HIMARS weapon system to hit the base.

russian flag wavingWagner first emerged in 2014, during Russia’s annexation of Crimea. U.N. investigators and rights groups say Wagner troops, which have been seen in Syria, Libya and the Central African Republic, have targeted civilians, conducted mass executions and looted private property in conflict zones. Wagner’s shadowy existence allows Russia to downplay its battlefield casualties and distance itself from atrocities committed by Wagner fighters, according to those who have studied the group.

On Monday morning, Serhiy Haidai, the head of the Ukrainian regional military administration in Luhansk, asserted that the Wagner base in Popasna had been “destroyed.”

“The Armed Forces of Ukraine again successfully struck the enemy’s headquarters,” Mr. Haidai wrote in a Facebook post, adding that the number of casualties was not yet known.

There was no immediate comment from the authorities in Russia or from Yevgeny Prigozhin, the secretive businessman and Putin ally widely associated with the private security company.

Reports of the strike infuriated many Russian military bloggers, who criticized an earlier social media post by one of their own. That post, they said, had exposed the headquarters’ location. The post has since been deleted.

“Congratulations to all decent war reporters, it will be even harder for us to work now,” Dmitri Steshin, a reporter for Komsomolskaya Pravda, a popular pro-Kremlin tabloid, wrote on Telegram. “And it will be easier for those who criticized us.”

Russia has tried to make up some of its manpower shortages in Ukraine by using mercenaries from Wagner, which gained prominence as it deployed to help accomplish the Kremlin’s foreign policy goals in Syria and various African nations.

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Political Violence In United States

 

Hadi Matar, 24, center, arrives for an arraignment in the Chautauqua County Courthouse in Mayville, N.Y., Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. Matar, who is accused of carrying out a stabbing attack against “Satanic Verses” author Salman Rushdie has entered a not-guilty plea in a New York court on charges of attempted murder and assault. An attorney for Matar entered the plea on his behalf during an arraignment hearing. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Hadi Matar, 24, center, arrives for an arraignment in the Chautauqua County Courthouse in Mayville, N.Y., Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. Matar, who is accused of carrying out a stabbing attack against “Satanic Verses” author Salman Rushdie has entered a not-guilty plea in a New York court on charges of attempted murder and assault. An attorney for Matar entered the plea on his behalf during an arraignment hearing. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran denies involvement in Rushdie attack, says he brought it on himself, Jennifer Hassan, Aug. 16, 2022 (print ed.). Iran denied any salman rushdie hinvolvement Monday in last week’s attack that left author Salman Rushdie, right, with severe injuries after he was stabbed in the neck and abdomen onstage at an event in western New York.

In its first public reaction to the stabbing, Iran said Rushdie and his supporters were to blame for the attack, more than three decades after Tehran issued a directive for Muslims to kill Rushdie because of his book “The Satanic Verses,” published in 1988.

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Pandemic Public Health, Disasters

 

fda logo

washington post logoWashington Post, FDA moves to make over-the-counter hearing aids available to millions, Eugene Scott, and Katie Shepherd, Aug. 16, 2022. The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday moved to make hearing aids available to consumers to buy over the counter without a prescription or medical exam, a long-awaited goal for nearly 30 million consumers.

“As early as mid-October, Americans will be able to purchase more affordable hearing aids over the counter at pharmacies and stores across the country,” President Biden said in a statement Tuesday. “This action makes good on my commitment to lower costs for American families, delivering nearly $3,000 in savings to American families for a pair of hearing aids and giving people more choices to improve their health and wellbeing.”

The president called on the FDA to make hearing aids available over the counter last year in his Promoting Competition in the American Economy executive order to help lower costs and increase competition in certain industries.

The devices will be available for individuals 18 and older with mild to moderate hearing loss.

The move comes more than four years after Congress ordered the FDA to craft regulations for over-the-counter devices. The new regulations will create a new category of hearing aids that will supersede state-level regulations requiring patients to visit physicians or audiologists to get prescriptions and fittings.

washington post logoWashington Post, First lady Jill Biden tests positive for coronavirus, Amy B Wang, Aug. 16, 2022. First lady Jill Biden has tested positive for coronavirus, and she will isolate and begin a course of antiviral treatment, according to the White House.

jill biden headshot wh“After testing negative for COVID-19 on Monday during her regular testing cadence, the First Lady began to develop cold-like symptoms late in the evening,” her spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander said in a statement. “She tested negative again on a rapid antigen test, but a PCR test came back positive.”

Alexander noted that Jill Biden, 71, right, is “double-vaccinated, twice boosted and only experiencing mild symptoms.” The first lady has been prescribed the antiviral therapy Paxlovid and will isolate from others for at least five days, in accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Close contacts of the First Lady have been notified,” Alexander said. “She is currently staying at a private residence in South Carolina and will return home after she receives two consecutive negative COVID tests.”

 ny times logoNew York Times, Polio Is Worrying Parents. Doctors Say Vaccination Is the Answer, Sharon Otterman and Nate Schweber, Aug. 16, 2022 (print ed.). Poliovirus has been detected in New York City wastewater, but children who are up-to-date on their vaccinations should be OK, pediatricians said.

The polio vaccine is highly effective. A first dose is typically given when babies are 2 months old; a second is given two months later. After those two doses, protection against paralytic polio is at least 90 percent.

A third dose is typically given when the baby is 6 months old. That dose brings protection against paralytic polio close to 99 percent. A fourth dose, given after the child turns 4, is intended to ensure that the high protection lasts over a lifetime.

washington post logoWashington Post, Monkeypox may have made first jump from owners to a dog, report says, Lateshia Beachum, Aug. 16, 2022 (print ed.). The first suspected case of human-to-dog transmission of monkeypox has been reported in Paris, leading the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to update its website to include dogs among animals susceptible to catching the virus.

The disease can spread between people and animals, said the CDC, which is studying which animals can contract monkeypox, which the United States declared a public health emergency this month. The CDC lists 10 animals, including dogs, that can be infected with monkeypox.

The evidence of spread from humans to dogs, published in the Lancet, could lead to further guidance on how pets should be cared for if they’re in a living space with an infected person, Rosamund Lewis, the World Health Organization’s lead on monkeypox, told The Washington Post on Monday.

Monkeypox usually spreads from human to human through direct contact with infectious rashes, scabs or bodily fluids. It can also be transmitted from respiratory secretions during prolonged face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling or sex.

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U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: California has the chance to limit solitary confinement. It should take it, Editorial Board, Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.). California, a longtime misuser of solitary confinement, is considering legislation to enact common-sense limits on the practice.

The California Mandela Act, if signed into law, would require every jail, prison or detention facility in California, public or private, to have written procedures and documentation about their use of solitary confinement. It would prohibit solitary confinement for prisoners who are pregnant, under 26 years old, over 59 years old or with a mental or physical disability. It would also ban holding anyone outside these “special populations” in solitary confinement for more than 15 consecutive days or more than 45 days in a 180-day period. That would bring California in line with the Nelson Mandela Rules, the United Nations’ “Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.”
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Some horror stories the California Mandela Act could prevent from happening again: In 2020, a 74-year-old man with a history of mental illness killed himself while held in solitary confinement at the Mesa Verde Immigration and Customs Enforcement Processing Center. In 2018, a woman held in Santa Rita County Jail gave birth in solitary confinement, “screaming for hours, alone, with nothing to wrap her baby girl in but the jail jumpsuit on her back.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Pain Doctor Who Sexually Assaulted Patients Found Dead at Rikers Jail, Jonah E. Bromwich and Jan Ransom, Aug. 16, 2022 (print ed.). Ricardo Cruciani was found dead just weeks after his conviction. His lawyer had called for him to be put on suicide watch minutes after he was convicted.

A doctor found guilty last month of sexually assaulting patients was found dead at the Rikers Island jail complex Monday even though his lawyer had called for him to be put on suicide watch just minutes after he was convicted.

The doctor, Ricardo Cruciani, a 68-year-old neurologist, was found early Monday morning sitting in a shower area of the jail with a sheet around his neck, according to documents obtained by The New York Times. Shortly afterward, medical staff arrived to attend to him. He died about an hour after he was discovered, the documents show.

Mr. Cruciani is the 12th person to have died this year either while being held in the city’s jails or shortly after being released. His death came about two weeks after a jury found him guilty on 12 counts of predatory sexual assault, sexual abuse, rape and other crimes, stemming from his treatment of six patients that he saw around 2012.

In a statement, the commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction, Louis A. Molina, said he was “deeply saddened to learn of the passing of this person in custody.”

“We will conduct a preliminary internal review to determine the circumstances surrounding his death,” he said in the statement, which did not identify Mr. Cruciani. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to his loved ones.”

washington post logoWashington Post, A progressive prosecutor clashed with DeSantis. Now he’s out of a job, Lori Rozsa, Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.). State Attorney Andrew Warren was waiting for a grand jury to issue indictments in two rape and murder cases he had been working on for three years when he glanced down at his phone and saw an email from an attorney for Gov. Ron DeSantis.

It said he was suspended from his job.

Stunned, Warren quickly went to his office to consult with his staff. Not long after, there was a knock at the door. An armed major from the county sheriff’s office and a man in a suit from the governor’s office carrying a copy of DeSantis’ executive order suspending him were looking for him.

“He said, essentially, ‘The governor has suspended you and you need to leave the office now,’” Warren, a Democrat, recalled of DeSantis’ aide. “So within maybe seven minutes from getting the email, I was outside, on the street. The major offered me a ride home because they took my car.”

The dramatic ouster has alarmed many in Florida, who say DeSantis — widely considered a potential 2024 presidential candidate — usurped the will of the voters by removing a twice-elected local official who disagreed with him politically. Warren had initiated police reforms unpopular with some local law enforcement officers, and in the past year signed two statements pledging not to use his office to “criminalize” health care, including prosecuting women who get abortions and people seeking gender-affirming medical treatments.

In announcing the suspension, DeSantis excoriated Warren for being a “woke” prosecutor more interested in social justice than in enforcing the law. He warned of a “pathogen” spreading in U.S. cities — progressive prosecutors trying to reduce incarceration rates they see as overly punitive and that disproportionately impact people of color. He said prosecutors like Warren have caused “catastrophic results” in other states.

“We are not going to let that get a foothold here in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said a news conference in Tampa, while across town Warren was being physically ejected from his office. The governor was flanked by more than a dozen officers who hailed the move to oust Warren.

The clash comes as political parties pay more attention to state attorney elections than they have in the past and as prosecutors around the country are now faced with a slate of new laws restricting or outright banning abortion care after the fall of Roe v. Wade. For Warren, who left a job as a federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., to run for office in his home state, the suspension was the latest in a series of dust-ups with the governor. He said he was not planning to ignore the law, only that he planned to exercise prosecutorial discretion.

Politico, Former Rep. T.J. Cox arrested by FBI in California, Anthony Adragna, Aug. 16, 2022. The former congressman was charged with "15 counts of wire fraud, 11 counts of money laundering, one count of financial institution fraud, and one count of campaign contribution fraud."

politico CustomThe FBI arrested former one-term Rep. T.J. Cox on dozens of charges related to financial fraud, according to public records with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office.

The arrest took place around 8:30 a.m. at the federal courthouse in Fresno, Calif., according to the records. A statement from the Justice Department said the former congressman was charged with “15 counts of wire fraud, 11 counts of money laundering, one count of financial institution fraud, and one count of campaign contribution fraud.”

Cox came to Congress in the 2018 Democratic wave, defeating Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.) in a battleground district. He lost his 2020 rematch with Valadao by about 1,500 votes. Cox mulled running again in 2022, but ultimately endorsed Democrat Rudy Salas in the race.

If convicted in the 28-count indictment, Cox faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for wire fraud and money laundering, according to the Justice Department.

ny times logoNew York Times, Two of New York’s Oldest Mafia Clans Charged in Money Laundering Scheme, Troy Closson, Aug. 16, 2022. Nine members and associates of the Genovese and Bonanno families were charged in a case that centered on secret gambling parlors in Queens and Long Island.

For nearly a decade, families visited a small coffee shop in suburban Long Island for pastries and gelato. Many were unaware of the longstanding operation playing out just feet away from them: Mafia members were running a secret underground gambling den in the store.

The business was one of several across the island and in Queens that served as a front for two of New York’s oldest crime families and their illegal moneymaking schemes, according to two federal indictments unsealed Tuesday. When other gambling clubs threatened their fortunes, a Nassau County detective offered to conduct police raids on the rival clubs in exchange for payments, prosecutors said.

On Tuesday, nine reputed members and associates of the Genovese and Bonanno clans — including the detective — were charged in a racketeering case brought by the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn that centered on the illegal parlors and the money laundering and extortion schemes.

Federal prosecutors said that for 10 years, the gambling activities brought in “substantial revenue” for the two families as they hid under the cover of businesses like a soccer club and a shoe repair store. The Long Island coffee shop alone typically earned them more than $10,000 per week, funds that were laundered up to the crime families’ leaders.

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Anniversary Update: U.S. Afghan Departure

washington post logoWashington Post, A year after U.S. drone strike killed Afghan civilians, their relatives are on a path to resettlement, Abigail Hauslohner, Aug. 16, 2022. The Biden administration has moved out of Afghanistan nearly four dozen family members of the 10 civilians killed in a U.S. drone strike.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: One year’s hindsight on Afghanistan: A good decision, horribly executed, David Ignatius, right, Aug. 16, 2022. A year after david ignatiusthe fall of Kabul, the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan looks better as a pragmatic decision to end a costly war. But haunting images remain from an unnecessarily chaotic exit that reflected a chain of policy misjudgments.

“The last year has borne out the wisdom of getting out,” argues a senior White House official. Though I was skeptical at the time, his judgment seems correct. Imagine if we were still fighting the Taliban when Russia invaded Ukraine in February, or as China threatened Taiwan. As for the terrorism threat, last month’s drone killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri suggests it might be manageable from a distance, as the administration has argued.

What’s still agonizing, though, is the decision-making process, in which different parts of the administration pursued what amounted to contradictory policies. The Pentagon wanted to get out as fast as possible once President Biden decided in April 2021 to withdraw. But the State Department sought to maintain its embassy and diplomatic presence in Kabul, even as the country was crumbling.

 

World News, Human Rights, Analysis

ny times logoNew York Times, Kenya Election Live Updates: William Ruto Is Declared Winner as Questions Linger, Declan Walsh, Abdi Latif Dahir and Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Aug. 16, 2022 (print ed.). Four of the country’s seven election commissioners would not verify the result, raising the specter of another legal challenge in a nation with a history of disputed votes.

kenya flagKenya’s vice president, William Ruto, won the country’s presidential election, the head of the electoral commission said Monday, days after a cliffhanger vote in a country that is pivotal to the economy and security of East Africa.

Mr. Ruto gained 50.5 percent of the vote, narrowly defeating Raila Odinga, a former prime minister, who received 48.85 percent, according to the chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, Wafula W. Chebukati. That percentage is enough to avert a runoff vote.

But minutes before the result was announced, four of the seven commission members said they could not verify the outcome. The statement raised questions about the legitimacy of the result and is likely to feature in any challenge in Kenya’s Supreme Court by supporters of Mr. Odinga.

A legal challenge could, in the short term, prolong a period of uncertainty in a nation whose democracy is closely watched by the continent and the world.

Kenyan law allows for an election result to be challenged within one week — a prospect that many observers viewed as a near certainty.

Soon after the results were announced, Mr. Ruto accepted victory, thanked his supporters and vowed to work for the good of the country.

“There is no room for vengeance, there is no room for looking back, we are looking into the future,” he said. “I am acutely aware that our country is at a stage where we need all hands on deck to move it forward. We do not have the luxury to look back.”

Celebrations broke out in the streets of Eldoret town, a stronghold for Mr. Ruto’s in the Rift Valley, with a deafening cacophony of cars and motorcycle honks, whistling and screaming taking over the streets in the downtown area.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Ruto vows ‘no room for vengeance’ as the nation awaits his rival’s next move.
  • Why this election matters: Kenya’s stability is vital.
  • William Ruto: A barefoot student who became a power broker.
  • Raila Odinga is once more at the heart of electoral uncertainty.
  • At the forefront of voters’ minds: Rising prices and persistent corruption.
  • Dueling scenes of jubilation and grief reflect Kenya’s winner-takes-all politics.
  • Ruto vows ‘no room for vengeance’ as the nation awaits his rival’s next move.

washington post logoWashington Post, India celebrates 75 years since independence amid hope and tension, Annabelle Timsit, Aug. 16, 2022 (print ed.). India is india flag mapcelebrating 75 years since its independence from British colonial rule. Cities across the country held parades and events Monday featuring soldiers, elephants and dancers. Buildings lit up in the orange, white and green of India’s national flag, and a government campaign urged families to fly the flag at home.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Power Struggle in Iraq Intensifies, Raising Fears of New Violence, Alissa J. Rubin, Videos by Emily Rhyne, Aug. 16, 2022. Followers of the Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr set up a tent city to blockade Parliament, paralyzing progress toward forming a new government.

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U.S. Forced Birth Laws, Privacy, Freedoms

ny times logoNew York Times, After the reversal of Roe, readership has surged at publications aimed at women, Katie Robertson, Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.). The surge of readers has buoyed a part of the digital media world that has gradually declined in recent years.

Jezebel, a feminist website started by Gawker Media in 2007, saw an 18 percent increase in traffic after a leaked draft of the decision was published by Politico in May. The 19th, which covers gender and politics and takes its name from the 19th Amendment, reported a 63 percent jump in readership for its abortion-related stories. And The Cut, New York magazine’s women’s site, said traffic to its abortion rights coverage increased nearly threefold in June compared with the previous month.

Now readers are hunting out a feminist perspective and looking to writers who have closely covered the fight over abortion rights for years.

“We are able to cover this in an unflinching and honest way, with a perspective that I think a lot of traditional media outlets sort of aren’t able to do,” said Laura Bassett, the editor in chief of Jezebel.

Ms. Bassett previously covered women’s rights and health for nearly a decade at HuffPost. She took over Jezebel in September 2021. One of her first moves, she said, was to hire a reproductive rights reporter based in Texas, anticipating the Supreme Court’s decision.

Most have now closed their doors. xoJane, founded by the former editor of Sassy and Jane, Jane Pratt, folded in 2016. In 2018, The Hairpin (a sister site to The Awl), Lenny Letter (an online newsletter by the actor and writer Lena Dunham) and Rookie Mag (a magazine from the then-teen style icon Tavi Gevinson) shut down. The popular blog Feministing closed in 2019 after 15 years. The same year, Vice Media eliminated its women’s vertical, Broadly. Bitch Media, a feminist publisher and magazine that was started in 1996, shuttered in June.

The remaining publications have found their moment.

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Media, Religion, Education, Sports News

Politico, Saudi golf venture LIV quietly enlisted the help of a global PR titan, Hailey Fuchs and Daniel Lippman, Aug. 16, 2022. An Edelman subsidiary wrapped up a contract with the highly-criticized venture earlier this year. The project was never filed with the Justice Department.
The arrangement illustrates the degree to which LIV Golf has been able to lean on establishment institutions and professionals even amid a controversial rollout of a tour that has roiled professional golf and captured lawmakers’ attention in Washington.

politico CustomAs the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tournament prepared for its launch this year, it quietly contracted the public relations giant Edelman for help.

The relationship, which ended in March, was never filed with the Department of Justice under foreign lobbying rules.

Another reason it never surfaced was because it was done through subsidiaries. United Entertainment Group, a marketing agency under Daniel J. Edelman Holdings, was contracted by golf marketing firm Performance54 to help launch LIV Golf.

The arrangement illustrates the degree to which LIV Golf has been able to lean on establishment institutions and professionals even amid a controversial rollout of a tour that has roiled professional golf and captured lawmakers’ attention in Washington. Ari Fleischer, who was press secretary in the Bush White House, has done public relations work for LIV, and former President Donald Trump has offered his own endorsement of the tour — by holding an event at his Bedminster, N.J., golf club in late July. Trump National Doral will also host the tour in October.

In recent months, the tour has created a schism in the golf world, as a number of major PGA players have decamped for LIV Golf, enticed by hefty prize money and other perks. It also has faced a barrage of allegations of “sportwashing,” or using sports to boost one’s reputation, amid a wave of criticism over its human rights record. In July, months after the Edelman work ended, the National Press Club explicitly called on public relations firms to reject Saudi “blood money” and abstain from accepting a contract with LIV Golf.

Edelman, one of the country’s largest PR firms, has worked in the past for the PGA Tour, which declined to comment for this story.

According to Department of Justice records, Edelman did not register as an agent for LIV Golf under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires certain disclosures for those entities and individuals doing public relations for a foreign principal. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) has called for the DOJ to investigate LIV Golf and potential FARA violations around the tour.

In a statement, Kate Meissner, an Edelman spokesperson, said the firm does not currently have a relationship with LIV Golf. However, she confirmed that United Entertainment Group was enlisted by Performance54 for a project last year that has since concluded. Meissner maintained that the project did not fall under FARA requirements.

When asked about the project’s details, she said the firm has “confidentiality commitments with all of our clients and are unable to share specific information.”

Earlier this year, Edelman signed a contract with the Saudi Ministry of Culture, for which the company proposed a PR campaign replete with celebrities and influencers — including actress Priyanka Chopra and DJ Steve Aoki — to sell a positive image of Saudi Arabia. Edelman is also registered to represent the Saudi Data Artificial Intelligence Agency.

In an interview, Bill McCarren, executive director of the National Press Club, emphasized that Edelman did not need the Saudi business and reiterated his group’s call for all PR firms to abstain from working with LIV Golf.

“It suggests that the life and health of journalists is not a major concern for the PR firm,” he said. “It’s pretty obvious that this is an intentional activity to, designed to rehabilitate the Saudi reputation after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.”

U.S. Intelligence confirmed that top Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, were responsible for the 2018 murder and dismemberment of Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist.

Edelman is not the only major public relations firm that has worked for a Saudi golf client.

Hill+Knowlton Strategies, which is registered to represent the Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information, worked as part of the tournament press team for the February 2022 Saudi International tournament, which is not a LIV event. In an email obtained by POLITICO, a Hill+Knowlton employee offered support for travel and accommodation for a reporter to attend.

In recent weeks, controversy around the LIV golf series increased after a number of family members of 9/11 victims urged Trump to cancel the scheduled tournament at his New Jersey golf club. They noted Trump had previously cast blame on Saudi Arabia for the terrorist attacks and that it was “incomprehensible to us that a former president of the United States would cast our loved ones aside for personal financial gain.”
Saudi golf venture LIV quietly enlisted the help of a global PR titan.

ny times logoNew York Times, 10 Years After Disappearing in Syria, Freedom Is Elusive for U.S. Journalist, Raja Abdulrahim, Aug. 16, 2022. There are signs that efforts to free Austin Tice, who disappeared in Syria in 2012 and who the U.S. believes is being held by the Syrian government, are reviving. But his family says the U.S. needs to do more.

Ten years after the American journalist Austin Tice disappeared in Syria as the country descended into a brutal civil war, and was believed to have been held captive by the government of President Bashar al-Assad since, his release still remains elusive.

While one of his employers says that efforts to secure his freedom are picking up steam, his family remains unconvinced that the Biden administration is doing enough to push the Syrian government, partly due to the diplomatic complications stemming from the lack of formal relations between the United States and Syria.

McClatchy, the U.S. newspaper company for which the journalist had been freelancing, among others, said this week that a multinational effort to free Mr. Tice is showing signs of revival and that there had been direct contacts between the U.S. and Syrian governments.

A spokeswoman for McClatchy said Monday that the progress was the culmination of intense activity by the Biden administration and the journalism industry leading up to the 10th anniversary of Mr. Tice’s disappearance. But the company’s chief executive, Tony Hunter, has also said recently that there had not been much movement on the issue since May.

“For McClatchy, this anniversary was an opportunity to shine a light on Austin’s decade-long plight,” said the spokeswoman, Susan Firey. “And, in tandem, to shine a light on the decade-long inaction of three administrations.”

Last week Debra and Marc Tice, the parents of Mr. Tice, who disappeared in August 2012 outside Damascus, wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Post in which they noted the family weddings, graduations and other family get-togethers their son had missed in 10 years of captivity, and urged President Biden to step up diplomatic efforts to free him.

The United States has “engaged extensively” to get Mr. Tice back to the United States, including by directly contacting Syrian officials and working through third parties, according to a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case. However, the official said the Syrian government has not yet agreed to discuss Mr. Tice’s case.

Last week, President Biden said in a statement that his administration has repeatedly asked Syria’s government to work with them to bring Mr. Tice home.

“On the tenth anniversary of his abduction, I am calling on Syria to end this and help us bring him home,” President Biden said in the statement, adding that the United States was certain that the journalist was being held by the Syrian government.

 

gannett logo Custom

frank gannett

Frank Gannett (1876-1957), right, founded the newspaper chain that bears his name. Photo (cc) 2009 by History Rewound.

Media Nation, Gannett lays off journalists, closes papers and keeps the numbers to itself, Dan Kennedy, Aug. 15, 2022. What more can be said about the latest round of Gannett layoffs? This one was telegraphed well in advance, and I wrote about what was coming three times (here, here and here) before the hammer finally came down on Friday.

We don’t know the extent of the damage; The Associated Press reported that the “company declined to provide details about the number of people losing their jobs.”

The number 400 has been bandied about, but is that 400 journalists or 400 total employees? In any case, that number has not been verified. We do know that the cuts were broad and deep, from Worcester County, where, according to Grafton Common, the chain’s weekly papers were decimated, all the way up to the flagship paper, USA Today.

Los Angeles Times reporter Jeong Park has provided one way of looking at what happened. Gannett owns about 250 newspapers and other properties, and, before Friday, it employed about 4,000 reporters, editors and photographers. Our three national papers together also employ about 4,000 journalists — The New York Times (1,700), The Washington Post (1,000) and The Wall Street Journal (1,300). And, unlike Gannett, they’re all growing.

Gannett’s losses in the most recent quarter were so vast that it seems likely management will come back for another bite at the apple in a few months. After all, they’ve been on a rampage in Eastern Massachusetts, closing a number of weeklies in 2021 and 19 earlier this year (the company also merged nine papers into four). They’ve pretty much given up on local coverage, too.

Meanwhile, the company’s top executives pay themselves millions of dollars, and even the part-time board members are getting north of $200,000. And it’s been reported that CEO Michael Reed bought another 500,000 shares of Gannett stock last Tuesday, paying $1.22 million.

This feels like the end game, but it probably isn’t. There are always more papers to close, more people to lay off and more websites to strip of any real journalistic content. My heart goes out to the folks who lost their jobs on Friday. I hope they all land on their feet — and I also hope that many of them will look into the possibility of starting independent news projects in the communities they used to cover. The need and the opportunity are there.

Barrett Media, Ronan Farrow: Local News ‘Dying Rather Than Adapting,’ Jonah E. Bromwich and Jan Ransom, Aug. 15, 2022. “It was clear even ronan farrowthen — this is the better part of a decade ago now — that there was a real shortfall in that kind of local reporting.”

Ronan Farrow joined The Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz for an interview released Monday morning, and noted the downfall of local news outlets while discussing his upcoming HBO documentary Endangered.

“When I started out, and I was in network news and in cable news, I really prioritized putting local reporters on and picking up stories that local investigative reporters had done.

“In general, it was clear even then — this is the better part of a decade ago now — that there was a real shortfall in that kind of local reporting. And that is what creates accountability. It’s an institution — journalism, that is — that’s enshrined in the constitution for a reason. Right? It’s specifically protected because it does provide a check on power and corruption. And you see the consequences of an absence of trust in the facts and an absence of good journalism in national politics and you see it locally.”

Farrow pointed out one of the subjects featured in his documentary is Miami Herald photojournalist Carl Juste, and often worried about whether he would still have a job or not, which is something Farrow pointed out many in the media feel.

“There are experiments that seem to be working in how you make national journalism sustainable. There’s contribution based models. There’s things like ProPublica, there’s what The Guardian is doing, there’s subscription based models that are starting to work. The New Yorker has a successful subscription based model. But, fundamentally, local news outlets are just dying rather than adapting is what the numbers show us. Too often.”

According to HBO, the documentary chronicles “a year in the life of four journalists as world leaders denigrate the press, distrust of the media is on the rise, and journalists are facing situations more typically encountered in war zones.”

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Aug. 15

Top Headlines 

 

Trump Probes, Reactions, Riots, Supporters

 

Energy, Climate, Environment, Disasters

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Economy, Governance

 

More On Ukraine War

 

Political Violence In United States

 

Pandemic, Public Health

 

U.S. Law, Immigration, Crime

 

More World News, Human Rights Analysis

 

U.S. Forced Birth Laws, Privacy, Freedoms

 

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djt rudy new giuliani Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Giuliani Is Target of Georgia Criminal Inquiry on Election Interference, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, Aug. 15, 2022. Lawyers for Rudolph W. Giuliani have been told that he is a target of a criminal investigation in Georgia into election interference by Donald J. Trump and his advisers, one of Mr. Giuliani’s lawyers said on Monday.

rudy giuliani recentMr. Giuliani, who spearheaded efforts to keep Mr. Trump in power as his personal lawyer, emerged in recent weeks as a central figure in the inquiry being conducted by Fani T. Willis, the district attorney of Fulton County, Ga., which encompasses most of Atlanta. Earlier this summer, prosecutors questioned witnesses before a special grand jury about Mr. Giuliani’s appearances before state legislative panels in December 2020, when he spent hours peddling false conspiracy theories about secret suitcases of Democratic ballots and corrupted voting machines.

For Mr. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, the developments are the latest in a widening swath of trouble, though he got some good news recently when it emerged that he was unlikely to face charges in a federal criminal inquiry into his ties to Ukraine during the 2020 presidential campaign.

washington post logoWashington Post, Michigan plot to breach voting machines points to a national trend, Patrick Marley and Tom Hamburger, Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.). A state police inquiry found evidence of a conspiracy that has echoes elsewhere in the country as election deniers seek proof of 2020 fraud.

michigan mapEight months after the 2020 presidential election, Robin Hawthorne didn’t expect anyone to ask for her township’s voting machines.

The election had gone smoothly, she said, just as others had that she’d overseen for 17 years as the Rutland Charter Township clerk in rural western Michigan. But now a sheriff’s deputy and investigator were in her office, questioning her about her township’s three vote tabulators, suggesting that they somehow had been programmed with a microchip to shift votes from Donald Trump to Joe Biden and asking her to hand one over for inspection.

dana nessel o“What the heck is going on?” she recalled thinking.

The surprise visit may have been an “out-of-the-blue thing,” as Hawthorne described it, but it was one element of a much broader effort by figures who deny the outcome of the 2020 vote to access voting machines in a bid to prove fraud that experts say does not exist.

In states across the country — including Colorado, Pennsylvania and Georgia — attempts to inappropriately access voting machines have spurred investigations. They have also sparked concern among election authorities that, while voting systems are broadly secure, breaches by those looking for evidence of fraud could themselves compromise the integrity of the process and undermine confidence in the vote.

In Michigan, the efforts to access the machines jumped into public view this month when the state’s attorney general, Dana Nessel (D), left, requested a special prosecutor be assigned to look into a group that includes her likely Republican opponent, Matthew DePerno.

The expected GOP nominee, Nessel’s office wrote in a petition filed Aug. 5 based on the findings of a state police investigation, was “one of the prime instigators” of a conspiracy to persuade Michigan clerks to allow unauthorized access to voting machines. Others involved, according to the filing, included a state representative and the sheriff in Barry County, Dar Leaf.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. Elections Live Updates: Election deniers march toward power in key 2024 battlegrounds,, Amy Gardner, Aug. 15, 2022. GOP nominees who dispute the 2020 results could be positioned to play a critical role in the next presidential election.

 

Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani hawking their false claims that they could prove election fraud caused Democratic nominee Joe Biden's presidential victory in 2020.

Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani hawking their false claims that they could prove election fraud caused Democratic nominee Joe Biden's presidential victory in 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, How Trump’s election denialism took over the GOP, JM Rieger, Aug. 15, 2022 (video). Former president Donald Trump’s false claims election claims began in 2016, but did not become a key litmus test for Republican candidates until after the 2020 election. Here’s how it happened.

 

Trump Defense Secretary Mark Esper, shown in a file photo at right with then-President Trump, has published a harsh assessment of Trump's willingness to break law and other norms to retain power and punish his perceived opponents..

Trump Defense Secretary Mark Esper, shown in a file photo at right with then-President Trump, has published a harsh assessment of Trump's willingness to break law and other norms to retain power and punish his perceived opponents.

Proof, Investigative Commentary: Donald Trump’s January 6 Coup Plot Infiltrated the Pentagon, Seth Abramson, left, Aug. 14-15, 2022. It’s no longer seth abramson graphicpossible to look away from a simple fact: the civilian leadership at the Pentagon under former president Trump is now implicated seth abramson proof logoin his coup conspiracy—and Congress must investigate it.

Note: This 250-page report on the coup plot at the Pentagon functions as the fourth book in the Proof series, Proof of Coup: How the Pentagon Shaped An Insurrection.

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

Palmer Report, Analysis: Donald Trump says the DOJ has seized his passports, Bill Palmer, right, Aug. 15, 2022. After the DOJ had the FBI carry out a bill palmersearch warrant at Mar-a-Lago to retrieve the classified documents that Donald Trump stole, and the unsealed search warrant revealed that Trump was under criminal investigation for espionage, it raised questions about whether he might hypothetically try to flee the country. Looks like we won’t have to worry about that.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump just announced on his failed social network that while the FBI was carrying out the search warrant, it seized his three passports. Of course Trump claims the FBI “stole” his passports. For that matter we’re not sure why he has three passports, even if he is strangely announcing that one of the three is expired. Wouldn’t that mean two active passports? Is one of them from Russia? Is one of them for John Barron, or another of Trump’s aliases?

But here’s what we do know. The Feds wouldn’t have taken Trump’s passports unless they were legally authorized to do so. And the legal basis for seizing someone’s passports is that they’re considered a potential flight risk. This doesn’t mean that the Feds uncovered evidence Trump was planning to flee the country, only that the specifics of his crimes point to the potential for fleeing. Given that Trump reportedly stole nuclear secrets among other things, and his significant financial ties to Saudi Arabia and other nations, it’s not shocking to think he might panic and try to flee. But now he can’t.

djt looking upTwo things stand out here. First, this means Trump is almost certainly going to be criminally indicted by the DOJ. That was already obvious, but this helps nail it down. Second, why is Trump just now belatedly throwing a fit about his seized passports having been seized, a week after they were taken? Why did he just put that together today? Why was he looking for his passports, or asking his legal team about his passports, today? So many questions, so much intrigue, but it all firmly points to Trump in handcuffs.

On the other hand, it’s possible that Trump could be lying about this and making it up. He does lie constantly. But why would he make up such a weird and oddly specific lie that only makes him look even more guilty? It’s theoretically possible he asked his lawyers for his passports, and they tried to keep him from fleeing by lying to him and claiming the Feds had seized them. But that all seems less likely than the scenario in which the Feds really did seize Trump’s passports, as one would expect at this stage of this kind of criminal probe.

 

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, Some Republicans Make a More Restrained Case for Defending Trump, Luke Broadwater, Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.). When some G.O.P. members of Congress attacked the nation’s top law enforcement agencies immediately after the F.B.I.’s search of Mar-a-Lago, it underscored deep fissures within the party.

As Republicans continued on Sunday to defend former President Donald J. Trump after an unprecedented F.B.I. search of his residence in Florida, deep fissures were visible in the party’s support for law enforcement amid a federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s handling of top secret documents.

Immediately after the search, congressional Republicans, including members of leadership, reacted with fury, attacking the nation’s top law enforcement agencies. Some called to “defund” or “destroy” the F.B.I., and others invoked the Nazi secret police, using words like “gestapo” and “tyrants.”

On Sunday, more moderate voices in the party chastised their colleagues for the broadsides against law enforcement, making a more restrained case for defending Mr. Trump while also carrying out oversight of the Justice Department.

washington post logoWashington Post, Most abortions are done at home. Antiabortion groups are taking aim, Kimberly Kindy, Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.).Two top antiabortion groups have crafted and successfully lobbied for state legislation to ban or further restrict the predominant way pregnancies are ended in the United States — via drugs taken at home, often facilitated by a network of abortion rights groups.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, 14 states now ban or partially ban the use of those drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, which are used in more than half of all abortions.

But the drugs remain widely available, with multiple groups working to help provide them even to women in states with abortion bans. Students for Life of America and National Right to Life Committee, which have played leading roles in crafting antiabortion laws, hope to change that with new legislation.

The groups are pursuing a variety of tactics, from bills that would ban the abortion-inducing drugs altogether to others that would allow family members to sue medication providers or attempt to shut down the nonprofit groups that help women obtain and safely use the drugs.

Their strategy reflects the reality that abortion access today looks vastly different from that of the pre-Roe world, one without easy access to abortion medications from out-of-state or overseas pharmacies.

“We knew we couldn’t just go back to pre-Roe laws,” said James Bopp Jr., attorney for National Right to Life. “We knew new approaches were needed.”

Both organizations have long opposed medication abortions, but Students for Life’s legislative efforts did not gain traction until 2021, when seven states passed bills modeled after legislation crafted by the group to create legal barriers to the medications. In some cases the laws also banned them from college health clinics. A new wave of these proposals are expected to be introduced — or reintroduced — in statehouses across the country when most legislatures reconvene in January.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Idaho Supreme Court ruled that a strict abortion ban can begin later this month, Isabella Grullón Paz, Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.). In a late Friday ruling, the state’s highest court said that a ban could begin at the end of the month while legal challenges are reviewed.

idaho mapIdaho’s near-total ban on abortion can go into effect at the end of August while legal challenges to the restrictions are reviewed, the Idaho Supreme Court said in a ruling late Friday.

As a result of the decision, the ban is scheduled to begin on Aug. 25.

idaho map localThe Court issued the decision based on three lawsuits filed by a Planned Parenthood chapter and a local doctor this year to block three Idaho laws that were to take effect if the U.S. Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade, which it did in June. The petitioners had asked the court not enforce the abortion restrictions until the suits were settled.

The first lawsuit was aimed at halting a law that would make it a felony to perform an abortion, though it allows doctors to cite rape, incest or an effort to save the life of a pregnant woman as a defense in a trial. Another suit sought to curb a law that criminalizes abortions after six weeks of a pregnancy. The chapter had also filed a suit against a law that allows relatives of a fetus or embryo to sue the abortion provider, and establishes a reward of at least $20,000, plus legal fees, within four years of an abortion.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Abortion Has Become a Centerpiece of Democratic TV Ads in 2022, Shane Goldmacher and Katie Glueck, Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.). Democrats are using abortion as a powerful cudgel in their television campaigns, paying for an onslaught of ads in House, Senate and governor’s races. Senior White House officials and top Democratic strategists believe the issue has radically reshaped the 2022 landscape in their favor.

In Michigan, Democrats took aim at the Republican nominee for governor almost immediately after the primary with a television ad highlighting her opposition to abortion, without exceptions for rape or incest.

In Georgia, Democrats recently attacked the Republican governor in another television ad, with women speaking fearfully about the specter of being investigated and “criminalized.”

And in Arizona, the Republican nominees for both Senate and governor were confronted almost instantly after their primaries with different ads calling them “dangerous” for their anti-abortion positions.

All across America, Democrats are using abortion as a powerful cudgel in their 2022 television campaigns, paying for an onslaught of ads in House, Senate and governor’s races that show how swiftly abortion politics have shifted since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in late June.

With national protections for abortion rights suddenly gone and bans going into effect in many states, senior White House officials and top Democratic strategists believe the issue has radically reshaped the 2022 landscape in their favor. They say it has not only reawakened the party’s progressive base, but also provided a wedge issue that could wrest away independent voters and even some Republican women who believe abortion opponents have overreached.

ap logoAssociated Press, Afghanistan marks 1 year since Taliban seizure as woes mount, Rahim Faiez and Ebrahim Noroozi, The Taliban on Monday marked a year since they seized the Afghan capital of Kabul, a rapid takeover that triggered a hasty escape of the nation’s Western-backed leaders, sent the economy into a tailspin and fundamentally transformed the country.

Bearded Taliban fighters, some hoisting rifles or the white banners of their movement, staged small victory parades on foot, bicycles and motor cycles in the streets of the capital. One small group marched past the former U.S. Embassy, chanting “Long live Islam” and “Death to America.”

A year after the dramatic day, much has changed in Afghanistan. The former insurgents struggle to govern and remain internationally isolated. The economic downturn has driven millions more Afghans into poverty and even hunger, as the flow of foreign aid slowed to a trickle.

Meanwhile, hard-liners appear to hold sway in the Taliban-led government, which imposed severe restrictions on access to education and jobs for girls and women, despite initial promises to the contrary. A year on, teenage girls are still barred from school and women are required to cover themselves head-to-toe in public, with only the eyes showing.

 

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen, at center, posed for photos with U.S. Congress members and other Taiwan officials during a meeting at the Presidential Office in Taipei, Taiwan on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. The U.S. lawmakers were led by Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, at the president's right at center, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu and legislators, according to the American Institute in Taiwan, Washington’s de-facto embassy on the island. The delegation “had an opportunity to exchange views with Taiwan counterparts on a wide range of issues of importance to both the United States and Taiwan,” the institute said in a statement. (Photo from Taiwan Presidential Office via Associated Press.)

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen, at center, posed for photos with U.S. Congress members and other Taiwan officials during a meeting at the Presidential Office in Taipei, Taiwan on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. The U.S. lawmakers were led by Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, at the president's right at center, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu and legislators, according to the American Institute in Taiwan, Washington’s de-facto embassy on the island. The delegation “had an opportunity to exchange views with Taiwan counterparts on a wide range of issues of importance to both the United States and Taiwan,” the institute said in a statement. (Photo from Taiwan Presidential Office via Associated Press.)

ap logoAssociated Press, China announces new drills as US delegation visits Taiwan, Johnson Lai, Aug. 15, 2022. China announced more military drills around Taiwan as the self-governing island’s president met with members of a new U.S. congressional delegation on Monday, threatening to renew tensions between Beijing and Washington just days after a similar visit by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi angered China.

Pelosi was the highest-level member of the U.S. government to visit Taiwan in 25 years, and her trip prompted nearly two weeks of threatening military exercises by China, which claims the island as its own. In those previous drills, Beijing fired missiles over the island and into the Taiwan Strait and sent warplanes and navy ships across the waterway’s midline, which has long been a buffer between the sides that split amid civil war in 1949.

China accuses the U.S. of encouraging the island’s independence through the sale of weapons and engagement between U.S. politicians and the island’s government. Washington says it does not support independence, has no formal diplomatic ties with the island and maintains that the two sides should settle their dispute peacefully — but it is legally bound to ensure the island can defend itself against any attack.

 

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).

ny times logoNew York Times, Some Republicans Make a More Restrained Case for Defending Trump, Luke Broadwater, Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.). When some G.O.P. members of Congress attacked the nation’s top law enforcement agencies immediately after the F.B.I.’s search of Mar-a-Lago, it underscored deep fissures within the party.

As Republicans continued on Sunday to defend former President Donald J. Trump after an unprecedented F.B.I. search of his residence in Florida, deep fissures were visible in the party’s support for law enforcement amid a federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s handling of top secret documents.

Immediately after the search, congressional Republicans, including members of leadership, reacted with fury, attacking the nation’s top law enforcement agencies. Some called to “defund” or “destroy” the F.B.I., and others invoked the Nazi secret police, using words like “gestapo” and “tyrants.”

On Sunday, more moderate voices in the party chastised their colleagues for the broadsides against law enforcement, making a more restrained case for defending Mr. Trump while also carrying out oversight of the Justice Department.

 

djt hands up mouth open CustomPalmer Report, Analysis: How the DOJ beat Donald Trump to the punch, Bill Palmer, Aug. 15, 2022. The DOJ had to know that once it carried out the search and seizure warrant against Donald Trump, he would try this “I thought I had already declassified all the documents I took” defense. So, based on how various legal experts have assessed the unsealed warrant and listed charges, it appears the DOJ carefully crafted its criminal probe such that Trump wouldn’t be off the hook even if the documents were declassified. This is why it takes time for these kinds of cases to come to fruition. It’s also why Trump will be convicted.

bill palmer report logo headerImagine if the DOJ had based the search warrant on a more simplistic argument that Trump was merely in illegal possession of classified documents. In such case he’d tell the jury that he honestly thought he’d declassified them, and if the jury saw it as a valid reasonable doubt argument, Trump would go free.

So the DOJ built its case on the premise that Trump wasn’t allowed to have these documents at his home, and refused to give them back, and lied about not having them, and voila, Trump is automatically guilty of espionage and obstruction. Whether anything was “classified” doesn’t even matter.

Obviously, if it turns out Trump stole nuclear secrets (reported), or particularly if he tried to sell them (unknown), that would merit additional, even more severe charges. But that would just be piling on. The point is to make certain that Trump is nailed on more straightforward charges, such as being illegally in possession of documents and obstruction.

As things now stand, based just on what’s in the unsealed search warrant, the Feds already have a jury-proof criminal case against Trump on multiple serious charges. We just don’t know if the DOJ will indict Trump on this now and then indict on January 6th-related and election fraud-related charges later, or if the DOJ will wait until it’s ready to bring all of the charges at once.

Trump and his people are making a big mistake if they think they can defeat an airtight federal criminal case by fighting it in the media. Criminal trials don’t work that way. Ask Steve Bannon. He seemed to think he could beat the rap by running his mouth. The judge and jury ended up seeing it differently.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Walker, Pollard, Hanssen, Trump . . . America's most traitorous spies, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 22 books, former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst, Aug. 15, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2022. Donald Trump, with his affectation for Eastern European models during the Cold War, should have registered with the FBI early on as a potential spy for America's enemies.

wayne madesen report logoCzechoslovak State Security (ŠtB) certainly believed that to be the case when they tripled their efforts to ensure that their two assets, Ivana Zelníčková and her father, Miloš Zelníček, applied a full-court press on Trump beginning in 1976 when Ivana first met Trump.

A year later, ŠtB asset Ivana Zelníčková married Trump. The first Mrs. Trump and Warsaw Pact intelligence asset worked her way into top-level executive jobs in the Trump Organization, including president of the Trump Castle Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, later becoming the manager of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. These positions and her marriage to Donald Trump gave Ivana, and the ŠtB and, by default, the Soviet KGB, important access to the movers and shakers of American politics, business, and media.

Ivana Trump, the mother of Donald Trump, Jr., Eric, and Ivanka, would continue to have access to her ex-husband and his business and political operations long after their divorce in 1992. These benefits included her use of Mar-a-Lago for one month a year pursuant to her divorce settlement with Donald.

[Documentation here.]

Since Trump's circle of acquaintances over the years has included notorious spies and sex blackmailers, where does that place Trump in the world of espionage against the United States? We know that Trump has stolen the nation's most sensitive secrets, but for how long has this gone on?

Steady, Commentary: Antisemitism Once More, Dan Rather, right, Aug. 15, 2022. Amid the discussion around the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago and dan rather 2017what it might mean for Trump and the rule of law in America, there is a detail that I worry isn’t receiving enough attention but that points to a dangerous reality in the United States today.

dan rather steady logoIt centers on Bruce Reinhart, the magistrate judge who signed the FBI's search warrant. As his name became public, he has faced a withering volume of threats from those who believe Trump should be above the law. In today’s America, with the MAGA crowd revved up for attack, that was to be expected. But that attacks were to be expected should not obscure the fact that they are dangerous. Very. The possibility of their leading to violence should not be underestimated.

Many of these threats focused on the fact that Judge Reinhart is Jewish. It got to the point that the synagogue where Judge Reinhart sits on the board had to cancel Shabbat services:

Antisemitism is on the rise in America, as those who track such nefarious trends will tell you. It can be found in some form across the political spectrum, but it has become a particular hallmark of elements of the Republican Party, especially in the age of Trump.

 Eric Herschmann represented Donald Trump in the former president’s first impeachment trial and later joined the White House as a senior adviser. | Senate Television via Getty Images

Eric Herschmann represented Donald Trump in the former president’s first impeachment trial and later joined the White House as a senior adviser. | Senate Television via Getty Images

Politico, Justice Department subpoenas former Trump White House lawyer Eric Herschmann, Betsy Woodruff Swan, Aug. 15, 2022. He's the latest onetime top aide to the former president to receive a summons from a federal grand jury investigating the Jan. 6 attack.

politico CustomHerschmann represented Donald Trump in the former president’s first impeachment trial and later joined the White House as a senior adviser. He did not work in the White House counsel’s office, but did provide Trump with legal advice. Because of that responsibility, there will likely be litigation over the scope of the subpoena and over how executive and attorney-client privileges may limit Herschmann’s ability to comply.

Herschmann is not the first former Trump White House lawyer to receive a DOJ subpoena. Pat Cipollone, who served as White House counsel, and Patrick Philbin, who served as deputy counsel, have also been subpoenaed.

During the tumultuous final weeks of Trump’s term, Herschmann clashed with other aides and advisers who pushed the defeated president to fight the election results. He was also present for many of the most consequential meetings in that period of time. Among them was a high-stakes meeting where most of the Trump Justice Department’s top brass threatened to resign rather than work under a colleague who wanted to advance spurious claims of widespread voter fraud.

 lindsey graham on djt washington post logoWashington Post, Graham must testify in Ga. probe of effort to overturn 2020 election, judge rules, Eugene Scott, Aug. 15, 2022. A federal judge on Monday denied Sen. Lindsey O. Graham’s (R-S.C.) request to quash his subpoena in Georgia prosecutors’ investigation into potential criminal interference in the 2020 presidential election by President Donald Trump and his allies, signaling he must testify in the probe.

lindsey graham graphic testimonyGraham (whose 2016 comment on Trump is shown above) had argued that he should be exempt from testifying because of speech or debate clause protections, sovereign immunity and his position as a high-ranking government official. U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May rejected all three arguments.

“The Court finds that the District Attorney has shown extraordinary circumstances and a special need for Senator Graham’s testimony on issues relating to alleged attempts to influence or disrupt the lawful administration of Georgia’s 2022 elections,” the judge wrote.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D) requested a special grand jury earlier this year. It began meeting in June and has identified more than 100 people of interest. The panel has already heard testimony from Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) and his staff, Georgia Attorney General Christopher M. Carr (R), state lawmakers and local election workers.

GOP fake electors ‘targets’ in Georgia election fraud inquiry

Graham is of interest to the committee for phone calls he made to Raffensperger about Georgia’s election system. Willis claims Graham made multiple phone calls to Raffensperger and his staff after the election requesting that they reexamine certain absentee ballots “to explore the possibility of a more favorable outcome for former president Donald Trump.”

Palmer Report, Analysis: Allen Weisselberg may have just unofficially flipped on Donald Trump – even without a cooperation deal, Bill Palmer, Aug. 15, 2022. Earlier today it was revealed that much-reviled Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg have reached a plea deal on the criminal charges that Bragg’s predecessor brought last year. Notably, Weisselberg will plead guilty and do prison time without a cooperation deal.

When the news first broke, we noted the timing of it all. New York Attorney General Letitia James just finished interviewing Donald Trump in her civil probe into the Trump Organization’s financial fraud, meaning her probe is complete unless she makes any unplanned last minute additions. And now that her probe is wrapping, Weisselberg is suddenly pleading out. Is that coincidence?

This evening, various legal experts have reminded us that it’s wise to listen to them when it comes to the subtler nuances of how the law works. Legal experts have explained that by pleading guilty to these crimes, Weisselberg is forfeiting his Fifth Amendment protections when it comes to these crimes. He’ll now have to testify in any investigation that subpoenas him. This isn’t some novel twist in a Law & Order episode; it’s simply how the law works. Moreover, Weisselberg’s attorneys have surely advised him that this is what he’s setting himself up for by pleading guilty.

This means that the minute Weisselberg’s guilty plea is approved by the judge, Letitia James can subpoena Weisselberg to testify in her civil probe. For that matter, we’ve been wondering if James would end up bringing the criminal charges against Donald Trump that Bragg declined to bring. Weisselberg would be legally required to testify against Trump in any such criminal case as well.

So now we wait to see what Letitia James does with this. She’s been relentless every step of the way, so it seems reasonable that she’ll use Allen Weisselberg’s guilty plea to her advantage.

Of course Weisselberg could end up refusing to testify, but that would result in obstruction charges against him, meaning more prison time, thus erasing any reason for him to cut a deal to begin with. And if Weisselberg were trying to avoid testifying in James’ probe, it makes more sense that he’d wait until after she announces her findings to cut his plea deal.

So why would Weisselberg, after having sat quietly all this time, suddenly decide to cut a plea deal that also acts as a de facto cooperation deal against Donald Trump and the Trump Organization? You’d have to ask him. Perhaps James urged Bragg to offer Weisselberg a lenient deal, so James could subpoena him. Perhaps Weisselberg learned of the DOJ’s espionage probe into Trump, realized there was no further point in remaining loyal to Trump, and cut a deal. We’ll see.

ny times logoNew York Times, Pennsylvania Man Charged With Threatening F.B.I. After Mar-a-Lago Search, Alan Feuer, Aug. 15, 2022. Prosecutors say the man posted violent threats on Gab, a social media app popular with the far right.

Federal prosecutors charged a Pennsylvania man on Monday with posting multiple violent threats against the F.B.I. online in the days that followed the bureau’s search of former President Donald J. Trump’s private club and residence in Florida.

The man, Adam Bies, 46, compared federal agents to K.G.B. and Nazi officers and threatened to kill them, prosecutors said in a complaint. Mr. Bies posted the messages on Gab, the far-right social media app, and wrote under the pseudonym Adam Kenneth Campbell. He explained in a chat log obtained by investigators that he used the false name “so that corporate Murica’” could not “Google” him “out of a job.”

In one of the messages, posted on Aug. 10, two days after the search of Mr. Trump’s club, Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Bies wrote of the F.B.I., “You’ve declared war on us and now it’s open season on YOU,” according to the complaint.

Politico, DOJ says release of Mar-a-Lago affidavit would harm ongoing criminal probe, Kyle Cheney, Aug. 15, 2022. The Justice Department intends to unseal additional documents connected to the FBI search at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate but is urging a federal court to maintain the secrecy of the sworn affidavit describing the basis for the search.

politico CustomThe DOJ is particularly concerned that the release of details from the affidavit might harm ongoing efforts to interview witnesses, given the threats to federal agents in wake of the Mar-a-Lago search.

“If disclosed, the affidavit would serve as a roadmap to the government’s ongoing investigation, providing specific details about its direction and likely course, in a manner that is highly likely to compromise future investigative steps,” U.S. Attorney Juan Gonzalez and Justice Department counterintelligence chief Jay Bratt said in a filing urging the continued secrecy of the affidavit.

“The fact that this investigation implicates highly classified materials further underscores the need to protect the integrity of the investigation and exacerbates the potential for harm if information is disclosed to the public prematurely or improperly,” the DOJ officials wrote.

Justice Department log circularInstead, DOJ is urging the court to unseal a redacted document that includes additional filings connected to the search warrant, including a cover sheet, DOJ’s motion to seal the warrant on Aug. 5 and the judge’s sealing order issued the same day.

Among DOJ’s concerns about releasing the underlying information is that witnesses might stop cooperating, particularly “given the high-profile nature of this matter.”

“Disclosure of the government’s affidavit at this stage would also likely chill future cooperation by witnesses whose assistance may be sought as this investigation progresses, as well as in other high-profile investigations,” Gonzalez and Bratt say, adding “This is not merely a hypothetical concern, given the widely reported threats made against law enforcement personnel in the wake of the August 8 search.”

Throughout the filing, DOJ makes references to its ongoing criminal investigation connected to the search — a probe that last week’s release of the search warrant revealed to include potential crimes related to the mishandling of classified materials and presidential records, as well as obstruction of Justice. Revealing the affidavit, DOJ noted Monday, would jeopardize that probe.

“Here, the government has a compelling, overriding interest in preserving the integrity of an ongoing criminal investigation,” the DOJ officials argued.

The filing cites news reports about an uptick in threats against FBI agents as well as an attack by an armed man against an FBI building in Cincinnati last week.

Politico, Opinion: Espionage Isn’t the Strongest Case Against Trump. It’s Simpler Than That, Renato Mariotti (Legal Affairs Columnist for Politico Magazine, and a former federal prosecutor), Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.). He kept sensitive documents when he was told he shouldn’t and that’s a chargeable crime.

politico CustomWhile Trump repeatedly evaded criminal liability for acts he committed while in office, in part because the office he held provided him with potential defenses, he is no longer president. | Yuki Iwamura/AP Photo

Former president Donald Trump’s stubborn refusal to return highly classified material forced the Justice Department’s hand, resulting in the execution of a search warrant at his residence. But while it is possible the DOJ merely wanted to retrieve and secure the material that Trump refused to give back to the government, if they decide to press forward with charges, their case looks quite strong.

djt maga hatThe government initially treated Trump with kid gloves when he took government property, including classified documents, with him after he left office. The National Archives negotiated with Trump’s attorneys, securing 15 boxes of documents improperly taken by Trump in January, some of which contained classified information.

In June, the DOJ’s top counterintelligence official and other federal officials traveled to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate and viewed additional material kept there by Trump, and they issued a subpoena demanding the return of classified material.

If you or I had some 21 boxes of potentially classified information in our home, the Feds wouldn’t ask for it politely or even issue a subpoena. They would have taken possession of that material right away, and we would face serious charges. The DOJ’s decision to wait and only obtain a search warrant after they received information that Trump had not relinquished all of the material was likely motivated by deference to the former president. Ironically this deference has likely strengthened a potential criminal prosecution of Trump.

Justice Department log circularMuch of the initial reaction to the search warrant focused on the Espionage Act, which was cited in the search warrant. While the title of that over 100-year-old law sounds like it has to do with spying, it is possible to violate the Espionage Act just by improperly retaining national defense information and failing to return it to the United States government when it is demanded.

That statute, along with one of the other statutes cited in the search warrant, require the prosecution to prove “willfulness.” In other words, they require the government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to break the law. It is often difficult to meet this burden, and one strategy I used as a federal prosecutor was to have agents serve targets of investigations with a notice indicating that what they were doing was breaking the law. If the target continued to violate the law after receiving the notice, we had the proof we needed.

DOJ’s repeated requests and demands to Trump and his team served the same purpose. It will be difficult for Trump to claim that he did not realize that the records he kept were national security secrets that rightfully belonged to the government, given that the government repeatedly told him so and demanded their return. Moreover, Trump was present when the DOJ visited Mar-a-Lago to meet with his lawyers and demand the records.

Despite Trump’s insistence that if the government wanted the records back, “all they had to do was ask,” the government repeatedly asked for the records and Trump refused to give them back, giving them only “what he believed they were entitled to.” Although Trump may believe that highly classified defense secrets are his own personal property, or that he could keep Top Secret documents because he informally “declassified” them without following established procedures, it will be difficult to convince jurors that he had a legitimate reason to keep such sensitive national security information at his Florida resort.

While Trump repeatedly evaded criminal liability for acts he committed while in office, in part because the office he held provided him with potential defenses, he is no longer president. And unlike other outside-the-box acts he allegedly engaged in, like ordering that the special counsel who investigated him be fired (which his White House counsel disregarded), or inciting a mob to attack the Capitol, taking classified material and concealing it from the government is a crime that is regularly charged and straightforward to prove. Government employees are charged, convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms for doing what Trump did.
‘I will not stand by silently’: Garland defends FBI, DOJ

Trump’s defense appears to be that he “had a standing order” declassifying every document he brought to his residence.

But because the government is not required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the materials in question were classified, Trump’s “defense” that he declassified the materials would not itself defeat the government’s claim that the information was closely held national defense information, as required by the statutes.

 ap logoAssociated Press, Some Capitol rioters try to profit from their Jan. 6 crimes, Michael Kunzelman, Aug. 14, 2022. Facing prison time and dire personal consequences for storming the U.S. Capitol, some Jan. 6 defendants are trying to profit from their participation in the deadly riot, using it as a platform to drum up cash, promote business endeavors and boost social media profiles.

A Nevada man jailed on riot charges asked his mother to contact publishers for a book he was writing about “the Capitol incident.” A rioter from Washington state helped his father hawk clothes and other merchandise bearing slogans such as “Our House” and images of the Capitol building. A Virginia man released a rap album with riot-themed songs and a cover photograph of him sitting on a police vehicle outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Those actions are sometimes complicating matters for defendants when they face judges at sentencing as prosecutors point to the profit-chasing activities in seeking tougher punishments. The Justice Department, in some instances, is trying to claw back money that rioters have made off the insurrection.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Leaving with nuclear secrets would be Trump’s dumbest, scariest stunt yet, Jennifer Rubin, right, Aug. 15, 2022. A jennifer rubin new headshotdefeated former president who was at the center of a failed coup allegedly walks out the door with nuclear secrets, refuses to give them back and then leaves a creepy, semi-threatening message for the attorney general — that’s apparently where we are. Donald Trump and his apologists are as dangerous to our national security as spies and traitors who would spirit away our most closely held secrets.

The documents at issue supposedly include material so confidential it merits a top secret rating (TS/SCI) that no president — let alone an ex-president — can wish away.

Former FBI special agent and lawyer Asha Rangappa dismisses Trump’s assertion that he declassified everything: “The claim is bogus because clearly the current position of the United States government is that these documents are classified. This is controlling, whatever he did before he left office.” She adds, “He has no classification authority as of Jan. 20, 2021. Trump forgets that whatever awesome powers and immunities he held as president now belong to [President] Biden.”

Indeed, this nondefense bolsters the conclusion that Trump knew the documents were classified. “It is an admission because it would mean Trump had knowledge of the content of the documents, and that he apparently planned to remove them once relabeled,” observes Ryan Goodman, national security law expert and co-editor of Just Security.

Recent Headlines

 

mar a lago aerial Custom

 

U.S. Politics, Economy, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, The Arizona Republican Party’s Anti-Democracy Experiment, Robert Draper, Aug. 15, 2022. First, it turned against the establishment. Now it has set its sights on democracy — the principles, the process and even the word itself.

arizona mapArizona has become a bellwether for the rest of the nation, and not just because of its new status as a swing state and the first of these to be called for Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

It was and has continued to be the nexus of efforts by former President Donald Trump and his Republican allies to overturn the 2020 election results. At the same time, party figures from Trump down to Rose Sperry have sought to republican elephant logoblacklist every Arizona G.O.P. official who maintained that the election was fairly won — from Gov. Doug Ducey to Rusty Bowers, speaker of the state’s House of Representatives. Such leaders have been condemned as RINOs, or Republicans in name only, today’s equivalent of the McCarthy era’s “fellow travelers.”

The aggressive takeover of the Arizona G.O.P. by its far-right wing was made manifest on primary night earlier this month, when a slate of Trump-endorsed candidates — the gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, the U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters, the state attorney general candidate Abraham Hamadeh and the secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem — all prevailed.

As a group, they maintain that the 2020 election was stolen, have promoted conspiracy theories about Covid and have vowed to protect Arizona’s schools from gender ideology, critical race theory and what McCarthyites denounced 70 years ago as “godless communism.”

They have cast the 2022 election as not just history-defining but potentially civilization-ending. As Lake told a large crowd in downtown Phoenix the night before the primary: “It is not just a battle between Republicans and Democrats. This is a battle between freedom and tyranny, between authoritarianism and liberty and between good and evil.”

A week later, in response to the F.B.I.’s executing a search warrant at Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, Lake posted a statement on Twitter: “These tyrants will stop at nothing to silence the Patriots who are working hard to save America.” She added, “America — dark days lie ahead for us.” Far from offering an outlier’s view, Lake was articulating the dire stance shared by numerous other Republicans on the primary ballot and by the reactionary grass-roots activists who have swept them into power.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s angry wailing is loud. Biden’s governing is louder, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.). Among the ej dionne w open neckmany criticisms President Biden has had to grapple with, this one may be the most frustrating to him: Here he has been president for nearly two years, and Donald Trump remains the dominant figure in our public life.

You can only imagine the frustration in Bidenworld over the past week. As the president — the actual one — set about celebrating his extraordinary legislative successes of recent weeks, Trump was everywhere.

The surest sign that the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago was not part of some fiendish political plan? The last thing the White House wanted was an event that would relegate Biden’s victories — on climate, health care, tech policy, prescription drug prices, taxes and major new assistance for veterans — to second or third place in the news cycle.

If Attorney General Merrick Garland had been operating in Biden’s immediate partisan interests, he would surely have delayed the quest to bring top secret documents back under government control by a week or two.

Yet maybe, just maybe, the stark contrast between the two men we have just witnessed — in who they are, in their priorities, in the way they behave — will be a reset moment.

Whatever else they were doing, the voters who put Biden into the presidency in 2020 were seeking something closer to a functional, normal democracy. This was the opposite of what we had when Trump rampaged around the White House, obsessed only with himself, his image and the attention-grabbing havoc he could wreak.

That normality means Biden does not grab the headlines, particularly on cable news and social media, the way Trump still can. No one who runs for president lacks ego, but Biden is a fundamentally decent man who has spent his life thinking about what legislation he could pass, which problems he might start solving, and how he could tilt the economic playing field a bit more toward the kinds of people he grew up with in Scranton, Pa., and Delaware.

ny times logoNew York Times, On TikTok, Election Misinformation Thrives Ahead of Midterms, Tiffany Hsu, Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.). The fast-growing platform’s poor track record during recent voting abroad does not bode well for elections in the U.S., researchers said.

tiktok logo square CustomIn Germany, TikTok accounts impersonated prominent political figures during the country’s last national election. In Colombia, misleading TikTok posts falsely attributed a quotation from one candidate to a cartoon villain and allowed a woman to masquerade as another candidate’s daughter. In the Philippines, TikTok videos amplified sugarcoated myths about the country’s former dictator and helped his son prevail in the country’s presidential race.

Now, similar problems have arrived in the United States.

Ahead of the midterm elections this fall, TikTok is shaping up to be a primary incubator of baseless and misleading information, in many ways as problematic as Facebook and Twitter, say researchers who track online falsehoods. The same qualities that allow TikTok to fuel viral dance fads — the platform’s enormous reach, the short length of its videos, its powerful but poorly understood recommendation algorithm — can also make inaccurate claims difficult to contain.

Baseless conspiracy theories about certain voter fraud in November are widely viewed on TikTok, which globally has more than a billion active users each month. Users cannot search the #StopTheSteal hashtag, but #StopTheSteallll had accumulated nearly a million views until TikTok disabled the hashtag after being contacted by The New York Times. Some videos urged viewers to vote in November while citing debunked rumors raised during the congressional hearings into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. TikTok posts have garnered thousands of views by claiming, without evidence, that predictions of a surge in Covid-19 infections this fall are an attempt to discourage in-person voting.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Frustration Over TikTok Has Mounted in Washington, David McCabe, Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.). National security concerns over the Chinese-owned viral video app remain unresolved. Lawmakers and regulators are increasingly pushing for action.

tiktok logo CustomEarly last year, Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, and Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, met to discuss China and industrial policy. During their conversation, Mr. Rubio raised his worries about Beijing’s influence over TikTok, the Chinese-owned viral video app.

Under former President Donald J. Trump, TikTok had been embroiled in questions over whether it could compromise U.S. national security by sharing information about Americans with China. The issue, which was never resolved, was inherited by the Biden administration. Mr. Sullivan “shared our concerns,” Mr. Rubio said in an interview.

Their discussion was one of many that lawmakers have quietly had with government officials about TikTok since President Biden took office. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the Democratic chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said he had also been in “active conversations” with the administration about the app, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. And regulators and other government officials have been weighing what to do about it after scrutinizing other Chinese firms.

ny times logoNew York Times, Senate G.O.P. Campaign Arm Slashes TV Ad Buys in Three States, Shane Goldmacher, Aug. 15, 2022. In a sign that fund-raising trouble is taking a serious toll, a key political committee cancels ad plans in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The Republicans’ Senate campaign committee has slashed its television ad reservations in three critical battleground states for the fall, a likely sign of financial troubles headed into the peak of the 2022 midterm election season.

republican elephant logoThe National Republican Senatorial Committee has cut more than $5 million in Pennsylvania, including its reservations in the Philadelphia media market, according to two media-tracking sources.

Reservations in Wisconsin, in the Madison and Green Bay markets, have also been curtailed, by more than $2 million. And in Arizona, all reservations after Sept. 30 have been cut in Phoenix and Tucson, the state’s only two major media markets, amounting to roughly $2 million more.

So far around $10 million had been canceled as of midday Monday, though more changes to the fall reservations were in progress. The states where ad reservations have been canceled are home to three of the nation’s most competitive Senate contests.

In a statement, Chris Hartline, the communications director for the N.R.S.C., said, “Nothing has changed about our commitment to winning in all of our target states.”

Mr. Hartline added that the committee had “been spending earlier than ever before to help our candidates get their message out and define the Democrats for their radical agenda. We’ve been creative in how we’re spending our money and will continue to make sure that every dollar spent by the N.R.S.C. is done in the most efficient and effective way possible.”

After this article was published online, Mr. Hartline called it “false” on Twitter and said that “there is money being moved from the I.E. side” — independent expenditures that cannot be coordinated with campaigns — “back to the N.R.S.C. side of the wall.”

He declined to say how much was being rebooked.

In Wisconsin, some ads were being reserved in Milwaukee, for instance, though significantly less than what had been canceled in Madison and Green Bay, as of Monday afternoon.

In Pennsylvania, the Senate Republican super PAC, the Senate Leadership Fund, recently announced it was adding $9.5 million to its fall reservation in the closely watched race between Mehmet Oz, the Republican, and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democrat. The super PAC moved up the beginning of its ad by three weeks, to Aug. 19, a decision that may have eased pressure on the party committee to keep its reservation.

As online fund-raising has slowed for Republicans in recent months, affecting both candidates and party committees, the party is increasingly dependent on major super PACs in the battle for the Senate. Entering July, the Senate Republican super PAC had nearly $40 million more cash on hand than the Democratic Senate super PAC.

The Senate party committee said it had already helped fund $17 million in “coordinated” and “hybrid” ads with Republican senators and Senate candidates in Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Florida and Wisconsin, according to the committee, and had spent $36 million on television overall.

The N.R.S.C. entered July with $28.5 million in the bank and has millions of dollars reserved in other battleground states.

A person familiar with the committee’s planning said some of the money saved by canceling reservations now would eventually be used to rebook advertising time in coordination with the Senate campaigns, which would help stretch the group’s dollars further because candidates are entitled to lower ad prices. Some of the new reservations were already being made on Monday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Alaska vote tests Trump’s influence, Palin’s bid and a new election system, Nathaniel Herz, Aug. 15, 2022. Two simultaneous elections will be held Tuesday — with voters casting ballots under unusual new conditions.

Sarah Palin’s bid to join the U.S. House, Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s effort to keep her Senate seat and Donald Trump’s influence on both of their races will be tested Tuesday in two simultaneous elections in Alaska — with voters casting ballots under unusual new conditions.

On one side of the ballot, Alaskans will vote in a three-way special general election to fill the remainder of the House term left open by Republican Don Young, who was the chamber’s longest-serving member until his sudden death in March. The 45th president has endorsed Palin, a former governor and vice presidential nominee, over fellow Republican Nick Begich III and Democrat Mary Peltola. The election will be Alaska’s first using a ranked-choice system that voters passed in 2020.

Definitive results probably will not be determined for at least two weeks. State elections officials say they won’t start counting second choices and redistributing votes until the deadline for absentee ballots to arrive, and political observers see a race without a runaway candidate.

 

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden arrive at Joint Base Charleston, S.C. (Associated Press photo by Manuel Balce Ceneta).

 President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden arrive at Joint Base Charleston, S.C. (Associated Press photo by Manuel Balce Ceneta).

Politico, Biden keeps South Carolina guessing, Christopher Cadelago, Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.). Democrats are giving the president space as would-be Democratic aspirants circle overhead.

politico CustomLike many places, the Day Dawn Baptist Church, a stately red brick building along Highway 45 in Pineville, has had its routines dramatically disrupted by the pandemic. State Rep. Joseph Jefferson, Jr., whose great-grandfather constructed the church in 1869, said of the more than 300 members, only a few dozen have returned to worship since the virus hit.

Outside church, Jefferson tries to host three or four town halls each year. But it remains hard for people to stay connected. So far, he’s still planning his first of 2022.

Against the backdrop, Joe Biden touched down here on Wednesday. And though he retreated to a Kiawah Island manse for quiet time with family, it was a political homecoming of sorts for the president. South Carolina resuscitated his career in the 2020 primaries, ultimately sending him to the White House. Biden’s connections to the state are immense, and loyalty from his party continues to run deeper than perhaps anywhere outside his native Delaware.

But the fraying of the social fabric that has affected Day Dawn Baptist Church has, in a way, impacted on Biden as well. The communities that elevated him have been battered, increasing the reliance on national media narratives that shape views of the president’s uneven standing.

“People aren’t as vocal right now. They’re talking, but it’s in small groups,” Jefferson said. “I still believe Biden has the pulse on the people and that the people need him. It’s been quiet, though. People haven’t been coming to hear what’s taking place.”

Biden’s footing in South Carolina is a microcosm of his current political fortunes writ large. Democrats here say they are willing to give him time to turn things around for himself. They’re heartened by recent legislative progress. But in dozens of interviews with people around the state, including current and former leaders and many of Biden’s ardent 2020 supporters, it’s clear they are anxious about his future and not ruling out the idea that someone else could be the party’s standard bearer in two years.

james clyburn“This race is like a horse race,” said House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), left, who was returning to Washington to vote for a landmark tax, health care and energy bill that’s central to Biden’s possible resurgence. “I wouldn’t bet on any race before I knew which horses were in.”

Clyburn favorably compared Biden’s record of presidential accomplishments to Lyndon B. Johnson and Harry Truman, observing that he “has the sensitivity and the compassion that is needed for this country at this particular juncture.” The congressman said he knows there’s despondency over the lack of progress on some Democratic priorities like voting rights, but noted that LBJ needed time and larger majorities before moving much of his Great Society domestic agenda.

“People want to see everything happen tomorrow morning. And if it can’t be a tweet that makes the evening news or the morning headlines, people think it’s not getting done,” Clyburn said. “If people go to the polls this coming November and give us overwhelming numbers, the rest of this stuff left on the table will get done.”

Biden’s Kiawah Island respite has offered few clues about his future, if any. Several of the president’s South Carolina confidants and friends said they haven’t heard from him about getting together socially. They are providing room for him to recover after a rebound bout with Covid. And they’re still hopeful the recent tidal wave of Democratic achievements on Capitol Hill — alongside falling gas prices and a robust jobs market — will help lift Biden’s polling slump and create a more promising environment for the party in fall contests.

There also are bubbling fears that if Democrats don’t rally behind Biden ahead of the midterms, there would be grave consequences for the party.

“Democrats need to get over it. All of this is bullshit,” said Trav Robertson, the chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party. “We need to solidify around this president whether you supported him or not. We need to pass legislation and quit talking about whether he’s running or not. That type of talk is why we got Donald Trump as president and Roe. v Wade was overturned.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Hawaii’s Lt. Gov., Josh Green, Is Democrats’ Pick for Governor, Maggie Astor, Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.). He will face Duke Aiona, a Republican, in the solidly blue state. Jill Tokuda, who won the Democratic House primary, and Sen. Brian Schatz are likely to win in November.

josh green twitterLt. Gov. Josh Green of Hawaii, right, won the Democratic primary for governor, according to The Associated Press, putting himself in a strong position to secure the top office in a reliably blue state.

Mr. Green defeated six other Democrats, including Representative Kai Kahele and Vicky Cayetano, a former first lady of Hawaii. He will face the Republican nominee, Duke Aiona, in November; the winner then will succeed Gov. David Ige, a Democrat who cannot run for re-election because of term limits.

Mr. Green, 52, a former state legislator and emergency room doctor, was elected lieutenant governor in 2018. Initially, he focused on combating homelessness. But his medical background became an asset when the pandemic began and Mr. Ige named him the state’s coronavirus liaison.

As vaccines were becoming widely available in the spring of 2021, a poll conducted by two Hawaii news organizations, Honolulu Civil Beat and Hawaii News Now, found that Mr. Green had a 63 percent approval rating. That was nearly three times Mr. Ige’s 22 percent approval rating, as voters seemed to credit Mr. Green — the public face of the state’s pandemic response — rather than the governor for the improving situation.

One of Mr. Green’s campaign ads this year highlighted the fact that Hawaii’s Covid infection rates have been among the lowest in the country, though they have still been devastating, particularly in Native Hawaiian communities.

Recent Headlines

 

Energy, Climate, Disasters, Environment

 

climate change photo

New York Times, Opinion: Why Republicans Turned Against the Environment, Paul Krugman, Aug. 15, 2022. In 1990 Congress passed an amendment to the Clean Air Act of 1970, among other things taking action against acid rain, urban smog and ozone.

The legislation was highly successful, greatly reducing pollution at far lower cost than business interest groups had predicted.

What’s really striking from today’s perspective, however, is the fact that the 1990 legislation passed Congress with overwhelming, bipartisan majorities. Among those voting Yea was a first-term senator from Kentucky named Mitch McConnell.

That was then. This is now: The Inflation Reduction Act — which, despite its name, is mainly a climate bill with a side helping of health reform — didn’t receive a single Republican vote. So why the scorched-earth G.O.P. opposition?

The immediate answer is that the Republican Party has turned strongly anti-environmental over time. But why?

What has happened, I’d argue, is that environmental policy has been caught up in the culture war — which is, in turn, largely driven by issues of race and ethnicity. This, I suspect, is why the partisan divide on the environment widened so much after America elected its first Black president.

 washington post logoWashington Post, What happens when unprecedented heat settles over a town that isn’t ready for it? Bonnie Berkowitz, Artur Galocha and Júlia Ledur, Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.). Very hot weather grounds planes, stops trains, wrecks roads, breaks pipes and generally creates havoc, especially in places accustomed to cooler temperatures. We built a fake metropolis to show how extreme heat could wreck cities.

ap logoAssociated Press, Northeastern farmers face new challenges with severe drought, Jennifer McDermott, Aug. 15, 2022. Vermont farmer Brian Kemp is used to seeing the pastures at Mountain Meadows Farm grow slower in the hot, late summer, but this year the grass is at a standstill. That's “very nerve-wracking” when you're grazing 600 to 700 cattle, said Kemp, who manages an organic beef farm in Sudbury.

ap logoAssociated Press, Deadline looms for drought-stricken states to cut water use, Sam Metz and Felicia Fonseca, Aug. 15, 2022. Banks along parts of the Colorado River where water once streamed are now just caked mud and rock as climate change makes the Western U.S. hotter and drier. More than two decades of drought have done little to deter the region from diverting more water than flows through it, depleting key reservoirs to levels that now jeopardize delivery and hydropower production.

ap logoAssociated Press, AP-NORC poll: Many in US doubt their own impact on climate, Hannah Fingerhut and Nuha Dolby, Aug. 15, 2022. Americans are less concerned now about how climate change might impact them personally — and about how their personal choices affect the climate — than they were three years ago, a new poll shows, even as a wide majority still believe climate change is happening.

The June Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll, which was conducted before Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act on Friday, shows majorities of U.S. adults think the government and corporations have a significant responsibility to address climate change. The new law will invest nearly $375 billion in climate strategies over the next decade.

Overall, 35% of U.S. adults say they are “extremely” or “very” concerned about the impact of climate change on them personally, down from 44% in August 2019. Another third say they are somewhat concerned. Only about half say their actions have an effect on climate change, compared with two-thirds in 2019.

washington post logoWashington Post, West Virginia coal country will test power of Democrats’ climate bill, Jeff Stein, Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.). After decades of deindustrialization, supporters of the Inflation Reduction Act hope it will revive U.S. manufacturing jobs. But obstacles loom.

ny times logoNew York Times, Saudi Aramco’s Profit Jumps 90 Percent on High Oil Prices, Kevin Granville, Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.). The giant oil producer said it earned nearly $50 billion last quarter, the latest energy company to record outsize profits after the surge in crude prices since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. Saudi Aramco, the giant oil producer, said on Sunday that its second-quarter profit jumped 90 percent over the same period a year ago, reaching $48.2 billion. It is the latest energy producer to report bumper earnings on the back of a surge in the price of oil.

Aramco, the national oil company for Saudi Arabia, said its earnings reflected increased demand for crude and higher refining profits. And the state-run company predicted that demand for oil would continue to grow through the rest of the decade.

The company has benefited from the growing need for energy as economic activity across the globe has picked up after the coronavirus pandemic dampened demand.

But oil producers are also profiting from the surge in prices that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

From late February through June, crude oil prices rose more than 36 percent, to nearly $120 a barrel, pushed in part by Western sanctions used to punish Russia. In recent weeks, major oil companies including Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Shell, BP and TotalEnergies have recorded huge profits, often records.

The rising price of crude led to steep increases at the gas pump, with the average price per gallon briefly reaching above $5 in the United States.

Since June, oil prices have slipped lower, with Brent crude, the international benchmark, at $98 a barrel on Friday, and gas falling below $4 a gallon on average in the United States. But prices remain relatively high — a year ago, Brent was about $61 barrel — and there are growing concerns that major oil producers are nearing a limit in how much they can produce.

 

nancy pelosi 11 19 2021 build back victory

ny times logoNew York Times, House Passes Climate, Tax and Health Package, Emily Cochrane, Aug. 13, 2022 (print ed.). The passage of the bill, which appeared dead just weeks ago, caps a Democratic effort to deliver on major components of President Biden’s agenda.

U.S. House logoCongress gave final approval on Friday to legislation that would reduce the cost of prescription drugs and pour billions of dollars into the effort to slow global warming, as House Democrats overcame united Republican opposition to deliver on key components of President Biden’s domestic agenda.

With a vote of 220 to 207 (led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, shown above in a file photo), the House agreed to the single largest federal investment in the fight against climate change and the most substantial changes to national health care policy since passage of the Affordable Care Act. The bill now goes to Mr. Biden for his signature.

The legislation would inject more than $370 billion into climate and energy programs aimed at helping the United States cut greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 40 percent below 2005 levels by the end of the decade. It would also extend for three years expanded subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, as well as fulfill a long-held Democratic goal to lower the cost of prescription drugs by allowing Medicare to directly negotiate prices and capping recipients’ annual out-of-pocket drug costs.

ny times logoNew York Times, News Analysis: A Victory for Biden, and a Bet on America’s Future, Michael D. Shear and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Aug. 13, 2022 (print ed.). Congress gave final approval to the Inflation Reduction Act, which will lower the cost of prescription drugs, extend health care subsidies and invest billions into climate and energy programs.

He promised a new social safety net. He pledged to develop a robust plan to fight global warming. He vowed to reduce the gap between rich and poor by making the wealthy “pay their fair share.”

And along the way, Joseph R. Biden Jr. often said as he battled Donald J. Trump for the White House in 2020, he would prove that democracy still works in America.

With final House passage of the Inflation Reduction Act on Friday, President Biden is poised to deliver the latest in a series of legislative victories that will ripple across the country for decades — lowering the cost of prescription drugs, extending subsidies to help people pay for health insurance, reducing the deficit and investing more than $370 billion into climate and energy programs.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: A disaster is looming at a huge Ukrainian nuclear power plant, Editorial Board, Aug. 13, 2022 (print ed.). Grave alarm about a possible nuclear catastrophe in Ukraine is escalating and warranted. Artillery shells have been raining on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

They could strike it in a way that would disperse radioactive materials and cause widespread contamination — equivalent to a dirty bomb — or interfere with its pressurized water cooling system, leading to a meltdown. The plant, occupied by Russian forces, should be immediately demilitarized and isolated from the war.

The facility, the largest nuclear plant in Europe, was captured by Russia in March, although the Ukrainian staff remain on site. It was shelled sporadically between Aug. 5 and Aug. 11. Both sides have blamed the other. Notably, Ukraine has accused Russia of using the plant to stage attacks on neighboring towns and villages. Natalia Humeniuk, the army spokeswoman, told national TV, “We understand that the invaders are hiding behind such a shield because it is not possible to strike there.”

This is playing with fire. There is no precedent for an operating and fueled nuclear energy facility to be caught in an active war zone, although some research facilities, such as the Osirak reactor in Iraq, and unfinished reactors, have been military targets in the past. The Ukraine plant has six Soviet-designed VVER-1000 water-cooled reactors containing uranium-235. As of July 22, only two of the reactors were operating. The pressurized-water reactors are different from those in Chernobyl, which used a graphite-moderated reactor. This plant has a hardened containment system surrounding the reactors, which Chernobyl lacked.

Recent Headlines

 

More On Ukraine War

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Claims Strike on Russian Mercenary Base, Ivan Nechepurenko and Cassandra Vinograd, Aug. 15, 2022. Reports of a strike in the Luhansk region of Ukraine’s east emerged on Sunday night; In the Kherson region in the south, Russia has withstood a barrage of Ukrainian attacks, but little territory has exchanged hands.

A Ukrainian strike hit a Russian base in eastern Ukraine that housed mercenaries from a private military group with close ties to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Ukrainian officials have claimed.

Reports of a strike in the Luhansk region on a base for the organization, the Wagner Group, began to emerge on Sunday night when a channel on Telegram that is widely associated with the group posted pictures that purported to show the site of the strike. The New York Times has independently verified that the images are from a building in the Russian-occupied town of Popasna that a Russian journalist had earlier identified as a Wagner base.

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s minister of internal affairs, shared similar images on Twitter and said that Ukraine had used the American-supplied HIMARS weapon system to hit the base.

Wagner first emerged in 2014, during Russia’s annexation of Crimea. U.N. investigators and rights groups say Wagner troops, which have been seen in Syria, Libya and the Central African Republic, have targeted civilians, conducted mass executions and looted private property in conflict zones. Wagner’s shadowy existence allows Russia to downplay its battlefield casualties and distance itself from atrocities committed by Wagner fighters, according to those who have studied the group.

On Monday morning, Serhiy Haidai, the head of the Ukrainian regional military administration in Luhansk, asserted that the Wagner base in Popasna had been “destroyed.”

“The Armed Forces of Ukraine again successfully struck the enemy’s headquarters,” Mr. Haidai wrote in a Facebook post, adding that the number of casualties was not yet known.

There was no immediate comment from the authorities in Russia or from Yevgeny Prigozhin, the secretive businessman and Putin ally widely associated with the private security company.

Reports of the strike infuriated many Russian military bloggers, who criticized an earlier social media post by one of their own. That post, they said, had exposed the headquarters’ location. The post has since been deleted.

“Congratulations to all decent war reporters, it will be even harder for us to work now,” Dmitri Steshin, a reporter for Komsomolskaya Pravda, a popular pro-Kremlin tabloid, wrote on Telegram. “And it will be easier for those who criticized us.”

Russia has tried to make up some of its manpower shortages in Ukraine by using mercenaries from Wagner, which gained prominence as it deployed to help accomplish the Kremlin’s foreign policy goals in Syria and various African nations.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Brittney Griner files appeal; N. Korea says Putin to deepen ties, Bryan Pietsch, Annabelle Timsit, Reis Thebault and Robyn Dixon, Aug. 15, 2022. WNBA star Brittney Griner has appealed the harsh sentence she received from a Russian court earlier this month on drug charges. In southern Ukraine, strikes near a nuclear plant — which left one employee dead — sparked a global outcry, with 42 countries calling on Russia to withdraw from the plant.

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

Key developments

  • Brittney Griner’s defense team appealed the verdict of a Russian court that sentenced the American basketball player to 9½ years in prison for bringing cannabis oil into the country in February.
  • Forty-two countries are calling on Russia to withdraw troops from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, according to a statement by the European Union dated Friday and posted Sunday. The statement says Russia’s military aggression at and near the plant poses a threat to nuclear safety.
  • The latest round of shelling near the plant killed one employee and injured two others, Ukraine’s nuclear power regulator said on Telegram.
  • The city of Enerhodar was hit at least six times, the regulator said, further shaking the enclave where many nuclear power plant employees live.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that the two countries will expand their bilateral relations, North Korean state media reported Monday. The leaders exchanged congratulatory letters to mark Korea’s Liberation Day.

Battlefield updates

  • Ukrainian troops struck a Wagner Group base in Popasna on Sunday, the regional governor said early Monday. Serhiy Haidai, governor of the Luhansk region, said in a Telegram post that members of the mercenary group died in the attack but that the death count was still being clarified.
  • Ukrainian forces again struck a bridge near Kherson over the weekend, probably rendering all three bridges into the Kherson region “unusable,” the Institute for the Study of War, a D.C.-based think tank, said Sunday evening.
  • Moscow is probably in the “advanced planning stages to hold a referendum” for the eastern Donetsk region to join Russia, even though it has not been completely captured, Britain’s Defense Ministry said Monday.
  • Russian offensives near Bakhmut in the Donetsk region were unsuccessful, the Ukrainian military said in an operational update early Monday, after it had said that Moscow made unspecified gains Sunday. Russian proxy troops are operating in the area, according to the ISW.

Global impact

  • New Zealand deployed 120 people on Monday from its defense force to Britain to train Ukrainian soldiers, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement. The deployment is a fourfold increase from the 30 it sent in May.
  • Pope Francis said the war in Ukraine is diverting “attention and resources” from famine in Somalia. In his weekly address, the pope said he hoped that “international solidarity can respond effectively to this emergency.”
  • A U.N.-chartered vessel packed with 23,000 tons of Ukrainian grain set sail for Ethiopia on Sunday. The ship is the first one bound for an African country and is carrying wheat purchased by the World Food Program. Six more ships have been authorized by the Joint Coordination Center, a U.N.-backed initiative involving Russia and Ukraine, to sail through the Black Sea to Ukrainian ports for loading. They will first need to pass inspection.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Updates: Zelensky vows Ukraine will seek out Russian troops who target nuclear plant, Rachel Pannett and Annabelle Timsit, Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.). Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russian forces of using the nuclear plant as a shield in a “blackmail operation.”

Officials in southern Ukraine reported strikes overnight against two cities near Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, adding to the growing international concern about damage to the sensitive facility. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for those responsible for attacks near Zaporizhzhia to be “tried by an international court.”

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

Key developments

  • Ukrainian forces will target Russian soldiers who shoot at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant or shoot from the facility, Zelensky said in his nightly address Saturday, as Russia and Ukraine traded accusations of additional shelling in the area. He said the Russian soldiers are becoming a “special target” and repeated his call for sanctions against Russia’s nuclear industry.
  • The cities of Nikopol and Marhanets faced additional attacks overnight into Sunday, according to the regional governor of Dnipropetrovsk, who reported property damage but no casualties. Zelensky claimed Saturday that Russian soldiers are hiding behind the nuclear plant to fire at the two cities, which are located across from it on the bank of the Dnieper River.
  • Three of six turbines at a hydropower plant were damaged by HIMARS missiles, Russian state TV claimed. The network, run by the Russian Defense Ministry, said the damage to the Kakhovka plant could affect the cooling of nuclear reactors at Zaporizhzhia. The reports could not be independently verified.

Battlefield updates

  • Ukrainian forces are continuing to disrupt Russian supply lines supporting Kremlin troops on the right bank of the Dnieper in southern Ukraine, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a D.C.-based think tank, said in its latest assessment. Kyiv’s troops struck a bridge on the Kakhovka plant dam again on Saturday, rendering it unusable, according to Ukrainian military officials.
  • Several bridges are now out of action in the area. If Russia can’t fix them, its forces on the west bank of the Dnieper “will likely lose the ability to defend themselves against even limited Ukrainian counterattacks,” the ISW said. British defense officials said Saturday that Russia is probably relying on two pontoon ferry crossing points to resupply several thousand troops in the area.
  • Zelensky said in his address late Saturday that “fierce fighting” continues in Donbas. ISW analysts say Russian forces may be refocusing their efforts in the northeast to draw Ukrainian forces away from counterattacks in the south. Particularly heavy fighting was reported in the Donetsk village of Pisky, which Russia claimed control of Saturday. But British defense analysts said the village, which is less than four miles west of Donetsk Airport, “probably remains contested.”

Global impact

  • Vulnerable NATO allies such as Latvia are scaling up their defenses out of fear they could be Russia’s next target. About 100,000 U.S. troops are deployed across Europe, but for those on Russia’s doorstep, that’s not yet enough, The Washington Post reports.
  • Norway has become the latest country to join an international coalition helping train Ukraine’s Armed Forces. The U.K.-based program “has already provided vital military skills to soldiers now serving on the front line,” British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said.
  • A total of 16 grain ships have now left Ukrainian ports, Zelensky said Saturday, under a U.N.-brokered deal to ease the global food crisis.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: What Amnesty got wrong in Ukraine and why I had to resign, Oksana Pokalchuk, Aug. 14, 2022 (print ed.). Oksana Pokalchuk is a Ukrainian lawyer and human rights activist. She was the executive director of the Ukrainian office of Amnesty International from 2016 to Aug. 5.

On Aug. 4, Amnesty International issued a report that accused the Ukrainian army of violating the laws of war by placing military bases close to civilian infrastructure. The report triggered a wave of public outrage worldwide and across Ukraine. For me, the report’s deepest flaw was how it contradicted its main objective: Far from protecting civilians, it further endangered them by giving Russia a justification to continue its indiscriminate attacks. That’s why I resigned as head of Amnesty International’s Ukrainian office. Many of my colleagues followed.
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As a human rights defender, I am driven by a core set of values. Before this crisis, I had always felt proud of Amnesty’s work and guiding statute. However, I believe the organization’s current approach is at odds with its mission. Having worked for the organization for seven years, I would have never imagined that a single report could jeopardize 30 years of achievements in human rights protection in Ukraine. Yet this is exactly what happened.

Most of the recent Amnesty research on Ukraine has been produced by a special “Crisis Team” that works on armed conflicts around the world. These researchers have exceptional training and experience in human rights, laws of war, weapons analysis, etc. What they often lack is a knowledge of local languages and context.

Of course, no one can be expected to understand the local context and languages of every conflict. But instead of trusting and relying on local staff, some international organizations like Amnesty fail to be inclusive and centralize decision-making, which was the case with this report. The attitude couldn’t be more condescending and unfair, because we all signed up to work together out of commitment to shared values.

The fact that we were not properly consulted and included in the drafting of this report shows a total disregard to the principle of international solidarity proclaimed in Amnesty’s statute and the aim of amplifying local voices.

The latest report had many glaring problems.

First of all, International Humanitarian Law does not impose a blanket prohibition on establishing military bases in proximity to civilian infrastructure. Instead, the military should, to the maximum extent possible, avoid locating military objectives near populated areas and should seek to protect civilians from the dangers resulting from military operations. This warrants an assessment of each situation on a case-by-case basis, not just from a legal perspective, but also in terms of the military realities on the ground.

The reality of the war in Ukraine is that Russian forces are seeking to occupy towns and cities in Ukraine, and Ukraine’s armed forces are trying to prevent that. Given the widely publicized accounts of Russian atrocities against civilians in Bucha and Irpin, it is not immediately evident that by withdrawing from populated areas, the Ukrainian military would have achieved the maximum possible protection of civilians.

Moreover, situations that Amnesty statement identified would require a response from the Ukraine’s Defense Ministry. This “right of response” is fundamental for human rights work, no matter the government.

The Ukrainian government, for its part, has a solid record of answering to Amnesty’s requests. This would have allowed a better understanding of whether Ukraine’s armed forces acted in a way that ensured the protection of civilians to the maximum possible extent or, instead, are putting them in danger, as Amnesty suggests.

We cannot rule out that there was some necessity in placing Ukrainian forces in residential areas. It is only when the ministry presents its reasoning that anyone can claim that they have impermissibly endangered civilians (which can then be further assessed and, if necessary, criticized). Similarly, while Amnesty researchers were “not aware” if the Ukrainian military asked or assisted civilians to leave, the ministry could have presented them evidence that they did.

But this time, Amnesty did not even intend to request an official response; they did so only after insistence from the Ukrainian office, and they gave the Ukrainian ministry only three working days to respond — which is in no way a reasonable time frame.

Furthermore, if Ukraine’s armed forces were indeed found to be in breach of international law, a potential way of implementing the recommendations would have been further advocacy with the ministry. Ukraine has been keen to demonstrate compliance with its legal obligations, partly because of reliance on Western weapon deliveries, and partly due to a desire to integrate closely with the European Union. This presented a unique opportunity to get Ukraine’s armed forces to comply with their obligations. But again, pushing for actual actions did not seem to be the goal in this case.

As a result, the publication put Ukrainian civilians at a potentially greater risk. Russia repeatedly justifies attacks against civilian infrastructure by falsely claiming that civilian targets were military objectives. After the Russian bombing of a maternity hospital in Mariupol in March, Russian propaganda attempted to justify the attack by saying the hospital was controlled by the Ukrainian military.

The Amnesty report is causing long-lasting damage to the group’s reputation in Ukraine and around the world. But the blunder of the leadership does not reflect the important work of local offices, which are in danger of losing of support. My goal is to call attention to the vital work that local staffers perform and urge leaders to respect and include them in all decisions equally.

The focus must be on values, evidence and action. Only then will we be able to truly restore faith in our ability to help those we are meant to serve.

Recent Headlines

 

Political Violence In United States

 

Hadi Matar, 24, center, arrives for an arraignment in the Chautauqua County Courthouse in Mayville, N.Y., Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. Matar, who is accused of carrying out a stabbing attack against “Satanic Verses” author Salman Rushdie has entered a not-guilty plea in a New York court on charges of attempted murder and assault. An attorney for Matar entered the plea on his behalf during an arraignment hearing. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Hadi Matar, 24, center, arrives for an arraignment in the Chautauqua County Courthouse in Mayville, N.Y., Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. Matar, who is accused of carrying out a stabbing attack against “Satanic Verses” author Salman Rushdie has entered a not-guilty plea in a New York court on charges of attempted murder and assault. An attorney for Matar entered the plea on his behalf during an arraignment hearing. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran denies involvement in Rushdie attack, says he brought it on himself, Jennifer Hassan, Aug. 15, 2022. Iran denied any salman rushdie hinvolvement Monday in last week’s attack that left author Salman Rushdie with severe injuries after he was stabbed in the neck and abdomen onstage at an event in western New York.

In its first public reaction to the stabbing, Iran said Rushdie and his supporters were to blame for the attack, more than three decades after Tehran issued a directive for Muslims to kill Rushdie because of his book “The Satanic Verses,” published in 1988.

ap logoAssociated Press, Agent: Rushdie off ventilator and talking, day after attack, Carolyn Thompson and Hillel Italie, Aug. 14, 2022. The Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie was taken off a ventilator and able to talk Saturday, a day after he was stabbed as he prepared to give a lecture in upstate New York.

Rushdie, shown in a file photo at right, remained hospitalized with serious injuries, but fellow author Aatish Taseer tweeted in the evening that he was “off the ventilator and talking (and joking).” Rushdie’s agent, Andrew Wylie, confirmed that information without offering further details.

Earlier in the day, the man accused of attacking him Friday at the Chautauqua Institution, a nonprofit education and retreat center, pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and assault charges in what a prosecutor called a “preplanned” crime.

An attorney for Hadi Matar entered the plea on his behalf during an arraignment in western New York. The suspect appeared in court wearing a black and white jumpsuit and a white face mask, with his hands cuffed in front of him.

A judge ordered him held without bail after District Attorney Jason Schmidt told her Matar, 24, took steps to purposely put himself in position to harm Rushdie, getting an advance pass to the event where the author was speaking and arriving a day early bearing a fake ID.

 

Author Salman Rushdie is transported to a helicopter after he was stabbed on stage before his scheduled speech at the Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua, New York, U.S., August 12, 2022, in this screengrab taken from a social media video. (TWITTER @HoratioGates3 /via REUTERS)

Author Salman Rushdie is transported to a helicopter after he was stabbed on stage before his scheduled speech at the Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua, New York, U.S., Aug. 12, 2022 (Screengrab taken from a social media video by HoratioGates3 via Twitter and Reuters).

ny times logoNew York Times, Driver Kills 1 and Injures 17 at Benefit, Then Kills 1 More, Police Say, Vimal Patel, Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.). A car plowed into a Pennsylvania fund-raiser for families affected by a deadly fire. The driver then fatally beat a woman in a nearby town, the police said.

In a pair of horrific scenes on Saturday night that compounded the tragedy of a recent fatal fire in eastern Pennsylvania, a man plowed his car into a fund-raising event for families affected by that fire, killing one and injuring 17, then drove off and fatally beat a woman before the police arrested him, the authorities said.

The suspect, identified by the police as Adrian Oswaldo Sura Reyes, 24, was arraigned on two counts of homicide and denied bail. He is being held at the Columbia County Correctional Facility.

Four of the injured in the crash in Berwick, a borough about 45 miles southwest of Scranton, were in critical condition late Saturday, said Joseph H. Stender III, a spokesman for Geisinger Medical Center, where many of the victims were taken.

The woman was found dead in neighboring Nescopeck, which was the site of the fatal fire on Aug. 5 that tore through a two-story home and killed 10 people.

Further information about the victims was not available on Sunday morning.

The fund-raiser was meant to benefit the victims and families of the house fire, including Harold Baker, a volunteer firefighter who responded to the fire and ended up losing his 22-year-old daughter and 19-year-old son, as well as six other family members, in the blaze. Among those killed in the fire in Nescopeck were three children, ages 5, 6 and 7, the Pennsylvania State Police said. The oldest victim was 79.

In a cruel twist, just eight days after the fire, Mr. Baker responded to the scene Saturday in Nescopeck, where the woman was killed. He said a daughter-in-law and several other relatives had been injured, and an aunt of his daughter-in-law had been killed, in the crash at the fund-raiser.

“I haven’t processed the fire yet and now I got to deal with this,” he said.

The crash on Saturday night added another wave of grief to a small community devastated by the fire that was described as “violent” and “forceful.” The cause of the fire has not been released.

At a news conference late Saturday, Trooper Anthony Petroski said the suspect in Saturday’s deaths was not currently a suspect in the fire, according to The Times-Leader of Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Area residents struggled to process what had happened in barely more than a week’s time. The confusion and anger were compounded because there were so many unanswered questions about the fire, Robin Massina, a Berwick resident who is the daughter of the Nescopeck mayor, said in an interview late Saturday.

“What is this madness?” Ms. Massina said. “Why is it happening? We’re a small town that probably hasn’t been in the news since the flood of like 1978.”

She said that the community had pulled together after the fire, and that she believed enough money had been raised so that families could bury their loved ones and get back on their feet. The event on Saturday demonstrated the community’s spirit, but the violence that followed destroyed the healing process.

washington post logoWashington Post, The man who shot Reagan wants to play concerts. It’s not going well, Mark Guarino, Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.). John Hinckley Jr. is no longer under court oversight. But he’s found that his freedom has limits.

washington post logoWashington Post, Man rams barricade near Capitol, fires shots, then kills himself, police say, Fredrick Kunkle and Lizzie Johnson, Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.). Police said the man, 29-year old Richard A. York, did not appear to be targeting members of Congress, who are on recess.

A man drove his vehicle into a barricade near the U.S. Capitol early Sunday and fired shots into the air before taking his own life, Capitol Police said.

No one else was injured, and it appears no officers discharged their weapons during the incident, which occurred about 4 a.m.

Police said the man, identified as 29-year old Richard A. York, of Delaware, did not appear to be targeting members of Congress, who are on recess.

At a news conference, Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said officers “did not hear the individual say anything” during the incident. He said investigators were exploring York’s social media and running his name through databases, but had so far found nothing tying him to the Capitol.

“We don’t have any information that would indicate his motivation at this point,” Manger said.

Law&Crime, ‘You’re Not Patriots’: Judge Questions Sincerity of Guilty Plea After Jan. 6 Defendant Recites Pledge of Allegiance, Shifts Blame to Cops at Sentencing, Marisa Sarnoff, Aug. 15, 2022. A Washington state man who recited the Pledge of Allegiance during his sentencing hearing for breaching the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 will spend some time behind bars, although not as much as the federal judge overseeing his case would have wanted.

lawcrime logoJohn Cameron, 55, was sentenced Monday to three years of probation and 30 days of intermittent incarceration after pleading guilty in April to a misdemeanor. Cameron was among the thousands who attended then-President Donald Trump’s so-called “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6, in which Trump called on his supporters to march to the Capitol building and “fight like hell” as Congress began to certify Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential election.

Cameron did just that, and joined the scores of Trump supporters who breached the Capitol building, spending about 20 minutes inside. He was seen in an office suite and the Crypt before exiting the building through a broken window after being told to do so by police.

He pleaded guilty in April to one count of parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building, a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail. The statute also allows for five years of probation, but Hogan is among a handful of federal judges in D.C. who have determined that the parading misdemeanor does not allow for a so-called “split sentence” of jail time and probation.

At Monday’s sentencing, Hogan got around that issue with the intermittent incarceration aspect of the sentence. The judge ordered Cameron to serve his jail time in three-day increments, but made it clear that he believed the defendant deserved significantly more time behind bars, largely due to Cameron’s repeated statements on social media implying that he believes he is being unfairly prosecuted for his political beliefs.

“I think you’re lucky that the government has stayed with its guilty plea in this matter,” the judge said.

Recent Headlines

 

Pandemic Public Health, Disasters

washington post logoWashington Post, Polio virus found in New York City wastewater, Lenny Bernstein and Kristen Hartke, Aug. 13, 2022 (print ed.). The discovery extends the virus’s presence from the northern New York suburbs to the nation’s largest city.

Health authorities announced Friday that polio virus has been found in New York City wastewater, a discovery that extends the known presence of the virus from the region’s northern suburbs to the nation’s largest city.

City and state health departments offered no details of where or when the virus was discovered. But they said the finding suggests “likely local circulation of the virus.”

“Polio can lead to paralysis and even death,” the city said in a tweet. Officials are urging unvaccinated New Yorkers to immediately seek the shots that protect against the virus.

“The risk to New Yorkers is real but the defense is so simple — get vaccinated against polio,” city Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan said in a news release. “With polio circulating in our communities, there is simply nothing more essential than vaccinating our children to protect them from this virus, and if you’re an unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated adult, please choose now to get the vaccine. Polio is entirely preventable and its reappearance should be a call to action for all of us.”

washington post logoWashington Post, World ignored monkeypox threats, including signs of sexual transmission, Mark Johnson, Aug. 13, 2022 (print ed.). Reports from Nigeria beginning in 2017 suggested the virus appeared to be spreading through sexual contact and affecting mostly young men.

In an eerie echo of the coronavirus pandemic, more than a decade of warnings preceded the global outbreak of human monkeypox that has now spread to more than 31,700 cases — with about a third of those in the United States.

In 2010, researchers reported the rate of monkeypox cases in the Democratic Republic of Congo had increased twentyfold from the 1980s to the mid-2000s — growth that if unaddressed could cost the world a chance “to combat [the virus] while its geographic range is limited,” wrote epidemiologist Anne Rimoin from the University of California at Los Angeles and her co-authors in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A second alarm came in late 2017, when Nigerian health authorities confirmed the country’s first case in almost 40 years: An 11-year-old boy

washington post logoWashington Post, Tinnitus afflicts about 749 million people worldwide, Linda Searing, Aug. 13, 2022. Tinnitus, commonly described as ringing in the ears, affects about 749 million people worldwide, according to research in the journal JAMA Neurology and based on about five decades of data.

Not a disease but rather a symptom of an underlying health condition, tinnitus is the perception of a constant or intermittent sound in one or both ears when there is no external source for the sound. Other than ringing, some people describe it as a clicking, hissing, buzzing or whistling sound.

Often, the cause stems from damage to the auditory system, which is the body’s system (involving the ear, the brain and the nerves that connect them) responsible for the sense of hearing.

The American Tinnitus Association, however, says that tinnitus can be a symptom of roughly 200 different health problems, including a blocked ear canal, head or neck injury, a sinus infection, certain medications, a host of diseases and medical conditions, as well as hearing loss from prolonged exposure to loud noise or age-related hearing loss. Also, some people develop tinnitus for no obvious reason, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The researchers found little difference by sex in the prevalence of tinnitus, but its occurrence did increase with age — affecting 10 percent of young adults, 14 percent of those middle age and 24 percent of those 65 and older. Although there is no universal cure for tinnitus, finding and treating the underlying condition may quell the sounds. If that does not work, a doctor may suggest ways to manage the effect of tinnitus on daily life, such as the use of hearing aids, sound generators (for internal or external use), techniques to ease stress and increase relaxation or, if appropriate, medication or counseling.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: California has the chance to limit solitary confinement. It should take it, Editorial Board, Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.). California, a longtime misuser of solitary confinement, is considering legislation to enact common-sense limits on the practice.

The California Mandela Act, if signed into law, would require every jail, prison or detention facility in California, public or private, to have written procedures and documentation about their use of solitary confinement. It would prohibit solitary confinement for prisoners who are pregnant, under 26 years old, over 59 years old or with a mental or physical disability. It would also ban holding anyone outside these “special populations” in solitary confinement for more than 15 consecutive days or more than 45 days in a 180-day period. That would bring California in line with the Nelson Mandela Rules, the United Nations’ “Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.”
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Some horror stories the California Mandela Act could prevent from happening again: In 2020, a 74-year-old man with a history of mental illness killed himself while held in solitary confinement at the Mesa Verde Immigration and Customs Enforcement Processing Center. In 2018, a woman held in Santa Rita County Jail gave birth in solitary confinement, “screaming for hours, alone, with nothing to wrap her baby girl in but the jail jumpsuit on her back.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Pain Doctor Who Sexually Assaulted Patients Found Dead at Rikers Jail, Jonah E. Bromwich and Jan Ransom, Aug. 15, 2022. Ricardo Cruciani was found dead just weeks after his conviction. His lawyer had called for him to be put on suicide watch minutes after he was convicted.

washington post logoWashington Post, A progressive prosecutor clashed with DeSantis. Now he’s out of a job, Lori Rozsa, Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.). State Attorney Andrew Warren was waiting for a grand jury to issue indictments in two rape and murder cases he had been working on for three years when he glanced down at his phone and saw an email from an attorney for Gov. Ron DeSantis.

It said he was suspended from his job.

Stunned, Warren quickly went to his office to consult with his staff. Not long after, there was a knock at the door. An armed major from the county sheriff’s office and a man in a suit from the governor’s office carrying a copy of DeSantis’ executive order suspending him were looking for him.

“He said, essentially, ‘The governor has suspended you and you need to leave the office now,’” Warren, a Democrat, recalled of DeSantis’ aide. “So within maybe seven minutes from getting the email, I was outside, on the street. The major offered me a ride home because they took my car.”

The dramatic ouster has alarmed many in Florida, who say DeSantis — widely considered a potential 2024 presidential candidate — usurped the will of the voters by removing a twice-elected local official who disagreed with him politically. Warren had initiated police reforms unpopular with some local law enforcement officers, and in the past year signed two statements pledging not to use his office to “criminalize” health care, including prosecuting women who get abortions and people seeking gender-affirming medical treatments.

In announcing the suspension, DeSantis excoriated Warren for being a “woke” prosecutor more interested in social justice than in enforcing the law. He warned of a “pathogen” spreading in U.S. cities — progressive prosecutors trying to reduce incarceration rates they see as overly punitive and that disproportionately impact people of color. He said prosecutors like Warren have caused “catastrophic results” in other states.

“We are not going to let that get a foothold here in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said a news conference in Tampa, while across town Warren was being physically ejected from his office. The governor was flanked by more than a dozen officers who hailed the move to oust Warren.

The clash comes as political parties pay more attention to state attorney elections than they have in the past and as prosecutors around the country are now faced with a slate of new laws restricting or outright banning abortion care after the fall of Roe v. Wade. For Warren, who left a job as a federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., to run for office in his home state, the suspension was the latest in a series of dust-ups with the governor. He said he was not planning to ignore the law, only that he planned to exercise prosecutorial discretion.

Recent Headlines

 

World News, Human Rights, Analysis

ny times logoNew York Times, Kenya Election Live Updates: William Ruto Is Declared Winner as Questions Linger, Declan Walsh, Abdi Latif Dahir and Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Aug. 15, 2022. Four of the country’s seven election commissioners would not verify the result, raising the specter of another legal challenge in a nation with a history of disputed votes.

Kenya’s vice president, William Ruto, won the country’s presidential election, the head of the electoral commission said Monday, days after a cliffhanger vote in a country that is pivotal to the economy and security of East Africa.

Mr. Ruto gained 50.5 percent of the vote, narrowly defeating Raila Odinga, a former prime minister, who received 48.85 percent, according to the chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, Wafula W. Chebukati. That percentage is enough to avert a runoff vote.

But minutes before the result was announced, four of the seven commission members said they could not verify the outcome. The statement raised questions about the legitimacy of the result and is likely to feature in any challenge in Kenya’s Supreme Court by supporters of Mr. Odinga.

A legal challenge could, in the short term, prolong a period of uncertainty in a nation whose democracy is closely watched by the continent and the world.

Kenyan law allows for an election result to be challenged within one week — a prospect that many observers viewed as a near certainty.

Soon after the results were announced, Mr. Ruto accepted victory, thanked his supporters and vowed to work for the good of the country.

“There is no room for vengeance, there is no room for looking back, we are looking into the future,” he said. “I am acutely aware that our country is at a stage where we need all hands on deck to move it forward. We do not have the luxury to look back.”

Celebrations broke out in the streets of Eldoret town, a stronghold for Mr. Ruto’s in the Rift Valley, with a deafening cacophony of cars and motorcycle honks, whistling and screaming taking over the streets in the downtown area.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Ruto vows ‘no room for vengeance’ as the nation awaits his rival’s next move.
  • Why this election matters: Kenya’s stability is vital.
  • William Ruto: A barefoot student who became a power broker.
  • Raila Odinga is once more at the heart of electoral uncertainty.
  • At the forefront of voters’ minds: Rising prices and persistent corruption.
  • Dueling scenes of jubilation and grief reflect Kenya’s winner-takes-all politics.
  • Ruto vows ‘no room for vengeance’ as the nation awaits his rival’s next move.

ny times logo

New York Times, The first U.N. ship carrying Ukrainian grain for Africa is preparing to depart, Michael Schwirtz, Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.). Latest Photos From Ukraine. Sailors in blue and orange coveralls milled around on the deck of the freighter Brave Commander on Sunday as a series of chutes and conveyors loaded the ship’s cargo bay with 23,000 metric tons of wheat bound for Africa.

The Brave Commander, a Lebanese-flagged freighter, was scheduled to depart later in the day from Pivdennyi, one of Ukraine’s largest ports on the Black Sea, near Odesa. It is the first ship specially chartered by the World Food Program as part of an effort to direct much-needed grain to countries affected most by food shortages caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

This shipment will eventually make its way to Ethiopia, which is on “the edge of famine,” according to Marianne Ward of the World Food Program, a United Nations agency.

“This food will make a huge difference for them,” she said. “The big message for us is the world needs the food of Ukraine.”

Last year, Ukrainian grain is estimated to have fed 400 million people, according to Ms. Ward, and the absence of shipments from Ukrainian ports blockaded by Russian warships in the Black Sea has had profound repercussions around the globe. Prices have soared and tens of millions of people, mostly in the Middle East and Africa, have been put at risk of famine.

washington post logoWashington Post, India celebrates 75 years since independence amid hope and tension, Annabelle Timsit, Aug. 15, 2022. India is celebrating 75 years since its independence from British colonial rule. Cities across the country held parades and events Monday featuring soldiers, elephants and dancers. Buildings lit up in the orange, white and green of India’s national flag, and a government campaign urged families to fly the flag at home.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. reports drone strikes on Tanf base in Syria, no casualties, Sarah Dadouch, Aug. 15, 2022. U.S. forces reported an attack by drone aircraft on one of its outposts in a remote corner of Syria but said there had been no casualties or damage.

The statement said one of the unmanned aircraft was shot down while a second impacted in the compound without causing any damage to the base, which houses U.S. troops and their Syrian allies.

“Such attacks put the lives of innocent Syrian civilians at risk,” Maj. Gen. John Brennan, commander of the U.S. forces in Syria fighting the Islamic State, said in a statement. “Coalition personnel retain the right to self-defense, and we will take appropriate measures to protect our forces.”

Past attacks on the Tanf outpost have been attributed to Iran, including last October, and in June, Russian aircraft struck a section of the base inhabited by the Syrian opposition fighters — after giving U.S. forces a half-hour’s notice.

The isolated desert outpost is in southeast Syria, near the Jordanian and Iraqi borders, and is part of the U.S. battle against remnants of the Islamic State in the country. The base also hosts an estimated 300 troops of its partners, the Maghaweir al-Thowra (Commandos of the Revolution, also known as the MaT).

The MaT train and carry out operations with the U.S. coalition troops and conduct daily operations, according to the Defense Department.

The strategically located garrison sits near Syria’s Tanf border crossing with Iraq, at the crossroad of a main highway between Baghdad and Damascus — one of the main supply routes by land for Iran to smuggle arms into Syria and to its Hezbollah allies.

Over the years, Tanf has largely been ignored by the Syrian army, loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, as well as its allied Iranian and Russian troops, despite a brief flare-up last year and the June strike. More frequent are the rocket attacks against U.S. bases in the northeast, where U.S.-allied Kurdish troops control the area.

ny times logoNew York Times, At Least 41 Killed in Fire at Egyptian Church During Sunday Prayers, Euan Ward and Nada Rashwan, Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.). The blaze was reportedly caused by an electrical fault on the second floor, which housed classrooms. Several children were thought to be among the dead.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. citizens among 8 injured in attack in Jerusalem’s Old City, Miriam Berger, Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.). A gunman opened fire on a bus and vehicles by a parking lot near the entrance to the Western Wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites, according to Israeli police. Eight people were injured, among them U.S. citizens, in a suspected Palestinian gun attack on a bus near Jerusalem’s Western Wall in the Old City early Sunday, Israeli police and medics said.

The alleged shooter turned himself and his weapon in hours after fleeing the scene and setting off an extensive manhunt, according to Israeli Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai. The shooting comes less than a week after Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip reached a tentative truce to end several days of fighting that killed at least 47 Palestinians in the blockaded enclave, and amid an ongoing Israeli crackdown in the occupied West Bank after violence flared there this spring.

washington post logoWashington Post, Billionaire Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, known as ‘India’s Warren Buffet,’ dies at 62, Annabelle Timsit, Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.). Billionaire investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, nicknamed “India’s Warren Buffett” for his successful stock market bets, died Sunday at the age of 62, one of his companies confirmed.

A chartered accountant who took up stock trading at 25, Jhunjhunwala went on to create the asset management firm Rare Enterprises, which invested in companies in the telecommunications, hospitality and financial services sectors, among others.

He had an estimated net worth of $5.8 billion at the time of his death, according to Forbes, which called Jhunjhunwala an “investor with a Midas touch.” His latest venture, a low-cost airline called Akasa Air, began operating in India last week.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Forced Birth Laws, Privacy, Freedoms

ny times logoNew York Times, After the reversal of Roe, readership has surged at publications aimed at women, Katie Robertson, Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.). The surge of readers has buoyed a part of the digital media world that has gradually declined in recent years.

Jezebel, a feminist website started by Gawker Media in 2007, saw an 18 percent increase in traffic after a leaked draft of the decision was published by Politico in May. The 19th, which covers gender and politics and takes its name from the 19th Amendment, reported a 63 percent jump in readership for its abortion-related stories. And The Cut, New York magazine’s women’s site, said traffic to its abortion rights coverage increased nearly threefold in June compared with the previous month.

Now readers are hunting out a feminist perspective and looking to writers who have closely covered the fight over abortion rights for years.

“We are able to cover this in an unflinching and honest way, with a perspective that I think a lot of traditional media outlets sort of aren’t able to do,” said Laura Bassett, the editor in chief of Jezebel.

Ms. Bassett previously covered women’s rights and health for nearly a decade at HuffPost. She took over Jezebel in September 2021. One of her first moves, she said, was to hire a reproductive rights reporter based in Texas, anticipating the Supreme Court’s decision.

Most have now closed their doors. xoJane, founded by the former editor of Sassy and Jane, Jane Pratt, folded in 2016. In 2018, The Hairpin (a sister site to The Awl), Lenny Letter (an online newsletter by the actor and writer Lena Dunham) and Rookie Mag (a magazine from the then-teen style icon Tavi Gevinson) shut down. The popular blog Feministing closed in 2019 after 15 years. The same year, Vice Media eliminated its women’s vertical, Broadly. Bitch Media, a feminist publisher and magazine that was started in 1996, shuttered in June.

The remaining publications have found their moment.

 

Former Miss America Cara Mund, now a congressional candidate in North Dakota, poses at the state capital, Bismarck (Associated Press photo by James MacPherson).Former Miss America Cara Mund, now a congressional candidate in North Dakota, poses at the state capital, Bismarck (Associated Press photo by James MacPherson).

ap logoAssociated Press, Ex-Miss America Mund: Abortion ruling prompted US House run, James MacPherson, Aug. 14, 2022. Former Miss America Cara Mund said Wednesday that her concern about the erosion of abortion rights prompted her independent bid for the U.S. House in her home state of North Dakota.

Mund, who is running against the odds in deeply conservative North Dakota, told The Associated Press that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn the constitutional right to abortion was “just a moment where I knew we need more women in office.”

The 28-year-old recent Harvard Law School graduate announced her candidacy Saturday, just weeks before early voting begins in the state where Republicans hold every statewide office.

Her run comes as North Dakota’s only abortion clinic is Fargo prepares to relocate across the border to Minnesota to avoid recrimination if courts allow a law banning all abortions except in cases of rape, incest or to protect the life of the pregnant woman to be enforced.

Having the government “make women have to travel across state lines is going to impact women, and women of lower social economic status,” she said.

Acting as her own campaign manager and without any fundraising machinery, the Bismarck native has begun gathering the 1,000 signatures she needs to get on the ballot. If she makes it, in November she will face Republican U.S. Rep. Kelly Armstrong, who has held the state’s lone House seat since 2019, and Democrat Mark Haugen of Bismarck, a University of Mary graduate adviser who has long worked as a paramedic.

Recent Headlines

 

Media, Religion, Education, Sports News

 

gannett logo Custom

frank gannett

Frank Gannett (1876-1957), right, founded the newspaper chain that bears his name. Photo (cc) 2009 by History Rewound.

Media Nation, Gannett lays off journalists, closes papers and keeps the numbers to itself, Dan Kennedy, Aug. 15, 2022. What more can be said about the latest round of Gannett layoffs? This one was telegraphed well in advance, and I wrote about what was coming three times (here, here and here) before the hammer finally came down on Friday.

We don’t know the extent of the damage; The Associated Press reported that the “company declined to provide details about the number of people losing their jobs.”

The number 400 has been bandied about, but is that 400 journalists or 400 total employees? In any case, that number has not been verified. We do know that the cuts were broad and deep, from Worcester County, where, according to Grafton Common, the chain’s weekly papers were decimated, all the way up to the flagship paper, USA Today.

Los Angeles Times reporter Jeong Park has provided one way of looking at what happened. Gannett owns about 250 newspapers and other properties, and, before Friday, it employed about 4,000 reporters, editors and photographers. Our three national papers together also employ about 4,000 journalists — The New York Times (1,700), The Washington Post (1,000) and The Wall Street Journal (1,300). And, unlike Gannett, they’re all growing.

Gannett’s losses in the most recent quarter were so vast that it seems likely management will come back for another bite at the apple in a few months. After all, they’ve been on a rampage in Eastern Massachusetts, closing a number of weeklies in 2021 and 19 earlier this year (the company also merged nine papers into four). They’ve pretty much given up on local coverage, too.

Meanwhile, the company’s top executives pay themselves millions of dollars, and even the part-time board members are getting north of $200,000. And it’s been reported that CEO Michael Reed bought another 500,000 shares of Gannett stock last Tuesday, paying $1.22 million.

This feels like the end game, but it probably isn’t. There are always more papers to close, more people to lay off and more websites to strip of any real journalistic content. My heart goes out to the folks who lost their jobs on Friday. I hope they all land on their feet — and I also hope that many of them will look into the possibility of starting independent news projects in the communities they used to cover. The need and the opportunity are there.

Barrett Media, Ronan Farrow: Local News ‘Dying Rather Than Adapting,’ Jonah E. Bromwich and Jan Ransom, Aug. 15, 2022. “It was clear even then — this is the better part of a decade ago now — that there was a real shortfall in that kind of local reporting.”

A doctor found guilty last month of sexually assaulting patients was found dead at the Rikers Island jail complex Monday even though his lawyer had called for him to be put on suicide watch just minutes after he was convicted.

The doctor, Ricardo Cruciani, a 68-year-old neurologist, was found early Monday morning sitting in a shower area of the jail with a sheet around his neck, according to documents obtained by The New York Times. Shortly afterward, medical staff arrived to attend to him. He died about an hour after he was discovered, the documents show.

Mr. Cruciani is the 12th person to have died this year either while being held in the city’s jails or shortly after being released. His death came about two weeks after a jury found him guilty on 12 counts of predatory sexual assault, sexual abuse, rape and other crimes, stemming from his treatment of six patients that he saw around 2012.

In a statement, the commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction, Louis A. Molina, said he was “deeply saddened to learn of the passing of this person in custody.”

“We will conduct a preliminary internal review to determine the circumstances surrounding his death,” he said in the statement, which did not identify Mr. Cruciani. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to his loved ones.”

Ronan Farrow joined The Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz for an interview released Monday morning, and noted the downfall of local news outlets while discussing his upcoming HBO documentary Endangered.

“When I started out, and I was in network news and in cable news, I really prioritized putting local reporters on and picking up stories that local investigative reporters had done.

“In general, it was clear even then — this is the better part of a decade ago now — that there was a real shortfall in that kind of local reporting. And that is what creates accountability. It’s an institution — journalism, that is — that’s enshrined in the constitution for a reason. Right? It’s specifically protected because it does provide a check on power and corruption. And you see the consequences of an absence of trust in the facts and an absence of good journalism in national politics and you see it locally.”

Farrow pointed out one of the subjects featured in his documentary is Miami Herald photojournalist Carl Juste, and often worried about whether he would still have a job or not, which is something Farrow pointed out many in the media feel.

“There are experiments that seem to be working in how you make national journalism sustainable. There’s contribution based models. There’s things like ProPublica, there’s what The Guardian is doing, there’s subscription based models that are starting to work. The New Yorker has a successful subscription based model. But, fundamentally, local news outlets are just dying rather than adapting is what the numbers show us. Too often.”

According to HBO, the documentary chronicles “a year in the life of four journalists as world leaders denigrate the press, distrust of the media is on the rise, and journalists are facing situations more typically encountered in war zones”.

ny times logoNew York Times, Sexual Assault Revelations Turn Canada’s National Game Into the Nation’s Shame, Ian Austen, Aug. 15, 2022 (print ed.). Once a jewel of Hockey Canada’s schedule, the world junior tournament is playing to a largely empty arena as turmoil forces Canadians to rethink what they believe about the sport.

canadian flagThe pandemic shifted one of Canada’s longstanding holiday rituals, the World Junior Championship, from December to the middle of summer. But even allowing for that, the absence of a crowd before the Canadian team’s first game this week was striking.

In a fan zone with sprawling television screens outside of the N.H.L. arena in downtown Edmonton, a D.J. entertained a group that never surpassed a dozen people in the hour before Canada took on Latvia in its first game. Up a long escalator, the number of open gates into Rogers Place often exceeded the number of people passing through them. And once inside, a preponderance of empty seats allowed the chants of eight enthusiastic Latvian supporters to be heard by all.

washington post logoWashington Post, Anne Heche, wide-ranging actress, dies at 53, Brian Murphy, Aug. 15, 2022. She appeared in films including “Donnie Brasco” and “Six Days Seven Nights” and broke ground with Ellen DeGeneres as a celebrity same-sex couple in the 1990s.

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Aug. 14

Top Headlines 


Political Violence In United States

 

Trump Probes, Reactions, Riots, Supporters

 

Energy, Climate, Environment, Disasters

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Economy, Governance

 

More On Ukraine War

 

Pandemic, Public Health

 

U.S. Law, Immigration, Crime

 

More World News, Human Rights Analysis

 

U.S. Forced Birth Laws, Privacy, Freedoms

 

U.S. Media, Education, Sports, Culture

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Most abortions are done at home. Antiabortion groups are taking aim, Kimberly Kindy, Aug. 14, 2022. Two top antiabortion groups have crafted and successfully lobbied for state legislation to ban or further restrict the predominant way pregnancies are ended in the United States — via drugs taken at home, often facilitated by a network of abortion rights groups.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, 14 states now ban or partially ban the use of those drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, which are used in more than half of all abortions.

But the drugs remain widely available, with multiple groups working to help provide them even to women in states with abortion bans. Students for Life of America and National Right to Life Committee, which have played leading roles in crafting antiabortion laws, hope to change that with new legislation.

The groups are pursuing a variety of tactics, from bills that would ban the abortion-inducing drugs altogether to others that would allow family members to sue medication providers or attempt to shut down the nonprofit groups that help women obtain and safely use the drugs.

Their strategy reflects the reality that abortion access today looks vastly different from that of the pre-Roe world, one without easy access to abortion medications from out-of-state or overseas pharmacies.

“We knew we couldn’t just go back to pre-Roe laws,” said James Bopp Jr., attorney for National Right to Life. “We knew new approaches were needed.”

Both organizations have long opposed medication abortions, but Students for Life’s legislative efforts did not gain traction until 2021, when seven states passed bills modeled after legislation crafted by the group to create legal barriers to the medications. In some cases the laws also banned them from college health clinics. A new wave of these proposals are expected to be introduced — or reintroduced — in statehouses across the country when most legislatures reconvene in January.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Idaho Supreme Court ruled that a strict abortion ban can begin later this month, Isabella Grullón Paz, Aug. 14, 2022. In a late Friday ruling, the state’s highest court said that a ban could begin at the end of the month while legal challenges are reviewed.

idaho mapIdaho’s near-total ban on abortion can go into effect at the end of August while legal challenges to the restrictions are reviewed, the Idaho Supreme Court said in a ruling late Friday.

As a result of the decision, the ban is scheduled to begin on Aug. 25.

idaho map localThe Court issued the decision based on three lawsuits filed by a Planned Parenthood chapter and a local doctor this year to block three Idaho laws that were to take effect if the U.S. Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade, which it did in June. The petitioners had asked the court not enforce the abortion restrictions until the suits were settled.

The first lawsuit was aimed at halting a law that would make it a felony to perform an abortion, though it allows doctors to cite rape, incest or an effort to save the life of a pregnant woman as a defense in a trial. Another suit sought to curb a law that criminalizes abortions after six weeks of a pregnancy. The chapter had also filed a suit against a law that allows relatives of a fetus or embryo to sue the abortion provider, and establishes a reward of at least $20,000, plus legal fees, within four years of an abortion.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Abortion Has Become a Centerpiece of Democratic TV Ads in 2022, Shane Goldmacher and Katie Glueck, Aug. 14, 2022. Democrats are using abortion as a powerful cudgel in their television campaigns, paying for an onslaught of ads in House, Senate and governor’s races. Senior White House officials and top Democratic strategists believe the issue has radically reshaped the 2022 landscape in their favor.

In Michigan, Democrats took aim at the Republican nominee for governor almost immediately after the primary with a television ad highlighting her opposition to abortion, without exceptions for rape or incest.

In Georgia, Democrats recently attacked the Republican governor in another television ad, with women speaking fearfully about the specter of being investigated and “criminalized.”

And in Arizona, the Republican nominees for both Senate and governor were confronted almost instantly after their primaries with different ads calling them “dangerous” for their anti-abortion positions.

All across America, Democrats are using abortion as a powerful cudgel in their 2022 television campaigns, paying for an onslaught of ads in House, Senate and governor’s races that show how swiftly abortion politics have shifted since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in late June.

With national protections for abortion rights suddenly gone and bans going into effect in many states, senior White House officials and top Democratic strategists believe the issue has radically reshaped the 2022 landscape in their favor. They say it has not only reawakened the party’s progressive base, but also provided a wedge issue that could wrest away independent voters and even some Republican women who believe abortion opponents have overreached.

 

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).

washington post logoWashington Post, Mar-a-Lago search shows how records dispute became a national security probe, Josh Dawsey, Rosalind S. Helderman, Jacqueline Alemany and Devlin Barrett, Aug. 14, 2022 (print ed.). Donald Trump was huddled with lawyers in New York on an unrelated investigation when they learned FBI agents had arrived in Palm Beach, Fla., with a warrant, authorized to search for any and all evidence a crime had been committed.

As FBI agents pulled up to Donald Trump’s Florida club Monday morning to conduct a search for top-secret government documents — approved by a federal judge and requested by the attorney general of the United States — the former president was by chance already huddled with his lawyers in Trump Tower in New York, a thousand miles to the north.

So distressing was the search that the usually loquacious Trump team stayed mum for much of the day — until 6:51 p.m., when Trump himself confirmed the raid in a bombastic statement that declared it unjustified and politically motivated. “They even broke into my safe!” he announced.

The court-authorized search was a remarkable moment even for Trump, who has been under investigation by state and federal prosecutors nearly continuously since he swore the oath of office in 2017. What began as a low-level dispute over the Trump White House’s chaotic and haphazard record-keeping had morphed into a deeply serious probe of whether the ex-president had endangered national security by hoarding highly classified documents, some potentially related to nuclear weapons.

The past week’s events — which began with the raid and continued with Attorney General Merrick Garland’s rare move Thursday to publicly defend the FBI against partisan criticism and misinformation, take personal responsibility for the search and announce he wanted the warrant unsealed by a court — marked a turning point in the Justice Department’s posture toward Trump.

Garland had vowed to erect a sturdy wall between politics and law enforcement, and he had faced grinding criticism from Trump’s critics that he had been too cautious in holding the former president to account. Now he was the face of a law enforcement action that threatened to further cleave the nation, as some of Trump’s allies likened the FBI’s search to a political persecution more common in a “banana republic” or even under Nazi rule.

For Trump, the episode opened a new chapter in his tormented relationship with legal authorities, confirming that his vulnerabilities expanded beyond the better publicized and ongoing probes into his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and his personal business.

washington post logoWashington Post, Lawmakers call for intelligence officials to conduct damage assessment of the documents found at Trump’s club, Jacqueline Alemany, Aug. 14, 2022 (print ed.). In a letter, Maloney and Schiff call for intelligence officials to conduct a damage assessment of the highly classified information found at Trump’s club.

The House Democrats’ top investigators on Saturday asked the director of National Intelligence to conduct a review and damage assessment of the boxes of highly classified information seized by the FBI this week from former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.

The letter was sent to National Intelligence Director Avril Haines by House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) and cites the search warrant cataloguing the classified documents of various levels of sensitivity found at Mar-a-Lago.

“Former President Trump’s conduct has potentially put our national security at grave risk,” the two wrote, asking also for a classified briefing on the assessment as soon as possible. “This issue demands a full review, in addition to the ongoing law enforcement inquiry.”

The two also voiced concern that the FBI is looking in part at highly classified documents related to nuclear weapons, as first reported by The Washington Post.

“If this report is true, it is hard to overstate the national security danger that could emanate from the reckless decision to remove and retain this material,” the letter states.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Lawyer Told Justice Dept. That Classified Material Had Been Returned, Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush, Aug. 14, 2022 (print ed.). The lawyer signed a statement in June that all documents marked as classified and held in boxes in storage at Mar-a-Lago had been given back. The search at the former president’s home on Monday turned up more.

Justice Department log circularAt least one lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump signed a written statement in June asserting that all material marked as classified and held in boxes in a storage area at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and club had been returned to the government, four people with knowledge of the document said.

The written declaration was made after a visit on June 3 to Mar-a-Lago by Jay I. Bratt, the top counterintelligence official in the Justice Department’s national security division.

The existence of the signed declaration, which has not previously been reported, is a possible indication that Mr. Trump or his team were not fully forthcoming with federal investigators about the material. And it could help explain why a potential violation of a criminal statute related to obstruction was cited by the department as one basis for seeking the warrant used to carry out the daylong search of the former president’s home on Monday, an extraordinary step that generated political shock waves.

It also helps to further explain the sequence of events that prompted the Justice Department’s decision to conduct the search after months in which it had tried to resolve the matter through discussions with Mr. Trump and his team.

An inventory of the material taken from Mr. Trump’s home that was released on Friday showed that F.B.I. agents seized 11 sets of documents during the search with some type of confidential or secret marking on them, including some marked as “classified/TS/SCI” — shorthand for “top secret/sensitive compartmented information.” Information categorized in that fashion is meant to be viewed only in a secure government facility.

The search encompassed not just the storage area where boxes of material known to the Justice Department were being held but also Mr. Trump’s office and residence. The search warrant and inventory unsealed on Friday did not specify where in the Mar-a-Lago complex the documents marked as classified were found.

Mr. Trump said on Friday that he had declassified all the material in his possession while he was still in office. He did not provide any documentation that he had done so.

The search warrant said F.B.I. agents were carrying out the search to look for evidence related to possible violations of the obstruction statute as well as the Espionage Act and a statute that bars the unlawful taking or destruction of government records or documents. No one has been charged in the case, and the search warrant on its own does not mean anyone will be.

The lawyer signed a statement in June that all documents marked as classified and held in boxes in storage at Mar-a-Lago had been given back. The search at the former president’s home on Monday turned up more.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. allies most vulnerable to Russia press for more troops, weapons, Alex Horton, Karoun Demirjian and Michael Birnbaum, european union logo rectangleAug. 14, 2022 (print ed.). About 100,000 U.S. troops are deployed across Europe, with a growing center of gravity in the east. But the countries closest to Russia say they are desperate for more Western military aid.

 ap logoAssociated Press, Italy’s Letta: Italian right-wing threatens Europe democracy, Colleen Barry, Aug. 14, 2022. The leader of Italy’s Democratic Party warned Saturday of the threats that Italy’s right-wing nationalistic parties pose to European democracy in a video released in multiple languages, and promised that his party would keep Italy at the center of the European Union if it wins the country’s early parliamentary election next month.

The video by Democratic Party leader Enrico Letta comes days after the leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy, Giorgia Meloni, did a multilingual video of her own to dispute suggestions that her election as premier would endanger democracy in Italy and threaten the management of EU pandemic funds. Meloni, whose party controversially uses the symbol of a flame borrowed from a neo-fascist party, said in an Aug. 10 video that the Italian political right has “unambiguously” condemned the legacy of fascism.

italy decalAt the moment, the center-left Democratic Party and the Brothers of Italy are the leading parties in opinion polls going into Italy’s Sept. 25 parliamentary election. Neither looks assured of having enough votes to govern alone.

While the right-wing has created a solid coalition, bringing together Brothers of Italy, Matteo Salvini’s right-wing League party and Silvio Berlusoni’s center-right Forza Italia party, the left has been foundering in this election campaign.

Letta’s deal with a would-be kingmaker fell apart within a day and his relationship with former Premier Matteo Renzi, who heads a tiny but potentially influential party, soured when Renzi maneuvered him out of the job of premier in 2014.

Letta underlined the danger to European solidity posed by vetoes and demands of unanimity posed by right-wing leaders like Hungary’s Viktor Orban, who he noted is “a friend and ally of the Italian right.” Orban has used these tools to “defeat sanctions against Russia and on migration issues,” Letta said.

Letta also said the right-wing had not supported the EU pandemic funds in the European Parliament, and that Italy’s right-wing had voted against a new treaty between France and Italy aimed to put the ties at the same level as the historic Franco-German relationship that has been the engine of post-war European peace and prosperity.

 

Political Violence In United States

 

Hadi Matar, 24, center, arrives for an arraignment in the Chautauqua County Courthouse in Mayville, N.Y., Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. Matar, who is accused of carrying out a stabbing attack against “Satanic Verses” author Salman Rushdie has entered a not-guilty plea in a New York court on charges of attempted murder and assault. An attorney for Matar entered the plea on his behalf during an arraignment hearing. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Hadi Matar, 24, center, arrives for an arraignment in the Chautauqua County Courthouse in Mayville, N.Y., Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. Matar, who is accused of carrying out a stabbing attack against “Satanic Verses” author Salman Rushdie has entered a not-guilty plea in a New York court on charges of attempted murder and assault. An attorney for Matar entered the plea on his behalf during an arraignment hearing. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

ap logoAssociated Press, Agent: Rushdie off ventilator and talking, day after attack, Carolyn Thompson and Hillel Italie, Aug. 14, 2022. The Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie was taken off a ventilator and able to talk Saturday, a day after he was stabbed as he prepared to give a lecture in upstate New York.

salman rushdie hRushdie, shown in a file photo at right, remained hospitalized with serious injuries, but fellow author Aatish Taseer tweeted in the evening that he was “off the ventilator and talking (and joking).” Rushdie’s agent, Andrew Wylie, confirmed that information without offering further details.

Earlier in the day, the man accused of attacking him Friday at the Chautauqua Institution, a nonprofit education and retreat center, pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and assault charges in what a prosecutor called a “preplanned” crime.

An attorney for Hadi Matar entered the plea on his behalf during an arraignment in western New York. The suspect appeared in court wearing a black and white jumpsuit and a white face mask, with his hands cuffed in front of him.

A judge ordered him held without bail after District Attorney Jason Schmidt told her Matar, 24, took steps to purposely put himself in position to harm Rushdie, getting an advance pass to the event where the author was speaking and arriving a day early bearing a fake ID.

 

Author Salman Rushdie is transported to a helicopter after he was stabbed on stage before his scheduled speech at the Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua, New York, U.S., August 12, 2022, in this screengrab taken from a social media video. (TWITTER @HoratioGates3 /via REUTERS)

Author Salman Rushdie is transported to a helicopter after he was stabbed on stage before his scheduled speech at the Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua, New York, U.S., Aug. 12, 2022 (Screengrab taken from a social media video by HoratioGates3 via Twitter and Reuters).

ny times logoNew York Times, Driver Kills 1 and Injures 17 at Benefit, Then Kills 1 More, Police Say, Vimal Patel, Aug. 14, 2022. A car plowed into a Pennsylvania fund-raiser for families affected by a deadly fire. The driver then fatally beat a woman in a nearby town, the police said.

In a pair of horrific scenes on Saturday night that compounded the tragedy of a recent fatal fire in eastern Pennsylvania, a man plowed his car into a fund-raising event for families affected by that fire, killing one and injuring 17, then drove off and fatally beat a woman before the police arrested him, the authorities said.

The suspect, identified by the police as Adrian Oswaldo Sura Reyes, 24, was arraigned on two counts of homicide and denied bail. He is being held at the Columbia County Correctional Facility.

Four of the injured in the crash in Berwick, a borough about 45 miles southwest of Scranton, were in critical condition late Saturday, said Joseph H. Stender III, a spokesman for Geisinger Medical Center, where many of the victims were taken.

The woman was found dead in neighboring Nescopeck, which was the site of the fatal fire on Aug. 5 that tore through a two-story home and killed 10 people.

Further information about the victims was not available on Sunday morning.

The fund-raiser was meant to benefit the victims and families of the house fire, including Harold Baker, a volunteer firefighter who responded to the fire and ended up losing his 22-year-old daughter and 19-year-old son, as well as six other family members, in the blaze. Among those killed in the fire in Nescopeck were three children, ages 5, 6 and 7, the Pennsylvania State Police said. The oldest victim was 79.

In a cruel twist, just eight days after the fire, Mr. Baker responded to the scene Saturday in Nescopeck, where the woman was killed. He said a daughter-in-law and several other relatives had been injured, and an aunt of his daughter-in-law had been killed, in the crash at the fund-raiser.

“I haven’t processed the fire yet and now I got to deal with this,” he said.

The crash on Saturday night added another wave of grief to a small community devastated by the fire that was described as “violent” and “forceful.” The cause of the fire has not been released.

At a news conference late Saturday, Trooper Anthony Petroski said the suspect in Saturday’s deaths was not currently a suspect in the fire, according to The Times-Leader of Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Area residents struggled to process what had happened in barely more than a week’s time. The confusion and anger were compounded because there were so many unanswered questions about the fire, Robin Massina, a Berwick resident who is the daughter of the Nescopeck mayor, said in an interview late Saturday.

“What is this madness?” Ms. Massina said. “Why is it happening? We’re a small town that probably hasn’t been in the news since the flood of like 1978.”

She said that the community had pulled together after the fire, and that she believed enough money had been raised so that families could bury their loved ones and get back on their feet. The event on Saturday demonstrated the community’s spirit, but the violence that followed destroyed the healing process.

washington post logoWashington Post, Man rams barricade near Capitol, fires shots, then kills himself, police say, Fredrick Kunkle and Lizzie Johnson, Aug. 14, 2022. Police said the man, 29-year old Richard A. York, did not appear to be targeting members of Congress, who are on recess.

A man drove his vehicle into a barricade near the U.S. Capitol early Sunday and fired shots into the air before taking his own life, Capitol Police said.

No one else was injured, and it appears no officers discharged their weapons during the incident, which occurred about 4 a.m.

Police said the man, identified as 29-year old Richard A. York, of Delaware, did not appear to be targeting members of Congress, who are on recess.

At a news conference, Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said officers “did not hear the individual say anything” during the incident. He said investigators were exploring York’s social media and running his name through databases, but had so far found nothing tying him to the Capitol.

“We don’t have any information that would indicate his motivation at this point,” Manger said.

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Trump Probes, Reactions, Riots, Supporters

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Distinguished persons of the week: They are patriots, unlike the MAGA cult, Jennifer Rubin, right, Aug.14, 2022. As jennifer rubin new headshotMAGA thugs are wont to do, their reaction to the lawful search at former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, which we now know might have been related to nuclear secrets (which Trump has denied), amounted to an stream of insults and threats designed to whip up unhinged, violent characters.

While the exact motives of the person who attacked FBI offices in Cincinnati on Thursday remain unknown, reports indicate he christopher wray owas in D.C. in the days leading up the Jan. 6 insurrection and might have been at the U.S. Capitol that day. The GOP’s cycle of incitement and violence continues.

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, left, was properly outraged. “Unfounded attacks on the integrity of the FBI erode respect for the rule of law and are a grave disservice to the men and women who sacrifice so much to protect others,” he said in a written statement on Thursday. “Violence and threats against law enforcement, including the FBI, are dangerous and should be deeply concerning to all Americans. Every day I see the men and women of the FBI doing their jobs professionally and with rigor, objectivity, and a fierce commitment to our mission of protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution. I am proud to serve alongside them.”

Politico, Opinion: Espionage Isn’t the Strongest Case Against Trump. It’s Simpler Than That, Renato Mariotti (Legal Affairs Columnist for POLITICO Magazine, and a former federal prosecutor), Aug.14, 2022. He kept sensitive documents when he was told he shouldn’t and that’s a chargeable crime.

politico CustomWhile Trump repeatedly evaded criminal liability for acts he committed while in office, in part because the office he held provided him with potential defenses, he is no longer president. | Yuki Iwamura/AP Photo

Former president Donald Trump’s stubborn refusal to return highly classified material forced the Justice Department’s hand, resulting in the execution of a search warrant at his residence. But while it is possible the DOJ merely wanted to retrieve and secure the material that Trump refused to give back to the government, if they decide to press forward with charges, their case looks quite strong.

djt maga hatThe government initially treated Trump with kid gloves when he took government property, including classified documents, with him after he left office. The National Archives negotiated with Trump’s attorneys, securing 15 boxes of documents improperly taken by Trump in January, some of which contained classified information.

In June, the DOJ’s top counterintelligence official and other federal officials traveled to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate and viewed additional material kept there by Trump, and they issued a subpoena demanding the return of classified material.

If you or I had some 21 boxes of potentially classified information in our home, the Feds wouldn’t ask for it politely or even issue a subpoena. They would have taken possession of that material right away, and we would face serious charges. The DOJ’s decision to wait and only obtain a search warrant after they received information that Trump had not relinquished all of the material was likely motivated by deference to the former president. Ironically this deference has likely strengthened a potential criminal prosecution of Trump.

Much of the initial reaction to the search warrant focused on the Espionage Act, which was cited in the search warrant. While the title of that over 100-year-old law sounds like it has to do with spying, it is possible to violate the Espionage Act just by improperly retaining national defense information and failing to return it to the United States government when it is demanded.

That statute, along with one of the other statutes cited in the search warrant, require the prosecution to prove “willfulness.” In other words, they require the government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to break the law. It is often difficult to meet this burden, and one strategy I used as a federal prosecutor was to have agents serve targets of investigations with a notice indicating that what they were doing was breaking the law. If the target continued to violate the law after receiving the notice, we had the proof we needed.

DOJ’s repeated requests and demands to Trump and his team served the same purpose. It will be difficult for Trump to claim that he did not realize that the records he kept were national security secrets that rightfully belonged to the government, given that the government repeatedly told him so and demanded their return. Moreover, Trump was present when the DOJ visited Mar-a-Lago to meet with his lawyers and demand the records.

Despite Trump’s insistence that if the government wanted the records back, “all they had to do was ask,” the government repeatedly asked for the records and Trump refused to give them back, giving them only “what he believed they were entitled to.” Although Trump may believe that highly classified defense secrets are his own personal property, or that he could keep Top Secret documents because he informally “declassified” them without following established procedures, it will be difficult to convince jurors that he had a legitimate reason to keep such sensitive national security information at his Florida resort.

While Trump repeatedly evaded criminal liability for acts he committed while in office, in part because the office he held provided him with potential defenses, he is no longer president. And unlike other outside-the-box acts he allegedly engaged in, like ordering that the special counsel who investigated him be fired (which his White House counsel disregarded), or inciting a mob to attack the Capitol, taking classified material and concealing it from the government is a crime that is regularly charged and straightforward to prove. Government employees are charged, convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms for doing what Trump did.
‘I will not stand by silently’: Garland defends FBI, DOJ

Trump’s defense appears to be that he “had a standing order” declassifying every document he brought to his residence.

But because the government is not required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the materials in question were classified, Trump’s “defense” that he declassified the materials would not itself defeat the government’s claim that the information was closely held national defense information, as required by the statutes.

Palmer Report, Analysis: DOJ has Mar-a-Lago surveillance footage of Trump’s people moving boxes of classified evidence, Bill Palmer, Aug. 13, 2022. When the DOJ sent the FBI into Donald Trump’s home to take classified documents that Trump had stolen, it was a safe bet that the DOJ had all its ducks in a row. Merrick Garland’s DOJ has consistently shown itself to be overwhelmingly prepared in these situations, even if it doesn’t move as quickly as some observers would like.

bill palmer report logo headerSure enough, the unsealed search warrant, and the details that have surfaced in the media, are making it very clear that the Feds have Trump absolutely nailed. In fact, the DOJ has obtained surveillance footage showing that after it contacted Trump about the boxes of classified documents, someone at Mar-a-Lago began moving the boxes in and out of the storage room, per the New York Times.

Trump’s team is already trying to spin this in innocent fashion. But let’s be real here. If Trump were having his people pull the boxes out of storage so they could be returned, they would have been returned. But we know that many of the boxes were not returned, even as Trump claimed that he had returned all of the boxes, prompting the search warrant. So why were these boxes being moved around? Were Trump and Justice Department log circularhis people assessing the value of the classified documents, and deciding which ones to illegally keep?

In any case, this will go a very long way to proving the DOJ’s obstruction of justice case. When the Feds demand that you turn over evidence, and you respond by moving that evidence around and then falsely claiming you don’t have it, and there’s video footage proving that you moved the boxes around, you’re in deep legal trouble.

This also raises questions about who was moving the boxes around. We can’t imagine Donald Trump – elderly and in poor physical condition – was slinging dozens of boxes of documents around on his own. Whoever helped him move the boxes is a material witness if they didn’t know what was in the boxes, and a criminal co-conspirator if they did know what was in the boxes. And at least some of those people are on camera having moved those boxes. This just keeps getting uglier for Trump and his people.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: If Trump is charged, it should be for the worst of his crimes, Claire O. Finkelstein and Richard W. Painter, Aug. 14, 2022 (print ed.). ‘Seditious conspiracy’ and ‘insurrection’ are more fitting charges than ‘interfering with an official proceeding’ or ‘defrauding the U.S.’

Prosecuting a former president of the United States is a tricky business. It’s not like prosecuting Al Capone, the notorious gangster who was charged with tax evasion rather than the more fitting charges of murder and racketeering. A technical charge such as tax evasion may be suitable for obtaining the conviction of a mobster, but hardly sufficient for an occupant of the Oval Office who tried to overthrow the U.S. government.

Donald Trump has millions of supporters and the weight of precedent behind him. Of course Trump should face consequences for tax evasion if he merits it, but it is critical for public perception, for history — for the preservation of democracy — that if he is charged, it is first and foremost with the crimes that best reflect the gravity of the danger he posed to the country.

On Monday, the FBI searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Florida for any presidential records that may have been improperly removed from the White House. On Wednesday, Trump sat for a deposition in the New York attorney general’s office, which is conducting a civil investigation into his business practices. A federal indictment may or may not arise from these investigations, but it is Trump’s role in the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, that warrants the greatest scrutiny — and the gravest charges — from a Justice Department exercising its prosecutorial discretion under such historic circumstances.

The two most serious crimes for which Trump may stand accused, and which most clearly describe his conduct on Jan. 6 and in the weeks leading up to it, are insurrection and seditious conspiracy. If the facts and evidence support them, they are what Attorney General Merrick Garland should charge, whatever other charges he includes.

The significance of Jan. 6 shouldn’t be obscured by legalese before a public contending with the seduction of insurrectionist rhetoric. Charging Trump only with narrowly defined crimes could backfire, and Garland should resist, even if that’s what the House select committee investigating Jan. 6 ends up recommending.

At least until the surprise search at Mar-a-Lago, many commentators defended Garland’s seeming inaction with regard to the former president and his associates. Among other arguments, they suggested that seditious conspiracy would be particularly difficult to prosecute, given the need to prove intent.

Yet was Trump’s intent on and before Jan. 6 really so hard to discern? Would it be more difficult to prove the requisite state of mind for Trump than to prove the intent of Stewart Rhodes, Thomas Caldwell or Joseph Hackett, all members of the Oath Keepers who participated in the insurrection and whose indictments on charges of seditious conspiracy are premised on a pattern of conduct not unlike Trump’s? Rhodes, Caldwell, Hackett and others have been accused of conspiring “to oppose the lawful transfer of presidential power by force, by preventing, hindering, or delaying by force the execution of the laws governing the transfer of power, including the Twelfth and Twentieth Amendments to the Constitution.”

Didn’t Trump do the same? And with the same intent or purpose?

Claire O. Finkelstein is a professor of law and philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is the faculty director of the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law; Richard W. Painter is a professor of law at the University of Minnesota and was the chief White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush.

World Crisis Radio, Commentary: What did Don plan to do with these secrets? Webster G. Tarpley, right, Ph.D., Aug. 13, 2022 (93:29 mins.). Eleven sets of classified webster tarpley 2007documents seized by FBI at Trump’s chateau include top secret/sensitive compartmented information (TS/SCI), with possible violations of Espionage Act and Atomic Energy Act; Garland shows signs of life.

Media exaggerate the rally round the Don effect among Republicans deriving from raid, with skepticism growing as his legal position deteriorated during the week;

Ill-considered ultra-left slogan of defunding the police was one of the most effective demagogic issues for GOP in November, but calls for violent attacks, defunding and breakup of the FBI for enforcing the law against Trump have completely thrown away that advantage; Republicans are left as the party of tax evaders and antinomians;

The mass psychology of fascist violence examined; Degenerate former party of law and order faces grim and lawless autumn, defeat at the hands of horrified voters;

Ukraine beginning offensive to capture Kherson; Russian air base in Novofedorivka in Crimea largely destroyed, leaving Putin’s Black Sea fleet without air cover; Biden sending another $1 billion in weaponry, especially HIMARS and possibly ATACMs;

GOP shows contempt for American people by rejecting $35 monthly maximum for insulin;

House passes Inflation Reduction Act, 220-207, with 15% minimum tax for large corporations, subsidy for nuclear power generation, lower prices for Medicare drugs, and maintenance of Obamacare subsidies; Trump Org CFO Alan Weisselberg will go on trial in Manhattan, suggesting that dormant criminal case against Donald may resume;

The great lesson of the American Civil War: Never again! Those who advocate domestic hostilities must be speedily crushed.

 

On May 3, 2020, at the opening of a Trump town hall event, Trump greeted Fox anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum by saying, “We never had a more beautiful set than this did we?” according to a transcript (Associated Press photo by Evan Vucci).

On May 3, 2020, at the opening of a Trump town hall event, Trump greeted Fox anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum by saying, “We never had a more beautiful set than this did we?” according to a transcript (Associated Press photo by Evan Vucci).

washington post logoWashington Post, Documents show how Trump landed Lincoln Memorial for Fox News event, Jonathan O'Connell, Aug. 14, 2022 (print ed.). President Donald Trump’s 2020 “town hall” was held inside the memorial, an area where events have long been barred by federal regulations.

In the spring of 2020, National Park Service personnel were preparing for an event President Donald Trump was holding with Fox News to address the nascent covid-19 pandemic from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, site of historic protests and inaugural concerts.

But, first, they had to brief Trump on the plans.

“As of now we’re looking at an event at base of Lincoln from 6-8 or so Sunday night. No event in chamber. I will see if that holds once POTUS is briefed later today,” Jeff Reinbold, the Park Service’s superintendent for the National Mall and Memorial Parks, wrote in an April 28, 2020, email to other agency officials.

By the next morning, the virtual “town hall” was no longer to be held at the base, the documents show. Trump’s two-hour sit-down with Fox News anchors would take place inside the memorial’s main chamber, on the landing in the shadow of the marble statue of a seated Lincoln. With the exception of an annual birthday tribute to Lincoln, federal regulations bar events from being held in that area.

The email is among hundreds of pages of newly released government documents that help fill in the picture of how officials from multiple government agencies worked to engineer the event at the Lincoln, one of the many norm-defying moments of the Trump presidency. They show that the Park Service provided security personnel at a cost of nearly $150,000 and that a U.S. Secret Service official apologized to colleagues for the planning process, calling it a “$#!t show.”

After the event, officials noted that the memorial itself — then 98 years old — had sustained scratches and gouges in its pink marble floor, according to a final memorandum.

In the end, the Trump-appointed interior secretary, David Bernhardt, relaxed the rules by finding that the venue was appropriate, given the president’s need to communicate with the American people during a “grave time of national crisis.” That finding has been previously reported.

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, the executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice, a progressive group that acquired the documents through a public-records request, said she believes Bernhardt exceeded his authority and allowed Trump to use “the Lincoln Memorial as his stage set.”

“They’re trying to find a way, it looks like, to give him the chamber when there is no legal way to give him the chamber,” she said.

Verheyden-Hilliard’s group often litigates on behalf of those seeking access to public spaces, pressing the government to properly allow free-speech activities and protests along Pennsylvania Avenue and elsewhere.

On May 3, 2020, at the opening of the town hall, Trump greeted Fox anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum by saying, “We never had a more beautiful set than this did we?” according to a transcript.

The hosts asked about criticism that had already surfaced about the use of the memorial as the site for the event.

“What can you criticize? It’s — I don’t think it’s ever been done, what we’re doing tonight here,” Trump said. “And I think it’s great for the American people to see.”

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Trump's infamous predecessors in the world of misuse and theft of classified intelligence, Wayne wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallMadsen, left, author of 22 books and former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst, Aug. 12-13, 2022.

Donald Trump is not the first scoundrel who decided to either monetize or gain favor with a foreign hostile power by unlawfully stealing or disclosing classified information.

From the archives of the Directorate of National Intelligence, these are some of the men and women who are recorded in the official record of infamous spies and traitors. Donald John Trump, the 45th president of the United States and the most senior wayne madesen report logolevel U.S. government employee to have been implicated in a compromise of classified national security information, may soon join this list of America's most disloyal citizens.

[WMR's survey is shown here of nearly a score of espionage cases of U.S. military and law enforcement personnel, some high-ranking in the CIA, FBI or Navy intelligence, who were convicted of transferring secrets to foreign powers.]

When thinking about the espionage committed by an entire family, ponder for a moment the charges about ties to foreign intelligence agencies that have been leveled in the press about the Trump family, including Jared Kushner, as well as the Michael Flynn family.

During the 1980s, this editor, while a U.S. Naval Officer assigned to various Navy commands in Washington, as well as NSA, was closely involved in the damage assessments on the Pollard, Walker [Michael Pollard, John Anthony Walker and his son Michael Lance Walker], and other espionage cases in what became known as the "Decade of the Spies."

Trump commuted Pollard's life imprisonment sentence. Pollard now lives in Israel, which granted him citizenship while he was still in federal prison.

These cases involving U.S. intelligence and law enforcement personnel stealing classified material, in some cases huge amounts of it, are merely the tip of the iceberg.

There were many others, FBI counterintelligence official Robert Hanssen and NSA employee Ronald Pelton being among them. Yet, these individuals, although they did great damage by providing intelligence to foreign powers on what they were able to obtain, with security constraints like compartmentalization preventing them from "selling the entire store," were in no position to carry out the degree of harm potentially done by Trump and his aides, two of which have been identified as Kashyap Patel and journalist John Solomon.

Presidents generally have access to everything in the U.S. intelligence holdings -- everything! If Trump has been selling the entire store, his punishment should be commensurate with the crimes.

Recent Headlines

U.S. Politics, Economy, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Michigan plot to breach voting machines points to a national trend, Patrick Marley and Tom Hamburger, Aug. 14, 2022. A state police inquiry found evidence of a conspiracy that has echoes elsewhere in the country as election deniers seek proof of 2020 fraud.

Eight months after the 2020 presidential election, Robin Hawthorne didn’t expect anyone to ask for her township’s voting machines.

The election had gone smoothly, she said, just as others had that she’d overseen for 17 years as the Rutland Charter Township clerk in rural western Michigan. But now a sheriff’s deputy and investigator were in her office, questioning her about her township’s three vote tabulators, suggesting that they somehow had been programmed with a microchip to shift votes from Donald Trump to Joe Biden and asking her to hand one over for inspection.

“What the heck is going on?” she recalled thinking.

The surprise visit may have been an “out-of-the-blue thing,” as Hawthorne described it, but it was one element of a much broader effort by figures who deny the outcome of the 2020 vote to access voting machines in a bid to prove fraud that experts say does not exist.

In states across the country — including Colorado, Pennsylvania and Georgia — attempts to inappropriately access voting machines have spurred investigations. They have also sparked concern among election authorities that, while voting systems are broadly secure, breaches by those looking for evidence of fraud could themselves compromise the integrity of the process and undermine confidence in the vote.

In Michigan, the efforts to access the machines jumped into public view this month when the state’s attorney general, Dana Nessel (D), requested a special prosecutor be assigned to look into a group that includes her likely Republican opponent, Matthew DePerno.

The expected GOP nominee, Nessel’s office wrote in a petition filed Aug. 5 based on the findings of a state police investigation, was “one of the prime instigators” of a conspiracy to persuade Michigan clerks to allow unauthorized access to voting machines. Others involved, according to the filing, included a state representative and the sheriff in Barry County, Dar Leaf.

ny times logoNew York Times, On TikTok, Election Misinformation Thrives Ahead of Midterms, Tiffany Hsu, Aug. 14, 2022. The fast-growing platform’s poor track record during recent voting abroad does not bode well for elections in the U.S., researchers said.

tiktok logo square CustomIn Germany, TikTok accounts impersonated prominent political figures during the country’s last national election. In Colombia, misleading TikTok posts falsely attributed a quotation from one candidate to a cartoon villain and allowed a woman to masquerade as another candidate’s daughter. In the Philippines, TikTok videos amplified sugarcoated myths about the country’s former dictator and helped his son prevail in the country’s presidential race.

Now, similar problems have arrived in the United States.

Ahead of the midterm elections this fall, TikTok is shaping up to be a primary incubator of baseless and misleading information, in many ways as problematic as Facebook and Twitter, say researchers who track online falsehoods. The same qualities that allow TikTok to fuel viral dance fads — the platform’s enormous reach, the short length of its videos, its powerful but poorly understood recommendation algorithm — can also make inaccurate claims difficult to contain.

Baseless conspiracy theories about certain voter fraud in November are widely viewed on TikTok, which globally has more than a billion active users each month. Users cannot search the #StopTheSteal hashtag, but #StopTheSteallll had accumulated nearly a million views until TikTok disabled the hashtag after being contacted by The New York Times. Some videos urged viewers to vote in November while citing debunked rumors raised during the congressional hearings into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. TikTok posts have garnered thousands of views by claiming, without evidence, that predictions of a surge in Covid-19 infections this fall are an attempt to discourage in-person voting.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Frustration Over TikTok Has Mounted in Washington, David McCabeAug. 14, 2022. National security concerns over the Chinese-owned viral video app remain unresolved. Lawmakers and regulators are increasingly pushing for action.

tiktok logo CustomEarly last year, Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, and Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, met to discuss China and industrial policy. During their conversation, Mr. Rubio raised his worries about Beijing’s influence over TikTok, the Chinese-owned viral video app.

Under former President Donald J. Trump, TikTok had been embroiled in questions over whether it could compromise U.S. national security by sharing information about Americans with China. The issue, which was never resolved, was inherited by the Biden administration. Mr. Sullivan “shared our concerns,” Mr. Rubio said in an interview.

Their discussion was one of many that lawmakers have quietly had with government officials about TikTok since President Biden took office. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the Democratic chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said he had also been in “active conversations” with the administration about the app, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. And regulators and other government officials have been weighing what to do about it after scrutinizing other Chinese firms.

 

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden arrive at Joint Base Charleston, S.C. (Associated Press photo by Manuel Balce Ceneta).

 President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden arrive at Joint Base Charleston, S.C. (Associated Press photo by Manuel Balce Ceneta).

Politico, Biden keeps South Carolina guessing, Christopher Cadelago, Aug. 14, 2022. Democrats are giving the president space as would-be Democratic aspirants circle overhead.

politico CustomLike many places, the Day Dawn Baptist Church, a stately red brick building along Highway 45 in Pineville, has had its routines dramatically disrupted by the pandemic. State Rep. Joseph Jefferson, Jr., whose great-grandfather constructed the church in 1869, said of the more than 300 members, only a few dozen have returned to worship since the virus hit.

Outside church, Jefferson tries to host three or four town halls each year. But it remains hard for people to stay connected. So far, he’s still planning his first of 2022.

Against the backdrop, Joe Biden touched down here on Wednesday. And though he retreated to a Kiawah Island manse for quiet time with family, it was a political homecoming of sorts for the president. South Carolina resuscitated his career in the 2020 primaries, ultimately sending him to the White House. Biden’s connections to the state are immense, and loyalty from his party continues to run deeper than perhaps anywhere outside his native Delaware.

But the fraying of the social fabric that has affected Day Dawn Baptist Church has, in a way, impacted on Biden as well. The communities that elevated him have been battered, increasing the reliance on national media narratives that shape views of the president’s uneven standing.

“People aren’t as vocal right now. They’re talking, but it’s in small groups,” Jefferson said. “I still believe Biden has the pulse on the people and that the people need him. It’s been quiet, though. People haven’t been coming to hear what’s taking place.”

Biden’s footing in South Carolina is a microcosm of his current political fortunes writ large. Democrats here say they are willing to give him time to turn things around for himself. They’re heartened by recent legislative progress. But in dozens of interviews with people around the state, including current and former leaders and many of Biden’s ardent 2020 supporters, it’s clear they are anxious about his future and not ruling out the idea that someone else could be the party’s standard bearer in two years.

james clyburn“This race is like a horse race,” said House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), left, who was returning to Washington to vote for a landmark tax, health care and energy bill that’s central to Biden’s possible resurgence. “I wouldn’t bet on any race before I knew which horses were in.”

Clyburn favorably compared Biden’s record of presidential accomplishments to Lyndon B. Johnson and Harry Truman, observing that he “has the sensitivity and the compassion that is needed for this country at this particular juncture.” The congressman said he knows there’s despondency over the lack of progress on some Democratic priorities like voting rights, but noted that LBJ needed time and larger majorities before moving much of his Great Society domestic agenda.

“People want to see everything happen tomorrow morning. And if it can’t be a tweet that makes the evening news or the morning headlines, people think it’s not getting done,” Clyburn said. “If people go to the polls this coming November and give us overwhelming numbers, the rest of this stuff left on the table will get done.”

Biden’s Kiawah Island respite has offered few clues about his future, if any. Several of the president’s South Carolina confidants and friends said they haven’t heard from him about getting together socially. They are providing room for him to recover after a rebound bout with Covid. And they’re still hopeful the recent tidal wave of Democratic achievements on Capitol Hill — alongside falling gas prices and a robust jobs market — will help lift Biden’s polling slump and create a more promising environment for the party in fall contests.

There also are bubbling fears that if Democrats don’t rally behind Biden ahead of the midterms, there would be grave consequences for the party.

“Democrats need to get over it. All of this is bullshit,” said Trav Robertson, the chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party. “We need to solidify around this president whether you supported him or not. We need to pass legislation and quit talking about whether he’s running or not. That type of talk is why we got Donald Trump as president and Roe. v Wade was overturned.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Hawaii’s Lt. Gov., Josh Green, Is Democrats’ Pick for Governor, Maggie Astor, Aug. 14, 2022. He will face Duke Aiona, a Republican, in the solidly blue state. Jill Tokuda, who won the Democratic House primary, and Sen. Brian Schatz are likely to win in November.

josh green twitterLt. Gov. Josh Green of Hawaii, right, won the Democratic primary for governor, according to The Associated Press, putting himself in a strong position to secure the top office in a reliably blue state.

Mr. Green defeated six other Democrats, including Representative Kai Kahele and Vicky Cayetano, a former first lady of Hawaii. He will face the Republican nominee, Duke Aiona, in November; the winner then will succeed Gov. David Ige, a Democrat who cannot run for re-election because of term limits.

Mr. Green, 52, a former state legislator and emergency room doctor, was elected lieutenant governor in 2018. Initially, he focused on combating homelessness. But his medical background became an asset when the pandemic began and Mr. Ige named him the state’s coronavirus liaison.

As vaccines were becoming widely available in the spring of 2021, a poll conducted by two Hawaii news organizations, Honolulu Civil Beat and Hawaii News Now, found that Mr. Green had a 63 percent approval rating. That was nearly three times Mr. Ige’s 22 percent approval rating, as voters seemed to credit Mr. Green — the public face of the state’s pandemic response — rather than the governor for the improving situation.

One of Mr. Green’s campaign ads this year highlighted the fact that Hawaii’s Covid infection rates have been among the lowest in the country, though they have still been devastating, particularly in Native Hawaiian communities.

ap logoAssociated Press, Physician Green wins Hawaii Democratic primary for governor, Audrey McAvoy, Aug. 14, 2022. For their 16th wedding anniversary, Democrats in Hawaii gifted Josh Green and his wife, Jaime, a comfortable margin of victory in the gubernatorial primary Saturday.

Green, the state’s current lieutenant governor, handily defeated former first lady Vicky Cayetano and Kaiali’I Kahele, who decided to seek the governor’s office instead of a second term in the U.S. House.

Green, with lei of yellow and purple flowers and green leaves piled high up to his neck, alternated between throwing fists in the air and giving the shaka sign to a boisterous crowd of supporters at his victory party.

“On to November, we will win the governorship and lead Hawaii forward,” he said to the cheering crowd.

He will face former two-term Republican Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona in the general election, who defeated mixed martial arts championship fighter B.J. Penn in his party’s primary.

In an interview with Hawaii News Now, Aiona said his supporters “trusted my ability to lead the state, and I’m truly, truly appreciative and grateful for that.”

Green has served as second-in-command for the past four years to Hawaii Gov. David Ige, who has already served two terms and isn’t eligible to run for reelection.

ny times logoNew York Times, Defamation Suit About Election Falsehoods Puts Fox on Its Heels, Jeremy W. Peters, Aug. 14, 2022 (print ed.). The suit, filed by Dominion Voting Systems, could be one of the most consequential First Amendment cases in a generation.

In the weeks after President Donald J. Trump lost the 2020 election, the Fox Business host Lou Dobbs claimed to have “tremendous evidence” that voter fraud was to blame. That evidence never emerged but a new culprit in a supposed scheme to rig the election did: Dominion Voting Systems, a maker of election technology whose algorithms, Mr. Dobbs said, “were designed to be inaccurate.”

dominion voting systemsMaria Bartiromo, another host on the network, falsely stated that “Nancy Pelosi has an interest in this company.” Jeanine Pirro, a Fox News personality, speculated that “technical glitches” in Dominion’s software “could have affected thousands of absentee mail-in ballots.”

Those unfounded accusations are now among the dozens cited in Dominion’s defamation lawsuit against the Fox Corporation, which alleges that Fox repeatedly aired false, far-fetched and exaggerated allegations about Dominion and its purported role in a plot to steal votes from Mr. Trump.

Those bogus assertions — made day after day, including allegations that Dominion was a front for the communist government in Venezuela and that its voting machines could switch votes from one candidate to another — are at the center of the libel suit, one of the most extraordinary brought against an American media company in more than a generation.

First Amendment scholars say the case is a rarity in libel law. Defamation claims typically involve a single disputed statement. But Dominion’s complaint is replete with example after example of false statements, many of them made after the facts were widely known. And such suits are often quickly dismissed, because of the First Amendment’s broad free speech protections and the high-powered lawyers available to a major media company like Fox. If they do go forward, they are usually settled out of court to spare both sides the costly spectacle of a trial.

But Dominion’s $1.6 billion case against Fox has been steadily progressing in Delaware state court this summer, inching ever closer to trial. There have been no moves from either side toward a settlement, according to interviews with several people involved in the case. The two companies are deep into document discovery, combing through years of each other’s emails and text messages, and taking depositions.

rupert murdoch 2011 shankbone These people said they expected Rupert, left, and Lachlan Murdoch, who own and control the Fox Corporation, to sit for depositions as soon as this month.

The case threatens a huge financial and reputational blow to Fox, by far the most powerful conservative media company in the country. But legal scholars say it also has the potential to deliver a powerful verdict on the kind of pervasive and pernicious falsehoods — and the people who spread them — that are undermining the country’s faith in democracy.

The hosts Steve Doocy, Dana Perino and Shepard Smith are among the current and former Fox personalities who either have been deposed or will be this month.

Dominion is trying to build a case that aims straight at the top of the Fox media empire and the Murdochs. In court filings and depositions, Dominion lawyers have laid out how they plan to show that senior Fox executives hatched a plan after the election to lure back viewers who had switched to rival hard-right networks, which were initially more sympathetic than Fox was to Mr. Trump’s voter-fraud claims.

Libel law doesn’t protect lies. But it does leave room for the media to cover newsworthy figures who tell them. And Fox is arguing, in part, that’s what shields it from liability. Asked about Dominion’s strategy to place the Murdochs front and center in the case, a Fox Corporation spokesman said it would be a “fruitless fishing expedition.” A spokeswoman for Fox News said it was “ridiculous” to claim, as Dominion does in the suit, that the network was chasing viewers from the far-right fringe.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How Sinema subverts the radical conventions of queer politics, Nathan Kohrman, Aug. 14, 2022 (print ed.). The campy, effective activists of the past were always punching up. In the senate, Sinema just punches down.

In January 2019, every field organizer who worked on Kyrsten Sinema’s campaign was invited to see her sworn in as a U.S. senator. I regretted not going when I saw the photos: She’s standing in a pencil skirt with a bright pink rose design, smirking at Mike Pence, who holds the Constitution, not the Bible, for her to lay her hand on. Her lipstick is bright red, her hair in playful curls. Her arms are bare, a dig at Senate tradition. I had never seen someone so campy become so powerful.

Before working on Sinema’s campaign, I spent a year with AmeriCorps VISTA in Benson, Ariz., a rural, conservative town of 5,000 where I was one of just a few openly gay people. I loved living there, and the people I met welcomed me into their lives. But I also learned from my friends that most of the gay kids in town don’t come out until they move to Tucson after high school. The risks are too great. I thought Sinema, who as a child was homeless and was bullied for being queer, would know what people who live fragile lives need to survive.

This was because for much of her life, Sinema seemed like the kind of liberal overachiever Alison Bechdel often lampooned in her comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For.” She’s a bisexual atheist who worked on Ralph Nader’s 2000 campaign before getting a social work degree and a PhD in “justice studies.”

Today Sinema is among the most conservative Senate Democrats, blocking much of the Biden administration’s domestic agenda and moderating the legislation she does vote for. Still, she adheres to the long-established tenets of queer activism that enabled her political rise: Provocation gets you more than propriety. Hierarchy exists to be flouted. But Sinema embodies these ideals in an empty and diminished way, showing how modern queer politics has become more preoccupied with showy defiance than with the material improvement of vulnerable people’s lives.

What a loss, and what an embodiment of the politics of the era, that Sinema is unabashedly queer in a way that does so little to improve anyone’s life but her own.

Nathan Kohrman is a writer covering medicine, public health and public policy. He is currently a Dean’s Research Scholar at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.

Recent Headlines

 

Energy, Climate, Disasters, Environment

 

climate change photo

 

 washington post logoWashington Post, What happens when unprecedented heat settles over a town that isn’t ready for it? Bonnie Berkowitz, Artur Galocha and Júlia Ledur, Aug. 14, 2022. Very hot weather grounds planes, stops trains, wrecks roads, breaks pipes and generally creates havoc, especially in places accustomed to cooler temperatures. We built a fake metropolis to show how extreme heat could wreck cities.

washington post logoWashington Post, West Virginia coal country will test power of Democrats’ climate bill, Jeff Stein, Aug. 14, 2022. After decades of deindustrialization, supporters of the Inflation Reduction Act hope it will revive U.S. manufacturing jobs. But obstacles loom.

ny times logoNew York Times, Saudi Aramco’s Profit Jumps 90 Percent on High Oil Prices, Kevin Granville, Aug. 14, 2022. The giant oil producer said it earned nearly $50 billion last quarter, the latest energy company to record outsize profits after the surge in crude prices since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. Saudi Aramco, the giant oil producer, said on Sunday that its second-quarter profit jumped 90 percent over the same period a year ago, reaching $48.2 billion. It is the latest energy producer to report bumper earnings on the back of a surge in the price of oil.

Aramco, the national oil company for Saudi Arabia, said its earnings reflected increased demand for crude and higher refining profits. And the state-run company predicted that demand for oil would continue to grow through the rest of the decade.

The company has benefited from the growing need for energy as economic activity across the globe has picked up after the coronavirus pandemic dampened demand.

But oil producers are also profiting from the surge in prices that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

From late February through June, crude oil prices rose more than 36 percent, to nearly $120 a barrel, pushed in part by Western sanctions used to punish Russia. In recent weeks, major oil companies including Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Shell, BP and TotalEnergies have recorded huge profits, often records.

The rising price of crude led to steep increases at the gas pump, with the average price per gallon briefly reaching above $5 in the United States.

Since June, oil prices have slipped lower, with Brent crude, the international benchmark, at $98 a barrel on Friday, and gas falling below $4 a gallon on average in the United States. But prices remain relatively high — a year ago, Brent was about $61 barrel — and there are growing concerns that major oil producers are nearing a limit in how much they can produce.

 

nancy pelosi 11 19 2021 build back victory

ny times logoNew York Times, House Passes Climate, Tax and Health Package, Emily Cochrane, Aug. 13, 2022 (print ed.). The passage of the bill, which appeared dead just weeks ago, caps a Democratic effort to deliver on major components of President Biden’s agenda.

U.S. House logoCongress gave final approval on Friday to legislation that would reduce the cost of prescription drugs and pour billions of dollars into the effort to slow global warming, as House Democrats overcame united Republican opposition to deliver on key components of President Biden’s domestic agenda.

With a vote of 220 to 207 (led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, shown above in a file photo), the House agreed to the single largest federal investment in the fight against climate change and the most substantial changes to national health care policy since passage of the Affordable Care Act. The bill now goes to Mr. Biden for his signature.

The legislation would inject more than $370 billion into climate and energy programs aimed at helping the United States cut greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 40 percent below 2005 levels by the end of the decade. It would also extend for three years expanded subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, as well as fulfill a long-held Democratic goal to lower the cost of prescription drugs by allowing Medicare to directly negotiate prices and capping recipients’ annual out-of-pocket drug costs.

ny times logoNew York Times, News Analysis: A Victory for Biden, and a Bet on America’s Future, Michael D. Shear and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Aug. 13, 2022 (print ed.). Congress gave final approval to the Inflation Reduction Act, which will lower the cost of prescription drugs, extend health care subsidies and invest billions into climate and energy programs.

He promised a new social safety net. He pledged to develop a robust plan to fight global warming. He vowed to reduce the gap between rich and poor by making the wealthy “pay their fair share.”

And along the way, Joseph R. Biden Jr. often said as he battled Donald J. Trump for the White House in 2020, he would prove that democracy still works in America.

With final House passage of the Inflation Reduction Act on Friday, President Biden is poised to deliver the latest in a series of legislative victories that will ripple across the country for decades — lowering the cost of prescription drugs, extending subsidies to help people pay for health insurance, reducing the deficit and investing more than $370 billion into climate and energy programs.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: A disaster is looming at a huge Ukrainian nuclear power plant, Editorial Board, Aug. 13, 2022 (print ed.). Grave alarm about a possible nuclear catastrophe in Ukraine is escalating and warranted. Artillery shells have been raining on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

They could strike it in a way that would disperse radioactive materials and cause widespread contamination — equivalent to a dirty bomb — or interfere with its pressurized water cooling system, leading to a meltdown. The plant, occupied by Russian forces, should be immediately demilitarized and isolated from the war.

The facility, the largest nuclear plant in Europe, was captured by Russia in March, although the Ukrainian staff remain on site. It was shelled sporadically between Aug. 5 and Aug. 11. Both sides have blamed the other. Notably, Ukraine has accused Russia of using the plant to stage attacks on neighboring towns and villages. Natalia Humeniuk, the army spokeswoman, told national TV, “We understand that the invaders are hiding behind such a shield because it is not possible to strike there.”

This is playing with fire. There is no precedent for an operating and fueled nuclear energy facility to be caught in an active war zone, although some research facilities, such as the Osirak reactor in Iraq, and unfinished reactors, have been military targets in the past. The Ukraine plant has six Soviet-designed VVER-1000 water-cooled reactors containing uranium-235. As of July 22, only two of the reactors were operating. The pressurized-water reactors are different from those in Chernobyl, which used a graphite-moderated reactor. This plant has a hardened containment system surrounding the reactors, which Chernobyl lacked.

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More On Ukraine War

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Zelensky vows Ukraine will seek out Russian troops who target nuclear plant, Rachel Pannett and Annabelle Timsit, Aug. 14, 2022. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russian forces of using the nuclear plant as a shield in a “blackmail operation.”

Officials in southern Ukraine reported strikes overnight against two cities near Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, adding to the growing international concern about damage to the sensitive facility. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for those responsible for attacks near Zaporizhzhia to be “tried by an international court.”

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

Key developments

  • Ukrainian forces will target Russian soldiers who shoot at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant or shoot from the facility, Zelensky said in his nightly address Saturday, as Russia and Ukraine traded accusations of additional shelling in the area. He said the Russian soldiers are becoming a “special target” and repeated his call for sanctions against Russia’s nuclear industry.
  • The cities of Nikopol and Marhanets faced additional attacks overnight into Sunday, according to the regional governor of Dnipropetrovsk, who reported property damage but no casualties. Zelensky claimed Saturday that Russian soldiers are hiding behind the nuclear plant to fire at the two cities, which are located across from it on the bank of the Dnieper River.
  • Three of six turbines at a hydropower plant were damaged by HIMARS missiles, Russian state TV claimed. The network, run by the Russian Defense Ministry, said the damage to the Kakhovka plant could affect the cooling of nuclear reactors at Zaporizhzhia. The reports could not be independently verified.

Battlefield updates

  • Ukrainian forces are continuing to disrupt Russian supply lines supporting Kremlin troops on the right bank of the Dnieper in southern Ukraine, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a D.C.-based think tank, said in its latest assessment. Kyiv’s troops struck a bridge on the Kakhovka plant dam again on Saturday, rendering it unusable, according to Ukrainian military officials.
  • Several bridges are now out of action in the area. If Russia can’t fix them, its forces on the west bank of the Dnieper “will likely lose the ability to defend themselves against even limited Ukrainian counterattacks,” the ISW said. British defense officials said Saturday that Russia is probably relying on two pontoon ferry crossing points to resupply several thousand troops in the area.
  • Zelensky said in his address late Saturday that “fierce fighting” continues in Donbas. ISW analysts say Russian forces may be refocusing their efforts in the northeast to draw Ukrainian forces away from counterattacks in the south. Particularly heavy fighting was reported in the Donetsk village of Pisky, which Russia claimed control of Saturday. But British defense analysts said the village, which is less than four miles west of Donetsk Airport, “probably remains contested.”

Global impact

  • Vulnerable NATO allies such as Latvia are scaling up their defenses out of fear they could be Russia’s next target. About 100,000 U.S. troops are deployed across Europe, but for those on Russia’s doorstep, that’s not yet enough, The Washington Post reports.
  • Norway has become the latest country to join an international coalition helping train Ukraine’s Armed Forces. The U.K.-based program “has already provided vital military skills to soldiers now serving on the front line,” British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said.
  • A total of 16 grain ships have now left Ukrainian ports, Zelensky said Saturday, under a U.N.-brokered deal to ease the global food crisis.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Updates: Outgunned by Russia, Ukraine Aims to ‘Fight in a Different Way,’ Marc Santora, Aug. 14, 2022 (print ed.). Kyiv says it isn’t trying to beat the Russians head on, but is instead fighting on its own terms. In the country’s south, Ukraine hit the last of four bridges, isolating Russian forces on the western side of the Dnipro River.

Aided by Western weapons and local fighters known as partisans, Ukraine is using strategic, surgical attacks to stop Russia’s advance. Follow updates.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • As the West urges a demilitarized zone at a Ukrainian nuclear plant, new shelling is reported.
  • A Russian official warns of ‘serious collateral damage’ if the U.S. designates Russia a sponsor of terrorism.
  • Some see the Kremlin at work in Balkans flare-ups, aiming to deflect NATO’s attention from Ukraine war.
  • Russian attack in eastern Ukraine kills 2 civilians, regional military leader says.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: What Amnesty got wrong in Ukraine and why I had to resign, Oksana Pokalchuk, Aug. 14, 2022 (print ed.). Oksana Pokalchuk is a Ukrainian lawyer and human rights activist. She was the executive director of the Ukrainian office of Amnesty International from 2016 to Aug. 5.

On Aug. 4, Amnesty International issued a report that accused the Ukrainian army of violating the laws of war by placing military bases close to civilian infrastructure. The report triggered a wave of public outrage worldwide and across Ukraine. For me, the report’s deepest flaw was how it contradicted its main objective: Far from protecting civilians, it further endangered them by giving Russia a justification to continue its indiscriminate attacks. That’s why I resigned as head of Amnesty International’s Ukrainian office. Many of my colleagues followed.
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As a human rights defender, I am driven by a core set of values. Before this crisis, I had always felt proud of Amnesty’s work and guiding statute. However, I believe the organization’s current approach is at odds with its mission. Having worked for the organization for seven years, I would have never imagined that a single report could jeopardize 30 years of achievements in human rights protection in Ukraine. Yet this is exactly what happened.

Most of the recent Amnesty research on Ukraine has been produced by a special “Crisis Team” that works on armed conflicts around the world. These researchers have exceptional training and experience in human rights, laws of war, weapons analysis, etc. What they often lack is a knowledge of local languages and context.

Of course, no one can be expected to understand the local context and languages of every conflict. But instead of trusting and relying on local staff, some international organizations like Amnesty fail to be inclusive and centralize decision-making, which was the case with this report. The attitude couldn’t be more condescending and unfair, because we all signed up to work together out of commitment to shared values.

The fact that we were not properly consulted and included in the drafting of this report shows a total disregard to the principle of international solidarity proclaimed in Amnesty’s statute and the aim of amplifying local voices.

The latest report had many glaring problems.

First of all, International Humanitarian Law does not impose a blanket prohibition on establishing military bases in proximity to civilian infrastructure. Instead, the military should, to the maximum extent possible, avoid locating military objectives near populated areas and should seek to protect civilians from the dangers resulting from military operations. This warrants an assessment of each situation on a case-by-case basis, not just from a legal perspective, but also in terms of the military realities on the ground.

The reality of the war in Ukraine is that Russian forces are seeking to occupy towns and cities in Ukraine, and Ukraine’s armed forces are trying to prevent that. Given the widely publicized accounts of Russian atrocities against civilians in Bucha and Irpin, it is not immediately evident that by withdrawing from populated areas, the Ukrainian military would have achieved the maximum possible protection of civilians.

Moreover, situations that Amnesty statement identified would require a response from the Ukraine’s Defense Ministry. This “right of response” is fundamental for human rights work, no matter the government.

The Ukrainian government, for its part, has a solid record of answering to Amnesty’s requests. This would have allowed a better understanding of whether Ukraine’s armed forces acted in a way that ensured the protection of civilians to the maximum possible extent or, instead, are putting them in danger, as Amnesty suggests.

We cannot rule out that there was some necessity in placing Ukrainian forces in residential areas. It is only when the ministry presents its reasoning that anyone can claim that they have impermissibly endangered civilians (which can then be further assessed and, if necessary, criticized). Similarly, while Amnesty researchers were “not aware” if the Ukrainian military asked or assisted civilians to leave, the ministry could have presented them evidence that they did.

But this time, Amnesty did not even intend to request an official response; they did so only after insistence from the Ukrainian office, and they gave the Ukrainian ministry only three working days to respond — which is in no way a reasonable time frame.

Furthermore, if Ukraine’s armed forces were indeed found to be in breach of international law, a potential way of implementing the recommendations would have been further advocacy with the ministry. Ukraine has been keen to demonstrate compliance with its legal obligations, partly because of reliance on Western weapon deliveries, and partly due to a desire to integrate closely with the European Union. This presented a unique opportunity to get Ukraine’s armed forces to comply with their obligations. But again, pushing for actual actions did not seem to be the goal in this case.

As a result, the publication put Ukrainian civilians at a potentially greater risk. Russia repeatedly justifies attacks against civilian infrastructure by falsely claiming that civilian targets were military objectives. After the Russian bombing of a maternity hospital in Mariupol in March, Russian propaganda attempted to justify the attack by saying the hospital was controlled by the Ukrainian military.

The Amnesty report is causing long-lasting damage to the group’s reputation in Ukraine and around the world. But the blunder of the leadership does not reflect the important work of local offices, which are in danger of losing of support. My goal is to call attention to the vital work that local staffers perform and urge leaders to respect and include them in all decisions equally.

The focus must be on values, evidence and action. Only then will we be able to truly restore faith in our ability to help those we are meant to serve.

 ap logoAssociated Press, Ukrainian minister says Russia blocking access to medicines, Derek Gatopoulos and Hanna Arhirova, Aug. 13, 2022. Ukraine’s health minister has accused Russian authorities of committing a crime against humanity by blocking access to affordable medicines in areas its forces have occupied since invading the country 5 1/2 months ago.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Ukrainian Health Minister Viktor Liashko said Russian authorities repeatedly have blocked efforts to provide state-subsidized drugs to people in occupied cities, towns and villages.

“Throughout the entire six months of war, Russia has not (allowed) proper humanitarian corridors so we could provide our own medicines to the patients that need them,” Liashko said, speaking at the Health Ministry in Kyiv late Friday.

“We believe that these actions are being taken with intent by Russia, and we consider them to be crimes against humanity and war crimes that will be documented and will be recognized,” the minister said.

The Ukrainian government has a program that provides medications to people with cancer and chronic health conditions. The destruction of hospitals and infrastructure along with the displacement of an estimated 7 million people inside the country also have interfered with other forms of treatment, according to United Nations and Ukrainian officials.

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Pandemic Public Health, Disasters

washington post logoWashington Post, Polio virus found in New York City wastewater, Lenny Bernstein and Kristen Hartke, Aug. 13, 2022 (print ed.). The discovery extends the virus’s presence from the northern New York suburbs to the nation’s largest city.

Health authorities announced Friday that polio virus has been found in New York City wastewater, a discovery that extends the known presence of the virus from the region’s northern suburbs to the nation’s largest city.

City and state health departments offered no details of where or when the virus was discovered. But they said the finding suggests “likely local circulation of the virus.”

“Polio can lead to paralys