Sept. 2022 News, Pt. 2

 

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Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative news and views in September 2022. Part 2 covers the period from Sept. 25 to the end of the month, Sept. 30. Part 1 covers the earlier part of the month.

 

 


Sept. 30

Top Headlines

 

Threats To U.S. Democracy

Justice Amy Coney Barrett and her husband, Jesse Barrett, pose outside the U.S. Supreme Court on the day of her investiture ceremony at the Court (Associated Press photo by J. Scott Applewhite). Justices shield spouses’ work from potential conflict of interest disclosures.

 

More Investigations

 

More U.S. Hurricane Coverage

 

More On Ukraine War

 

Trump Probes, Disputes, Rallies, Supporters

 

djt fbi evidence mar a lago

 

World News, Human Rights, Disasters

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Economy, Governance

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Immigration, Shootings, Gun Laws

 

Pandemic, Public Health

 

Abortion, Forced Birth Laws, Privacy Rights

 

Food, Water, Energy, Climate, Disasters

 

U.S. Media, Philanthopy, Culture, Education

  • New York Times, Opinion: The Crisis of Men and Boys, David Brooks
  • New York Times, Bill Plante, CBS News’s Man at the White House, Dies at 84
  • New York Times, Shakira Is Accused of Tax Evasion in Spain. Here’s What We Know


Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Bill to fund government passes House, goes to Biden just before deadline, Marianna Sotomayor and Jacob Bogage, Sept. 30, 2022. The move means there’s no threat of a shutdown before the fall midterm elections.

The continuing resolution extends current funding levels until Dec. 16, while also approving $12.4 billion in military and diplomatic spending to help Ukraine in its war against Russia. It also contains $18.8 billion for domestic disaster recovery efforts, including Western wildfires, floods in Kentucky and hurricanes in the Southeast.

nancy pelosi nbc sept 26 19 impeachmentHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is shown at right in a file photo.

The House vote was 230-201, with 10 Republicans breaking ranks to support the legislation. The Senate passed the bill, 72 to 25, on Thursday after Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) dropped his proposal that would have overhauled federal rules for environmental permitting for large energy projects after it became evident it would not garner the 60 votes required to attach it to the must-pass legislation.

By calling up roughly 300,000 reservists to fight, and abandoning the objective of demilitarizing and “de-Nazifying” Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin of Russia acknowledged the reality and growing resistance of a unified Ukraine in a televised address on Sept. 21, 2022 (Pool photo by Gavriil Grigorov via New York Times).By calling up roughly 300,000 reservists to fight, and abandoning the objective of demilitarizing and “de-Nazifying” Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin of Russia acknowledged the reality and growing resistance of a unified Ukraine in a televised address on Sept. 21, 2022 (Pool photo by Gavriil Grigorov via New York Times).

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: In Illegal Annexation, Putin Declares 4 Ukrainian Regions Part of Russia, Anton Troianovski, Sept. 30, 2022. President Vladimir V. Putin on Friday asserted that four Ukrainian regions would become part of Russia and decried the United States for “Satanism” and “neocolonial hegemony” in a speech that marked a new escalation in Moscow’s seven-month war against Ukraine and positioned Russia, in newly stark terms, as fighting an existential battle with the West.

Speaking to hundreds of Russian lawmakers and governors in a grand Kremlin hall, Mr. Putin said that the residents of the four regions — which are still partially controlled by Ukrainian forces — would become Russia’s citizens “forever.” He then held a signing ceremony with the Russian-installed heads of those four regions to start the official annexation process, before clasping hands with them and chanting “Russia! Russia!”

Even by Mr. Putin’s increasingly confrontational standards, it was an extraordinary speech, mixing riffs against Western attitudes on gender identity with an appeal to the world to see Russia as the leader of an uprising against American power.

“Not only do Western elites deny national sovereignty and international law,” he said in the 37-minute address. “Their hegemony has a pronounced character of totalitarianism, despotism and apartheid.”

Western leaders have condemned Russia’s annexations as illegal, and the “referendums’’ that preceded them — purporting to show local support for joining Russia — as fraudulent. The Biden administration has threatened new sanctions if the Kremlin moved ahead with its claims.

Ukraine’s government has rebuffed Mr. Putin’s claims and vowed to retake territory captured by Russia in the east and south. Even as Mr. Putin spoke, Ukrainian officials said their army had encircled the Russian-occupied town of Lyman, a strategically important hub in the Donetsk region that lies inside the territory Mr. Putin is claiming.

In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin signed decrees to absorb four Ukrainian regions into Russia, despite widespread global condemnation.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. imposes new sanctions over Russia’s illegal annexation, Ellen Francis, Louisa Loveluck, Adela Suliman, Erin Cunningham and Karina Tsui, Sept. 30, 2022. The move to annex four regions recommits Russia to its war in Ukraine despite military setbacks and escalates its confrontation with the West, which has promised more weapons and money to help Kyiv reclaim its territories.

President Biden issued a strong statement Friday condemning Russia’s attempt at illegally annexing Ukrainian territory. “The United States condemns Russia’s fraudulent attempt today to annex sovereign Ukrainian territory,” Biden said.

“Russia is violating international law, trampling on the United Nations Charter, and showing its contempt for peaceful nations everywhere,” he said, adding that the United States will continue to honor “Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders.”

Biden’s statement follows announcement a wide swath of new U.S. sanctions, targeting government officials and family members, Russian and Belarusian military officials and defense procurement networks.

 

Damage from Hurricane Ian is show in Fort Myers, Florida (New York Times photo by Kinfay Moroti).

Damage from Hurricane Ian is show in Fort Myers, Florida (New York Times photo by Kinfay Moroti).

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Reports: Ian Bears Down on Carolinas After Battering Florida, Staff Reports, Sept. 30, 2022. As crews in southwest Florida rescued people amid widespread damage, Ian’s wind speeds grew on its way to an expected landfall in South Carolina on Friday. State and federal officials said they expected deaths connected to the storm, but no firm total had emerged.

As the extent of the damage to southwest Florida came into clearer view, Ian moved out over the Atlantic Ocean and strengthened again into a hurricane. The storm is expected to make landfall on Friday afternoon in South Carolina. “Rapid weakening is expected after landfall,” the National Hurricane Center said in an update, though parts the Carolinas were expected to see life-threatening storm surge. The governors of Georgia and South Carolina declared states of emergency on Wednesday.

President Biden declared an emergency for South Carolina and ordered federal assistance with the hurricane moving toward the coast. The extent of the damage to southwestern Florida is slowly coming into focus.

The latest:

  • State and federal officials said they expected deaths connected to the storm, but no firm total had emerged by early Friday.
  • Fort Myers Beach, in southwest Florida, was hit especially hard, Gov. Ron DeSantis said. “Some of the homes were wiped out,” he said. “Some of it was just concrete slabs.”
  • About two million customers are still without power in Florida, according to poweroutage.us.

ny times logoNew York Times, Hurricane Ian’s Toll Is Severe. Lack of Insurance Will Make It Worse, Christopher Flavelle, Sept. 30, 2022 (print ed.). Most of the Florida homes in the path of Hurricane Ian lack flood insurance, posing a major challenge to rebuilding efforts, new data show.

In the counties whose residents were told to evacuate, just 18.5 percent of homes have coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program, according to Milliman, an actuarial firm that works with the program.

Within those counties, homes inside the government-designated floodplain, the area most exposed to flooding, 47.3 percent of homes have flood insurance, Milliman found. In areas outside the floodplain — many of which are still likely to have been damaged by rain or storm surge from Ian — only an estimated 9.4 percent of homes have flood coverage.

The small share of households with flood insurance demonstrates the challenges posed by the country’s approach to rebuilding after disasters — a mix of public and private funding that is under strain as climate change makes those disasters more frequent and severe.

If people can’t pay to rebuild their homes after disasters, the financial toll of climate change for households and communities could become ruinous.

Regular homeowners’ insurance policies typically don’t pay for damage caused by flooding, which is why the Federal Emergency Management Agency offers flood insurance. The coverage is expensive, with average premiums close to $1,000 a year, according to data from Forbes. But without it, homeowners hit by flooding are left to rely on either savings, loans or charity to rebuild.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Italy and Sweden show why Biden must fix the immigration system, Fareed Zakaria, Sept. 30, 2022. Italy and Sweden are about as different as two European countries can get. One is Catholic, Mediterranean, sunny and chaotic; the other Protestant, northern, chilly and ordered. Over the decades, they have had very different political trajectories. But now, both are witnessing the striking rise of parties that have some connections to fascism.

In each country, this rise has coincided with a collapse of support for the center-left. And it all centers on an issue that the Biden administration would do well to take very seriously: immigration.

 

Threats To Democracy

 

Justice Amy Coney Barrett and her husband, Jesse Barrett, pose outside the U.S. Supreme Court on the day of her investiture ceremony at the Court (Associated Press photo by J. Scott Applewhite). Justices shield spouses’ work from potential conflict of interest disclosures. Justice Amy Coney Barrett and her husband, Jesse Barrett, pose outside the U.S. Supreme Court on the day of her investiture ceremony at the Court (Associated Press photo by J. Scott Applewhite). Justices shield spouses’ work from potential conflict of interest disclosures.

Politico, Justices shield spouses’ work from potential conflict of interest disclosures, Hailey Fuchs, Josh Gerstein and Peter S. Canellos, Sept. 30, 2022 (print ed.). Ginni Thomas, Jane Roberts and Jesse Barrett’s clients remain a mystery, fanning fears of outside influences.

A year after Amy Coney Barrett joined the Supreme Court, the boutique Indiana firm SouthBank Legal opened its first-ever Washington office in Penn Quarter, a move the firm hailed in a 2021 press release as an “important milestone.”

politico CustomThe head of the office, Jesse M. Barrett, is the justice’s husband, whose work is described by the firm as “white-collar criminal defense, internal investigations, and complex commercial litigation.”

SouthBank Legal — which lists fewer than 20 lawyers — has boasted clients across “virtually every industry”: automobile manufacturers, global banks, media giants, among others. They have included “over 25 Fortune 500 companies and over 15 in the Fortune 100,” according to the firm’s website.

But if anyone wants to find out whether Jesse Barrett’s clients have a direct interest in cases being decided by his wife, they’re out of luck. In the Supreme Court’s notoriously porous ethical disclosure system, Barrett not only withholds her husband’s clients, but redacted the name of SouthBank Legal itself in her most recent disclosure.

Over the past year, Virginia Thomas, known as Ginni, has gotten significant attention for operating a consulting business that reportedly includes conservative activist groups with interest in Supreme Court decisions as clients. Her husband, Justice Clarence Thomas, has chosen not to reveal any of his wife’s clients, let alone how much they contributed to the Thomas family coffers, dating back to when her consulting business was founded.

But a Politico investigation shows that potential conflicts involving justices’ spouses extend beyond the Thomases. Chief Justice John Roberts’ wife, Jane Roberts, has gotten far less attention. But she is a legal head-hunter at the firm Macrae which represents high-powered attorneys in their efforts to secure positions in wealthy firms, typically for a percentage of the first-year salary she secures for her clients. A single placement of a superstar lawyer can yield $500,000 or more for the firm.

Mark Jungers, a former managing partner at Major, Lindsey & Africa, the firm that employed Jane Roberts as a legal recruiter before she moved to Macrae, told Politico the firm hired her hoping it would benefit from her being the chief justice’s wife, in part, because “her network is his network and vice versa.”

Roberts lists his wife’s company on his ethics form, but not which lawyers and law firms hire her as a recruiter — even though her clients include firms that have done Supreme Court work, according to multiple people with knowledge of the arrangements with those firms.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: You thought the Supreme Court’s last term was bad? Brace yourself, Ruth Marcus, right, Sept. 30, 2022. The ruth marcus twitter Customcataclysmic Supreme Court term that included the unprecedented leak of a draft opinion and the end of constitutional protection for abortion would, in the normal ebb and flow, be followed by a period of quiet, to let internal wounds heal and public opinion settle.

That doesn’t appear likely in the term set to start Monday. Nothing in the behavior of the court’s emboldened majority suggests any inclination to pull back on the throttle. The Supreme Court is master of its docket, which means that it controls what cases it will hear, subject to the agreement of four justices. Already, with its calendar only partly filled, the justices have once again piled onto their agenda cases that embroil the court in some of the most inflammatory issues confronting the nation — and more are on the way.

Last term, in addition to overruling Roe v. Wade, the conservative majority expanded gun rights, imposed severe new constraints on the power of regulatory agencies and further dismantled the wall of separation between church and state.

If there was a question, at the start of that term, about how far and how fast a court with six conservatives would move, it was answered resoundingly by the time it recessed for the summer: “Very far, very fast,” said Donald B. Verrilli Jr., who served as solicitor general under President Barack Obama. “I hope the majority takes a step back and considers the risk that half the country may completely lose faith in the court as an institution.”

Maybe it will, but for now, the court is marching on toward fresh territory, taking on race, gay rights and the fundamental structures of democracy — this even as the shock waves of the abortion ruling reverberate through our politics and lower courts grapple with a transformed legal regime. And there’s every indication that the court intends to adopt changes nearly as substantial — and as long-sought by conservatives — as those of last term.

Of course, blockbuster cases can fizzle. Even if four justices vote to hear a case, the need to secure a fifth vote for an eventual majority can force incremental rulings over bold proclamations. But a six-justice supermajority means that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., the most moderate of the conservatives, can’t apply the brakes alone, even in the relatively few instances where he might be so disposed. Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh is the justice most likely to join Roberts in defecting from the conservative fold, but Kavanaugh’s approach has more often been to put a comforting gloss on the majority’s version — and then sign on to it anyway.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ginni Thomas falsely asserts to Jan. 6 panel that election was stolen, chairman says, Jacqueline Alemany, Sept. 30, 2022 (print ed.). Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, reiterated her belief that the 2020 election was stolen during her interview Thursday with the committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, according to the committee’s chairman, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.).

Her false assertion, nearly two years after Joe Biden’s victory, came during a five-hour closed-door interview with the committee.

The Attack: Before, during and after

Ginni Thomas, a conservative activist, drew the attention of the committee after investigators obtained emails between her and lawyer John Eastman, who had advocated a fringe legal theory that Vice President Mike Pence could block the congressional certification of Biden’s electoral college win.

She also repeatedly pressed White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to find ways to overturn the election, according to messages she sent to him weeks after the election. The messages represent an extraordinary pipeline between Thomas and one of Trump’s top aides as the president and his allies were vowing to take their efforts all the way to the Supreme Court.

The committee says it may use clips from her appearance, if they are warranted, in a future hearing. But lawmakers have not yet scheduled their next hearing.

Mark Paoletta, an attorney for Thomas, said in a statement that she appeared before the panel “to clear up the misconceptions about her activities surrounding the 2020 elections.”

“As she has said from the outset, Mrs. Thomas had significant concerns about fraud and irregularities in the 2020 election,” the lawyer said. “And, as she told the Committee, her minimal and mainstream activity focused on ensuring that reports of fraud and irregularities were investigated. Beyond that, she played no role in any events after the 2020 election results.”

The panel had previously contemplated issuing a subpoena to compel her testimony.

 United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (l) with his wife of thirty-five years, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas (r). (Safe Image)

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas sits with his wife, Virginia Thomas, while he waits to speak at the Heritage Foundation on Oct. 21, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Drew Angerer via Getty Images).

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Eagerness of Ginni Thomas, Michelle Cottle, Sept. 28, 2022 (print ed.). Ginni Thomas has become a problem. You don’t have to be a left-wing, anti-Trump minion of the deep state to think it’s a bad look for American democracy to have the wife of a Supreme Court justice implicated in a multitentacled scheme to overturn a free and fair presidential election. But that is where this political moment finds us.

A longtime conservative crusader, Ms. Thomas increasingly appears to have been chin deep in the push to keep Donald Trump in power by any means necessary. Her insurrection-tinged activities included hectoring everyone from state lawmakers to the White House chief of staff to contest the results. She also swapped emails with John Eastman, the legal brains behind a baroque plot to have Vice President Mike Pence overturn the election that may have crossed the line from sketchy into straight-up illegal. Along the way, Ms. Thomas peddled a cornucopia of batty conspiracy theories, including QAnon gibberish about watermarked ballots in Arizona.

Even by the standards of the Trumpified Republican Party, this is a shameful turn of events. And after extended negotiations, Ms. Thomas has finally agreed to voluntarily testify soon before the Jan. 6 House committee. Her lawyer has declared her “eager” to “clear up any misconceptions about her work relating to the 2020 election.”

No doubt we’re all looking forward to her clarifications. But many people would be even more eager to have a bigger question addressed: How is it that someone with such evident contempt for democracy, not to mention a shaky grip on reality, has run amok for so long at the highest levels of politics and government?

The most obvious answer is that Ms. Thomas is married to a very important man. And Washington is a town that has long had to contend, and generally make peace, with the embarrassing or controversial spouses and close kin of its top power players (Martha Mitchell, Billy Carter, Ivanka and Jared…).

But even within this context, Ms. Thomas has distinguished herself with the aggressiveness and shamelessness of her political activities, which she pursues with total disregard for the conflicts of interest that they appear to pose with her husband’s role as an unbiased, dispassionate interpreter of the law.

In another era, this might have prompted more pushback, for any number of reasons. But Ms. Thomas has benefited from a couple of cultural and political shifts that she has shrewdly exploited. One touches on the evolving role of power couples and political spouses. The other, more disturbing, is the descent of the Republican Party down the grievance-driven, conspiracy-minded, detached-from-reality rabbit hole.

american flag upside down distressIf most of America has come around to two-income households, Washington is overrun with bona fide power couples and has fashioned its own set of rules, official and unofficial, for dealing with them. Among these: It is bad form to suggest that a spouse should defer to his or her partner’s career, other than when explicitly required, of course. (A notable exception is the presidency, in which case the first lady is in many ways treated as if it were still 1960.) Though plenty of folks discuss it sotto voce, publicly musing that a couple’s work life might bleed into their home life is considered insulting — even sexist, if the spouse being scrutinized is a woman.

The Thomases have been playing this card for years. Ms. Thomas has forged all sorts of ties with individuals and groups with interests before her husband and his colleagues. In the chaotic aftermath of the 2000 presidential election, she was helping the conservative Heritage Foundation identify appointees for a new Republican administration, even as her husband was deliberating over the outcome of the race. When people grumble about perceived conflicts — or Ms. Thomas’s perpetual political crusading in general — the couple and their defenders complain that they are being held to different standards from others. They are adamant that of course the Thomases can stay in their respective lanes.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Activists Flood U.S. Election Offices With Challenges, Nick Corasaniti and Alexandra Berzon, Sept. 29, 2022 (print ed.). Groups fueled by right-wing election conspiracy theories are trying to toss tens of thousands of voters from the rolls.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosActivists driven by false theories about election fraud are working to toss out tens of thousands of voter registrations and ballots in battleground states, part of a loosely coordinated campaign that is sowing distrust and threatening further turmoil as election officials prepare for the November midterms.

Groups in Georgia have challenged at least 65,000 voter registrations across eight counties, claiming to have evidence that voters’ addresses were incorrect. In Michigan, an activist group tried to challenge 22,000 ballots from voters who had requested absentee ballots for the state’s August primary. And in Texas, residents sent in 116 affidavits challenging the eligibility of more than 6,000 voters in Harris County, which is home to Houston and is the state’s largest county.

djt maga hatThe recent wave of challenges have been filed by right-wing activists who believe conspiracy theories about fraud in the 2020 presidential election. They claim to be using state laws that allow people to question whether a voter is eligible. But so far, the vast majority of the complaints have been rejected, in many cases because election officials found the challenges were filed incorrectly, rife with bad information or based on flawed data analysis.

Republican-aligned groups have long pushed to aggressively cull the voter rolls, claiming that inaccurate registrations can lead to voter fraud — although examples of such fraud are exceptionally rare. Voting rights groups say the greater concern is inadvertently purging an eligible voter from the rolls.

The new tactic of flooding offices with challenges escalates that debate — and weaponizes the process. Sorting through the piles of petitions is costly and time-consuming, increasing the chances that overburdened election officials could make mistakes that could disenfranchise voters. And while election officials say they’re confident in their procedures, they worry about the toll on trust in elections. The challenge process, as used by election deniers, has become another platform for spreading doubt about the security of elections.

“It’s a tactic to distract and undermine the electoral process,” said Dele Lowman Smith, chairwoman of the DeKalb County Board of Elections in Georgia. Her county is among several in Georgia that have had to hold special meetings just to address the challenges. The state’s new Republican-backed election law requires that each challenge receive a hearing, and the process was taking up too much time in regular board meetings.

The activists say they are exercising their right to ensure that voter rolls are accurate.

“If a citizen is giving you information, wouldn’t you want to check it and make sure it’s right?” said Sandy Kiesel, the executive director of Election Integrity Fund and Force, a group involved in challenges in Michigan.

But in private strategy and training calls, participants from some groups have talked openly about more political aims, saying they believe their work will help Republican candidates. Some groups largely target voters in Democratic, urban areas.

It is not unusual for voter rolls to contain errors — often because voters have died or moved without updating their registrations. But states typically rely on systematic processes outlined in state and federal law — not on lists provided by outside groups — to clean up the information.

Recent Headlines

 

More investigations

Politico, Opinion: Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump Are Ready for the Saudi Cash, Jack Shafer, Sept. 30, 2022 (print ed.). The beleaguered LIV Golf tournament finally finds some willing partners.

Where did the LIV Golf tournament go to die? Fox.

If that joke didn’t scan for you, it’s likely you haven’t been following the sporting news, which has teemed all summer with stories about Saudi Arabia’s new professional golf circuit. Even though LIV has bid away some of the PGA Tour’s top stars, it carries a taint for many politico Custombecause it’s backed by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund and because Donald Trump, a big LIV supporter and a course owner, is hosting some of its tournaments.

This guilt by association has made LIV a bit of a public relations disaster, with accusations flying that the tour is a Saudi attempt to “sportswash” their execrable human-rights record with long, green drives and short, dramatic putts. LIV has proved to be such a bad idea that it has yet to win a major TV network contract.

rupert murdoch 2011 shankbone But that’s likely about to change. According to Golfweek, the tour seems close to a deal with Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Sports 1 cable channel, but the deal comes with a catch: Instead of Fox paying LIV to air tournaments, which is the sports entertainment norm, LIV will be paying Fox. (The last sports business that paid to have its events broadcast was the Alliance of American Football, and we know how that ended.) Plus, LIV will have to sell the ad slots, not Fox, and produce the shows.

What possessed the Saudis to start a tour, and why are they paying to air their product when the PGA Tour collects $700 million a year from broadcasters for a similar spectacle? And what’s in it for Murdoch? Why isn’t he worried about blowback from the 9/11 families who protested a LIV tournament at Trump’s Bedminster course as “another atrocity“? And what’s Trump’s deal in all of this? It’s all a matter of politics colliding with commerce.

For the Saudis, crashing professional golf accomplishes two ends. The first, of course, is political. In the short term, they hope, LIV will help dilute the image held by the West of an authoritarian country murdering Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. (The hit was reportedly commissioned by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader.) In the long term, LIV thinking goes, the billions it spends establishing its tour will replace the lucrative PGA as the sport’s face and eventually become a moneymaker. With almost unlimited funds at their disposal, the Saudis believe they can’t be counted out.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Trump’s paid-speeches organizer is struggling financially, Josh Dawsey and Isaac Arnsdorf, Sept. 30, 2022 (print ed.). A company that puts on for-profit Trump rallies, including an upcoming Mar-a-Lago gala and multimillion-dollar fees for the former president, is having trouble paying its bills

A company that organized a lucrative series of post-White House paid speeches for former president Donald Trump is now struggling to pay vendors, investors and employees, angering Trump allies who supported the effort.

The American Freedom Tour, which struck a multimillion-dollar deal with Trump after he left office, has lost two top executives and canceled events in a number of locations as it has failed to pay its bills, according to people familiar with the activities and documents obtained by The Washington Post. Its founder and owner, who has a history of bankruptcy filings, recently sought bankruptcy protection again.

The group has promised events in a number of locales but canceled them before they began and appears to be banking on a large event at Mar-a-Lago in December to turn its financial position around.
With speakers, affiliates and investors all clamoring for their money, one of the people involved who did get paid was Trump, people close to the former president say. Some Trump advisers have warned against doing future events, though Trump has expressed interest.

It’s not clear what that means for the tour’s advertised upcoming black-tie gala at Mar-a-Lago, with tickets starting at $10,000 a couple to spend time with Trump. The event includes a poolside reception and a formal ballroom dinner. Dinner and a photo with Trump costs $40,000, and a private library meeting with Trump is so pricey that it’s only listed as: “INQUIRE BELOW.” The company declined to say how much Trump is being paid for the event.

The company’s CEO, Brian J. Forte, declined to be interviewed for this article. The American Freedom Tour started last October, staging glitzy events around the country that resemble Trump rallies but sell tickets ranging from $55 to more than $4,000. In addition to Trump, the shows featured right-wing celebrities such as Candace Owens and Kimberly Guilfoyle, as well as motivational speakers offering personal finance courses.

Essentially, it was a place where Trump supporters could buy a chance to see him and other conservative luminaries — or pay more for special access — with the money not going to a political campaign, but a for-profit company and Trump himself. It was founded by Forte, a motivational-speaker promoter with a long trail of bankruptcy filings and business disputes across the country.

 

Republican former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, left, with welfare grant recipient and former WWE wrestler Ted

Republican former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, left, with welfare grant recipient and former WWE wrestler Ted "Teddy" DiBiase Jr. Mississippi mississippi today logoToday, Investigation: Retired wrestler says GOP Gov. Phil Bryant cut welfare funding to nonprofit because of Democratic support, Anna Wolfe, Sept. 26, 2022. A former professional wrestler and defendant in the Mississippi welfare scandal is alleging that he personally witnessed Republican Gov. Phil Bryant instruct an appointee to cut welfare funding to a nonprofit because its director supported Democrat Jim Hood in the 2019 governor’s race.

Legal Schnauzer, Opinion: Football great Brett Favre is the big name in Mississippi scandal, but the misuse of funds intended to feed needy children stretches in multiple directions, Roger Shuler, Sept. 29, 2022.

Football Hall of Famer Brett Favre, left, has been seen as the central character in a welfare scandal that has rocked Mississippi politics. But Favre is not the only sports figure engulfed in the scandal, and it extends east toward Alabama to include Birmingham-based law firm brett favre cardBalch & Bingham, according to a report at banbalch.com.

Writes Publisher K.B. Forbes, who also serves as CEO of the Consejo De Latinos Unidos (CDLU) public charity and advocacy group:

Walter H. Boone, a Balch & Bingham partner in Mississippi, obviously outraged, tweeted about the latest corruption scandal involving football great Brett Favre, the Mississippi Department of Human Services, and millions diverted from feeding hungry children to fund Favre’s pet project: a state-of-the-art volleyball stadium at the University of Southern Mississippi, where Favre’s daughter studies and plays…volleyball. (Breleigh Favre recently transferred to LSU.)

The “scheme to defraud the government” has rocked Mississippi and angered decent and professional people like Boone.

Mississippi Today broke the story about texts between then-Governor Phil Bryant and Favre in the scheme that diverted and allegedly laundered millions for welfare nutritional program resources to a not-for-profit entity called the Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC). MCEC then funneled the money illegally to pet projects, like Favre’s Volleyball Stadium.

What about other sportsmen who join Favre in the muck? That includes a big name in wrestling -- Ted DiBiase Sr., known as "The Million Dollar Man" in his grappling days. From news reports last May:

Ted DiBiase and his sons Ted Jr. and Brett DiBiase have been sued by the state of Mississippi as the state seeks to reclaim $24 million dollars of misused federal funds meant for welfare. . . . The funds were meant to “address the multiple needs of inner-city youth” despite DiBiase Jr. possessing no qualifications to provide those services in relation to the federal grant called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF.

Meanwhile Boone's outrage seems to be misguided. Writes Forbes:

Although Balch’s Boone appears to be outraged, the reality appears to be the House of Balch is divided. Working down the hall from Boone is Balch partner Lucien Smith, who was Governor Bryant’s former Chief of Staff and served as the Chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party until he was ousted by current Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves. Bryant was seen as a Balch stooge at the time he served as Governor. Speaking of welfare, Balch & Bingham appears to live off of corporate welfare and contractual cronyism in Mississippi. According to the State of Mississippi, Balch has obtained over $27.8 million in 72 contracts. How much of Balch’s $27.8 million was obtained through cronyism and favoritism? Should there be a criminal forensic audit of Balch?

As for Boone, how might he alter his public statements? Forbes offers several suggestions:

Balch partner Boone has a right to be outraged at Favre for allegedly taking advantage of resources for poor, hungry children.

But Boone should also be outraged at his own firm, which targeted poor African American children in the North Birmingham Bribery Scandal. He should be outraged that his firm refuses to apologize for former partner Joel I. Gilbert’s criminal misconduct. He should be outraged that Balch lost tens of millions in fees to win a $242,000 judgment in the Newsome Conspiracy Case. He should be outraged at the alleged criminal and unethical misconduct surrounding Balch and its sister-wife Alabama Power.

In the meantime, Favre should repay the State of Mississippi and make a heartfelt apology to the residents of the Magnolia State.

Recent Headlines

 

More U.S. Hurricane Coverage

ny times logoNew York Times, Staggering Scale of Wreckage Becomes Clear, Patricia Mazzei, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Frances Robles and Jack Healy, Updated Sept. 30, 2022. The extent of the damage was difficult to comprehend, even for Florida residents who had survived and rebuilt after other significant storms.

The storm’s heavy blow to infrastructure complicated efforts to gauge the damage — early estimates said insured losses could reach up to $40 billion — and to reach hard-hit barrier islands, where homes and businesses were now heaps of wood pulp and broken concrete. Cell service was spotty or nonexistent up and down the coast, another agonizing impediment to residents’ efforts to seek help or reach missing family members.

  • New York Times, Gov. Ron DeSantis, who as a congressman opposed storm aid, is seeking relief from the Biden administration, Sept. 30, 2022.
  • New York Times, Downpours From Ian Prompt Florida Treatment Plants to Release Waste, Sept. 30, 2022.

 

More On Ukraine War

washington post logoWashington Post, Russians rebel after Putin drafts more people in battle for Ukraine, Sarah Cahlan, Samuel Oakford, Imogen Piper, Mary Ilyushina, Ruby Mellen and Natalia Abbakumova, Sept. 30, 2022 (print ed.). From Dagestan to Moscow to Siberia, dissent has been documented in videos from across Russia since President Vladimir Putin's mobilization announcement on Sept. 21.

President Vladimir Putin’s mobilization of Russian men to fight in Ukraine has brought home the reality of war to ordinary Russian families.

For months, Russian voices of dissent were largely silent. Initial antiwar demonstrations were quickly crushed and there were only small displays of defiance in major cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg. But that all changed after Putin’s announcement on Sept. 21.

Through angry protests, acts of violence and an exodus of more than 200,000 citizens, Russians are rebelling against the prospect of further escalation of the war and the steep price they will probably pay.

Kremlin officials have downplayed the turmoil but the scenes coming out of Russia tell a different story, one of widespread opposition against a government known for quashing it. Dissent has been documented across the country even in areas that were previously quiet.

Videos and images verified by The Washington Post show Russians are angry and afraid for their lives. Dozens of protests broke out in large cities and rural areas that have already lost many men to the war in Ukraine. Some took to violence, while others chose to escape: Miles-long lines of cars waited to cross land borders out of the country and international flights out of Moscow were full of fighting-age men.

Financial Times, Ukraine forces close to encircling Russian troops in key town, Ben Hall and Roman Olearchyk, Sept. 30, 2022. Kyiv delivers stark riposte to Putin’s annexation as counter-offensive in the east advances.

Kyiv’s forces are close to encircling a large concentration of Russian troops in eastern Ukraine in what would be a fresh blow to Moscow in the wake of its unpopular mobilisation and declared annexation of four Ukrainian provinces.

After a lightning counter-offensive this month that liberated thousands of square kilometres in Kharkiv, Ukrainian units have pushed further east and have nearly surrounded the town of Lyman - to the alarm of Russian military bloggers and nationalist commentators in Moscow. Lyman is a key staging ground for Russian forces for their campaign to capture the rest of Donetsk province.

Ukrainian forces are advancing from three directions on the town - west, north and south - and are looking to trap potentially several thousand Russian troops there.

Ukraine’s main objective could be to attack Svatove, a town to the north of Lyman, that has become an important logistics hub for Russian forces after the Kharkiv counter-offensive, said Mykhailo Samus, director of the New Geopolitics Research Network in Kyiv and a former Ukrainian military officer.

“If the Russians lost Svatove it would be a disaster for them, especially if [the] Ukrainian offensive continues further east to liberate that part of Luhansk Oblast [province],” Samus added.

washington post logoWashington Post, Zelensky pushes ‘accelerated’ application for Ukraine NATO membership, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Sept. 30, 2022. Ukraine is applying for “accelerated ascension” into NATO, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday, in an apparent answer to Russia’s move to illegally annex four of the country’s partially occupied regions.

The remarks were more symbolic than practical: The speedy admittance of Ukraine to the alliance would require members to immediately send troops to fight Russia, under collective defense obligations.

Putin illegally claims annexation of Ukrainian regions, escalating war

Ukraine has long sought NATO membership, but Zelensky conceded in March that Ukraine had to accept that it was not going to be accepted into the Western military alliance, despite receiving security assistance from countries in it.

“De facto, we have already made our way to NATO,” Zelensky said in a Telegram statement. “De facto, we have already proven compatibility with Alliance standards. They are real for Ukraine — real on the battlefield and in all aspects of our interaction. We trust each other, we help each other, and we protect each other.”

What to know about Russia’s plans to annex territory in Ukraine

In practice, the chances of Ukraine joining NATO have only grown slimmer in the course of the Russian invasion. Member countries, including the United States, have drawn clear lines: They arm Ukraine, but they don’t have their own troops on the ground out of concern for triggering a World War.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The West should hunker down against Putin’s latest aggression, David Ignatius, right, Sept. 30, 2022 (print ed.). Here’s david ignatiusPresident Vladimir Putin’s plan to salvage his ruinous mistake of invading Ukraine: Ignore defeat. Redraw the borders. Burn the diplomatic exit ramps. Threaten nuclear war. Do anything but back down.

Think of Putin as a gambler who took the biggest risk of his career when he invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. None of his big bets have turned out right since, and he has lost nearly every hand. Yet he has chained himself to the table, and he appears ready to wager everything to intimidate his adversaries and make them fold.

Putin’s annexation of four regions in Ukraine, likely to be announced Friday, is a desperation ploy. He may try to dress it up as victory, claiming that he has now achieved the aims of his “special military operation” and can pause for the winter to regroup. Nonsense. This is the most blatantly illegal attempt to seize territory since Adolf Hitler tried to swallow Europe in World War II.

Mike Mullen, Sam Nunn and Ernest J. Moniz: What Xi must tell Putin now

Simple advice to Ukraine and its allies in the United States and Europe: Hunker down. Ride out the short-term pain. Don’t fold, but don’t shoot for the moon, either. Resist the pressure to match Putin’s wild nuclear threats. The truth is that he’s holding a weak hand. The longer he stays in, the worse his situation will become. His compulsive addiction to Ukraine will eventually be fatal. Patience is the West’s secret weapon.

The right strategy now is an updated version of the Cold War approach of “containment.” Draw firm lines. Help Ukraine inflict as much pain on Putin as possible while continuing to avoid a direct U.S.-Russian conflict unless Putin takes the mad step of going nuclear. Let the rot in the Russian system take effect, weakening Putin month by month. Encourage the disintegration of Russian power along its borders — by welcoming Finland and Sweden to NATO and the growing independence of countries such as Kazakhstan, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan. Exploit the growing tension between Moscow and Beijing.

With his takeovers, Putin has burned the diplomatic lifeboats that might have rescued him. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who in March appeared ready to negotiate a deal that would have given Putin working control of Crimea and the Donbas region, now says that after Friday’s expected seizures, there will be nothing to negotiate. Putin might want a frozen conflict, but he will have a hot one. Ukrainian soldiers are still advancing in Kherson, Luhansk and Donetsk. And Ukrainian partisan fighters are killing Russian occupiers and their local puppets every day.

washington post logoWashington Post, War in Ukraine: In blatant violation of international law, Putin to formally claim four Ukrainian regions, Robyn Dixon, Sept. 30, 2022 (print ed.). The Russian president plans to hold an annexation ceremony Friday after staged referendums — illegal under international law, with widespread reports of voter coercion — concluded earlier this week in portions of four regions in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday will formally move to seize four Ukrainian regions by signing documents that the Kremlin is calling “accession treaties.”

russian flag wavingThe signing ceremony, to take place in the Grand Kremlin Palace, marks Putin’s attempt to annex the regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, even though Russia does not fully control them militarily or politically.

The move, in defiance of stern international warnings including from President Biden, potentially slams the door on diplomacy for years to come, and almost certainly assures further escalation of the war in Ukraine, with Kyiv insisting it will fight to reclaim all of its lands and Western allies promising to send more weapons and economic assistance.

Putin’s recent declaration of a partial military mobilization, intended to activate hundreds of thousands of reinforcements for deployment to Ukraine, and the sabotage this week of two Nord Stream natural gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea have raised fears that the Russian leader is readying for a long hybrid conflict with NATO.

  • Washington Post, NATO decries pipeline ‘sabotage’ amid efforts to measure environmental impact
  • Washington Post, Live briefing: Separatist leaders gather in Moscow ahead of annexation ceremony

 ny times logoNew York Times, Ukrainian officials said that at least 25 people were killed in an attack on a civilian convoy in Zaporizhzhia, Michael Schwirtz and Andrew E. Kramer, Sept. 30, 2022. Russia launched a flurry of rocket, drone and missile strikes against Ukrainian towns and cities overnight Thursday to Friday, creating scenes of destruction inside Ukraine as the Kremlin planned an elaborate, and widely rejected, annexation ceremony in Moscow.

The most lethal strike hit in Zaporizhzhia, one of the four Ukrainian provinces that Moscow plans to declare part of Russia on Friday as part of an annexation process that has been condemned by the West as a sham and comes after a humiliating battlefield defeat. The attack killed at least 25 civilians who were waiting at a checkpoint and bus stop, and injured about 50, according to Ukraine’s prosecutor general — which would make it one of the deadliest single attacks against civilians in recent weeks.

The wave of overnight strikes came as Russia plans to declare regions where battles are raging — in Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Luhansk and Donetsk — to be Russian territory. Moscow says it would then be defending rather than attacking the territory, its stated justification to use any means necessary, in a thinly veiled nuclear threat.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine condemned the strike as the work of “terrorists” while Bridget Brink, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, called it “horrific news.”

 

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

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Zelensky’s Answer to Russia’s Escalating Threats: Defiance, Andrew E. Kramer, Sept. 30, 2022 (print ed.). In a nightly address, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine told Russian soldiers: “If you want to live, run.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky and his government are responding with defiance and a touch of bravado to a stream of threats from Russia as it prepares to take the provocative step of declaring parts of Ukraine to be Russian territory.

ukraine flagAmid ominous signals from Moscow about escalating the war, including hinting at the use of nuclear weapons, Ukrainian forces are pressing ahead with their attack on Russian troops in the east and the south in regions that Russia intends on Friday to claim as its own. And government officials are pursuing a propaganda advantage as well, posting instructions on social media, in Russian, about how Russian soldiers can surrender safely.

Mr. Zelensky has taken pains to point out he is not dismissive of the Russian threat. He said he did not believe Mr. Putin was bluffing about threats of military escalation or the use of nuclear weapons.

But he also gave a public reminder of Ukraine’s recent successes, awarding medals on Wednesday to 320 soldiers and other security service members for the counterstrike this month in the Kharkiv region in northeastern Ukraine.

Russia set the annexation plans in motion after the offensive broke through the Russian Army’s lines and forced it to retreat from thousands of square miles of land.

Annexation would allow Russia to assert that Ukraine is attacking its territory, not the other way around, and Russian officials have spoken of defending their claims by any means, a hint at the potential use of nuclear weapons. Russia also announced a draft to call up hundreds of thousands of new soldiers.

The ploy is already underway: Russian proxy leaders from four Ukrainian provinces have traveled to Moscow to formally appeal to President Vladimir V. Putin to join Russia after sham referendums ostensibly backed the idea. A stage has been erected on Red Square.

The State of the War

  • Annexation Push: After sham referendums in four Russian-occupied territories in Ukraine, where some were made to vote at gunpoint, the Kremlin is moving ahead with plans to annex the regions.
  • Nord Stream Pipeline: Explosions under the Baltic Sea and the rupture of major natural gas pipelines from Russia to Germany appeared to be a deliberate attack, European officials said, exposing the vulnerability of the continent’s energy infrastructure. But a mystery remains: Who did it?
  • The Eastern Front: The battle for the critical Donbas region in Ukraine’s east is now centered on two strategically important cities: Lyman and Bakhmut. The fighting is fierce as both Russian and Ukrainian forces race to claim new ground before winter sets in.
  • Russia’s Draft: The Kremlin has acknowledged that its new military draft has been rife with problems — an admission that comes after protests have erupted across Russia, recruitment centers have been attacked and thousands of men leave the country.

 

nato logo flags nameny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: NATO labeled the Nord Stream gas pipeline leaks sabotage and promised a “determined response,” Shashank Bengali, Sept. 30, 2022 (print ed.). NATO on Thursday blamed sabotage for bringing down the Nord Stream gas pipelines and pledged “a united and determined response” to any attack against alliance members’ critical infrastructure.

“All currently available information indicates that this is the result of deliberate, reckless, and irresponsible acts of sabotage,” NATO said in a statement.

The statement did not specify what action the military alliance would take, but it added to a growing chorus from the West calling the leaks in the two pipelines a deliberate act. The leaks occurred after large explosions were detected on Monday near the site of the ruptures.

The pipelines, Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2, were built by the Russian energy giant Gazprom to carry natural gas from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea, and the damage poses the risk of a significant escalation in the proxy energy war between Moscow and the West since fighting began in Ukraine.

Although the pipelines were not actively delivering gas, the leaks cut off a critical piece of infrastructure connecting Russia with the energy-hungry economies of Western Europe.They could take months to repair.

Poland and Ukraine have openly blamed Russia, which in turn pointed a finger at the United States. Both Moscow and Washington have issued indignant denials. On Thursday, the Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said the incident “looks like some kind of terrorist attack, possibly at the state level,” although he did not directly blame any government.

NATO said that it supported the investigations being pursued by European governments into the cause of the leaks, and joined Washington in suggesting that they could be an act of so-called hybrid warfare — an effort to undermine democratic functions, disrupt normal life and sow chaos and uncertainty. Experts said the leaks underscored the vulnerability of Europe’s vital systems.

“We, as allies, have committed to prepare for, deter and defend against the coercive use of energy and other hybrid tactics by state and nonstate actors,” NATO said. “Any deliberate attack against allies’ critical infrastructure would be met with a united and determined response.”

The damaged pipelines were filled despite being out of use. They are now spewing natural gas, which largely consists of methane, a leading contributor to global warming, raising concerns over the ruptures’ environmental impact. As of Wednesday, more than half the fuel they contained had leaked out, and by Sunday the leaks could stop, according to Kristoffer Bottzauw, the head of the Danish Energy Agency.

ny times logoNew York Times, Pentagon Plans to Set Up a New Command to Arm Ukraine, Eric Schmitt, Sept. 30, 2022 (print ed.). The new command signals that the United States expects the threat from Russia to persist for many years.

The Pentagon is preparing to overhaul how the United States and its allies train and equip the Ukrainian military, reflecting what officials say is the Biden administration’s long-term commitment to support Ukraine in its war with Russia.

The proposal would streamline a training and assistance system that was created on the fly after the Russian invasion in February. The system would be placed under a single new command based in Germany that would be led by a high-ranking U.S. general, according to several military and administration officials.

Gen. Christopher G. Cavoli, the top American officer in Europe, recently presented a proposal outlining the changes to Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, the officials said. Mr. Austin and his top aides are reviewing the plan and are likely to make a final decision in the coming weeks, senior U.S. officials said, adding that the White House and the Pentagon favored the approach. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe confidential discussions.

Department of Defense SealJust as the Pentagon has committed more than $16 billion in military aid to Ukraine — a combination of immediate shipments from stockpiles as well as contracts for weapons to be delivered over the next three years — the new command signals that the United States expects the threat from Russia to Ukraine and its neighbors to persist for many years, current and former senior U.S. officials said.

“This recognizes the reality of the important mission of security assistance to our Ukrainian partners,” said Adm. James G. Stavridis, a former supreme allied commander for Europe. “This will also create a formal security structure that our allies and partners can adhere to in terms of getting their equipment and training into the hands of the Ukrainians.”

Gen. David H. Petraeus, a former top U.S. commander in Iraq and Afghanistan, concurred. “This would be a very important and very appropriate initiative,” he said, “given the magnitude of the U.S. effort and the contributions of our NATO allies.”

The new command, which would report to General Cavoli, would carry out the decisions made by the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, a coalition of 40 countries that the Defense Department created after the Russian invasion to address Ukraine's needs and requests. Senior military officials from the member nations met in Brussels this week.

Recent Headlines

 

Trump Probes, Disputes, Rallies, Supporters

 

djt fbi evidence mar a lago

Partially redacted documents with classified markings, including colored cover sheets indicating their status, that FBI agents reported finding in former president Donald Trump’s office at his Mar-a-Lago estate. The photo shows the cover pages of a smattering of paperclip-bound classified documents — some marked as “TOP SECRET//SCI” with bright yellow borders and one marked as “SECRET//SCI” with a rust-colored border — along with whited-out pages, splayed out on a carpet at Mar-a-Lago. Beside them sits a cardboard box filled with gold-framed pictures, including a Time magazine cover. (U.S. Department of Justice photo.)

 

Aileen Cannon (shown in a screenshot of her confirmation hearing in 2020)

washington post logoWashington Post, Cannon rules Trump lawyers don’t have to clarify claims on Mar-a-Lago documents, Perry Stein, Sept. 30, 2022 (print ed.). Special master Raymond Dearie had told Donald Trump’s attorneys lawyers to address whether documents were planted or declassified.

Judge Aileen M. Cannon (shown above in a screenshot of her video confirmation hearing) told Donald Trump’s lawyers Thursday that they did not need to comply with an order from special master Raymond J. Dearie and state in a filing whether they believe FBI agents lied about documents seized from the former president’s Florida residence.

Thursday’s ruling was the first clash between Cannon, a Trump appointee who has generally shown the former president deference in litigation over the Mar-a-Lago investigation, and Dearie, a federal judge she appointed as an outside expert in the case, who appears to be far more skeptical of Trump.

At the request of Trump’s lawyers, Cannon chose Dearie to review approximately 11,000 documents seized Aug. 8 from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club and residence and determine whether any should be shielded from investigators because of attorney-client or executive privilege.

Dearie last week told the former president’s legal team that they couldn’t suggest in court filings that the government’s description of the seized documents — including whether they were classified — was inaccurate without providing any evidence. He ordered them to submit to the court by Oct. 7 any specific inaccuracies they saw in the government’s inventory list of seized items.

It would have been a key test of Trump’s legal strategy, as his lawyers decided whether to back up Trump’s controversial public claims that the FBI planted items at his residence and that he had declassified all the classified documents before leaving office — or whether they would take a more conciliatory approach.

But according to Cannon, who is still the ultimate authority in the portion of the case dealing with which of the unclassified documents federal investigators may use, such a decision is not required right now.

CNN, Trump pushing back on special master’s request for him to declare in court whether DOJ inventory is accurate, Tierney Sneed and Katelyn Polantz, Sept. 29, 2022. Former President Donald Trump is pushing back against a plan from the special master overseeing the review cnn logoof documents seized from Mar-a-Lago that would require Trump to declare in court whether the Justice Department’s inventory from the search is accurate.

The requested declaration would force the former President to go on the record in court about his suggestion that the FBI may have planted evidence during the search on August 8.

djt march 2020 Custom

Trump’s objection to the request for the declaration was made public Wednesday night in a court filing from his lawyers after the Justice Department discussed his opposition vaguely in a public submission to U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie, who is serving as special master, Tuesday evening.

Trump’s team argued the court order appointing Dearie made mention only of a declaration from a government official verifying the Justice Department’s search inventory, and that there was no such reference to a declaration from the Trump side. In the newly-public filing, which was a letter sent privately to Dearie Sunday, Trump said he had to object to the requirement “because the Special Master’s case management plan exceeds the grant of authority from the District Court on this issue.”

“Additionally, the Plaintiff currently has no means of accessing the documents bearing classification markings, which would be necessary to complete any such certification by September 30, the currently proposed date of completion,” Trump said.

The former President’s team also claimed that Dearie is exceeding his authority by asking that the documents from the search be logged in categories more specific than what U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, who granted Trump’s request for the review, contemplated in her appointment order.

Trump expressed his opposition as well to providing a briefing to Dearie on whether certain legal motions related to the search were best left to the magistrate judge who approved the warrant.

Justice Department log circularraymond dearieThe Sunday objection letter to Dearie, right, was made public with a Wednesday submission from the Trump team, in which they told the special master that documents from the search amount to 200,000 pages of material. The amount of material seized has not grown significantly since prosecutors first worked through it on the day of the search – but the Trump team, now grasping the number of pages within each document, is alarmed at how quickly they’ll have to work through the collection.

The Trump team wants extra time to work through the large volume of documents – after they had been characterized earlier as 11,000 items or documents by the Justice Department, three of Trump’s lawyers wrote in a letter to Dearie on Wednesday.

The Justice Department is investigating whether a crime was committed or the nation’s security was harmed because Trump and others had federal and classified government records among the hundreds of thousands of unsecured pages at the Florida beach club after he left the presidency.

In recent days, the special master process has prompted the Trump team and the Justice Department to try to hire a service that can host the documents digitally, so they can be worked through. Earlier this week, the department said in a court filing that Trump’s team had indicated the data hosting companies didn’t want to work with the former President.

His team now says the issue is the size of the evidence collection.

“In conversations between Plaintiff’s counsel and the Government regarding a data vendor, the Government mentioned that the 11,000 documents contain closer to 200,000 pages. That estimated volume, with a need to operate under the accelerated timeframes supported by the Government, is the reason why so many of the Government’s selected vendors have declined the potential engagement,” Trump’s team wrote on Wednesday.

Trump, in his Wednesday letter to Dearie, also complained that attorneys working on the investigation may have been exposed to a small number of confidential attorney-client communications before either the department’s filter team or the special master could review.

 

maggie haberman confidence man

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump weighed bombing drug labs in Mexico, according to new book, Josh Dawsey, Sept. 29, 2022 (print ed.). New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman’s Confidence Man details unusual, erratic interactions between Donald Trump and world leaders, members of Congress and his own aides.

As president, Donald Trump weighed bombing drug labs in Mexico after one of his leading public health officials came into the Oval Office, wearing a dress uniform, and said such facilities should be handled by putting “lead to target” to stop the flow of illicit substances across the border into the United States.

djt hands up mouth open Custom“He raised it several times, eventually asking a stunned Defense Secretary Mark Esper whether the United States could indeed bomb the labs,” according to a new book by New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman. White House officials said the official, Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir, often wore his dress uniform for mexico flag1meetings with Trump, which confused him.

“The response from White House aides was not to try to change Trump’s view, but to consider asking Giroir not to wear his uniform to the Oval Office anymore,” Haberman writes in “Confidence Man,” an extensive book about Trump’s time in New York and as president.

The 607-page book, which has long been awaited by many of Trump’s aides, is set to be published Tuesday. A copy was obtained by The Washington Post. The book details unusual and erratic interactions between Trump and world leaders, members of Congress and his own aides, along with behind-the-scenes accounts of his time as a businessman.

Presented with a detailed accounting of the book’s reporting, a Trump spokesman did not directly respond. “While coastal elites obsess over boring books chock full of anonymously-sourced fairytales, America is a nation in decline. President Trump is focused on Saving America, and there’s nothing the Fake News can do about it,” said Taylor Budowich, the spokesman.

When asked by The Post about the account of the Oval Office discussion, Giroir said in an email that he does not comment on such private conversations with Trump. He went on to criticize the flow of drugs across the border from Mexico and voice support for substance abuse treatment. “But these measures will not stop this mass murder of Americans,” he added. “Every option needs to be on the table.”

 

U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jan. 6 committee postpones planned hearing as Hurricane Ian advances, Jacqueline Alemany and Josh Dawsey, Sept. 28, 2022 (print ed.). The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol is postponing its highly anticipated hearing because of Hurricane Ian, which is expected to barrel into the western coast of Florida on Wednesday, according to two people familiar with the decision.

It’s unclear when the daytime hearing, which seeks to recapture the nation’s attention with what is likely to be the panel’s final public hearing before the release of a final report, will be rescheduled.

The hearing follows eight highly produced, news-making hearings that aired over June and July, featuring blockbuster testimony from former White House officials, poll workers and law enforcement officers. During the committee’s August hiatus, staff doubled back to their investigative work to follow new leads and answer unresolved questions.

The final hearing is expected in part to focus on how associates of former president Donald Trump planned to declare victory regardless of the outcome of the 2020 election, according to people familiar with hearing planning. The Washington Post reported Monday that the committee intends to show video of Roger Stone recorded by Danish filmmakers during the weeks before the violence in which Stone predicted violent clashes with left-wing activists and forecast months before Election Day that Trump would use armed guards and loyal judges to stay in power.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

 Recent HeadlinesRoger Stone watches news coverage of the Capitol riot in his suite at the Willard hotel on Jan. 6, 2021 (Photo by Kristin M. Davis.)

Roger Stone watches news coverage of the Capitol riot in his suite at the Willard hotel on Jan. 6, 2021 2021 (Photo by Kristin M. Davis.). He is shown below also with several from the ultra-right group Oath Keepers, some of whose members have served as his bodyguards.

roger stone oath keepers

 

World News, Human Rights, Disasters

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Even as Iranians Rise Up, Protests Worldwide Are Failing at Record Rates, Max Fisher, Sept. 30, 2022. Mass protests, once a grave threat to even the fiercest autocrat, have plummeted in effectiveness, our Interpreter columnist writes.

Iran’s widening protests, though challenging that country’s government forcefully and in rising numbers, may also embody a global trend that does not augur well for the Iranian movement.

Mass protests like the ones in Iran, whose participants have cited economic hardships, political repression and corruption, were once considered such a powerful force that even the strongest autocrat might not survive their rise. But their odds of success have plummeted worldwide, research finds.

Such movements are today more likely to fail than they were at any other point since at least the 1930s, according to a data set managed by Harvard University researchers.

The trajectory of Iran’s demonstrations remains far from certain. Citizen uprisings still sometimes force significant change, for example in Sri Lanka, where protests played a role in removing a strongman president this year.

But Iran’s unrest follows scores of popular eruptions in recent months — in Haiti and Indonesia, Russia and China, even Canada and the United States — that, while impactful, have largely fallen short of bringing the sort of change that many protesters sought or was once more common.

This sharp and relatively recent shift may mark the end of a decades-long era when so-called people power represented a major force for democracy’s spread.

Throughout most of the 20th century, mass protests grew both more common and more likely to succeed, in many cases helping to topple autocrats or bring about greater democracy.

By the early 2000s, two in three protest movements demanding systemic change ultimately succeeded, according to the Harvard data. In retrospect, it was a high-water mark.

ny times logoNew York Times, A suicide attack at an educational center in Kabul killed at least 19 people, mostly young female students, Yaqoob Akbary and Christina Goldbaum, Sept. 30, 2022. A suicide attack on Friday at an educational center in Afghanistan’s capital killed at least 19 people, mostly young female students, adding to fears among many Afghans, particularly in the ethnic Hazara minority, about whether the new Taliban government can protect them from rising violence by extremist groups.

The blast wounded at least 27 people, Taliban officials said, and was the latest in a string of attacks in recent months on schools and education centers. Reports from medical staff treating the victims in nearby hospitals suggest that final casualty figures could be much higher.

The education center targeted on Friday was in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood of the capital, Kabul, an area dominated by Hazaras, a group that under the previous Western-backed government suffered frequent attacks from both the Taliban insurgency and the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan, known as Islamic State Khorasan, or ISIS-K.

Since the Taliban seized power a year ago, ISIS-K has continued to carry out ruthless attacks on Hazaras, a predominantly Shiite Muslim minority, and has even expanded its violence to parts of the country where it had not previously been active.

ny times logoNew York Times, Eurozone Inflation Sets Another Record, Hitting 10 Percent in September, Patricia Cohen and Melissa Eddy, Sept. 30, 2022. Jumps in energy and food prices pushed inflation in the 19 countries that use the euro to the highest annual rate recorded since the currency was created.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bolsonaro vs. Lula: A referendum on Brazil’s young democracy, Gabriela Sá Pessoa and Anthony Faiola, Sept. 29, 2022 (print ed.). He’s sowed doubt about electronic voting machines, undermined election officials and dubbed his main challenger a corrupt “thief.” An unabashed fan of the former military dictatorship, he has prodded his adoring base to “go to war” if the election here Sunday is “stolen.”

jair bolsonaro brazilIn the process, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, right, trailing in the polls for reelection to a second term, has raised fears of the old ghost that still haunts Latin America: a coup. Or, perhaps, a Brazilian take on the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

brazil flag waving“There’s a new type of thief, the ones who want to steal our liberty,” Bolsonaro told supporters in June. He added, “If necessary, we will go to war.”

Thirty-seven years after Latin America’s largest nation threw off the military dictatorship, the presidential election is shaping up as a referendum on democracy.

The vote — Sunday is the first round — is pitting Bolsonaro’s supporters, the most radical of whom want a strongman in office, against Brazilians eager to end his Trumpian run. Since taking office in 2019, Bolsonaro has overseen the accelerating destruction of the Amazon rainforest, dismissed the coronavirus pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of Brazilians and weathered allegations that he has encouraged excessive use of force by police.

Critics say he has also deeply undermined democracy — filling key positions with present and former military commanders, picking a war with the supreme court and stacking the prosecutor’s office and police with loyalists.

The choice between former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, 76, and Bolsonaro, 67, has put Brazil on the front lines of the global tug of war between democracy and authoritarianism. The contest here is being closely watched in the United States — whose politics and polarization Brazil has seemed to mirror.

ny times logoNew York Times, Brazil’s Favorite Leftist Is Out of Prison and Trying to Defeat Bolsonaro, Jack Nicas and Flávia Milhorance, Sept. 30, 2022 (print ed.). Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is trying to cap a stunning political comeback with victory against the incumbent Jair Bolsonaro on Sunday.

luiz Inácio lula da silva first term portraitIn 2019, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, shown at right in a portrait from his first term, was spending 23 hours a day in an isolated cell with a treadmill in a federal penitentiary.

The former president of Brazil was sentenced to 22 years on corruption charges, a conviction that appeared to end the storied career of the man who had once Lula headshot 2022been the lion of the Latin American left.

Now, freed from prison, Mr. da Silva, shown at left in a 2022 photo, is on the brink of becoming Brazil’s president once again, an incredible political resurrection that at one time seemed unthinkable.

On Sunday, Brazilians will vote for their next leader, with most choosing between President Jair Bolsonaro, 67, the right-wing nationalist incumbent, and Mr. da Silva, 76, a zealous leftist known simply as “Lula,” whose corruption convictions were annulled last year after Brazil’s Supreme Court ruled that the judge in his cases was biased.

ny times logoNew York Times, Despite Iran’s Efforts to Block Internet, Technology Has Helped Fuel Outrage, Vivian Yee, Sept. 30, 2022 (print ed.). Online, Iranians engage in a world their leaders don’t want them to see. In the physical world, Iran’s authoritarian leaders answer to no one. They try, but often fail, to keep Iranians away from Western entertainment and news. Thanks to their rules, women are required to shroud their hair with head scarves, their bodies with loose clothing.

On the internet, Iranians are often able to slip those bonds.

They squeal over the Korean boy band BTS and the actor Timothée Chalamet. They post Instagram selfies: no head scarf, just hair. They can watch leaked videos of appalling conditions in Iranian prisons, inspect viral photos of the luxurious lives that senior officials’ children are leading abroad while the economy collapses at home, read about human rights abuses, swarm politicians with questions on Twitter and jeer their supreme leader, anonymously, in comments.

“In one world, the government controlled everything, and people always had to hide what they think, what they want, what they like, what they enjoy in their real life,” said Mohammad Mosaed, an Iranian investigative journalist who has been arrested twice for posting content online that the government considered objectionable.

“But on the internet, people had a chance to say what they want, to show who they really are,” he said. “And that caused conflict between the two worlds.”

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Economy, Governance, Immigration

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. bonds may be having their worst ever year, our columnist writes, but much of the damage is behind us, Jeff Sommer Sept. 30, 2022. It is a horrible time for stocks, which have spent the year in a bear market. But guess what? When you look at the historical record, bonds are worse.

This year is the most devastating period for bonds since at least 1926, the numbers show. And, in the estimation of one bond maven, 2022 is shaping up to be the worst year for bonds since reliable record-keeping began in the late 18th century.

Yet as bad as things are now, history and basic fixed-income math tell us that bond investors will begin to experience relief when interest rates stop rising. You can count on that eventually, though we don’t know when it will happen.

Much as truly long-term investors are likely to be better off if they can ignore the turmoil in the stock market and just hang onto well-diversified holdings in low-cost index funds, most bond investors can expect to benefit if they can ride out this upheaval and hold onto their bonds, whether owned individually or in diversified funds.

Since the 1920s, the stock market has usually produced wonderful returns over the long haul, but it has frequently generated short-term losses that have dominated headlines. That’s certainly happening this year.

Bonds — especially the investment-grade core of the market, which includes U.S. Treasuries and high-quality corporate bonds — are supposed to be Steady Eddies, so boring that they are comforting. They provide an income stream and, typically, also offer something else: a buffer against losses in the stock market.

Not so this year.

Bonds are being hammered all over the world. British government bonds, known as gilt, have taken huge losses this week, and the Bank of England intervened.

In the United States, bond investors are experiencing large paper losses that are closely connected to red-hot inflation, and to the rising interest rates engineered by the Federal Reserve to curb the pace of soaring prices.

Because bond prices and interest rates (a.k.a. yields) move in opposite directions — that is simply the way bonds work — the steep rise in rates has automatically led to deep drops in bond prices.

Politico, Education Department says that a subset of federal student loans owned by private lenders no longer qualify for relief, Michael Stratford, Sept. 30, 2022 (print ed.). The Biden administration is curtailing its sweeping student debt relief program for several million Americans whose education department seal Custom 2federal student loans are owned by private companies over concerns the industry would challenge it in court.

politico CustomThe Education Department will no longer allow borrowers with privately held federal student loans to receive loan forgiveness under the administration’s plan, according to guidance updated on the agency’s website Thursday. The administration had previously said that those debt-holders would have a path to receive the administration’s relief of $10,000 or $20,000 per borrower.

Thursday’s policy reversal comes as the Biden administration this week faces its first major legal challenges to the program, which Republicans have railed against as an illegal use of executive power that is too costly for taxpayers.

The federal student loans held by private entities — through a program known as the Federal Family Education Loan program — is a relatively small subset of outstanding federal student loans. It accounts for just several million of the 45 million Americans who owe federal student loans.

But the business interests that surround the program — a collection of private lenders, guaranty agencies, loan servicers and investors of the loans — make the federally guaranteed loan program an outsized legal threat to the administration.

Private lenders and other entities that participate in the federally guaranteed student loan program are widely seen, both inside and outside the administration, as presenting the greatest legal threat to the program.
Biden's student debt relief announcement in 180 seconds

Many of those companies face losses as borrowers convert their privately held federal student loans into ones that are owned directly by the Education Department — through a process known as consolidation.

Secretary Miguel CardonaAdministration officials said when they announced the debt relief program in August that borrowers with federally guaranteed loans held by private lenders would be able to receive loan forgiveness by consolidating their debt into a new loan made directly by the Education Department (which is led by Secretary Miguel Cardona, right).

The agency said Thursday that borrowers who already took those steps to receive loan forgiveness would still receive it. But the Education Department said that path is no longer available to borrowers after the new guidance.

“Our goal is to provide relief to as many eligible borrowers as quickly and easily as possible, and this will allow us to achieve that goal while we continue to explore additional legally-available options to provide relief to borrowers with privately owned FFEL loans and Perkins loans, including whether FFEL borrowers could receive one-time debt relief without needing to consolidate,” an Education Department spokesperson said in a statement.

The spokesperson said that the policy change would affect “only a small percentage of borrowers” but did not immediately provide any new data. The most recent federal data, as of June 30, shows there were more than 4 million federal borrowers with $108.8 billion of loans held by private lenders.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate passes bill to avert shutdown, includes $12.4 billion in aid for Ukraine, Jacob Bogage, Sept. 30, 2022 (print ed.). Democrats and Republicans agreed to a stopgap spending bill that includes $12.4 billion in new assistance to Ukraine.

The Senate on Thursday passed stopgap legislation to avert a government shutdown, funding the federal government until Dec. 16 and approving new resources for Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s invasion.

The rare bipartisan compromise, struck on the eve of the hotly contested midterm elections, advances a continuing resolution — a bill to sustain government funding at current levels, often called a “CR” — to the House for final approval. The Senate vote was 72-25; three senators did not vote. The lower chamber is expected take up the measure Friday.

Once Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) agreed to remove language from the legislation that would have overhauled federal rules for permitting large energy projects, the bill easily overcame a procedural vote in the evenly divided Senate on Tuesday, signaling a probable glide path to final passage.

Senate moves ahead on short-term spending bill after Manchin-backed provision is removed

The legislation includes $12.4 billion in military and diplomatic assistance for Ukraine in its now seven-month-long war with Russia but does not include money the Biden administration requested for vaccines, testing and treatment for the coronavirus or monkeypox.

Politico, Pritzker drops $11M on Illinois Dems, Shia Kapos, Sept. 30, 2022 (print ed.). Gov. JB Pritzker is in the process of donating more than $11 million from his campaign fund to Illinois Democrats up and down the ballot, according to the State Board of Elections and his campaign office.

politico CustomThe goal is to keep supermajorities in the Illinois General Assembly and, maybe, allies on the Chicago City Council.

From the campaign: “There’s nothing JB Pritzker cares more about than electing Democrats up and down the ticket in Illinois,” Pritzker Campaign Manager Mike Ollen told Playbook. “He wants to make sure people all across the state have champions for women's reproductive rights and working families in every elected office in Illinois. That’s what these donations are intended to do.”

Democrats for the Illinois House received $3 million, and the Illinois Democratic Party got $1.5 million.

jay pritzker CustomThe governor, right, is still talking with Illinois Senate Democrats before a likely donation of $1 million. Pritzker wants to ensure that those resources aren’t used to support senators the governor has urged to resign.

Statewide candidates Kwame Raoul, the incumbent attorney general, and Alexi Giannoulias, the secretary of state candidate, each received $1 million. Raoul faces Republican Tom DeVore, an attorney notorious for filing lawsuits against Pritzker’s Covid-19 mandates. And Giannoulias, a former state treasurer, faces Republican state Rep. Dan Brady.

Supreme donations: The Democrats running in the two highly contested Illinois Supreme Court races — Elizabeth Rochford and Mary Kay O’Brien — each received $500,000.

Courting counties: Pritzker donated $1 million to Cook County Democrats, the bluest county in the state and anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 to other Democratic county organizations across Illinois.

Political orgs got some, too: The Latino Legislative Caucus and Illinois Black Caucus PAC each received $25,000. Personal PAC, which backs candidates who support reproductive rights, got $100,000. And Equality Illinois and Chicago Votes each received $10,000.

Even at the ward level: Chicago Ald. Michelle Harris, who two years ago ran for party chair with Pritzker’s support, was given $59,000. And numerous other ward organizations in Chicago each received $5,000 to beef up their coffers for get-out-the-vote efforts.

NEW POLL: The governor holds a 15-point lead over his GOP challenger, state Sen. Darren Bailey,according to a new WGN-TV/The Hill/Emerson College Polling survey of likely voters.

A majority of voters, 51 percent, support Pritzker’s reelection while 36 percent support Bailey. Just 5 percent of those polled say they plan to vote for someone else and 8 percent remain undecided.

 

corey lewandowski testimony proofPolitico, Corey Lewandowski cuts deal on charge stemming from alleged unwanted sexual advances, Alex Isenstadt, Sept. 29, 2022 (print ed.). Corey Lewandowski (shown above in a file photo), who was Donald Trump's first campaign manager, allegedly touched a woman repeatedly at a Las Vegas charity dinner in 2021.

politico CustomFormer senior Donald Trump adviser Corey Lewandowski has cut a deal with Las Vegas prosecutors after he was charged with misdemeanor battery, stemming from allegations of unwanted sexual advances toward a woman during a charity dinner in Sept. 2021.

The charge came nearly a year after Trashelle Odom accused Lewandowski of repeatedly touching her, including on her leg and buttocks, and speaking to her in sexually graphic terms. POLITICO reported that Odom, the wife of Idaho construction executive and major GOP donor John Odom, also alleged that Lewandowski “stalked” her throughout the hotel where the event took place, told her she had a “nice ass,” and threw a drink at her.

The charge was filed earlier this month in Clark County, Nev., according to court records. The records show that Lewandowski agreed to a deal that will see him undergo eight hours of impulse control counseling, serve 50 hours of community service and stay out of trouble for a year. He also paid a $1,000 fine.

republican elephant logoUnder the agreement, Lewandowski did not have to admit guilt, and once the conditions are met, the charges will be dismissed.

Lewandowski was Trump’s first campaign manager and remained a key informal adviser during Trump’s time in the White House, and he remained part of Trump’s inner circle of political advisers after the former president lost reelection. But Lewandowski was quickly fired from his position running Trump’s super PAC, and he was also let go from consulting roles with other corey lewandowski kristi noemRepublican politicians, including South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (shown with him at right in file photos) and then-Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster.

Trump’s spokesperson said at the time that Lewandowski “will no longer be associated with Trump world,” while Noem’s spokesperson said Lewandowski “will not be advising the governor in regard to the campaign or official office.”

But Lewandowski soon worked his way back into Republican politics in 2022. Lewandowski was seen with Noem at a Republican Governors Association event in May, POLITICO reported, and he signed on to consult for GOP hopefuls this year including Ohio Senate candidate Jane Timken and Massachusetts gubernatorial hopeful Geoff Diehl. Lewandowski also attended the Mar-a-Lago premiere of a film espousing election conspiracy theories in April.

Odom was one of about two dozen major Republican donors who attended a September 2021 charity dinner at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino’s Benihana restaurant. Odom, who was seated next to Lewandowski during the dinner, alleged that Lewandowski spoke about his genitalia and sexual performance, and showed her his hotel room key. Odom’s husband was not present at the time.

Odom said that Lewandowski touched her around 10 times, and that she repeatedly rebuffed him. After leaving the dinner, she said that Lewandowski followed her, threw a drink at her and called her “stupid.” She also said that Lewandowski tried to intimidate her, saying he was “very powerful” and could “destroy anyone.”

At an after-party, witnesses said they observed Lewandowski following Odom around a bar area, while some people present tried to shield her from him. One person recalled seeing Odom in tears. Those who were present for the dinner described Lewandowski as appearing intoxicated.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Mississippi’s welfare scandal goes much deeper than Brett Favre, Rick Maese, Sept. 27, 2022. The welfare scandal involves the Hall of Fame quarterback, professional wrestlers and state officials. Groups that rely on the missing funds are feeling the sting.

brett favre 2016 super wIn 2017, a Mississippi nonprofit called Operation Shoestring received a federal grant worth more than $200,000. But when the organization sought to renew the funding a year later, the money was no longer available.

“It had been reallocated in ways we’re reading about now,” Robert Langford, executive director of Operation Shoestring, which has been providing aid to families in need for more than a half-century, said in an interview.

Mississippi’s widening welfare scandal involves tens of millions of dollars and has embroiled the state’s former governor, Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre, right, and professional wrestlers, among others. Organizations such as Operation Shoestring, and the at-risk populations that rely on those funds, continue to feel the sting.

As Langford tried to renew the funding in 2018, the state officials tasked with distributing the money were found to be funneling millions away from those it was intended for. The scandal’s impact will be felt for years, advocates say.

ny times logoNew York Times, Blake Masters Strains to Win Over Arizona’s Independent Voters, Jazmine Ulloa, Sept. 29, 2022 (print ed.). Surveys suggest that independents, about a third of the state’s electorate, are lukewarm on the Republican’s Senate bid.

Skepticism from voters in the political center is emerging as a stubborn problem for Mr. Masters as he tries to win what has become an underdog race against Senator Mark Kelly, a moderate Democrat who leads in the polls of one of the country’s most important midterm contests.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Mass Shootings, Law

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court, dogged by questions of legitimacy, is ready to resume, Robert Barnes, Sept. 30, 2022 (print ed.). A new term opens with public approval of the court at historic lows and the justices themselves debating what the court’s rightward turn means for its institutional integrity. The Supreme Court begins its new term Monday, but the nation, its leaders and the justices themselves do not appear to be over the last one.

The court’s 6-to-3 conservative majority quickly moved its jurisprudence sharply to the right, and there is no reason to believe the direction or pace is likely to change. This version of the court seems steadfast on allowing more restrictions on abortion, fewer on guns, shifting a previously strict line separating church and state, and reining in government agencies.

If it is the conservative legal establishment’s dream, it has come at a cost.

Polls show public approval of the court plummeted to historic lows — with a record number of respondents saying the court is too conservative — after the right wing of the court overturned Roe v. Wade’s guarantee of a constitutional right to abortion. President Biden is trying to put the court in the political spotlight, hoping the abortion decision’s shock waves rocked the foundation of this fall’s midterm elections, once thought to be a boon to Republicans.

And the justices themselves are openly debating what the court’s rightward turn has meant for its institutional integrity. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. defends his conservative colleagues, with whom he does not always agree, saying unpopular decisions should not call the court’s legitimacy into question.

On the other side, liberal Justice Elena Kagan increasingly is sounding an alarm about the next precedents that could fall and the implications for public perception of the bench.

The court’s new docket offers that potential.

Justices have agreed to revisit whether universities can use race in a limited way when making admission decisions, a practice the court has endorsed since 1978. Two major cases involve voting rights. The court again will consider whether laws forbidding discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation must give way to business owners who do not want to provide wedding services to same-sex couples. And after limiting the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority in air pollution cases last term, the court will hear a challenge regarding the Clean Water Act.

  igor danchenko john durham

washington post logoWashington Post, In ‘close call,’ judge declines to toss case against Steele dossier source, Salvador Rizzo, Sept. 30, 2022 (print ed.). U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga allowed special counsel John Durham, above right, to put Igor Danchenko, above left, on trial in October, but said it was ‘an extremely close call.’

A federal judge on Thursday rejected a request to dismiss special counsel John Durham’s case against Igor Danchenko — an analyst who was a key source for a 2016 dossier of allegations about Donald Trump’s purported ties to Russia, and who was later charged with lying to the FBI about the information he used to support his claims.

anthony trengaU.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga, right (a nominee of Republican President George W. Bush), ruled that Danchenko’s case must be weighed by a jury, clearing the way for his trial next month. But it was “an extremely close call,” Trenga said from the bench.

The ruling is a victory, if only a temporary one, for Durham — who was asked by former attorney general William P. Barr in 2019, during the Trump administration, to investigate the FBI’s 2016 Russia investigation. Durham’s investigation came to focus in large part on the FBI’s use of the so-called “Steele dossier,” a collection of claims about Trump compiled by British ex-spy Christopher Steele.

But the judge’s remark that the decision was difficult could be an ominous sign, as Durham still must convince jurors Danchenko is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The special counsel’s investigation suffered a setback in May when another person charged with lying to the FBI, cybersecurity lawyer Michael Sussmann, was acquitted by a jury in D.C. federal court. Danchenko’s trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 11 in federal court in Alexandria, Va. Durham argued the case personally at the hearing Thursday.

The jury will be asked to weigh statements Danchenko, who has pleaded not guilty, made during FBI interviews in 2017 about a longtime Washington public relations executive aligned with Democrats, Charles Dolan Jr., and a former president of the Russian American Chamber of Commerce, Sergei Millian.

Key to the case is whether those statements from Danchenko to the FBI were willful deceptions that had a material effect on the government’s efforts to verify the claims in the dossier, a series of reports by Steele, based on information from Danchenko and others. Steele had been hired to produce the reports by research firm Fusion GPS, which had been hired by a law firm that represented Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, and the Democratic National Committee.

Danchenko’s defense team asked the judge to dismiss the five-count indictment in a legal brief filed Sept. 2, arguing that Danchenko made “equivocal and speculative statements” to the FBI about “subjective” beliefs.

Danchenko’s prosecution, they said, was “a case of extraordinary government overreach.”

“The law criminalizes only unambiguously false statements that are material to a specific decision of the government,” Danchenko’s attorneys Stuart A. Sears and Danny Onorato wrote, adding that the FBI’s questions at issue “were fundamentally ambiguous, Mr. Danchenko’s answers were literally true, non-responsive, or ambiguous, and the statements were not material to a specific government decision.”

Durham’s team countered that the FBI’s questions were clear and that, in any event, settling disputes over contested facts is a job reserved for a jury.

An FBI agent asked Danchenko a “decidedly straightforward” question about Dolan during a June 15, 2017, interview, Durham’s team asserted in a brief filed Sept. 16.

Military.com, Army Doctor and Wife Charged with Offering Troops' Sensitive Medical Records to Russia, Konstantin Toropin, Sept. 30, 2022.  An Army officer and his anesthesiologist wife have been charged with trying to provide the personal health information of service members to Russia, the Justice Department announced on Thursday.

Maj. Jamie Lee Henry, 39, and his wife, Anna Gabrielian, 36, were indicted by a grand jury on Wednesday for conspiracy and wrongfully disclosing health information of at least seven people, including patients at the base where Henry was stationed.

Henry was an Army doctor who was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and held a secret level security clearance, according to the indictment. He gained public recognition in 2015 for reportedly being the first known active-duty Army officer to come out as transgender and the first service member to change names and gender on military records, before a prolonged political debate that eventually led to open service for transgender troops.

Although the BuzzFeed article that profiled Henry seven years ago used female pronouns, Military.com was told by a Department of Justice spokeswoman that Henry used male pronouns in court Friday.

Meanwhile, Gabrielian, according to the indictment, worked as an anesthesiologist at an unnamed medical institution in Baltimore. Her name is listed on a website for Johns Hopkins Medicine as an instructor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine. The site also notes that she speaks Russian.

In the indictment, federal officials allege that it was Gabrielian who hatched the plot around August when she "reached out directly to the Russian embassy by email and phone, offering Russia her and her husband Henry's assistance." The FBI sent an undercover agent who made contact with Gabrielian, and later Henry, and gathered the bulk of the evidence that would serve to charge them.

Military.com reached out to Henry's lawyer for comment and clarification on his pronoun preferences but did not immediately hear back. Gabriellan did not have an attorney listed in court records.

Believing that they were talking to a person connected to the Russian government, Gabrielian and Henry offered up private health information with the idea that the Russian government could use it "to gain insights into the medical conditions of individuals associated with the U.S. government and military [and] to exploit this information," authorities allege.

In their first meeting, Gabrielian told the FBI agent that she made her husband read "Inside the Aquarium" -- a book by Viktor Suvorov that described his recruitment and training by the Soviet Union's secret military intelligence agency -- "because it's the mentality of sacrificing everything."

For his part, Henry was more conflicted, telling the FBI agent that "until the United States actually declares war against Russia, I'm able to help as much as I want."

"At that point. I'll have some ethical issues I have to work through," he added.

Gabrielian replied: "You'll work through those ethical issues."

A week later, when Gabrielian met with the undercover agent, she called her husband a "coward" who was concerned over violating HIPAA privacy laws in their scheme to pass patient records. By contrast, she told the agent that she "had no such concerns and violated HIPAA 'all the time.'"

Ultimately, on Aug. 31, the pair met up with the agent in a hotel in Gaithersburg, Maryland, where Gabrielian offered up information on the spouse of a person working at the Office of Naval Intelligence and an Air Force veteran.

"Gabrielian highlighted to the [undercover FBI agent] a medical issue reflected in the records of [the first patient] that Russia could exploit," the indictment read.

Meanwhile, Henry provided information on five people being treated at Fort Bragg that included a retired Army officer, a current Department of Defense employee, and three spouses of Army veterans -- both living and deceased.

According to court records, the couple even thought ahead to a life on the run or in Russia.

Henry told the FBI agent that he was "committed to assisting Russia and had looked into volunteering to join the Russian Army after the conflict in Ukraine began," a Department of Justice press release explained. However, the indictment says he discovered "Russia wanted people with 'combat experience' and he did not have any."

Gabrielian, meanwhile, came up with an escape plan for the couple's children if the pair "were told to act in a way that could expose their communications and actions to the U.S. government."

"She wanted her and Henry's children to 'have a nice flight to Turkey to go on vacation because I don't want to end in jail here with my kids being hostages over my head,'" the indictment alleges.

According to the Department of Justice, both Gabrielian and Henry had their first court appearances Thursday in Baltimore.

The press release noted that, if convicted, the pair face a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison for the conspiracy, and a maximum of 10 years in federal prison for each count of disclosing health information.

Recent Headlines

 

Public Health, Pandemic, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: New Infectious Threats Are Coming. The U.S. Isn’t Ready, Apoorva Mandavilli (Ms. Mandavilli has covered both the Covid pandemic and the monkeypox outbreak. She spoke with more than a dozen health experts about failures in the national response that must be remedied), Sept. 30, 2022 (print ed.). The coronavirus revealed flaws in the nation’s pandemic plans. The spread of monkeypox shows that the problems remain deeply entrenched.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2If it wasn’t clear enough during the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become obvious during the monkeypox outbreak: The United States, among the richest, most advanced nations in the world, remains wholly unprepared to combat new pathogens.

The coronavirus was a sly, unexpected adversary. Monkeypox was a familiar foe, and tests, vaccines and treatments were already at hand. But the response to both threats sputtered and stumbled at every step.

“It’s kind of like we’re seeing the tape replayed, except some of the excuses that we were relying on to rationalize what happened back in 2020 don’t apply here,” said Sam Scarpino, who leads pathogen surveillance at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Pandemic Prevention Institute.

No single agency or administration is to blame, more than a dozen experts said in interviews, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has acknowledged that it bungled the response to the coronavirus.

ny times logoNew York Times, Physician burnout has reached distressing levels, a new study found. But the situation is not irreparable, Oliver Whang, Sept. 30, 2022 (print ed.). Ten years of data from a nationwide survey of physicians confirm another trend that’s worsened through the pandemic: Burnout rates among doctors in the United States, which were already high a decade ago, have risen to alarming levels.

Results released this month and published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, a peer-reviewed journal, show that 63 percent of physicians surveyed reported at least one symptom of burnout at the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022, an increase from 44 percent in 2017 and 46 percent in 2011. Only 30 percent felt satisfied with their work-life balance, compared with 43 percent five years earlier.

“This is the biggest increase of emotional exhaustion that I’ve ever seen, anywhere in the literature,” said Bryan Sexton, the director of Duke University’s Center for Healthcare Safety and Quality, who was not involved in the survey efforts.

The most recent numbers also compare starkly with data from 2020, when the survey was run during the early stages of the pandemic. Then, 38 percent of doctors surveyed reported one or more symptoms of burnout while 46 percent were satisfied with their work-life balance.

washington post logoWashington Post, FDA approves first ALS drug in 5 years after pleas from patients, Laurie McGinley, Sept. 30, 2022 (print ed.). The treatment was thought up by two Brown University undergraduates a decade ago. The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday overcame doubts from agency scientists and approved a fiercely debated drug for ALS, a move that heartened patients and advocates who pushed for the medication but raised concerns among some experts about whether treatments for dire conditions receive sufficient scrutiny.

“It’s a huge deal,” said Sunny Brous, 35, who was diagnosed with ALS seven years ago after she had trouble closing her left glove while playing softball. She plans to begin taking the drug as soon as she can.

“Anything that shows any amount of efficacy is important,” the resident of Pico, Tex., added. Even a small change, Brous said, “might be the difference between signing my own name and someone else signing it for me.”

The newly approved therapy, which will be sold under the brand name Relyvrio, is designed to slow the disease by protecting nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord destroyed by ALS — amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The ailment paralyzes patients, robbing them of their ability to walk, talk and eventually breathe. Patients typically die within three to five years, though some live much longer with the condition sometimes called “Lou Gehrig’s disease” for the renowned baseball player diagnosed in 1939.

ny times logoNew York Times, China’s Covid propaganda has led some citizens to argue the language has bordered on “nonsense,” Zixu Wang, Sept. 30, 2022 (print ed.). “We have won the great battle against Covid!”

“History will remember those who contributed!”

“Extinguish every outbreak!”

These are among the many battle-style slogans that Beijing has unleashed to rally support around its top-down, zero-tolerance coronavirus policies.

China is now one of the last places on earth trying to eliminate Covid-19, and the Communist Party has relied heavily on propaganda to justify increasingly long lockdowns and burdensome testing requirements that can sometimes lead to three tests a week.

The barrage of messages — online and on television, loudspeakers and social platforms — has become so overbearing that some citizens say it has drowned out their frustrations, downplayed the reality of the country’s tough coronavirus rules and, occasionally, bordered on the absurd.

Recent Headlines

 

Abortion, Forced Birth Laws, Privacy Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, Special Report: What It Costs to Get an Abortion Now in America, Allison McCann, Sept. 28, 2022 (interactive). With the procedure banned in 14 states, patients face added expenses for travel, lodging and child care. More of them are turning to charities for help.

L.V. found out she was pregnant on Aug. 7. The next day she called Women’s Health and Family Care in Jackson, Wyo. — the only abortion provider in the state — to schedule an abortion.

She was told the procedure would typically cost $600 at the clinic, but a state law banning abortion might take effect soon. In that case, she would have to travel out of state, setting her back even more.

L.V., who asked to be identified only by her initials, panicked. She had recently been in a car accident and had outstanding medical and car bills to pay.

“When the clinic told me how much, my mouth dropped,” she said. She was told to contact Chelsea’s Fund, a Wyoming nonprofit that is part of a national network of abortion funds, to ask about financial assistance.

Abortion funds have for decades helped cover the cost of the procedure — about $500 in the first trimester and $2,000 or more in the second trimester — for those who cannot afford it. But they are playing a bigger role since the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, taking in more donations and disbursing more money to more patients than ever before.

washington post logoWashington Post, University of Idaho may stop providing birth control under new abortion law, Caroline Kitchener and Susan Svrluga, Sept. 27, 2022 (print ed.). Employees could be charged with a felony and fired if they appear to promote abortion, according to new guidance.

The University of Idaho’s general counsel issued new guidance on Friday about the state’s near-total abortion ban, alerting faculty and staff that the school should no longer offer birth control for students, a rare move for a state university.

University employees were also advised not to speak in support of abortion at work. If an employee appears to promote abortion, counsel in favor of abortion, or refer a student for an abortion procedure, they could face a felony conviction and be permanently barred from all future state employment, according to an email obtained by The Washington Post.

Idaho’s trigger ban took effect on Aug. 25, approximately two months after the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade. That law, which was passed by state lawmakers in 2020, bans abortions at any time after conception, except in instances where the pregnant person’s life is at risk or in cases of rape or incest so long as the crime was reported to law enforcement.

Recent Headlines

 

Water, Space, Energy, Climate, Disasters

climate change photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Nord Stream operator decries ‘unprecedented’ damage to three pipelines, Mary Ilyushina, Sept. 28, 2022 (print ed.). European officials on Tuesday launched investigations into three mysterious leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines, built to carry Russian natural gas to Europe, after the system operator reported “unprecedented” damage to the lines in the Baltic Sea.

The leaks had no immediate impact on energy supplies to the European Union, since Russia had already cut off gas flows. But gas had remained in the pipes, raising concerns about possible environmental harm from leaking methane — the main component of natural gas and, when in the atmosphere, a major contributor to climate change. Images supplied by the Danish military showed gas bubbles reaching the surface of the water.

“The damage that occurred in one day simultaneously at three lines of offshore pipelines of the Nord Stream system is unprecedented,” the company, Nord Stream AG, said in a statement to Russian state news agencies.

Russia’s Gazprom says it won’t reopen Nord Stream gas pipeline to Europe as planned

European officials suggested that the damage may have been sabotage. “It is hard to imagine that it is accidental,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said, according to the Danish newspaper Politiken. “We cannot rule out sabotage, but it is too early to conclude.”

mitch mcconnell elevator getty cropped

washington post logoWashington Post, Nord Stream spill could be biggest methane leak ever but not catastrophic, Meg Kelly, Ellen Francis and Michael Birnbaum, Sept. 30, 2022 (print ed.). The two explosions in the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines in the Baltic Sea resulted in what could amount to the largest-ever single release of methane gas into the atmosphere, but it may not be enough to have a major effect on climate change, experts say.

While sudden influxes of methane from underwater pipelines are unusual and scientists have little precedent to fall back on, the consensus is that with so much methane spewing into the atmosphere from all around the globe, the several hundred thousand tons from the pipelines will not make a dramatic difference.

“It’s not trivial, but it’s a modest-sized U.S. city, something like that,” said Drew Shindell, a professor of earth science at Duke University. “There are so many sources all around the world. Any single event tends to be small. I think this tends to fall in that category.”

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Media, Philanthropy, Education, Sports News

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Crisis of Men and Boys, David Brooks, Sept. 30, 2022 (print ed.). If you’ve been paying attention to the social trends, you probably have some inkling that boys and men are struggling, in the U.S. and across the globe.

They are struggling in the classroom. American girls are 14 percentage points more likely to be “school ready” than boys at age 5, controlling for parental characteristics. By high school two-thirds of the students in the top 10 percent of the class, ranked by G.P.A., are girls, while roughly two-thirds of the students at the lowest decile are boys. In 2020, at the 16 top American law schools, not a single one of the flagship law reviews had a man as editor in chief.

Men are struggling in the workplace. One in three American men with only a high school diploma — 10 million men — is now out of the labor force. The biggest drop in employment is among young men aged 25 to 34. Men who entered the work force in 1983 will earn about 10 percent less in real terms in their lifetimes than those who started a generation earlier. Over the same period, women’s lifetime earnings have increased 33 percent. Pretty much all of the income gains that middle-class American families have enjoyed since 1970 are because of increases in women’s earnings.

Men are also struggling physically. Men account for close to three out of every four “deaths of despair” — suicide and drug overdoses. For every 100 middle-aged women who died of Covid up to mid-September 2021, there were 184 middle-aged men who died.

  • New York Times, Bill Plante, CBS News’s Man at the White House, Dies at 84, Sept. 30, 2022. He covered four presidencies in a 52-year career and never worried about “offending those in power in pursuit of answers.”
  • New York Times, Shakira Is Accused of Tax Evasion in Spain. Here’s What We Know, Sept. 30, 2022. Prosecutors have charged the Colombian singer with six counts of tax fraud. She has repeatedly denied the accusations.

Recent Headlines

 

Sept. 29

Top Headlines

 

Damage from Hurricane Ian is show in Fort Myers, Florida (New York Times photo by Kinfay Moroti).

 

Threats To U.S. Democracy

Justice Amy Coney Barrett and her husband, Jesse Barrett, pose outside the U.S. Supreme Court on the day of her investiture ceremony at the Court (Associated Press photo by J. Scott Applewhite). Justices shield spouses’ work from potential conflict of interest disclosures.

 

More Investigations

 

More On Ukraine War

 

Trump Probes, Disputes, Rallies, Supporters

 

djt fbi evidence mar a lago

 

World News, Human Rights, Disasters

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Economy, Governance

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Immigration, Shootings, Gun Laws

 

Pandemic, Public Health

 

Abortion, Forced Birth Laws, Privacy Rights

 

Food, Water, Energy, Climate, Disasters

 

U.S. Media, Philanthopy, Culture, Education


 

Top Stories

 

Damage from Hurricane Ian is show in Fort Myers, Florida (New York Times photo by Kinfay Moroti).

Damage from Hurricane Ian is show in Fort Myers, Florida (New York Times photo by Kinfay Moroti).

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Florida Hurricane Reports: Ian Hampers Emergency Response and Leaves Millions Without Power, Staff Reports, Sept. 29, 2022. Life-Threatening Flooding and Millions Without Power; Emergency services were hampered as the storm tore across the state, bringing severe winds and storm surge, and dumping as much as a foot of rain on cities; More than two million customers were without power as the storm made its way toward the Atlantic Ocean.

Ian barreled across the Florida peninsula early Thursday, with officials still assessing the damage but warning that the storm could set flooding records and go down as one of the worst storms to ever hit the state. Ian was downgraded to a tropical storm on Thursday as it neared Florida’s eastern coast. It was expected to continue into the Atlantic Ocean, possibly regaining strength before threatening Georgia and the Carolinas on Friday.

Our reporters are on the ground in Florida. Here’s the latest:

  • Rescue efforts were underway along the state’s western coast, which reported widespread severe flooding. The authorities in Naples said more than half of the streets were not “passable,” and storm surge of more than 12 feet was recorded in some areas.
  • More than 2.5 million customers were without power across the state.
  • President Biden declared the storm a major disaster, ordering federal aid to help with recovery.

In related news reports:

  • New York Times, Weakened but still dangerous, Ian is headed toward Georgia and South Carolina.
  • New York Times, Ian’s slower progress could add to widespread flooding in Florida across areas far from the coasts.
  • New York Times, Before the storm, Florida’s southwest coast was a place to escape the chaos.
  • New York Times, Hurricane Ian’s devastation shows the challenge of pricing climate risk.
  • Politico, DHS waives Jones Act for Puerto Rico to supply fuel after hurricane

washington post logoWashington Post, Ian regains hurricane strength and is poised to strike South Carolina, Zach Rosenthal, Sept. 29, 2022. Areas from northern Florida all the way up through New York City could see impacts from Ian, which has resumed strengthening. After generating a disastrous ocean surge, destructive winds and devastating flooding in Florida, Ian still has one more act. The National Hurricane Center’s latest forecast calls for Ian, again a hurricane, to make a second U.S. landfall near Charleston, S.C., on Friday.

Hurricane warnings have been posted for the entire South Carolina coast, while tropical storm warnings are in effect from just north of West Palm Beach, Fla., all the way to Duck, N.C.

Hurricane Ian live updates: Ian has brought ‘historic’ damage to Florida, DeSantis says; 2.6M lose power in the state

Although Ian weakened from a strong Category 4 hurricane with 150 mph winds at landfall on Wednesday to a tropical storm by Thursday morning, it resumed strengthening over the Atlantic Ocean just east of Florida in the afternoon and recaptured hurricane status at 5 p.m.

ny times logoNew York Times, Hurricane Ian’s Toll Is Severe. Lack of Insurance Will Make It Worse, Christopher Flavelle, Sept. 29, 2022. Most of the Florida homes in the path of Hurricane Ian lack flood insurance, posing a major challenge to rebuilding efforts, new data show.

In the counties whose residents were told to evacuate, just 18.5 percent of homes have coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program, according to Milliman, an actuarial firm that works with the program.

Within those counties, homes inside the government-designated floodplain, the area most exposed to flooding, 47.3 percent of homes have flood insurance, Milliman found. In areas outside the floodplain — many of which are still likely to have been damaged by rain or storm surge from Ian — only an estimated 9.4 percent of homes have flood coverage.

The small share of households with flood insurance demonstrates the challenges posed by the country’s approach to rebuilding after disasters — a mix of public and private funding that is under strain as climate change makes those disasters more frequent and severe.

If people can’t pay to rebuild their homes after disasters, the financial toll of climate change for households and communities could become ruinous.

Regular homeowners’ insurance policies typically don’t pay for damage caused by flooding, which is why the Federal Emergency Management Agency offers flood insurance. The coverage is expensive, with average premiums close to $1,000 a year, according to data from Forbes. But without it, homeowners hit by flooding are left to rely on either savings, loans or charity to rebuild.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ian nears Category 5 as Fla. governor warns of ‘nasty’ days ahead, Scott Dance, Jason Samenow, Andrew Jeong and Ellen Francis, Sept. 29, 2022 (print ed.). Hurricane Ian is approaching Category 5 strength with maximum sustained winds of almost 155 miles per hour, the National Hurricane Center said early Wednesday. Ahead of a landfall expected by Wednesday afternoon, meteorologists ron desantis owarned it will cause “catastrophic storm surge, winds, and flooding in the Florida peninsula.”

“This is going to be a nasty, nasty day” and more will follow, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), right, told a news conference early Wednesday as the massive storm caused widespread power outages. He said 5,000 Florida National Guard members and 2,000 more from neighboring states were activated. Cuba — which was completely left without power after Ian severely disrupted the national electric system — began restoring electricity to its grid early Wednesday but warned that repairs will be slow.

  • New York Times, Weakened but still dangerous, Ian is headed toward Georgia and South Carolina.

 

By calling up roughly 300,000 reservists to fight, and abandoning the objective of demilitarizing and “de-Nazifying” Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin of Russia acknowledged the reality and growing resistance of a unified Ukraine in a televised address on Sept. 21, 2022 (Pool photo by Gavriil Grigorov via New York Times).By calling up roughly 300,000 reservists to fight, and abandoning the objective of demilitarizing and “de-Nazifying” Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin of Russia acknowledged the reality and growing resistance of a unified Ukraine in a televised address on Sept. 21, 2022 (Pool photo by Gavriil Grigorov via New York Times).

 washington post logoWashington Post, War in Ukraine: In blatant violation of international law, Putin to formally claim four Ukrainian regions, Robyn Dixon, Sept. 29, 2022. The Russian president plans to hold an annexation ceremony Friday after staged referendums — illegal under international law, with widespread reports of voter coercion — concluded earlier this week in portions of four regions in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday will formally move to seize four Ukrainian regions by signing documents that the Kremlin is calling “accession treaties.”

russian flag wavingThe signing ceremony, to take place in the Grand Kremlin Palace, marks Putin’s attempt to annex the regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, even though Russia does not fully control them militarily or politically.

The move, in defiance of stern international warnings including from President Biden, potentially slams the door on diplomacy for years to come, and almost certainly assures further escalation of the war in Ukraine, with Kyiv insisting it will fight to reclaim all of its lands and Western allies promising to send more weapons and economic assistance.

Putin’s recent declaration of a partial military mobilization, intended to activate hundreds of thousands of reinforcements for deployment to Ukraine, and the sabotage this week of two Nord Stream natural gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea have raised fears that the Russian leader is readying for a long hybrid conflict with NATO.

  • Washington Post, NATO decries pipeline ‘sabotage’ amid efforts to measure environmental impact
  • Washington Post, Live briefing: Separatist leaders gather in Moscow ahead of annexation ceremony

oleg deripaska

washington post logoWashington Post, Russian oligarch Oleg Vladimirovich Deripaska indicted for evading sanctions, Shayna Jacobs, Sept. 29, 2022. Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, right, has been indicted on a charge of sanctions evasion, part of an ongoing effort by the Justice Department to hold wealthy Russians with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin accountable for violating U.S. laws as Russia’s war in Ukraine rages on.

Deripaska’s indictment, unsealed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, names other defendants accused of participating in his efforts to skirt sanctions that were imposed on him in 2018, when he was slapped with economic penalties by the U.S. government for acting on behalf of a Russian official and for operating in Russia’s energy sector.

Federal prosecutors argue that Deripaska, 52, whose fortune was built on the international aluminum trade, skirted sanctions to conduct business in the United States by using intermediaries for transactions, including those related to a set of properties he indirectly owns, including a 23,000-square-foot Embassy Row mansion.

The oligarch allegedly used a naturalized U.S. citizen from New Jersey, Olga Shriki, to facilitate the $3 million sale of a music studio he owned in California. Shriki was in custody Thursday; Deripaska and the others, who do not live in the United States, remain at large.

Deripaska’s 33-year-old girlfriend, Ekaterina Voronia, was charged with making false statements to officials when she traveled to the United States to give birth to their child in 2020. Shriki and Natalia Bardakova were charged with helping to facilitate the birth of the baby. Voronia allegedly traveled on a private jet, with Shriki coordinating “hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of U.S. medical care, housing, child care and other logistics” in the effort, according to a 31-page federal indictment.

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, a brutal conflict that has ravaged the country since February, generated renewed international scrutiny for wealthy Russians like Deripaska, who has accumulated billions as a confidant of the Russian leader and as an insider in his government.

While not directly engaging in the conflict, the Biden administration has provided weapons and supplies to the Ukrainian army. It also has turned its attention to enforcing sanctions, trying to boost pressure on Russian leader Vladimir Putin by targeting those in his inner circle and hurting them financially.

FBI Assistant Director Michael J. Driscoll said in a statement that once the sanctions against Deripaska were imposed, he “continued to circumvent those sanctions through an international network of enablers and facilitators.”

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Damian Williams added in a news release that sanctions enforcement “is a vital tool wielded by this Office and our law enforcement partners as we seek to deter Russian aggression.”

About a year ago, federal agents searched two homes connected to Deripaska — in Washington and in New York. A person with knowledge of the matter at the time told The Post that it was connected to a criminal investigation.

A spokeswoman for Deripaska said then that the searches “were being carried out on the basis of two court orders, connected to U.S. sanctions.” She noted that the homes in question were not owned by Deripaska. The government has now alleged that they were really his.

ny times logoNew York Times, Special Report: What It Costs to Get an Abortion Now in America, Allison McCann, Sept. 28, 2022 (interactive). With the procedure banned in 14 states, patients face added expenses for travel, lodging and child care. More of them are turning to charities for help.

L.V. found out she was pregnant on Aug. 7. The next day she called Women’s Health and Family Care in Jackson, Wyo. — the only abortion provider in the state — to schedule an abortion.

She was told the procedure would typically cost $600 at the clinic, but a state law banning abortion might take effect soon. In that case, she would have to travel out of state, setting her back even more.

L.V., who asked to be identified only by her initials, panicked. She had recently been in a car accident and had outstanding medical and car bills to pay.

“When the clinic told me how much, my mouth dropped,” she said. She was told to contact Chelsea’s Fund, a Wyoming nonprofit that is part of a national network of abortion funds, to ask about financial assistance.

Abortion funds have for decades helped cover the cost of the procedure — about $500 in the first trimester and $2,000 or more in the second trimester — for those who cannot afford it. But they are playing a bigger role since the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, taking in more donations and disbursing more money to more patients than ever before.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: How McKinsey Got Into the Business of Addiction, Walt Bogdanich and Michael Forsythe (Bogdanich and Forsythe, investigative reporters at The Times, are the authors of the forthcoming book “When McKinsey Comes to Town: The Hidden Influence of the World’s Most Powerful Consulting Firm,” from which this article is adapted), Sept. 29, 2022. The consulting firm’s work with opioid makers is well known, but for decades McKinsey worked with Big Tobacco and has also advised Juul, the e-cigarette company.

When McKinsey & Company, the global consulting giant, sat down with executives of Juul Labs in late 2017, the vaping company was well on its way to becoming a sensation among teenagers eager to latch on to the latest fad — inhaling flavored, supercharged nicotine vapor through a sleek new device easily hidden from parents and teachers.

juulWith grand ambitions, Juul needed marketing advice from McKinsey, the most respected voice in consulting, to help it on its way to a valuation greater than the Ford Motor Company. For less than two years of work, McKinsey billed Juul $15 million to $17 million.

But the client came with a reputational risk, and McKinsey preferred to keep the arrangement secret. Although its product was conceived as a way to help adults stop smoking, Juul stood accused of marketing nicotine to teenage nonsmokers, addicting a new generation in much the same way the cigarette industry hooked their parents. This month, several years after McKinsey took the company as a client, Juul agreed to pay $438.5 million to settle government investigations into its marketing practices, though it did not acknowledge wrongdoing in the settlement. Those marketing practices had included using young models, social media and flavored nicotine.

McKinsey, which was not involved in the settlement, said its work with Juul had focused on youth vaping prevention. That work was just the latest in a decades-long history of consulting for companies that sell addictive products. The full story of McKinsey’s role in advising these companies — while also consulting for their government regulators — has never been told.
Biden administration scales back student debt relief for millions amid legal concerns

 

Threats To Democracy

 

Justice Amy Coney Barrett and her husband, Jesse Barrett, pose outside the U.S. Supreme Court on the day of her investiture ceremony at the Court (Associated Press photo by J. Scott Applewhite). Justices shield spouses’ work from potential conflict of interest disclosures. Justice Amy Coney Barrett and her husband, Jesse Barrett, pose outside the U.S. Supreme Court on the day of her investiture ceremony at the Court (Associated Press photo by J. Scott Applewhite). Justices shield spouses’ work from potential conflict of interest disclosures.

Politico, Justices shield spouses’ work from potential conflict of interest disclosures, Hailey Fuchs, Josh Gerstein and Peter S. Canellos, Sept. 29, 2022. Ginni Thomas, Jane Roberts and Jesse Barrett’s clients remain a mystery, fanning fears of outside influences.

A year after Amy Coney Barrett joined the Supreme Court, the boutique Indiana firm SouthBank Legal opened its first-ever Washington office in Penn Quarter, a move the firm hailed in a 2021 press release as an “important milestone.”

politico CustomThe head of the office, Jesse M. Barrett, is the justice’s husband, whose work is described by the firm as “white-collar criminal defense, internal investigations, and complex commercial litigation.”

SouthBank Legal — which lists fewer than 20 lawyers — has boasted clients across “virtually every industry”: automobile manufacturers, global banks, media giants, among others. They have included “over 25 Fortune 500 companies and over 15 in the Fortune 100,” according to the firm’s website.

But if anyone wants to find out whether Jesse Barrett’s clients have a direct interest in cases being decided by his wife, they’re out of luck. In the Supreme Court’s notoriously porous ethical disclosure system, Barrett not only withholds her husband’s clients, but redacted the name of SouthBank Legal itself in her most recent disclosure.

Over the past year, Virginia Thomas, known as Ginni, has gotten significant attention for operating a consulting business that reportedly includes conservative activist groups with interest in Supreme Court decisions as clients. Her husband, Justice Clarence Thomas, has chosen not to reveal any of his wife’s clients, let alone how much they contributed to the Thomas family coffers, dating back to when her consulting business was founded.

But a Politico investigation shows that potential conflicts involving justices’ spouses extend beyond the Thomases. Chief Justice John Roberts’ wife, Jane Roberts, has gotten far less attention. But she is a legal head-hunter at the firm Macrae which represents high-powered attorneys in their efforts to secure positions in wealthy firms, typically for a percentage of the first-year salary she secures for her clients. A single placement of a superstar lawyer can yield $500,000 or more for the firm.

Mark Jungers, a former managing partner at Major, Lindsey & Africa, the firm that employed Jane Roberts as a legal recruiter before she moved to Macrae, told Politico the firm hired her hoping it would benefit from her being the chief justice’s wife, in part, because “her network is his network and vice versa.”

Roberts lists his wife’s company on his ethics form, but not which lawyers and law firms hire her as a recruiter — even though her clients include firms that have done Supreme Court work, according to multiple people with knowledge of the arrangements with those firms.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Ginni Thomas falsely asserts to Jan. 6 panel that election was stolen, chairman says, Jacqueline Alemany, Sept. 29, 2022. Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, reiterated her belief that the 2020 election was stolen during her interview Thursday with the committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, according to the committee’s chairman, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.).

Her false assertion, nearly two years after Joe Biden’s victory, came during a five-hour closed-door interview with the committee.

The Attack: Before, during and after

Ginni Thomas, a conservative activist, drew the attention of the committee after investigators obtained emails between her and lawyer John Eastman, who had advocated a fringe legal theory that Vice President Mike Pence could block the congressional certification of Biden’s electoral college win.

She also repeatedly pressed White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to find ways to overturn the election, according to messages she sent to him weeks after the election. The messages represent an extraordinary pipeline between Thomas and one of Trump’s top aides as the president and his allies were vowing to take their efforts all the way to the Supreme Court.

The committee says it may use clips from her appearance, if they are warranted, in a future hearing. But lawmakers have not yet scheduled their next hearing.

Mark Paoletta, an attorney for Thomas, said in a statement that she appeared before the panel “to clear up the misconceptions about her activities surrounding the 2020 elections.”

“As she has said from the outset, Mrs. Thomas had significant concerns about fraud and irregularities in the 2020 election,” the lawyer said. “And, as she told the Committee, her minimal and mainstream activity focused on ensuring that reports of fraud and irregularities were investigated. Beyond that, she played no role in any events after the 2020 election results.”

The panel had previously contemplated issuing a subpoena to compel her testimony.

 United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (l) with his wife of thirty-five years, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas (r). (Safe Image)

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas sits with his wife, Virginia Thomas, while he waits to speak at the Heritage Foundation on Oct. 21, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Drew Angerer via Getty Images).

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Eagerness of Ginni Thomas, Michelle Cottle, Sept. 28, 2022 (print ed.). Ginni Thomas has become a problem. You don’t have to be a left-wing, anti-Trump minion of the deep state to think it’s a bad look for American democracy to have the wife of a Supreme Court justice implicated in a multitentacled scheme to overturn a free and fair presidential election. But that is where this political moment finds us.

A longtime conservative crusader, Ms. Thomas increasingly appears to have been chin deep in the push to keep Donald Trump in power by any means necessary. Her insurrection-tinged activities included hectoring everyone from state lawmakers to the White House chief of staff to contest the results. She also swapped emails with John Eastman, the legal brains behind a baroque plot to have Vice President Mike Pence overturn the election that may have crossed the line from sketchy into straight-up illegal. Along the way, Ms. Thomas peddled a cornucopia of batty conspiracy theories, including QAnon gibberish about watermarked ballots in Arizona.

Even by the standards of the Trumpified Republican Party, this is a shameful turn of events. And after extended negotiations, Ms. Thomas has finally agreed to voluntarily testify soon before the Jan. 6 House committee. Her lawyer has declared her “eager” to “clear up any misconceptions about her work relating to the 2020 election.”

No doubt we’re all looking forward to her clarifications. But many people would be even more eager to have a bigger question addressed: How is it that someone with such evident contempt for democracy, not to mention a shaky grip on reality, has run amok for so long at the highest levels of politics and government?

The most obvious answer is that Ms. Thomas is married to a very important man. And Washington is a town that has long had to contend, and generally make peace, with the embarrassing or controversial spouses and close kin of its top power players (Martha Mitchell, Billy Carter, Ivanka and Jared…).

But even within this context, Ms. Thomas has distinguished herself with the aggressiveness and shamelessness of her political activities, which she pursues with total disregard for the conflicts of interest that they appear to pose with her husband’s role as an unbiased, dispassionate interpreter of the law.

In another era, this might have prompted more pushback, for any number of reasons. But Ms. Thomas has benefited from a couple of cultural and political shifts that she has shrewdly exploited. One touches on the evolving role of power couples and political spouses. The other, more disturbing, is the descent of the Republican Party down the grievance-driven, conspiracy-minded, detached-from-reality rabbit hole.

american flag upside down distressIf most of America has come around to two-income households, Washington is overrun with bona fide power couples and has fashioned its own set of rules, official and unofficial, for dealing with them. Among these: It is bad form to suggest that a spouse should defer to his or her partner’s career, other than when explicitly required, of course. (A notable exception is the presidency, in which case the first lady is in many ways treated as if it were still 1960.) Though plenty of folks discuss it sotto voce, publicly musing that a couple’s work life might bleed into their home life is considered insulting — even sexist, if the spouse being scrutinized is a woman.

The Thomases have been playing this card for years. Ms. Thomas has forged all sorts of ties with individuals and groups with interests before her husband and his colleagues. In the chaotic aftermath of the 2000 presidential election, she was helping the conservative Heritage Foundation identify appointees for a new Republican administration, even as her husband was deliberating over the outcome of the race. When people grumble about perceived conflicts — or Ms. Thomas’s perpetual political crusading in general — the couple and their defenders complain that they are being held to different standards from others. They are adamant that of course the Thomases can stay in their respective lanes.

Pennsylvania State Sen. Doug Mastriano speaks to supporters following his victory in the state's primary to become Republican nominee for governor this year (Associated Press photo by Carolyn Kaster via MSNBC).er ap primary night via msnbcPennsylvania State Sen. Doug Mastriano speaks to supporters following his victory in the state's primary to become Republican nominee for governor this year (Associated Press photo by Carolyn Kaster via MSNBC).

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP governor nominee once urged murder charges for women getting abortions, Mariana Alfaro and Annabelle Timsit, Sept. 29, 2022 (print ed.). Doug Mastriano, a Pennsylvania state senator who is the GOP nominee for governor, once said that women who violated his proposed abortion ban should be charged with murder.

pennsylvania map major citiesMastriano — who was endorsed by former president Donald Trump in May — has appealed to hard-right voters, including by supporting strict abortion restrictions, calling the separation of church and state a “myth” and promoting the false claim that there was widespread fraud in the 2020 election.

Christian nationalism is shaping a Pa. primary — and a GOP shift

Mastriano has walked a fine line on abortion since he won the gubernatorial primary and the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, making the issue one of the most relevant ahead of the November election. While he has attempted to paint his Democratic opponent, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, as “extreme” on the issue, he has also downplayed his past stances on abortion, saying the issue is up to the state’s voters.

In a 2019 interview with Pennsylvania radio station WITF, which was first resurfaced Tuesday by NBC News, Mastriano spoke about a bill he sponsored in the state legislature that would have outlawed abortion as soon as cardiac activity is detected, around six weeks of pregnancy.

Pennsylvania Senate Bill 912 — which was never passed — would have significantly altered existing legislation in the state, which allows abortions up to 24 weeks and beyond in cases in which the mother’s life and health would be demonstrably endangered otherwise.

The interviewer asked Mastriano to clarify whether he was arguing that a woman who underwent an abortion at 10 weeks gestation should be charged with murder. “Yes, I am,” Mastriano replied, insisting that the fetus deserves “equal protection under the law.”

He also suggested in the interview that physicians who perform abortions after cardiac activity is detected should face the same charge. “It goes back down to the courts,” he said. “If it’s ruled that that little person is a baby, a human being, then that’s murder, and it has to go through the legal procedures.” The Washington Post could not immediately reach Mastriano for comment early Wednesday.

washington post logoWashington Post, AI can now create any image in seconds, bringing wonder and danger, Nitasha Tiku, Sept. 29, 2022 (print ed.). All of these images were created by the artificial intelligence text-to-image generator DALL-E. Named for Salvador Dali and Pixar’s WALL-E, DALL-E creates images based on prompts.

Since the research lab OpenAI debuted the latest version of DALL-E in April, the AI has dazzled the public, attracting digital artists, graphic designers, early adopters, and anyone in search of online distraction. The ability to create original, sometimes accurate, and occasionally inspired images from any spur-of-the-moment phrase, like a conversational Photoshop, has startled even jaded internet users with how quickly AI has progressed.

Five months later, 1.5 million users are generating 2 million images a day. On Wednesday, OpenAI said it will remove its waitlist for DALL-E, giving anyone immediate access.

The introduction of DALL-E has triggered an explosion of text-to-image generators. Google and Meta quickly revealed that they had each been developing similar systems, but said their models weren’t ready for the public. Rival start-ups soon went public, including Stable Diffusion and Midjourney, which created the image that sparked controversy in August when it won an art competition at the Colorado State Fair.

[He used AI to win a fine-arts competition. Was it cheating?]

The technology is now spreading rapidly, faster than AI companies can shape norms around its use and prevent dangerous outcomes. Researchers worry that these systems produce images that can cause a range of harms, such as reinforcing racial and gender stereotypes or plagiarizing artists whose work was siphoned without their consent. Fake photos could be used to enable bullying and harassment — or create disinformation that looks real.

Historically, people trust what they see, said Wael Abd-Almageed, a professor at the University of Southern California’s school of engineering. “Once the line between truth and fake is eroded, everything will become fake,” he said. “We will not be able to believe anything.”

“Once the line between truth and fake is eroded, everything will become fake. We will not be able to believe anything.”— Wael Abd-Almageed

OpenAI has tried to balance its drive to be first and hype its AI developments without accelerating those dangers. To prevent DALL-E from being used to create disinformation, for example, OpenAI prohibits images of celebrities or politicians. OpenAI chief executive Sam Altman justifies the decision to release DALL-E to the public as an essential step in developing the technology safely.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Activists Flood U.S. Election Offices With Challenges, Nick Corasaniti and Alexandra Berzon, Sept. 29, 2022 (print ed.). Groups fueled by right-wing election conspiracy theories are trying to toss tens of thousands of voters from the rolls.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosActivists driven by false theories about election fraud are working to toss out tens of thousands of voter registrations and ballots in battleground states, part of a loosely coordinated campaign that is sowing distrust and threatening further turmoil as election officials prepare for the November midterms.

Groups in Georgia have challenged at least 65,000 voter registrations across eight counties, claiming to have evidence that voters’ addresses were incorrect. In Michigan, an activist group tried to challenge 22,000 ballots from voters who had requested absentee ballots for the state’s August primary. And in Texas, residents sent in 116 affidavits challenging the eligibility of more than 6,000 voters in Harris County, which is home to Houston and is the state’s largest county.

djt maga hatThe recent wave of challenges have been filed by right-wing activists who believe conspiracy theories about fraud in the 2020 presidential election. They claim to be using state laws that allow people to question whether a voter is eligible. But so far, the vast majority of the complaints have been rejected, in many cases because election officials found the challenges were filed incorrectly, rife with bad information or based on flawed data analysis.

Republican-aligned groups have long pushed to aggressively cull the voter rolls, claiming that inaccurate registrations can lead to voter fraud — although examples of such fraud are exceptionally rare. Voting rights groups say the greater concern is inadvertently purging an eligible voter from the rolls.

The new tactic of flooding offices with challenges escalates that debate — and weaponizes the process. Sorting through the piles of petitions is costly and time-consuming, increasing the chances that overburdened election officials could make mistakes that could disenfranchise voters. And while election officials say they’re confident in their procedures, they worry about the toll on trust in elections. The challenge process, as used by election deniers, has become another platform for spreading doubt about the security of elections.

“It’s a tactic to distract and undermine the electoral process,” said Dele Lowman Smith, chairwoman of the DeKalb County Board of Elections in Georgia. Her county is among several in Georgia that have had to hold special meetings just to address the challenges. The state’s new Republican-backed election law requires that each challenge receive a hearing, and the process was taking up too much time in regular board meetings.

The activists say they are exercising their right to ensure that voter rolls are accurate.

“If a citizen is giving you information, wouldn’t you want to check it and make sure it’s right?” said Sandy Kiesel, the executive director of Election Integrity Fund and Force, a group involved in challenges in Michigan.

But in private strategy and training calls, participants from some groups have talked openly about more political aims, saying they believe their work will help Republican candidates. Some groups largely target voters in Democratic, urban areas.

It is not unusual for voter rolls to contain errors — often because voters have died or moved without updating their registrations. But states typically rely on systematic processes outlined in state and federal law — not on lists provided by outside groups — to clean up the information.

 

More investigations

Politico, Opinion: Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump Are Ready for the Saudi Cash, Jack Shafer, Sept. 29, 2022. The beleaguered LIV Golf tournament finally finds some willing partners.

Where did the LIV Golf tournament go to die? Fox.

If that joke didn’t scan for you, it’s likely you haven’t been following the sporting news, which has teemed all summer with stories about Saudi Arabia’s new professional golf circuit. Even though LIV has bid away some of the PGA Tour’s top stars, it carries a taint for many politico Custombecause it’s backed by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund and because Donald Trump, a big LIV supporter and a course owner, is hosting some of its tournaments.

This guilt by association has made LIV a bit of a public relations disaster, with accusations flying that the tour is a Saudi attempt to “sportswash” their execrable human-rights record with long, green drives and short, dramatic putts. LIV has proved to be such a bad idea that it has yet to win a major TV network contract.

But that’s likely about to change. According to Golfweek, the tour seems close to a deal with Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Sports 1 cable channel, but the deal comes with a catch: Instead of Fox paying LIV to air tournaments, which is the sports entertainment norm, LIV will be paying Fox. (The last sports business that paid to have its events broadcast was the Alliance of American Football, and we know how that ended.) Plus, LIV will have to sell the ad slots, not Fox, and produce the shows.

What possessed the Saudis to start a tour, and why are they paying to air their product when the PGA Tour collects $700 million a year from broadcasters for a similar spectacle? And what’s in it for Murdoch? Why isn’t he worried about blowback from the 9/11 families who protested a LIV tournament at Trump’s Bedminster course as “another atrocity“? And what’s Trump’s deal in all of this? It’s all a matter of politics colliding with commerce.

For the Saudis, crashing professional golf accomplishes two ends. The first, of course, is political. In the short term, they hope, LIV will help dilute the image held by the West of an authoritarian country murdering Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. (The hit was reportedly commissioned by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader.) In the long term, LIV thinking goes, the billions it spends establishing its tour will replace the lucrative PGA as the sport’s face and eventually become a moneymaker. With almost unlimited funds at their disposal, the Saudis believe they can’t be counted out.

 

Republican former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, left, with welfare grant recipient and former WWE wrestler Ted

Republican former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, left, with welfare grant recipient and former WWE wrestler Ted "Teddy" DiBiase Jr.

Mississippi Today, Investigation: Retired wrestler says GOP Gov. Phil Bryant cut welfare funding to nonprofit because of Democratic support, Anna Wolfe, Sept. 26, 2022. A former professional wrestler and defendant in the Mississippi welfare scandal is alleging that he personally witnessed Republican Gov. Phil Bryant instruct an appointee to cut welfare funding to a nonprofit because its director supported Democrat Jim Hood in the 2019 governor’s race.

mississippi today logoThe allegation that Bryant leveraged his control of welfare spending to punish a political opponent comes in a two-year-old federal court filing released Friday after Mississippi Today successfully motioned to unseal the case.

The account echoes a similar allegation Mississippi Today published just over a week ago that the same nonprofit was forced to fire Hood’s wife in order to keep receiving welfare grant funding.

Former WWE wrestler Ted “Teddy” DiBiase Jr. had received millions of federal welfare dollars to conduct various anti-poverty services for two private nonprofits when suddenly, the state allegedly pulled the program.

Federal authorities, who are attempting to seize DiBiase’s house because of his alleged role in the welfare scheme, say the Mississippi Department of Human Services “abandoned” the program and the wrestler failed to perform the work under his contracts. The federal complaint against DiBiase mirrors new federal charges that former welfare director John Davis pleaded guilty to on Thursday.

But what actually happened, DiBiase says, is that in 2019, Gov. Bryant directed Davis to discontinue the agency’s partnership with nonprofit Family Resource Center of North Mississippi because of its connection to Democrats in the state.

tate reevesFamily Resource Center director Christi Webb was an outspoken supporter of her friend and then-Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat who was running against Republican then-Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, right, for governor in 2019. That year, the term-limited Bryant, who still oversaw the welfare agency, also worked hard on the campaign trail to get Reeves elected to the Governor’s Mansion.

FRC was one of two nonprofits that funded the wrestler. DiBiase said his program, called the “RISE” program, was then moved out from under the private nonprofits to the state agency.

“Shortly before John Davis retired in mid-2019, he indicated … that the RISE program would be taken ‘in-house’ and overseen at MDHS as opposed to being overseen by FRC or MCEC,” reads DiBiase’s Aug. 10, 2020, answer to the federal complaint for forfeiture against him. “Upon information and belief, this occurred as a result of the Governor directing John Davis to cease funding and working with FRC because FRC’s Executive Director, Christi Webb, was openly supporting Jim Hood in the race for Mississippi Governor.”

“The claimant, who witnessed Bryant give that direction to Davis, was subsequently informed by Davis that his contracts with FRC would be moved to MCEC,” the filing continued. “This did not affect Claimant’s performance under the contract.”
Former Gov. Phil Bryant, left, and welfare grant recipient and former WWE wrestler Ted “Teddy” DiBiase pose for a photo.

Teddy DiBiase made this claim in his response to a federal forfeiture complaint the U.S. Department of Justice filed against him in 2020 alleging he entered fraudulent contracts in order to obtain welfare funds. Mississippi Today motioned to unseal the case on Aug. 18.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Ball dismissed the U.S. Department of Justice’s initial complaint against Teddy DiBiase in 2021, after his lawyers successfully argued that the complaint failed to allege a crime, and allowed the government to enter an amended complaint in August. Teddy DiBiase argues that he completed the work the nonprofits paid him to conduct, therefore earning the money legally.

Teddy DiBiase Jr.’s allegation against Bryant adds to claims that the former governor used his power to influence welfare spending, not just to benefit political allies, but to punish a Democratic opponent.

Officials have not charged Bryant civilly or criminally.

The state prosecutor who secured a guilty plea from Davis last week said investigators have their sights set on higher level officials as the welfare probe continues.

“We’re still looking through records and text messages as we continue to move up,” Hinds County District Attorney Jody Owens said after Davis’ guilty plea Thursday. “We also continue to work with the federal authorities in Washington and in Mississippi. John Davis is critical because the ladder continues to move up.”

Mississippi Today first reported a similar allegation from Webb that a local lawmaker had threatened her on Bryant’s behalf to fire Hood’s wife Debbie Hood in order to keep receiving funding from the state. Webb said she relayed the news to Debbie Hood, who agreed to resign. Hood’s campaign manager Michael Rejebian said Debbie Hood confirmed the account. Webb also alleged that she eventually refused to continue paying the DiBiases, which angered Davis.

Family Resource Center’s original founder, Cathy Grace, was also running as a Democrat in 2019 for a local House seat against Republican Rep. Shane Aguirre, R-Tupelo, who worked for FRC as an accountant in charge of reviewing invoices from its partners. Aguirre told Mississippi Today he did not work on or review the DiBiase projects.

Teddy DiBiase Jr. is the son of WWE legend Ted “The Million Dollar Man” DiBiase Sr. His younger brother, Brett DiBiase, also received welfare funds and pleaded guilty to his role in the fraud scheme in 2020. Through various contracts with the men, as well as Ted DiBiase Sr.’s Christian ministry, the DiBiase family received over $5 million in welfare funds.
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In the 2020 ongoing forfeiture complaint against Teddy DiBiase, federal authorities are attempting to seize his $1.5 million French-colonial lakeside home in the Madison community of Reunion, Clarion Ledger first reported. Prosecutors say he purchased the property with money obtained from the state’s welfare program — a total of over $3 million, according to the state auditor. At the time in 2020, the complaint contained details of an ongoing investigation.

Legal Schnauzer, Opinion: Football great Brett Favre is the big name in Mississippi scandal, but the misuse of funds intended to feed needy children stretches in multiple directions, Roger Shuler, Sept. 29, 2022.

Football Hall of Famer Brett Favre, left, has been seen as the central character in a welfare scandal that has rocked Mississippi politics. But Favre is not the only sports figure engulfed in the scandal, and it extends east toward Alabama to include Birmingham-based law firm brett favre cardBalch & Bingham, according to a report at banbalch.com.

Writes Publisher K.B. Forbes, who also serves as CEO of the Consejo De Latinos Unidos (CDLU) public charity and advocacy group:

Walter H. Boone, a Balch & Bingham partner in Mississippi, obviously outraged, tweeted about the latest corruption scandal involving football great Brett Favre, the Mississippi Department of Human Services, and millions diverted from feeding hungry children to fund Favre’s pet project: a state-of-the-art volleyball stadium at the University of Southern Mississippi, where Favre’s daughter studies and plays…volleyball. (Breleigh Favre recently transferred to LSU.)

The “scheme to defraud the government” has rocked Mississippi and angered decent and professional people like Boone.

Mississippi Today broke the story about texts between then-Governor Phil Bryant and Favre in the scheme that diverted and allegedly laundered millions for welfare nutritional program resources to a not-for-profit entity called the Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC). MCEC then funneled the money illegally to pet projects, like Favre’s Volleyball Stadium.

What about other sportsmen who join Favre in the muck? That includes a big name in wrestling -- Ted DiBiase Sr., known as "The Million Dollar Man" in his grappling days. From news reports last May:

Ted DiBiase and his sons Ted Jr. and Brett DiBiase have been sued by the state of Mississippi as the state seeks to reclaim $24 million dollars of misused federal funds meant for welfare. . . . The funds were meant to “address the multiple needs of inner-city youth” despite DiBiase Jr. possessing no qualifications to provide those services in relation to the federal grant called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF.

Meanwhile Boone's outrage seems to be misguided. Writes Forbes:

Although Balch’s Boone appears to be outraged, the reality appears to be the House of Balch is divided. Working down the hall from Boone is Balch partner Lucien Smith, who was Governor Bryant’s former Chief of Staff and served as the Chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party until he was ousted by current Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves. Bryant was seen as a Balch stooge at the time he served as Governor. Speaking of welfare, Balch & Bingham appears to live off of corporate welfare and contractual cronyism in Mississippi. According to the State of Mississippi, Balch has obtained over $27.8 million in 72 contracts. How much of Balch’s $27.8 million was obtained through cronyism and favoritism? Should there be a criminal forensic audit of Balch?

As for Boone, how might he alter his public statements? Forbes offers several suggestions:

Balch partner Boone has a right to be outraged at Favre for allegedly taking advantage of resources for poor, hungry children.

But Boone should also be outraged at his own firm, which targeted poor African American children in the North Birmingham Bribery Scandal. He should be outraged that his firm refuses to apologize for former partner Joel I. Gilbert’s criminal misconduct. He should be outraged that Balch lost tens of millions in fees to win a $242,000 judgment in the Newsome Conspiracy Case. He should be outraged at the alleged criminal and unethical misconduct surrounding Balch and its sister-wife Alabama Power.

In the meantime, Favre should repay the State of Mississippi and make a heartfelt apology to the residents of the Magnolia State.

 

 

More On Ukraine War

washington post logoWashington Post, Russians rebel after Putin drafts more people in battle for Ukraine, Sarah Cahlan, Samuel Oakford, Imogen Piper, Mary Ilyushina, Ruby Mellen and Natalia Abbakumova, Sept. 29, 2022. From Dagestan to Moscow to Siberia, dissent has been documented in videos from across Russia since President Vladimir Putin's mobilization announcement on Sept. 21.

President Vladimir Putin’s mobilization of Russian men to fight in Ukraine has brought home the reality of war to ordinary Russian families.

For months, Russian voices of dissent were largely silent. Initial antiwar demonstrations were quickly crushed and there were only small displays of defiance in major cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg. But that all changed after Putin’s announcement on Sept. 21.

Through angry protests, acts of violence and an exodus of more than 200,000 citizens, Russians are rebelling against the prospect of further escalation of the war and the steep price they will probably pay.

Kremlin officials have downplayed the turmoil but the scenes coming out of Russia tell a different story, one of widespread opposition against a government known for quashing it. Dissent has been documented across the country even in areas that were previously quiet.

Videos and images verified by The Washington Post show Russians are angry and afraid for their lives. Dozens of protests broke out in large cities and rural areas that have already lost many men to the war in Ukraine. Some took to violence, while others chose to escape: Miles-long lines of cars waited to cross land borders out of the country and international flights out of Moscow were full of fighting-age men.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The West should hunker down against Putin’s latest aggression, David Ignatius, right, Sept. 29, 2022. Here’s david ignatiusPresident Vladimir Putin’s plan to salvage his ruinous mistake of invading Ukraine: Ignore defeat. Redraw the borders. Burn the diplomatic exit ramps. Threaten nuclear war. Do anything but back down.

Think of Putin as a gambler who took the biggest risk of his career when he invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. None of his big bets have turned out right since, and he has lost nearly every hand. Yet he has chained himself to the table, and he appears ready to wager everything to intimidate his adversaries and make them fold.

Putin’s annexation of four regions in Ukraine, likely to be announced Friday, is a desperation ploy. He may try to dress it up as victory, claiming that he has now achieved the aims of his “special military operation” and can pause for the winter to regroup. Nonsense. This is the most blatantly illegal attempt to seize territory since Adolf Hitler tried to swallow Europe in World War II.

Mike Mullen, Sam Nunn and Ernest J. Moniz: What Xi must tell Putin now

Simple advice to Ukraine and its allies in the United States and Europe: Hunker down. Ride out the short-term pain. Don’t fold, but don’t shoot for the moon, either. Resist the pressure to match Putin’s wild nuclear threats. The truth is that he’s holding a weak hand. The longer he stays in, the worse his situation will become. His compulsive addiction to Ukraine will eventually be fatal. Patience is the West’s secret weapon.

The right strategy now is an updated version of the Cold War approach of “containment.” Draw firm lines. Help Ukraine inflict as much pain on Putin as possible while continuing to avoid a direct U.S.-Russian conflict unless Putin takes the mad step of going nuclear. Let the rot in the Russian system take effect, weakening Putin month by month. Encourage the disintegration of Russian power along its borders — by welcoming Finland and Sweden to NATO and the growing independence of countries such as Kazakhstan, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan. Exploit the growing tension between Moscow and Beijing.

With his takeovers, Putin has burned the diplomatic lifeboats that might have rescued him. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who in March appeared ready to negotiate a deal that would have given Putin working control of Crimea and the Donbas region, now says that after Friday’s expected seizures, there will be nothing to negotiate. Putin might want a frozen conflict, but he will have a hot one. Ukrainian soldiers are still advancing in Kherson, Luhansk and Donetsk. And Ukrainian partisan fighters are killing Russian occupiers and their local puppets every day.

 

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

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Zelensky’s Answer to Russia’s Escalating Threats: Defiance, Andrew E. Kramer, Sept. 29, 2022. In a nightly address, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine told Russian soldiers: “If you want to live, run.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky and his government are responding with defiance and a touch of bravado to a stream of threats from Russia as it prepares to take the provocative step of declaring parts of Ukraine to be Russian territory.

ukraine flagAmid ominous signals from Moscow about escalating the war, including hinting at the use of nuclear weapons, Ukrainian forces are pressing ahead with their attack on Russian troops in the east and the south in regions that Russia intends on Friday to claim as its own. And government officials are pursuing a propaganda advantage as well, posting instructions on social media, in Russian, about how Russian soldiers can surrender safely.

Mr. Zelensky has taken pains to point out he is not dismissive of the Russian threat. He said he did not believe Mr. Putin was bluffing about threats of military escalation or the use of nuclear weapons.

But he also gave a public reminder of Ukraine’s recent successes, awarding medals on Wednesday to 320 soldiers and other security service members for the counterstrike this month in the Kharkiv region in northeastern Ukraine.

Russia set the annexation plans in motion after the offensive broke through the Russian Army’s lines and forced it to retreat from thousands of square miles of land.

Annexation would allow Russia to assert that Ukraine is attacking its territory, not the other way around, and Russian officials have spoken of defending their claims by any means, a hint at the potential use of nuclear weapons. Russia also announced a draft to call up hundreds of thousands of new soldiers.

The ploy is already underway: Russian proxy leaders from four Ukrainian provinces have traveled to Moscow to formally appeal to President Vladimir V. Putin to join Russia after sham referendums ostensibly backed the idea. A stage has been erected on Red Square.

The State of the War

  • Annexation Push: After sham referendums in four Russian-occupied territories in Ukraine, where some were made to vote at gunpoint, the Kremlin is moving ahead with plans to annex the regions.
  • Nord Stream Pipeline: Explosions under the Baltic Sea and the rupture of major natural gas pipelines from Russia to Germany appeared to be a deliberate attack, European officials said, exposing the vulnerability of the continent’s energy infrastructure. But a mystery remains: Who did it?
  • The Eastern Front: The battle for the critical Donbas region in Ukraine’s east is now centered on two strategically important cities: Lyman and Bakhmut. The fighting is fierce as both Russian and Ukrainian forces race to claim new ground before winter sets in.
  • Russia’s Draft: The Kremlin has acknowledged that its new military draft has been rife with problems — an admission that comes after protests have erupted across Russia, recruitment centers have been attacked and thousands of men leave the country.

 

nato logo flags nameny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: NATO labeled the Nord Stream gas pipeline leaks sabotage and promised a “determined response,” Shashank Bengali, Sept. 29, 2022. NATO on Thursday blamed sabotage for bringing down the Nord Stream gas pipelines and pledged “a united and determined response” to any attack against alliance members’ critical infrastructure.

“All currently available information indicates that this is the result of deliberate, reckless, and irresponsible acts of sabotage,” NATO said in a statement.

The statement did not specify what action the military alliance would take, but it added to a growing chorus from the West calling the leaks in the two pipelines a deliberate act. The leaks occurred after large explosions were detected on Monday near the site of the ruptures.

The pipelines, Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2, were built by the Russian energy giant Gazprom to carry natural gas from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea, and the damage poses the risk of a significant escalation in the proxy energy war between Moscow and the West since fighting began in Ukraine.

Although the pipelines were not actively delivering gas, the leaks cut off a critical piece of infrastructure connecting Russia with the energy-hungry economies of Western Europe.They could take months to repair.

Poland and Ukraine have openly blamed Russia, which in turn pointed a finger at the United States. Both Moscow and Washington have issued indignant denials. On Thursday, the Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said the incident “looks like some kind of terrorist attack, possibly at the state level,” although he did not directly blame any government.

NATO said that it supported the investigations being pursued by European governments into the cause of the leaks, and joined Washington in suggesting that they could be an act of so-called hybrid warfare — an effort to undermine democratic functions, disrupt normal life and sow chaos and uncertainty. Experts said the leaks underscored the vulnerability of Europe’s vital systems.

“We, as allies, have committed to prepare for, deter and defend against the coercive use of energy and other hybrid tactics by state and nonstate actors,” NATO said. “Any deliberate attack against allies’ critical infrastructure would be met with a united and determined response.”

The damaged pipelines were filled despite being out of use. They are now spewing natural gas, which largely consists of methane, a leading contributor to global warming, raising concerns over the ruptures’ environmental impact. As of Wednesday, more than half the fuel they contained had leaked out, and by Sunday the leaks could stop, according to Kristoffer Bottzauw, the head of the Danish Energy Agency.

ny times logoNew York Times, Pentagon Plans to Set Up a New Command to Arm Ukraine, Eric Schmitt, Sept. 29, 2022. The new command signals that the United States expects the threat from Russia to persist for many years.

The Pentagon is preparing to overhaul how the United States and its allies train and equip the Ukrainian military, reflecting what officials say is the Biden administration’s long-term commitment to support Ukraine in its war with Russia.

The proposal would streamline a training and assistance system that was created on the fly after the Russian invasion in February. The system would be placed under a single new command based in Germany that would be led by a high-ranking U.S. general, according to several military and administration officials.

Gen. Christopher G. Cavoli, the top American officer in Europe, recently presented a proposal outlining the changes to Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, the officials said. Mr. Austin and his top aides are reviewing the plan and are likely to make a final decision in the coming weeks, senior U.S. officials said, adding that the White House and the Pentagon favored the approach. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe confidential discussions.

Department of Defense SealJust as the Pentagon has committed more than $16 billion in military aid to Ukraine — a combination of immediate shipments from stockpiles as well as contracts for weapons to be delivered over the next three years — the new command signals that the United States expects the threat from Russia to Ukraine and its neighbors to persist for many years, current and former senior U.S. officials said.

“This recognizes the reality of the important mission of security assistance to our Ukrainian partners,” said Adm. James G. Stavridis, a former supreme allied commander for Europe. “This will also create a formal security structure that our allies and partners can adhere to in terms of getting their equipment and training into the hands of the Ukrainians.”

Gen. David H. Petraeus, a former top U.S. commander in Iraq and Afghanistan, concurred. “This would be a very important and very appropriate initiative,” he said, “given the magnitude of the U.S. effort and the contributions of our NATO allies.”

The new command, which would report to General Cavoli, would carry out the decisions made by the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, a coalition of 40 countries that the Defense Department created after the Russian invasion to address Ukraine's needs and requests. Senior military officials from the member nations met in Brussels this week.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Updates: West condemns staged referendums, calls Nord Stream explosions ‘deliberate act,’ Adela Suliman, Robyn Dixon and Praveena Somasundaram, Sept. 29, 2022 (print ed.). The European Union vowed to investigate explosions of Nord russian flag wavingStream gas pipelines. The United States condemned staged referendums in Russian-controlled parts of Ukraine.

The explosions that damaged the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines, causing leaks into the Baltic Sea, appear to be ukraine flagthe “result of a deliberate act,” the European Union said Wednesday. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said investigations are underway into what she called “sabotage action,” vowing that deliberate disruption of European energy infrastructure would “lead to the strongest possible response.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Photos show 10-mile line at Russian border as many flee mobilization, Ellen Francis, Sept. 28, 2022 (print ed.). A traffic jam at Russia’s border with Georgia has stretched for nearly 10 miles after President Vladimir Putin’s partial military mobilization order, satellite images show.

The line of cars and trucks trying to leave formed at a crossing point on the Russian side of the border, according to U.S.-based firm Maxar Technologies, which released the photos on Monday. “The traffic jam likely continued further to the north of the imaged area,” the U.S.-based firm said. Aerial photos from the company show vehicles snaking into another long line near Russia’s border with Mongolia.
Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for the latest updates on Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Cars have also lined up at Russia’s borders with Finland and Kazakhstan since last week, when Putin announced a call-up of hundreds of thousands of reservists to fight in the Kremlin’s faltering war in Ukraine. It marks Russia’s first military mobilization since World War II.

Recent Headlines

 

Trump Probes, Disputes, Rallies, Supporters

 

djt fbi evidence mar a lago

Partially redacted documents with classified markings, including colored cover sheets indicating their status, that FBI agents reported finding in former president Donald Trump’s office at his Mar-a-Lago estate. The photo shows the cover pages of a smattering of paperclip-bound classified documents — some marked as “TOP SECRET//SCI” with bright yellow borders and one marked as “SECRET//SCI” with a rust-colored border — along with whited-out pages, splayed out on a carpet at Mar-a-Lago. Beside them sits a cardboard box filled with gold-framed pictures, including a Time magazine cover. (U.S. Department of Justice photo.)

 

Aileen Cannon (shown in a screenshot of her confirmation hearing in 2020)

washington post logoWashington Post, Cannon rules Trump lawyers don’t have to clarify claims on Mar-a-Lago documents, Perry Stein, Sept. 29, 2022. Special master Raymond Dearie had told Donald Trump’s attorneys lawyers to address whether documents were planted or declassified.

Judge Aileen M. Cannon (shown above in a screenshot of her video confirmation hearing) told Donald Trump’s lawyers Thursday that they did not need to comply with an order from special master Raymond J. Dearie and state in a filing whether they believe FBI agents lied about documents seized from the former president’s Florida residence.

Thursday’s ruling was the first clash between Cannon, a Trump appointee who has generally shown the former president deference in litigation over the Mar-a-Lago investigation, and Dearie, a federal judge she appointed as an outside expert in the case, who appears to be far more skeptical of Trump.

At the request of Trump’s lawyers, Cannon chose Dearie to review approximately 11,000 documents seized Aug. 8 from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club and residence and determine whether any should be shielded from investigators because of attorney-client or executive privilege.

Dearie last week told the former president’s legal team that they couldn’t suggest in court filings that the government’s description of the seized documents — including whether they were classified — was inaccurate without providing any evidence. He ordered them to submit to the court by Oct. 7 any specific inaccuracies they saw in the government’s inventory list of seized items.

It would have been a key test of Trump’s legal strategy, as his lawyers decided whether to back up Trump’s controversial public claims that the FBI planted items at his residence and that he had declassified all the classified documents before leaving office — or whether they would take a more conciliatory approach.

But according to Cannon, who is still the ultimate authority in the portion of the case dealing with which of the unclassified documents federal investigators may use, such a decision is not required right now.

CNN, Trump pushing back on special master’s request for him to declare in court whether DOJ inventory is accurate, Tierney Sneed and Katelyn Polantz, Sept. 29, 2022. Former President Donald Trump is pushing back against a plan from the special master overseeing the review cnn logoof documents seized from Mar-a-Lago that would require Trump to declare in court whether the Justice Department’s inventory from the search is accurate.

The requested declaration would force the former President to go on the record in court about his suggestion that the FBI may have planted evidence during the search on August 8.

djt march 2020 Custom

Trump’s objection to the request for the declaration was made public Wednesday night in a court filing from his lawyers after the Justice Department discussed his opposition vaguely in a public submission to U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie, who is serving as special master, Tuesday evening.

Trump’s team argued the court order appointing Dearie made mention only of a declaration from a government official verifying the Justice Department’s search inventory, and that there was no such reference to a declaration from the Trump side. In the newly-public filing, which was a letter sent privately to Dearie Sunday, Trump said he had to object to the requirement “because the Special Master’s case management plan exceeds the grant of authority from the District Court on this issue.”

“Additionally, the Plaintiff currently has no means of accessing the documents bearing classification markings, which would be necessary to complete any such certification by September 30, the currently proposed date of completion,” Trump said.

The former President’s team also claimed that Dearie is exceeding his authority by asking that the documents from the search be logged in categories more specific than what U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, who granted Trump’s request for the review, contemplated in her appointment order.

Trump expressed his opposition as well to providing a briefing to Dearie on whether certain legal motions related to the search were best left to the magistrate judge who approved the warrant.

Justice Department log circularraymond dearieThe Sunday objection letter to Dearie, right, was made public with a Wednesday submission from the Trump team, in which they told the special master that documents from the search amount to 200,000 pages of material. The amount of material seized has not grown significantly since prosecutors first worked through it on the day of the search – but the Trump team, now grasping the number of pages within each document, is alarmed at how quickly they’ll have to work through the collection.

The Trump team wants extra time to work through the large volume of documents – after they had been characterized earlier as 11,000 items or documents by the Justice Department, three of Trump’s lawyers wrote in a letter to Dearie on Wednesday.

The Justice Department is investigating whether a crime was committed or the nation’s security was harmed because Trump and others had federal and classified government records among the hundreds of thousands of unsecured pages at the Florida beach club after he left the presidency.

In recent days, the special master process has prompted the Trump team and the Justice Department to try to hire a service that can host the documents digitally, so they can be worked through. Earlier this week, the department said in a court filing that Trump’s team had indicated the data hosting companies didn’t want to work with the former President.

His team now says the issue is the size of the evidence collection.

“In conversations between Plaintiff’s counsel and the Government regarding a data vendor, the Government mentioned that the 11,000 documents contain closer to 200,000 pages. That estimated volume, with a need to operate under the accelerated timeframes supported by the Government, is the reason why so many of the Government’s selected vendors have declined the potential engagement,” Trump’s team wrote on Wednesday.

Trump, in his Wednesday letter to Dearie, also complained that attorneys working on the investigation may have been exposed to a small number of confidential attorney-client communications before either the department’s filter team or the special master could review.

 

maggie haberman confidence man

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump weighed bombing drug labs in Mexico, according to new book, Josh Dawsey, Sept. 29, 2022 (print ed.). New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman’s Confidence Man details unusual, erratic interactions between Donald Trump and world leaders, members of Congress and his own aides.

As president, Donald Trump weighed bombing drug labs in Mexico after one of his leading public health officials came into the Oval Office, wearing a dress uniform, and said such facilities should be handled by putting “lead to target” to stop the flow of illicit substances across the border into the United States.

djt hands up mouth open Custom“He raised it several times, eventually asking a stunned Defense Secretary Mark Esper whether the United States could indeed bomb the labs,” according to a new book by New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman. White House officials said the official, Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir, often wore his dress uniform for mexico flag1meetings with Trump, which confused him.

“The response from White House aides was not to try to change Trump’s view, but to consider asking Giroir not to wear his uniform to the Oval Office anymore,” Haberman writes in “Confidence Man,” an extensive book about Trump’s time in New York and as president.

The 607-page book, which has long been awaited by many of Trump’s aides, is set to be published Tuesday. A copy was obtained by The Washington Post. The book details unusual and erratic interactions between Trump and world leaders, members of Congress and his own aides, along with behind-the-scenes accounts of his time as a businessman.

Presented with a detailed accounting of the book’s reporting, a Trump spokesman did not directly respond. “While coastal elites obsess over boring books chock full of anonymously-sourced fairytales, America is a nation in decline. President Trump is focused on Saving America, and there’s nothing the Fake News can do about it,” said Taylor Budowich, the spokesman.

When asked by The Post about the account of the Oval Office discussion, Giroir said in an email that he does not comment on such private conversations with Trump. He went on to criticize the flow of drugs across the border from Mexico and voice support for substance abuse treatment. “But these measures will not stop this mass murder of Americans,” he added. “Every option needs to be on the table.”

 

U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jan. 6 committee postpones planned hearing as Hurricane Ian advances, Jacqueline Alemany and Josh Dawsey, Sept. 28, 2022 (print ed.). The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol is postponing its highly anticipated hearing because of Hurricane Ian, which is expected to barrel into the western coast of Florida on Wednesday, according to two people familiar with the decision.

It’s unclear when the daytime hearing, which seeks to recapture the nation’s attention with what is likely to be the panel’s final public hearing before the release of a final report, will be rescheduled.

The hearing follows eight highly produced, news-making hearings that aired over June and July, featuring blockbuster testimony from former White House officials, poll workers and law enforcement officers. During the committee’s August hiatus, staff doubled back to their investigative work to follow new leads and answer unresolved questions.

The final hearing is expected in part to focus on how associates of former president Donald Trump planned to declare victory regardless of the outcome of the 2020 election, according to people familiar with hearing planning. The Washington Post reported Monday that the committee intends to show video of Roger Stone recorded by Danish filmmakers during the weeks before the violence in which Stone predicted violent clashes with left-wing activists and forecast months before Election Day that Trump would use armed guards and loyal judges to stay in power.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

 Recent HeadlinesRoger Stone watches news coverage of the Capitol riot in his suite at the Willard hotel on Jan. 6, 2021 (Photo by Kristin M. Davis.)

Roger Stone watches news coverage of the Capitol riot in his suite at the Willard hotel on Jan. 6, 2021 2021 (Photo by Kristin M. Davis.). He is shown below also with several from the ultra-right group Oath Keepers, some of whose members have served as his bodyguards.

roger stone oath keepers

 

World News, Human Rights, Disasters

washington post logoWashington Post, Bolsonaro vs. Lula: A referendum on Brazil’s young democracy, Gabriela Sá Pessoa and Anthony Faiola, Sept. 29, 2022 (print ed.). He’s sowed doubt about electronic voting machines, undermined election officials and dubbed his main challenger a corrupt “thief.” An unabashed fan of the former military dictatorship, he has prodded his adoring base to “go to war” if the election here Sunday is “stolen.”

jair bolsonaro brazilIn the process, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, right, trailing in the polls for reelection to a second term, has raised fears of the old ghost that still haunts Latin America: a coup. Or, perhaps, a Brazilian take on the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

brazil flag waving“There’s a new type of thief, the ones who want to steal our liberty,” Bolsonaro told supporters in June. He added, “If necessary, we will go to war.”

Thirty-seven years after Latin America’s largest nation threw off the military dictatorship, the presidential election is shaping up as a referendum on democracy.

The vote — Sunday is the first round — is pitting Bolsonaro’s supporters, the most radical of whom want a strongman in office, against Brazilians eager to end his Trumpian run. Since taking office in 2019, Bolsonaro has overseen the accelerating destruction of the Amazon rainforest, dismissed the coronavirus pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of Brazilians and weathered allegations that he has encouraged excessive use of force by police.

Critics say he has also deeply undermined democracy — filling key positions with present and former military commanders, picking a war with the supreme court and stacking the prosecutor’s office and police with loyalists.

The choice between former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, 76, and Bolsonaro, 67, has put Brazil on the front lines of the global tug of war between democracy and authoritarianism. The contest here is being closely watched in the United States — whose politics and polarization Brazil has seemed to mirror.

ny times logoNew York Times, Brazil’s Favorite Leftist Is Out of Prison and Trying to Defeat Bolsonaro, Jack Nicas and Flávia Milhorance, Sept. 29, 2022. Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is trying to cap a stunning political comeback with victory against the incumbent Jair Bolsonaro on Sunday.

luiz Inácio lula da silva first term portraitIn 2019, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, shown at right in a portrait from his first term, was spending 23 hours a day in an isolated cell with a treadmill in a federal penitentiary.

The former president of Brazil was sentenced to 22 years on corruption charges, a conviction that appeared to end the storied career of the man who had once Lula headshot 2022been the lion of the Latin American left.

Now, freed from prison, Mr. da Silva, shown at left in a 2022 photo, is on the brink of becoming Brazil’s president once again, an incredible political resurrection that at one time seemed unthinkable.

On Sunday, Brazilians will vote for their next leader, with most choosing between President Jair Bolsonaro, 67, the right-wing nationalist incumbent, and Mr. da Silva, 76, a zealous leftist known simply as “Lula,” whose corruption convictions were annulled last year after Brazil’s Supreme Court ruled that the judge in his cases was biased.

ny times logoNew York Times, Despite Iran’s Efforts to Block Internet, Technology Has Helped Fuel Outrage, Vivian Yee, Sept. 29, 2022. Online, Iranians engage in a world their leaders don’t want them to see. In the physical world, Iran’s authoritarian leaders answer to no one. They try, but often fail, to keep Iranians away from Western entertainment and news. Thanks to their rules, women are required to shroud their hair with head scarves, their bodies with loose clothing.

On the internet, Iranians are often able to slip those bonds.

They squeal over the Korean boy band BTS and the actor Timothée Chalamet. They post Instagram selfies: no head scarf, just hair. They can watch leaked videos of appalling conditions in Iranian prisons, inspect viral photos of the luxurious lives that senior officials’ children are leading abroad while the economy collapses at home, read about human rights abuses, swarm politicians with questions on Twitter and jeer their supreme leader, anonymously, in comments.

“In one world, the government controlled everything, and people always had to hide what they think, what they want, what they like, what they enjoy in their real life,” said Mohammad Mosaed, an Iranian investigative journalist who has been arrested twice for posting content online that the government considered objectionable.

“But on the internet, people had a chance to say what they want, to show who they really are,” he said. “And that caused conflict between the two worlds.”

ny times logoNew York Times, To Calm Markets, Bank of England Will Buy Bonds ‘On Whatever Scale Is Necessary,’ Eshe Nelson, Sept. 29, 2022 (print ed.). The Bank of England said on Wednesday that it would temporarily buy British government bonds, a major intervention in financial markets after the new government’s fiscal plans sent borrowing costs soaring higher over the past few days.

United Kingdom flagThe news brought some relief to the bond market, but the British pound resumed its tumble, falling 1.7 percent against the dollar, to $1.05, back toward the record low reached on Monday.

The British government’s plans to bolster economic growth by cutting taxes, especially for high earners, while spending heavily to protect households from rising energy costs has been resoundingly rejected by markets and economists, in part because of the large amount of borrowing it will require at a time of rising interest rates and high inflation. The International Monetary Fund unexpectedly made a statement about the British economy on Tuesday, urging the government to “re-evaluate” its plans.

ny times logoNew York Times, Far From Routine, Asia Trip Presents Thorny Tests for Kamala Harris, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Sept. 29, 2022 (print ed.). A visit by the U.S. vice president for Shinzo Abe’s state funeral includes outreach to Asian allies over military advances by North Korea and China.

kamala harris portraitA day after she placed flowers at the funeral altar of Shinzo Abe, the assassinated former Japanese prime minister, Vice President Kamala Harris, right, traded the solemn setting of the state ceremony for the Yokosuka naval base south of Tokyo, where she took aim at China’s aggression toward Taiwan.

“China has challenged freedom of the seas. China has flexed its military and economic might to coerce and intimidate its neighbors,” Ms. Harris said on Wednesday while speaking to American sailors on board the Howard, a naval destroyer. “And we have witnessed disturbing behavior in the East China Sea and in the South China Sea, and most recently, provocations across the Taiwan Strait.”

What on the surface appeared to be a routine, symbolic trip for the vice president has become a tricky dance of diplomacy in a region increasingly unnerved by military advances by North Korea and China.

Just after Ms. Harris’s speech, South Korea reported that the North had launched two ballistic missiles into the waters off its east coast. Almost at the same time, Ms. Harris said in an interview with The New York Times that her message for the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, was that “we believe that his recent activity has been destabilizing and in many ways provocative” and that “we stand with our allies.”

The North’s launches, conducted four days after its first ballistic missile test in nearly four months, came on the eve of a planned trip by Ms. Harris to the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas.

Hours before Mr. Abe’s funeral, Ms. Harris confronted another issue weighing on South Korea: American tax credits for electric vehicles. Meeting with frustrated South Korean representatives, she defended legislation approved by Congress that excludes electric vehicles built outside North America from the credits, according to a senior administration official. The vice president planned to continue the discussion with President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea on Thursday, as well as raise concerns about his gender equality policies.

Throughout the first leg of Ms. Harris’s trip to a region walking a tightrope on China, she primarily kept the focus on Taiwan, a week and a half after President Biden appeared once again to move beyond a policy of “strategic ambiguity” by saying the United States would defend the island if China invaded.

“We will continue to oppose any unilateral change to the status quo,” Ms. Harris said, “and we will continue to support Taiwan’s self-defense, consistent with our longstanding policy.”

 

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare addresses the U.N. General Assembly on Friday, Sept. 2?, 2022) (Associated Press photo by Julia Nikhinson).Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare addresses the U.N. General Assembly on Friday (Associated Press photo by Julia Nikhinson).

washington post logoWashington Post, Solomon Islands rejects Biden’s Pacific outreach as China looms large, Michael E. Miller, Sept. 29, 2022 (print ed.). American efforts to rally Pacific island leaders at a White House summit this week were dealt a blow when the Solomon Islands said it would not endorse a joint declaration that the Biden administration plans to unveil.

China FlagAs President Biden prepared to host the leaders of a dozen Pacific countries on Wednesday and Thursday in a first-of-its-kind gathering, the Solomon Islands sent a diplomatic note to other nations in the region saying there was no consensus on the issues and that it needed “time to reflect” on the declaration.

The setback just hours before the start of the summit is a sign of the challenges Washington faces as it tries to reassert influence in a region where China has made inroads. It came as Vice President Harris tours East Asia, where she is emphasizing U.S. commitment to a “free and open Indo-Pacific” during stops in Japan and South Korea. In remarks in Japan on Wednesday, Harris condemned China’s “disturbing” actions in the region, including “provocations” against Taiwan.

washington post logoWashington Post, Queen Elizabeth II’s cause of death revealed, Karla Adam, Sept. 29, 2022. Queen Elizabeth II died of “old age,” according to her official death certificate, which did not note any contributing factors.

In extracts from the queen’s death certificate, released by the National Records of Scotland on Thursday, the local time of death for the 96-year-old monarch was shown as 3:10 p.m. That detail and others provide a glimpse into the final day of her life.

The queen died Sept. 8 at Balmoral Castle, the royal residence in the Scottish highlands where she spent her summer vacations. At 12:32 p.m. that day, the palace released a highly unusual statement saying that doctors were concerned for her health.

The news spread immediately, and soon it was revealed that the queen’s children and grandchildren, including Prince William and Prince Harry, were rushing to her bedside.

At 6.30 p.m., a second palace statement announced that the queen had “died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon.” The time of death suggests that only the queen’s two eldest children — Charles and Anne — had made it by then to Balmoral.

According to guidance from the Scottish government, “old age” as the sole cause of death should be designated only if a person was 80 years or older and several other conditions are met: The certifying doctor has personally cared for the individual for a long period, has “observed a gradual decline” in their general health and is not aware of “any identifiable disease or injury that contributed to the death.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Cuba’s power grid collapsed after the storm. Officials were working through the night to restore electricity, Camila Acosta and Oscar Lopez, Sept. 28, 2022 (print ed.). Hurricane Ian lashed Cuba on Tuesday with heavy rain and winds of up to 125 miles per hour, knocking out power to the entire island and killing two people, according to the authorities.

The Ministry of Mines and Energy said the power grid had collapsed in the wake of the storm, leaving the country in the dark as it tried to recover from heavy flooding and extensive damage. Before the sun set, residents braved wind and rain to search for food and basic supplies, lining up under overhangs to buy a piece of chicken or a bottle of oil.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Economy, Governance, Immigration

Politico, Education Department says that a subset of federal student loans owned by private lenders no longer qualify for relief, Michael Stratford, Sept. 29, 2022. The Biden administration is curtailing its sweeping student debt relief program for several million Americans whose education department seal Custom 2federal student loans are owned by private companies over concerns the industry would challenge it in court.

politico CustomThe Education Department will no longer allow borrowers with privately held federal student loans to receive loan forgiveness under the administration’s plan, according to guidance updated on the agency’s website Thursday. The administration had previously said that those debt-holders would have a path to receive the administration’s relief of $10,000 or $20,000 per borrower.

Thursday’s policy reversal comes as the Biden administration this week faces its first major legal challenges to the program, which Republicans have railed against as an illegal use of executive power that is too costly for taxpayers.

The federal student loans held by private entities — through a program known as the Federal Family Education Loan program — is a relatively small subset of outstanding federal student loans. It accounts for just several million of the 45 million Americans who owe federal student loans.

But the business interests that surround the program — a collection of private lenders, guaranty agencies, loan servicers and investors of the loans — make the federally guaranteed loan program an outsized legal threat to the administration.

Private lenders and other entities that participate in the federally guaranteed student loan program are widely seen, both inside and outside the administration, as presenting the greatest legal threat to the program.
Biden's student debt relief announcement in 180 seconds

Many of those companies face losses as borrowers convert their privately held federal student loans into ones that are owned directly by the Education Department — through a process known as consolidation.

Secretary Miguel CardonaAdministration officials said when they announced the debt relief program in August that borrowers with federally guaranteed loans held by private lenders would be able to receive loan forgiveness by consolidating their debt into a new loan made directly by the Education Department (which is led by Secretary Miguel Cardona, right).

The agency said Thursday that borrowers who already took those steps to receive loan forgiveness would still receive it. But the Education Department said that path is no longer available to borrowers after the new guidance.

“Our goal is to provide relief to as many eligible borrowers as quickly and easily as possible, and this will allow us to achieve that goal while we continue to explore additional legally-available options to provide relief to borrowers with privately owned FFEL loans and Perkins loans, including whether FFEL borrowers could receive one-time debt relief without needing to consolidate,” an Education Department spokesperson said in a statement.

The spokesperson said that the policy change would affect “only a small percentage of borrowers” but did not immediately provide any new data. The most recent federal data, as of June 30, shows there were more than 4 million federal borrowers with $108.8 billion of loans held by private lenders.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate passes bill to avert shutdown, includes $12.4 billion in aid for Ukraine, Jacob Bogage, Sept. 29, 2022. Democrats and Republicans agreed to a stopgap spending bill that includes $12.4 billion in new assistance to Ukraine.

The Senate on Thursday passed stopgap legislation to avert a government shutdown, funding the federal government until Dec. 16 and approving new resources for Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s invasion.

The rare bipartisan compromise, struck on the eve of the hotly contested midterm elections, advances a continuing resolution — a bill to sustain government funding at current levels, often called a “CR” — to the House for final approval. The Senate vote was 72-25; three senators did not vote. The lower chamber is expected take up the measure Friday.

Once Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) agreed to remove language from the legislation that would have overhauled federal rules for permitting large energy projects, the bill easily overcame a procedural vote in the evenly divided Senate on Tuesday, signaling a probable glide path to final passage.

Senate moves ahead on short-term spending bill after Manchin-backed provision is removed

The legislation includes $12.4 billion in military and diplomatic assistance for Ukraine in its now seven-month-long war with Russia but does not include money the Biden administration requested for vaccines, testing and treatment for the coronavirus or monkeypox.

Politico, Pritzker drops $11M on Illinois Dems, Shia Kapos, Sept. 29, 2022. Gov. JB Pritzker is in the process of donating more than $11 million from his campaign fund to Illinois Democrats up and down the ballot, according to the State Board of Elections and his campaign office.

politico CustomThe goal is to keep supermajorities in the Illinois General Assembly and, maybe, allies on the Chicago City Council.

From the campaign: “There’s nothing JB Pritzker cares more about than electing Democrats up and down the ticket in Illinois,” Pritzker Campaign Manager Mike Ollen told Playbook. “He wants to make sure people all across the state have champions for women's reproductive rights and working families in every elected office in Illinois. That’s what these donations are intended to do.”

Democrats for the Illinois House received $3 million, and the Illinois Democratic Party got $1.5 million.

jay pritzker CustomThe governor, right, is still talking with Illinois Senate Democrats before a likely donation of $1 million. Pritzker wants to ensure that those resources aren’t used to support senators the governor has urged to resign.

Statewide candidates Kwame Raoul, the incumbent attorney general, and Alexi Giannoulias, the secretary of state candidate, each received $1 million. Raoul faces Republican Tom DeVore, an attorney notorious for filing lawsuits against Pritzker’s Covid-19 mandates. And Giannoulias, a former state treasurer, faces Republican state Rep. Dan Brady.

Supreme donations: The Democrats running in the two highly contested Illinois Supreme Court races — Elizabeth Rochford and Mary Kay O’Brien — each received $500,000.

Courting counties: Pritzker donated $1 million to Cook County Democrats, the bluest county in the state and anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 to other Democratic county organizations across Illinois.

Political orgs got some, too: The Latino Legislative Caucus and Illinois Black Caucus PAC each received $25,000. Personal PAC, which backs candidates who support reproductive rights, got $100,000. And Equality Illinois and Chicago Votes each received $10,000.

Even at the ward level: Chicago Ald. Michelle Harris, who two years ago ran for party chair with Pritzker’s support, was given $59,000. And numerous other ward organizations in Chicago each received $5,000 to beef up their coffers for get-out-the-vote efforts.

NEW POLL: The governor holds a 15-point lead over his GOP challenger, state Sen. Darren Bailey,according to a new WGN-TV/The Hill/Emerson College Polling survey of likely voters.

A majority of voters, 51 percent, support Pritzker’s reelection while 36 percent support Bailey. Just 5 percent of those polled say they plan to vote for someone else and 8 percent remain undecided.

 

corey lewandowski testimony proofPolitico, Corey Lewandowski cuts deal on charge stemming from alleged unwanted sexual advances, Alex Isenstadt, Sept. 29, 2022 (print ed.). Corey Lewandowski (shown above in a file photo), who was Donald Trump's first campaign manager, allegedly touched a woman repeatedly at a Las Vegas charity dinner in 2021.

politico CustomFormer senior Donald Trump adviser Corey Lewandowski has cut a deal with Las Vegas prosecutors after he was charged with misdemeanor battery, stemming from allegations of unwanted sexual advances toward a woman during a charity dinner in Sept. 2021.

The charge came nearly a year after Trashelle Odom accused Lewandowski of repeatedly touching her, including on her leg and buttocks, and speaking to her in sexually graphic terms. POLITICO reported that Odom, the wife of Idaho construction executive and major GOP donor John Odom, also alleged that Lewandowski “stalked” her throughout the hotel where the event took place, told her she had a “nice ass,” and threw a drink at her.

The charge was filed earlier this month in Clark County, Nev., according to court records. The records show that Lewandowski agreed to a deal that will see him undergo eight hours of impulse control counseling, serve 50 hours of community service and stay out of trouble for a year. He also paid a $1,000 fine.

republican elephant logoUnder the agreement, Lewandowski did not have to admit guilt, and once the conditions are met, the charges will be dismissed.

Lewandowski was Trump’s first campaign manager and remained a key informal adviser during Trump’s time in the White House, and he remained part of Trump’s inner circle of political advisers after the former president lost reelection. But Lewandowski was quickly fired from his position running Trump’s super PAC, and he was also let go from consulting roles with other corey lewandowski kristi noemRepublican politicians, including South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (shown with him at right in file photos) and then-Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster.

Trump’s spokesperson said at the time that Lewandowski “will no longer be associated with Trump world,” while Noem’s spokesperson said Lewandowski “will not be advising the governor in regard to the campaign or official office.”

But Lewandowski soon worked his way back into Republican politics in 2022. Lewandowski was seen with Noem at a Republican Governors Association event in May, POLITICO reported, and he signed on to consult for GOP hopefuls this year including Ohio Senate candidate Jane Timken and Massachusetts gubernatorial hopeful Geoff Diehl. Lewandowski also attended the Mar-a-Lago premiere of a film espousing election conspiracy theories in April.

Odom was one of about two dozen major Republican donors who attended a September 2021 charity dinner at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino’s Benihana restaurant. Odom, who was seated next to Lewandowski during the dinner, alleged that Lewandowski spoke about his genitalia and sexual performance, and showed her his hotel room key. Odom’s husband was not present at the time.

Odom said that Lewandowski touched her around 10 times, and that she repeatedly rebuffed him. After leaving the dinner, she said that Lewandowski followed her, threw a drink at her and called her “stupid.” She also said that Lewandowski tried to intimidate her, saying he was “very powerful” and could “destroy anyone.”

At an after-party, witnesses said they observed Lewandowski following Odom around a bar area, while some people present tried to shield her from him. One person recalled seeing Odom in tears. Those who were present for the dinner described Lewandowski as appearing intoxicated.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Mississippi’s welfare scandal goes much deeper than Brett Favre, Rick Maese, Sept. 27, 2022. The welfare scandal involves the Hall of Fame quarterback, professional wrestlers and state officials. Groups that rely on the missing funds are feeling the sting.

brett favre 2016 super wIn 2017, a Mississippi nonprofit called Operation Shoestring received a federal grant worth more than $200,000. But when the organization sought to renew the funding a year later, the money was no longer available.

“It had been reallocated in ways we’re reading about now,” Robert Langford, executive director of Operation Shoestring, which has been providing aid to families in need for more than a half-century, said in an interview.

Mississippi’s widening welfare scandal involves tens of millions of dollars and has embroiled the state’s former governor, Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre, right, and professional wrestlers, among others. Organizations such as Operation Shoestring, and the at-risk populations that rely on those funds, continue to feel the sting.

As Langford tried to renew the funding in 2018, the state officials tasked with distributing the money were found to be funneling millions away from those it was intended for. The scandal’s impact will be felt for years, advocates say.

ny times logoNew York Times, Blake Masters Strains to Win Over Arizona’s Independent Voters, Jazmine Ulloa, Sept. 29, 2022 (print ed.). Surveys suggest that independents, about a third of the state’s electorate, are lukewarm on the Republican’s Senate bid.

Skepticism from voters in the political center is emerging as a stubborn problem for Mr. Masters as he tries to win what has become an underdog race against Senator Mark Kelly, a moderate Democrat who leads in the polls of one of the country’s most important midterm contests.

ny times logoNew York Times, In the House fight for the New York City suburbs, will abortion turn the tide for Democrats? Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Sept. 29, 2022 (print ed.). Several competitive House races on Long Island have become fertile ground for candidates to test out common Republican and Democratic campaign themes.

U.S. House logoA year ago, Republicans staged an uprising in the Long Island suburbs, winning a slew of races by zeroing in on public safety and suggesting that Democrats had allowed violent crime to fester.

Now, with the midterms approaching, Democratic leaders are hoping that their own singular message, focused on abortion, might have a similar effect.

“Young ladies, your rights are on the line,” Laura Gillen, a Democrat running for Congress in Nassau County, said to two young women commuting toward the city on a recent weekday morning. “Please vote!”

Long Island has emerged as an unlikely battleground in the bitter fight for control of the House of Representatives, with both Democrats and Republicans gearing up to pour large sums of money into the contests here.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Mass Shootings, Law

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court, dogged by questions of legitimacy, is ready to resume, Robert Barnes, Sept. 29, 2022. A new term opens with public approval of the court at historic lows and the justices themselves debating what the court’s rightward turn means for its institutional integrity. The Supreme Court begins its new term Monday, but the nation, its leaders and the justices themselves do not appear to be over the last one.

The court’s 6-to-3 conservative majority quickly moved its jurisprudence sharply to the right, and there is no reason to believe the direction or pace is likely to change. This version of the court seems steadfast on allowing more restrictions on abortion, fewer on guns, shifting a previously strict line separating church and state, and reining in government agencies.

If it is the conservative legal establishment’s dream, it has come at a cost.

Polls show public approval of the court plummeted to historic lows — with a record number of respondents saying the court is too conservative — after the right wing of the court overturned Roe v. Wade’s guarantee of a constitutional right to abortion. President Biden is trying to put the court in the political spotlight, hoping the abortion decision’s shock waves rocked the foundation of this fall’s midterm elections, once thought to be a boon to Republicans.

And the justices themselves are openly debating what the court’s rightward turn has meant for its institutional integrity. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. defends his conservative colleagues, with whom he does not always agree, saying unpopular decisions should not call the court’s legitimacy into question.

On the other side, liberal Justice Elena Kagan increasingly is sounding an alarm about the next precedents that could fall and the implications for public perception of the bench.

The court’s new docket offers that potential.

Justices have agreed to revisit whether universities can use race in a limited way when making admission decisions, a practice the court has endorsed since 1978. Two major cases involve voting rights. The court again will consider whether laws forbidding discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation must give way to business owners who do not want to provide wedding services to same-sex couples. And after limiting the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority in air pollution cases last term, the court will hear a challenge regarding the Clean Water Act.

  igor danchenko john durham

washington post logoWashington Post, In ‘close call,’ judge declines to toss case against Steele dossier source, Salvador Rizzo, Sept. 29, 2022. U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga allowed special counsel John Durham, above right, to put Igor Danchenko, above left, on trial in October, but said it was ‘an extremely close call.’

A federal judge on Thursday rejected a request to dismiss special counsel John Durham’s case against Igor Danchenko — an analyst who was a key source for a 2016 dossier of allegations about Donald Trump’s purported ties to Russia, and who was later charged with lying to the FBI about the information he used to support his claims.

anthony trengaU.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga, right (a nominee of Republican President George W. Bush), ruled that Danchenko’s case must be weighed by a jury, clearing the way for his trial next month. But it was “an extremely close call,” Trenga said from the bench.

The ruling is a victory, if only a temporary one, for Durham — who was asked by former attorney general William P. Barr in 2019, during the Trump administration, to investigate the FBI’s 2016 Russia investigation. Durham’s investigation came to focus in large part on the FBI’s use of the so-called “Steele dossier,” a collection of claims about Trump compiled by British ex-spy Christopher Steele.

But the judge’s remark that the decision was difficult could be an ominous sign, as Durham still must convince jurors Danchenko is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The special counsel’s investigation suffered a setback in May when another person charged with lying to the FBI, cybersecurity lawyer Michael Sussmann, was acquitted by a jury in D.C. federal court. Danchenko’s trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 11 in federal court in Alexandria, Va. Durham argued the case personally at the hearing Thursday.

The jury will be asked to weigh statements Danchenko, who has pleaded not guilty, made during FBI interviews in 2017 about a longtime Washington public relations executive aligned with Democrats, Charles Dolan Jr., and a former president of the Russian American Chamber of Commerce, Sergei Millian.

Key to the case is whether those statements from Danchenko to the FBI were willful deceptions that had a material effect on the government’s efforts to verify the claims in the dossier, a series of reports by Steele, based on information from Danchenko and others. Steele had been hired to produce the reports by research firm Fusion GPS, which had been hired by a law firm that represented Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, and the Democratic National Committee.

Danchenko’s defense team asked the judge to dismiss the five-count indictment in a legal brief filed Sept. 2, arguing that Danchenko made “equivocal and speculative statements” to the FBI about “subjective” beliefs.

Danchenko’s prosecution, they said, was “a case of extraordinary government overreach.”

“The law criminalizes only unambiguously false statements that are material to a specific decision of the government,” Danchenko’s attorneys Stuart A. Sears and Danny Onorato wrote, adding that the FBI’s questions at issue “were fundamentally ambiguous, Mr. Danchenko’s answers were literally true, non-responsive, or ambiguous, and the statements were not material to a specific government decision.”

Durham’s team countered that the FBI’s questions were clear and that, in any event, settling disputes over contested facts is a job reserved for a jury.

An FBI agent asked Danchenko a “decidedly straightforward” question about Dolan during a June 15, 2017, interview, Durham’s team asserted in a brief filed Sept. 16.

 

washington post logoWashington Post, Texas man who assaulted police on Jan. 6 sentenced to four years, Tom Jackman, Sept. 28, 2022. Lucas Denney, a former military police officer, spent 90 minutes attacking officers, swung a pipe and used chemical spray, prosecutors said.

A former military police officer from Texas — who excitedly planned for physical violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, engaged in hand-to-hand battle with police there for nearly 90 minutes, then lied about being in Washington when questioned by the FBI — was sentenced Wednesday to slightly more than four years in prison.

Federal prosecutors sought eight years in prison for Lucas Denney, 45, of Mansfield, Tex., arguing that Denney’s helmet, tactical vest and hardened gloves qualified as body armor and therefore should increase his sentencing range by 30 months. But U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss rejected the 30-month enhancement and then issued a sentence of 52 months. That was below the recommended range of 57 to 71 months established by the federal guidelines, which are advisory.

Starting in December 2020, Denney began recruiting members of a newly formed militant group, Patriot Boys of North Texas, to join him in D.C. for the “Stop the Steal” rally — where President Donald Trump whipped supporters into a frenzy with false claims of election fraud — and also to raise funds for weapons, gear and travel, prosecutors said in their sentencing brief. In Facebook messages, Denney wrote that “We are linking up with thousands of Proud Boys and other militia that will be there. This is going to be huge. And it’s going to be a fight.”

Texas man, temporarily lost in system, pleads guilty to assaulting police on Jan. 6

On Jan. 5, 2021, prosecutors said, Denney engaged in fighting at Black Lives Matter Plaza in D.C. and posted video of it, saying, “That’s what happens when you get into that warrior mode.” The next day, surveillance video captured Denney and another man from Texas trying to pull barricades away from police and later spraying a substance at Capitol Police officers, prosecutors said.

Denney was later captured on video on the west side of the Capitol, first picking up a long PVC pole that he swung at a D.C. police sergeant, then grabbing a large tube and throwing it at a line of police officers, prosecutors said.

About 30 minutes later, Denney joined the assault on the West Terrace tunnel, leading the mob as it pushed its way into the Capitol, and then swung at D.C. Police Officer Michael Fanone as Fanone was being dragged into the mob, the government alleges. Fanone suffered a heart attack as he was electrically shocked with a Taser by protesters.

When Denney returned to Texas, he posted on Facebook that “It was peaceful. The police even opened up the barricades to let people come closer.” Interviewed by the FBI in February 2021, Denney told agents he didn’t know anyone who had gone to the Capitol that day. Interviewed again in December, “Denney falsely stated that he did not see any fights or riots at the Capitol building and that he could not remember striking or ‘laying a finger’ on anyone,” the prosecution brief states.

washington post logoWashington Post, Lawsuit aims to stop Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, Sept. 28, 2022 (print ed.). A lawsuit seeking to block President Biden’s plan to cancel some student debt claims the policy is not only illegal but could inflict harm on borrowers in some states who would be forced to pay taxes on the forgiven amount.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana on Tuesday, is the first significant legal action seeking to invalidate Biden’s policy before it takes effect.

The Pacific Legal Foundation, the conservative public interest law firm in California that is backing the lawsuit, asserts that the executive branch lacks the authority to create a new forgiveness policy and is usurping Congress’s power to make law. The suit was filed on behalf of Frank Garrison, an attorney who works for the foundation and lives in Indiana.

CBO: White House plan to cancel student loan debt costs $400 billion

Republican state attorneys general and lawmakers have been exploring the possibility of a lawsuit against Biden’s forgiveness plan, which critics have also assailed as fiscally irresponsible. The Job Creators Network pledged to sue the administration once the Education Department guidance has been released.

In its lawsuit, the foundation may have the one thing legal experts said was needed to make a legitimate case: a client with the standing to sue.

Garrison said he has been working toward having his federal student loans canceled through a program that erases the debt of public servants after 10 years of payments and service. Participants in that Public Service Loan Forgiveness program do not have to pay federal or state taxes.

However, Biden’s plan could result in borrowers in several states, including Indiana, being required to pay local tax bills, although they would not be subject to federal taxes.

The president’s forgiveness plan would cancel up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for borrowers who earn less than $125,000 per year, or less than $250,000 for married couples. Those who received Pell Grants, federal aid for lower-income students, could see up to $20,000 in forgiveness.

 

jonathan toebbe diana toebbe

washington post logoWashington Post, Couple accused of peddling nuclear sub secrets face stiffer penalties, Salvador Rizzo, Sept. 28, 2022 (print ed.). A Maryland couple accused of trying to sell military secrets to a foreign country pleaded guilty for the second time Tuesday, weeks after a federal judge threw out their previous agreements with prosecutors, deeming those deals too lenient.

Jonathan Toebbe, 43, above left, a civilian engineer for the Navy with a top-secret security clearance, and Diana Toebbe, above right, 46, a private-school teacher in their hometown of Annapolis, now face lengthier prison terms under revised plea agreements with federal prosecutors. Their sentencing dates are pending.

The Toebbes first pleaded guilty earlier this year, but U.S. District Judge Gina M. Groh in Martinsburg, W.Va., threw out their agreements with prosecutors in August, calling them too lenient. Those plea bargains would have required Jonathan Toebbe to be sentenced to 12½ to 17½ years in prison and Diana Toebbe to three years.

Diana Toebbe now faces a sentence of at least 12½ years, and Jonathan Toebbe faces more than 21 years in prison.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Crypto World Is on Edge After a String of Hacks, David Yaffe-Bellany, Sept. 29, 2022 (print ed.). More than $2 billion in digital currency has been stolen this year, shaking faith in the experimental field of decentralized finance known as DeFi.

Not long after dropping out of college to pursue a career in cryptocurrencies, Ben Weintraub woke up to some bad news.

Mr. Weintraub and two classmates from the University of Chicago had spent the past few months working on a software platform called Beanstalk, which offered a stablecoin, a type of cryptocurrency with a fixed value of $1. To their surprise, Beanstalk became an overnight sensation, attracting crypto speculators who viewed it as an exciting contribution to the experimental field of decentralized finance, or DeFi.

Then it collapsed. In April, a hacker exploited a flaw in Beanstalk’s design to steal more than $180 million from users, one of a series of thefts this year targeting DeFi ventures. The morning of the hack, Mr. Weintraub, 24, was home for Passover in Montclair, N.J. He walked into his parents’ bedroom.

“Wake up,” he said. “Beanstalk is dead.”

Hackers have terrorized the crypto industry for years, stealing Bitcoin from online wallets and raiding the exchanges where investors buy and sell digital currencies. But the rapid proliferation of DeFi start-ups like Beanstalk has given rise to a new type of threat.

These loosely regulated ventures allow people to borrow, lend and conduct other transactions without banks or brokers, relying instead on a system governed by code. Using DeFi software, investors can take out loans without revealing their identities or even undergoing a credit check. As the market surged last year, the emerging sector was hailed as the future of finance, a democratic alternative to Wall Street that would give amateur traders access to more capital. Crypto users entrusted roughly $100 billion in virtual currency to hundreds of DeFi projects.

But some of the software was built on faulty code. This year, $2.2 billion in cryptocurrency has been stolen from DeFi projects, according to the crypto tracking firm Chainalysis, putting the overall industry on pace for its worst year of hacking losses.

The breaches have shaken faith in DeFi during a grim period for the crypto industry. An epic crash this spring erased nearly $1 trillion and forced several high-profile companies into bankruptcy.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Sex Assault Trial Is a Rare Moment for the Chinese #MeToo Movement, Amy Qin, Sept. 29, 2022 (print ed.). Richard Liu, also known as Liu Qiangdong, will be one of the few high-profile Chinese figures to face an American courtroom over sexual assault allegations.

Liu Jingyao is not the first young woman to accuse a powerful Chinese businessman of rape. She is not the only Chinese woman to confront a man and seek legal charges against him.

China FlagBut she is one of the first to pursue her case in an American courtroom.

That could make all of the difference for Ms. Liu — and for the nascent #MeToo movement in China.

Jury selection begins Thursday in Minneapolis in the civil trial against one of the world’s most prominent tech billionaires, known as Richard Liu in the English-speaking world and as Liu Qiangdong in China. He is the founder of JD.com, an e-commerce giant in China that draws comparisons there to Amazon.

Ms. Liu, who is unrelated to Mr. Liu, says that the businessman followed her back to her Minneapolis apartment and raped her after an alcohol-soaked 2018 dinner for Chinese executives that she attended as a University of Minnesota volunteer, according to court filings. He has denied the allegations, insisting that the sex was consensual.

ny times logoNew York Times, 14 Guards at New Jersey Women’s Prison Indicted Over Beatings in 2021 Raid, Tracey Tully, Sept. 29, 2022 (print ed.). The guards entered the women’s cells to forcibly remove them. One woman was punched almost 30 times.

Fourteen guards at New Jersey’s only prison for women were indicted Tuesday in connection with a violent 2021 midnight raid that left two women with serious injuries.

The officers charged include a former top supervisor at the prison, Edna Mahan Correctional Facility, a troubled institution the Justice Department found two years ago was plagued by sexual violence.

Gov. Philip D. Murphy announced last year that he planned to close the prison and relocate women to smaller lockups, an indication that the problems highlighted first by federal inspectors investigating years of sexual abuse at the prison, and later by state officials looking into the raid, were beyond repair.

The indictments, handed up Tuesday by a state grand jury, stem from the Jan. 11, 2021, raid, in which correction officers in riot gear entered several cells to forcibly remove women, some of whom were suspected of throwing feces and urine at guards, according to the New Jersey attorney general’s office.

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Public Health, Pandemic, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: New Infectious Threats Are Coming. The U.S. Isn’t Ready, Apoorva Mandavilli (Ms. Mandavilli has covered both the Covid pandemic and the monkeypox outbreak. She spoke with more than a dozen health experts about failures in the national response that must be remedied), Sept. 29, 2022. The coronavirus revealed flaws in the nation’s pandemic plans. The spread of monkeypox shows that the problems remain deeply entrenched.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2If it wasn’t clear enough during the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become obvious during the monkeypox outbreak: The United States, among the richest, most advanced nations in the world, remains wholly unprepared to combat new pathogens.

The coronavirus was a sly, unexpected adversary. Monkeypox was a familiar foe, and tests, vaccines and treatments were already at hand. But the response to both threats sputtered and stumbled at every step.

“It’s kind of like we’re seeing the tape replayed, except some of the excuses that we were relying on to rationalize what happened back in 2020 don’t apply here,” said Sam Scarpino, who leads pathogen surveillance at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Pandemic Prevention Institute.

No single agency or administration is to blame, more than a dozen experts said in interviews, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has acknowledged that it bungled the response to the coronavirus.

ny times logoNew York Times, Physician burnout has reached distressing levels, a new study found. But the situation is not irreparable, Oliver Whang, Sept. 29, 2022. Ten years of data from a nationwide survey of physicians confirm another trend that’s worsened through the pandemic: Burnout rates among doctors in the United States, which were already high a decade ago, have risen to alarming levels.

Results released this month and published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, a peer-reviewed journal, show that 63 percent of physicians surveyed reported at least one symptom of burnout at the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022, an increase from 44 percent in 2017 and 46 percent in 2011. Only 30 percent felt satisfied with their work-life balance, compared with 43 percent five years earlier.

“This is the biggest increase of emotional exhaustion that I’ve ever seen, anywhere in the literature,” said Bryan Sexton, the director of Duke University’s Center for Healthcare Safety and Quality, who was not involved in the survey efforts.

The most recent numbers also compare starkly with data from 2020, when the survey was run during the early stages of the pandemic. Then, 38 percent of doctors surveyed reported one or more symptoms of burnout while 46 percent were satisfied with their work-life balance.

washington post logoWashington Post, FDA approves first ALS drug in 5 years after pleas from patients, Laurie McGinley, Sept. 29, 2022. The treatment was thought up by two Brown University undergraduates a decade ago. The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday overcame doubts from agency scientists and approved a fiercely debated drug for ALS, a move that heartened patients and advocates who pushed for the medication but raised concerns among some experts about whether treatments for dire conditions receive sufficient scrutiny.

“It’s a huge deal,” said Sunny Brous, 35, who was diagnosed with ALS seven years ago after she had trouble closing her left glove while playing softball. She plans to begin taking the drug as soon as she can.

“Anything that shows any amount of efficacy is important,” the resident of Pico, Tex., added. Even a small change, Brous said, “might be the difference between signing my own name and someone else signing it for me.”

The newly approved therapy, which will be sold under the brand name Relyvrio, is designed to slow the disease by protecting nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord destroyed by ALS — amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The ailment paralyzes patients, robbing them of their ability to walk, talk and eventually breathe. Patients typically die within three to five years, though some live much longer with the condition sometimes called “Lou Gehrig’s disease” for the renowned baseball player diagnosed in 1939.

ny times logoNew York Times, China’s Covid propaganda has led some citizens to argue the language has bordered on “nonsense,” Zixu Wang, Sept. 29, 2022. “We have won the great battle against Covid!”

“History will remember those who contributed!”

“Extinguish every outbreak!”

These are among the many battle-style slogans that Beijing has unleashed to rally support around its top-down, zero-tolerance coronavirus policies.

China is now one of the last places on earth trying to eliminate Covid-19, and the Communist Party has relied heavily on propaganda to justify increasingly long lockdowns and burdensome testing requirements that can sometimes lead to three tests a week.

The barrage of messages — online and on television, loudspeakers and social platforms — has become so overbearing that some citizens say it has drowned out their frustrations, downplayed the reality of the country’s tough coronavirus rules and, occasionally, bordered on the absurd.

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Abortion, Forced Birth Laws, Privacy Rights

washington post logoWashington Post, University of Idaho may stop providing birth control under new abortion law, Caroline Kitchener and Susan Svrluga, Sept. 27, 2022 (print ed.). Employees could be charged with a felony and fired if they appear to promote abortion, according to new guidance.

The University of Idaho’s general counsel issued new guidance on Friday about the state’s near-total abortion ban, alerting faculty and staff that the school should no longer offer birth control for students, a rare move for a state university.

University employees were also advised not to speak in support of abortion at work. If an employee appears to promote abortion, counsel in favor of abortion, or refer a student for an abortion procedure, they could face a felony conviction and be permanently barred from all future state employment, according to an email obtained by The Washington Post.

Idaho’s trigger ban took effect on Aug. 25, approximately two months after the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade. That law, which was passed by state lawmakers in 2020, bans abortions at any time after conception, except in instances where the pregnant person’s life is at risk or in cases of rape or incest so long as the crime was reported to law enforcement.

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Water, Space, Energy, Climate, Disasters

climate change photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Nord Stream operator decries ‘unprecedented’ damage to three pipelines, Mary Ilyushina, Sept. 28, 2022 (print ed.). European officials on Tuesday launched investigations into three mysterious leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines, built to carry Russian natural gas to Europe, after the system operator reported “unprecedented” damage to the lines in the Baltic Sea.

The leaks had no immediate impact on energy supplies to the European Union, since Russia had already cut off gas flows. But gas had remained in the pipes, raising concerns about possible environmental harm from leaking methane — the main component of natural gas and, when in the atmosphere, a major contributor to climate change. Images supplied by the Danish military showed gas bubbles reaching the surface of the water.

“The damage that occurred in one day simultaneously at three lines of offshore pipelines of the Nord Stream system is unprecedented,” the company, Nord Stream AG, said in a statement to Russian state news agencies.

Russia’s Gazprom says it won’t reopen Nord Stream gas pipeline to Europe as planned

European officials suggested that the damage may have been sabotage. “It is hard to imagine that it is accidental,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said, according to the Danish newspaper Politiken. “We cannot rule out sabotage, but it is too early to conclude.”

mitch mcconnell elevator getty cropped

washington post logoWashington Post, Nord Stream spill could be biggest methane leak ever but not catastrophic, Meg Kelly, Ellen Francis and Michael Birnbaum, Sept. 29, 2022. The two explosions in the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines in the Baltic Sea resulted in what could amount to the largest-ever single release of methane gas into the atmosphere, but it may not be enough to have a major effect on climate change, experts say.

While sudden influxes of methane from underwater pipelines are unusual and scientists have little precedent to fall back on, the consensus is that with so much methane spewing into the atmosphere from all around the globe, the several hundred thousand tons from the pipelines will not make a dramatic difference.

“It’s not trivial, but it’s a modest-sized U.S. city, something like that,” said Drew Shindell, a professor of earth science at Duke University. “There are so many sources all around the world. Any single event tends to be small. I think this tends to fall in that category.”

Politico, DHS waives Jones Act for Puerto Rico to supply fuel after hurricane, Olivia Olander, Sept. 29, 2022 (print ed.). Legislators and activists had previously pressured the Biden administration to waive the law.

politico CustomThe Biden administration moved Wednesday to allow a non-U.S. flagged ship to transport fuel to Puerto Rico, following pressure to waive a rule in the face of a diesel shortage after Hurricane Fiona.

The decision to make came in “response to urgent and immediate needs of the Puerto Rican people in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona ... to ensure that the people of Puerto Rican have sufficient diesel to run generators needed for electricity and the functioning critical facilities,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement Wednesday.

Mayorkas called the limited waiver for a BP vessel “temporary and targeted.”

The Department of Homeland Security’s choice to suspend the Jones Act — which typically allows only U.S.-flagged ships to transport maritime cargo between U.S. ports — will allow additional diesel into Puerto Rico, days after the territory was hit by Hurricane Fiona.

Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi thanked the Biden administration for the waiver in a tweet Wednesday.

He was among several legislators, activists and others who previously pressured the administration to waive the Jones Act.

The governor requested a waiver Monday for a private supplier waiting to unload fuel in Puerto Rico; a spokesman for BP confirmed the company submitted a waiver request for a vessel carrying diesel Sept. 20.

“We are grateful to the Biden administration for taking this action and will deliver the barrels into Puerto Rico as quickly and safely as possible,” a BP spokesman said Wednesday.

Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), who sent a letter this week requesting the waiver with seven other legislators, said she welcomed Mayorkas’ decision.

“This is a life and death situation,” Velázquez said in a tweet, adding: “I encourage the Administration to take further steps to ensure that the people of Puerto Rico can fully recover from Hurricane Fiona.”

The calls to waive the act following the hurricane came from both sides of the aisle: GOP Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Mike Lee (Utah) previously voiced their support for such a waiver.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus also praised the administration’s action Wednesday in a tweet.

Hurricane Fiona caused widespread flooding and large power outages when it battered Puerto Rico last week. At least two people died, according to authorities — one in Puerto Rico and one in the Dominican Republic.

The Department of Homeland Security has previously waived the Jones Act in other national disasters, including when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017.

Because Puerto Rico is an island, the Jones Act can cause the price of consumer goods to be higher than in other areas, since nearly everything needs to be imported, POLITICO previously reported.

Labor unions have been broadly supportive of the rule, as it protects American shipbuilding and maritime industries.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Media, Philanthropy, Education, Sports News

ny times logoNew York Times, MacKenzie Scott, Billionaire Philanthropist, Files for Divorce, Nicholas Kulish, Rebecca R. Ruiz and Karen Weise, Sept. 28, 2022 (print ed.). Less than two years after announcing the marriage and their intent to give money away together, Ms. Scott has parted ways with her second husband, a teacher.

Less than two years after announcing their intention to give away a vast fortune together, the billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott and her husband, Dan Jewett, a former science teacher, are parting ways.

Ms. Scott filed a petition for divorce in the King County Superior Court in Washington State on Monday, according to a copy of the filing. The breakup punctuates an eventful period for Ms. Scott, who in less than four years got divorced from her longtime husband, the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, gave away more than $12 billion to nonprofits and married an instructor at the prestigious school attended by her children.

Court records show Mr. Jewett did not contest the divorce. The petition says any division of property is laid out in a separation contract, agreed to by the couple, which is not public. Both still live in King County, the filing says, which includes the city of Seattle.

Their marriage, which garnered significant public attention after Ms. Scott’s divorce from the world’s richest man, had also been a philanthropic partnership, with Mr. Jewett publicly promising to join her in donating their enormous fortune to good causes.

But there were recent signs that the partnership was no more. Previously, grateful nonprofits that had received grants from Ms. Scott and Mr. Jewett thanked them both, but recent recipients thank her alone.

In the past week his name vanished from her philanthropic endeavors. On the site for the Giving Pledge, where billionaires promise to give away half of their wealth before they die, his letter no longer appeared with hers. Without fanfare, his name was recently edited out of a Medium post Ms. Scott had written last year about their gifts.

Ms. Scott, a novelist, also deleted Mr. Jewett from her author bio on Amazon, the online retailer that is the source of her vast wealth.

washington post logoWashington Post, A China-based network of Facebook accounts posed as liberal Americans to post about Republicans, company says, Naomi Nix, Sept. 28, 2022 (print ed.). The accounts posed as liberal Americans on Facebook and Instagram to comment on Republicans, Meta said.

meta logofacebook logoFacebook’s parent company Meta disrupted a China-based network of accounts that was seeking to influence U.S. politics ahead of the 2022 midterms, the company reported Tuesday.

The covert influence operation used accounts on Facebook and Instagram posing as Americans to post opinions about hot-button issues such as abortion, gun control and high-profile politicians such as President Biden and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). The network, which focused on the United States and the Czech Republic, posted from the fall of 2021 through the summer of 2022, the company said. Facebook renamed itself Meta last year.

Ben Nimmo, Meta’s global threat intelligence lead, told reporters that the network was unusual because unlike previous China-based influence operations that focused on promoting narratives about America to the rest of the world, this network was intended to influence U.S. users abut Americans topics months ahead of the 2022 contests.

ny times logoNew York Times, Erick Adame was fired from his job as a popular meteorologist after someone began sending nude pictures of him to his employer, Liam Stack, Sept. 29, 2022 (print ed.). Last week, after the latest round of pictures arrived, NY1 fired Mr. Adame.

The person who sent the pictures appeared to be determined to shame or harm Mr. Adame. But in the wake of his firing, which he made public in a post on Instagram, a wave of support for him emerged online.

Now, Mr. Adame finds himself at the center of a debate over whether employers should be policing their workers’ legal off-the-clock activities online — particularly at a time when many people’s sex lives are increasingly led on the internet, and as Americans have become more open-minded about sex in general.

Mr. Adame and his supporters have argued he is a victim — both of a prudish employer and of revenge porn, a growing problem that has affected as many as 10 million Americans and that was outlawed in New York in 2019. Mr. Adame also described his behavior as the manifestation of a mental health issue that drove him to perform for audiences of other men and engage in cybersex with anonymous people online for years, and then to seek psychiatric treatment.

But Mr. Adame’s case is also complicated by other factors, including his role as a television personality, an unusually public facing position. Broadcast companies usually require on-air employees to sign contracts that contain morals clauses, which give them the power to fire employees for a wide range of behavior, from arrests to offensive Tweets, that might harm the corporation’s public image.

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Sept. 28

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Threats To Democracy

 

 Jan. 6 Insurrection Defendants

 

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Trump Probes, Disputes, Rallies, Supporters

 

U.S. Immigration News

 

World News, Human Rights, Disasters

 

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U.S. Politics, Elections, Economy, Governance

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Shootings, Gun Laws

 

Abortion, Forced Birth Laws, Privacy Rights

 

Food, Water, Energy, Climate, Disasters

 

U.S. Media, Culture, Sports, Education

 

Pandemic, Public Health

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: West condemns staged referendums, calls Nord Stream explosions ‘deliberate act,’ Adela Suliman, Robyn Dixon and Praveena Somasundaram, Sept. 28, 2022. The European Union vowed to investigate explosions of Nord Stream gas pipelines. The United States condemned staged referendums in Russian-controlled parts of Ukraine.

The explosions that damaged the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines, causing leaks into the Baltic Sea, appear to be the “result of a deliberate act,” the European Union said Wednesday. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said investigations are underway into what she called “sabotage action,” vowing that deliberate disruption of European energy infrastructure would “lead to the strongest possible response.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Ian nears Category 5 as Fla. governor warns of ‘nasty’ days ahead, Scott Dance, Jason Samenow, Andrew Jeong and Ellen Francis, Sept. 28, 2022. Hurricane Ian is approaching Category 5 strength with maximum sustained winds of almost 155 miles per hour, the National Hurricane Center said early Wednesday. Ahead of a landfall expected by Wednesday afternoon, meteorologists ron desantis owarned it will cause “catastrophic storm surge, winds, and flooding in the Florida peninsula.”

“This is going to be a nasty, nasty day” and more will follow, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), right, told a news conference early Wednesday as the massive storm caused widespread power outages. He said 5,000 Florida National Guard members and 2,000 more from neighboring states were activated. Cuba — which was completely left without power after Ian severely disrupted the national electric system — began restoring electricity to its grid early Wednesday but warned that repairs will be slow.

washington post logoWashington Post, Where will Hurricane Ian hit? Here’s the outlook for 6 Florida cities, Zach Rosenthal, Sept. 28, 2022.  Hurricane Ian made landfall in western Cuba around 4:30 a.m. Tuesday as a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph, lashing the southwestern part of the island with heavy rain, fierce wind and life-threatening storm surge.

Attention is now focused on where Ian will land in Florida, and forecasters are predicting it will be to the south of Tampa — a city highly vulnerable to storm surge.

While a variance of dozens of miles could dramatically change the fortunes of those in the landfall area, nearly all of Florida will see some impact from Ian, the outer bands of which are already bringing heavy downpours and isolated tornadoes to the state.

washington post logoWashington Post, McConnell, Schumer back bill to prevent efforts to subvert presidential election results, Amy B Wang, Sept. 28, 2022 (print ed.). Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), right, have endorsed a bipartisan electoral count reform bill in the Senate, all but cementing its passage and giving the legislation a boost as Congress seeks to prevent future efforts to subvert presidential election results.

mitch mcconnellThe endorsements followed House passage of a similar bill last week. Both measures aim to stop future presidents from trying to overturn election results through Congress and were driven by the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by a mob of Donald Trump supporters seeking to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s win.

The Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act, sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), would amend the Electoral Count Act of 1887 and reaffirm that the vice president has only a ministerial role at the joint session of Congress to count electoral votes, as well as raise the threshold necessary for members of Congress to object to a state’s electors.

Speaking on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon, McConnell said there was a need to make “modest” updates to the Electoral Count Act.

“Congress’s process for counting their presidential electors’ votes was written 135 years ago. The chaos that came to a head on January 6th of last year certainly underscored the need for an update,” McConnell said. “The Electoral Count Act ultimately produced the right conclusion … but it’s clear the country needs a more predictable path.”

In a statement, Schumer said, “Make no mistake: as our country continues to face the threat of the anti-democracy MAGA Republican movement — propelled by many GOP leaders who either refused to take a stand or actively stoked the flames of division in our country — reforming the Electoral Count Act ought to be the bare minimum of action the Congress takes.”

Politico, Senate advances funding bill after Manchin punts his energy plan, Caitlin Emma and Burgess Everett, Sept. 28, 2022 (print ed.). The West Virginia senator removed his permitting proposal from the government funding bill after Republicans made it clear they wouldn’t back it.

The Senate easily advanced a short-term government funding bill on Tuesday after Joe Manchin conceded defeat on his push to combine the funding fix with his energy permitting package.

politico CustomCongress must pass the stopgap bill, which would fund the government through Dec. 16, before Friday at midnight in order to avert a shutdown. The bill cleared an early Senate hurdle in a 72-23 vote after the West Virginia centrist agreed to remove his proposal, paving the way for the legislation to move ahead in time to keep the government open.

The chamber could officially clear the bill as soon as Wednesday, though it would require the agreement of all 100 senators, sending the bill off to the House.

Before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the floor that he and Manchin would “continue to have conversations about the best way” to move forward on the permitting effort before the end of the year.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had encouraged Senate Republicans to take down Manchin’s effort in a floor speech Tuesday afternoon, saying that adding the West Virginia Democrat’s permitting plan to the bill amounted to a “poison pill.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Special Report: What It Costs to Get an Abortion Now in America, Allison McCann, Sept. 28, 2022 (interactive). With the procedure banned in 14 states, patients face added expenses for travel, lodging and child care. More of them are turning to charities for help.

L.V. found out she was pregnant on Aug. 7. The next day she called Women’s Health and Family Care in Jackson, Wyo. — the only abortion provider in the state — to schedule an abortion.

She was told the procedure would typically cost $600 at the clinic, but a state law banning abortion might take effect soon. In that case, she would have to travel out of state, setting her back even more.

L.V., who asked to be identified only by her initials, panicked. She had recently been in a car accident and had outstanding medical and car bills to pay.

“When the clinic told me how much, my mouth dropped,” she said. She was told to contact Chelsea’s Fund, a Wyoming nonprofit that is part of a national network of abortion funds, to ask about financial assistance.

Abortion funds have for decades helped cover the cost of the procedure — about $500 in the first trimester and $2,000 or more in the second trimester — for those who cannot afford it. But they are playing a bigger role since the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, taking in more donations and disbursing more money to more patients than ever before.

 

Threats To Democracy

 

Pennsylvania State Sen. Doug Mastriano speaks to supporters following his victory in the state's primary to become Republican nominee for governor this year (Associated Press photo by Carolyn Kaster via MSNBC).er ap primary night via msnbcPennsylvania State Sen. Doug Mastriano speaks to supporters following his victory in the state's primary to become Republican nominee for governor this year (Associated Press photo by Carolyn Kaster via MSNBC).

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP governor nominee once urged murder charges for women getting abortions, Mariana Alfaro and Annabelle Timsit, Sept. 28, 2022. Doug Mastriano, a Pennsylvania state senator who is the GOP nominee for governor, once said that women who violated his proposed abortion ban should be charged with murder.

pennsylvania map major citiesMastriano — who was endorsed by former president Donald Trump in May — has appealed to hard-right voters, including by supporting strict abortion restrictions, calling the separation of church and state a “myth” and promoting the false claim that there was widespread fraud in the 2020 election.

Christian nationalism is shaping a Pa. primary — and a GOP shift

Mastriano has walked a fine line on abortion since he won the gubernatorial primary and the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, making the issue one of the most relevant ahead of the November election. While he has attempted to paint his Democratic opponent, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, as “extreme” on the issue, he has also downplayed his past stances on abortion, saying the issue is up to the state’s voters.

In a 2019 interview with Pennsylvania radio station WITF, which was first resurfaced Tuesday by NBC News, Mastriano spoke about a bill he sponsored in the state legislature that would have outlawed abortion as soon as cardiac activity is detected, around six weeks of pregnancy.

Pennsylvania Senate Bill 912 — which was never passed — would have significantly altered existing legislation in the state, which allows abortions up to 24 weeks and beyond in cases in which the mother’s life and health would be demonstrably endangered otherwise.

The interviewer asked Mastriano to clarify whether he was arguing that a woman who underwent an abortion at 10 weeks gestation should be charged with murder. “Yes, I am,” Mastriano replied, insisting that the fetus deserves “equal protection under the law.”

He also suggested in the interview that physicians who perform abortions after cardiac activity is detected should face the same charge. “It goes back down to the courts,” he said. “If it’s ruled that that little person is a baby, a human being, then that’s murder, and it has to go through the legal procedures.” The Washington Post could not immediately reach Mastriano for comment early Wednesday.

 

maggie haberman confidence man

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump weighed bombing drug labs in Mexico, according to new book, Josh Dawsey, Sept. 28, 2022. New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman’s Confidence Man details unusual, erratic interactions between Donald Trump and world leaders, members of Congress and his own aides.

As president, Donald Trump weighed bombing drug labs in Mexico after one of his leading public health officials came into the Oval Office, wearing a dress uniform, and said such facilities should be handled by putting “lead to target” to stop the flow of illicit substances across the border into the United States.

djt hands up mouth open Custom“He raised it several times, eventually asking a stunned Defense Secretary Mark Esper whether the United States could indeed bomb the labs,” according to a new book by New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman. White House officials said the official, Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir, often wore his dress uniform for mexico flag1meetings with Trump, which confused him.

“The response from White House aides was not to try to change Trump’s view, but to consider asking Giroir not to wear his uniform to the Oval Office anymore,” Haberman writes in “Confidence Man,” an extensive book about Trump’s time in New York and as president.

The 607-page book, which has long been awaited by many of Trump’s aides, is set to be published Tuesday. A copy was obtained by The Washington Post. The book details unusual and erratic interactions between Trump and world leaders, members of Congress and his own aides, along with behind-the-scenes accounts of his time as a businessman.

Presented with a detailed accounting of the book’s reporting, a Trump spokesman did not directly respond. “While coastal elites obsess over boring books chock full of anonymously-sourced fairytales, America is a nation in decline. President Trump is focused on Saving America, and there’s nothing the Fake News can do about it,” said Taylor Budowich, the spokesman.

When asked by The Post about the account of the Oval Office discussion, Giroir said in an email that he does not comment on such private conversations with Trump. He went on to criticize the flow of drugs across the border from Mexico and voice support for substance abuse treatment. “But these measures will not stop this mass murder of Americans,” he added. “Every option needs to be on the table.”

washington post logoWashington Post, AI can now create any image in seconds, bringing wonder and danger, Nitasha Tiku, Sept. 28, 2022. All of these images were created by the artificial intelligence text-to-image generator DALL-E. Named for Salvador Dali and Pixar’s WALL-E, DALL-E creates images based on prompts.

Since the research lab OpenAI debuted the latest version of DALL-E in April, the AI has dazzled the public, attracting digital artists, graphic designers, early adopters, and anyone in search of online distraction. The ability to create original, sometimes accurate, and occasionally inspired images from any spur-of-the-moment phrase, like a conversational Photoshop, has startled even jaded internet users with how quickly AI has progressed.

Five months later, 1.5 million users are generating 2 million images a day. On Wednesday, OpenAI said it will remove its waitlist for DALL-E, giving anyone immediate access.

The introduction of DALL-E has triggered an explosion of text-to-image generators. Google and Meta quickly revealed that they had each been developing similar systems, but said their models weren’t ready for the public. Rival start-ups soon went public, including Stable Diffusion and Midjourney, which created the image that sparked controversy in August when it won an art competition at the Colorado State Fair.

[He used AI to win a fine-arts competition. Was it cheating?]

The technology is now spreading rapidly, faster than AI companies can shape norms around its use and prevent dangerous outcomes. Researchers worry that these systems produce images that can cause a range of harms, such as reinforcing racial and gender stereotypes or plagiarizing artists whose work was siphoned without their consent. Fake photos could be used to enable bullying and harassment — or create disinformation that looks real.

Historically, people trust what they see, said Wael Abd-Almageed, a professor at the University of Southern California’s school of engineering. “Once the line between truth and fake is eroded, everything will become fake,” he said. “We will not be able to believe anything.”

“Once the line between truth and fake is eroded, everything will become fake. We will not be able to believe anything.”— Wael Abd-Almageed

OpenAI has tried to balance its drive to be first and hype its AI developments without accelerating those dangers. To prevent DALL-E from being used to create disinformation, for example, OpenAI prohibits images of celebrities or politicians. OpenAI chief executive Sam Altman justifies the decision to release DALL-E to the public as an essential step in developing the technology safely.

 

maggie haberman confidence man

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump weighed bombing drug labs in Mexico, according to new book, Josh Dawsey, Sept. 28, 2022. New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman’s Confidence Man details unusual, erratic interactions between Donald Trump and world leaders, members of Congress and his own aides.

As president, Donald Trump weighed bombing drug labs in Mexico after one of his leading public health officials came into the Oval Office, wearing a dress uniform, and said such facilities should be handled by putting “lead to target” to stop the flow of illicit substances across the border into the United States.

“He raised it several times, eventually asking a stunned Defense Secretary Mark Esper whether the United States could indeed bomb the labs,” according to a new book by New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman. White House officials said the official, Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir, often wore his dress uniform for meetings with Trump, which confused him.

“The response from White House aides was not to try to change Trump’s view, but to consider asking Giroir not to wear his uniform to the Oval Office anymore,” Haberman writes in “Confidence Man,” an extensive book about Trump’s time in New York and as president.

The 607-page book, which has long been awaited by many of Trump’s aides, is set to be published Tuesday. A copy was obtained by The Washington Post. The book details unusual and erratic interactions between Trump and world leaders, members of Congress and his own aides, along with behind-the-scenes accounts of his time as a businessman.

Presented with a detailed accounting of the book’s reporting, a Trump spokesman did not directly respond. “While coastal elites obsess over boring books chock full of anonymously-sourced fairytales, America is a nation in decline. President Trump is focused on Saving America, and there’s nothing the Fake News can do about it,” said Taylor Budowich, the spokesman.

When asked by The Post about the account of the Oval Office discussion, Giroir said in an email that he does not comment on such private conversations with Trump. He went on to criticize the flow of drugs across the border from Mexico and voice support for substance abuse treatment. “But these measures will not stop this mass murder of Americans,” he added. “Every option needs to be on the table.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Activists Flood U.S. Election Offices With Challenges, Nick Corasaniti and Alexandra Berzon, Sept. 28, 2022. Groups fueled by right-wing election conspiracy theories are trying to toss tens of thousands of voters from the rolls.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosActivists driven by false theories about election fraud are working to toss out tens of thousands of voter registrations and ballots in battleground states, part of a loosely coordinated campaign that is sowing distrust and threatening further turmoil as election officials prepare for the November midterms.

Groups in Georgia have challenged at least 65,000 voter registrations across eight counties, claiming to have evidence that voters’ addresses were incorrect. In Michigan, an activist group tried to challenge 22,000 ballots from voters who had requested absentee ballots for the state’s August primary. And in Texas, residents sent in 116 affidavits challenging the eligibility of more than 6,000 voters in Harris County, which is home to Houston and is the state’s largest county.

djt maga hatThe recent wave of challenges have been filed by right-wing activists who believe conspiracy theories about fraud in the 2020 presidential election. They claim to be using state laws that allow people to question whether a voter is eligible. But so far, the vast majority of the complaints have been rejected, in many cases because election officials found the challenges were filed incorrectly, rife with bad information or based on flawed data analysis.

Republican-aligned groups have long pushed to aggressively cull the voter rolls, claiming that inaccurate registrations can lead to voter fraud — although examples of such fraud are exceptionally rare. Voting rights groups say the greater concern is inadvertently purging an eligible voter from the rolls.

The new tactic of flooding offices with challenges escalates that debate — and weaponizes the process. Sorting through the piles of petitions is costly and time-consuming, increasing the chances that overburdened election officials could make mistakes that could disenfranchise voters. And while election officials say they’re confident in their procedures, they worry about the toll on trust in elections. The challenge process, as used by election deniers, has become another platform for spreading doubt about the security of elections.

“It’s a tactic to distract and undermine the electoral process,” said Dele Lowman Smith, chairwoman of the DeKalb County Board of Elections in Georgia. Her county is among several in Georgia that have had to hold special meetings just to address the challenges. The state’s new Republican-backed election law requires that each challenge receive a hearing, and the process was taking up too much time in regular board meetings.

The activists say they are exercising their right to ensure that voter rolls are accurate.

“If a citizen is giving you information, wouldn’t you want to check it and make sure it’s right?” said Sandy Kiesel, the executive director of Election Integrity Fund and Force, a group involved in challenges in Michigan.

But in private strategy and training calls, participants from some groups have talked openly about more political aims, saying they believe their work will help Republican candidates. Some groups largely target voters in Democratic, urban areas.

It is not unusual for voter rolls to contain errors — often because voters have died or moved without updating their registrations. But states typically rely on systematic processes outlined in state and federal law — not on lists provided by outside groups — to clean up the information.

 

Jan. 6 Insurrection Defendants

michael fanone embattled but standing

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘I hope you suffer,’ ex-D.C. officer Michael Fanone tells Jan. 6 attacker at sentencing, Rachel Weiner, Sept. 28, 2022 (print ed.). Kyle Young was sentenced to seven years and two months in prison for the attack on police officer Michael Fanone (shown at center above), who was dragged into the mob and beaten.

kyle youngA member of the mob that launched a series of violent attacks on police — including D.C. officer Michael Fanone — in a tunnel under the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, apologized Tuesday as a judge sentenced him to seven years and two months in prison.

Kyle Young, 38, right, is the first rioter to be sentenced for the group attack on Fanone, who was dragged into the mob, beaten and electrocuted until he suffered a heart attack and lost consciousness.

“You were a one-man wrecking ball that day,” Judge Amy Berman Jackson said. “You were the violence.”

Fanone resigned from the D.C. police late last year, saying fellow officers turned on him for speaking so publicly about the Capitol attack and former president Donald Trump’s role in it. In court Tuesday, Fanone directly confronted his attacker, telling Young, “I hope you suffer.”

“The assault on me by Mr. Young cost me my career,” Fanone said. “It cost me my faith in law enforcement and many of the institutions I dedicated two decades of my life to serving.”

Michael Fanone prepares to depart after a congressional hearing. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

Young pleaded guilty in May to being in the group that attacked Fanone. Documents filed with his plea agreement offer this account:

Young and his 16-year-old son joined the tunnel battle just before 3 p.m., and Young handed a stun gun to another rioter and showed him how to use it. When Fanone was pulled from the police line, Young and his son pushed through the crowd toward him.

Just after that, authorities said, another rioter repeatedly shocked Fanone with the stun gun, and Young helped restrain the officer as another rioter stole his badge and radio.

Young lost his grip on Fanone as the mob moved. He then pushed and hit a nearby Capitol Police officer, who had just been struck with bear spray, according to documents filed with his plea.

Young also pointed a strobe light at the officers, jabbed at them with a stick and threw an audio speaker toward the police line, hitting another rioter in the back of the head, prosecutors said.

In a letter to the court, Young said he cried on the phone with his wife as he left D.C.

“I was a nervous wreck and highly ashamed of myself,” he wrote. “I do not condone this and do not promote this like others have done. Violence isn’t the answer.”

In court, he apologized to Fanone, saying, “I hope someday you forgive me. … I am so, so sorry. If I could take it back, I would.”

Young has a long criminal history. While in prison for producing meth, he faced repeated sanctions for violence. His attorney said that after a difficult childhood, Young had straightened out his life, gotten married, raised four children and started working in HVAC installation. Until Jan. 6, he hadn’t been arrested in a dozen years, his attorney said.

His “conduct on January 6 is isolated to a unique set of circumstances that unfolded that are not likely to be replicated,” wrote his attorney, Samuel Moore.

Jackson said she believed Young had become a good husband and father. But she noted the continued possibility of political violence, with Trump and his allies responding to possible prosecution by “cagily predicting or even outright calling for violence in the streets.”

The sentence she gave Young is close to the eight-year statutory maximum for assaulting a police officer.

Two of the other men accused of involvement in the attack on Fanone have pleaded not guilty. One has admitted dragging Fanone down the Capitol steps; he is set to be sentenced in October.

Recent Headlines

 

Trump Probes, Disputes, Rallies, Supporters

 

U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jan. 6 committee postpones planned hearing as Hurricane Ian advances, Jacqueline Alemany and Josh Dawsey, Sept. 28, 2022 (print ed.). The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol is postponing its highly anticipated hearing because of Hurricane Ian, which is expected to barrel into the western coast of Florida on Wednesday, according to two people familiar with the decision.

It’s unclear when the daytime hearing, which seeks to recapture the nation’s attention with what is likely to be the panel’s final public hearing before the release of a final report, will be rescheduled.

The hearing follows eight highly produced, news-making hearings that aired over June and July, featuring blockbuster testimony from former White House officials, poll workers and law enforcement officers. During the committee’s August hiatus, staff doubled back to their investigative work to follow new leads and answer unresolved questions.

The final hearing is expected in part to focus on how associates of former president Donald Trump planned to declare victory regardless of the outcome of the 2020 election, according to people familiar with hearing planning. The Washington Post reported Monday that the committee intends to show video of Roger Stone recorded by Danish filmmakers during the weeks before the violence in which Stone predicted violent clashes with left-wing activists and forecast months before Election Day that Trump would use armed guards and loyal judges to stay in power.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

 

Roger Stone watches news coverage of the Capitol riot in his suite at the Willard hotel on Jan. 6, 2021 (Photo by Kristin M. Davis.)

Roger Stone watches news coverage of the Capitol riot in his suite at the Willard hotel on Jan. 6, 2021 2021 (Photo by Kristin M. Davis.). He is shown below also with several from the ultra-right group Oath Keepers, some of whose members have served as his bodyguards.

roger stone oath keepers

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Roger Stone wants to have his tough-guy bluster and deny it, too, Philip Bump, Sept. 28, 2022 (print ed.).  Enter longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone.

The Washington Post reported Monday that footage of Stone captured while a documentary film crew traveled with him in 2020 and 2021 would be shown this week at a hearing held by the House select committee investigating the Capitol riot. CNN obtained some of the video, in which Stone is shown repeatedly suggesting that Trump and his allies simply reject the results of the election and block any effort to enforce a loss. At another point, he scoffs at the process of actually voting, saying, “Let’s get right to the violence.”

We’ve known that footage of Stone existed for some time. The Post first reported on the documentary in March, detailing some of what was captured by the filmmakers. Responding to questions from The Post, Stone offered a remarkable defense: “The video clips of him reviewed by The Post could be ‘deep fakes.’ ”

He repeated this claim Monday afternoon on Telegram after CNN first aired snippets of what it had obtained.

“CNN airs fraudulent deep fake videos and expects anyone to believe them,” he wrote.

Of course, there’s no evidence at all that the videos were manipulated; in fact, the claim makes no sense. Not only are there no obvious signs of the video being manipulated, but there’s no reason to think that Stone wouldn’t have said the things he’s shown saying in the clips. What makes the Stone clips not suspicious is that the tough-guy bluster and huffy machismo is very much in line with his persona.

It’s odd for Stone to disparage the reliability of the filmmakers because they provide his alibi for Jan. 6. On that day, he was holed up in a hotel in Washington, having been unable to get to Trump’s rally outside the White House. (He had been relegated to speaking at an event on the evening of Jan. 5.) As the violence unfolded, Stone was watching on the TV in his room.

But this is how it works. Stone has been an ally and adviser to Trump for a long time, and the two share an enthusiasm for creating a miasma of uncertainty that gives them space in which to maneuver. If Stone gets someone to think that these comments might be faked, it gives him deniability — and introduces new skepticism about CNN and the Jan. 6 committee.

In other contexts, though, Stone embraces proximity to violence and threats. He has been tied to the extremist group the Proud Boys, even telling journalist Andy Campbell that he had served as something of an adviser to the group’s leader, Enrique Tarrio. On Jan. 5 and 6, 2021, he had members of the Oath Keepers serving as his security detail. Stone was indicted in 2019 for witness tampering, among other things. According to federal investigators, Stone repeatedly berated a potential witness, notably suggesting that he “prepare to die.” Trump pardoned him.

This persona of toughness and power is obviously something Stone relishes, but it is also utilitarian, as were Trump’s angry claims that the 2020 election was stolen. Say something angrily enough, loudly enough and long enough, and other people will cross the line for you. Trump didn’t have to break windows at the Capitol to scare Congress away on Jan. 6; he had already set the conditions for his supporters to do so. Stone doesn’t have to go out and attack “antifa,” as the documentarians filmed him espousing; his allies in the Proud Boys are more than happy to do so.

 

vicky ward investigates

ky Ward Investigates, Misadventure in the Middle East, Vicky Ward, Sept. 28, 2022. Why the Tom Barrack trial is key to unlocking the single most dangerous and possibly self-interested corrupt piece of foreign policy in the Trump presidency.

Over the weekend, I read the court transcripts of the first two days of the trial of former Trump Inaugural chair Tom Barrack, the Lebanese-American billionaire and Trump crony who has been charged with lobbying on behalf of the UAE without registering as a foreign agent (thereby profiting from his own investments with the UAE), obstruction of justice, and lying to the FBI.

Several fascinating takeaways:

• Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster are government witnesses—at least according to one of Barrack’s lawyers, Randall Jackson.

• Jackson also told the judge that the “key” to Barrack’s defense is a first-person eyewitness account of what actually happened behind the scenes regarding the Trump White House’s initial endorsement of the blockade of Qatar (the gulf state which houses the U.S. airbase Al Udeid) by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt.

Here’s what Jackson told the judge:

Here, the specifics of what each of the countries wanted to do is very, very particularized knowledge and in this case, it is -- the actual way those events played out is key to our defense. We are actually, as Mr. Schachter previewed in his opening statement, we're going to get into it in the course of this trial exactly what Mr. Barrack's position was as it relates to the Qatar blockade and exactly what was the position of various people within the White House. … [T]he particulars of that, Judge, are actually key to our defense.

Now, the story of what exactly happened regarding the U.S. support of the blockade of Qatar started in June 2017 is critical for what it ought to reveal—not just about Tom Barrack and his business interests in the region, but also the business interests of Jared Kushner and Donald Trump and how they conflicted with U.S. national security in the region.

Remember: According to my 2019 book, Kushner, Inc. Tillerson and former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis believed it was Kushner who gave the greenlight for the blockade—which occurred in June 2017, just days after the U.S. state visit to Saudi Arabia (the purpose of which, ostensibly, was to unite the Gulf states in their fight against terrorism).

According to multiple sources, Mattis, Tillerson and McMaster were horrified to discover that, in fact, the Saudis and Emiratis appeared to have a different agenda altogether: to diminish their wealthy rival Qatar with the newly gained support of the U.S.—or at least of its president and his son-in-law, Kushner, whose father, Charles Kushner, had just met with Qatar’s finance minister and been rejected after asking for a bailout on the Kushner’s troubled trophy building at 666 Fifth Avenue, which had a $1.4 billion loan on which the clock was ticking—and no buyers.

The problem with blockading Qatar, from a U.S. national security standpoint, was that Qatar is the home to the U.S.’s airbase in the region, Al-Udeid. When I was reporting Kushner, Inc., I was told that Trump did not actually realize this, nor was he aware that the blockade had happened until after the fact, which was why Tillerson and Mattis suspected Kushner as giving the Saudis and Emiratis the greenlight.

In his own memoir, Breaking History (which I reviewed last month), Kushner denies he supported the blockade, though he does acknowledge that Tillerson suspected him as the culprit, and he also says he knew of it in advance (which Tillerson and Mattis did not)—and tried to delay it.

Kushner also doesn’t mention the role of Tom Barrack in any of Kushner’s Middle East policy-making—even though it was Barrack who introduced Kushner to the UAE ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba and also to Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince. My sources have always said it was Barrack who supported bringing MBS to the White House in March 2017. According to the court transcripts, Barrack’s lawyer mentions the fact that Barrack was asked which entrance MBS (who was not yet then crown prince) should come through. (Barrack suggested the front door, but, in Kushner’s telling, the National Security Council staff wouldn’t let MBS drive up to the West Wing since he wasn’t technically head of state, so Kushner’s assistant Avi Berkowitz waited for him outside in the snow and then there was an issue with MBS’s paperwork and the Secret Service wouldn’t let him in until Kushner himself intervened.) It was also Barrack who, among others, encouraged the idea that the U.S. first state visit be to Saudi Arabia, rather than to a country with shared democratic values. But, as I reported, it was also Barrack who tried to intervene, in vain, on behalf of the Qataris, his chief investors, once the blockade of Qatar started.

Yet there’s only one mention of Barrack in Kushner’s entire book—which has nothing to do with the Middle East but is about helping a very young, pre-White House Kushner solve an early problem with 666 Fifth Avenue. Kushner quotes Barrack as saying something unctuous (Kushner quotes a lot of people as saying something unctuous about him) and helping him, rather than hurting him, with 666 Fifth Avenue.

It makes sense that the government would bring in McMaster and Tillerson as witnesses against Barrack. According to my eyewitness sources, both men, along with Mattis, were extraordinarily concerned about the national security threat of the blockade of Qatar and no doubt will talk about it and how they felt double-crossed by the Emiratis and Saudis when it happened. (It’s in the interest of the government prosecutors to paint the UAE as hostile to the U.S.—a tactic I’m told has not gone over well in the UAE, where they feel they are on trial rather than Barrack because, in their view, the government doesn’t have enough evidence to convict Barrack.)

But if Barrack’s defense is serious about painting a picture of whose allegiances were where and the real motivations of the top people in the White House regarding the blockade of Qatar, then—in addition to McMaster and Tillerson—Mattis, Kushner, Trump, Dina Powell, Steven Mnuchin, and Charles Kushner should all be called. Let’s hear all sides of this misadventure in the Middle East. It is, in my view, the single most dangerous and possibly self-interested corrupt piece of foreign policy in the entire Trump presidency.

Recent Headlines

 

News conference by New York Attorney General Letita James, center. Although the lawsuit against Donald J. Trump cannot include criminal charges, the former president could face substantial financial penalties (Photo by Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times).News conference by New York Attorney General Letita James, center. Although the lawsuit against Donald J. Trump cannot include criminal charges, the former president could face substantial financial penalties (Photo by Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times).

 

U.S. Immigration News

ICE logo

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Hopes Small Changes Go a Long Way on Immigration, Michael D. Shear and Miriam Jordan, Sept. 28, 2022 (print ed.). The United States has started to allow people to apply for asylum under a new process that the secretary of homeland security hopes can help fix the current “very broken system.”

Even before the political spectacle of a Republican governor flying migrants to a tiny resort island in Massachusetts, President Biden’s top border officials decided there had to be a better asylum system in America.

Because of new global migration patterns, people are heading toward the southern border of the United States, many fleeing instability, persecution, war, famine and economic distress. The numbers are overwhelming; for the first time, the number of arrests of undocumented immigrants along the southwestern border exceeded two million in one year.

Venezuelans, Cubans and Nicaraguans are joining others who are lured by America’s roaring job market and the fact that Mr. Biden has promised not to separate families, build a wall across the border or force asylum seekers to wait in squalid camps in Mexico — all policies embraced by former President Donald J. Trump.

But the question that remains has vexed presidents and lawmakers from both parties for decades.

What do we do with all of these people?

Mr. Biden has no silver bullet to overhaul the immigration system without bipartisan support from Congress, a prospect that no one in Washington expects anytime soon. But after months of debate in the White House, the Biden administration has begun to address a small slice of the problem: the woefully backlogged process to decide who qualifies for asylum, or protection from persecution, in the United States.

The goal is to make the system faster, in part by giving asylum officers — not just immigration judges — the power to decide who can stay and who must be turned away. Migrants will be interviewed 21 to 45 days after they apply for asylum, far faster than the years it can take in the existing immigration court system. A decision on whether the migrant is granted asylum must come quickly — within two to five weeks of the interview.

For now, the changes are tiny; only 99 people since the end of May have completed what are called asylum merits interviews with an asylum officer and been fully evaluated under the new rules. Of those, 24 have been granted asylum, while most of the rest have had their cases sent back to the immigration court system for an appeal.

Officials said that they were moving slowly to test out the procedures and that it would take hundreds of officers — who have yet to be hired — to expand the system.

The new rules will not address the social and economic forces in other countries that are driving migrants to flee. They will not change the overloaded system for dealing with immigrants who do not claim asylum. And the challenge of how to quickly deport those denied asylum will remain.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Maintains Current Cap on Refugee Entries, Michael D. Shear, Sept. 28, 2022 (print ed.). Leaving the 125,000 cap was a contrast with the severe restrictions of the Trump administration, but activists argued the process still was too slow.

The decision to leave the cap at 125,000 was a contrast with the Trump administration, which severely restricted entry, but advocacy groups said migrants were still processed too slowly.

 

World News, Human Rights, Disasters

ny times logoNew York Times, To Calm Markets, Bank of England Will Buy Bonds ‘On Whatever Scale Is Necessary,’ Eshe Nelson, Sept. 28, 2022. The Bank of England said on Wednesday that it would temporarily buy British government bonds, a major intervention in financial markets after the new government’s fiscal plans sent borrowing costs soaring higher over the past few days.

United Kingdom flagThe news brought some relief to the bond market, but the British pound resumed its tumble, falling 1.7 percent against the dollar, to $1.05, back toward the record low reached on Monday.

The British government’s plans to bolster economic growth by cutting taxes, especially for high earners, while spending heavily to protect households from rising energy costs has been resoundingly rejected by markets and economists, in part because of the large amount of borrowing it will require at a time of rising interest rates and high inflation. The International Monetary Fund unexpectedly made a statement about the British economy on Tuesday, urging the government to “re-evaluate” its plans.

ny times logoNew York Times, Britain’s Leader Takes an Economic Gamble. Will It Sink Her Government? Mark Landler, Sept. 27, 2022 (print ed.). Three weeks into her term, Prime Minister Liz Truss’s financial plans have thrown the markets and Britain’s currency into chaos and imperiled her future.

liz truss officialPrime Minister Liz Truss of Britain, left, campaigned as a tax cutter and champion of supply-side economics, and she won the race to replace her scandal-scarred predecessor, Boris Johnson, right. Now she has delivered that free-market agenda, and it may sink her government.

Four days after Ms. Truss’s tax cuts and deregulatory plans stunned financial markets and threw the British pound into a tailspin, the prime boris johnson tieminister’s political future looks increasingly precarious as well.

Her Conservative Party is gripped by anxiety, with a new poll showing that the opposition Labour Party has taken a 17 percentage point lead over the Tories. It’s a treacherous place for a prime minister in only her third week on the job.

ny times logoNew York Times, Far From Routine, Asia Trip Presents Thorny Tests for Kamala Harris, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Sept. 28, 2022. A visit by the U.S. vice president for Shinzo Abe’s state funeral includes outreach to Asian allies over military advances by North Korea and China.

A day after she placed flowers at the funeral altar of Shinzo Abe, the assassinated former Japanese prime minister, Vice President Kamala Harris traded the solemn setting of the state ceremony for the Yokosuka naval base south of Tokyo, where she took aim at China’s aggression toward Taiwan.

“China has challenged freedom of the seas. China has flexed its military and economic might to coerce and intimidate its neighbors,” Ms. Harris said on Wednesday while speaking to American sailors on board the Howard, a naval destroyer. “And we have witnessed disturbing behavior in the East China Sea and in the South China Sea, and most recently, provocations across the Taiwan Strait.”

What on the surface appeared to be a routine, symbolic trip for the vice president has become a tricky dance of diplomacy in a region increasingly unnerved by military advances by North Korea and China.

Just after Ms. Harris’s speech, South Korea reported that the North had launched two ballistic missiles into the waters off its east coast. Almost at the same time, Ms. Harris said in an interview with The New York Times that her message for the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, was that “we believe that his recent activity has been destabilizing and in many ways provocative” and that “we stand with our allies.”

The North’s launches, conducted four days after its first ballistic missile test in nearly four months, came on the eve of a planned trip by Ms. Harris to the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas.

Hours before Mr. Abe’s funeral, Ms. Harris confronted another issue weighing on South Korea: American tax credits for electric vehicles. Meeting with frustrated South Korean representatives, she defended legislation approved by Congress that excludes electric vehicles built outside North America from the credits, according to a senior administration official. The vice president planned to continue the discussion with President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea on Thursday, as well as raise concerns about his gender equality policies.

Throughout the first leg of Ms. Harris’s trip to a region walking a tightrope on China, she primarily kept the focus on Taiwan, a week and a half after President Biden appeared once again to move beyond a policy of “strategic ambiguity” by saying the United States would defend the island if China invaded.

“We will continue to oppose any unilateral change to the status quo,” Ms. Harris said, “and we will continue to support Taiwan’s self-defense, consistent with our longstanding policy.”

 

 

washington post logoWashington Post, Bolsonaro vs. Lula: A referendum on Brazil’s young democracy, Gabriela Sá Pessoa and Anthony Faiola, Sept. 28, 2022. He’s sowed doubt about electronic voting machines, undermined election officials and dubbed his main challenger a corrupt “thief.” An unabashed fan of the former military dictatorship, he has prodded his adoring base to “go to war” if the election here Sunday is “stolen.”

jair bolsonaro brazilIn the process, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, right, trailing in the polls for reelection to a second term, has raised fears of the old ghost that still haunts Latin America: a coup. Or, perhaps, a Brazilian take on the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

brazil flag waving“There’s a new type of thief, the ones who want to steal our liberty,” Bolsonaro told supporters in June. He added, “If necessary, we will go to war.”

Thirty-seven years after Latin America’s largest nation threw off the military dictatorship, the presidential election is shaping up as a referendum on democracy.

The vote — Sunday is the first round — is pitting Bolsonaro’s supporters, the most radical of whom want a strongman in office, against Brazilians eager to end his Trumpian run. Since taking office in 2019, Bolsonaro has overseen the accelerating destruction of the Amazon rainforest, dismissed the coronavirus pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of Brazilians and weathered allegations that he has encouraged excessive use of force by police.

Critics say he has also deeply undermined democracy — filling key positions with present and former military commanders, picking a war with the supreme court and stacking the prosecutor’s office and police with loyalists.

The choice between former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, 76, and Bolsonaro, 67, has put Brazil on the front lines of the global tug of war between democracy and authoritarianism. The contest here is being closely watched in the United States — whose politics and polarization Brazil has seemed to mirror.

 

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare addresses the U.N. General Assembly on Friday, Sept. 2?, 2022) (Associated Press photo by Julia Nikhinson).Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare addresses the U.N. General Assembly on Friday (Associated Press photo by Julia Nikhinson).

washington post logoWashington Post, Solomon Islands rejects Biden’s Pacific outreach as China looms large, Michael E. Miller, Sept. 28, 2022. American efforts to rally Pacific island leaders at a White House summit this week were dealt a blow when the Solomon Islands said it would not endorse a joint declaration that the Biden administration plans to unveil.

China FlagAs President Biden prepared to host the leaders of a dozen Pacific countries on Wednesday and Thursday in a first-of-its-kind gathering, the Solomon Islands sent a diplomatic note to other nations in the region saying there was no consensus on the issues and that it needed “time to reflect” on the declaration.

The setback just hours before the start of the summit is a sign of the challenges Washington faces as it tries to reassert influence in a region where China has made inroads. It came as Vice President Harris tours East Asia, where she is emphasizing U.S. commitment to a “free and open Indo-Pacific” during stops in Japan and South Korea. In remarks in Japan on Wednesday, Harris condemned China’s “disturbing” actions in the region, including “provocations” against Taiwan.

ny times logoNew York Times, Cuba’s power grid collapsed after the storm. Officials were working through the night to restore electricity, Camila Acosta and Oscar Lopez, Sept. 28, 2022 (print ed.). Hurricane Ian lashed Cuba on Tuesday with heavy rain and winds of up to 125 miles per hour, knocking out power to the entire island and killing two people, according to the authorities.

The Ministry of Mines and Energy said the power grid had collapsed in the wake of the storm, leaving the country in the dark as it tried to recover from heavy flooding and extensive damage. Before the sun set, residents braved wind and rain to search for food and basic supplies, lining up under overhangs to buy a piece of chicken or a bottle of oil.

Recent Headlines

 

More On Ukraine War

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia claims sky-high margin of support in staged votes on Ukraine annexation, Mary Ilyushina and Isabelle Khurshudyan, Sept. 28, 2022 (print ed.). Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plan to illegally annex four partially occupied regions in eastern and southern Ukraine lurched forward Tuesday, as Russian officials and Kremlin proxy leaders claimed that staged referendums showed residents in favor of joining Russia by absurd margins of more than 95 percent.

russian flag wavingDefying international condemnation and threats of additional Western economic sanctions, Putin could declare Russia’s absorption of the four regions — Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia — as soon as Friday, the British Defense Ministry said.

Western leaders, including President Biden, have denounced the staged referendums, which are illegal under Ukrainian and international law, as a “sham.”

Moscow does not fully control any of the four Ukrainian regions, either militarily or politically. And its war against Ukraine has taken another disastrous turn in recent days, as Putin’s declaration of a partial military mobilization has led more than 180,000 Russians to leave the country to escape potential conscription, according to the neighboring countries of Georgia, Kazakhstan and Finland. The total is likely much higher.

washington post logoWashington Post, Photos show 10-mile line at Russian border as many flee mobilization, Ellen Francis, Sept. 28, 2022 (print ed.). A traffic jam at Russia’s border with Georgia has stretched for nearly 10 miles after President Vladimir Putin’s partial military mobilization order, satellite images show.

The line of cars and trucks trying to leave formed at a crossing point on the Russian side of the border, according to U.S.-based firm Maxar Technologies, which released the photos on Monday. “The traffic jam likely continued further to the north of the imaged area,” the U.S.-based firm said. Aerial photos from the company show vehicles snaking into another long line near Russia’s border with Mongolia.
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Cars have also lined up at Russia’s borders with Finland and Kazakhstan since last week, when Putin announced a call-up of hundreds of thousands of reservists to fight in the Kremlin’s faltering war in Ukraine. It marks Russia’s first military mobilization since World War II.

washington post logoWashington Post, Final day of staged referendums; ‘unprecedented’ damage to Nord Stream pipelines, Annabelle Timsit, Rachel Pannett, Mary Ilyushina and Adam Taylor, Sept. 28, 2022 (print ed.). Tuesday marks the final day of referendums staged by Kremlin-aligned officials in Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson areas.

russian flag wavingStaged referendums in four Ukrainian territories held by Kremlin-backed officials are set to end Tuesday. The votes are not free and fair, and are illegal under international law. A first wave of never-in-doubt results, announced Tuesday, showed supposed pro-annexation majorities of more than 97 percent across regions.

ukraine flagIn a speech to Russian lawmakers Friday, President Vladimir Putin could announce the annexation of the occupied regions of Ukraine, a British intelligence update said.

The operator of the Nord Stream pipelines built to carry Russian natural gas to Europe reported Tuesday “unprecedented” damage to the system, raising suspicions of sabotage after mysterious leaks caused sudden drops in pressure in three underwater lines in the Baltic Sea.

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

Key developments

  • Denmark’s prime minister said it was “hard to imagine” that the damage to the gas pipelines was “accidental.” At an event in Poland on Tuesday, Mette Frederiksen said, “We cannot rule out sabotage, but it is too early to conclude” — appearing to add credence to fears in Europe that the leaks were caused deliberately, possibly from within Russia. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also said he could not “rule out” the possibility of sabotage, describing the pressure drop affecting Nord Stream’s pipelines as “an unprecedented situation that needs to be dealt with urgently.” The incident won’t have much of an impact on already tight gas supplies to the continent since Russia’s Gazprom shut down Nord Stream 1 in August, while Western nations blocked Nord Stream 2 from becoming fully operational as part of sanctions over Russia’s war in Ukraine.
  • Danish authorities released photographs of gas leaks forming what appeared to be severe gaseous turbulence in the Baltic Sea. A spokesperson for Sweden’s maritime authority told Reuters that Russia’s Nord Stream 1 pipeline was leaking gas into Swedish and Danish waters. The Danish authorities established prohibition zones around the leaks to reduce the risk to ship and air traffic. Experts have also expressed concern about the environmental impact.
  • Russia’s leaders are probably hoping that any announcement of Ukrainian territories’ accession to Russia “will be seen as a vindication of the ‘special military operation’ and will consolidate patriotic support for the conflict,” the British Defense Ministry said Tuesday. “This aspiration will likely be undermined by the increasing domestic awareness of Russia’s recent battlefield [setbacks] and significant unease about the partial mobilisation,” it said.
  • Japan on Tuesday condemned Russia’s detention of its consul in Vladivostok, in Russia’s Far East, on allegations that he obtained classified information. Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said Russia carried out a “coercive interrogation” that included blindfolding and physical restraint, and he called it “extremely regrettable and unacceptable.” The diplomat has since been released, is in good health and will leave the country by Wednesday out of concerns for his safety, Tokyo said. “There is absolutely no evidence that there was any engagement in illegal activities as the Russians claim,” Hayashi added.

Battleground updates

  • Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev defended Russia’s right to use nuclear weapons if threatened. In a Telegram post Tuesday, Medvedev, who is known for his aggressive defense of Russia’s war in Ukraine, said “Russia has the right to use nuclear weapons if necessary” and in “predetermined cases.” He added that Russia “will do everything we can to prevent our neighbors who are hostile to us from obtaining nuclear weapons.” “This is definitely not a bluff,” he added.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the Donbas region is “still the number one goal for the occupiers” and that Kyiv’s forces are “doing everything to curb enemy activity” in the occupied territories of eastern Ukraine. In his nightly address Monday, he also described Putin’s mobilization of reservists as “a frank attempt to give commanders on the ground a constant stream of cannon fodder.”
  • The situation around a nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine “remains tense,” according to Ukraine’s military. Staffers don’t want to cooperate with Russian forces and are trying to leave the area, but a nearby occupied region “is completely closed for entry and exit,” Ukraine’s military leadership said in a statement. The claims could not be independently verified by The Washington Post. Russia has been accused of risking nuclear disaster at the Zaporizhzhia plant.

Mobilization and protests in Russia

  • “The Kremlin’s efforts to calm the Russian population are struggling so far,” as unrest continues after Putin announced a military mobilization, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). According to the U.S.-based think tank, protests against Putin’s military mobilization were organized in at least 35 settlements in Russia on Sunday and at least 10 settlements on Monday. At least 2,386 arrests have been made since Wednesday, when a wave of demonstrations broke out, according to rights group OVD-Info.

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U.S. Politics, Economy, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Mississippi’s welfare scandal goes much deeper than Brett Favre, Rick Maese, Sept. 27, 2022. The welfare scandal involves the Hall of Fame quarterback, professional wrestlers and state officials. Groups that rely on the missing funds are feeling the sting.

brett favre 2016 super wIn 2017, a Mississippi nonprofit called Operation Shoestring received a federal grant worth more than $200,000. But when the organization sought to renew the funding a year later, the money was no longer available.

“It had been reallocated in ways we’re reading about now,” Robert Langford, executive director of Operation Shoestring, which has been providing aid to families in need for more than a half-century, said in an interview.

Mississippi’s widening welfare scandal involves tens of millions of dollars and has embroiled the state’s former governor, Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre, right, and professional wrestlers, among others. Organizations such as Operation Shoestring, and the at-risk populations that rely on those funds, continue to feel the sting.

As Langford tried to renew the funding in 2018, the state officials tasked with distributing the money were found to be funneling millions away from those it was intended for. The scandal’s impact will be felt for years, advocates say.

“It makes my blood boil,” Langford said. “We’re talking about funds that were supposed to be used to help move people out of poverty in the poorest state instead becoming literal currency for favors, both political and financial for people. It’s amazing.”

The details of the scandal continue to emerge in court filings and reporting by nonprofit news organization Mississippi Today. Last week, John Davis, the former executive director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, pleaded guilty to two federal charges and 18 state counts of embezzling federal welfare funds. The U.S. Justice Department said Davis misused the money and helped create “sham contracts … knowing that no significant services would be provided.”

 

madison cawthorn resized hunting amazon

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: How McCarthy’s political machine worked to sway GOP field for midterms, Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey, Isaac Arnsdorf and Marianna Sotomayor, Sept. 28, 2022 (print ed.). Allies spent millions in a sometimes secretive effort to weed out candidates who could cause the House leader trouble or jeopardize GOP victories in November.

famously boasting to colleagues that he had built his House office by focusing on communications not legislation.

kevin mccarthyBut the strategy made him vulnerable to forces within his own party that helped end his time in office. Top allies of Kevin McCarthy, right, the House Republican leader, worked this spring to deny Cawthorn a second term in office, after the Donald Trump-endorsed lawmaker made controversial comments about cocaine use and sex parties in Washington that led McCarthy to announce he had “lost my trust,” according to multiple Republicans briefed on the effort, which has not been previously reported.

U.S. House logoGOP lobbyist Jeff Miller, one of McCarthy’s closest friends and biggest fundraisers, and Brian O. Walsh, a Republican strategist who works for multiple McCarthy-backed groups, were both involved in an independent effort to oppose Cawthorn as part of a broader project to create a more functioning GOP caucus next year, said the Republicans, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Targeting Cawthorn was part of a larger behind-the-scenes effort by top GOP donors and senior strategists to purge the influence of Republican factions that seek disruption and grandstanding, often at the expense of their GOP colleagues. The political machine around McCarthy has spent millions of dollars this year in a sometimes secretive effort to systematically weed out GOP candidates who could either cause McCarthy trouble if he becomes House speaker or jeopardize GOP victories in districts where more moderate candidate might have a better chance at winning.

The allies close to McCarthy have sometimes taken steps to conceal their efforts, as they did in the Cawthorn case, with money passing from top GOP donors through organizations that do not disclose their donors or have limited public records, federal disclosures show.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden and Trump appear headed for a historically rare rematch in 2024, Matt Viser, Sept. 28, 2022 (print ed.). Biden and Trump appear to be nudging each other into a rare face-off between a sitting president and the predecessor he unseated.

President Biden was at a Democratic reception in Maryland a few weeks ago when his rhetoric turned toward an increasingly frequent topic — “what Trump is doing and the Trumpers are doing.” An audience member called out, “Lock him up!,” and Biden went on to cite “the new polls showing me beating Trump by six or eight points.”

A few days earlier, former president Donald Trump was at a rally in Pennsylvania when he, too, turned toward a frequent topic: “We’re leading Biden … by record numbers in the polls.” He said three times, with growing enthusiasm, “So I may just have to do it again!”

The country seems to be barreling toward a rematch that few voters actually want, but that two presidents — one current, one former — cannot stop talking about. Biden and Trump both say they are planning to make their decisions in the coming months, but with a lingering codependency between them, they each appear to be nudging the other into what would be a rare faceoff between the same two candidates four years apart.

ny times logoNew York Times, Blake Masters Strains to Win Over Arizona’s Independent Voters, Jazmine Ulloa, Sept. 28, 2022. Surveys suggest that independents, about a third of the state’s electorate, are lukewarm on the Republican’s Senate bid.

Skepticism from voters in the political center is emerging as a stubborn problem for Mr. Masters as he tries to win what has become an underdog race against Senator Mark Kelly, a moderate Democrat who leads in the polls of one of the country’s most important midterm contests.

ny times logoNew York Times, In the House fight for the New York City suburbs, will abortion turn the tide for Democrats? Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Sept. 28, 2022. Several competitive House races on Long Island have become fertile ground for candidates to test out common Republican and Democratic campaign themes.

U.S. House logoA year ago, Republicans staged an uprising in the Long Island suburbs, winning a slew of races by zeroing in on public safety and suggesting that Democrats had allowed violent crime to fester.

Now, with the midterms approaching, Democratic leaders are hoping that their own singular message, focused on abortion, might have a similar effect.

“Young ladies, your rights are on the line,” Laura Gillen, a Democrat running for Congress in Nassau County, said to two young women commuting toward the city on a recent weekday morning. “Please vote!”

Long Island has emerged as an unlikely battleground in the bitter fight for control of the House of Representatives, with both Democrats and Republicans gearing up to pour large sums of money into the contests here.

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U.S. Courts, Crime, Mass Shootings, Law

washington post logoWashington Post, Lawsuit aims to stop Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, Sept. 28, 2022 (print ed.). A lawsuit seeking to block President Biden’s plan to cancel some student debt claims the policy is not only illegal but could inflict harm on borrowers in some states who would be forced to pay taxes on the forgiven amount.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana on Tuesday, is the first significant legal action seeking to invalidate Biden’s policy before it takes effect.

The Pacific Legal Foundation, the conservative public interest law firm in California that is backing the lawsuit, asserts that the executive branch lacks the authority to create a new forgiveness policy and is usurping Congress’s power to make law. The suit was filed on behalf of Frank Garrison, an attorney who works for the foundation and lives in Indiana.

CBO: White House plan to cancel student loan debt costs $400 billion

Republican state attorneys general and lawmakers have been exploring the possibility of a lawsuit against Biden’s forgiveness plan, which critics have also assailed as fiscally irresponsible. The Job Creators Network pledged to sue the administration once the Education Department guidance has been released.

In its lawsuit, the foundation may have the one thing legal experts said was needed to make a legitimate case: a client with the standing to sue.

Garrison said he has been working toward having his federal student loans canceled through a program that erases the debt of public servants after 10 years of payments and service. Participants in that Public Service Loan Forgiveness program do not have to pay federal or state taxes.

However, Biden’s plan could result in borrowers in several states, including Indiana, being required to pay local tax bills, although they would not be subject to federal taxes.

The president’s forgiveness plan would cancel up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for borrowers who earn less than $125,000 per year, or less than $250,000 for married couples. Those who received Pell Grants, federal aid for lower-income students, could see up to $20,000 in forgiveness.

 

jonathan toebbe diana toebbe

washington post logoWashington Post, Couple accused of peddling nuclear sub secrets face stiffer penalties, Salvador Rizzo, Sept. 28, 2022. A Maryland couple accused of trying to sell military secrets to a foreign country pleaded guilty for the second time Tuesday, weeks after a federal judge threw out their previous agreements with prosecutors, deeming those deals too lenient.

Jonathan Toebbe, 43, above left, a civilian engineer for the Navy with a top-secret security clearance, and Diana Toebbe, above right, 46, a private-school teacher in their hometown of Annapolis, now face lengthier prison terms under revised plea agreements with federal prosecutors. Their sentencing dates are pending.

The Toebbes first pleaded guilty earlier this year, but U.S. District Judge Gina M. Groh in Martinsburg, W.Va., threw out their agreements with prosecutors in August, calling them too lenient. Those plea bargains would have required Jonathan Toebbe to be sentenced to 12½ to 17½ years in prison and Diana Toebbe to three years.

Diana Toebbe now faces a sentence of at least 12½ years, and Jonathan Toebbe faces more than 21 years in prison.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Crypto World Is on Edge After a String of Hacks, David Yaffe-Bellany, Sept. 28, 2022. More than $2 billion in digital currency has been stolen this year, shaking faith in the experimental field of decentralized finance known as DeFi.

Not long after dropping out of college to pursue a career in cryptocurrencies, Ben Weintraub woke up to some bad news.

Mr. Weintraub and two classmates from the University of Chicago had spent the past few months working on a software platform called Beanstalk, which offered a stablecoin, a type of cryptocurrency with a fixed value of $1. To their surprise, Beanstalk became an overnight sensation, attracting crypto speculators who viewed it as an exciting contribution to the experimental field of decentralized finance, or DeFi.

Then it collapsed. In April, a hacker exploited a flaw in Beanstalk’s design to steal more than $180 million from users, one of a series of thefts this year targeting DeFi ventures. The morning of the hack, Mr. Weintraub, 24, was home for Passover in Montclair, N.J. He walked into his parents’ bedroom.

“Wake up,” he said. “Beanstalk is dead.”

Hackers have terrorized the crypto industry for years, stealing Bitcoin from online wallets and raiding the exchanges where investors buy and sell digital currencies. But the rapid proliferation of DeFi start-ups like Beanstalk has given rise to a new type of threat.

These loosely regulated ventures allow people to borrow, lend and conduct other transactions without banks or brokers, relying instead on a system governed by code. Using DeFi software, investors can take out loans without revealing their identities or even undergoing a credit check. As the market surged last year, the emerging sector was hailed as the future of finance, a democratic alternative to Wall Street that would give amateur traders access to more capital. Crypto users entrusted roughly $100 billion in virtual currency to hundreds of DeFi projects.

But some of the software was built on faulty code. This year, $2.2 billion in cryptocurrency has been stolen from DeFi projects, according to the crypto tracking firm Chainalysis, putting the overall industry on pace for its worst year of hacking losses.

The breaches have shaken faith in DeFi during a grim period for the crypto industry. An epic crash this spring erased nearly $1 trillion and forced several high-profile companies into bankruptcy.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Sex Assault Trial Is a Rare Moment for the Chinese #MeToo Movement, Amy Qin, Sept. 28, 2022. Richard Liu, also known as Liu Qiangdong, will be one of the few high-profile Chinese figures to face an American courtroom over sexual assault allegations.

Liu Jingyao is not the first young woman to accuse a powerful Chinese businessman of rape. She is not the only Chinese woman to confront a man and seek legal charges against him.

China FlagBut she is one of the first to pursue her case in an American courtroom.

That could make all of the difference for Ms. Liu — and for the nascent #MeToo movement in China.

Jury selection begins Thursday in Minneapolis in the civil trial against one of the world’s most prominent tech billionaires, known as Richard Liu in the English-speaking world and as Liu Qiangdong in China. He is the founder of JD.com, an e-commerce giant in China that draws comparisons there to Amazon.

Ms. Liu, who is unrelated to Mr. Liu, says that the businessman followed her back to her Minneapolis apartment and raped her after an alcohol-soaked 2018 dinner for Chinese executives that she attended as a University of Minnesota volunteer, according to court filings. He has denied the allegations, insisting that the sex was consensual.

ny times logoNew York Times, 14 Guards at New Jersey Women’s Prison Indicted Over Beatings in 2021 Raid, Tracey Tully, Sept. 28, 2022. The guards entered the women’s cells to forcibly remove them. One woman was punched almost 30 times.

Fourteen guards at New Jersey’s only prison for women were indicted Tuesday in connection with a violent 2021 midnight raid that left two women with serious injuries.

The officers charged include a former top supervisor at the prison, Edna Mahan Correctional Facility, a troubled institution the Justice Department found two years ago was plagued by sexual violence.

Gov. Philip D. Murphy announced last year that he planned to close the prison and relocate women to smaller lockups, an indication that the problems highlighted first by federal inspectors investigating years of sexual abuse at the prison, and later by state officials looking into the raid, were beyond repair.

The indictments, handed up Tuesday by a state grand jury, stem from the Jan. 11, 2021, raid, in which correction officers in riot gear entered several cells to forcibly remove women, some of whom were suspected of throwing feces and urine at guards, according to the New Jersey attorney general’s office.

Recent Headlines

 

Public Health, Pandemic, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Coronavirus vaccines can change when you get your period, research shows, Amanda Morris, Sept. 28, 2022 (print ed.). A coronavirus vaccination can change the timing of when you get your period, according to research. For most people, the effect was temporary. Not long after the rollout of coronavirus vaccines last year, women around the country began posting on social media about what they believed was a strange side effect: changes to their periods.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Now, new research shows that many of the complaints were valid. A study of nearly 20,000 people around the world shows that getting vaccinated against covid can change the timing of the menstrual cycle. Overall, vaccinated people experienced, on average, about a one-day delay in getting their periods, compared with those who hadn’t been vaccinated.
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The data, published Tuesday in the British Medical Journal, was taken from a popular period tracking app called Natural Cycles and included people from around the world, but most were from North America, Britain and Europe. The researchers used “de-identified” data from the app to compare menstrual cycles among 14,936 participants who were vaccinated and 4,686 who were not.

Because app users tracked their menstrual cycles each month, the researchers were able to analyze three menstrual cycles before vaccination and at least one cycle after, compared with four menstrual cycles in the unvaccinated group.

The data showed that vaccinated people got their periods 0.71 days late, on average, after the first dose of vaccine. However, people who received two vaccinations within one menstrual cycle experienced greater disruptions. In this group, the average increase in cycle length was four days, and 13 percent experienced a delay of eight days or more, compared with 5 percent in the control group.

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Abortion, Forced Birth Laws, Privacy Rights

washington post logoWashington Post, University of Idaho may stop providing birth control under new abortion law, Caroline Kitchener and Susan Svrluga, Sept. 27, 2022 (print ed.). Employees could be charged with a felony and fired if they appear to promote abortion, according to new guidance.

The University of Idaho’s general counsel issued new guidance on Friday about the state’s near-total abortion ban, alerting faculty and staff that the school should no longer offer birth control for students, a rare move for a state university.

University employees were also advised not to speak in support of abortion at work. If an employee appears to promote abortion, counsel in favor of abortion, or refer a student for an abortion procedure, they could face a felony conviction and be permanently barred from all future state employment, according to an email obtained by The Washington Post.

Idaho’s trigger ban took effect on Aug. 25, approximately two months after the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade. That law, which was passed by state lawmakers in 2020, bans abortions at any time after conception, except in instances where the pregnant person’s life is at risk or in cases of rape or incest so long as the crime was reported to law enforcement.

Recent Headlines

 

Water, Space, Energy, Climate, Disasters

climate change photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Nord Stream operator decries ‘unprecedented’ damage to three pipelines, Mary Ilyushina, Sept. 28, 2022 (print ed.). European officials on Tuesday launched investigations into three mysterious leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines, built to carry Russian natural gas to Europe, after the system operator reported “unprecedented” damage to the lines in the Baltic Sea.

The leaks had no immediate impact on energy supplies to the European Union, since Russia had already cut off gas flows. But gas had remained in the pipes, raising concerns about possible environmental harm from leaking methane — the main component of natural gas and, when in the atmosphere, a major contributor to climate change. Images supplied by the Danish military showed gas bubbles reaching the surface of the water.

“The damage that occurred in one day simultaneously at three lines of offshore pipelines of the Nord Stream system is unprecedented,” the company, Nord Stream AG, said in a statement to Russian state news agencies.

Russia’s Gazprom says it won’t reopen Nord Stream gas pipeline to Europe as planned

European officials suggested that the damage may have been sabotage. “It is hard to imagine that it is accidental,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said, according to the Danish newspaper Politiken. “We cannot rule out sabotage, but it is too early to conclude.”

mitch mcconnell elevator getty cropped

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Media, Free Expression, Culture, Education, Sports News

washington post logoWashington Post, A China-based network of Facebook accounts posed as liberal Americans to post about Republicans, company says, Naomi Nix, Sept. 28, 2022 (print ed.). The accounts posed as liberal Americans on Facebook and Instagram to comment on Republicans, Meta said.

meta logofacebook logoFacebook’s parent company Meta disrupted a China-based network of accounts that was seeking to influence U.S. politics ahead of the 2022 midterms, the company reported Tuesday.

The covert influence operation used accounts on Facebook and Instagram posing as Americans to post opinions about hot-button issues such as abortion, gun control and high-profile politicians such as President Biden and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). The network, which focused on the United States and the Czech Republic, posted from the fall of 2021 through the summer of 2022, the company said. Facebook renamed itself Meta last year.

Ben Nimmo, Meta’s global threat intelligence lead, told reporters that the network was unusual because unlike previous China-based influence operations that focused on promoting narratives about America to the rest of the world, this network was intended to influence U.S. users abut Americans topics months ahead of the 2022 contests.

ny times logoNew York Times, Erick Adame was fired from his job as a popular meteorologist after someone began sending nude pictures of him to his employer, Liam Stack, Sept. 28, 2022. Last week, after the latest round of pictures arrived, NY1 fired Mr. Adame.

The person who sent the pictures appeared to be determined to shame or harm Mr. Adame. But in the wake of his firing, which he made public in a post on Instagram, a wave of support for him emerged online.

Now, Mr. Adame finds himself at the center of a debate over whether employers should be policing their workers’ legal off-the-clock activities online — particularly at a time when many people’s sex lives are increasingly led on the internet, and as Americans have become more open-minded about sex in general.

Mr. Adame and his supporters have argued he is a victim — both of a prudish employer and of revenge porn, a growing problem that has affected as many as 10 million Americans and that was outlawed in New York in 2019. Mr. Adame also described his behavior as the manifestation of a mental health issue that drove him to perform for audiences of other men and engage in cybersex with anonymous people online for years, and then to seek psychiatric treatment.

But Mr. Adame’s case is also complicated by other factors, including his role as a television personality, an unusually public facing position. Broadcast companies usually require on-air employees to sign contracts that contain morals clauses, which give them the power to fire employees for a wide range of behavior, from arrests to offensive Tweets, that might harm the corporation’s public image.

Recent Headlines

 

Sept. 27

Top Headlines

 

Jan. 6 Insurrection Defendants

 

michael fanone embattled but standing

 

Trump Probes, Disputes, Rallies, Supporters

 

Trump Documents Scandal

 

Investigations

 

U.S. Immigration News

 

World News, Human Rights, Disasters

 

More On Ukraine War

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Economy, Governance

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Shootings, Gun Laws

 

Abortion, Forced Birth Laws, Privacy Rights

 

Food, Water, Energy, Climate, Disasters

 

U.S. Media, Culture, Sports, Education

 

Pandemic, Public Health

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Hurricane Takes Aim at Florida After Leaving Cuba in the Dark, Staff Reports, Sept. 27, 2022. The National Hurricane Center said the eye will come ashore in Florida on Wednesday afternoon. Some 2.5 million residents have been asked to evacuate. All of Cuba was without power after the storm crossed its western provinces on Tuesday.

Hurricane Ian could hit Florida as a Category 4 storm. Millions were told to evacuate, and schools and airports started to close. The storm battered Cuba earlier in the day with winds of about 125 miles per hour, leaving the entire country without power.

washington post logoWashington Post, McConnell, Schumer back bill to prevent efforts to subvert presidential election results, Amy B Wang, Sept. 27, 2022. Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), right, have endorsed a bipartisan electoral count reform bill in the Senate, all but cementing its passage and giving the legislation a boost as Congress seeks to prevent future efforts to subvert presidential election results.

mitch mcconnellThe endorsements followed House passage of a similar bill last week. Both measures aim to stop future presidents from trying to overturn election results through Congress and were driven by the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by a mob of Donald Trump supporters seeking to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s win.

The Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act, sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), would amend the Electoral Count Act of 1887 and reaffirm that the vice president has only a ministerial role at the joint session of Congress to count electoral votes, as well as raise the threshold necessary for members of Congress to object to a state’s electors.

Speaking on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon, McConnell said there was a need to make “modest” updates to the Electoral Count Act.

“Congress’s process for counting their presidential electors’ votes was written 135 years ago. The chaos that came to a head on January 6th of last year certainly underscored the need for an update,” McConnell said. “The Electoral Count Act ultimately produced the right conclusion … but it’s clear the country needs a more predictable path.”

In a statement, Schumer said, “Make no mistake: as our country continues to face the threat of the anti-democracy MAGA Republican movement — propelled by many GOP leaders who either refused to take a stand or actively stoked the flames of division in our country — reforming the Electoral Count Act ought to be the bare minimum of action the Congress takes.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia claims sky-high margin of support in staged votes on Ukraine annexation, Mary Ilyushina and Isabelle Khurshudyan, Sept. 27, 2022. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plan to illegally annex four partially occupied regions in eastern and southern Ukraine lurched forward Tuesday, as Russian officials and Kremlin proxy leaders claimed that staged referendums showed residents in favor of joining Russia by absurd margins of more than 95 percent.

russian flag wavingDefying international condemnation and threats of additional Western economic sanctions, Putin could declare Russia’s absorption of the four regions — Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia — as soon as Friday, the British Defense Ministry said.

Western leaders, including President Biden, have denounced the staged referendums, which are illegal under Ukrainian and international law, as a “sham.”

Moscow does not fully control any of the four Ukrainian regions, either militarily or politically. And its war against Ukraine has taken another disastrous turn in recent days, as Putin’s declaration of a partial military mobilization has led more than 180,000 Russians to leave the country to escape potential conscription, according to the neighboring countries of Georgia, Kazakhstan and Finland. The total is likely much higher.

washington post logoWashington Post, Photos show 10-mile line at Russian border as many flee mobilization, Ellen Francis, Sept. 27, 2022. A traffic jam at Russia’s border with Georgia has stretched for nearly 10 miles after President Vladimir Putin’s partial military mobilization order, satellite images show.

The line of cars and trucks trying to leave formed at a crossing point on the Russian side of the border, according to U.S.-based firm Maxar Technologies, which released the photos on Monday. “The traffic jam likely continued further to the north of the imaged area,” the U.S.-based firm said. Aerial photos from the company show vehicles snaking into another long line near Russia’s border with Mongolia.
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Cars have also lined up at Russia’s borders with Finland and Kazakhstan since last week, when Putin announced a call-up of hundreds of thousands of reservists to fight in the Kremlin’s faltering war in Ukraine. It marks Russia’s first military mobilization since World War II.

Politico, Senate advances funding bill after Manchin punts his energy plan, Caitlin Emma and Burgess Everett, Sept. 27, 2022. The West Virginia senator removed his permitting proposal from the government funding bill after Republicans made it clear they wouldn’t back it.

The Senate easily advanced a short-term government funding bill on Tuesday after Joe Manchin conceded defeat on his push to combine the funding fix with his energy permitting package.

politico CustomCongress must pass the stopgap bill, which would fund the government through Dec. 16, before Friday at midnight in order to avert a shutdown. The bill cleared an early Senate hurdle in a 72-23 vote after the West Virginia centrist agreed to remove his proposal, paving the way for the legislation to move ahead in time to keep the government open.

The chamber could officially clear the bill as soon as Wednesday, though it would require the agreement of all 100 senators, sending the bill off to the House.

Before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the floor that he and Manchin would “continue to have conversations about the best way” to move forward on the permitting effort before the end of the year.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had encouraged Senate Republicans to take down Manchin’s effort in a floor speech Tuesday afternoon, saying that adding the West Virginia Democrat’s permitting plan to the bill amounted to a “poison pill.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Lawmakers Propose Measure to Avert Government Shutdown This Week, Emily Cochrane, Sept. 27, 2022. The package would also provide major new aid to Ukraine, but its fate in an initial Senate vote on Tuesday is uncertain.

Top lawmakers proposed a stopgap funding package on Monday night that would avert a government shutdown at the end of the week and set aside a major new round of emergency aid to Ukraine to defend itself against Russia.

With funding set to run out when a new fiscal year begins on Saturday, lawmakers are aiming to quickly move the legislation through both chambers in the coming days to keep the government funded through Dec. 16. But even as the final details of the package came together, it faced an increasing likelihood that it could not pass in its current form.

 

 

nasa logonasa asteroidap logoAssociated Press via Politico, Bam! NASA spacecraft crashes into asteroid in defense test, Staff Report, Sept. 27, 2022 (print ed.). “The dinosaurs didn’t have a space program to help them know what was coming, but we do."

A NASA spacecraft rammed an asteroid at blistering speed Monday in an unprecedented dress rehearsal for the day a killer rock menaces Earth.

The galactic grand slam occurred at a harmless asteroid (shown above in a NASA photo along with staff) 7 million miles away, with the spacecraft named Dart plowing into the small space rock at 14,000 mph. Scientists expected the impact to carve out a crater, hurl streams of rocks and dirt into space and, most importantly, alter the asteroid’s orbit.

politico CustomTelescopes around the world and in space aimed at the same point in the sky to capture the spectacle. Though the impact was immediately obvious — Dart’s radio signal abruptly ceased — it will be days or even weeks to determine how much the asteroid’s path was changed.

The $325 million mission was the first attempt to shift the position of an asteroid or any other natural object in space.

“No, this is not a movie plot,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson tweeted earlier in the day. ”We’ve all seen it on movies like ‘Armageddon,’ but the real-life stakes are high,” he said in a prerecorded video.

Monday’s target: a 525-foot asteroid named Dimorphos. It’s actually a moonlet of Didymos, Greek for twin, a fast-spinning asteroid five times bigger that flung off the material that formed the junior partner.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Lawsuit aims to stop Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, Sept. 27, 2022. A lawsuit seeking to block President Biden’s plan to cancel some student debt claims the policy is not only illegal but could inflict harm on borrowers in some states who would be forced to pay taxes on the forgiven amount.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana on Tuesday, is the first significant legal action seeking to invalidate Biden’s policy before it takes effect.

The Pacific Legal Foundation, the conservative public interest law firm in California that is backing the lawsuit, asserts that the executive branch lacks the authority to create a new forgiveness policy and is usurping Congress’s power to make law. The suit was filed on behalf of Frank Garrison, an attorney who works for the foundation and lives in Indiana.

CBO: White House plan to cancel student loan debt costs $400 billion

Republican state attorneys general and lawmakers have been exploring the possibility of a lawsuit against Biden’s forgiveness plan, which critics have also assailed as fiscally irresponsible. The Job Creators Network pledged to sue the administration once the Education Department guidance has been released.

In its lawsuit, the foundation may have the one thing legal experts said was needed to make a legitimate case: a client with the standing to sue.

Garrison said he has been working toward having his federal student loans canceled through a program that erases the debt of public servants after 10 years of payments and service. Participants in that Public Service Loan Forgiveness program do not have to pay federal or state taxes.

However, Biden’s plan could result in borrowers in several states, including Indiana, being required to pay local tax bills, although they would not be subject to federal taxes.

The president’s forgiveness plan would cancel up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for borrowers who earn less than $125,000 per year, or less than $250,000 for married couples. Those who received Pell Grants, federal aid for lower-income students, could see up to $20,000 in forgiveness.

 

Jan. 6 Insurrection Defendants

michael fanone embattled but standing

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘I hope you suffer,’ ex-D.C. officer Michael Fanone tells Jan. 6 attacker at sentencing, Rachel Weiner, Sept. 22, 2022. Kyle Young was sentenced to seven years and two months in prison for the attack on police officer Michael Fanone (shown at center above), who was dragged into the mob and beaten.

kyle youngA member of the mob that launched a series of violent attacks on police — including D.C. officer Michael Fanone — in a tunnel under the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, apologized Tuesday as a judge sentenced him to seven years and two months in prison.

Kyle Young, 38, right, is the first rioter to be sentenced for the group attack on Fanone, who was dragged into the mob, beaten and electrocuted until he suffered a heart attack and lost consciousness.

“You were a one-man wrecking ball that day,” Judge Amy Berman Jackson said. “You were the violence.”

Fanone resigned from the D.C. police late last year, saying fellow officers turned on him for speaking so publicly about the Capitol attack and former president Donald Trump’s role in it. In court Tuesday, Fanone directly confronted his attacker, telling Young, “I hope you suffer.”

“The assault on me by Mr. Young cost me my career,” Fanone said. “It cost me my faith in law enforcement and many of the institutions I dedicated two decades of my life to serving.”

Michael Fanone prepares to depart after a congressional hearing. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

Young pleaded guilty in May to being in the group that attacked Fanone. Documents filed with his plea agreement offer this account:

Young and his 16-year-old son joined the tunnel battle just before 3 p.m., and Young handed a stun gun to another rioter and showed him how to use it. When Fanone was pulled from the police line, Young and his son pushed through the crowd toward him.

Just after that, authorities said, another rioter repeatedly shocked Fanone with the stun gun, and Young helped restrain the officer as another rioter stole his badge and radio.

Young lost his grip on Fanone as the mob moved. He then pushed and hit a nearby Capitol Police officer, who had just been struck with bear spray, according to documents filed with his plea.

Young also pointed a strobe light at the officers, jabbed at them with a stick and threw an audio speaker toward the police line, hitting another rioter in the back of the head, prosecutors said.

In a letter to the court, Young said he cried on the phone with his wife as he left D.C.

“I was a nervous wreck and highly ashamed of myself,” he wrote. “I do not condone this and do not promote this like others have done. Violence isn’t the answer.”

In court, he apologized to Fanone, saying, “I hope someday you forgive me. … I am so, so sorry. If I could take it back, I would.”

Young has a long criminal history. While in prison for producing meth, he faced repeated sanctions for violence. His attorney said that after a difficult childhood, Young had straightened out his life, gotten married, raised four children and started working in HVAC installation. Until Jan. 6, he hadn’t been arrested in a dozen years, his attorney said.

His “conduct on January 6 is isolated to a unique set of circumstances that unfolded that are not likely to be replicated,” wrote his attorney, Samuel Moore.

Jackson said she believed Young had become a good husband and father. But she noted the continued possibility of political violence, with Trump and his allies responding to possible prosecution by “cagily predicting or even outright calling for violence in the streets.”

The sentence she gave Young is close to the eight-year statutory maximum for assaulting a police officer.

Two of the other men accused of involvement in the attack on Fanone have pleaded not guilty. One has admitted dragging Fanone down the Capitol steps; he is set to be sentenced in October.

jon mott

washington post logoWashington Post, Jan. 6 defendant was barred from having guns, but judge lets him have them so he can hunt, María Luisa Paúl, Sept. 27, 2022. On Jan. 6, 2021, Jon Mott (shown above) was one of the scores of pro-Trump rioters who broke into the Capitol’s Rotunda, according to prosecutors. Four months later, he was arrested after federal investigators say they received tips and social media posts pointing to his involvement in the insurrection.

Since then, the 39-year-old Arkansas man has pleaded not guilty and been released to await trial. Under the conditions of his release, Mott was barred from possessing any weapons, court records show.

Last week, though, Mott’s lawyers asked a federal judge to grant him a special request: permission to go hunting.

“For the majority of his life, [Mott] has participated in the Conservation efforts of wildlife management by engaging in the practice of subsistence hunting,” Mott’s attorney, Joseph W. Allen, wrote in a motion Friday.

Allen, who didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post, wrote that allowing Mott to hunt would save him $5,000 in grocery bills — a welcomed cut, considering food prices have increased 11.4 percent over the past year. According to Allen’s motion, Mott — who has never had any firearms-related charges — legally owns “several firearms that he has used priorly for the purposes of subsistence hunting.”

royce lamberth 2009On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth, right, agreed to the request — with a caveat. While Mott will now be allowed to use firearms for hunting, he can’t store any weapons or ammunition inside his home or workplace, Lamberth’s order states.

Court records detail the case prosecutors have so far built against Mott, who is charged with entering a restricted building, disorderly conduct in a restricted building and two counts of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.

Just one day after supporters of President Donald Trump breached the Capitol, where Congress was certifying Joe Biden’s electoral victory, an unnamed tipster sent the FBI screenshots linking Mott and an associate to the siege, according to a criminal complaint. In one, Mott’s unnamed associate allegedly posted on Facebook: “I’m ok. We did it. [Mott] and I got separated for about 20 minutes but I’ve made contact with him. He’s better than ok. I’m now trying to get us the hell out of here. Good work patriots.”

 

stewart rhodes

washington post logoWashington Post, Oath Keepers sedition trial could reveal new info about Jan. 6 plotting, Spencer S. Hsu, Rachel Weiner and Tom Jackman, Sept. 27, 2022 (print ed.). Investigators continue to ask cooperating members of the Oath Keepers who have pleaded guilty about their knowledge of any coordination with others.

Five members of the extremist group Oath Keepers, including leader Stewart Rhodes, face trial for seditious conspiracy next week, in which U.S. prosecutors will try to convince jurors that Rhodes’s call for an armed “civil war” to keep Donald Trump in power on Jan. 6, 2021, was literal — and criminal.

Starting with jury selection Tuesday and opening statements as early as Thursday, Rhodes’s trial could reveal new information about the quest to subvert the 2020 presidential election results, as prosecutors continue to probe Trump’s conduct and that of his inner circle.

Prosecutors’ challenge will be to prove that Rhodes, one of the most visible figures of the far-right anti-government movement, and his group intentionally conspired to use force to prevent President Biden’s swearing-in. Whether the government tips its hand in court about the Oath Keepers’ ties to other political figures, the trial is an important step in the wider probe, analysts said.

Investigators continue to ask cooperating members of the Oath Keepers who have pleaded guilty about their knowledge of any coordination with others, according to defense attorneys. And they would welcome cooperation from those on trial, even if it came after convictions and the prospect of prison, former prosecutors said.

“I don’t think that the investigation is by any means over,” said Barbara L. McQuade, a former federal prosecutor who teaches law at the University of Michigan. “I think they may have important lines of investigation, and we just don’t know it yet. … and it will take many more months before they feel they have tapped all those veins of information.”

Prosecutors plan to call as many as 40 witnesses over a projected five-week trial, draw from 800 statements by those charged and summarize tens of thousands of messages, hundreds of hours of video footage and hundreds of phone call, location and financial records, according to pretrial proceedings. Three Oath Keepers members have pleaded guilty to the seditious conspiracy charge and are among more than a dozen potential informants in the case, according to government filings.

 

Investigations

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Mississippi’s welfare scandal goes much deeper than Brett Favre, Rick Maese, Sept. 27, 2022. The welfare scandal involves the Hall of Fame quarterback, professional wrestlers and state officials. Groups that rely on the missing funds are feeling the sting.

brett favre 2016 super wIn 2017, a Mississippi nonprofit called Operation Shoestring received a federal grant worth more than $200,000. But when the organization sought to renew the funding a year later, the money was no longer available.

“It had been reallocated in ways we’re reading about now,” Robert Langford, executive director of Operation Shoestring, which has been providing aid to families in need for more than a half-century, said in an interview.

Mississippi’s widening welfare scandal involves tens of millions of dollars and has embroiled the state’s former governor, Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre, right, and professional wrestlers, among others. Organizations such as Operation Shoestring, and the at-risk populations that rely on those funds, continue to feel the sting.

As Langford tried to renew the funding in 2018, the state officials tasked with distributing the money were found to be funneling millions away from those it was intended for. The scandal’s impact will be felt for years, advocates say.

“It makes my blood boil,” Langford said. “We’re talking about funds that were supposed to be used to help move people out of poverty in the poorest state instead becoming literal currency for favors, both political and financial for people. It’s amazing.”

The details of the scandal continue to emerge in court filings and reporting by nonprofit news organization Mississippi Today. Last week, John Davis, the former executive director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, pleaded guilty to two federal charges and 18 state counts of embezzling federal welfare funds. The U.S. Justice Department said Davis misused the money and helped create “sham contracts … knowing that no significant services would be provided.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Breaking: Coronavirus vaccines can change when you get your period, research shows, Amanda Morris, Sept. 27, 2022. A coronavirus vaccination can change the timing of when you get your period, according to research. For most people, the effect was temporary. Not long after the rollout of coronavirus vaccines last year, women around the country began posting on social media about what they believed was a strange side effect: changes to their periods.

Now, new research shows that many of the complaints were valid. A study of nearly 20,000 people around the world shows that getting vaccinated against covid can change the timing of the menstrual cycle. Overall, vaccinated people experienced, on average, about a one-day delay in getting their periods, compared with those who hadn’t been vaccinated.
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The data, published Tuesday in the British Medical Journal, was taken from a popular period tracking app called Natural Cycles and included people from around the world, but most were from North America, Britain and Europe. The researchers used “de-identified” data from the app to compare menstrual cycles among 14,936 participants who were vaccinated and 4,686 who were not.

Because app users tracked their menstrual cycles each month, the researchers were able to analyze three menstrual cycles before vaccination and at least one cycle after, compared with four menstrual cycles in the unvaccinated group.

The data showed that vaccinated people got their periods 0.71 days late, on average, after the first dose of vaccine. However, people who received two vaccinations within one menstrual cycle experienced greater disruptions. In this group, the average increase in cycle length was four days, and 13 percent experienced a delay of eight days or more, compared with 5 percent in the control group.

madison cawthorn resized hunting amazon

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: How McCarthy’s political machine worked to sway GOP field for midterms, Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey, Isaac Arnsdorf and Marianna Sotomayor, Sept. 27, 2022. Allies spent millions in a sometimes secretive effort to weed out candidates who could cause the House leader trouble or jeopardize GOP victories in November.

famously boasting to colleagues that he had built his House office by focusing on communications not legislation.

kevin mccarthyBut the strategy made him vulnerable to forces within his own party that helped end his time in office. Top allies of Kevin McCarthy, right, the House Republican leader, worked this spring to deny Cawthorn a second term in office, after the Donald Trump-endorsed lawmaker made controversial comments about cocaine use and sex parties in Washington that led McCarthy to announce he had “lost my trust,” according to multiple Republicans briefed on the effort, which has not been previously reported.

GOP lobbyist Jeff Miller, one of McCarthy’s closest friends and biggest fundraisers, and Brian O. Walsh, a Republican strategist who works for multiple McCarthy-backed groups, were both involved in an independent effort to oppose Cawthorn as part of a broader project to create a more functioning GOP caucus next year, said the Republicans, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Targeting Cawthorn was part of a larger behind-the-scenes effort by top GOP donors and senior strategists to purge the influence of Republican factions that seek disruption and grandstanding, often at the expense of their GOP colleagues. The political machine around McCarthy has spent millions of dollars this year in a sometimes secretive effort to systematically weed out GOP candidates who could either cause McCarthy trouble if he becomes House speaker or jeopardize GOP victories in districts where more moderate candidate might have a better chance at winning.

The allies close to McCarthy have sometimes taken steps to conceal their efforts, as they did in the Cawthorn case, with money passing from top GOP donors through organizations that do not disclose their donors or have limited public records, federal disclosures show.

 

Trump Probes, Disputes, Rallies, Supporters

 

U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jan. 6 committee postpones planned hearing as Hurricane Ian advances, Jacqueline Alemany and Josh Dawsey, Sept. 27, 2022. The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol is postponing its highly anticipated hearing because of Hurricane Ian, which is expected to barrel into the western coast of Florida on Wednesday, according to two people familiar with the decision.

It’s unclear when the daytime hearing, which seeks to recapture the nation’s attention with what is likely to be the panel’s final public hearing before the release of a final report, will be rescheduled.

The hearing follows eight highly produced, news-making hearings that aired over June and July, featuring blockbuster testimony from former White House officials, poll workers and law enforcement officers. During the committee’s August hiatus, staff doubled back to their investigative work to follow new leads and answer unresolved questions.

The final hearing is expected in part to focus on how associates of former president Donald Trump planned to declare victory regardless of the outcome of the 2020 election, according to people familiar with hearing planning. The Washington Post reported Monday that the committee intends to show video of Roger Stone recorded by Danish filmmakers during the weeks before the violence in which Stone predicted violent clashes with left-wing activists and forecast months before Election Day that Trump would use armed guards and loyal judges to stay in power.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

washington post logoWashington Post, How a QAnon splinter group became a feature of Trump rallies, Isaac Arnsdorf, Sept. 27, 2022 (print ed.). An offshoot of the extremist movement called Negative48 is thronging Trump political events, causing tensions with the former president’s team.

 

Roger Stone watches news coverage of the Capitol riot in his suite at the Willard hotel on Jan. 6, 2021 (Photo by Kristin M. Davis.)

Roger Stone watches news coverage of the Capitol riot in his suite at the Willard hotel on Jan. 6, 2021 2021 (Photo by Kristin M. Davis.).

washington post logoWashington Post, Jan. 6 committee hearing will use clips from Roger Stone documentary, Dalton Bennett, Jon Swaine and Jacqueline Alemany, Sept. 27, 2022 (print ed.). The committee is considering including video clips in which Stone, a longtime adviser to Donald Trump, predicted violent clashes and forecast that the president would use armed guards and loyal judges to stay in power. The Danish filmmakers, who previously were hesitant to cooperate with the investigation, said this week they decided to comply with a subpoena issued by the committee .

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob intends to show at its hearing this week video footage of Roger Stone recorded by Danish filmmakers during the weeks before the violence, according to people familiar with the matter.

The committee is considering including video clips in which Stone, a longtime friend and adviser of Donald Trump, predicted violent clashes with left-wing activists and forecast months before the 2020 vote that the then-president would use armed guards and loyal judges to stay in power, according to one of the people familiar with hearing planning.

The Washington Post revealed in March that the Copenhagen-based filmmakers had recorded footage of Stone as they followed him for extended periods between 2019 and 2021. They were at his side as Stone traveled to Washington for the “Stop the Steal” rallies that spilled into violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Their film on Stone, “A Storm Foretold,” is expected to be released later this year.
Stone resurrects "Stop the Steal."

The selection of clips for Wednesday’s hearing has not yet been finalized, according to people familiar with the committee’s planning. But thematically they are likely to focus on how Stone, former Trump chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon and other associates of the president planned on declaring victory regardless of the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, one of the people said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Roger Stone wants to have his tough-guy bluster and deny it, too, Philip Bump, Sept. 27, 2022. Enter longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone.

The Washington Post reported Monday that footage of Stone captured while a documentary film crew traveled with him in 2020 and 2021 would be shown this week at a hearing held by the House select committee investigating the Capitol riot. CNN obtained some of the video, in which Stone is shown repeatedly suggesting that Trump and his allies simply reject the results of the election and block any effort to enforce a loss. At another point, he scoffs at the process of actually voting, saying, “Let’s get right to the violence.”

We’ve known that footage of Stone existed for some time. The Post first reported on the documentary in March, detailing some of what was captured by the filmmakers. Responding to questions from The Post, Stone offered a remarkable defense: “The video clips of him reviewed by The Post could be ‘deep fakes.’ ”

He repeated this claim Monday afternoon on Telegram after CNN first aired snippets of what it had obtained.

“CNN airs fraudulent deep fake videos and expects anyone to believe them,” he wrote.

Of course, there’s no evidence at all that the videos were manipulated; in fact, the claim makes no sense. Not only are there no obvious signs of the video being manipulated, but there’s no reason to think that Stone wouldn’t have said the things he’s shown saying in the clips. What makes the Stone clips not suspicious is that the tough-guy bluster and huffy machismo is very much in line with his persona.

It’s odd for Stone to disparage the reliability of the filmmakers because they provide his alibi for Jan. 6. On that day, he was holed up in a hotel in Washington, having been unable to get to Trump’s rally outside the White House. (He had been relegated to speaking at an event on the evening of Jan. 5.) As the violence unfolded, Stone was watching on the TV in his room.

But this is how it works. Stone has been an ally and adviser to Trump for a long time, and the two share an enthusiasm for creating a miasma of uncertainty that gives them space in which to maneuver. If Stone gets someone to think that these comments might be faked, it gives him deniability — and introduces new skepticism about CNN and the Jan. 6 committee.

In other contexts, though, Stone embraces proximity to violence and threats. He has been tied to the extremist group the Proud Boys, even telling journalist Andy Campbell that he had served as something of an adviser to the group’s leader, Enrique Tarrio. On Jan. 5 and 6, 2021, he had members of the Oath Keepers serving as his security detail. Stone was indicted in 2019 for witness tampering, among other things. According to federal investigators, Stone repeatedly berated a potential witness, notably suggesting that he “prepare to die.” Trump pardoned him.

This persona of toughness and power is obviously something Stone relishes, but it is also utilitarian, as were Trump’s angry claims that the 2020 election was stolen. Say something angrily enough, loudly enough and long enough, and other people will cross the line for you. Trump didn’t have to break windows at the Capitol to scare Congress away on Jan. 6; he had already set the conditions for his supporters to do so. Stone doesn’t have to go out and attack “antifa,” as the documentarians filmed him espousing; his allies in the Proud Boys are more than happy to do so.

Axios Sneak Peek: 1 big thing: Mark Meadows' inbox, Alayna Treene, Hans Nichols and Zachary Basu, Sept. 26-27, 2022. Between Nov. 3, 2020, and President Biden's inauguration, Mark Meadows' cellphone became a key channel for dozens of elected officials as well private citizens to convey outlandish conspiracy theories and last-ditch ideas to overturn the election, Axios' Sophia Cai reports.

axios logoDriving the news: A new book by former Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.) — an ex-adviser to the Jan. 6 committee — claims denver riggleman breach coverthat former President Trump's chief of staff received texts from 39 House members and five U.S. senators.

The Breach cites texts from GOP lawmakers to paint a picture of how invested many were in Trump's effort to overturn the election. The book, which has not been authorized by the committee, is set for release tomorrow and was obtained in advance by Axios. Riggleman left his position as a senior technical adviser to the committee in April.

Why it matters: The Meadows texts are the "crown jewels" that "gave us keys to the kingdom," Riggleman writes.

The timing of the book's release gives it a narrow window to impact the committee's work and the public's understanding.
Mark MeadowsWednesday's hearing is perhaps the last public one before the release of a final report on the committee's findings and recommendations.

Details: The book reveals Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) sent Meadows, right, a forwarded note from North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley, who shared his own idea for a "last-ditch effort" to demand statewide recounts of absentee and mail-in ballots in crucial states.

Other examples: Meadows received texts in late 2020 from Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) about "dead voters" and Dominion voting machines. Riggleman notes that one of Gosar’s texts included a link to a movie about "cyber warfare" from an anti-vaccine conspiracy blog called "Some Bitch Told Me."

On Nov. 5, 2020, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) touted his experience as an attorney and offered to come to the White House, to which Meadows responded: "Most of this is being handled at the campaign. Would love your help and would love you going on TV."

Republican Reps. Chip Roy and Brian Babin, both of Texas, also reached out to Meadows for direction on how to challenge the election on the morning of Nov. 5.

Between the lines: Riggleman's headline-grabbing book and accompanying media tour have rankled some members of the committee, which has sought to downplay his insight into the panel's investigation.

"I am an intelligence officer by training," Riggleman writes in the book's introduction. "There is nothing more valuable than raw data. ... I am not asking you to like me or even to trust me. I want to let the data do the talking."

Axios Situational awareness: The National Archives has been asked to notify the House Oversight Committee by tomorrow whether any documents from the Trump White House are still unaccounted for, the Wall Street Journal reports.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-staffer’s unauthorized book about Jan. 6 committee rankles members, Jacqueline Alemany and Josh Dawsey, Sept. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Former Rep. Denver Riggleman is set to publish his book Tuesday, just one day before the final public hearing of the Jan. 6 panel.

News that a former adviser to the committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection is publishing a book billed as a “behind-the-scenes” look at the committee’s work came as a shock to most lawmakers and committee staff when it was announced last week.

denver riddleman oDenver Riggleman, right, a former Republican congressman, is set to publish The Breach on Tuesday, just one day before the final public hearing of the Jan. 6 panel, which has gone to extraordinary lengths to prevent unauthorized leaks, as well as keep its sources and methods of investigation under wraps.

Riggleman’s book announcement came in the form of a tweet touting his upcoming appearance Sunday on “60 Minutes” as his first time speaking publicly about the book.

Lawmakers and committee staff were largely unaware that the former staffer had spent the months since leaving the committee writing a book about his limited work on staff — or that it would be published before the conclusion of the committee’s investigation, according to people familiar with the matter who, like others interviewed by The Washington Post, spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail private conversations.

Senior staff previously confronted Riggleman after rumors circulated that he was working on a book about his work for the committee, according to a person close to the panel. In one exchange, Riggleman told colleagues he was writing a book on a topic unrelated to his committee work. In a later conversation, before his departure from the committee staff, Riggleman said he had been approached about writing a book related to the committee but that it would not be published before the end of this year.

NBC News, Secret Service took the cellphones of 24 agents involved in Jan. 6 response and gave them to investigators, Julia Ainsley, Sept. 27, 2022. DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari asked for the phones around the time he launched a criminal probe into the Secret Service’s missing text messages from Jan. 6, 2021.

Senior leadership at the Secret Service confiscated the cellphones of 24 agents involved in the agency’s response to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol and handed them over to the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, according to two sources with knowledge of the action.

The agency handed over the phones “shortly after” a July 19 letter was sent by Inspector General Joseph Cuffari’s office around the time he launched a criminal probe into the Secret Service’s missing text messages from Jan. 6, the sources said.

It is unclear what, if any, information the Office of Inspector General has been able to obtain from the cellphones.

The revelation that Cuffari’s office has had access to the phones since late July or August raises new questions about the progress of his criminal investigation into the missing text messages and what, if anything, the public may be able to learn about communications between agents on Jan. 6, 2021.

One source familiar with the Secret Service decision to comply with Cuffari’s request said some agents were upset their leaders were quick to confiscate the phones without their input.

But given that the phones belong to the agency, the source explained, the agents had little say in the matter.

The revelation that Cuffari’s office has had access to the phones since late July or August raises new questions about the progress of his criminal investigation into the missing text messages and what, if anything, the public may be able to learn about communications between agents on Jan. 6, 2021.

One source familiar with the Secret Service decision to comply with Cuffari’s request said some agents were upset their leaders were quick to confiscate the phones without their input.

But given that the phones belong to the agency, the source explained, the agents had little say in the matter.

Earlier in July, Cuffari had alerted Congress that his office was unable to obtain text messages from agents’ cellphones that it sought as part of its investigation into the Secret Service response to the insurrection. The Secret Service has said the texts were lost as part of a previously planned systems upgrade that essentially restored the phones to factory settings.

The content of texts sent by Secret Service agents on Jan. 5 and 6, 2021, attracted increased interest in June after former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson told the Jan. 6 select House committee that she’d heard secondhand that former President Donald Trump had lunged at a Secret Service agent when he refused to drive Trump's car toward the Capitol during the insurrection. Trump has denied lunging at the agent.

A spokesperson for the Secret Service declined to comment about the confiscated phones. A spokesperson for the Inspector General’s Office said the agency does not “confirm the existence of or comment on criminal investigations“ in order to “protect the integrity of our work [and] preserve our independence.”

peter navarro fox CustomPalmer Report, Analysis: DOJ files writ of replevin against Trump co-conspirator Peter Navarro, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 26, 2022. The bill palmerDOJ has filed a writ of replevin against Peter Navarro, shown above in a file photo, forcing him to immediately return government property that he’s illegally possessing. This new “replevin” filing should be a real nightmare for Navarro, given that he’s previously shown he doesn’t even know what “redacted” means.

bill palmer report logo headerBut in all seriousness, legally speaking, this filing is a big deal. For those thinking this means Navarro might have stolen classified documents, the DOJ filing instead refers to government emails, which the DOJ considers Navarro to be illegal possessing. That’s more boring than espionage, but still clear Navarro is in real trouble.

For those demanding to know when the DOJ is finally going to indict Peter Navarro, let’s not forget the DOJ has already invited Peter Navarro for contempt, and he’s awaiting trial. The DOJ is clearly looking to bring more serious charges against him and his co-conspirators.

This DOJ filing also states that Navarro has previously demanded immunity in exchange for turning over his government emails, which the DOJ has obviously rejected. This suggests the emails incriminate Navarro rather severely, beyond the current contempt charge, and that Navarro is looking to avoid prison. But it sounds like the DOJ is just going to take the emails from Navarro by force, leaving him with no leverage, and only the option of flipping on Trump if he wants immunity.

“But what if Navarro just deletes the emails?” For one thing, deleted emails are rarely actually gone. And if he did delete the emails after he learned that the government wanted them, that would be felony obstruction, helping ensure Navarro ends up in prison. In such case Navarro would go down for obstruction and contempt – and those kinds of charges start to add up for a 73 year old guy. So if he has deleted them, then he’ll really have to flip on Trump to avoid prison.

This doesn’t mean Navarro will flip on Trump. He’d have to be an idiot not to flip, but on the other hand, he is an idiot. So we’ll see. But Navarro now has only two choices, flip on Trump or rot in prison. He’ll have to live with whatever choice he makes. If Navarro doesn’t flip, others will.

Politico, Federal appeals court punts on writer's suit against Trump over rape denial, Josh Gerstein, Sept. 27, 2022. A federal appeals court handed Donald Trump an incremental win Tuesday in a libel suit brought by writer E. Jean Carroll over the former president’s denial of her claim that he raped her in a New York department store dressing room in the 1990s.

politico CustomA divided panel of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a lower court judge erred when he concluded that Trump, as president, was not covered by a federal law that can be used to shield federal employees from liability over incidents related to their work.

e jean carrollUnder Trump, the Justice Department belatedly invoked that law — known as the Westfall Act — in a bid to shut down the defamation case Carroll, right, filed in 2019 stemming from statements Trump issued denying that he raped Carroll, including a declaration that “She’s not my type.” Last year, under President Joe Biden, the Justice Department stirred controversy by reaffirming the department’s earlier stance that Trump was essentially immune from suit because he was acting within the scope of his duties when fielding media questions about the alleged rape at the Bergdorf Goodman in 1995 or 1996.

In Tuesday’s ruling, the majority on the three-judge federal appeals court panel asked a local court in Washington, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, to weigh in on whether Trump’s statements are the sort of actions that employers can be held liable for under D.C. law. If not, Trump could be personally responsible for any damages awarded in the case.

Carroll’s libel suit may wind up being of secondary concern to Trump, since she has signaled she plans to file a new suit in November that directly accuses Trump of rape and seeks damages for the alleged attack itself. A New York state law set to take effect in November allows plaintiffs such as Carroll to pursue civil cases over sex crimes that would otherwise be subject to a 20-year statute of limitations.

Recent Headlines

 

News conference by New York Attorney General Letita James, center. Although the lawsuit against Donald J. Trump cannot include criminal charges, the former president could face substantial financial penalties (Photo by Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times).News conference by New York Attorney General Letita James, center. Although the lawsuit against Donald J. Trump cannot include criminal charges, the former president could face substantial financial penalties (Photo by Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times).

 

Trump Documents Scandal

 

mar a lago aerial Custom

 ny times logoNew York Times, Former President Trump claimed he declassified the Mar-a-Lago documents. Why don’t his lawyers say so in court? Glenn Thrush, Alan Feuer and Charlie Savage, Sept. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Judges this week highlighted the gap between Mr. Trump’s public claims that he declassified everything and his lawyers’ reluctance to repeat that claim in a courtroom.

Former President Donald J. Trump claimed on Wednesday that when he was in the White House, his powers were so broad he could declassify virtually any document by simply “thinking about it.”

That argument — which came as he defended his decision to retain government documents in his Florida home in an interview with the Fox host Sean Hannity — underscored a widening gap between the former president and his lawyers. By contrast, they have so far been unwilling to repeat Mr. Trump’s declassification claim in court, as they counter a federal investigation into his handling of government documents.

Over the past week, a federal appeals court in Atlanta — along with Mr. Trump’s choice for a special master to review the documents seized last month — undermined a bulwark of his effort to justify his actions: Both suggested that there was no evidence to support the assertion that Mr. Trump had declassified everything — in writing, verbally or wordlessly — despite what the former president may have said on TV.

Trump documents federal Special Master Raymond Dearie, senior U.S. district court judge for the Eastern District of New York (File photo by Gregory Mango).On Thursday, the special master, Judge Raymond J. Dearie, right, also appeared to take aim at another one of Mr. Trump’s excuses — that federal agents had planted some of the records when they searched his Mar-a-Lago estate. In an order issued after the appellate court had ruled, Judge Dearie instructed Mr. Trump’s lawyers to let him know if there were any discrepancies between the documents that were kept at Mar-a-Lago and those that the F.B.I. said it had hauled away.

Recent Headlines

djt confidential markings

 

U.S. Immigration News

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Hopes Small Changes Go a Long Way on Immigration, Michael D. Shear and Miriam Jordan, Sept. 27, 2022. The United States has started to allow people to apply for asylum under a new process that the secretary of homeland security hopes can help fix the current “very broken system.”

Even before the political spectacle of a Republican governor flying migrants to a tiny resort island in Massachusetts, President Biden’s top border officials decided there had to be a better asylum system in America.

Because of new global migration patterns, people are heading toward the southern border of the United States, many fleeing instability, persecution, war, famine and economic distress. The numbers are overwhelming; for the first time, the number of arrests of undocumented immigrants along the southwestern border exceeded two million in one year.

Venezuelans, Cubans and Nicaraguans are joining others who are lured by America’s roaring job market and the fact that Mr. Biden has promised not to separate families, build a wall across the border or force asylum seekers to wait in squalid camps in Mexico — all policies embraced by former President Donald J. Trump.

But the question that remains has vexed presidents and lawmakers from both parties for decades.

What do we do with all of these people?

Mr. Biden has no silver bullet to overhaul the immigration system without bipartisan support from Congress, a prospect that no one in Washington expects anytime soon. But after months of debate in the White House, the Biden administration has begun to address a small slice of the problem: the woefully backlogged process to decide who qualifies for asylum, or protection from persecution, in the United States.

The goal is to make the system faster, in part by giving asylum officers — not just immigration judges — the power to decide who can stay and who must be turned away. Migrants will be interviewed 21 to 45 days after they apply for asylum, far faster than the years it can take in the existing immigration court system. A decision on whether the migrant is granted asylum must come quickly — within two to five weeks of the interview.

For now, the changes are tiny; only 99 people since the end of May have completed what are called asylum merits interviews with an asylum officer and been fully evaluated under the new rules. Of those, 24 have been granted asylum, while most of the rest have had their cases sent back to the immigration court system for an appeal.

Officials said that they were moving slowly to test out the procedures and that it would take hundreds of officers — who have yet to be hired — to expand the system.

The new rules will not address the social and economic forces in other countries that are driving migrants to flee. They will not change the overloaded system for dealing with immigrants who do not claim asylum. And the challenge of how to quickly deport those denied asylum will remain.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Maintains Current Cap on Refugee Entries, Michael D. Shear, Sept. 27, 2022. Leaving the 125,000 cap was a contrast with the severe restrictions of the Trump administration, but activists argued the process still was too slow.

The decision to leave the cap at 125,000 was a contrast with the Trump administration, which severely restricted entry, but advocacy groups said migrants were still processed too slowly.

 

World News, Human Rights, Disasters

 

The headquarters of the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, DC

The headquarters of the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, DC.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump nominee is voted out as head of Inter-American Development Bank, Azi Paybarah, Sept. 27, 2022 (print ed.). Mauricio Claver-Carone’s term as IDB president was set to expire in 2025.

mauricio claver carone 2020The Inter-American Development Bank, the hemisphere’s premier international lending institution, voted Monday to fire its president. Mauricio Claver-Carone, right, was terminated following a unanimous recommendation by the 14-member executive board, the organization said.

The termination was first reported by Reuters.

In a statement, the IDB said Claver-Carone, whose term was set to expire in 2025, “will cease to hold the office of President of the Bank” effective Monday.

The statement did not refer to a well-publicized investigation into him. Two people familiar with the probe said it was the results of that investigation that led to the vote. The individuals spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the inner workings of IDB or the results of the investigator’s report, which has not been made public.

One of the individuals said investigators found evidence to conclude Claver-Carone had a relationship with a staff member who reported directly to him, and to whom he gave raises totaling more than 45 percent of base pay in less than one year. Claver-Carone’s leadership of the organization also resulted in employees fearing retaliation from him, the person said.

Vice President Reina Irene Mejía Chacón will lead the organization until a new president is elected, the statement said.

The Biden administration appeared to welcome Claver-Carone’s ouster.

A spokesperson for the Treasury Department said the United States “supports the dismissal of the IDB President.” The department said Claver-Carone’s “refusal to fully cooperate with the investigation, and his creation of a climate of fear of retaliation among staff and borrowing countries, has forfeited the confidence of the Bank’s staff and shareholders and necessitates a change in leadership.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Cuba’s power grid collapsed after the storm. Officials were working through the night to restore electricity, Camila Acosta and Oscar Lopez, Sept. 27, 2022. Hurricane Ian lashed Cuba on Tuesday with heavy rain and winds of up to 125 miles per hour, knocking out power to the entire island and killing two people, according to the authorities.

The Ministry of Mines and Energy said the power grid had collapsed in the wake of the storm, leaving the country in the dark as it tried to recover from heavy flooding and extensive damage. Before the sun set, residents braved wind and rain to search for food and basic supplies, lining up under overhangs to buy a piece of chicken or a bottle of oil.

washington post logoWashington Post, British pound falls to new low against the dollar after taxes slashed, Karla Adam, Sept. 27, 2022 (print ed.). The falling value of the British pound reflects markets' alarm over the government's dramatic slashing of taxes and expected increased borrowing.

United Kingdom flagThe British pound hit an all-time low against the U.S. dollar on Monday, reflecting a highly negative review of the new government’s plan for big tax cuts and borrowing and adding to the anxiety of consumers already preparing for soaring energy bills this winter.

The sharp drop in the value of the pound comes as the British government grapples with soaring public debt and a cost-of-living crisis, amid deteriorating investor confidence. It also raised the prospect that Britain’s central bank may intervene in currency markets to shore up the pound.

Sterling’s slump in part reflects the strength of the U.S. dollar, which has been boosted by higher interest rates. But the pound has also dropped against the euro, indicating specific concerns about the British economy.

The pound crashed to a record low of $1.0327 in Asian trading early Monday, before regaining some ground and stabilizing around $1.07 — still well down from where it was on Friday morning before the government unveiled its “mini-budget.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why Is the Pound Getting Pounded? Paul Krugman, Sept. 27, 2022. Financial markets usually give wealthy, politically stable nations a lot of fiscal space. In particular, a country like the United States, or for that matter Britain, can normally run quite big budget deficits without creating a run on its currency.

This is because investors typically believe that nations like ours will, in the end, get their acts together and pay their bills; they also believe that central banks like the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England will do whatever it takes to prevent deficit spending from setting off runaway inflation.

But a funny thing (or not so funny, if you’re British) happened over the past week, when Liz Truss, the new prime minister of the United Kingdom, announced a neo-Reaganite “fiscal event.” (She didn’t call it a proper budget, because that would have required issuing fiscal and economic projections, which probably would have been embarrassing.)

 

giorgia meloni bloomberg

ny times logoNew York Times, Giorgia Meloni’s Hard-Right Party Wins Italy’s Vote, Jason Horowitz, Sept. 27, 2022 (print ed.). The results leave Ms. Meloni poised to be Italy’s next prime minister, the first woman to hold the position, and the first with post-Fascist roots.

Italy turned a page of European history on Sunday by electing a hard-right coalition led by Giorgia Meloni, whose long record of bashing the European Union, international bankers and migrants has sown concern about the nation’s reliability in the Western alliance.

italy decalResults released early Monday showed that Ms. Meloni, the leader of the nationalist Brothers of Italy, a party descended from the remnants of fascism, had led a right-wing coalition to a majority in Parliament, defeating a fractured left and a resurgent anti-establishment movement.

It will still be weeks before the new Italian Parliament is seated and a new government is formed, leaving plenty of time for political machinations and horse trading in a coalition with major differences. But Ms. Meloni’s strong showing, with about 26 percent of the vote, the highest of any single party, makes her the prohibitive favorite to become the country’s first female prime minister.

While she is a strong supporter of Ukraine, her coalition partners deeply admire Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, and have criticized sanctions against Russia.

ny times logoNew York Times, Europe Looks at Italy’s Meloni With Caution and Trepidation, Steven Erlanger, Sept. 27, 2022 (print ed.). Giorgia Meloni says she supports Ukraine and has moderated her harsh views on Europe, but there are doubts, given her partners.

The victory in Italian elections of the far-right and Euroskeptic leader Giorgia Meloni, who once wanted to ditch the euro currency, sent a tremor on Monday through a European establishment worried about a new right-wing shift in Europe.

european union logo rectangleEuropean Union leaders are now watching her coalition’s comfortable victory in Italy, one of its founding members, with caution and some trepidation, despite reassurances from Ms. Meloni, who would be the first far-right nationalist to govern Italy since Mussolini, that she has moderated her views.

But it is hard for them to escape a degree of dread. Even given the bloc’s successes in recent years to agree on a groundbreaking pandemic recovery fund and to confront Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, the appeal of nationalists and populists remains strong — and is spreading, a potential threat to European ideals and cohesion.

Earlier this month, the far-right Sweden Democrats became the country’s second-largest party and the largest in what is expected to be a right-wing coalition.

washington post logoWashington Post, Gunman wearing swastika T-shirt kills 17, including 11 kids, in Russian school, Robyn Dixon, Sept. 27, 2022 (print ed.). At least 17 people were killed, including 11 children, when a gunman wearing a T-shirt with a red swastika opened fire on Monday in a school in the central Russian city of Izhevsk, Russia’s Investigative Committee reported. The gunman, reportedly armed with two weapons, also killed himself.

Among the dead were a school security guard and two schoolteachers.

The attack occurred at School No. 88 in Izhevsk, the capital of the Udmurt Republic, a region in central Russia west of the Ural mountains. The head of the Udmurt Republic, Alexander Brechalov, said that 23 people were injured — including 20 children.

Russia’s Investigative Committee identified the gunman as Artem Kazantsev, a 34-year-old local resident and former student at the school. Investigators were searching his residence. Brechalov told reporters that Kazantsev was registered with a psycho-neurological clinic.

The shooting did not appear to be connected with a spate of violence in recent days that followed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s declaration of a partial military mobilization.

washington post logoWashington Post, As the world moves on, Myanmar confronts a mounting, hidden toll, Rebecca Tan and Aung Naing Soe, Sept. 27, 2022. Thousands have been injured or killed since the military takeover, but the human costs go well beyond that.

Kyaw Shwe lifted the coffee in his hands but couldn’t bring himself to speak. His shoulders sagged. He let out a wail.

myanmar flagAs fighting rages on in Myanmar, its citizens are faltering under the losses they’ve incurred in a year and a half of violent conflict. Entire villages have been razed; loved ones have been executed in secret; and 1.1 million jobs have evaporated from the economy. International attention has waned, drawn away by crises such as the war in Ukraine. But the costs of the military’s takeover — and the ongoing desperate push to resist it — have continued to mount.

Cynthia Maung runs a community clinic on the Thai-Myanmar border and has seen, over the past year, a trickle of war casualties become a flood. The military has killed more than 2,000 civilians, including some in apparent war atrocities, according to the U.N. special rapporteur on Myanmar. Nearly a million people, a quarter of them children, have been displaced, forced to live in temporary shelters where malaria, dengue and dysentery are rife.

At some point, humanitarian groups may be able to tally the number of people lost to violence, famine or disease during this period, Maung said. But every day, she also sees signs of an invisible toll that will be impossible to calculate. Grief and despair are everywhere.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Cuba approves same-sex marriage in historic turnabout, Mary Beth Sheridan, Sept. 27, 2022 (print ed.). Cubans approved a measure to legalize same-sex marriage, part of a new family code that’s among the most progressive in Latin America, defying a long tradition of machismo on the island.

Around two-thirds of voters backed the code in a referendum on Sunday, according to near-complete returns announced by state media on Monday morning. The balloting followed a lengthy consultation process featuring 79,000 neighborhood meetings that triggered an outpouring of more than 300,000 suggestions from citizens.

In addition to approving same-sex marriage, the legislation will allow gay couples to adopt, and increase the rights of women, the elderly and children.

Supporters call it a sign of the progress on LGBTQ+ rights under Cuba’s Communist government, which was once so hostile to gay men that it sent them to forced labor camps for “reeducation.” Yet leaders of the influential Roman Catholic Church and the island’s growing evangelical movement expressed unusually vocal dissent.

washington post logoWashington Post, As world gathers to honor Abe, Japan grapples with church’s influence, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Julia Mio Inuma, Sept. 27, 2022 (print ed.). The commemoration of Shinzo Abe has put a spotlight on the scandal ensnaring the ruling party over its links with the Unification Church.

For nearly two decades, public discussion of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s ties with the Unification Church was taboo in Japan. Now, the organization’s decades-long influence in Japanese politics is at the forefront of a political outcry.

shinzō abe oThe turning point: The July 8 assassination of Shinzo Abe, right.

Dignitaries are gathering in Tokyo this week to commemorate Japan’s longest-serving prime minister. But the event has put a spotlight on the scandal ensnaring the ruling party over its links with the church and use of taxpayer money for the state funeral of a leader who was popular abroad but divisive at home.

japan flag mapThe church has faced scrutiny after Tetsuya Yamagami, the suspected gunman, told police he wanted to carry out the assassination because his life and family had been ruined as a result of his mother’s large donations to a religious group to which Abe had apparent close ties. The Unification Church confirmed that Yamagami’s mother is a longtime member and that it had received donations from her.

Other families emerged to say that their lives were similarly upended because of donations made by their relatives, some of whom have ongoing legal battles with the Unification Church. The accounts highlighted a controversial practice known as “spiritual sales,” in which goods or services that supposedly possess supernatural powers were sold to members at often exorbitant prices.

“When I first heard that Abe’s death was related to a certain religious organization, I knew right away, that … something huge was going to unfold,” said Eito Suzuki, a journalist who has been tracking the church’s activities since 2002. “There is no other cult aside from the japan liberal party logoUnification Church which extends so deeply and widely within Japanese politics, reaching the ruling party, opposition parties, and beyond.”

Church officials said in a news conference last week that they are unaware of spiritual sales made after 2009, when the group signed a legal agreement after facing criminal charges over the practice. The church has addressed anger over its links with the ruling party (whose logo is shown at left) by saying that on various issues its stance tends to align with the LDP membership.

 

The late Mahsa Amini in a photo provided to Iran Wire by her family. The authorities have said she died of heart failure; her family say she had been in good health.

The late Mahsa Amini in a photo provided to Iran Wire by her family. The authorities have said she died of heart failure; her family say she had been in good health.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Iran president threatens ‘decisive’ response as protests continue, Kareem Fahim and Babak Dehghanpisheh, Sept. 27, 2022 (print ed.). Protests continued in Tehran and other Iranian cities Sunday for a 10th day, with videos emerging of large demonstrations despite tightening internet restrictions and an expanding clampdown by security forces, monitoring groups said.

The protests started after Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman, died after being detained by Iran’s morality police this month, amid allegations by her family that she had been beaten.

Iran FlagThe demonstrations — outpourings of anger over the harsh strictures on women’s dress that led to Amini’s arrest and vehicles for more deeply rooted complaints against Iran’s clerical establishment — have spread to all of Iran’s 31 provinces and are the largest since nationwide demonstrations three years ago that were met with a deadly security response that killed hundreds.

Anger against Iran’s ‘morality police’ erupts after death of Mahsa Amini

In the latest protests, at least 41 people have been killed, according to Iran’s state media, including police officers. A tightening crackdown has included the use of live ammunition against demonstrators and heavy deployments of security forces in Kurdish areas of western Iran, where the protests have been concentrated.

  • New York Times, Protests Surge in Iran as Crackdown Escalates, Vivian Yee and Farnaz Fassihi, Sept. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Dozens have reportedly been killed by security forces as demonstrations continue to spread across Iran. Protests began after Mahsa Amini died in the custody of the morality police

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary:Chinese police stations abroad? Yes, and it's uncertain what they are doing, Wayne wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallMadsen, left, author of 22 books and former Navy intelligence officer, Sept. 26-27, 2022. Two Chinese provinces, Fuzhou and wayne madesen report logoQingtian, have set up "Overseas Police Stations," also known as "Public Security Bureau Service Stations," in cities around the world.

Counterintelligence officials and human rights activists are justifiably demanding answers about the actual purposes of these facilities.

The stations were established this year under a Chinese government program called “Operation Overseas 110." 110 is the Chinese emergency phone number, akin to 911 in the United States and 112 in the European Union.

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More On Ukraine War

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: Final day of staged referendums; ‘unprecedented’ damage to Nord Stream pipelines, Annabelle Timsit, Rachel Pannett, Mary Ilyushina and Adam Taylor, Sept. 27, 2022. Tuesday marks the final day of referendums staged by Kremlin-aligned officials in Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson areas.

Staged referendums in four Ukrainian territories held by Kremlin-backed officials are set to end Tuesday. The votes are not free and fair, and are illegal under international law. A first wave of never-in-doubt results, announced Tuesday, showed supposed pro-annexation majorities of more than 97 percent across regions.

In a speech to Russian lawmakers Friday, President Vladimir Putin could announce the annexation of the occupied regions of Ukraine, a British intelligence update said.

The operator of the Nord Stream pipelines built to carry Russian natural gas to Europe reported Tuesday “unprecedented” damage to the system, raising suspicions of sabotage after mysterious leaks caused sudden drops in pressure in three underwater lines in the Baltic Sea.

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

Key developments

  • Denmark’s prime minister said it was “hard to imagine” that the damage to the gas pipelines was “accidental.” At an event in Poland on Tuesday, Mette Frederiksen said, “We cannot rule out sabotage, but it is too early to conclude” — appearing to add credence to fears in Europe that the leaks were caused deliberately, possibly from within Russia. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also said he could not “rule out” the possibility of sabotage, describing the pressure drop affecting Nord Stream’s pipelines as “an unprecedented situation that needs to be dealt with urgently.” The incident won’t have much of an impact on already tight gas supplies to the continent since Russia’s Gazprom shut down Nord Stream 1 in August, while Western nations blocked Nord Stream 2 from becoming fully operational as part of sanctions over Russia’s war in Ukraine.
  • Danish authorities released photographs of gas leaks forming what appeared to be severe gaseous turbulence in the Baltic Sea. A spokesperson for Sweden’s maritime authority told Reuters that Russia’s Nord Stream 1 pipeline was leaking gas into Swedish and Danish waters. The Danish authorities established prohibition zones around the leaks to reduce the risk to ship and air traffic. Experts have also expressed concern about the environmental impact.
  • Russia’s leaders are probably hoping that any announcement of Ukrainian territories’ accession to Russia “will be seen as a vindication of the ‘special military operation’ and will consolidate patriotic support for the conflict,” the British Defense Ministry said Tuesday. “This aspiration will likely be undermined by the increasing domestic awareness of Russia’s recent battlefield [setbacks] and significant unease about the partial mobilisation,” it said.
  • Japan on Tuesday condemned Russia’s detention of its consul in Vladivostok, in Russia’s Far East, on allegations that he obtained classified information. Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said Russia carried out a “coercive interrogation” that included blindfolding and physical restraint, and he called it “extremely regrettable and unacceptable.” The diplomat has since been released, is in good health and will leave the country by Wednesday out of concerns for his safety, Tokyo said. “There is absolutely no evidence that there was any engagement in illegal activities as the Russians claim,” Hayashi added.

Battleground updates

  • Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev defended Russia’s right to use nuclear weapons if threatened. In a Telegram post Tuesday, Medvedev, who is known for his aggressive defense of Russia’s war in Ukraine, said “Russia has the right to use nuclear weapons if necessary” and in “predetermined cases.” He added that Russia “will do everything we can to prevent our neighbors who are hostile to us from obtaining nuclear weapons.” “This is definitely not a bluff,” he added.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the Donbas region is “still the number one goal for the occupiers” and that Kyiv’s forces are “doing everything to curb enemy activity” in the occupied territories of eastern Ukraine. In his nightly address Monday, he also described Putin’s mobilization of reservists as “a frank attempt to give commanders on the ground a constant stream of cannon fodder.”
  • The situation around a nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine “remains tense,” according to Ukraine’s military. Staffers don’t want to cooperate with Russian forces and are trying to leave the area, but a nearby occupied region “is completely closed for entry and exit,” Ukraine’s military leadership said in a statement. The claims could not be independently verified by The Washington Post. Russia has been accused of risking nuclear disaster at the Zaporizhzhia plant.

Mobilization and protests in Russia

  • “The Kremlin’s efforts to calm the Russian population are struggling so far,” as unrest continues after Putin announced a military mobilization, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). According to the U.S.-based think tank, protests against Putin’s military mobilization were organized in at least 35 settlements in Russia on Sunday and at least 10 settlements on Monday. At least 2,386 arrests have been made since Wednesday, when a wave of demonstrations broke out, according to rights group OVD-Info.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Gunman Attacks Draft Office as Russian Unrest Over Call-Ups Deepens, Marc Santora, Sept. 27, 2022 (print ed.). Anger is mounting in Russia over President Vladimir Putin’s mobilization of hundreds of thousands of civilians as his military struggles in Ukraine.

Here’s what we know:

  • russian flag wavingAnger is mounting in Russia over President Vladimir V. Putin’s mobilization of hundreds of thousands of civilians as his military struggles in Ukraine.
  • A recruitment officer was wounded in the shooting at an enlistment center in Siberia.
  • Ukraine denounces reports of prisoners of war being forced to vote in Russia’s staged referendums.
  • A Putin ally acknowledges he is the founder of the Wagner mercenary group.
  • ‘We didn’t know where else to go’: Ukrainians displaced by a counteroffensive seek shelter.
  • An Ukrainian soldier whose bracelet made him a symbol receives posthumous honors.
  • Zelensky urges allies to step up pressure on Putin amid ‘nuclear blackmail.’
  • Two Americans return home months after being captured fighting in Ukraine.

A gunman opened fire at a draft office in Siberia on Monday, injuring a military recruitment officer, as anger mounted over President Vladimir V. Putin’s plan to mobilize hundreds of thousands of civilians to bolster Russia’s struggling army in Ukraine.

The shooting, in the town of Ust-Ilimsk in the far eastern region of Irkutsk, was confirmed by the local governor, Igor Kobzev, who said on Telegram that the recruitment officer “is in intensive care, in an extremely serious condition.”

The assailant was taken into custody, the authorities said, identifying him as Ruslan Zinin, who is in his mid-20s.

The suspect’s mother, Marina Zinina, told a local news outlet that her son’s best friend had received a draft summons despite having no military experience. Defense Minister Sergei K. Shoigu said last week that only men with military experience and a specialization would be called up, although many men not meeting that criteria have been conscripted.

“Ruslan was very upset because of this, because his friend did not serve in the army,” Ms. Zinina was quoted as saying. “They said that there would be partial mobilization, but it turns out that they are taking everyone.”

The shooting is the latest attack on military recruitment centers in Russia since Mr. Putin launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, and is believed to be the first to have resulted in serious injury. Since the beginning of the war, at least 54 recruitment centers and administrative buildings have been set on fire, according to Mediazona, an independent Russian news outlet. Seventeen attacks have occurred since the call-up was announced last Wednesday.

There have been numerous reports of people who are unfit for service being summoned to report for duty, prompting criticism of the mobilization process across the country. These errors have led to rare admissions from Russian officials that mistakes have been made, and that the mobilization should be conducted more carefully.

The governors of several Russian regions — including Belgorod, on the border with Ukraine, and Kostroma, Vladimir and Yakutia and Magadan in the far east — have acknowledged that people who did not meet Mr. Shoigu’s criteria were being called up.

The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, acknowledged on Monday that there had been irregularities but sought to shift blame to the authorities implementing the mobilization.

“There are cases when the decree is violated — in some regions governors are actively working to correct the situation,” he told reporters on a daily phone call. He said that journalists, officials and nongovernmental organizations were doing “active and necessary work” in reporting on supposed violations.

“These cases of noncompliance with the required criteria are being eliminated, and we hope that the rate of elimination will increase, and all errors will be corrected,” he said.

At least 2,000 antiwar protesters have been arrested since Wednesday, according to OVD-Info, a rights group that monitors police activity.

In a separate incident on Monday, a gunman entered a school in Izhevsk, in western Russia, killing at least 13 people, including seven children, and wounding another 20, before fatally shooting himself, the authorities said.

edward snowden twitter

washington post logoWashington Post, Putin grants citizenship to Edward Snowden, who disclosed U.S. surveillance, Mary Ilyushina, Sept. 27, 2022 (print ed.). Russian President Vladimir Putin granted citizenship on Monday to Edward Snowden, the former security consultant who leaked information about top-secret U.S. surveillance programs and is still wanted by Washington on espionage charges.

Snowden, 39, was one of 72 foreigners granted citizenship in a decree signed by Putin.

Snowden, who considers himself a whistleblower, fled the United States to avoid prosecution and has been living in Russia, which granted him asylum in 2013.

Snowden was granted permanent residency in 2020, and his lawyers said at the time that he was applying to obtain a Russian passport without renouncing his U.S. citizenship.

Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told the state-run news agency RIA Novosti on Monday that Snowden’s wife, Lindsay Mills, is also now applying for Russian citizenship. Mills joined Snowden in Moscow in 2014. They were married in 2017 and have a son together.

Kucherena also said that Snowden would not be subject to the partial military mobilization that Putin decreed last week to help Russia’s flagging war in Ukraine as Snowden never served in the Russian army. Putin said only those with previous experienced would be called up in the partial mobilization though there have been widespread reports of summonses going to others, including men arrested at protests against mobilization.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to comment on Snowden’s new passport, and instead referred questions to the prosecutors seeking his extradition. “Soc, since I believe there have been criminal charges brought against him, we would point you to the Department of Justice for any specifics on this,” Jean-Pierre said.

Snowden’s revelations, published first in The Washington Post and the Guardian, were arguably the biggest security breach in U.S. history. The information he disclosed revealed top-secret NSA surveillance as part of a program known as PRISM and the extraction of a wide range of digital information.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Begins Mobilizing Ukrainians to Fight Against Their Own Country, Marc Santora, Sept. 26, 2022 (print ed.).  Panic and fear flooded the occupied territories as Russian forces rounded up men to fight and forced residents to vote in a staged referendum on joining Russia, Ukrainian officials and rights groups said.

In the occupied city of Kherson, some Ukrainian men believe that if they break their own arms, maybe the Russians will not force them into military service. Others are hiding in basements. Some are trying to run even though they are forbidden to leave the city, residents said, and virtually everyone is afraid.

“People are panicking,” said Katerina, 30. “First they were searching our houses, and now the Russians will conscript our men to their army. This is all unlawful but very real for us.”

As the Kremlin’s conscription drive faced protests across Russia for a fifth day, new signs of resistance, and fear, emerged on Sunday in the territories it occupies in Ukraine as well.

The drive to compel Ukrainians to battle other Ukrainians is part of a broader, if risky, effort by Moscow to mobilize hundreds of thousands of new fighters as its forces suffer huge casualties and struggle to hold off Ukrainian advances in the east and south.

ukraine flagIt comes at the same time as a Russian-orchestrated vote that is setting the stage for the Kremlin to cleave Ukraine through an annexation that has been broadly condemned around the world.

The result of the pseudoreferendum underway is expected to be announced on Tuesday. The anticipated outcome: that a majority of people in four Ukrainian regions — Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizka — “voted” to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is then widely expected to declare in coming days those areas belong to Russia and therefore protected by the might of its full arsenal, including the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear weapons.

At the same time, Russian military officials continued to cast a dragnet across the vast expanse of their own nation, which stretches halfway around the Northern Hemisphere, for hundreds of thousands of men to conscript into the military, many likely to soon be dispatched to Ukraine.

Politico, ‘Huge problem’: Iranian drones pose new threat to Ukraine, Lara Seligman, Sept. 27, 2022 (print ed.). Recent attacks are prompting renewed calls for the U.S. to send more advanced weaponry.

politico CustomIt was a little over a week ago that Iranian drones first began appearing in the skies over Ukraine.

But in interviews, a Ukrainian activist and three soldiers said the Iranian drones pose a major threat to both fighters and civilians. Their arrival on the battlefield makes the need for the West to send additional modern weaponry even more urgent, as Kyiv tries to seize on recent gains to retake as much territory as possible before winter sets in, they said.

Andriana Arekhta, a junior sergeant with the Ukrainian Armed Forces, said the drones flew from Crimea to attack her special forces unit fighting near the southern city of Kherson. The drones evaded the soldiers’ defenses and dropped bombs on their position, destroying two tanks with their crews inside.

“It’s very difficult to see these drones on radars,” said Arekhta, who traveled to Washington, D.C., last week as part of a delegation of female Ukrainian soldiers. “It’s a huge problem.”

Over the past week, Russia has deployed Shahed and Mohajer combat drones imported from Iran in greater numbers across Ukraine, with devastating results. Some hit combat positions, smashing tanks and armored vehicles, while others struck civilian infrastructure, including in the port city of Odesa.

In his nightly address on Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his country’s anti-aircraft forces had shot down more than a dozen drones in the eastern Dnipropetrovsk region and Odesa. The Ukrainian Air Force identified them as Shahed-136 kamikaze drones and Mohajer-6 drones that carry munitions and can also be used for reconnaissance.

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U.S. Politics, Economy, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The only agenda that unifies the Republican Party is revenge, Eugene Robinson, Sept. 27, 2022. Pay no attention to the House Republicans’ substance-eugene robinson headshot Customfree “Commitment to America.” The actual GOP plan, if the party takes control of the lower chamber in January, is a campaign of performative revenge.

Ginned-up investigations, cruel attacks on the marginalized, even a concocted impeachment of President Biden — that’s what the nation has to look forward to if Republicans win the House. Those are the only things the party agrees on, except fealty to Donald Trump and an all-consuming desire for power.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the man who would be speaker, made a big deal Friday of releasing the “Commitment.”

\Even by the standards of political fig leaves, the document doesn’t do much to mask the lack of a Republican plan for governing. He promises “an economy that’s strong” and “a nation that’s safe” and “a future that’s built on freedom” and “a government that’s accountable.” He left out “Mom” and “apple pie,” which I suppose were deemed too specific.

The most concrete pledge McCarthy made was to undo something that was never done in the first place. He said that in its first piece of legislation, a House GOP majority would “repeal” what he has called “Democrats’ new army of 87,000 IRS agents.” But the Inflation Reduction Act passed in August will fund only a few hundred IRS enforcement “agents.” Almost all of the hires will be auditors, administrators and clerical personnel needed to rebuild a workforce sorely depleted by attrition and budget cuts — and to replace employees as they retire over the next 10 years.

And anyway, how would House Republicans accomplish this “repeal” without 60 votes in the Senate and Biden’s signature? They couldn’t.

What they actually could, and surely would, do is put on a show of faux-populist anger and resentment.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: House Democrats must end the scandal of congressional stock-trading, Editorial Board, Sept. 27, 2022. It is a long-running scandal that members of Congress are allowed to trade individual stocks. They have access to privileged information. They oversee a sprawling web of federal policy. Their actions can have direct effects on the companies in which they have stakes. The potential for real or perceived conflicts of interest is enormous.

Yet House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has not always favored cracking down on lawmaker stock-trading. “It’s a free-market economy,” she said last year, dismissing concerns. Lately, she has changed her stance, indicating that a stock-trading bill from Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) will make it to the House floor this month. That’s good. The question is whether the speaker will do what’s necessary to get it over the finish line.

Ms. Lofgren sent a letter to colleagues last week laying out a framework for a bill that would restrict public officials from exploiting their positions for personal gain: banning them as well as their spouses and dependent children from dealing in stocks, securities, commodities, futures, cryptocurrencies and similar investments, and mandating that they either divest existing assets or put them in a qualified blind trust. Those officials would still be able to hold diversified funds as well as government bonds, on the theory that dealing in those sorts of investments doesn’t present the same potential for abuse. Disclosure requirements would also become more detailed, and the penalties for noncompliance more severe.

washington post logoWashington Post, Cost of canceling student debt: Roughly $400 billion over 10 years, CBO says, Jeff Stein, Sept. 27, 2022 (print ed.). The estimate by the Congressional Budget Office will fuel new debate over President Biden’s student debt decision, which was cheered by advocates but assailed by Republican lawmakers as a waste of government money.

The White House’s plan to cancel student loan debt for tens of millions of American borrowers will cost roughly $400 billion over 10 years, according to a new estimate released by Congress’ nonpartisan scorekeeper.

The scorekeeper also found that the White House’s plan to temporarily extend an existing pause on student loan payments would cost roughly $20 billion.

The new estimate will fuel the debate over President Biden’s student debt decision, which was cheered by advocates but immediately assailed by Republican lawmakers as a wasteful and inefficient waste of government spending. Biden announced in August that his administration would cancel up to $20,000 in student debt for lower- and middle-class borrowers.

Supporters of student debt cancellation have argued that similar estimates in the past have overstated the policy’s cost to the federal government, because despite formally owing the federal government money many borrowers never pay back the loans.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Biden wants the full cost of flights to be clearer for American travelers, Ian Duncan, Sept. 27, 2022. The fees would be required to be displayed the first time a ticket price is shown .

joe biden twitterPresident Biden announced a proposal Monday that would require airlines and ticket sales websites to disclose additional fees up front, aiming to add a dose of transparency to the process of booking travel.

The disclosures would cover any fees for passengers to sit with their children, change or cancel a flight, and bring checked or carry-on bags, according to the Department of Transportation. The fees would be required to be displayed the first time a ticket price is shown.

“You should know the full cost of your ticket right when you’re comparison shopping,” Biden said.

The announcement came at a meeting of Biden’s Competition Council at the White House, where he called on federal agencies to pursue similar measures to tackle hidden fees in other sectors of the economy. The new airline proposal is among several consumer-friendly measures the Transportation Department has proposed in recent months to regulate carriers amid a rough patch for air travelers.



Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman speaks at an abortion rights rally in Blue Bell on Sept. 11, 2022 (Photo by Michelle Gustafson for  Bloomberg via Getty Images).

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman speaks at an abortion rights rally in Blue Bell on Sept. 11, 2022 (Photo by Michelle Gustafson for  Bloomberg via Getty Images).

huffington post logoHuffPost, John Fetterman Draws Blood After Tucker Carlson Needles Him On 'Fake' Tattoos, Mary Papenfuss, Sept. 26, 2022. Fetterman's tattoos commemorate those who died violently when he was mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania.

Fetterman recounted some of the killings in his op-ed, including Christopher Williams, “shot dead delivering pizzas,” and 23-month-old Nyia Page, who was sexually assaulted by her father, then left to die in the snow.

The tattoos are “not some ‘costume.’ They are reminders of the people we have lost and what I am fighting for,” he wrote.

The stories of the people “whose lives we tragically lost still are with me every single day — not just on my arm but in every decision I make as an elected official,” Fetterman wrote. “They remind me of why I am here and why I’m doing this.”

Politico, Abortion puts GOP candidates on their heels in top governors races, Zach Montellaro and Megan Messerly, Sept. 26, 2022 (print ed.). Governors are newly powerful when it comes to abortion, and Democrats are spending big to remind voters in November.

politico CustomThe battle over abortion rights will be won or lost in state capitals, not Washington.

That reality has in the past three months upended battleground governor races — where the winners could quite literally determine the level of access to abortion for millions of women.

washington post logoWashington Post, Voters divided amid intense fight for control of Congress, poll finds, Dan Balz, Emily Guskin and Scott Clement, Sept. 26, 2022 (print ed.). The fight for control of Congress is an intense one, as Republicans hold significant advantages in the most competitive House seats. But the GOP edge is being tempered by energy among Democrats over abortion rights.

Heading into the final weeks of the midterm election campaign, Americans are split nationally in their vote for Congress, with Republicans holding sizable advantages on the economy, inflation and crime and Democrats far more trusted to handle the issues of abortion and climate change, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Congressional districts have changed. Find yours for the 2022 midterm elections.

With control of the House and Senate possibly shifting from Democrats to Republicans in November and the country deeply divided, 2 in 3 registered voters see this election as more important than past midterm campaigns. That’s the same percentage that said this in 2018 when turnout surged to the highest in a century.

At this point, both sides are highly motivated to turn out in November. Among registered Democratic voters, 3 in 4 say they are almost certain to vote compared with about 8 in 10 Republicans. Independents are less motivated. Four years ago, Democrats were about as mobilized as Republicans and had a clear lead in overall support. Eight years ago, when Democrats suffered losses, Republicans were more motivated.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden and Trump appear headed for a historically rare rematch in 2024, Matt Viser, Sept. 27, 2022 (print ed.). Biden and Trump appear to be nudging each other into a rare face-off between a sitting president and the predecessor he unseated.

President Biden was at a Democratic reception in Maryland a few weeks ago when his rhetoric turned toward an increasingly frequent topic — “what Trump is doing and the Trumpers are doing.” An audience member called out, “Lock him up!,” and Biden went on to cite “the new polls showing me beating Trump by six or eight points.”

A few days earlier, former president Donald Trump was at a rally in Pennsylvania when he, too, turned toward a frequent topic: “We’re leading Biden … by record numbers in the polls.” He said three times, with growing enthusiasm, “So I may just have to do it again!”

The country seems to be barreling toward a rematch that few voters actually want, but that two presidents — one current, one former — cannot stop talking about. Biden and Trump both say they are planning to make their decisions in the coming months, but with a lingering codependency between them, they each appear to be nudging the other into what would be a rare faceoff between the same two candidates four years apart.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The House GOP’s vague ‘Commitment’ reveals problems ahead, Karen Tumulty, right, Sept. 26, 2022 (print ed.). Conventional karen tumulty resize twitterwisdom about midterm elections has it that they are a referendum on the incumbent president and the party in power. But this year’s decision for voters is shaping up to be more complicated than that.

Between former president Donald Trump’s continued domination of the news and the backlash against the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the right to abortion, Americans are — rightly — focusing on the question of what the republican elephant logoopposition party stands for and what Republicans would do if they again found themselves controlling one or both houses of Congress.

As a result, what once appeared to be a banner year for the GOP is more of a dogfight. The party is still expected to take back the House, which would require picking up only five additional seats. But their year-ago predictions of flipping as many as 60 districts have vanished. And the outcome in the Senate, where Republicans need a net pickup of only one seat, is anyone’s guess.

kevin mccarthyThe new electoral pressure on Republicans explains why the House’s speaker-in-waiting, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), right, and 30 of his colleagues went to Monongahela, Pa., on Friday to unveil what they touted as their “Commitment to America.”

“We want to roll it out to you, the entire country, to know exactly what we will do if you would trust us and give us the ability to take a new direction for this country,” McCarthy told a friendly audience at a manufacturing plant. “What the Commitment is, is a plan.”

A plan? A set of policy specifics? Hardly. It was not even close to what Republicans had hoped would sound like an echo of the storied 1994 “Contract With America,” which was not only a set of campaign promises but also a blueprint for governing.

washington post logoWashington Post, Why people are fleeing Puerto Rico, Guam and every other U.S. territory, Andrew Van Dam, Sept. 27, 2022 (print ed.). America's five territories -- Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands -- are wildly diverse places. So why are they all rapidly losing population?

For much of the postwar era, America’s territories thrived. Remnants of the age of imperialism, the five far-flung Caribbean and Pacific outposts added residents faster than most states. But the 2020 Census revealed a troubling turn: Every territory is now shrinking, losing population faster than any state.

The synchronized swoon flummoxed us. They appear to have so little in common!

The largest U.S. territory, Puerto Rico, has 3.3 million people and Spanish and West Indian traditions tracing back to Columbus. The nearby U.S. Virgin Islands (population 87,000) were previously settled by Denmark. Over in the Pacific between Japan and Australia, Guam (pop. 154,000) and the Northern Mariana Islands (pop. 47,000) share Chamorro heritage and tourist economies oriented toward East Asia. And American Samoa (pop. 50,000), in the heart of Polynesia, still employs a communal system of land ownership and lies closer to New Zealand than Hawaii.

One big thing unites them: U.S. rule.

Their population collapse also seems uniquely American. From 2010 to 2020, the population plummeted by 18 percent in the U.S. Virgin Islands while the British Virgin Islands gained 9 percent. Over the same period, American Samoa lost 11 percent while independent Samoa gained 7 percent.

What’s going on? Why are people fleeing the distant vestiges of America’s global empire?

Good data remains elusive. The government rarely gives the territories equal coverage in its headline economic and demographic releases. Legislation introduced in July by Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and the territories’ nonvoting delegates would push agencies to fill those data gaps, but it has yet to truly begin the arduous journey through Congress.

So, we picked up the phone. Talking with locals, officials and experts over the past few months, we eventually came to a simple — perhaps overly simple — conclusion:

The island territories, even the most developed ones, have much in common with America’s rural areas. Their problems are rural problems, supercharged by migration and tax policy. And, of course, by distance from the nation’s population centers.

The population loss in the territories came as rural America snapped a four-decade population growth streak and started shrinking. The decline stemmed from familiar rural culprits: declining manufacturing, lack of health care, falling birthrates, brain drain and climate change. Even Puerto Rico’s storied capital, San Juan, might have more in common with a faded Rust Belt hub like Detroit than with a coastal “superstar city.”

Like many rural areas, the islands are trapped in a vicious cycle. As people lose their jobs or move away, tax revenue falls. Without that revenue, the territories can’t provide the same services. The lack of services and amenities drives more residents away, those residents stop paying taxes, and the cycle accelerates.

But what set off the cycle? What turned decades of growth into decline?

Each island is different, but when we asked for the broadest factors, economists pointed to manufacturing. The islands’ struggles came as China squashed rural factories everywhere. And the territories were hit unusually hard because the flood of cheap Chinese goods came at the precise moment when an accident of history made the islands uniquely vulnerable.

Starting in the 1960s or even earlier, U.S. and territorial officials used aggressive tax incentives to lure factories. It worked. Global industries reshaped the islands: There are pharmaceutical factories in Puerto Rico, textile factories in the Northern Marianas, oil refineries in the Virgin Islands and tuna-packing factories in American Samoa.

But after crackdowns on what critics called corporate welfare during the Clinton administration and the years that followed, most of those tax breaks disappeared. The most prominent of them expired just as Chinese factories were hitting their stride.

While not all policymakers agree, economists such as Zadia Feliciano of Queens College, City University of New York, say textile, footwear and electronics manufacturers on the islands depended on those tax breaks and couldn’t weather China’s rise without them. Her recent analysis with Meng-Ting Chen of Soochow University in Taiwan found that the phasing-out of one of the biggest tax credits, Section 936 of the Internal Revenue Code, from 1996 to 2006 explains at least half of the decline in Puerto Rico’s pharmaceutical industry since 1995.

“The declining population of Puerto Rico in part is due to the economic crisis created by the elimination of Section 936,” Feliciano said.

The economic struggles have accelerated brain drain on the islands, as the young and ambitious leave to attend school or join the U.S. military. As with rural kids seeking their fortune in cities, the islanders often put down roots on the mainland, where their college degrees and other experience are far more remunerative. The islands just don’t have many high-paying opportunities for the educated.

“It’s really troubling for our middle class and our students who graduate here,” said Roseann Jones, a University of Guam economist who has spent the past 25 years on the island. “They’re beginning to say this is a very challenging place economically to build and raise a family, to commit to.”

​​States with the worst brain drain — and more!

The exodus of the best and brightest makes the islands less attractive to companies looking to relocate, which leads to fewer well-paying jobs, which pushes even more skilled graduates to leave.

“The ambitious, well-prepared kids, they go to college on the mainland and they rarely come back,” said Mark Wenner, former chief economist at the USVI Office of Management and Budget. “And then you have a mass of young people that are not well prepared due to the low-quality public education system. … The only option for many is basically to go the military or to migrate to the mainland.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Sinema, McConnell engage in mutual admiration — and some Democrats seethe, Azi Paybarah, Sept. 27, 2022 (print ed.). Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) on Monday engaged in a mutual admiration exchange with the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), expressed support for restoring elements of the filibuster and suggested that Republicans might win control of the House or Senate in the midterm elections.

Several Democrats were unhappy, criticizing not only her remarks but her timing.

Sinema made the comments during a speech at the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville, speaking and answering questions at the invitation of McConnell. There, McConnell effusively praised Sinema in his introduction, saying she is the “most effective first-term senator” he’s seen during his 37 years in the Senate.

“She is, today, what we have too few of in the Democratic Party: a genuine moderate and a dealmaker,” he said.

Sinema, for her part, spoke highly of McConnell. “Despite our apparent differences, Sen. McConnell and I have forged a friendship, one that is rooted in our commonalities, including our pragmatic approach to legislating, our respect for the Senate as an institution,” she said.

Since 1993, dozens of Democrats and Republicans, diplomats and foreign leaders have spoken at the McConnell Center. Vice President Joe Biden did in February 2011; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) spoke in April of this year. But Sinema’s appearance came just weeks before midterm elections as several of her Democratic colleagues are campaigning to help the party hold onto the House and Senate in November.

“As you all know, control changes between the House and the Senate every couple of years. It’s likely to change again in just a few weeks” Sinema said.

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U.S. Courts, Crime, Mass Shootings, Law

ny times logoNew York Times, Kushner’s Company Reaches $3.25 Million Settlement in Maryland Lawsuit, Linda Qiu, Sept. 24, 2022 (print ed.). The apartment company charged illegal fees and failed to adequately address leaks, mold and rodent infestations in its properties, the Maryland attorney general said.

An apartment management company partly owned by Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of former President Donald J. Trump, has agreed to pay a $3.25 million penalty and make restitution to thousands of tenants who were overcharged fees and subject to leaks, rodents and mold infestations, the Maryland attorney general said on Friday.

Westminster Management, the property management arm of Kushner Companies, and 25 affiliated businesses that owned nearly 9,000 units across the Baltimore area have agreed to settle a 2019 lawsuit over their rental practices. The companies violated consumer protection laws by charging tenants illegal fees and failed to adequately maintain the properties, the lawsuit said.

“This is a case in which landlords deceived and cheated their tenants, and then subjected them to miserable living conditions,” the Maryland attorney general, Brian Frosh, a Democrat, said in a news conference announcing the settlement. “The tenants were not wealthy people. Many struggled to pay the rent, keep food on the table, take care of their kids, keep everybody healthy. And Westminster used its vastly superior economic power to take advantage of them.”

Under the settlement, former and current tenants at 17 properties can file claims to recover a host of fees that Mr. Frosh said the company had improperly charged them. They could also file claims with an outside arbiter, known as a special master, who can return rental payments to tenants if they faced serious maintenance issues.

Recent Headlines

 

Public Health, Pandemic, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Breaking: Coronavirus vaccines can change when you get your period, research shows, Amanda Morris, Sept. 27, 2022. A coronavirus vaccination can change the timing of when you get your period, according to research. For most people, the effect was temporary. Not long after the rollout of coronavirus vaccines last year, women around the country began posting on social media about what they believed was a strange side effect: changes to their periods.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Now, new research shows that many of the complaints were valid. A study of nearly 20,000 people around the world shows that getting vaccinated against covid can change the timing of the menstrual cycle. Overall, vaccinated people experienced, on average, about a one-day delay in getting their periods, compared with those who hadn’t been vaccinated.
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The data, published Tuesday in the British Medical Journal, was taken from a popular period tracking app called Natural Cycles and included people from around the world, but most were from North America, Britain and Europe. The researchers used “de-identified” data from the app to compare menstrual cycles among 14,936 participants who were vaccinated and 4,686 who were not.

Because app users tracked their menstrual cycles each month, the researchers were able to analyze three menstrual cycles before vaccination and at least one cycle after, compared with four menstrual cycles in the unvaccinated group.

The data showed that vaccinated people got their periods 0.71 days late, on average, after the first dose of vaccine. However, people who received two vaccinations within one menstrual cycle experienced greater disruptions. In this group, the average increase in cycle length was four days, and 13 percent experienced a delay of eight days or more, compared with 5 percent in the control group.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: They Were Entitled to Free Care. Hospitals Hounded Them to Pay, Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Katie Thomas, Sept. 25, 2022 (print ed.). One of the largest nonprofit hospital chains in the U.S. trained staff to wring money out of patients, even those eligible for free care. Many nonprofit hospitals have strayed from their charitable missions. A Times investigation found that the consequences have been stark.

In 2018, senior executives at one of the country’s largest nonprofit hospital chains, Providence, were frustrated. They were spending hundreds of millions of dollars providing free health care to patients. It was eating into their bottom line.

The executives, led by Providence’s chief financial officer at the time, devised a solution: a program called Rev-Up.

Rev-Up provided Providence’s employees with a detailed playbook for wringing money out of patients — even those who were supposed to receive free care because of their low incomes, a New York Times investigation found.

In training materials obtained by The Times, members of the hospital staff were instructed how to approach patients and pressure them to pay.

“Ask every patient, every time,” the materials said. Instead of using “weak” phrases — like “Would you mind paying?” — employees were told to ask how patients wanted to pay. Soliciting money “is part of your role. It’s not an option.”

If patients did not pay, Providence sent debt collectors to pursue them.

More than half the nation’s roughly 5,000 hospitals are nonprofits like Providence. They enjoy lucrative tax exemptions; Providence avoids more than $1 billion a year in taxes. In exchange, the Internal Revenue Service requires them to provide services, such as free care for the poor, that benefit the communities in which they operate.

But in recent decades, many of the hospitals have become virtually indistinguishable from for-profit companies, adopting an unrelenting focus on the bottom line and straying from their traditional charitable missions.

To understand the shift, The Times reviewed thousands of pages of court records, internal hospital financial records and memos, tax filings, and complaints filed with regulators, and interviewed dozens of patients, lawyers, current and former hospital executives, doctors, nurses and consultants.

Recent Headlines

 

Abortion, Forced Birth Laws, Privacy Rights

washington post logoWashington Post, University of Idaho may stop providing birth control under new abortion law, Caroline Kitchener and Susan Svrluga, Sept. 27, 2022 (print ed.). Employees could be charged with a felony and fired if they appear to promote abortion, according to new guidance.

The University of Idaho’s general counsel issued new guidance on Friday about the state’s near-total abortion ban, alerting faculty and staff that the school should no longer offer birth control for students, a rare move for a state university.

University employees were also advised not to speak in support of abortion at work. If an employee appears to promote abortion, counsel in favor of abortion, or refer a student for an abortion procedure, they could face a felony conviction and be permanently barred from all future state employment, according to an email obtained by The Washington Post.

Idaho’s trigger ban took effect on Aug. 25, approximately two months after the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade. That law, which was passed by state lawmakers in 2020, bans abortions at any time after conception, except in instances where the pregnant person’s life is at risk or in cases of rape or incest so long as the crime was reported to law enforcement.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: I don’t want your god in charge of my health care, Kate Cohen, Sept. 27, 2022 (print ed.). Let’s say a patient is considering a tubal ligation after a planned Caesarean section because she doesn’t want to get pregnant again. Here are some factors that pertain to that decision: her vision of her reproductive future, her doctor’s advice, state regulations, the recommendations of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the latest scientific research.

Here are some factors that, for most patients, do not pertain: “God’s purposes,” “God’s will,” “the truth that life is a precious gift from God.”

But if our hypothetical patient happens to be in a Catholic hospital, those factors — precisely those words — will be controlling the decision, whether or not she or her doctor believes in God’s plan. It’s plainly spelled out in the ethical directives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops: “Direct sterilization of either men or women, whether permanent or temporary, is not permitted in a Catholic health care institution.” She won’t get the operation no matter how medically safe and legal it is, no matter what she wants.

Clearly, she should have picked a different hospital. But with the expansion of Catholic health systems all over the country, that might not be an option. A 2020 report by Community Catalyst, a nonprofit health advocacy group, found that four of the 10 largest health systems in the country were Catholic. The Catholic Health Association says that Catholic facilities now account for more than 1 in 7 U.S. hospital patients.

That number is likely to grow, as Catholic health systems expand by merging with or acquiring secular hospitals and networks. This consolidation is happening near me, in the Albany, N.Y., area. As the Times Union recently reported, one of our large health systems, St. Peter’s Health Partners, part of a Catholic network, has begun merging with the secular Ellis Medicine, which will ultimately put “God’s will” in charge of Ellis Hospital and the Bellevue Woman’s Center, which provides pregnancy and maternity care.

washington post logoWashington Post, Addiction, pregnancy, herpes: Health apps are sharing your medical concerns with ad companies, Tatum Hunter and Jeremy B. Merrill, Sept. 27, 2022 (print ed.). Digital health care has its advantages. Privacy isn’t one of them.

In a nation with millions of uninsured families and a shortage of health professionals, many of us turn to health-care apps and websites for accessible information or even potential treatment. But when you fire up a symptom-checker or digital therapy app, you might be unknowingly sharing your concerns with more than just the app maker.

Facebook has been caught receiving patient information from hospital websites through its tracker tool. Google stores our health-related internet searches. Mental health apps leave room in their privacy policies to share data with unlisted third parties. Users have few protections under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) when it comes to digital data, and popular health apps share information with a broad collection of advertisers, according to our investigation.

You scheduled an abortion. Planned Parenthood’s website could tell Facebook.

Most of the data being shared doesn’t directly identify us. For example, apps may share a string of numbers called an “identifier” that’s linked to our phones rather than our names. Not all the recipients of this data are in the ad business — some provide analytics showing developers how users move around their apps. And companies argue that sharing which pages you visit, such as a page titled “depression,” isn’t the same as revealing sensitive health concerns.

washington post logoWashington Post, He came out as trans. Then Texas had him investigate parents of trans kids, Casey Parks, Sept. 23, 2022. After Gov. Greg Abbott ordered child abuse investigations of the parents of transgender children, Morgan Davis, a Child Protective Services worker in Austin, was assigned two cases.

  • Youngkin’s rules for trans students leave many teens fearful, despondent
  • Transgender teacher and Md. school system settle discrimination suit

washington post logoWashington Post, Arizona judge reinstates near-total abortion ban from 19th century, Andrew Jeong, Sept. 25, 2022 (print ed.). An Arizona judge revived a ban on abortion that dates back to the mid-19th century, lifting a decades-old injunction that means the procedure is effectively illegal in the state at all times except when a pregnant person’s life is at risk.

arizona mapPima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson’s ruling was released Friday, a day before a law that restricts abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy was due to take effect. The conflicting restrictions on abortion had created confusion, with Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) pushing to enforce the tougher prohibitions and Gov. Doug Ducey (R) previously insisting that the 15-week ban was the law of the land.

Johnson cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June to overturn Roe v. Wade, which established a fundamental right to abortion, as rationale for lifting the injunction. Roe had been the basis of the 1973 injunction that prevented bans on abortion from being enforced, Johnson ruled. And because the nation’s highest court had returned decisions on the procedure to Congress and the states, that injunction can also be annulled, she wrote.
Judge Kellie Johnson lifted an injunction on most abortions in the state. (Mamta Popat/Associated Press)

The Arizona law threatens abortion providers with between two and five years in prison. It originated from a 1864 law and has no exception for victims of rape or incest. Some states did not update the laws on their books after Roe was decided in 1973, and the overturning of that decision has caused confusion from Michigan to West Virginia as to whether those laws still apply.

Johnson indicated that the older law, which was updated and codified in 1901, supersedes the recently passed law that was to take effect Saturday. “Most recently in 2022, the legislature enacted a 15-week gestational age limitation on abortion. The legislature expressly included in the session law that the 15-week gestational age limitation” does not “repeal” the older ban, she wrote.

Ducey’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Friday. Brnovich thanked Johnson on Twitter, saying that the county court had provided “clarity and uniformity on this important issue. I have and will continue to protect the most vulnerable Arizonans.”

Abortion is banned in these states. See where the laws have changed.

Planned Parenthood Arizona, which was a plaintiff in the case, criticized the court for reviving an “archaic” law that it said would send “Arizonans back nearly 150 years.” The reproductive health organization, which can appeal the ruling, also said it “will never back down.” Democratic gubernatorial nominee Katie Hobbs said in a statement that she was “mourning” the decision and pledged to veto antiabortion legislation if elected.

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Water, Space, Energy, Climate, Disasters

climate change photo

ny times logoNew York Times, For China’s Auto Market, Electric Isn’t the Future. It’s the Present, Daisuke Wakabayashi and Claire Fu, Sept. 27, 2022 (print ed.). More electric cars will be sold there this year than in the rest of the world combined, as its domestic market speeds ahead of the global competition.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Mississippi water crisis is the tip of the global disaster to come, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Sept. 27, 2022. Addressing the U.N. General Assembly last week, Secretary General António Guterres called the climate crisis “our suicidal war against nature.” That war’s devastation can be seen in Jackson, Miss., where four residents have filed a lawsuit against the city for failing to protect the water supply from extreme weather events.

Jackson’s water crisis has been rightly described as a “climate justice wake-up call.” Decades of neglect led to a deteriorating water system that reached a breaking point this summer. When torrential rains caused a flood near Jackson’s largest water treatment plant in August — coming on top of staffing shortages and equipment failures — a major pump was damaged, a chemical imbalance was created, and the plant shut down. With that, the city of more than 160,000 residents lost access to safe drinking water.

Though a boil-water advisory was recently lifted after six weeks, the crisis is far from over. Jackson has faced recurring disruptions, and the underlying causes have not been addressed.

Racism is one of those causes. Jackson’s population is 83 percent Black, and communities of color have long been likelier victims of drinking water violations in the United States. When Jackson’s water shut off, the water in nearby majority-White suburbs stayed on and stayed clean, because those suburbs — whose populations and coffers have swelled because of white flight from the city — are served by newer, better water treatment plants. “You cannot define structural racism any more clearly than the infrastructure management in this country,” says Brookings Institution fellow Andre Perry. Differing investments in local water systems “literally lay the groundwork for racial disparities.”

Such negligence has catastrophic consequences. Though President Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes more than $50 billion for water infrastructure, it won’t be enough to make up for decades of mismanagement. In Jackson alone, it could cost $1 billion to repair the water distribution system, and billions more to upgrade it. Unless we act now, the gap between money invested and money needed for water infrastructure will grow to $434 billion by 2029.

washington post logoWashington Post, Nord Stream operator decries ‘unprecedented’ damage to three pipelines, Mary Ilyushina, Sept. 27, 2022. European officials on Tuesday launched investigations into three mysterious leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines, built to carry Russian natural gas to Europe, after the system operator reported “unprecedented” damage to the lines in the Baltic Sea.

The leaks had no immediate impact on energy supplies to the European Union, since Russia had already cut off gas flows. But gas had remained in the pipes, raising concerns about possible environmental harm from leaking methane — the main component of natural gas and, when in the atmosphere, a major contributor to climate change. Images supplied by the Danish military showed gas bubbles reaching the surface of the water.

“The damage that occurred in one day simultaneously at three lines of offshore pipelines of the Nord Stream system is unprecedented,” the company, Nord Stream AG, said in a statement to Russian state news agencies.

Russia’s Gazprom says it won’t reopen Nord Stream gas pipeline to Europe as planned

European officials suggested that the damage may have been sabotage. “It is hard to imagine that it is accidental,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said, according to the Danish newspaper Politiken. “We cannot rule out sabotage, but it is too early to conclude.”

 

mitch mcconnell elevator getty croppedPolitico, McConnell works to box out Manchin, Burgess Everett and Caitlin Emma, Sept. 27, 2022 (print ed.). The GOP leader, right, is pushing his members to block the West Virginia senator's energy permitting bill, the latest loop in their roller-coaster relationship.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Media, Free Expression, Culture, Education, Sports News

 ny times logoNew York Times, TikTok Could Be Nearing a U.S. Security Deal, but Hurdles Remain, Lauren Hirsch, David McCabe, Katie Benner and Glenn Thrush, Sept. 27, 2022 (print ed.). A draft agreement with the Biden administration to keep the Chinese-owned app operating in America is under review, four people with knowledge of the discussions said.

The Biden administration and TikTok have drafted a preliminary agreement to resolve national security concerns posed by the Chinese-owned video app but face hurdles over the terms, as the platform negotiates to keep operating in the United States without major changes to its ownership structure, four people with knowledge of the discussions said.

tiktok logo square CustomThe two sides have hammered out the foundations of a deal in which TikTok would make changes to its data security and governance without requiring its owner, the Chinese internet giant ByteDance, to sell it, said three of the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the negotiations are confidential.

The two sides are still wrangling over the potential agreement. The Justice Department is leading the negotiations with TikTok, and its No. 2 official, Lisa Monaco, has concerns that the terms are not tough enough on China, two people with knowledge of the matter said. The Treasury Department, which plays a key role in approving deals involving national security risks, is also skeptical that the potential agreement with TikTok can sufficiently resolve national security issues, two people with knowledge of the matter said. That could force changes to the terms and drag out a final resolution for months.

TikTok, one of the world’s most popular social media apps, has been under a legal cloud in the United States for more than two years because of its Chinese ties. Lawmakers and regulators have repeatedly raised concerns about TikTok’s ability to protect the data of American users from Chinese authorities. President Donald J. Trump tried to force ByteDance to sell TikTok to an American company in 2020 and threatened to block the app.

washington post logoWashington Post, A China-based network of Facebook accounts posed as liberal Americans to post about Republicans, company says, Naomi Nix, Sept. 27, 2022. The accounts posed as liberal Americans on Facebook and Instagram to comment on Republicans, Meta said.

meta logofacebook logoFacebook’s parent company Meta disrupted a China-based network of accounts that was seeking to influence U.S. politics ahead of the 2022 midterms, the company reported Tuesday.

The covert influence operation used accounts on Facebook and Instagram posing as Americans to post opinions about hot-button issues such as abortion, gun control and high-profile politicians such as President Biden and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). The network, which focused on the United States and the Czech Republic, posted from the fall of 2021 through the summer of 2022, the company said. Facebook renamed itself Meta last year.

Ben Nimmo, Meta’s global threat intelligence lead, told reporters that the network was unusual because unlike previous China-based influence operations that focused on promoting narratives about America to the rest of the world, this network was intended to influence U.S. users abut Americans topics months ahead of the 2022 contests.

Recent Headlines

 

Sept. 26

Top Headlines

giorgia meloni bloomberg

 

World News, Human Rights, Disasters

 

More On Ukraine War

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Economy, Governance

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Shootings, Gun Laws

 

Trump Documents Scandal

 

Trump Probes, Disputes, Rallies, Supporters

 

Abortion, Forced Birth Laws, Privacy Rights

 

Food, Water, Energy, Climate, Disasters

 

U.S. Media, Culture, Sports, Education

 

Pandemic, Public Health

 

Top Stories

 

giorgia meloni bloomberg

ny times logoNew York Times, Giorgia Meloni’s Hard-Right Party Wins Italy’s Vote, Jason Horowitz, Updated Sept. 26, 2022. The results leave Ms. Meloni poised to be Italy’s next prime minister, the first woman to hold the position, and the first with post-Fascist roots.

Italy turned a page of European history on Sunday by electing a hard-right coalition led by Giorgia Meloni, whose long record of bashing the European Union, international bankers and migrants has sown concern about the nation’s reliability in the Western alliance.

italy decalResults released early Monday showed that Ms. Meloni, the leader of the nationalist Brothers of Italy, a party descended from the remnants of fascism, had led a right-wing coalition to a majority in Parliament, defeating a fractured left and a resurgent anti-establishment movement.

It will still be weeks before the new Italian Parliament is seated and a new government is formed, leaving plenty of time for political machinations and horse trading in a coalition with major differences. But Ms. Meloni’s strong showing, with about 26 percent of the vote, the highest of any single party, makes her the prohibitive favorite to become the country’s first female prime minister.

While she is a strong supporter of Ukraine, her coalition partners deeply admire Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, and have criticized sanctions against Russia.

ny times logoNew York Times, Europe Looks at Italy’s Meloni With Caution and Trepidation, Steven Erlanger, Sept. 26, 2022. Giorgia Meloni says she supports Ukraine and has moderated her harsh views on Europe, but there are doubts, given her partners.

The victory in Italian elections of the far-right and Euroskeptic leader Giorgia Meloni, who once wanted to ditch the euro currency, sent a tremor on Monday through a European establishment worried about a new right-wing shift in Europe.

european union logo rectangleEuropean Union leaders are now watching her coalition’s comfortable victory in Italy, one of its founding members, with caution and some trepidation, despite reassurances from Ms. Meloni, who would be the first far-right nationalist to govern Italy since Mussolini, that she has moderated her views.

But it is hard for them to escape a degree of dread. Even given the bloc’s successes in recent years to agree on a groundbreaking pandemic recovery fund and to confront Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, the appeal of nationalists and populists remains strong — and is spreading, a potential threat to European ideals and cohesion.

Earlier this month, the far-right Sweden Democrats became the country’s second-largest party and the largest in what is expected to be a right-wing coalition.

Politico, Abortion puts GOP candidates on their heels in top governors races, Zach Montellaro and Megan Messerly, Sept. 26, 2022 (print ed.). Governors are newly powerful when it comes to abortion, and Democrats are spending big to remind voters in November.

politico CustomThe battle over abortion rights will be won or lost in state capitals, not Washington.

That reality has in the past three months upended battleground governor races — where the winners could quite literally determine the level of access to abortion for millions of women.

washington post logoWashington Post, Voters divided amid intense fight for control of Congress, poll finds, Dan Balz, Emily Guskin and Scott Clement, Sept. 26, 2022 (print ed.). The fight for control of Congress is an intense one, as Republicans hold significant advantages in the most competitive House seats. But the GOP edge is being tempered by energy among Democrats over abortion rights.

Heading into the final weeks of the midterm election campaign, Americans are split nationally in their vote for Congress, with Republicans holding sizable advantages on the economy, inflation and crime and Democrats far more trusted to handle the issues of abortion and climate change, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Congressional districts have changed. Find yours for the 2022 midterm elections.

With control of the House and Senate possibly shifting from Democrats to Republicans in November and the country deeply divided, 2 in 3 registered voters see this election as more important than past midterm campaigns. That’s the same percentage that said this in 2018 when turnout surged to the highest in a century.

At this point, both sides are highly motivated to turn out in November. Among registered Democratic voters, 3 in 4 say they are almost certain to vote compared with about 8 in 10 Republicans. Independents are less motivated. Four years ago, Democrats were about as mobilized as Republicans and had a clear lead in overall support. Eight years ago, when Democrats suffered losses, Republicans were more motivated.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Gunman Attacks Draft Office as Russian Unrest Over Call-Ups Deepens, Marc Santora, Sept. 26, 2022.  Anger is mounting in Russia over President Vladimir Putin’s mobilization of hundreds of thousands of civilians as his military struggles in Ukraine.

Here’s what we know:

  • russian flag wavingAnger is mounting in Russia over President Vladimir V. Putin’s mobilization of hundreds of thousands of civilians as his military struggles in Ukraine.
  • A recruitment officer was wounded in the shooting at an enlistment center in Siberia.
  • Ukraine denounces reports of prisoners of war being forced to vote in Russia’s staged referendums.
  • A Putin ally acknowledges he is the founder of the Wagner mercenary group.
  • ‘We didn’t know where else to go’: Ukrainians displaced by a counteroffensive seek shelter.
  • An Ukrainian soldier whose bracelet made him a symbol receives posthumous honors.
  • Zelensky urges allies to step up pressure on Putin amid ‘nuclear blackmail.’
  • Two Americans return home months after being captured fighting in Ukraine.

A gunman opened fire at a draft office in Siberia on Monday, injuring a military recruitment officer, as anger mounted over President Vladimir V. Putin’s plan to mobilize hundreds of thousands of civilians to bolster Russia’s struggling army in Ukraine.

The shooting, in the town of Ust-Ilimsk in the far eastern region of Irkutsk, was confirmed by the local governor, Igor Kobzev, who said on Telegram that the recruitment officer “is in intensive care, in an extremely serious condition.”

The assailant was taken into custody, the authorities said, identifying him as Ruslan Zinin, who is in his mid-20s.

The suspect’s mother, Marina Zinina, told a local news outlet that her son’s best friend had received a draft summons despite having no military experience. Defense Minister Sergei K. Shoigu said last week that only men with military experience and a specialization would be called up, although many men not meeting that criteria have been conscripted.

“Ruslan was very upset because of this, because his friend did not serve in the army,” Ms. Zinina was quoted as saying. “They said that there would be partial mobilization, but it turns out that they are taking everyone.”

The shooting is the latest attack on military recruitment centers in Russia since Mr. Putin launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, and is believed to be the first to have resulted in serious injury. Since the beginning of the war, at least 54 recruitment centers and administrative buildings have been set on fire, according to Mediazona, an independent Russian news outlet. Seventeen attacks have occurred since the call-up was announced last Wednesday.

There have been numerous reports of people who are unfit for service being summoned to report for duty, prompting criticism of the mobilization process across the country. These errors have led to rare admissions from Russian officials that mistakes have been made, and that the mobilization should be conducted more carefully.

The governors of several Russian regions — including Belgorod, on the border with Ukraine, and Kostroma, Vladimir and Yakutia and Magadan in the far east — have acknowledged that people who did not meet Mr. Shoigu’s criteria were being called up.

The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, acknowledged on Monday that there had been irregularities but sought to shift blame to the authorities implementing the mobilization.

“There are cases when the decree is violated — in some regions governors are actively working to correct the situation,” he told reporters on a daily phone call. He said that journalists, officials and nongovernmental organizations were doing “active and necessary work” in reporting on supposed violations.

“These cases of noncompliance with the required criteria are being eliminated, and we hope that the rate of elimination will increase, and all errors will be corrected,” he said.

At least 2,000 antiwar protesters have been arrested since Wednesday, according to OVD-Info, a rights group that monitors police activity.

In a separate incident on Monday, a gunman entered a school in Izhevsk, in western Russia, killing at least 13 people, including seven children, and wounding another 20, before fatally shooting himself, the authorities said.

nasa logonasa asteroidAssociated Press via Politico, Bam! NASA spacecraft crashes into asteroid in defense test, Staff Report, Sept. 26, 2022. “The dinosaurs didn’t have a space program to help them know what was coming, but we do."

A NASA spacecraft rammed an asteroid at blistering speed Monday in an unprecedented dress rehearsal for the day a killer rock menaces Earth.

The galactic grand slam occurred at a harmless asteroid (shown above in a NASA photo along with staff) 7 million miles away, with the spacecraft named Dart plowing into the small space rock at 14,000 mph. Scientists expected the impact to carve out a crater, hurl streams of rocks and dirt into space and, most importantly, alter the asteroid’s orbit.

politico CustomTelescopes around the world and in space aimed at the same point in the sky to capture the spectacle. Though the impact was immediately obvious — Dart’s radio signal abruptly ceased — it will be days or even weeks to determine how much the asteroid’s path was changed.

The $325 million mission was the first attempt to shift the position of an asteroid or any other natural object in space.

“No, this is not a movie plot,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson tweeted earlier in the day. ”We’ve all seen it on movies like ‘Armageddon,’ but the real-life stakes are high,” he said in a prerecorded video.

Monday’s target: a 525-foot asteroid named Dimorphos. It’s actually a moonlet of Didymos, Greek for twin, a fast-spinning asteroid five times bigger that flung off the material that formed the junior partner.

washington post logoWashington Post, NASA spacecraft will slam into an asteroid Monday — if all goes right, Joel Achenbach, Sept. 26, 2022 (print ed.). If everything goes as planned, and the laws of gravity and motion don’t change at the last minute, the asteroid collision will happen at exactly 7:14:23 EST.

nasa logoHeart rates are spiking in the Washington suburbs, where scientists and engineers on Monday evening hope to witness a vending-machine-sized spacecraft that is 7 million miles from Earth crash into an asteroid.

This mission is designed to show how a “kinetic impactor” could deflect a dangerous asteroid that might strike the Earth. There are a lot of space rocks out there that could interrupt our typically peaceful journey around the sun. The general strategy in planetary defense is to alter the orbits of asteroids so that, even if they come close to Earth, they’ll pass by harmlessly.

The DART team members are confident they’ll succeed, but they admit this is not a slam dunk. The spacecraft could miss. There will be no consolation for the scientists and engineers if they almost hit the target. This isn’t horseshoes or hand grenades: Close doesn’t count when you’re trying to change the course of an asteroid.

 

U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.

 

Roger Stone watches news coverage of the Capitol riot in his suite at the Willard hotel on Jan. 6, 2021 (Photo by Kristin M. Davis.)

Roger Stone watches news coverage of the Capitol riot in his suite at the Willard hotel on Jan. 6, 2021 2021 (Photo by Kristin M. Davis.).

washington post logoWashington Post, Jan. 6 committee hearing will use clips from Roger Stone documentary, Dalton Bennett, Jon Swaine and Jacqueline Alemany,  Sept. 26, 2022. The committee is considering including video clips in which Stone, a longtime adviser to Donald Trump, predicted violent clashes and forecast that the president would use armed guards and loyal judges to stay in power. The Danish filmmakers, who previously were hesitant to cooperate with the investigation, said this week they decided to comply with a subpoena issued by the committee .

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob intends to show at its hearing this week video footage of Roger Stone recorded by Danish filmmakers during the weeks before the violence, according to people familiar with the matter.

The committee is considering including video clips in which Stone, a longtime friend and adviser of Donald Trump, predicted violent clashes with left-wing activists and forecast months before the 2020 vote that the then-president would use armed guards and loyal judges to stay in power, according to one of the people familiar with hearing planning.

The Washington Post revealed in March that the Copenhagen-based filmmakers had recorded footage of Stone as they followed him for extended periods between 2019 and 2021. They were at his side as Stone traveled to Washington for the “Stop the Steal” rallies that spilled into violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Their film on Stone, “A Storm Foretold,” is expected to be released later this year.
Stone resurrects "Stop the Steal."

The selection of clips for Wednesday’s hearing has not yet been finalized, according to people familiar with the committee’s planning. But thematically they are likely to focus on how Stone, former Trump chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon and other associates of the president planned on declaring victory regardless of the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, one of the people said.

 

edward snowden twitter

washington post logoWashington Post, Putin grants citizenship to Edward Snowden, who disclosed U.S. surveillance, Mary Ilyushina, Sept. 26, 2022. Russian President Vladimir Putin granted citizenship on Monday to Edward Snowden, the former security consultant who leaked information about top-secret U.S. surveillance programs and is still wanted by Washington on espionage charges.

Snowden, 39, was one of 72 foreigners granted citizenship in a decree signed by Putin.

Snowden, who considers himself a whistleblower, fled the United States to avoid prosecution and has been living in Russia, which granted him asylum in 2013.

Snowden was granted permanent residency in 2020, and his lawyers said at the time that he was applying to obtain a Russian passport without renouncing his U.S. citizenship.

Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told the state-run news agency RIA Novosti on Monday that Snowden’s wife, Lindsay Mills, is also now applying for Russian citizenship. Mills joined Snowden in Moscow in 2014. They were married in 2017 and have a son together.

Kucherena also said that Snowden would not be subject to the partial military mobilization that Putin decreed last week to help Russia’s flagging war in Ukraine as Snowden never served in the Russian army. Putin said only those with previous experienced would be called up in the partial mobilization though there have been widespread reports of summonses going to others, including men arrested at protests against mobilization.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to comment on Snowden’s new passport, and instead referred questions to the prosecutors seeking his extradition. “Soc, since I believe there have been criminal charges brought against him, we would point you to the Department of Justice for any specifics on this,” Jean-Pierre said.

Snowden’s revelations, published first in The Washington Post and the Guardian, were arguably the biggest security breach in U.S. history. The information he disclosed revealed top-secret NSA surveillance as part of a program known as PRISM and the extraction of a wide range of digital information.

Axios Sneak Peek: 1 big thing: Mark Meadows' inbox, Alayna Treene, Hans Nichols and Zachary Basu, Sept. 26, 2022. Between Nov. 3, 2020, and President Biden's inauguration, Mark Meadows' cellphone became a key channel for dozens of elected officials as well private citizens to convey outlandish conspiracy theories and last-ditch ideas to overturn the election, Axios' Sophia Cai reports.

axios logoDriving the news: A new book by former Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.) — an ex-adviser to the Jan. 6 committee — claims that former President Trump's chief of staff received texts from 39 House members and five U.S. senators.

The Breach cites texts from GOP lawmakers to paint a picture of how invested many were in Trump's effort to overturn the election. The book, which has not been authorized by the committee, is set for release tomorrow and was obtained in advance by Axios. Riggleman left his position as a senior technical adviser to the committee in April.

Why it matters: The Meadows texts are the "crown jewels" that "gave us keys to the kingdom," Riggleman writes.

The timing of the book's release gives it a narrow window to impact the committee's work and the public's understanding.
Mark MeadowsWednesday's hearing is perhaps the last public one before the release of a final report on the committee's findings and recommendations.

Details: The book reveals Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) sent Meadows, right, a forwarded note from North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley, who shared his own idea for a "last-ditch effort" to demand statewide recounts of absentee and mail-in ballots in crucial states.

Other examples: Meadows received texts in late 2020 from Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) about "dead voters" and Dominion voting machines. Riggleman notes that one of Gosar’s texts included a link to a movie about "cyber warfare" from an anti-vaccine conspiracy blog called "Some Bitch Told Me."

On Nov. 5, 2020, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) touted his experience as an attorney and offered to come to the White House, to which Meadows responded: "Most of this is being handled at the campaign. Would love your help and would love you going on TV."

Republican Reps. Chip Roy and Brian Babin, both of Texas, also reached out to Meadows for direction on how to challenge the election on the morning of Nov. 5.

Between the lines: Riggleman's headline-grabbing book and accompanying media tour have rankled some members of the committee, which has sought to downplay his insight into the panel's investigation.

"I am an intelligence officer by training," Riggleman writes in the book's introduction. "There is nothing more valuable than raw data. ... I am not asking you to like me or even to trust me. I want to let the data do the talking."

Axios Situational awareness: The National Archives has been asked to notify the House Oversight Committee by tomorrow whether any documents from the Trump White House are still unaccounted for, the Wall Street Journal reports.

peter navarro fox CustomPalmer Report, Analysis: DOJ files writ of replevin against Trump co-conspirator Peter Navarro, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 26, 2022. The bill palmerDOJ has filed a writ of replevin against Peter Navarro, shown above in a file photo, forcing him to immediately return government property that he’s illegally possessing. This new “replevin” filing should be a real nightmare for Navarro, given that he’s previously shown he doesn’t even know what “redacted” means.

bill palmer report logo headerBut in all seriousness, legally speaking, this filing is a big deal. For those thinking this means Navarro might have stolen classified documents, the DOJ filing instead refers to government emails, which the DOJ considers Navarro to be illegal possessing. That’s more boring than espionage, but still clear Navarro is in real trouble.

For those demanding to know when the DOJ is finally going to indict Peter Navarro, let’s not forget the DOJ has already invited Peter Navarro for contempt, and he’s awaiting trial. The DOJ is clearly looking to bring more serious charges against him and his co-conspirators.

This DOJ filing also states that Navarro has previously demanded immunity in exchange for turning over his government emails, which the DOJ has obviously rejected. This suggests the emails incriminate Navarro rather severely, beyond the current contempt charge, and that Navarro is looking to avoid prison. But it sounds like the DOJ is just going to take the emails from Navarro by force, leaving him with no leverage, and only the option of flipping on Trump if he wants immunity.

“But what if Navarro just deletes the emails?” For one thing, deleted emails are rarely actually gone. And if he did delete the emails after he learned that the government wanted them, that would be felony obstruction, helping ensure Navarro ends up in prison. In such case Navarro would go down for obstruction and contempt – and those kinds of charges start to add up for a 73 year old guy. So if he has deleted them, then he’ll really have to flip on Trump to avoid prison.

This doesn’t mean Navarro will flip on Trump. He’d have to be an idiot not to flip, but on the other hand, he is an idiot. So we’ll see. But Navarro now has only two choices, flip on Trump or rot in prison. He’ll have to live with whatever choice he makes. If Navarro doesn’t flip, others will.



Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman speaks at an abortion rights rally in Blue Bell on Sept. 11, 2022 (Photo by Michelle Gustafson for  Bloomberg via Getty Images).

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman speaks at an abortion rights rally in Blue Bell on Sept. 11, 2022 (Photo by Michelle Gustafson for  Bloomberg via Getty Images).

huffington post logoHuffPost, John Fetterman Draws Blood After Tucker Carlson Needles Him On 'Fake' Tattoos, Mary Papenfuss, Sept. 26, 2022. Fetterman's tattoos commemorate those who died violently when he was mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania.

Fetterman recounted some of the killings in his op-ed, including Christopher Williams, “shot dead delivering pizzas,” and 23-month-old Nyia Page, who was sexually assaulted by her father, then left to die in the snow.

The tattoos are “not some ‘costume.’ They are reminders of the people we have lost and what I am fighting for,” he wrote.

The stories of the people “whose lives we tragically lost still are with me every single day — not just on my arm but in every decision I make as an elected official,” Fetterman wrote. “They remind me of why I am here and why I’m doing this.”

 

World News, Human Rights, Disasters

washington post logoWashington Post, British pound falls to new low against the dollar after taxes slashed, Karla Adam, Sept. 26, 2022. The falling value of the British pound reflects markets' alarm over the government's dramatic slashing of taxes and expected increased borrowing.

United Kingdom flagThe British pound hit an all-time low against the U.S. dollar on Monday, reflecting a highly negative review of the new government’s plan for big tax cuts and borrowing and adding to the anxiety of consumers already preparing for soaring energy bills this winter.

The sharp drop in the value of the pound comes as the British government grapples with soaring public debt and a cost-of-living crisis, amid deteriorating investor confidence. It also raised the prospect that Britain’s central bank may intervene in currency markets to shore up the pound.

Sterling’s slump in part reflects the strength of the U.S. dollar, which has been boosted by higher interest rates. But the pound has also dropped against the euro, indicating specific concerns about the British economy.

The pound crashed to a record low of $1.0327 in Asian trading early Monday, before regaining some ground and stabilizing around $1.07 — still well down from where it was on Friday morning before the government unveiled its “mini-budget.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Gunman wearing swastika T-shirt kills 13, including 7 kids, in Russian school, Robyn Dixon, Sept. 26, 2022. A gunman clad in black shot a security guard before walking into the school in Izhevsk, central Russia, and opening fire on children. At least 13 people were killed and 21 others injured.

At least 13 people were killed, including nine children, when a gunman wearing a T-shirt with a red swastika opened fire on Monday in a school in the central Russian city of Izhevsk, Russia’s Investigative Committee reported. The gunman, reportedly armed with two weapons, also killed himself.

Among the dead were a school security guard and two schoolteachers.

The attack occurred at School No. 88 in Izhevsk, the capital of the Udmurt Republic, a region in central Russia west of the Ural mountains. The head of the Udmurt Republic, Alexander Brechalov, said that 23 people were injured — including 20 children.

Russia’s Investigative Committee identified the gunman as Artem Kazantsev, a 34-year-old local resident and former student at the school. Investigators were searching his residence. Brechalov told reporters that Kazantsev was registered with a psycho-neurological clinic.

The shooting did not appear to be connected with a spate of violence in recent days that followed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s declaration of a partial military mobilization.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Cuba approves same-sex marriage in historic turnabout, Mary Beth Sheridan, Updated Sept. 26, 2022. Cubans approved a measure to legalize same-sex marriage, part of a new family code that’s among the most progressive in Latin America, defying a long tradition of machismo on the island.

Around two-thirds of voters backed the code in a referendum on Sunday, according to near-complete returns announced by state media on Monday morning. The balloting followed a lengthy consultation process featuring 79,000 neighborhood meetings that triggered an outpouring of more than 300,000 suggestions from citizens.

In addition to approving same-sex marriage, the legislation will allow gay couples to adopt, and increase the rights of women, the elderly and children.

Supporters call it a sign of the progress on LGBTQ+ rights under Cuba’s Communist government, which was once so hostile to gay men that it sent them to forced labor camps for “reeducation.” Yet leaders of the influential Roman Catholic Church and the island’s growing evangelical movement expressed unusually vocal dissent.

washington post logoWashington Post, As world gathers to honor Abe, Japan grapples with church’s influence, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Julia Mio Inuma, Sept. Japan26, 2022. The commemoration of Shinzo Abe has put a spotlight on the scandal ensnaring the ruling party over its links with the Unification Church.

For nearly two decades, public discussion of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s ties with the Unification Church was taboo in Japan. Now, the organization’s decades-long influence in Japanese politics is at the forefront of a political outcry.

shinzō abe oThe turning point: The July 8 assassination of Shinzo Abe, right.

Dignitaries are gathering in Tokyo this week to commemorate Japan’s longest-serving prime minister. But the event has put a spotlight on the scandal ensnaring the ruling party over its links with the church and use of taxpayer money for the state funeral of a leader who was popular abroad but divisive at home.

japan flag mapThe church has faced scrutiny after Tetsuya Yamagami, the suspected gunman, told police he wanted to carry out the assassination because his life and family had been ruined as a result of his mother’s large donations to a religious group to which Abe had apparent close ties. The Unification Church confirmed that Yamagami’s mother is a longtime member and that it had received donations from her.

Other families emerged to say that their lives were similarly upended because of donations made by their relatives, some of whom have ongoing legal battles with the Unification Church. The accounts highlighted a controversial practice known as “spiritual sales,” in which goods or services that supposedly possess supernatural powers were sold to members at often exorbitant prices.

“When I first heard that Abe’s death was related to a certain religious organization, I knew right away, that … something huge was going to unfold,” said Eito Suzuki, a journalist who has been tracking the church’s activities since 2002. “There is no other cult aside from the japan liberal party logoUnification Church which extends so deeply and widely within Japanese politics, reaching the ruling party, opposition parties, and beyond.”

Church officials said in a news conference last week that they are unaware of spiritual sales made after 2009, when the group signed a legal agreement after facing criminal charges over the practice. The church has addressed anger over its links with the ruling party (whose logo is shown at left) by saying that on various issues its stance tends to align with the LDP membership.

 

The late Mahsa Amini in a photo provided to Iran Wire by her family. The authorities have said she died of heart failure; her family say she had been in good health.

The late Mahsa Amini in a photo provided to Iran Wire by her family. The authorities have said she died of heart failure; her family say she had been in good health.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Iran president threatens ‘decisive’ response as protests continue, Kareem Fahim and Babak Dehghanpisheh, Sept. 26, 2022. Protests continued in Tehran and other Iranian cities Sunday for a 10th day, with videos emerging of large demonstrations despite tightening internet restrictions and an expanding clampdown by security forces, monitoring groups said.

The protests started after Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman, died after being detained by Iran’s morality police this month, amid allegations by her family that she had been beaten.

Iran FlagThe demonstrations — outpourings of anger over the harsh strictures on women’s dress that led to Amini’s arrest and vehicles for more deeply rooted complaints against Iran’s clerical establishment — have spread to all of Iran’s 31 provinces and are the largest since nationwide demonstrations three years ago that were met with a deadly security response that killed hundreds.

Anger against Iran’s ‘morality police’ erupts after death of Mahsa Amini

In the latest protests, at least 41 people have been killed, according to Iran’s state media, including police officers. A tightening crackdown has included the use of live ammunition against demonstrators and heavy deployments of security forces in Kurdish areas of western Iran, where the protests have been concentrated.

  • New York Times, Protests Surge in Iran as Crackdown Escalates, Vivian Yee and Farnaz Fassihi, Sept. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Dozens have reportedly been killed by security forces as demonstrations continue to spread across Iran. Protests began after Mahsa Amini died in the custody of the morality police

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary:Chinese police stations abroad? Yes, and it's uncertain what they are doing, Wayne wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallMadsen, left, author of 22 books and former Navy intelligence officer, Sept. 26, 2022. Two Chinese provinces, Fuzhou and wayne madesen report logoQingtian, have set up "Overseas Police Stations," also known as "Public Security Bureau Service Stations," in cities around the world.

Counterintelligence officials and human rights activists are justifiably demanding answers about the actual purposes of these facilities.

The stations were established this year under a Chinese government program called “Operation Overseas 110." 110 is the Chinese emergency phone number, akin to 911 in the United States and 112 in the European Union.

Recent Headlines

 

More On Ukraine War

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Begins Mobilizing Ukrainians to Fight Against Their Own Country, Marc Santora, Sept. 26, 2022 (print ed.).  Panic and fear flooded the occupied territories as Russian forces rounded up men to fight and forced residents to vote in a staged referendum on joining Russia, Ukrainian officials and rights groups said.

In the occupied city of Kherson, some Ukrainian men believe that if they break their own arms, maybe the Russians will not force them into military service. Others are hiding in basements. Some are trying to run even though they are forbidden to leave the city, residents said, and virtually everyone is afraid.

“People are panicking,” said Katerina, 30. “First they were searching our houses, and now the Russians will conscript our men to their army. This is all unlawful but very real for us.”

As the Kremlin’s conscription drive faced protests across Russia for a fifth day, new signs of resistance, and fear, emerged on Sunday in the territories it occupies in Ukraine as well.

The drive to compel Ukrainians to battle other Ukrainians is part of a broader, if risky, effort by Moscow to mobilize hundreds of thousands of new fighters as its forces suffer huge casualties and struggle to hold off Ukrainian advances in the east and south.

ukraine flagIt comes at the same time as a Russian-orchestrated vote that is setting the stage for the Kremlin to cleave Ukraine through an annexation that has been broadly condemned around the world.

The result of the pseudoreferendum underway is expected to be announced on Tuesday. The anticipated outcome: that a majority of people in four Ukrainian regions — Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizka — “voted” to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is then widely expected to declare in coming days those areas belong to Russia and therefore protected by the might of its full arsenal, including the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear weapons.

At the same time, Russian military officials continued to cast a dragnet across the vast expanse of their own nation, which stretches halfway around the Northern Hemisphere, for hundreds of thousands of men to conscript into the military, many likely to soon be dispatched to Ukraine.

Politico, ‘Huge problem’: Iranian drones pose new threat to Ukraine, Lara Seligman, Sept. 26, 2022. Recent attacks are prompting renewed calls for the U.S. to send more advanced weaponry.

politico CustomIt was a little over a week ago that Iranian drones first began appearing in the skies over Ukraine.

But in interviews, a Ukrainian activist and three soldiers said the Iranian drones pose a major threat to both fighters and civilians. Their arrival on the battlefield makes the need for the West to send additional modern weaponry even more urgent, as Kyiv tries to seize on recent gains to retake as much territory as possible before winter sets in, they said.

Andriana Arekhta, a junior sergeant with the Ukrainian Armed Forces, said the drones flew from Crimea to attack her special forces unit fighting near the southern city of Kherson. The drones evaded the soldiers’ defenses and dropped bombs on their position, destroying two tanks with their crews inside.

“It’s very difficult to see these drones on radars,” said Arekhta, who traveled to Washington, D.C., last week as part of a delegation of female Ukrainian soldiers. “It’s a huge problem.”

Over the past week, Russia has deployed Shahed and Mohajer combat drones imported from Iran in greater numbers across Ukraine, with devastating results. Some hit combat positions, smashing tanks and armored vehicles, while others struck civilian infrastructure, including in the port city of Odesa.

In his nightly address on Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his country’s anti-aircraft forces had shot down more than a dozen drones in the eastern Dnipropetrovsk region and Odesa. The Ukrainian Air Force identified them as Shahed-136 kamikaze drones and Mohajer-6 drones that carry munitions and can also be used for reconnaissance.

ny times logoNew York Times, Germany is supporting Ukraine, but won’t send battle tanks, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said, Katrin Bennhold, Sept. 26, 2022 (print ed.). Military assistance to Kyiv has become something of a litmus test of Olaf Scholz’s ability to lead Europe through its most significant security crisis since World War II.

“We are supporting Ukraine,” Mr. Scholz said last week in an hourlong interview with The New York Times. “We are doing it in a way that is not escalating to where it is becoming a war between Russia and NATO because this would be a catastrophe.”

washington post logoWashington Post, With Kalashnikov rifles, Russia drives the staged vote in Ukraine, David L. Stern and Robyn Dixon, Sept. 25, 2022 (print ed.). The speed at which the referendums were announced and carried out and the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of Russian reserves reflect the Kremlin’s tacit acknowledgment of its deteriorating position in Ukraine. Live briefing: Russia strikes Zaporizhzhia as staged referendums underway in occupied areas; Propaganda newspapers show how Russia promoted annexation in Kharkiv.

Officials in Russian-occupied territories in eastern and southern Ukraine were forcing people to vote “under a gun barrel,” residents said on Saturday as staged referendums — intended to validate Moscow’s annexation of the territory it occupies — entered their second day.

Voting is taking place in portions of Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions and will last five days, ending Tuesday. The outcome is not in doubt.

The purported referendums are illegal under Ukrainian and international law and would not remotely meet basic democratic standards for free and fair elections. Western leaders, including President Biden, have denounced the process as a “sham” to prepare the ground for Russia’s theft of Ukrainian land.

In his nightly address on Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke directly to the Russians, warning that “no tricks will help the occupier.”

Moscow officials and their separatist proxies have said that they expect the vote to be in favor of absorbing the areas, a process that will be completed “promptly” once the results are official, according to the Kremlin.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Economy, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden to propose airlines disclose extra fees up front, Ian Duncan, Sept. 26, 2022. The announcement will come ahead of a meeting of Biden’s Competition Council at the White House.

joe biden twitterPresident Biden is expected to announce a new proposal Monday that would require airlines and ticket sales websites to disclose additional fees up front, according to the Department of Transportation, aiming to add a dose of transparency to the process of booking travel.

The disclosures would cover any fees for passengers to sit with their children, to change or cancel a flight, and to bring checked or carry-on bags, according to the department. The fees would be required to be displayed the first time a ticket price is shown.

The announcement will come at a meeting of Biden’s Competition Council at the White House on Monday afternoon. The president is expected to call on federal agencies to pursue similar transparency measures in other sectors of the economy.

“Airline passengers deserve to know the full, true cost of their flights before they buy a ticket,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. “This new proposed rule would require airlines to be transparent with customers about the fees they charge, which will help travelers make informed decisions and save money.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Cost of canceling student debt: Roughly $400 billion over 10 years, CBO says, Jeff Stein, Sept. 26, 2022. The estimate by the Congressional Budget Office will fuel new debate over President Biden’s student debt decision, which was cheered by advocates but assailed by Republican lawmakers as a waste of government money.

The White House’s plan to cancel student loan debt for tens of millions of American borrowers will cost roughly $400 billion over 10 years, according to a new estimate released by Congress’ nonpartisan scorekeeper.

The scorekeeper also found that the White House’s plan to temporarily extend an existing pause on student loan payments would cost roughly $20 billion.

The new estimate will fuel the debate over President Biden’s student debt decision, which was cheered by advocates but immediately assailed by Republican lawmakers as a wasteful and inefficient waste of government spending. Biden announced in August that his administration would cancel up to $20,000 in student debt for lower- and middle-class borrowers.

Supporters of student debt cancellation have argued that similar estimates in the past have overstated the policy’s cost to the federal government, because despite formally owing the federal government money many borrowers never pay back the loans.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden and Trump appear headed for a historically rare rematch in 2024, Matt Viser, Sept. 26, 2022. Biden and Trump appear to be nudging each other into a rare face-off between a sitting president and the predecessor he unseated.

President Biden was at a Democratic reception in Maryland a few weeks ago when his rhetoric turned toward an increasingly frequent topic — “what Trump is doing and the Trumpers are doing.” An audience member called out, “Lock him up!,” and Biden went on to cite “the new polls showing me beating Trump by six or eight points.”

A few days earlier, former president Donald Trump was at a rally in Pennsylvania when he, too, turned toward a frequent topic: “We’re leading Biden … by record numbers in the polls.” He said three times, with growing enthusiasm, “So I may just have to do it again!”

The country seems to be barreling toward a rematch that few voters actually want, but that two presidents — one current, one former — cannot stop talking about. Biden and Trump both say they are planning to make their decisions in the coming months, but with a lingering codependency between them, they each appear to be nudging the other into what would be a rare faceoff between the same two candidates four years apart.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The House GOP’s vague ‘Commitment’ reveals problems ahead, Karen Tumulty, right, Sept. 26, 2022. Conventional karen tumulty resize twitterwisdom about midterm elections has it that they are a referendum on the incumbent president and the party in power. But this year’s decision for voters is shaping up to be more complicated than that.

Between former president Donald Trump’s continued domination of the news and the backlash against the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the right to abortion, Americans are — rightly — focusing on the question of what the republican elephant logoopposition party stands for and what Republicans would do if they again found themselves controlling one or both houses of Congress.

As a result, what once appeared to be a banner year for the GOP is more of a dogfight. The party is still expected to take back the House, which would require picking up only five additional seats. But their year-ago predictions of flipping as many as 60 districts have vanished. And the outcome in the Senate, where Republicans need a net pickup of only one seat, is anyone’s guess.

kevin mccarthyThe new electoral pressure on Republicans explains why the House’s speaker-in-waiting, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), right, and 30 of his colleagues went to Monongahela, Pa., on Friday to unveil what they touted as their “Commitment to America.”

“We want to roll it out to you, the entire country, to know exactly what we will do if you would trust us and give us the ability to take a new direction for this country,” McCarthy told a friendly audience at a manufacturing plant. “What the Commitment is, is a plan.”

A plan? A set of policy specifics? Hardly. It was not even close to what Republicans had hoped would sound like an echo of the storied 1994 “Contract With America,” which was not only a set of campaign promises but also a blueprint for governing.

washington post logoWashington Post, Why people are fleeing Puerto Rico, Guam and every other U.S. territory, Andrew Van Dam, Sept. 26, 2022. America's five territories -- Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands -- are wildly diverse places. So why are they all rapidly losing population?

For much of the postwar era, America’s territories thrived. Remnants of the age of imperialism, the five far-flung Caribbean and Pacific outposts added residents faster than most states. But the 2020 Census revealed a troubling turn: Every territory is now shrinking, losing population faster than any state.

The synchronized swoon flummoxed us. They appear to have so little in common!

The largest U.S. territory, Puerto Rico, has 3.3 million people and Spanish and West Indian traditions tracing back to Columbus. The nearby U.S. Virgin Islands (population 87,000) were previously settled by Denmark. Over in the Pacific between Japan and Australia, Guam (pop. 154,000) and the Northern Mariana Islands (pop. 47,000) share Chamorro heritage and tourist economies oriented toward East Asia. And American Samoa (pop. 50,000), in the heart of Polynesia, still employs a communal system of land ownership and lies closer to New Zealand than Hawaii.

One big thing unites them: U.S. rule.

Their population collapse also seems uniquely American. From 2010 to 2020, the population plummeted by 18 percent in the U.S. Virgin Islands while the British Virgin Islands gained 9 percent. Over the same period, American Samoa lost 11 percent while independent Samoa gained 7 percent.

What’s going on? Why are people fleeing the distant vestiges of America’s global empire?

Good data remains elusive. The government rarely gives the territories equal coverage in its headline economic and demographic releases. Legislation introduced in July by Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and the territories’ nonvoting delegates would push agencies to fill those data gaps, but it has yet to truly begin the arduous journey through Congress.

So, we picked up the phone. Talking with locals, officials and experts over the past few months, we eventually came to a simple — perhaps overly simple — conclusion:

The island territories, even the most developed ones, have much in common with America’s rural areas. Their problems are rural problems, supercharged by migration and tax policy. And, of course, by distance from the nation’s population centers.

The population loss in the territories came as rural America snapped a four-decade population growth streak and started shrinking. The decline stemmed from familiar rural culprits: declining manufacturing, lack of health care, falling birthrates, brain drain and climate change. Even Puerto Rico’s storied capital, San Juan, might have more in common with a faded Rust Belt hub like Detroit than with a coastal “superstar city.”

Like many rural areas, the islands are trapped in a vicious cycle. As people lose their jobs or move away, tax revenue falls. Without that revenue, the territories can’t provide the same services. The lack of services and amenities drives more residents away, those residents stop paying taxes, and the cycle accelerates.

But what set off the cycle? What turned decades of growth into decline?

Each island is different, but when we asked for the broadest factors, economists pointed to manufacturing. The islands’ struggles came as China squashed rural factories everywhere. And the territories were hit unusually hard because the flood of cheap Chinese goods came at the precise moment when an accident of history made the islands uniquely vulnerable.

Starting in the 1960s or even earlier, U.S. and territorial officials used aggressive tax incentives to lure factories. It worked. Global industries reshaped the islands: There are pharmaceutical factories in Puerto Rico, textile factories in the Northern Marianas, oil refineries in the Virgin Islands and tuna-packing factories in American Samoa.

But after crackdowns on what critics called corporate welfare during the Clinton administration and the years that followed, most of those tax breaks disappeared. The most prominent of them expired just as Chinese factories were hitting their stride.

While not all policymakers agree, economists such as Zadia Feliciano of Queens College, City University of New York, say textile, footwear and electronics manufacturers on the islands depended on those tax breaks and couldn’t weather China’s rise without them. Her recent analysis with Meng-Ting Chen of Soochow University in Taiwan found that the phasing-out of one of the biggest tax credits, Section 936 of the Internal Revenue Code, from 1996 to 2006 explains at least half of the decline in Puerto Rico’s pharmaceutical industry since 1995.

“The declining population of Puerto Rico in part is due to the economic crisis created by the elimination of Section 936,” Feliciano said.

The economic struggles have accelerated brain drain on the islands, as the young and ambitious leave to attend school or join the U.S. military. As with rural kids seeking their fortune in cities, the islanders often put down roots on the mainland, where their college degrees and other experience are far more remunerative. The islands just don’t have many high-paying opportunities for the educated.

“It’s really troubling for our middle class and our students who graduate here,” said Roseann Jones, a University of Guam economist who has spent the past 25 years on the island. “They’re beginning to say this is a very challenging place economically to build and raise a family, to commit to.”

​​States with the worst brain drain — and more!

The exodus of the best and brightest makes the islands less attractive to companies looking to relocate, which leads to fewer well-paying jobs, which pushes even more skilled graduates to leave.

“The ambitious, well-prepared kids, they go to college on the mainland and they rarely come back,” said Mark Wenner, former chief economist at the USVI Office of Management and Budget. “And then you have a mass of young people that are not well prepared due to the low-quality public education system. … The only option for many is basically to go the military or to migrate to the mainland.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump nominee is voted out as head of Inter-American Development Bank, Azi Paybarah, Sept. 26, 2022.  Mauricio Claver-Carone’s term as IDB president was set to expire in 2025.

The Inter-American Development Bank, the hemisphere’s premier international lending institution, voted Monday to fire its president. Mauricio Claver-Carone was terminated following a unanimous recommendation by the 14-member executive board, the organization said.

The termination was first reported by Reuters.

In a statement, the IDB said Claver-Carone, whose term was set to expire in 2025, “will cease to hold the office of President of the Bank” effective Monday.

The statement did not refer to a well-publicized investigation into him. Two people familiar with the probe said it was the results of that investigation that led to the vote. The individuals spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the inner workings of IDB or the results of the investigator’s report, which has not been made public.

One of the individuals said investigators found evidence to conclude Claver-Carone had a relationship with a staff member who reported directly to him, and to whom he gave raises totaling more than 45 percent of base pay in less than one year. Claver-Carone’s leadership of the organization also resulted in employees fearing retaliation from him, the person said.

Cost of canceling student debt: Roughly $400 billion, CBO says

Vice President Reina Irene Mejía Chacón will lead the organization until a new president is elected, the statement said.

The Biden administration appeared to welcome Claver-Carone’s ouster.

A spokesperson for the Treasury Department said the United States “supports the dismissal of the IDB President.” The department said Claver-Carone’s “refusal to fully cooperate with the investigation, and his creation of a climate of fear of retaliation among staff and borrowing countries, has forfeited the confidence of the Bank’s staff and shareholders and necessitates a change in leadership.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Sinema, McConnell engage in mutual admiration — and some Democrats seethe, Azi Paybarah, Sept. 26, 2022. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) on Monday engaged in a mutual admiration exchange with the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), expressed support for restoring elements of the filibuster and suggested that Republicans might win control of the House or Senate in the midterm elections.

Several Democrats were unhappy, criticizing not only her remarks but her timing.

Sinema made the comments during a speech at the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville, speaking and answering questions at the invitation of McConnell. There, McConnell effusively praised Sinema in his introduction, saying she is the “most effective first-term senator” he’s seen during his 37 years in the Senate.

“She is, today, what we have too few of in the Democratic Party: a genuine moderate and a dealmaker,” he said.

Sinema, for her part, spoke highly of McConnell. “Despite our apparent differences, Sen. McConnell and I have forged a friendship, one that is rooted in our commonalities, including our pragmatic approach to legislating, our respect for the Senate as an institution,” she said.

Since 1993, dozens of Democrats and Republicans, diplomats and foreign leaders have spoken at the McConnell Center. Vice President Joe Biden did in February 2011; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) spoke in April of this year. But Sinema’s appearance came just weeks before midterm elections as several of her Democratic colleagues are campaigning to help the party hold onto the House and Senate in November.

“As you all know, control changes between the House and the Senate every couple of years. It’s likely to change again in just a few weeks” Sinema said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The disturbing strategy behind MAGA complaints about a ‘woke military,’ Max Boot, right, Sept. 26, 2022. This summer, I attended the promotion ceremony of a friend, an Army general who was pinning another star on his uniform. A Christian max boot screen shotchaplain said a blessing and then the speakers extolled my friend’s lifetime of service to the country. Finally, the general took the oath of office on a Bible held by his wife. It was all very traditional and very moving.

If you think there is anything remotely surprising about this — if you imagine that the speakers would have been extolling the joys of transgenderism or denouncing white privilege — well, you’ve been watching too much Fox “News.” Donald Trump Jr., for example, claims a “militant female” can become an admiral or general in today’s military “for no other reason other than they’re probably female,” or “if you can say, ‘Hey I’m trans.’ ” Tucker Carlson asserts: “It has been one calculated humiliation after another for the U.S. armed forces: vax mandates, anti-white ideology, sex changes, drag shows. Whatever is necessary to telegraph to the United States military you are worthless.”

Needless to say, these fanciful descriptions from bomb-throwers who never served in uniform bear no relation to reality. The U.S. military remains one of the most conservative institutions in America with traditions dating back centuries. That the military now welcomes African Americans, women and LGBTQ people — all groups that were kept out in the past — only strengthens an institution that needs to draw on the talents of the whole country to defend it.

republican elephant logoSo why are cartoonish inhabitants of the Fox News Cinematic Universe caterwauling about a “woke military”? Because the military has resisted Trumpian attempts to politicize it. The MAGA brigades want to populate the military with far-right officers who will do whatever Trump or a Trump mini-me commands, no matter how illegal.

Peter Baker and Susan Glasser’s new book The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021 — the best account yet of the worst presidency — serves as a useful reminder of all the ways that President Donald Trump tried to harness the military to carry out his unhinged agenda. The authors report that Trump told then-White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, a retired Marine general, that he wanted generals as loyal to him as Nazi generals supposedly were to Adolf Hitler. (The stable genius had no idea that German officers plotted to kill Hitler.) Trump wanted “his” troops to shoot both undocumented migrants and Black Lives Matter protesters in the legs. He even listened to pleas from his disgraced former national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, to have troops seize ballot boxes after the 2020 election.

Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, became anathema to Trump & Co. not by embracing “critical race theory,” but by making clear that the military would place loyalty to the Constitution above loyalty to Trump. The turning point, Baker and Glasser report, came when Milley publicly apologized for being duped into walking behind Trump through Lafayette Square after it has been cleared of protesters. “Why did you apologize?” Trump demanded. “It’s a sign of weakness.” Ever since then, this combat veteran has been subject to unconscionable abuse from MAGA World. (Tucker Carlson: “He’s not just a pig, he’s stupid.”)

All of these attacks against the military for being too “woke” should be seen as part of the MAGA strategy to harness the armed forces (“the guys with the guns,” as Milley put it) to advance their authoritarian agenda. Blake Masters, the ultra-MAGA Republican Senate nominee in Arizona, has even advocated firing all the generals (“they’re left-wing politicians”) and replacing them with “the most conservative colonels.”

Unfortunately, there would be little to stop a President Trump or a President Ron DeSantis from doing precisely that as long as the Senate confirms their new generals. A MAGA president could even summon back to active duty loony retired generals such as Flynn or Don Bolduc (the GOP Senate nominee in New Hampshire) and appoint them to senior commands — as long as the Senate consents.

There would be no shortage of MAGA retirees to choose from: 124 retired generals and admirals, including Bolduc, signed an open letter last year that pushed false claims of voter fraud and argued that, under the Democrats, “our Country has taken a hard left turn toward Socialism and a Marxist form of tyrannical government.” If Trump wins in 2024, he could choose his Joint Chiefs from their ranks.

 

Palmer Report, Opinion: This should scare the living crap out of the Republicans, Robert Harrington

Palmer Report, Opinion: This should scare the living crap out of the Republicans, Robert Harrington, right, Sept. 26, 2022. It’s with a caveat that I tell robert harringtnn portraityou I think Republicans are in trouble. The caveat is that this good news should not be taken as a pretext to relax. We have much hard and vital work to do between now and November 8. That said, there is compelling evidence to suggest that Republicans might not only fail to reclaim the House and Senate this Autumn, they might fail in a way so spectacular as to repudiate their MAGA message entirely and create the biggest identity crisis in GOP history. We shall see.

bill palmer report logo headerBut there is much evidence to suggest that is the way Republicans are headed. One thing that ought to scare the living crap out of them is that women are registering to vote in new record numbers across the United States. Women have a serious axe to grind with Republicans, and that axe is being honed and sharpened by the Supreme Court’s Dodd decision, the one that effectively obliterated Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose. November has been rechristened by many angry women and men as “Roevember” on that account.

republican elephant logoThen there’s Kevin McCarthy’s “Commitment to America,” a deliberately vague “platform” that leaves out a lot of detail, and was introduced by a video misusing stock footage from Russia and Ukraine intended to represent scenes from America. It also contains a quote wrongly attributed to Abraham Lincoln.

The “commitment” kicks off with one of the most suicidal implied campaign messages I have ever heard of in my life. It’s the secret position of the Republican Party that you should pay more for medicines so big pharma can make more money and do better research. I imagine that one’s going to go over big in Senior Land.

Apart from this crack-brained trickle down theory for big pharma, the word is out that Republicans are going to try to reduce Social Security and Medicare. That should be really popular among the voting elderly as well.

But it gets better. The insurrection is hard to explain by diehard MAGAs to everyone else, and the fence sitters, independents and moderate Republicans are largely not amused. The fact that mere hours after the insurrection, where police were brutalised, Nancy Pelosi threatened with murder and Mike Pence with hanging, 147 Republican legislators actually voted to not certify the election has made many voters sit up and take notice. A lot of people have been waiting for this November 8th to tell those Republicans exactly what they think about that and about them.

Then there’s Kansas. Back in early August, voters in Kansas turned out in record numbers to categorically insist that they wanted the right to choose and they wanted that right in the Constitution. If it can happen in Kansas it can happen anywhere.

Then there’s Alaska. I still can’t quite get my head around this, but Sarah Palin’s attempt to return to politics was roundly refuted by a comparatively unknown native Alaskan woman named Mary Peltola. Peltola won by 51.5% to 48.5%, a respectably big margin.

Additionally pertinent, of course, are the twin blows Donald Trump has received from the DOJ’s lawfully executed search warrant of Mar a Lago looking for stolen classified documents and the recent $250 million lawsuit against Trump, his kids and the Trump organization, filed by New York AG Letitia James.

The storied Blue Wave of the 2018 midterm election was largely about Trump and repudiating him. This time around the 2022 midterm election will be about repudiating Trump, Trumpism and the whole rotten, lying Republican Party. Democratic voters, independents and moderate Republicans are angry in ways that mainstream Republican voters are not, and they’re not going to stand for it any more,

But it is still true that we remain the instruments of change. No one is going to do it for us. No one is going to go out and cast our vote on our behalf. So we must get out there In November and vote. Bring as many people as you can with you. Make it an event, a voting party. But let’s get this done. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

Politico, ‘Desperate move’: Dems’ Iowa Senate pick pushes back after kiss allegation, Burgess Everett, Sept. 26, 2022. Mike Franken was giving GOP incumbent Chuck Grassley a tough challenge. Then a conservative website published a police report filed by his former campaign manager.

The police report came out at perhaps the worst possible time for Mike Franken.

politico CustomThe Iowa Democratic Senate nominee was giving incumbent Republican Chuck Grassley his toughest challenge since the seven-term senator won his first race in 1980. Franken beat former Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa) in the primary and recently outraised Grassley as a Democratic group spent against the incumbent.

Then the conservative Iowa Field Report published an April report his former campaign manager filed with Des Moines police, alleging that Franken kissed her without consent. The woman who filed the report told police that Franken has kissed other women and had what she called “1950s interactions” with them, but did not describe the behavior as sexual or aggressive.

Franken denies the incident, which did not result in charges, and says he had never before been accused of unwanted advances on women. The retired Navy vice admiral said in an interview that people in his state have already moved on.

democratic donkey logoYet he’s not letting the timing go unnoticed. While describing himself as an advocate for accountability, Franken pointed a finger at Republicans for the “desperate move” of publishing the report in “a Republican paper funded by Chuck Grassley, funded by the Republicans.”

“I am an active supporter of any effort to uncover and disclose assaults of any matter. But this one didn’t happen,” Franken said. “I’m just so disappointed that anything negative has come up about this. Because we’re on all eight cylinders. We’re cruising along … that was just an oddity. That’s no longer part of the picture.”

The Iowa Field Report’s write-up of the Franken police report was authored by GOP consultant Luke Martz, whose LinkedIn profile identifies him as the site’s founder and editor.

Responding to Franken’s comments about how the police report came to light, Michaela Sundermann, a spokesperson for Grassley, said “dismissing her allegations of assault as politically motivated is baseless and disrespectful.”

“Mike Franken is not the victim here, and he should hold himself to a higher standard as a candidate for public office,” Sundermann said.

With just seven weeks until Election Day, the allegation jolted a once-sleepy Iowa race, which is on the periphery of the Senate map as parties and super PACs make their final spending decisions for the midterms. It’s closer than expected, according to public polls, but not as close as Democrats’ other pickup opportunities in Ohio, Florida and North Carolina.
GOP red wave crashes in the Senate: Inside the Forecast

In addition, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is protecting a half-dozen incumbents in battleground states. Bringing those senators back is the DSCC’s primary job and easiest path to retaining the majority — which made Franken’s job challenging even before the police report’s publication.

Being an Iowa Democrat isn’t easy to begin with these days: Democrats have lost the past four Senate races. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer disparaged Franken’s chances recently over dinner with colleagues, according to Punchbowl News. Schumer also left Iowa out of his $15 million allocation toward Senate races.

Despite the chilly reception so far, Franken believes the Democratic leader will get on board.

“I think Chuck Schumer’s happy with our performance, and secretly — he may not be saying that in public — he’s proud of how we’re doing. And I would expect that [once] he has a poll … and suddenly we are at two points, or we’re ahead? That suddenly his interest will skyrocket,” Franken said.

Maybe not. David Bergstein, a spokesperson for Senate Democrats’ campaign arm, said: “The DSCC is not involved in this race.” The Schumer-linked Senate Majority PAC, whose affiliated Duty and Honor PAC spent roughly $250,000 attacking Grassley according to AdImpact, declined to comment.

It’s not a surprise that Franken may be on his own this fall given his history in the state. He challenged DSCC-backed candidate Theresa Greenfield in 2020, losing the nomination by double digits. (Iowa’s GOP incumbent, Joni Ernst, ultimately defeated Greenfield by 6 points.)

This time around, many Washington Democrats thought Finkenauer would prevail and face Grassley in the fall, but Franken trounced her by 15 points.

Mike Franken’s former campaign manager did not reply to a text message sent to a number listed to her.

Recent Headlines

 

Trump Probes, Disputes, Rallies, Supporters

washington post logoWashington Post, How a QAnon splinter group became a feature of Trump rallies, Isaac Arnsdorf, Sept. 26, 2022. An offshoot of the extremist movement called Negative48 is thronging Trump political events, causing tensions with the former president’s team.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-staffer’s unauthorized book about Jan. 6 committee rankles members, Jacqueline Alemany and Josh Dawsey, Sept. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Former Rep. Denver Riggleman is set to publish his book Tuesday, just one day before the final public hearing of the Jan. 6 panel.

News that a former adviser to the committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection is publishing a book billed as a “behind-the-scenes” look at the committee’s work came as a shock to most lawmakers and committee staff when it was announced last week.

denver riddleman oDenver Riggleman, right, a former Republican congressman, is set to publish The Breach on Tuesday, just one day before the final public hearing of the Jan. 6 panel, which has gone to extraordinary lengths to prevent unauthorized leaks, as well as keep its sources and methods of investigation under wraps.

Riggleman’s book announcement came in the form of a tweet touting his upcoming appearance Sunday on “60 Minutes” as his first time speaking publicly about the book.

Lawmakers and committee staff were largely unaware that the former staffer had spent the months since leaving the committee writing a book about his limited work on staff — or that it would be published before the conclusion of the committee’s investigation, according to people familiar with the matter who, like others interviewed by The Washington Post, spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail private conversations.

Senior staff previously confronted Riggleman after rumors circulated that he was working on a book about his work for the committee, according to a person close to the panel. In one exchange, Riggleman told colleagues he was writing a book on a topic unrelated to his committee work. In a later conversation, before his departure from the committee staff, Riggleman said he had been approached about writing a book related to the committee but that it would not be published before the end of this year.

 

News conference by New York Attorney General Letita James, center. Although the lawsuit against Donald J. Trump cannot include criminal charges, the former president could face substantial financial penalties (Photo by Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times).News conference by New York Attorney General Letita James, center. Although the lawsuit against Donald J. Trump cannot include criminal charges, the former president could face substantial financial penalties (Photo by Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times).

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump lawyers argue to limit White House aides’ testimony to Jan. 6 grand jury, Jacqueline Alemany, Spencer S. Hsu, Devlin Barrett and Josh Dawsey, Sept. 25, 2022 (print ed.). The legal dispute could impact the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation.

Justice Department log circularLawyers for former president Donald Trump have entered a high-stakes legal battle seeking to limit the scope of former top White House aides’ testimony to a federal grand jury that is investigating efforts to overturn the 2020 elections, according to people familiar with the matter.

The action sets up a potentially precedent-setting struggle that could affect the Justice Department’s investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack, and address the scope of a former president’s assertion of executive or attorney-client privilege to preserve the confidentiality of advisers’ communications.

The specific contours of the fight, reported first by CNN, are unclear. One person familiar with the matter said that the dispute concerned the testimony of two top aides to former vice president Mike Pence — his former chief of staff, Marc Short, and former counsel, Greg Jacob. The men appeared before the grand jury in July and answered some, but not all, questions, based on Trump’s assertion of privilege, people familiar with the matter said.

Grand jury matters are typically secret. However, the case spilled into light after Trump attorneys M. Evan Corcoran, John P. Rowley III and Timothy C. Parlatore were seen at federal court in Washington on Thursday with no publicly scheduled matters, along with a lead Jan. 6 federal prosecutor, Thomas Windom. A person with knowledge of the matter said Trump’s representatives were present for a Jan. 6-related proceeding.

A dispute over executive privilege and compelling a witness’s testimony before a grand jury would typically be heard by Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell in Washington. While Howell has in the past moved quickly, any appeal to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia would probably extend through the end of the year, and the arguments would be unlikely to be made public before then. A spokeswoman for Howell did not respond to a request for comment.

In most fights over executive privilege — which are often between Congress and the executive branch — both sides usually compromise and settle their differences rather than risk a precedent-setting defeat for either branch of government.

But the stakes of the criminal investigation into Trump’s actions during the presidential transition after he lost reelection in November 2020 may make negotiation more difficult.

The Justice Department is questioning witnesses about conversations with Trump, his lawyers and others in his inner circle who sought to substitute Trump allies for certified electors from some states Joe Biden won, people familiar with the matter have said. Prosecutors have asked hours of detailed questions about meetings Trump led in December 2020 and January 2021 and his pressure on Pence to overturn the election. Those lines of inquiry are separate from the investigation into classified documents recovered from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home — though that case, too, has produced legal fighting over issues of executive and attorney client privilege.

Both Short and Jacob have unique windows into those events. Both were with Pence on Jan. 6 at the Capitol. They testified with Pence’s approval before a House select committee conducting a parallel investigation, although the former vice president declined to do so himself. Jacob also told the committee that two days before the riot, private Trump attorney John Eastman conceded that the plot to have Pence help overturn the election was illegal.

Recent Headlines

 

Trump Documents Scandal

 

mar a lago aerial Custom

 ny times logoNew York Times, Former President Trump claimed he declassified the Mar-a-Lago documents. Why don’t his lawyers say so in court? Glenn Thrush, Alan Feuer and Charlie Savage, Sept. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Judges this week highlighted the gap between Mr. Trump’s public claims that he declassified everything and his lawyers’ reluctance to repeat that claim in a courtroom.

Former President Donald J. Trump claimed on Wednesday that when he was in the White House, his powers were so broad he could declassify virtually any document by simply “thinking about it.”

That argument — which came as he defended his decision to retain government documents in his Florida home in an interview with the Fox host Sean Hannity — underscored a widening gap between the former president and his lawyers. By contrast, they have so far been unwilling to repeat Mr. Trump’s declassification claim in court, as they counter a federal investigation into his handling of government documents.

Over the past week, a federal appeals court in Atlanta — along with Mr. Trump’s choice for a special master to review the documents seized last month — undermined a bulwark of his effort to justify his actions: Both suggested that there was no evidence to support the assertion that Mr. Trump had declassified everything — in writing, verbally or wordlessly — despite what the former president may have said on TV.

Trump documents federal Special Master Raymond Dearie, senior U.S. district court judge for the Eastern District of New York (File photo by Gregory Mango).On Thursday, the special master, Judge Raymond J. Dearie, right, also appeared to take aim at another one of Mr. Trump’s excuses — that federal agents had planted some of the records when they searched his Mar-a-Lago estate. In an order issued after the appellate court had ruled, Judge Dearie instructed Mr. Trump’s lawyers to let him know if there were any discrepancies between the documents that were kept at Mar-a-Lago and those that the F.B.I. said it had hauled away.

Recent Headlines

djt confidential markings

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Mass Shootings, Law

ny times logoNew York Times, Kushner’s Company Reaches $3.25 Million Settlement in Maryland Lawsuit, Linda Qiu, Sept. 24, 2022 (print ed.). The apartment company charged illegal fees and failed to adequately address leaks, mold and rodent infestations in its properties, the Maryland attorney general said.

An apartment management company partly owned by Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of former President Donald J. Trump, has agreed to pay a $3.25 million penalty and make restitution to thousands of tenants who were overcharged fees and subject to leaks, rodents and mold infestations, the Maryland attorney general said on Friday.

Westminster Management, the property management arm of Kushner Companies, and 25 affiliated businesses that owned nearly 9,000 units across the Baltimore area have agreed to settle a 2019 lawsuit over their rental practices. The companies violated consumer protection laws by charging tenants illegal fees and failed to adequately maintain the properties, the lawsuit said.

“This is a case in which landlords deceived and cheated their tenants, and then subjected them to miserable living conditions,” the Maryland attorney general, Brian Frosh, a Democrat, said in a news conference announcing the settlement. “The tenants were not wealthy people. Many struggled to pay the rent, keep food on the table, take care of their kids, keep everybody healthy. And Westminster used its vastly superior economic power to take advantage of them.”

Under the settlement, former and current tenants at 17 properties can file claims to recover a host of fees that Mr. Frosh said the company had improperly charged them. They could also file claims with an outside arbiter, known as a special master, who can return rental payments to tenants if they faced serious maintenance issues.

Recent Headlines

 

Public Health, Pandemic, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Is the pandemic over? Here are the activities Americans are (and are not) resuming, Marc Fisher and Taylor Telford, Sept. 24, 2022. Biden says the pandemic is over — and when it comes to casinos, concerts and cosmetic procedures, Americans seem to agree. For theater, therapy and funerals though, not so much.

Two-and-a-half years into the coronavirus’s deadly spread, after nearly all government-imposed restrictions have been lifted, as many businesses urge or require workers to come back to their offices, President Biden declared last week that “the pandemic is over.” Yet even as the passion to get back to normal overrides years of caution, many Americans remain conflicted and confounded about what activities are safe.

Americans are coming out of the pandemic in the same kind of dynamic disarray that marked its beginning, with a crazyquilt of contradictory decisions about how to spend their discretionary time and money: Americans are flying again, but they’re not too keen on getting back aboard buses, subways and other public transit. Concert tickets are being snapped up, but theater tickets, not so much. In-person visits to medical doctors have returned to pre-pandemic levels, but mental health counseling remains overwhelmingly virtual.

No, President Biden, the pandemic is not over

The blizzard of decisions each person must make — even as the coronavirus remains highly contagious, although without nearly the severe or deadly effects it had in 2020 — can seem blinding:

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: They Were Entitled to Free Care. Hospitals Hounded Them to Pay, Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Katie Thomas, Sept. 25, 2022 (print ed.). One of the largest nonprofit hospital chains in the U.S. trained staff to wring money out of patients, even those eligible for free care. Many nonprofit hospitals have strayed from their charitable missions. A Times investigation found that the consequences have been stark.

In 2018, senior executives at one of the country’s largest nonprofit hospital chains, Providence, were frustrated. They were spending hundreds of millions of dollars providing free health care to patients. It was eating into their bottom line.

The executives, led by Providence’s chief financial officer at the time, devised a solution: a program called Rev-Up.

Rev-Up provided Providence’s employees with a detailed playbook for wringing money out of patients — even those who were supposed to receive free care because of their low incomes, a New York Times investigation found.

In training materials obtained by The Times, members of the hospital staff were instructed how to approach patients and pressure them to pay.

“Ask every patient, every time,” the materials said. Instead of using “weak” phrases — like “Would you mind paying?” — employees were told to ask how patients wanted to pay. Soliciting money “is part of your role. It’s not an option.”

If patients did not pay, Providence sent debt collectors to pursue them.

More than half the nation’s roughly 5,000 hospitals are nonprofits like Providence. They enjoy lucrative tax exemptions; Providence avoids more than $1 billion a year in taxes. In exchange, the Internal Revenue Service requires them to provide services, such as free care for the poor, that benefit the communities in which they operate.

But in recent decades, many of the hospitals have become virtually indistinguishable from for-profit companies, adopting an unrelenting focus on the bottom line and straying from their traditional charitable missions.

To understand the shift, The Times reviewed thousands of pages of court records, internal hospital financial records and memos, tax filings, and complaints filed with regulators, and interviewed dozens of patients, lawyers, current and former hospital executives, doctors, nurses and consultants.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: How a Hospital Chain Used a Poor Neighborhood to Turn Huge Profits, Katie Thomas and Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Sept. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Bon Secours Mercy Health, a major nonprofit health system, used the poverty of Richmond Community Hospital’s patients to tap into a lucrative federal drug program.

ny times logoNew York Times, Major Covid Holdouts in Asia Drop Border Restrictions, Alexandra Stevenson and Ben Dooley, Sept. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan have relaxed their pandemic rules, as they look to bolster their economies and play catch-up with much of the world.

After two and a half years of tight pandemic controls, some of Asia’s last holdouts are opening their borders, as they move to bolster their economies and play catch-up with a world that has largely learned to live with Covid.

Hong Kong said on Friday that it would abandon mandatory hotel quarantine for people coming to the city starting next week, following a similar move by Taiwan. Japan said it would drop its daily limit on arrivals and fully open its doors to tourists on Oct. 11.

The flurry of moves this week have left just one major country with strict border controls: China, where the ruling Communist Party still clings to its “zero Covid” policy. Those who travel to China, mainly residents, still face 10 days of hotel quarantine at their own expense.

Recent Headlines

 

Abortion, Forced Birth Laws, Privacy Rights

washington post logoWashington Post, University of Idaho may stop providing birth control under new abortion law, Caroline Kitchener and Susan Svrluga, Sept. 26, 2022. Employees could be charged with a felony and fired if they appear to promote abortion, according to new guidance.

The University of Idaho’s general counsel issued new guidance on Friday about the state’s near-total abortion ban, alerting faculty and staff that the school should no longer offer birth control for students, a rare move for a state university.

University employees were also advised not to speak in support of abortion at work. If an employee appears to promote abortion, counsel in favor of abortion, or refer a student for an abortion procedure, they could face a felony conviction and be permanently barred from all future state employment, according to an email obtained by The Washington Post.

Idaho’s trigger ban took effect on Aug. 25, approximately two months after the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade. That law, which was passed by state lawmakers in 2020, bans abortions at any time after conception, except in instances where the pregnant person’s life is at risk or in cases of rape or incest so long as the crime was reported to law enforcement.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: I don’t want your god in charge of my health care, Kate Cohen, Sept. 26, 2022. Let’s say a patient is considering a tubal ligation after a planned Caesarean section because she doesn’t want to get pregnant again. Here are some factors that pertain to that decision: her vision of her reproductive future, her doctor’s advice, state regulations, the recommendations of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the latest scientific research.

Here are some factors that, for most patients, do not pertain: “God’s purposes,” “God’s will,” “the truth that life is a precious gift from God.”

But if our hypothetical patient happens to be in a Catholic hospital, those factors — precisely those words — will be controlling the decision, whether or not she or her doctor believes in God’s plan. It’s plainly spelled out in the ethical directives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops: “Direct sterilization of either men or women, whether permanent or temporary, is not permitted in a Catholic health care institution.” She won’t get the operation no matter how medically safe and legal it is, no matter what she wants.

Clearly, she should have picked a different hospital. But with the expansion of Catholic health systems all over the country, that might not be an option. A 2020 report by Community Catalyst, a nonprofit health advocacy group, found that four of the 10 largest health systems in the country were Catholic. The Catholic Health Association says that Catholic facilities now account for more than 1 in 7 U.S. hospital patients.

That number is likely to grow, as Catholic health systems expand by merging with or acquiring secular hospitals and networks. This consolidation is happening near me, in the Albany, N.Y., area. As the Times Union recently reported, one of our large health systems, St. Peter’s Health Partners, part of a Catholic network, has begun merging with the secular Ellis Medicine, which will ultimately put “God’s will” in charge of Ellis Hospital and the Bellevue Woman’s Center, which provides pregnancy and maternity care.

washington post logoWashington Post, Addiction, pregnancy, herpes: Health apps are sharing your medical concerns with ad companies, Tatum Hunter and Jeremy B. Merrill, Sept. 26, 2022. Digital health care has its advantages. Privacy isn’t one of them.

In a nation with millions of uninsured families and a shortage of health professionals, many of us turn to health-care apps and websites for accessible information or even potential treatment. But when you fire up a symptom-checker or digital therapy app, you might be unknowingly sharing your concerns with more than just the app maker.

Facebook has been caught receiving patient information from hospital websites through its tracker tool. Google stores our health-related internet searches. Mental health apps leave room in their privacy policies to share data with unlisted third parties. Users have few protections under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) when it comes to digital data, and popular health apps share information with a broad collection of advertisers, according to our investigation.

You scheduled an abortion. Planned Parenthood’s website could tell Facebook.

Most of the data being shared doesn’t directly identify us. For example, apps may share a string of numbers called an “identifier” that’s linked to our phones rather than our names. Not all the recipients of this data are in the ad business — some provide analytics showing developers how users move around their apps. And companies argue that sharing which pages you visit, such as a page titled “depression,” isn’t the same as revealing sensitive health concerns.

washington post logoWashington Post, He came out as trans. Then Texas had him investigate parents of trans kids, Casey Parks, Sept. 23, 2022. After Gov. Greg Abbott ordered child abuse investigations of the parents of transgender children, Morgan Davis, a Child Protective Services worker in Austin, was assigned two cases.

  • Youngkin’s rules for trans students leave many teens fearful, despondent
  • Transgender teacher and Md. school system settle discrimination suit

washington post logoWashington Post, Arizona judge reinstates near-total abortion ban from 19th century, Andrew Jeong, Sept. 25, 2022 (print ed.). An Arizona judge revived a ban on abortion that dates back to the mid-19th century, lifting a decades-old injunction that means the procedure is effectively illegal in the state at all times except when a pregnant person’s life is at risk.

arizona mapPima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson’s ruling was released Friday, a day before a law that restricts abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy was due to take effect. The conflicting restrictions on abortion had created confusion, with Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) pushing to enforce the tougher prohibitions and Gov. Doug Ducey (R) previously insisting that the 15-week ban was the law of the land.

Johnson cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June to overturn Roe v. Wade, which established a fundamental right to abortion, as rationale for lifting the injunction. Roe had been the basis of the 1973 injunction that prevented bans on abortion from being enforced, Johnson ruled. And because the nation’s highest court had returned decisions on the procedure to Congress and the states, that injunction can also be annulled, she wrote.
Judge Kellie Johnson lifted an injunction on most abortions in the state. (Mamta Popat/Associated Press)

The Arizona law threatens abortion providers with between two and five years in prison. It originated from a 1864 law and has no exception for victims of rape or incest. Some states did not update the laws on their books after Roe was decided in 1973, and the overturning of that decision has caused confusion from Michigan to West Virginia as to whether those laws still apply.

Johnson indicated that the older law, which was updated and codified in 1901, supersedes the recently passed law that was to take effect Saturday. “Most recently in 2022, the legislature enacted a 15-week gestational age limitation on abortion. The legislature expressly included in the session law that the 15-week gestational age limitation” does not “repeal” the older ban, she wrote.

Ducey’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Friday. Brnovich thanked Johnson on Twitter, saying that the county court had provided “clarity and uniformity on this important issue. I have and will continue to protect the most vulnerable Arizonans.”

Abortion is banned in these states. See where the laws have changed.

Planned Parenthood Arizona, which was a plaintiff in the case, criticized the court for reviving an “archaic” law that it said would send “Arizonans back nearly 150 years.” The reproductive health organization, which can appeal the ruling, also said it “will never back down.” Democratic gubernatorial nominee Katie Hobbs said in a statement that she was “mourning” the decision and pledged to veto antiabortion legislation if elected.

Recent Headlines

 

Water, Space, Energy, Climate, Disasters

climate change photo

ny times logoNew York Times, For China’s Auto Market, Electric Isn’t the Future. It’s the Present, Daisuke Wakabayashi and Claire Fu, Sept. 26, 2022. More electric cars will be sold there this year than in the rest of the world combined, as its domestic market speeds ahead of the global competition.

mitch mcconnell elevator getty croppedPolitico, McConnell works to box out Manchin, Burgess Everett and Caitlin Emma, Sept. 26, 2022. The GOP leader, right, is pushing his members to block the West Virginia senator's energy permitting bill, the latest loop in their roller-coaster relationship.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Media, Free Expression, Culture, Education, Sports News

 ny times logoNew York Times, TikTok Could Be Nearing a U.S. Security Deal, but Hurdles Remain, Lauren Hirsch, David McCabe, Katie Benner and Glenn Thrush, Sept. 26, 2022. A draft agreement with the Biden administration to keep the Chinese-owned app operating in America is under review, four people with knowledge of the discussions said.

The Biden administration and TikTok have drafted a preliminary agreement to resolve national security concerns posed by the Chinese-owned video app but face hurdles over the terms, as the platform negotiates to keep operating in the United States without major changes to its ownership structure, four people with knowledge of the discussions said.

tiktok logo square CustomThe two sides have hammered out the foundations of a deal in which TikTok would make changes to its data security and governance without requiring its owner, the Chinese internet giant ByteDance, to sell it, said three of the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the negotiations are confidential.

The two sides are still wrangling over the potential agreement. The Justice Department is leading the negotiations with TikTok, and its No. 2 official, Lisa Monaco, has concerns that the terms are not tough enough on China, two people with knowledge of the matter said. The Treasury Department, which plays a key role in approving deals involving national security risks, is also skeptical that the potential agreement with TikTok can sufficiently resolve national security issues, two people with knowledge of the matter said. That could force changes to the terms and drag out a final resolution for months.

TikTok, one of the world’s most popular social media apps, has been under a legal cloud in the United States for more than two years because of its Chinese ties. Lawmakers and regulators have repeatedly raised concerns about TikTok’s ability to protect the data of American users from Chinese authorities. President Donald J. Trump tried to force ByteDance to sell TikTok to an American company in 2020 and threatened to block the app.

washington post logoWashington Post, Conspiracy theories help fuel Marilyn Monroe fame six decades after death, Ronald G. Shafer, Sept. 26, 2022. “MARILYN MONROE DIES; PILLS BLAMED”

That was the front-page headline on an Aug. 6, 1962, Los Angeles Times story that began, “Marilyn Monroe, a troubled beauty who failed to find happiness as Hollywood’s brightest star, was discovered dead in her Brentwood home of an apparent overdose of sleeping pills Sunday.”

More than 60 years after her death at age 36, the “blonde bombshell” is as much of a sensation as she ever was.

The longevity is fueled in part by bizarre speculation that the actress was murdered, with suspects ranging from the Kennedys and the CIA to Teamsters union leader Jimmy Hoffa and the Mafia. But mainly Marilyn Monroe’s sex appeal has lasting commercial appeal, as capsulized by a 1973 headline in the Ithaca (N.Y.) Journal: “MM: Still Making Money.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Commentary: Reintroducing Book World: Starting something new, reviving something beloved, John Williams (Post Books Editor), Sept. 26, 2022. The Washington Post’s books section starts its new chapter, in print every Sunday and with a refurbished and revitalized presence online.

Starting this week, we begin something new and revive something beloved. I’m thrilled to say that Book World returns in print after a long hiatus. In 2009, the print edition closed, and books coverage appeared in separate sections, Outlook and Style. We are now reuniting our books staff to produce enhanced online coverage all week and a print edition on Sundays.

This means much more than just the reunion of The Washington Post’s various reviews under one umbrella. The section’s rebirth brings with it a renewed and expanding sense of what our books coverage can and should be.

We will continue to stress books about politics, power and their effects on the lives of everyday people for The Post’s uniquely positioned, globally interested audience. We’ll have original arguments stemming from consideration of books about the forces fueling our tumultuous times, from disinformation and climate change to technological revolutions and reckonings with history. In fiction, we’ll showcase a diverse roster of strong and stylish critics, delve more often into the lives and minds of writers, and engage with the many arguments that are rooted in what and how we read. We’ll help you find (and decide on) everything: bestsellers, obscure gems, prize winners, disappointments and the rest, from here and around the world.

You’ll find us more often on social media, where we’ll ask you more frequently about what you’re reading and thinking. We’ll also keep an eye on older books — those that are newly relevant and those that are timelessly interesting or delightful — knowing that readers want to find great books from wherever and whenever they can.

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: After the struggle to get a chance, Black NFL coaches ask: ‘Just how much progress have we made?’ Michael Lee and Jayne Orenstein, Sept. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Coaches describe what they endured along the difficult road to the top. And staying there, they say, is even harder.

In the NFL’s 102-year history, 26 Black men have served as head coaches. Two have died. Twenty-four remain.

This summer, 16 of those 24 sat down with The Washington Post to tell their stories and share their perspective on why the NFL’s inclusion problem persists. They have grounds for grievance, but their stories reflect the pride in the paths they took, the pressure they felt, the value of their contributions and the legacy they leave behind.

  • Washington Post, Perspective: A legacy of exclusion, Jerry Brewer. Pro football’s turn toward inequity resonates eight decades later. Change will require intentional action.
  • Washington Post, The ones who made it, Michael Lee and Jayne Orenstein, For decades, Black coaches have been disproportionately excluded from the NFL’s top jobs. These are the voices of the coaches who broke through.

washington post logoWashington Post, NFL owners’ attitudes harden toward Commanders’ Daniel Snyder, Mark Maske, Nicki Jhabvala and Liz Clarke, Sept. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Sentiments among NFL team owners regarding Daniel Snyder’s ownership of the Washington Commanders have shifted significantly, as they await the findings of both a congressional investigation and a league-commissioned probe into allegations of misconduct by him and his team.

Multiple owners said in recent days that they believe serious consideration may be given to attempting to oust Snyder from the league’s ownership ranks, either by convincing him to sell his franchise or by voting to remove him.

All spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic, but their willingness to address it at all is notable because the league and owners have publicly said little to nothing substantive about the prospect of seeking to get Snyder out of the NFL.

While no action is imminent, the comments reflect a growing level of frustration among the owners over the controversies that have engulfed Snyder and the Commanders and the team’s financial performance under his ownership, including its inability to secure public financing for a new stadium. As recently as a few months ago, several owners expressed wariness about such an attempt at ousting him, in part because of the prospect of Snyder responding with legal action

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Sept. 25

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Trump Probes, Disputes, Rallies, Supporters

 

More On Ukraine War

 

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U.S. Politics, Elections, Economy, Governance

 

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Abortion, Forced Birth Laws, Privacy Rights

 

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giorgia meloni bloomberg

ap logoAssociated Press, Italians vote in election that could take far-right to power, Francis D'Emilio and Nicole Winfield, Sept. 25, 2022. Italians voted Sunday in an election that could move the country’s politics sharply toward the right during a critical time for Europe, with war in Ukraine fueling skyrocketing energy bills and testing the West’s resolve to stand united against Russian aggression.

italy decalPolls opened at 7 a.m. (0500GMT) and by noon turnout was equal to or slightly less than at the same time during Italy’s last general election in 2018. The counting of paper ballots was expected to begin shortly after they close at 11 p.m. (2100 GMT), with projections based on partial results coming early Monday morning.

Publication of opinion polls is banned in the two weeks leading up to the election, but polls before that showed far-right leader Giorgia Meloni (shown above in a photo via Bloomberg News) and her Brothers of Italy party, with its neo-fascist roots, the most popular. That suggested Italians were poised to vote their first far-right government into power since World War II. Close behind was former Premier Enrico Letta and his center-left Democratic Party.

“Today you can help write history,” Meloni tweeted Sunday morning.

Letta, for his part, tweeted a photo of himself at the ballot box. “Have a good vote!” he wrote.

Meloni is part of a right-wing alliance with anti-migrant League leader Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi, the three-time premier who heads the Forza Italia party he created three decades ago. Italy’s complex electoral law rewards campaign coalitions, meaning the Democrats are disadvantaged since they failed to secure a similarly broad alliance with left-leaning populists and centrists.

If Meloni becomes premier, she will be the first woman in Italy to hold the office. But assembling a viable, ruling coalition could take weeks.

Nearly 51 million Italians were eligible to vote. Pollsters, though, predicted turnout could be even lower than the record-setting low of 73% in the last general election in 2018. They say despite Europe’s many crises, many voters feel alienated from politics, since Italy has had three coalition governments since the last election — each led by someone who hadn’t run for office.

Early voters in Rome expressed concerns about Italian politics as a whole.

“I hope we’ll see honest people, and this is very difficult nowadays,” said Adriana Gherdo, at a polling station in the city.

Politico, Abortion puts GOP candidates on their heels in top governors races, Zach Montellaro and Megan Messerly, Sept. 25, 2022. Governors are newly powerful when it comes to abortion, and Democrats are spending big to remind voters in November.

politico CustomThe battle over abortion rights will be won or lost in state capitals, not Washington.

That reality has in the past three months upended battleground governor races — where the winners could quite literally determine the level of access to abortion for millions of women.

washington post logoWashington Post, Voters divided amid intense fight for control of Congress, poll finds, Dan Balz, Emily Guskin and Scott Clement, Sept. 25, 2022. The fight for control of Congress is an intense one, as Republicans hold significant advantages in the most competitive House seats. But the GOP edge is being tempered by energy among Democrats over abortion rights.

Heading into the final weeks of the midterm election campaign, Americans are split nationally in their vote for Congress, with Republicans holding sizable advantages on the economy, inflation and crime and Democrats far more trusted to handle the issues of abortion and climate change, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Congressional districts have changed. Find yours for the 2022 midterm elections.

With control of the House and Senate possibly shifting from Democrats to Republicans in November and the country deeply divided, 2 in 3 registered voters see this election as more important than past midterm campaigns. That’s the same percentage that said this in 2018 when turnout surged to the highest in a century.

At this point, both sides are highly motivated to turn out in November. Among registered Democratic voters, 3 in 4 say they are almost certain to vote compared with about 8 in 10 Republicans. Independents are less motivated. Four years ago, Democrats were about as mobilized as Republicans and had a clear lead in overall support. Eight years ago, when Democrats suffered losses, Republicans were more motivated.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Begins Mobilizing Ukrainians to Fight Against Their Own Country, Marc Santora, Sept. 25, 2022. Panic and fear flooded the occupied territories as Russian forces rounded up men to fight and forced residents to vote in a staged referendum on joining Russia, Ukrainian officials and rights groups said.

In the occupied city of Kherson, some Ukrainian men believe that if they break their own arms, maybe the Russians will not force them into military service. Others are hiding in basements. Some are trying to run even though they are forbidden to leave the city, residents said, and virtually everyone is afraid.

“People are panicking,” said Katerina, 30. “First they were searching our houses, and now the Russians will conscript our men to their army. This is all unlawful but very real for us.”

As the Kremlin’s conscription drive faced protests across Russia for a fifth day, new signs of resistance, and fear, emerged on Sunday in the territories it occupies in Ukraine as well.

The drive to compel Ukrainians to battle other Ukrainians is part of a broader, if risky, effort by Moscow to mobilize hundreds of thousands of new fighters as its forces suffer huge casualties and struggle to hold off Ukrainian advances in the east and south.

It comes at the same time as a Russian-orchestrated vote that is setting the stage for the Kremlin to cleave Ukraine through an annexation that has been broadly condemned around the world.

The result of the pseudoreferendum underway is expected to be announced on Tuesday. The anticipated outcome: that a majority of people in four Ukrainian regions — Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizka — “voted” to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is then widely expected to declare in coming days those areas belong to Russia and therefore protected by the might of its full arsenal, including the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear weapons.

At the same time, Russian military officials continued to cast a dragnet across the vast expanse of their own nation, which stretches halfway around the Northern Hemisphere, for hundreds of thousands of men to conscript into the military, many likely to soon be dispatched to Ukraine.

Despite draconian laws against dissent and the arrest of thousands of Russians protesting the “partial mobilization” in recent days, scattered demonstrations continued on Sunday, with reports of widespread unrest in Dagestan, a republic in the Caucasus region of southern Russia. The police fired into the air to clear one demonstration, according to videos circulating on social media, and Russian social media channels reported that some villages were refusing to comply with mobilization orders.

The drive to compel Ukrainians to battle other Ukrainians is part of a broader effort by Moscow to mobilize new fighters as its forces suffer huge casualties.

It comes at the same time as a Russian-orchestrated vote that is setting the stage for the Kremlin to cleave Ukraine through a broadly condemned annexation.

 

The late Mahsa Amini in a photo provided to Iran Wire by her family. The authorities have said she died of heart failure; her family say she had been in good health.

The late Mahsa Amini in a photo provided to Iran Wire by her family. The authorities have said she died of heart failure; her family say she had been in good health.

ny times logoNew York Times, Protests Surge in Iran as Crackdown Escalates, Vivian Yee and Farnaz Fassihi, Sept. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Dozens have reportedly been killed by security forces as demonstrations continue to spread across Iran. Protests began after Mahsa Amini died in the custody of the morality police

iran flag mapThe 22-year-old woman emerged from the Tehran subway, her dark hair covered with a black head scarf and the lines of her body obscured by loose clothing, when the capital city’s Guidance Patrol spotted her. They were members of Iran’s notorious morality police, enforcers of the conservative Islamic dress and behavior rules that have governed daily life for Iranians since the 1979 revolution, and newly energized under a hard-line president who took office last year.

By their standards, Mahsa Amini was improperly dressed, which could mean something as simple as a wisp of hair protruding from her head scarf. They put her in a van and drove her away to a detention center, where she was to undergo re-education. Three days later, on Sept. 16, she was dead.

Now, over eight days of rage, exhilaration and street battles, the most significant outpouring of anger with the ruling system in more than a decade, her name is everywhere. Iranian protesters in dozens of cities have chanted “women, life and freedom” and “death to the dictator,” rejecting the Iranian Republic’s theocratic rule by targeting one of its most fundamental and divisive symbols — the ailing supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

In several of the videos of the uprising that have torn across social media, women rip off their head scarves and burn them in street bonfires, including in deeply religious cities such as Qum and Mashhad. In one, a young woman atop a utility cabinet cuts off her hair in front of a crowd of roaring demonstrators. In another, young women dare to dance bareheaded in front of the riot police.

“Death to the dictator,” protesters at Tehran University chanted on Saturday. “Death to the head scarf! Until when must we tolerate such humiliation?”
I
Previous protests — over fraudulent elections in 2009, economic mismanagement in 2017 and fuel price hikes in 2019 — have been ruthlessly suppressed by Iran’s security forces, and this time may be no different. Yet, for the first time since the founding of the Iranian Republic, the current uprising has united rich Iranians descending from high-rise apartments in northern Tehran with struggling bazaar vendors in its working-class south, and Kurds, Turks and other ethnic minorities with members of the Fars majority.

The sheer diversity of the protesters reflects the breadth of Iranians’ grievances, analysts say, from a sickly economy and in-your-face corruption, to political repression and social restrictions — frustrations Iran’s government has repeatedly tried, and failed, to quash.

“The anger isn’t over just Mahsa’s death, but that she should have never been arrested in the first place,” said Shadi Sadr, a prominent human rights lawyer who has campaigned for Iranian women’s rights for two decades.

washington post logoWashington Post, NASA spacecraft will slam into an asteroid Monday — if all goes right, Joel Achenbach, Sept. 25, 2022. If everything goes as planned, and the laws of gravity and motion don’t change at the last minute, the asteroid collision will happen at exactly 7:14:23 EST.

nasa logoHeart rates are spiking in the Washington suburbs, where scientists and engineers on Monday evening hope to witness a vending-machine-sized spacecraft that is 7 million miles from Earth crash into an asteroid.

If everything goes as planned, and the laws of gravity and motion don’t change at the last minute, this will happen at 7:14 p.m. Eastern time — or, to be precise: 7:14:23.

There’s nothing major at stake here, other than demonstrating a technology that someday might save civilization.

It’s important to note that the targeted asteroid isn’t a threat to Earth and has done nothing wrong to deserve this attention. But the space collision is a critical moment for the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), NASA’s first test of “planetary defense.”

This mission is designed to show how