April 2023 News

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Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative April 2023 news and views

Note: Excerpts are from the authors' words except for subheads and occasional "Editor's notes" such as this. 

 

 

April  30

Top Headlines

 

Ultra-right dark money fund-raiser Leonard Leo, center, a major provider of funding for the Federalist Society and other influencers on judicial appointments and decision-making (New York Times photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick).

 

More On U.S. Supreme Court Ethics Scandals

 

This week's new official portrait of the U.S. Supreme Court

 

More on U.S. Courts, Crime, Immigration

U.S. Economy, Debt, Budget, Jobs, Banking, Crypto

 

Ukraine War

 

Global News, Views

 

Trump Cases, Claims, Allies, Insurrectionists

More On 2024 U.S. Presidential Race

More On U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

 

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U.S. Abortion Laws, #MeToo

 

U.S. Culture Wars: Schools, Disney, LGBT

 

U.S. National Security

 

Environment, Transportation, Energy, Space, Disasters, Climate


Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy

 

U.S. Cable News Firings

 

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More On U.S. Media, Education, Arts, Sports

 

Top Stories

 

Ultra-right dark money fund-raiser Leonard Leo, center, a major provider of funding for the Federalist Society and other influencers on judicial appointments and decision-making (New York Times photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick).Ultra-right dark money fund-raiser Leonard Leo, center, a major provider of funding for the Federalist Society and other influencers on judicial appointments and decision-making (New York Times photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick).

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: How Scalia Law School Became a Key Friend of the Supreme Court, Steve Eder and Jo Becker, April 30, 2023. George Mason University’s law school cultivated ties to justices, with generous pay and unusual perks. In turn, it gained prestige, donations and influence.

In the fall of 2017, an administrator at George Mason University’s law school circulated a confidential memo about a prospective hire.

gmu scalia law logoJust months earlier, Neil M. Gorsuch, below left, a federal appeals court judge from Colorado, had won confirmation to the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Antonin Scalia, the conservative icon for whom the school was named. For President Donald J. Trump, bringing neil gorsuch headshotJudge Gorsuch to Washington was the first step toward fulfilling a campaign promise to cement the high court unassailably on the right. For the leaders of the law school, bringing the new justice to teach at Scalia Law was a way to advance their own parallel ambition.

“Establishing and building a strong relationship with Justice Gorsuch during his first full term on the bench could be a game-changing opportunity for Scalia Law, as it looks to accelerate its already meteoric rise to the top rank of law schools in the United States,” read the memo, contained in one of thousands of internal university emails obtained by The New York Times.

The five most radical right Republican justices on the U.S. Supreme Court are shown above, with the sixth Republican, Chief Justice John Roberts, omitted in this view.

The five most radical right Republican justices on the Supreme Court are shown above, with the sixth Republican, Chief Justice John Roberts, omitted in this photo array.

By the winter of 2019, the law school faculty would include not just Justice Gorsuch but also two other members of the court, Justices Clarence Thomas, below right, and clarence thomas HRBrett M. Kavanaugh — all deployed as strategic assets in a campaign to make Scalia Law, a public school in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, a Yale or Harvard of conservative legal scholarship and influence.

The law school had long stood out for its rightward leanings and ties to conservative benefactors. Its renaming after Justice Scalia in 2016 was the result of a $30 million gift brokered by Leonard Leo, prime architect of a grand project then gathering force to transform the federal judiciary and further the legal imperatives of the right. An ascendant law school at George Mason would be part of that plan.

Since the rebranding, the law school has developed an unusually expansive relationship with the justices of the high court — welcoming them as teachers but also as lecturers and special guests at school events. Scalia Law, in turn, has marketed that closeness with the justices as a unique draw to prospective students and donors.

The Supreme Court assiduously seeks to keep its inner workings, and the justices’ lives, shielded from view, even as recent revelations and ethical questions have brought calls for greater transparency. Yet what emerges from the trove of documents is a glimpse behind the Supreme Court curtain, revealing one particular version of the favored treatment the justices often receive from those seeking to get closer to them.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Man kills 5 neighbors after one asked him to stop firing AR-15-style rifle, sheriff says, Justine McDaniel and Nick Parker, April 30, 2023 (print ed.). The suspect, who has been charged with murder, allegedly became angry when a neighbor asked him to stop shooting his gun in his yard because of the noise, according to the sheriff in San Jacinto County, Tex.

A man using an AR-15-style weapon shot and killed five people Friday, including an 8-year-old — an angry response to the neighbors’ request that he stop shooting in his yard while their baby was trying to sleep, Texas authorities said Saturday. The gunman then fled, prompting an ongoing manhunt.

francisco oropezaAuthorities charged Francisco Oropeza, 38 (and described by authorities as a Mexican national), with five counts of murder and were searching for him Saturday morning, San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers told The Washington Post.

Ten people were in the Cleveland, Tex., home during the shooting. Three women, a man and an 8-year-old boy were killed, Capers said. Five others survived, including three children.

texas mapThe suspect was the victims’ neighbor and went to their home Friday night after they asked him to stop shooting an AR-15-style rifle in his front yard because of the noise, Capers said.

Oropeza frequently shot the rifle in his yard, Capers said, and allegedly became angry when the neighbors said their baby was trying to sleep around or after 11 p.m. Authorities saw video footage of Oropeza walking up to the victims’ front door before going inside.

“The neighbors walked over and said … ‘Hey man, can you not do that, we’ve got an infant in here trying to sleep’ or whatever,” Capers said. “They went back in their house and then we have a video of him walking up their driveway with his AR-15.”

All five victims were shot in the head, he said. Two of the women who were killed were found lying on top of the surviving young children in a bedroom, “trying to protect them,” Capers told The Post by phone from the scene.

 

President Joe Biden speaks during the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner at the Washington Hilton in Washington, Saturday, April 29, 2023. (Associated Press Photo by Carolyn Kaster).

President Joe Biden speaks during the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner at the Washington Hilton in Washington, Saturday, April 29, 2023. (Associated Press Photo by Carolyn Kaster).

ny times logoNew York Times, President Biden praised the “absolute courage” of Evan Gershkovich, the American journalist detained in Russia, Matthew Mpoke Bigg, April 30, 2023. At the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, the president said his administration was “working every day” to secure the release of Evan Gershkovich.

President Biden has called for the release of Evan Gershkovich, right, an American Wall Street Journal reporter imprisoned in Russia, praising his courage and saying the United States was working tirelessly to bring him home.

evan gershkovitzMr. Gershkovich was detained in Russia last month and accused of espionage, a charge that his employer and the United States emphatically reject. The State Department this month designated the journalist as “wrongfully detained,” signifying that the U.S. government sees him as the equivalent of a political hostage.

In a speech at the annual White House Association Correspondents’ dinner on Saturday, Mr. Biden spoke of Mr. Gershkovich’s “absolute courage” and said everyone at the event stood with the reporter.

“We’re working every day to secure his release, looking at opportunities and tools to bring him home. We keep the faith,” Mr. Biden said told the audience. “Our message is this: Journalism is not a crime.”

Mr. Gershkovich’s case represents the most significant attack on international journalists in Russia since the Kremlin launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February last year. It is also the first time that a Western journalist in Russia has been charged with espionage since the end of the Cold War.

In his speech on Saturday, Mr. Biden asserted the importance of a free press worldwide and also spoke of Austin Tice, a freelance journalist who disappeared in Syria in August 2012, soon after the country’s civil war began. It is believed that, since then, he has been held captive by the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

“Evan and Austin should be released immediately along with every other American held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad,” Mr. Biden said. Debra and Marc Tice, the parents of Mr. Tice, wrote an opinion article, published in The Washington Post last August, in which they urged Mr. Biden to step up diplomatic efforts to free him.

 

 U.S. President Joe Biden smiles during the White House Correspondents' Association dinner at the Washington Hilton in Washington, DC, April 29, 2023 (AFP photo by Saul Loeb via Getty Images).

 U.S. President Joe Biden smiles during the White House Correspondents' Association dinner at the Washington Hilton in Washington, DC, April 29, 2023 (AFP photo by Saul Loeb via Getty Images).

  • Washington Post, A light evening with Dark Brandon, Paul Farhi, Scott Wilson, April 30, 2023. President Biden, who has frustrated some reporters with his lack of press conferences, showed up with jokes (and some serious remarks) to the White House corrndents’ dinner.
  • Meidas Touch Network, Opinion:  Biden STUNS Crowd with HILARIOUS GOP Takedown LIVE, Ben Meiselas, April 30, 2023. MeidasTouch host Ben Meiselas delivers this recap of President Joe Biden’s speech at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Gets a Chance to Mock Fox News, and Gleefully Takes It, Peter Baker and Katie Robertson, April 30, 2023. At the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, President Biden also teased CNN and made light of his age.

Whatever news gods decided that the cable television stars Tucker Carlson and Don Lemon should be fired the same week that President Biden was scheduled to give a funny speech ribbing the news media certainly were generous in providing fresh material. And Mr. Biden took advantage on Saturday night as he gleefully mocked some of his favorite foils.

fox news logo SmallIn his annual appearance at the black-tie White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, the one night a year that a president is expected to play a stand-up comic, Mr. Biden made the most of the opportunity with some timely skewering of those who usually skewer him — most notably Fox News, which fired Mr. Carlson on Monday just days after settling a defamation lawsuit for $787.5 million.

“Last year, your favorite Fox News reporters were able to attend” the dinner “because they were fully vaccinated and boosted,” Mr. Biden said, in a nod to his coronavirus response strategy. “This year, with that $787 million settlement, they’re here because they couldn’t say no to a free meal.”

“And hell, I’d call Fox honest, fair and truthful,” he told the crowd gathered in a cavernous ballroom in Washington as well as a national television audience watching at home. “But then I could be sued for defamation.” When some groaned, he quipped, “It ain’t nothing compared to what they do to me.”

 

Former President Donald Trump is shown in a photo collage with columnist E. Jean Carroll, who accused him of raping her three decades ago, with her civil suit scheduled for trial this spring in New York City.

Former President Donald Trump is shown in a photo collage with columnist E. Jean Carroll, who accused him of raping her three decades ago, with her civil suit scheduled for trial beginning with jury selection on April 25 in New York City.

ny times logoNew York Times, Rape Case Places Trump in Legal Jeopardy. Politically, He’s Thriving, Jonah E. Bromwich, Benjamin Weiser and Lola Fadulu, April 30, 2023 (print ed.). Former President Trump’s new campaign is rolling on unimpeded under the spotlights. In courtrooms, he faces more serious threats.

During E. Jean Carroll’s first day on the witness stand, her lawyer asked what had brought her to a federal courtroom in Manhattan.

“I am here because Donald Trump raped me and when I wrote about it, he said it didn’t happen,” Ms. Carroll replied. “He lied and shattered my reputation, and I am here to try to get my life back.”

A day later, Mr. Trump, who has denied the attack and called Ms. Carroll a liar, campaigned in New Hampshire, joking to a crowd about his changing nicknames for Hillary Clinton and President Biden. He did not mention Ms. Carroll’s testimony, or the civil trial going on 250 miles away. But he remarked cheerfully on a poll released that day, which showed him far and away leading the 2024 Republican primary field.

Since Mr. Trump was indicted last month in a criminal case brought by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, his legal travails and his third presidential campaign have played out on a split screen. The courtroom dramas have taken place without news cameras present, even as the race has returned Mr. Trump to the spotlight that briefly dimmed after he left the Oval Office.

Ms. Carroll’s harrowing testimony, a visceral demonstration of Mr. Trump’s legal peril, has emphasized the surreal nature of the divide. Mr. Trump is the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. But he has also been indicted on 34 felony false records charges, and in Ms. Carroll’s case faces a nine-person jury that will determine whether he committed rape decades ago. And then there are the other investigations: for election interference, mishandling sensitive documents and his role in the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“To see a former and potential future president of the United States confront all these legal issues at once is bizarre,” said Jennifer Horn, a former chairwoman of the New Hampshire Republican Party and a vocal opponent of Mr. Trump. “But what’s really disturbing about it is that he’s the front-runner for a major political party in this country. And you can’t just blame that on him. You have to blame that on the leaders of the party and their primary base.”

The past week brought the former president a steady stream of setbacks. Ms. Carroll gave detailed and graphic testimony about the encounter with Mr. Trump. The judge in the case sought to limit Mr. Trump’s posts on social media, as did the Manhattan district attorney’s office in its own case. And former Vice President Mike Pence testified before a grand jury hearing evidence about Mr. Trump’s attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

 

 

Former advice columnist E. Jean Carroll, center, at federal court with her lawyer Roberta Kaplan, left, on April 25 in New York (Former advice columnist E. Jean Carroll leaves federal court with her lawyer Roberta Kaplan on April 27 in New York (Associated Press photo by Seth Wineg).

Former advice columnist E. Jean Carroll, center, at federal court with her lawyer Roberta Kaplan, left, on April 25 in New York City (Associated Press photo by Seth Wineg).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: E. Jean Carroll might deliver the first significant hit to Trump, Jennifer Rubin, right, April 30, 2023. With just three days completed of jennifer rubin new headshotjournalist E. Jean Carroll’s civil suit against former president Donald Trump for assault and defamation, it is risky to predict a verdict. Just as with a Supreme Court oral argument, it is difficult to read how arguments and testimony are being received in the courtroom.

But if this were a contest between lawyers, it would be a knockout, possibly on day one. (Maybe before the first day, when Trump counsel Joe Tacopina lost for the second time a motion to exclude the testimony of witness Natasha Stoynoff, who alleges Trump once pinned her to the wall and forcibly kissed her.)

Tuesday, Trump, who has repeatedly denied the accusations against him, as expected didn’t have the nerve to show up at federal court in Manhattan. (At the close of the day, Judge Lewis Kaplan scolded Tacopina for failing to state definitively whether Trump would testify.) Despite his refusal to appear, Carroll’s lawyers can read his deposition into the record. Moreover, his non-appearance tells the jury Trump doesn’t respect the court or them enough to show up.

The next problem for Trump: No juror who underwent voir dire had ever attended a Trump rally, followed Truth Social, believed medical evidence of rape was necessary or thought the passage of time made an allegation of sexual assault less believable. The prospective jurors were of different races, educational levels and jobs. No MAGA-hat wearers or Proud Boys in the bunch. (Among the nine, many said they watch mainstream news outlets — another bad sign for Trump.)

Carroll had her team, and Trump had his — all male. (You have to wonder if they couldn’t find a woman to defend him or whether they are straight-up playing for the votes of any misogynists among the six men on the panel.)

Carroll’s opening argument was delivered by one of the judge’s former clerks, Shawn Crowley. (This team is very cleverly establishing its credibility with the judge.) She effectively took jurors through the alleged rape incident. MSNBC analyst Lisa Rubin (no relation) tweeted that Crowley was most compelling when “convincingly weaving together the stories of Carroll and the two other accusers, Jessica Leeds and Natasha Stoynoff, into ‘three women, one pattern,’ all of which tracks Trump’s own statement on the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape.”

In his opening remarks, Tacopina was belligerent and insulting. He called Carroll a liar out to make money. He repeated Trump’s denial that he had raped Carroll. He called her suit “an assault on justice.” He said he would call no witnesses of his own. (So why not tell the judge that Trump isn’t showing up?) He was coarse, obnoxious and disrespectful — a perfect mouthpiece for his client.

Day two brought more misery for the Trump team. It began with Kaplan rapping Trump’s lawyers for a rant Trump posted on Truth Social, accusing Carroll (again) of making up the charges. Kaplan told Trump’s lawyers this might open “a new source of potential liability.”

Later in the day, the judge again warned Trump’s lawyers that they had better talk to their client, this time regarding an Eric Trump tweet about Carroll’s lawsuit. The judge intimated that other courts and statutes (e.g., intimidation is a crime in New York) could come into play.

“I’m here because Donald Trump raped me and when I wrote about it, he said it didn’t happen,” Carroll began her testimony. “He lied and shattered my reputation, and I’m here to try to get my life back.” She then took the jury through the alleged rape and explained in an altogether credible way how sexual assault victims don’t come forward because they feel responsible and ashamed — or fear their attacker. The Post reported, “Carroll described explicitly how he also forced sex on her in the dressing room before she successfully kneed him away from her so she could flee the room.” She added that her decision to go into the dressing room with him “still haunts her, choking up as she explained. She said she did not file a police report in part because she blamed herself.”

She also feared (correctly) that Trump and a fleet of lawyers would publicly attack her. Her description of the reputational harm done when Trump called her a liar was gut-wrenching. “The violence and the dirt and the seedy language and the people describing what they think I did and why nobody in the world would touch me because of my enormous ugliness … they sort of swamped the heartfelt letters I received,” she said.

At the end of a long, emotionally draining day, a tearful Carroll said, “I got my day in court finally and it’s everything to me.”

Cross-examination of Carroll began Thursday. Tacopina was probably not the right guy to handle this. Gruff, belittling and heavy-handed, he scored few if any hits and frequently drew rebukes from the judge. Carroll freely admitted her memory holes and tersely pushed back on his insinuations that she was in this for the money. In some sense, her inability to recall specifics such as the date and day of the week made her account even more credible.

The more Tacopina harangued and argued with her, the more he seemed to prove her point: She had feared coming forward all these years because of the bullying and insults she knew she would endure.

The trial will resume Monday. Carroll has taken the worst Trump’s lawyers can throw at her. She remains the poised, credible and somewhat sad, fragile figure she was when the trial began.

 

More On U.S. Supreme Court Ethics Scandals

 

Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts arrives before President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol, Feb. 7, 2023, in Washington. Roberts has declined a request from the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify at a hearing on ethical standards at the court, instead providing the panel with a statement of ethics reaffirmed by the court's justices. (AP pool photo by Jacquelyn Martin.)

Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts arrives before President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol, Feb. 7, 2023, in Washington. Roberts has declined a request from the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify at a hearing on ethical standards at the court, instead providing the panel with a statement of ethics reaffirmed by the court's justices. (AP pool photo by Jacquelyn Martin.)

 ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Polite Disdain of John Roberts Finds a Target, Jamelle Bouie, right, April 29, 2023 (print ed.). Although the three branches of the American jamelle bouiegovernment were designed to be coequal, the structure of the Constitution tells us something about the relative power of each branch, as envisioned by the framers.

Article I establishes the legislature. Article II establishes the executive branch. And Article III establishes the federal judiciary. It is true that the branches share powers and responsibilities. But it’s also true that the framers trusted Congress — the representative branch — with far more authority than it did the president or the Supreme Court.

The upshot of all of this is that when Congress calls, the other branches are supposed to answer — not as a courtesy, but as an affirmation of the rules of the American constitutional order. The modern Congress might be weak, and the presidency, against the expectations of the framers, might be the center of American political life, but it’s still newsworthy when a member of the executive branch says he or she won’t meet with the legislature.

Chief Justice John Roberts is in a different branch of government, the judiciary. But he — a constitutional officer confirmed to his seat by the Senate — is still subject to the power of Congress to question and investigate his conduct. When Congress calls, he too should answer.

Last week, Congress called the chief justice. In the wake of revelations concerning the friendship between Justice Clarence Thomas and Harlan Crow, a billionaire Republican donor, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, invited Roberts to testify at an upcoming hearing on Supreme Court ethics rules.

“There has been a steady stream of revelations regarding justices falling short of the ethical standards expected of other federal judges and, indeed, of public servants generally,” Durbin wrote in his letter to the chief justice. “These problems were already apparent back in 2011, and the Court’s decade-long failure to address them has contributed to a crisis of public confidence.”

“The time has come for a new public conversation on ways to restore confidence in the Court’s ethical standards,” Durbin went on to say. “I invite you to join it, and I look forward to your response.”

This week Roberts answered. He said, in a word, no.

“I must respectfully decline your invitation,” Roberts wrote. “Testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee by the chief justice of the United States is exceedingly rare as one might expect in light of separation of powers concerns and the importance of preserving judicial independence.”

This deceptively polite reply sounds reasonable for as long as you can manage to forget the fact that it is questions about the ethical conduct of the court and its members that have compromised the independence of the court. Was Thomas influenced by the largess of his billionaire benefactor? Was Justice Samuel Alito influenced by an explicit campaign to curry favor with the conservative justices? Was Justice Neil Gorsuch influenced by the lucrative sale of a Colorado property, in the wake of his confirmation, to the head of a powerful law firm with ample business before the court?

It is with real chutzpah, in other words, that Roberts has claimed judicial independence in order to circumvent an investigation into judicial independence.

More striking than this evasion is the manner in which Roberts ended his reply. Faced with serious questions about the integrity of the court, he pointed to a nonbinding ethics document that has done almost nothing to prevent these situations from arising in the first place. “In regard to the Court’s approach to ethics matters,” he wrote, “I attached a Statement of Ethics Principles and Practices to which all of the current members of the Supreme Court subscribe.”

A number of legal scholars have remarked on the judicial power grab of the past several years, in which courts across the federal judiciary have seized key governing decisions from the legislative and executive branches and disparaged the ability of elected officials to, as Josh Chafetz of Georgetown University Law Center writes, “engage in principled, competent governance.”

As one of the architects of this development in American politics, Roberts is essentially using this letter to make plain to Congress the reality of the situation: I will not speak, and you cannot make me. And he’s right, not because Congress doesn’t have the power, but because it doesn’t have the votes. In the absence of a majority of votes, the Senate Judiciary Committee cannot subpoena a justice. In the absence of 218 votes, the House cannot impeach a justice. And in the absence of 67 votes, the Senate cannot remove a justice.

There are steps Congress could take to discipline the court — shrinking its budget, reducing the scope of its docket, imposing ethics rules itself, even making it “ride circuit” à la the 19th century — but those require a majority in the House and a supermajority in the Senate because of the filibuster, as well as a consensus among lawmakers (and specifically, Democrats) to follow through if they ever have the chance to do so.

 

This week's new official portrait of the U.S. Supreme Court

Palmer Report, Opinion: Ugly new corruption scandal for Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, Bill Palmer, April 28, 2023. Supreme Court Chief Justice John bill palmerRoberts is trying to avoid testifying in a Senate hearing about the financial corruption scandals of his fellow right wing Justices such as Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch. Now we’re getting a clearer answer as to why Roberts has been hiding from this.

bill palmer report logo headerIt turns out John Roberts’ wife has made more than ten million dollars by placing attorneys at elite law firms – and some of those firms have argued cases in front of the Supreme Court. While there is no evidence of any quid pro quo, it still gives the perception that these firms could have been essentially paying all this money to Roberts’ wife in the hope of ultimately getting favorable rulings from Roberts.

This now means that three right wing Supreme Court Justices (that we know of) have ugly financial corruption scandals. Of course they do. Right wing political ideology is the belief that everyone else should be tightly controlled by the government, and that you should be allowed to do whatever awful things you want. The Supreme Court is full of right wingers who are both corrupt and deranged. It needs to be expanded more urgently than ever.

 samuel alito horizontal headshot

washington post logoWashington Post, Alito thinks he knows who Dobbs leaker is — and says it’s not a conservative, Robert Barnes, April 29, 2023 (print ed.). Politico published Justice Alito's draft opinion, which ultimately overturned Roe v. Wade, a year ago. Alito, shown above in a file photo, agrees the court does not have evidence sufficient to publicly accuse anyone of leaking the draft.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said in an interview earlier this month that he has a “pretty good idea” who leaked his draft Supreme Court opinion that overturned Roe v. Wade and its constitutional right to abortion last year, but that neither he nor the court can prove it.

The leak rocked the Supreme Court and its tradition of secrecy involving unreleased opinions. After a months-long investigation, Supreme Court Marshal Gail gail curleyCurley (shown in a file photo) said in January that the court could not determine with certainty “the identity of any individual who may have disclosed the document or how the draft opinion ended up with Politico.”

In an April 13 interview with a Wall Street Journal editorial editor and a private lawyer active in conservative causes, Alito agreed that Curley did not have evidence sufficient to publicly accuse anyone of leaking his draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

“I personally have a pretty good idea who is responsible, but that’s different from the level of proof that is needed to name somebody,” Alito said, according to the story published online Friday. He said he was sure the leak “was a part of an effort to prevent the Dobbs draft … from becoming the decision of the court. And that’s how it was used for those six weeks by people on the outside — as part of the campaign to try to intimidate the court.”

Alito said the theory that the draft was leaked by someone on the right to lock in the five votes necessary to overturn Roe “is infuriating to me.”

“Look, this made us targets of assassination,” Alito told his interviewers. “Would I do that to myself? Would the five of us have done that to ourselves? It’s quite implausible.”

Alito made similar statements last fall at an event at the conservative Heritage Foundation. In the interview with the Journal, Alito noted that last June an armed man was arrested outside the home of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh. The man has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted assassination and is awaiting trial.

Alito says leaker made Supreme Court majority targets

“It was rational for people to believe that they might be able to stop the decision in Dobbs by killing one of us,” Alito told James Taranto, editorial features editor for the Journal, and David B. Rivkin Jr., a lawyer active in conservative causes. Rivkin frequently writes for the Journal’s opinion pages, and has helped lead the legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act.

Alito added that he does not feel “physically unsafe, because we now have a lot of protection.” He said he is driven around “in basically a tank, and I’m not really supposed to go anyplace by myself without the tank and my members of the police force.”

Alito declined to answer questions about Justice Clarence Thomas, the interviewers wrote. Thomas has been under fire after ProPublica reported that he accepted extravagant vacations, private jet travel and gifts from his billionaire friend and Republican donor Harlan Crow, who also bought the justice’s childhood home in which his mother continues to live. Thomas did not report the expenditures on his disclosure forms, which are supposed to provide transparency about potential ethical conflicts.

Without commenting on Thomas, Alito said he believes that reports about alleged ethical violations by justices are attempts to damage the court’s credibility now that conservatives are firmly in control. “We are being hammered daily, and I think quite unfairly in a lot of instances. And nobody, practically nobody, is defending us,” he said.

“And then those who are attacking us say, ‘Look how unpopular they are. Look how low their approval rating has sunk.’” Alito said. “Well, yeah, what do you expect when you’re — day in and day out, ‘They’re illegitimate. They’re engaging in all sorts of unethical conduct. They’re doing this, they’re doing that’?”

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More On U.S. Courts, Crime, Immigration

 

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, A Troubled Year at Whole Foods Reflects San Francisco’s Woes, Thomas Fuller and Sharon LaFraniere, April 30, 2023. Whole Foods Market opened in 2022 on the hope that a neighborhood would be revived. It closed 13 months later.

Last year, with pandemic lockdowns in the rearview mirror, Whole Foods Market made a bet on a gritty San Francisco neighborhood. The high-end supermarket chain opened a giant flagship store in a part of the city that is home to both tech companies like Twitter and open-air drug dealing.

whole foods logoBut the store was soon confronted head-on with many of the problems plaguing the area. People threatened employees with guns, knives and sticks. They flung food, screamed, fought and tried to defecate on the floor, according to records of 568 emergency calls over 13 months, many depicting scenes of mayhem.

“Male w/machete is back,” the report on one 911 call states. “Another security guard was just assaulted,” another says. A man with a four-inch knife attacked several security guards, then sprayed store employees with foam from a fire extinguisher, according to a third.

In September, a 30-year-old man died in the bathroom from an overdose of fentanyl, a highly potent opioid, and methamphetamine.

When Whole Foods announced in mid-April that it was closing the store, citing the safety of its employees, many in San Francisco saw it as a representation of some of the city’s most intractable problems: property crimes like shoplifting and car break-ins, an entrenched network of dealers selling fentanyl and other illicit drugs and people suffering from untreated mental illness wandering the streets.

The closure also seemed to be the latest indicator of San Francisco’s faltering economic prospects, providing more grist for an ongoing debate over where the city is headed after tying its fate to the tech industry. The Whole Foods was supposed to cater to tech workers and other professionals, part of a long-term redevelopment plan downtown. But the store fell victim to a grinding decline in the city's center that began with the pandemic and could continue for years as companies vacate offices because of remote work.

Politico, The splashy corruption trial insiders fear may not yield a drop, Shia Kapos, April 29, 2023. There’s an air of hope and resignation about the federal trial involving one of the illinois mapnation’s biggest electric utilities and one of Illinois’ best-known political figures.

politico CustomA federal corruption trial involving one of the nation’s biggest electric utilities and one of Illinois’ most well-known political figures feels like it should end with consequences — even in a city famous for elected officials behaving badly.

The nearly seven weeks of testimony have centered on the “ComEd Four” — former Commonwealth Edison CEO Anne Pramaggiore and three lobbyists, including a confidante of the longtime House speaker, accused of a bribery scheme to influence energy legislation.

Justice Department log circularThere’s an awkward air of hope and resignation about the trial and whether it feeds into the state’s long-held reputation for corruption. And while elected officials and political insiders anxiously await a verdict due any day now, many are already frustrated that this case might end the same way as all the others: Someone goes to prison and someone pays a fine but the gears of the same old Illinois machine just keeps turning.

“I’m fearful that it will have zero impact,” outgoing Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who sought stricter ethics rules during her administration, said in an interview.

“You have people taking the stand and talking about fixing this and taking jobs and doing no work. It’s horrifying,” she said. “And every single person who testifies, every piece of evidence, every wiretapped call, I think, erodes people’s trust in core democratic institutions.”

There is some sense that if Illinois can’t crack down on corruption, there’s still an element of accountability.

“The trial matters because it will make people think twice about engaging in this kind of behavior if they know the feds are watching,” said Alisa Kaplan, executive director of Reform for Illinois, a nonpartisan good-government organization.

But this is the state that produced several infamous examples of wrongdoing: Former Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich (convicted for trying to sell a Senate seat) … and former Republican Gov. George Ryan (convicted of accepting gifts and vacations from friends in exchange for government contracts) … and Rita Crundwell (a comptroller convicted of absconding with nearly $54 million of her city’s money) and has seen many Chicago City Council members indicted or implicated.

The Four are accused of a bribery plot where the utility arranged jobs for allies of former House Speaker Michael Madigan, who faces a separate trial next year on racketeering and bribery charges, without them having to do actual work. In return, the utility sought passage of 2011 “Smart Grid” legislation and a 2016 measure that rescued two financially struggling nuclear power plants from shutting down, according to federal prosecutors.

washington post logoWashington Post, Man pauses date to kill ‘scammer’ over $40, then returns to dinner, police say, Timothy Bella, April 29, 2023 (print ed.). Erick Aguirre was in the middle of his date at a Houston burger joint this month when a restaurant employee told him that he’d been scammed. Upon learning this, Aguirre told his date that he was going to find the supposed parking attendant and that he’d be right back.

erick aguirreBut instead of asking for his $40 back, Aguirre (shown at right in a mug photo) sprinted to his car, grabbed his pistol and fatally shot the man, 46-year-old Elliot Nix, according to police. Aguirre then returned to the restaurant to resume his April 11 dinner at Rodeo Goat, telling his date that “everything was fine” and that he had just scared the scammer, according to a probable cause affidavit obtained by The Washington Post.

The next day, after the woman learned what had happened and that she was wanted for questioning in the fatal shooting, she talked to police about Aguirre — and how the guy she was dating allegedly took time out of their dinner to kill Nix over $40.

washington post logoWashington Post, Why are Americans shooting strangers and neighbors? ‘It all goes back to fear,’ Danielle Paquette, John D. Harden and Scott Clement, April 30, 2023. Across the country this month, at least four men have opened fire on someone who’d stumbled upon their space, resulting in one death, two injuries and a car pocked with bullet holes.

The apparent acts of snap-aggression have reinvigorated the debate around the prevalence of “stand your ground” laws in the United States and a pressing question: Why are people so quick to pull the trigger on strangers?

 

Shown here is an aerial photo of the U.S.-operated Guantánamo prison camp located in Cuba against the wishes of its government along with a book cover showing faces of some of its prisoners through the decades. Many of them were accused of terror-related conspiracies and they do not for the most part possess the basic fair trial and other civil rights of prisoners held in U.S. civilian jails and prisons.

Shown here is an aerial photo of the U.S.-operated Guantánamo prison camp located in Cuba against the wishes of its government along with a book cover below showing faces of some of its prisoners through the decades. Many of them were accused of terror-related conspiracies and they do not for the most part possess the basic fair trial and other civil rights of prisoners held in U.S. civilian jails and prisons.

 

Shown here is an aerial photo of the U.S.-operated Guantánamo prison camp located in Cuba against the wishes of its government along with a book cover showing faces of some of its prisoners through the decades. Many of them were accused of terror-related conspiracies and they do not for the most part possess the basic fair trial and other civil rights of prisoners held in U.S. civilian jails and prisons.

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: Biden Can Close the Extrajudicial Prison at Guantánamo, Editorial Board, April 30, 2023 (print ed.). Last week, Said bin Brahim bin Umran Bakush was released from detention at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and returned to Algeria, his home country.

Suspected of being a low-level fighter for Al Qaeda, at age 52 he was in his 21st year of detention in the prison, had no charges filed against him and stopped speaking to lawyers about five years ago. Mr. Bakush’s release leaves 30 men, of the 780 held there over the years since 2002, still imprisoned at the U.S. naval base whose name has become synonymous with American shame.

President Biden said at the outset of his administration that he would seek to have the detention center closed, and he directed the Defense Department to study how best to do so. But at the rate these cases are moving, resolving them could take several more years. Mr. Biden wisely avoided the kind of highly public pledges to close down the prison that President Barack Obama made and could not keep. But to achieve the goal of finally ending the extrajudicial detention of prisoners at Guantánamo — and its disgraceful violations of fundamental human rights and abandonment of the right to due process — requires more of Mr. Biden.

Clearing out the remaining prisoners requires cutting through a tangle of laws, policies, procedures and bureaucratic secrecy. These are not simple tasks, but they are well within the power of the White House to accomplish if the process is given a far higher priority. Mr. Biden can use his authority to order the Departments of Defense, Justice and State, the intelligence agencies and other agencies involved to coordinate their efforts and direct their resources to make it happen, as quickly as possible.

The moral imperative and the ethical case for doing so has only gotten stronger with time. As long as there are people held in detention at Guantánamo, America’s condemnations of brutal detention centers in China and Syria will ring hollow. And there is a particular cruelty inflicted by time. On April 21, a senior official of the International Committee of the Red Cross issued a rare public call for the U.S. military to provide better care for prisoners, because they are “experiencing the symptoms of accelerated aging worsened by the cumulative effect of their experiences and years spent in detention.”

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Emmett Till with his mother, Mamie Bradley in about 1950.

Emmett Till with his mother, Mamie Bradley in about 1950.

 

U.S. Economy, Debt, Budget, Jobs

 

fdic logo federal deposit insurance corp

ny times logoNew York Times, Regulators Prepare to Seize and Sell First Republic Bank, Lauren Hirsch and Maureen Farrell, Updated April 30, 2023. JP Morgan, PNC and Bank of America are said to be interested in acquiring the troubled lender after it is seized by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

First Republic Bank logoFederal regulators were racing on Saturday to seize and sell the troubled First Republic Bank before financial markets open on Monday, according to several people with knowledge of the matter, in a bid to put an end to a banking crisis that began last month with the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank.

The effort, led by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, comes after First Republic’s shares tumbled 75 percent since Monday, when the bank disclosed that customers had withdrawn more than half of its deposits. It became clear this past week that nobody was willing to ride to First Republic’s rescue before a government seizure because larger banks were worried that buying the company would saddle them with billions of dollars in losses.

The F.D.I.C. has been talking with banks that include JPMorgan Chase, PNC Financial Services and Bank of America about a potential deal, three of the people said. A deal could be announced as soon as Sunday, these people said, cautioning the situation was rapidly evolving and might still change. Any buyer would most likely assume the deposits of First Republic, eliminating the need for a government guarantee of deposits in excess of $250,000 — the limit for deposit insurance.

It’s possible that an agreement won’t be reached, in which case the F.D.I.C. would need to decide if it would seize First Republic anyway and take ownership itself. In that case, federal officials could invoke a systemic risk exception to protect those bigger deposits, something they did after the failures of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank in March.

washington post logoWashington Post, With debt bill adopted, far-right House Republicans ready for fiscal war, Tony Romm and Marianna Sotomayor, April 30, 2023. The House Freedom Caucus pushed Speaker Kevin McCarthy for sharp spending cuts — and some members still want more.

In early March, a powerful group of far-right House Republicans issued its demands over the debt ceiling, signaling it would “consider” supporting an increase if Congress gutted federal spending and revoked many of President Biden’s top priorities.

One month later, the bloc helped pass a GOP bill that accomplishes nearly every one of their original policy aims — and now some of those conservatives say it’s just the beginning.

For the roughly three dozen lawmakers in the House Freedom Caucus, the fight over the nation’s fiscal health has doubled as an affirmation of their rapid political ascent. With government divided — and Republicans only in possession of a narrow, delicate advantage in the chamber — the bloc has evolved from an irascible minority faction into a controlling legislative force.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Defaulting on the national debt is much closer than anyone realizes, Paul Kane, April 30, 2023. House Republicans and Senate Democrats cannot even agree whether they need to negotiate on the debt limit.

Washington is lurching dangerously close to a self-induced financial calamity. It’s so bad no one even agrees whether they should negotiate on raising the government’s borrowing authority.

Consider the positions held by two lower-profile lawmakers who derive great influence from being advisers to and close friends of the most powerful players in this standoff.

Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), deputized by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to negotiate a debt plan, jokingly compared President Biden to a British monarch refusing to meet with Parliament. “We sent a telegram to Buckingham Palace to let them know that they’re not in charge anymore,” Graves said Friday, two days after his deal narrowly passed the House with only GOP votes.

“We actually have a Congress, we have a people’s House that they have to negotiate with,” he said.

Negotiate? No chance, according to Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), a close Biden ally.

“The question here is, should we default and should we reward holding the threat of default as a hostage? No, and no. It’s not real complicated,” Coons said in an interview Thursday.

Graves believes that McCarthy has done his job by winning approval for a bill that would lift the debt limit into next year while also imposing nearly $5 trillion in reduced spending. Coons dismissed that “gauzy, broad but unspecific” House proposal as merely an attempt at holding the full faith and credit of the U.S. Treasury hostage.

Like other Democrats, Coons is willing to haggle over federal spending levels in the annual process for funding federal agencies in the House and Senate Appropriations committees. But that negotiation can only begin once Republicans agree to separately raise the debt limit without any strings attached.

washington post logoWashington Post, The GOP wonks trying to get their party not to detonate the debt limit bomb, Jeff Stein, April 30, 2023 (print ed.). An increasingly personal spat among conservative policy nerds could have big implications as U.S. nears economic disaster.

A small group of conservative budget experts is cautioning House Republicans that brinkmanship over the nation’s borrowing limit could lead to economic disaster, warning of severe financial ramifications even as their own party ignores their advice.

In both public and private comments, a handful of GOP budget experts — Brian Riedl, who was an aide to former Ohio Republican senator Rob Portman; Michael Strain, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute; and Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office — have tried to counter the growing argument on the right that the debt ceiling can be breached with only minimal economic impact.

The former Trump aide crafting the House GOP’s debt ceiling playbook

Those wonks appear at risk of losing the GOP debate, as House Republicans increasingly make clear that they will refuse to raise the debt limit unless President Biden agrees to massive spending cuts that he has so far rejected. On Wednesday, the House voted, largely along party lines, for Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) plan advancing this approach. Conservatives within the GOP have been emboldened by the advice of a competing faction of right-wing policy analysts and economists, who have pushed GOP leaders to stay aggressive. Led by former Trump budget director Russ Vought, these advisers have maintained that the costs of inaction on the nation’s $31 trillion debt override the need to ensure the U.S. can pay all its bills.

The fierce — and increasingly personal — split within conservative policymaking circles reflects a broader battle within the Republican Party over spending and deficits and could determine how the current fiscal standoff ends.

Combined, the analysts have held hundreds of meetings, phone calls and Zooms with GOP House and Senate members and their aides over the past several months, rejecting the suggestions from the right that the debt ceiling can be breached without financial calamity.

The White House is hoping to lean heavily on these kinds of Republicans to argue against McCarthy’s plan, according to two people familiar with administration strategy, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe internal conversations.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: House Republicans walk the plank, Dana Milbank, right, April 30, 2023 (print ed.). Jen Kiggans (shown below at left in an official photo) had the haunted look of a woman about to walk the dana milbank newestplank. The first-term Republican from Virginia barely took her eyes off her text Wednesday as she read it aloud on the House floor. She tripped over words and used her fingers to keep her place on the page.

jen kiggansThe anxiety was understandable. Like about 30 other House Republicans from vulnerable districts, she was about to vote in favor of the GOP’s plan to force spending cuts of about $4.8 trillion as the ransom to be paid for avoiding a default on the federal debt.

“I do have serious concerns with the provision of this legislation that repeals clean-energy investment tax credits, particularly for wind energy,” she read. “These credits have been very beneficial to my constituents, attracting significant investment and new manufacturing jobs for businesses in southeast Virginia.”

Directing a question to the Republicans’ chief deputy whip, Guy Reschenthaler (Pa.), she asked for “the gentleman’s assurance that I will be able to address U.S. House logothese concerns as we move forward in these negotiations and advocate for the interests of my district.”

djt maga hatThe gentleman offered no such assurance. “I support repealing these tax credits,” he replied, offering only the noncommittal promise to “continue to work with the gentlewoman from Virginia, just like we will with all members.”

Kiggans then cast her vote to abolish the clean-energy credits her constituents find so “beneficial.”

House GOP leaders are celebrating their ability to pass their debt plan, even though it has no chance of surviving the Senate nor President Biden’s veto pen. But the bill’s passage has achieved one thing that cannot be undone: It has put 217 House Republicans on record in favor of demolishing popular government services enjoyed by their constituents.

 

silicon valley bank svb

washington post logoWashington Post, Fed says it must strengthen banking rules after SVB’s collapse, Rachel Siegel, April 29, 2023 (pr int ed.). In a scathing report, the Fed outlined disastrous decisions — including failures made by the central bank’s own supervisors to ward off last month’s crisis — that led to the downfall of Silicon Valley Bank.

federal reserve system CustomIn a scathing report, the Federal Reserve on Friday outlined a number of disastrous decisions — including failures by the central bank’s own supervisors to ward off last month’s crisis — that led to the downfall of Silicon Valley Bank.

The much-anticipated 114-page report set the stage for a new, aggressive push by the Fed to restrengthen bank regulation in an attempt to tighten up many of the rules that were eased by Congress in a bipartisan vote in 2018 and further loosened by the Fed in 2019.

What went wrong in the banking system? It’s his job to find out.

“SVB’s failure demonstrates that there are weaknesses in regulation and supervision that must be addressed,” Fed Vice Chair for Supervision Michael Barr wrote in a letter accompanying the report. “Regulatory standards for SVB were too low, the supervision of SVB did not work with sufficient force and urgency, and contagion from the firm’s failure posed systemic consequences not contemplated by the Federal Reserve’s tailoring framework,” Barr wrote, referring to moves in 2018 and 2019 to ease, or “tailor,” the banking system’s rules.

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Ukraine War

ny times logoNew York Times, Life in Ukraine’s Trenches: Gearing Up for a Spring Offensive, Michael Schwirtz, Photographs by David Guttenfelder, April 30, 2023 (print ed.). Michael Schwirtz and David Guttenfelder spent two weeks near the front in southeastern Ukraine, watching and interviewing soldiers preparing for an anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive.

With fighting in the eastern Donbas region settling into a bloody stalemate, a patch of the Zaporizhzhia region of southeastern Ukraine could prove to be the war’s next big theater.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Russia blames Ukraine for drone attack on Crimea fuel depot, Rachel Pannett, Annabelle Timsit and Nick Parker, April 30, 2023. Russia accused Ukraine of carrying out Saturday’s drone attack on a fuel depot in Crimea, the peninsula illegally annexed by the Kremlin in 2014. Ukraine hasn’t claimed responsibility for the strike, which comes as Kyiv is preparing for a long-anticipated spring counteroffensive to retake territory seized by Moscow.

“The enemy … wanted to take Sevastopol by surprise, as usual on the sly, staging an attack in the morning,” the port city’s Kremlin-appointed governor, Mikhail Razvozhaev, wrote on Telegram, without providing evidence for his claim. He said that one drone reached the fuel depot — a second drone was destroyed by servicemen on surveillance duty — and that the fire it caused was extinguished. No casualties were reported.

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

Key developments

  • A Ukrainian military intelligence official described the Crimean incident as “God’s punishment” for a Russian strike on an apartment building Friday that killed many civilians. Andriy Yusov said the Saturday attack destroyed more than 10 fuel tanks housing some 40,000 tons of oil intended for Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.
  • Four people were killed by strikes in the Russian region of Bryansk, regional governor Alexander Bogomaz said in a Telegram post. Bogomaz blamed Ukraine for the strikes against the village of Suzemka, which he said also injured two people. Ukrainian officials did not publicly comment, and The Washington Post could not independently verify Bogomaz’s claim. The region of Bryansk borders Belarus to the west and Ukraine to the south.
  • President Biden said he is “working like hell” to bring home Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, whom Russian authorities detained and accused of espionage. Biden in his remarks at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner promised Gershkovich’s family, present in the audience, to work to secure the journalist’s release from prison in Moscow, where the State Department says he is being wrongfully detained. “Evan went to report in Russia to shed light on the darkness that you all escaped from years ago. Absolute courage,” Biden said. “We all stand with you.”
  • The Russian Defense Ministry has appointed a new military logistics leader, ostensibly ousting the general known as the “butcher of Mariupol.” Col. Gen. Aleksey Kuzmenkov is the new deputy defense minister in charge of combat service support, the ministry announced Sunday. It did not address where Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, who had held the post since September, may be moved. Ukrainian officials and activists accused Mizintsev of orchestrating a brutal siege that killed thousands of civilians and razed residential buildings in Mariupol last year.

Battleground updates

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said six children were among at least 23 people killed in the Russian strike on a residential apartment building Friday in Uman, a city in central Ukraine far from the front lines. “May their memory be bright,” he said in his nightly address.
  • Wagner Group founder Yevgeniy Prigozhin reportedly threatened to withdraw his mercenaries from the besieged city of Bakhmut, which Kyiv and Moscow have been fighting over for months. In an interview with a Russian war blogger posted on Telegram, Prigozhin said his fighters will need to “withdraw in an organized manner or stay and die.” Analysts at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) think tank said his remarks are probably intended to secure more ammunition from the Kremlin. Prigozhin also predicted that Kyiv will launch its counteroffensive by mid-May.
  • One person was killed and another injured in Saturday strikes against the southeastern Ukrainian city of Kherson, authorities there said Sunday. Russian forces shelled the city twice and settlements around the region 27 times, the authorities said. Kherson is one of four Ukrainian regions that Russia illegally claimed to have annexed last year, even though its forces do not control the entire territory.
  • Since the fall, Russian commanders have used “increasingly draconian initiatives to improve discipline” among their forces, Britain’s Defense Ministry said Sunday. This includes detaining soldiers who break the rules in “improvised cells consisting of holes in the ground covered with a metal grille,” called “Zindans,” the ministry said. This stricter stance on even misdemeanors marks a change in approach, as “in the early months of the war, many Russian commanders took a relatively light touch in enforcing discipline, allowing those who refused to soldier to quietly return home,” it added.
  • “The likelihood of further missile and airstrikes across Ukraine remains quite high,” the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said as fighting continues, particularly in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine. This includes Bakhmut, where Russian forces continued Saturday to launch offensive operations, it said. ISW analysts wrote that “Russian forces made limited gains in Bakhmut on April 29” in the southwestern and northwestern parts of the city.

Global impact

  • Russia threatened to retaliate against Poland after Warsaw authorities took over a building used as a school by the children of Russian diplomats. Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski said that the building belongs to the city and that the move to repossess it is based on an order from Polish courts and follows a years-long dispute with Moscow. Russia’s Foreign Ministry called it “a blatant violation of the Vienna Convention of 1961” and warned of a “harsh reaction and consequences for the Polish authorities and Poland’s interests in Russia.”
  • Former German chancellor Angela Merkel defended her approach to Russia and Ukraine in an onstage interview with the German newspaper Die Zeit. Merkel led Germany from 2005 to 2021 and has been criticized for deepening her country’s ties with Russia during that time. In the interview, she stood by her efforts to push for an agreement between Russia and Ukraine in 2014 over the Donbas region. She said diplomacy was necessary and should be considered to end the war.
  • Pope Francis ended a three-day trip to Hungary by calling for doors to be opened to migrants and those in need. Francis used his trip to call for more European unity to end the war in Ukraine and help Ukrainian refugees. In his homily, delivered for Mass in Kossuth Lajos Square, the pope said, “Be open and inclusive, then, and in this way, help Hungary to grow in fraternity, which is the path of peace.” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has continued to trade with Russia, held up Sweden’s bid to join NATO and prevented Ukraine’s allies from sending lethal weapons through Hungarian territory.
  • Former U.S. House speaker Nancy Pelosi said she and members of a U.S. delegation who visited Ukraine a few months after Russia’s invasion “thought we could die” during the trip. “It was very, it was dangerous,” Pelosi told the Associated Press in an interview. Pelosi also said she “would have hoped” that the war “would have been over by now” and said that Ukraine must emerge victorious for the sake of democracy. “We must win. We must bring this to a positive conclusion — for the people of Ukraine and for our country,” she told the AP.

ny times logoNew York Times, Large-Scale Russian Attack on Ukraine Kills at Least 25 People, Marc Santora and Victoria Kim, April 29, 2023 (print ed.). Missiles and drones were used to target cities across the country. Most of the strikes were intercepted, officials said, including a cluster aimed at Kyiv.

Russia bombarded towns and cities across the country in its first major attack in more than a month.

A rocket slammed into an apartment block in central Ukraine on Friday morning, as a Russian aerial assault against towns and cities across the country killed at least 25 people and injured dozens more, officials said.

In the first wide-ranging Russian assault against civilian targets in more than a month, air alarms blared around 4 a.m. as Russian bombers over the Caspian Sea unleashed about two dozen cruise missiles and attack drones at targets across Ukraine.

The deadliest attack appeared to be in the central city of Uman, which is nearly 200 miles north of the front line and has not been a frequent target of attacks.

ny times logoNew York Times, They Refused to Fight for Russia. The Law Did Not Treat Them Kindly, Neil MacFarquhar, April 30, 2023. Since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, hundreds of Russian men have faced criminal charges for avoiding battle. It has not stopped others from doing the same.

An officer in the Federal Guard Service, which is responsible for protecting President Vladimir V. Putin, decided last fall to avoid fighting in Ukraine by sneaking across the southern border into Kazakhstan.

Russian FlagThe officer, Maj. Mikhail Zhilin, disguised himself as a mushroom picker, wearing camouflage and carrying a couple of small bottles of cognac so that he could douse himself and then act drunk and disoriented if he encountered the Russian border patrol.

In the dark, the lean, fit major navigated across the forested frontier without incident, but he was arrested on the other side.

“Freedom is not given to people that easily,” he told his wife, Ekaterina Zhilina, months later, after Kazakhstan rejected his bid for political asylum and handed him back to Russia to face trial for desertion.

“He had these romantic notions when he first began his military-academic studies,” Ms. Zhilina said in a recent interview, describing perceptions drawn from Russian literature about the honor and pride inherent in defending your homeland. “But everything soured when the war started.”

Major Zhilin is among the hundreds of Russian men who faced criminal charges for becoming war refuseniks since Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year. Some dodge the draft, while those already serving desert or refuse orders to redeploy on the bloody, chaotic battlefields of Ukraine.

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Global News

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. evacuation convoy reaches Sudanese port city, State Dept. says, Karen DeYoung, Adela Suliman, Katharine Houreld and Rachel Chason, April 30, 2023 (print ed.). An evacuation convoy organized by the U.S. government and carrying American citizens and other foreign nationals reached the Sudanese port city of Port Sudan on Saturday, the State Department said.

sudan sudanese flag on the map of africaThe caravan included more than a dozen local buses and evacuated 300 U.S. citizens from the capital, Khartoum, under the protection of armed drones, according to a U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The official was not authorized to discuss the situation on the record.

The State Department said Saturday that it was assisting U.S. citizens and others who are eligible with “onward travel to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.”

“This builds on the work the U.S. government has done this week to facilitate the departure of our diplomats by military assisted departure, and hundreds of other American citizens by land convoys, flights on partner air craft, and sea,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also approved a request for assistance from the State Department “to support the safe departure of U.S. citizens and their immediate family members via overland,” deputy Pentagon press secretary Sabrina Singh said on Saturday.

The Pentagon “deployed U.S. intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets to support air and land evacuation routes,” she said in a statement. “Our focus has been and remains to help as many U.S. citizens depart as safely as possible.”

Conflict in Sudan, Africa’s third-most populous nation, erupted earlier this month between the Sudanese army, which is loyal to Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), whose leader is Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti.

  •   New York Times, U.S. Begins Overland Evacuation of American Civilians From Sudan, Declan Walsh, Eric Schmitt, Edward Wong and Abdi Latif Dahir, April 29, 2023 (print ed.). A bus convoy carrying about 300 people was the first U.S.-organized evacuation effort of Americans other than diplomats since fighting broke out nearly two weeks ago in the northeast African nation.

Britain has evacuated 1,573 people since Tuesday from an airfield north of Khartoum, most of them British nationals. Germany and France have evacuated another 1,700 people by air. At least 3,000 more from various countries have been evacuated by sea from Port Sudan to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, Saudi authorities said.

 

paraguay flag map

ny times logoNew York Times, With Paraguay Election, a Test for Latin America’s Leftward Shift, Jack Nicas and Laurence Blair, April 30, 2023. Paraguay, perhaps South America’s most staunchly conservative nation, will pick a president as the country grapples with poverty and corruption.

Paraguay, the landlocked nation of 7 million people in the center of South America, picks a new president on Sunday. The vote will test the strength of Latin America’s leftward shift in recent years.

Opposition challengers have won the last 16 freely held presidential elections in Latin America, and six of the region’s seven largest countries have elected leftist leaders since 2018.

Now it will be seen whether that trend can hold with Paraguay, perhaps South America’s most staunchly conservative nation, as it grapples with deep poverty, a sputtering economy and deeply rooted corruption.

The conservative Colorado Party is seeking to retain its grip on the country, which it has controlled for all but five of the past 76 years, including four decades of military dictatorship.

 

President Joe Biden and South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol stand as their two country's national anthems are played during a State Arrival Ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Washington, Wednesday, April 26, 2023 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

President Joe Biden and South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol stand as their two country's national anthems are played during a State Arrival Ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Washington, Wednesday, April 26, 2023 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: After Warmth From U.S., South Korea’s Leader Faces a Different Tune at Home, Choe Sang-Hun, April 30, 2023 (print ed.). President Yoon Suk Yeol’s foreign policy, aligning his country more closely with Washington and Tokyo, has polarized his country.

South Korea FlagPresident Yoon Suk Yeol, below left, went to Washington to reset South Korean diplomacy by drawing closer to the United States and taking a larger role on the yoon suk yeol ointernational stage. If the warmth of his reception there was the gauge of success, he did well.

President Biden welcomed him as “my friend.” Mr. Yoon belted out “American Pie” while the crowd whooped along during the White House dinner. On Thursday, he addressed the United States Congress, thanking Americans for their support during the Korean War, and extolling a deep relationship between the countries that helped energize South Korea’s rise to become a global technological and cultural powerhouse.

“Even if you didn’t know my name, you may know BTS and Blackpink,” Mr. Yoon said to chuckles from American lawmakers. “BTS beat me to the White House. But I beat them to Capitol Hill.”

North Korean flagBut Mr. Yoon now returns home to South Korea to a decidedly colder audience — a public that has punished him with low approval ratings and, in some sectors, has deep misgivings over a pivot toward the United States that could alienate China and threaten the country’s long tradition of diplomatic caution.

ny times logoNew York Times, Many in U.K. Greet King Charles’s Coronation With a ‘Take It or Leave It’ Shrug, Mark Landler, April 30, 2023. The king’s image may be blanketing Britain, but some are more focused on a cost-of-living crisis than on celebrating a dysfunctional royal family.

When King Charles III is crowned on Saturday, he will undergo a ritual so rare in modern British history that it last occurred 70 years ago, roughly the wait between sightings of Halley’s comet. And yet the coronation has yet to capture the imagination of a Britain preoccupied by other concerns.

United Kingdom flagImages of the new king — in chocolate, in Legos and in wax — are popping up in bakeries, toy stores and at Madame Tussauds wax museum. Ancient relics of coronation, like the Scottish stone of destiny, are being delivered to Westminster Abbey for the ceremony. Charles and his queen consort, Camilla, are rehearsing every step of the service in a specially staged room at Buckingham Palace.

But in a recent poll of 3,070 adults in Britain by the market research firm YouGov, 64 percent of respondents said they had little or no interest in the coronation. Only a third said they were strongly or fairly interested in it. Among those aged 18 to 24, the number voicing little or no interest rose to 75 percent.

“Love for the royal family has sort of declined,” said Jason Abdalla, 24, an information technology worker outside a pub last Friday in the exclusive Mayfair neighborhood of London. “It feels like appreciating the monarchy is an older, more mature thing. I mean, my parents are into it. They love the royal family. It’s ‘take it or leave it,’ for me.”

washington post logoWashington Post, In coronation twist, King Charles to pledge to protect ‘all faiths,’ William Booth, April 30, 2023. The upcoming coronation of Charles III, which will attract a global audience, will not be the “woke” mash-up some conservatives feared but will be unprecedented in its inclusivity.

The new king wants to present himself not only as the “Defender of the Faith,” meaning the Church of England, but all faiths, here and across the realm.
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In a remarkable twist, at the urging of Charles, the coronation will acknowledge that Britain is no longer an exclusively Christian country, but is in fact a multifaith nation, including many who believe in no deity at all.

Details of the coronation service were released on Saturday by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and contain many moments that seek to embrace the 21st-century realities of both Britain and the far-flung nations of the Commonwealth.

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Trump Cases, Allies, Insurrectionists

 

Truth Social whistleblower Will Wilkerson (Washington Post photo by Cornell Watson). Truth Social whistleblower Will Wilkerson (Washington Post photo by Cornell Watson).

 washington post logoWashington Post, He blew the whistle on Trump’s Truth Social. Now he works at Starbucks, Drew Harwell, April 30, 2023 (print ed.).  “It’s an honest day’s work,” he says about the $16-an-hour job, the only work he’s found since he was fired from the Trump Media platform he helped found.

About six months ago, Will Wilkerson (was the executive vice president of operations for former president Donald Trump’s media business, a co-founder of Trump’s Truth Social website and a holder of stock options that might have one day made him a millionaire.

truth social logoToday, he is a certified barista trainer at a Starbucks inside a Harris Teeter grocery store, where he works 5:30 a.m. shifts in a green apron and slip-resistant shoes, making Frappuccinos for $16 an hour.

“It’s an honest day’s work,” he says, sitting near the flower kiosk of the supermarket in a North Carolina suburb, which he asked not be named due to fears of harassment. “I love what I do.”

Wilkerson, 38, has become one of the biggest threats to the Trump company’s future: a federally protected whistleblower whose attorneys say has provided 150,000 emails, contracts and other internal documents to the Securities and Exchange Commission and investigators in Florida and New York.

Wilkerson last year publicly accused Trump Media and Technology Group of violating securities laws, telling The Washington Post he could not stay silent while the company’s executives gave what he viewed as misleading information to investors, many of whom are small-time shareholders loyal to the Trump brand.

The company fired him shortly after, saying he had “concocted psychodramas” but not responding to the specifics of his claims. This month, the company’s chief executive, the former Republican congressman Devin Nunes, sued Wilkerson for defamation in a Florida circuit court, claiming he had been subjected to “anxiety,” “insecurity,” “mental anguish” and “emotional distress” as a result of Wilkerson’s comments.

 

Justice Department Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, left, and former President Donald Trump, shown in a collage via CNN.

Justice Department Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, left, and former President Donald Trump, shown in a collage via CNN.

ny times logoNew York Times, Prosecutors are investigating whether Donald Trump and his allies used false claims of election fraud to solicit donations, Maggie Haberman, Alan Feuer and Jonathan Swan, April 29, 2023 (print ed.). The Justice Department has been gathering evidence about whether the former president and his allies solicited donations with claims of election fraud they knew to be false.

Justice Department log circularAs they investigate former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, federal prosecutors have also been drilling down on whether Mr. Trump and a range of political aides knew that he had lost the race but still raised money off claims that they were fighting widespread fraud in the vote results, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Led by the special counsel Jack Smith, prosecutors are trying to determine whether Mr. Trump and his aides violated federal wire fraud statutes as they raised as much as $250 million through a political action committee by saying they needed the money to fight to reverse election fraud even though they had been told repeatedly that there was no evidence to back up those fraud claims.

The prosecutors are looking at the inner workings of the committee, Save America PAC, and at the Trump campaign’s efforts to prove its baseless case that Mr. Trump had been cheated out of victory.

washington post logoWashington Post, E. Jean Carroll takes stand again after testifying Trump raped her, Kim Bellware, Shayna Jacobs and Mark Berman, April 28, 2023 (print ed.). E. Jean Carroll is on the witness stand again Thursday in her civil lawsuit against former president Donald Trump. Carroll, a writer, has accused Trump of raping her in the mid-1990s. Trump has denied Carroll’s allegation, which she first made public in 2019, and called her a liar. Carroll testified Wednesday for about 3½ hours, e jean carroll cover new york magazinespeaking in graphic detail about how she says Trump assaulted her.

E. Jean Carroll has said that after Trump assaulted her in the mid-1990s, she told two friends and then chose to stay silent for more than two decades, fearful of what would happen if she spoke out.

Carroll made her accusations public in 2019. Testifying on Wednesday, Carroll said she has regretted her choice since then. By the time she accused Trump, he was in the White House, commanded enormous attention and had a throng of devoted supporters.

 

 

Members of former U.S. President Donald Trump's legal team, including (L-R) Susan Necheles, Todd Blanche and Joe Tacopina depart Trump Tower en route to a court appearance on April 04, 2023 in New York City (Photo by John Moore via Getty Images).

Members of former U.S. President Donald Trump's legal team, including (L-R) Susan Necheles, Todd Blanche and Joe Tacopina depart Trump Tower en route to a court appearance on April 04, 2023 in New York City (Photo by John Moore via Getty Images).

Raw Story, Trump lawyer Tacopina fell 'into a trap' during E. Jean Carroll cross-examination: legal expert, Tom Boggioni, April 29, 2023. Appearing on MSNBC's "The Katie Phang Show" on Saturday morning, former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance claimed that the E. Jean Carroll rape and defamation trial is not going well for Donald Trump and that his attorney, Joe Tacopina is not helping matters.

raw story logo squareSpeaking with the host, Vance said that the former president's attorney stepped into a familiar "trap" when questioning a sexual assualt victim and it likely did not play well with the jury.

Asked by host Phang where the case is headed, Vance explained, "Well, the problem that defense lawyers have on cross-examination in a case like this, Katie, is that even though it's not a criminal rape prosecution, the civil case nears the same sorts of issues."

"The defense lawyer has to do two things: he's got to make the victim's story not credible in the eyes of the jury and there is got to be some effort to diminish the victim's credibility," she continued. "Frankly, from what we've been able to see, of course, there are no cameras in the courtroom, but we're reading the printouts of what's going on."

"He doesn't really seem to touch Carroll," she suggested. "She's a very determined, a very fierce witness. Her story is consistent, and there is no real inroads he makes there."

"He falls into this other trap that the defense lawyers have to be wary of in a sexual assault case," she added. "By going on the attack against Carroll he runs the risk of making her credibility stronger, of putting the jury on her side and willing to listen to her testimony. That looks to be how the trial is going at this moment."

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djt mike pence

 

More On 2024 U.S. Presidential Race

 

Former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, anti-vax activists Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Charlene Bollinger, and longtime Trump ally and advisor Roger Stone, left to right, backstage at a July 2021 Reawaken America event. The photo was posted but later removed by Bollinger, who has appeared with Kennedy at multiple events. She and her husband sponsored an anti-vaccine, pro-Trump rally near the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Bollinger celebrated the attack and her husband tried to enter the Capitol. Kennedy later appeared in a video for their Super PAC. Kennedy has repeatedly invoked Nazis and the Holocaust when talking about measures aimed at mitigating the spread of COVID-19, such as mask requirements and vaccine mandates. Kennedy, who has announced a presidential campaign for 2024, has at times invoked his family’s legacy in his anti-vaccine work, including sometimes using images of President Kennedy.

Former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, anti-vax activists Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Charlene Bollinger, and longtime Trump ally and advisor Roger Stone, left to right, backstage at a July 2021 Reawaken America event. The photo was posted but later removed by Bollinger, who has appeared with Kennedy at multiple events. She and her husband sponsored an anti-vaccine, pro-Trump rally near the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Bollinger celebrated the attack and her husband tried to enter the Capitol. Kennedy later appeared in a video for their Super PAC. Kennedy has repeatedly invoked Nazis and the Holocaust when talking about measures aimed at mitigating the spread of COVID-19, such as mask requirements and vaccine mandates. Kennedy, who has announced a presidential campaign for 2024, has at times invoked his family’s legacy in his anti-vaccine work, including sometimes using images of President Kennedy.


Going Deep with Russ Baker, Investigative Commentary: How Robert F. Kennedy Jr., His Presidential Candidacy and Vaccine Views, Help Trump, Russ Baker, right, russ bakerbest-selling author, media critic and founder of the investigative project WhoWhatWhy, April 29-30, 2023. Will Roger Stone’s Trump-Kennedy “dream ticket” come true?

whowhatwhy logoI have mixed feelings about Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the recently announced challenger to President Biden for the 2024 Democratic nomination. But not evenly mixed feelings.

On the positive side, he is one of the very few members of the Kennedy family willing to risk saying what others in the family will not: Key people in charge of investigating the deaths of his uncle and father, John and Robert, consistently failed to pursue meaningful leads that contradicted the official story.

Bobby Jr.’s willingness to endure a broad range of risks for talking about that topic impressed me, and led me to look at what else he has said, including his bracing critique of the military-intelligence-industrial complex.

Unfortunately, the good news ends there. It’s one thing to recognize real conspiracies and another to embrace all kinds of disinformation in keeping with his preconceived ideas, which are not supported by fact.

Which takes us to RFK Jr.’s views on public health.

His outspoken positions and continuous leadership of the anti-vaccination movement are a huge blot on his overall record. Because it’s such a striking and profound departure from evidence-based logic, I think it instantly disqualifies him as a presidential candidate.

In upcoming columns, I’ll take a look at the claims Kennedy has publicized regarding vaccines.

This country faces too many complex challenges and perils to turn the presidency over to someone who lacks good judgment on a subject as important as this. He shouldn’t be president, and even his spoiler role is a bad and terribly dangerous idea — given the overall stakes.

None other than the villainous Steve Bannon, a longtime Trump adviser, spent months trying to convince RFK Jr. to run. Bannon is expert at generating chaos, and he’s found the perfect vehicle.

Meanwhile, Roger Stone has proposed a “dream ticket” — Trump and Kennedy, together. Yes, this is actually happening. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see where this is headed. It’s obviously not good for the country, not good for humanity. Now is the time to speak up to head off potential disaster.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Will the Economy Make or Break Biden in 2024? Peter Coy, right, April 29, 2023. Now that President Biden has announced his intention to peter coyrun for a second term, economists and politicos are assessing whether his candidacy will be helped or hurt by the performance of the economy. If there’s a recession, will it be over and mostly forgotten by Election Day?

Oxford Economics did an initial run of its election forecasting model, which takes economic factors into account, and found that Biden is in line to get around 55 percent of the popular vote, without any assumption about his opponent, according to a research briefing on Wednesday. Paul Krugman, my Opinion colleague, wrote Thursday that “the idea that the economy is going to pose a huge problem for Democrats next year isn’t backed by the available data.”

The truth is, though, that we really don’t know who will win the 2024 election, or even what role the economy will play in it. As somebody who writes about economics, I’d love to say that the state of the economy leading up to Nov. 5, 2024, will matter a lot. But that does not seem to be the case, according to people I spoke with this week. One possible reason is that voters have become more polarized and set in their preferences, and thus less swayed by the ups and downs of the economy.

For example, let’s say former President Donald Trump captures the Republican nomination. Most Biden supporters wouldn’t vote for him no matter how bad the economy got in 2024 — just as most Trump supporters won’t vote for Biden no matter how good the economy gets under the incumbent. James Carville’s admonition in 1992 that it’s “the economy, stupid” doesn’t hold up in this era of hyperpartisanship.

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U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

World Crisis Radio, Weekly Strategic Overview and What You Can Do About It: 2024 campaign kicks off with confrontation over MAGA plan to force US default! Webster G. Tarpley,  right, author and historian, April 29, 2023 (117:30 mins.). Seeking to webster tarpley 2007extort killer austerity in federal budget, Qevin McCarthy manages to pass a budget resolution demanding 22% cuts in Medicaid, veterans’ benefits, student loan debt relief, IRS modernization, and Social Security/Medicare administration; Large areas of discretionary spending would be crippled;

XIV Amendment makes default on US public debt unconstitutional and illegal, meaning there can be no debt ceiling; Biden must order Yellen to maintain the normal schedule of Treasury securities auctions to make sure that public debt is kept solvent and fully funded, with all legal obligations paid on time-and without reference to treasonous antics of MAGA-Tea Party clique in House;

Negotiations with terrorists and hostage takers are contrary to US policy in any case;

Pence testifies for 7-8 hours before Jack Smith grand jury; Trump rape trial resumes Monday; July-August may be prime time for Fulton County indictments;
ulysses grant matthew bradyWidow of Putin mentor and St. Petersburg Mayor Sobchak warns that Kremlin dictator has lost his mind; Harbingers of Ukraine offensive multiply;

Nebraska and South Carolina reject draconian abortion bans; Supremes stall on medication abortions; Roberts snubs invitation to appear before Senators as Supreme Court corruption scandal widens;

Recalling the massive historical achievements of U.S. Grant (the future president is shown at right in a photo by Matthew Brady), born April 27, 1822.

 

north carolina map


ny times logoNew York Times, North Carolina Gerrymander Ruling Reflects Politicization of Judiciary Nationally, Michael Wines, April 29, 2023 (print ed.). Last year, the court voided the state’s legislative and congressional maps as illegal gerrymanders. Now with a Republican majority, it says the opposite.

Last year, Democratic justices on the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that maps of the state’s legislative and congressional districts drawn to give Republicans lopsided majorities were illegal gerrymanders. On Friday, the same court led by a newly elected Republican majority looked at the same facts, reversed itself and said it had no authority to act.

The practical effect is to enable the Republican-controlled General Assembly to scrap the court-ordered State House, Senate and congressional district boundaries that were used in elections last November, and draw new maps skewed in Republicans’ favor for elections in 2024. The 5-to-2 ruling fell along party lines, reflecting the takeover of the court by Republican justices in partisan elections last November.

The decision has major implications not just for the state legislature, where the G.O.P. is barely clinging to the supermajority status that makes its decisions veto-proof, but for the U.S. House, where a new North Carolina map could add at least three Republican seats in 2024 to what is now a razor-thin Republican majority. Overturning such a recent ruling by the court was a highly unusual move, particularly on a pivotal constitutional issue in which none of the facts had changed.

The North Carolina case mirrors a national trend in which states that elect their judges — Ohio, Kentucky, Kansas, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and others — have seen races for their high court seats turned into multimillion-dollar political battles, and their justices’ rulings viewed through a deeply partisan lens.

 

ny times logoNew York Times, Gov. Hochul Severs Ties With Top Political Adviser in Face of Backlash, Nicholas Fandos and Jeffery C. Mays, April 30, 2023. Gov. Kathy Hochul and the adviser, Adam Sullivan, agreed that he should step down after The New York Times detailed how his guidance and behavior were questioned by others.

A top political adviser to Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York abruptly informed colleagues that he would resign on Sunday, citing a New York Times report that called into question his political counsel and described a toxic work environment under him.

The adviser, Adam C. Sullivan, was not a state government employee but had been the de facto head of Ms. Hochul’s political operation, as well as a trusted and well-compensated confidant for more than a decade. He oversaw her 2022 campaign from his home in Colorado, and she had deputized him to help steer the beleaguered state Democratic Party.

democratic donkey logoIn an email Sunday to colleagues, including the state party chairman, Mr. Sullivan apologized for behavior that included belittling and marginalizing his subordinates and said he and the governor agreed he should relinquish his responsibilities “for the foreseeable future.”

“In retrospect, I can see the toll that the campaign took on me,” he wrote in the email, sent just after 5 p.m. “And after some serious thinking, I think it best if I take some time away from politics and the campaign environment and get healthy.”

Ms. Hochul, a Democrat who had praised Mr. Sullivan just last week, confirmed his resignation in a separate brief statement. She did not elaborate on who might fill his place, and Mr. Sullivan did not immediately respond to requests for additional comment.
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“I was disappointed by what was described in The New York Times story about Adam, and he and I agreed that he should step back,” Ms. Hochul said.

ny times logoNew York Times, George Santos, Instead of Shrinking From the Spotlight, Steps Into It, Nicholas Fandos, April 30, 2023 (print ed.). Representative George Santos seems to be testing whether his notoriety will translate into a form of celebrity, if not eventual acceptance.

djt maga hatFour months after his whole concocted biography unraveled — one Wall Street job and collegiate volleyball championship at a time — Mr. Santos remains a pariah. Colleagues refuse to work with him, dooming his legislative priorities. His local party has vowed to defeat him. And a slew of law enforcement and ethics investigators are combing through his life and campaign finances.

But rather than shrinking from the attention, the 34-year-old congressman is stepping ever more definitely toward the spotlight. Mr. Santos seems eager to test whether he can make the journey from laughingstock to legitimacy by aligning himself with former President Donald J. Trump — or at least signaling that he’s in on the joke.

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djt ron desantis cnn collage

 

U.S. National Security

 

This image made from video provided by WCVB-TV, shows Jack Teixeira, in T-shirt and shorts, being taken into custody by armed tactical agents on Thursday, April 13, 2023, in Dighton, Mass. A judge is expected to hear arguments Thursday, April 27, over whether Teixeira, accused of leaking highly classified military documents about the Ukraine war and other issues, should remain in jail while he awaits trial. (WCVB-TV via AP, File)

This image made from video provided by WCVB-TV, shows Jack Teixeira, in T-shirt and shorts, being taken into custody by armed tactical agents on Thursday, April 13, 2023, in Dighton, Mass. A judge is expected to hear arguments Thursday, April 27, over whether Teixeira, accused of leaking highly classified military documents about the Ukraine war and other issues, should remain in jail while he awaits trial. (WCVB-TV via AP, File)

ny times logo New York Times, Airman in Leaks Case Worked on a Global Network Essential to Drone Missions, John Ismay, April 30, 2023. Airman Jack Teixeira’s unit is part of a vast system that carries video and data from spy satellites and drone missions worldwide.

On an Air National Guard base in Cape Cod, Mass., more than 1,200 military service members and civilians maintain one of the largest support systems for Pentagon drone missions around the world.

One of the workers was Airman First Class Jack Teixeira, the 21-year-old accused of posting top-secret military reports online.

Why such a young junior-ranking service member on Cape Cod had access to sensitive intelligence, including battlefield updates on the war in Ukraine, has to do with the massive expansion in military drone operations in the post-9/11 wars that was made possible by better satellite communication networks. It is also the result of a dramatic reorganization in the Air National Guard nearly two decades ago that left small, far-flung air bases in need of new responsibilities. The one on Cape Cod and many others became intelligence outfits.

His arrest and subsequent Justice Department disclosures shined a light on a little-known Air Force mission that began in the 1990s and grew rapidly, eventually spreading to the base on Cape Cod. Called the Distributed Common Ground System, it is a vast computer network that handles the immense amounts of data generated by surveillance drones, spy satellites and other sensors — information that intelligence analysts pore through and pass along to troops on the ground.

 

President Barack Obama in the White House Situation Room discussing the mission against Osama bin Laden on May 1, 2011. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama in the White House Situation Room discussing the mission against Osama bin Laden on May 1, 2011. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

washington post logoWashington Post, Newly released Obama White House photos capture the day bin Laden was killed, Nate Jones, April 29, 2023 (pr int ed.). The Washington Post obtained newly released photos taken by official White House photographers of key moments inside the White House during the 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound.

A cache of newly released government photographs reveals key moments inside the White House during the 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, including images of top officials shaking hands after learning that bin Laden had been killed and President Barack Obama calling other world leaders to break the news. Through a Freedom of Information Act request to the Obama Presidential Library, The Washington Post obtained more than 900 photos taken by official White House photographers on May 1, 2011. Below is a selection of 23 photographs and the moments they captured as recounted in Barack Obama’s memoir A Promised Land and an oral history by Garrett M. Graff published in Politico.

On April 29, 2011, Obama authorized the raid on the complex in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Intelligence reports had indicated that it was the likely location for bin Laden, the al-Qaeda founder who masterminded the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States that killed more than 3,000 people. Because of weather forecasts and the lack of moonlight, intelligence officials set the date as Sunday, May 1. The president then left Washington for a planned trip, including a brief tour of tornado damage in Tuscaloosa, Ala. He flew back to Washington and attended the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, where he cracked jokes mocking Donald Trump.

On May 1, the White House canceled all public tours — including some for celebrities who had traveled to D.C. for the correspondents’ dinner. According to then-Deputy Director of the CIA Mike Morell, any meeting about the raid was logged in the White House calendar as a “Mickey Mouse meeting” to avoid scrutiny. Cameras in the room had been turned off or covered. Obama played nine holes of golf that morning, as he routinely did on Sundays.

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U.S. Abortion Laws, #MeToo, Public Health

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Congress holds the abortion hearing we have been waiting for, Jennifer Rubin, right, April 28, 2023. Last week, I wrote a pointed column jennifer rubin new headshotcriticizing Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and his fellow Democrats for not playing hardball with increasingly recalcitrant Republicans. I wrote that, while the committee held a hearing last summer on the legal ramifications of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, it hadn’t brought forward women and doctors to testify about the disastrous, real-world consequences of abortion bans that followed the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

On Wednesday, the committee held just such a hearing, inviting a Texas woman who nearly died because of her state’s abortion ban; an esteemed law professor; a practicing OB/GYN; a doctor from an antiabortion group; and a senior research associate from Notre Dame — a Catholic university.

The most compelling and heartbreaking testimony came from Amanda Zurawski, who lives in Texas. During her prepared remarks, she explained that after sending out invitations to her baby shower she began experiencing symptoms, her membranes ruptured, and she was “told by multiple doctors that the loss of our daughter was inevitable.” However, her doctors “didn’t feel safe enough to intervene as long as her heart was beating or until I was sick enough for the ethics board at the hospital to consider my life at risk and permit the standard health care I needed at that point — an abortion.”

Zurawski couldn’t very well drive to a “safe” state. (“Developing sepsis — which can kill quickly — in a car in the middle of the West Texas desert, or 30,000 feet above the ground, is a death sentence, and it’s not a choice we should have had to even consider.”) Instead, she had to wait — for either the fetus’s heart to stop or to get really sick. She nearly died from sepsis, which is why the standard of care in such circumstances is to perform an abortion before the woman gets very sick and risks death.

washington post logoWashington Post, E. Jean Carroll says #MeToo inspired her to go public with accusation, Shayna Jacobs, Kim Bellware and Mark Berman, April 28, 2023 (print ed.). E. Jean Carroll, who has accused Donald Trump of raping her two decades before he became president, testified Thursday that the #MeToo movement inspired her to speak out after years of remaining silent.

“Woman after woman stood up,” Carroll said. “I thought, well, this may be a way to change the culture of sexual violence. … I thought, we can actually change things if we all tell our stories.”

Taking the stand for a second day as part of her civil lawsuit against Trump, Carroll was questioned by Joe Tacopina, the former president’s attorney, who appeared focused on picking apart her allegations and generally weakening her credibility with jurors.

Carroll, a writer and former advice columnist, said Trump raped her during a chance encounter at a Manhattan department store in the mid-1990s. She publicly accused him in 2019, publishing a memoir that included her allegation. Trump, who was in the White House at the time, denied that the attack ever happened.

E. Jean Carroll testifies Trump raped her, then ‘shattered my reputation’

The timing of her public allegation has formed a central part of Trump’s defense, with Tacopina saying in his opening remarks this week that Carroll was “falsely accusing him of rape to make money, to sell a book.”

But when Tacopina questioned her on Thursday, Carroll testified that she made the decision to come forward after seeing the flood of sexual assault allegations made against Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced film producer, and numerous other powerful men.

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 Future U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump Republican nominee, during his Senate confirmation hearing (Pool photo by Reuters).

Future U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump Republican nominee, during his Senate confirmation hearing (Pool photo by Reuters).

 

U.S. Culture Wars: Media, Schools, Disney, LGBT

 

ron desantis hands out

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: This Is What the Right-Wing Takeover of a Progressive College Looks Like, Michelle Goldberg, right, April 30, 2023. When I first met michelle goldberg thumbMatthew Lepinski, the faculty chair of New College of Florida, he was willing to give the right-wingers sent to remake his embattled progressive public school a chance.

This was in January, a few weeks after Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, above, appointed six activist conservatives, including the culture war strategist Chris Rufo, to New College’s board of trustees. Rufo, the ideological entrepreneur who made critical race theory a Republican boogeyman, was open about his new college florida logoambition to turn the quirky, L.G.B.T.Q.-friendly liberal arts school into a public version of Hillsdale, a conservative Christian college in Michigan with close ties to both DeSantis and Donald Trump. He hoped the transformation would be proof of concept for his dream: a conservative takeover of higher education across the country.

So when Rufo and another new trustee, Eddie Speir, the co-founder of a private Christian school called Inspiration Academy, arrived at New College for meetings with students and faculty, they were received with skepticism and hostility. But Lepinski, a computer science professor and the faculty representative on the board of trustees, was hopeful that they might figure out a way to work together, and he urged the school community to hear them out.

That’s why it was so striking when, at the end of a combative three-hour meeting on Wednesday in which the trustees rejected five tenure applications, Lepinski quit. He’s not just leaving the board, but New College altogether. “I can no longer see a way that I can be effective here, given the current board of trustees,” he said at an impromptu news conference afterward.

When I spoke to Rufo in early January, he said that New College would look very different in the following 120 days. Nearly four months later, that hasn’t entirely come to pass, but it’s clear where things are headed.

The new trustees fired the school’s president, replacing her with Richard Corcoran, the Republican former speaker of the Florida House. They fired its chief diversity officer and dismantled the diversity, equity and inclusion office.

Eliana Salzhauer, whose 17-year-old son is a New College economics student, compared the seemingly inexorable transformation of the school to Twitter under Elon Musk: It looked the same at first, even as it gradually degraded into a completely different experience. “They are turning a top-rated academic institution into a third-rate athletic facility,” she said.

For many, the board of trustees meeting was the clearest sign yet that this is the last semester of New College as they know it. The pivot point was the trustees’ decision to override the typical tenure process.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Disney v. DeSantis: How Strong Is the Company’s Lawsuit? David French, right, April 30, 2023. To understand why Gov. Ron DeSantis of david french croppedFlorida should lose in his quest to punish Disney for the high crime of publicly disagreeing with Ron DeSantis, it is first necessary to talk about tow trucks. Specifically, it’s necessary to discuss a case about tow trucks and the First Amendment and how it answers a key question: If the government offers some person or entity a benefit, can it also take it away?

The tow truck story begins in the early 1990s in Northlake, Ill. For decades the city had maintained a list of tow truck companies available for use by the Police Department. The list worked simply enough — when the police needed towing services, they simply went down the list before each tow, with the next towing company receiving the next call. While towing companies didn’t have a right to be on the list, once placed on it, the city’s policy was to remove companies only “for cause.”

In 1993, John Gratzianna, the owner of O’Hare Truck Service, declined to support the campaign of the incumbent mayor of Northlake, backing his opponent instead. The mayor then removed Gratzianna’s company from the towing list, and Gratzianna sued.

The case was one of many to raise the constitutional question of when the government is allowed to take away benefits it was never obligated to provide. Let’s take, for example, public employment. Being hired for a government job isn’t a right. It’s a privilege.

But if the government isn’t obligated to hire me, does that mean it can fire me for any reason? Absolutely not. Anti-discrimination laws and constitutional principles prevent it from firing me or punishing me because of my race, sex or religion, for example. And even if I’m a public employee, the First Amendment is going to prevent the government from punishing me when I speak as a private citizen on matters of public concern.

America’s federal, state and local governments control immense resources. Total government spending is over $9 trillion annually, and those are just direct expenditures. The government also controls the ability to enact tax breaks and other financial incentives for individuals and businesses. And while there are good arguments against governments providing economic inducements and incentives to private corporations, those inducements and incentives cannot then depend on an implied requirement that the corporations agree with the government on matters of public policy. Otherwise, governments could use the power of the purse to create a two-tiered society, granting and withholding government largess on the basis of political agreement.

disney logoMake no mistake, the Florida government’s actions against Disney were directly motivated by the company’s disagreement with a policy pushed by DeSantis. Disney’s legal complaint, filed in federal court in the Northern District of Florida, is chock-full of evidence that the governor and other Florida officials targeted the company for one overriding reason: It put out a statement objecting to House Bill 1557, the Parental Rights in Education Act, which sharply restricted instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida public schools.

ron desantis oStatements from Governor DeSantis and other Republican state officials are remarkably brazen. DeSantis said he thought Disney’s mild opposition — it mainly consisted of a public statement and a phone call from the former Disney C.E.O. Bob Chapek to DeSantis, moves that a number of L.G.B.T. activists considered inadequate — “crossed the line,” and he promised to “make sure we’re fighting back.” He accused Disney of “pledging a frontal assault on a duly enacted law of the State of Florida.”

But those statements were just the tip of the iceberg.

The motivations could not be clearer: The State of Florida is targeting Disney because of the company’s constitutionally protected expression. Or, as Representative Randy Fine, a Republican, stated: “You got me on one thing — this bill does target one company. It targets the Walt Disney Company.”

John Gratzianna and O’Hare Truck Service are far from the only plaintiffs to win a First Amendment retaliation case at the Supreme Court. Prohibitions against government retaliation for protected speech are as clearly established as virtually any constitutional doctrine in American law. But what O’Hare does show us as clearly as any modern Supreme Court case is the idea that denying government benefits is a form of government control, and when it’s done for the express purpose of punishing an exercise of constitutionally protected speech, it violates the Constitution of the United States.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Disney sues DeSantis, says it was ‘left with no other choice,’ Aaron Gregg and Lori Rozsa, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). The entertainment giant’s lawsuit alleges Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has waged a “relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney.”

Walt Disney Co. is suing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), right, over what it calls a “relentless campaign to weaponize government power” — a major escalation of the year-long clash between the entertainment giant and conservative governor.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida came the same day the governor’s handpicked board declared a Disney-friendly deal null and void. Disney and DeSantis’s office have been tussling privately for the past year, but the frequency and intensity of their sparring has intensified dramatically in recent days.

The standoff, which could have major political and economic consequences, began in early 2022 when Disney leaders criticized a controversial education bill advanced by DeSantis and other Florida Republicans. Disney’s resorts in Florida are some of the state’s prime attractions, but DeSantis expressed outrage that the company dare criticize the education bill, and he began attacking the company, saying it had received preferential treatment for too long.

mark walkerThe case has been assigned to Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, right, of Florida's northern federal district court.

DeSantis, whom many consider a top presidential contender, has repeatedly turned to the state’s Republican-controlled legislature to help him rein in Disney. The first effort came in a special session in April 2022, when lawmakers dissolved the special taxing district created in 1967 to help the company develop and control its vast property near Orlando.

But that move quickly caused concerns about what would happen with Disney’s tax and debt burden. Local government officials called it “a $1 billion debt bomb” and said they could have been forced to raise taxes on property owners to pay for what Disney’s district used to fund, such as roads and other services.

DeSantis ordered another special session in February to address that issue by keeping the tax district, but replacing the board selected by Disney — called the Reedy Creek Improvement District — with a new panel. DeSantis chose the five new board members and called the agency the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board. When the new board held its first meeting in March, members said they discovered that the outgoing Disney board had handed over most of their power to Disney. That’s what they voted to overturn on Wednesday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democratic AGs are using the courts to win on abortion, gun control, Scott Wilson, April 30, 2023. Democratic state attorneys general are finding successes that eluded them for years.

For Bob Ferguson, the Democratic attorney general of Washington state, the seventh time proved to be the charm.

For six years, Ferguson pushed a ban on assault-style weapons in Washington’s legislature. Each year, the proposal failed to make it out of committee — until this one. In April, the legislature passed the bill and Gov. Jay Inslee (D) signed it into law.

Ferguson said the “tragic drumbeat” of mass shootings played a role in boosting public support for the measure. And the Democratic base has become younger and more liberal since he first proposed the ban, he said.

“The political aspect of it has been turned on its head,” Ferguson said. “The voters in Washington now want to ban assault weapons, they want to ban high-capacity magazines. That change definitely occurred.”

Ferguson is one of several Democratic attorneys general moving aggressively on key social policy issues to blunt Republican initiatives across the country designed to loosen gun restrictions, outlaw abortion and curtail the rights of transgender residents.

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Climate, Environment, Weather, Energy, Disasters, U.S. Transportation

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Near-record California heat is melting snow and triggering flooding, Dan Stillman and Diana Leonard, April 30, 2023 (print ed.). Flood warnings affect Yosemite National Park and portions of central California as a record-setting snowpack melts.

The heat is on in California. Temperatures reached the 90s in many valley locations Thursday and are forecast to do so again Friday and Saturday, challenging record highs in Sacramento, Redding, Red Bluff, Stockton and Modesto, among other cities.

As temperatures hover 15 to 20 degrees above normal across much of the state, flooding is possible into early next week as mountain snow melts and rivers rise. After an onslaught of atmospheric rivers and other storms since December, the state snowpack is 260 percent of normal and still not far off its record-setting peak one month ago.

Flood watches are in effect through Monday morning for much of the Sierra Nevada, including the Lake Tahoe area, due to the likelihood of strong snowmelt near and below 8,000 feet. The concern is not just for flooding, but also for those who might be enticed to cool off in the water.

washington post logoWashington Post, Metro to increase height of modified fare gates to combat evasion, Justin George, April 29, 2023 (print ed.). The new fare gates are among several changes the agency has made to curb a rise in transit crime and to help riders feel more secure.

Modified fare gates intended to curb a surge in fare evasion within the Metrorail system will be raised another foot higher than previously planned and will be equipped with stronger hinges to make the gates harder to push through.

The design change, announced Thursday, comes after Metro monitored newly installed four-foot-tall doors at the Fort Totten station in Northeast Washington. While transit police said the doors have cut fare evasion in half, officials say some fare avoiders have pushed through the gates. Metro leaders said the added height — making gates five feet tall — and reinforced hinges would lead to even fewer incidents while protecting the expensive, high-tech gates.

The modifications and continuing efforts to slow the ubiquitous offense are part of Metro’s strategy to boost public safety, which has grown into a top concern that surveys have shown is stunting ridership. Metro is searching for solutions to bridge a budget gap stemming from steep decreases in fare revenue as telework rises.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Long Demise of the Stretch Limousine, Jesus Jiménez, April 29, 2023 (print ed.). Once a symbol of affluence, the stretch limo has largely fallen out of favor as the rise of Uber and Lyft, the Great Recession and new regulations hastened a shift to chauffeured vans and S.U.V.s.

Decades ago, stretch limos were a symbol of affluence, used almost exclusively by the rich and famous. Over time, they became more of a common luxury, booked for children’s birthday parties or by teenagers heading to the prom.

These days, it seems as if hardly anyone is riding in a stretch limo. While the limousine name has stuck, the limo industry has shifted to chauffeur services in almost anything but actual stretch limos, which have largely been supplanted by black S.U.V.s, buses and vans.

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Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy

washington post logoWashington Post, Moderna’s billionaire CEO reaped nearly $400 million last year. He also got a raise, Daniel Gilbert, April 30, 2023 (print ed.). Vaccine-maker Moderna is facing pushback over its executive pay practices, while its chief executives says he is donating proceeds of his windfall to charity.

moderna logoStéphane Bancel, below left, chief executive of Moderna, had a good year in 2022, exercising stock options that netted him nearly $393 million. The company decided his pay wasn’t good enough.

stéphane bancelThe Cambridge, Mass.-based biotech, known for its lifesaving coronavirus vaccine, raised his salary last year by 50 percent to $1.5 million and increased his target cash bonus, according to a March securities filing. Bancel, 50, says he is donating the proceeds of covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2stock sales to charity. He owns stock worth at least $2.8 billion and, as of the end of last year, had additional stock-based compensation valued at $1.7 billion.

Moderna emerged from the pandemic as a standout corporate winner, as its vaccine supercharged its stock price and made billionaires of some.

Meidas Touch Network, Opinion: Witness STRIKES BACK against Marjorie Taylor Greene’s VILE Stunt, Ben Meiselas, April 30, 2023. MeidasTouch host Ben Meiselas reports on the response from the Randi Weingarten to Marjorie Taylor Greene’s reprehensible examination during a committee hearing.

washington post logoWashington Post, Nearly 400,000 Virginians risk losing Medicaid, starting Monday, Jenna Portnoy, April 30, 2023. An estimated 140,000 Virginia children will no longer be covered by Medicaid as pandemic-era protections expire.

Starting in May, Virginia will begin the year-long purging of an estimated 400,000 residents from Medicaid rolls as pandemic-era protections unwind, sending people caught in a temporary safety net scrambling to find health care.

The end of a federal vow to hold harmless people on public insurance whose eligibility changed during the coronavirus emergency has states and the District of Columbia scrambling, too, to determine if record-high numbers of Medicaid recipients still qualify.

The tedious process, known as “Medicaid unwinding," will disproportionately impact children, and Latino and Black residents, federal studies show, many of the same groups the government identified as particularly vulnerable to job loss and other economic impacts of covid.

The start of Medicaid disenrollments comes as the federal government put an end to a boost in payments for the tens of millions of Americans who receive food stamps, and as benefits like free coronavirus vaccines and tests associated with the public health emergency set to expire May 11 remain in limbo.

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U.S. Cable News Firings

tucker carlson fox horizontal

ny times logoNew York Times, Guest Essay: Fox News Gambled, but Tucker Can Still Take Down the House, Jason Zengerle, April 30, 2023 (print ed.). Mr. Zengerle, a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, is working on a book about Tucker Carlson.

The cable host has left Fox News. But his dark and outsize influence on the conservative movement — and on American politics — is hardly over.

For the quarter-century-plus that the Fox News Channel has been coming into America’s living rooms, it has operated according to a cardinal tenet: No one at the cable network is bigger than Fox News itself. It’s a lesson Glenn Beck, Megyn Kelly and Bill O’Reilly all learned the hard way after they left Fox and saw their fame and influence (if not their fortunes) evaporate. Once the biggest names in cable news, they now spend their days wandering in the wilderness of podcasts and third-tier streaming platforms. Even Roger Ailes, Fox News’s original architect and the man who devised — and then ruthlessly enforced — the no-one-bigger-than rule, discovered that he was expendable when Rupert Murdoch pushed him out as Fox’s chairman and chief executive in 2016 amid sexual harassment allegations. Mr. Ailes soon disappeared to a mansion in Florida and, less than a year later, died in exile from the media world he’d once commanded.

When Fox News abruptly fired Tucker Carlson, the network’s most popular prime-time host and the most powerful person in conservative media, many savvy press critics predicted the same fate for him: professional oblivion. Mr. Carlson had himself once replaced Ms. Kelly, and later Mr. O’Reilly, and each time he climbed to a new, better slot in the Fox News lineup he garnered bigger and bigger ratings. Now, according to the conventional wisdom, some new up-and-comer would inherit Mr. Carlson’s audience and replace him as the king (or queen) of conservative media. “The ‘talent’ at the Fox News Channel has never been the star,” Politico’s Jack Shafer wrote earlier this week. “Fox itself, which convenes the audience, is the star.”

But there’s good reason to believe Mr. Carlson will be the exception that proves the rule. For one thing, unlike previous stars who have left Fox News, Mr. Carlson departed when he was still at the height of his power, making his firing all the more sudden and shocking. Three days before his sacking, he gave the keynote address at the Heritage Foundation’s 50th anniversary gala. Two weeks before that, he browbeat Texas’ Republican governor to issue a pardon to a man who had been convicted of murdering a Black Lives Matter protester in Austin.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Mark Zuckerberg survived years of scandal, but a pivot to VR might break things, Naomi Nix, April 30, 2023. The Facebook founder has shepherded Meta through public crisis, but amid layoffs, insiders say he has lost his vision and the trust of his workforce.

mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wMark Zuckerberg sounded nervous.

The Meta CEO, left, had just announced that his company would slash thousands of jobs last month, on top of 11,000 layoffs in November.

meta logoDuring an hour-long town hall meeting from the company’s Menlo Park headquarters in California, the decimated workforce peppered Zuckerberg with questions — including why they should have confidence in his leadership.

“That’s a completely fair question,” Zuckerberg responded without his usual bluster, according to a recording of the meeting obtained by The Washington Post.

It was a sobering admission for the CEO, who popularized the phrase “move fast and break things” to describe how he made a scrappy start-up into a towering $116 billion symbol of Silicon Valley success. Zuckerberg has shepherded Meta through years of public turbulence, offering employees confident defiance and facebook logothe security that, despite some missteps, their CEO always bet on the correct future.

But now, roiled by economic tumult, waves of layoffs that will slash some 21,000 workers and a costly investment in the virtual reality “metaverse” that shows no immediate signs of paying off, many inside Meta say Zuckerberg has lost his vision — and the trust of his workforce. Instead, he is steering the company into an unprecedented morale crisis, according to interviews with more than two dozen current and former employees who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Florida’s book-ban frenzy targets Nora Roberts, and she’s not happy, Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman, April 29, 2023. Tiffany Justice, co-founder of the right-wing book-purging organization Moms for Liberty, offered a righteous-sounding answer when asked this past weekend on “CBS Sunday Morning” what sort of book she wants to see remain in schools.

“Books that don’t have pornography in them,” she piously declared. “Let’s just put the bar really, really low. Books that don’t have incest, pedophilia, rape.”

That’s hard to square with what just happened in Martin County, Fla. The school district there recently decided to yank from its high school library circulation eight novels by Nora Roberts, shown above with the cover of one of her more than 220 books, that are not “pornography” at all — largely prompted by objections from a single woman who also happens to be a Moms for Liberty activist.

“All of it is shocking,” Roberts told us. “If you don’t want your teenager reading this book, that’s your right as a mom — and good luck with that. But you don’t have the right to say nobody’s kid can read this book.”

This signals a new trend: Book banners are increasingly going after a wide variety of titles, including romance novels, under the guise of targeting “pornography.” That term is a very flexible one — deliberately so, it appears — and it is sweeping ever more broadly to include books that can’t be described as such in any reasonable sense.

Martin County is where 20 Jodi Picoult novels were recently pulled from school library shelves. This, too, was largely because of objections from that same Moms for Liberty activist, Julie Marshall, head of the group’s local chapter.

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey says Musk wasn’t an ideal leader after all, Faiz Siddiqui and Will Oremus, April 29, 2023. The former CEO issued his strongest criticism yet of Musk’s takeover of the social media site.

jack dorsey small twitterFormer Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, right, issued his sharpest criticism yet of Elon Musk’s leadership of Twitter on Friday, saying Musk has not proved to be the platform’s ideal steward — and should have walked away from buying the site.

The criticisms and explanations came in a series of reply posts Friday night on the fledgling social network Bluesky, a potential Twitter rival that Dorsey helped to start. The remarks illustrate how Musk’s erratic leadership has disillusioned a one-time friend and powerful ally, reflecting a growing backlash against a tumultuous tenure that has sent advertisers fleeing and users searching for alternatives.

Dorsey said he thought Musk, the Tesla CEO who serves in the same role at Twitter today, should have paid $1 billion to back out of the deal to acquire the social media platform. The comments are a stark reversal from Dorsey’s strong endorsement of Musk’s takeover, when he wrote a year ago that if Twitter had to be a company at all, “Elon is the singular solution I trust.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Black Va. lawmakers, NAACP demand ouster of Youngkin’s diversity chief after VMI speech, Ian Shapira, April 30, 2023 (print ed.). Martin D. Brown generated outrage by declaring ‘DEI is dead’ at Virginia Military Institute last week.

virginia military institute logoBlack lawmakers in Virginia’s General Assembly joined the state’s NAACP Friday in calling for the resignation of Martin D. Brown, the state’s chief diversity officer, after he blasted diversity, equity and inclusion programs in a speech at Virginia Military Institute.

State Sen. Lamont Bagby (D-Richmond), the chairman of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, described Brown’s rhetoric as “appalling” and said that all 19 members of his group believe that he needs to leave his job at once.

The Virginia NAACP also issued a statement demanding that Brown step down immediately, citing his “erroneous assumptions” and “lack of fitness for the critically important position he occupies.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Some Colleges Offer Quotes of Competitors’ Prices. Be Wary, Ron Lieber, April 30, 2023 (print ed.). Schools may try to guess other campuses you’re considering and provide a list of their prices. They may not be accurate, our columnist writes.

Every year, a new crop of innocents arrive in the marketplace for an undergraduate degree. Very quickly, they get an education in some unwritten rules.

Families often don’t pay the listed rate. Schools offer website calculators that estimate what families may have to pay, but they make no guarantees. Aid seekers can’t get a real price quote until they’ve applied and been accepted.

And if a student is considering a school like Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y., something strange could happen when the student both seeks the estimated cost and gets the real one after being accepted: The college will quote the prices from five competitors, even though the student didn’t ask for them. Those quotes may all be higher than Manhattanville’s, too.

These estimates come with a big disclaimer: They may be wrong. As you can imagine, some of these other schools are not thrilled with this state of affairs. So why would an institution that offers instruction in mathematics and economics put out suspect figures?

ny times logoNew York Times, An Emotional Answer Shows the Power of Reporter-Player Relationships, Sam Amick, April 29, 2023 (print ed.). Giannis Antetokounmpo was asked a simple question after the Bucks were eliminated from the playoffs. What came next sparked a philosophical discussion.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Requiem for the Newsroom, Maureen Dowd, right, April 30, 2023 (print ed.). I don’t want this to be one of those pieces that bangs on about how maureen dowd thumbLarge Customthings used to be better, and they’ll never be as good again.

But, when it comes to newsrooms, it happens to be true.

As my friend Mark Leibovich, a writer at The Atlantic, noted: “I can’t think of a profession that relies more on osmosis, and just being around other people, than journalism. There’s a reason they made all those newspaper movies, ‘All the President’s Men,’ ‘Spotlight,’ ‘The Paper.’

“There’s a reason people get tours of newsrooms. You don’t want a tour of your local H&R Block office.”

Now, Leibovich said, he does most meetings from home. “At the end of a Zoom call, nobody says, ‘Hey, do you want to get a drink?’ There’s just a click at the end of the meetings. Nothing dribbles out afterward, and you can really learn things from the little meetings after the meetings.”

As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.

But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels.

I’m mystified when I hear that so many of our 20-something news assistants prefer to work from home. At that age, I would have had a hard time finding mentors or friends or boyfriends if I hadn’t been in the newsroom, and I never could have latched onto so many breaking stories if I hadn’t raised my hand and said, “I’ll go.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Hollywood, Both Frantic and Calm, Braces for Writers’ Strike, John Koblin, Brooks Barnes and Nicole Sperling, April 29, 2023 (print ed.). Studios have moved up deadlines for TV writers, and late-night shows are preparing to go dark. But for other parts of the industry, it’s business as usual.

With a Hollywood strike looming, there has been a frantic sprint throughout the entertainment world before 11,500 TV and movie writers potentially walk out as soon as next week.

The possibility of a television and movie writers’ strike — will they, won’t they, how could they? — has been the top conversation topic in the industry for weeks. And in recent days, there has been a notable shift: People have stopped asking one another whether a strike would take place and started to talk about duration. How long was the last one? (100 days in 2007-8.) How long was the longest one? (153 days in 1988.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Newsmax Ratings Climb After Tucker Carlson’s Exit at Fox, Michael M. Grynbaum, April 29, 2023 (print ed.). The niche conservative news channel is still small compared with Fox News, but its viewership has doubled and in some time slots even tripled since Tucker Carlson was dismissed.

Newsmax, the niche conservative news channel that has long played David to Fox News’s Goliath, has seized on Tucker Carlson’s shock dismissal from its rival network and declared itself the true TV home for right-wing Americans.

So far, the strategy is showing some promise.

Viewership of Newsmax remains far below that of Fox News. But its audience at certain hours has doubled, and in some time slots tripled, in the immediate aftermath of Mr. Carlson’s exit — an abrupt spike that has turned heads in conservative circles and the cable news industry.

On Monday evening, Eric Bolling’s 8 p.m. Newsmax program drew 531,000 viewers, according to Nielsen. One week earlier, it had 146,000. On Tuesday, Mr. Bolling’s audience grew to 562,000 viewers, equal to about 80 percent of Anderson Cooper’s CNN viewership that evening. Newsmax’s other prime-time shows also experienced big jumps.

The sharp rise in viewership can be timed almost to the minute of Fox News’s announcement on Monday that it was parting ways with Mr. Carlson, in part because of private messages sent by the anchor that included offensive and crude remarks.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Man kills 5 neighbors after one asked him to stop firing AR-15-style rifle, sheriff says, Justine McDaniel and Nick Parker, April 29, 2023.  The suspect, who has been charged with murder, allegedly became angry when a neighbor asked him to stop shooting his gun in his yard because of the noise, according to the sheriff in San Jacinto County, Tex.

A man using an AR-15-style weapon shot and killed five people Friday, including an 8-year-old — an angry response to the neighbors’ request that he stop shooting in his yard while their baby was trying to sleep, Texas authorities said Saturday. The gunman then fled, prompting an ongoing manhunt.

francisco oropezaAuthorities charged Francisco Oropeza, 38 (and described by authorities as a Mexican national), with five counts of murder and were searching for him Saturday morning, San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers told The Washington Post.

Ten people were in the Cleveland, Tex., home during the shooting. Three women, a man and an 8-year-old boy were killed, Capers said. Five others survived, including three children.

The suspect was the victims’ neighbor and went to their home Friday night after they asked him to stop shooting an AR-15-style rifle in his front yard because of the noise, Capers said.

Oropeza frequently shot the rifle in his yard, Capers said, and allegedly became angry when the neighbors said their baby was trying to sleep around or after 11 p.m. Authorities saw video footage of Oropeza walking up to the victims’ front door before going inside.

“The neighbors walked over and said … ‘Hey man, can you not do that, we’ve got an infant in here trying to sleep’ or whatever,” Capers said. “They went back in their house and then we have a video of him walking up their driveway with his AR-15.”

All five victims were shot in the head, he said. Two of the women who were killed were found lying on top of the surviving young children in a bedroom, “trying to protect them,” Capers told The Post by phone from the scene.

 

Former President Donald Trump is shown in a photo collage with columnist E. Jean Carroll, who accused him of raping her three decades ago, with her civil suit scheduled for trial this spring in New York City.

Former President Donald Trump is shown in a photo collage with columnist E. Jean Carroll, who accused him of raping her three decades ago, with her civil suit scheduled for trial beginning with jury selection on April 25 in New York City.

ny times logoNew York Times, Rape Case Places Trump in Legal Jeopardy. Politically, He’s Thriving, Jonah E. Bromwich, Benjamin Weiser and Lola Fadulu, April 29, 2023. Former President Trump’s new campaign is rolling on unimpeded under the spotlights. In courtrooms, he faces more serious threats.

During E. Jean Carroll’s first day on the witness stand, her lawyer asked what had brought her to a federal courtroom in Manhattan.

“I am here because Donald Trump raped me and when I wrote about it, he said it didn’t happen,” Ms. Carroll replied. “He lied and shattered my reputation, and I am here to try to get my life back.”

A day later, Mr. Trump, who has denied the attack and called Ms. Carroll a liar, campaigned in New Hampshire, joking to a crowd about his changing nicknames for Hillary Clinton and President Biden. He did not mention Ms. Carroll’s testimony, or the civil trial going on 250 miles away. But he remarked cheerfully on a poll released that day, which showed him far and away leading the 2024 Republican primary field.

Since Mr. Trump was indicted last month in a criminal case brought by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, his legal travails and his third presidential campaign have played out on a split screen. The courtroom dramas have taken place without news cameras present, even as the race has returned Mr. Trump to the spotlight that briefly dimmed after he left the Oval Office.

Ms. Carroll’s harrowing testimony, a visceral demonstration of Mr. Trump’s legal peril, has emphasized the surreal nature of the divide. Mr. Trump is the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. But he has also been indicted on 34 felony false records charges, and in Ms. Carroll’s case faces a nine-person jury that will determine whether he committed rape decades ago. And then there are the other investigations: for election interference, mishandling sensitive documents and his role in the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“To see a former and potential future president of the United States confront all these legal issues at once is bizarre,” said Jennifer Horn, a former chairwoman of the New Hampshire Republican Party and a vocal opponent of Mr. Trump. “But what’s really disturbing about it is that he’s the front-runner for a major political party in this country. And you can’t just blame that on him. You have to blame that on the leaders of the party and their primary base.”

The past week brought the former president a steady stream of setbacks. Ms. Carroll gave detailed and graphic testimony about the encounter with Mr. Trump. The judge in the case sought to limit Mr. Trump’s posts on social media, as did the Manhattan district attorney’s office in its own case. And former Vice President Mike Pence testified before a grand jury hearing evidence about Mr. Trump’s attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

 

Justice Department Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, left, and former President Donald Trump, shown in a collage via CNN.

Justice Department Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, left, and former President Donald Trump, shown in a collage via CNN.

ny times logoNew York Times, Prosecutors are investigating whether Donald Trump and his allies used false claims of election fraud to solicit donations, Maggie Haberman, Alan Feuer and Jonathan Swan, April 29, 2023 (print ed.). The Justice Department has been gathering evidence about whether the former president and his allies solicited donations with claims of election fraud they knew to be false.

Justice Department log circularAs they investigate former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, federal prosecutors have also been drilling down on whether Mr. Trump and a range of political aides knew that he had lost the race but still raised money off claims that they were fighting widespread fraud in the vote results, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Led by the special counsel Jack Smith, prosecutors are trying to determine whether Mr. Trump and his aides violated federal wire fraud statutes as they raised as much as $250 million through a political action committee by saying they needed the money to fight to reverse election fraud even though they had been told repeatedly that there was no evidence to back up those fraud claims.

The prosecutors are looking at the inner workings of the committee, Save America PAC, and at the Trump campaign’s efforts to prove its baseless case that Mr. Trump had been cheated out of victory.

washington post logoWashington Post, E. Jean Carroll takes stand again after testifying Trump raped her, Kim Bellware, Shayna Jacobs and Mark Berman, April 28, 2023 (print ed.). E. Jean Carroll is on the witness stand again Thursday in her civil lawsuit against former president Donald Trump. Carroll, a writer, has accused Trump of raping her in the mid-1990s. Trump has denied Carroll’s allegation, which she first made public in 2019, and called her a liar. Carroll testified Wednesday for about 3½ hours, e jean carroll cover new york magazinespeaking in graphic detail about how she says Trump assaulted her.

E. Jean Carroll has said that after Trump assaulted her in the mid-1990s, she told two friends and then chose to stay silent for more than two decades, fearful of what would happen if she spoke out.

Carroll made her accusations public in 2019. Testifying on Wednesday, Carroll said she has regretted her choice since then. By the time she accused Trump, he was in the White House, commanded enormous attention and had a throng of devoted supporters.

 

truth social logo

 washington post logoWashington Post, He blew the whistle on Trump’s Truth Social. Now he works at Starbucks, Drew Harwell, April 29, 2023. “It’s an honest day’s work,” he says about the $16-an-hour job, the only work he’s found since he was fired from the Trump Media platform he helped found.

About six months ago, Will Wilkerson was the executive vice president of operations for former president Donald Trump’s media business, a co-founder of Trump’s Truth Social website and a holder of stock options that might have one day made him a millionaire.
Tech is not your friend. We are. Sign up for The Tech Friend newsletter.

Today, he is a certified barista trainer at a Starbucks inside a Harris Teeter grocery store, where he works 5:30 a.m. shifts in a green apron and slip-resistant shoes, making Frappuccinos for $16 an hour.

“It’s an honest day’s work,” he says, sitting near the flower kiosk of the supermarket in a North Carolina suburb, which he asked not be named due to fears of harassment. “I love what I do.”

Wilkerson, 38, has become one of the biggest threats to the Trump company’s future: a federally protected whistleblower whose attorneys say has provided 150,000 emails, contracts and other internal documents to the Securities and Exchange Commission and investigators in Florida and New York.

Wilkerson last year publicly accused Trump Media and Technology Group of violating securities laws, telling The Washington Post he could not stay silent while the company’s executives gave what he viewed as misleading information to investors, many of whom are small-time shareholders loyal to the Trump brand.

The company fired him shortly after, saying he had “concocted psychodramas” but not responding to the specifics of his claims. This month, the company’s chief executive, the former Republican congressman Devin Nunes, sued Wilkerson for defamation in a Florida circuit court, claiming he had been subjected to “anxiety,” “insecurity,” “mental anguish” and “emotional distress” as a result of Wilkerson’s comments.

 ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Begins Overland Evacuation of American Civilians From Sudan, Declan Walsh, Eric Schmitt, Edward Wong and Abdi Latif Dahir, April 29, 2023 (print ed.). A bus convoy carrying about 300 people was the first U.S.-organized evacuation effort of Americans other than diplomats since fighting broke out nearly two weeks ago in the northeast African nation.

A convoy of buses carrying about 300 Americans left the war-torn capital of Sudan on Friday, starting a 525-mile journey to the Red Sea that was the United sudan sudanese flag on the map of africaStates’ first organized effort to evacuate its private citizens from the country.

The convoy was being tracked by armed American drones that hovered high overhead, watching for threats. The United Nations and many nations have also evacuated their citizens overland, after receiving security assurances from the warring sides.

It renewed questions about why the United States had taken so long to organize a civilian evacuation from Sudan, home to an estimated 16,000 American citizens, many of them dual nationals, when Western and Persian Gulf allies have moved faster and evacuated far more people.

Britain has evacuated 1,573 people since Tuesday from an airfield north of Khartoum, most of them British nationals. Germany and France have evacuated another 1,700 people by air. At least 3,000 more from various countries have been evacuated by sea from Port Sudan to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, Saudi authorities said.

World Crisis Radio, Weekly Strategic Overview and What You Can Do About It: 2024 campaign kicks off with confrontation over MAGA plan to force US default! Webster G. Tarpley,  right, author and historian, April 29, 2023 (117:30 mins.). Seeking to webster tarpley 2007extort killer austerity in federal budget, Qevin McCarthy manages to pass a budget resolution demanding 22% cuts in Medicaid, veterans’ benefits, student loan debt relief, IRS modernization, and Social Security/Medicare administration; Large areas of discretionary spending would be crippled;

XIV Amendment makes default on US public debt unconstitutional and illegal, meaning there can be no debt ceiling; Biden must order Yellen to maintain the normal schedule of Treasury securities auctions to make sure that public debt is kept solvent and fully funded, with all legal obligations paid on time-and without reference to treasonous antics of MAGA-Tea Party clique in House;

Negotiations with terrorists and hostage takers are contrary to US policy in any case;

Pence testifies for 7-8 hours before Jack Smith grand jury; Trump rape trial resumes Monday; July-August may be prime time for Fulton County indictments;
ulysses grant matthew bradyWidow of Putin mentor and St. Petersburg Mayor Sobchak warns that Kremlin dictator has lost his mind; Harbingers of Ukraine offensive multiply;

Nebraska and South Carolina reject draconian abortion bans; Supremes stall on medication abortions; Roberts snubs invitation to appear before Senators as Supreme Court corruption scandal widens;

Recalling the massive historical achievements of U.S. Grant (the future president is shown at right in a photo by Matthew Brady), born April 27, 1822.

 

Former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, anti-vax activists Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Charlene Bollinger, and longtime Trump ally and advisor Roger Stone, left to right, backstage at a July 2021 Reawaken America event. The photo was posted but later removed by Bollinger, who has appeared with Kennedy at multiple events. She and her husband sponsored an anti-vaccine, pro-Trump rally near the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Bollinger celebrated the attack and her husband tried to enter the Capitol. Kennedy later appeared in a video for their Super PAC. Kennedy has repeatedly invoked Nazis and the Holocaust when talking about measures aimed at mitigating the spread of COVID-19, such as mask requirements and vaccine mandates. Kennedy, who has announced a presidential campaign for 2024, has at times invoked his family’s legacy in his anti-vaccine work, including sometimes using images of President Kennedy.

Former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, anti-vax activists Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Charlene Bollinger, and longtime Trump ally and advisor Roger Stone, left to right, backstage at a July 2021 Reawaken America event. The photo was posted but later removed by Bollinger, who has appeared with Kennedy at multiple events. She and her husband sponsored an anti-vaccine, pro-Trump rally near the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Bollinger celebrated the attack and her husband tried to enter the Capitol. Kennedy later appeared in a video for their Super PAC. Kennedy has repeatedly invoked Nazis and the Holocaust when talking about measures aimed at mitigating the spread of COVID-19, such as mask requirements and vaccine mandates. Kennedy, who has announced a presidential campaign for 2024, has at times invoked his family’s legacy in his anti-vaccine work, including sometimes using images of President Kennedy.


Going Deep with Russ Baker, Investigative Commentary: How Robert F. Kennedy Jr., His Presidential Candidacy and Vaccine Views, Help Trump, Russ Baker, right, russ bakerbest-selling author, media critic and founder of the investigative project WhoWhatWhy, April 29, 2023. Will Roger Stone’s Trump-Kennedy “dream ticket” come true?

whowhatwhy logoI have mixed feelings about Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the recently announced challenger to President Biden for the 2024 Democratic nomination. But not evenly mixed feelings.

On the positive side, he is one of the very few members of the Kennedy family willing to risk saying what others in the family will not: Key people in charge of investigating the deaths of his uncle and father, John and Robert, consistently failed to pursue meaningful leads that contradicted the official story.

Bobby Jr.’s willingness to endure a broad range of risks for talking about that topic impressed me, and led me to look at what else he has said, including his bracing critique of the military-intelligence-industrial complex.

Unfortunately, the good news ends there. It’s one thing to recognize real conspiracies and another to embrace all kinds of disinformation in keeping with his preconceived ideas, which are not supported by fact.

Which takes us to RFK Jr.’s views on public health.

His outspoken positions and continuous leadership of the anti-vaccination movement are a huge blot on his overall record. Because it’s such a striking and profound departure from evidence-based logic, I think it instantly disqualifies him as a presidential candidate.

In upcoming columns, I’ll take a look at the claims Kennedy has publicized regarding vaccines.

This country faces too many complex challenges and perils to turn the presidency over to someone who lacks good judgment on a subject as important as this. He shouldn’t be president, and even his spoiler role is a bad and terribly dangerous idea — given the overall stakes.

None other than the villainous Steve Bannon, a longtime Trump adviser, spent months trying to convince RFK Jr. to run. Bannon is expert at generating chaos, and he’s found the perfect vehicle.

Meanwhile, Roger Stone has proposed a “dream ticket” — Trump and Kennedy, together. Yes, this is actually happening. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see where this is headed. It’s obviously not good for the country, not good for humanity. Now is the time to speak up to head off potential disaster.

 

silicon valley bank svb

washington post logoWashington Post, Fed says it must strengthen banking rules after SVB’s collapse, Rachel Siegel, April 29, 2023 (pr int ed.). In a scathing report, the Fed outlined disastrous decisions — including failures made by the central bank’s own supervisors to ward off last month’s crisis — that led to the downfall of Silicon Valley Bank.

federal reserve system CustomIn a scathing report, the Federal Reserve on Friday outlined a number of disastrous decisions — including failures by the central bank’s own supervisors to ward off last month’s crisis — that led to the downfall of Silicon Valley Bank.

The much-anticipated 114-page report set the stage for a new, aggressive push by the Fed to restrengthen bank regulation in an attempt to tighten up many of the rules that were eased by Congress in a bipartisan vote in 2018 and further loosened by the Fed in 2019.

What went wrong in the banking system? It’s his job to find out.

“SVB’s failure demonstrates that there are weaknesses in regulation and supervision that must be addressed,” Fed Vice Chair for Supervision Michael Barr wrote in a letter accompanying the report. “Regulatory standards for SVB were too low, the supervision of SVB did not work with sufficient force and urgency, and contagion from the firm’s failure posed systemic consequences not contemplated by the Federal Reserve’s tailoring framework,” Barr wrote, referring to moves in 2018 and 2019 to ease, or “tailor,” the banking system’s rules.

 

U.S. Supreme Court Ethics Scandals

 

Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts arrives before President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol, Feb. 7, 2023, in Washington. Roberts has declined a request from the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify at a hearing on ethical standards at the court, instead providing the panel with a statement of ethics reaffirmed by the court's justices. (AP pool photo by Jacquelyn Martin.)

Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts arrives before President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol, Feb. 7, 2023, in Washington. Roberts has declined a request from the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify at a hearing on ethical standards at the court, instead providing the panel with a statement of ethics reaffirmed by the court's justices. (AP pool photo by Jacquelyn Martin.)

 ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Polite Disdain of John Roberts Finds a Target, Jamelle Bouie, right, April 29, 2023 (pr int ed.). Although the three branches of the American jamelle bouiegovernment were designed to be coequal, the structure of the Constitution tells us something about the relative power of each branch, as envisioned by the framers.

Article I establishes the legislature. Article II establishes the executive branch. And Article III establishes the federal judiciary. It is true that the branches share powers and responsibilities. But it’s also true that the framers trusted Congress — the representative branch — with far more authority than it did the president or the Supreme Court.

The upshot of all of this is that when Congress calls, the other branches are supposed to answer — not as a courtesy, but as an affirmation of the rules of the American constitutional order. The modern Congress might be weak, and the presidency, against the expectations of the framers, might be the center of American political life, but it’s still newsworthy when a member of the executive branch says he or she won’t meet with the legislature.

Chief Justice John Roberts is in a different branch of government, the judiciary. But he — a constitutional officer confirmed to his seat by the Senate — is still subject to the power of Congress to question and investigate his conduct. When Congress calls, he too should answer.

Last week, Congress called the chief justice. In the wake of revelations concerning the friendship between Justice Clarence Thomas and Harlan Crow, a billionaire Republican donor, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, invited Roberts to testify at an upcoming hearing on Supreme Court ethics rules.

“There has been a steady stream of revelations regarding justices falling short of the ethical standards expected of other federal judges and, indeed, of public servants generally,” Durbin wrote in his letter to the chief justice. “These problems were already apparent back in 2011, and the Court’s decade-long failure to address them has contributed to a crisis of public confidence.”

“The time has come for a new public conversation on ways to restore confidence in the Court’s ethical standards,” Durbin went on to say. “I invite you to join it, and I look forward to your response.”

This week Roberts answered. He said, in a word, no.

“I must respectfully decline your invitation,” Roberts wrote. “Testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee by the chief justice of the United States is exceedingly rare as one might expect in light of separation of powers concerns and the importance of preserving judicial independence.”

This deceptively polite reply sounds reasonable for as long as you can manage to forget the fact that it is questions about the ethical conduct of the court and its members that have compromised the independence of the court. Was Thomas influenced by the largess of his billionaire benefactor? Was Justice Samuel Alito influenced by an explicit campaign to curry favor with the conservative justices? Was Justice Neil Gorsuch influenced by the lucrative sale of a Colorado property, in the wake of his confirmation, to the head of a powerful law firm with ample business before the court?

It is with real chutzpah, in other words, that Roberts has claimed judicial independence in order to circumvent an investigation into judicial independence.

More striking than this evasion is the manner in which Roberts ended his reply. Faced with serious questions about the integrity of the court, he pointed to a nonbinding ethics document that has done almost nothing to prevent these situations from arising in the first place. “In regard to the Court’s approach to ethics matters,” he wrote, “I attached a Statement of Ethics Principles and Practices to which all of the current members of the Supreme Court subscribe.”

A number of legal scholars have remarked on the judicial power grab of the past several years, in which courts across the federal judiciary have seized key governing decisions from the legislative and executive branches and disparaged the ability of elected officials to, as Josh Chafetz of Georgetown University Law Center writes, “engage in principled, competent governance.”

As one of the architects of this development in American politics, Roberts is essentially using this letter to make plain to Congress the reality of the situation: I will not speak, and you cannot make me. And he’s right, not because Congress doesn’t have the power, but because it doesn’t have the votes. In the absence of a majority of votes, the Senate Judiciary Committee cannot subpoena a justice. In the absence of 218 votes, the House cannot impeach a justice. And in the absence of 67 votes, the Senate cannot remove a justice.

There are steps Congress could take to discipline the court — shrinking its budget, reducing the scope of its docket, imposing ethics rules itself, even making it “ride circuit” à la the 19th century — but those require a majority in the House and a supermajority in the Senate because of the filibuster, as well as a consensus among lawmakers (and specifically, Democrats) to follow through if they ever have the chance to do so.

 

This week's new official portrait of the U.S. Supreme Court

Palmer Report, Opinion: Ugly new corruption scandal for Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, Bill Palmer, April 28, 2023. Supreme Court Chief Justice John bill palmerRoberts is trying to avoid testifying in a Senate hearing about the financial corruption scandals of his fellow right wing Justices such as Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch. Now we’re getting a clearer answer as to why Roberts has been hiding from this.

bill palmer report logo headerIt turns out John Roberts’ wife has made more than ten million dollars by placing attorneys at elite law firms – and some of those firms have argued cases in front of the Supreme Court. While there is no evidence of any quid pro quo, it still gives the perception that these firms could have been essentially paying all this money to Roberts’ wife in the hope of ultimately getting favorable rulings from Roberts.

This now means that three right wing Supreme Court Justices (that we know of) have ugly financial corruption scandals. Of course they do. Right wing political ideology is the belief that everyone else should be tightly controlled by the government, and that you should be allowed to do whatever awful things you want. The Supreme Court is full of right wingers who are both corrupt and deranged. It needs to be expanded more urgently than ever.

 samuel alito horizontal headshot

washington post logoWashington Post, Alito thinks he knows who Dobbs leaker is — and says it’s not a conservative, Robert Barnes, April 29, 2023 (print ed.). Politico published Justice Alito's draft opinion, which ultimately overturned Roe v. Wade, a year ago. Alito, shown above in a file photo, agrees the court does not have evidence sufficient to publicly accuse anyone of leaking the draft.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said in an interview earlier this month that he has a “pretty good idea” who leaked his draft Supreme Court opinion that overturned Roe v. Wade and its constitutional right to abortion last year, but that neither he nor the court can prove it.

The leak rocked the Supreme Court and its tradition of secrecy involving unreleased opinions. After a months-long investigation, Supreme Court Marshal Gail gail curleyCurley (shown in a file photo) said in January that the court could not determine with certainty “the identity of any individual who may have disclosed the document or how the draft opinion ended up with Politico.”

In an April 13 interview with a Wall Street Journal editorial editor and a private lawyer active in conservative causes, Alito agreed that Curley did not have evidence sufficient to publicly accuse anyone of leaking his draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

“I personally have a pretty good idea who is responsible, but that’s different from the level of proof that is needed to name somebody,” Alito said, according to the story published online Friday. He said he was sure the leak “was a part of an effort to prevent the Dobbs draft … from becoming the decision of the court. And that’s how it was used for those six weeks by people on the outside — as part of the campaign to try to intimidate the court.”

Alito said the theory that the draft was leaked by someone on the right to lock in the five votes necessary to overturn Roe “is infuriating to me.”

“Look, this made us targets of assassination,” Alito told his interviewers. “Would I do that to myself? Would the five of us have done that to ourselves? It’s quite implausible.”

Alito made similar statements last fall at an event at the conservative Heritage Foundation. In the interview with the Journal, Alito noted that last June an armed man was arrested outside the home of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh. The man has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted assassination and is awaiting trial.

Alito says leaker made Supreme Court majority targets

“It was rational for people to believe that they might be able to stop the decision in Dobbs by killing one of us,” Alito told James Taranto, editorial features editor for the Journal, and David B. Rivkin Jr., a lawyer active in conservative causes. Rivkin frequently writes for the Journal’s opinion pages, and has helped lead the legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act.

Alito added that he does not feel “physically unsafe, because we now have a lot of protection.” He said he is driven around “in basically a tank, and I’m not really supposed to go anyplace by myself without the tank and my members of the police force.”

Alito declined to answer questions about Justice Clarence Thomas, the interviewers wrote. Thomas has been under fire after ProPublica reported that he accepted extravagant vacations, private jet travel and gifts from his billionaire friend and Republican donor Harlan Crow, who also bought the justice’s childhood home in which his mother continues to live. Thomas did not report the expenditures on his disclosure forms, which are supposed to provide transparency about potential ethical conflicts.

Without commenting on Thomas, Alito said he believes that reports about alleged ethical violations by justices are attempts to damage the court’s credibility now that conservatives are firmly in control. “We are being hammered daily, and I think quite unfairly in a lot of instances. And nobody, practically nobody, is defending us,” he said.

“And then those who are attacking us say, ‘Look how unpopular they are. Look how low their approval rating has sunk.’” Alito said. “Well, yeah, what do you expect when you’re — day in and day out, ‘They’re illegitimate. They’re engaging in all sorts of unethical conduct. They’re doing this, they’re doing that’?”

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

More On U.S. Courts, Crime, Immigration

washington post logoWashington Post, Man pauses date to kill ‘scammer’ over $40, then returns to dinner, police say, Timothy Bella, April 29, 2023 (print ed.). Erick Aguirre was in the middle of his date at a Houston burger joint this month when a restaurant employee told him that he’d been scammed. Upon learning this, Aguirre told his date that he was going to find the supposed parking attendant and that he’d be right back.

erick aguirreBut instead of asking for his $40 back, Aguirre (shown at right in a mug photo) sprinted to his car, grabbed his pistol and fatally shot the man, 46-year-old Elliot Nix, according to police. Aguirre then returned to the restaurant to resume his April 11 dinner at Rodeo Goat, telling his date that “everything was fine” and that he had just scared the scammer, according to a probable cause affidavit obtained by The Washington Post.

The next day, after the woman learned what had happened and that she was wanted for questioning in the fatal shooting, she talked to police about Aguirre — and how the guy she was dating allegedly took time out of their dinner to kill Nix over $40.

 

Shown here is an aerial photo of the U.S.-operated Guantánamo prison camp located in Cuba against the wishes of its government along with a book cover showing faces of some of its prisoners through the decades. Many of them were accused of terror-related conspiracies and they do not for the most part possess the basic fair trial and other civil rights of prisoners held in U.S. civilian jails and prisons.

Shown here is an aerial photo of the U.S.-operated Guantánamo prison camp located in Cuba against the wishes of its government along with a book cover below showing faces of some of its prisoners through the decades. Many of them were accused of terror-related conspiracies and they do not for the most part possess the basic fair trial and other civil rights of prisoners held in U.S. civilian jails and prisons.

 

Shown here is an aerial photo of the U.S.-operated Guantánamo prison camp located in Cuba against the wishes of its government along with a book cover showing faces of some of its prisoners through the decades. Many of them were accused of terror-related conspiracies and they do not for the most part possess the basic fair trial and other civil rights of prisoners held in U.S. civilian jails and prisons.

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: Biden Can Close the Extrajudicial Prison at Guantánamo, Editorial Board, April 29, 2023. Last week, Said bin Brahim bin Umran Bakush was released from detention at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and returned to Algeria, his home country.

Suspected of being a low-level fighter for Al Qaeda, at age 52 he was in his 21st year of detention in the prison, had no charges filed against him and stopped speaking to lawyers about five years ago. Mr. Bakush’s release leaves 30 men, of the 780 held there over the years since 2002, still imprisoned at the U.S. naval base whose name has become synonymous with American shame.

President Biden said at the outset of his administration that he would seek to have the detention center closed, and he directed the Defense Department to study how best to do so. But at the rate these cases are moving, resolving them could take several more years. Mr. Biden wisely avoided the kind of highly public pledges to close down the prison that President Barack Obama made and could not keep. But to achieve the goal of finally ending the extrajudicial detention of prisoners at Guantánamo — and its disgraceful violations of fundamental human rights and abandonment of the right to due process — requires more of Mr. Biden.

Clearing out the remaining prisoners requires cutting through a tangle of laws, policies, procedures and bureaucratic secrecy. These are not simple tasks, but they are well within the power of the White House to accomplish if the process is given a far higher priority. Mr. Biden can use his authority to order the Departments of Defense, Justice and State, the intelligence agencies and other agencies involved to coordinate their efforts and direct their resources to make it happen, as quickly as possible.

The moral imperative and the ethical case for doing so has only gotten stronger with time. As long as there are people held in detention at Guantánamo, America’s condemnations of brutal detention centers in China and Syria will ring hollow. And there is a particular cruelty inflicted by time. On April 21, a senior official of the International Committee of the Red Cross issued a rare public call for the U.S. military to provide better care for prisoners, because they are “experiencing the symptoms of accelerated aging worsened by the cumulative effect of their experiences and years spent in detention.”

ny times logoNew York Times, New York Will Toughen Bail Law to Give Judges More Discretion, Jesse McKinley, Grace Ashford and Hurubie Meko, April 29, 2023 (print ed.). State leaders have agreed to eliminate a provision that requires judges to prescribe the “least restrictive” means to ensure defendants return to court.

It was just four years ago that New York’s Democratic lawmakers celebrated a new law that eliminated bail for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies and, at the time, seemingly added a measure of new justice to a system long faulted for pre-emptively punishing the poor.

On Thursday night, however, after months of grueling negotiations, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that the state would scale back those changes — for the third time — after a sharp rebuke from New York’s voters and residents over a rise in crime.

“It was very clear that changes need to be made,” the governor said.

The precise details are unknown — the law is still being drafted as part of the state budget that is expected to be ratified next week — but Ms. Hochul said that she and the Legislature intend to eliminate a provision that requires judges to prescribe the “least restrictive” means to ensure defendants return to court.

While judges will remain unable to set bail for a vast majority of misdemeanor and nonviolent charges, such a change could nonetheless have a dramatic impact, giving judges greater discretion to hold defendants — particularly repeat or serious offenders — before their trials.

 

bureau of prisons logo horizontal

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden grants clemency to 31 drug offenders, rolls out rehabilitation plan, Toluse Olorunnipa and John Wagner, April 29, 2023 (print ed.). President Biden commuted the sentences of 31 nonviolent drug offenders Friday as the White House rolled out a broad initiative that aims to bolster the “redemption and rehabilitation” of people previously incarcerated through greater access to housing, jobs, food and other assistance.

joe biden black background resized serious fileThe actions came during what Biden has proclaimed as Second Chance Month, an attempt to put a greater focus on helping those with criminal records rebuild their lives.

The 31 commutations were for people convicted of nonviolent drug crimes, who were currently serving time in home confinement and taking advantage of education and employment opportunities, the White House said. Many would have received a lower sentence if they were charged with the same offense today due to changes in the law, including the First Step Act, a bipartisan criminal justice bill signed into law by President Donald Trump in December 2018.

At a briefing for reporters, Susan Rice, director of the Domestic Policy Council, described the series of measures as prudent steps to improve public safety while safeguarding taxpayer dollars by increasing the chances that people released from prison will have opportunities to live rehabilitated lives.

“As many as one in three Americans have a criminal history record, yet far too many of them face barriers to getting a job or home, obtaining health care or finding the capital to start a business,” Rice said. “By investing in crime prevention and a fairer criminal justice system, we can tackle the root causes of crime, improve individual and community outcomes and ease the burden on police.”

The effort includes more than 100 actions across 20 agencies, ranging from the Department of Education to the Department of Housing and Urban Development to the Bureau of Prisons.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sweeping indictment shows role of China’s chemical firms in fentanyl crisis, David Ovalle and Nick Miroff, April 29, 2023 (print ed.). But experts say there’s little chance the companies selling ingredients to Mexican cartels will be prosecuted.

The sales team at the Chinese chemical company offered drug cartel operatives more than the key ingredients needed to make deadly fentanyl bound for the United States.

Justice Department log circularChina FlagIn exchange for payments in cryptocurrency, Wuhan Shuokang Biological Technology dispensed technical assistance and advice to Mexico’s notorious Sinaloa cartel, including which chemicals could be combined most effectively to make the synthetic opioid, and how to economize on “starting material,” according to a U.S. indictment unsealed April 14.

U.S. prosecutors say the Chinese company used its professional-looking website to maintain a veneer of legitimacy, but its brokers supplied chemicals and illicit substances to the cartel, helping it flood the United States with the cheap fentanyl that is killing record numbers of Americans.

 ICE logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Afghan Women Who Fought With U.S. Military Seek Legal Immigration Status, Luke Broadwater and Ava Sasani, April 28, 2023 (print ed.). Members of an all-female tactical combat unit in Afghanistan, who were evacuated during the United States withdrawal, are asking Congress to grant them permanent legal status.

Before her country and her life were suddenly and fundamentally changed in 2021, Mahnaz Akbari was the trailblazing commander of the Afghan National Army’s Female Tactical Platoon, an all-female squad that accompanied elite U.S. Special Operations troops as they carried out daring mountain missions, hunted ISIS combatants and freed captives from Taliban jails.

Ms. Akbari, 37, and her soldiers did so at great personal risk. One woman was shot through the neck, suffering a fractured skull. Another was killed shortly before the fall of Kabul. And after the Taliban took over the country, many members of the platoon were forced to flee to the United States.

Now, Ms. Akbari and other members of the Female Tactical Platoon are embarking on another mission: working to convince Congress that their service in Afghanistan has earned them the right to stay in America permanently.

“Our missions were for big targets: a Taliban commander or a Da’ish leader,” Ms. Akbari said, using another name for ISIS during a recent interview at her Silver Spring, Md., apartment.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

Emmett Till with his mother, Mamie Bradley in about 1950.

Emmett Till with his mother, Mamie Bradley in about 1950.

 

U.S. Economy, Debt, Budget, Jobs

washington post logoWashington Post, The GOP wonks trying to get their party not to detonate the debt limit bomb, Jeff Stein, April 29, 2023. An increasingly personal spat among conservative policy nerds could have big implications as U.S. nears economic disaster.

A small group of conservative budget experts is cautioning House Republicans that brinkmanship over the nation’s borrowing limit could lead to economic disaster, warning of severe financial ramifications even as their own party ignores their advice.

In both public and private comments, a handful of GOP budget experts — Brian Riedl, who was an aide to former Ohio Republican senator Rob Portman; Michael Strain, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute; and Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office — have tried to counter the growing argument on the right that the debt ceiling can be breached with only minimal economic impact.

The former Trump aide crafting the House GOP’s debt ceiling playbook

Those wonks appear at risk of losing the GOP debate, as House Republicans increasingly make clear that they will refuse to raise the debt limit unless President Biden agrees to massive spending cuts that he has so far rejected. On Wednesday, the House voted, largely along party lines, for Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) plan advancing this approach. Conservatives within the GOP have been emboldened by the advice of a competing faction of right-wing policy analysts and economists, who have pushed GOP leaders to stay aggressive. Led by former Trump budget director Russ Vought, these advisers have maintained that the costs of inaction on the nation’s $31 trillion debt override the need to ensure the U.S. can pay all its bills.

The fierce — and increasingly personal — split within conservative policymaking circles reflects a broader battle within the Republican Party over spending and deficits and could determine how the current fiscal standoff ends.

Combined, the analysts have held hundreds of meetings, phone calls and Zooms with GOP House and Senate members and their aides over the past several months, rejecting the suggestions from the right that the debt ceiling can be breached without financial calamity.

The White House is hoping to lean heavily on these kinds of Republicans to argue against McCarthy’s plan, according to two people familiar with administration strategy, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe internal conversations.

ny times logoNew York Times, Inflation Cooled in March, but Stubborn Price Increases Remain, Jeanna Smialek, April 29, 2023 (print ed.). The Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge, the Personal Consumption Expenditures index, slowed in March. But signs point to staying power.

Inflation is slowing, a fresh reading of the Federal Reserve’s preferred index showed, but costs continue to climb rapidly after stripping out volatile food and fuel — which shows that price pressures retain staying power and it could be a long road back to normal.

The Personal Consumption Expenditures index climbed by 4.2 percent in the year through March, down notably from 5.1 percent in the year through February.

But after stripping out food and fuel prices, a closely watched “core” index held nearly steady last month. That measure rose by 4.6 percent over the year, compared with 4.7 percent in the previous reading — a figure that was revised up slightly.

The data provide further evidence that inflation is moderating, but that the process remains bumpy and could take a long time to fully play out. Fed officials have raised interest rates sharply over the past year to make money more expensive to borrow and slow demand, and those moves are only slowly trickling through the economy and weighing down price increases.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: House Republicans walk the plank, Dana Milbank, right, April 28, 2023. Jen Kiggans (shown below at left in an official photo) had the haunted look of a woman about to walk the dana milbank newestplank. The first-term Republican from Virginia barely took her eyes off her text Wednesday as she read it aloud on the House floor. She tripped over words and used her fingers to keep her place on the page.

jen kiggansThe anxiety was understandable. Like about 30 other House Republicans from vulnerable districts, she was about to vote in favor of the GOP’s plan to force spending cuts of about $4.8 trillion as the ransom to be paid for avoiding a default on the federal debt.

“I do have serious concerns with the provision of this legislation that repeals clean-energy investment tax credits, particularly for wind energy,” she read. “These credits have been very beneficial to my constituents, attracting significant investment and new manufacturing jobs for businesses in southeast Virginia.”

Directing a question to the Republicans’ chief deputy whip, Guy Reschenthaler (Pa.), she asked for “the gentleman’s assurance that I will be able to address U.S. House logothese concerns as we move forward in these negotiations and advocate for the interests of my district.”

djt maga hatThe gentleman offered no such assurance. “I support repealing these tax credits,” he replied, offering only the noncommittal promise to “continue to work with the gentlewoman from Virginia, just like we will with all members.”

Kiggans then cast her vote to abolish the clean-energy credits her constituents find so “beneficial.”

House GOP leaders are celebrating their ability to pass their debt plan, even though it has no chance of surviving the Senate nor President Biden’s veto pen. But the bill’s passage has achieved one thing that cannot be undone: It has put 217 House Republicans on record in favor of demolishing popular government services enjoyed by their constituents.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Joe Biden and the Not-So-Bad Economy, Paul Krugman, right, April 28, 2023 (print ed.). Joe Biden has, to nobody’s surprise, formally paul krugmanannounced that he is seeking re-election. And I, for one, am dreading the year and a half of political crystal ball gazing that lies ahead of us — a discussion to which I will have little if anything to add.

One thing I may be able to contribute to, however, is the way we talk about the Biden economy. Much political discussion, it seems to me, is informed by a sense that the economy will be a major liability for Democrats — a sense that is strongly affected by out-of-date or questionable data.

Of course, a lot can change between now and November 2024. We could have a recession, maybe as the delayed effect of monetary tightening by the Federal Reserve. We might all too easily face a financial crisis this summer when, as seems likely, Republicans refuse to raise the debt ceiling — and nobody knows how that will play out politically.

Right now, however, the economy is in better shape than I suspect most pundits or even generally well-informed readers may realize. The basic story of the Biden economy is that America has experienced a remarkably fast and essentially complete job market recovery. This recovery was initially accompanied by distressingly high inflation; but inflation, while still high by the standards of the past few decades, has subsided substantially. The overall situation is, well, not so bad.

About jobs: Unless you’ve been getting your news from Tucker Carlson or Truth Social, you’re probably aware that the unemployment rate is hovering near historic lows. However, I keep hearing assertions that this number is misleading, because millions of Americans have dropped out of the labor force — which was true a year ago.

But it’s not true anymore. There are multiple ways to make this point, but one way is to compare where we are now with projections made just before Covid struck. In January 2020 the Congressional Budget Office projected that by the first quarter of 2023 nonfarm employment would be 154.8 million; the actual number for March was 155.6 million. As a recent report from the Council of Economic Advisers points out, labor force participation — the percentage of adults either working or actively looking for work — is also right back in line with pre-Covid projections.

In short, we really are back at full employment.

ny times logoNew York Times, Wages Grow, Helping Workers but Worrying the Fed, Ben Casselman, April 29, 2023 (print ed.). Wage growth remained strong in early 2023 — good news for workers trying to keep up with the rising cost of living, but a likely source of concern for Federal Reserve officials as they try to tamp down inflation without causing a recession.

Wages and salaries for private-sector U.S. workers were up 5.1 percent in March from a year earlier, and up 1.2 percent from December, the Labor Department said Friday. That was the same growth rate as in December, and defied forecasters’ expectations of a modest slowdown. A broader measure of compensation growth, which includes the value of benefits as well as pay, actually accelerated slightly in the first quarter.

ny times logoNew York Times, Higher Food Prices Bring Bigger Profits, but Consumers Start to Resist, Lora Kelley, April 29, 2023 (print ed.). Higher prices have brought bigger profits for food companies, but some customers have started to cut back or trade down.

Americans have faced substantial inflation at grocery stores and restaurants. Over the past year, overall food prices were up 8.5 percent as consumers paid more for staples like eggs, fruit and meat.

And corporations that wrested back pricing power during the pandemic may be reluctant to give it up. In earnings reports over the past week, some of the biggest packaged food companies said they raised their prices last quarter and saw their profits go up.

But there have been signs that consumers are starting to resist price increases by cutting back or trading down to lower-priced options. Some of the same multinational companies that raised prices on food said the volume they sold went down.

Brands risk alienating consumers with these high prices, said Sucharita Kodali, a retail analyst at Forrester. “Customers may or may not come back,” she said. “At some point, they will say enough is enough.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Republican debt-limit rhetoric isn’t as potent as it used to be, Philip Bump, April 29, 2023 (print ed.). Americans are increasingly likely to support clean debt-limit hikes.

There were three things in place in 2011 that turned the debt limit, until that point mostly just a dull bureaucratic mechanism, into a point of political debate.

The president was a Democrat. The House was controlled by Republicans. And they’d won that control in the 2010 midterms on rhetoric from the tea party movement centered on government spending.

There was a fourth factor that made that 2011 effort to use the debt limit as leverage possible: People didn’t really know what the debt limit was. So Republicans framed the debt limit as though it was the limit on a credit card, suggesting that an increase to the limit was an increase in how much the government was allowed to spend.

This analogy was inapt, however, since the spending had already occurred. It was more like having a limit on how much of your credit-card bill your parents were willing to pay off for you. The money was spent; the question now was whether you were going to obliterate your credit score.

But then there was a ton of news coverage about the debt limit and how it works. There were stories about the ramifications of failing to pay the country’s debt obligations. There was, eventually, capitulation.

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Ukraine War

ny times logoNew York Times, Life in Ukraine’s Trenches: Gearing Up for a Spring Offensive, Michael Schwirtz, Photographs by David Guttenfelder, April 29, 2023. Michael Schwirtz and David Guttenfelder spent two weeks near the front in southeastern Ukraine, watching and interviewing soldiers preparing for an anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive.

With fighting in the eastern Donbas region settling into a bloody stalemate, a patch of the Zaporizhzhia region of southeastern Ukraine could prove to be the war’s next big theater.

ny times logoNew York Times, Large-Scale Russian Attack on Ukraine Kills at Least 23 People, Marc Santora and Victoria Kim, April 29, 2023 (print ed.). Missiles and drones were used to target cities across the country. Most of the strikes were intercepted, officials said, including a cluster aimed at Kyiv.

Russia bombarded towns and cities across the country in its first major attack in more than a month.

Here’s what we’re covering:

  • The deadliest strike hit an apartment block far from the front line, officials say.
  • The E.U. will keep letting in Ukrainian grains without tariffs.
  • The Kremlin steps up efforts to Russify occupied parts of Ukraine.
  • Ukraine’s defense minister says counteroffensive preparations are ‘coming to an end.’
  • Russia’s latest strikes underscore the limits of Ukraine’s air defense systems.
  • Here’s why Russia is threatening to back away from the Black Sea grain deal.
  • The Uman attack is one of Russia’s deadliest single strikes on civilians this year.
  • An unreleased report finds faults in Amnesty International’s criticism of Ukraine.

A rocket slammed into an apartment block in central Ukraine on Friday morning, as a Russian aerial assault against towns and cities across the country killed at least 23 people and injured dozens more, officials said.

In the first wide-ranging Russian assault against civilian targets in more than a month, air alarms blared around 4 a.m. as Russian bombers over the Caspian Sea unleashed about two dozen cruise missiles and attack drones at targets across Ukraine.

The deadliest attack appeared to be in the central city of Uman, which is nearly 200 miles north of the front line and has not been a frequent target of attacks.

ny times logoNew York Times, Unreleased Report Finds Faults in Amnesty International’s Criticism of Ukraine, Charlie Savage, April 28, 2023 (print ed.). The rights group commissioned an independent review of its August accusation that Ukrainian forces illegally put civilians in harm’s way.

ukraine flagAmnesty International’s board has sat for months on a report critical of the group after it accused Ukrainian forces of illegally endangering civilians while fighting Russia, according to documents and a person familiar with the matter.

The 18-page report, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, underscores the complexity of applying international law to aspects of the conflict in Ukraine — and the continuing sensitivity of a matter that prompted a fierce and swift backlash to the human rights group.

In a lengthy statement on Aug. 4, Amnesty International accused Ukrainian forces of a pattern of illegally putting “civilians in harm’s way” by housing soldiers nearby and launching attacks from populated areas. Russia, which has shelled civilian buildings and killed many civilians, portrayed the finding as vindication, but it otherwise incited outrage.

In response, the group expressed deep regret for “the distress and anger” its statement caused and announced it would conduct an external evaluation to learn “what exactly went wrong and why.” As part of that, Amnesty International’s board commissioned an independent legal review of whether the substance of what it had said was legitimate.

A review panel of five international humanitarian law experts received internal emails and interviewed staff members.

In some respects, the report by the review panel absolved Amnesty International, concluding that it was proper to evaluate whether a defender, not just an aggressor, was obeying the laws of war, and saying that Amnesty’s records made clear that Ukrainian forces were frequently near civilians.

Under international law, it wrote, both sides in any conflict must try to protect civilians, regardless of the rightness of their cause. As a result, it is “entirely appropriate” for a rights organization to criticize violations by a victim of aggression, “provided that there is sufficient evidence of such violations.”

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

 

Global News

 

President Joe Biden and South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol stand as their two country's national anthems are played during a State Arrival Ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Washington, Wednesday, April 26, 2023 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

President Joe Biden and South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol stand as their two country's national anthems are played during a State Arrival Ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Washington, Wednesday, April 26, 2023 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: After Warmth From U.S., South Korea’s Leader Faces a Different Tune at Home, Choe Sang-Hun, April 29, 2023. President Yoon Suk Yeol’s foreign policy, aligning his country more closely with Washington and Tokyo, has polarized his country.

South Korea FlagPresident Yoon Suk Yeol, below left, went to Washington to reset South Korean diplomacy by drawing closer to the United States and taking a larger role on the yoon suk yeol ointernational stage. If the warmth of his reception there was the gauge of success, he did well.

President Biden welcomed him as “my friend.” Mr. Yoon belted out “American Pie” while the crowd whooped along during the White House dinner. On Thursday, he addressed the United States Congress, thanking Americans for their support during the Korean War, and extolling a deep relationship between the countries that helped energize South Korea’s rise to become a global technological and cultural powerhouse.

“Even if you didn’t know my name, you may know BTS and Blackpink,” Mr. Yoon said to chuckles from American lawmakers. “BTS beat me to the White House. But I beat them to Capitol Hill.”

North Korean flagBut Mr. Yoon now returns home to South Korea to a decidedly colder audience — a public that has punished him with low approval ratings and, in some sectors, has deep misgivings over a pivot toward the United States that could alienate China and threaten the country’s long tradition of diplomatic caution.

 

 President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden welcomed President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea and his wife, Kim Keon-hee, to the state dinner at the White House on Wednesday (New York Times photo by Doug Mills).

President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden welcomed President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea and his wife, Kim Keon-hee, to the state dinner at the White House on Wednesday (New York Times photo by Doug Mills).

ny times logoNew York Times, Jill Biden Doesn’t Want to Tell You What She Is Wearing, Vanessa Friedman, April 28, 2023 (print ed.). The day after President Biden released a video announcing he would be running for a second term, he and the first lady, Jill Biden, stood in black tie and evening gown on the red carpet outside the north entrance to the White House to welcome President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea and his wife, Kim Keon-hee, to the second state dinner of the Biden administration. It was interesting timing.

After all, what better way to show just how at home you are in your current role — how graciously you play it — than to welcome the world to your home (relatively speaking) in the ultimate pantomime of national hosting that is the … well, meat, of this particular political ritual?

If the dinner itself largely takes place behind closed doors, one photo always goes wide: the greeting portrait, the two couples, side by side, dressed in pomp and circumstance and symbolism. It tells an implicit story of soft power and priorities.

So what does it say, exactly, that while Dr. Biden and her office were happy to engage in the usual preview of the evening’s menu, décor and entertainment — the blue tablecloths were chosen in honor of the 70th anniversary of the Republic of Korea alliance! The chairs were bamboo, with cushion designs evoking traditional Korean brush painting! — the one subject they did not officially communicate on was what the first lady was wearing?

washington post logoWashington Post, How rich is King Charles? Coronation prompts scrutiny of royal wealth, Karla Adam and Mary Jordan, April 28, 2023. People may find it amusing to know the king technically owns all the swans, but a growing number in the U.K. view the royal family as an expensive relic.

United Kingdom flagThe first crown King Charles III will wear at his May 6 coronation is a daunting five pounds of solid gold, velvet, ermine and gems. The second is lighter, adorned with 2,868 diamonds. He will receive the customary bejeweled scepters, swords, ring and orb. Afterward, he will travel through the streets of London in a golden carriage.

There will be a lot of bling.

Historically, all this projected the power of the British monarchy. The elaborate coronation rituals still help legitimize the royal transition — and sell the royal brand.

But the glitzy celebration, expected to cost British taxpayers tens of millions of pounds, may also highlight a liability for Charles. With a new king has come renewed scrutiny of the wealth of the royal family and heightened skepticism about how much the public should be subsidizing it.

ny times logoNew York Times, BBC Chairman Resigns, Deepening Turmoil at Britain’s Broadcaster, Mark Landler, April 29, 2023 (print ed.). The chairman of BBC’s board, Richard Sharp, resigned on Friday after an investigation concluded that he failed to disclose his involvement in arranging a nearly $1 million boris johnson tieloan for the former prime minister, Boris Johnson, right,.

Mr. Sharp said in a statement, shortly before the report was released, that the omission was “inadvertent and not material” but that he had decided bbc news logo2to step down from the broadcaster’s board to “prioritize the interests of the BBC.”

His departure deepens the turmoil that has enveloped Britain’s public broadcaster in recent months over accusations of political bias and questions about its close ties to Britain’s Conservative government. The BBC’s role has come under relentless fire in an era of polarized politics and freewheeling social media.

United Kingdom flagIt suspended its most prominent on-air personality, Gary Lineker, last month after he posted a tweet likening the government’s immigration policy to that of Germany in the 1930s. That triggered a walkout of the BBC’s sports staff and forced it to broadcast “Match of the Day,” its flagship weekly soccer program, without commentary.

OpEdNews, Opinion: The Current Israeli Constitutional Crisis: What it is Really About, Steven Jonas, Updated April 28, 2023. It is well-known that currently in Israel there is a major conflict underway over the power and role of the Supreme Court. Indeed, the nation is very closely divided on this issue. oenearthlogoAnd as is also well-known, the current Right-wing government wants to severely curtail the Supreme Court's power.

In a nation that has no Constitution* but merely a set of laws and traditions, some of which pre-date the founding of the Nation of Israel in 1948, the struggle is about whether there is to be maintained a separation of powers between the legislative/administrative branch of government --- and in nations with a parliamentary system those two functions are merged --- and the judicial branch. (To my knowledge, among nations which have some form of democratic government, the separation of powers into the three branches found in the United States is unique, a function of its 18th century separation of powers established in its Constitution.)

On the surface (as least as it is perceived in this country) the struggle has to do with the criminal charges that Netanyahu has faced for quite some time now, and the role of the Supreme Court in making the final decision on that matter. However, in my view (and surely in the view of other observers, although this issue does not receive very much attention, at least in this country), THE issue --- presently spoken of in muted terms by all parties --- is rather the matter of the total expulsion of the Palestinian Arabs from what right-wing Israelis call "Greater Israel" and the Palestinians call the "Occupied (Palestinian) Territories." "Greater Israel"/"the Occupied Territories" is the land that lies between the undisputed Eastern boundary of the State of Israel proper that was established after the end of the Six Day War in 1967 and the Jordan River, which is the boundary between Israel (including the Occupied Territories) and the nation of Jordan.

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Trump Cases, Allies, Insurrectionists

 

Members of former U.S. President Donald Trump's legal team, including (L-R) Susan Necheles, Todd Blanche and Joe Tacopina depart Trump Tower en route to a court appearance on April 04, 2023 in New York City (Photo by John Moore via Getty Images).

Members of former U.S. President Donald Trump's legal team, including (L-R) Susan Necheles, Todd Blanche and Joe Tacopina depart Trump Tower en route to a court appearance on April 04, 2023 in New York City (Photo by John Moore via Getty Images).

Raw Story, Trump lawyer Tacopina fell 'into a trap' during E. Jean Carroll cross-examination: legal expert, Tom Boggioni, April 29, 2023. Appearing on MSNBC's "The Katie Phang Show" on Saturday morning, former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance claimed that the E. Jean Carroll rape and defamation trial is not going well for Donald Trump and that his attorney, Joe Tacopina is not helping matters.

raw story logo squareSpeaking with the host, Vance said that the former president's attorney stepped into a familiar "trap" when questioning a sexual assualt victim and it likely did not play well with the jury.

Asked by host Phang where the case is headed, Vance explained, "Well, the problem that defense lawyers have on cross-examination in a case like this, Katie, is that even though it's not a criminal rape prosecution, the civil case nears the same sorts of issues."

"The defense lawyer has to do two things: he's got to make the victim's story not credible in the eyes of the jury and there is got to be some effort to diminish the victim's credibility," she continued. "Frankly, from what we've been able to see, of course, there are no cameras in the courtroom, but we're reading the printouts of what's going on."

"He doesn't really seem to touch Carroll," she suggested. "She's a very determined, a very fierce witness. Her story is consistent, and there is no real inroads he makes there."

"He falls into this other trap that the defense lawyers have to be wary of in a sexual assault case," she added. "By going on the attack against Carroll he runs the risk of making her credibility stronger, of putting the jury on her side and willing to listen to her testimony. That looks to be how the trial is going at this moment."

 

djt mike pence

ny times logoNew York Times, Pence Appears Before Grand Jury on Trump’s Efforts to Retain Power, Maggie Haberman, April 28, 2023 (print ed.). Former Vice President Mike Pence is a key witness to Donald Trump’s attempts to block congressional certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.

mike pence leftFormer Vice President Mike Pence appeared on Thursday before the grand jury hearing evidence about former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to cling to power after he lost the 2020 election, a person briefed on the matter said, testifying in a criminal inquiry that could shape the legal and political fate of his one-time boss and possible 2024 rival.

Mr. Pence spent more than five hours behind closed doors at the Federal District Court in Washington in an appearance that came after he was subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury earlier this year.

As the target of an intense pressure campaign in the final days of 2020 and early 2021 by Mr. Trump to convince him to play a critical role in blocking or delaying congressional certification of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory, Mr. Pence is considered a key witness in the investigation.

Mr. Pence, who is expected to decide soon about whether to challenge Mr. Trump for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, rebuffed Mr. Trump’s demands that he use his role as president of the Senate in the certification of the Electoral College results to derail the final step in affirming Mr. Biden’s victory.

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More On 2024 U.S. Presidential Race

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Will the Economy Make or Break Biden in 2024? Peter Coy, right, April 29, 2023. Now that President Biden has announced his intention to peter coyrun for a second term, economists and politicos are assessing whether his candidacy will be helped or hurt by the performance of the economy. If there’s a recession, will it be over and mostly forgotten by Election Day?

Oxford Economics did an initial run of its election forecasting model, which takes economic factors into account, and found that Biden is in line to get around 55 percent of the popular vote, without any assumption about his opponent, according to a research briefing on Wednesday. Paul Krugman, my Opinion colleague, wrote Thursday that “the idea that the economy is going to pose a huge problem for Democrats next year isn’t backed by the available data.”

The truth is, though, that we really don’t know who will win the 2024 election, or even what role the economy will play in it. As somebody who writes about economics, I’d love to say that the state of the economy leading up to Nov. 5, 2024, will matter a lot. But that does not seem to be the case, according to people I spoke with this week. One possible reason is that voters have become more polarized and set in their preferences, and thus less swayed by the ups and downs of the economy.

For example, let’s say former President Donald Trump captures the Republican nomination. Most Biden supporters wouldn’t vote for him no matter how bad the economy got in 2024 — just as most Trump supporters won’t vote for Biden no matter how good the economy gets under the incumbent. James Carville’s admonition in 1992 that it’s “the economy, stupid” doesn’t hold up in this era of hyperpartisanship.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Tiny, Tight-Lipped Circle of Aides Guiding Biden 2024, Reid J. Epstein and Katie Glueck, April 28, 2023 (print ed.). They rarely give on-the-record interviews. Only two are on Twitter. But they will be the main force behind the president’s political strategy.

When President Biden announced his re-election campaign and its top two staff members this week, the names of his closest and longest-serving advisers were not included.

A small circle of senior officials, some who have known Mr. Biden for longer than many of the soon-to-be-hired campaign staff members have been alive, will guide the president’s political strategy both in the White House and on the campaign trail.

None of them have significant public personas. Of the six, only Jennifer O’Malley Dillon and Jeff Zients, the White House chief of staff, have active Twitter accounts. But it was members of this group who began making phone calls last weekend to offer positions on Mr. Biden’s campaign, only some of which have been announced.

Politico, DeSantis allies go to war with an unlikely foe: Nikki Haley, Alex Isenstadt and Natalie Allison, April 28, 2023. When the super PAC supporting Ron DeSantis turned its fire on Nikki Haley, it said volumes about the shifting dynamics of the 2024 campaign.

politico CustomFor months, the presidential primary looked like the Ron DeSantis-Donald Trump show.

So it came as a surprise to some top Republicans this week when the well-funded super PAC supporting DeSantis turned its fire on Nikki Haley, a candidate still registering in the low-single digits in national polls.

nikki haley oNever Back Down, the pro-DeSantis group, is now running an ad online attacking Haley, right, has polled Twitter users on a new nickname for her, and accused her in a tweet of “trying really hard to audition” to be Trump’s vice presidential pick.

The move suggested a shifting dynamic in the contest: With DeSantis falling further behind Trump in national and early-state surveys, his allied super PAC is trying to ensure that the primary remains a two-way race and that other candidates vying to be the Trump alternative do not gain traction.

“This is the DeSantis team acknowledging that he is closer to the field than he is to President Trump,” said Justin Clark, a Republican strategist who was Trump’s 2020 deputy campaign manager but who isn’t involved in a 2024 presidential campaign.

The pro-DeSantis PAC’s anti-Haley offensive came after the former South Carolina governor took a shot at DeSantis during an interview on Fox News for his heavy-handed approach toward Disney and suggested the theme park relocate several hours north to her home state. Shortly after, Never Back Down began running a digital ad featuring clips of Disney employees touting the company’s promotion of pro-LGBTQ themes, and concluding with a silhouette image of Haley holding hands with Mickey Mouse.

It wasn’t a one-off, but part of a coordinated offensive. The group announced the spot would be included in a “six-figure” digital ad buy in South Carolina, a key early primary state. And it put out several tweets attacking Haley, including one saying she is “embracing woke corporations” and another with a poll asking if she should be nicknamed “Mickey Haley” or “Nikki Mouse.”

“It’s a bad strategy to defend Woke Disney when they decided to defend the sexualization of children,” Erin Perrine, a spokesperson for Never Back Down, said in a statement, when asked about the group’s recent attacks on Haley. ”It’s mind-boggling [that] any Republican would side with a massive corporation that has an unprecedented level of self-governance over protecting children and families, but I guess 2023 is a strange time.”

 

bernie sanders joe bidenPalmer Report, Opinion: Bernie Sanders just put Joe Biden in the driver’s seat for 2024, Robert Harrington, April 27, 2023. It’s practically a cliche to say it, but Jimmy Carter the ex-president is vastly superior to Jimmy Carter the President. In much the same sense, to me anyway, Bernie Sanders is a vastly superior ex-presidential candidate. He’s learned much, discarded much that was bad and kept much that was good.

bill palmer report logo headerHis speeches and interviews in favor of sane legislation and common sense approaches to government have an inevitable logic that reminds me of Noam Chomsky. These days I say that I seldom disagree with Bernie Sanders just to be careful, but the truth is I cannot recall a recent time when I’ve disagreed with him at all. Like Jimmy Carter, Bernie’s become virtually perfect, and I’m glad for that. It was exhausting and counterproductive to be mad at him all the time.

In keeping with his recent perfect record with me, he told us in 2020 that he would not run in 2024, and by golly he has kept that promise. Shortly after President Biden announced his candidacy Senator Sanders said he will not run.

But it gets better. The latest thing that he’s said that I agree with is that we need to throw our entire effort behind getting President Biden re-elected. “The last thing this country needs,” Senator Sanders said recently, “is a Donald Trump or some other right-wing demagogue who is going to try to undermine American democracy or take away a woman’s right to choose, or not address the crisis of gun violence, or racism, sexism or homophobia.”

Bernie said he believes preventing former President Trump’s re-election (or the election of anyone like him) should be paramount in 2024. I agree. I will add that it would be my position even if President Biden were an ineffectual, do-nothing President. But he isn’t. He’s been hugely successful, the most successful President in my lifetime.

But I cannot recall a time in my life when the efficacy of one candidate is wholly eclipsed by the horribleness of another. The closest that comes to mind is the Carter-Reagan contest or the Gore-Bush contest. But as bad as the Republican alternatives turned out to be in those examples, they were not psychopaths who hated America and would happily destroy democracy for their own selfish gains.

I don’t know who the 2024 Republican candidate is going to be but I do know this: he or she will be horrid. There can be no kind of Republican candidate BUT a horrible one, because the next Republican will be picked by MAGA, and MAGA only ever picks fascists. I don’t know if it will be Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis or some as yet unknown dark horse from left field, nor do I care much. But I do know that he or she must not, can not, become president of the United States.

So thank you, Bernie, for helping to unite the field. Our President must remain our only candidate for 2024, but above all, we must not allow Trump or another like him to ever set foot in the Oval Office ever again. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

 

Democratic-Republican Campaign logos

ny times logoNew York Times, See who’s running for president in 2024, and who else might run, Martín González Gómez and Maggie Astor, April 26, 2023 (print ed.). Four years after a historically large number of candidates ran for president, the field for the 2024 campaign is starting out small and looks like it will be headlined by the same two aging men who ran in the general election last time: President Biden and former President Donald J. Trump.

President Donald Trump officialPresident Biden formally declared his bid for re-election in a three-minute video posted online. The video, which comes four years to the day after his 2020 campaign announcement, sets in motion the possibility of a rematch with former President Donald J. Trump.

A number of Republicans are expected to enter the race, but most are taking their time to directly take on Mr. Trump, who still holds extraordinary sway with their party’s base. And Democrats are almost universally unwilling to challenge their own incumbent so long as he seems likely to run, no matter their misgivings.

          In his first public speech since announcing his re-election bid, President Biden called himself “the most pro-union president in American history” and said that Republicans support an agenda that favors the rich (New York Times Photo by Doug Mills on April 25, 2023).

 In his first public speech since announcing his re-election bid, President Biden called himself “the most pro-union president in American history” and said that Republicans support an agenda that favors the rich (New York Times Photo by Doug Mills on April 25, 2023).

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘It’s Time to Finish the Job’: Biden Begins His 2024 Campaign, Peter Baker, April 26, 2023 (print ed.). In a speech after announcing his candidacy, President Biden called himself “the most pro-union president” in history and said Republicans favored the rich.

President Biden formally announced on Tuesday that he would seek a second term, arguing that American democracy still faces a profound threat from former President Donald J. Trump as he set up the possibility of a climactic rematch between the two next year.

In a video that opens with images of a mob of Trump supporters storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the president said that the “fight for our democracy” has “been the work of my first term” but is incomplete while his predecessor mounts a comeback campaign for his old office that Mr. Biden suggested would endanger fundamental rights.

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U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

 

north carolina map


ny times logoNew York Times, North Carolina Gerrymander Ruling Reflects Politicization of Judiciary Nationally, Michael Wines, April 29, 2023 (print ed.). Last year, the court voided the state’s legislative and congressional maps as illegal gerrymanders. Now with a Republican majority, it says the opposite.

Last year, Democratic justices on the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that maps of the state’s legislative and congressional districts drawn to give Republicans lopsided majorities were illegal gerrymanders. On Friday, the same court led by a newly elected Republican majority looked at the same facts, reversed itself and said it had no authority to act.

The practical effect is to enable the Republican-controlled General Assembly to scrap the court-ordered State House, Senate and congressional district boundaries that were used in elections last November, and draw new maps skewed in Republicans’ favor for elections in 2024. The 5-to-2 ruling fell along party lines, reflecting the takeover of the court by Republican justices in partisan elections last November.

The decision has major implications not just for the state legislature, where the G.O.P. is barely clinging to the supermajority status that makes its decisions veto-proof, but for the U.S. House, where a new North Carolina map could add at least three Republican seats in 2024 to what is now a razor-thin Republican majority. Overturning such a recent ruling by the court was a highly unusual move, particularly on a pivotal constitutional issue in which none of the facts had changed.

The North Carolina case mirrors a national trend in which states that elect their judges — Ohio, Kentucky, Kansas, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and others — have seen races for their high court seats turned into multimillion-dollar political battles, and their justices’ rulings viewed through a deeply partisan lens.

ny times logoNew York Times, George Santos, Instead of Shrinking From the Spotlight, Steps Into It, Nicholas Fandos, April 29, 2023. Representative George Santos seems to be testing whether his notoriety will translate into a form of celebrity, if not eventual acceptance.

Four months after his whole concocted biography unraveled — one Wall Street job and collegiate volleyball championship at a time — Mr. Santos remains a pariah. Colleagues refuse to work with him, dooming his legislative priorities. His local party has vowed to defeat him. And a slew of law enforcement and ethics investigators are combing through his life and campaign finances.

But rather than shrinking from the attention, the 34-year-old congressman is stepping ever more definitely toward the spotlight. Mr. Santos seems eager to test whether he can make the journey from laughingstock to legitimacy by aligning himself with former President Donald J. Trump — or at least signaling that he’s in on the joke.

ny times logoNew York Times, Minnesota Votes to Legalize Marijuana as Democrats Press Liberal Policies, Ernesto Londoño, April 29, 2023 (print ed.). Democrats, who took control in St. Paul, have moved forward with a long list of plans, including expanding abortion rights and offering driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants.

Politico, Appeals court upholds Florida voting restrictions approved by GOP lawmakers, Bruce Ritchie and Gary Fineout, April 28, 2023 (print ed.). The Legislature approved the measure in the wake of the 2020 election. A federal appeals court sided with Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday when it overturned a lower court’s decision on a controversial voting law.

politico CustomThat law, approved by the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature in 2021, placed restrictions on the use of drop boxes and set new requirements for voter registration groups, among other things. A federal judge in March 2022 ruled that the law was discriminatory against minorities and placed unconstitutional burdens on voters.

In an extraordinary move, the judge in the 2022 decision, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, ordered the state to get court approval for a decade before it enacts changes in three areas of election law.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosBut on Thursday, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that Walker’s 288-page order was based on legal errors and “clearly erroneous” findings of fact. The appeals court sent the case back to the lower court for review.

It also reversed the requirement that Florida needs prior clearance to change parts of voting law. It affirmed Walker’s ruling that a restriction on soliciting voters within 150 feet of a ballot drop box was unconstitutionally vague.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosJeremy Redfern, deputy press secretary to DeSantis, hailed the ruling as a “great win for Florida’s voters.” Jasmine Burney-Clark, founder of Equal Ground, which was a plaintiff in the case, said she was disappointed and maintained that the election law diminished the power of Black voters.

The case began in 2021, when the Florida Legislature approved voting restrictions that placed new limits on the use of absentee ballot drop boxes, blocked solicitation of voters within 150 of those drop-off points and placed restrictions on collecting and delivering voter registration applications. At the time, Democrats and civil rights organizations criticized the legislation and subsequent law, saying it disenfranchised Black voters and lead to voter suppression.

The Legislature approved the measure in the wake of the 2020 election, when former President Donald Trump was publicly railing against — without evidence — election results.

ny times logoNew York Times Magazine, How Randi Weingarten Landed at the Heart of America’s Political Fights, Jonathan Mahler, April 28, 2023. School closures and culture wars turned classrooms into battlegrounds — and made the head of one of the largest teachers’ unions a lightning rod for criticism.

Politico, Brutal Dem primary could pit ex-lawmaker against gov’s sister, Nicholas Wu and Ally Mutnick, April 28, 2023. Mondaire Jones is gearing up to run for his old House seat, a must-win for Democrats in 2024. And his allies are unhappy that he’ll likely have to run against the sister of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

politico CustomMondaire Jones, right, mondaire jonesis gearing up for a potential run for his old House seat, which could tee up a ugly primary with the sister of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in must-win territory for Democrats.

While the ex-congressman is publicly saying he’s undecided, four people familiar with his plans say he’s prepping a run for his former New York seat. That’ll likely pit him against Liz Whitmer Gereghty, who has filed federal campaign paperwork and is slated to officially launch her bid soon.

democratic donkey logoDemocrats are bracing for the showdown — in one of several New York districts they need to claw back their House majority — to get nasty.

Jones’ backers are already peeved at what they see as an unnecessarily messy primary that will detract from efforts to flip the seat. Adding to the angst: Jones and his allies already felt he’d been screwed out of the seat in 2022, after former House Democratic campaign chair Sean Patrick Maloney ran in sean maloneyJones’ district following a redistricting saga. And then Maloney, right, lost in the general, after an aggressive national GOP campaign, to Rep. Mike Lawler.

U.S. House logo“I want him to run. He needs to run,” said Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) of Jones. “What Sean Patrick Maloney did was bullshit. That should have been Mondaire’s seat.”

“I didn’t even know her sister lived in the district,” he added, referring to Gereghty. “And I don’t know many people who know her.”

Gereghty supporters note she’s lived in the area for two decades and serves on a local school board. And even some of Jones’ former New York colleagues are tepid about his return after his unsuccessful run for a different seat — miles away from his old one — after last year’s redistricting mess.

washington post logoWashington Post, Disney sues DeSantis, says it was ‘left with no other choice,’ Aaron Gregg and Lori Rozsa, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). The entertainment giant’s lawsuit alleges Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has waged a “relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney.”

disney logoWalt Disney Co. is suing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), right, over what it calls a “relentless campaign to weaponize government power” — a ron desantis omajor escalation of the year-long clash between the entertainment giant and conservative governor.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida came the same day the governor’s handpicked board declared a Disney-friendly deal null and void. Disney and DeSantis’s office have been tussling privately for the past year, but the frequency and intensity of their sparring has intensified dramatically in recent days.

The standoff, which could have major political and economic consequences, began in early 2022 when Disney leaders criticized a controversial education bill advanced by DeSantis and other Florida Republicans. Disney’s resorts in Florida are some of the state’s prime attractions, but DeSantis expressed outrage that the company dare criticize the education bill, and he began attacking the company, saying it had received preferential treatment for too long.

mark walkerThe case has been assigned to Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, right, of Florida's northern federal district court.

DeSantis, whom many consider a top presidential contender, has repeatedly turned to the state’s Republican-controlled legislature to help him rein in Disney. The first effort came in a special session in April 2022, when lawmakers dissolved the special taxing district created in 1967 to help the company develop and control its vast property near Orlando.

But that move quickly caused concerns about what would happen with Disney’s tax and debt burden. Local government officials called it “a $1 billion debt bomb” and said they could have been forced to raise taxes on property owners to pay for what Disney’s district used to fund, such as roads and other services.

DeSantis ordered another special session in February to address that issue by keeping the tax district, but replacing the board selected by Disney — called the Reedy Creek Improvement District — with a new panel. DeSantis chose the five new board members and called the agency the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board. When the new board held its first meeting in March, members said they discovered that the outgoing Disney board had handed over most of their power to Disney. That’s what they voted to overturn on Wednesday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Democrats begin to target vulnerable GOP seats, Jennifer Rubin, right, April 27, 2023. Talk to informed Democratic operatives, donors or jennifer rubin new headshotHouse members and they will invariably say: The route to recapturing the House runs through the “Biden 18.” Those are the 18 Republicans sitting in districts won by Joe Biden in 2020.

Not all of the GOP incumbents are equally vulnerable. They range from moderate Brian Fitzpatrick in Pennsylvania, considered a strong candidate likely to be reelected, to the risible fabulist George Santos in New York, universally regarded as the most beatable.

Some seats are located in very expensive media markets in New York or California; others are in safe Biden states where Republican turnout might be low. Some New York seats would be tough to take back (e.g., the 19th Congressional District) unless Democrats can redistrict them. With those considerations in mind, Democrats assessing the contests think 14 to 16 of the 18 districts are gettable. A swing of just five seats would put the House back in Democratic hands.

The process of prioritizing races and marshaling money has already begun. Yasmin Radjy, executive director of Swing Left, a national organization with an extensive grass-roots network of volunteers and donors for Democrats in competitive seats, announced on Tuesday the six incumbent Republicans of those 18 the organization will initially focus on.

washington post logoWashington Post, Conservative dissenters block abortion limits in Nebraska, South Carolina, Brittany Shammas, Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff, Rachel Roubein and Caroline Kitchener, April 28, 2023 (print ed.). The South Carolina bill was stopped by five women, three Republicans and two Democrats. The Nebraska bill went down due to an 80-year-old male Republican.

Strict new abortion restrictions failed to advance in two conservative-dominated legislatures on Thursday, signaling a mounting fear among some Republicans that abortion bans could lead to political backlash.

A near-total ban on abortion failed in South Carolina, just hours before a six-week ban fizzled in Nebraska. Abortion remains legal in both states until 22 weeks of pregnancy.

In lengthy and often impassioned speeches on the South Carolina Senate floor, the state’s five female senators — three Republicans and two Democrats — decried what would have been a near-total ban on abortion. One, Sen. Sandy Senn (R), likened the implications to the dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” in which women are treated as property of the state.

Abortion laws, Senn said, “have always been, each and every one of them, about control — plain and simple. And in the Senate, the males have all the control.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Texas state agency orders workers to dress based on ‘biological gender,’ Jonathan Edwards, April 28, 2023 (print ed.). Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said it’s unprofessional when a man comes ‘dressed in drag, or vice versa.’

texas mapMuch of the Texas Department of Agriculture’s new dress code probably won’t surprise most office workers. Employees are barred from wearing ripped jeans, crop tops or flip flops. Pants shouldn’t sag to the knees. Business attire, like a suit or pantsuit, is expected for those testifying before the state legislature.

Then there’s the part that the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas is denouncing as unconstitutional, inflammatory and harmful: “Employees are expected to comply with this dress code in a manner consistent with their biological gender.”

Earlier this month, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller issued a two-page “dress code and grooming policy,” which was leaked and first published on Monday by the Texas Observer. The ACLU has since called the policy “clearly unlawful,” tarring it as the most recent attempt by Texas state lawmakers to target transgender people as they go to school, play sports, receive medical care and simply live..Much of the Texas Department of Agriculture’s new dress code probably won’t surprise most office workers. Employees are barred from wearing ripped jeans, crop tops or flip flops. Pants shouldn’t sag to the knees. Business attire, like a suit or pantsuit, is expected for those testifying before the state legislature.

Then there’s the part that the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas is denouncing as unconstitutional, inflammatory and harmful: “Employees are expected to comply with this dress code in a manner consistent with their biological gender.”

Earlier this month, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller issued a two-page “dress code and grooming policy,” which was leaked and first published on Monday by the Texas Observer. The ACLU has since called the policy “clearly unlawful,” tarring it as the most recent attempt by Texas state lawmakers to target transgender people as they go to school, play sports, receive medical care and simply live.

washington post logoWashington Post, About 16,000 U.S. citizens remain in Sudan as Americans, other foreigners struggle to flee, Katharine Houreld and Claire Parker, April 28, 2023 (print ed.). Exhausted and terrified, Americans and other foreign nationals have been struggling to escape the fighting in Sudan, cramming into crowded port terminals, squeezing onto filthy buses and begging strangers for a ride to an airport in a desperate bid to reach safety.

The United States, like other governments, has already evacuated its diplomats and their families, but tens of thousands of other foreign citizens remain behind amid fierce battles between the Sudanese military and a rival paramilitary group that erupted nearly two weeks ago.

So far, there has been no announced plan to evacuate the estimated 16,000 American citizens in Sudan, many of them dual nationals. By contrast, Britain, France and Germany have sent airplanes to Sudan to help evacuate their citizens, and other countries, such as India, have organized convoys to Port Sudan on the Red Sea.

Politico, Trump endorsed by head of GOP’s Senate campaign arm, Ally Mutnick, April 25, 2023 (print ed.). Steve Daines becomes the latest, and highest profile, Senator to back the former president.

politico CustomThe head of the Republican’s Senate campaign arm endorsed Donald Trump on Monday, becoming the most high-profile Republican in that chamber to back the former president’s attempt to win back the White House.

steve daines oSen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), right, announced his support for Trump on the Triggered podcast hosted by the ex-president’s son, Don Jr.

President Donald Trump official“The best four years I’ve had in the U.S. Senate was when President Trump was serving in the Oval Office,” Daines said, praising his tax reform and his efforts to remake the courts. “For these reasons and many others I’m proud to endorse Donald J. Trump for president of the United States.”

republican elephant logoAs chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Daines is charged with helping his party win back control of the Senate. His backing of Trump suggests a comfort with the former president atop the ticket that is not shared by others in his party, including some potential candidates that top Republicans would like to see run. Notably, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has had persistent conflicts with Trump and has declined to weigh in on the 2024 Republican primary.

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) announced his support for Trump on the Triggered podcast hosted by the ex-president’s son, Don Jr.

President Donald Trump official“The best four years I’ve had in the U.S. Senate was when President Trump was serving in the Oval Office,” Daines said, praising his tax reform and his efforts to remake the courts. “For these reasons and many others I’m proud to endorse Donald J. Trump for president of the United States.”

republican elephant logoAs chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Daines is charged with helping his party win back control of the Senate. His backing of Trump suggests a comfort with the former president atop the ticket that is not shared by others in his party, including some potential candidates that top Republicans would like to see run. Notably, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has had persistent conflicts with Trump and has declined to weigh in on the 2024 Republican primary.

But other Republican Senators have endorsed the 45th president, including J.D. Vance, Lindsey Graham, Eric Schmitt, Mike Braun, Ted Budd, Cindy Hyde-Smith, Markwayne Mullin, Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty.

On the podcast segment, Daines highlighted the importance of Ohio, West Virginia and Montana — three states Trump won in 2020 — to win back the Senate majority.

washington post logoWashington Post, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice expected to announce Senate bid against Joe Manchin, John Wagner, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) is expected to announce his bid for Senate on Thursday, setting up the possibility of a marquee race in 2024 against Sen. Joe Manchin III (D) in a state that Republicans view as one of their best pickup opportunities.

Justice previewed a “special announcement” planned Thursday at a West Virginia resort in an advisory sent to the media on Wednesday. Though the advisory makes no mention of the Senate race, it notes it will be streaming live on a YouTube channel that has been set up by the group Jim Justice for U.S. Senate, Inc.

Manchin, 75, one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate, has not yet said whether he will run for reelection next year in a state that Donald Trump won by nearly 39 percentage points in 2020. But Manchin has been highly critical of President Biden on several fronts in recent months, a posture consistent with seeking another term in his red state.

washington post logoWashington Post, DeJoy says USPS will keep raising prices, follow abortion pill rulings, Jacob Bogage, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). The mail agency has made steady improvements despite persistent inflation, the postmaster general said.

us mail logoThe U.S. Postal Service has kept unhealthy businesses alive because of its low prices, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy says. He wants to change that.

The mail chief is committed to dramatically increasing postage rates as he enters the third year of his plan to transform the Postal Service from an aging letter courier to the backbone of the e-commerce economy.

louis dejoy CustomThat could spell trouble, DeJoy, left, warned, for some businesses relying on mailing and shipping costs that have been kept low at the expense of the Postal Service’s financial stability.

“If we have kept alive things by a false business model — which is what we have done for 15 years, and we have abused the organization — well, that’s not something we’re supposed to be doing,” he said in an interview. “That has to change.”

Much of that plan is underway: Congress has relieved the Postal Service of $107 billion in liabilities, and granted it $3 billion to purchase electric delivery vehicles.

But economic and social head winds — persistent inflation, a looming recession and court rulings surrounding mailed abortion medications — are clouding the path forward, DeJoy said.

DeJoy sat down with The Washington Post to discuss the state of the Postal Service and questions about its future. The conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Politico, The keys to a hypothetical Tucker Carlson 2024 campaign, Adam Wren, Natalie Allison and David Siders, April 25, 2023 (print ed.). Politico invited GOP strategists to game out what a hypothetical Carlson presidential campaign might look like. It isn’t as outlandish as it sounds. Let’s be clear: Almost no one thinks Tucker Carlson is running for president. But imagine if he did.

politico CustomAs tributes to the former Fox personality poured in from the GOP Monday — “the most important and powerful voice in politics today,” the high-octane conservative Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) was quick to tell POLITICO — speculation immediately centered on what Carlson, who occupied Fox’s influential 8 p.m. perch, would do next. Head to talk radio, like the late Rush Limbaugh? Jump to a right-leaning rival like One American News Network or Newsmax or even, uh, Russian state TV, all of which openly courted him in the hours after news broke of his departure? Start a Substack?

  • Politico, Vivek Ramaswamy: Carlson would be 'good addition' to GOP presidential field, April 25, 2023 (print ed.).

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U.S. National Security

 

President Barack Obama in the White House Situation Room discussing the mission against Osama bin Laden on May 1, 2011. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama in the White House Situation Room discussing the mission against Osama bin Laden on May 1, 2011. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

washington post logoWashington Post, Newly released Obama White House photos capture the day bin Laden was killed, Nate Jones, April 29, 2023 (pr int ed.). The Washington Post obtained newly released photos taken by official White House photographers of key moments inside the White House during the 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound.

A cache of newly released government photographs reveals key moments inside the White House during the 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, including images of top officials shaking hands after learning that bin Laden had been killed and President Barack Obama calling other world leaders to break the news. Through a Freedom of Information Act request to the Obama Presidential Library, The Washington Post obtained more than 900 photos taken by official White House photographers on May 1, 2011. Below is a selection of 23 photographs and the moments they captured as recounted in Barack Obama’s memoir A Promised Land and an oral history by Garrett M. Graff published in Politico.

On April 29, 2011, Obama authorized the raid on the complex in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Intelligence reports had indicated that it was the likely location for bin Laden, the al-Qaeda founder who masterminded the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States that killed more than 3,000 people. Because of weather forecasts and the lack of moonlight, intelligence officials set the date as Sunday, May 1. The president then left Washington for a planned trip, including a brief tour of tornado damage in Tuscaloosa, Ala. He flew back to Washington and attended the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, where he cracked jokes mocking Donald Trump.

On May 1, the White House canceled all public tours — including some for celebrities who had traveled to D.C. for the correspondents’ dinner. According to then-Deputy Director of the CIA Mike Morell, any meeting about the raid was logged in the White House calendar as a “Mickey Mouse meeting” to avoid scrutiny. Cameras in the room had been turned off or covered. Obama played nine holes of golf that morning, as he routinely did on Sundays.

 

This image made from video provided by WCVB-TV, shows Jack Teixeira, in T-shirt and shorts, being taken into custody by armed tactical agents on Thursday, April 13, 2023, in Dighton, Mass. A judge is expected to hear arguments Thursday, April 27, over whether Teixeira, accused of leaking highly classified military documents about the Ukraine war and other issues, should remain in jail while he awaits trial. (WCVB-TV via AP, File)

This image made from video provided by WCVB-TV, shows Jack Teixeira, in T-shirt and shorts, being taken into custody by armed tactical agents on Thursday, April 13, 2023, in Dighton, Mass. A judge is expected to hear arguments Thursday, April 27, over whether Teixeira, accused of leaking highly classified military documents about the Ukraine war and other issues, should remain in jail while he awaits trial. (WCVB-TV via AP, File)

ap logoAssociated Press, Releasing leak suspect a national security risk, feds say, Alanna Durkin Richer, April 27, 2023. Federal prosecutors will urge a judge Thursday to keep behind bars a Massachusetts Air National guardsman accused of leaking highly classified military documents, arguing he may still have access to secret national defense information he could expose.

In court papers filed late Wednesday, the Justice Department lawyers said releasing 21-year-old Jack Teixeira from jail while he awaits trial would be a grave threat to the U.S. national security. Investigators are still trying to determine whether he kept any physical or digital copies of classified information, including files that haven’t already surfaced publicly, they wrote.
More coverage

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– Online gaming chats have long been spy risk for US military

“There simply is no condition or combination of conditions that can ensure the Defendant will not further disclose additional information still in his knowledge or possession,” prosecutors wrote. “The damage the Defendant has already caused to the U.S. national security is immense. The damage the Defendant is still capable of causing is extraordinary.”

A detention hearing is scheduled for Thursday in the federal court in Worcester, Massachusetts, for Teixeira, who has been in jail since his arrest earlier this month on charges stemming from the highest-profile intelligence leak in years.

Prosecutors said in their filing that Teixeira’s attorneys have indicated they will urge the judge to release him to his father’s home. As of late Wednesday, Teixeira’s attorneys hadn’t filed court papers arguing for his release.

ny times logoNew York Times, Airman Accused of Leak Has History of Racist and Violent Remarks, Filing Says, Glenn Thrush, April 28, 2023 (print ed.). Prosecutors accused Jack Teixeira of trying to fecklessly cover up his actions and described a possible propensity toward violence.

Jack Teixeira, the Massachusetts Air National Guardsman accused of posting classified documents online, repeatedly tried to obstruct federal investigators and has a “troubling” history of making racist and violent remarks, Justice Department lawyers said in a court filing late Wednesday.

In an 18-page memo, released before a detention hearing scheduled for Thursday in a Massachusetts federal court, the department’s lawyers argued that Airman Teixeira needed to be detained indefinitely because he posed a “serious flight risk” and might still have information that would be of “tremendous value to hostile nation states.”

Airman Teixeira tapped into vast reservoirs of sensitive information, an amount that “far exceeds what has been publicly disclosed” so far, they wrote.

Prosecutors pointedly questioned Airman Teixeira’s overall state of mind, disclosing that he was suspended from high school in 2018 for alarming comments about the use of Molotov cocktails and other weapons, and trawled the internet for information about mass shootings. He engaged in “regular discussions about violence and murder” on the same social media platform, Discord, that he used to post classified information, the filing said, and he surrounded his bed at his parents’ house with firearms and tactical gear.

 Relevant Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Abortion Laws, #MeToo, Public Health

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Congress holds the abortion hearing we have been waiting for, Jennifer Rubin, right, April 28, 2023. Last week, I wrote a pointed column jennifer rubin new headshotcriticizing Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and his fellow Democrats for not playing hardball with increasingly recalcitrant Republicans. I wrote that, while the committee held a hearing last summer on the legal ramifications of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, it hadn’t brought forward women and doctors to testify about the disastrous, real-world consequences of abortion bans that followed the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

On Wednesday, the committee held just such a hearing, inviting a Texas woman who nearly died because of her state’s abortion ban; an esteemed law professor; a practicing OB/GYN; a doctor from an antiabortion group; and a senior research associate from Notre Dame — a Catholic university.

The most compelling and heartbreaking testimony came from Amanda Zurawski, who lives in Texas. During her prepared remarks, she explained that after sending out invitations to her baby shower she began experiencing symptoms, her membranes ruptured, and she was “told by multiple doctors that the loss of our daughter was inevitable.” However, her doctors “didn’t feel safe enough to intervene as long as her heart was beating or until I was sick enough for the ethics board at the hospital to consider my life at risk and permit the standard health care I needed at that point — an abortion.”

Zurawski couldn’t very well drive to a “safe” state. (“Developing sepsis — which can kill quickly — in a car in the middle of the West Texas desert, or 30,000 feet above the ground, is a death sentence, and it’s not a choice we should have had to even consider.”) Instead, she had to wait — for either the fetus’s heart to stop or to get really sick. She nearly died from sepsis, which is why the standard of care in such circumstances is to perform an abortion before the woman gets very sick and risks death.

washington post logoWashington Post, E. Jean Carroll says #MeToo inspired her to go public with accusation, Shayna Jacobs, Kim Bellware and Mark Berman, April 28, 2023 (print ed.). E. Jean Carroll, who has accused Donald Trump of raping her two decades before he became president, testified Thursday that the #MeToo movement inspired her to speak out after years of remaining silent.

“Woman after woman stood up,” Carroll said. “I thought, well, this may be a way to change the culture of sexual violence. … I thought, we can actually change things if we all tell our stories.”

Taking the stand for a second day as part of her civil lawsuit against Trump, Carroll was questioned by Joe Tacopina, the former president’s attorney, who appeared focused on picking apart her allegations and generally weakening her credibility with jurors.

Carroll, a writer and former advice columnist, said Trump raped her during a chance encounter at a Manhattan department store in the mid-1990s. She publicly accused him in 2019, publishing a memoir that included her allegation. Trump, who was in the White House at the time, denied that the attack ever happened.

E. Jean Carroll testifies Trump raped her, then ‘shattered my reputation’

The timing of her public allegation has formed a central part of Trump’s defense, with Tacopina saying in his opening remarks this week that Carroll was “falsely accusing him of rape to make money, to sell a book.”

But when Tacopina questioned her on Thursday, Carroll testified that she made the decision to come forward after seeing the flood of sexual assault allegations made against Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced film producer, and numerous other powerful men.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We should not be celebrating marijuana use, Leana S. Wen, right, April 26, 2023 (print ed.). Last week on April 20, which has become a day of leana wendevotion for marijuana, millions of Americans celebrated recreational use of the drug. This is the exact opposite of what our country needs. Instead, as science uncovers more and more about the harms of cannabis, we need a sustained education campaign about its dangers.

Marijuana users frequently tout its beneficial effects of helping people feel relaxed and happy. These can be attributed to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a chemical in the plant that mimics naturally occurring brain chemicals known as cannabinoids that stimulate dopamine release. This activates the brain’s reward system and induces pleasurable sensations.

But THC also exerts numerous other effects on the brain. It disrupts the hippocampus and frontal cortex, which control memory, attention and focus. This is why the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that “using marijuana causes impaired thinking and interferes with a person’s ability to learn and perform complicated tasks.”

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 Future U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump Republican nominee, during his Senate confirmation hearing (Pool photo by Reuters).

Future U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump Republican nominee, during his Senate confirmation hearing (Pool photo by Reuters).

 

Climate, Environment, Weather, Energy, Disasters, U.S. Transportation

washington post logoWashington Post, Near-record California heat is melting snow and triggering flooding, Dan Stillman and Diana Leonard, April 29, 2023. Flood warnings affect Yosemite National Park and portions of central California as a record-setting snowpack melts.

federal reserve system CustomThe heat is on in California. Temperatures reached the 90s in many valley locations Thursday and are forecast to do so again Friday and Saturday, challenging record highs in Sacramento, Redding, Red Bluff, Stockton and Modesto, among other cities.

As temperatures hover 15 to 20 degrees above normal across much of the state, flooding is possible into early next week as mountain snow melts and rivers rise. After an onslaught of atmospheric rivers and other storms since December, the state snowpack is 260 percent of normal and still not far off its record-setting peak one month ago.

Flood watches are in effect through Monday morning for much of the Sierra Nevada, including the Lake Tahoe area, due to the likelihood of strong snowmelt near and below 8,000 feet. The concern is not just for flooding, but also for those who might be enticed to cool off in the water.

washington post logoWashington Post, Metro to increase height of modified fare gates to combat evasion, Justin George, April 29, 2023 (print ed.). The new fare gates are among several changes the agency has made to curb a rise in transit crime and to help riders feel more secure.

Modified fare gates intended to curb a surge in fare evasion within the Metrorail system will be raised another foot higher than previously planned and will be equipped with stronger hinges to make the gates harder to push through.

The design change, announced Thursday, comes after Metro monitored newly installed four-foot-tall doors at the Fort Totten station in Northeast Washington. While transit police said the doors have cut fare evasion in half, officials say some fare avoiders have pushed through the gates. Metro leaders said the added height — making gates five feet tall — and reinforced hinges would lead to even fewer incidents while protecting the expensive, high-tech gates.

The modifications and continuing efforts to slow the ubiquitous offense are part of Metro’s strategy to boost public safety, which has grown into a top concern that surveys have shown is stunting ridership. Metro is searching for solutions to bridge a budget gap stemming from steep decreases in fare revenue as telework rises.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Long Demise of the Stretch Limousine, Jesus Jiménez, April 29, 2023 (print ed.). Once a symbol of affluence, the stretch limo has largely fallen out of favor as the rise of Uber and Lyft, the Great Recession and new regulations hastened a shift to chauffeured vans and S.U.V.s.

Decades ago, stretch limos were a symbol of affluence, used almost exclusively by the rich and famous. Over time, they became more of a common luxury, booked for children’s birthday parties or by teenagers heading to the prom.

These days, it seems as if hardly anyone is riding in a stretch limo. While the limousine name has stuck, the limo industry has shifted to chauffeur services in almost anything but actual stretch limos, which have largely been supplanted by black S.U.V.s, buses and vans.

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Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy

washington post logoWashington Post, Moderna’s billionaire CEO reaped nearly $400 million last year. He also got a raise, Daniel Gilbert, April 29, 2023. Vaccine-maker Moderna is facing pushback over its executive pay practices, while its chief executives says he is donating proceeds of his windfall to charity.

moderna logoStéphane Bancel, below left, chief executive of Moderna, had a good year in 2022, exercising stock options that netted him nearly $393 million. The company decided his pay wasn’t good enough.

stéphane bancelThe Cambridge, Mass.-based biotech, known for its lifesaving coronavirus vaccine, raised his salary last year by 50 percent to $1.5 million and increased his target cash bonus, according to a March securities filing. Bancel, 50, says he is donating the proceeds of stock sales to charity. He owns stock worth at least $2.8 billion and, as of the end of last year, had additional stock-based compensation valued at $1.7 billion.

Moderna emerged from the pandemic as a standout corporate winner, as its vaccine supercharged its stock price and made billionaires of Bancel and two co-founding board members.

Washington Post, Army grounds helicopters after fatal crashes in Alaska and Kentucky, Andrew Jeong, April 29, 2023.

ap logoAssociated Press, First pill for fecal transplants wins FDA approval, Matthew Perrone, April 27, 2023. U.S. health officials on Wednesday approved the first pill made from healthy bacteria found in human waste to fight dangerous gut infections — an easier way of performing so-called fecal transplants.

Politico, Florida surgeon general altered key findings in study on Covid-19 vaccine safety, Arek Sarkissian, April 25, 2023 (print ed.). Joseph Ladapo defended the move, saying revisions are a normal part of assessing such analysis.

politico CustomFlorida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo personally altered a state-driven study about Covid-19 vaccines last year to suggest that some doses pose a significantly higher health risk for young men than had been established by the broader medical community, according to a newly obtained document.

Ladapo’s changes, released as part of a public records request, presented the risks of cardiac death to be more severe than previous versions of the study. He later used the final document in October to bolster disputed claims that Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were dangerous to young men.

The surgeon general, a well-known Covid-19 vaccine skeptic, faced a backlash from the medical community after he made the assertions, which go against guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and American Academy of Pediatrics. But Ladapo’s statements aligned well with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ stance against mandatory Covid-19 vaccination.

Researchers with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and University of Florida, who viewed Ladapo’s edits on the study and have followed the issue closely, criticized the surgeon general for making the changes. One said it appears Ladapo altered the study out of political — not scientific — concerns.

“I think it’s a lie,” Matt Hitchings, an assistant professor of biostatistics at the University of Florida, said of Ladapo’s assertion that the Covid-19 vaccine causes cardiac death in young men. “To say this — based on what we’ve seen, and how this analysis was made — it’s a lie.”

washington post logoWashington Post, The new face of Alzheimer’s: Early stage patients who refuse to surrender, Laurie McGinley, April 24, 2023. For years, doctors and patients thought there was little to do when dementia was diagnosed, even at an early stage. Now, potentially sweeping changes loom.

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U.S. Cable News Firings

tucker carlson fox horizontal

ny times logoNew York Times, Guest Essay: Fox News Gambled, but Tucker Can Still Take Down the House, Jason Zengerle, April 29, 2023.  Mr. Zengerle, a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, is working on a book about Tucker Carlson.

The cable host has left Fox News. But his dark and outsize influence on the conservative movement — and on American politics — is hardly over.

For the quarter-century-plus that the Fox News Channel has been coming into America’s living rooms, it has operated according to a cardinal tenet: No one at the cable network is bigger than Fox News itself. It’s a lesson Glenn Beck, Megyn Kelly and Bill O’Reilly all learned the hard way after they left Fox and saw their fame and influence (if not their fortunes) evaporate. Once the biggest names in cable news, they now spend their days wandering in the wilderness of podcasts and third-tier streaming platforms. Even Roger Ailes, Fox News’s original architect and the man who devised — and then ruthlessly enforced — the no-one-bigger-than rule, discovered that he was expendable when Rupert Murdoch pushed him out as Fox’s chairman and chief executive in 2016 amid sexual harassment allegations. Mr. Ailes soon disappeared to a mansion in Florida and, less than a year later, died in exile from the media world he’d once commanded.

When Fox News abruptly fired Tucker Carlson, the network’s most popular prime-time host and the most powerful person in conservative media, many savvy press critics predicted the same fate for him: professional oblivion. Mr. Carlson had himself once replaced Ms. Kelly, and later Mr. O’Reilly, and each time he climbed to a new, better slot in the Fox News lineup he garnered bigger and bigger ratings. Now, according to the conventional wisdom, some new up-and-comer would inherit Mr. Carlson’s audience and replace him as the king (or queen) of conservative media. “The ‘talent’ at the Fox News Channel has never been the star,” Politico’s Jack Shafer wrote earlier this week. “Fox itself, which convenes the audience, is the star.”

But there’s good reason to believe Mr. Carlson will be the exception that proves the rule. For one thing, unlike previous stars who have left Fox News, Mr. Carlson departed when he was still at the height of his power, making his firing all the more sudden and shocking. Three days before his sacking, he gave the keynote address at the Heritage Foundation’s 50th anniversary gala. Two weeks before that, he browbeat Texas’ Republican governor to issue a pardon to a man who had been convicted of murdering a Black Lives Matter protester in Austin.

ap logoAssociated Press, Tucker Carlson emerges on Twitter, doesn’t mention Fox News, David Bauder, April 27, 2023. Tucker Carlson emerged Wednesday, two days after Fox News fired him, with a two-minute, campaign-style monologue that didn’t address why he suddenly became unemployed.

He posted a video on Twitter shortly after 8 p.m. Eastern, the time his Fox show used to begin, that talked about a lack of honest political debate in the media.

Carlson said one of the things he noticed, “when you step away from the noise for a few days,” is how nice some people are, and how hilarious some are.

“The other thing you notice when you take a little time off is how unbelievably stupid most of the debates you see on television are,” he said. “They’re completely irrelevant. They mean nothing. In five years we won’t even remember we heard them. Trust me, as somebody who participated.”

Fox fired its most popular personality on Monday without explanation, less than a week after settling a lawsuit concerning the spread of lies about the 2020 presidential election.

fox upside down news

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: As Carlson and Lemon Exit, a Chapter Closes on Cable News’ Trump

washington post logoWashington Post, For the Murdochs, Tucker Carlson became more trouble than he was worth, Sarah Ellison and Jeremy Barr, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). Precise reasons for the top-rated host’s dismissal remain clouded, but the move reflected a reversal for the exasperated family that once championed himTucker Carlson had dinner with his ultimate boss, Rupert Murdoch, two weeks ago in Los Angeles, and everything seemed just fine.

But according to people familiar with their conversation and Murdoch’s thinking, the 92-year-old billionaire founder of Fox News had grown weary of some of Carlson’s increasingly far-right commentary on his nightly prime-time show — as well as some of the swaggering host’s behind-the-scenes attitude.

At that particular moment, he was disturbed by Carlson’s stance on Ukraine. A graphic on Carlson’s show had referred to Volodymyr Zelensky, president of the besieged nation, as a “Ukrainian pimp,” and the host had repeatedly excoriated the U.S. government for providing aid to its defense against Russian attacks.

These stances had made Carlson a star on Russian state-controlled TV. But they had drawn furious blowback from powerful Republicans who see U.S. support for Ukraine as a bulwark in a fight for freedom and democracy — some of whom had Murdoch’s ear. After one such on-air segment in mid-March, Murdoch joined a Fox newsroom meeting to loudly challenge Carlson’s message, according to people familiar with the meeting, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of newsroom confidentiality policies.

Two days after Fox News abruptly fired its top-rated host, ambiguity still swirled around the question of how exactly Carlson, a major influencer in GOP politics, had fallen from grace so quickly within a network that soared to success by catering to conservative audiences.

But interviews with people inside Fox or close to the situation made it clear that the decision rested with the powerful family that controls the company, who finally determined that Carlson was more trouble than he was worth.

Where can Tucker Carlson and Don Lemon go now?

When Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott called Carlson on Monday morning to tell him he would be “parting ways” with the network, the host repeatedly asked why, according to people familiar with the conversation. Scott would only tell him that the decision came “from above” — meaning Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan, CEO of Fox Corp.

Scott and Lachlan Murdoch had made the decision to fire Carlson on Friday evening, and Lachlan spoke to his father about it on Saturday, according to two people familiar with the discussion. The decision also came after months of tension and complaints within Fox about Carlson’s lack of respect for Fox’s upper ranks.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Florida’s book-ban frenzy targets Nora Roberts, and she’s not happy, Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman, April 29, 2023. Tiffany Justice, co-founder of the right-wing book-purging organization Moms for Liberty, offered a righteous-sounding answer when asked this past weekend on “CBS Sunday Morning” what sort of book she wants to see remain in schools.

“Books that don’t have pornography in them,” she piously declared. “Let’s just put the bar really, really low. Books that don’t have incest, pedophilia, rape.”

That’s hard to square with what just happened in Martin County, Fla. The school district there recently decided to yank from its high school library circulation eight novels by Nora Roberts, shown above with the cover of one of her more than 220 books, that are not “pornography” at all — largely prompted by objections from a single woman who also happens to be a Moms for Liberty activist.

“All of it is shocking,” Roberts told us. “If you don’t want your teenager reading this book, that’s your right as a mom — and good luck with that. But you don’t have the right to say nobody’s kid can read this book.”

This signals a new trend: Book banners are increasingly going after a wide variety of titles, including romance novels, under the guise of targeting “pornography.” That term is a very flexible one — deliberately so, it appears — and it is sweeping ever more broadly to include books that can’t be described as such in any reasonable sense.

Martin County is where 20 Jodi Picoult novels were recently pulled from school library shelves. This, too, was largely because of objections from that same Moms for Liberty activist, Julie Marshall, head of the group’s local chapter.

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey says Musk wasn’t an ideal leader after all, Faiz Siddiqui and Will Oremus, April 29, 2023. The former CEO issued his strongest criticism yet of Musk’s takeover of the social media site.

Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey issued his sharpest criticism yet of Elon Musk’s leadership of Twitter on Friday, saying Musk has not proved to be the platform’s ideal steward — and should have walked away from buying the site.

The criticisms and explanations came in a series of reply posts Friday night on the fledgling social network Bluesky, a potential Twitter rival that Dorsey helped to start. The remarks illustrate how Musk’s erratic leadership has disillusioned a one-time friend and powerful ally, reflecting a growing backlash against a tumultuous tenure that has sent advertisers fleeing and users searching for alternatives.

Dorsey said he thought Musk, the Tesla CEO who serves in the same role at Twitter today, should have paid $1 billion to back out of the deal to acquire the social media platform. The comments are a stark reversal from Dorsey’s strong endorsement of Musk’s takeover, when he wrote a year ago that if Twitter had to be a company at all, “Elon is the singular solution I trust.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Black Va. lawmakers, NAACP demand ouster of Youngkin’s diversity chief after VMI speech, Ian Shapira, April 29, 2023. Martin D. Brown generated outrage by declaring ‘DEI is dead’ at Virginia Military Institute last week.

virginia military institute logoBlack lawmakers in Virginia’s General Assembly joined the state’s NAACP Friday in calling for the resignation of Martin D. Brown, the state’s chief diversity officer, after he blasted diversity, equity and inclusion programs in a speech at Virginia Military Institute.

State Sen. Lamont Bagby (D-Richmond), the chairman of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, described Brown’s rhetoric as “appalling” and said that all 19 members of his group believe that he needs to leave his job at once.

The Virginia NAACP also issued a statement demanding that Brown step down immediately, citing his “erroneous assumptions” and “lack of fitness for the critically important position he occupies.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Some Colleges Offer Quotes of Competitors’ Prices. Be Wary, Ron Lieber, April 29, 2023. Schools may try to guess other campuses you’re considering and provide a list of their prices. They may not be accurate, our columnist writes.

Every year, a new crop of innocents arrive in the marketplace for an undergraduate degree. Very quickly, they get an education in some unwritten rules.

Families often don’t pay the listed rate. Schools offer website calculators that estimate what families may have to pay, but they make no guarantees. Aid seekers can’t get a real price quote until they’ve applied and been accepted.

And if a student is considering a school like Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y., something strange could happen when the student both seeks the estimated cost and gets the real one after being accepted: The college will quote the prices from five competitors, even though the student didn’t ask for them. Those quotes may all be higher than Manhattanville’s, too.

These estimates come with a big disclaimer: They may be wrong. As you can imagine, some of these other schools are not thrilled with this state of affairs. So why would an institution that offers instruction in mathematics and economics put out suspect figures?

ny times logoNew York Times, An Emotional Answer Shows the Power of Reporter-Player Relationships, Sam Amick, April 29, 2023 (print ed.). Giannis Antetokounmpo was asked a simple question after the Bucks were eliminated from the playoffs. What came next sparked a philosophical discussion.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Requiem for the Newsroom, Maureen Dowd, right, April 29, 2023.  I don’t want this to be one of those pieces that bangs on about how maureen dowd thumbLarge Customthings used to be better, and they’ll never be as good again.

But, when it comes to newsrooms, it happens to be true.

As my friend Mark Leibovich, a writer at The Atlantic, noted: “I can’t think of a profession that relies more on osmosis, and just being around other people, than journalism. There’s a reason they made all those newspaper movies, ‘All the President’s Men,’ ‘Spotlight,’ ‘The Paper.’

“There’s a reason people get tours of newsrooms. You don’t want a tour of your local H&R Block office.”

Now, Leibovich said, he does most meetings from home. “At the end of a Zoom call, nobody says, ‘Hey, do you want to get a drink?’ There’s just a click at the end of the meetings. Nothing dribbles out afterward, and you can really learn things from the little meetings after the meetings.”

As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.

But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels.

I’m mystified when I hear that so many of our 20-something news assistants prefer to work from home. At that age, I would have had a hard time finding mentors or friends or boyfriends if I hadn’t been in the newsroom, and I never could have latched onto so many breaking stories if I hadn’t raised my hand and said, “I’ll go.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Hollywood, Both Frantic and Calm, Braces for Writers’ Strike, John Koblin, Brooks Barnes and Nicole Sperling, April 29, 2023 (print ed.). Studios have moved up deadlines for TV writers, and late-night shows are preparing to go dark. But for other parts of the industry, it’s business as usual.

With a Hollywood strike looming, there has been a frantic sprint throughout the entertainment world before 11,500 TV and movie writers potentially walk out as soon as next week.

The possibility of a television and movie writers’ strike — will they, won’t they, how could they? — has been the top conversation topic in the industry for weeks. And in recent days, there has been a notable shift: People have stopped asking one another whether a strike would take place and started to talk about duration. How long was the last one? (100 days in 2007-8.) How long was the longest one? (153 days in 1988.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Newsmax Ratings Climb After Tucker Carlson’s Exit at Fox, Michael M. Grynbaum, April 29, 2023 (print ed.). The niche conservative news channel is still small compared with Fox News, but its viewership has doubled and in some time slots even tripled since Tucker Carlson was dismissed.

Newsmax, the niche conservative news channel that has long played David to Fox News’s Goliath, has seized on Tucker Carlson’s shock dismissal from its rival network and declared itself the true TV home for right-wing Americans.

So far, the strategy is showing some promise.

Viewership of Newsmax remains far below that of Fox News. But its audience at certain hours has doubled, and in some time slots tripled, in the immediate aftermath of Mr. Carlson’s exit — an abrupt spike that has turned heads in conservative circles and the cable news industry.

On Monday evening, Eric Bolling’s 8 p.m. Newsmax program drew 531,000 viewers, according to Nielsen. One week earlier, it had 146,000. On Tuesday, Mr. Bolling’s audience grew to 562,000 viewers, equal to about 80 percent of Anderson Cooper’s CNN viewership that evening. Newsmax’s other prime-time shows also experienced big jumps.

The sharp rise in viewership can be timed almost to the minute of Fox News’s announcement on Monday that it was parting ways with Mr. Carlson, in part because of private messages sent by the anchor that included offensive and crude remarks.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Pence Appears Before Grand Jury on Trump’s Efforts to Retain Power, Maggie Haberman, April 28, 2023 (print ed.). Former Vice President Mike Pence is a key witness to Donald Trump’s attempts to block congressional certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.

mike pence leftFormer Vice President Mike Pence appeared on Thursday before the grand jury hearing evidence about former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to cling to power after he lost the 2020 election, a person briefed on the matter said, testifying in a criminal inquiry that could shape the legal and political fate of his one-time boss and possible 2024 rival.

Mr. Pence spent more than five hours behind closed doors at the Federal District Court in Washington in an appearance that came after he was subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury earlier this year.

As the target of an intense pressure campaign in the final days of 2020 and early 2021 by Mr. Trump to convince him to play a critical role in blocking or delaying congressional certification of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory, Mr. Pence is considered a key witness in the investigation.

Mr. Pence, who is expected to decide soon about whether to challenge Mr. Trump for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, rebuffed Mr. Trump’s demands that he use his role as president of the Senate in the certification of the Electoral College results to derail the final step in affirming Mr. Biden’s victory.

 

President Barack Obama in the White House Situation Room discussing the mission against Osama bin Laden on May 1, 2011. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama in the White House Situation Room discussing the mission against Osama bin Laden on May 1, 2011. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

washington post logoWashington Post, Newly released Obama White House photos capture the day bin Laden was killed, Nate Jones, April 28, 2023. The Washington Post obtained newly released photos taken by official White House photographers of key moments inside the White House during the 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound.

A cache of newly released government photographs reveals key moments inside the White House during the 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, including images of top officials shaking hands after learning that bin Laden had been killed and President Barack Obama calling other world leaders to break the news. Through a Freedom of Information Act request to the Obama Presidential Library, The Washington Post obtained more than 900 photos taken by official White House photographers on May 1, 2011. Below is a selection of 23 photographs and the moments they captured as recounted in Barack Obama’s memoir A Promised Land and an oral history by Garrett M. Graff published in Politico.

On April 29, 2011, Obama authorized the raid on the complex in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Intelligence reports had indicated that it was the likely location for bin Laden, the al-Qaeda founder who masterminded the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States that killed more than 3,000 people. Because of weather forecasts and the lack of moonlight, intelligence officials set the date as Sunday, May 1. The president then left Washington for a planned trip, including a brief tour of tornado damage in Tuscaloosa, Ala. He flew back to Washington and attended the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, where he cracked jokes mocking Donald Trump.

On May 1, the White House canceled all public tours — including some for celebrities who had traveled to D.C. for the correspondents’ dinner. According to then-Deputy Director of the CIA Mike Morell, any meeting about the raid was logged in the White House calendar as a “Mickey Mouse meeting” to avoid scrutiny. Cameras in the room had been turned off or covered. Obama played nine holes of golf that morning, as he routinely did on Sundays.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fed says it must strengthen banking rules after SVB’s collapse, Rachel Siegel, April 28, 2023. In a scathing report, the Fed outlined disastrous decisions — including failures made by the central bank’s own supervisors to ward off last month’s crisis — that led to the downfall of Silicon Valley Bank.

In a scathing report, the Federal Reserve on Friday outlined a number of disastrous decisions — including failures by the central bank’s own supervisors to ward off last month’s crisis — that led to the downfall of Silicon Valley Bank.

The much-anticipated 114-page report set the stage for a new, aggressive push by the Fed to restrengthen bank regulation in an attempt to tighten up many of the rules that were eased by Congress in a bipartisan vote in 2018 and further loosened by the Fed in 2019.

What went wrong in the banking system? It’s his job to find out.

“SVB’s failure demonstrates that there are weaknesses in regulation and supervision that must be addressed,” Fed Vice Chair for Supervision Michael Barr wrote in a letter accompanying the report. “Regulatory standards for SVB were too low, the supervision of SVB did not work with sufficient force and urgency, and contagion from the firm’s failure posed systemic consequences not contemplated by the Federal Reserve’s tailoring framework,” Barr wrote, referring to moves in 2018 and 2019 to ease, or “tailor,” the banking system’s rules.

Politico, Appeals court upholds Florida voting restrictions approved by GOP lawmakers, Bruce Ritchie and Gary Fineout, April 28, 2023 (print ed.). The Legislature approved the measure in the wake of the 2020 election. A federal appeals court sided with Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday when it overturned a lower court’s decision on a controversial voting law.

politico CustomThat law, approved by the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature in 2021, placed restrictions on the use of drop boxes and set new requirements for voter registration groups, among other things. A federal judge in March 2022 ruled that the law was discriminatory against minorities and placed unconstitutional burdens on voters.

In an extraordinary move, the judge in the 2022 decision, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, ordered the state to get court approval for a decade before it enacts changes in three areas of election law.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosBut on Thursday, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that Walker’s 288-page order was based on legal errors and “clearly erroneous” findings of fact. The appeals court sent the case back to the lower court for review.

It also reversed the requirement that Florida needs prior clearance to change parts of voting law. It affirmed Walker’s ruling that a restriction on soliciting voters within 150 feet of a ballot drop box was unconstitutionally vague.

Jeremy Redfern, deputy press secretary to DeSantis, hailed the ruling as a “great win for Florida’s voters.” Jasmine Burney-Clark, founder of Equal Ground, which was a plaintiff in the case, said she was disappointed and maintained that the election law diminished the power of Black voters.

The case began in 2021, when the Florida Legislature approved voting restrictions that placed new limits on the use of absentee ballot drop boxes, blocked solicitation of voters within 150 of those drop-off points and placed restrictions on collecting and delivering voter registration applications. At the time, Democrats and civil rights organizations criticized the legislation and subsequent law, saying it disenfranchised Black voters and lead to voter suppression.

The Legislature approved the measure in the wake of the 2020 election, when former President Donald Trump was publicly railing against — without evidence — election results.

 

Former President Donald Trump is shown in a photo collage with columnist E. Jean Carroll, who accused him of raping her three decades ago, with her civil suit scheduled for trial this spring in New York City.

Former President Donald Trump is shown in a photo collage with columnist E. Jean Carroll, who accused him of raping her three decades ago, with her civil suit scheduled for trial beginning with jury selection on April 25 in New York City.

washington post logoWashington Post, E. Jean Carroll takes stand again after testifying Trump raped her, Kim Bellware, Shayna Jacobs and Mark Berman, April 28, 2023 (print ed.). E. Jean Carroll is on the witness stand again Thursday in her civil lawsuit against former president Donald Trump. Carroll, a writer, has accused Trump of raping her in the mid-1990s. Trump has denied Carroll’s allegation, which she first made public in 2019, and called her a liar. Carroll testified Wednesday for about 3½ hours, e jean carroll cover new york magazinespeaking in graphic detail about how she says Trump assaulted her.

E. Jean Carroll has said that after Trump assaulted her in the mid-1990s, she told two friends and then chose to stay silent for more than two decades, fearful of what would happen if she spoke out.

Carroll made her accusations public in 2019. Testifying on Wednesday, Carroll said she has regretted her choice since then. By the time she accused Trump, he was in the White House, commanded enormous attention and had a throng of devoted supporters.

 

 President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden welcomed President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea and his wife, Kim Keon-hee, to the state dinner at the White House on Wednesday (New York Times photo by Doug Mills).

President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden welcomed President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea and his wife, Kim Keon-hee, to the state dinner at the White House on Wednesday (New York Times photo by Doug Mills).

ny times logoNew York Times, Jill Biden Doesn’t Want to Tell You What She Is Wearing, Vanessa Friedman, April 28, 2023 (print ed.). The day after President Biden released a video announcing he would be running for a second term, he and the first lady, Jill Biden, stood in black tie and evening gown on the red carpet outside the north entrance to the White House to welcome President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea and his wife, Kim Keon-hee, to the second state dinner of the Biden administration. It was interesting timing.

After all, what better way to show just how at home you are in your current role — how graciously you play it — than to welcome the world to your home (relatively speaking) in the ultimate pantomime of national hosting that is the … well, meat, of this particular political ritual?

If the dinner itself largely takes place behind closed doors, one photo always goes wide: the greeting portrait, the two couples, side by side, dressed in pomp and circumstance and symbolism. It tells an implicit story of soft power and priorities.

So what does it say, exactly, that while Dr. Biden and her office were happy to engage in the usual preview of the evening’s menu, décor and entertainment — the blue tablecloths were chosen in honor of the 70th anniversary of the Republic of Korea alliance! The chairs were bamboo, with cushion designs evoking traditional Korean brush painting! — the one subject they did not officially communicate on was what the first lady was wearing?

 washington post logoWashington Post, How rich is King Charles? Coronation prompts scrutiny of royal wealth, Karla Adam and Mary Jordan, April 28, 2023. People may find it amusing to know the king technically owns all the swans, but a growing number in the U.K. view the royal family as an expensive relic.

The first crown King Charles III will wear at his May 6 coronation is a daunting five pounds of solid gold, velvet, ermine and gems. The second is lighter, adorned with 2,868 diamonds. He will receive the customary bejeweled scepters, swords, ring and orb. Afterward, he will travel through the streets of London in a golden carriage.

There will be a lot of bling.

Historically, all this projected the power of the British monarchy. The elaborate coronation rituals still help legitimize the royal transition — and sell the royal brand.

But the glitzy celebration, expected to cost British taxpayers tens of millions of pounds, may also highlight a liability for Charles. With a new king has come renewed scrutiny of the wealth of the royal family and heightened skepticism about how much the public should be subsidizing it.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: House Republicans walk the plank, Dana Milbank, right, April 28, 2023. Jen Kiggans (shown below at left in an official photo) had the haunted look of a woman about to walk the dana milbank newestplank. The first-term Republican from Virginia barely took her eyes off her text Wednesday as she read it aloud on the House floor. She tripped over words and used her fingers to keep her place on the page.

jen kiggansThe anxiety was understandable. Like about 30 other House Republicans from vulnerable districts, she was about to vote in favor of the GOP’s plan to force spending cuts of about $4.8 trillion as the ransom to be paid for avoiding a default on the federal debt.

“I do have serious concerns with the provision of this legislation that repeals clean-energy investment tax credits, particularly for wind energy,” she read. “These credits have been very beneficial to my constituents, attracting significant investment and new manufacturing jobs for businesses in southeast Virginia.”

Directing a question to the Republicans’ chief deputy whip, Guy Reschenthaler (Pa.), she asked for “the gentleman’s assurance that I will be able to address U.S. House logothese concerns as we move forward in these negotiations and advocate for the interests of my district.”

djt maga hatThe gentleman offered no such assurance. “I support repealing these tax credits,” he replied, offering only the noncommittal promise to “continue to work with the gentlewoman from Virginia, just like we will with all members.”

Kiggans then cast her vote to abolish the clean-energy credits her constituents find so “beneficial.”

House GOP leaders are celebrating their ability to pass their debt plan, even though it has no chance of surviving the Senate nor President Biden’s veto pen. But the bill’s passage has achieved one thing that cannot be undone: It has put 217 House Republicans on record in favor of demolishing popular government services enjoyed by their constituents.

 

U.S. Supreme Court Ethics Scandals

 

Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts arrives before President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol, Feb. 7, 2023, in Washington. Roberts has declined a request from the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify at a hearing on ethical standards at the court, instead providing the panel with a statement of ethics reaffirmed by the court's justices. (AP pool photo by Jacquelyn Martin.)

Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts arrives before President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol, Feb. 7, 2023, in Washington. Roberts has declined a request from the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify at a hearing on ethical standards at the court, instead providing the panel with a statement of ethics reaffirmed by the court's justices. (AP pool photo by Jacquelyn Martin.)

 ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Polite Disdain of John Roberts Finds a Target, Jamelle Bouie, right, April 28, 2023. Although the three branches of the American jamelle bouiegovernment were designed to be coequal, the structure of the Constitution tells us something about the relative power of each branch, as envisioned by the framers.

Article I establishes the legislature. Article II establishes the executive branch. And Article III establishes the federal judiciary. It is true that the branches share powers and responsibilities. But it’s also true that the framers trusted Congress — the representative branch — with far more authority than it did the president or the Supreme Court.

The upshot of all of this is that when Congress calls, the other branches are supposed to answer — not as a courtesy, but as an affirmation of the rules of the American constitutional order. The modern Congress might be weak, and the presidency, against the expectations of the framers, might be the center of American political life, but it’s still newsworthy when a member of the executive branch says he or she won’t meet with the legislature.

Chief Justice John Roberts is in a different branch of government, the judiciary. But he — a constitutional officer confirmed to his seat by the Senate — is still subject to the power of Congress to question and investigate his conduct. When Congress calls, he too should answer.

Last week, Congress called the chief justice. In the wake of revelations concerning the friendship between Justice Clarence Thomas and Harlan Crow, a billionaire Republican donor, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, invited Roberts to testify at an upcoming hearing on Supreme Court ethics rules.

“There has been a steady stream of revelations regarding justices falling short of the ethical standards expected of other federal judges and, indeed, of public servants generally,” Durbin wrote in his letter to the chief justice. “These problems were already apparent back in 2011, and the Court’s decade-long failure to address them has contributed to a crisis of public confidence.”

“The time has come for a new public conversation on ways to restore confidence in the Court’s ethical standards,” Durbin went on to say. “I invite you to join it, and I look forward to your response.”

This week Roberts answered. He said, in a word, no.

“I must respectfully decline your invitation,” Roberts wrote. “Testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee by the chief justice of the United States is exceedingly rare as one might expect in light of separation of powers concerns and the importance of preserving judicial independence.”

This deceptively polite reply sounds reasonable for as long as you can manage to forget the fact that it is questions about the ethical conduct of the court and its members that have compromised the independence of the court. Was Thomas influenced by the largess of his billionaire benefactor? Was Justice Samuel Alito influenced by an explicit campaign to curry favor with the conservative justices? Was Justice Neil Gorsuch influenced by the lucrative sale of a Colorado property, in the wake of his confirmation, to the head of a powerful law firm with ample business before the court?

It is with real chutzpah, in other words, that Roberts has claimed judicial independence in order to circumvent an investigation into judicial independence.

More striking than this evasion is the manner in which Roberts ended his reply. Faced with serious questions about the integrity of the court, he pointed to a nonbinding ethics document that has done almost nothing to prevent these situations from arising in the first place. “In regard to the Court’s approach to ethics matters,” he wrote, “I attached a Statement of Ethics Principles and Practices to which all of the current members of the Supreme Court subscribe.”

A number of legal scholars have remarked on the judicial power grab of the past several years, in which courts across the federal judiciary have seized key governing decisions from the legislative and executive branches and disparaged the ability of elected officials to, as Josh Chafetz of Georgetown University Law Center writes, “engage in principled, competent governance.”

As one of the architects of this development in American politics, Roberts is essentially using this letter to make plain to Congress the reality of the situation: I will not speak, and you cannot make me. And he’s right, not because Congress doesn’t have the power, but because it doesn’t have the votes. In the absence of a majority of votes, the Senate Judiciary Committee cannot subpoena a justice. In the absence of 218 votes, the House cannot impeach a justice. And in the absence of 67 votes, the Senate cannot remove a justice.

There are steps Congress could take to discipline the court — shrinking its budget, reducing the scope of its docket, imposing ethics rules itself, even making it “ride circuit” à la the 19th century — but those require a majority in the House and a supermajority in the Senate because of the filibuster, as well as a consensus among lawmakers (and specifically, Democrats) to follow through if they ever have the chance to do so.

 

This week's new official portrait of the U.S. Supreme Court

Palmer Report, Opinion: Ugly new corruption scandal for Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, Bill Palmer, April 28, 2023. Supreme Court Chief Justice John bill palmerRoberts is trying to avoid testifying in a Senate hearing about the financial corruption scandals of his fellow right wing Justices such as Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch. Now we’re getting a clearer answer as to why Roberts has been hiding from this.

bill palmer report logo headerIt turns out John Roberts’ wife has made more than ten million dollars by placing attorneys at elite law firms – and some of those firms have argued cases in front of the Supreme Court. While there is no evidence of any quid pro quo, it still gives the perception that these firms could have been essentially paying all this money to Roberts’ wife in the hope of ultimately getting favorable rulings from Roberts.

This now means that three right wing Supreme Court Justices (that we know of) have ugly financial corruption scandals. Of course they do. Right wing political ideology is the belief that everyone else should be tightly controlled by the government, and that you should be allowed to do whatever awful things you want. The Supreme Court is full of right wingers who are both corrupt and deranged. It needs to be expanded more urgently than ever.

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More On U.S. Courts, Crime, Immigration

washington post logoWashington Post, Man pauses date to kill ‘scammer’ over $40, then returns to dinner, police say, Timothy Bella, April 28, 2023. Erick Aguirre was in the middle of his date at a Houston burger joint this month when a restaurant employee told him that he’d been scammed. Upon learning this, Aguirre told his date that he was going to find the supposed parking attendant and that he’d be right back.

erick aguirreBut instead of asking for his $40 back, Aguirre (shown at right in a mug photo) sprinted to his car, grabbed his pistol and fatally shot the man, 46-year-old Elliot Nix, according to police. Aguirre then returned to the restaurant to resume his April 11 dinner at Rodeo Goat, telling his date that “everything was fine” and that he had just scared the scammer, according to a probable cause affidavit obtained by The Washington Post.

The next day, after the woman learned what had happened and that she was wanted for questioning in the fatal shooting, she talked to police about Aguirre — and how the guy she was dating allegedly took time out of their dinner to kill Nix over $40.

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Biden grants clemency to 31 drug offenders, rolls out rehabilitation plan, Toluse Olorunnipa and John Wagner, April 28, 2023. President Biden commuted the sentences of 31 nonviolent drug offenders Friday as the White House rolled out a broad initiative that aims to bolster the “redemption and rehabilitation” of people previously incarcerated through greater access to housing, jobs, food and other assistance.

joe biden black background resized serious fileThe actions came during what Biden has proclaimed as Second Chance Month, an attempt to put a greater focus on helping those with criminal records rebuild their lives.

The 31 commutations were for people convicted of nonviolent drug crimes, who were currently serving time in home confinement and taking advantage of education and employment opportunities, the White House said. Many would have received a lower sentence if they were charged with the same offense today due to changes in the law, including the First Step Act, a bipartisan criminal justice bill signed into law by President Donald Trump in December 2018.

At a briefing for reporters, Susan Rice, director of the Domestic Policy Council, described the series of measures as prudent steps to improve public safety while safeguarding taxpayer dollars by increasing the chances that people released from prison will have opportunities to live rehabilitated lives.

“As many as one in three Americans have a criminal history record, yet far too many of them face barriers to getting a job or home, obtaining health care or finding the capital to start a business,” Rice said. “By investing in crime prevention and a fairer criminal justice system, we can tackle the root causes of crime, improve individual and community outcomes and ease the burden on police.”

The effort includes more than 100 actions across 20 agencies, ranging from the Department of Education to the Department of Housing and Urban Development to the Bureau of Prisons.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sweeping indictment shows role of China’s chemical firms in fentanyl crisis, David Ovalle and Nick Miroff, April 28, 2023. But experts say there’s little chance the companies selling ingredients to Mexican cartels will be prosecuted.

The sales team at the Chinese chemical company offered drug cartel operatives more than the key ingredients needed to make deadly fentanyl bound for the United States.

Justice Department log circularChina FlagIn exchange for payments in cryptocurrency, Wuhan Shuokang Biological Technology dispensed technical assistance and advice to Mexico’s notorious Sinaloa cartel, including which chemicals could be combined most effectively to make the synthetic opioid, and how to economize on “starting material,” according to a U.S. indictment unsealed April 14.

U.S. prosecutors say the Chinese company used its professional-looking website to maintain a veneer of legitimacy, but its brokers supplied chemicals and illicit substances to the cartel, helping it flood the United States with the cheap fentanyl that is killing record numbers of Americans.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Afghan Women Who Fought With U.S. Military Seek Legal Immigration Status, Luke Broadwater and Ava Sasani, April 28, 2023 (print ed.). Members of an all-female tactical combat unit in Afghanistan, who were evacuated during the United States withdrawal, are asking Congress to grant them permanent legal status.

Before her country and her life were suddenly and fundamentally changed in 2021, Mahnaz Akbari was the trailblazing commander of the Afghan National Army’s Female Tactical Platoon, an all-female squad that accompanied elite U.S. Special Operations troops as they carried out daring mountain missions, hunted ISIS combatants and freed captives from Taliban jails.

Ms. Akbari, 37, and her soldiers did so at great personal risk. One woman was shot through the neck, suffering a fractured skull. Another was killed shortly before the fall of Kabul. And after the Taliban took over the country, many members of the platoon were forced to flee to the United States.

Now, Ms. Akbari and other members of the Female Tactical Platoon are embarking on another mission: working to convince Congress that their service in Afghanistan has earned them the right to stay in America permanently.

“Our missions were for big targets: a Taliban commander or a Da’ish leader,” Ms. Akbari said, using another name for ISIS during a recent interview at her Silver Spring, Md., apartment.

ap logo Associated Press, Immigrants waiting 10 years in US just to get a court date, Elliot Spagat, April 27, 2023. U.S. immigration offices have become so overwhelmed with processing migrants for court that some some asylum-seekers who crossed the border at Mexico may be waiting a decade before they even get a date to see a judge.

U.S. immigration offices have become so overwhelmed with processing migrants for court that some some asylum-seekers who crossed the border at Mexico may be waiting a decade before they even get a date to see a judge.

The backlog stems from a change made two months after President Joe Biden took office, when Border Patrol agents began now-defunct practice of quickly releasing immigrants on parole. They were given instructions to report to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office at their final destination to be processed for court — work previously done by the Border Patrol.

The change prevented the kind of massive overcrowding of holding cells in 2019, when some migrants stood on toilets for room to breathe. But the cost became evident as ICE officers tasked with issuing court papers couldn’t keep pace.

Offices in some cities are now telling migrants to come back years from now, and the extra work has strained ICE’s capacity for its traditional work of enforcing immigration laws in the U.S. interior.

 

Emmett Till with his mother, Mamie Bradley in about 1950.

Emmett Till with his mother, Mamie Bradley in about 1950.

ny times logoNew York Times, Carolyn Bryant Donham, Whose Words Doomed Emmett Till, Dies at 88, Margalit Fox, April 28, 2023 (print ed.). Her testimony in the 1955 trial of her husband and brother-in-law was crucial in their acquittal in one of the most epochal murders in American history.

Only two people knew exactly what happened during the minute they were alone together in the general store in Money, Miss., on Aug. 24, 1955. One, Emmett Till, a Black teenager visiting from Chicago, died four days later, at 14, in one of the most epochal murders in American history.

carolyn bryant apThe other was Carolyn Bryant (Carolyn Bryant, posing for a photo in 1955, died this week at 88. Emmett Till’s family had hoped she would recant her story. (Photo in 1955 by Gene Herrick of the Associated Press). She was the 21-year-old white proprietress of the store where, according to her testimony in the September 1955 trial of her husband and his half brother for the murder, Till made a sexually suggestive remark, grabbed her roughly by the waist and let loose a wolf whistle.

Now Ms. Bryant has died, at 88. Megan LeBoeuf, the chief investigator for the Calcasieu Parish coroner’s office in Louisiana, sent a statement confirming the death of Ms. Bryant, more recently known as Carolyn Bryant Donham, on Tuesday in Westlake, a small city in southern Louisiana. Ms. LeBoeuf did not provide further information.

With Ms. Donham’s death, the truth of what happened that August day may never be clear. More than half a century after the murder, she admitted that she had perjured herself on the witness stand to make Till’s conduct sound more threatening than it actually was — serving, in the words of the historian to whom she made the admission, as “the mouthpiece of a monstrous lie.”

“She said with respect to the physical assault on her, or anything menacing or sexual, that that part isn’t true,” the historian, Timothy B. Tyson, told “CBS This Morning” in 2017.

But in an unpublished memoir that surfaced last year, Ms. Donham stood by her earlier description of events, though she said she had tried to discourage her husband from harming Till.

“He came in our store and put his hands on me with no provocation,” she wrote. “Do I think he should have been killed for doing that? Absolutely, unequivocally, no!”

The Till family said the account was rife with inaccuracies.

The murder of Emmett Till was a watershed in United States race relations. Coverage of the killing and its aftermath, including a widely disseminated photograph of Till’s brutalized body at his open-casket funeral, inspired anguish and outrage, helped propel the modern civil rights movement and ultimately contributed to the demise of Jim Crow.

A former beauty queen described in the news media as having been poor, unworldly and little educated in 1955, Mrs. Bryant, as she was known then, was very much a product of her time and place, as her trial testimony, given under oath, makes plain.

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U.S. Economy, Debt, Budget, Jobs

ny times logoNew York Times, Inflation Cooled in March, but Stubborn Price Increases Remain, Jeanna Smialek, April 28, 2023. The Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge, the Personal Consumption Expenditures index, slowed in March. But signs point to staying power.

Inflation is slowing, a fresh reading of the Federal Reserve’s preferred index showed, but costs continue to climb rapidly after stripping out volatile food and fuel — which shows that price pressures retain staying power and it could be a long road back to normal.

The Personal Consumption Expenditures index climbed by 4.2 percent in the year through March, down notably from 5.1 percent in the year through February.

But after stripping out food and fuel prices, a closely watched “core” index held nearly steady last month. That measure rose by 4.6 percent over the year, compared with 4.7 percent in the previous reading — a figure that was revised up slightly.

The data provide further evidence that inflation is moderating, but that the process remains bumpy and could take a long time to fully play out. Fed officials have raised interest rates sharply over the past year to make money more expensive to borrow and slow demand, and those moves are only slowly trickling through the economy and weighing down price increases.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Joe Biden and the Not-So-Bad Economy, Paul Krugman, right, April 28, 2023 (print ed.). Joe Biden has, to nobody’s surprise, formally paul krugmanannounced that he is seeking re-election. And I, for one, am dreading the year and a half of political crystal ball gazing that lies ahead of us — a discussion to which I will have little if anything to add.

One thing I may be able to contribute to, however, is the way we talk about the Biden economy. Much political discussion, it seems to me, is informed by a sense that the economy will be a major liability for Democrats — a sense that is strongly affected by out-of-date or questionable data.

Of course, a lot can change between now and November 2024. We could have a recession, maybe as the delayed effect of monetary tightening by the Federal Reserve. We might all too easily face a financial crisis this summer when, as seems likely, Republicans refuse to raise the debt ceiling — and nobody knows how that will play out politically.

Right now, however, the economy is in better shape than I suspect most pundits or even generally well-informed readers may realize. The basic story of the Biden economy is that America has experienced a remarkably fast and essentially complete job market recovery. This recovery was initially accompanied by distressingly high inflation; but inflation, while still high by the standards of the past few decades, has subsided substantially. The overall situation is, well, not so bad.

About jobs: Unless you’ve been getting your news from Tucker Carlson or Truth Social, you’re probably aware that the unemployment rate is hovering near historic lows. However, I keep hearing assertions that this number is misleading, because millions of Americans have dropped out of the labor force — which was true a year ago.

But it’s not true anymore. There are multiple ways to make this point, but one way is to compare where we are now with projections made just before Covid struck. In January 2020 the Congressional Budget Office projected that by the first quarter of 2023 nonfarm employment would be 154.8 million; the actual number for March was 155.6 million. As a recent report from the Council of Economic Advisers points out, labor force participation — the percentage of adults either working or actively looking for work — is also right back in line with pre-Covid projections.

In short, we really are back at full employment.

ny times logoNew York Times, Wages Grow, Helping Workers but Worrying the Fed, Ben Casselman, April 28, 2023. Wage growth remained strong in early 2023 — good news for workers trying to keep up with the rising cost of living, but a likely source of concern for Federal Reserve officials as they try to tamp down inflation without causing a recession.

Wages and salaries for private-sector U.S. workers were up 5.1 percent in March from a year earlier, and up 1.2 percent from December, the Labor Department said Friday. That was the same growth rate as in December, and defied forecasters’ expectations of a modest slowdown. A broader measure of compensation growth, which includes the value of benefits as well as pay, actually accelerated slightly in the first quarter.

ny times logoNew York Times, Higher Food Prices Bring Bigger Profits, but Consumers Start to Resist, Lora Kelley, April 28, 2023. Higher prices have brought bigger profits for food companies, but some customers have started to cut back or trade down.

Americans have faced substantial inflation at grocery stores and restaurants. Over the past year, overall food prices were up 8.5 percent as consumers paid more for staples like eggs, fruit and meat.

And corporations that wrested back pricing power during the pandemic may be reluctant to give it up. In earnings reports over the past week, some of the biggest packaged food companies said they raised their prices last quarter and saw their profits go up.

But there have been signs that consumers are starting to resist price increases by cutting back or trading down to lower-priced options. Some of the same multinational companies that raised prices on food said the volume they sold went down.

Brands risk alienating consumers with these high prices, said Sucharita Kodali, a retail analyst at Forrester. “Customers may or may not come back,” she said. “At some point, they will say enough is enough.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Republican debt-limit rhetoric isn’t as potent as it used to be, Philip Bump, April 28, 2023. Americans are increasingly likely to support clean debt-limit hikes.

There were three things in place in 2011 that turned the debt limit, until that point mostly just a dull bureaucratic mechanism, into a point of political debate.

The president was a Democrat. The House was controlled by Republicans. And they’d won that control in the 2010 midterms on rhetoric from the tea party movement centered on government spending.

There was a fourth factor that made that 2011 effort to use the debt limit as leverage possible: People didn’t really know what the debt limit was. So Republicans framed the debt limit as though it was the limit on a credit card, suggesting that an increase to the limit was an increase in how much the government was allowed to spend.

This analogy was inapt, however, since the spending had already occurred. It was more like having a limit on how much of your credit-card bill your parents were willing to pay off for you. The money was spent; the question now was whether you were going to obliterate your credit score.

But then there was a ton of news coverage about the debt limit and how it works. There were stories about the ramifications of failing to pay the country’s debt obligations. There was, eventually, capitulation.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Real Debt Limit Fight Is Yet to Come, Carl Hulse, April 28, 2023 (print ed.). Speaker Kevin McCarthy squeezed a debt ceiling increase out of reluctant House Republicans, but he will be hard-pressed to do it again when it counts.

House Republicans on Wednesday did what many of them vowed they never would: They voted to raise the federal debt ceiling. Some were not particularly enthusiastic about it.

“It sucks,” said Representative Lauren Boebert, a hard-right Republican from Colorado whose vote was carefully watched as party leaders squeezed recalcitrant lawmakers. “But you gotta do what you gotta do.”

As a reward for their begrudging support of Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s call for legislation he said would strengthen his bargaining power against President Biden, right-wing conservatives earned the chance to take another debt limit vote sometime this summer. But the next one could be on legislation lacking the budget cuts and policy rollbacks that many Republicans demanded to barely nudge this doomed plan over the top.

The strenuous effort required by Mr. McCarthy and his allies to win approval of a proposal that everyone agreed was going nowhere highlighted the difficulties and risks ahead as the nation edges toward a possible first-ever federal default. It also made clear that some combination of Democratic and Republican votes would ultimately be required to raise the debt limit to avert a fiscal catastrophe.

The bill approved on Wednesday is most likely the high-water mark for House Republicans, far more conservative than any agreement they can expect to get out of their standoff with Mr. Biden and Senate Democrats as they push for negotiations over raising the debt ceiling. Some quickly declared that they would accept no less than the spending reductions and policy reversals it contained.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Economic Growth Slows as Higher Interest Rates Take Toll, Ben Casselman, April 28, 2023 (print ed.). Gross domestic product, adjusted for inflation, rose at a 1.1 percent rate as consumer spending kept a recession fueled by higher interest rates at bay.

Higher interest rates took a toll on the U.S. economy in early 2023, but free-spending consumers are keeping a recession at bay, at least for now.

Gross domestic product, adjusted for inflation, rose at a 1.1 percent annual rate in the first quarter, the Commerce Department said on Thursday. That was down from a 2.6 percent rate in the last three months of 2022 but nonetheless represented a third straight quarter of growth after output contracted in the first half of last year.

The figures are preliminary and will be revised at least twice as more complete data becomes available.

Growth in the first quarter was dragged down by weakness in housing and business investment, both of which are heavily influenced by interest rates. The Federal Reserve has raised rates by nearly five percentage points since early last year in an effort to tamp down inflation.

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Ukraine War

ny times logoNew York Times, Large-Scale Russian Attack on Ukraine Kills at Least 22 People, Marc Santora and Victoria Kim, April 28, 2023. Missiles and drones were used to target cities across the country. Most of the strikes were intercepted, officials said, including a cluster aimed at Kyiv.

Russia bombarded towns and cities across the country in its first major attack in more than a month.

Here’s what we’re covering:

  • The deadliest strike hit an apartment block far from the front line, officials say.
  • The E.U. will keep letting in Ukrainian grains without tariffs.
  • The Kremlin steps up efforts to Russify occupied parts of Ukraine.
  • Ukraine’s defense minister says counteroffensive preparations are ‘coming to an end.’
  • Russia’s latest strikes underscore the limits of Ukraine’s air defense systems.
  • Here’s why Russia is threatening to back away from the Black Sea grain deal.
  • The Uman attack is one of Russia’s deadliest single strikes on civilians this year.
  • An unreleased report finds faults in Amnesty International’s criticism of Ukraine.

A rocket slammed into an apartment block in central Ukraine on Friday morning, as a Russian aerial assault against towns and cities across the country killed at least 22 people and injured dozens more, officials said.

In the first wide-ranging Russian assault against civilian targets in more than a month, air alarms blared around 4 a.m. as Russian bombers over the Caspian Sea unleashed about two dozen cruise missiles and attack drones at targets across Ukraine.

The deadliest attack appeared to be in the central city of Uman, which is nearly 200 miles north of the front line and has not been a frequent target of attacks.

ny times logoNew York Times, Unreleased Report Finds Faults in Amnesty International’s Criticism of Ukraine, Charlie Savage, April 28, 2023 (print ed.). The rights group commissioned an independent review of its August accusation that Ukrainian forces illegally put civilians in harm’s way.

ukraine flagAmnesty International’s board has sat for months on a report critical of the group after it accused Ukrainian forces of illegally endangering civilians while fighting Russia, according to documents and a person familiar with the matter.

The 18-page report, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, underscores the complexity of applying international law to aspects of the conflict in Ukraine — and the continuing sensitivity of a matter that prompted a fierce and swift backlash to the human rights group.

In a lengthy statement on Aug. 4, Amnesty International accused Ukrainian forces of a pattern of illegally putting “civilians in harm’s way” by housing soldiers nearby and launching attacks from populated areas. Russia, which has shelled civilian buildings and killed many civilians, portrayed the finding as vindication, but it otherwise incited outrage.

In response, the group expressed deep regret for “the distress and anger” its statement caused and announced it would conduct an external evaluation to learn “what exactly went wrong and why.” As part of that, Amnesty International’s board commissioned an independent legal review of whether the substance of what it had said was legitimate.

A review panel of five international humanitarian law experts received internal emails and interviewed staff members.

In some respects, the report by the review panel absolved Amnesty International, concluding that it was proper to evaluate whether a defender, not just an aggressor, was obeying the laws of war, and saying that Amnesty’s records made clear that Ukrainian forces were frequently near civilians.

Under international law, it wrote, both sides in any conflict must try to protect civilians, regardless of the rightness of their cause. As a result, it is “entirely appropriate” for a rights organization to criticize violations by a victim of aggression, “provided that there is sufficient evidence of such violations.”

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Trump Cases, Allies, Insurrectionists

 

enrique tarrio mic

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-Proud Boys leader argues Trump is to blame for Jan. 6 attack, Rachel Weiner, April 26, 2023 (print ed.). Facing the possibility of years in prison on felony convictions, the longtime leader of the far-right Proud Boys (shown above in a file photo) sought Tuesday to deflect blame for the Jan. 6, 2021, attack onto former president Donald Trump.

Henry “Enrique” Tarrio is accused of organizing a small group of loyal Proud Boys to lead the pro-Trump mob in storming the U.S. Capitol building. Four members of that “Ministry of Self Defense” have been on trial for the past four months with Tarrio, all accused of a seditious plot to prevent Joe Biden from taking office. While other defendants have pointed at Trump’s role in fomenting the violence at the Capitol, Tarrio’s attorney Nayib Hassan was far more direct. Early in his closing argument Tuesday, he quoted Trump telling supporters to “fight like hell” on Jan. 6.

“It was Donald Trump’s words, it was his motivation, it was his anger that caused what occurred on January 6 in your amazing and beautiful city,” Hassan said. “They want to use Enrique Tarrio as a scapegoat for Donald Trump and those in power.”

Hassan kicked off the second day of closing arguments in the trial, one of the most high-profile of the nearly 1,000 Jan. 6 cases the government has charged. He started by quoting President Franklin D. Roosevelt and ended by quoting the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., both on the importance of protecting the rights of the few as well as the majority.

“If you don’t stand up to the government now as justice requires and the Constitution requires, the next time they may come for you,” Hassan said.

If convicted, Tarrio would be the first person held partially responsible for the Jan. 6 riot who was not at the Capitol that day. He would also be the second person with ties to Trump confidant Roger Stone and the second leader of a right-wing organization to be found guilty of seditious conspiracy, after the fall trial of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes.

Politico, ‘Donald Trump’s army’: Prosecutors close seditious conspiracy case against Proud Boys leaders, Kyle Cheney, April 25, 2023 (print ed.). After a nearly four-month trial, the criminal case against five men who prosecutors say instigated the Jan. 6 insurrection will soon be in the hands of a jury.

politico CustomLeaders of the far-right Proud Boys, fearful about their place in a post-Trump America, instead tried to prevent it from happening at all — even if it meant a violent assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, prosecutors argued Monday.

“These defendants saw themselves as Donald Trump’s army, fighting to keep their preferred leader in power no matter what the law or the courts had to say about it,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Conor Mulroe said Monday in federal court in Washington, D.C.

Mulroe made the Justice Department’s closing pitch Monday in the most significant trial to emerge from the Jan. 6 attack. More than 1,000 people have been charged for their behavior that day, but prosecutors say the Proud Boys played the most critical, galvanizing role in assembling and leading the mob to the Capitol — and then breaching police lines and the building itself.

 

Justice Department Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, left, and former President Donald Trump, shown in a collage via CNN.

Justice Department Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, left, and former President Donald Trump, shown in a collage via CNN.

washington post logoWashington Post, Recording of Cruz-Bartiromo talk sheds more light on plan to challenge 2020 results, Jacqueline Alemany and Sarah Ellison, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). Sen. Ted Cruz advocated for the creation of a congressionally appointed electoral commission ahead of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol to make a credible assessment of unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election, according to a recording made by Abby Grossberg, a former producer at Fox News.

The Jan. 2, 2021, recording, provided to The Washington Post by Grossberg’s attorney, features Cruz debriefing Grossberg and Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo on the creation of an electoral commission that would result from the denial of the certification of Joe Biden’s victory on Jan. 6, 2021.

Cruz was the first senator to object to the electoral college results, joining Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) in challenging Arizona’s electoral certification. Cruz says in the recorded conversation that he successfully organized 11 senators to object to the electoral certification as the mechanism to establish a commission. The Post has previously reported on Cruz’s proposal of delaying the certification of the electoral college results to spark a 10-day “audit” that could enable GOP state legislatures to overturn the election results.

But the recording sheds new light on the scope of Cruz’s scheming to assist Trump in overturning Biden’s victory.

“You need an adjudicatory body with fact-finding and investigative authority to consider the facts to examine the record and to make determinations — that’s how they did it in 1877,” Cruz said referencing the commission created to investigate voter fraud in the 1876 Hayes-Tilden election.

Cruz added that he would have rather seen “these facts developed in a court of law,” but goes on to cast doubt on the Supreme Court’s ultimate determination to reject the lawsuits filed to challenge the election Trump had lost. “Unfortunately the courts that heard these cases — we did not have a full and thorough consideration,” said Cruz.

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More On 2024 U.S. Presidential Race

ny times logoNew York Times, The Tiny, Tight-Lipped Circle of Aides Guiding Biden 2024, Reid J. Epstein and Katie Glueck, April 28, 2023 (print ed.). They rarely give on-the-record interviews. Only two are on Twitter. But they will be the main force behind the president’s political strategy.

When President Biden announced his re-election campaign and its top two staff members this week, the names of his closest and longest-serving advisers were not included.

A small circle of senior officials, some who have known Mr. Biden for longer than many of the soon-to-be-hired campaign staff members have been alive, will guide the president’s political strategy both in the White House and on the campaign trail.

None of them have significant public personas. Of the six, only Jennifer O’Malley Dillon and Jeff Zients, the White House chief of staff, have active Twitter accounts. But it was members of this group who began making phone calls last weekend to offer positions on Mr. Biden’s campaign, only some of which have been announced.

Politico, DeSantis allies go to war with an unlikely foe: Nikki Haley, Alex Isenstadt and Natalie Allison, April 28, 2023. When the super PAC supporting Ron DeSantis turned its fire on Nikki Haley, it said volumes about the shifting dynamics of the 2024 campaign.

politico CustomFor months, the presidential primary looked like the Ron DeSantis-Donald Trump show.

So it came as a surprise to some top Republicans this week when the well-funded super PAC supporting DeSantis turned its fire on Nikki Haley, a candidate still registering in the low-single digits in national polls.

nikki haley oNever Back Down, the pro-DeSantis group, is now running an ad online attacking Haley, right, has polled Twitter users on a new nickname for her, and accused her in a tweet of “trying really hard to audition” to be Trump’s vice presidential pick.

The move suggested a shifting dynamic in the contest: With DeSantis falling further behind Trump in national and early-state surveys, his allied super PAC is trying to ensure that the primary remains a two-way race and that other candidates vying to be the Trump alternative do not gain traction.

“This is the DeSantis team acknowledging that he is closer to the field than he is to President Trump,” said Justin Clark, a Republican strategist who was Trump’s 2020 deputy campaign manager but who isn’t involved in a 2024 presidential campaign.

The pro-DeSantis PAC’s anti-Haley offensive came after the former South Carolina governor took a shot at DeSantis during an interview on Fox News for his heavy-handed approach toward Disney and suggested the theme park relocate several hours north to her home state. Shortly after, Never Back Down began running a digital ad featuring clips of Disney employees touting the company’s promotion of pro-LGBTQ themes, and concluding with a silhouette image of Haley holding hands with Mickey Mouse.

It wasn’t a one-off, but part of a coordinated offensive. The group announced the spot would be included in a “six-figure” digital ad buy in South Carolina, a key early primary state. And it put out several tweets attacking Haley, including one saying she is “embracing woke corporations” and another with a poll asking if she should be nicknamed “Mickey Haley” or “Nikki Mouse.”

“It’s a bad strategy to defend Woke Disney when they decided to defend the sexualization of children,” Erin Perrine, a spokesperson for Never Back Down, said in a statement, when asked about the group’s recent attacks on Haley. ”It’s mind-boggling [that] any Republican would side with a massive corporation that has an unprecedented level of self-governance over protecting children and families, but I guess 2023 is a strange time.”

 

bernie sanders joe bidenPalmer Report, Opinion: Bernie Sanders just put Joe Biden in the driver’s seat for 2024, Robert Harrington, April 27, 2023. It’s practically a cliche to say it, but Jimmy Carter the ex-president is vastly superior to Jimmy Carter the President. In much the same sense, to me anyway, Bernie Sanders is a vastly superior ex-presidential candidate. He’s learned much, discarded much that was bad and kept much that was good.

bill palmer report logo headerHis speeches and interviews in favor of sane legislation and common sense approaches to government have an inevitable logic that reminds me of Noam Chomsky. These days I say that I seldom disagree with Bernie Sanders just to be careful, but the truth is I cannot recall a recent time when I’ve disagreed with him at all. Like Jimmy Carter, Bernie’s become virtually perfect, and I’m glad for that. It was exhausting and counterproductive to be mad at him all the time.

In keeping with his recent perfect record with me, he told us in 2020 that he would not run in 2024, and by golly he has kept that promise. Shortly after President Biden announced his candidacy Senator Sanders said he will not run.

But it gets better. The latest thing that he’s said that I agree with is that we need to throw our entire effort behind getting President Biden re-elected. “The last thing this country needs,” Senator Sanders said recently, “is a Donald Trump or some other right-wing demagogue who is going to try to undermine American democracy or take away a woman’s right to choose, or not address the crisis of gun violence, or racism, sexism or homophobia.”

Bernie said he believes preventing former President Trump’s re-election (or the election of anyone like him) should be paramount in 2024. I agree. I will add that it would be my position even if President Biden were an ineffectual, do-nothing President. But he isn’t. He’s been hugely successful, the most successful President in my lifetime.

But I cannot recall a time in my life when the efficacy of one candidate is wholly eclipsed by the horribleness of another. The closest that comes to mind is the Carter-Reagan contest or the Gore-Bush contest. But as bad as the Republican alternatives turned out to be in those examples, they were not psychopaths who hated America and would happily destroy democracy for their own selfish gains.

I don’t know who the 2024 Republican candidate is going to be but I do know this: he or she will be horrid. There can be no kind of Republican candidate BUT a horrible one, because the next Republican will be picked by MAGA, and MAGA only ever picks fascists. I don’t know if it will be Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis or some as yet unknown dark horse from left field, nor do I care much. But I do know that he or she must not, can not, become president of the United States.

So thank you, Bernie, for helping to unite the field. Our President must remain our only candidate for 2024, but above all, we must not allow Trump or another like him to ever set foot in the Oval Office ever again. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

 

Democratic-Republican Campaign logos

ny times logoNew York Times, See who’s running for president in 2024, and who else might run, Martín González Gómez and Maggie Astor, April 26, 2023 (print ed.). Four years after a historically large number of candidates ran for president, the field for the 2024 campaign is starting out small and looks like it will be headlined by the same two aging men who ran in the general election last time: President Biden and former President Donald J. Trump.

President Donald Trump officialPresident Biden formally declared his bid for re-election in a three-minute video posted online. The video, which comes four years to the day after his 2020 campaign announcement, sets in motion the possibility of a rematch with former President Donald J. Trump.

A number of Republicans are expected to enter the race, but most are taking their time to directly take on Mr. Trump, who still holds extraordinary sway with their party’s base. And Democrats are almost universally unwilling to challenge their own incumbent so long as he seems likely to run, no matter their misgivings.

          In his first public speech since announcing his re-election bid, President Biden called himself “the most pro-union president in American history” and said that Republicans support an agenda that favors the rich (New York Times Photo by Doug Mills on April 25, 2023).

 In his first public speech since announcing his re-election bid, President Biden called himself “the most pro-union president in American history” and said that Republicans support an agenda that favors the rich (New York Times Photo by Doug Mills on April 25, 2023).

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘It’s Time to Finish the Job’: Biden Begins His 2024 Campaign, Peter Baker, April 26, 2023 (print ed.). In a speech after announcing his candidacy, President Biden called himself “the most pro-union president” in history and said Republicans favored the rich.

President Biden formally announced on Tuesday that he would seek a second term, arguing that American democracy still faces a profound threat from former President Donald J. Trump as he set up the possibility of a climactic rematch between the two next year.

In a video that opens with images of a mob of Trump supporters storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the president said that the “fight for our democracy” has “been the work of my first term” but is incomplete while his predecessor mounts a comeback campaign for his old office that Mr. Biden suggested would endanger fundamental rights.

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U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times Magazine, How Randi Weingarten Landed at the Heart of America’s Political Fights, Jonathan Mahler, April 28, 2023. School closures and culture wars turned classrooms into battlegrounds — and made the head of one of the largest teachers’ unions a lightning rod for criticism.

Politico, Brutal Dem primary could pit ex-lawmaker against gov’s sister, Nicholas Wu and Ally Mutnick, April 28, 2023. Mondaire Jones is gearing up to run for his old House seat, a must-win for Democrats in 2024. And his allies are unhappy that he’ll likely have to run against the sister of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

politico CustomMondaire Jones is gearing up for a potential run for his old House seat, which could tee up a ugly primary with the sister of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in must-win territory for Democrats.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosWhile the ex-congressman is publicly saying he’s undecided, four people familiar with his plans say he’s prepping a run for his former New York seat. That’ll likely pit him against Liz Whitmer Gereghty, who has filed federal campaign paperwork and is slated to officially launch her bid soon.

democratic donkey logoDemocrats are bracing for the showdown — in one of several New York districts they need to claw back their House majority — to get nasty.

Jones’ backers are already peeved at what they see as an unnecessarily messy primary that will detract from efforts to flip the seat. Adding to the angst: Jones and his allies already felt he’d been screwed out of the seat in 2022, after former House Democratic campaign chair Sean Patrick Maloney ran in sean maloneyJones’ district following a redistricting saga. And then Maloney, right, lost in the general, after an aggressive national GOP campaign, to Rep. Mike Lawler.

U.S. House logo“I want him to run. He needs to run,” said Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) of Jones. “What Sean Patrick Maloney did was bullshit. That should have been Mondaire’s seat.”

“I didn’t even know her sister lived in the district,” he added, referring to Gereghty. “And I don’t know many people who know her.”

Gereghty supporters note she’s lived in the area for two decades and serves on a local school board. And even some of Jones’ former New York colleagues are tepid about his return after his unsuccessful run for a different seat — miles away from his old one — after last year’s redistricting mess.

washington post logoWashington Post, Disney sues DeSantis, says it was ‘left with no other choice,’ Aaron Gregg and Lori Rozsa, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). The entertainment giant’s lawsuit alleges Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has waged a “relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney.”

disney logoWalt Disney Co. is suing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), right, over what it calls a “relentless campaign to weaponize government power” — a ron desantis omajor escalation of the year-long clash between the entertainment giant and conservative governor.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida came the same day the governor’s handpicked board declared a Disney-friendly deal null and void. Disney and DeSantis’s office have been tussling privately for the past year, but the frequency and intensity of their sparring has intensified dramatically in recent days.

The standoff, which could have major political and economic consequences, began in early 2022 when Disney leaders criticized a controversial education bill advanced by DeSantis and other Florida Republicans. Disney’s resorts in Florida are some of the state’s prime attractions, but DeSantis expressed outrage that the company dare criticize the education bill, and he began attacking the company, saying it had received preferential treatment for too long.

mark walkerThe case has been assigned to Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, right, of Florida's northern federal district court.

DeSantis, whom many consider a top presidential contender, has repeatedly turned to the state’s Republican-controlled legislature to help him rein in Disney. The first effort came in a special session in April 2022, when lawmakers dissolved the special taxing district created in 1967 to help the company develop and control its vast property near Orlando.

But that move quickly caused concerns about what would happen with Disney’s tax and debt burden. Local government officials called it “a $1 billion debt bomb” and said they could have been forced to raise taxes on property owners to pay for what Disney’s district used to fund, such as roads and other services.

DeSantis ordered another special session in February to address that issue by keeping the tax district, but replacing the board selected by Disney — called the Reedy Creek Improvement District — with a new panel. DeSantis chose the five new board members and called the agency the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board. When the new board held its first meeting in March, members said they discovered that the outgoing Disney board had handed over most of their power to Disney. That’s what they voted to overturn on Wednesday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Democrats begin to target vulnerable GOP seats, Jennifer Rubin, right, April 27, 2023. Talk to informed Democratic operatives, donors or jennifer rubin new headshotHouse members and they will invariably say: The route to recapturing the House runs through the “Biden 18.” Those are the 18 Republicans sitting in districts won by Joe Biden in 2020.

Not all of the GOP incumbents are equally vulnerable. They range from moderate Brian Fitzpatrick in Pennsylvania, considered a strong candidate likely to be reelected, to the risible fabulist George Santos in New York, universally regarded as the most beatable.

Some seats are located in very expensive media markets in New York or California; others are in safe Biden states where Republican turnout might be low. Some New York seats would be tough to take back (e.g., the 19th Congressional District) unless Democrats can redistrict them. With those considerations in mind, Democrats assessing the contests think 14 to 16 of the 18 districts are gettable. A swing of just five seats would put the House back in Democratic hands.

The process of prioritizing races and marshaling money has already begun. Yasmin Radjy, executive director of Swing Left, a national organization with an extensive grass-roots network of volunteers and donors for Democrats in competitive seats, announced on Tuesday the six incumbent Republicans of those 18 the organization will initially focus on.

washington post logoWashington Post, Conservative dissenters block abortion limits in Nebraska, South Carolina, Brittany Shammas, Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff, Rachel Roubein and Caroline Kitchener, April 28, 2023 (print ed.). The South Carolina bill was stopped by five women, three Republicans and two Democrats. The Nebraska bill went down due to an 80-year-old male Republican.

Strict new abortion restrictions failed to advance in two conservative-dominated legislatures on Thursday, signaling a mounting fear among some Republicans that abortion bans could lead to political backlash.

A near-total ban on abortion failed in South Carolina, just hours before a six-week ban fizzled in Nebraska. Abortion remains legal in both states until 22 weeks of pregnancy.

In lengthy and often impassioned speeches on the South Carolina Senate floor, the state’s five female senators — three Republicans and two Democrats — decried what would have been a near-total ban on abortion. One, Sen. Sandy Senn (R), likened the implications to the dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” in which women are treated as property of the state.

Abortion laws, Senn said, “have always been, each and every one of them, about control — plain and simple. And in the Senate, the males have all the control.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Texas state agency orders workers to dress based on ‘biological gender,’ Jonathan Edwards, April 28, 2023 (print ed.). Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said it’s unprofessional when a man comes ‘dressed in drag, or vice versa.’

texas mapMuch of the Texas Department of Agriculture’s new dress code probably won’t surprise most office workers. Employees are barred from wearing ripped jeans, crop tops or flip flops. Pants shouldn’t sag to the knees. Business attire, like a suit or pantsuit, is expected for those testifying before the state legislature.

Then there’s the part that the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas is denouncing as unconstitutional, inflammatory and harmful: “Employees are expected to comply with this dress code in a manner consistent with their biological gender.”

Earlier this month, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller issued a two-page “dress code and grooming policy,” which was leaked and first published on Monday by the Texas Observer. The ACLU has since called the policy “clearly unlawful,” tarring it as the most recent attempt by Texas state lawmakers to target transgender people as they go to school, play sports, receive medical care and simply live..Much of the Texas Department of Agriculture’s new dress code probably won’t surprise most office workers. Employees are barred from wearing ripped jeans, crop tops or flip flops. Pants shouldn’t sag to the knees. Business attire, like a suit or pantsuit, is expected for those testifying before the state legislature.

Then there’s the part that the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas is denouncing as unconstitutional, inflammatory and harmful: “Employees are expected to comply with this dress code in a manner consistent with their biological gender.”

Earlier this month, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller issued a two-page “dress code and grooming policy,” which was leaked and first published on Monday by the Texas Observer. The ACLU has since called the policy “clearly unlawful,” tarring it as the most recent attempt by Texas state lawmakers to target transgender people as they go to school, play sports, receive medical care and simply live.

washington post logoWashington Post, About 16,000 U.S. citizens remain in Sudan as Americans, other foreigners struggle to flee, Katharine Houreld and Claire Parker, April 28, 2023 (print ed.). Exhausted and terrified, Americans and other foreign nationals have been struggling to escape the fighting in Sudan, cramming into crowded port terminals, squeezing onto filthy buses and begging strangers for a ride to an airport in a desperate bid to reach safety.

The United States, like other governments, has already evacuated its diplomats and their families, but tens of thousands of other foreign citizens remain behind amid fierce battles between the Sudanese military and a rival paramilitary group that erupted nearly two weeks ago.

So far, there has been no announced plan to evacuate the estimated 16,000 American citizens in Sudan, many of them dual nationals. By contrast, Britain, France and Germany have sent airplanes to Sudan to help evacuate their citizens, and other countries, such as India, have organized convoys to Port Sudan on the Red Sea.

Politico, Trump endorsed by head of GOP’s Senate campaign arm, Ally Mutnick, April 25, 2023 (print ed.). Steve Daines becomes the latest, and highest profile, Senator to back the former president.

politico CustomThe head of the Republican’s Senate campaign arm endorsed Donald Trump on Monday, becoming the most high-profile Republican in that chamber to back the former president’s attempt to win back the White House.

steve daines oSen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), right, announced his support for Trump on the Triggered podcast hosted by the ex-president’s son, Don Jr.

President Donald Trump official“The best four years I’ve had in the U.S. Senate was when President Trump was serving in the Oval Office,” Daines said, praising his tax reform and his efforts to remake the courts. “For these reasons and many others I’m proud to endorse Donald J. Trump for president of the United States.”

republican elephant logoAs chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Daines is charged with helping his party win back control of the Senate. His backing of Trump suggests a comfort with the former president atop the ticket that is not shared by others in his party, including some potential candidates that top Republicans would like to see run. Notably, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has had persistent conflicts with Trump and has declined to weigh in on the 2024 Republican primary.

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) announced his support for Trump on the Triggered podcast hosted by the ex-president’s son, Don Jr.

President Donald Trump official“The best four years I’ve had in the U.S. Senate was when President Trump was serving in the Oval Office,” Daines said, praising his tax reform and his efforts to remake the courts. “For these reasons and many others I’m proud to endorse Donald J. Trump for president of the United States.”

republican elephant logoAs chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Daines is charged with helping his party win back control of the Senate. His backing of Trump suggests a comfort with the former president atop the ticket that is not shared by others in his party, including some potential candidates that top Republicans would like to see run. Notably, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has had persistent conflicts with Trump and has declined to weigh in on the 2024 Republican primary.

But other Republican Senators have endorsed the 45th president, including J.D. Vance, Lindsey Graham, Eric Schmitt, Mike Braun, Ted Budd, Cindy Hyde-Smith, Markwayne Mullin, Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty.

On the podcast segment, Daines highlighted the importance of Ohio, West Virginia and Montana — three states Trump won in 2020 — to win back the Senate majority.

washington post logoWashington Post, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice expected to announce Senate bid against Joe Manchin, John Wagner, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) is expected to announce his bid for Senate on Thursday, setting up the possibility of a marquee race in 2024 against Sen. Joe Manchin III (D) in a state that Republicans view as one of their best pickup opportunities.

Justice previewed a “special announcement” planned Thursday at a West Virginia resort in an advisory sent to the media on Wednesday. Though the advisory makes no mention of the Senate race, it notes it will be streaming live on a YouTube channel that has been set up by the group Jim Justice for U.S. Senate, Inc.

Manchin, 75, one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate, has not yet said whether he will run for reelection next year in a state that Donald Trump won by nearly 39 percentage points in 2020. But Manchin has been highly critical of President Biden on several fronts in recent months, a posture consistent with seeking another term in his red state.

washington post logoWashington Post, DeJoy says USPS will keep raising prices, follow abortion pill rulings, Jacob Bogage, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). The mail agency has made steady improvements despite persistent inflation, the postmaster general said.

us mail logoThe U.S. Postal Service has kept unhealthy businesses alive because of its low prices, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy says. He wants to change that.

The mail chief is committed to dramatically increasing postage rates as he enters the third year of his plan to transform the Postal Service from an aging letter courier to the backbone of the e-commerce economy.

louis dejoy CustomThat could spell trouble, DeJoy, left, warned, for some businesses relying on mailing and shipping costs that have been kept low at the expense of the Postal Service’s financial stability.

“If we have kept alive things by a false business model — which is what we have done for 15 years, and we have abused the organization — well, that’s not something we’re supposed to be doing,” he said in an interview. “That has to change.”

Much of that plan is underway: Congress has relieved the Postal Service of $107 billion in liabilities, and granted it $3 billion to purchase electric delivery vehicles.

But economic and social head winds — persistent inflation, a looming recession and court rulings surrounding mailed abortion medications — are clouding the path forward, DeJoy said.

DeJoy sat down with The Washington Post to discuss the state of the Postal Service and questions about its future. The conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Politico, The keys to a hypothetical Tucker Carlson 2024 campaign, Adam Wren, Natalie Allison and David Siders, April 25, 2023 (print ed.). Politico invited GOP strategists to game out what a hypothetical Carlson presidential campaign might look like. It isn’t as outlandish as it sounds. Let’s be clear: Almost no one thinks Tucker Carlson is running for president. But imagine if he did.

politico CustomAs tributes to the former Fox personality poured in from the GOP Monday — “the most important and powerful voice in politics today,” the high-octane conservative Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) was quick to tell POLITICO — speculation immediately centered on what Carlson, who occupied Fox’s influential 8 p.m. perch, would do next. Head to talk radio, like the late Rush Limbaugh? Jump to a right-leaning rival like One American News Network or Newsmax or even, uh, Russian state TV, all of which openly courted him in the hours after news broke of his departure? Start a Substack?

  • Politico, Vivek Ramaswamy: Carlson would be 'good addition' to GOP presidential field, April 25, 2023 (print ed.).

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U.S. National Security

 

President Joe Biden and South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol stand as their two country's national anthems are played during a State Arrival Ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Washington, Wednesday, April 26, 2023 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

President Joe Biden and South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol stand as their two country's national anthems are played during a State Arrival Ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Washington, Wednesday, April 26, 2023 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

ap logoAssociated Press, Biden, Yoon warn N. Korea on nukes, unveil deterrence plan, Zeke Miller, Colleen Long and Aamer Madhani, April 28, 2023 (print ed.). President Joe Biden and South Korea’s Yoon Suk Yeol unveiled a new plan Wednesday to counter North Korea’s nuclear threat, with the U.S. leader issuing a blunt warning that such an attack would “result in the end of whatever regime” took such action.

The new nuclear deterrence effort calls for periodically docking U.S. nuclear-armed submarines in South Korea for the first time in decades, bolstering training between the two countries, and more. The declaration was unveiled as Biden hosted Yoon for a state visit at a moment of heightened anxiety over an increased pace of ballistic missile tests by North Korea.

“A nuclear attack by North Korea against the United States or its allies and partners is unacceptable, and will result in the end of whatever regime were to take such an action,” Biden said during afternoon Rose Garden news conference with Yoon.

Yoon said that the new commitment by the “righteous alliance” includes plans for bilateral presidential consultations in the event of a North Korean nuclear attack, the establishment of a nuclear consultative group and improved sharing of information on nuclear and strategic weapons operation plans.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Inside Biden’s Renewed Promise to Protect South Korea From Nuclear Weapons, David E. Sanger and Choe Sang-Hun, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). President Biden’s pledge to defend South Korea is a striking admission that North Korea’s arsenal is here to stay.

In the four years since President Donald J. Trump’s leader-to-leader diplomacy with Kim Jong-un of North Korea collapsed after a failed meeting in Hanoi, the North’s arsenal of nuclear weapons has expanded so fast that American and South Korean officials admit they have stopped trying to keep a precise count.

South Korea FlagNorth Korea’s missile tests are so frequent that they prompt more shrugs than big headlines in Seoul.

So when President Biden welcomes President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea, left, to the White House on Wednesday, only the second state visit of yoon suk yeol oMr. Biden’s presidency, there will be few pretenses that disarming North Korea remains a plausible goal.

Instead, American officials say, Mr. Biden’s most vivid commitment to Mr. Yoon will focus on what arms control experts call “extended deterrence,” renewing a vow that America’s nuclear arsenal will be used, if necessary, to dissuade or respond to a North Korean nuclear attack on the South.

The emphasis on deterrence is a striking admission that all other efforts over the past three decades to rein in the Pyongyang’s nuclear program, including diplomatic persuasion, crushing sanctions and episodic promises of development aid, have all failed. It is also intended to tamp down a growing call in South Korea for its own independent arsenal, on the very remote chance that North Korea would make the suicidal decision to use a nuclear weapon.

The North’s arsenal will hardly be the only topic under discussion during Mr. Yoon’s visit. He and Mr. Biden will also celebrate the 70th anniversary of the alliance between their countries, commitments for more South Korean investment in manufacturing semiconductors and plans to bolster Seoul’s always-fraught North Korean flagrelationship with Japan.

But the rapid expansion of North Korea’s capabilities is a subject of perpetual mutual concern for both countries. At a recent security conference held by the Harvard Korea Project, several experts said they believed Mr. Kim’s goal was to approach the size of Britain’s and France’s arsenals, which hold 200 to 300 weapons each.

 

This image made from video provided by WCVB-TV, shows Jack Teixeira, in T-shirt and shorts, being taken into custody by armed tactical agents on Thursday, April 13, 2023, in Dighton, Mass. A judge is expected to hear arguments Thursday, April 27, over whether Teixeira, accused of leaking highly classified military documents about the Ukraine war and other issues, should remain in jail while he awaits trial. (WCVB-TV via AP, File)

This image made from video provided by WCVB-TV, shows Jack Teixeira, in T-shirt and shorts, being taken into custody by armed tactical agents on Thursday, April 13, 2023, in Dighton, Mass. A judge is expected to hear arguments Thursday, April 27, over whether Teixeira, accused of leaking highly classified military documents about the Ukraine war and other issues, should remain in jail while he awaits trial. (WCVB-TV via AP, File)

ap logoAssociated Press, Releasing leak suspect a national security risk, feds say, Alanna Durkin Richer, April 27, 2023. Federal prosecutors will urge a judge Thursday to keep behind bars a Massachusetts Air National guardsman accused of leaking highly classified military documents, arguing he may still have access to secret national defense information he could expose.

In court papers filed late Wednesday, the Justice Department lawyers said releasing 21-year-old Jack Teixeira from jail while he awaits trial would be a grave threat to the U.S. national security. Investigators are still trying to determine whether he kept any physical or digital copies of classified information, including files that haven’t already surfaced publicly, they wrote.
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“There simply is no condition or combination of conditions that can ensure the Defendant will not further disclose additional information still in his knowledge or possession,” prosecutors wrote. “The damage the Defendant has already caused to the U.S. national security is immense. The damage the Defendant is still capable of causing is extraordinary.”

A detention hearing is scheduled for Thursday in the federal court in Worcester, Massachusetts, for Teixeira, who has been in jail since his arrest earlier this month on charges stemming from the highest-profile intelligence leak in years.

Prosecutors said in their filing that Teixeira’s attorneys have indicated they will urge the judge to release him to his father’s home. As of late Wednesday, Teixeira’s attorneys hadn’t filed court papers arguing for his release.

ny times logoNew York Times, Airman Accused of Leak Has History of Racist and Violent Remarks, Filing Says, Glenn Thrush, April 28, 2023 (print ed.). Prosecutors accused Jack Teixeira of trying to fecklessly cover up his actions and described a possible propensity toward violence.

Jack Teixeira, the Massachusetts Air National Guardsman accused of posting classified documents online, repeatedly tried to obstruct federal investigators and has a “troubling” history of making racist and violent remarks, Justice Department lawyers said in a court filing late Wednesday.

In an 18-page memo, released before a detention hearing scheduled for Thursday in a Massachusetts federal court, the department’s lawyers argued that Airman Teixeira needed to be detained indefinitely because he posed a “serious flight risk” and might still have information that would be of “tremendous value to hostile nation states.”

Airman Teixeira tapped into vast reservoirs of sensitive information, an amount that “far exceeds what has been publicly disclosed” so far, they wrote.

Prosecutors pointedly questioned Airman Teixeira’s overall state of mind, disclosing that he was suspended from high school in 2018 for alarming comments about the use of Molotov cocktails and other weapons, and trawled the internet for information about mass shootings. He engaged in “regular discussions about violence and murder” on the same social media platform, Discord, that he used to post classified information, the filing said, and he surrounded his bed at his parents’ house with firearms and tactical gear.

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U.S. Abortion Laws, #MeToo, Public Health

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Congress holds the abortion hearing we have been waiting for, Jennifer Rubin, right, April 28, 2023. Last week, I wrote a pointed column jennifer rubin new headshotcriticizing Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and his fellow Democrats for not playing hardball with increasingly recalcitrant Republicans. I wrote that, while the committee held a hearing last summer on the legal ramifications of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, it hadn’t brought forward women and doctors to testify about the disastrous, real-world consequences of abortion bans that followed the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

On Wednesday, the committee held just such a hearing, inviting a Texas woman who nearly died because of her state’s abortion ban; an esteemed law professor; a practicing OB/GYN; a doctor from an antiabortion group; and a senior research associate from Notre Dame — a Catholic university.

The most compelling and heartbreaking testimony came from Amanda Zurawski, who lives in Texas. During her prepared remarks, she explained that after sending out invitations to her baby shower she began experiencing symptoms, her membranes ruptured, and she was “told by multiple doctors that the loss of our daughter was inevitable.” However, her doctors “didn’t feel safe enough to intervene as long as her heart was beating or until I was sick enough for the ethics board at the hospital to consider my life at risk and permit the standard health care I needed at that point — an abortion.”

Zurawski couldn’t very well drive to a “safe” state. (“Developing sepsis — which can kill quickly — in a car in the middle of the West Texas desert, or 30,000 feet above the ground, is a death sentence, and it’s not a choice we should have had to even consider.”) Instead, she had to wait — for either the fetus’s heart to stop or to get really sick. She nearly died from sepsis, which is why the standard of care in such circumstances is to perform an abortion before the woman gets very sick and risks death.

washington post logoWashington Post, E. Jean Carroll says #MeToo inspired her to go public with accusation, Shayna Jacobs, Kim Bellware and Mark Berman, April 28, 2023 (print ed.). E. Jean Carroll, who has accused Donald Trump of raping her two decades before he became president, testified Thursday that the #MeToo movement inspired her to speak out after years of remaining silent.

“Woman after woman stood up,” Carroll said. “I thought, well, this may be a way to change the culture of sexual violence. … I thought, we can actually change things if we all tell our stories.”

Taking the stand for a second day as part of her civil lawsuit against Trump, Carroll was questioned by Joe Tacopina, the former president’s attorney, who appeared focused on picking apart her allegations and generally weakening her credibility with jurors.

Carroll, a writer and former advice columnist, said Trump raped her during a chance encounter at a Manhattan department store in the mid-1990s. She publicly accused him in 2019, publishing a memoir that included her allegation. Trump, who was in the White House at the time, denied that the attack ever happened.

E. Jean Carroll testifies Trump raped her, then ‘shattered my reputation’

The timing of her public allegation has formed a central part of Trump’s defense, with Tacopina saying in his opening remarks this week that Carroll was “falsely accusing him of rape to make money, to sell a book.”

But when Tacopina questioned her on Thursday, Carroll testified that she made the decision to come forward after seeing the flood of sexual assault allegations made against Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced film producer, and numerous other powerful men.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We should not be celebrating marijuana use, Leana S. Wen, right, April 26, 2023 (print ed.). Last week on April 20, which has become a day of leana wendevotion for marijuana, millions of Americans celebrated recreational use of the drug. This is the exact opposite of what our country needs. Instead, as science uncovers more and more about the harms of cannabis, we need a sustained education campaign about its dangers.

Marijuana users frequently tout its beneficial effects of helping people feel relaxed and happy. These can be attributed to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a chemical in the plant that mimics naturally occurring brain chemicals known as cannabinoids that stimulate dopamine release. This activates the brain’s reward system and induces pleasurable sensations.

But THC also exerts numerous other effects on the brain. It disrupts the hippocampus and frontal cortex, which control memory, attention and focus. This is why the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that “using marijuana causes impaired thinking and interferes with a person’s ability to learn and perform complicated tasks.”

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 Future U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump Republican nominee, during his Senate confirmation hearing (Pool photo by Reuters).

Future U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump Republican nominee, during his Senate confirmation hearing (Pool photo by Reuters).

 

Climate, Environment, Weather, Energy, Disasters, U.S. Transportation

washington post logoWashington Post, Metro to increase height of modified fare gates to combat evasion, Justin George, April 28, 2023. The new fare gates are among several changes the agency has made to curb a rise in transit crime and to help riders feel more secure.

Modified fare gates intended to curb a surge in fare evasion within the Metrorail system will be raised another foot higher than previously planned and will be equipped with stronger hinges to make the gates harder to push through.

The design change, announced Thursday, comes after Metro monitored newly installed four-foot-tall doors at the Fort Totten station in Northeast Washington. While transit police said the doors have cut fare evasion in half, officials say some fare avoiders have pushed through the gates. Metro leaders said the added height — making gates five feet tall — and reinforced hinges would lead to even fewer incidents while protecting the expensive, high-tech gates.

The modifications and continuing efforts to slow the ubiquitous offense are part of Metro’s strategy to boost public safety, which has grown into a top concern that surveys have shown is stunting ridership. Metro is searching for solutions to bridge a budget gap stemming from steep decreases in fare revenue as telework rises.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Long Demise of the Stretch Limousine, Jesus Jiménez, April 28, 2023. Once a symbol of affluence, the stretch limo has largely fallen out of favor as the rise of Uber and Lyft, the Great Recession and new regulations hastened a shift to chauffeured vans and S.U.V.s.

Decades ago, stretch limos were a symbol of affluence, used almost exclusively by the rich and famous. Over time, they became more of a common luxury, booked for children’s birthday parties or by teenagers heading to the prom.

These days, it seems as if hardly anyone is riding in a stretch limo. While the limousine name has stuck, the limo industry has shifted to chauffeur services in almost anything but actual stretch limos, which have largely been supplanted by black S.U.V.s, buses and vans.

washington post logoWashington Post, GM to scrap Chevy Bolt, its most popular and least expensive EV, Jeanne Whalen, April 26, 2023 (print ed.). General Motors will scrap production of its top-selling electric vehicle, the Chevy Bolt, bringing an end this year to one of the U.S. market’s most affordable EVs.

The company said it will instead focus on EVs with a newer type of battery, called Ultium, including the soon-to-be-launched electric Equinox and Blazer SUVs. The Michigan factory that manufactures the Bolt EV and the larger Bolt EUV is being retooled to produce electric trucks, the company said.

Analysts have long predicted that GM eventually would stop producing the Bolt, which runs on an older type of battery. But the news will disappoint some EV drivers who have given the Bolt a devoted niche market since the car’s launch in 2016. Bolt EV and EUV were GM’s top-selling electric vehicles last year, helping the company sell more than 20,000 EVs in the United States in the most recent quarter.

“When the Chevrolet Bolt EV launched, it was a huge technical achievement and the first affordable EV, which set in motion GM’s all-electric future,” the company said in a statement.

With a starting price around $27,500, the Bolt EV is one of few electric options under $30,000 on the U.S. market. The vehicle’s reputation suffered a setback after roughly a dozen battery fires prompted a large recall in 2021. But price cuts last year helped juice demand again, as did a $7,500 federal tax credit for which the Bolt qualifies.

Bolt owners on a popular online forum, ChevyBolt.org, expressed disappointment with Tuesday’s news. Other drivers said it was unwise of GM to ditch a brand that had developed a loyal following.

“A moniker like the Bolt is very difficult to just spawn at will,” read one forum post. “People who are genuinely excited for the product are attaching brand loyalty to GM.”

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Global News

ny times logoNew York Times, BBC Chairman Resigns, Deepening Turmoil at Britain’s Broadcaster, Mark Landler, April 28, 2023. The chairman of BBC’s board, Richard Sharp, resigned on Friday after an investigation concluded that he failed to disclose his involvement in arranging a nearly $1 million boris johnson tieloan for the former prime minister, Boris Johnson, right,.

Mr. Sharp said in a statement, shortly before the report was released, that the omission was “inadvertent and not material” but that he had decided bbc news logo2to step down from the broadcaster’s board to “prioritize the interests of the BBC.”

His departure deepens the turmoil that has enveloped Britain’s public broadcaster in recent months over accusations of political bias and questions about its close ties to Britain’s Conservative government. The BBC’s role has come under relentless fire in an era of polarized politics and freewheeling social media.

United Kingdom flagIt suspended its most prominent on-air personality, Gary Lineker, last month after he posted a tweet likening the government’s immigration policy to that of Germany in the 1930s. That triggered a walkout of the BBC’s sports staff and forced it to broadcast “Match of the Day,” its flagship weekly soccer program, without commentary.

washington post logoWashington Post, Conditions worsening in Sudan as rivals show little interest in cease-fires, Niha Masih and Rachel Chason, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). Residents of Sudan’s besieged capital, Khartoum, said Wednesday that they are facing mounting hunger, sickness and continued airstrikes, despite a declared cease-fire between the country’s two most powerful generals, who began fighting 12 days ago.

Maysoon Abdallah Abdallmuttalib, who is among the leaders of a network of volunteers responding to crises in the city, said airstrikes led to the death of at least two people on Wednesday and wounded many others, adding strain to a medical system that is already in collapse. As of Wednesday afternoon, Abdallmuttalib said military planes were overhead, and that the bombing continued. During a brief lull, she said her network had received mostly requests for food, medicine and help evacuating, as conditions have grown increasingly dire for those that remain in the city.

“In this cease-fire, there was no ceasing of fire,” said Gasim Amin Oshi, a 29-year-old engineer who, like Abdallmuttalib, is a member of Sudan’s grass roots “resistance committees,” which have been active since the pro-democracy revolution in 2019. He said Wednesday afternoon that he had been hearing the sound of army helicopters circling, which means attacks are imminent.

There had been at least two bombings Tuesday, he said, including one that led to multiple injuries at al-Romi Hospital in the twin city of Omdurman, and at least one more Wednesday. He said residents, many of whom are too scared to leave their homes, are facing dangerous shortages of food, water and medicine.

Oshi, who was busy organizing medicine deliveries Wednesday, said that few had much confidence in the cease-fire, announced by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken late Monday.

“To be honest, nobody believed them,” he said, referring to Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the army chief and de facto head of state, and his rival, Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, who have plunged their country into war. “Because we have long experience with them. They don’t keep their words.”

Burhan gave his “initial approval” of a proposal by officials in Djibouti, Kenya and South Sudan to extend the current cease-fire for 72 hours and to hold negotiations with an RSF delegation in Juba, the Sudanese army said in a Facebook post late Wednesday.

Speaking from north of Khartoum, Maryam Elfaki, also active with Sudan’s grass roots “resistance committees,” said there is no end in sight for the violence. The RSF have taken up residence in neighborhoods throughout Khartoum, which puts civilians at risk when the army conducts air raids.

“They are giving civilians no choice but to evacuate,” she said. “If either side wins, it is a loss for everyone.”

Fourth cease-fire falters in Khartoum as people struggle to flee Sudan

Elfaki, who fled her home in Khartoum on the third day of fighting to be with her extended family, said that now even the suburbs are growing more dangerous.

Washington Post, Editorial: In Sudan bloodbath, neither warring general should win

washington post logoWashington Post, Bolsonaro to answer police questions about Brasília insurrection, Terrence McCoy, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). There was a moment, shortly after the insurrection, when it seemed Brazil might finally wake from its fever dream.

The January assault on Brazil’s capital, by thousands of supporters of Jair Bolsonaro, right, intent on reversing his defeat in the presidential election, was so shocking jair bolsonaro brazilthat it appeared to unify much of the country’s fractious political class around a need to protect the democracy being torn apart by polarization and political hatred.

Lula headshot 2022Conservatives traveled to Brasília to meet with leftist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, left, and discuss how to avoid further violence. Bolsonaro’s congressional allies declared their commitment to democracy. Even Bolsonaro, whose groundless allegations of electoral fraud had primed supporters to attack, expressed surprise. “We lament what happened,” he said from his self-imposed exile in Florida.

But, as happened in the aftermath Washington’s Jan. 6 insurrection, Brazil has since abandoned any semblance of political harmony and retreated to its familiar ideological camps, where interpretations of what happened that day in Brasília are decided not by fact, but political orthodoxy.

Bolsonaro’s return poses risks for the former president — and Brazil

Months later, it’s clear: Instead of jolting the country into taking seriously its political divisions, the attack has become just one more way to measure them.

“The outcome will be the same here as it was in the United States,” said Antonio Lavareda, president of the Institute of Social, Political and Economic Research in the northeastern city of Recife. “The facts will come in second, and what will come first is belief and narrative.”

brazil flag wavingAccording to the authorities here, these are the facts: Hard-line Bolsonaristas spent weeks camped out in front of military bases throughout Brazil after Bolsonaro’s October loss to Lula. Parroting Bolsonaro’s unsubstantiated claims that fraud had marred the results, and convinced Lula had stolen the election, they pleaded with Brazil’s armed forces to block his inauguration.

Lula took the oath of office on Jan. 1 — and Bolsonaro decamped for Florida rather than hand him the presidential sash — but the protesters stayed where they were. In Brasília, their numbers swelled dramatically the morning of Jan. 8, when more than 120 buses brought in thousands more from all over the country. Clad in the green and yellow of Bolsonaro’s nationalist movement, they departed en masse for the country’s most important federal buildings — the presidential palace, the Supreme Court and Congress — and overran them.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.K. Blocks Microsoft’s Bid for Activision, a Blow to the Tech Giant, David McCabe and Kellen Browning, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). The decision barring the $69 billion takeover of a big video game publisher is a major loss for Microsoft, which also faces pushback from U.S. regulators.

United Kingdom flagBritish antitrust regulators on Wednesday dealt a major setback to Microsoft’s plans to acquire the video game giant Activision Blizzard for $69 billion, blocking the proposed deal and handing a notable win to government enforcers who want to rein in Big Tech.

In deciding that Microsoft’s proposals to ensure the acquisition did not harm competition “failed to effectively address the concerns in the cloud gaming sector,” a nascent part of the gaming industry, the Competition and Markets Authority inflicted a possibly fatal blow to what would be the largest consumer tech acquisition since AOL bought Time Warner two decades ago.

The surprising ruling was a clear victory for proponents of regulating tech giants like Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Google and Meta, Facebook’s parent company. Their efforts, fueled by fears that the companies wield too much power over online commerce and communications, have been stymied in the United States by recent court losses and legislative failures.

“This is a very big win for the broader effort to realign antitrust enforcement,” said William E. Kovacic, a former chairman of the Federal Trade Commission. Microsoft said it planned to appeal the ruling.

OpEdNews, Opinion: The Current Israeli Constitutional Crisis: What it is Really About, Steven Jonas, Updated April 28, 2023. It is well-known that currently in Israel there is a major conflict underway over the power and role of the Supreme Court. Indeed, the nation is very closely divided on this issue. oenearthlogoAnd as is also well-known, the current Right-wing government wants to severely curtail the Supreme Court's power.

In a nation that has no Constitution* but merely a set of laws and traditions, some of which pre-date the founding of the Nation of Israel in 1948, the struggle is about whether there is to be maintained a separation of powers between the legislative/administrative branch of government --- and in nations with a parliamentary system those two functions are merged --- and the judicial branch. (To my knowledge, among nations which have some form of democratic government, the separation of powers into the three branches found in the United States is unique, a function of its 18th century separation of powers established in its Constitution.)

On the surface (as least as it is perceived in this country) the struggle has to do with the criminal charges that Netanyahu has faced for quite some time now, and the role of the Supreme Court in making the final decision on that matter. However, in my view (and surely in the view of other observers, although this issue does not receive very much attention, at least in this country), THE issue --- presently spoken of in muted terms by all parties --- is rather the matter of the total expulsion of the Palestinian Arabs from what right-wing Israelis call "Greater Israel" and the Palestinians call the "Occupied (Palestinian) Territories." "Greater Israel"/"the Occupied Territories" is the land that lies between the undisputed Eastern boundary of the State of Israel proper that was established after the end of the Six Day War in 1967 and the Jordan River, which is the boundary between Israel (including the Occupied Territories) and the nation of Jordan.

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Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy

ap logoAssociated Press, First pill for fecal transplants wins FDA approval, Matthew Perrone, April 27, 2023. U.S. health officials on Wednesday approved the first pill made from healthy bacteria found in human waste to fight dangerous gut infections — an easier way of performing so-called fecal transplants.

Politico, Florida surgeon general altered key findings in study on Covid-19 vaccine safety, Arek Sarkissian, April 25, 2023 (print ed.). Joseph Ladapo defended the move, saying revisions are a normal part of assessing such analysis.

politico CustomFlorida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo personally altered a state-driven study about Covid-19 vaccines last year to suggest that some doses pose a significantly higher health risk for young men than had been established by the broader medical community, according to a newly obtained document.

Ladapo’s changes, released as part of a public records request, presented the risks of cardiac death to be more severe than previous versions of the study. He later used the final document in October to bolster disputed claims that Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were dangerous to young men.

The surgeon general, a well-known Covid-19 vaccine skeptic, faced a backlash from the medical community after he made the assertions, which go against guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and American Academy of Pediatrics. But Ladapo’s statements aligned well with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ stance against mandatory Covid-19 vaccination.

Researchers with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and University of Florida, who viewed Ladapo’s edits on the study and have followed the issue closely, criticized the surgeon general for making the changes. One said it appears Ladapo altered the study out of political — not scientific — concerns.

“I think it’s a lie,” Matt Hitchings, an assistant professor of biostatistics at the University of Florida, said of Ladapo’s assertion that the Covid-19 vaccine causes cardiac death in young men. “To say this — based on what we’ve seen, and how this analysis was made — it’s a lie.”

washington post logoWashington Post, The new face of Alzheimer’s: Early stage patients who refuse to surrender, Laurie McGinley, April 24, 2023. For years, doctors and patients thought there was little to do when dementia was diagnosed, even at an early stage. Now, potentially sweeping changes loom.

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U.S. Cable News Firings

ap logoAssociated Press, Tucker Carlson emerges on Twitter, doesn’t mention Fox News, David Bauder, April 27, 2023. Tucker Carlson emerged Wednesday, two days after Fox News fired him, with a two-minute, campaign-style monologue that didn’t address why he suddenly became unemployed.

He posted a video on Twitter shortly after 8 p.m. Eastern, the time his Fox show used to begin, that talked about a lack of honest political debate in the media.

Carlson said one of the things he noticed, “when you step away from the noise for a few days,” is how nice some people are, and how hilarious some are.

“The other thing you notice when you take a little time off is how unbelievably stupid most of the debates you see on television are,” he said. “They’re completely irrelevant. They mean nothing. In five years we won’t even remember we heard them. Trust me, as somebody who participated.”

Fox fired its most popular personality on Monday without explanation, less than a week after settling a lawsuit concerning the spread of lies about the 2020 presidential election.

fox upside down news

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: As Carlson and Lemon Exit, a Chapter Closes on Cable News’ Trump

washington post logoWashington Post, For the Murdochs, Tucker Carlson became more trouble than he was worth, Sarah Ellison and Jeremy Barr, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). Precise reasons for the top-rated host’s dismissal remain clouded, but the move reflected a reversal for the exasperated family that once championed himTucker Carlson had dinner with his ultimate boss, Rupert Murdoch, two weeks ago in Los Angeles, and everything seemed just fine.

But according to people familiar with their conversation and Murdoch’s thinking, the 92-year-old billionaire founder of Fox News had grown weary of some of Carlson’s increasingly far-right commentary on his nightly prime-time show — as well as some of the swaggering host’s behind-the-scenes attitude.

At that particular moment, he was disturbed by Carlson’s stance on Ukraine. A graphic on Carlson’s show had referred to Volodymyr Zelensky, president of the besieged nation, as a “Ukrainian pimp,” and the host had repeatedly excoriated the U.S. government for providing aid to its defense against Russian attacks.

These stances had made Carlson a star on Russian state-controlled TV. But they had drawn furious blowback from powerful Republicans who see U.S. support for Ukraine as a bulwark in a fight for freedom and democracy — some of whom had Murdoch’s ear. After one such on-air segment in mid-March, Murdoch joined a Fox newsroom meeting to loudly challenge Carlson’s message, according to people familiar with the meeting, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of newsroom confidentiality policies.

Two days after Fox News abruptly fired its top-rated host, ambiguity still swirled around the question of how exactly Carlson, a major influencer in GOP politics, had fallen from grace so quickly within a network that soared to success by catering to conservative audiences.

But interviews with people inside Fox or close to the situation made it clear that the decision rested with the powerful family that controls the company, who finally determined that Carlson was more trouble than he was worth.

Where can Tucker Carlson and Don Lemon go now?

When Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott called Carlson on Monday morning to tell him he would be “parting ways” with the network, the host repeatedly asked why, according to people familiar with the conversation. Scott would only tell him that the decision came “from above” — meaning Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan, CEO of Fox Corp.

Scott and Lachlan Murdoch had made the decision to fire Carlson on Friday evening, and Lachlan spoke to his father about it on Saturday, according to two people familiar with the discussion. The decision also came after months of tension and complaints within Fox about Carlson’s lack of respect for Fox’s upper ranks.

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More On Media, Education, Arts, High Tech

ny times logoNew York Times, Tweets Become Harder to Believe as Labels Change Meaning, Steven Lee Myers, Sheera Frenkel and Tiffany Hsu, April 28, 2023 (print ed.). The elimination of check marks that helped authenticate Twitter accounts has convulsed a platform that once seemed vital for following breaking news.

twitter bird CustomIn the 24 hours after Twitter last week eliminated the blue check mark that historically served as a means of identifying public agencies, at least 11 new accounts began impersonating the Los Angeles Police Department.

More than 20 purported to be various agencies of the federal government. Someone pretending to be the mayor of New York City promised to create a Department of Traffic and Parking Enforcement and slash police funding by 70 percent.

Mr. Musk’s decision to stop giving check marks to people and groups verified to be who they said were, and instead offering them to anyone who paid for one, is the latest tumult at Twitter, the social media giant he has vowed to remake since he acquired it last year for $44 billion.

The changes have convulsed a platform that once seemed indispensable for following news as it broke around the world. The information on Twitter is now increasingly unreliable. Accounts that impersonate public officials, government agencies and celebrities have proliferated. So have propaganda and disinformation that threaten to further erode trust in public institutions. The consequences are only beginning to emerge.

Alyssa Kahn, a research associate at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, said Twitter under Mr. Musk was systematically dismantling safeguards that had been put in place over years of consideration and controversy.

“When there are so many things going wrong at once, it’s like: Which fire do you put out first?” she said.

After a public dispute with NPR, which Twitter falsely labeled state-affiliated media, the platform last week removed all labels that had identified state-owned media, including those controlled by authoritarian states like Russia, China and Iran.

That, coupled with a decision to stop blocking recommendations for them, has coincided with a spike in engagement for many of these accounts, according to research by the Digital Forensic Research Lab and another organization that studies disinformation, Reset, which is based in London.

In Sudan, new accounts on Twitter are falsely representing both sides of the civil war that has erupted there. One account that, presumably, bought a blue check mark falsely proclaimed the death of Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan, the leader of the rebel Rapid Support Forces. More than 1.7 million people viewed the tweet.

Blue Check Marks: Twitter began removing check mark icons from the profiles of thousands of celebrities, politicians and journalists, in one of the most visible indicators of how Elon Musk is changing the company.

Twitter has always been a font of misinformation and worse, but the previous policies sought to inform readers of the sources of content and limit the most egregious instances. The debut of verified accounts at Twitter in 2009 is usually associated with Tony La Russa, a major-league baseball manager who sued Twitter for trademark infringement and other claims after being impersonated on the platform.

Some cheered the changes.

“Now you can even find me in the search,” tweeted Margarita Simonyan, the editor in chief of RT, the Russian state television network that has been accused of rampant misinformation and hate speech aimed at Ukraine. She signed off the tweet by saying, “Brotherly, Elon @elonmusk, from the heart.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Hollywood, Both Frantic and Calm, Braces for Writers’ Strike, John Koblin, Brooks Barnes and Nicole Sperling, April 28, 2023. Studios have moved up deadlines for TV writers, and late-night shows are preparing to go dark. But for other parts of the industry, it’s business as usual.

With a Hollywood strike looming, there has been a frantic sprint throughout the entertainment world before 11,500 TV and movie writers potentially walk out as soon as next week.

The possibility of a television and movie writers’ strike — will they, won’t they, how could they? — has been the top conversation topic in the industry for weeks. And in recent days, there has been a notable shift: People have stopped asking one another whether a strike would take place and started to talk about duration. How long was the last one? (100 days in 2007-8.) How long was the longest one? (153 days in 1988.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Newsmax Ratings Climb After Tucker Carlson’s Exit at Fox, Michael M. Grynbaum, April 28, 2023. The niche conservative news channel is still small compared with Fox News, but its viewership has doubled and in some time slots even tripled since Tucker Carlson was dismissed.

Newsmax, the niche conservative news channel that has long played David to Fox News’s Goliath, has seized on Tucker Carlson’s shock dismissal from its rival network and declared itself the true TV home for right-wing Americans.

So far, the strategy is showing some promise.

Viewership of Newsmax remains far below that of Fox News. But its audience at certain hours has doubled, and in some time slots tripled, in the immediate aftermath of Mr. Carlson’s exit — an abrupt spike that has turned heads in conservative circles and the cable news industry.

On Monday evening, Eric Bolling’s 8 p.m. Newsmax program drew 531,000 viewers, according to Nielsen. One week earlier, it had 146,000. On Tuesday, Mr. Bolling’s audience grew to 562,000 viewers, equal to about 80 percent of Anderson Cooper’s CNN viewership that evening. Newsmax’s other prime-time shows also experienced big jumps.

The sharp rise in viewership can be timed almost to the minute of Fox News’s announcement on Monday that it was parting ways with Mr. Carlson, in part because of private messages sent by the anchor that included offensive and crude remarks.

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Former President Donald Trump is shown in a photo collage with columnist E. Jean Carroll, who accused him of raping her three decades ago, with her civil suit scheduled for trial this spring in New York City.

Former President Donald Trump is shown in a photo collage with columnist E. Jean Carroll, who accused him of raping her three decades ago, with her civil suit scheduled for trial beginning with jury selection on April 25 in New York City.

washington post logoWashington Post, E. Jean Carroll testifies at trial that Trump sexually assaulted her, Shayna Jacobs, Kim Bellware and Mark Berman, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). Carroll took the stand for about three and a half hours on Wednesday in her civil lawsuit against former president Donald Trump.

E. Jean Carroll took the stand for about three and a half hours on Wednesday in her civil lawsuit against former president Donald Trump. Carroll, a writer and former advice columnist for Elle magazine, has accused Trump of raping her in the mid-1990s. Trump has denied Carroll’s allegation and called her a liar.

Carroll testified until shortly after 4 p.m., when the judge excused the jury for the day. She is expected to continue her testimony on Thursday.

Here’s what to know

  • Carroll’s harrowing testimony dominated the trial’s second day. The case centers on her allegation that Trump sexually assaulted her during a chance encounter in the dressing room of Bergdorf Goodman, an upscale New York department store, in the mid-1990s. She filed a lawsuit last year accusing him of battery and defamation.
  • Upon taking the stand Wednesday, Carroll quickly testified that Trump sexually assaulted her and then further harmed her with his denials. “He lied and shattered my reputation and I’m here to try to get my life back,” Carroll testified.
  • On Thursday, Carroll is expected to resume her testimony, and Trump’s attorney is likely to question her that day.
  • Judge Lewis A. Kaplan has dismissed the jury for the day. The trial will resume Thursday with more of E. Jean Carroll’s testimony.

E. Jean Carroll said she was fired from Elle Magazine for accusing Donald Trump and said she “lost 8 million readers” — Elle’s readership — and had taken a hit in her magazine work and mailbag letters.

“It’s been a huge loss, and I’m slowly building it back.”

Asked whether she had regrets about speaking out, E. Jean Carroll answered affirmatively. But she also said, “Being able to get my day in court finally is everything to me, so I’m happy.”

Her voice breaking, she said, “I’m crying that I’ve gotten to tell my story in court.”

E. Jean Carroll acknowledged that people have suffered worse than being the target of Donald Trump’s wrath online but said the toll was nonetheless devastating.

“It hit me, and it laid me low. I lost my reputation. Nobody looked at me the same. It was gone,” Carroll said, sounding anguished. “People with no opinion now thought of me as a liar, and they hated me. The force of that hatred was staggering.”

E. Jean Carroll said she received a $70,000 advance for her 2019 book, a sum she described as “way less” than her other deals, and noted she was not e jean carroll cover new york magazinereimbursed for the road trip she took to do interviews that appear in the book. She also notes that her accusation against Donald Trump was in the book’s proposal and said the book’s eventual sales were “terrible.”

Carroll said she agreed to have the portion of her book that includes the Trump accusation excerpted in New York Magazine in 2019 hoping it would help her book sales. She choose New York Magazine (in a cover shown at left) because it’s where she had published previous work.

Carroll said she was not paid for the excerpt that appeared in New York Magazine, but that the money went to St. Martin’s, her book’s publisher.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: E. Jean Carroll to take stand again after testifying Trump raped her, Kim Bellware, Shayna Jacobs and Mark Berman, April 27, 2023. E. Jean Carroll is on the witness stand again Thursday in her civil lawsuit against former president Donald Trump. Carroll, a writer, has accused Trump of raping her in the mid-1990s. Trump has denied Carroll’s allegation, which she first made public in 2019, and called her a liar. Carroll testified Wednesday for about 3½ hours, speaking in graphic detail about how she says Trump assaulted her.

E. Jean Carroll has said that after Trump assaulted her in the mid-1990s, she told two friends and then chose to stay silent for more than two decades, fearful of what would happen if she spoke out.

Carroll made her accusations public in 2019. Testifying on Wednesday, Carroll said she has regretted her choice since then. By the time she accused Trump, he was in the White House, commanded enormous attention and had a throng of devoted supporters.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Judge in E. Jean Carroll case appears to threaten Donald Trump with obstruction of justice charges, Bill Palmer, right, April 26, 2023.  bill palmerDonald Trump used his social media site to spread false claims and absurd conspiracy theories about E. Jean Carroll, in a clear attempt at improperly influencing the trial. Carroll’s attorneys then presented those posts to the judge during the trial. The judge responded by threatening to take punitive steps against Trump if he makes any such additional posts.

bill palmer report logo headerThe judge’s wording was vague enough that I initially wasn’t sure what he was specifically threatening. I thought perhaps the judge was trying to leave it vague on purpose, in order to let Trump’s mind race about the potential consequences, thus making him more likely to back down. Remember, the judge’s job isn’t to hand out punishment for this kind of thing. The judge’s job is to get Trump to stop doing this kind of thing, in order to protect the sanctity of the trial. If the judge can’t get Trump to stop, then it becomes the judge’s job to use penalties to force Trump to stop meddling with the trial.

lewis kaplanThe judge (U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, shown in a 2014 photo at right) can assign all kinds of penalties, such as a gag order, protective order, monetary fines. It all has to be done in reasonable proportion, or else Trump could just appeal such penalties and perhaps get them overturned. The judge can’t just immediately make the most “aggressive” move possible and expect it to stick, no matter how many clueless viral tweets might claim that things work that way.

But one tweet, from someone who actually knows what she’s talking about, got me thinking. Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance examined the judge’s words, and believes that the judge may be referring to eventual potential obstruction of justice charges. You have to screw up really badly to make that happen, and Donald Trump is indeed screwing up really badly. He seems to think that this civil trial is some kind of boardroom meeting on the Apprentice, or some other kind of game. He either has no ability to understand how trials actually work, or no ability to control himself when it comes to his trials. Either way, if he keeps up these kinds of antics, they will only help him to lose everything more quickly.

 

djt mike pence

ap logoAssociated Press, Appeals court rejects Trump effort to block Pence testimony, Eric Tucker, April 27, 2023. A federal appeals court on Wednesday night moved former Vice President Mike Pence closer to appearing before a grand jury investigating efforts to undo the results of the 2020 presidential election, rejecting a bid by lawyers for former President Donald Trump to block the testimony.

Justice Department log circularIt was not immediately clear what day Pence might appear before the grand jury, which for months has been investigating the events preceding the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and efforts by Trump and his allies to subvert the election outcome. But Pence’s testimony, coming as he inches toward a likely entrance in the 2024 presidential race, would be a milestone moment in the investigation and would likely give prosecutors a key first-person account as they press forward with their inquiry.

The order from the three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was sealed and none of the parties are mentioned by name in online court records. But the appeal in the sealed case was filed just days after a lower-court judge had directed Pence to testify over objections from the Trump team.

The appeal was decided by Judge Gregory Katsas, a Trump appointee, and judges Patricia Millett and Gregory Wilkins, both appointees of former President Barack Obama. It was not clear if lawyers for Trump might ask the entire appeals court to hear the matter.

Pence was subpoenaed to testify earlier this year, but lawyers for Trump objected, citing executive privilege concerns. A judge in March refused to block Trump’s appearance, though he did side with the former vice president’s constitutional claims that he could not be forced to answer questions about anything related to his role as presiding over the Senate’s certification of votes on Jan. 6.

ny times logoNew York Times, Pence Appears Before Grand Jury on Trump’s Efforts to Retain Power, Maggie Haberman, April 27, 2023. Former Vice President Mike Pence is a key witness to Donald Trump’s attempts to block congressional certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.

mike pence leftFormer Vice President Mike Pence appeared on Thursday before the grand jury hearing evidence about former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to cling to power after he lost the 2020 election, a person briefed on the matter said, testifying in a criminal inquiry that could shape the legal and political fate of his one-time boss and possible 2024 rival.

Mr. Pence spent more than five hours behind closed doors at the Federal District Court in Washington in an appearance that came after he was subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury earlier this year.

As the target of an intense pressure campaign in the final days of 2020 and early 2021 by Mr. Trump to convince him to play a critical role in blocking or delaying congressional certification of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory, Mr. Pence is considered a key witness in the investigation.

Mr. Pence, who is expected to decide soon about whether to challenge Mr. Trump for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, rebuffed Mr. Trump’s demands that he use his role as president of the Senate in the certification of the Electoral College results to derail the final step in affirming Mr. Biden’s victory.

Palmer Report, Opinion: U.S. Court of Appeals just turned Mike Pence loose on Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, April 26, 2023. The U.S. Court of Appeals just denied Donald Trump’s last ditch attempt at keeping Mike Pence from testifying to Jack Smith’s DOJ grand jury. Trump could still appeal this to the Supreme Court, but it would buy him a week at most. This is basically over. Pence will testify against Trump very soon.

bill palmer report logo headerPence has already agreed to testify. Trump’s appeal was the only holdup, and that’s over. As a reminder, Pence cannot plead the fifth to any of this, because he’s not considered to have been a criminal participant and has no criminal liability. Nor can Pence lie, because Jack Smith already knows the story. Nor can Pence just say “I don’t recall.” There are no magic wand tricks when it comes to this stuff, no matter how many viral tweets might claim otherwise.

And yes, there is essentially a 100% chance the Supreme Court will quickly shoot Trump down on this if he does file with them. We keep seeing that even this Supreme Court has no interest in sticking its neck out for him.

If Trump doesn’t file with the Supreme Court (last time he didn’t even bother), then Jack Smith and the DOJ will have Pence on the stand testifying to the grand jury as soon as possible. Likely within days.

As far as anyone on the outside knows, Pence was the only remaining witness who hadn’t yet been cleared by the appeals court to testify. We don’t know if everyone else cleared by the appeals court has since testified. But Pence was the only one who hadn’t been cleared.

Politico, Appeals court upholds Florida voting restrictions approved by GOP lawmakers, Bruce Ritchie and Gary Fineout, April 27, 2023. The Legislature approved the measure in the wake of the 2020 election. A federal appeals court sided with Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday when it overturned a lower court’s decision on a controversial voting law.

politico CustomThat law, approved by the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature in 2021, placed restrictions on the use of drop boxes and set new requirements for voter registration groups, among other things. A federal judge in March 2022 ruled that the law was discriminatory against minorities and placed unconstitutional burdens on voters.

In an extraordinary move, the judge in the 2022 decision, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, ordered the state to get court approval for a decade before it enacts changes in three areas of election law.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosBut on Thursday, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that Walker’s 288-page order was based on legal errors and “clearly erroneous” findings of fact. The appeals court sent the case back to the lower court for review.

It also reversed the requirement that Florida needs prior clearance to change parts of voting law. It affirmed Walker’s ruling that a restriction on soliciting voters within 150 feet of a ballot drop box was unconstitutionally vague.

Jeremy Redfern, deputy press secretary to DeSantis, hailed the ruling as a “great win for Florida’s voters.” Jasmine Burney-Clark, founder of Equal Ground, which was a plaintiff in the case, said she was disappointed and maintained that the election law diminished the power of Black voters.

The case began in 2021, when the Florida Legislature approved voting restrictions that placed new limits on the use of absentee ballot drop boxes, blocked solicitation of voters within 150 of those drop-off points and placed restrictions on collecting and delivering voter registration applications. At the time, Democrats and civil rights organizations criticized the legislation and subsequent law, saying it disenfranchised Black voters and lead to voter suppression.

The Legislature approved the measure in the wake of the 2020 election, when former President Donald Trump was publicly railing against — without evidence — election results.

washington post logoWashington Post, House passes GOP debt ceiling bill, as U.S. inches toward fiscal crisis, Tony Romm, Marianna Sotomayor and Leigh Ann Caldwell, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). The vote came despite a veto threat from Biden, and overwhelming disapproval from Democrats in the House and Senate, who maintain that Congress should raise the debt limit without spending cuts or other conditions

U.S. House logoHouse Republicans on Wednesday approved a bill that would raise the debt ceiling, slash federal spending and repeal President Biden’s programs to combat climate change and reduce student debt, defying Democratic objections in a move that inched the U.S. one step closer to a fiscal crisis.

Ignoring repeated warnings that their brinkmanship could unleash vast economic turmoil, Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), right, muscled his narrow, quarrelsome kevin mccarthymajority toward a successful, 217-215 vote, accelerating a high-stakes clash with the White House with as few as six weeks remaining before the government could default.

For House Republicans, the outcome marked a realization of a risky wager they placed after assuming a majority this January: They bet they could use the debt ceiling, the legal limit on how much money the country can borrow to pay its bills, as political leverage. Since Congress must pass a new law to raise or suspend the cap, the GOP seized on the possibility of a looming fiscal doomsday to try to extract policy concessions from Biden.

“This bill is to get us to the negotiating table,” McCarthy told reporters Tuesday night, acknowledging that Republicans moved the bill — despite some reservations with it — “to make sure the negotiation goes forward.”

But Biden threatened to veto the proposal earlier this week, arguing that the debt ceiling should be raised without conditions given the immense risks to the U.S. economy. Senate Democrats, meanwhile, held firm in their own refusal to consider such a measure: Taking to the chamber floor, Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) blasted the GOP for “hostage taking,” adding that House Republicans had brought the country “dangerously closer to defaulting.”

Repeatedly, Republicans lifted the limit without conditions under President Donald Trump — while Democrats, who abhorred Trump’s policies, still supplied their votes in a bid to protect the country’s economic standing. With Biden, however, GOP leaders justified their new ultimatums by pointing to the nation’s roughly $31 trillion in debt, an imbalance to which both parties have contributed meaningfully.

It still took a series of late-night compromises with restive moderates and conservatives before McCarthy could pass the legislation, earning the cheers of his conference. But with no resolution in sight — and no plans for McCarthy and Biden to meet — the sharp exchanges only raised the odds that a divided, gridlocked Washington could stumble into an unprecedented fiscal catastrophe.

“It is no secret the circus is in town this week,” charged Rep. Pete Aguilar (R-Calif.), the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, at a news conference earlier Wednesday. “Every minute wasted on Speaker McCarthy’s empty gesture is a minute we get closer to default.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Disney sues DeSantis, says it was ‘left with no other choice,’ Aaron Gregg and Lori Rozsa, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). The entertainment giant’s lawsuit alleges Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has waged a “relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney.”

disney logoWalt Disney Co. is suing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), right, over what it calls a “relentless campaign to weaponize government power” — a ron desantis omajor escalation of the year-long clash between the entertainment giant and conservative governor.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida came the same day the governor’s handpicked board declared a Disney-friendly deal null and void. Disney and DeSantis’s office have been tussling privately for the past year, but the frequency and intensity of their sparring has intensified dramatically in recent days.

The standoff, which could have major political and economic consequences, began in early 2022 when Disney leaders criticized a controversial education bill advanced by DeSantis and other Florida Republicans. Disney’s resorts in Florida are some of the state’s prime attractions, but DeSantis expressed outrage that the company dare criticize the education bill, and he began attacking the company, saying it had received preferential treatment for too long.

mark walkerThe case has been assigned to Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, right, of Florida's northern federal district court.

DeSantis, whom many consider a top presidential contender, has repeatedly turned to the state’s Republican-controlled legislature to help him rein in Disney. The first effort came in a special session in April 2022, when lawmakers dissolved the special taxing district created in 1967 to help the company develop and control its vast property near Orlando.

But that move quickly caused concerns about what would happen with Disney’s tax and debt burden. Local government officials called it “a $1 billion debt bomb” and said they could have been forced to raise taxes on property owners to pay for what Disney’s district used to fund, such as roads and other services.

DeSantis ordered another special session in February to address that issue by keeping the tax district, but replacing the board selected by Disney — called the Reedy Creek Improvement District — with a new panel. DeSantis chose the five new board members and called the agency the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board. When the new board held its first meeting in March, members said they discovered that the outgoing Disney board had handed over most of their power to Disney. That’s what they voted to overturn on Wednesday.

 

President Joe Biden and South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol stand as their two country's national anthems are played during a State Arrival Ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Washington, Wednesday, April 26, 2023 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

President Joe Biden and South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol stand as their two country's national anthems are played during a State Arrival Ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Washington, Wednesday, April 26, 2023 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

ap logoAssociated Press, Biden, Yoon warn N. Korea on nukes, unveil deterrence plan, Zeke Miller, Colleen Long and Aamer Madhani, April 27, 2023. President Joe Biden and South Korea’s Yoon Suk Yeol unveiled a new plan Wednesday to counter North Korea’s nuclear threat, with the U.S. leader issuing a blunt warning that such an attack would “result in the end of whatever regime” took such action.

The new nuclear deterrence effort calls for periodically docking U.S. nuclear-armed submarines in South Korea for the first time in decades, bolstering training between the two countries, and more. The declaration was unveiled as Biden hosted Yoon for a state visit at a moment of heightened anxiety over an increased pace of ballistic missile tests by North Korea.

“A nuclear attack by North Korea against the United States or its allies and partners is unacceptable, and will result in the end of whatever regime were to take such an action,” Biden said during afternoon Rose Garden news conference with Yoon.

Yoon said that the new commitment by the “righteous alliance” includes plans for bilateral presidential consultations in the event of a North Korean nuclear attack, the establishment of a nuclear consultative group and improved sharing of information on nuclear and strategic weapons operation plans.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Inside Biden’s Renewed Promise to Protect South Korea From Nuclear Weapons, David E. Sanger and Choe Sang-Hun, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). President Biden’s pledge to defend South Korea is a striking admission that North Korea’s arsenal is here to stay.

In the four years since President Donald J. Trump’s leader-to-leader diplomacy with Kim Jong-un of North Korea collapsed after a failed meeting in Hanoi, the North’s arsenal of nuclear weapons has expanded so fast that American and South Korean officials admit they have stopped trying to keep a precise count.

South Korea FlagNorth Korea’s missile tests are so frequent that they prompt more shrugs than big headlines in Seoul.

So when President Biden welcomes President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea, left, to the White House on Wednesday, only the second state visit of yoon suk yeol oMr. Biden’s presidency, there will be few pretenses that disarming North Korea remains a plausible goal.

Instead, American officials say, Mr. Biden’s most vivid commitment to Mr. Yoon will focus on what arms control experts call “extended deterrence,” renewing a vow that America’s nuclear arsenal will be used, if necessary, to dissuade or respond to a North Korean nuclear attack on the South.

The emphasis on deterrence is a striking admission that all other efforts over the past three decades to rein in the Pyongyang’s nuclear program, including diplomatic persuasion, crushing sanctions and episodic promises of development aid, have all failed. It is also intended to tamp down a growing call in South Korea for its own independent arsenal, on the very remote chance that North Korea would make the suicidal decision to use a nuclear weapon.

The North’s arsenal will hardly be the only topic under discussion during Mr. Yoon’s visit. He and Mr. Biden will also celebrate the 70th anniversary of the alliance between their countries, commitments for more South Korean investment in manufacturing semiconductors and plans to bolster Seoul’s always-fraught North Korean flagrelationship with Japan.

But the rapid expansion of North Korea’s capabilities is a subject of perpetual mutual concern for both countries. At a recent security conference held by the Harvard Korea Project, several experts said they believed Mr. Kim’s goal was to approach the size of Britain’s and France’s arsenals, which hold 200 to 300 weapons each.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Economic Growth Slows as Higher Interest Rates Take Toll, Ben Casselman, April 27, 2023. Gross domestic product, adjusted for inflation, rose at a 1.1 percent rate as consumer spending kept a recession fueled by higher interest rates at bay.

Higher interest rates took a toll on the U.S. economy in early 2023, but free-spending consumers are keeping a recession at bay, at least for now.

Gross domestic product, adjusted for inflation, rose at a 1.1 percent annual rate in the first quarter, the Commerce Department said on Thursday. That was down from a 2.6 percent rate in the last three months of 2022 but nonetheless represented a third straight quarter of growth after output contracted in the first half of last year.

The figures are preliminary and will be revised at least twice as more complete data becomes available.

Growth in the first quarter was dragged down by weakness in housing and business investment, both of which are heavily influenced by interest rates. The Federal Reserve has raised rates by nearly five percentage points since early last year in an effort to tamp down inflation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Inflation Is Still High. What’s Driving It Has Changed, Jeanna Smialek and Christine Zhang, April 27, 2023. Two years ago, high inflation was about supply shortages and pricier goods. Then it was about war in Ukraine and energy. These days, services are key.

America is now two years into abnormally high inflation — and while the nation appears to be past the worst phase of the biggest spike in price increases in half a century, the road back to normal is a long and uncertain one.

The pop in prices over the 24 months that ended in March eroded wage gains, burdened consumers and spurred a Federal Reserve response that has the potential to cause a recession.

What generated the painful inflation, and what comes next? A look through the data reveals a situation that arose from pandemic disruptions and the government’s response, was worsened by the war in Ukraine and is now cooling as supply problems clear up and the economy slows. But it also illustrates that U.S. inflation today is drastically different from the price increases that first appeared in 2021, driven by stubborn price increases for services like airfare and child care instead of by the cost of goods.

 

U.S. Supreme Court Ethics Scandals

 

Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts arrives before President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol, Feb. 7, 2023, in Washington. Roberts has declined a request from the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify at a hearing on ethical standards at the court, instead providing the panel with a statement of ethics reaffirmed by the court's justices. (AP pool photo by Jacquelyn Martin.)

Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts arrives before President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol, Feb. 7, 2023, in Washington. Roberts has declined a request from the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify at a hearing on ethical standards at the court, instead providing the panel with a statement of ethics reaffirmed by the court's justices. (AP pool photo by Jacquelyn Martin.)

ap logoAssociated Press, Supreme Court on ethics issues: Not broken, no fix needed, Jessica Grfesko, April 27, 2023. The Supreme Court is speaking with one voice in response to recent criticism of the justices’ ethical practices: No need to fix what isn’t broken.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Finally, a bipartisan response to the Clarence Thomas fiasco emerges, Greg Sargent, April 27, 2023. Congress, in recent years, has greg sargentabdicated its oversight role when it comes to the courts — particularly the highest court in the land. Court watchers believe this neglect has helped encourage Supreme Court justices such as Clarence Thomas to disregard any sense of propriety, as the string of revelations about Thomas’s slipshod approach to ethics has shown.

A new bill from Sens. Angus King (I-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) poses a fresh test to lawmakers: In the wake of the uproar over Thomas, will they find the will to do even cursory oversight, if only to restore public confidence in our highest judicial institution as it careens from one legitimacy crisis to the next?

The King-Murkowski bill would require the Supreme Court to create its own code of conduct for justices, which already exists for other federal judges. It would also require the court to publish that code, appoint someone to hear complaints about potential violations and mandate an annual report on such investigations and actions taken in response.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: A terrible silence from the Supreme Court, where ethics have gone awry, Ruth Marcus, right, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). The Supreme Court ruth marcus twitter Customis doing itself — and the country — a terrible and unnecessary disservice with its highhanded dismissal of its homegrown ethics issues.

Actually, dismissal is too charitable a description. The letter by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and an accompanying “Statement on Ethics Principles and Practices” by all the justices don’t actually rise to the level of discounting ethical concerns. They simply act as if such concerns don’t exist. They are judge-speak for “move along, nothing to see here.”

No one should buy this.

My beef is not with the chief’s declining to appear before Durbin’s committee “on ways to restore confidence in the court’s ethical standards,” as Durbin phrased it.

I never expected that he’d turn up, or even send a proxy. Testimony by a chief justice is, as Roberts noted, “exceedingly rare,” and not on such contentious matters; as with a president, it raises separation of powers concerns.

But Roberts’s assertion that he “must respectfully decline your invitation” was anything but respectful. “In regard to the Court’s approach to ethics matters,” he wrote, “I attach a Statement of Ethics Principles and Practices to which all of the current Members of the Supreme Court subscribe.”

 

This week's new official portrait of the U.S. Supreme Court

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Justice Neil Gorsuch sold real estate to the head of a major law firm without disclosing the buyer’s identity, Charlie Savage, April 26, 2023 (print ed.). Experts said that the justice’s disclosure of the sale, which came right after the justice’s appointment, did not violate the law but underscored the need for ethics reforms.

neil gorsuch headshotOne month after Neil M. Gorsuch, right, was appointed to the Supreme Court in April 2017, he and two partners finally sold a vacation property they had been trying to offload for nearly two years. But when he reported the sale the next year, he left blank a field asking the identity of the buyer.

County real estate records in Colorado show that Brian L. Duffy, the chief executive of Greenberg Traurig, a sprawling law firm that frequently has business before the court, and his wife, Kari Duffy, bought the property.

The buyer’s identity — and Justice Gorsuch’s decision not to disclose it — was reported earlier on Tuesday by Politico. Although experts said that the omission did not violate the law, they added that it underscored the need for ethics reforms given the intensifying scrutiny on financial entanglements at the Supreme Court and renewed calls by Democratic lawmakers for tightened rules.

pro publica logoProPublica reported this month that Justice Clarence Thomas had not disclosed that he had repeatedly received free travel for lavish vacations and other purposes from a Republican megadonor, Harlan Crow, and that he had sold properties to Mr. Crow in Georgia.

Justice Gorsuch did not break the law by omitting the buyer’s identity, said Stephen Gillers, a New York University professor and specialist in legal ethics. Under a 1978 statute governing financial disclosures, federal judges are not required to disclose who bought property from them.

Gabe Roth, the executive director of Fix the Court, a nonpartisan group that presses for greater transparency and accountability by the justices, agreed that the omission did not violate the law. But he argued that Congress should pass legislation expanding what justices must disclose, including losses from any sales, the nature of partnerships that hold real estate and who buyers are.

In response to a request for his testimony before Congress, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. on Tuesday declined an invitation from Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois who leads the Judiciary Committee, to speak next week about potential ethics reforms.

In a letter, Chief Justice Roberts included a list of current ethics practices to which he said all justices subscribe. Mr. Durbin said in a statement that the hearing would go forward, expressing surprise that “the chief justice’s recounting of existing legal standards of ethics suggests current law is adequate and ignores the obvious.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Chief Justice Declines to Testify Before Congress Over Ethics Concerns, Abbie VanSickle, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). In an accompanying statement, Chief Justice John Roberts and the other eight justices insisted their current ethical guidelines were sufficient.

john roberts oChief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., right, told the Senate Judiciary Committee in a letter released Tuesday evening that he was declining its invitation to testify about ethics rules for the Supreme Court.

In an accompanying statement on ethics practices, all nine justices, under mounting pressure for more stringent reporting requirements at the court, insisted that the existing rules around gifts, travel and other financial disclosures are sufficient.

The chief justice wrote that such appearances before the committee were “exceedingly rare, as one might expect in light of separation of powers concerns and the importance of preserving judicial independence.”

Last week, Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and chairman of the committee, invited the chief justice to appear after revelations of unreported gifts, travel and real estate deals between Justice Clarence Thomas and Harlan Crow, a Texas billionaire and Republican donor.

In the letter, Chief Justice Roberts attached a “statement of ethics principles and practices” signed by the current justices and included an appendix of the relevant laws that apply to judicial disclosures.

In the ethics statement, the justices wrote that they aimed to clarify how they “address certain recurring issues” and “to dispel some common misconceptions.” To deal with ethical questions, they look to “judicial opinions, treatises, scholarly articles, disciplinary decisions, and the historical practice of the court and the federal judiciary,” their signed statement said, which added that they could seek advice from colleagues and the court’s legal office.

 

More On U.S. Courts, Crime, Immigration

 ICE logo

ap logoAssociated Press, Immigrants waiting 10 years in US just to get a court date, Elliot Spagat, April 27, 2023. U.S. immigration offices have become so overwhelmed with processing migrants for court that some some asylum-seekers who crossed the border at Mexico may be waiting a decade before they even get a date to see a judge.

U.S. immigration offices have become so overwhelmed with processing migrants for court that some some asylum-seekers who crossed the border at Mexico may be waiting a decade before they even get a date to see a judge.

The backlog stems from a change made two months after President Joe Biden took office, when Border Patrol agents began now-defunct practice of quickly releasing immigrants on parole. They were given instructions to report to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office at their final destination to be processed for court — work previously done by the Border Patrol.

The change prevented the kind of massive overcrowding of holding cells in 2019, when some migrants stood on toilets for room to breathe. But the cost became evident as ICE officers tasked with issuing court papers couldn’t keep pace.

Offices in some cities are now telling migrants to come back years from now, and the extra work has strained ICE’s capacity for its traditional work of enforcing immigration laws in the U.S. interior.

 

Brian Kolfage leaves court after being sentenced for defrauding donors to the Brian Kolfage leaves court after being sentenced for defrauding donors to the "We Build the Wall" effort, Wednesday, April 26, 2023, in New York. The co-founder of a fundraising group linked to Steve Bannon that promised to help Donald Trump construct a wall along the southern U.S. border has been sentenced to four years and three months in prison. (AP photo by John Minchillo.)

ap logoAssociated Press, We Build The Wall founder sentenced to 4 years in prison, Jake Offenhartz, April 27, 2023. The co-founder of a fundraising group linked to Steve Bannon that promised to help Donald Trump construct a wall along the southern U.S. border was sentenced to four years and three months in prison on Wednesday for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from donors.

Brian Kolfage, a decorated Air Force veteran who lost both of his legs and an arm in the Iraq War, previously pleaded guilty for his role in siphoning donations from the We Build the Wall campaign.

ICE logoA co-defendant, financier Andrew Badolato, was also sentenced to three years for aiding the effort. He had also pleaded guilty. A third man involved in siphoning funds from the wall project, Colorado businessman Tim Shea, won’t be sentenced until June.

Kolfage and Badolato were also ordered to pay $25 million in restitution to the victims.

Absent from the case was Bannon, Trump’s former top political adviser. He was initially arrested aboard a luxury yacht and faced federal fraud charges along with the other men, but Trump pardoned him during his final hours in office.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg brought new, state charges against Bannon last year. He is awaiting trial. Presidential pardons apply only to federal crimes, not state offenses. Bannon has called the case “nonsense.”

Kolfage, Badolato and Shea were not pardoned by Trump, leaving them to face the prospect of years in prison.

Prosecutors said the scheme was hatched by Kolfage, who served as the public face of the effort as it raised more than $25 million from donors across the country. He repeatedly assured the public he would “not take a penny” from the campaign.

stephen bannon cropped npc 2013As money poured into the cause, Kolfage and his partner, Shea, turned to Bannon, right, and Badolato for help creating a nonprofit, We Build the Wall, Inc. The four defendants then took steps to funnel the money to themselves for personal gain, prosecutors said.

An attorney for Badolato, Kelly Kramer, described Bannon as “a leader and primary beneficiary” of the scheme, noting that his own client received a much smaller payout than the pardoned associate.

 

djt steve bannonPalmer Report, Analysis: Bad news for Steve Bannon’s hope of avoiding prison, Bill Palmer, April 26, 2023. When the federal government criminally indicted Steve Bannon, above right, and three co-conspirators in the “Build The Wall” scam, Donald Trump pardoned Bannon, but not the others. One of them was convicted at trial late last year. Today, the other two were also convicted, and handed multi-year prison sentences.

bill palmer report logo headerSo was this a lost opportunity to put Bannon in prison?

Actually, it’s more like the opposite. New York has since stepped in and hit Steve Bannon with state level charges in the “Build The Wall” scam, which are the rough equivalent of the federal charges he was facing. He’s set to face trial in November – and since these are state charges, no future Republican President can pardon him.

Steve Bannon’s New York trial will have a different judge, different jury, and some different specifics than the federal trial that Bannon’s associates just went through. But now we know that the case against Bannon and his co-conspirators is strong enough to not only have gotten a conviction at the federal level, but to also result in multi-year prison sentences. Bannon can likely expect a similar fate in New York later this year.

Politico, Proud Boys leader, awaiting Jan. 6 sedition verdict, assails Justice Department, Kyle Cheney, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). In a call from his jail cell, Enrique Tarrio embraced far-right critiques of DOJ’s Jan. 6 prosecutions.

politico CustomFormer Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio — awaiting a verdict on charges he conspired to violently prevent Joe Biden’s presidency — lashed out at the Justice Department and Democrats on Tuesday, accusing them of “weaponizing” government institutions and seeking to “manipulate the 2024 election.”

Tarrio, speaking to supporters and journalists by phone from a jail in Alexandria, Va., avoided commentary on most of the specifics of his four-month trial, which heads to jury deliberations Wednesday morning. He acknowledged that speaking too pointedly about the trial might be detrimental even though the jury has been ordered to avoid media coverage of the case.

But Tarrio used his appearance — his first public comments since his arrest and detention 13 months ago — to eagerly embrace far-right critiques of the Justice Department’s pursuit of Jan. 6 perpetrators, accusing prosecutors of “overcharging” defendants and criminalizing pro-Trump speech. He assailed the seditious conspiracy case against him and four other Proud Boys as a part of an effort to silence figures on the right.

“I’m the next stepping stone,” Tarrio said in the call, which was broadcast to a freewheeling Twitter Space organized by the Gateway Pundit, a far-right media outlet known for promoting conspiracy theories about Jan. 6 and the government.

Tarrio’s attorneys used their closing arguments in court Tuesday morning to lay blame for the Jan. 6 Capitol attack at the feet of Donald Trump, who they say bore the ultimate responsibility for riling up supporters and aiming them at Congress. Tarrio praised his legal team but declined to elaborate on their contention.

 

This booking photo provided by the Westminster Police Department shows Jeremy Webster on June 15, 2018. The man who shot and killed a 13-year-old boy after a road rage confrontation and wounded the boy's mother, brother and a witness was not in control of his body or his emotions at the time of the 2018 shootings, his lawyers told jurors Wednesday, April 26, 2023. (Westminster Police Department via AP)

This booking photo provided by the Westminster Police Department shows Jeremy Webster on June 15, 2018. The man who shot and killed a 13-year-old boy after a road rage confrontation and wounded the boy's mother, brother and a witness was not in control of his body or his emotions at the time of the 2018 shootings, his lawyers told jurors Wednesday, April 26, 2023. (Westminster Police Department via AP)

ap logoAssociated Press, Colorado road rage shooter convicted of 1st-degree murder, Colleen Slevin, April 27, 2023. A Colorado man who shot and killed a 13-year-old boy after a road rage confrontation and wounded the boy’s mother, brother and a witness was found guilty of first-degree murder Wednesday and sentenced to life in prison.

A jury deliberated for less than three hours before convicting Jeremy Webster, rejecting his claim that he was insane at the time of the June 14, 2018, attack in suburban Denver. Shortly after the verdict, a judge gave Webster life without parole, plus 192 years on attempted murder and assault counts.

Webster told police that he was not in his body during the attack, and that he witnessed his “arm doing the shooting” as if he were an outside observer.

His lawyer, Rachel Oliver, said he was disassociated from both his body and emotions during the attack. She said he had been losing his mind for years, and asked the jury to find him not guilty by reason of insanity, which would send him to a mental hospital for treatment instead of prison.

 Prakazrel

Prakazrel "Pras" Michel, left, a member of the 1990s hip-hop group the Fugees, accompanied by defense lawyer David Kenner, right, arrives at federal court for his trial in an alleged campaign finance conspiracy, Thursday, March 30, 2023, in Washington. Michel, who was accused in multimillion-dollar political conspiracies spanning two presidencies, was convicted Wednesday, April 26, after a trial that included testimony ranging from actor Leonardo DiCaprio to former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. (AP Photo by Andrew Harnik.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Fugees rapper Pras Michél guilty in sprawling corruption trial, Paul Duggan, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). Michél has been in D.C. federal court defending himself against allegations of money laundering, campaign-finance violations and other charges in a sprawling criminal case arising from one of the world’s biggest financial scandals.

Fugees rapper Pras Michél was found guilty in a sprawling criminal corruption trial arising from one of the world’s biggest financial scandals after a three-week trial in federal court.

A jury convicted him Wednesday on all 10 counts of the federal offenses he faced, including campaign finance violations, money laundering, illegal lobbying, witness tampering and lying to banks.

In testimony beginning March 30, the jurors, via witness accounts, were taken on kaleidoscopic trips to rarified places — to outlandishly extravagant parties with the rich and famous in Las Vegas and other hot spots; to the inner cloisters of the White House and the Justice Department; and to a secret overseas meeting between a top Chinese domestic security official and an admitted multimillion-dollar U.S. influence peddler.

“It is not complicated,” prosecutor Sean F. Mulryne told the panel in his closing argument. “At its core, it is simple and straightforward: Mr. Michél broke the law.”

For a “simple and straightforward” case, however, the sprawling narrative that unfolded during the trial featured dizzying sums of illicit cash, in the eight and nine figures; a labyrinth of alleged conspiracies involving campaign finance violations and illegal lobbying; and a head-spinning cast of characters, from A-listers to no-listers, in the worlds of entertainment and government.

Leonardo DiCaprio, one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars, took the witness stand. In a somewhat less captivating appearance, former attorney general Jeff Sessions also addressed the jury. Others whose names came up repeatedly in testimony span the spectrum of cultural achievement, from filmmaker Martin Scorsese to reality maven Kim Kardashian, and dot the hierarchy of Washington power, from former presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump to campaign money bundlers familiar mainly to just the Beltway cognoscenti.

Along with Michél, the trial focused on his absent co-defendant, fugitive Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho (“Jho Low” to his friends), who investigators believe is in China.

Starting in the 2000s, authorities said, Low orchestrated the theft of $4.5 billion from Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund and embarked on a cartoonishly lavish lifestyle in the United States. In eight months in 2009 and 2010, for example, “Low and his entourage spent $85 million on alcohol, gambling in Vegas, private jets, renting superyachts, and to pay for Playmates and Hollywood celebrities to hang out with him,” journalists Tom Wright and Bradley Hope said in a book about the Ivy League-educated party boy.

Prosecutors said Low, now 41, used part of his embezzled fortune to finance the Scorsese-directed film “The Wolf of Wall Street,” which cost $100 million. DiCaprio, who made the production deal in 2012 and starred in the Oscar-nominated movie, testified that he thought his then-buddy “Jho Low” was a legitimate, uber-successful businessman. DiCaprio, who jetted to parties around the globe with Low, has not been accused of wrongdoing, nor has Scorsese.

The gamut of celebrities, current and past, with whom the wild-spending financier cultivated relationships came to include Michél, whose solo music career waned after the Fugees broke up in 1997. Michél, who reinvented himself as a documentary producer and business entrepreneur, told the jury he was introduced to Low at a Manhattan nightclub bash in 2006. Then, in 2012, he testified, Low contacted him for help, knowing that Michél was a passionate Obama supporter who had met the president.

 

Emmett Till with his mother, Mamie Bradley in about 1950.

Emmett Till with his mother, Mamie Bradley in about 1950.

ny times logoNew York Times, Carolyn Bryant Donham, Whose Words Doomed Emmett Till, Dies at 88, Margalit Fox, April 27, 2023. Her testimony in the 1955 trial of her husband and brother-in-law was crucial in their acquittal in one of the most epochal murders in American history.

Only two people knew exactly what happened during the minute they were alone together in the general store in Money, Miss., on Aug. 24, 1955. One, Emmett Till, a Black teenager visiting from Chicago, died four days later, at 14, in one of the most epochal murders in American history.

The other was Carolyn Bryant. She was the 21-year-old white proprietress of the store where, according to her testimony in the September 1955 trial of her husband and his half brother for the murder, Till made a sexually suggestive remark, grabbed her roughly by the waist and let loose a wolf whistle.

Now Ms. Bryant has died, at 88. Megan LeBoeuf, the chief investigator for the Calcasieu Parish coroner’s office in Louisiana, sent a statement confirming the death of Ms. Bryant, more recently known as Carolyn Bryant Donham, on Tuesday in Westlake, a small city in southern Louisiana. Ms. LeBoeuf did not provide further information.

With Ms. Donham’s death, the truth of what happened that August day may never be clear. More than half a century after the murder, she admitted that she had perjured herself on the witness stand to make Till’s conduct sound more threatening than it actually was — serving, in the words of the historian to whom she made the admission, as “the mouthpiece of a monstrous lie.”

“She said with respect to the physical assault on her, or anything menacing or sexual, that that part isn’t true,” the historian, Timothy B. Tyson, told “CBS This Morning” in 2017.

But in an unpublished memoir that surfaced last year, Ms. Donham stood by her earlier description of events, though she said she had tried to discourage her husband from harming Till.

“He came in our store and put his hands on me with no provocation,” she wrote. “Do I think he should have been killed for doing that? Absolutely, unequivocally, no!”

The Till family said the account was rife with inaccuracies.

The murder of Emmett Till was a watershed in United States race relations. Coverage of the killing and its aftermath, including a widely disseminated photograph of Till’s brutalized body at his open-casket funeral, inspired anguish and outrage, helped propel the modern civil rights movement and ultimately contributed to the demise of Jim Crow.

A former beauty queen described in the news media as having been poor, unworldly and little educated in 1955, Mrs. Bryant, as she was known then, was very much a product of her time and place, as her trial testimony, given under oath, makes plain.

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Ukraine War

 

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and China’s leader, Xi Jinping (Photos by Omar Marques via Getty Images, left, and Thibault Camus of the Associated Press).

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and China’s leader, Xi Jinping (Photos by Omar Marques via Getty Images, left, and Thibault Camus of the Associated Press).

ny times logoNew York Times, Xi and Zelensky Speak in First Known Contact Since Russia’s Invasion, Vivian Wang, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said he “had a long and meaningful phone call” with China’s leader, Xi Jinping.They last spoke in January 2022.

China’s leader, Xi Jinping, and Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, spoke by telephone on Wednesday, in the first known contact between the two leaders China Flagsince Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Mr. Zelensky said he “had a long and meaningful phone call” with Mr. Xi. The Chinese state news media said the two leaders had discussed “the Ukraine crisis” and their nations’ bilateral relationship.

ukraine flag“I believe that this call, as well as the appointment of Ukraine’s ambassador to China, will give a powerful impetus to the development of our bilateral relations,” Mr. Zelensky said on Twitter.

Before the war, China-Ukraine ties had been strengthening. By 2019, China was Ukraine’s largest trading partner and the top importer of its barley and iron ore, according to a report by the Council on Foreign Relations. Ukraine was also China’s largest corn supplier and its second-largest arms supplier. China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was a discarded Soviet vessel bought from Ukraine that the Chinese Navy refurbished.

The last known contact between Mr. Xi and Mr. Zelensky was a phone call in January 2022, just weeks before the invasion, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of diplomatic bilateral ties.

But after the invasion, the official Chinese news media adopted many of the Kremlin’s talking points and disinformation, accusing NATO of instigating the conflict and refusing to call it an invasion.

Even so, Ukraine has been careful not to antagonize China, mindful of the decisive role the latter could play in the war. Mr. Zelensky, for example, called China’s position paper on the war “an important signal,” and has said that “I really want to believe” China would not supply weapons to Russia. (Western officials have suggested that Beijing may do so, despite China’s denials.)

China, for its part, has insisted that both Ukraine and Russia are its friends and rejected accusations that Mr. Xi’s lack of contact with Mr. Zelensky undermined China’s professed neutrality. Officials have pointed to a conversation between the two countries’ foreign ministers in March, shortly before Mr. Xi’s Moscow trip, during which China said peace talks should resume, according to a Chinese summary of the conversation.

But Chinese analysts also acknowledged that Beijing had far more practical interest in tending to its relationship with Moscow than Kyiv.

“Today’s Ukraine is still at war, China’s investments there have been bombed, and we don’t know what Ukraine will look like in the future,” said Zhu Feng, a professor of international relations at Nanjing University. “Is there still a China-Ukraine relationship?”

Here is what else:

  • Russian forces pound Zaporizhzhia before an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive.
  • Relations between China and Ukraine have been uncertain since Russia’s full-scale invasion.
  • The U.N. chief heads to Washington as he persists in trying to salvage the grain deal.
  • South Africa remains torn on the I.C.C. over its treatment of allies like Russia.
  • Those who stayed in Chernobyl lived through another calamity when Russian troops came.
  • Ukraine Diary: In frontline villages, animals are hard to leave behind.

Washington Post, Russia can fund war in Ukraine for another year despite sanctions, leaked document says, Adam Taylor, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). In previously unreported, leaked U.S. documents, senior Russian officials, intelligence agencies and oligarchs fret over sanctions — and work around them.

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Trump Cases, Allies, Insurrectionists

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Importance of E. Jean Carroll’s Lawsuit Against Donald Trump, Deborah Tuerkheimer, April 26, 2023 (print ed.). Ms. Tuerkheimer is a professor of law at Northwestern University and the author of “Credible: Why We Doubt Accusers and Protect Abusers.”

Amid several investigations into purported misconduct connected to his presidency and to his business, Donald Trump faces a different sort of accusation in a civil trial set to begin on Tuesday in Manhattan: that he raped a woman in a dressing room at Bergdorf Goodman, the elegant Fifth Avenue department store, in the mid-1990s.

Mr. Trump has denied the claim. But power and wealth like his have often protected abusers from accountability.

Countless people are victims of sexual assault and harassment. Rarely do they see justice done. That narrative has begun to change, though much too slowly. And that is why the lawsuit brought by the writer E. Jean Carroll against Mr. Trump is among the most significant developments of the post-#MeToo era.

Ms. Carroll filed her lawsuit under the Adult Survivors Act, a New York law signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul in May 2022. It allowed those who claimed they were victims of sexual assault a period of one year beginning last November to sue for damages regardless of when the abuse was said to have occurred. In the same suit, Ms. Carroll accuses him of defamation for what the complaint says are a “slew of false, insulting claims.” (Mr. Trump called Ms. Carroll’s rape allegation a “hoax and a lie,” referred to her as a “nut job” and suggested that he could not have raped her because “This woman is not my type!”)

To many women, Mr. Trump has come to represent male sexual entitlement. I heard this repeatedly as I researched my book about why accusers are often doubted. One woman I spoke with, Marissa Ross, who has written about sexual assault and harassment in the wine industry, explained her quite typical reaction to the notorious “Access Hollywood” videotape that surfaced during the 2016 presidential campaign, in which Mr. Trump brags: “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” including “grab” women’s genitals. When she heard the tape, Ms. Ross told me, “I didn’t just hear Donald Trump. I heard every man that’s ever hurt me. It was those boys in high school, it was my ex-boyfriend, it was all those men. For me, and I imagine for many other survivors, it was not just hearing Trump. It was everyone that violated me.”

Mr. Trump’s election, which followed a campaign in which several women accused him of sexual misconduct, helped catalyze #MeToo. Ms. Carroll credits that movement with empowering her own decision to step forward. In the civil complaint, she recounts watching the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s accusers, and then many others, tell their stories of harassment and rape. As her complaint put it, she “saw how women had at last changed the public conversation by saying ‘Me Too’ and by demanding accountability.”

Now a jury must resolve what the judge in the case, Lewis A. Kaplan of the Federal District Court in Manhattan, described in an earlier ruling as “a ‘he said, she said’ case.” Ms. Carroll’s version of events is likely to be corroborated by two friends to whom she says she promptly turned after the assault. Her depiction of Mr. Trump may also be bolstered by the “Access Hollywood” tape, which the judge has allowed as evidence along with the testimony of two women who have accused Mr. Trump of nonconsensual sex acts, allegations that Mr. Trump has denied.

The testimony of a rape accuser alone seldom persuades a jury, so this bolstering can be helpful, if not essential, in surmounting what I call the credibility discount. Like most accusers, Ms. Carroll will need to overcome formidable barriers to belief. Even in a civil case like this, where the evidentiary standard of proof is much lower than in a criminal prosecution, accusers confront an uphill battle.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers will deploy strategies that are at this point familiar — because they are often effective despite capitalizing on myths about abuse. Since Mr. Trump is anticipated not to testify at trial, his case is likely to hinge on attacking Ms. Carroll’s own account. The defense may insist that she welcomed the bantering exchange that led the two to the dressing room, and Ms. Carroll’s recollection in her complaint that she “kept laughing” after the incident may be used to support this consensual version of events.

As an alternative, the defense might argue that the entire encounter was invented, noting that Ms. Carroll opted not to report the alleged rape to the police at the time or to seek medical attention. All this can be used against her as evidence she’s lying.

As to why she would supposedly lie, Mr. Trump’s legal team may harness his own explanations. In his 2022 deposition, he suggested that Ms. Carroll is a political pawn, an attention-seeker, a woman out to profit from her allegation. These are standard portrayals of rape accusers. The trial will test their ongoing power.

The outcome takes on heightened significance because Mr. Trump has embraced the role of avenger on behalf of men accused of sexual misconduct. In 2016, responding to the allegations of sexual misconduct against him, Mr. Trump asserted that “every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign” and added, “If they can fight somebody like me, who has unlimited resources to fight back, just look at what they can do to you.”

In her complaint, Ms. Carroll says she kept quiet about what happened for decades in no small part because she feared that Mr. Trump would “bury her in threats and lawsuits.” She also says that she was convinced no one would believe her, that she blamed herself for what happened, and that she thought strong women minimize their suffering and move forward. What Ms. Carroll relates are normal ways that victims cope with the aftermath of abuse. After many years of conversations with survivors, I view her account as unexceptional.

What is unusual is that Ms. Carroll became willing to level a public accusation and to pursue legal accountability. Most women lack the platform, the privilege and the resources to do what she has done. While it might be tempting to dismiss the importance of one lawsuit, this would ignore the long, continuing arc of MeToo.

  • Washington Post, E. Jean Carroll to testify in civil trial against Trump, April 26, 2023 

 

enrique tarrio mic

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-Proud Boys leader argues Trump is to blame for Jan. 6 attack, Rachel Weiner, April 26, 2023 (print ed.). Facing the possibility of years in prison on felony convictions, the longtime leader of the far-right Proud Boys (shown above in a file photo) sought Tuesday to deflect blame for the Jan. 6, 2021, attack onto former president Donald Trump.

Henry “Enrique” Tarrio is accused of organizing a small group of loyal Proud Boys to lead the pro-Trump mob in storming the U.S. Capitol building. Four members of that “Ministry of Self Defense” have been on trial for the past four months with Tarrio, all accused of a seditious plot to prevent Joe Biden from taking office. While other defendants have pointed at Trump’s role in fomenting the violence at the Capitol, Tarrio’s attorney Nayib Hassan was far more direct. Early in his closing argument Tuesday, he quoted Trump telling supporters to “fight like hell” on Jan. 6.

“It was Donald Trump’s words, it was his motivation, it was his anger that caused what occurred on January 6 in your amazing and beautiful city,” Hassan said. “They want to use Enrique Tarrio as a scapegoat for Donald Trump and those in power.”

Hassan kicked off the second day of closing arguments in the trial, one of the most high-profile of the nearly 1,000 Jan. 6 cases the government has charged. He started by quoting President Franklin D. Roosevelt and ended by quoting the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., both on the importance of protecting the rights of the few as well as the majority.

“If you don’t stand up to the government now as justice requires and the Constitution requires, the next time they may come for you,” Hassan said.

If convicted, Tarrio would be the first person held partially responsible for the Jan. 6 riot who was not at the Capitol that day. He would also be the second person with ties to Trump confidant Roger Stone and the second leader of a right-wing organization to be found guilty of seditious conspiracy, after the fall trial of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes.

 

Proud Boy Jan. 6 defendants Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachery Rehl , Enrique Tarrio and Dominic Pezzola, left to right.

 Proud Boy Jan. 6 defendants Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachery Rehl , Enrique Tarrio and Dominic Pezzola, left to right.

Politico, ‘Donald Trump’s army’: Prosecutors close seditious conspiracy case against Proud Boys leaders, Kyle Cheney, April 25, 2023 (print ed.). After a nearly four-month trial, the criminal case against five men who prosecutors say instigated the Jan. 6 insurrection will soon be in the hands of a jury.

politico CustomLeaders of the far-right Proud Boys, fearful about their place in a post-Trump America, instead tried to prevent it from happening at all — even if it meant a violent assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, prosecutors argued Monday.

“These defendants saw themselves as Donald Trump’s army, fighting to keep their preferred leader in power no matter what the law or the courts had to say about it,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Conor Mulroe said Monday in federal court in Washington, D.C.

Mulroe made the Justice Department’s closing pitch Monday in the most significant trial to emerge from the Jan. 6 attack. More than 1,000 people have been charged for their behavior that day, but prosecutors say the Proud Boys played the most critical, galvanizing role in assembling and leading the mob to the Capitol — and then breaching police lines and the building itself.

 

Justice Department Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, left, and former President Donald Trump, shown in a collage via CNN.

Justice Department Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, left, and former President Donald Trump, shown in a collage via CNN.

washington post logoWashington Post, Recording of Cruz-Bartiromo talk sheds more light on plan to challenge 2020 results, Jacqueline Alemany and Sarah Ellison, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). Sen. Ted Cruz advocated for the creation of a congressionally appointed electoral commission ahead of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol to make a credible assessment of unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election, according to a recording made by Abby Grossberg, a former producer at Fox News.

The Jan. 2, 2021, recording, provided to The Washington Post by Grossberg’s attorney, features Cruz debriefing Grossberg and Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo on the creation of an electoral commission that would result from the denial of the certification of Joe Biden’s victory on Jan. 6, 2021.

Cruz was the first senator to object to the electoral college results, joining Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) in challenging Arizona’s electoral certification. Cruz says in the recorded conversation that he successfully organized 11 senators to object to the electoral certification as the mechanism to establish a commission. The Post has previously reported on Cruz’s proposal of delaying the certification of the electoral college results to spark a 10-day “audit” that could enable GOP state legislatures to overturn the election results.

But the recording sheds new light on the scope of Cruz’s scheming to assist Trump in overturning Biden’s victory.

“You need an adjudicatory body with fact-finding and investigative authority to consider the facts to examine the record and to make determinations — that’s how they did it in 1877,” Cruz said referencing the commission created to investigate voter fraud in the 1876 Hayes-Tilden election.

Cruz added that he would have rather seen “these facts developed in a court of law,” but goes on to cast doubt on the Supreme Court’s ultimate determination to reject the lawsuits filed to challenge the election Trump had lost. “Unfortunately the courts that heard these cases — we did not have a full and thorough consideration,” said Cruz.

Meidas Touch Network, Opinion: Special Counsel Jack Smith Gets MOST POWERFUL Evidence Yet, Ben Meiselas, April 26, 2023 (18:16 min. video). Jack Smith has received recordings from for Fox executive producer Abby Grossberg showing former Trump campaign officials and Ted Cruz making very incriminating statements about themselves and Donald Trump. MeidasTouch host Ben Meiselas reports.

Forbes, Ivanka Trump Ditches Attorneys In Fraud Suit, Splitting From Don Jr. And Eric, Zach Everson, April 26, 2023. Ivanka Trump, shown in a file photo below right, replaced the lawyers defending her in a fraud suit against the New York attorney general on Friday. Her former attorneys are still representing her brothers, Don Jr. and Eric.

ivanka trump long hair fileThe office of New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit in September alleging Donald Trump, his three eldest children, his real estate firm and its top executives inflated property values to obtain economic benefits, such as securing cheaper loans. James is asking the court to disgorge $250 million in financial benefits and restrict the defendants’ ability to conduct business in the state. The defendants dispute the allegations.

Don Jr. and Eric Trump quickly hired Clifford Robert and Michael Farina of Robert & Robert to represent them, according to court records submitted a week after the suit began. The following month, those same attorneys notified the court they were representing Ivanka Trump as well. They were serving as her local counsel working with two Washington, DC-based attorneys whom Ivanka hired independently of her brothers, Reid Figel and Michael Kellogg of Kellogg Hansen.

A sign of a split in the siblings’ defense strategies emerged on March 6, when one of the attorneys representing just Ivanka wrote to the judge, asking the him to delay the trial. The letter claimed, “The complaint does not contain a single allegation that Ms. Trump directly or indirectly created, prepared, reviewed or certified any of her father’s financial statements. The complaint affirmatively alleges that other individuals were responsible for those tasks.”

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More On 2024 U.S. Presidential Race

 

Democratic-Republican Campaign logos

ny times logoNew York Times, See who’s running for president in 2024, and who else might run, Martín González Gómez and Maggie Astor, April 26, 2023 (print ed.). Four years after a historically large number of candidates ran for president, the field for the 2024 campaign is starting out small and looks like it will be headlined by the same two aging men who ran in the general election last time: President Biden and former President Donald J. Trump.

President Donald Trump officialPresident Biden formally declared his bid for re-election in a three-minute video posted online. The video, which comes four years to the day after his 2020 campaign announcement, sets in motion the possibility of a rematch with former President Donald J. Trump.

A number of Republicans are expected to enter the race, but most are taking their time to directly take on Mr. Trump, who still holds extraordinary sway with their party’s base. And Democrats are almost universally unwilling to challenge their own incumbent so long as he seems likely to run, no matter their misgivings.

ny times logoNew York Times, President Biden’s re-election bid is an attempt to defy both Donald Trump and history, Peter Baker, April 26, 2023 (print ed.). While the president once pitched himself as “a bridge” to a new generation of Democratic leaders, he has decided that he is not ready to turn the torch over yet.

In a video that opens with images of a mob of Trump supporters storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the president said that the “fight for our democracy” has “been the work of my first term” but is incomplete while his predecessor mounts a comeback campaign for his old office that Mr. Biden suggested would endanger fundamental rights.

“Around the country, MAGA extremists are lining up to take on those bedrock freedoms,” Mr. Biden said, using Mr. Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan to describe the former president’s allies. “Cutting Social Security that you’ve paid for your entire life while cutting taxes for the very wealthy. Dictating what health care decisions women can make, banning books and telling people who they can love. All while making it more difficult for you to be able to vote.

“When I ran for president four years ago,” he added, “I said we were in a battle for the soul of America. And we still are.”

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosThe official declaration finally ended any lingering suspense over Mr. Biden’s intentions and effectively cleared the way to another nomination for the president, barring unforeseen developments. While he had repeatedly and consistently said he intended to run, Mr. Biden stoked renewed speculation by delaying his kickoff for months. Now his team can assemble the formal structure of a campaign organization and raise money to finance it.

          In his first public speech since announcing his re-election bid, President Biden called himself “the most pro-union president in American history” and said that Republicans support an agenda that favors the rich (New York Times Photo by Doug Mills on April 25, 2023).

 In his first public speech since announcing his re-election bid, President Biden called himself “the most pro-union president in American history” and said that Republicans support an agenda that favors the rich (New York Times Photo by Doug Mills on April 25, 2023).

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘It’s Time to Finish the Job’: Biden Begins His 2024 Campaign, Peter Baker, April 26, 2023 (print ed.). In a speech after announcing his candidacy, President Biden called himself “the most pro-union president” in history and said Republicans favored the rich.

President Biden formally announced on Tuesday that he would seek a second term, arguing that American democracy still faces a profound threat from former President Donald J. Trump as he set up the possibility of a climactic rematch between the two next year.

In a video that opens with images of a mob of Trump supporters storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the president said that the “fight for our democracy” has “been the work of my first term” but is incomplete while his predecessor mounts a comeback campaign for his old office that Mr. Biden suggested would endanger fundamental rights.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Biden Faces Headwinds, but Democrats See Reasons for Optimism, Jonathan Weisman, April 26, 2023 (print ed.). President Biden’s poll numbers remain low, but structural advantages have Democrats insisting he is far better positioned than his Republican rivals.

Nearly seven in 10 Americans believe their country is on a “wrong track.” The incumbent president will be 81 on Election Day 2024. More than half of the voters in his own party don’t want him to run for re-election.

Yet as President Biden embarks on his campaign for a second term, Democratic officials firmly believe he is beginning his bid on Tuesday from ground that is far more solid than his personal standing indicates. Democratic unity has stifled even the hint of an intraparty insurgency. The issues dominating the nation’s politics have largely worked in the Democrats’ favor. And a battleground that has narrowed to only a handful of states means, at least for now, that the 2024 campaign will be waged on favorable Democratic terrain.

“I’m always going to be worried because we’re a very divided country, and presidential races are going to be close, no matter who is in it,” said Anne Caprara, who helped lead Hillary Clinton’s super PAC in 2016 and is now chief of staff to Illinois’s Democratic governor, J.B. Pritzker. “But for the first time in my career, I think Republicans have painted themselves into a terrible position. They’re losing and they can’t seem to see that.”

Without doubt, Mr. Biden’s personal liabilities are tugging at the Democrats’ well-worn worry strings. Despite low unemployment, a remarkably resilient economy and an enviable record of legislative accomplishments in his first two years, the octogenarian president has never quite won over the nation, or even voters in his party. A new NBC News poll has Mr. Biden losing to a generic Republican presidential candidate, 47 percent to 41 percent.

“President Biden is in remarkably weak shape for an incumbent running for re-election,” said Bill McInturff, a veteran Republican pollster who co-directs the NBC News poll.

Republicans plan to play on those uncertainties, harping on Mr. Biden’s age and frailty and painting him as the weakest incumbent president to run for re-election since Jimmy Carter tried 44 years ago. The campaign of former President Donald J. Trump is already looking past the coming Republican nomination fight to contrast what it sees as the strength of personality of an aggressive challenger against a vulnerable incumbent.

“This is a choice between Joe Biden and Donald Trump,” said Chris LaCivita, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, adding, “If they think that is their greatest strength, they are going to have a long, miserable year.”

But the political fundamentals look significantly better than Mr. Biden’s personal approval.

By avoiding a serious primary challenge, Mr. Biden will not be spending the next year fighting with members of his own party on difficult issues like immigration, crime, gender and abortion in ways that might turn off swing voters. Instead, he can bide his time attending ribbon cuttings and groundbreakings for roads and bridges, semiconductor plants, electric vehicle manufacturers and solar energy projects that stem from his three biggest legislative achievements — the infrastructure bill, the “chips and science” law and the Inflation Reduction Act, with its huge tax incentives for clean energy.

The mere presence of Mr. Trump in the Republican primary race is helping the Democrats make the 2024 campaign a choice between the two parties, not a referendum on the incumbent, a far more difficult challenge for the party in power, said Jim Messina, who managed the last successful presidential re-election campaign, Barack Obama’s in 2012. Early polls, both in key states like Wisconsin and nationally, have Mr. Biden holding onto a slim lead over Mr. Trump, but even with or behind Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.

 

kevin mccarthy hallway

ny times logoNew York Times, After a Hellish Start and a Honeymoon, McCarthy Faces His First Big Test, Annie Karni, April 26, 2023. Speaker Kevin McCarthy, shown above in a file photo, has kept Republicans united by sticking to partisan bills. A vote to raise the debt limit in exchange for spending cuts is a tougher task.

Grinning through 15 excruciating rounds of votes to become speaker of the House in January may have been unpleasant, but Kevin McCarthy was determined to focus on the silver lining.

“See, this is the great part,” Mr. McCarthy told reporters who questioned how — if he could barely get his colleagues to elect him — he would ever be able to govern his slim and unruly House Republican majority. “Because it took this long, now we learned how to govern. So now we’ll be able to get the job done.”

U.S. House logoIn the months that have followed, Mr. McCarthy has enjoyed a honeymoon of sorts, a period when the question of whether he did, in fact, learn anything about governing through the divisions in his fractious conference went largely untested. That stage has now ended.

djt maga hatMr. McCarthy is set as early as Wednesday to bring to the floor his proposal to lift the debt ceiling for a year in exchange for spending cuts and policy changes. With a slim majority — with all Democrats present and voting no, he could afford to lose no more than four votes — it is still not clear whether he has the votes to pass a bill that has no chance of enactment.

Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, said the bill should be called the “Default On America Act” — the abbreviation may allude to its dead-on-arrival status in his chamber — and President Biden has dismissed it as a “MAGA economic agenda” that includes “spending cuts for working- and middle-class folks.”

They and other Democrats have condemned the legislation as recklessly austere and fiscally misguided, and argued that in pushing it, Republicans are precipitating a debt crisis by tying unreasonable conditions to any vote to lift the debt ceiling. The statutory borrowing limit is expected to be reached by this summer, pushing the country into default unless Congress acts to raise it.

Still, for Mr. McCarthy, who has bent over backward to try to placate the anti-spending hard right without alienating more mainstream Republicans whose seats could be at risk if they embrace draconian cuts, even muscling through a doomed bill would count as an accomplishment.

ny times logoNew York Times, Don’t Call It a ‘Cut’: The G.O.P. Tries to Rebrand Its Plan to Reduce Spending, Catie Edmondson, April 26, 2023 (print ed.). House Republicans pitched their 2011 debt limit bill aggressively, trumpeting a zeal for deep spending cuts. Their latest fiscal plan tiptoes around them.

republican elephant logoIn 2011, as a wave of populist fervor swept through Congress, delivering a restive class of anti-spending Republicans who had no appetite for raising the debt limit, House G.O.P. leaders rallied their members around a bill with a blunt, snappy slogan: “Cut, Cap and Balance.”

The phrase neatly encapsulated the unequivocal nature of the conditions Republicans were demanding in exchange for allowing the government to avoid a debt default. Their legislation — a purely symbolic measure that had no chance of enactment — would have slashed spending deeply enough to cut the deficit in half within a year, imposed austere caps on future federal spending, and required that Congress amend the Constitution to require a balanced budget before raising the debt limit.

kevin mccarthyNow, as another group of Republicans resists raising the debt ceiling, Speaker Kevin McCarthy, right, has presented a list of spending demands that he hopes to push through the House along party lines as soon as Wednesday. But this time, in a bow to political reality and economic necessity, it is a substantial retreat from what hard-right Republicans once sought, and it carries a kinder, gentler catchphrase to match: the Limit, Save, Grow Act.

U.S. House logoMr. McCarthy and his team were still scrounging on Tuesday for the votes to pass the legislation, which would be dead on arrival in the Democratic-led Senate and at the White House, as President Biden’s advisers said on Tuesday that he would veto it. Mr. Biden has been calling on Republicans for months to raise the debt ceiling without conditions to avoid a catastrophic default that could come as soon as this summer.

The speaker was facing internal pushback on his plan from some conservatives who were demanding that the legislation contain stricter work requirements for government assistance programs, a change that could alienate politically vulnerable lawmakers in Democratic-leaning districts. And new obstacles emerged as a bloc of Midwestern lawmakers raised concerns about a measure in the bill that would repeal ethanol tax credits.

Mr. McCarthy, the California Republican, has expressed confidence that he will ultimately be able to push through the bill despite the party divides and his slim majority.

Still, the vast gulf between their debt limit slogan of a dozen years ago and the current G.O.P. mantra reflects how House Republicans have scaled back their fiscal ambitions and tried to put a softer, more appealing face on their demands.

Julia Chavez Rodriguez (Associated Press Photo by Evan Vucci),

ny times logoNew York Times, Julie Chávez Rodríguez, the highest-ranking Latina in the White House, was named as campaign manager, Katie Glueck, April 26, 2023 (print ed.). Ms. Chávez Rodríguez, a veteran of Vice President Kamala Harris’s political orbit, also worked on the president’s 2020 campaign before becoming director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.

As President Biden announced his re-election bid on Tuesday, he named Julie Chávez Rodríguez as his campaign manager, elevating a senior adviser and the highest-ranking Latina in the White House.

Ms. Chávez Rodríguez, a veteran of the Obama administration and of Vice President Kamala Harris’s political orbit, also worked on Mr. Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign before becoming director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. She is the granddaughter of Cesar Chávez, the prominent labor leader for farmworkers.

Mr. Biden has a small circle of close aides, many of whom have known him for decades, and breaking into that world can be a challenge. But several Democrats said that Ms. Chávez Rodríguez had impressed top advisers, adding that she was seen as a trustworthy team player with strong political relationships and experience.

She is also closely connected to Ms. Harris. Ms. Chávez Rodríguez, a Californian herself, served as Ms. Harris’s state director when she was a California senator, and on her 2020 presidential campaign.

 

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks in Poland's capital of Warsaw earlier this month reinforcing U.S. support for NATO, Poland and Ukraine (Photo by Mandel Ngan for AFP via Getty images).U.S. President Joe Biden speaks in Poland's capital of Warsaw earlier this month reinforcing U.S. support for NATO, Poland and Ukraine (Photo by Mandel Ngan for AFP via Getty images).

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Will Seek Re-election, Setting Up Possible Rematch With Trump, Michael D. Shear, April 26, 2023 (print ed.). With a 3-minute video, Biden kicks off his 2024 campaign. Here’s the latest.

President Biden announced his bid for a second four-year term in a video posted online Tuesday morning, urging voters to let him “finish this job” and setting in motion the possibility of a rematch with former President Donald J. Trump.

In the three-minute, four-second video, Mr. Biden says he has spent his first years in office fighting for democracy and freedom. And he warns that “MAGA extremists” around the country — using Mr. Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan — threaten those freedoms.

democratic donkey logo“When I ran for president four years ago, I said we are in a battle for the soul of America. And we still are,” Mr. Biden says in the video, adding later: “That’s why I’m running for re-election.”

The formal declaration of Mr. Biden’s candidacy comes four years to the day after he said he would seek the presidency in 2019, asserting at the time that it was vital to prevent Mr. Trump from winning a second term.

Mr. Biden succeeded in 2020. But if Mr. Trump becomes the Republican nominee — he is currently the front-runner — Mr. Biden’s legacy will be determined by whether he is able to once again block Mr. Trump’s return to power.

The president does not mention Mr. Trump by name in the video. But the subtext is clear — it starts with scenes of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. When Mr. Biden says the words “MAGA extremists,” the screen flashes a picture of Mr. Trump with his arm on the shoulder of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, another potential Republican rival.

joe biden resized o“Every generation of Americans has faced a moment when they’ve had to defend democracy,” Mr. Biden says. “Stand up for our personal freedoms. Stand up for the right to vote and our civil rights. And this is our moment.”

Here’s what else you need to know:

Neither Mr. Biden’s schedule nor his message is likely to change immediately. Aides said he was expected to keep up the same themes he had focused on for months: claiming credit for an improving economy and assailing Republicans on abortion, tax cuts, guns and intolerance. But fund-raising will ramp up quickly: The president’s top donors have been invited to a summit in Washington on Friday to begin raising money.

djt maga hatMr. Biden has all but cleared the Democratic presidential field despite concerns about his age — at 80, he is already the oldest American president in history — and persistent misgivings held by a large number of his party’s voters. Although polls repeatedly show that Democrats yearn for a fresh face in 2024, they just don’t know who that would be.

Mr. Biden chose Julie Chávez Rodríguez, a top adviser and the highest-ranking Latina in the White House, to be his campaign manager. Quentin Fulks, who managed the 2022 campaign for Senator Raphael G. Warnock of Georgia, will be her deputy. Other members of Mr. Biden’s inner circle — including Jen O’Malley Dillon, his previous campaign manger, and Anita Dunn, his communications guru — will stay in the White House for now.

Mr. Biden’s team is betting that his opponent will likely be Mr. Trump, and is preparing accordingly. But the president has already begun ramping up his criticism of all Republicans, calling them “MAGA extremists.”

  • New York Times, President Biden’s re-election bid is an attempt to defy both Donald Trump and history, April 25, 2023.
  • New York Times, Julie Chávez Rodríguez, the highest-ranking Latina in the White House, was named as campaign manager, April 25, 2023.

ny times logoNew York Times, Major G.O.P. Donor’s Commitment to DeSantis Is Murkier Than Thought, Maggie Haberman and Rebecca Davis O’Brien, April 26, 2023 (print ed.). Nearly six months ago, Kenneth Griffin, the Republican megadonor and hedge fund executive, seemed poised to be a powerful financial backer of Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida in his anticipated run for president.

republican elephant logoMr. Griffin had given $5 million to Mr. DeSantis’s re-election effort, and he told Politico that while Mr. DeSantis was not yet a White House candidate, “he has a tremendous record as governor of Florida, and our country would be well served by him as president.”

djt maga hatThese days, Mr. Griffin is keeping his cards closer to the vest, and his intentions are harder to discern. A person familiar with his thinking, noting that Mr. DeSantis had not yet made his run official, said Mr. Griffin was still evaluating the Republican primary race as it unfolded.

The financier and Mr. DeSantis met in Florida in the last two weeks, according to two people with knowledge of the meeting, which came as Mr. Griffin has taken issue in private conversations with some of Mr. DeSantis’s policy moves and pronouncements. In particular, the two people said, Mr. Griffin was deeply troubled by Mr. DeSantis’s statements that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a “territorial dispute” — a remark he later tried to clarify — and that the war was not a vital U.S. interest.

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U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Democrats begin to target vulnerable GOP seats, Jennifer Rubin, right, April 27, 2023. Talk to informed Democratic operatives, donors or jennifer rubin new headshotHouse members and they will invariably say: The route to recapturing the House runs through the “Biden 18.” Those are the 18 Republicans sitting in districts won by Joe Biden in 2020.

Not all of the GOP incumbents are equally vulnerable. They range from moderate Brian Fitzpatrick in Pennsylvania, considered a strong candidate likely to be reelected, to the risible fabulist George Santos in New York, universally regarded as the most beatable.

Some seats are located in very expensive media markets in New York or California; others are in safe Biden states where Republican turnout might be low. Some New York seats would be tough to take back (e.g., the 19th Congressional District) unless Democrats can redistrict them. With those considerations in mind, Democrats assessing the contests think 14 to 16 of the 18 districts are gettable. A swing of just five seats would put the House back in Democratic hands.

The process of prioritizing races and marshaling money has already begun. Yasmin Radjy, executive director of Swing Left, a national organization with an extensive grass-roots network of volunteers and donors for Democrats in competitive seats, announced on Tuesday the six incumbent Republicans of those 18 the organization will initially focus on.

washington post logoWashington Post, Conservative dissenters block abortion limits in Nebraska, South Carolina, Brittany Shammas, Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff, Rachel Roubein and Caroline Kitchener, April 27, 2023. The South Carolina bill was stopped by five women, three Republicans and two Democrats. The Nebraska bill went down due to an 80-year-old male Republican.

Strict new abortion restrictions failed to advance in two conservative-dominated legislatures on Thursday, signaling a mounting fear among some Republicans that abortion bans could lead to political backlash.

A near-total ban on abortion failed in South Carolina, just hours before a six-week ban fizzled in Nebraska. Abortion remains legal in both states until 22 weeks of pregnancy.

In lengthy and often impassioned speeches on the South Carolina Senate floor, the state’s five female senators — three Republicans and two Democrats — decried what would have been a near-total ban on abortion. One, Sen. Sandy Senn (R), likened the implications to the dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” in which women are treated as property of the state.

Abortion laws, Senn said, “have always been, each and every one of them, about control — plain and simple. And in the Senate, the males have all the control.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Texas state agency orders workers to dress based on ‘biological gender,’ Jonathan Edwards, April 27, 2023. Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said it’s unprofessional when a man comes ‘dressed in drag, or vice versa.’

texas mapMuch of the Texas Department of Agriculture’s new dress code probably won’t surprise most office workers. Employees are barred from wearing ripped jeans, crop tops or flip flops. Pants shouldn’t sag to the knees. Business attire, like a suit or pantsuit, is expected for those testifying before the state legislature.

Then there’s the part that the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas is denouncing as unconstitutional, inflammatory and harmful: “Employees are expected to comply with this dress code in a manner consistent with their biological gender.”

Earlier this month, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller issued a two-page “dress code and grooming policy,” which was leaked and first published on Monday by the Texas Observer. The ACLU has since called the policy “clearly unlawful,” tarring it as the most recent attempt by Texas state lawmakers to target transgender people as they go to school, play sports, receive medical care and simply live..Much of the Texas Department of Agriculture’s new dress code probably won’t surprise most office workers. Employees are barred from wearing ripped jeans, crop tops or flip flops. Pants shouldn’t sag to the knees. Business attire, like a suit or pantsuit, is expected for those testifying before the state legislature.

Then there’s the part that the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas is denouncing as unconstitutional, inflammatory and harmful: “Employees are expected to comply with this dress code in a manner consistent with their biological gender.”

Earlier this month, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller issued a two-page “dress code and grooming policy,” which was leaked and first published on Monday by the Texas Observer. The ACLU has since called the policy “clearly unlawful,” tarring it as the most recent attempt by Texas state lawmakers to target transgender people as they go to school, play sports, receive medical care and simply live.

washington post logoWashington Post, About 16,000 U.S. citizens remain in Sudan as Americans, other foreigners struggle to flee, Katharine Houreld and Claire Parker, April 27, 2023. Exhausted and terrified, Americans and other foreign nationals have been struggling to escape the fighting in Sudan, cramming into crowded port terminals, squeezing onto filthy buses and begging strangers for a ride to an airport in a desperate bid to reach safety.

The United States, like other governments, has already evacuated its diplomats and their families, but tens of thousands of other foreign citizens remain behind amid fierce battles between the Sudanese military and a rival paramilitary group that erupted nearly two weeks ago.

So far, there has been no announced plan to evacuate the estimated 16,000 American citizens in Sudan, many of them dual nationals. By contrast, Britain, France and Germany have sent airplanes to Sudan to help evacuate their citizens, and other countries, such as India, have organized convoys to Port Sudan on the Red Sea.

Politico, Trump endorsed by head of GOP’s Senate campaign arm, Ally Mutnick, April 25, 2023 (print ed.). Steve Daines becomes the latest, and highest profile, Senator to back the former president.

politico CustomThe head of the Republican’s Senate campaign arm endorsed Donald Trump on Monday, becoming the most high-profile Republican in that chamber to back the former president’s attempt to win back the White House.

steve daines oSen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), right, announced his support for Trump on the Triggered podcast hosted by the ex-president’s son, Don Jr.

President Donald Trump official“The best four years I’ve had in the U.S. Senate was when President Trump was serving in the Oval Office,” Daines said, praising his tax reform and his efforts to remake the courts. “For these reasons and many others I’m proud to endorse Donald J. Trump for president of the United States.”

republican elephant logoAs chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Daines is charged with helping his party win back control of the Senate. His backing of Trump suggests a comfort with the former president atop the ticket that is not shared by others in his party, including some potential candidates that top Republicans would like to see run. Notably, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has had persistent conflicts with Trump and has declined to weigh in on the 2024 Republican primary.

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) announced his support for Trump on the Triggered podcast hosted by the ex-president’s son, Don Jr.

President Donald Trump official“The best four years I’ve had in the U.S. Senate was when President Trump was serving in the Oval Office,” Daines said, praising his tax reform and his efforts to remake the courts. “For these reasons and many others I’m proud to endorse Donald J. Trump for president of the United States.”

republican elephant logoAs chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Daines is charged with helping his party win back control of the Senate. His backing of Trump suggests a comfort with the former president atop the ticket that is not shared by others in his party, including some potential candidates that top Republicans would like to see run. Notably, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has had persistent conflicts with Trump and has declined to weigh in on the 2024 Republican primary.

But other Republican Senators have endorsed the 45th president, including J.D. Vance, Lindsey Graham, Eric Schmitt, Mike Braun, Ted Budd, Cindy Hyde-Smith, Markwayne Mullin, Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty.

On the podcast segment, Daines highlighted the importance of Ohio, West Virginia and Montana — three states Trump won in 2020 — to win back the Senate majority.

washington post logoWashington Post, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice expected to announce Senate bid against Joe Manchin, John Wagner, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) is expected to announce his bid for Senate on Thursday, setting up the possibility of a marquee race in 2024 against Sen. Joe Manchin III (D) in a state that Republicans view as one of their best pickup opportunities.

Justice previewed a “special announcement” planned Thursday at a West Virginia resort in an advisory sent to the media on Wednesday. Though the advisory makes no mention of the Senate race, it notes it will be streaming live on a YouTube channel that has been set up by the group Jim Justice for U.S. Senate, Inc.

Manchin, 75, one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate, has not yet said whether he will run for reelection next year in a state that Donald Trump won by nearly 39 percentage points in 2020. But Manchin has been highly critical of President Biden on several fronts in recent months, a posture consistent with seeking another term in his red state.

washington post logoWashington Post, DeJoy says USPS will keep raising prices, follow abortion pill rulings, Jacob Bogage, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). The mail agency has made steady improvements despite persistent inflation, the postmaster general said.

us mail logoThe U.S. Postal Service has kept unhealthy businesses alive because of its low prices, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy says. He wants to change that.

The mail chief is committed to dramatically increasing postage rates as he enters the third year of his plan to transform the Postal Service from an aging letter courier to the backbone of the e-commerce economy.

louis dejoy CustomThat could spell trouble, DeJoy, left, warned, for some businesses relying on mailing and shipping costs that have been kept low at the expense of the Postal Service’s financial stability.

“If we have kept alive things by a false business model — which is what we have done for 15 years, and we have abused the organization — well, that’s not something we’re supposed to be doing,” he said in an interview. “That has to change.”

Much of that plan is underway: Congress has relieved the Postal Service of $107 billion in liabilities, and granted it $3 billion to purchase electric delivery vehicles.

But economic and social head winds — persistent inflation, a looming recession and court rulings surrounding mailed abortion medications — are clouding the path forward, DeJoy said.

DeJoy sat down with The Washington Post to discuss the state of the Postal Service and questions about its future. The conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Politico, The keys to a hypothetical Tucker Carlson 2024 campaign, Adam Wren, Natalie Allison and David Siders, April 25, 2023 (print ed.). Politico invited GOP strategists to game out what a hypothetical Carlson presidential campaign might look like. It isn’t as outlandish as it sounds. Let’s be clear: Almost no one thinks Tucker Carlson is running for president. But imagine if he did.

politico CustomAs tributes to the former Fox personality poured in from the GOP Monday — “the most important and powerful voice in politics today,” the high-octane conservative Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) was quick to tell POLITICO — speculation immediately centered on what Carlson, who occupied Fox’s influential 8 p.m. perch, would do next. Head to talk radio, like the late Rush Limbaugh? Jump to a right-leaning rival like One American News Network or Newsmax or even, uh, Russian state TV, all of which openly courted him in the hours after news broke of his departure? Start a Substack?

  • Politico, Vivek Ramaswamy: Carlson would be 'good addition' to GOP presidential field, April 25, 2023 (print ed.).

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U.S. National Security

 

This image made from video provided by WCVB-TV, shows Jack Teixeira, in T-shirt and shorts, being taken into custody by armed tactical agents on Thursday, April 13, 2023, in Dighton, Mass. A judge is expected to hear arguments Thursday, April 27, over whether Teixeira, accused of leaking highly classified military documents about the Ukraine war and other issues, should remain in jail while he awaits trial. (WCVB-TV via AP, File)

This image made from video provided by WCVB-TV, shows Jack Teixeira, in T-shirt and shorts, being taken into custody by armed tactical agents on Thursday, April 13, 2023, in Dighton, Mass. A judge is expected to hear arguments Thursday, April 27, over whether Teixeira, accused of leaking highly classified military documents about the Ukraine war and other issues, should remain in jail while he awaits trial. (WCVB-TV via AP, File)

ap logoAssociated Press, Releasing leak suspect a national security risk, feds say, Alanna Durkin Richer, April 27, 2023. Federal prosecutors will urge a judge Thursday to keep behind bars a Massachusetts Air National guardsman accused of leaking highly classified military documents, arguing he may still have access to secret national defense information he could expose.

In court papers filed late Wednesday, the Justice Department lawyers said releasing 21-year-old Jack Teixeira from jail while he awaits trial would be a grave threat to the U.S. national security. Investigators are still trying to determine whether he kept any physical or digital copies of classified information, including files that haven’t already surfaced publicly, they wrote.
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“There simply is no condition or combination of conditions that can ensure the Defendant will not further disclose additional information still in his knowledge or possession,” prosecutors wrote. “The damage the Defendant has already caused to the U.S. national security is immense. The damage the Defendant is still capable of causing is extraordinary.”

A detention hearing is scheduled for Thursday in the federal court in Worcester, Massachusetts, for Teixeira, who has been in jail since his arrest earlier this month on charges stemming from the highest-profile intelligence leak in years.

Prosecutors said in their filing that Teixeira’s attorneys have indicated they will urge the judge to release him to his father’s home. As of late Wednesday, Teixeira’s attorneys hadn’t filed court papers arguing for his release.

ny times logoNew York Times, Airman Accused of Leak Has History of Racist and Violent Remarks, Filing Says, Glenn Thrush, April 27, 2023. Prosecutors accused Jack Teixeira of trying to fecklessly cover up his actions and described a possible propensity toward violence.

Jack Teixeira, the Massachusetts Air National Guardsman accused of posting classified documents online, repeatedly tried to obstruct federal investigators and has a “troubling” history of making racist and violent remarks, Justice Department lawyers said in a court filing late Wednesday.

In an 18-page memo, released before a detention hearing scheduled for Thursday in a Massachusetts federal court, the department’s lawyers argued that Airman Teixeira needed to be detained indefinitely because he posed a “serious flight risk” and might still have information that would be of “tremendous value to hostile nation states.”

Airman Teixeira tapped into vast reservoirs of sensitive information, an amount that “far exceeds what has been publicly disclosed” so far, they wrote.

Prosecutors pointedly questioned Airman Teixeira’s overall state of mind, disclosing that he was suspended from high school in 2018 for alarming comments about the use of Molotov cocktails and other weapons, and trawled the internet for information about mass shootings. He engaged in “regular discussions about violence and murder” on the same social media platform, Discord, that he used to post classified information, the filing said, and he surrounded his bed at his parents’ house with firearms and tactical gear.

washington post logoWashington Post, Mastermind of Kabul airport massacre killed by Taliban, U.S. says, Dan Lamothe, April 26, 2023 (print ed.).An ISIS suicide bomber killed scores of Afghans and 13 U.S. troops during the Biden administration’s evacuation of Afghanistan in 2021.

The suspected mastermind of a gruesome suicide bombing during the United States’ pullout from Afghanistan was killed by the Taliban in recent weeks, U.S. officials disclosed Tuesday, an extraordinary development spotlighting the Biden administration’s newfound reliance on a former battlefield adversary to help confront terrorist threats.

An estimated 170 Afghans and 13 American troops died in the 2021 attack at Kabul’s airport. Biden administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence, identified the suspect as a leader within the Islamic State’s Afghanistan chapter, known as Islamic State-Khorasan or ISIS-K. They declined to reveal the individual’s name and how the person was killed, citing concerns that doing so could jeopardize the U.S. government’s ability to collect information about future activities in the region.

The United States was not involved in the Taliban’s operation, the officials said, and developed confidence in the assessment only in the last few days. The suspect, they added, was responsible for additional violence in Afghanistan and likely harbored aspirations to carry out attacks on the West.

“I would emphasize that this development represents the continued counterterrorism pressure faced by ISIS-K in Afghanistan and beyond,” one of the administration officials said. “We see this operation as emblematic of a landscape in Afghanistan that’s become very challenging for terrorists like [those in] ISIS-K, who might want to harm Americans.”

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U.S. Abortion Laws, Public Health Impact, MAGA Trump Judge Scandals

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We should not be celebrating marijuana use, Leana S. Wen, right, April 26, 2023 (print ed.). Last week on April 20, which has become a day of leana wendevotion for marijuana, millions of Americans celebrated recreational use of the drug. This is the exact opposite of what our country needs. Instead, as science uncovers more and more about the harms of cannabis, we need a sustained education campaign about its dangers.

Marijuana users frequently tout its beneficial effects of helping people feel relaxed and happy. These can be attributed to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a chemical in the plant that mimics naturally occurring brain chemicals known as cannabinoids that stimulate dopamine release. This activates the brain’s reward system and induces pleasurable sensations.

But THC also exerts numerous other effects on the brain. It disrupts the hippocampus and frontal cortex, which control memory, attention and focus. This is why the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that “using marijuana causes impaired thinking and interferes with a person’s ability to learn and perform complicated tasks.”

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 Future U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump Republican nominee, during his Senate confirmation hearing (Pool photo by Reuters).

Future U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump Republican nominee, during his Senate confirmation hearing (Pool photo by Reuters).

 

Climate, Environment, Weather, Energy, Disasters, U.S. Transportation

washington post logoWashington Post, GM to scrap Chevy Bolt, its most popular and least expensive EV, Jeanne Whalen, April 26, 2023 (print ed.). General Motors will scrap production of its top-selling electric vehicle, the Chevy Bolt, bringing an end this year to one of the U.S. market’s most affordable EVs.

The company said it will instead focus on EVs with a newer type of battery, called Ultium, including the soon-to-be-launched electric Equinox and Blazer SUVs. The Michigan factory that manufactures the Bolt EV and the larger Bolt EUV is being retooled to produce electric trucks, the company said.

Analysts have long predicted that GM eventually would stop producing the Bolt, which runs on an older type of battery. But the news will disappoint some EV drivers who have given the Bolt a devoted niche market since the car’s launch in 2016. Bolt EV and EUV were GM’s top-selling electric vehicles last year, helping the company sell more than 20,000 EVs in the United States in the most recent quarter.

“When the Chevrolet Bolt EV launched, it was a huge technical achievement and the first affordable EV, which set in motion GM’s all-electric future,” the company said in a statement.

With a starting price around $27,500, the Bolt EV is one of few electric options under $30,000 on the U.S. market. The vehicle’s reputation suffered a setback after roughly a dozen battery fires prompted a large recall in 2021. But price cuts last year helped juice demand again, as did a $7,500 federal tax credit for which the Bolt qualifies.

Bolt owners on a popular online forum, ChevyBolt.org, expressed disappointment with Tuesday’s news. Other drivers said it was unwise of GM to ditch a brand that had developed a loyal following.

“A moniker like the Bolt is very difficult to just spawn at will,” read one forum post. “People who are genuinely excited for the product are attaching brand loyalty to GM.”

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washington post logoWashington Post, Conditions worsening in Sudan as rivals show little interest in cease-fires, Niha Masih and Rachel Chason, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). Residents of Sudan’s besieged capital, Khartoum, said Wednesday that they are facing mounting hunger, sickness and continued airstrikes, despite a declared cease-fire between the country’s two most powerful generals, who began fighting 12 days ago.

Maysoon Abdallah Abdallmuttalib, who is among the leaders of a network of volunteers responding to crises in the city, said airstrikes led to the death of at least two people on Wednesday and wounded many others, adding strain to a medical system that is already in collapse. As of Wednesday afternoon, Abdallmuttalib said military planes were overhead, and that the bombing continued. During a brief lull, she said her network had received mostly requests for food, medicine and help evacuating, as conditions have grown increasingly dire for those that remain in the city.

“In this cease-fire, there was no ceasing of fire,” said Gasim Amin Oshi, a 29-year-old engineer who, like Abdallmuttalib, is a member of Sudan’s grass roots “resistance committees,” which have been active since the pro-democracy revolution in 2019. He said Wednesday afternoon that he had been hearing the sound of army helicopters circling, which means attacks are imminent.

There had been at least two bombings Tuesday, he said, including one that led to multiple injuries at al-Romi Hospital in the twin city of Omdurman, and at least one more Wednesday. He said residents, many of whom are too scared to leave their homes, are facing dangerous shortages of food, water and medicine.

Oshi, who was busy organizing medicine deliveries Wednesday, said that few had much confidence in the cease-fire, announced by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken late Monday.

“To be honest, nobody believed them,” he said, referring to Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the army chief and de facto head of state, and his rival, Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, who have plunged their country into war. “Because we have long experience with them. They don’t keep their words.”

Burhan gave his “initial approval” of a proposal by officials in Djibouti, Kenya and South Sudan to extend the current cease-fire for 72 hours and to hold negotiations with an RSF delegation in Juba, the Sudanese army said in a Facebook post late Wednesday.

Speaking from north of Khartoum, Maryam Elfaki, also active with Sudan’s grass roots “resistance committees,” said there is no end in sight for the violence. The RSF have taken up residence in neighborhoods throughout Khartoum, which puts civilians at risk when the army conducts air raids.

“They are giving civilians no choice but to evacuate,” she said. “If either side wins, it is a loss for everyone.”

Fourth cease-fire falters in Khartoum as people struggle to flee Sudan

Elfaki, who fled her home in Khartoum on the third day of fighting to be with her extended family, said that now even the suburbs are growing more dangerous.

Washington Post, Editorial: In Sudan bloodbath, neither warring general should win

washington post logoWashington Post, Bolsonaro to answer police questions about Brasília insurrection, Terrence McCoy, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). There was a moment, shortly after the insurrection, when it seemed Brazil might finally wake from its fever dream.

The January assault on Brazil’s capital, by thousands of supporters of Jair Bolsonaro, right, intent on reversing his defeat in the presidential election, was so shocking jair bolsonaro brazilthat it appeared to unify much of the country’s fractious political class around a need to protect the democracy being torn apart by polarization and political hatred.

Lula headshot 2022Conservatives traveled to Brasília to meet with leftist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, left, and discuss how to avoid further violence. Bolsonaro’s congressional allies declared their commitment to democracy. Even Bolsonaro, whose groundless allegations of electoral fraud had primed supporters to attack, expressed surprise. “We lament what happened,” he said from his self-imposed exile in Florida.

But, as happened in the aftermath Washington’s Jan. 6 insurrection, Brazil has since abandoned any semblance of political harmony and retreated to its familiar ideological camps, where interpretations of what happened that day in Brasília are decided not by fact, but political orthodoxy.

Bolsonaro’s return poses risks for the former president — and Brazil

Months later, it’s clear: Instead of jolting the country into taking seriously its political divisions, the attack has become just one more way to measure them.

“The outcome will be the same here as it was in the United States,” said Antonio Lavareda, president of the Institute of Social, Political and Economic Research in the northeastern city of Recife. “The facts will come in second, and what will come first is belief and narrative.”

brazil flag wavingAccording to the authorities here, these are the facts: Hard-line Bolsonaristas spent weeks camped out in front of military bases throughout Brazil after Bolsonaro’s October loss to Lula. Parroting Bolsonaro’s unsubstantiated claims that fraud had marred the results, and convinced Lula had stolen the election, they pleaded with Brazil’s armed forces to block his inauguration.

Lula took the oath of office on Jan. 1 — and Bolsonaro decamped for Florida rather than hand him the presidential sash — but the protesters stayed where they were. In Brasília, their numbers swelled dramatically the morning of Jan. 8, when more than 120 buses brought in thousands more from all over the country. Clad in the green and yellow of Bolsonaro’s nationalist movement, they departed en masse for the country’s most important federal buildings — the presidential palace, the Supreme Court and Congress — and overran them.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.K. Blocks Microsoft’s Bid for Activision, a Blow to the Tech Giant, David McCabe and Kellen Browning, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). The decision barring the $69 billion takeover of a big video game publisher is a major loss for Microsoft, which also faces pushback from U.S. regulators.

United Kingdom flagBritish antitrust regulators on Wednesday dealt a major setback to Microsoft’s plans to acquire the video game giant Activision Blizzard for $69 billion, blocking the proposed deal and handing a notable win to government enforcers who want to rein in Big Tech.

In deciding that Microsoft’s proposals to ensure the acquisition did not harm competition “failed to effectively address the concerns in the cloud gaming sector,” a nascent part of the gaming industry, the Competition and Markets Authority inflicted a possibly fatal blow to what would be the largest consumer tech acquisition since AOL bought Time Warner two decades ago.

The surprising ruling was a clear victory for proponents of regulating tech giants like Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Google and Meta, Facebook’s parent company. Their efforts, fueled by fears that the companies wield too much power over online commerce and communications, have been stymied in the United States by recent court losses and legislative failures.

“This is a very big win for the broader effort to realign antitrust enforcement,” said William E. Kovacic, a former chairman of the Federal Trade Commission. Microsoft said it planned to appeal the ruling.

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A photograph released by Russian state media showing Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting at the Kremlin (Photo by Sergei Karpukhin of Sputnik).

 

U.S. Economy, Budget, Jobs

ny times logoNew York Times, Binance Faces Mounting Pressure as U.S. Crypto Crackdown Intensifies, David Yaffe-Bellany, Emily Flitter and Matthew Goldstein, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). The scrutiny on the cryptocurrency exchange Binance and its founder has sent new tremors through a market that is still bruised by the implosion of FTX.

binance logoFor years, the giant cryptocurrency exchange Binance has had a reputation for dodging regulators and skirting financial rules, all without significant consequences.

Now the world’s largest crypto exchange is facing mounting legal pressure.

Changpeng Zhao, Binance’s founder and chief executive, has hired white-collar defense lawyers at the law firm Latham & Watkins to represent him personally, as he and his company face a tightening legal net. Justice Department prosecutors are investigating the exchange for money laundering violations, as the Securities and Exchange Commission is looking into the company’s business practices. Last month, another agency, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, sued Mr. Zhao, accusing him of compliance failures that allowed criminals to launder money on Binance.

The legal threats have converged to create the most precarious moment in Binance’s history. Criminal charges against Mr. Zhao or his company could set off mass panic in the crypto markets, which are reeling from the FTX exchange’s collapse last year and the arrest of the firm’s founder, Sam Bankman-Fried. Binance is several times larger than FTX was, processing tens of billions of dollars in trades every day.

“It’s the biggest exchange for crypto, and if it gets clamped down on, that’s going to be a big deal,” said Hilary Allen, a crypto expert at American University. “It’s hard to see the rest of the crypto industry remaining unscathed.”

ny times logoNew York Times, A Bleak Outlook for Manhattan’s Office Space May Signal a Bigger Problem, Matthew Haag, April 26, 2023 (print ed.). Remote work and rising interest rates are dealing a double blow to office landlords, with potentially grave consequences for the economy.

New York City’s biggest corporate landlords had it great for years — benefiting from a booming economy in a city where companies clamored to set up offices and from low interest rates that buoyed the economics of an industry built on debt.

Those days are over. Three years into the pandemic, floors of office buildings throughout Manhattan have been emptied by tenants who have shrunk their footprint and employees who work from home.

Now, there is another problem.

Rapidly rising interest rates have intensified concerns that the New York City office market, the largest in the country and a pillar of the city’s economy, could be at grave risk. That one-two punch could be worse than anything corporate landlords have experienced before, experts on the sector say, leading major banks and real estate analysts in recent weeks to warn that languishing properties along with falling property values and higher borrowing costs could increase the odds of a recession nationally and a budget crisis for the city.

More than two-thirds of all commercial real estate loans are held by small- and medium-size banks, prompting concern that regional banks might be unable to withstand a wave of defaults if landlords cannot pay off loans. Some analysts have forecast a dim future for city centers, likening the crisis to the slow death of many American shopping malls.

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Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy

ap logoAssociated Press, First pill for fecal transplants wins FDA approval, Matthew Perrone, April 27, 2023. U.S. health officials on Wednesday approved the first pill made from healthy bacteria found in human waste to fight dangerous gut infections — an easier way of performing so-called fecal transplants.

Politico, Florida surgeon general altered key findings in study on Covid-19 vaccine safety, Arek Sarkissian, April 25, 2023 (print ed.). Joseph Ladapo defended the move, saying revisions are a normal part of assessing such analysis.

politico CustomFlorida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo personally altered a state-driven study about Covid-19 vaccines last year to suggest that some doses pose a significantly higher health risk for young men than had been established by the broader medical community, according to a newly obtained document.

Ladapo’s changes, released as part of a public records request, presented the risks of cardiac death to be more severe than previous versions of the study. He later used the final document in October to bolster disputed claims that Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were dangerous to young men.

The surgeon general, a well-known Covid-19 vaccine skeptic, faced a backlash from the medical community after he made the assertions, which go against guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and American Academy of Pediatrics. But Ladapo’s statements aligned well with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ stance against mandatory Covid-19 vaccination.

Researchers with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and University of Florida, who viewed Ladapo’s edits on the study and have followed the issue closely, criticized the surgeon general for making the changes. One said it appears Ladapo altered the study out of political — not scientific — concerns.

“I think it’s a lie,” Matt Hitchings, an assistant professor of biostatistics at the University of Florida, said of Ladapo’s assertion that the Covid-19 vaccine causes cardiac death in young men. “To say this — based on what we’ve seen, and how this analysis was made — it’s a lie.”

washington post logoWashington Post, The new face of Alzheimer’s: Early stage patients who refuse to surrender, Laurie McGinley, April 24, 2023. For years, doctors and patients thought there was little to do when dementia was diagnosed, even at an early stage. Now, potentially sweeping changes loom.

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U.S. Cable News Firings

ap logoAssociated Press, Tucker Carlson emerges on Twitter, doesn’t mention Fox News, David Bauder, April 27, 2023. Tucker Carlson emerged Wednesday, two days after Fox News fired him, with a two-minute, campaign-style monologue that didn’t address why he suddenly became unemployed.

He posted a video on Twitter shortly after 8 p.m. Eastern, the time his Fox show used to begin, that talked about a lack of honest political debate in the media.

Carlson said one of the things he noticed, “when you step away from the noise for a few days,” is how nice some people are, and how hilarious some are.

“The other thing you notice when you take a little time off is how unbelievably stupid most of the debates you see on television are,” he said. “They’re completely irrelevant. They mean nothing. In five years we won’t even remember we heard them. Trust me, as somebody who participated.”

Fox fired its most popular personality on Monday without explanation, less than a week after settling a lawsuit concerning the spread of lies about the 2020 presidential election.

fox upside down news

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: As Carlson and Lemon Exit, a Chapter Closes on Cable News’ Trump

washington post logoWashington Post, For the Murdochs, Tucker Carlson became more trouble than he was worth, Sarah Ellison and Jeremy Barr, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). Precise reasons for the top-rated host’s dismissal remain clouded, but the move reflected a reversal for the exasperated family that once championed himTucker Carlson had dinner with his ultimate boss, Rupert Murdoch, two weeks ago in Los Angeles, and everything seemed just fine.

But according to people familiar with their conversation and Murdoch’s thinking, the 92-year-old billionaire founder of Fox News had grown weary of some of Carlson’s increasingly far-right commentary on his nightly prime-time show — as well as some of the swaggering host’s behind-the-scenes attitude.

At that particular moment, he was disturbed by Carlson’s stance on Ukraine. A graphic on Carlson’s show had referred to Volodymyr Zelensky, president of the besieged nation, as a “Ukrainian pimp,” and the host had repeatedly excoriated the U.S. government for providing aid to its defense against Russian attacks.

These stances had made Carlson a star on Russian state-controlled TV. But they had drawn furious blowback from powerful Republicans who see U.S. support for Ukraine as a bulwark in a fight for freedom and democracy — some of whom had Murdoch’s ear. After one such on-air segment in mid-March, Murdoch joined a Fox newsroom meeting to loudly challenge Carlson’s message, according to people familiar with the meeting, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of newsroom confidentiality policies.

Two days after Fox News abruptly fired its top-rated host, ambiguity still swirled around the question of how exactly Carlson, a major influencer in GOP politics, had fallen from grace so quickly within a network that soared to success by catering to conservative audiences.

But interviews with people inside Fox or close to the situation made it clear that the decision rested with the powerful family that controls the company, who finally determined that Carlson was more trouble than he was worth.

Where can Tucker Carlson and Don Lemon go now?

When Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott called Carlson on Monday morning to tell him he would be “parting ways” with the network, the host repeatedly asked why, according to people familiar with the conversation. Scott would only tell him that the decision came “from above” — meaning Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan, CEO of Fox Corp.

Scott and Lachlan Murdoch had made the decision to fire Carlson on Friday evening, and Lachlan spoke to his father about it on Saturday, according to two people familiar with the discussion. The decision also came after months of tension and complaints within Fox about Carlson’s lack of respect for Fox’s upper ranks.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Tweets Become Harder to Believe as Labels Change Meaning, Steven Lee Myers, Sheera Frenkel and Tiffany Hsu, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). The elimination of check marks that helped authenticate Twitter accounts has convulsed a platform that once seemed vital for following breaking news.

twitter bird CustomIn the 24 hours after Twitter last week eliminated the blue check mark that historically served as a means of identifying public agencies, at least 11 new accounts began impersonating the Los Angeles Police Department.

More than 20 purported to be various agencies of the federal government. Someone pretending to be the mayor of New York City promised to create a Department of Traffic and Parking Enforcement and slash police funding by 70 percent.

Mr. Musk’s decision to stop giving check marks to people and groups verified to be who they said were, and instead offering them to anyone who paid for one, is the latest tumult at Twitter, the social media giant he has vowed to remake since he acquired it last year for $44 billion.

The changes have convulsed a platform that once seemed indispensable for following news as it broke around the world. The information on Twitter is now increasingly unreliable. Accounts that impersonate public officials, government agencies and celebrities have proliferated. So have propaganda and disinformation that threaten to further erode trust in public institutions. The consequences are only beginning to emerge.

Alyssa Kahn, a research associate at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, said Twitter under Mr. Musk was systematically dismantling safeguards that had been put in place over years of consideration and controversy.

“When there are so many things going wrong at once, it’s like: Which fire do you put out first?” she said.

After a public dispute with NPR, which Twitter falsely labeled state-affiliated media, the platform last week removed all labels that had identified state-owned media, including those controlled by authoritarian states like Russia, China and Iran.

That, coupled with a decision to stop blocking recommendations for them, has coincided with a spike in engagement for many of these accounts, according to research by the Digital Forensic Research Lab and another organization that studies disinformation, Reset, which is based in London.

In Sudan, new accounts on Twitter are falsely representing both sides of the civil war that has erupted there. One account that, presumably, bought a blue check mark falsely proclaimed the death of Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan, the leader of the rebel Rapid Support Forces. More than 1.7 million people viewed the tweet.

Blue Check Marks: Twitter began removing check mark icons from the profiles of thousands of celebrities, politicians and journalists, in one of the most visible indicators of how Elon Musk is changing the company.

Twitter has always been a font of misinformation and worse, but the previous policies sought to inform readers of the sources of content and limit the most egregious instances. The debut of verified accounts at Twitter in 2009 is usually associated with Tony La Russa, a major-league baseball manager who sued Twitter for trademark infringement and other claims after being impersonated on the platform.

Some cheered the changes.

“Now you can even find me in the search,” tweeted Margarita Simonyan, the editor in chief of RT, the Russian state television network that has been accused of rampant misinformation and hate speech aimed at Ukraine. She signed off the tweet by saying, “Brotherly, Elon @elonmusk, from the heart.”

Politico, Judge tosses Devin Nunes suit over Esquire article, Josh Gerstein, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). A federal judge has thrown out libel suits former Rep. Devin U.S. Rep. Devin NunesNunes, right, and his relatives filed over a 2018 Esquire article alleging that a dairy farm owned by Nunes’ family members hired undocumented workers.

politico CustomU.S. District Court Judge C.J. Williams ruled Tuesday that the claims at issue in writer Ryan Lizza’s story — “Devin Nunes’s Family Farm is Hiding a Politically Explosive Secret” — were essentially accurate. The judge said that conclusion was fatal to the suits brought by Nunes, his relatives and the company used to operate the dairy, NuStar Farms.

“The assertion that NuStar knowingly used undocumented labor is substantially, objectively true,” wrote Williams, an appointee of former President Donald Trump.

Lizza, the veteran political reporter who authored the article, joined POLITICO in 2019 as Chief Washington Correspondent and a co-author of POLITICO Playbook.

In the 101-page opinion issued Tuesday, Williams said evidence developed during the litigation showed that the farm employed numerous workers who provided names and Social Security numbers that did not match Social Security Administration records.

“This Court ordered the SSA to verify the SSNs of all disclosed NuStar Farms employees,” Williams said. “Of those employees who NuStar plaintiffs employed on or before September 30, 2018, 243 of 319 employees’ names, dates of birth, and SSNs did not match SSA records.”

Williams also said there was testimony and evidence that the farm was warned about such mismatches, accepted expired credentials and did not properly complete forms designed to verify that workers were authorized to work in the U.S.

Six NuStar employees subpoenaed by Hearst and asked to produce identification and work authorization documents ultimately invoked their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, the judge wrote.

Williams also noted that NuStar has never used the Department of Homeland Security’s voluntary program to check workers’ eligibility for employment, e-Verify.

In a deposition in the case, Nunes — who stepped down from Congress last year to become CEO of Trump’s social media venture, Trump Media & Technology Group — called e-Verify a failed program, said it does not work and is discriminatory, the judge said. But Williams noted that Nunes praised the same program during a 2019 Fox News interview and suggested it should be mandatory.

“It’s worked really, really well,” Nunes said. “And that means, if everybody was certified by the government that everybody working for you is, in fact, here on a legal permit, that in the long run is great.”

An attorney who represents Nunes, his relatives and the farm, Steven Biss, did not respond to a message seeking comment on the ruling.

Nunes could appeal the judge’s ruling to the St. Louis-based 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In 2020, Williams dismissed Nunes’ suit against Lizza and Hearst. However, an 8th Circuit panel reinstated that case by ruling that it was possible Lizza republished his story by tweeting it out in 2019.

In his new decision, Williams said Nunes hadn’t produced evidence to support the notion that the 2019 tweet amounted to republishing the story.

ny times logoNew York Times, As New York Increases Tax Breaks for Movies, Some Critics Pan the Program, Dana Rubinstein and Nicholas Fandos, April 27, 2023 (print ed.). Gov. Kathy Hochul wants to increase incentives to film and television to $700 million a year, but some say it’s a bad deal for the state’s taxpayers.

Four years ago, Amazon pulled the plug on its plans to build a headquarters in New York City, amid left-wing outrage over a $3 billion public subsidy package. But New York has hardly cut the company off: Amazon’s film and TV arm has received more than $108 million in state tax credits since then, and the left has raised nary a peep.

The handout is part of a state program that provides hundreds of millions of dollars each year in tax incentives to producers across the film and television industry, including Amazon — helping fuel a rapid expansion of studios in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Westchester County.

Now, Gov. Kathy Hochul is pushing to expand the program by nearly 70 percent, using the proposed state budget to shower as much as $7.7 billion in tax credits on the industry over the next 11 years. As it now stands, the subsidy is the most generous of any offered by the state, according to an analysis by Reinvent Albany, a watchdog group.

The proposed expansion to $700 million a year from $420 million has drawn stern rebukes from a range of critics who argue the decades-old program has consistently been a bad deal for taxpayers. But its likely success shows what is possible when powerful political and economic forces align in Albany, and states are increasingly pitted against each other for prestige jobs.

ny times logoNew York Times, Tucker Carlson and Don Lemon Hire a Top Hollywood Lawyer, Katie Robertson, April 26, 2023 (print ed.). Bryan Freedman has a track record of getting multimillion-dollar settlements for TV stars and has represented celebrities like Quentin Tarantino, Julia Roberts and Seth Rogen.

Tucker Carlson and Don Lemon, freshly ousted from their perches at top cable networks, have hired the same powerhouse lawyer to navigate their exits.

The prominent Hollywood lawyer, Bryan Freedman, has a track record of getting multimillion-dollar settlements for TV stars and other celebrities. He represents Chris Cuomo, the former CNN anchor who is seeking $125 million for wrongful termination after the network fired him in 2021, and secured a payout of Megyn Kelly’s full contract when she left NBC.

The news that both Mr. Carlson, until recently Fox’s top-rated prime time star, and Mr. Lemon, until recently one of CNN’s morning hosts, had retained Mr. Freedman portended possible fights ahead.

Mr. Freedman, who is based in Los Angeles, founded the law firm Freedman and Taitelman with Michael Taitelman in 1997. He became known as an aggressive litigator, representing high-profile clients in the entertainment industry,

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U.S. Supreme Court Ethics Scandals

This week's new official portrait of the U.S. Supreme Court

 

Ukraine War

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and China’s leader, Xi Jinping (Photos by Omar Marques via Getty Images, left, and Thibault Camus of the Associated Press).

 

Trump Cases, Claims, Allies, Insurrectionists

 

U.S. Cable News Firings

 

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U.S. President Joe Biden speaks in Poland's capital of Warsaw earlier this month reinforcing U.S. support for NATO, Poland and Ukraine (Photo by Mandel Ngan for AFP via Getty images).

 

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Former President Donald Trump is shown in a photo collage with columnist E. Jean Carroll, who accused him of raping her three decades ago, with her civil suit scheduled for trial this spring in New York City.

Former President Donald Trump is shown in a photo collage with columnist E. Jean Carroll, who accused him of raping her three decades ago, with her civil suit scheduled for trial beginning with jury selection on April 25 in New York City.

washington post logoWashington Post, E. Jean Carroll testifies at trial that Trump sexually assaulted her, Shayna Jacobs, Kim Bellware and Mark Berman, April 26, 2023. Carroll took the stand for about three and a half hours on Wednesday in her civil lawsuit against former president Donald Trump.

E. Jean Carroll took the stand for about three and a half hours on Wednesday in her civil lawsuit against former president Donald Trump. Carroll, a writer and former advice columnist for Elle magazine, has accused Trump of raping her in the mid-1990s. Trump has denied Carroll’s allegation and called her a liar.

Carroll testified until shortly after 4 p.m., when the judge excused the jury for the day. She is expected to continue her testimony on Thursday.

Here’s what to know

  • Carroll’s harrowing testimony dominated the trial’s second day. The case centers on her allegation that Trump sexually assaulted her during a chance encounter in the dressing room of Bergdorf Goodman, an upscale New York department store, in the mid-1990s. She filed a lawsuit last year accusing him of battery and defamation.
  • Upon taking the stand Wednesday, Carroll quickly testified that Trump sexually assaulted her and then further harmed her with his denials. “He lied and shattered my reputation and I’m here to try to get my life back,” Carroll testified.
  • On Thursday, Carroll is expected to resume her testimony, and Trump’s attorney is likely to question her that day.
  • Judge Lewis A. Kaplan has dismissed the jury for the day. The trial will resume Thursday with more of E. Jean Carroll’s testimony.

E. Jean Carroll said she was fired from Elle Magazine for accusing Donald Trump and said she “lost 8 million readers” — Elle’s readership — and had taken a hit in her magazine work and mailbag letters.

“It’s been a huge loss, and I’m slowly building it back.”

Asked whether she had regrets about speaking out, E. Jean Carroll answered affirmatively. But she also said, “Being able to get my day in court finally is everything to me, so I’m happy.”

Her voice breaking, she said, “I’m crying that I’ve gotten to tell my story in court.”

E. Jean Carroll acknowledged that people have suffered worse than being the target of Donald Trump’s wrath online but said the toll was nonetheless devastating.

“It hit me, and it laid me low. I lost my reputation. Nobody looked at me the same. It was gone,” Carroll said, sounding anguished. “People with no opinion now thought of me as a liar, and they hated me. The force of that hatred was staggering.”

E. Jean Carroll said she received a $70,000 advance for her 2019 book, a sum she described as “way less” than her other deals, and noted she was not e jean carroll cover new york magazinereimbursed for the road trip she took to do interviews that appear in the book. She also notes that her accusation against Donald Trump was in the book’s proposal and said the book’s eventual sales were “terrible.”

Carroll said she agreed to have the portion of her book that includes the Trump accusation excerpted in New York Magazine in 2019 hoping it would help her book sales. She choose New York Magazine (in a cover shown at left) because it’s where she had published previous work.

Carroll said she was not paid for the excerpt that appeared in New York Magazine, but that the money went to St. Martin’s, her book’s publisher.

 

 

djt mike pence

ap logoAssociated Press, Appeals court rejects Trump effort to block Pence testimony, Eric Tucker, April 27, 2023. A federal appeals court on Wednesday night moved former Vice President Mike Pence closer to appearing before a grand jury investigating efforts to undo the results of the 2020 presidential election, rejecting a bid by lawyers for former President Donald Trump to block the testimony.

Justice Department log circularIt was not immediately clear what day Pence might appear before the grand jury, which for months has been investigating the events preceding the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and efforts by Trump and his allies to subvert the election outcome. But Pence’s testimony, coming as he inches toward a likely entrance in the 2024 presidential race, would be a milestone moment in the investigation and would likely give prosecutors a key first-person account as they press forward with their inquiry.

The order from the three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was sealed and none of the parties are mentioned by name in online court records. But the appeal in the sealed case was filed just days after a lower-court judge had directed Pence to testify over objections from the Trump team.

The appeal was decided by Judge Gregory Katsas, a Trump appointee, and judges Patricia Millett and Gregory Wilkins, both appointees of former President Barack Obama. It was not clear if lawyers for Trump might ask the entire appeals court to hear the matter.

Pence was subpoenaed to testify earlier this year, but lawyers for Trump objected, citing executive privilege concerns. A judge in March refused to block Trump’s appearance, though he did side with the former vice president’s constitutional claims that he could not be forced to answer questions about anything related to his role as presiding over the Senate’s certification of votes on Jan. 6.

washington post logoWashington Post, House passes GOP debt ceiling bill, as U.S. inches toward fiscal crisis, Tony Romm, Marianna Sotomayor and Leigh Ann Caldwell, April 26, 2023. The vote came despite a veto threat from Biden, and overwhelming disapproval from Democrats in the House and Senate, who maintain that Congress should raise the debt limit without spending cuts or other conditions

U.S. House logoHouse Republicans on Wednesday approved a bill that would raise the debt ceiling, slash federal spending and repeal President Biden’s programs to combat climate change and reduce student debt, defying Democratic objections in a move that inched the U.S. one step closer to a fiscal crisis.

Ignoring repeated warnings that their brinkmanship could unleash vast economic turmoil, Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), right, muscled his narrow, quarrelsome kevin mccarthymajority toward a successful, 217-215 vote, accelerating a high-stakes clash with the White House with as few as six weeks remaining before the government could default.

For House Republicans, the outcome marked a realization of a risky wager they placed after assuming a majority this January: They bet they could use the debt ceiling, the legal limit on how much money the country can borrow to pay its bills, as political leverage. Since Congress must pass a new law to raise or suspend the cap, the GOP seized on the possibility of a looming fiscal doomsday to try to extract policy concessions from Biden.

“This bill is to get us to the negotiating table,” McCarthy told reporters Tuesday night, acknowledging that Republicans moved the bill — despite some reservations with it — “to make sure the negotiation goes forward.”

But Biden threatened to veto the proposal earlier this week, arguing that the debt ceiling should be raised without conditions given the immense risks to the U.S. economy. Senate Democrats, meanwhile, held firm in their own refusal to consider such a measure: Taking to the chamber floor, Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) blasted the GOP for “hostage taking,” adding that House Republicans had brought the country “dangerously closer to defaulting.”

Repeatedly, Republicans lifted the limit without conditions under President Donald Trump — while Democrats, who abhorred Trump’s policies, still supplied their votes in a bid to protect the country’s economic standing. With Biden, however, GOP leaders justified their new ultimatums by pointing to the nation’s roughly $31 trillion in debt, an imbalance to which both parties have contributed meaningfully.

It still took a series of late-night compromises with restive moderates and conservatives before McCarthy could pass the legislation, earning the cheers of his conference. But with no resolution in sight — and no plans for McCarthy and Biden to meet — the sharp exchanges only raised the odds that a divided, gridlocked Washington could stumble into an unprecedented fiscal catastrophe.

“It is no secret the circus is in town this week,” charged Rep. Pete Aguilar (R-Calif.), the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, at a news conference earlier Wednesday. “Every minute wasted on Speaker McCarthy’s empty gesture is a minute we get closer to default.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Disney sues DeSantis, says it was ‘left with no other choice,’ Aaron Gregg and Lori Rozsa, April 26, 2023. The entertainment giant’s lawsuit alleges Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has waged a “relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney.”

Walt Disney Co. is suing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) over what it calls a “relentless campaign to weaponize government power” — a major escalation of the year-long clash between the entertainment giant and conservative governor.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida came the same day the governor’s handpicked board declared a Disney-friendly deal null and void. Disney and DeSantis’s office have been tussling privately for the past year, but the frequency and intensity of their sparring has intensified dramatically in recent days.

The standoff, which could have major political and economic consequences, began in early 2022 when Disney leaders criticized a controversial education bill advanced by DeSantis and other Florida Republicans. Disney’s resorts in Florida are some of the state’s prime attractions, but DeSantis expressed outrage that the company dare criticize the education bill, and he began attacking the company, saying it had received preferential treatment for too long.

DeSantis, whom many consider a top presidential contender, has repeatedly turned to the state’s Republican-controlled legislature to help him rein in Disney. The first effort came in a special session in April 2022, when lawmakers dissolved the special taxing district created in 1967 to help the company develop and control its vast property near Orlando.

But that move quickly caused concerns about what would happen with Disney’s tax and debt burden. Local government officials called it “a $1 billion debt bomb” and said they could have been forced to raise taxes on property owners to pay for what Disney’s district used to fund, such as roads and other services.

DeSantis ordered another special session in February to address that issue by keeping the tax district, but replacing the board selected by Disney — called the Reedy Creek Improvement District — with a new panel. DeSantis chose the five new board members and called the agency the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board. When the new board held its first meeting in March, members said they discovered that the outgoing Disney board had handed over most of their power to Disney. That’s what they voted to overturn on Wednesday.

          In his first public speech since announcing his re-election bid, President Biden called himself “the most pro-union president in American history” and said that Republicans support an agenda that favors the rich (New York Times Photo by Doug Mills on April 25, 2023).

 In his first public speech since announcing his re-election bid, President Biden called himself “the most pro-union president in American history” and said that Republicans support an agenda that favors the rich (New York Times Photo by Doug Mills on April 25, 2023).

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘It’s Time to Finish the Job’: Biden Begins His 2024 Campaign, Peter Baker, April 26, 2023 (print ed.). In a speech after announcing his candidacy, President Biden called himself “the most pro-union president” in history and said Republicans favored the rich.

President Biden formally announced on Tuesday that he would seek a second term, arguing that American democracy still faces a profound threat from former President Donald J. Trump as he set up the possibility of a climactic rematch between the two next year.

In a video that opens with images of a mob of Trump supporters storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the president said that the “fight for our democracy” has “been the work of my first term” but is incomplete while his predecessor mounts a comeback campaign for his old office that Mr. Biden suggested would endanger fundamental rights.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Biden Faces Headwinds, but Democrats See Reasons for Optimism, Jonathan Weisman, April 26, 2023 (print ed.). President Biden’s poll numbers remain low, but structural advantages have Democrats insisting he is far better positioned than his Republican rivals.

Nearly seven in 10 Americans believe their country is on a “wrong track.” The incumbent president will be 81 on Election Day 2024. More than half of the voters in his own party don’t want him to run for re-election.

Yet as President Biden embarks on his campaign for a second term, Democratic officials firmly believe he is beginning his bid on Tuesday from ground that is far more solid than his personal standing indicates. Democratic unity has stifled even the hint of an intraparty insurgency. The issues dominating the nation’s politics have largely worked in the Democrats’ favor. And a battleground that has narrowed to only a handful of states means, at least for now, that the 2024 campaign will be waged on favorable Democratic terrain.

“I’m always going to be worried because we’re a very divided country, and presidential races are going to be close, no matter who is in it,” said Anne Caprara, who helped lead Hillary Clinton’s super PAC in 2016 and is now chief of staff to Illinois’s Democratic governor, J.B. Pritzker. “But for the first time in my career, I think Republicans have painted themselves into a terrible position. They’re losing and they can’t seem to see that.”

Without doubt, Mr. Biden’s personal liabilities are tugging at the Democrats’ well-worn worry strings. Despite low unemployment, a remarkably resilient economy and an enviable record of legislative accomplishments in his first two years, the octogenarian president has never quite won over the nation, or even voters in his party. A new NBC News poll has Mr. Biden losing to a generic Republican presidential candidate, 47 percent to 41 percent.

“President Biden is in remarkably weak shape for an incumbent running for re-election,” said Bill McInturff, a veteran Republican pollster who co-directs the NBC News poll.

Republicans plan to play on those uncertainties, harping on Mr. Biden’s age and frailty and painting him as the weakest incumbent president to run for re-election since Jimmy Carter tried 44 years ago. The campaign of former President Donald J. Trump is already looking past the coming Republican nomination fight to contrast what it sees as the strength of personality of an aggressive challenger against a vulnerable incumbent.

“This is a choice between Joe Biden and Donald Trump,” said Chris LaCivita, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, adding, “If they think that is their greatest strength, they are going to have a long, miserable year.”

But the political fundamentals look significantly better than Mr. Biden’s personal approval.

By avoiding a serious primary challenge, Mr. Biden will not be spending the next year fighting with members of his own party on difficult issues like immigration, crime, gender and abortion in ways that might turn off swing voters. Instead, he can bide his time attending ribbon cuttings and groundbreakings for roads and bridges, semiconductor plants, electric vehicle manufacturers and solar energy projects that stem from his three biggest legislative achievements — the infrastructure bill, the “chips and science” law and the Inflation Reduction Act, with its huge tax incentives for clean energy.

The mere presence of Mr. Trump in the Republican primary race is helping the Democrats make the 2024 campaign a choice between the two parties, not a referendum on the incumbent, a far more difficult challenge for the party in power, said Jim Messina, who managed the last successful presidential re-election campaign, Barack Obama’s in 2012. Early polls, both in key states like Wisconsin and nationally, have Mr. Biden holding onto a slim lead over Mr. Trump, but even with or behind Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.

 

kevin mccarthy hallway

ny times logoNew York Times, After a Hellish Start and a Honeymoon, McCarthy Faces His First Big Test, Annie Karni, April 26, 2023. Speaker Kevin McCarthy, shown above in a file photo, has kept Republicans united by sticking to partisan bills. A vote to raise the debt limit in exchange for spending cuts is a tougher task.

Grinning through 15 excruciating rounds of votes to become speaker of the House in January may have been unpleasant, but Kevin McCarthy was determined to focus on the silver lining.

“See, this is the great part,” Mr. McCarthy told reporters who questioned how — if he could barely get his colleagues to elect him — he would ever be able to govern his slim and unruly House Republican majority. “Because it took this long, now we learned how to govern. So now we’ll be able to get the job done.”

U.S. House logoIn the months that have followed, Mr. McCarthy has enjoyed a honeymoon of sorts, a period when the question of whether he did, in fact, learn anything about governing through the divisions in his fractious conference went largely untested. That stage has now ended.

djt maga hatMr. McCarthy is set as early as Wednesday to bring to the floor his proposal to lift the debt ceiling for a year in exchange for spending cuts and policy changes. With a slim majority — with all Democrats present and voting no, he could afford to lose no more than four votes — it is still not clear whether he has the votes to pass a bill that has no chance of enactment.

Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, said the bill should be called the “Default On America Act” — the abbreviation may allude to its dead-on-arrival status in his chamber — and President Biden has dismissed it as a “MAGA economic agenda” that includes “spending cuts for working- and middle-class folks.”

They and other Democrats have condemned the legislation as recklessly austere and fiscally misguided, and argued that in pushing it, Republicans are precipitating a debt crisis by tying unreasonable conditions to any vote to lift the debt ceiling. The statutory borrowing limit is expected to be reached by this summer, pushing the country into default unless Congress acts to raise it.

Still, for Mr. McCarthy, who has bent over backward to try to placate the anti-spending hard right without alienating more mainstream Republicans whose seats could be at risk if they embrace draconian cuts, even muscling through a doomed bill would count as an accomplishment.

ny times logoNew York Times, Don’t Call It a ‘Cut’: The G.O.P. Tries to Rebrand Its Plan to Reduce Spending, Catie Edmondson, April 26, 2023 (print ed.). House Republicans pitched their 2011 debt limit bill aggressively, trumpeting a zeal for deep spending cuts. Their latest fiscal plan tiptoes around them.

republican elephant logoIn 2011, as a wave of populist fervor swept through Congress, delivering a restive class of anti-spending Republicans who had no appetite for raising the debt limit, House G.O.P. leaders rallied their members around a bill with a blunt, snappy slogan: “Cut, Cap and Balance.”

The phrase neatly encapsulated the unequivocal nature of the conditions Republicans were demanding in exchange for allowing the government to avoid a debt default. Their legislation — a purely symbolic measure that had no chance of enactment — would have slashed spending deeply enough to cut the deficit in half within a year, imposed austere caps on future federal spending, and required that Congress amend the Constitution to require a balanced budget before raising the debt limit.

kevin mccarthyNow, as another group of Republicans resists raising the debt ceiling, Speaker Kevin McCarthy, right, has presented a list of spending demands that he hopes to push through the House along party lines as soon as Wednesday. But this time, in a bow to political reality and economic necessity, it is a substantial retreat from what hard-right Republicans once sought, and it carries a kinder, gentler catchphrase to match: the Limit, Save, Grow Act.

U.S. House logoMr. McCarthy and his team were still scrounging on Tuesday for the votes to pass the legislation, which would be dead on arrival in the Democratic-led Senate and at the White House, as President Biden’s advisers said on Tuesday that he would veto it. Mr. Biden has been calling on Republicans for months to raise the debt ceiling without conditions to avoid a catastrophic default that could come as soon as this summer.

The speaker was facing internal pushback on his plan from some conservatives who were demanding that the legislation contain stricter work requirements for government assistance programs, a change that could alienate politically vulnerable lawmakers in Democratic-leaning districts. And new obstacles emerged as a bloc of Midwestern lawmakers raised concerns about a measure in the bill that would repeal ethanol tax credits.

Mr. McCarthy, the California Republican, has expressed confidence that he will ultimately be able to push through the bill despite the party divides and his slim majority.

Still, the vast gulf between their debt limit slogan of a dozen years ago and the current G.O.P. mantra reflects how House Republicans have scaled back their fiscal ambitions and tried to put a softer, more appealing face on their demands.

 

 

President Joe Biden and South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol stand as their two country's national anthems are played during a State Arrival Ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Washington, Wednesday, April 26, 2023 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

President Joe Biden and South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol stand as their two country's national anthems are played during a State Arrival Ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Washington, Wednesday, April 26, 2023 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

ap logoAssociated Press, Biden, Yoon warn N. Korea on nukes, unveil deterrence plan, Zeke Miller, Colleen Long and Aamer Madhani, April 27, 2023.  President Joe Biden and South Korea’s Yoon Suk Yeol unveiled a new plan Wednesday to counter North Korea’s nuclear threat, with the U.S. leader issuing a blunt warning that such an attack would “result in the end of whatever regime” took such action.

The new nuclear deterrence effort calls for periodically docking U.S. nuclear-armed submarines in South Korea for the first time in decades, bolstering training between the two countries, and more. The declaration was unveiled as Biden hosted Yoon for a state visit at a moment of heightened anxiety over an increased pace of ballistic missile tests by North Korea.

“A nuclear attack by North Korea against the United States or its allies and partners is unacceptable, and will result in the end of whatever regime were to take such an action,” Biden said during afternoon Rose Garden news conference with Yoon.

Yoon said that the new commitment by the “righteous alliance” includes plans for bilateral presidential consultations in the event of a North Korean nuclear attack, the establishment of a nuclear consultative group and improved sharing of information on nuclear and strategic weapons operation plans.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Inside Biden’s Renewed Promise to Protect South Korea From Nuclear Weapons, David E. Sanger and Choe Sang-Hun, April 26, 2023. President Biden’s pledge to defend South Korea is a striking admission that North Korea’s arsenal is here to stay.

In the four years since President Donald J. Trump’s leader-to-leader diplomacy with Kim Jong-un of North Korea collapsed after a failed meeting in Hanoi, the North’s arsenal of nuclear weapons has expanded so fast that American and South Korean officials admit they have stopped trying to keep a precise count.

South Korea FlagNorth Korea’s missile tests are so frequent that they prompt more shrugs than big headlines in Seoul.

So when President Biden welcomes President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea, left, to the White House on Wednesday, only the second state visit of yoon suk yeol oMr. Biden’s presidency, there will be few pretenses that disarming North Korea remains a plausible goal.

Instead, American officials say, Mr. Biden’s most vivid commitment to Mr. Yoon will focus on what arms control experts call “extended deterrence,” renewing a vow that America’s nuclear arsenal will be used, if necessary, to dissuade or respond to a North Korean nuclear attack on the South.

The emphasis on deterrence is a striking admission that all other efforts over the past three decades to rein in the Pyongyang’s nuclear program, including diplomatic persuasion, crushing sanctions and episodic promises of development aid, have all failed. It is also intended to tamp down a growing call in South Korea for its own independent arsenal, on the very remote chance that North Korea would make the suicidal decision to use a nuclear weapon.

The North’s arsenal will hardly be the only topic under discussion during Mr. Yoon’s visit. He and Mr. Biden will also celebrate the 70th anniversary of the alliance between their countries, commitments for more South Korean investment in manufacturing semiconductors and plans to bolster Seoul’s always-fraught North Korean flagrelationship with Japan.

But the rapid expansion of North Korea’s capabilities is a subject of perpetual mutual concern for both countries. At a recent security conference held by the Harvard Korea Project, several experts said they believed Mr. Kim’s goal was to approach the size of Britain’s and France’s arsenals, which hold 200 to 300 weapons each.

washington post logoWashington Post, Mastermind of Kabul airport massacre killed by Taliban, U.S. says, Dan Lamothe, April 26, 2023 (print ed.).An ISIS suicide bomber killed scores of Afghans and 13 U.S. troops during the Biden administration’s evacuation of Afghanistan in 2021.

The suspected mastermind of a gruesome suicide bombing during the United States’ pullout from Afghanistan was killed by the Taliban in recent weeks, U.S. officials disclosed Tuesday, an extraordinary development spotlighting the Biden administration’s newfound reliance on a former battlefield adversary to help confront terrorist threats.

An estimated 170 Afghans and 13 American troops died in the 2021 attack at Kabul’s airport. Biden administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence, identified the suspect as a leader within the Islamic State’s Afghanistan chapter, known as Islamic State-Khorasan or ISIS-K. They declined to reveal the individual’s name and how the person was killed, citing concerns that doing so could jeopardize the U.S. government’s ability to collect information about future activities in the region.

The United States was not involved in the Taliban’s operation, the officials said, and developed confidence in the assessment only in the last few days. The suspect, they added, was responsible for additional violence in Afghanistan and likely harbored aspirations to carry out attacks on the West.

“I would emphasize that this development represents the continued counterterrorism pressure faced by ISIS-K in Afghanistan and beyond,” one of the administration officials said. “We see this operation as emblematic of a landscape in Afghanistan that’s become very challenging for terrorists like [those in] ISIS-K, who might want to harm Americans.”

 

U.S. Supreme Court Ethics Scandals

 

This week's new official portrait of the U.S. Supreme Court

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Justice Neil Gorsuch sold real estate to the head of a major law firm without disclosing the buyer’s identity, Charlie Savage, April 26, 2023 (print ed.). Experts said that the justice’s disclosure of the sale, which came right after the justice’s appointment, did not violate the law but underscored the need for ethics reforms.

neil gorsuch headshotOne month after Neil M. Gorsuch, right, was appointed to the Supreme Court in April 2017, he and two partners finally sold a vacation property they had been trying to offload for nearly two years. But when he reported the sale the next year, he left blank a field asking the identity of the buyer.

County real estate records in Colorado show that Brian L. Duffy, the chief executive of Greenberg Traurig, a sprawling law firm that frequently has business before the court, and his wife, Kari Duffy, bought the property.

The buyer’s identity — and Justice Gorsuch’s decision not to disclose it — was reported earlier on Tuesday by Politico. Although experts said that the omission did not violate the law, they added that it underscored the need for ethics reforms given the intensifying scrutiny on financial entanglements at the Supreme Court and renewed calls by Democratic lawmakers for tightened rules.

pro publica logoProPublica reported this month that Justice Clarence Thomas had not disclosed that he had repeatedly received free travel for lavish vacations and other purposes from a Republican megadonor, Harlan Crow, and that he had sold properties to Mr. Crow in Georgia.

Justice Gorsuch did not break the law by omitting the buyer’s identity, said Stephen Gillers, a New York University professor and specialist in legal ethics. Under a 1978 statute governing financial disclosures, federal judges are not required to disclose who bought property from them.

Gabe Roth, the executive director of Fix the Court, a nonpartisan group that presses for greater transparency and accountability by the justices, agreed that the omission did not violate the law. But he argued that Congress should pass legislation expanding what justices must disclose, including losses from any sales, the nature of partnerships that hold real estate and who buyers are.

In response to a request for his testimony before Congress, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. on Tuesday declined an invitation from Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois who leads the Judiciary Committee, to speak next week about potential ethics reforms.

In a letter, Chief Justice Roberts included a list of current ethics practices to which he said all justices subscribe. Mr. Durbin said in a statement that the hearing would go forward, expressing surprise that “the chief justice’s recounting of existing legal standards of ethics suggests current law is adequate and ignores the obvious.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Chief Justice Declines to Testify Before Congress Over Ethics Concerns, Abbie VanSickle, April 26, 2023. In an accompanying statement, Chief Justice John Roberts and the other eight justices insisted their current ethical guidelines were sufficient.

john roberts oChief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., right, told the Senate Judiciary Committee in a letter released Tuesday evening that he was declining its invitation to testify about ethics rules for the Supreme Court.

In an accompanying statement on ethics practices, all nine justices, under mounting pressure for more stringent reporting requirements at the court, insisted that the existing rules around gifts, travel and other financial disclosures are sufficient.

The chief justice wrote that such appearances before the committee were “exceedingly rare, as one might expect in light of separation of powers concerns and the importance of preserving judicial independence.”

Last week, Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and chairman of the committee, invited the chief justice to appear after revelations of unreported gifts, travel and real estate deals between Justice Clarence Thomas and Harlan Crow, a Texas billionaire and Republican donor.

In the letter, Chief Justice Roberts attached a “statement of ethics principles and practices” signed by the current justices and included an appendix of the relevant laws that apply to judicial disclosures.

In the ethics statement, the justices wrote that they aimed to clarify how they “address certain recurring issues” and “to dispel some common misconceptions.” To deal with ethical questions, they look to “judicial opinions, treatises, scholarly articles, disciplinary decisions, and the historical practice of the court and the federal judiciary,” their signed statement said, which added that they could seek advice from colleagues and the court’s legal office.

 

Ukraine War

 

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and China’s leader, Xi Jinping (Photos by Omar Marques via Getty Images, left, and Thibault Camus of the Associated Press).

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and China’s leader, Xi Jinping (Photos by Omar Marques via Getty Images, left, and Thibault Camus of the Associated Press).

ny times logoNew York Times, Xi and Zelensky Speak in First Known Contact Since Russia’s Invasion, Vivian Wang, April 26, 2023. Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said he “had a long and meaningful phone call” with China’s leader, Xi Jinping.They last spoke in January 2022.

China’s leader, Xi Jinping, and Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, spoke by telephone on Wednesday, in the first known contact between the two leaders China Flagsince Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Mr. Zelensky said he “had a long and meaningful phone call” with Mr. Xi. The Chinese state news media said the two leaders had discussed “the Ukraine crisis” and their nations’ bilateral relationship.

ukraine flag“I believe that this call, as well as the appointment of Ukraine’s ambassador to China, will give a powerful impetus to the development of our bilateral relations,” Mr. Zelensky said on Twitter.

Before the war, China-Ukraine ties had been strengthening. By 2019, China was Ukraine’s largest trading partner and the top importer of its barley and iron ore, according to a report by the Council on Foreign Relations. Ukraine was also China’s largest corn supplier and its second-largest arms supplier. China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was a discarded Soviet vessel bought from Ukraine that the Chinese Navy refurbished.

The last known contact between Mr. Xi and Mr. Zelensky was a phone call in January 2022, just weeks before the invasion, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of diplomatic bilateral ties.

But after the invasion, the official Chinese news media adopted many of the Kremlin’s talking points and disinformation, accusing NATO of instigating the conflict and refusing to call it an invasion.

Even so, Ukraine has been careful not to antagonize China, mindful of the decisive role the latter could play in the war. Mr. Zelensky, for example, called China’s position paper on the war “an important signal,” and has said that “I really want to believe” China would not supply weapons to Russia. (Western officials have suggested that Beijing may do so, despite China’s denials.)

China, for its part, has insisted that both Ukraine and Russia are its friends and rejected accusations that Mr. Xi’s lack of contact with Mr. Zelensky undermined China’s professed neutrality. Officials have pointed to a conversation between the two countries’ foreign ministers in March, shortly before Mr. Xi’s Moscow trip, during which China said peace talks should resume, according to a Chinese summary of the conversation.

But Chinese analysts also acknowledged that Beijing had far more practical interest in tending to its relationship with Moscow than Kyiv.

“Today’s Ukraine is still at war, China’s investments there have been bombed, and we don’t know what Ukraine will look like in the future,” said Zhu Feng, a professor of international relations at Nanjing University. “Is there still a China-Ukraine relationship?”

Here is what else:

  • Russian forces pound Zaporizhzhia before an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive.
  • Relations between China and Ukraine have been uncertain since Russia’s full-scale invasion.
  • The U.N. chief heads to Washington as he persists in trying to salvage the grain deal.
  • South Africa remains torn on the I.C.C. over its treatment of allies like Russia.
  • Those who stayed in Chernobyl lived through another calamity when Russian troops came.
  • Ukraine Diary: In frontline villages, animals are hard to leave behind.

 

U.S. President Joe Biden with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in Ukraine's capital of Kyiv on Feb. 20, 2023 (New York Times photo by Daniel Berehulak).

U.S. President Joe Biden with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in Ukraine's capital of Kyiv on Feb. 20, 2023 (New York Times photo by Daniel Berehulak.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine’s Spring Offensive Comes With Huge Stakes for War’s Future, Julian E. Barnes, Eric Schmitt, Adam Entous and Thomas Gibbons-Neff, April 25, 2023 (print ed.). Without a decisive victory, Western support for Ukraine could weaken, and Kyiv could come under increasing pressure to enter serious peace talks.

ukraine flagUkraine is preparing to launch a counteroffensive against Russian forces as early as next month, American officials say, in the face of immense risks: Without a decisive victory, Western support for Ukraine could weaken, and Kyiv could come under increasing pressure to enter serious negotiations to end or freeze the conflict.

Russian FlagAmerican and NATO allies have supplied Ukraine with extensive artillery and ammunition for the upcoming battle, and officials now say they are hopeful the supplies will last — a change from two months ago when weapons were only trickling in and U.S. officials were worried that the supplies might run out.

At the same time, 12 Ukrainian combat brigades of about 4,000 soldiers each are expected to be ready at the end of April, according to leaked Pentagon documents that offer a hint of Kyiv’s timetable. The United States and NATO allies are training and supplying nine of those brigades, the documents said.

NATOAlthough Ukraine shares few details of its operational plan with American officials, the operation is likely to unfold in the country’s south, including along Ukraine’s coastline on the Sea of Azov, near the Russian-annexed Crimea.

“Everything hinges on this counteroffensive,” said Alexander Vershbow, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia and senior NATO official. “Everybody’s hopeful, maybe over-optimistic. But it will determine whether there is going to be a decent outcome for the Ukrainians, in terms of recovering territo