June 2023 News

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

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

 

 

June 30

Top Headlines

 

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.

 

More On U.S. Supreme Court

 

U.S. Economy, Jobs, Budgets, Poiitics

 

Global Stories

 

More On Russia, Ukraine

 

More On Trump Probes, Pro-Trump Rioters, Election Deniers

 

 

More On U.S. Courts, Crime, Civil Rights, Immigration

 

More On 2024 Presidential Race

 

More On U.S. Politics, Governance, Elections

 

Environment, Transportation, Energy, Space, Disasters, Climate

climate change photo

 

More On U.S. Abortion, Child Porn, #MeToo

 

Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy

 

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

 

 

Top Stories

 

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.

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court rejects Biden student loan forgiveness plan, Robert Barnes and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, June 30, 2023. The Supreme Court on Friday said President Biden does not have the authority for his nearly half-trillion dollar plan to forgive student loan debt, the latest blow from a Supreme Court that has been dismissive of this administration’s bold claims of power.

The vote was 6 to 3 along ideological lines, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., below left, writing for the court’s dominant conservatives.

john roberts oBiden contended his administration had the authority to forgive student loan debt under the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003. The law allows the education secretary to waive or modify loan provisions in response to a national emergency, such as the coronavirus pandemic.

But the challenge brought together controversial issues: an ambitious program aimed at fulfilling a campaign promise for Biden’s political base; heightened suspicion by the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority about the ability of federal agencies to act without specific congressional authorization; and the power of Republican-led states to use the judiciary to stop a president’s priorities before they take effect.

Live updates: Read the latest news and reactions to Friday's Supreme Court decisions

Biden and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona proposed a plan that would eliminate up to $10,000 of student debt for borrowers earning up to $125,000 annually, or up to $250,000 for married couples. Those who received Pell Grants, a form of financial aid for low- and middle-income students, would be eligible for an additional $10,000 in forgiveness. About 20 million borrowers could see their balances wiped clean.

U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar, who defended the program at oral arguments, said Cardona’s actions are not only justified by the law, but they are also exactly what Congress had in mind when it passed the Heroes Act in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

But the Supreme Court majority — Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — disagreed.

“The Secretary asserts that the HEROES Act grants him the authority to cancel $430 billion of student loan principal. It does not,” Roberts wrote. “We hold today that the Act allows the Secretary to ‘waive or modify’ existing statutory or regulatory provisions applicable to financial assistance programs under the Education Act, not to rewrite that statute from the ground up.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court protects web designer who won’t do gay wedding websites, Robert Barnes, June 30, 2023. The Supreme Court’s conservative majority ruled in favor of an evangelical Christian graphic artist from Colorado who does not want to create wedding websites for same-sex couples, despite the state’s protective anti-discrimination law.

The vote split along ideological lines 6 to 3, with the liberals in dissent.

It was the court’s latest examination of the clash between laws requiring equal treatment for the LGBTQ community and those who say their religious beliefs lead them to regard same-sex marriages as “false.”

Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, writing for the majority, said the First Amendment protects designer Lorie Smith from creating speech she does not believe.

“The First Amendment envisions the United States as a rich and complex place where all persons are free to think and speak as they wish, not as the government demands,” Gorsuch wrote, joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. “Colorado seeks to deny that promise.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor authored the dissent, joined by fellow liberal Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson. “Today the Court, for the first time in its history, grants a business open to the public a constitutional right to refuse to serve members of a protected class,” she wrote. “Today is a sad day in American constitutional law and in the lives of LGBT people.”

For the second day in a row, Sotomayor read parts of her dissent from the bench to show the depth of her disagreement with the majority. On Thursday, she was dissenting from a historic decision striking down race-based affirmative action in college admissions.

Live updates: Read the latest on Supreme Court decisions today

Friday’s case, 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, comes five years after the Supreme Court’s narrow 2018 in favor of Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker who refused to create a wedding cake for a gay couple. In that decision, the justices avoided declaring a clear winner in the cultural conflict between LGBTQ rights advocates who seek the protections of public accommodations laws and those who say their religious beliefs forbid countenancing same-sex marriage.

Smith’s office is just five miles from Phillips’s Masterpiece Cakeshop. She contended that the same Colorado law Phillips challenged, which forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, also violates her deeply held religious views and free-speech rights.

Smith wants to expand her business to create wedding websites — but only to tell the stories of brides and grooms “through God’s lens.” And she wants to be able to tell same-sex couples on her 303 Creative LLC website that she will not create such platforms for them.

“Colorado is censoring and compelling my speech and really forcing me to pour my creativity into creating messages that violate my convictions,” Smith said in an interview before her case was argued in December. “There are some messages I cannot create.”

ny times logo New York Times, Supreme Court Curtails Affirmative Action at U.S. Colleges, Adam Liptak, June 30, 2023 (print ed.). Strikes Down Race-Conscious Admissions at 2 Universities. The court rejected programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina. The vote was 6 to 3, with the court’s liberal members in dissent.
The decision was expected to set off a scramble as schools revisit their admissions practices. In disavowing race as a factor in achieving educational diversity, the court all but ensured that the student population at the campuses of elite institutions will become whiter and more Asian and less Black and Latino.

The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the race-conscious admissions programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina were unlawful, curtailing affirmative action at colleges and universities around the nation, a policy that has long been a pillar of higher education.

john roberts oThe vote was 6 to 3, with the court’s liberal members in dissent. In a footnote, Chief Justice Roberts, right, exempted military academies from the ruling in light of “the potentially distinct interests” they present. There had been discussion of whether the military needed to maintain affirmative action in training its future officer corps based on a judgment that it would be bad for military discipline and cohesiveness if the leadership cadre did not reflect the diversity of the rank-and-file troops who do the bulk of fighting and dying in wars.

Justices Sotomayor and Jackson both criticized the majority for making an exception for military academies. Justice Sotomayor called it ketanji brown jackson robearbitrary, while Justice Jackson, left, wrote, “The court has come to rest on the bottom-line conclusion that racial diversity in higher education is only worth potentially preserving insofar as it might be needed to prepare Black Americans and other underrepresented minorities for success in the bunker, not the boardroom (a particularly awkward place to land, in light of the history the majority opts to ignore).”

Justin Driver, a professor at Yale Law School and an expert on the Supreme Court’s education rulings, predicted that the affirmative action decision could cause some state universities to move to race-neutral strategies for increasing diversity, such as the “top percent” model used in Texas.

In that state, students with the highest grade point averages at each high school are guaranteed admission to a public university, including the system’s flagship, the University of Texas at Austin.

In a statement celebrating the decision, Edward Blum, the conservative activist behind the lawsuits against Harvard and U.N.C., said: “Ending racial preferences in college admissions is an outcome that the vast majority of all races and ethnicities will celebrate. A university doesn’t have real diversity when it simply assembles students who look different but come from similar backgrounds and act, talk and think alike.”

In Justice Jackson’s dissent in the U.N.C. case, she wrote: “It would be deeply unfortunate if the Equal Protection Clause actually demanded this perverse, ahistorical and counterproductive outcome. To impose this result in that clause’s name when it requires no such thing, and to thereby obstruct our collective progress toward the full realization of the clause’s promise, is truly a tragedy for us all.”

washington post logoWashington Post, State affirmative action bans helped White, Asian students, hurt others, Janice Kai Chen and Daniel Wolfe, Updated June 29, 2023. While highly selective schools saw diversity decline, data shows other schools saw growth

The Supreme Court has ruled to restrict affirmative action and eliminate race-conscious admissions in higher education, overturning more than four decades of court precedent.

A Washington Post review of 30 years of race and ethnicity data from the eight states that currently ban race-based admission policies in higher education shows how a federal ban on affirmative action might harm minority students across the United States.

Where race-based admission policies were banned in 2021, already underrepresented racial groups had even lower representation when compared to states harvard logowithout bans. Banned states in 2021 include Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Washington.

Two lawsuits, against the University of North Carolina and Harvard University, are behind the high court’s decision to federally restrict affirmative action. Plaintiffs in both cases contend that race-conscious admissions favor some students — Black, Hispanic and Native Americans — over others.

How is affirmative action used in college admissions?

north carolina map

At the University of North Carolina, White students have been overrepresented for the past 30 years, with the White freshman class approaching racial parity only in 2020, when compared to state demographics. Black students have remained underrepresented by around 10 points.

ny times logoNew York Times, Dangerous Temperatures Stretch Across the South, Marie Elizabeth Oliver, Stacey Cato and Livia Albeck-Ripka, June 30, 2023 (print ed.). A dome of high pressure that has baked parts of the region for more than a week will drive the heat index up to 120 degrees, forecasters say.

An oppressive heat wave that baked Texas and Oklahoma last week, contributing to several deaths, is raising the heat index to dangerous levels from Kansas City, Mo., to the Florida Keys.

Temperatures will climb up to 20 degrees above normal for much of the region through at least the weekend, reaching the high 90s or low 100s in many places. The heat index — a measure of how heat and humidity make the air feel — will be even higher.

whistleblower summit logoOpEd News, Whistleblower Summit & Film Festival Announces Slate of Films and Screenplays for 11th Annual Film & Writing Competition, Michael McCray, June 29-30, 2023. Pentagon Papers Whistleblower to be Remembered During 11th Annual Event Featuring Film Screenings, Screenplay Contest, and a Tribute to Famed Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg at the National Press Club.

ACORN 8, in collaboration with the Justice Integrity Project, announced feature, documentary, short film, and screenplay selections premiering virtually at the Whistleblower Summit & Film Festival (www.WhistleblowerSummit.com). The hybrid event, set for July 22-33 in Washington, DC, will include live events and virtual screenings of featured films and panels. The theme for the annual conference is "Unraveling the Truth: 60 Years after the Assassination of JFK." The annual festival is a globally recognized platform amplifying free speech, social justice, and civil & human rights advocacy. Festival passes, and single tickets are on sale now.

For more information about the summit hosts and film festival, click here -.whistleblowersummit.com/tickets

The National Whistleblower Day (July 30) feature screenings include The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. Additional screenings include District Insiders: Former JFK Secret Service Protector Describes Shocking JFK Assassination and other industry panels (filmmaker and screenwriter). This year's programming illuminates a wide array of storytelling that showcases the talent of writers and filmmakers alike.

"We are proud to be back live for the 11th year to bring audiences, both in-person and virtually, an inspiring selection of events celebrating free speech in all its forms "film, books, journalism, and advocacy," said Michael McCray, Managing Director. "We're thrilled to spotlight transformative storytelling that demonstrates the power of equity in entertainment media."

"We are honored to recognize Abraham Bolden (African American) an important JFK Secret Service Agent turned whistleblower at this year's summit," said Andrew Kreig, Executive Director for the Justice Integrity Project.

"We're excited to come together for the 11th year running to share unique and untold stories, showcasing diverse and inclusive content to the masses. This year's filmmakers are unmatched in their refreshing narratives," Marcel Reid, Festival Director. We are pleased to announce the 2023 Whistleblower Summit & Film Festival lineup:

 

Scot Peterson, a former school resource officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, during closing arguments in his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Pool photo by Amy Beth Bennett).

 Scot Peterson, a former school resource officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, during closing arguments in his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Pool photo by Amy Beth Bennett)

ny times logoNew York Times, Jury Acquits Deputy Who Failed to Confront Parkland Gunman, Patricia Mazzei,.June 30, 2023 (print ed.). Scot Peterson was found not guilty of child neglect, culpable negligence and perjury in a rare trial over police inaction in a school shooting.

A former Florida sheriff’s deputy who failed to confront the gunman at a Parkland high school five years ago, and instead backed away from the building while the students and teachers inside endured a deadly barrage, was found not guilty of child neglect and other crimes on Thursday.

Scot Peterson, a former Broward County sheriff’s deputy, was acquitted of seven counts of child neglect and three counts of culpable negligence for the deaths and injuries of 10 people on the third floor of the building where the shooting occurred. He was also found not guilty of one count of perjury for claiming to the police that he heard only a few gunshots and saw no children fleeing.

When Mr. Peterson’s behavior was revealed after the shooting, critics — including some fellow police officers — painted him as being too scared to face a heavily armed gunman. His actions outraged the Parkland community, and Mr. Peterson was cast as the central character in a morality tale about cowardice and law enforcement’s duty to protect children. One victim’s father told him to “rot in hell,” and he was derided in national media outlets as the “coward in Broward.”

In all, 17 people were killed and 17 were wounded in the shooting, which was carried out by a former student. The gunman was sentenced last year to life in prison. Mr. Peterson was the lone armed resource officer assigned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the Feb. 14, 2018, massacre.

Patricia Mazzei reported from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and covered the Parkland school shooting in 2018 and the gunman’s sentencing trial last year.

larry householder resized ohio file

ny times logoNew York Times, Former Ohio House Speaker Awaits Sentence on $60 Million Bribery Scheme, Michael Wines, June 30, 2023 (print ed.). A federal jury found Larry L. Householder, above, guilty in March of participating in a racketeering conspiracy that resulted in a $1.3 billion bailout for two struggling nuclear power plants.

It is, federal prosecutors say, perhaps the biggest public corruption scandal in Ohio’s history, a three-year conspiracy in which one of Ohio’s biggest corporations funneled some $60 million to one of the state’s most powerful politicians in exchange for a $1.3 billion bailout.

And those investigators say they are only coming to the end of Act I.

On Thursday, the former Republican speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, Larry L. Householder, will be sentenced in federal court in Cincinnati for violating racketeering and bribery laws.

The outlines of the charges have been known since his arrest, with four other men, three years ago: FirstEnergy Corporation, a Fortune 500 electric utility based in Akron, funneled the $60 million though various nonprofit entities. In return, Mr. Householder rammed a law through the state legislature that gave the company the bailout for two troubled nuclear power plants. Prosecutors have recommended a sentence of up to 20 years.

But, as described early this year in a 26-day trial, the alliance between the utility and Mr. Householder, 64, was far more than a bribery scandal. Among other things, prosecutors and experts say, it was an almost cinematic example of how the dark money that pervades both state and federal politics slithers unseen from donor to beneficiary.

It is also a cautionary tale about how state legislatures — second-rung political bodies that are often run by part-time politicians, but increasingly dealing with issues of national importance — are at least as prone to manipulation by special interests as their Washington counterparts.

David DeVillers, who oversaw the federal investigation as the U.S. attorney in Cincinnati until early 2021, said in an interview that the gusher of dark money was crucial to the plot and an issue well beyond Ohio.

“Any time you have a supermajority, whether it’s Republicans or Democrats, and industries that are based on passing laws like marijuana or sports gambling or energy, it’s a formula for corruption,” he said.

Mr. Householder, a onetime insurance agent from an impoverished rural county in southeast Ohio, had been House speaker from 2001 to 2004. He left his legislative seat because of term limits and faced a federal corruption investigation after leaving the post then, but was not charged.

After returning to the legislature in 2016, Mr. Householder secretly spent millions in 2018 to support Republican candidates for 21 seats in the State House — more than a fifth of the 99 seats — who would back his insurgent campaign to again become House speaker. He spent more millions on a media campaign to push the nuclear bailout law to passage, and then tens of millions on a scorched-earth crusade to undermine a ballot initiative that threatened to undo it.

 

In this handout photo taken from video released by Prigozhin Press Service on Friday, March 3, 2023, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner Group military company, addresses Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asking him to withdraw the remaining Ukrainian forces from Bakhmut to save their lives, at an unspecified location in Ukraine. Prigozhin's criticism of the top military brass is in stark contrast with more than two decades of rigidly controlled rule by President Vladimir Putin without any sign of infighting among his top lieutenants. (Prigozhin Press Service via AP, File)

In this handout photo taken from video released by Prigozhin Press Service on Friday, March 3, 2023, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner Group military company, addresses Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asking him to withdraw the remaining Ukrainian forces from Bakhmut to save their lives, at an unspecified location in Ukraine. Prigozhin's criticism of the top military brass is in stark contrast with more than two decades of rigidly controlled rule by President Vladimir Putin without any sign of infighting among his top lieutenants. (Prigozhin Press Service via AP, File)

ny times logoNew York Times, Yevgeny Prigozhin May Be Gone, but Not the Failings He Ranted About, Neil MacFarquhar, June 30, 2023 (print ed.). Russia’s military suffers from poor leadership, but the morale-sapping lack of accountability is even worse, analysts say.

The Russian warlord whose 24-hour mutiny provoked the worst crisis to roil the country in three decades has been packed off to an uncertain exile — along with the foul-mouthed critiques of the Russian military that won him legions of followers, especially within the ranks.

Yet the problems identified by Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner mercenary group, did not disappear with him, military analysts say, and are likely to continue to fester, enraging troops and further lowering already sickly morale.

These include an overall lack of command and control, rigid hierarchy, corruption, tangled logistics, equipment shortages and the absence of an honest, public assessment of the war in Ukraine. The emergence of several other private military companies like Wagner promises to further complicate matters.

“If Prigozhin is gone, the problems will not go with him,” said Dmitri Kuznets, a military analyst for Meduza, an independent Russian news website. “They are here to stay, this is a bigger problem than Prigozhin himself.”

 

Vladimir Putin, right, in a 2017 photo with Gen. Sergei Surovikin, recently appointed as Russian commander of Russia's military in Ukraine (Pool Photo by Alexei Druzhinin).

Russian leader Vladimir Putin, right, in a 2017 photo with Gen. Sergei Surovikin, who had been appointed and then demoted as Russian commander of Russia's military in Ukraine. U.S. officials are trying to determine if the general aided Yevgeny Prigozhin’s plans to rebel against Russia’s military leadership (Pool Photo by Alexei Druzhinin of Sputnik via Reuters).

ny times logoNew York Times, Top Russian General Appears to Be Detained, U.S. Officials Say, Ivan Nechepurenko and Valerie Hopkins, June 30, 2023 (print ed.). U.S. officials said that Russian authorities appear to have detained Sergei Surovikin under suspicion of his involvement in the mercenaries’ failed rebellion.

U.S. officials, citing early intelligence reports, say that Russian authorities appear to have detained a top general under suspicion that he was involved in or had knowledge of the planning for the Wagner Group’s failed rebellion.

The circumstances surrounding the status of the general, Sergei Surovikin, are still very murky. U.S. officials cautioned that the reports were not conclusive and said they could not provide further details.

American officials would not say — or do not know — if he was formally arrested or just held for questioning.

Focus in Russia on the fate of General Surovikin, the country’s former top commander in Ukraine, has been intense following a New York Times report that U.S. spy agencies believe that he knew ahead of time about the rebellion, led by Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, against Russia’s military leadership.

A senior NATO-country diplomat said that firm intelligence was lacking, but that careful comments by Kremlin spokesman Dmitri S. Peskov on Thursday in which he deflected questions about General Surovikin’s whereabouts seemed to confirm the general’s detention.

News of General Surovikin’s detention was earlier reported by The Financial Times.

There were conflicting reports in the Russian news media about General Surovikin’s fate. Some pro-war bloggers on the popular Telegram social network reported this week that he had been arrested, while others said that was not the case.

One popular account posted a recording of an interview with a woman it said was General Surovikin’s daughter, who denied that her father had been arrested. “Nothing happened to him,” she said. “He’s at his work location.” The account could not be independently verified.

American intelligence agencies have been trying to learn more about the general’s potential role in the rebellion: whether he simply knew about it or helped plan the revolt, which has come to be seen as the most dramatic threat to President Vladimir V. Putin in his 23 years in power.

The question is a critical one for Mr. Putin as well.

For years, Mr. Putin has allowed different factions to exist inside the Russian military. But after the short-lived mutiny, the Kremlin may be more likely to purge at least some of the senior officers who are less supportive of Sergei K. Shoigu, the defense minister.

Mr. Prigozhin had expressed rage against Russian military leadership for months before the revolt, concentrating most of his ire on Mr. Putin’s two senior military advisers: Mr. Shoigu and Gen. Valery V. Gerasimov, the chief of the general staff.

American officials said that Mr. Prigozhin’s failed rebellion could, at least for the time being, have the perverse effect of strengthening Mr. Shoigu’s hold on the top job, since Mr. Putin would not want to be seen as caving to Mr. Prigozhin.

Some Western analysts said the apparent detention of General Surovikin and uncertainty about the fate of other senior officers could hurt Russian troop morale.

“That there has not been a clear signal from the top about these very senior generals’ standing after the Prigozhin mutiny can’t be good for morale,” said Samuel Charap, a Russia analyst at the RAND Corporation.

“Surovikin in particular is known to be popular with the rank and file,” Mr. Charap said. “If he has been arrested and there is no explanation from the top, one can imagine his subordinates might be preoccupied with their own safety not the war.”

Steven Erlanger and Anton Troianovski contributed reporting.

Days after a brief rebellion threatened his leadership, President Vladimir V. Putin made a rare public outing, wading into a crowd of well-wishers to show he still has public support, even as U.S. officials said Thursday that early intelligence reports suggest a top general had been detained in connection with the failed uprising.

In a highly choreographed outing on Wednesday evening, Mr. Putin strode through a cheering crowd of people in southern Russia, shaking hands, kissing supporters and posing for selfies. He cast aside the strict social-distancing protocols he has observed since the Covid pandemic. On Thursday, he attended a technology fair in Moscow where he joked onstage with other panelists.

 

More On U.S. Supreme Court

ny times logoNew York Times, With Supreme Court Decision, College Admissions Could Become More Subjective, Anemona Hartocollis, June 30, 2023. U.S. colleges have a game plan, like emphasizing the personal essay, after a ruling struck down affirmative action programs.

In the Supreme Court decision striking down racial and ethnic preferences in college admissions, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. had harsh words for Harvard and the University of North Carolina, calling their admissions process “elusive," “opaque” and “imponderable.”

But the court’s ruling against the two universities on Thursday could lead to an admissions system that is even more subjective and mysterious, as colleges try to follow the law but also admit a diverse class of students.

Officials at some universities predicted that there would be less emphasis on standardized metrics like test scores and class rank, and more emphasis on personal qualities, told through recommendations and the application essay — the opposite of what many opponents of affirmative action had hoped for.

“Will it become more opaque? Yes, it will have to,” said Danielle Ren Holley, who is about to take over as president of Mount Holyoke College. “It’s a complex process, and this opinion will make it even more complex.”

In an interview, Edward Blum, the founder and president of Students for Fair Admissions, the plaintiff, defended what he called “standard measurements” of academic qualifications, citing studies that showed test scores, grades and coursework helped determine which students would thrive at competitive schools.

He promised to enforce the decision, saying that Students for Fair Admissions and its counsel “have been closely monitoring potential changes in admissions procedures.”

“We remain vigilant and intend to initiate litigation should universities defiantly flout this clear ruling,” he wrote in a statement on Thursday.
Image

ny times logoNew York Times, These are the key cases the Supreme Court has yet to decide this term, Adam Liptak and Eli Murray, Updated June 29, 2023. The Supreme Court is expected to issue the final decisions of its current term this week, including President Biden’s plan to forgive more than $400 billion of student debt and the civil rights of same-sex couples.

The court — dominated by a 6-to-3 conservative majority, including three justices appointed by President Donald J. Trump — lurched to the right last June in blockbuster decisions on abortion, guns, religion and climate change. Its record in the current term, which started in October, has so far been more mixed, with the court’s three liberal members voting with the majority, for instance, in important cases on Native American adoptions and minority voting rights.

According to a survey conducted in April by researchers at Harvard, Stanford and the University of Texas, the public is often — but hardly always — divided along partisan lines on how the court should rule in the term’s major cases.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Affirmative Action Ruling, Fierce Disagreements Between Black Justices, Abbie VanSickle, June 30, 2023. Justices Clarence Thomas and Ketanji Brown Jackson harshly criticized each other’s perspectives, reflecting deep divisions over the practice.

In an extraordinary exchange that played out among the pages of a landmark decision by the Supreme Court declaring race-conscious admissions at colleges and universities across the nation unlawful, two Black justices battled over the merits of affirmative action.

In sharp rebuttals, Justices Clarence Thomas and Ketanji Brown Jackson harshly criticized each other’s perspectives, reflecting the deep divisions and passions Americans have over the practice. Even as they appeared to agree over the policy’s aim — remedying the longstanding discrimination and segregation of Black Americans — they drew opposite conclusions on how and what to do.

Both justices were raised by Black family members who suffered under Jim Crow and segregation, and both gained admission to elite law schools (Justice Jackson to Harvard, Justice Thomas to Yale) before ascending to the Supreme Court. But their interpretation of the law and their understanding of affirmative action and its role in American life could not be farther apart.

In his concurring opinion, Justice Thomas called out Justice Jackson directly in a lengthy critique, singling out her views on race and leveling broader criticisms of liberal support for affirmative action.

“As she sees things, we are all inexorably trapped in a fundamentally racist society, with the original sin of slavery and the historical subjugation of Black Americans still determining our lives today,” he wrote.

In her dissent, Justice Jackson pointedly pushed back, denouncing his remarks as a “prolonged attack” that responded “to a dissent I did not write in order to assail an admissions program that is not the one U.N.C. has crafted.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Five Ways College Admissions Could Change, Stephanie Saul, June 30, 2023. The Supreme Court’s affirmative action decision could upend how students apply to college. Here’s how Students may change what they write about in the college essay. And they may no longer be tortured by the SAT and ACT.

As for children of alumni? The pressure is on to end their advantage in the admissions game.

The Supreme Court’s ruling on Thursday that ended race-conscious admissions is widely expected to lead to a dramatic drop in the number of Black and Hispanic students at selective colleges.

But the court’s decision could have other, surprising consequences, as colleges try to follow the law but also admit a diverse class of students.
The personal essay becomes more important.

The Supreme Court made a point of noting that students could highlight their racial or ethnic backgrounds in the college essay.

 

 north carolina map

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Rejects Theory That Would Have Transformed American Elections, Adam Liptak, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). The 6-3 majority dismissed the “independent state legislature” theory, which would have given state lawmakers nearly unchecked power over federal elections.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a legal theory that would have radically reshaped how federal elections are conducted by giving state legislatures largely unchecked power to set all sorts of rules for federal elections and to draw congressional maps warped by partisan gerrymandering.

The vote was 6 to 3, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. writing the majority opinion. The Constitution, he said, “does not exempt state legislatures from the ordinary constraints imposed by state law.”

 Relevant Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Economy, Jobs, Budgets

washington post logoWashington Post, Embracing ‘Bidenomics,’ president seeks to turn insult into strength, Matt Viser and Cleve R. Wootson Jr., June 29, 2023 (print ed.). Adoption of conservative barb, highlighted in a speech Wednesday, reflects a decision to own the economy — for better or worse.

President Biden was midway through a recent speech at a labor rally when he turned to an explanation of a kitchen-table economic philosophy that he says was formed, literally, at his parents’ kitchen table. “The press has now called [it] ‘Bidenomics,’” he said. “I don’t know what the hell that is.”

joe biden twitterThe crowd laughed as he offered, “But it’s working.”

Two weeks later, the White House has mobilized an entire week around elaborating on, reclaiming and defining just what Bidenomics is — something they have cast expansively as broadening and benefiting the middle class.

On Wednesday, the president delivered a major speech on his economic vision, with an eye toward the 2024 campaign. It followed a four-page memo from senior advisers that highlighted the concept, with subheads including “Bidenomics is working” and “The American people strongly support Bidenomics.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Bidenomics is transformative. Biden needs to ensure voters know it, Jennifer Rubin, right, June 29, 2023. Some presidents don’t have a jennifer rubin new headshotstrong story to tell about their record, so they deflect, distract and demonize their opponents. Other presidents’ records almost speak for themselves. President Biden, however, finds himself in an unusual spot: An economic record that has been working far better than most people anticipated but that the electorate doesn’t yet recognize.

democratic donkey logoThe economy has created 13 million jobs, inflation has been more than cut in half, huge investments are being made in infrastructure and green energy, wage growth has begun to outpace inflation, the first drug price controls are going into effect and the biggest corporations will finally be forced to pay something in federal taxes. Yet polls show voters incorrectly think we are in a recession and remain negative about the economy.

The White House is well aware of the problem.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden calls out Republican who hailed broadband money after opposing law, Maegan Vazquez, June 29, 2023 (print ed.). The White House has criticized GOP lawmakers who voted against the 2021 infrastructure bill. On Wednesday the president went after Sen. Tommy Tuberville.

A number of congressional Republicans who voted against the bipartisan infrastructure law are now spotlighting and at times celebrating how it will fund broadband expansion in their home states.

And President Biden is mocking them for touting money they opposed.

“See you at the groundbreaking,” Biden tweeted Wednesday, retweeting this comment from Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) earlier in the week: “Great to see Alabama receive crucial funds to boost ongoing broadband efforts.” Tuberville was one of 30 Senate Republicans to vote against the bill in August 2021.

Hours later in Chicago, during a speech on his economic agenda, Biden kept at it, calling out Tuberville by name.

Biden spoke of the lawmakers who “strenuously opposed” the bill and suggested that his $42 billion to expand high-speed internet access, announced earlier this week, is “bringing along some converts” in the Republican Party.

“There’s a guy named Tuberville … senator from Alabama,” who “strongly opposed the legislation,” Biden told the crowd. “Now, he’s hailing its passage.”
Biden calls out senator who once opposed infrastructure bill

The Biden administration’s plan aims to deliver reliable broadband to the entire country by 2030. Alabama is among the 10 states receiving the most funding through the plan — $1.4 billion.

In 2021, Tuberville argued that he could not vote for the infrastructure legislation, saying it “fails to give Alabama a fair slice of the pie while also saddling Alabama taxpayers with even more debt.”

Tuberville and other Republicans now argue that since Biden signed the bill into law, their constituents deserve to get their slice of federal dollars.

ny times logoNew York Times, Republicans’ Problem in Attacking Biden: They Helped Pass His Economic Bills, Jonathan Weisman and Reid J. Epstein, June 30, 2023 (print ed.). President Biden isn’t the only one doing a full summer embrace of federal spending on infrastructure and semiconductor manufacturing — so are some of the Republicans aiming to remove him from office next year.

The White House has labeled the president’s new economic campaign Bidenomics, a portmanteau that until now has been a pejorative used by Republicans and conservative news outlets primarily to underscore inflation.

But in a speech on Wednesday in Chicago about the economy, Mr. Biden latched on, with a renewed focus on the two most significant bipartisan legislative accomplishments of his term, the infrastructure bill and the CHIPS and Science Act. He hopes these measures will help brand him as the cross-aisle deal maker he sold to voters in 2020, appeal to political moderates who formed a core of his winning electoral coalition and impress upon tuned-out voters what he has done in office.

One significant benefit for Mr. Biden: Republicans helped pass those bills.

While G.O.P. presidential candidates and the Republican National Committee continue to paint Mr. Biden’s economic stewardship as a rolling disaster, Republican senators who helped shape the legislation say they anticipated that those accomplishments would accrue to Mr. Biden’s political advantage — as well as to their own.

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, DeSantis agency sent $92 million in covid relief funds to donor-backed project, Michael Scherer, Isaac Arnsdorf and Josh Dawsey, June 30, 2023 (print ed.). Mori Hosseini, who donated a golf simulator to the governor’s mansion, championed a new exchange on Interstate 95 that feeds into his housing and shopping center project.

The administration of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) steered $92 million last year in leftover federal coronavirus stimulus money to a controversial highway interchange project that directly benefits a top political donor, according to state records.

The decision by the Florida Department of Transportation to use money from the 2021 American Rescue Plan for the I-95 interchange at Pioneer Trail Road near Daytona Beach fulfilled a years-long effort by Mori Hosseini, a politically connected housing developer who owns two large tracts of largely forested land abutting the planned interchange. The funding through the DeSantis administration, approved shortly after the governor’s reelection, expedited the project by more than a decade, according to state documents.

Hosseini plans to develop the land — which includes a sensitive watershed once targeted for conservation by the state — into approximately 1,300 dwelling units and 650,000 square feet of nonresidential use, including an outdoor village shopping district. He has called the Woodhaven development, which has already begun construction, his “best project yet” and promised to pull out all the stops for its success.of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

 

More on Russia, Ukraine

ny times logoNew York Times, Lukashenko Says That During Revolt, Putin Suggested Killing Mercenary Chief, Anton Troianovski, Valerie Hopkins and Victoria Kim, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus, below left, said that he had argued against the move, and confirmed that Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner alexander lukashenko resized 2019mercenary group, had arrived in the country, Belarusian state media reported.

Here are the latest developments.

The Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, right, arrived in Belarus on Tuesday, the Belarusian state news media reported, ending days of yevgeny prigozhin headshot speakingspeculation over his whereabouts after he called off a weekend uprising that marked the most dramatic challenge to President Vladimir V. Putin’s rule in two decades.

New details emerged about the negotiations that ended the daylong rebellion, as President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus, Russia’s closest ally, described his phone conversations with Mr. Putin and Mr. Prigozhin as the Wagner mercenaries were marching to Moscow on Saturday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: It’s too soon for second-guessing the Ukrainian offensive, Max Boot, right, June 30, 2023 (print ed.). The whole world was riveted by the Wagner max boot screen shotGroup’s mutiny against the Putin regime. But the infighting in Russia did not last long enough to produce a significant shift on the battlefield in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian counteroffensive is less than a month old and already the murmurs of defeatism are starting, with unnamed “Western officials” telling CNN that it is “not meeting expectations on any front.” Even Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky concedes that the counteroffensive is going “slower than desired.”

In truth, the plodding pace of the advance should not be a surprise or a cause for serious concern, yet.

Very few offensives advance as swiftly as Operation Desert Storm — and that was only possible because of the massive technological advantage that the United States and its allies enjoyed over Iraq. Before the ground war even began in 1991, allied forces spent more than five weeks pummeling Iraqi forces with everything from Tomahawk cruise missiles to B-52 bombers. Then, after the unrelenting attacks from the air, allied ground forces were able to stage a giant “left hook” through the sands of Saudi Arabia to go around the fortified Iraqi positions in Kuwait.

 

Vladimir Putin, right, in a 2017 photo with Gen. Sergei Surovikin, recently appointed as Russian commander of Russia's military in Ukraine (Pool Photo by Alexei Druzhinin).

Russian leader Vladimir Putin, right, in a 2017 photo with Gen. Sergei Surovikin, who had been appointed and then demoted as Russian commander of Russia's military in Ukraine. U.S. officials are trying to determine if the general aided Yevgeny Prigozhin’s plans to rebel against Russia’s military leadership (Pool Photo by Alexei Druzhinin of Sputnik via Reuters).

ny times logoNew York Times, Russian General Knew About Wagner Chief’s Plans, U.S. Officials Say, Julian E. Barnes, Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). Officials are trying to learn if a top military leader helped Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner mercenary group, plan his revolt.

A senior Russian general had advance knowledge of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s plans to rebel against Russia’s military leadership, according to U.S. officials briefed on American intelligence on the matter, which has prompted questions about what support the mercenary leader had inside the top ranks.

The officials said they are trying to learn if Gen. Sergei Surovikin, the former top Russian commander in Ukraine, helped plan Mr. Prigozhin’s actions last weekend, which posed the most dramatic threat to President Vladimir V. Putin in his 23 years in power.

General Surovikin is a respected military leader who helped shore up defenses across the battle lines after Ukraine’s counteroffensive last year, analysts say. He was replaced as the top commander in January but retained influence in running war operations and remains popular among the troops.

American officials also said there are signs that other Russian generals may also have supported Mr. Prigozhin’s attempt to change the leadership of the Defense Ministry by force. Current and former U.S. officials said Mr. Prigozhin would not have launched his uprising unless he believed that others in positions of power would come to his aid.

If General Surovikin was involved in last weekend’s events, it would be the latest sign of the infighting that has characterized Russia’s military leadership since the start of Mr. Putin’s war in Ukraine and could signal a wider fracture between supporters of Mr. Prigozhin and Mr. Putin’s two senior military advisers: Sergei K. Shoigu, the minister of defense, and Gen. Valery V. Gerasimov, the chief of general staff.

ny times logotom friedman twitterNew York Times, Opinion: What Happens to Putin Now? Russian General Knew About Wagner Chief’s Plans, U.S. Officials Say, Thomas L. Friedman, Jan. 28, 2023 (print ed.).  The events playing out in Russia feel like the trailer for the next James Bond movie: Vladimir Putin’s ex-chef/ex-cyberhacker/recent mercenary army leader, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, goes rogue.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rebellion shakes Russian elite’s faith in Putin’s strength, Catherine Belton, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). The armed insurrection has shattered the carefully crafted myth that was the cornerstone of Putin’s presidency – that he represented stability and strength.

The impact of the fiercest-ever challenge to Vladimir Putin’s 23-year presidency was still reverberating among Moscow’s elites Monday as questions swirled over whether the Russian president had, for a moment at least, lost control of the country.

When Putin, shown above in a file  photo, addressed the nation on Monday for the first time since the chaos of this weekend’s armed rebellion, he thanked the population for displaying “unity and patriotism” which he said clearly demonstrated that “any attempt to cause internal turmoil was doomed to fail.”

But the armed insurrection by the leader of the Wagner mercenary group has shattered the carefully crafted myth that was the cornerstone of Putin’s presidency — that he represented stability and strength — and many in the upper reaches of Russian politics and business wonder whether he can recover from it. Some even suggested that a search for Putin’s successor could be underway.

“Putin showed the entire world and the elite he is no one and not capable of doing anything,” said one influential Moscow businessman. “It is a total collapse of his reputation.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Drops Criminal Case Against Mercenary Leader, but His Future Remains Uncertain, Valerie Hopkins and Victoria Kim, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). Moscow dropped an investigation into the mutiny led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner group. It’s unclear where Mr. Prigozhin is days after the insurrection.

The Russian authorities dropped an investigation into Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner mercenary group, over charges that he led a brief armed rebellion over the weekend, and the group is preparing to hand over military equipment to the Russian Army, state media reported on Tuesday.

The two nearly simultaneous announcements were part of an effort by the Kremlin to move on from the stunning, if short-lived, mutiny by Mr. Prigozhin’s forces on Saturday. But they left many unanswered questions, including the fate of the tens of thousands of Wagner fighters and of Mr. Prigozhin himself.

The mercenary leader’s whereabouts remained unclear a day after he denied, in an audio message posted on Monday, that his mutiny had been an attempt to seize power in Russia. In the message, he said that the action had instead been a protest against the way Russia’s senior military leaders have handled the war in Ukraine.

Mr. Prigozhin was expected to go into exile in Belarus under an agreement brokered by that country’s pro-Russian leader, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko. The details of that agreement have not been made public, however.

Here are other developments:

  • In brief remarks at the Kremlin, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said that some Russian airmen had “died in the confrontation with the mutineers,” and he praised them for carrying out their duties. In a televised speech on Monday night, a visibly angry Mr. Putin denounced the mutiny as “blackmail” that had been “doomed to failure,” though he did not name Mr. Prigozhin, his erstwhile ally.
  • President Biden said that the United States and its allies had “nothing to do with” the unrest in Russia and that they wanted to give Mr. Putin “no excuse to blame this on the West or to blame this on NATO.”
  • The Russian defense minister, Sergei K. Shoigu, was shown in state news broadcasts on Monday in a meeting with Mr. Putin and other defense and security chiefs, a sign of trust in the minister, who had for months publicly clashed with Mr. Prigozhin.
  • President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, who visited frontline positions on Monday, said that his country’s forces had “advanced in all directions” over the past 24 hours. “This is a happy day,” he said.

 

 Route north through southern Russia by Wagner Group rebels June 23 to 24, 2023 (Graphic by Washington Post).

 Route north through southern Russia by Wagner Group rebels June 23 to 24, 2023 (Graphic by Washington Post).

ny times logoNew York Times, His Glory Fading, a Russian Warlord Took One Last Stab at Power, Paul Sonne and Anatoly Kurmanaev, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). Whatever the Wagner uprising says about Vladimir Putin’s hold on the Kremlin, it is also the story of the growing desperation of Yevgeny Prigozhin.

yevgeny prigozhin headshot speakingWell before Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, shown at right, seized a major Russian military hub and ordered an armed march on Moscow, posing a startling and dramatic threat to President Vladimir V. Putin, the caterer-turned-mercenary boss was losing his own personal war.

Mr. Prigozhin’s private army had been sidelined. His lucrative government catering contracts had come under threat. The commander he most admired in the Russian military had been removed as the top general overseeing Ukraine. And he had lost his most vital recruiting source for fighters: Russia’s prisons.

Then, on June 13, his only hope for a last-minute intervention to spare him a bitter defeat in his long-running power struggle with Defense Minister Sergei K. Shoigu was dashed.

Mr. Putin sided publicly with Mr. Prigozhin’s adversaries, affirming that all irregular units fighting in Ukraine would have to sign contracts with the Ministry of Defense. That included Mr. Prigozhin’s private military company, Wagner.

Now, the mercenary chieftain would be subordinated to Mr. Shoigu, an unparalleled political survivor in modern Russia and Mr. Prigozhin’s sworn enemy.

washington post logoWashington Post, After mutiny, Putin says Wagner can go to Belarus, go home or fight for Russia, Robyn Dixon and Mary Ilyushina, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). Russian President Vladimir Putin’s speech, his first since the mutiny, came hours after the head of the Wagner Group declared that his motive was to save the private militia from being subsumed into the Russian military, not to topple Putin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed his nation Monday for the first time since the weekend mutiny by Wagner mercenaries, saying he would keep his promise and allow the group’s fighters to move to neighboring Belarus.

Their other options were to return to their families or sign contracts with the Russian Defense Ministry, he said.

Putin’s speech came hours after Wagner chief Yevgeniy Prigozhin resurfaced in a video posted online, declaring that his motive on Saturday was to save the group from being subsumed by the Russian military — not to topple the Russian president.

In a tone both stern and conciliatory, Putin said that Wagner’s mutiny would have been crushed by Russian security forces if it had not halted its advance on Moscow, but also that the “vast majority” of Wagner fighters were patriots.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Trucking Company Is Facing Bankruptcy After a $700 Million Bailout, Alan Rappeport, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). Three years after receiving a pandemic relief loan, the trucking company Yellow has repaid little of the money and is warning that it could soon run out of cash.

A beleaguered trucking business that received a $700 million pandemic-era loan from the federal government may be forced to file for bankruptcy protection this summer amid a dispute with its union, a development that could leave American taxpayers stuck with a failed company.

The financial woes at the business, Yellow, which previously went by the name YRC Worldwide, have been building for years. The company lost more than $100 million in 2019 and has more than $1.5 billion in outstanding debt, including the government loan. In 2022, YRC, which ships meal kits, protective equipment and other supplies to military bases, agreed to pay $6.85 million to settle a federal lawsuit that accused it of defrauding the Defense Department.

In 2020, the Trump administration, which had ties to the company and its executives, agreed to give the firm a pandemic relief loan in exchange for the federal government assuming a 30 percent equity stake in the company.

Three years later, Yellow is on the verge of going bankrupt.

Since receiving the loan, the company has changed its name, restructured its business and seen its stock price plummet. As of the end of March, Yellow’s outstanding debt was $1.5 billion, including about $730 million that is owed to the federal government. Yellow has paid approximately $66 million in interest on the loan, but it has repaid just $230 of the principal owed on the loan, which comes due next year.

On Tuesday, Yellow sued the International Brotherhood of Teamsters for blocking the company’s restructuring plan and accused the union of causing more than $137 million in damages. The company said that it was taking “immediate steps to try to save itself” and that the union was trying to “cause Yellow’s economic ruin.”

The company’s financial plight is the latest example of how some of the trillions of dollars pumped out quickly during the pandemic were misdirected, mismanaged or obtained fraudulently. Federal watchdogs and government agencies have expressed alarm at signs of fraud and failing loans.

The office of the special inspector general for pandemic recovery, an independent agency within the Treasury Department that scrutinizes some of the relief money, warned last month that it was seeing an “alarming rate of defaults by borrowers who are failing to pay even the interest payments on the loans.” The office warned that the number of defaults on pandemic loans could increase over the next two years as payments come due.

On Tuesday, the inspector general for the U.S. Small Business Administration, which disbursed about $1.2 trillion in pandemic loans, said in a report that over $200 billion, or 17 percent, of the money was disbursed to “potentially fraudulent actors.”

Yellow’s loan enabled the company to stay afloat for a while and embark on a restructuring plan. But economic headwinds and a fight with the Teamsters union over the terms of a new contract have put Yellow in a precarious financial position.

A report last year produced by Democratic staff of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis found that the money had been doled out over the objections of career officials at the Defense Department and suggested that senior Trump administration officials had intervened to ensure that Yellow received special treatment despite concerns about its eligibility to receive relief funds. In addition to deep ties to the Trump administration, the company, which for years faced legal and financial troubles, also had a strong lobbying presence in Washington.

ny times logoNew York Times, Lowell Weicker, Maverick Connecticut Senator and Governor, Dies at 92, Kirk Johnson, June 29, 2023 (print ed.). A liberal Republican, he became known for his fierce criticism of Nixon during Watergate. Decades later, he termed Donald Trump “a total con artist.”

Lowell P. Weicker Jr., a liberal Republican who earned a national reputation for pugnacious political independence — first as a young United States senator during the Watergate hearings and later as a third-party governor of Connecticut — died on Wednesday at a hospital in Middletown, in central Connecticut. He was 92.

His family announced his death in a statement.

Mr. Weicker was an obscure junior senator from Connecticut and a member of President Richard M. Nixon’s own party in 1973 when he took an assignment on the Senate select committee that was investigating the Watergate affair — the break-in at the offices of the Democratic opposition by a White House team of burglars and the administration’s attempts to cover up the crime.

But after the committee’s televised hearings were over, he was famous, demonized by some for the harshness of his attacks on Nixon but lionized as a hero by others.

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats to Use $20 Million Equal Rights Push to Aid 2024 N.Y. House Bids, Dana Rubinstein, June 30, 2023 (print ed.). Numerous left-leaning groups are behind a statewide effort to focus attention on a 2024 equal-rights referendum, hoping to increase voter turnout.

New York Democrats’ substandard performance in the midterm elections last year helped their party lose control of the House of Representatives, threatened its national agenda, and angered national Democrats.

In an effort to avoid repeating the same mistake, New York Democrats on Thursday will announce support for a statewide effort to pass a women’s rights amendment that they hope will also supercharge turnout in 2024, when President Biden and House members will be up for re-election.

Their strategy: Get Democrats to the polls by focusing attention on a 2024 statewide referendum, the New York Equal Rights Amendment, that will explicitly bar New York from using its power and resources to penalize those who have abortions.

The campaign, backed by Gov. Kathy Hochul and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, among others, plans to raise at least $20 million to spend on television ads, direct mail and organizing in support of the initiative. The effort is designed to complement the House Democrats’ main super PAC’s $45 million bid to win six New York swing districts next year, including four that just flipped Republican.

  • New York Times, A Record 100,000 People in New York Homeless Shelters, June 29, 2023.

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U.S. Courts, Crime, Civil Rights, Immigration

ny times logoNew York Times, Hunter Biden Settles Child-Support Case, Ending a Yearslong Battle, Katie Rogers, June 30, 2023 (print ed.). The child will receive some of Hunter Biden’s paintings as part of a settlement that ended a yearslong court battle.

Hunter Biden settled a child-support dispute with Lunden Roberts, the mother of his fourth child, on Thursday, ending a yearslong saga that had become tinged with partisan politics.

According to court documents, Mr. Biden, 53, agreed to pay a monthly sum, which was not disclosed, to Ms. Roberts, as well as turn over several of his paintings, the net proceeds of which would go to his daughter. Mr. Biden, who is in recovery from a crack cocaine addiction, started a second career as a painter whose works have been listed for $500,000 each.

He also promised to discuss planning for a college education fund with his child’s mother. Ms. Roberts, 32, who had requested to change the girl’s last name to Biden, dropped the request as part of the agreement.

The agreement brings to a close a case that shined a spotlight on Mr. Biden’s personal behavior and finances and was used by critics to attack his father, President Biden.

Hunter Biden had been paying $20,000 a month in child support for several years, for a total of $750,000, according to his attorneys. He had argued that he was not financially able to support the original child-support order. The new amount is lower than had been originally ordered, according to a person familiar with the case.

But Ms. Roberts and her attorneys argued that the girl, 4, was entitled to the same benefits that her four half-siblings receive.

Ms. Roberts and Mr. Biden met in Washington. In mid-2018, Ms. Roberts was working as his personal assistant, according to a person familiar with the case. Their daughter was born later that year, but by then, Mr. Biden had stopped responding to Ms. Roberts’s messages, including one informing him of the child’s birth date, according to a person involved in the case, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Ms. Roberts filed a lawsuit in May 2019, and DNA testing that year established that Mr. Biden was the father of the child. In a motion for custody filing in December 2019, Ms. Roberts said that he had never met their child and “could not identify the child out of a photo lineup.”

A bench trial had been scheduled for mid-July in a court in Arkansas, where Ms. Roberts lives, and her attorneys had enlisted Garrett Ziegler, a conservative activist who had compiled the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop into an online database, as an expert witness with knowledge of Mr. Biden’s finances.

Two weeks ago, when Mr. Biden arrived in Little Rock to deliver a deposition, Ms. Roberts attended. According to a person familiar with the proceedings, Mr. Biden’s attorneys questioned whether Ms. Roberts was saving the money for her child.

They also questioned why she would want the Biden last name, considering the conservative figures involved in the case. Her attorney, Clint Lancaster, had been an attorney for the Trump campaign during an electoral vote recount in Wisconsin after the 2020 election.

Mr. Lancaster said in a text message that Mr. Biden’s attorneys’ claims were “not true.”

“The case settled because, one hour into Hunter’s deposition, he asked to speak to Lunden privately,” Mr. Lancaster continued. “They spoke for approximately 45 minutes to an hour. They emerged with a settlement.”

He added that, going forward, Mr. Biden’s child would be selecting art from her father, and that family was “very important” to his client.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fox News Agrees to Pay $12 Million to Settle Hostile Workplace Suit, Katie Robertson, June 30, 2023. The settlement with a former producer, Abby Grossberg, shown in a file photo, is the latest development in a series of legal battles involving Fox.

abby grossberg johns hopkinsFox News has agreed to pay $12 million to Abby Grossberg, a former Fox News producer who had accused the network of operating a hostile and discriminatory fox news logo Smallworkplace and of coercing her into providing false testimony in a deposition.

Parisis G. Filippatos, a lawyer for Ms. Grossberg, said that the settlement concluded all of Ms. Grossberg’s claims against Fox and the people she had named in her complaints, which included the former host Tucker Carlson and some of his producers.

Ms. Grossberg’s legal team filed a request in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Friday to dismiss a remaining lawsuit against Fox in light of the settlement.

Ms. Grossberg said in a statement on Friday that she stood by her allegations, but she was “heartened that Fox News has taken me and my legal claims seriously.”

“I am hopeful, based on our discussions with Fox News today, that this resolution represents a positive step by the network regarding its treatment of women and minorities in the workplace,” she said.
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A spokeswoman for Fox said in a statement on Friday: “We are pleased that we have been able to resolve this matter without further litigation.”

Justin Wells, a former senior executive producer for Mr. Carlson, who was named in a complaint, said in a post on Twitter: “We deny Ms. Grossberg’s claims and allegations against Tucker Carlson and his team. Nevertheless, we are glad that Fox has settled this matter and that all sides can move forward.”

The settlement with Ms. Grossberg is the latest development in a series of legal battles involving Fox. In April, the company paid Dominion Voting Systems $787.5 million, in what is believed to be the biggest settlement figure in a defamation case. Days later, Fox took Tucker Carlson, its most popular host, off the air after the company’s leadership concluded he was more of a problem than an asset and had to go.

Fox faces a second defamation case by another voting technology company. Smartmatic, like Dominion, says Fox knowingly spread false information about its products, baselessly claiming that they contributed to election fraud in 2020.

ny times logoNew York Times, Man Accused in Jan. 6 Riot Is Arrested With Weapons Near Obama’s Home, Luke Broadwater and Aishvarya Kavi, June 30, 2023. A law enforcement official said that weapons, ammunition and materials that could make explosives were found inside the man’s nearby van.

A man accused of involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol was arrested Thursday afternoon near the Washington home of former President Barack Obama, as police found weapons, ammunition and materials that could make explosives inside the suspect’s van, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the case.

Taylor Taranto, 37, of no fixed address, livestreamed his activities before his arrest, including as he drove into the neighborhood and talked briefly with a member of the Secret Service stationed there. On the livestream, he talked about seeking an interview with John Podesta, a Democratic official who has been the focus of far-right conspiracy theories, and also spoke of the neighborhood as containing underground tunnels. He entered a wooded area attempting to take photos of a house.

“I’m outside Barack Obama’s house,” he said at one point on the livestream.

The District of Columbia police, known as the Metropolitan Police Department, said in a statement that Mr. Taranto was charged as a fugitive from justice. The arrest warrant was from the U.S. Capitol Police, but the police did not detail the underlying charges.

Jason Bell, the Capitol Police’s acting assistant chief for protective and intelligence operations, said in a statement that his agency’s officers assisted in the investigation “due to a concern for public safety and the potential for violence against members of Congress.”

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Inspector general says Jeffrey Epstein’s death enabled by jailers’ negligence, Mark Berman, June 29, 2023 (print ed.). A Justice Department inspector general’s report said Tuesday that Jeffrey Epstein’s 2019 death while in federal custody was enabled by significant staff failures at the jail where he was being held, concluding that this negligence gave him “the opportunity to take his own life.”

The sharply critical report was issued nearly four years after Epstein, a convicted sex offender, was found hanging in his Manhattan jail cell while facing federal charges of sex-trafficking and abusing young girls. Epstein’s criminal case and his death attracted widespread attention, owing to both the depravity of the allegations against him and his well-documented web of connections to high-profile figures.

While the report released Tuesday castigates jail officials for repeated “negligence, misconduct, and outright job performance failures” in connection with Epstein’s incarceration and death, it also strongly pushes back on any suggestion that what happened was anything other than a suicide.

Instead, the 114-page report says Epstein’s death was the result of pervasive problems at the Manhattan jail that recur across other facilities also overseen by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), including staffing issues, faulty security camera setups, poor management and improper handling of inmates who could be at risk of dying by suicide.

michael horowitz Custom“The BOP’s failures are troubling not only because the BOP did not adequately safeguard an individual in its custody, but also because they led to questions about the circumstances surrounding Epstein’s death and effectively deprived Epstein’s numerous victims of the opportunity to seek justice through the criminal justice system,” Michael Horowitz, right, the inspector general, said in a statement accompanying the report’s release.

Epstein was found in his cell in the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) on Aug. 10, 2019, about a month after he was taken into custody. He was taken to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead.

New York City’s chief medical examiner concluded that Epstein’s death was a suicide and listed “hanging” as the cause. Attorneys for Epstein expressed skepticism about that finding at the time, and his death fueled waves of speculation and conspiracy theories, linked largely to the wealthy financier’s connections to powerful and prominent figures.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: DeSantis’s latest appeal to MAGA tops Trump in performative cruelty, Greg Sargent, right, June 27, 2023. As president, Donald Trump greg sargentseparated migrant families, forced asylum seekers back into Mexico and built hundreds of miles of border barriers.

The border remained chaotic and the migrants kept coming, yet MAGA ideology continues to hold that the “crisis” can be solved with just the right djt maga hatmix of cruel deterrence, tough enforcement and — of course — more walls.

That disconnect helps explain Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s radical new plan to secure the border, which he rolled out Monday. The plan is meant to propel him to Trump’s right on a leading MAGA issue. But DeSantis’s blueprint contains a bunch of warmed-over ideas — mass deportations, draconian efforts to limit asylum-seeking and legal immigration, even an end to birthright citizenship — that Trump already tried to execute, yet could not.

The fundamental promise of DeSantis’s GOP presidential primary campaign is that he’d execute the MAGA agenda far more competently than Trump. But there’s a reason Trump largely failed in controlling the border, and it has little do with competence or “toughness.”

Rather, it’s that presidents lack the authority to close down legal immigration in any substantial way, and however harsh their enforcement gets, it simply doesn’t dissuade migrants from coming, including illegally, and settling here successfully.

ny times logoNew York Times, Accused Shooter in Deadly Colorado Springs Rampage Pleads Guilty in Court, Jack Healy and Kelley Manley, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). A plea deal means the 23-year-old shooter will spend a lifetime in prison for a rampage at an L.G.B.T.Q. bar last year that left five people dead. 

The 23-year-old charged with carrying out a deadly shooting rampage at Club Q in Colorado Springs pleaded guilty on Monday to dozens of charges of murder and attempted murder, avoiding a prolonged trial over a deadly attack on members of the L.G.B.T.Q. community.

Under the terms of a plea agreement reached with prosecutors, the defendant, Anderson Lee Aldrich, separately pleaded “no contest” to two hate-crime charges.

The defendant will receive multiple life sentences, adding up to hundreds of years in prison, and will also give up any right to appeal.

The defendant, who identifies as nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, stood on Monday in a courtroom packed with victims and relatives of the dead, and tersely answered a litany of questions from Judge Michael McHenry about whether the defendant understood the terms of the plea.

The agreement was reached after months of agonizing private discussions among prosecutors, survivors and victims’ families over how to reach justice in the Club Q shooting.

Some victims initially wanted a public trial, in the hope of learning precisely how and why the shooter had attacked the club, and what warning signs had been missed. Others said they did not want to suffer the pain of a drawn-out trial, and were relieved that the criminal case was ending.

Several survivors of the attack said it was important that the shooter acknowledge an anti-L. G.B.T.Q. bias behind the rampage. They wanted formal recognition that Club Q and its patrons were attacked because of their identities, in a massacre deliberately calculated to shatter a sanctuary for the L.G.B.T.Q. community in Colorado Springs.

But in pleading guilty on Monday, Mx. Aldrich offered no details about why they carried out the shooting, and little explanation beyond a bare-bones admission using legal language. They did not directly admit to committing hate crimes in targeting Club Q, but instead said they were pleading “no contest” because it was likely that they would be convicted at trial.

The five people killed that night were Daniel Aston and Derrick Rump, who were employees of Club Q, and Kelly Loving, Raymond Green Vance and Ashley Paugh, who were Club Q patrons.

For months, some survivors and relatives of victims have made a point of attending each hearing as the case moved forward. Some said it was difficult to keep their anger and grief in check as they sat in the courtroom, listening to graphic details of the rampage.

Legal experts said the shooter’s gender identity alone did not preclude hate-crimes charges in the case. Prosecutors said that the defendant had a “particular disdain” for the L.G.B.T.Q. community.

“Those are my friends’ lives,” said Ashtin Gamblin, who was hit with nine shots as she worked the door of Club Q on the night of the attack. “They were targeted. We were targeted because we are a part of the L.G.B.T.Q. community. There’s absolutely no doubt why he chose Club Q.”

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Global News

ny times logoNew York Times, Over 600 Arrested in France After Fresh Night of Unrest, Aurelien Breeden, June 30, 2023. Protesters set cars on fire and looted stores in cities around the country for the third day after the fatal police shooting of a teenage driver.

More than 600 people were arrested in France during a third night of unrest that has rocked cities around the country since a police officer fatally shot a 17-year-old driver this week, the authorities said on Friday.

President Emmanuel Macron convened a crisis meeting for a second successive day on Friday as the government struggled to contain the anger unleashed by the killing, which took place during a traffic stop in Nanterre, west of Paris, on Tuesday.

The officer who fired the shot has been placed under formal investigation and detained on charges of voluntary homicide — a rare step in criminal cases involving police officers. But that appeared to have done little to calm tensions, which have been stoked by decades-long feelings of neglect and racial discrimination among people living in France’s poorer urban suburbs, many of whom identified with the teenager, who has been publicly named only as Nahel M.

Overnight, protesters burned cars, damaged public buildings, looted stores and clashed with riot police officers in dozens of cities around France, according to French news reports.

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More On Trump Probes, Pro-Trump Rioters, Election Deniers

 

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 won a civil suit against him in 2022 in New York City on claims of sexual batery and defamation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump files counterclaim against E. Jean Carroll, alleging defamation, John Wagner, June 29, 2023 (print ed.). Former president Donald Trump has filed a counterclaim against the writer E. Jean Carroll, who won a $5 million verdict against him in a sexual assault and defamation lawsuit last month, contending that she has since defamed him.

Trump’s filing late Tuesday night in federal court in Manhattan points to instances before and after the verdict, including during a CNN interview, in which Carroll has said publicly that Trump raped her.

The jury last month found that Trump was liable for sexually abusing Carroll in the mid-1990s in a dressing room at a Manhattan department store but did not find him liable for raping her, as she long claimed.

Carroll, the filing claims, “made these false statements with actual malice and ill will with an intent to significantly and spitefully harm and attack [Trump’s] reputation, as these false statements were clearly contrary to the jury verdict.” In a statement, Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta A. Kaplan, called Trump’s filing “nothing more than his latest effort to delay accountability for what a jury has already found to be his defamation of E. Jean Carroll.”

“But whether he likes it or not, that accountability is coming very soon,” Kaplan said.

Kaplan also said most of the statements by Carroll cited in the Trump filing were made outside of New York’s one-year statute of limitations. The counterclaim is included in a filing by Trump in response to an amended lawsuit by Carroll that accuses Trump of additional defamation for comments Trump made during a CNN special event May 10 — just after the jury’s $5 million verdict in the other complaint. That case is scheduled for trial in January.
Trump, 77, has been accused by more than a dozen women of sexual assault or misconduct over the years, but never before had any of those claims been fully litigated in court and decided by a jury. He assailed the $5 million verdict in the Carroll case as a “disgrace” and is appealing it. Trump was ordered to deposit money as that plays out.

 

djt indicted proof

ny times logoNew York Times, Audio Undercuts Trump’sAssertion He Did Not Have Classified Document, Maggie Haberman and Alan Feuer, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). A recording of a meeting in 2021 in which former President Trump described a sensitive document in front of him appears to contradict his defense.

An audio recording of former President Donald J. Trump in 2021 discussing what he called a “highly confidential” document about Iran that he acknowledged he could not declassify because he was out of office appears to contradict his recent assertion that the material he was referring to was simply news clippings.

President Donald Trump officialPortions of a transcript of the two-minute recording of Mr. Trump were cited by federal prosecutors in the indictment of Mr. Trump on charges that he had put national security secrets at risk by mishandling classified documents after leaving office and then obstructing the government’s efforts to retrieve them.

The recording captured his conversation in July 2021 with a publisher and writer working on a memoir by Mr. Trump’s final chief of staff, Mark Meadows. In it, Mr. Trump discussed what he described as a “secret” plan regarding Iran drawn up by Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Defense Department. Mr. Trump was citing the document in rebutting an account that General Milley feared having to keep him from manufacturing a crisis with Iran in the period after Mr. Trump lost his re-election bid in late 2020.

The audio, which is likely to feature as evidence in Mr. Trump’s trial in the documents case, was played for the first time in public on Monday by CNN and was also obtained by The New York Times.

  • Meidas Touch Network, Michael Popok of Legal AF reports on Jan 6 insurrectionist Marc Anthony Bru failing to appear for two court ordered status conferences, while simultaneously taking to social media to say the government will have to come get him, as the DOJ seeks a warrant for his arrest, June 29, 2023.

washington post logoWashington Post, It’s not just Mar-a-Lago: Trump charges highlight his New Jersey life at Bedminster, Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey and Spencer S. Hsu, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). Two of the most vivid scenes in the former president’s indictment take place at his Bedminster golf club, which has not been searched by the FBI.

The 49-page indictment against Donald Trump for mishandling classified documents and obstructing justice is largely focused on how boxes of sensitive documents ended up crammed into the nooks, crannies and even a chandelier-adorned bathroom of Trump’s Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago.

But two of the indictment’s most vivid scenes took place about 1,200 miles to the north.

Prosecutors accuse Trump of showing off classified documents to employees and others not authorized to see them — not once, but twice at his sprawling golf club on the rural plains of New Jersey.

mark meadows book chief chiefAccording to the indictment, Trump bragged in July 2021 about a sensitive military plan with two of his staffers, as well as the writer and publisher of a forthcoming book, The Chief's Chief, from his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, during a session at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster.

In an audio recording of the session near the club’s pool, Trump can be heard acknowledging the secrecy of the documents to the group — who included communications staffers Liz Harrington and Margo Martin, according to people familiar with the matter, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the criminal case.

“See, as president I could have declassified it. Now I can’t,” Trump tells the group on the recording, which was obtained this week by The Washington Post. “Isn’t that interesting? It’s so cool.”

 

donald trump ivanka bed kissRaw Story, Ex-staffer describes Trump fantasizing about sex with Ivanka, Adam Nichols, June 28, 2023. Ex-staffer describes Trump fantasizing about sex with Ivanka (shown together in a 1990s file photo).

miles taylor 1 gmaFormer President Donald Trump made sexual comments about his daughter Ivanka that were so lewd he was rebuked by his Chief of Staff, former Trump official Miles Taylor writes in a new book.

raw story logo squareThe comments are used by Taylor, right, to highlight almost daily instances of sexism in the Trump White House that were so bad one senior female official told the writer, “This is not a healthy workplace for women.”

"Aides said he talked about Ivanka Trump's breasts, her backside, and what it might be like to have sex with her, remarks that once led (former Chief of Staff) John Kelly to remind the president that Ivanka was his daughter," Taylor writes.

"Afterward, Kelly retold that story to me in visible disgust. Trump, he said, was 'a very, very evil man.'"
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The details contained in the upcoming new book, “Blowback: A Warning to Save Democracy from the Next Trump,” were outlined in an exclusive interview with Newsweek Wednesday.

miles taylor bookTaylor, a former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security who admitted to anonymously writing a 2018 op-ed in the New York Times titled “"I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration,” said, "There still are quite a few female leaders from the Trump administration who have held their tongues about the unequal treatment they faced in the administration at best, and the absolute naked sexism they experienced with the hands of Donald Trump at worst."

He said “undisguised sexism” was aimed at everybody from lowly staff members to cabinet secretaries.

He remembered Kirstjen Nielsen, Trump’s former secretary of homeland security, being called “sweetie” and “honey” and having her makeup critiqued by the president.

Taylor said, at one point, Nielsen whispered to him, "Trust me, this is not a healthy workplace for women.”

Donald TrumpAnd Taylor said senior counselor Kellyanne Conway called Trump a “misogynistic bully," a comment that she denied making when contacted by Newsweek.

"He's a pervert, he's difficult to deal with," Taylor told Newsweek. "This is still the same man and, incredibly, we're considering electing him to the presidency again."

He added, “He's setting a very vile tone within the Republican Party, and in a sense has normalized pretty derisive views towards women in general.”

Trump was found liable of sexual abuse in a recent civil trial brought by writer E. Jean Carroll.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Jack Smith has flipped someone who was at the Willard Hotel for January 6th, Bill Palmer, June 26, 2023. One of the key aspects of Donald Trump’s 2020 election overthrow plot was his “command center” ahead of January 6th at the Willard Hotel.

Name any disreputable Trump political adviser, and bill palmer report logo headerthe odds are that they were in that Willard Hotel room. But the whole thing hasn’t gotten a ton of media coverage, mostly because no one who was inside that room has spilled the beans about what was really going on – until now.

The DOJ criminally indicted Owen Shroyer for January 6th-related crimes a year and a half ago, and has been attempting to flip him ever since. Just days ago Shroyer finally cut a cooperating plea deal. This immediately jumped out at us because Shroyer is Alex Jones’ top sidekick. But our friends at MeidasTouch are now pointing out that this runs deeper. Shroyer was at the Willard Hotel ahead of January 6th, meaning he’s given up everything that went on at the “command center” while he was there.

This is bad news for everyone who was in the room at this “command center.” It was a mix of Donald Trump’s top political advisers and actual members of the Oath Keepers, to give you an idea of just how much criminality might have been taking place in that room. Jack Smith and the DOJ now have their “in” when it comes to the Willard Hotel plot. It’s bad news for Donald Trump and any number of his political allies.

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  Jack Smith has been leading an inquiry into Mr. Trump since his appointment in November (Pool photo by Peter Dejong).

Jack Smith has been leading an inquiry into Mr. Trump since his appointment in November (Pool photo by Peter Dejong).

 

U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and the Coalition of the Distrustful, Michelle Goldberg, right, June 30, 2023. Before Covid, Gabe Whitney, a 41-year-michelle goldberg thumbold from West Bath, Maine, didn’t think much about vaccines. He wasn’t very political — he didn’t vote in 2020, he said, because he thought Donald Trump was a “psycho” and Joe Biden was “corrupt.”

It wasn’t until the pandemic that Whitney started regularly watching the news, but as he did, he felt like things weren’t adding up. He doubted what he called “the narrative” and struggled with the hostility his questions about vaccines and other mitigations elicited from those close to him. He described being “blamed and labeled as someone who’s part of the problem because you’re questioning. Like not taking a stance on it, but just questioning. That was the worst.”

Whitney started gravitating toward people who see skepticism of mainstream public health directives as a sign of courage rather than selfishness and delusion. He began following anti-vax figures like Del Bigtree, Robert Malone and, of course, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., whom Whitney already admired for his environmental work. Kennedy has long touted an illusory connection between vaccines and autism, and has repeatedly said that pandemic restrictions arose from a C.I.A. plan to “clamp down totalitarian control.” If Kennedy was so wrong, Whitney thought, it didn’t make sense that his critics wouldn’t debate him. “When someone is taking such an unpopular position, and then nobody wants to debate them, that says something to me,” he said.

I met Whitney this month at a rally for Kennedy, now running for the Democratic presidential nomination, at Saint Anselm College, just outside Manchester, N.H. I’d gone because I was curious about who was turning out to see the candidate. Among many Democrats, there’s an assumption that Kennedy’s surprising strength in some polls — an Emerson College survey from April showed him getting 21 percent in a Democratic primary — is mostly attributable to the magic of his name and anxiety about Joe Biden’s age. This is probably at least partly true. As media coverage has made Democrats more aware of Kennedy’s conspiratorial views, his support has fallen; a recent Saint Anselm poll had him at only 9 percent, barely ahead of Marianne Williamson.

At the same time, Kennedy has a sincere and passionate following. When I arrived at the St. Anselm venue, I was surprised by the enormous line snaking out the door. It quickly became clear that many people weren’t going to make it into the 580-seat auditorium. (I requested an interview with Kennedy, but never heard back from the person I was told could schedule it.)

In New Hampshire, I didn’t meet any loyal Democrats who were there just to scope out the alternatives. The 2020 Biden voters I encountered were dead set against voting for him again; some, disenchanted by vaccine mandates and American support for Ukraine, even said they preferred Donald Trump. Like Whitney, several people I spoke to hadn’t voted at all in 2020 because they didn’t like their choices. Some attendees said they leaned right, and others identified with the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party.

What brought them all together was a peculiar combination of cynicism and credulity. The people I encountered believe that they are living under a deeply sinister regime that lies to them about almost everything that matters. And they believe that with the Kennedy campaign, we might be on the cusp of redemption.

In 2021, Charles Eisenstein, an influential New Age writer, described the assassination of John F. Kennedy as the primal wound that brought America to its current lamentable state. “It is like a radioactive pellet lodged inside the body politic,” he wrote, “generating an endlessly metastasizing cancer that no one has been able to trace to its source.”

Eisenstein takes it for granted that J.F.K.’s murder was orchestrated by the national security state, a view also held by R.F.K. Jr., the former president’s nephew. Because the official story “beggars belief,” Eisenstein argued, it engendered in the populace a festering distrust of all official narratives. At the same time, the cover-up led the government to regard the people it’s been continually deceiving with contempt, as “unruly schoolchildren who must be managed, surveilled, tracked, locked up and locked down for their own good.”

A Kennedy restoration, Eisenstein believes, would heal the corrosive injury that separates the people from their putative leaders, putting America back on the confident and optimistic trajectory from which it was diverted in 1963. In May, he joined Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s campaign as a senior adviser working on messaging and strategy.

 

djt ron desantis cnn collage

Washington Post, Twice-indicted Trump dominates GOP race, as support for DeSantis stalls, Hannah Knowles and Maeve Reston, June 29, 2023 (print ed.). On the campaign trail, the former president draws enthusiastic crowds that reflect his wide lead in the polls. Voters seeking an alternative have yet to coalesce behind the Florida governor or anyone else.

President Donald Trump officialThe primary was effectively over for many voters who came out to hear Donald Trump’s speech at a GOP women’s luncheon this week. “It’s Trump all the way — don’t even ask me about anyone else,” said Suzanne Pesaresi, a 62-year-old office manager.

djt maga hatForty miles south, at a town hall with Ron DeSantis, plenty of others were convinced the party should move on from the former president. “I have a non-top choice, and that’s Donald Trump,” declared former Republican state lawmaker Bill Ohm. But like many around him, Ohm wasn’t yet sold on the Florida governor — or anyone else, for that matter.

“I could vote for DeSantis if nobody else got traction,” said Don Hallenbeck, a business owner who identifies as an independent and plans to vote in the Republican primary. He worries the governor would “have a tough time finding his way back to the middle” in a general election.

Facing newly combative opponents, millions of dollars’ worth of competing advertising and two indictments, Trump is in a dominant position in the GOP presidential race halfway through 2023. He has a wide lead on the competition, polls show. He draws enthusiastic crowds. And even some of his rival operatives acknowledge he has an unshakable grip on a sizable part of the electorate.

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Environment, Transportation, Energy, Space, Disasters, Climate

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ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Man Down!’: Surviving the Texas Heat in Prisons Without Air-Conditioning, J. David Goodman, June 30, 2023 (print ed.). The record June heat has been particularly dangerous inside the state’s prisons, where indoor temperatures can top 110 degrees.

On the third day of 100-degree temperatures last week, locked without air-conditioning in a Texas prison north of Houston, Joseph Martire said he began to feel overwhelmed. His breathing grew heavy.

An inmate for nearly 16 years, Mr. Martire was expecting to be released in a few weeks. But it was so hot that day, he recalled, that he wondered if he would make it that long. He was covered in sweat and felt so lightheaded that he had to brace himself against a wall. At some point, he passed out.

“It’s kind of weird getting woken up with fingers in your eyes and not knowing how you got there,” Mr. Martire, 35, said of the efforts to revive him by pressing on pressure points around his eyes. He was eventually moved to an air-conditioned emergency medical area. “They kept me there for two hours, drinking ice water, salt water, taking my temperature, making sure I was still alive,” he said.

The weekslong June heat wave scorching Texas has been particularly brutal and dangerous inside the state’s sprawling prison system, where a majority of those incarcerated, and the guards who watch over them, have been struggling without air-conditioning.

ny times logoNew York Times, Something Was Messing With Earth’s Axis. The Answer Has to Do With Us, Raymond Zhong, June 29, 2023 (print ed.). Scientists knew the planet’s centerline could move. But it took a sharp turn sometime around the start of the 2000s.

Around the turn of the millennium, Earth’s spin started going off-kilter, and nobody could quite say why.

For decades, scientists had been watching the average position of our planet’s rotational axis, the imaginary rod around which it turns, gently wander south, away from the geographic North Pole and toward Canada. Suddenly, though, it made a sharp turn and started heading east.

In time, researchers came to a startling realization about what had happened. Accelerated melting of the polar ice sheets and mountain glaciers had changed the way mass was distributed around the planet enough to influence its spin.

Now, some of the same scientists have identified another factor that’s had the same kind of effect: colossal quantities of water pumped out of the ground for crops and households.

“Wow,” Ki-Weon Seo, who led the research behind the latest discovery, recalled thinking when his calculations showed a strong link between groundwater extraction and the drifting of Earth’s axis. It was a “big surprise,” said Dr. Seo, a geophysicist at Seoul National University.

Water experts have long warned of the consequences of groundwater overuse, particularly as water from underground aquifers becomes an increasingly vital resource in drought-stressed areas like the American West. When water is pumped out of the ground but not replenished, the land can sink, damaging homes and infrastructure and also shrinking the amount of underground space that can hold water thereafter.

ny times logoNew York Times, Smoke From Canadian Wildfires Blankets Large Swaths of the U.S, Anushka Patil and Julie Bosman, June 29, 2023 (print ed.). Thick smoke from the seemingly endless Canadian wildfires has again blanketed large swaths of the United States, prompting warnings for residents to stay indoors with few signs of any immediate respite.

Several major cities, including Detroit and Indianapolis, reported some of the worst air quality in the United States on Wednesday afternoon, with air quality indexes falling well into the “very unhealthy” category..

The wildfires prompted warnings for residents in several major cities to stay indoors with few signs of any immediate respite.

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More On U.S. Abortion, Child Porn, #MeToo

ny times logoNew York Times, A Glimpse of What Life Is Like With Almost No Abortion Access, David W. Chen, Photographs by Noriko Hayashi, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). Guam, a U.S. territory, has no resident doctors who perform abortions. Court decisions could cut access to pills, the only legal option left.

For decades, the Pregnancy Control Clinic, tucked inside a squat, beige building around the corner from a bowling alley, handled most of the abortions on Guam, a tiny U.S. territory 1,600 miles south of Japan.

But the doctor who ran it retired seven years ago, and the clinic now appears abandoned. An old medical exam table stands near a vanity with a dislodged faucet, and a letter from Dr. Edmund A. Griley is taped to the front door: “My last day of seeing patients is November 18, 2016,” he wrote. “I recommend that you begin looking for a new physician as soon as possible.”

Dr. Griley has since died, and his deserted clinic is a dusty snapshot of Guam’s past — and some say, its future.

Though abortion is legal in Guam up to 13 weeks of pregnancy, and later in certain cases, the last doctor who performed abortions left Guam in 2018. The closest abortion clinic on American soil is in Hawaii, an eight-hour flight away. And a pending court case could soon cut off access to abortion pills, the last way for most women on Guam to get legal abortions.

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Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy

ny times logoNew York Times, Anthony Fauci Will Join Faculty at Georgetown University, Mike Ives, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). Dr. Fauci was the federal government’s top infectious disease expert for decades, and helped steer the U.S. response to Covid-19.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, who served as the federal government’s top infectious disease specialist for nearly 40 years and played a key role in steering the United States through the coronavirus pandemic, will join the faculty of Georgetown University in Washington next month.

Dr. Fauci, 82, retired from the National Institutes of Health last year, having served as the director of its National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984. He was also the top Covid adviser to President Biden, a role he had filled under President Donald J. Trump. Georgetown announced his new job on Monday.

Dr. Fauci will work at Georgetown’s School of Medicine and its McCourt School of Public Policy, the university said. A spokeswoman for Georgetown did not immediately respond to an inquiry seeking details about what courses he will teach. The university’s announcement said Dr. Fauci’s role at the School of Medicine will be in an infectious disease division focused on education, research and patient care.

At the N.I.H., Dr. Fauci spent decades overseeing research on established infectious diseases — including H.I.V./AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria — and emerging ones like Ebola, Zika and Covid-19. He was also a principal architect of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a program that has delivered lifesaving treatment to more than 20 million people in 54 countries since its inception 20 years ago under President George W. Bush.

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U.S. Media, Education, Sports, Arts, High Tech

washington post logoWashington Post, National Geographic lays off its last remaining staff writers, Paul Farhi, June 29, 2023 (print ed.). The magazine, which remains among the most read in the U.S., has struggled in the digital era to command the kind of resources that fueled the deep reporting it became known for.

Like one of the endangered species whose impending extinction it has chronicled, National Geographic magazine has been on a relentlessly downward path, struggling for vibrancy in an increasingly unforgiving ecosystem.

On Wednesday, the Washington-based magazine that has surveyed science and the natural world for 135 years reached another difficult passage when it laid off all of its last remaining staff writers.

disney logoThe cutback — the latest in a series under owner Walt Disney Co. — involves some 19 editorial staffers in all, who were notified in April that these terminations were coming. Article assignments will henceforth be contracted out to freelancers or pieced together by editors. The cuts also eliminated the magazine’s small audio department.

The layoffs were the second over the past nine months, and the fourth since a series of ownership changes began in 2015. In September, Disney removed six top editors in an extraordinary reorganization of the magazine’s editorial operations.

Departing staffers said Wednesday the magazine has curtailed photo contracts that enabled photographers to spend months in the field producing the publication’s iconic images.

In a further cost-cutting move, copies of the famous bright-yellow-bordered print publication will no longer be sold on newsstands in the United States starting next year.

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June 29

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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.

 

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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.

ny times logo New York Times, Supreme Court Curtails Affirmative Action at U.S. Colleges, Adam Liptak, June 29, 2023. Strikes Down Race-Conscious Admissions at 2 Universities. The court rejected programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina. The vote was 6 to 3, with the court’s liberal members in dissent.
The decision was expected to set off a scramble as schools revisit their admissions practices. In disavowing race as a factor in achieving educational diversity, the court all but ensured that the student population at the campuses of elite institutions will become whiter and more Asian and less Black and Latino.

The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the race-conscious admissions programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina were unlawful, curtailing affirmative action at colleges and universities around the nation, a policy that has long been a pillar of higher education.

john roberts oThe vote was 6 to 3, with the court’s liberal members in dissent. In a footnote, Chief Justice Roberts, right, exempted military academies from the ruling in light of “the potentially distinct interests” they present. There had been discussion of whether the military needed to maintain affirmative action in training its future officer corps based on a judgment that it would be bad for military discipline and cohesiveness if the leadership cadre did not reflect the diversity of the rank-and-file troops who do the bulk of fighting and dying in wars.

Justices Sotomayor and Jackson both criticized the majority for making an exception for military academies. Justice Sotomayor called it ketanji brown jackson robearbitrary, while Justice Jackson, left, wrote, “The court has come to rest on the bottom-line conclusion that racial diversity in higher education is only worth potentially preserving insofar as it might be needed to prepare Black Americans and other underrepresented minorities for success in the bunker, not the boardroom (a particularly awkward place to land, in light of the history the majority opts to ignore).”

Justin Driver, a professor at Yale Law School and an expert on the Supreme Court’s education rulings, predicted that the affirmative action decision could cause some state universities to move to race-neutral strategies for increasing diversity, such as the “top percent” model used in Texas.

In that state, students with the highest grade point averages at each high school are guaranteed admission to a public university, including the system’s flagship, the University of Texas at Austin.

In a statement celebrating the decision, Edward Blum, the conservative activist behind the lawsuits against Harvard and U.N.C., said: “Ending racial preferences in college admissions is an outcome that the vast majority of all races and ethnicities will celebrate. A university doesn’t have real diversity when it simply assembles students who look different but come from similar backgrounds and act, talk and think alike.”

In Justice Jackson’s dissent in the U.N.C. case, she wrote: “It would be deeply unfortunate if the Equal Protection Clause actually demanded this perverse, ahistorical and counterproductive outcome. To impose this result in that clause’s name when it requires no such thing, and to thereby obstruct our collective progress toward the full realization of the clause’s promise, is truly a tragedy for us all.”

washington post logoWashington Post, State affirmative action bans helped White, Asian students, hurt others, Janice Kai Chen and Daniel Wolfe, Updated June 29, 2023. While highly selective schools saw diversity decline, data shows other schools saw growth

The Supreme Court has ruled to restrict affirmative action and eliminate race-conscious admissions in higher education, overturning more than four decades of court precedent.

A Washington Post review of 30 years of race and ethnicity data from the eight states that currently ban race-based admission policies in higher education shows how a federal ban on affirmative action might harm minority students across the United States.

Where race-based admission policies were banned in 2021, already underrepresented racial groups had even lower representation when compared to states harvard logowithout bans. Banned states in 2021 include Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Washington.

Two lawsuits, against the University of North Carolina and Harvard University, are behind the high court’s decision to federally restrict affirmative action. Plaintiffs in both cases contend that race-conscious admissions favor some students — Black, Hispanic and Native Americans — over others.

How is affirmative action used in college admissions?

north carolina map

At the University of North Carolina, White students have been overrepresented for the past 30 years, with the White freshman class approaching racial parity only in 2020, when compared to state demographics. Black students have remained underrepresented by around 10 points.

ny times logoNew York Times, Dangerous Temperatures Stretch Across the South, Marie Elizabeth Oliver, Stacey Cato and Livia Albeck-Ripka, June 29, 2023. A dome of high pressure that has baked parts of the region for more than a week will drive the heat index up to 120 degrees, forecasters say.

An oppressive heat wave that baked Texas and Oklahoma last week, contributing to several deaths, is raising the heat index to dangerous levels from Kansas City, Mo., to the Florida Keys.

Temperatures will climb up to 20 degrees above normal for much of the region through at least the weekend, reaching the high 90s or low 100s in many places. The heat index — a measure of how heat and humidity make the air feel — will be even higher.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Man Down!’: Surviving the Texas Heat in Prisons Without Air-Conditioning, J. David Goodman, June 29, 2023. The record June heat has been particularly dangerous inside the state’s prisons, where indoor temperatures can top 110 degrees.

On the third day of 100-degree temperatures last week, locked without air-conditioning in a Texas prison north of Houston, Joseph Martire said he began to feel overwhelmed. His breathing grew heavy.

An inmate for nearly 16 years, Mr. Martire was expecting to be released in a few weeks. But it was so hot that day, he recalled, that he wondered if he would make it that long. He was covered in sweat and felt so lightheaded that he had to brace himself against a wall. At some point, he passed out.

“It’s kind of weird getting woken up with fingers in your eyes and not knowing how you got there,” Mr. Martire, 35, said of the efforts to revive him by pressing on pressure points around his eyes. He was eventually moved to an air-conditioned emergency medical area. “They kept me there for two hours, drinking ice water, salt water, taking my temperature, making sure I was still alive,” he said.

The weekslong June heat wave scorching Texas has been particularly brutal and dangerous inside the state’s sprawling prison system, where a majority of those incarcerated, and the guards who watch over them, have been struggling without air-conditioning.

ny times logoNew York Times, Something Was Messing With Earth’s Axis. The Answer Has to Do With Us, Raymond Zhong, June 29, 2023 (print ed.). Scientists knew the planet’s centerline could move. But it took a sharp turn sometime around the start of the 2000s.

Around the turn of the millennium, Earth’s spin started going off-kilter, and nobody could quite say why.

For decades, scientists had been watching the average position of our planet’s rotational axis, the imaginary rod around which it turns, gently wander south, away from the geographic North Pole and toward Canada. Suddenly, though, it made a sharp turn and started heading east.

In time, researchers came to a startling realization about what had happened. Accelerated melting of the polar ice sheets and mountain glaciers had changed the way mass was distributed around the planet enough to influence its spin.

Now, some of the same scientists have identified another factor that’s had the same kind of effect: colossal quantities of water pumped out of the ground for crops and households.

“Wow,” Ki-Weon Seo, who led the research behind the latest discovery, recalled thinking when his calculations showed a strong link between groundwater extraction and the drifting of Earth’s axis. It was a “big surprise,” said Dr. Seo, a geophysicist at Seoul National University.

Water experts have long warned of the consequences of groundwater overuse, particularly as water from underground aquifers becomes an increasingly vital resource in drought-stressed areas like the American West. When water is pumped out of the ground but not replenished, the land can sink, damaging homes and infrastructure and also shrinking the amount of underground space that can hold water thereafter.

ny times logoNew York Times, Smoke From Canadian Wildfires Blankets Large Swaths of the U.S, Anushka Patil and Julie Bosman, June 29, 2023 (print ed.). Thick smoke from the seemingly endless Canadian wildfires has again blanketed large swaths of the United States, prompting warnings for residents to stay indoors with few signs of any immediate respite.

Several major cities, including Detroit and Indianapolis, reported some of the worst air quality in the United States on Wednesday afternoon, with air quality indexes falling well into the “very unhealthy” category..

The wildfires prompted warnings for residents in several major cities to stay indoors with few signs of any immediate respite.

 

Scot Peterson, a former school resource officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, during closing arguments in his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Pool photo by Amy Beth Bennett).

 Scot Peterson, a former school resource officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, during closing arguments in his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Pool photo by Amy Beth Bennett)

ny times logoNew York Times, Jury Acquits Deputy Who Failed to Confront Parkland Gunman, Patricia Mazzei (who reported from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., covered the Parkland school shooting in 2018 and the gunman’s sentencing trial last year),.June 29, 2023.  Scot Peterson was found not guilty of child neglect, culpable negligence and perjury in a rare trial over police inaction in a school shooting.

A former Florida sheriff’s deputy who failed to confront the gunman at a Parkland high school five years ago, and instead backed away from the building while the students and teachers inside endured a deadly barrage, was found not guilty of child neglect and other crimes on Thursday.

Scot Peterson, a former Broward County sheriff’s deputy, was acquitted of seven counts of child neglect and three counts of culpable negligence for the deaths and injuries of 10 people on the third floor of the building where the shooting occurred. He was also found not guilty of one count of perjury for claiming to the police that he heard only a few gunshots and saw no children fleeing.

When Mr. Peterson’s behavior was revealed after the shooting, critics — including some fellow police officers — painted him as being too scared to face a heavily armed gunman. His actions outraged the Parkland community, and Mr. Peterson was cast as the central character in a morality tale about cowardice and law enforcement’s duty to protect children. One victim’s father told him to “rot in hell,” and he was derided in national media outlets as the “coward in Broward.”

In all, 17 people were killed and 17 were wounded in the shooting, which was carried out by a former student. The gunman was sentenced last year to life in prison. Mr. Peterson was the lone armed resource officer assigned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the Feb. 14, 2018, massacre.

Patricia Mazzei reported from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and covered the Parkland school shooting in 2018 and the gunman’s sentencing trial last year.

ny times logoNew York Times, Former Ohio House Speaker Awaits Sentence on $60 Million Bribery Scheme, Michael Wines, June 29, 2023. A federal jury found Larry L. Householder guilty in March of participating in a racketeering conspiracy that resulted in a $1.3 billion bailout for two struggling nuclear power plants.

It is, federal prosecutors say, perhaps the biggest public corruption scandal in Ohio’s history, a three-year conspiracy in which one of Ohio’s biggest corporations funneled some $60 million to one of the state’s most powerful politicians in exchange for a $1.3 billion bailout.

And those investigators say they are only coming to the end of Act I.

On Thursday, the former Republican speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, Larry L. Householder, will be sentenced in federal court in Cincinnati for violating racketeering and bribery laws.

The outlines of the charges have been known since his arrest, with four other men, three years ago: FirstEnergy Corporation, a Fortune 500 electric utility based in Akron, funneled the $60 million though various nonprofit entities. In return, Mr. Householder rammed a law through the state legislature that gave the company the bailout for two troubled nuclear power plants. Prosecutors have recommended a sentence of up to 20 years.

But, as described early this year in a 26-day trial, the alliance between the utility and Mr. Householder, 64, was far more than a bribery scandal. Among other things, prosecutors and experts say, it was an almost cinematic example of how the dark money that pervades both state and federal politics slithers unseen from donor to beneficiary.

It is also a cautionary tale about how state legislatures — second-rung political bodies that are often run by part-time politicians, but increasingly dealing with issues of national importance — are at least as prone to manipulation by special interests as their Washington counterparts.

David DeVillers, who oversaw the federal investigation as the U.S. attorney in Cincinnati until early 2021, said in an interview that the gusher of dark money was crucial to the plot and an issue well beyond Ohio.

“Any time you have a supermajority, whether it’s Republicans or Democrats, and industries that are based on passing laws like marijuana or sports gambling or energy, it’s a formula for corruption,” he said.

Mr. Householder, a onetime insurance agent from an impoverished rural county in southeast Ohio, had been House speaker from 2001 to 2004. He left his legislative seat because of term limits and faced a federal corruption investigation after leaving the post then, but was not charged.

After returning to the legislature in 2016, Mr. Householder secretly spent millions in 2018 to support Republican candidates for 21 seats in the State House — more than a fifth of the 99 seats — who would back his insurgent campaign to again become House speaker. He spent more millions on a media campaign to push the nuclear bailout law to passage, and then tens of millions on a scorched-earth crusade to undermine a ballot initiative that threatened to undo it.

 

In this handout photo taken from video released by Prigozhin Press Service on Friday, March 3, 2023, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner Group military company, addresses Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asking him to withdraw the remaining Ukrainian forces from Bakhmut to save their lives, at an unspecified location in Ukraine. Prigozhin's criticism of the top military brass is in stark contrast with more than two decades of rigidly controlled rule by President Vladimir Putin without any sign of infighting among his top lieutenants. (Prigozhin Press Service via AP, File)

In this handout photo taken from video released by Prigozhin Press Service on Friday, March 3, 2023, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner Group military company, addresses Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asking him to withdraw the remaining Ukrainian forces from Bakhmut to save their lives, at an unspecified location in Ukraine. Prigozhin's criticism of the top military brass is in stark contrast with more than two decades of rigidly controlled rule by President Vladimir Putin without any sign of infighting among his top lieutenants. (Prigozhin Press Service via AP, File)

ny times logoNew York Times, Yevgeny Prigozhin May Be Gone, but Not the Failings He Ranted About, Neil MacFarquhar, June 29, 2023. Russia’s military suffers from poor leadership, but the morale-sapping lack of accountability is even worse, analysts say.

The Russian warlord whose 24-hour mutiny provoked the worst crisis to roil the country in three decades has been packed off to an uncertain exile — along with the foul-mouthed critiques of the Russian military that won him legions of followers, especially within the ranks.

Yet the problems identified by Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner mercenary group, did not disappear with him, military analysts say, and are likely to continue to fester, enraging troops and further lowering already sickly morale.

These include an overall lack of command and control, rigid hierarchy, corruption, tangled logistics, equipment shortages and the absence of an honest, public assessment of the war in Ukraine. The emergence of several other private military companies like Wagner promises to further complicate matters.

“If Prigozhin is gone, the problems will not go with him,” said Dmitri Kuznets, a military analyst for Meduza, an independent Russian news website. “They are here to stay, this is a bigger problem than Prigozhin himself.”

 

 

Vladimir Putin, right, in a 2017 photo with Gen. Sergei Surovikin, recently appointed as Russian commander of Russia's military in Ukraine (Pool Photo by Alexei Druzhinin).

Russian leader Vladimir Putin, right, in a 2017 photo with Gen. Sergei Surovikin, who had been appointed and then demoted as Russian commander of Russia's military in Ukraine. U.S. officials are trying to determine if the general aided Yevgeny Prigozhin’s plans to rebel against Russia’s military leadership (Pool Photo by Alexei Druzhinin of Sputnik via Reuters).

ny times logoNew York Times, Top Russian General Appears to Be Detained, U.S. Officials Say, Ivan Nechepurenko and Valerie Hopkins,June 29, 2023. U.S. officials said that Russian authorities appear to have detained Sergei Surovikin under suspicion of his involvement in the mercenaries’ failed rebellion.

U.S. officials, citing early intelligence reports, say that Russian authorities appear to have detained a top general under suspicion that he was involved in or had knowledge of the planning for the Wagner Group’s failed rebellion.

The circumstances surrounding the status of the general, Sergei Surovikin, are still very murky. U.S. officials cautioned that the reports were not conclusive and said they could not provide further details.

American officials would not say — or do not know — if he was formally arrested or just held for questioning.

Focus in Russia on the fate of General Surovikin, the country’s former top commander in Ukraine, has been intense following a New York Times report that U.S. spy agencies believe that he knew ahead of time about the rebellion, led by Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, against Russia’s military leadership.

A senior NATO-country diplomat said that firm intelligence was lacking, but that careful comments by Kremlin spokesman Dmitri S. Peskov on Thursday in which he deflected questions about General Surovikin’s whereabouts seemed to confirm the general’s detention.

News of General Surovikin’s detention was earlier reported by The Financial Times.

There were conflicting reports in the Russian news media about General Surovikin’s fate. Some pro-war bloggers on the popular Telegram social network reported this week that he had been arrested, while others said that was not the case.

One popular account posted a recording of an interview with a woman it said was General Surovikin’s daughter, who denied that her father had been arrested. “Nothing happened to him,” she said. “He’s at his work location.” The account could not be independently verified.

American intelligence agencies have been trying to learn more about the general’s potential role in the rebellion: whether he simply knew about it or helped plan the revolt, which has come to be seen as the most dramatic threat to President Vladimir V. Putin in his 23 years in power.

The question is a critical one for Mr. Putin as well.

For years, Mr. Putin has allowed different factions to exist inside the Russian military. But after the short-lived mutiny, the Kremlin may be more likely to purge at least some of the senior officers who are less supportive of Sergei K. Shoigu, the defense minister.

Mr. Prigozhin had expressed rage against Russian military leadership for months before the revolt, concentrating most of his ire on Mr. Putin’s two senior military advisers: Mr. Shoigu and Gen. Valery V. Gerasimov, the chief of the general staff.

American officials said that Mr. Prigozhin’s failed rebellion could, at least for the time being, have the perverse effect of strengthening Mr. Shoigu’s hold on the top job, since Mr. Putin would not want to be seen as caving to Mr. Prigozhin.

Some Western analysts said the apparent detention of General Surovikin and uncertainty about the fate of other senior officers could hurt Russian troop morale.

“That there has not been a clear signal from the top about these very senior generals’ standing after the Prigozhin mutiny can’t be good for morale,” said Samuel Charap, a Russia analyst at the RAND Corporation.

“Surovikin in particular is known to be popular with the rank and file,” Mr. Charap said. “If he has been arrested and there is no explanation from the top, one can imagine his subordinates might be preoccupied with their own safety not the war.”

Steven Erlanger and Anton Troianovski contributed reporting.

Days after a brief rebellion threatened his leadership, President Vladimir V. Putin made a rare public outing, wading into a crowd of well-wishers to show he still has public support, even as U.S. officials said Thursday that early intelligence reports suggest a top general had been detained in connection with the failed uprising.

In a highly choreographed outing on Wednesday evening, Mr. Putin strode through a cheering crowd of people in southern Russia, shaking hands, kissing supporters and posing for selfies. He cast aside the strict social-distancing protocols he has observed since the Covid pandemic. On Thursday, he attended a technology fair in Moscow where he joked onstage with other panelists.

 

U.S. Economy, Jobs, Budgets

washington post logoWashington Post, Embracing ‘Bidenomics,’ president seeks to turn insult into strength, Matt Viser and Cleve R. Wootson Jr., June 29, 2023 (print ed.). Adoption of conservative barb, highlighted in a speech Wednesday, reflects a decision to own the economy — for better or worse.

President Biden was midway through a recent speech at a labor rally when he turned to an explanation of a kitchen-table economic philosophy that he says was formed, literally, at his parents’ kitchen table. “The press has now called [it] ‘Bidenomics,’” he said. “I don’t know what the hell that is.”

joe biden twitterThe crowd laughed as he offered, “But it’s working.”

Two weeks later, the White House has mobilized an entire week around elaborating on, reclaiming and defining just what Bidenomics is — something they have cast expansively as broadening and benefiting the middle class.

On Wednesday, the president delivered a major speech on his economic vision, with an eye toward the 2024 campaign. It followed a four-page memo from senior advisers that highlighted the concept, with subheads including “Bidenomics is working” and “The American people strongly support Bidenomics.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Bidenomics is transformative. Biden needs to ensure voters know it, Jennifer Rubin, right,June 29, 2023. Some presidents don’t have a jennifer rubin new headshotstrong story to tell about their record, so they deflect, distract and demonize their opponents. Other presidents’ records almost speak for themselves. President Biden, however, finds himself in an unusual spot: An economic record that has been working far better than most people anticipated but that the electorate doesn’t yet recognize.

democratic donkey logoThe economy has created 13 million jobs, inflation has been more than cut in half, huge investments are being made in infrastructure and green energy, wage growth has begun to outpace inflation, the first drug price controls are going into effect and the biggest corporations will finally be forced to pay something in federal taxes. Yet polls show voters incorrectly think we are in a recession and remain negative about the economy.

The White House is well aware of the problem.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden calls out Republican who hailed broadband money after opposing law, Maegan Vazquez, June 29, 2023 (print ed.). The White House has criticized GOP lawmakers who voted against the 2021 infrastructure bill. On Wednesday the president went after Sen. Tommy Tuberville.

A number of congressional Republicans who voted against the bipartisan infrastructure law are now spotlighting and at times celebrating how it will fund broadband expansion in their home states.

And President Biden is mocking them for touting money they opposed.

“See you at the groundbreaking,” Biden tweeted Wednesday, retweeting this comment from Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) earlier in the week: “Great to see Alabama receive crucial funds to boost ongoing broadband efforts.” Tuberville was one of 30 Senate Republicans to vote against the bill in August 2021.

Hours later in Chicago, during a speech on his economic agenda, Biden kept at it, calling out Tuberville by name.

Biden spoke of the lawmakers who “strenuously opposed” the bill and suggested that his $42 billion to expand high-speed internet access, announced earlier this week, is “bringing along some converts” in the Republican Party.

“There’s a guy named Tuberville … senator from Alabama,” who “strongly opposed the legislation,” Biden told the crowd. “Now, he’s hailing its passage.”
Biden calls out senator who once opposed infrastructure bill

The Biden administration’s plan aims to deliver reliable broadband to the entire country by 2030. Alabama is among the 10 states receiving the most funding through the plan — $1.4 billion.

In 2021, Tuberville argued that he could not vote for the infrastructure legislation, saying it “fails to give Alabama a fair slice of the pie while also saddling Alabama taxpayers with even more debt.”

Tuberville and other Republicans now argue that since Biden signed the bill into law, their constituents deserve to get their slice of federal dollars.

ny times logoNew York Times, Republicans’ Problem in Attacking Biden: They Helped Pass His Economic Bills, Jonathan Weisman and Reid J. Epstein, June 29, 2023. President Biden isn’t the only one doing a full summer embrace of federal spending on infrastructure and semiconductor manufacturing — so are some of the Republicans aiming to remove him from office next year.

The White House has labeled the president’s new economic campaign Bidenomics, a portmanteau that until now has been a pejorative used by Republicans and conservative news outlets primarily to underscore inflation.

But in a speech on Wednesday in Chicago about the economy, Mr. Biden latched on, with a renewed focus on the two most significant bipartisan legislative accomplishments of his term, the infrastructure bill and the CHIPS and Science Act. He hopes these measures will help brand him as the cross-aisle deal maker he sold to voters in 2020, appeal to political moderates who formed a core of his winning electoral coalition and impress upon tuned-out voters what he has done in office.

One significant benefit for Mr. Biden: Republicans helped pass those bills.

While G.O.P. presidential candidates and the Republican National Committee continue to paint Mr. Biden’s economic stewardship as a rolling disaster, Republican senators who helped shape the legislation say they anticipated that those accomplishments would accrue to Mr. Biden’s political advantage — as well as to their own.

Politico, Biden world wants Republicans to feel the pain for voting no while taking the dough, Jennifer Haberkorn, June 29, 2023 (print ed.). Unlike past attempts to sell the public on its work, the administration seems intent to inflict a modicum of political pain for those who opposed it.

politico CustomJennifer Granholm came to a Baptist church community center on Tuesday not to find connection with a higher power but to pitch a cleaner one.

The Energy secretary was hawking energy efficient solar panels, heat pumps, electric vehicles and induction stoves, doing so with the type of passion most commonly associated with a timeshare salesperson.

“Those of you with cameras, get them ready,” she said excitedly to the daytime crowd of about 100 people. “Because if you’re interested in knowing when all of this is available and how to take advantage of it, I’m going to have a screenshot.”

In a PowerPoint presentation, Granholm listed all the tax credits available to consumers who buy the products thanks to legislation approved in the beginning of President Joe Biden’s term. Her message was unmistakable: the president wants to put money in your pocket.

A Cabinet secretary talking up the achievements of the administration in which she served is hardly revelatory politics. What was notable about Granholm’s stop was where it took place.

She has taken her sales pitch across the South this week, venturing into the congressional districts of five House Republicans who opposed the legislation responsible for those clean energy investments. It is part of the “Investing in America” tour, a broader Biden administration effort to sell the measures — the American Rescue Plan, Inflation Reduction Act, the bipartisan infrastructure law and the CHIPS and Science Act. But unlike past attempts by the administration to sell the public on its work, this one seems designed to inflict a modicum of political pain for those who opposed it.

Between Charlotte, N.C., and Chattanooga, Tenn., Granholm is traversing the districts of GOP Reps. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, Joe Wilson of South Carolina, Mike Collins and Barry Loudermilk of Georgia and Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee.

In addition to Granholm’s stops, White House senior advisor Mitch Landrieu will talk about high-speed internet funding in GOP Rep. Buddy Carter’s district in Savannah, Ga., on Wednesday. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is going to Rep. Hal Rogers’s Kentucky district to talk about infrastructure. There are also stops in more friendly Democratic territory, such as New York, Philadelphia, Seattle and New Orleans, many of them with Democratic lawmakers.

All of the Republicans whose districts the administration is visiting this week opposed the bills signed into law by Biden.

 

ron desantis hands out

washington post logoWashington Post, DeSantis agency sent $92 million in covid relief funds to donor-backed project, Michael Scherer, Isaac Arnsdorf and Josh Dawsey, June 29, 2023. Mori Hosseini, who donated a golf simulator to the governor’s mansion, championed a new exchange on Interstate 95 that feeds into his housing and shopping center project.

The administration of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) steered $92 million last year in leftover federal coronavirus stimulus money to a controversial highway interchange project that directly benefits a top political donor, according to state records.

The decision by the Florida Department of Transportation to use money from the 2021 American Rescue Plan for the I-95 interchange at Pioneer Trail Road near Daytona Beach fulfilled a years-long effort by Mori Hosseini, a politically connected housing developer who owns two large tracts of largely forested land abutting the planned interchange. The funding through the DeSantis administration, approved shortly after the governor’s reelection, expedited the project by more than a decade, according to state documents.

Hosseini plans to develop the land — which includes a sensitive watershed once targeted for conservation by the state — into approximately 1,300 dwelling units and 650,000 square feet of nonresidential use, including an outdoor village shopping district. He has called the Woodhaven development, which has already begun construction, his “best project yet” and promised to pull out all the stops for its success.of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

 

U.S. Supreme Court

washington post logoWashington Post, Possible Supreme Court rulings to come on student loans and affirmative action, John Wagner, Nick Anderson, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel and Susan Svrluga, June 29, 2023. State affirmative action bans helped White, Asian students, hurt others.

With the end of its term looming, the Supreme Court could announce momentous opinions Thursday affecting President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan and decades of precedent allowing race-conscious affirmative action in college admissions.

The high court weighed whether Biden has authority to forgive more than $400 million in federal student loan debt — a policy projected to benefit more than 40 million Americans. Separately, it is expected to rule soon on whether colleges and universities may consider an applicant’s race in making admission decisions. A plaintiff had challenged race-conscious programs at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

washington post logoWashington Post, On cusp of affirmative action decision, how Supreme Court ruled before, Robert Barnes, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). Ahead of affirmative action decisions involving Harvard and the University of North Carolina expected this week, a review of how the Supreme Court ruled before.

 

 north carolina map

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Rejects Theory That Would Have Transformed American Elections, Adam Liptak, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). The 6-3 majority dismissed the “independent state legislature” theory, which would have given state lawmakers nearly unchecked power over federal elections.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a legal theory that would have radically reshaped how federal elections are conducted by giving state legislatures largely unchecked power to set all sorts of rules for federal elections and to draw congressional maps warped by partisan gerrymandering.

The vote was 6 to 3, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. writing the majority opinion. The Constitution, he said, “does not exempt state legislatures from the ordinary constraints imposed by state law.”

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch dissented.

The case concerned the “independent state legislature” theory. The doctrine is based on a reading of the Constitution’s Elections Clause, which says, “The times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof.”

Proponents of the strongest form of the theory say this means that no other organs of state government — not courts, not governors, not election administrators, not independent commissions — can alter a legislature’s actions on federal elections.

The case, Moore v. Harper, No. 21-1271, concerned a voting map drawn by the North Carolina Legislature that was initially rejected as a partisan gerrymander by the state’s Supreme Court. Experts said the map was likely to yield a congressional delegation made up of 10 Republicans and four Democrats.

The state court rejected the argument that it was not entitled to review the actions of the state’s Legislature, saying that adopting the independent state legislature theory would be “repugnant to the sovereignty of states, the authority of state constitutions and the independence of state courts, and would produce absurd and dangerous consequences.”

Republicans seeking to restore the legislative map last year asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene, arguing in an emergency application that the state court had been powerless to act.

The justices rejected the request for immediate intervention, and the election in November was conducted under a map drawn by experts appointed by a state court. That resulted in a 14-member congressional delegation that was evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, roughly mirroring the state’s partisan divisions.

The Republican lawmakers appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying the state court was not entitled to second-guess the Legislature. When the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case in December, the justices seemed divided, if not fractured, over the limits of the theory.

The composition of the North Carolina Supreme Court changed after elections in November, favoring Republicans by a 5-to-2 margin. In what a dissenting justice called a “shameful manipulation of fundamental principles of our democracy and the rule of law,” the new majority reversed course, saying the Legislature was free to draw gerrymandered voting districts as it saw fit.

Many observers had expected the U.S. Supreme Court to dismiss the case in light of that development. But Chief Justice Roberts concluded that the Supreme Court retained jurisdiction over the case.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Supreme Court Just Helped Save American Democracy From Trumpism, David French, right, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). To understand david french croppedboth the Trump-led Republican effort to overturn the 2020 election and the lingering Republican bitterness surrounding that contest, it’s important to remember that the G.O.P.’s attack on American democracy had two aspects: a conspiracy theory and a coup theory. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court dealt a blow to both. In a case called Moore v. Harper, the court rejected the “independent state legislature” doctrine, reaffirmed the soundness of the 2020 election and secured the integrity of elections to come.

First, a bit of background. The effort to steal the 2020 election depended on two key arguments. The first, the conspiracy theory, was that the election was fundamentally flawed; the second, the coup theory, was that the Constitution provided a remedy that would enable Donald Trump to remain in office.

The disparate elements of the conspiracy theory varied from truly wild claims about voting machines being manipulated and Italian satellites somehow altering the outcome to more respectable arguments that pandemic-induced changes in voting procedures were both unconstitutional and disproportionately benefited Democrats. For example, in one of the most important cases filed during the 2020 election season, the Pennsylvania Republican Party argued that changes in voting procedures mandated by the State Supreme Court violated the Constitution by overriding the will of the Pennsylvania legislature.

The Pennsylvania G.O.P. argued for a version of the independent state legislature doctrine, a theory that the Constitution grants state legislatures — and state legislatures alone — broad, independent powers to regulate elections for president and for Congress. The basis for this argument is found in both Article I and Article II of the Constitution. The relevant provision of Article I states, “The times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof.” And Article II’s electors clause says, “Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of senators and representatives to which the state may be entitled in the Congress.”

The question was whether those two clauses essentially insulated the state legislatures from accountability to other state branches of government, including from judicial review by state courts.

The Supreme Court refused to hear the Pennsylvania G.O.P.’s petition, with Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissenting. But the issue was bound to come back to the court, and in Moore v. Harper it did.

Politico, How the Supreme Court’s decision on election law could shut the door on future fake electors, Zach Montellaro, Kyle Cheney and Madison Fernandez, June 29, 2023 (print ed.). “It keeps the toothpaste in the tube,” one election expert said.

politico CustomThe Supreme Court’s rejection of a controversial election theory may also have another huge political consequence for future presidential contests: It obliterated the dubious fake elector scheme that Donald Trump deployed in his failed attempt to seize a second term.

That scheme relied on friendly state legislatures appointing “alternate” slates of pro-Trump presidential electors — even if state laws certified victory for Joe Biden. Backed by fringe theories crafted by attorneys like John Eastman, Trump contended that state legislatures could unilaterally reverse the outcome and override their own laws and constitutions to do so.

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court says a conviction for online threats violated 1st Amendment, Ann E. Marimow and Robert Barnes, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). The Supreme Court on Tuesday reversed the conviction of a man who made extensive online threats to a stranger, saying free speech protections require prosecutors to prove the stalker was aware of the threatening nature of his communications.

In a 7-2 ruling with Justice Elena Kagan writing for the majority, the court emphasized that true threats of violence are not protected by the First Amendment. But to guard against a chilling effect on non-threatening speech, the majority said, states must prove that a criminal defendant has acted recklessly, meaning that he “disregarded a substantial risk that his communications would be viewed as threatening violence.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined in part by Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, agreed with the outcome but expressed concern about the risk of cracking down on speech that is unintentionally threatening. She worried that the ruling could lead, for instance, to a high school student going to prison for sending another student violent music lyrics.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Amy Coney Barrett dissented from the majority, with Barrett writing that the standard set by the court on Thursday gives “preferential treatment” to a broad range of threatening speech and makes it more difficult for law enforcement to address actual threats.

“A delusional speaker may lack awareness of the threatening nature of her speech; a devious speaker may strategically disclaim such awareness; and a lucky speaker may leave behind no evidence of mental state for the government to use against her,” Barrett wrote. “The Court’s decision thus sweeps much further than it lets on.”

His online messages terrorized her. But were they actual threats?

The case concerned a Colorado law used to convict Billy Raymond Counterman of stalking and causing “emotional distress” to Coles Whalen, a singer-songwriter he had never met. Counterman, who had previously been convicted of making threats to others, served four years in prison in the Whalen case.

The court’s interest involved the question of when statements, especially those made online, can be considered “true threats” not protected by the First Amendment.

Counterman contended that the state must show that the speaker intends the messages to be threatening. Colorado, backed by the Justice Department and a majority of states, says it should be enough that a “reasonable” recipient feel that physical harm could be imminent, on the basis of the context of the circumstances.

The case returns to the lower courts, where prosecutors could decide to retry the matter under the new standards set by the Supreme Court’s decision.

Whalen testified at Counterman’s trial, and told The Washington Post in an interview, that she was terrified by Counterman’s relentless pursuit. She said she never knew whether her stalker would be in the crowd at her performances. The worry affected her mental health, caused her to cancel concerts and hampered her career and even caused her for a time to give up performing, she said.

“I’m currently unsupervised. I know, it freaks me out too, but the possibilities are endless.”

ny times logoNew York Times, The Key Cases the Supreme Court Has Yet to Decide in 2023, Adam Liptak and Eli Murray, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). The court, which is expected to issue some of its remaining decisions on Tuesday, lurched to the right a year ago. Here’s how it’s been ruling this term.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue the final decisions of its current term this week, including ones on the fate of affirmative action in higher education, President Biden’s plan to forgive more than $400 billion of student debt and the civil rights of same-sex couples.

The court — dominated by a 6-to-3 conservative majority, including three justices appointed by President Donald J. Trump — lurched to the right last June in blockbuster decisions on abortion, guns, religion and climate change. Its record in the current term, which started in October, has so far been more mixed, with the court’s three liberal members voting with the majority, for instance, in important cases on Native American adoptions and minority voting rights. The court will issue some of the remaining rulings on Tuesday.

According to a survey conducted in April by researchers at Harvard, Stanford and the University of Texas, the public is often — but hardly always — divided along partisan lines on how the court should rule in the term’s major cases.

Undecided cases

  • Affirmative Action
  • State Legislatures and Federal Elections
  • Student Loans
  • Religion, Free Speech and Gay Rights
  • Religious Employees

Decided cases

  • Race and Voting Maps
  • Tribal Rights
  • Environmental Protection
  • Animal Cruelty and Interstate Commerce
  • Fair Use of Copyrighted Works
  • Scope of Tech Platforms’ Liability Shield
  • Tech Platforms and Terrorism

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court won’t hear charter school’s bid to force girls to wear skirts, Rachel Weiner and Moriah Balingit, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). The Supreme Court on Monday declined to review the case of a North Carolina charter school that wanted to force female students to wear skirts in the name of “chivalry,” letting stand a lower-court ruling that deemed the policy unconstitutional.

The move is a victory for civil liberties advocates and a blow to social conservatives who hoped that — after allowing public vouchers to be used at religious schools last year — the top U.S. court would exempt charter schools from constitutional protections. The case could have had far-reaching implications for charter schools, which operate in a gray area, functioning as public schools that are run by private organizations.

“If accepted, Charter Day School’s argument that it should be free to violate students’ constitutional rights would have … threatened the freedoms of 3.6 million public charter school students nationwide,” Ria Tabacco Mar of the American Civil Liberties Union said in an email. The ACLU litigated the case on behalf of two parents and one student who challenged the school dress code.

 

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Sheldon Whitehouse was right all along: The Supreme Court is corrupt, Jennifer Rubin, right, June 25, 2023. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse jennifer rubin new headshothas been arguing for years that a flood of “dark money” flowing through right-wing front groups has corrupted the Supreme Court. Never has there been more evidence to bolster his claim.

sheldon whitehouseWhitehouse (D-R.I.), left, told me in an extensive phone interview last week that Justice Samuel A. Alito’s Jr.’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal intending to pre-but a ProPublica story revealing he failed to disclose gifts from billionaire and right-wing donor Paul Singer and paul singerrecuse from a case involving Singer, right, was “very, very weird.”

And it was not merely because he took to the op-ed pages of a sympathetic right-wing Rupert Murdoch newspaper as though he were a panicky politician trying to control the damage. (If that were his intent, it horribly backfired because the stunt only called attention to his angry response and the underlying charges. He managed to make it front-page news. “If you were filing a pleading, this would have pretty much failed,” Whitehouse observed.)

The senator ticked off the problems with Alito’s argument: factual omissions (e.g., the standard for exempt gifts does not include transportation); Alito’s lame effort to turn an airplane into a “facility” to jam it into an exempt-gift category (“It doesn’t pass the laugh test,” Whitehouse said); Alito’s plea that he couldn’t possibly have known Singer had a financial stake ($2 billion) in the outcome of a case before the court (although it was widely reported in the media); and the insistence that yet another billionaire was a “friend,” which somehow absolved him from his obligation to report gifts of “hospitality.” And, Whitehouse argued, it strains credulity that Alito (like Justice Clarence Thomas) could be confused about reporting requirements when there is a Financial Disclosure Committee expressly set up to help judges navigate these issues.

All in all, the poorly reasoned argument amounted to what Whitehouse called “a painful exhibit for an actual ethics code.” A bill he co-authored with Judiciary Chairman Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), set to be marked up after July 4, would confirm that the code of ethics applicable to all judges applies to the high court, set up a process for screening ethics complaints and allow chief judges of the circuit to advise on how their circuits handle similar matters. This is “not remotely unconstitutional,” he noted. (Whitehouse wryly remarked that the last thing the justices want is a comparison to circuit courts’ conduct. “The best way to show that a stick is crooked is to lay a straight stick alongside it,” he said.) Whitehouse is merely asking for the court to develop a process that the judicial branch would oversee for the sake of restoring confidence in the Supreme Court.

Yet another poll, this time from Quinnipiac, shows the court’s approval at an all-time low — 29 percent. Don’t they care?

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Documents reveal Supreme Court justices’ long-running tensions over ethics, Tobi Raji, Theodoric Meyer and Leigh Ann Caldwell, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). This could be a big week for the Supreme Court.

The justices are expected to hand down decisions beginning Tuesday on the remaining cases they heard this term, including whether colleges and universities can continue to use affirmative action in admissions decisions and whether President Biden’s student loan forgiveness program is lawful.

It comes as the justices face intense scrutiny over their rulings and the ethics controversies surrounding them, which have led to intensifying calls for binding ethics rules.

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More on Russia, Ukraine

ny times logoNew York Times, Lukashenko Says That During Revolt, Putin Suggested Killing Mercenary Chief, Anton Troianovski, Valerie Hopkins and Victoria Kim, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus, below left, said that he had argued against the move, and confirmed that Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner alexander lukashenko resized 2019mercenary group, had arrived in the country, Belarusian state media reported.

Here are the latest developments.

The Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, right, arrived in Belarus on Tuesday, the Belarusian state news media reported, ending days of yevgeny prigozhin headshot speakingspeculation over his whereabouts after he called off a weekend uprising that marked the most dramatic challenge to President Vladimir V. Putin’s rule in two decades.

New details emerged about the negotiations that ended the daylong rebellion, as President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus, Russia’s closest ally, described his phone conversations with Mr. Putin and Mr. Prigozhin as the Wagner mercenaries were marching to Moscow on Saturday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: It’s too soon for second-guessing the Ukrainian offensive, Max Boot, right, June 29, 2023. The whole world was riveted by the Wagner max boot screen shotGroup’s mutiny against the Putin regime. But the infighting in Russia did not last long enough to produce a significant shift on the battlefield in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian counteroffensive is less than a month old and already the murmurs of defeatism are starting, with unnamed “Western officials” telling CNN that it is “not meeting expectations on any front.” Even Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky concedes that the counteroffensive is going “slower than desired.”

In truth, the plodding pace of the advance should not be a surprise or a cause for serious concern, yet.

Very few offensives advance as swiftly as Operation Desert Storm — and that was only possible because of the massive technological advantage that the United States and its allies enjoyed over Iraq. Before the ground war even began in 1991, allied forces spent more than five weeks pummeling Iraqi forces with everything from Tomahawk cruise missiles to B-52 bombers. Then, after the unrelenting attacks from the air, allied ground forces were able to stage a giant “left hook” through the sands of Saudi Arabia to go around the fortified Iraqi positions in Kuwait.

 

Vladimir Putin, right, in a 2017 photo with Gen. Sergei Surovikin, recently appointed as Russian commander of Russia's military in Ukraine (Pool Photo by Alexei Druzhinin).

Russian leader Vladimir Putin, right, in a 2017 photo with Gen. Sergei Surovikin, who had been appointed and then demoted as Russian commander of Russia's military in Ukraine. U.S. officials are trying to determine if the general aided Yevgeny Prigozhin’s plans to rebel against Russia’s military leadership (Pool Photo by Alexei Druzhinin of Sputnik via Reuters).

ny times logoNew York Times, Russian General Knew About Wagner Chief’s Plans, U.S. Officials Say, Julian E. Barnes, Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). Officials are trying to learn if a top military leader helped Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner mercenary group, plan his revolt.

A senior Russian general had advance knowledge of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s plans to rebel against Russia’s military leadership, according to U.S. officials briefed on American intelligence on the matter, which has prompted questions about what support the mercenary leader had inside the top ranks.

The officials said they are trying to learn if Gen. Sergei Surovikin, the former top Russian commander in Ukraine, helped plan Mr. Prigozhin’s actions last weekend, which posed the most dramatic threat to President Vladimir V. Putin in his 23 years in power.

General Surovikin is a respected military leader who helped shore up defenses across the battle lines after Ukraine’s counteroffensive last year, analysts say. He was replaced as the top commander in January but retained influence in running war operations and remains popular among the troops.

American officials also said there are signs that other Russian generals may also have supported Mr. Prigozhin’s attempt to change the leadership of the Defense Ministry by force. Current and former U.S. officials said Mr. Prigozhin would not have launched his uprising unless he believed that others in positions of power would come to his aid.

If General Surovikin was involved in last weekend’s events, it would be the latest sign of the infighting that has characterized Russia’s military leadership since the start of Mr. Putin’s war in Ukraine and could signal a wider fracture between supporters of Mr. Prigozhin and Mr. Putin’s two senior military advisers: Sergei K. Shoigu, the minister of defense, and Gen. Valery V. Gerasimov, the chief of general staff.

ny times logotom friedman twitterNew York Times, Opinion: What Happens to Putin Now? Russian General Knew About Wagner Chief’s Plans, U.S. Officials Say, Thomas L. Friedman, Jan. 28, 2023 (print ed.).  The events playing out in Russia feel like the trailer for the next James Bond movie: Vladimir Putin’s ex-chef/ex-cyberhacker/recent mercenary army leader, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, goes rogue.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rebellion shakes Russian elite’s faith in Putin’s strength, Catherine Belton, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). The armed insurrection has shattered the carefully crafted myth that was the cornerstone of Putin’s presidency – that he represented stability and strength.

The impact of the fiercest-ever challenge to Vladimir Putin’s 23-year presidency was still reverberating among Moscow’s elites Monday as questions swirled over whether the Russian president had, for a moment at least, lost control of the country.

When Putin, shown above in a file  photo, addressed the nation on Monday for the first time since the chaos of this weekend’s armed rebellion, he thanked the population for displaying “unity and patriotism” which he said clearly demonstrated that “any attempt to cause internal turmoil was doomed to fail.”

But the armed insurrection by the leader of the Wagner mercenary group has shattered the carefully crafted myth that was the cornerstone of Putin’s presidency — that he represented stability and strength — and many in the upper reaches of Russian politics and business wonder whether he can recover from it. Some even suggested that a search for Putin’s successor could be underway.

“Putin showed the entire world and the elite he is no one and not capable of doing anything,” said one influential Moscow businessman. “It is a total collapse of his reputation.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Drops Criminal Case Against Mercenary Leader, but His Future Remains Uncertain, Valerie Hopkins and Victoria Kim, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). Moscow dropped an investigation into the mutiny led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner group. It’s unclear where Mr. Prigozhin is days after the insurrection.

The Russian authorities dropped an investigation into Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner mercenary group, over charges that he led a brief armed rebellion over the weekend, and the group is preparing to hand over military equipment to the Russian Army, state media reported on Tuesday.

The two nearly simultaneous announcements were part of an effort by the Kremlin to move on from the stunning, if short-lived, mutiny by Mr. Prigozhin’s forces on Saturday. But they left many unanswered questions, including the fate of the tens of thousands of Wagner fighters and of Mr. Prigozhin himself.

The mercenary leader’s whereabouts remained unclear a day after he denied, in an audio message posted on Monday, that his mutiny had been an attempt to seize power in Russia. In the message, he said that the action had instead been a protest against the way Russia’s senior military leaders have handled the war in Ukraine.

Mr. Prigozhin was expected to go into exile in Belarus under an agreement brokered by that country’s pro-Russian leader, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko. The details of that agreement have not been made public, however.

Here are other developments:

  • In brief remarks at the Kremlin, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said that some Russian airmen had “died in the confrontation with the mutineers,” and he praised them for carrying out their duties. In a televised speech on Monday night, a visibly angry Mr. Putin denounced the mutiny as “blackmail” that had been “doomed to failure,” though he did not name Mr. Prigozhin, his erstwhile ally.
  • President Biden said that the United States and its allies had “nothing to do with” the unrest in Russia and that they wanted to give Mr. Putin “no excuse to blame this on the West or to blame this on NATO.”
  • The Russian defense minister, Sergei K. Shoigu, was shown in state news broadcasts on Monday in a meeting with Mr. Putin and other defense and security chiefs, a sign of trust in the minister, who had for months publicly clashed with Mr. Prigozhin.
  • President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, who visited frontline positions on Monday, said that his country’s forces had “advanced in all directions” over the past 24 hours. “This is a happy day,” he said.

 

 Route north through southern Russia by Wagner Group rebels June 23 to 24, 2023 (Graphic by Washington Post).

 Route north through southern Russia by Wagner Group rebels June 23 to 24, 2023 (Graphic by Washington Post).

ny times logoNew York Times, His Glory Fading, a Russian Warlord Took One Last Stab at Power, Paul Sonne and Anatoly Kurmanaev, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). Whatever the Wagner uprising says about Vladimir Putin’s hold on the Kremlin, it is also the story of the growing desperation of Yevgeny Prigozhin.

yevgeny prigozhin headshot speakingWell before Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, shown at right, seized a major Russian military hub and ordered an armed march on Moscow, posing a startling and dramatic threat to President Vladimir V. Putin, the caterer-turned-mercenary boss was losing his own personal war.

Mr. Prigozhin’s private army had been sidelined. His lucrative government catering contracts had come under threat. The commander he most admired in the Russian military had been removed as the top general overseeing Ukraine. And he had lost his most vital recruiting source for fighters: Russia’s prisons.

Then, on June 13, his only hope for a last-minute intervention to spare him a bitter defeat in his long-running power struggle with Defense Minister Sergei K. Shoigu was dashed.

Mr. Putin sided publicly with Mr. Prigozhin’s adversaries, affirming that all irregular units fighting in Ukraine would have to sign contracts with the Ministry of Defense. That included Mr. Prigozhin’s private military company, Wagner.

Now, the mercenary chieftain would be subordinated to Mr. Shoigu, an unparalleled political survivor in modern Russia and Mr. Prigozhin’s sworn enemy.

washington post logoWashington Post, After mutiny, Putin says Wagner can go to Belarus, go home or fight for Russia, Robyn Dixon and Mary Ilyushina, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). Russian President Vladimir Putin’s speech, his first since the mutiny, came hours after the head of the Wagner Group declared that his motive was to save the private militia from being subsumed into the Russian military, not to topple Putin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed his nation Monday for the first time since the weekend mutiny by Wagner mercenaries, saying he would keep his promise and allow the group’s fighters to move to neighboring Belarus.

Their other options were to return to their families or sign contracts with the Russian Defense Ministry, he said.

Putin’s speech came hours after Wagner chief Yevgeniy Prigozhin resurfaced in a video posted online, declaring that his motive on Saturday was to save the group from being subsumed by the Russian military — not to topple the Russian president.

In a tone both stern and conciliatory, Putin said that Wagner’s mutiny would have been crushed by Russian security forces if it had not halted its advance on Moscow, but also that the “vast majority” of Wagner fighters were patriots.

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More U.S. Politics, Governance, Elections

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Trucking Company Is Facing Bankruptcy After a $700 Million Bailout, Alan Rappeport, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). Three years after receiving a pandemic relief loan, the trucking company Yellow has repaid little of the money and is warning that it could soon run out of cash.

A beleaguered trucking business that received a $700 million pandemic-era loan from the federal government may be forced to file for bankruptcy protection this summer amid a dispute with its union, a development that could leave American taxpayers stuck with a failed company.

The financial woes at the business, Yellow, which previously went by the name YRC Worldwide, have been building for years. The company lost more than $100 million in 2019 and has more than $1.5 billion in outstanding debt, including the government loan. In 2022, YRC, which ships meal kits, protective equipment and other supplies to military bases, agreed to pay $6.85 million to settle a federal lawsuit that accused it of defrauding the Defense Department.

In 2020, the Trump administration, which had ties to the company and its executives, agreed to give the firm a pandemic relief loan in exchange for the federal government assuming a 30 percent equity stake in the company.

Three years later, Yellow is on the verge of going bankrupt.

Since receiving the loan, the company has changed its name, restructured its business and seen its stock price plummet. As of the end of March, Yellow’s outstanding debt was $1.5 billion, including about $730 million that is owed to the federal government. Yellow has paid approximately $66 million in interest on the loan, but it has repaid just $230 of the principal owed on the loan, which comes due next year.

On Tuesday, Yellow sued the International Brotherhood of Teamsters for blocking the company’s restructuring plan and accused the union of causing more than $137 million in damages. The company said that it was taking “immediate steps to try to save itself” and that the union was trying to “cause Yellow’s economic ruin.”

The company’s financial plight is the latest example of how some of the trillions of dollars pumped out quickly during the pandemic were misdirected, mismanaged or obtained fraudulently. Federal watchdogs and government agencies have expressed alarm at signs of fraud and failing loans.

The office of the special inspector general for pandemic recovery, an independent agency within the Treasury Department that scrutinizes some of the relief money, warned last month that it was seeing an “alarming rate of defaults by borrowers who are failing to pay even the interest payments on the loans.” The office warned that the number of defaults on pandemic loans could increase over the next two years as payments come due.

On Tuesday, the inspector general for the U.S. Small Business Administration, which disbursed about $1.2 trillion in pandemic loans, said in a report that over $200 billion, or 17 percent, of the money was disbursed to “potentially fraudulent actors.”

Yellow’s loan enabled the company to stay afloat for a while and embark on a restructuring plan. But economic headwinds and a fight with the Teamsters union over the terms of a new contract have put Yellow in a precarious financial position.

A report last year produced by Democratic staff of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis found that the money had been doled out over the objections of career officials at the Defense Department and suggested that senior Trump administration officials had intervened to ensure that Yellow received special treatment despite concerns about its eligibility to receive relief funds. In addition to deep ties to the Trump administration, the company, which for years faced legal and financial troubles, also had a strong lobbying presence in Washington.

ny times logoNew York Times, Lowell Weicker, Maverick Connecticut Senator and Governor, Dies at 92, Kirk Johnson, June 29, 2023 (print ed.). A liberal Republican, he became known for his fierce criticism of Nixon during Watergate. Decades later, he termed Donald Trump “a total con artist.”

Lowell P. Weicker Jr., a liberal Republican who earned a national reputation for pugnacious political independence — first as a young United States senator during the Watergate hearings and later as a third-party governor of Connecticut — died on Wednesday at a hospital in Middletown, in central Connecticut. He was 92.

His family announced his death in a statement.

Mr. Weicker was an obscure junior senator from Connecticut and a member of President Richard M. Nixon’s own party in 1973 when he took an assignment on the Senate select committee that was investigating the Watergate affair — the break-in at the offices of the Democratic opposition by a White House team of burglars and the administration’s attempts to cover up the crime.

But after the committee’s televised hearings were over, he was famous, demonized by some for the harshness of his attacks on Nixon but lionized as a hero by others.

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats to Use $20 Million Equal Rights Push to Aid 2024 N.Y. House Bids, Dana Rubinstein, June 29, 2023. Numerous left-leaning groups are behind a statewide effort to focus attention on a 2024 equal-rights referendum, hoping to increase voter turnout.

New York Democrats’ substandard performance in the midterm elections last year helped their party lose control of the House of Representatives, threatened its national agenda, and angered national Democrats.

In an effort to avoid repeating the same mistake, New York Democrats on Thursday will announce support for a statewide effort to pass a women’s rights amendment that they hope will also supercharge turnout in 2024, when President Biden and House members will be up for re-election.

Their strategy: Get Democrats to the polls by focusing attention on a 2024 statewide referendum, the New York Equal Rights Amendment, that will explicitly bar New York from using its power and resources to penalize those who have abortions.

The campaign, backed by Gov. Kathy Hochul and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, among others, plans to raise at least $20 million to spend on television ads, direct mail and organizing in support of the initiative. The effort is designed to complement the House Democrats’ main super PAC’s $45 million bid to win six New York swing districts next year, including four that just flipped Republican.

  • New York Times, A Record 100,000 People in New York Homeless Shelters, June 29, 2023.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Push to tie Medicaid to work is making a comeback. Georgia is at forefront, Amy Goldstein, June 29, 2023 (print ed.). Georgia’s move reflects a renewed determination among conservatives to tie eligibility for the largest form of public health insurance to work.

On Capitol Hill this spring, House Republicans — who were engaged in ferocious negotiations over the national debt ceiling — wanted to purge many poor adults from Medicaid rolls unless they held a job, trained for work or helped in their community.

georgia mapMore than 600 miles to the south, Georgia’s GOP governor prepared to do something similar, allowing impoverished adults in the state who had never qualified for Medicaid to join — but only if they prove every month they meet the same kind of requirements.

The Medicaid changes sought in Congress did not survive a debt ceiling compromise. But Georgia’s plan — called Georgia Pathways to Coverage — has proceeded and will begin in July. Despite their disparate outcomes, the moves in Washington and Atlanta reflect a renewed determination among conservatives in various parts of the country to tie eligibility for the largest form of public health insurance to work.

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U.S. Courts, Crime, Civil Rights, Immigration

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Inspector general says Jeffrey Epstein’s death enabled by jailers’ negligence, Mark Berman, June 29, 2023 (print ed.). A Justice Department inspector general’s report said Tuesday that Jeffrey Epstein’s 2019 death while in federal custody was enabled by significant staff failures at the jail where he was being held, concluding that this negligence gave him “the opportunity to take his own life.”

The sharply critical report was issued nearly four years after Epstein, a convicted sex offender, was found hanging in his Manhattan jail cell while facing federal charges of sex-trafficking and abusing young girls. Epstein’s criminal case and his death attracted widespread attention, owing to both the depravity of the allegations against him and his well-documented web of connections to high-profile figures.

While the report released Tuesday castigates jail officials for repeated “negligence, misconduct, and outright job performance failures” in connection with Epstein’s incarceration and death, it also strongly pushes back on any suggestion that what happened was anything other than a suicide.

Instead, the 114-page report says Epstein’s death was the result of pervasive problems at the Manhattan jail that recur across other facilities also overseen by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), including staffing issues, faulty security camera setups, poor management and improper handling of inmates who could be at risk of dying by suicide.

michael horowitz Custom“The BOP’s failures are troubling not only because the BOP did not adequately safeguard an individual in its custody, but also because they led to questions about the circumstances surrounding Epstein’s death and effectively deprived Epstein’s numerous victims of the opportunity to seek justice through the criminal justice system,” Michael Horowitz, right, the inspector general, said in a statement accompanying the report’s release.

Epstein was found in his cell in the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) on Aug. 10, 2019, about a month after he was taken into custody. He was taken to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead.

New York City’s chief medical examiner concluded that Epstein’s death was a suicide and listed “hanging” as the cause. Attorneys for Epstein expressed skepticism about that finding at the time, and his death fueled waves of speculation and conspiracy theories, linked largely to the wealthy financier’s connections to powerful and prominent figures.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: DeSantis’s latest appeal to MAGA tops Trump in performative cruelty, Greg Sargent, right, June 27, 2023. As president, Donald Trump greg sargentseparated migrant families, forced asylum seekers back into Mexico and built hundreds of miles of border barriers.

The border remained chaotic and the migrants kept coming, yet MAGA ideology continues to hold that the “crisis” can be solved with just the right djt maga hatmix of cruel deterrence, tough enforcement and — of course — more walls.

That disconnect helps explain Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s radical new plan to secure the border, which he rolled out Monday. The plan is meant to propel him to Trump’s right on a leading MAGA issue. But DeSantis’s blueprint contains a bunch of warmed-over ideas — mass deportations, draconian efforts to limit asylum-seeking and legal immigration, even an end to birthright citizenship — that Trump already tried to execute, yet could not.

The fundamental promise of DeSantis’s GOP presidential primary campaign is that he’d execute the MAGA agenda far more competently than Trump. But there’s a reason Trump largely failed in controlling the border, and it has little do with competence or “toughness.”

Rather, it’s that presidents lack the authority to close down legal immigration in any substantial way, and however harsh their enforcement gets, it simply doesn’t dissuade migrants from coming, including illegally, and settling here successfully.

ny times logoNew York Times, Accused Shooter in Deadly Colorado Springs Rampage Pleads Guilty in Court, Jack Healy and Kelley Manley, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). A plea deal means the 23-year-old shooter will spend a lifetime in prison for a rampage at an L.G.B.T.Q. bar last year that left five people dead. 

The 23-year-old charged with carrying out a deadly shooting rampage at Club Q in Colorado Springs pleaded guilty on Monday to dozens of charges of murder and attempted murder, avoiding a prolonged trial over a deadly attack on members of the L.G.B.T.Q. community.

Under the terms of a plea agreement reached with prosecutors, the defendant, Anderson Lee Aldrich, separately pleaded “no contest” to two hate-crime charges.

The defendant will receive multiple life sentences, adding up to hundreds of years in prison, and will also give up any right to appeal.

The defendant, who identifies as nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, stood on Monday in a courtroom packed with victims and relatives of the dead, and tersely answered a litany of questions from Judge Michael McHenry about whether the defendant understood the terms of the plea.

The agreement was reached after months of agonizing private discussions among prosecutors, survivors and victims’ families over how to reach justice in the Club Q shooting.

Some victims initially wanted a public trial, in the hope of learning precisely how and why the shooter had attacked the club, and what warning signs had been missed. Others said they did not want to suffer the pain of a drawn-out trial, and were relieved that the criminal case was ending.

Several survivors of the attack said it was important that the shooter acknowledge an anti-L. G.B.T.Q. bias behind the rampage. They wanted formal recognition that Club Q and its patrons were attacked because of their identities, in a massacre deliberately calculated to shatter a sanctuary for the L.G.B.T.Q. community in Colorado Springs.

But in pleading guilty on Monday, Mx. Aldrich offered no details about why they carried out the shooting, and little explanation beyond a bare-bones admission using legal language. They did not directly admit to committing hate crimes in targeting Club Q, but instead said they were pleading “no contest” because it was likely that they would be convicted at trial.

The five people killed that night were Daniel Aston and Derrick Rump, who were employees of Club Q, and Kelly Loving, Raymond Green Vance and Ashley Paugh, who were Club Q patrons.

For months, some survivors and relatives of victims have made a point of attending each hearing as the case moved forward. Some said it was difficult to keep their anger and grief in check as they sat in the courtroom, listening to graphic details of the rampage.

Legal experts said the shooter’s gender identity alone did not preclude hate-crimes charges in the case. Prosecutors said that the defendant had a “particular disdain” for the L.G.B.T.Q. community.

“Those are my friends’ lives,” said Ashtin Gamblin, who was hit with nine shots as she worked the door of Club Q on the night of the attack. “They were targeted. We were targeted because we are a part of the L.G.B.T.Q. community. There’s absolutely no doubt why he chose Club Q.”

 Relevant Recent Headlines

 

Global News

 ny times logoNew York Times, Overnight Rage Rocks France; Officer in Police Shooting Faces Investigation, Aurelien Breeden June 29, 2023. The authorities said that 150 people had been arrested after protesters rioted in response to the killing of a 17-year-old driver by a police officer.

French prosecutors on Thursday urged that a police officer be placed under investigation for voluntary homicide after the deadly shooting of a 17-year-old driver set off violent riots in more than a dozen cities overnight, with protesters burning cars, lighting buildings on fire and setting off fireworks for the second day in a row.

President Emmanuel Macron, convening a crisis meeting on Thursday morning, called the violent protests “absolutely unjustifiable” and appealed for calm after the death of the teenager, who has been identified only as Nahel M. About 40,000 officers will be deployed across France on Thursday evening to contain further unrest, according to Gérald Darmanin, the interior minister — a significant increase over the 9,000 deployed on Wednesday night.

washington post logoWashington Post, In Afghan hospitals, feeling abandoned by the Taliban — and the world, Rick Noack, June 29, 2023 (print ed.). In the U.S.-built district hospital of Shindand in western Afghanistan, the surge in patients took doctors by surprise. As their wards filled up in recent months, they repurposed staff space to make room for more patients and resorted to prescribing single doses of drugs that should be taken in three doses. Some patients with severe conditions have been turned away because of a lack of available beds.

Almost two years after the Taliban came to power, Afghanistan’s rural health sector is rapidly deteriorating as the impact of a prolonged economic crisis starts to hit it with full force. Doctors, nurses and local officials said they face a surge in patients who until recently would have preferred to see private doctors for a small fee but have run out of savings.

A Washington Post visit to four hospitals and medical centers in western and central Afghanistan found alarming signs that the health system itself is now suffering from a lack of cash as foreign donors, distracted by other crises and weary of being seen as supportive of the new Afghan authorities, appear increasingly hesitant about spending more.

United Nations officials say Afghanistan is facing the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. But the Taliban-run government, eager to portray its medical system as a success story, maintains that its clinics are running just fine even as it appeals to the international community to provide more funding and drop sanctions. In an interview last month, Health Ministry spokesman Sharafat Zaman said that “fortunately,” the system is not “in an emergency situation.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Prigozhin’s rebellion raises questions about Wagner’s African footprint, Rachel Chason, John Hudson and Greg Miller, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). The aborted rebellion in Russia has brought unease to large swaths of Africa where leaders who have turned to the Wagner mercenary group to bolster their hold on power now face the prospect that the private paramilitary organization could be weakened or even dismantled, according to experts on the region as well as Western officials and analysts.

The world’s attention has largely focused on the turbulence within Russia, where the aura of President Vladimir Putin is widely perceived to have been damaged by the short-lived insurrection of Wagner’s leader, Yevgeniy Prigozhin. But a Kremlin crackdown on Wagner would also have far-reaching consequences in Africa and the Middle East, where Wagner supplied lethal firepower to despots and strongmen while advancing Moscow’s international agenda.

In the Central African Republic and Mali, where Wagner has its biggest presence on the continent, residents said WhatsApp group chats and weekend conversations in the African nations were dominated by speculation about the fallout in their countries.

ny times logoNew York Times, No Job, No Marriage, No Kid: China’s Workers and the Curse of 35, Li Yuan, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). It’s widely discussed in China: Employers don’t want you after 35, leaving a generation of prime-age workers feeling defeated, our columnist writes.

China FlagWhen Sean Liang turned 30, he started thinking of the Curse of 35 — the widespread belief in China that white-collar workers like him confront unavoidable job insecurity after they hit that age. In the eyes of employers, the Curse goes, they’re more expensive than new graduates and not as willing to work overtime.

Mr. Liang, now 38, is a technology support professional turned personal trainer. He has been unemployed for much of the past three years, partly because of the pandemic and China’s sagging economy. But he believes the main reason is his age. He’s too old for many employers, including the Chinese government, which caps the hiring age for most civil servant positions at 35. If the Curse of 35 is a legend, it’s one supported by some facts.

“I work out, so I look pretty young for my age,” he said in an interview. “But in the eyes of society, people like me are obsolete.”

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. is far more globally popular under Biden than it was in Trump era, Ishaan Tharoor, June 29, 2023 (print ed.). Whatever Biden’s propensity for gaffes and underwhelming approval ratings at home, international attitudes toward the United States during his time in office are far rosier than what they were under Trump — a reality underscored by new polling data from the Pew Research Center published Tuesday.

A median of 54 percent of those surveyed in 23 countries in the early months of this year said they trust Biden to “do the right thing regarding world affairs.” Pew’s selected countries include a cross-section of global societies, from traditional U.S. partners in Western Europe and East Asia to developing economies in Nigeria and India to middle-income nations like Argentina and South Africa.

According to Pew’s data, Trump’s four years in office marked a dramatic drop in trust in American leadership on the world stage, with surveys showing record low levels of confidence in the U.S. president in countries as diverse as Germany, Brazil and India. Biden’s victory, which followed a campaign where he promised to bring the United States “back” from a period of Trumpist disruption and turbulence, immediately led to a swing in global attitudes. In the years since he took office, confidence in him has dipped marginally in some countries, and been buoyed in others, particularly as Washington took a lead role in galvanizing and organizing the Western defense of Ukraine from Russian invasion.

 

oceangate victimsAll five aboard the Titan believed to be dead, OceanGate says, Maham Javaid, June 22, 2023.  This photo combo shows from left, Shahzada Dawood, Suleman Dawood, Paul-Henri Nargeolet, Stockton Rush, and Hamish Harding were on a small submersible, shown below, that went missing in the Atlantic Ocean.

oceangate ceo titan

ap logoAssociated Press, Debris from implosion of Titanic-bound submersible is returned to land, Patrick Whittle, June 28, 2023. Debris from the lost submersible Titan has been returned to land after a fatal implosion during its voyage to the wreck of the Titanic captured the world’s attention last week.

The return of the debris to port in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, is a key piece of the investigation into why the submersible imploded, killing all five people on board. Twisted chunks of the 22-foot submersible were unloaded at a Canadian Coast Guard pier on Wednesday.

The Canadian ship Horizon Arctic carried a remotely operated vehicle, or ROV, to search the ocean floor near the Titanic wreck for pieces of the submersible. Pelagic Research Services, a company with offices in Massachusetts and New York that owns the ROV, said on Wednesday that it has completed offshore operations.

  • ABC 7, Video shows debris from Titan submersible brought ashore after catastrophic implosion
  • Washington Post, Possible human remains recovered from submersible, Coast Guard says

Pelagic Research Services’ team is “still on mission” and cannot comment on the ongoing Titan investigation, which involves several government agencies in the U.S. and Canada, said Jeff Mahoney, a spokesperson for the company.

“They have been working around the clock now for ten days, through the physical and mental challenges of this operation, and are anxious to finish the mission and return to their loved ones,” Mahoney said.

Debris from the Titan was located about 12,500 feet (3,810 meters) underwater and roughly 1,600 feet (488 meters) from the Titanic on the ocean floor, the Coast Guard said last week. The Coast Guard is leading the investigation into why the submersible imploded during its June 18 descent. Officials announced on June 22 that the submersible had imploded and all five people on board were dead.

The Coast Guard has convened a Marine Board of Investigation into the implosion. That is the highest level of investigation conducted by the Coast Guard.

One of the experts the Coast Guard consulted with during the search said analyzing the physical material of recovered debris could reveal important clues about what happened to the Titan. And there could be electronic data, said Carl Hartsfield of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

No bodies have been recovered, though Coast Guard officials said days earlier that they were taking precautions in case they encountered human remains during the investigation.

Ocean Gate CEO and pilot Stockton Rush was killed in the implosion along with two members of a prominent Pakistani family, Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman Dawood; British adventurer Hamish Harding; and Titanic expert Paul-Henri Nargeolet.

Representatives for the National Transportation Safety Board and Transportation Safety Board of Canada, which are both involved in the investigation, also declined to comment. The National Transportation Safety Board has said the Coast Guard has declared the loss of the Titan submersible to be a “major marine casualty” and the Coast Guard will lead the investigation.

“We are not able to provide any additional information at this time as the investigation is ongoing,” said Liam MacDonald, a spokesperson for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

A spokesperson for the International Maritime Organization, the U.N.’s maritime agency, has said any investigative reports from the disaster would be submitted for review. Member states of the IMO can also propose changes such as stronger regulations of submersibles.

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More On Trump Probes, Pro-Trump Rioters, Election Deniers

 

 

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 won a civil suit against him in 2022 in New York City on claims of sexual batery and defamation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump files counterclaim against E. Jean Carroll, alleging defamation, John Wagner, June 29, 2023 (print ed.). Former president Donald Trump has filed a counterclaim against the writer E. Jean Carroll, who won a $5 million verdict against him in a sexual assault and defamation lawsuit last month, contending that she has since defamed him.

Trump’s filing late Tuesday night in federal court in Manhattan points to instances before and after the verdict, including during a CNN interview, in which Carroll has said publicly that Trump raped her.

The jury last month found that Trump was liable for sexually abusing Carroll in the mid-1990s in a dressing room at a Manhattan department store but did not find him liable for raping her, as she long claimed.

Carroll, the filing claims, “made these false statements with actual malice and ill will with an intent to significantly and spitefully harm and attack [Trump’s] reputation, as these false statements were clearly contrary to the jury verdict.” In a statement, Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta A. Kaplan, called Trump’s filing “nothing more than his latest effort to delay accountability for what a jury has already found to be his defamation of E. Jean Carroll.”

“But whether he likes it or not, that accountability is coming very soon,” Kaplan said.

Kaplan also said most of the statements by Carroll cited in the Trump filing were made outside of New York’s one-year statute of limitations. The counterclaim is included in a filing by Trump in response to an amended lawsuit by Carroll that accuses Trump of additional defamation for comments Trump made during a CNN special event May 10 — just after the jury’s $5 million verdict in the other complaint. That case is scheduled for trial in January.
Trump, 77, has been accused by more than a dozen women of sexual assault or misconduct over the years, but never before had any of those claims been fully litigated in court and decided by a jury. He assailed the $5 million verdict in the Carroll case as a “disgrace” and is appealing it. Trump was ordered to deposit money as that plays out.

 

djt indicted proof

ny times logoNew York Times, Audio Undercuts Trump’sAssertion He Did Not Have Classified Document, Maggie Haberman and Alan Feuer, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). A recording of a meeting in 2021 in which former President Trump described a sensitive document in front of him appears to contradict his defense.

An audio recording of former President Donald J. Trump in 2021 discussing what he called a “highly confidential” document about Iran that he acknowledged he could not declassify because he was out of office appears to contradict his recent assertion that the material he was referring to was simply news clippings.

President Donald Trump officialPortions of a transcript of the two-minute recording of Mr. Trump were cited by federal prosecutors in the indictment of Mr. Trump on charges that he had put national security secrets at risk by mishandling classified documents after leaving office and then obstructing the government’s efforts to retrieve them.

The recording captured his conversation in July 2021 with a publisher and writer working on a memoir by Mr. Trump’s final chief of staff, Mark Meadows. In it, Mr. Trump discussed what he described as a “secret” plan regarding Iran drawn up by Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Defense Department. Mr. Trump was citing the document in rebutting an account that General Milley feared having to keep him from manufacturing a crisis with Iran in the period after Mr. Trump lost his re-election bid in late 2020.

The audio, which is likely to feature as evidence in Mr. Trump’s trial in the documents case, was played for the first time in public on Monday by CNN and was also obtained by The New York Times.

washington post logoWashington Post, It’s not just Mar-a-Lago: Trump charges highlight his New Jersey life at Bedminster, Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey and Spencer S. Hsu, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). Two of the most vivid scenes in the former president’s indictment take place at his Bedminster golf club, which has not been searched by the FBI.

The 49-page indictment against Donald Trump for mishandling classified documents and obstructing justice is largely focused on how boxes of sensitive documents ended up crammed into the nooks, crannies and even a chandelier-adorned bathroom of Trump’s Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago.

But two of the indictment’s most vivid scenes took place about 1,200 miles to the north.

Prosecutors accuse Trump of showing off classified documents to employees and others not authorized to see them — not once, but twice at his sprawling golf club on the rural plains of New Jersey.

mark meadows book chief chiefAccording to the indictment, Trump bragged in July 2021 about a sensitive military plan with two of his staffers, as well as the writer and publisher of a forthcoming book, The Chief's Chief, from his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, during a session at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster.

In an audio recording of the session near the club’s pool, Trump can be heard acknowledging the secrecy of the documents to the group — who included communications staffers Liz Harrington and Margo Martin, according to people familiar with the matter, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the criminal case.

“See, as president I could have declassified it. Now I can’t,” Trump tells the group on the recording, which was obtained this week by The Washington Post. “Isn’t that interesting? It’s so cool.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge suggests he’s unlikely to move Trump’s New York criminal case to federal court, Shayna Jacobs, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). A federal judge suggested Tuesday he is likely to rule against Donald Trump’s effort to have the criminal case accusing him of falsifying business records moved from state court to federal court.

U.S. District Court Judge Alvin Hellerstein did not rule on the matter but offered what he called his present takeaways at the end of a three-hour hearing on Tuesday, acknowledging conclusions that work against Trump.

djt michael cohen disloyalTrump’s lawyers have sought to have the case involving $130,000 paid to an adult film actress in 2016 moved to federal court because they say the payment was related to his duties as president and because it involves federal legal questions. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s (D) office says the case belongs in state court and a personal issue that mostly preceded Trump becoming president in 2017.

Hellerstein said Tuesday it was clear to him that Trump’s record-keeping in connection with a $130,000 payment made on his behalf in 2016 was a personal matter, not one having to do with his presidency.

Longtime Trump adviser and lawyer Michael Cohen, who is now a key witness against him in the district attorney’s case, was acting as a representative of Trump privately when he arranged to pay Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about an alleged sexual affair with Trump years earlier, the judge said.

Hellerstein also noted that the state court is equipped to handle the matter.

“There is no reason to believe that an equal measure of justice couldn’t be rendered by the state court,” he said.

The judge said to expect his official ruling in about two weeks.

 Trump was indicted in New York Supreme Court in late March on 34 counts of falsifying business records related to the payment to Daniels. Prosecutors said Trump purposely concealed the nature of reimbursement payments to Cohen by claiming they were routine legal fees.

ny times logoNew York Times, Court Throws Out New York’s Civil Case Against Ivanka Trump, Jonah E. Bromwich, Ben Protess and William K. Rashbaum, June 29, 2023 (print ed.). The decision could mean that claims against Donald J. Trump and his company might also be limited.

A New York appeals court on Tuesday dismissed the New York attorney general’s civil case against Donald J. Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and potentially limited the case against the former president and his family business, which is set to go to trial in October.

Last year, the attorney general, Letitia James, filed a lawsuit against Mr. Trump, his company and three of his adult children, including Ms. Trump, left, accusing them of fraudulently overvaluing the former president’s assets by billions of dollars to receive favorable loans.

On Tuesday, the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan said in a unanimous ruling that Ms. James’s claims against Ms. Trump should be dismissed because the attorney general missed a deadline for filing the case against her. Ms. Trump was no longer a part of the Trump Organization after 2016, the ruling noted.

The appeals court effectively left it to the State Supreme Court judge presiding over the case to determine whether the claims against the other defendants — including Mr. Trump, his company and his two adult sons — should be limited.

Ms. James’s case rests on the company’s annual financial statements, which she says contained inflated numbers. The company continued to use those statements until at least 2021, she said. And Mr. Trump’s name was on the documents, even after he ascended to the White House.

In January, the State Supreme Court judge, Arthur F. Engoron, denied Mr. Trump’s motion to dismiss the case, saying that some arguments that the former president’s lawyers made were “borderline frivolous.” But Mr. Trump appealed, resulting in the decision on Tuesday.

Based on the appeals court’s ruling, it’s possible that Justice Engoron may have to limit claims related to two of the bigger transactions cited in the complaint: a hotel deal in Chicago and the purchase of a golf resort in Florida.

The ruling represented a rare legal victory that could strengthen Mr. Trump’s hand heading into the civil trial scheduled for Oct. 2 — and as he seeks the presidency again. Mr. Trump and his family business had endured a punishing series of losses in civil and criminal cases, and the appeals court’s decision might embolden him in any potential settlement talks.

A lawyer for Mr. Trump, Christopher M. Kise, said in a statement that the decision represented “the first step toward ending a case that should have never been filed.”

“The correct application of the law will now limit appropriately the previously unlimited reach of the attorney general,” he said. “We remain confident that once all the real facts are known, there will be no doubt President Trump has built an extraordinarily successful business empire.”

A spokeswoman for Ms. James, Delaney Kempner, said that the office had sued Mr. Trump and his company “after uncovering extensive financial fraud that continues to this day.”

“There is a mountain of evidence that shows Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization falsely and fraudulently valued multiple assets and misrepresented those values to financial institutions for significant economic gain,” she said. “Those facts haven’t changed.”

Ms. James’s lawsuit was filed last year on Sept. 21 against Mr. Trump, his business, Ms. Trump and his two adult sons.

It accuses the former president of lying to lenders and insurers about the value of his assets, and says that he violated state criminal laws and, “plausibly,” federal laws. The case lays out detailed accusations of how Mr. Trump’s annual financial statements overstated the worth of nearly all of his best-known properties — from Trump Tower and 40 Wall Street in Manhattan to Mar-a-Lago in Florida — to get better terms from the lenders and insurers.

The suit seeks $250 million that the attorney general contends the Trumps made through deception, and asks a judge to essentially bar the former president from doing business in New York if he is found liable at trial. Justice Engoron has already appointed a monitor to oversee the Trump Organization’s business transactions.

Although Mr. Trump invoked his constitutional right against self-incrimination in an interview last year, he answered Ms. James’s questions in a deposition in April.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers could argue at trial that the financial statements included disclaimers, and that the values were unaudited estimates. They could also argue that setting property values is subjective, more of an art than a science, and that the lenders and insurers were hardly victims.

“The transactions at the center of this case were wildly profitable for the banks and for the Trump entities,” Mr. Kise said in a statement issued after his deposition in April. Mr. Kise contended that once the facts were revealed, “everyone will scoff at the notion any fraud took place.”

 

donald trump ivanka bed kissRaw Story, Ex-staffer describes Trump fantasizing about sex with Ivanka, Adam Nichols, June 28, 2023. Ex-staffer describes Trump fantasizing about sex with Ivanka (shown together in a 1990s file photo).

miles taylor 1 gmaFormer President Donald Trump made sexual comments about his daughter Ivanka that were so lewd he was rebuked by his Chief of Staff, former Trump official Miles Taylor writes in a new book.

raw story logo squareThe comments are used by Taylor, right, to highlight almost daily instances of sexism in the Trump White House that were so bad one senior female official told the writer, “This is not a healthy workplace for women.”

"Aides said he talked about Ivanka Trump's breasts, her backside, and what it might be like to have sex with her, remarks that once led (former Chief of Staff) John Kelly to remind the president that Ivanka was his daughter," Taylor writes.

"Afterward, Kelly retold that story to me in visible disgust. Trump, he said, was 'a very, very evil man.'"
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The details contained in the upcoming new book, “Blowback: A Warning to Save Democracy from the Next Trump,” were outlined in an exclusive interview with Newsweek Wednesday.

miles taylor bookTaylor, a former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security who admitted to anonymously writing a 2018 op-ed in the New York Times titled “"I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration,” said, "There still are quite a few female leaders from the Trump administration who have held their tongues about the unequal treatment they faced in the administration at best, and the absolute naked sexism they experienced with the hands of Donald Trump at worst."

He said “undisguised sexism” was aimed at everybody from lowly staff members to cabinet secretaries.

He remembered Kirstjen Nielsen, Trump’s former secretary of homeland security, being called “sweetie” and “honey” and having her makeup critiqued by the president.

Taylor said, at one point, Nielsen whispered to him, "Trust me, this is not a healthy workplace for women.”

Donald TrumpAnd Taylor said senior counselor Kellyanne Conway called Trump a “misogynistic bully," a comment that she denied making when contacted by Newsweek.

"He's a pervert, he's difficult to deal with," Taylor told Newsweek. "This is still the same man and, incredibly, we're considering electing him to the presidency again."

He added, “He's setting a very vile tone within the Republican Party, and in a sense has normalized pretty derisive views towards women in general.”

Trump was found liable of sexual abuse in a recent civil trial brought by writer E. Jean Carroll.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Jack Smith has flipped someone who was at the Willard Hotel for January 6th, Bill Palmer, June 26, 2023. One of the key aspects of Donald Trump’s 2020 election overthrow plot was his “command center” ahead of January 6th at the Willard Hotel.

Name any disreputable Trump political adviser, and bill palmer report logo headerthe odds are that they were in that Willard Hotel room. But the whole thing hasn’t gotten a ton of media coverage, mostly because no one who was inside that room has spilled the beans about what was really going on – until now.

The DOJ criminally indicted Owen Shroyer for January 6th-related crimes a year and a half ago, and has been attempting to flip him ever since. Just days ago Shroyer finally cut a cooperating plea deal. This immediately jumped out at us because Shroyer is Alex Jones’ top sidekick. But our friends at MeidasTouch are now pointing out that this runs deeper. Shroyer was at the Willard Hotel ahead of January 6th, meaning he’s given up everything that went on at the “command center” while he was there.

This is bad news for everyone who was in the room at this “command center.” It was a mix of Donald Trump’s top political advisers and actual members of the Oath Keepers, to give you an idea of just how much criminality might have been taking place in that room. Jack Smith and the DOJ now have their “in” when it comes to the Willard Hotel plot. It’s bad news for Donald Trump and any number of his political allies.

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Dept. asking about 2020 fraud claims as well as fake electors, Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). Special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation of efforts to overturn the 2020 election results is advancing on multiple tracks, people familiar with the matter said.

The Justice Department’s investigation of efforts by Donald Trump and his advisers to overturn the 2020 election results is barreling forward on multiple tracks, according to people familiar with the matter, with prosecutors focused on ads and fundraising pitches claiming election fraud as well as plans for “fake electors” that would swing the election to the incumbent president.

Each track poses potential legal peril for those under scrutiny, but also raises tricky questions about where the line should be drawn between political activity, legal advocacy and criminal conspiracy.

A key area of interest is the conduct of a handful of lawyers who sought to turn Trump’s defeat into victory by trying to convince state, local, federal and judicial authorities that Joe Biden’s 2020 election win was illegitimate or tainted by fraud.

Investigators have sought to determine to what degree these lawyers — particularly Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis, John Eastman, Kurt Olsen and Kenneth Chesebro, as well as then-Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark — were following specific instructions from Trump or others, and what those instructions were, according to the people familiar with the matter, who like others interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe an ongoing investigation.

jack smith graphicSpecial counsel Jack Smith’s team has extensively questioned multiple witnesses about the lawyers’ actions related to fake electors — pro-Trump substitutes offered up as potential replacements for electors in swing states that Biden won.

Trump’s allies have argued that there was nothing criminal about preparing alternate electors in case state legislators blocked Biden slates.

Giuliani, Ellis, Clark, Eastman, Chesebro and Olsen or their representatives either did not respond to requests for comment or declined to comment Monday.

Smith, a longtime federal prosecutor who was appointed special counsel by Attorney General Merrick Garland in November, charged Trump this month with 37 counts alleging that he willfully retained classified documents at his Florida residence after leaving the White House and obstructed government efforts to retrieve them.

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  Jack Smith has been leading an inquiry into Mr. Trump since his appointment in November (Pool photo by Peter Dejong).

Jack Smith has been leading an inquiry into Mr. Trump since his appointment in November (Pool photo by Peter Dejong).

 

U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

 

djt ron desantis cnn collage

ny times logoNew York Times, Can DeSantis Break Trump’s Hold on New Hampshire? Jonathan Swan, Maggie Haberman and Shane Goldmacher, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). Donald Trump is looking to the state as an early chance to clear a crowded field, while Ron DeSantis’s camp is banking on winnowing the Republican race to two.

Former President Donald J. Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida are set to hold dueling events on Tuesday in New Hampshire, but from vastly different political positions: one as the dominant front-runner in the state, the other still seeking his footing.

Strategists for both campaigns agree that the state will play a starring role in deciding who leads the Republican Party into the 2024 election against President Biden.

Mr. Trump sees the first primary contest in New Hampshire as an early chance to clear the crowded field of rivals. And members of Team DeSantis — some of whom watched from losing sidelines, as Mr. Trump romped through the Granite State in 2016 on his way to the nomination — hope New Hampshire will be the primary that winnows the Republican field to two.

“Iowa’s cornfields used to be where campaigns were killed off, and now New Hampshire is where campaigns go to die,” said Jeff Roe, who runs Mr. DeSantis’s super PAC, Never Back Down. Mr. Roe retains agonizing memories from 2016, when he ran the presidential campaign of the last man standing against Mr. Trump: Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The odds of a Trump coup attempt in 2024 are dropping fast, Greg Sargent, right, June 28, 2023. The Supreme Court’s decision in Moore greg sargentv. Harper on Tuesday is a major reprieve for American democracy. By rejecting the radical idea that state legislatures have quasi-unlimited power to determine how elections are run, the court made it harder for lawmakers to engage in the shenanigans that Donald Trump encouraged to overturn his 2020 presidential reelection loss.

But the decision is better seen in a broader context: It’s one of many recent developments that show our democratic system is fortifying itself on many levels, unexpectedly reducing the odds of a rerun of Trump’s efforts in 2024.

Along with the ruling, virtually all election-denying candidates for governor and secretary of state in key swing states lost in the 2022 midterms. Congress reformed the law that governs how presidential electors are counted. And the national response to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection has been surprisingly robust, from the House hearings documenting the gravity of that event to the successful prosecutions of the attackers.

washington post logoWashington Post, Twice-indicted Trump dominates GOP race, as support for DeSantis stalls, Hannah Knowles and Maeve Reston, June 29, 2023 (print ed.). On the campaign trail, the former president draws enthusiastic crowds that reflect his wide lead in the polls. Voters seeking an alternative have yet to coalesce behind the Florida governor or anyone else.

President Donald Trump officialThe primary was effectively over for many voters who came out to hear Donald Trump’s speech at a GOP women’s luncheon this week. “It’s Trump all the way — don’t even ask me about anyone else,” said Suzanne Pesaresi, a 62-year-old office manager.

djt maga hatForty miles south, at a town hall with Ron DeSantis, plenty of others were convinced the party should move on from the former president. “I have a non-top choice, and that’s Donald Trump,” declared former Republican state lawmaker Bill Ohm. But like many around him, Ohm wasn’t yet sold on the Florida governor — or anyone else, for that matter.

“I could vote for DeSantis if nobody else got traction,” said Don Hallenbeck, a business owner who identifies as an independent and plans to vote in the Republican primary. He worries the governor would “have a tough time finding his way back to the middle” in a general election.

Facing newly combative opponents, millions of dollars’ worth of competing advertising and two indictments, Trump is in a dominant position in the GOP presidential race halfway through 2023. He has a wide lead on the competition, polls show. He draws enthusiastic crowds. And even some of his rival operatives acknowledge he has an unshakable grip on a sizable part of the electorate.

 washington post logoWashington Post, DeSantis proposes ‘deadly force’ to combat drug smugglers breaching border, Dylan Wells and Hannah Knowles, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). The presidential candidate laid out a border plan that echoes Donald Trump’s policies.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Real Lesson From the Hunter Biden Saga, Nicholas Kristof, June 25, 2023 (print ed.). It isn’t about presidential corruption but a determined parent battling his son’s addiction with unconditional love.

One of our most urgent national problems is addiction to drugs and alcohol. It now kills about a quarter-million Americans a year, leaves many others homeless and causes unimaginable heartache in families across the country — including the family living in the White House.

Hunter Biden, who has written about his tangles with crack cocaine and alcohol, reached a plea agreement on tax charges a few days ago that left some Republicans sputtering, but to me, the main takeaway is a lesson the country and the president could absorb to save lives.

While the federal investigation appears to be ongoing, for now I see no clear evidence of wrongdoing by President Biden himself — but the president does offer the country a fine model of the love and support that people with addictions need.

When Biden was vice president and trailed by Secret Service agents, he once tracked down Hunter when he was on a bender and refused to leave until his son committed to entering treatment. Biden then gave his son a tight hug and promised to return to make sure he followed through.

“Dad saved me,” Hunter wrote in his memoir, “Beautiful Things,” adding: “Left on my own, I’m certain I would not have survived.”

On another occasion, the Biden family staged an intervention, and Hunter stormed out of the house. Biden ran down the driveway after his son. “He grabbed me, swung me around and hugged me,” Hunter wrote. “He held me tight in the dark and cried for the longest time.”

Last year Sean Hannity broadcast an audio recording of a voice mail message that President Biden left for Hunter. Hannity thought it reflected badly on the president; my reaction was that if more parents showed this kind of support for children in crisis, our national addiction nightmare might be easier to overcome.

“It’s Dad,” the president says in the message, and he sounds near tears. “I’m calling to tell you I love you. I love you more than the whole world, pal. You gotta get some help. I don’t know what to do. I know you don’t, either. But I’m here, no matter what you need. No matter what you need. I love you.”

I don’t have family members with addictions, but I’ve lost far too many friends to drugs and alcohol. At this moment, I have two friends who have disappeared, abandoning their children, and when last seen were homeless, abusing drugs and supporting themselves by selling fentanyl. I fear every day that they’ll die from an overdose, or that they’ll sell drugs to someone else who overdoses.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Legal Fees Mount, Trump Steers Donations Into PAC That Has Covered Them, Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman, June 26, 2023 (print ed.). A previously unnoticed change in Donald Trump’s online fund-raising appeals allows him to divert a sizable chunk to a group that has spent millions on his legal fees.

Facing multiple intensifying investigations, former President Donald J. Trump has quietly begun diverting more of the money he is raising away from his 2024 presidential campaign and into a political action committee that he has used to pay his personal legal fees.

The change, which went unannounced except in the fine print of his online disclosures, raises fresh questions about how Mr. Trump is paying for his mounting legal bills — which could run into millions of dollars — as he prepares for at least two criminal trials, and whether his PAC, Save America, is facing a financial crunch.

When Mr. Trump kicked off his 2024 campaign in November, for every dollar raised online, 99 cents went to his campaign, and a penny went to Save America.

But internet archival records show that sometime in February or March, he adjusted that split. Now his campaign’s share has been reduced to 90 percent of donations, and 10 percent goes to Save America.

ny times logoNew York Times, In a pitch to evangelicals, Donald Trump cast himself as Christian crusader who helped end Roe v. Wade, Neil Vigdor, June 26, 2023 (print ed.). Former President Donald J. Trump told an evangelical gathering that no president had done more for Christians than he did.

One year after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, former President Donald J. Trump reminded a gathering of evangelical activists in the nation’s capital how he had shaped the court’s conservative supermajority that ended nearly 50 years of constitutional protections for abortion.

Appearing at a Faith & Freedom Coalition gala in Washington on Saturday night, he cited his appointment of three of the six justices who voted to strike down the law as a capstone of his presidency. And he cast himself as an unflinching crusader for the Christian right in a meandering speech that lasted nearly 90 minutes.

“No president has ever fought for Christians as hard as I have,” he said, adding, “I got it done, and nobody thought it was even a possibility.”

It was the eighth appearance by Mr. Trump in front of the group, whose support he is seeking to consolidate in a crowded G.OP. competition for the 2024 nomination, though he is the front-runner in the field. He said that Republican voters were skeptical of claims by some of his rivals that they were stronger opponents of abortion, and suggested that the skepticism had arisen on the campaign trail.

washington post logoWashington Post, DeSantis voters: Angry at Fauci, anxious about ‘Cinderfella,’ tiring of Trump, Hannah Knowles, Colby Itkowitz and Dylan Wells, June 26, 2023 (print ed.). The Florida governor is appealing to the GOP’s right flank as he tries to peel support away from Donald Trump. But many are still drawn to the former president, who leads by a wide margin in the polls

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Environment, Transportation, Energy, Space, Disasters, Climate

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ny times logoNew York Times, Intensifying Rains Pose Hidden Flood Risks Across the U.S., Raymond Zhong, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). In some of the nation’s most populous areas, hazardous storms can dump significantly more water than previously believed, new calculations show.

As climate change intensifies severe rainstorms, the infrastructure protecting millions of Americans from flooding faces growing risk of failures, according to new calculations of expected precipitation in every county and locality across the contiguous United States.

The calculations suggest that one in nine residents of the lower 48 states, largely in populous regions including the Mid-Atlantic and the Texas Gulf Coast, is at significant risk of downpours that deliver at least 50 percent more rain per hour than local pipes, channels and culverts might be designed to drain.

“The data is startling, and it should be a wake-up call,” said Chad Berginnis, the executive director of the Association of State Floodplain Managers, a nonprofit organization focused on flood risk.

The new rain estimates, issued on Monday by the First Street Foundation, a nonprofit research group in New York, carry worrying implications for homeowners, too: They indicate that 12.6 million properties nationwide face significant flood risks despite not being required by the federal government to buy flood insurance.

washington post logoWashington Post, As wildfires threaten Yosemite’s giant sequoias, the national park fights to protect them, Lillian Cunningham, June. 28, 2023 (podcast). California’s Sierra Nevada is home to a very special kind of tree, found nowhere else on Earth: the giant sequoia. But in the era of catastrophic wildfires fueled by climate change, these ancient trees are now in jeopardy.

ny times logoNew York Times, New Wave of Smoke From Canada Wildfires Blankets Chicago and the Midwest, Julie Bosman, June 28, 2023. Residents in the region were urged to remain indoors, weeks after similarly dangerous air choked the Northeast.

Chicagoans awoke on Wednesday morning to a second day of smoky air enveloping the city, obscuring the skyline and shrouding Lake Michigan in a whitish haze. The air quality remained unhealthy, and public health officials warned residents to take precautions before venturing outdoors.

In cities throughout the Midwest, smoke from Canadian wildfires continued to disrupt daily life. The Air Quality Index in Detroit spiked to 337, a measure that placed the city’s air in the “hazardous” category; Cleveland reached 272 on the A.Q.I. Established by the Environmental Protection Agency, the index runs from 0 to 500; the higher the number, the greater the level of air pollution.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Battle Over Direction of Texas, Water Breaks Are an Unlikely Casualty, Mary Beth Gahan, J. David Goodman and David Montgomery, June 28, 2023. A new law pre-empting local labor rules is part of an effort by Republicans to exert control over the state’s Democratic-led major cities.

As the heat index hit 115 degrees on Monday, Karla Perez took a five-minute water break at a construction site in Dallas. Such rest breaks are required by the city, as they are in Austin.

But a change in Texas state law, which goes into effect in September, will wipe away those local requirements, leaving workers like Ms. Perez to count on their employers to provide time to rest and rehydrate. Right now, she gets three breaks a day. She dreads what the change might bring.

“Workers are going to die,” she said. “There’s no way around it.”

The legal change was part of a sweeping effort by the Republican-dominated State Legislature to exert control over its Democratic-led major cities, which have become increasingly assertive in pushing progressive policies at the local level.

The new law, labeled “the Death Star” by its Democratic opponents, would pre-empt a broad swath of ordinances, including those affecting labor, agriculture and natural resources. It is expected to nullify regulations such as those dealing with payday lending, puppy mills, certain sanitation requirements and other practices.

ny times logoNew York Times, A brutal heat wave in the southeast U.S. is expected to spread, bringing temperatures up to 20 degrees above normal, Livia Albeck-Ripka June 28, 2023. The dangerous heat crippling Texas and other parts of the Southeast is forecast to spread north and east.

The oppressive heat wave that has the southern United States sweltering this week is expected to continue, spreading north and east to parts of Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida, and is threatening to raise the heat index to dangerously high levels in places, according to the National Weather Service.

Temperatures are expected to be up to 20 degrees above normal, reaching the upper 90s or low 100s in some parts, with nighttime temperatures offering little respite, and high humidity continuing to produce “potentially life threatening” heat through the rest of the week, forecasters said. “It is essential to have ways to cool down and limit your heat exposure,” the Weather Service warned on Twitter on Tuesday evening.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Giant Wind Farm Is Taking Root Off Massachusetts, Stanley Reed and Ivan Penn, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). The offshore energy project will have turbines taller than any building in Boston, but they will be barely visible from Martha’s Vineyard.

The $4 billion project, known as Vineyard Wind, is expected to start generating electricity by year’s end.

In the coming months, 62 turbines, each up to up to 850 feet high (taller than any building in Boston) with blades about 350 feet long, will be planted on a sweep of seabed 15 miles off Martha’s Vineyard, the island where former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton have vacationed.

Cables carrying electricity created by spinning rotors will land on a beach in Barnstable on Cape Cod and then head to consumers in the state. Vineyard Wind says its machines will crank out enough power to light up 400,000 homes.

ny times logoNew York Times, Tesla May Have Already Won the Charging Wars, Jack Ewing, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). Deals with Ford and G.M. will make it easier for electric vehicle drivers to find chargers. It could also give Elon Musk control of critical infrastructure.

tesla logoMary Barra and Elon Musk may be intense business rivals, but they sounded like old pals as they chatted on Twitter this month about a deal that could help remove one of the biggest barriers to electric vehicle ownership: not enough chargers.

Ms. Barra, the chief executive of General Motors, had just agreed to follow Ford Motor in adopting the charging technology developed by Tesla, the carmaker led by Mr. Musk. The deals will allow G.M. and Ford customers to use some of Tesla’s fast chargers. Fear of not finding a charger is a main reason some people hesitate to buy electric cars, surveys show.

Ms. Barra gushed about the “fantastic” team at Tesla. Mr. Musk said it was an “honor” to work with her.

Beneath the surface of those pleasantries were probably some tough corporate calculations. G.M., Ford and numerous charging companies and equipment suppliers have agreed to work with Tesla because they desperately need the company’s help. In addition to selling more electric cars in the United States than all other automakers put together, Tesla operates the country’s largest fast-charging network.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Pedestrian Deaths Are at Highest Level in 41 Years, Report Says, Amanda Holpuch, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). More than 7,500 people were struck and killed by vehicles in 2022, according to state data. Safety can be improved through infrastructure changes and traffic enforcement, the analysis said.

The number of pedestrians who were struck and killed by vehicles in 2022 was the highest it’s been since 1981, according to a report based on state government data.

At least 7,508 people who were out walking were struck and killed in the United States last year, said the report, published on Friday by the Governors Highway Safety Association, a nonprofit that represents states’ safety offices. The report used preliminary data from government agencies in 49 states and Washington, D.C. (Oklahoma had incomplete data because of a technical issue and was the only state to not provide data, the association said.)

The findings for 2022, and an accompanying analysis of federal government data from 2021, showed that pedestrian deaths in the United States have continued to rise over the last decade.

From 2010 to 2021, pedestrian deaths increased from 4,302 to 7,624, a 77 percent rise, according to the federal data. In the same period, other types of traffic fatalities increased by 25 percent.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here’s a Look at the Water Crises That Might Be Coming to You Soon, Somini Sengupta, June 26, 2023 (print ed.). Bangladesh, a river delta nation, is on the front line of climate change. Its coping strategies could offer lessons for the wider world.

Bangladesh is a land of water. Its silty rivers rush down from the Himalayas, spill into a filigreed maze of ponds, wetlands and tributaries before emptying into the blustery, black Bay of Bengal.

Now, its most profound threat is water, in its many terrible incarnations: drought, deluge, cyclones, saltwater. All are aggravated to varying degrees by climate change, and all are forcing millions of people to do whatever they can to keep their heads above it.

This matters to the rest of the world, because what the 170 million people of this crowded, low-lying delta nation face today is what many of us will face tomorrow.

The people of Bangladesh are rushing to harvest rice as soon as they get word of heavy rains upstream. They’re building floating beds of water hyacinths to grow vegetables beyond the reach of floodwaters. Where shrimp farms have turned the soil too salty to cultivate crops, they’re growing okra and tomatoes not in soil, but in compost, stuffed into plastic boxes that had once carried shrimp. Where the land itself is washing away, people have to move to other villages and towns. And where they’re running out of even drinking water, they’re learning to drink every drop of rain.

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More On U.S. Abortion, Child Porn, #MeToo

ny times logoNew York Times, A Glimpse of What Life Is Like With Almost No Abortion Access, David W. Chen, Photographs by Noriko Hayashi, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). Guam, a U.S. territory, has no resident doctors who perform abortions. Court decisions could cut access to pills, the only legal option left.

For decades, the Pregnancy Control Clinic, tucked inside a squat, beige building around the corner from a bowling alley, handled most of the abortions on Guam, a tiny U.S. territory 1,600 miles south of Japan.

But the doctor who ran it retired seven years ago, and the clinic now appears abandoned. An old medical exam table stands near a vanity with a dislodged faucet, and a letter from Dr. Edmund A. Griley is taped to the front door: “My last day of seeing patients is November 18, 2016,” he wrote. “I recommend that you begin looking for a new physician as soon as possible.”

Dr. Griley has since died, and his deserted clinic is a dusty snapshot of Guam’s past — and some say, its future.

Though abortion is legal in Guam up to 13 weeks of pregnancy, and later in certain cases, the last doctor who performed abortions left Guam in 2018. The closest abortion clinic on American soil is in Hawaii, an eight-hour flight away. And a pending court case could soon cut off access to abortion pills, the last way for most women on Guam to get legal abortions.

ny times logoNew York Times, Religious Freedom Arguments Underpin Wave of Challenges to Abortion Bans, Pam Belluck, June 28, 2023. In lawsuits challenging state abortion bans, lawyers for abortion rights plaintiffs are employing religious liberty arguments long used by the Christian right.

For years, conservative Christians have used the principle of religious freedom to prevail in legal battles on issues like contraceptive insurance mandates and pandemic restrictions. Now, abortion rights supporters are employing that argument to challenge one of the right’s most prized accomplishments: state bans on abortion.

In the year since Roe v. Wade was overturned, clergy and members of various religions, including Christian and Jewish denominations, have filed about 15 lawsuits in eight states, saying abortion bans and restrictions infringe on their faiths.

Many of those suing say that according to their religious beliefs, abortion should be allowed in at least some circumstances that the bans prohibit, and that the bans violate religious liberty guarantees and the separation of church and state. The suits, some seeking exemptions and others seeking to overturn the bans, often invoke state religious freedom restoration acts enacted and used by conservatives in some battles over social issues.

The lawsuits show “religious liberty doesn’t operate in one direction,” said Elizabeth Sepper, a law professor at University of Texas at Austin.

ny times logoNew York Times, How a Year Without Roe Shifted American Views on Abortion, Kate Zernike, June 24, 2023 (print ed.). New polling shows public opinion increasingly supports legal abortion, with potential political consequences for 2024.

For decades, Americans had settled around an uneasy truce on abortion. Even if most people weren’t happy with the status quo, public opinion about the legality and morality of abortion remained relatively static. But the Supreme Court’s decision last summer overturning Roe v. Wade set off a seismic change, in one swoop striking down a federal right to abortion that had existed for 50 years, long enough that women of reproductive age had never lived in a world without it. As the decision triggered state bans and animated voters in the midterms, it shook complacency and forced many people to reconsider their positions.

In the year since, polling shows that what had been considered stable ground has begun to shift: For the first time, a majority of Americans say abortion is “morally acceptable.” A majority now believes abortion laws are too strict. They are significantly more likely to identify, in the language of polls, as “pro-choice” over “pro-life,” for the first time in two decades.

And more voters than ever say they will vote only for a candidate who shares their views on abortion, with a twist: While Republicans and those identifying as “pro-life” have historically been most likely to see abortion as a litmus test, now they are less motivated by it, while Democrats and those identifying as “pro-choice” are far more so.

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Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy

washington post logoWashington Post, Melted, pounded, extruded: Why many ultra-processed foods are unhealthy, Anahad O’Connor and Aaron Steckelberg, June 27, 2023.  Industrial processing changes the structure of food. Experts say it can affect how much you eat and absorb, your weight and your risk for chronic disease.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Vaccine Program Now Flush With Cash, but Short on Key Details, Benjamin Mueller, Noah Weiland and Carl Zimmer, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). Efforts to develop the next generation of Covid vaccines are running up against bureaucratic hassles and regulatory uncertainty, scientists say, obstacles that could make it harder to curb the spread of the coronavirus and arm the United States against future pandemics.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2The Biden administration, after months of delay, has now addressed at least a shortfall in funding, hurrying to issue the first major grants from a $5 billion program to expedite a new class of more potent and durable inoculations.

But the program is facing the blunt reality that vaccine development, after being shifted into high gear early in the pandemic, has returned to its slower and more customary pace.

Experiments on a promising nasal vaccine licensed from Yale University have slowed as researchers have tried for nearly a year to obtain older shots from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna to use in the studies. The federal government’s original purchase agreements for those shots prevent doses from being used for research purposes without the companies’ approval, despite tens of millions of unused shots being wasted in recent months

ny times logoNew York Times, How the Shortage of a $15 Cancer Drug Is Upending Treatment, Christina Jewett, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). Older generic chemotherapy drugs have been scarce for months, forcing doctors to prioritize the patients who have the best chance of survival.

Tony Shepard learned he had vocal cord cancer this spring, but he was encouraged when his doctor said he had an 88 percent chance at a cure with chemotherapy and radiation.

That outlook began to dim in recent weeks, though, after the oncology practice he goes to in Central California began to sporadically run out of the critical medication he needs.

Since Mr. Shepard’s doctor informed him of the shortage, each treatment session has felt like a game of “Russian roulette,” he said, knowing that failure would mean the removal of his vocal cords and the disappearing of his voice.

“I try not to even think about it,” said Mr. Shepard, 62, a manager of a gas station in Madera, a town in California’s Central Valley. “It’s something scary that you don’t really want to think about — but you know it’s a reality.”

The nation’s monthslong shortage of highly potent cancer drugs is grinding on, forcing patients and their doctors to face even grimmer realities than those cancer typically presents. Thousands of patients like Mr. Shepard have been confronting gut-wrenching options, delays in treatment and potentially bleaker futures.

Oncologists are concerned that the alternatives to two crucial chemotherapy drugs are far less effective in treating certain cancers, and are sometimes more toxic. The backup therapies or lack thereof, they say, pose particularly troubling prospects for patients with ovarian, testicular, breast, lung and head and neck cancers.

ny times logoNew York Times, Anthony Fauci Will Join Faculty at Georgetown University, Mike Ives, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). Dr. Fauci was the federal government’s top infectious disease expert for decades, and helped steer the U.S. response to Covid-19.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, who served as the federal government’s top infectious disease specialist for nearly 40 years and played a key role in steering the United States through the coronavirus pandemic, will join the faculty of Georgetown University in Washington next month.

Dr. Fauci, 82, retired from the National Institutes of Health last year, having served as the director of its National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984. He was also the top Covid adviser to President Biden, a role he had filled under President Donald J. Trump. Georgetown announced his new job on Monday.

Dr. Fauci will work at Georgetown’s School of Medicine and its McCourt School of Public Policy, the university said. A spokeswoman for Georgetown did not immediately respond to an inquiry seeking details about what courses he will teach. The university’s announcement said Dr. Fauci’s role at the School of Medicine will be in an infectious disease division focused on education, research and patient care.

At the N.I.H., Dr. Fauci spent decades overseeing research on established infectious diseases — including H.I.V./AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria — and emerging ones like Ebola, Zika and Covid-19. He was also a principal architect of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a program that has delivered lifesaving treatment to more than 20 million people in 54 countries since its inception 20 years ago under President George W. Bush.

washington post logoWashington Post, Insomnia linked to up to 51 percent higher risk of strokes, Linda Searing, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). People suffering from insomnia may have as much as a 51 percent greater chance of having a stroke than those who do not have trouble sleeping, according to a study published in the journal Neurology.

For nearly a decade, the study tracked 31,126 people, age 61 on average and with no history of stroke at the start of the study. In that time, 2,101 strokes were recorded.

Insomnia symptoms reported by the participants included having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep and waking too early. Comparing participants who did and did not have signs of the sleep disorder, the researchers found that the degree of risk for stroke rose as the number of symptoms increased.

People with one to four insomnia symptoms were found to be 16 percent more likely to have had a stroke than were those with no symptoms, whereas a stroke was 51 percent more likely for people experiencing five to eight symptoms. The connection was stronger for those participants under age 50.

washington post logoWashington Post, 5 people contract malaria within U.S. borders, the first such cases in two decades, Brittany Shammas, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). The last confirmed instance of local transmission happened in 2003, when eight people became infected in Palm Beach County, Fla., the CDC said.

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U.S. Media, Education, Sports, Arts, High Tech

washington post logoWashington Post, National Geographic lays off its last remaining staff writers, Paul Farhi, June 29, 2023 (print ed.). The magazine, which remains among the most read in the U.S., has struggled in the digital era to command the kind of resources that fueled the deep reporting it became known for.

Like one of the endangered species whose impending extinction it has chronicled, National Geographic magazine has been on a relentlessly downward path, struggling for vibrancy in an increasingly unforgiving ecosystem.

On Wednesday, the Washington-based magazine that has surveyed science and the natural world for 135 years reached another difficult passage when it laid off all of its last remaining staff writers.

The cutback — the latest in a series under owner Walt Disney Co. — involves some 19 editorial staffers in all, who were notified in April that these terminations were coming. Article assignments will henceforth be contracted out to freelancers or pieced together by editors. The cuts also eliminated the magazine’s small audio department.

The layoffs were the second over the past nine months, and the fourth since a series of ownership changes began in 2015. In September, Disney removed six top editors in an extraordinary reorganization of the magazine’s editorial operations.

Departing staffers said Wednesday the magazine has curtailed photo contracts that enabled photographers to spend months in the field producing the publication’s iconic images.

In a further cost-cutting move, copies of the famous bright-yellow-bordered print publication will no longer be sold on newsstands in the United States starting next year.

 

dominion voting systemsRollingstone, Newsmax Staffers Hit With Subpoenas in 2020 Election Defamation Suit, Staff Report, June 25, 2023. Court filings rife with internal communications exposed Fox News’ post-election misinformation push. Newsmax could be next.

rolling stone logoDominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit against Fox News laid bare how the network communicated behind the scenes about broadcasting 2020 election misinformation, ultimately leading the network to fork over a massive settlement. Newsmax could be next, as voting-technology company Smartmatic has subpoenaed several of the right-wing cable network’s current and former employees for work and personal correspondence.

Several Newsmax insiders, who spoke with Rolling Stone under a condition of anonymity due to a fear of reprisal, said that roughly three weeks ago they were told to hand over “mirror images of their personal cellphone, personal email, and iCloud,” as Smartmatic’s lawsuit against the network moves forward.

Smartmaric’s attorney J. Erik Connolly, managing chair of the litigation practice group at Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan, & Aronoff, LLC, tells Rolling Stone: “Smartmatic intends to pursue discovery from the current and former Newsmax employees who participated in the egregious disinformation campaign against the company. Some of the discovery has come, and will come, from the company. Smartmatic is pursuing these individuals to get the rest. Our complaint does not numerically specify the amount of damages we have suffered.”

Smartmatic claims in its lawsuit that Newsmax knowingly pushed falsehoods about the company following the 2020 presidential election. “Newsmax published and/or republished false statements and implications during news broadcasts, in online reports, and on social media that ‘Smartmatic participated in a criminal conspiracy’ to fix, rig, and steal the Election,” the defamation suit alleges.

Newsmax, which did not return Rolling Stone’s request for comment, initially pushed back on the Smartmatic defamation suit with a countersuit claiming it was an intimidation tactic. However, in February 2023, Smartmatic’s case was permitted to proceed, and Newsmax staffers are now being asked to hand over pertinent material.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Historians Criticize Moms for Liberty Event at Museum in Philadelphia, Jennifer Schuessler, June 28, 2023. Several leading scholarly groups have criticized the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia (shown above in a file of the city skyline) for renting space to the group, which has pushed for book bans.

A half-dozen scholarly groups, including the nation’s two largest associations of professional historians, have criticized the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia for renting space to Moms for Liberty, calling it a dangerous normalization of an organization that supports book bans and restrictions on teaching about race and gender.

In a letter to the museum on Monday, the American Historical Association called on the museum to find a legal way to cancel the rental.

“Moms for Liberty is an organization that has vigorously advocated censorship and harassment of history teachers, banning history books from libraries and classrooms, and legislation that renders it impossible for historians to teach with professional integrity without risking job loss and other penalties,” the letter said.

The letter recognized the group’s right to argue for its preferred approach to history education. “However, Moms for Liberty has crossed a boundary in its attempts to silence and harass teachers, rather than participate in legitimate controversy,” it said.

The controversy became public in early June, when it was reported that dozens of museum employees were calling on the museum to cancel the rental to Moms for Liberty, on the grounds that it undermined the museum’s reputation and mission.

The rental was for a reception during its four-day “Joyful Warriors National Summit,” which begins on Thursday. The summit will feature several dozen prominent speakers, including former President Donald J. Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, both of whom have championed the teaching of “patriotic history” and opposition to “wokeness.”

In a statement, the museum, a private nonprofit, acknowledged the legitimacy of the employees’ concerns, but said it could not discriminate on the basis of a group’s political beliefs, which it called “antithetical to our purpose.”

Moms for Liberty has objected to negative characterizations of the group, which the Southern Poverty Law Center recently labeled “extremist.”

In a statement to The New York Times, the organization’s co-founders, Tiffany Justice and Tina Descovich, said: “We expect our national summit in Philadelphia to be a time of training and empowerment for parents to be more active in their child’s school system. We stand for the rights of parents and against anyone trying to silent parents who want to speak up on behalf of their child’s needs.”

Moms for Liberty, founded in 2021, originally focused on opposition to pandemic-era restrictions in schools, but has since expanded to supporting parents’ rights to ban books they deem inappropriate from classrooms and school libraries. The group has also become a force in Republican politics — the scheduled speakers at the summit include several presidential candidates.

The controversy over the Moms for Liberty event also highlights the complexities of free speech, and the line between opposing censorship and engaging in it. In their statements, the historical groups did not speak entirely with one voice.

ny times logoNew York Times, Remains Found in California Wilderness Are Identified as Those of Julian Sands, Derrick Bryson Taylor, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). The British actor was reported missing in January after he went hiking alone on a trail on Mount Baldy. Last weekend, after months of intense searches, hikers found human remains in the area.

Human remains that were found on Saturday in the Southern California wilderness have been identified as those of the British actor Julian Sands, who had been missing since January after he went hiking in the area, the authorities said on Tuesday.

Mr. Sands, 65, of North Hollywood, was an avid hiker and was best known for his role in the critically acclaimed 1986 film “A Room With a View.” The film, an adaptation of the novel by E.M. Forster, regularly makes lists as one of the best British films of all time. He also appeared in dozens of other films and television shows, including “Arachnophobia,” “Naked Lunch,” “Warlock” and “Ocean’s Thirteen.”

washington post logoWashington Post, The Biden administration announces $42 billion in federal aid to expand high-speed internet access, Tony Romm, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). About 7 percent of the country still doesn’t have broadband access that meets minimum standards, according to federal estimates. The funding — a centerpiece of the recent bipartisan infrastructure law — marks the largest-ever federal push to help an estimated 8.5 million families and businesses.

joe biden resized oThe Biden administration on Monday announced more than $42 billion in new federal funding to expand high-speed internet access nationwide, commencing the largest-ever campaign to help an estimated 8.5 million families and small businesses finally take advantage of modern-day connectivity.

The money, which the government plans to parcel out to states over the next two years, is the centerpiece of a vast and ambitious effort to deliver reliable broadband to the entire country by 2030 — ensuring that even the most far-flung parts of the United States can reap the economic benefits of the digital age.

In a preview of Biden’s planned remarks, White House officials likened the new infrastructure project to the government’s work to electrify the nation’s darkened heartland in the late 1930s, when more than 90 percent of farms had no electric power in the face of high costs and prohibitive terrain.

  • Washington Post, The real reason people in the Northeast are most likely to still have landlines, Andrew Van Dam, June 26, 2023.

ny times logoNew York Times, PGA Tour’s Pact With Saudi Wealth Fund Shows Many Details Left to Settle, Alan Blinder, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). The five-page agreement provoked a furor but included only a handful of binding provisions.

The PGA Tour’s tentative deal with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund to form an alliance with the rival LIV Golf series includes only a handful of binding commitments — such as a nondisparagement agreement and a pledge to dismiss acrimonious litigation — and leaves many of the most consequential details about the future of men’s professional golf to be negotiated by the end of the year.

The five-page framework agreement was obtained by The New York Times on Monday, the day the tour shared a copy of it with a Senate subcommittee that plans to hold a July hearing about the deal.

The proposed deal, announced on June 6 by the tour and the wealth fund, the financial force behind the renegade LIV Golf circuit, has caused an uproar throughout the golf industry. But a review of the agreement points to the rushed nature of the secret, seven-week talks that led to the deal and the complex path that remains ahead for the new venture, a potential triumph for Saudi Arabia’s quest to gain power and influence in sports and, its critics say, to distract from its reputation as a human rights abuser.

Most crucially, the tour and the wealth fund must still come to terms on the values of the assets that each will contribute to their planned partnership. Bankers and lawyers have spent recent weeks beginning the valuation process, but the framework agreement includes no substantive details of projected figures or even the size of an anticipated cash investment from the wealth fund.

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In this handout photo taken from video released by Prigozhin Press Service on Friday, March 3, 2023, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner Group military company, addresses Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asking him to withdraw the remaining Ukrainian forces from Bakhmut to save their lives, at an unspecified location in Ukraine. Prigozhin's criticism of the top military brass is in stark contrast with more than two decades of rigidly controlled rule by President Vladimir Putin without any sign of infighting among his top lieutenants. (Prigozhin Press Service via AP, File)

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Rejects Theory That Would Have Transformed American Elections, Adam Liptak, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). The 6-3 majority dismissed the “independent state legislature” theory, which would have given state lawmakers nearly unchecked power over federal elections.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a legal theory that would have radically reshaped how federal elections are conducted by giving state legislatures largely unchecked power to set all sorts of rules for federal elections and to draw congressional maps warped by partisan gerrymandering.

jack smith graphicThe vote was 6 to 3, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. writing the majority opinion. The Constitution, he said, “does not exempt state legislatures from the ordinary constraints imposed by state law.”

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch dissented.

The case concerned the “independent state legislature” theory. The doctrine is based on a reading of the Constitution’s Elections Clause, which says, “The times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof.”

Proponents of the strongest form of the theory say this means that no other organs of state government — not courts, not governors, not election administrators, not independent commissions — can alter a legislature’s actions on federal elections.

The case, Moore v. Harper, No. 21-1271, concerned a voting map drawn by the North Carolina Legislature that was initially rejected as a partisan gerrymander by the state’s Supreme Court. Experts said the map was likely to yield a congressional delegation made up of 10 Republicans and four Democrats.

The state court rejected the argument that it was not entitled to review the actions of the state’s Legislature, saying that adopting the independent state legislature theory would be “repugnant to the sovereignty of states, the authority of state constitutions and the independence of state courts, and would produce absurd and dangerous consequences.”

Republicans seeking to restore the legislative map last year asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene, arguing in an emergency application that the state court had been powerless to act.

The justices rejected the request for immediate intervention, and the election in November was conducted under a map drawn by experts appointed by a state court. That resulted in a 14-member congressional delegation that was evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, roughly mirroring the state’s partisan divisions.

The Republican lawmakers appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying the state court was not entitled to second-guess the Legislature. When the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case in December, the justices seemed divided, if not fractured, over the limits of the theory.

The composition of the North Carolina Supreme Court changed after elections in November, favoring Republicans by a 5-to-2 margin. In what a dissenting justice called a “shameful manipulation of fundamental principles of our democracy and the rule of law,” the new majority reversed course, saying the Legislature was free to draw gerrymandered voting districts as it saw fit.

Many observers had expected the U.S. Supreme Court to dismiss the case in light of that development. But Chief Justice Roberts concluded that the Supreme Court retained jurisdiction over the case.

ny times logoNew York Times, Smoke From Canadian Wildfires Blankets Large Swaths of the U.S, Anushka Patil and Julie Bosman, June 28, 2023. Thick smoke from the seemingly endless Canadian wildfires has again blanketed large swaths of the United States, prompting warnings for residents to stay indoors with few signs of any immediate respite.

Several major cities, including Detroit and Indianapolis, reported some of the worst air quality in the United States on Wednesday afternoon, with air quality indexes falling well into the “very unhealthy” category..

The wildfires prompted warnings for residents in several major cities to stay indoors with few signs of any immediate respite.

Politico, Biden world wants Republicans to feel the pain for voting no while taking the dough, Jennifer Haberkorn, June 28, 2023. Unlike past attempts to sell the public on its work, the administration seems intent to inflict a modicum of political pain for those who opposed it.

Jennifer Granholm came to a Baptist church community center on Tuesday not to find connection with a higher power but to pitch a cleaner one.

The Energy secretary was hawking energy efficient solar panels, heat pumps, electric vehicles and induction stoves, doing so with the type of passion most commonly associated with a timeshare salesperson.

“Those of you with cameras, get them ready,” she said excitedly to the daytime crowd of about 100 people. “Because if you’re interested in knowing when all of this is available and how to take advantage of it, I’m going to have a screenshot.”

In a PowerPoint presentation, Granholm listed all the tax credits available to consumers who buy the products thanks to legislation approved in the beginning of President Joe Biden’s term. Her message was unmistakable: the president wants to put money in your pocket.

A Cabinet secretary talking up the achievements of the administration in which she served is hardly revelatory politics. What was notable about Granholm’s stop was where it took place.

She has taken her sales pitch across the South this week, venturing into the congressional districts of five House Republicans who opposed the legislation responsible for those clean energy investments. It is part of the “Investing in America” tour, a broader Biden administration effort to sell the measures — the American Rescue Plan, Inflation Reduction Act, the bipartisan infrastructure law and the CHIPS and Science Act. But unlike past attempts by the administration to sell the public on its work, this one seems designed to inflict a modicum of political pain for those who opposed it.

Between Charlotte, N.C., and Chattanooga, Tenn., Granholm is traversing the districts of GOP Reps. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, Joe Wilson of South Carolina, Mike Collins and Barry Loudermilk of Georgia and Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee.

In addition to Granholm’s stops, White House senior advisor Mitch Landrieu will talk about high-speed internet funding in GOP Rep. Buddy Carter’s district in Savannah, Ga., on Wednesday. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is going to Rep. Hal Rogers’s Kentucky district to talk about infrastructure. There are also stops in more friendly Democratic territory, such as New York, Philadelphia, Seattle and New Orleans, many of them with Democratic lawmakers.

All of the Republicans whose districts the administration is visiting this week opposed the bills signed into law by Biden.

ny times logoNew York Times, Court Throws Out New York’s Civil Case Against Ivanka Trump, Jonah E. Bromwich, Ben Protess and William K. Rashbaum, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). The decision could mean that claims against Donald J. Trump and his company might also be limited.

A New York appeals court on Tuesday dismissed the New York attorney general’s civil case against Donald J. Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and potentially limited the case against the former president and his family business, which is set to go to trial in October.

Last year, the attorney general, Letitia James, filed a lawsuit against Mr. Trump, his company and three of his adult children, including Ms. Trump, left, accusing them of fraudulently overvaluing the former president’s assets by billions of dollars to receive favorable loans.

On Tuesday, the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan said in a unanimous ruling that Ms. James’s claims against Ms. Trump should be dismissed because the attorney general missed a deadline for filing the case against her. Ms. Trump was no longer a part of the Trump Organization after 2016, the ruling noted.

The appeals court effectively left it to the State Supreme Court judge presiding over the case to determine whether the claims against the other defendants — including Mr. Trump, his company and his two adult sons — should be limited.

Ms. James’s case rests on the company’s annual financial statements, which she says contained inflated numbers. The company continued to use those statements until at least 2021, she said. And Mr. Trump’s name was on the documents, even after he ascended to the White House.

In January, the State Supreme Court judge, Arthur F. Engoron, denied Mr. Trump’s motion to dismiss the case, saying that some arguments that the former president’s lawyers made were “borderline frivolous.” But Mr. Trump appealed, resulting in the decision on Tuesday.

Based on the appeals court’s ruling, it’s possible that Justice Engoron may have to limit claims related to two of the bigger transactions cited in the complaint: a hotel deal in Chicago and the purchase of a golf resort in Florida.

The ruling represented a rare legal victory that could strengthen Mr. Trump’s hand heading into the civil trial scheduled for Oct. 2 — and as he seeks the presidency again. Mr. Trump and his family business had endured a punishing series of losses in civil and criminal cases, and the appeals court’s decision might embolden him in any potential settlement talks.

A lawyer for Mr. Trump, Christopher M. Kise, said in a statement that the decision represented “the first step toward ending a case that should have never been filed.”

“The correct application of the law will now limit appropriately the previously unlimited reach of the attorney general,” he said. “We remain confident that once all the real facts are known, there will be no doubt President Trump has built an extraordinarily successful business empire.”

A spokeswoman for Ms. James, Delaney Kempner, said that the office had sued Mr. Trump and his company “after uncovering extensive financial fraud that continues to this day.”

“There is a mountain of evidence that shows Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization falsely and fraudulently valued multiple assets and misrepresented those values to financial institutions for significant economic gain,” she said. “Those facts haven’t changed.”

Ms. James’s lawsuit was filed last year on Sept. 21 against Mr. Trump, his business, Ms. Trump and his two adult sons.

It accuses the former president of lying to lenders and insurers about the value of his assets, and says that he violated state criminal laws and, “plausibly,” federal laws. The case lays out detailed accusations of how Mr. Trump’s annual financial statements overstated the worth of nearly all of his best-known properties — from Trump Tower and 40 Wall Street in Manhattan to Mar-a-Lago in Florida — to get better terms from the lenders and insurers.

The suit seeks $250 million that the attorney general contends the Trumps made through deception, and asks a judge to essentially bar the former president from doing business in New York if he is found liable at trial. Justice Engoron has already appointed a monitor to oversee the Trump Organization’s business transactions.

Although Mr. Trump invoked his constitutional right against self-incrimination in an interview last year, he answered Ms. James’s questions in a deposition in April.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers could argue at trial that the financial statements included disclaimers, and that the values were unaudited estimates. They could also argue that setting property values is subjective, more of an art than a science, and that the lenders and insurers were hardly victims.

“The transactions at the center of this case were wildly profitable for the banks and for the Trump entities,” Mr. Kise said in a statement issued after his deposition in April. Mr. Kise contended that once the facts were revealed, “everyone will scoff at the notion any fraud took place.”

 

donald trump ivanka bed kissRaw Story, Ex-staffer describes Trump fantasizing about sex with Ivanka, Adam Nichols, June 28, 2023. Ex-staffer describes Trump fantasizing about sex with Ivanka (shown together in a 1990s file photo).

miles taylor 1 gmaFormer President Donald Trump made sexual comments about his daughter Ivanka that were so lewd he was rebuked by his Chief of Staff, former Trump official Miles Taylor writes in a new book.

raw story logo squareThe comments are used by Taylor, right, to highlight almost daily instances of sexism in the Trump White House that were so bad one senior female official told the writer, “This is not a healthy workplace for women.”

"Aides said he talked about Ivanka Trump's breasts, her backside, and what it might be like to have sex with her, remarks that once led (former Chief of Staff) John Kelly to remind the president that Ivanka was his daughter," Taylor writes.

"Afterward, Kelly retold that story to me in visible disgust. Trump, he said, was 'a very, very evil man.'"
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The details contained in the upcoming new book, “Blowback: A Warning to Save Democracy from the Next Trump,” were outlined in an exclusive interview with Newsweek Wednesday.

miles taylor bookTaylor, a former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security who admitted to anonymously writing a 2018 op-ed in the New York Times titled “"I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration,” said, "There still are quite a few female leaders from the Trump administration who have held their tongues about the unequal treatment they faced in the administration at best, and the absolute naked sexism they experienced with the hands of Donald Trump at worst."

He said “undisguised sexism” was aimed at everybody from lowly staff members to cabinet secretaries.

He remembered Kirstjen Nielsen, Trump’s former secretary of homeland security, being called “sweetie” and “honey” and having her makeup critiqued by the president.

Taylor said, at one point, Nielsen whispered to him, "Trust me, this is not a healthy workplace for women.”

Donald TrumpAnd Taylor said senior counselor Kellyanne Conway called Trump a “misogynistic bully," a comment that she denied making when contacted by Newsweek.

"He's a pervert, he's difficult to deal with," Taylor told Newsweek. "This is still the same man and, incredibly, we're considering electing him to the presidency again."

He added, “He's setting a very vile tone within the Republican Party, and in a sense has normalized pretty derisive views towards women in general.”

Trump was found liable of sexual abuse in a recent civil trial brought by writer E. Jean Carroll.

washington post logoWashington Post, Push to tie Medicaid to work is making a comeback. Georgia is at forefront, Amy Goldstein, June 28, 2023. Georgia’s move reflects a renewed determination among conservatives to tie eligibility for the largest form of public health insurance to work.

On Capitol Hill this spring, House Republicans — who were engaged in ferocious negotiations over the national debt ceiling — wanted to purge many poor adults from Medicaid rolls unless they held a job, trained for work or helped in their community.

georgia mapMore than 600 miles to the south, Georgia’s GOP governor prepared to do something similar, allowing impoverished adults in the state who had never qualified for Medicaid to join — but only if they prove every month they meet the same kind of requirements.

The Medicaid changes sought in Congress did not survive a debt ceiling compromise. But Georgia’s plan — called Georgia Pathways to Coverage — has proceeded and will begin in July. Despite their disparate outcomes, the moves in Washington and Atlanta reflect a renewed determination among conservatives in various parts of the country to tie eligibility for the largest form of public health insurance to work.

 

Vladimir Putin, right, in a 2017 photo with Gen. Sergei Surovikin, recently appointed as Russian commander of Russia's military in Ukraine (Pool Photo by Alexei Druzhinin).

Russian leader Vladimir Putin, right, in a 2017 photo with Gen. Sergei Surovikin, who had been appointed and then demoted as Russian commander of Russia's military in Ukraine. U.S. officials are trying to determine if the general aided Yevgeny Prigozhin’s plans to rebel against Russia’s military leadership (Pool Photo by Alexei Druzhinin of Sputnik via Reuters).

ny times logoNew York Times, Russian General Knew About Wagner Chief’s Plans, U.S. Officials Say, Julian E. Barnes, Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). Officials are trying to learn if a top military leader helped Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner mercenary group, plan his revolt.

A senior Russian general had advance knowledge of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s plans to rebel against Russia’s military leadership, according to U.S. officials briefed on American intelligence on the matter, which has prompted questions about what support the mercenary leader had inside the top ranks.

The officials said they are trying to learn if Gen. Sergei Surovikin, the former top Russian commander in Ukraine, helped plan Mr. Prigozhin’s actions last weekend, which posed the most dramatic threat to President Vladimir V. Putin in his 23 years in power.

General Surovikin is a respected military leader who helped shore up defenses across the battle lines after Ukraine’s counteroffensive last year, analysts say. He was replaced as the top commander in January but retained influence in running war operations and remains popular among the troops.

American officials also said there are signs that other Russian generals may also have supported Mr. Prigozhin’s attempt to change the leadership of the Defense Ministry by force. Current and former U.S. officials said Mr. Prigozhin would not have launched his uprising unless he believed that others in positions of power would come to his aid.

If General Surovikin was involved in last weekend’s events, it would be the latest sign of the infighting that has characterized Russia’s military leadership since the start of Mr. Putin’s war in Ukraine and could signal a wider fracture between supporters of Mr. Prigozhin and Mr. Putin’s two senior military advisers: Sergei K. Shoigu, the minister of defense, and Gen. Valery V. Gerasimov, the chief of general staff.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trucking Company Is Facing Bankruptcy After a $700 Million Bailout, Alan Rappeport, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). Three years after receiving a pandemic relief loan, the trucking company Yellow has repaid little of the money and is warning that it could soon run out of cash.

A beleaguered trucking business that received a $700 million pandemic-era loan from the federal government may be forced to file for bankruptcy protection this summer amid a dispute with its union, a development that could leave American taxpayers stuck with a failed company.

sba logo new Custom CustomThe financial woes at the business, Yellow, which previously went by the name YRC Worldwide, have been building for years. The company lost more than $100 million in 2019 and has more than $1.5 billion in outstanding debt, including the government loan. In 2022, YRC, which ships meal kits, protective equipment and other supplies to military bases, agreed to pay $6.85 million to settle a federal lawsuit that accused it of defrauding the Defense Department.

In 2020, the Trump administration, which had ties to the company and its executives, agreed to give the firm a pandemic relief loan in exchange for the federal government assuming a 30 percent equity stake in the company.

Three years later, Yellow is on the verge of going bankrupt.

Since receiving the loan, the company has changed its name, restructured its business and seen its stock price plummet. As of the end of March, Yellow’s outstanding debt was $1.5 billion, including about $730 million that is owed to the federal government. Yellow has paid approximately $66 million in interest on the loan, but it has repaid just $230 of the principal owed on the loan, which comes due next year.

On Tuesday, Yellow sued the International Brotherhood of Teamsters for blocking the company’s restructuring plan and accused the union of causing more than $137 million in damages. The company said that it was taking “immediate steps to try to save itself” and that the union was trying to “cause Yellow’s economic ruin.”

The company’s financial plight is the latest example of how some of the trillions of dollars pumped out quickly during the pandemic were misdirected, mismanaged or obtained fraudulently. Federal watchdogs and government agencies have expressed alarm at signs of fraud and failing loans.

The office of the special inspector general for pandemic recovery, an independent agency within the Treasury Department that scrutinizes some of the relief money, warned last month that it was seeing an “alarming rate of defaults by borrowers who are failing to pay even the interest payments on the loans.” The office warned that the number of defaults on pandemic loans could increase over the next two years as payments come due.

On Tuesday, the inspector general for the U.S. Small Business Administration, which disbursed about $1.2 trillion in pandemic loans, said in a report that over $200 billion, or 17 percent, of the money was disbursed to “potentially fraudulent actors.”

Yellow’s loan enabled the company to stay afloat for a while and embark on a restructuring plan. But economic headwinds and a fight with the Teamsters union over the terms of a new contract have put Yellow in a precarious financial position.

A report last year produced by Democratic staff of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis found that the money had been doled out over the objections of career officials at the Defense Department and suggested that senior Trump administration officials had intervened to ensure that Yellow received special treatment despite concerns about its eligibility to receive relief funds. In addition to deep ties to the Trump administration, the company, which for years faced legal and financial troubles, also had a strong lobbying presence in Washington.

 

oceangate victimsAll five aboard the Titan believed to be dead, OceanGate says, Maham Javaid, June 22, 2023.  This photo combo shows from left, Shahzada Dawood, Suleman Dawood, Paul-Henri Nargeolet, Stockton Rush, and Hamish Harding were on a small submersible, shown below, that went missing in the Atlantic Ocean.

oceangate ceo titan

ap logoAssociated Press, Debris from implosion of Titanic-bound submersible is returned to land, Patrick Whittle, June 28, 2023. Debris from the lost submersible Titan has been returned to land after a fatal implosion during its voyage to the wreck of the Titanic captured the world’s attention last week.

The return of the debris to port in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, is a key piece of the investigation into why the submersible imploded, killing all five people on board. Twisted chunks of the 22-foot submersible were unloaded at a Canadian Coast Guard pier on Wednesday.

The Canadian ship Horizon Arctic carried a remotely operated vehicle, or ROV, to search the ocean floor near the Titanic wreck for pieces of the submersible. Pelagic Research Services, a company with offices in Massachusetts and New York that owns the ROV, said on Wednesday that it has completed offshore operations.

  • ABC 7, Video shows debris from Titan submersible brought ashore after catastrophic implosion

Pelagic Research Services’ team is “still on mission” and cannot comment on the ongoing Titan investigation, which involves several government agencies in the U.S. and Canada, said Jeff Mahoney, a spokesperson for the company.

“They have been working around the clock now for ten days, through the physical and mental challenges of this operation, and are anxious to finish the mission and return to their loved ones,” Mahoney said.

Debris from the Titan was located about 12,500 feet (3,810 meters) underwater and roughly 1,600 feet (488 meters) from the Titanic on the ocean floor, the Coast Guard said last week. The Coast Guard is leading the investigation into why the submersible imploded during its June 18 descent. Officials announced on June 22 that the submersible had imploded and all five people on board were dead.

The Coast Guard has convened a Marine Board of Investigation into the implosion. That is the highest level of investigation conducted by the Coast Guard.

One of the experts the Coast Guard consulted with during the search said analyzing the physical material of recovered debris could reveal important clues about what happened to the Titan. And there could be electronic data, said Carl Hartsfield of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

No bodies have been recovered, though Coast Guard officials said days earlier that they were taking precautions in case they encountered human remains during the investigation.

Ocean Gate CEO and pilot Stockton Rush was killed in the implosion along with two members of a prominent Pakistani family, Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman Dawood; British adventurer Hamish Harding; and Titanic expert Paul-Henri Nargeolet.

Representatives for the National Transportation Safety Board and Transportation Safety Board of Canada, which are both involved in the investigation, also declined to comment. The National Transportation Safety Board has said the Coast Guard has declared the loss of the Titan submersible to be a “major marine casualty” and the Coast Guard will lead the investigation.

“We are not able to provide any additional information at this time as the investigation is ongoing,” said Liam MacDonald, a spokesperson for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

A spokesperson for the International Maritime Organization, the U.N.’s maritime agency, has said any investigative reports from the disaster would be submitted for review. Member states of the IMO can also propose changes such as stronger regulations of submersibles.

 

U.S. Supreme Court

washington post logoWashington Post, On cusp of affirmative action decision, how Supreme Court ruled before, Robert Barnes, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). Ahead of affirmative action decisions involving Harvard and the University of North Carolina expected this week, a review of how the Supreme Court ruled before.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Supreme Court Just Helped Save American Democracy From Trumpism, David French, right, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). To understand david french croppedboth the Trump-led Republican effort to overturn the 2020 election and the lingering Republican bitterness surrounding that contest, it’s important to remember that the G.O.P.’s attack on American democracy had two aspects: a conspiracy theory and a coup theory. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court dealt a blow to both. In a case called Moore v. Harper, the court rejected the “independent state legislature” doctrine, reaffirmed the soundness of the 2020 election and secured the integrity of elections to come.

First, a bit of background. The effort to steal the 2020 election depended on two key arguments. The first, the conspiracy theory, was that the election was fundamentally flawed; the second, the coup theory, was that the Constitution provided a remedy that would enable Donald Trump to remain in office.

The disparate elements of the conspiracy theory varied from truly wild claims about voting machines being manipulated and Italian satellites somehow altering the outcome to more respectable arguments that pandemic-induced changes in voting procedures were both unconstitutional and disproportionately benefited Democrats. For example, in one of the most important cases filed during the 2020 election season, the Pennsylvania Republican Party argued that changes in voting procedures mandated by the State Supreme Court violated the Constitution by overriding the will of the Pennsylvania legislature.

The Pennsylvania G.O.P. argued for a version of the independent state legislature doctrine, a theory that the Constitution grants state legislatures — and state legislatures alone — broad, independent powers to regulate elections for president and for Congress. The basis for this argument is found in both Article I and Article II of the Constitution. The relevant provision of Article I states, “The times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof.” And Article II’s electors clause says, “Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of senators and representatives to which the state may be entitled in the Congress.”

The question was whether those two clauses essentially insulated the state legislatures from accountability to other state branches of government, including from judicial review by state courts.

The Supreme Court refused to hear the Pennsylvania G.O.P.’s petition, with Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissenting. But the issue was bound to come back to the court, and in Moore v. Harper it did.

Politico, How the Supreme Court’s decision on election law could shut the door on future fake electors, Zach Montellaro, Kyle Cheney and Madison Fernandez, “It keeps the toothpaste in the tube,” one election expert said.

politico CustomThe Supreme Court’s rejection of a controversial election theory may also have another huge political consequence for future presidential contests: It obliterated the dubious fake elector scheme that Donald Trump deployed in his failed attempt to seize a second term.

That scheme relied on friendly state legislatures appointing “alternate” slates of pro-Trump presidential electors — even if state laws certified victory for Joe Biden. Backed by fringe theories crafted by attorneys like John Eastman, Trump contended that state legislatures could unilaterally reverse the outcome and override their own laws and constitutions to do so.

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court says a conviction for online threats violated 1st Amendment, Ann E. Marimow and Robert Barnes, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). The Supreme Court on Tuesday reversed the conviction of a man who made extensive online threats to a stranger, saying free speech protections require prosecutors to prove the stalker was aware of the threatening nature of his communications.

In a 7-2 ruling with Justice Elena Kagan writing for the majority, the court emphasized that true threats of violence are not protected by the First Amendment. But to guard against a chilling effect on non-threatening speech, the majority said, states must prove that a criminal defendant has acted recklessly, meaning that he “disregarded a substantial risk that his communications would be viewed as threatening violence.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined in part by Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, agreed with the outcome but expressed concern about the risk of cracking down on speech that is unintentionally threatening. She worried that the ruling could lead, for instance, to a high school student going to prison for sending another student violent music lyrics.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Amy Coney Barrett dissented from the majority, with Barrett writing that the standard set by the court on Thursday gives “preferential treatment” to a broad range of threatening speech and makes it more difficult for law enforcement to address actual threats.

“A delusional speaker may lack awareness of the threatening nature of her speech; a devious speaker may strategically disclaim such awareness; and a lucky speaker may leave behind no evidence of mental state for the government to use against her,” Barrett wrote. “The Court’s decision thus sweeps much further than it lets on.”

His online messages terrorized her. But were they actual threats?

The case concerned a Colorado law used to convict Billy Raymond Counterman of stalking and causing “emotional distress” to Coles Whalen, a singer-songwriter he had never met. Counterman, who had previously been convicted of making threats to others, served four years in prison in the Whalen case.

The court’s interest involved the question of when statements, especially those made online, can be considered “true threats” not protected by the First Amendment.

Counterman contended that the state must show that the speaker intends the messages to be threatening. Colorado, backed by the Justice Department and a majority of states, says it should be enough that a “reasonable” recipient feel that physical harm could be imminent, on the basis of the context of the circumstances.

The case returns to the lower courts, where prosecutors could decide to retry the matter under the new standards set by the Supreme Court’s decision.

Whalen testified at Counterman’s trial, and told The Washington Post in an interview, that she was terrified by Counterman’s relentless pursuit. She said she never knew whether her stalker would be in the crowd at her performances. The worry affected her mental health, caused her to cancel concerts and hampered her career and even caused her for a time to give up performing, she said.

“I’m currently unsupervised. I know, it freaks me out too, but the possibilities are endless.”

ny times logoNew York Times, The Key Cases the Supreme Court Has Yet to Decide in 2023, Adam Liptak and Eli Murray, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). The court, which is expected to issue some of its remaining decisions on Tuesday, lurched to the right a year ago. Here’s how it’s been ruling this term.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue the final decisions of its current term this week, including ones on the fate of affirmative action in higher education, President Biden’s plan to forgive more than $400 billion of student debt and the civil rights of same-sex couples.

The court — dominated by a 6-to-3 conservative majority, including three justices appointed by President Donald J. Trump — lurched to the right last June in blockbuster decisions on abortion, guns, religion and climate change. Its record in the current term, which started in October, has so far been more mixed, with the court’s three liberal members voting with the majority, for instance, in important cases on Native American adoptions and minority voting rights. The court will issue some of the remaining rulings on Tuesday.

According to a survey conducted in April by researchers at Harvard, Stanford and the University of Texas, the public is often — but hardly always — divided along partisan lines on how the court should rule in the term’s major cases.

Undecided cases

  • Affirmative Action
  • State Legislatures and Federal Elections
  • Student Loans
  • Religion, Free Speech and Gay Rights
  • Religious Employees

Decided cases

  • Race and Voting Maps
  • Tribal Rights
  • Environmental Protection
  • Animal Cruelty and Interstate Commerce
  • Fair Use of Copyrighted Works
  • Scope of Tech Platforms’ Liability Shield
  • Tech Platforms and Terrorism

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court won’t hear charter school’s bid to force girls to wear skirts, Rachel Weiner and Moriah Balingit, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). The Supreme Court on Monday declined to review the case of a North Carolina charter school that wanted to force female students to wear skirts in the name of “chivalry,” letting stand a lower-court ruling that deemed the policy unconstitutional.

The move is a victory for civil liberties advocates and a blow to social conservatives who hoped that — after allowing public vouchers to be used at religious schools last year — the top U.S. court would exempt charter schools from constitutional protections. The case could have had far-reaching implications for charter schools, which operate in a gray area, functioning as public schools that are run by private organizations.

“If accepted, Charter Day School’s argument that it should be free to violate students’ constitutional rights would have … threatened the freedoms of 3.6 million public charter school students nationwide,” Ria Tabacco Mar of the American Civil Liberties Union said in an email. The ACLU litigated the case on behalf of two parents and one student who challenged the school dress code.

 

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Sheldon Whitehouse was right all along: The Supreme Court is corrupt, Jennifer Rubin, right, June 25, 2023. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse jennifer rubin new headshothas been arguing for years that a flood of “dark money” flowing through right-wing front groups has corrupted the Supreme Court. Never has there been more evidence to bolster his claim.

sheldon whitehouseWhitehouse (D-R.I.), left, told me in an extensive phone interview last week that Justice Samuel A. Alito’s Jr.’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal intending to pre-but a ProPublica story revealing he failed to disclose gifts from billionaire and right-wing donor Paul Singer and paul singerrecuse from a case involving Singer, right, was “very, very weird.”

And it was not merely because he took to the op-ed pages of a sympathetic right-wing Rupert Murdoch newspaper as though he were a panicky politician trying to control the damage. (If that were his intent, it horribly backfired because the stunt only called attention to his angry response and the underlying charges. He managed to make it front-page news. “If you were filing a pleading, this would have pretty much failed,” Whitehouse observed.)

The senator ticked off the problems with Alito’s argument: factual omissions (e.g., the standard for exempt gifts does not include transportation); Alito’s lame effort to turn an airplane into a “facility” to jam it into an exempt-gift category (“It doesn’t pass the laugh test,” Whitehouse said); Alito’s plea that he couldn’t possibly have known Singer had a financial stake ($2 billion) in the outcome of a case before the court (although it was widely reported in the media); and the insistence that yet another billionaire was a “friend,” which somehow absolved him from his obligation to report gifts of “hospitality.” And, Whitehouse argued, it strains credulity that Alito (like Justice Clarence Thomas) could be confused about reporting requirements when there is a Financial Disclosure Committee expressly set up to help judges navigate these issues.

All in all, the poorly reasoned argument amounted to what Whitehouse called “a painful exhibit for an actual ethics code.” A bill he co-authored with Judiciary Chairman Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), set to be marked up after July 4, would confirm that the code of ethics applicable to all judges applies to the high court, set up a process for screening ethics complaints and allow chief judges of the circuit to advise on how their circuits handle similar matters. This is “not remotely unconstitutional,” he noted. (Whitehouse wryly remarked that the last thing the justices want is a comparison to circuit courts’ conduct. “The best way to show that a stick is crooked is to lay a straight stick alongside it,” he said.) Whitehouse is merely asking for the court to develop a process that the judicial branch would oversee for the sake of restoring confidence in the Supreme Court.

Yet another poll, this time from Quinnipiac, shows the court’s approval at an all-time low — 29 percent. Don’t they care?

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Documents reveal Supreme Court justices’ long-running tensions over ethics, Tobi Raji, Theodoric Meyer and Leigh Ann Caldwell, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). This could be a big week for the Supreme Court.

The justices are expected to hand down decisions beginning Tuesday on the remaining cases they heard this term, including whether colleges and universities can continue to use affirmative action in admissions decisions and whether President Biden’s student loan forgiveness program is lawful.

It comes as the justices face intense scrutiny over their rulings and the ethics controversies surrounding them, which have led to intensifying calls for binding ethics rules.

 Relevant Recent Headlines

 

More on Russia, Ukraine

ny times logoNew York Times, Lukashenko Says That During Revolt, Putin Suggested Killing Mercenary Chief, Anton Troianovski, Valerie Hopkins and Victoria Kim, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus, below left, said that he had argued against the move, and confirmed that Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner alexander lukashenko resized 2019mercenary group, had arrived in the country, Belarusian state media reported.

Here are the latest developments.

The Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, right, arrived in Belarus on Tuesday, the Belarusian state news media reported, ending days of yevgeny prigozhin headshot speakingspeculation over his whereabouts after he called off a weekend uprising that marked the most dramatic challenge to President Vladimir V. Putin’s rule in two decades.

New details emerged about the negotiations that ended the daylong rebellion, as President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus, Russia’s closest ally, described his phone conversations with Mr. Putin and Mr. Prigozhin as the Wagner mercenaries were marching to Moscow on Saturday.

vladimir putin hand up palmer

ny times logotom friedman twitterNew York Times, Opinion: What Happens to Putin Now? Russian General Knew About Wagner Chief’s Plans, U.S. Officials Say, Thomas L. Friedman, Jan. 28, 2023 (print ed.).  The events playing out in Russia feel like the trailer for the next James Bond movie: Vladimir Putin’s ex-chef/ex-cyberhacker/recent mercenary army leader, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, goes rogue.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rebellion shakes Russian elite’s faith in Putin’s strength, Catherine Belton, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). The armed insurrection has shattered the carefully crafted myth that was the cornerstone of Putin’s presidency – that he represented stability and strength.

The impact of the fiercest-ever challenge to Vladimir Putin’s 23-year presidency was still reverberating among Moscow’s elites Monday as questions swirled over whether the Russian president had, for a moment at least, lost control of the country.

When Putin, shown above in a file  photo, addressed the nation on Monday for the first time since the chaos of this weekend’s armed rebellion, he thanked the population for displaying “unity and patriotism” which he said clearly demonstrated that “any attempt to cause internal turmoil was doomed to fail.”

But the armed insurrection by the leader of the Wagner mercenary group has shattered the carefully crafted myth that was the cornerstone of Putin’s presidency — that he represented stability and strength — and many in the upper reaches of Russian politics and business wonder whether he can recover from it. Some even suggested that a search for Putin’s successor could be underway.

“Putin showed the entire world and the elite he is no one and not capable of doing anything,” said one influential Moscow businessman. “It is a total collapse of his reputation.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Drops Criminal Case Against Mercenary Leader, but His Future Remains Uncertain, Valerie Hopkins and Victoria Kim, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). Moscow dropped an investigation into the mutiny led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner group. It’s unclear where Mr. Prigozhin is days after the insurrection.

The Russian authorities dropped an investigation into Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner mercenary group, over charges that he led a brief armed rebellion over the weekend, and the group is preparing to hand over military equipment to the Russian Army, state media reported on Tuesday.

The two nearly simultaneous announcements were part of an effort by the Kremlin to move on from the stunning, if short-lived, mutiny by Mr. Prigozhin’s forces on Saturday. But they left many unanswered questions, including the fate of the tens of thousands of Wagner fighters and of Mr. Prigozhin himself.

The mercenary leader’s whereabouts remained unclear a day after he denied, in an audio message posted on Monday, that his mutiny had been an attempt to seize power in Russia. In the message, he said that the action had instead been a protest against the way Russia’s senior military leaders have handled the war in Ukraine.

Mr. Prigozhin was expected to go into exile in Belarus under an agreement brokered by that country’s pro-Russian leader, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko. The details of that agreement have not been made public, however.

Here are other developments:

  • In brief remarks at the Kremlin, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said that some Russian airmen had “died in the confrontation with the mutineers,” and he praised them for carrying out their duties. In a televised speech on Monday night, a visibly angry Mr. Putin denounced the mutiny as “blackmail” that had been “doomed to failure,” though he did not name Mr. Prigozhin, his erstwhile ally.
  • President Biden said that the United States and its allies had “nothing to do with” the unrest in Russia and that they wanted to give Mr. Putin “no excuse to blame this on the West or to blame this on NATO.”
  • The Russian defense minister, Sergei K. Shoigu, was shown in state news broadcasts on Monday in a meeting with Mr. Putin and other defense and security chiefs, a sign of trust in the minister, who had for months publicly clashed with Mr. Prigozhin.
  • President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, who visited frontline positions on Monday, said that his country’s forces had “advanced in all directions” over the past 24 hours. “This is a happy day,” he said.

 

 Route north through southern Russia by Wagner Group rebels June 23 to 24, 2023 (Graphic by Washington Post).

 Route north through southern Russia by Wagner Group rebels June 23 to 24, 2023 (Graphic by Washington Post).

ny times logoNew York Times, His Glory Fading, a Russian Warlord Took One Last Stab at Power, Paul Sonne and Anatoly Kurmanaev, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). Whatever the Wagner uprising says about Vladimir Putin’s hold on the Kremlin, it is also the story of the growing desperation of Yevgeny Prigozhin.

yevgeny prigozhin headshot speakingWell before Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, shown at right, seized a major Russian military hub and ordered an armed march on Moscow, posing a startling and dramatic threat to President Vladimir V. Putin, the caterer-turned-mercenary boss was losing his own personal war.

Mr. Prigozhin’s private army had been sidelined. His lucrative government catering contracts had come under threat. The commander he most admired in the Russian military had been removed as the top general overseeing Ukraine. And he had lost his most vital recruiting source for fighters: Russia’s prisons.

Then, on June 13, his only hope for a last-minute intervention to spare him a bitter defeat in his long-running power struggle with Defense Minister Sergei K. Shoigu was dashed.

Mr. Putin sided publicly with Mr. Prigozhin’s adversaries, affirming that all irregular units fighting in Ukraine would have to sign contracts with the Ministry of Defense. That included Mr. Prigozhin’s private military company, Wagner.

Now, the mercenary chieftain would be subordinated to Mr. Shoigu, an unparalleled political survivor in modern Russia and Mr. Prigozhin’s sworn enemy.

washington post logoWashington Post, After mutiny, Putin says Wagner can go to Belarus, go home or fight for Russia, Robyn Dixon and Mary Ilyushina, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). Russian President Vladimir Putin’s speech, his first since the mutiny, came hours after the head of the Wagner Group declared that his motive was to save the private militia from being subsumed into the Russian military, not to topple Putin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed his nation Monday for the first time since the weekend mutiny by Wagner mercenaries, saying he would keep his promise and allow the group’s fighters to move to neighboring Belarus.

Their other options were to return to their families or sign contracts with the Russian Defense Ministry, he said.

Putin’s speech came hours after Wagner chief Yevgeniy Prigozhin resurfaced in a video posted online, declaring that his motive on Saturday was to save the group from being subsumed by the Russian military — not to topple the Russian president.

In a tone both stern and conciliatory, Putin said that Wagner’s mutiny would have been crushed by Russian security forces if it had not halted its advance on Moscow, but also that the “vast majority” of Wagner fighters were patriots.

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U.S. Politics, Governance, Elections

 

 

Insurrectionists riot at the U.S. Capitol to keep Donald Trump in office on Jan. 6, 2021 despite is defeat in the U.S. presidential election in November (Photo via Shutterstock).

Insurrectionists riot at the U.S. Capitol to keep Donald Trump in office on Jan. 6, 2021 despite his defeat in the U.S. presidential election in November (Photo via Shutterstock).

ny times logoNew York Times, Senate Report Details Jan. 6 Intelligence and Law Enforcement Failures, Luke Broadwater, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). Democrats released a scathing report detailing how federal officials missed, downplayed or failed to act on multiple threats of violence.

Democrats on the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday released a scathing report that detailed how the F.B.I., the Department of Homeland senate democrats logoSecurity and other federal agencies repeatedly ignored, downplayed or failed to share warnings of violence before the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

FBI logoThe 106-page report, entitled “Planned in Plain Sight,” highlighted and added to evidence already uncovered by the now-defunct House Jan. 6 committee, news reporting and other congressional work to provide the most comprehensive picture to date of a cascading set of security and intelligence failures that culminated in the deadliest assault on the Capitol in centuries.

Aides said Senate staff obtained thousands of additional documents from federal law enforcement agencies, including the Justice Department, before drafting the report. It includes multiple calls for armed violence, calls to occupy federal buildings including the Capitol and some of the clearest threats the F.B.I. received but did little about — including a warning that the far-right group the Proud Boys was planning to kill people in Washington.

“Our intelligence agencies completely dropped the ball,” said Senator Gary Peters, Democrat of Michigan and the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. He added: “Despite a multitude of tips and other intelligence warnings of violence on Jan. 6, the report showed that these agencies repeatedly — repeatedly — downplayed the threat level and failed to share the intelligence they had with law enforcement partners.”

The report determined the F.B.I.’s monitoring of social media threats was “degraded mere days before the attack,” because the bureau changed contracts for third-party social media monitoring. The committee obtained internal emails showing that F.B.I. officials were “surprised” by the timing of the contract change and “lamented the negative effect it would have on their monitoring capabilities in the lead-up to Jan. 6.”

But the investigation made clear that monitoring was not the only issue. It faulted the F.B.I. for failing to act on an array of dire warnings.

On Jan. 3, 2021, the F.B.I. became aware of multiple posts calling for armed violence, such as a Parler user who said, ”Come armed.” On Jan. 4, Justice Department leaders noted multiple concerning posts, including calls to “occupy federal buildings,” discussions of “invading the capitol building” and individuals arming themselves “to engage in political violence.”

christopher-wray-o.jpgStill, the report highlighted interviews with two F.B.I. leaders who said they were unaware that Congress could come under siege.

“If everybody knew and all the public knew that they were going to storm Congress, I don’t know why one person didn’t tell us,” Jennifer Moore, the special agent in charge of the F.B.I. Washington Field Office’s intelligence division, told the Senate investigators. FBI Director Christopher Wray, a Republican and Federlist Society member, is shown at right.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden to Deliver Major Address on the Economy in Chicago, Michael D. Shear, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). President Biden hopes to claim credit for what the White House describes as a record-breaking economic revival in America.

President Biden’s attempt to earn a second term in the White House begins with a concerted campaign to claim credit for what he describes as a record-breaking economic revival in America.

Mr. Biden will make that case in what his aides say is a “cornerstone” speech on Wednesday, using the backdrop of the Old Chicago Main Post Office to reassert the lasting benefits of “Bidenomics” as the 2024 campaign cycle heats up.

He will argue that his willingness to plunge the American government more directly into supporting key industries like silicon chips has revitalized manufacturing. He will say investments in rebuilding crumbling infrastructure will pave the way for future growth. And he will insist that spending hundreds of millions of dollars on programs like student debt relief will let more people find their way to a comfortable, middle class life.

“Since the president has taken office, 13 million jobs have been created,” Lael Brainard, Mr. Biden’s top economic adviser, said Tuesday. “The unemployment rate is near historic lows, below 4 percent for the longest stretch in nearly 50 years. And we’ve received record low unemployment for groups that too frequently have been left behind.”

ny times logoNew York Times, McCarthy Questions Strength of Trump’s Candidacy, Then Backtracks, Annie Karni, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday declared Donald J. Trump the “strongest political opponent” against President Biden, rushing to make clear his loyalty to the former president just hours after suggesting in a televised interview that Mr. Trump might not be the Republican presidential candidate best positioned to prevail in the 2024 election.

kevin mccarthyThe hurried attempt at ingratiating himself to Mr. Trump underscores Mr. McCarthy’s fear of alienating the former president as he struggles to keep together his fractious House majority and withstand mounting pressure from right-wing lawmakers loyal to Mr. Trump. And it reflected the precarious position of Mr. McCarthy, right, who has not endorsed Mr. Trump or any other candidate, as the G.O.P. presidential primary takes shape.

His latest difficulties began on Tuesday morning when, during an interview with CNBC, Mr. McCarthy wondered whether it would be good for the party to have Mr. Trump as its presidential nominee given his legal troubles.

“Can he win that election? Yeah, he can win that election,” Mr. McCarthy said. “The question is, is he the strongest to win the election; I don’t know that answer.”

The comment irked Mr. Trump’s allies, setting off an urgent effort by Mr. McCarthy to walk it back. He contacted Breitbart News, the right-wing news outlet, to offer an exclusive interview in which he said the former president was “stronger today than he was in 2016” and blamed the media for “attempting to drive a wedge between President Trump and House Republicans.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Yusef Salaam of the Central Park 5 Holds Large Lead in Harlem Council Race, Jeffery C. Mays, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). Yusef Salaam, once wrongfully convicted in a highly publicized rape case, had nearly twice the number of votes of his closest competitor. Yusef Salaam, one of the so-called Central Park 5, wrongfully convicted of the rape and assault of a female jogger, held a commanding lead over two Assembly members in what would be a major upset in the Democratic primary for a Harlem City Council seat.

Mr. Salaam had nearly twice the number of votes of his closest competitor, Assemblywoman Inez Dickens, 73, who conceded defeat on Tuesday night, according to her spokeswoman. It was not clear if Mr. Salaam had drawn more than 50 percent of the votes; if he fell short of that threshold, voters’ ranked choices would be tabulated next week.

In East New York, Brooklyn, Councilman Charles Barron also seemed at risk of losing his seat; he trailed his Democratic challenger, Chris Banks, by three percentage points with 95 percent of votes counted.

Mr. Banks had the broad support of labor against Mr. Barron, with a coalition of union groups spending more than $100,000 on the race. Earlier this month, Mr. Banks appeared on a flier with Representative Hakeem Jeffries, the leader of Democrats in the House.

ny times logoNew York Times, If President Biden Wanted to Ease U.S.-China Tensions, Would Americans Let Him? Ian Prasad Philbrick, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). In polls, Americans’ views of China are starting to resemble their views of the Soviet Union decades ago. That could make it harder to mend ties.

As tensions between their countries mount, President Biden and Xi Jinping, China’s leader, have repeatedly pushed back on comparisons to the Cold War.

But efforts to repair relations may run into a problem: public opinion. Polls show striking similarities between the hostility, pessimism and militarism in Americans’ views of the Soviet Union during the late 1940s run-up to the Cold War, and how they view China today. While the parallels remain limited and the contexts different, this could complicate attempts to avert a Cold War-like clash.

 

Tennessee State Reps. Justin Jones, left, and Justin Pearson, Democrats representing districts in Nashville and Memphis, respectively.

 Tennessee State Reps. Justin Jones, left, and Justin Pearson, Democrats representing districts in Nashville and Memphis, respectively.

 Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Fighting fascist attempts to expel or suspend pro-democracy legislator, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 22 books and commentator, June 27-28, 2023. wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallFascism abhors democratic representation. It is now a fact that the Republican Party has become a fully fascist movement due to embrace of expelling or suspending opposition elected Democratic Party legislators in two states.

wayne madesen report logoRepublican legislatures in Tennessee and Montana took the very fascist course of expelling two legislators, nearly expelling another Democratic representative and suspending a fourth.

The targets of this anti-democratic barrage were Tennessee state Representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, both African Americans who were subsequently restored to their seats by the municipal assemblies in Nashville and Memphis; Tennessee Representative Gloria Johnson of Knoxville, who survived expulsion by a single vote in the General Assembly; and Montana transgender state Representative Zooey Zephyr, who was suspended from the House floor.

us dhs big eagle logo4Attacks on Democratic legislators have also reached the U.S. House of Representatives where Republicans censured California Representative Adam Schiff for his constitutional role in advancing the first impeachment of Donald Trump in 2019.

In Florida, Republican state Senator Blaise Ingoglia introduced the Ultimate Cancel Act, which would eliminate the Florida Democratic Party by canceling the election filings of anyone running for office as a Democrat. The bill also requires registered Democrats to be re-classified as having “no party affiliation.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Businessman Tim Sheehy launches GOP challenge to Sen. Tester in Montana, John Wagner, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). Tim Sheehy, a decorated military veteran and wealthy businessman heavily recruited by national Republican leaders, announced a bid Tuesday to unseat Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) in a race that will be key next year in determining which party controls the U.S. Senate.

“Whether it was in war or business, I see problems and solve them,” Sheehy said in a statement. “America needs conservative leaders who love our country. I’m running for the U.S. Senate because our campaign is about service, duty, and country — not politics as usual.”

It remains unclear whether Sheehy will have the GOP field to himself. Rep. Matthew M. Rosendale (R-Mont.), a conservative lawmaker allied with the anti-tax Club for Growth who lost to Tester in 2018, also is eyeing the race.

Sheehy’s bid, however, was greeted with a blessing Tuesday from Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont), who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which works to recruit and support GOP Senate candidates. In a statement, Daines said he “could not be happier that [Sheehy] has decided to enter the Montana Senate race.”

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U.S. Courts, Crime, Civil Rights, Immigration

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Inspector general says Jeffrey Epstein’s death enabled by jailers’ negligence, Mark Berman, June 28, 2023. A Justice Department inspector general’s report said Tuesday that Jeffrey Epstein’s 2019 death while in federal custody was enabled by significant staff failures at the jail where he was being held, concluding that this negligence gave him “the opportunity to take his own life.”

The sharply critical report was issued nearly four years after Epstein, a convicted sex offender, was found hanging in his Manhattan jail cell while facing federal charges of sex-trafficking and abusing young girls. Epstein’s criminal case and his death attracted widespread attention, owing to both the depravity of the allegations against him and his well-documented web of connections to high-profile figures.

While the report released Tuesday castigates jail officials for repeated “negligence, misconduct, and outright job performance failures” in connection with Epstein’s incarceration and death, it also strongly pushes back on any suggestion that what happened was anything other than a suicide.

Instead, the 114-page report says Epstein’s death was the result of pervasive problems at the Manhattan jail that recur across other facilities also overseen by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), including staffing issues, faulty security camera setups, poor management and improper handling of inmates who could be at risk of dying by suicide.

michael horowitz Custom“The BOP’s failures are troubling not only because the BOP did not adequately safeguard an individual in its custody, but also because they led to questions about the circumstances surrounding Epstein’s death and effectively deprived Epstein’s numerous victims of the opportunity to seek justice through the criminal justice system,” Michael Horowitz, right, the inspector general, said in a statement accompanying the report’s release.

Epstein was found in his cell in the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) on Aug. 10, 2019, about a month after he was taken into custody. He was taken to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead.

New York City’s chief medical examiner concluded that Epstein’s death was a suicide and listed “hanging” as the cause. Attorneys for Epstein expressed skepticism about that finding at the time, and his death fueled waves of speculation and conspiracy theories, linked largely to the wealthy financier’s connections to powerful and prominent figures.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: DeSantis’s latest appeal to MAGA tops Trump in performative cruelty, Greg Sargent, right, June 27, 2023. As president, Donald Trump greg sargentseparated migrant families, forced asylum seekers back into Mexico and built hundreds of miles of border barriers.

The border remained chaotic and the migrants kept coming, yet MAGA ideology continues to hold that the “crisis” can be solved with just the right djt maga hatmix of cruel deterrence, tough enforcement and — of course — more walls.

That disconnect helps explain Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s radical new plan to secure the border, which he rolled out Monday. The plan is meant to propel him to Trump’s right on a leading MAGA issue. But DeSantis’s blueprint contains a bunch of warmed-over ideas — mass deportations, draconian efforts to limit asylum-seeking and legal immigration, even an end to birthright citizenship — that Trump already tried to execute, yet could not.

The fundamental promise of DeSantis’s GOP presidential primary campaign is that he’d execute the MAGA agenda far more competently than Trump. But there’s a reason Trump largely failed in controlling the border, and it has little do with competence or “toughness.”

Rather, it’s that presidents lack the authority to close down legal immigration in any substantial way, and however harsh their enforcement gets, it simply doesn’t dissuade migrants from coming, including illegally, and settling here successfully.

ny times logoNew York Times, Accused Shooter in Deadly Colorado Springs Rampage Pleads Guilty in Court, Jack Healy and Kelley Manley, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). A plea deal means the 23-year-old shooter will spend a lifetime in prison for a rampage at an L.G.B.T.Q. bar last year that left five people dead. 

The 23-year-old charged with carrying out a deadly shooting rampage at Club Q in Colorado Springs pleaded guilty on Monday to dozens of charges of murder and attempted murder, avoiding a prolonged trial over a deadly attack on members of the L.G.B.T.Q. community.

Under the terms of a plea agreement reached with prosecutors, the defendant, Anderson Lee Aldrich, separately pleaded “no contest” to two hate-crime charges.

The defendant will receive multiple life sentences, adding up to hundreds of years in prison, and will also give up any right to appeal.

The defendant, who identifies as nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, stood on Monday in a courtroom packed with victims and relatives of the dead, and tersely answered a litany of questions from Judge Michael McHenry about whether the defendant understood the terms of the plea.

The agreement was reached after months of agonizing private discussions among prosecutors, survivors and victims’ families over how to reach justice in the Club Q shooting.

Some victims initially wanted a public trial, in the hope of learning precisely how and why the shooter had attacked the club, and what warning signs had been missed. Others said they did not want to suffer the pain of a drawn-out trial, and were relieved that the criminal case was ending.

Several survivors of the attack said it was important that the shooter acknowledge an anti-L. G.B.T.Q. bias behind the rampage. They wanted formal recognition that Club Q and its patrons were attacked because of their identities, in a massacre deliberately calculated to shatter a sanctuary for the L.G.B.T.Q. community in Colorado Springs.

But in pleading guilty on Monday, Mx. Aldrich offered no details about why they carried out the shooting, and little explanation beyond a bare-bones admission using legal language. They did not directly admit to committing hate crimes in targeting Club Q, but instead said they were pleading “no contest” because it was likely that they would be convicted at trial.

The five people killed that night were Daniel Aston and Derrick Rump, who were employees of Club Q, and Kelly Loving, Raymond Green Vance and Ashley Paugh, who were Club Q patrons.

For months, some survivors and relatives of victims have made a point of attending each hearing as the case moved forward. Some said it was difficult to keep their anger and grief in check as they sat in the courtroom, listening to graphic details of the rampage.

Legal experts said the shooter’s gender identity alone did not preclude hate-crimes charges in the case. Prosecutors said that the defendant had a “particular disdain” for the L.G.B.T.Q. community.

“Those are my friends’ lives,” said Ashtin Gamblin, who was hit with nine shots as she worked the door of Club Q on the night of the attack. “They were targeted. We were targeted because we are a part of the L.G.B.T.Q. community. There’s absolutely no doubt why he chose Club Q.”

 Relevant Recent Headlines

 

Top Global Stories

 

In this handout photo taken from video released by Prigozhin Press Service on Friday, March 3, 2023, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner Group military company, addresses Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asking him to withdraw the remaining Ukrainian forces from Bakhmut to save their lives, at an unspecified location in Ukraine. Prigozhin's criticism of the top military brass is in stark contrast with more than two decades of rigidly controlled rule by President Vladimir Putin without any sign of infighting among his top lieutenants. (Prigozhin Press Service via AP, File)

In this handout photo taken from video released by Prigozhin Press Service on Friday, March 3, 2023, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner Group military company, addresses Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asking him to withdraw the remaining Ukrainian forces from Bakhmut to save their lives, at an unspecified location in Ukraine. Prigozhin's criticism of the top military brass is in stark contrast with more than two decades of rigidly controlled rule by President Vladimir Putin without any sign of infighting among his top lieutenants. (Prigozhin Press Service via AP, File)

washington post logoWashington Post, Prigozhin’s rebellion raises questions about Wagner’s African footprint, Rachel Chason, John Hudson and Greg Miller, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). The aborted rebellion in Russia has brought unease to large swaths of Africa where leaders who have turned to the Wagner mercenary group to bolster their hold on power now face the prospect that the private paramilitary organization could be weakened or even dismantled, according to experts on the region as well as Western officials and analysts.

The world’s attention has largely focused on the turbulence within Russia, where the aura of President Vladimir Putin is widely perceived to have been damaged by the short-lived insurrection of Wagner’s leader, Yevgeniy Prigozhin. But a Kremlin crackdown on Wagner would also have far-reaching consequences in Africa and the Middle East, where Wagner supplied lethal firepower to despots and strongmen while advancing Moscow’s international agenda.

In the Central African Republic and Mali, where Wagner has its biggest presence on the continent, residents said WhatsApp group chats and weekend conversations in the African nations were dominated by speculation about the fallout in their countries.

ny times logoNew York Times, No Job, No Marriage, No Kid: China’s Workers and the Curse of 35, Li Yuan, June 28, 2023. It’s widely discussed in China: Employers don’t want you after 35, leaving a generation of prime-age workers feeling defeated, our columnist writes.

China FlagWhen Sean Liang turned 30, he started thinking of the Curse of 35 — the widespread belief in China that white-collar workers like him confront unavoidable job insecurity after they hit that age. In the eyes of employers, the Curse goes, they’re more expensive than new graduates and not as willing to work overtime.

Mr. Liang, now 38, is a technology support professional turned personal trainer. He has been unemployed for much of the past three years, partly because of the pandemic and China’s sagging economy. But he believes the main reason is his age. He’s too old for many employers, including the Chinese government, which caps the hiring age for most civil servant positions at 35. If the Curse of 35 is a legend, it’s one supported by some facts.

“I work out, so I look pretty young for my age,” he said in an interview. “But in the eyes of society, people like me are obsolete.”

  • Washington Post, U.S. is far more globally popular under Biden than it was in Trump era, Ishaan Tharoor, Jan. 28, 2023.

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More On Trump Probes, Pro-Trump Rioters, Election Deniers

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Audio Undercuts Trump’sAssertion He Did Not Have Classified Document, Maggie Haberman and Alan Feuer, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). A recording of a meeting in 2021 in which former President Trump described a sensitive document in front of him appears to contradict his defense.

An audio recording of former President Donald J. Trump in 2021 discussing what he called a “highly confidential” document about Iran that he acknowledged he could not declassify because he was out of office appears to contradict his recent assertion that the material he was referring to was simply news clippings.

President Donald Trump officialPortions of a transcript of the two-minute recording of Mr. Trump were cited by federal prosecutors in the indictment of Mr. Trump on charges that he had put national security secrets at risk by mishandling classified documents after leaving office and then obstructing the government’s efforts to retrieve them.

The recording captured his conversation in July 2021 with a publisher and writer working on a memoir by Mr. Trump’s final chief of staff, Mark Meadows. In it, Mr. Trump discussed what he described as a “secret” plan regarding Iran drawn up by Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Defense Department. Mr. Trump was citing the document in rebutting an account that General Milley feared having to keep him from manufacturing a crisis with Iran in the period after Mr. Trump lost his re-election bid in late 2020.

The audio, which is likely to feature as evidence in Mr. Trump’s trial in the documents case, was played for the first time in public on Monday by CNN and was also obtained by The New York Times.

washington post logoWashington Post, It’s not just Mar-a-Lago: Trump charges highlight his New Jersey life at Bedminster, Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey and Spencer S. Hsu, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). Two of the most vivid scenes in the former president’s indictment take place at his Bedminster golf club, which has not been searched by the FBI.

The 49-page indictment against Donald Trump for mishandling classified documents and obstructing justice is largely focused on how boxes of sensitive documents ended up crammed into the nooks, crannies and even a chandelier-adorned bathroom of Trump’s Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago.

But two of the indictment’s most vivid scenes took place about 1,200 miles to the north.

Prosecutors accuse Trump of showing off classified documents to employees and others not authorized to see them — not once, but twice at his sprawling golf club on the rural plains of New Jersey.

mark meadows book chief chiefAccording to the indictment, Trump bragged in July 2021 about a sensitive military plan with two of his staffers, as well as the writer and publisher of a forthcoming book, The Chief's Chief, from his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, during a session at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster.

In an audio recording of the session near the club’s pool, Trump can be heard acknowledging the secrecy of the documents to the group — who included communications staffers Liz Harrington and Margo Martin, according to people familiar with the matter, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the criminal case.

“See, as president I could have declassified it. Now I can’t,” Trump tells the group on the recording, which was obtained this week by The Washington Post. “Isn’t that interesting? It’s so cool.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge suggests he’s unlikely to move Trump’s New York criminal case to federal court, Shayna Jacobs, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). A federal judge suggested Tuesday he is likely to rule against Donald Trump’s effort to have the criminal case accusing him of falsifying business records moved from state court to federal court.

U.S. District Court Judge Alvin Hellerstein did not rule on the matter but offered what he called his present takeaways at the end of a three-hour hearing on Tuesday, acknowledging conclusions that work against Trump.

djt michael cohen disloyalTrump’s lawyers have sought to have the case involving $130,000 paid to an adult film actress in 2016 moved to federal court because they say the payment was related to his duties as president and because it involves federal legal questions. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s (D) office says the case belongs in state court and a personal issue that mostly preceded Trump becoming president in 2017.

Hellerstein said Tuesday it was clear to him that Trump’s record-keeping in connection with a $130,000 payment made on his behalf in 2016 was a personal matter, not one having to do with his presidency.

Longtime Trump adviser and lawyer Michael Cohen, who is now a key witness against him in the district attorney’s case, was acting as a representative of Trump privately when he arranged to pay Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about an alleged sexual affair with Trump years earlier, the judge said.

Hellerstein also noted that the state court is equipped to handle the matter.

“There is no reason to believe that an equal measure of justice couldn’t be rendered by the state court,” he said.

The judge said to expect his official ruling in about two weeks.

 Trump was indicted in New York Supreme Court in late March on 34 counts of falsifying business records related to the payment to Daniels. Prosecutors said Trump purposely concealed the nature of reimbursement payments to Cohen by claiming they were routine legal fees.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Jack Smith has flipped someone who was at the Willard Hotel for January 6th, Bill Palmer, June 26, 2023. One of the key aspects of Donald Trump’s 2020 election overthrow plot was his “command center” ahead of January 6th at the Willard Hotel.

Name any disreputable Trump political adviser, and bill palmer report logo headerthe odds are that they were in that Willard Hotel room. But the whole thing hasn’t gotten a ton of media coverage, mostly because no one who was inside that room has spilled the beans about what was really going on – until now.

The DOJ criminally indicted Owen Shroyer for January 6th-related crimes a year and a half ago, and has been attempting to flip him ever since. Just days ago Shroyer finally cut a cooperating plea deal. This immediately jumped out at us because Shroyer is Alex Jones’ top sidekick. But our friends at MeidasTouch are now pointing out that this runs deeper. Shroyer was at the Willard Hotel ahead of January 6th, meaning he’s given up everything that went on at the “command center” while he was there.

This is bad news for everyone who was in the room at this “command center.” It was a mix of Donald Trump’s top political advisers and actual members of the Oath Keepers, to give you an idea of just how much criminality might have been taking place in that room. Jack Smith and the DOJ now have their “in” when it comes to the Willard Hotel plot. It’s bad news for Donald Trump and any number of his political allies.

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Dept. asking about 2020 fraud claims as well as fake electors, Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). Special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation of efforts to overturn the 2020 election results is advancing on multiple tracks, people familiar with the matter said.

The Justice Department’s investigation of efforts by Donald Trump and his advisers to overturn the 2020 election results is barreling forward on multiple tracks, according to people familiar with the matter, with prosecutors focused on ads and fundraising pitches claiming election fraud as well as plans for “fake electors” that would swing the election to the incumbent president.

Each track poses potential legal peril for those under scrutiny, but also raises tricky questions about where the line should be drawn between political activity, legal advocacy and criminal conspiracy.

A key area of interest is the conduct of a handful of lawyers who sought to turn Trump’s defeat into victory by trying to convince state, local, federal and judicial authorities that Joe Biden’s 2020 election win was illegitimate or tainted by fraud.

Investigators have sought to determine to what degree these lawyers — particularly Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis, John Eastman, Kurt Olsen and Kenneth Chesebro, as well as then-Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark — were following specific instructions from Trump or others, and what those instructions were, according to the people familiar with the matter, who like others interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe an ongoing investigation.

Special counsel Jack Smith’s team has extensively questioned multiple witnesses about the lawyers’ actions related to fake electors — pro-Trump substitutes offered up as potential replacements for electors in swing states that Biden won.

Trump’s allies have argued that there was nothing criminal about preparing alternate electors in case state legislators blocked Biden slates.

Giuliani, Ellis, Clark, Eastman, Chesebro and Olsen or their representatives either did not respond to requests for comment or declined to comment Monday.

Smith, a longtime federal prosecutor who was appointed special counsel by Attorney General Merrick Garland in November, charged Trump this month with 37 counts alleging that he willfully retained classified documents at his Florida residence after leaving the White House and obstructed government efforts to retrieve them.

dominion voting systemsRollingstone, Newsmax Staffers Hit With Subpoenas in 2020 Election Defamation Suit, Staff Report, June 25, 2023. Court filings rife with internal communications exposed Fox News’ post-election misinformation push. Newsmax could be next.

rolling stone logoDominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit against Fox News laid bare how the network communicated behind the scenes about broadcasting 2020 election misinformation, ultimately leading the network to fork over a massive settlement. Newsmax could be next, as voting-technology company Smartmatic has subpoenaed several of the right-wing cable network’s current and former employees for work and personal correspondence.

Several Newsmax insiders, who spoke with Rolling Stone under a condition of anonymity due to a fear of reprisal, said that roughly three weeks ago they were told to hand over “mirror images of their personal cellphone, personal email, and iCloud,” as Smartmatic’s lawsuit against the network moves forward.

Smartmaric’s attorney J. Erik Connolly, managing chair of the litigation practice group at Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan, & Aronoff, LLC, tells Rolling Stone: “Smartmatic intends to pursue discovery from the current and former Newsmax employees who participated in the egregious disinformation campaign against the company. Some of the discovery has come, and will come, from the company. Smartmatic is pursuing these individuals to get the rest. Our complaint does not numerically specify the amount of damages we have suffered.”

Smartmatic claims in its lawsuit that Newsmax knowingly pushed falsehoods about the company following the 2020 presidential election. “Newsmax published and/or republished false statements and implications during news broadcasts, in online reports, and on social media that ‘Smartmatic participated in a criminal conspiracy’ to fix, rig, and steal the Election,” the defamation suit alleges.

Newsmax, which did not return Rolling Stone’s request for comment, initially pushed back on the Smartmatic defamation suit with a countersuit claiming it was an intimidation tactic. However, in February 2023, Smartmatic’s case was permitted to proceed, and Newsmax staffers are now being asked to hand over pertinent material.

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  Jack Smith has been leading an inquiry into Mr. Trump since his appointment in November (Pool photo by Peter Dejong).

Jack Smith has been leading an inquiry into Mr. Trump since his appointment in November (Pool photo by Peter Dejong).

 

U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

 

djt ron desantis cnn collage

ny times logoNew York Times, Can DeSantis Break Trump’s Hold on New Hampshire? Jonathan Swan, Maggie Haberman and Shane Goldmacher, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). Donald Trump is looking to the state as an early chance to clear a crowded field, while Ron DeSantis’s camp is banking on winnowing the Republican race to two.

Former President Donald J. Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida are set to hold dueling events on Tuesday in New Hampshire, but from vastly different political positions: one as the dominant front-runner in the state, the other still seeking his footing.

Strategists for both campaigns agree that the state will play a starring role in deciding who leads the Republican Party into the 2024 election against President Biden.

Mr. Trump sees the first primary contest in New Hampshire as an early chance to clear the crowded field of rivals. And members of Team DeSantis — some of whom watched from losing sidelines, as Mr. Trump romped through the Granite State in 2016 on his way to the nomination — hope New Hampshire will be the primary that winnows the Republican field to two.

“Iowa’s cornfields used to be where campaigns were killed off, and now New Hampshire is where campaigns go to die,” said Jeff Roe, who runs Mr. DeSantis’s super PAC, Never Back Down. Mr. Roe retains agonizing memories from 2016, when he ran the presidential campaign of the last man standing against Mr. Trump: Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

washington post logoWashington Post, DeSantis proposes ‘deadly force’ to combat drug smugglers breaching border, Dylan Wells and Hannah Knowles, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). The presidential candidate laid out a border plan that echoes Donald Trump’s policies.

 Democratic-Republican Campaign logos

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Real Lesson From the Hunter Biden Saga, Nicholas Kristof, June 25, 2023 (print ed.). It isn’t about presidential corruption but a determined parent battling his son’s addiction with unconditional love.

One of our most urgent national problems is addiction to drugs and alcohol. It now kills about a quarter-million Americans a year, leaves many others homeless and causes unimaginable heartache in families across the country — including the family living in the White House.

Hunter Biden, who has written about his tangles with crack cocaine and alcohol, reached a plea agreement on tax charges a few days ago that left some Republicans sputtering, but to me, the main takeaway is a lesson the country and the president could absorb to save lives.

While the federal investigation appears to be ongoing, for now I see no clear evidence of wrongdoing by President Biden himself — but the president does offer the country a fine model of the love and support that people with addictions need.

When Biden was vice president and trailed by Secret Service agents, he once tracked down Hunter when he was on a bender and refused to leave until his son committed to entering treatment. Biden then gave his son a tight hug and promised to return to make sure he followed through.

“Dad saved me,” Hunter wrote in his memoir, “Beautiful Things,” adding: “Left on my own, I’m certain I would not have survived.”

On another occasion, the Biden family staged an intervention, and Hunter stormed out of the house. Biden ran down the driveway after his son. “He grabbed me, swung me around and hugged me,” Hunter wrote. “He held me tight in the dark and cried for the longest time.”

Last year Sean Hannity broadcast an audio recording of a voice mail message that President Biden left for Hunter. Hannity thought it reflected badly on the president; my reaction was that if more parents showed this kind of support for children in crisis, our national addiction nightmare might be easier to overcome.

“It’s Dad,” the president says in the message, and he sounds near tears. “I’m calling to tell you I love you. I love you more than the whole world, pal. You gotta get some help. I don’t know what to do. I know you don’t, either. But I’m here, no matter what you need. No matter what you need. I love you.”

I don’t have family members with addictions, but I’ve lost far too many friends to drugs and alcohol. At this moment, I have two friends who have disappeared, abandoning their children, and when last seen were homeless, abusing drugs and supporting themselves by selling fentanyl. I fear every day that they’ll die from an overdose, or that they’ll sell drugs to someone else who overdoses.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Legal Fees Mount, Trump Steers Donations Into PAC That Has Covered Them, Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman, June 26, 2023 (print ed.). A previously unnoticed change in Donald Trump’s online fund-raising appeals allows him to divert a sizable chunk to a group that has spent millions on his legal fees.

Facing multiple intensifying investigations, former President Donald J. Trump has quietly begun diverting more of the money he is raising away from his 2024 presidential campaign and into a political action committee that he has used to pay his personal legal fees.

The change, which went unannounced except in the fine print of his online disclosures, raises fresh questions about how Mr. Trump is paying for his mounting legal bills — which could run into millions of dollars — as he prepares for at least two criminal trials, and whether his PAC, Save America, is facing a financial crunch.

When Mr. Trump kicked off his 2024 campaign in November, for every dollar raised online, 99 cents went to his campaign, and a penny went to Save America.

But internet archival records show that sometime in February or March, he adjusted that split. Now his campaign’s share has been reduced to 90 percent of donations, and 10 percent goes to Save America.

ny times logoNew York Times, In a pitch to evangelicals, Donald Trump cast himself as Christian crusader who helped end Roe v. Wade, Neil Vigdor, June 26, 2023 (print ed.). Former President Donald J. Trump told an evangelical gathering that no president had done more for Christians than he did.

One year after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, former President Donald J. Trump reminded a gathering of evangelical activists in the nation’s capital how he had shaped the court’s conservative supermajority that ended nearly 50 years of constitutional protections for abortion.

Appearing at a Faith & Freedom Coalition gala in Washington on Saturday night, he cited his appointment of three of the six justices who voted to strike down the law as a capstone of his presidency. And he cast himself as an unflinching crusader for the Christian right in a meandering speech that lasted nearly 90 minutes.

“No president has ever fought for Christians as hard as I have,” he said, adding, “I got it done, and nobody thought it was even a possibility.”

It was the eighth appearance by Mr. Trump in front of the group, whose support he is seeking to consolidate in a crowded G.OP. competition for the 2024 nomination, though he is the front-runner in the field. He said that Republican voters were skeptical of claims by some of his rivals that they were stronger opponents of abortion, and suggested that the skepticism had arisen on the campaign trail.

washington post logoWashington Post, DeSantis voters: Angry at Fauci, anxious about ‘Cinderfella,’ tiring of Trump, Hannah Knowles, Colby Itkowitz and Dylan Wells, June 26, 2023 (print ed.). The Florida governor is appealing to the GOP’s right flank as he tries to peel support away from Donald Trump. But many are still drawn to the former president, who leads by a wide margin in the polls

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Environment, Transportation, Energy, Space, Disasters, Climate

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ny times logoNew York Times, Intensifying Rains Pose Hidden Flood Risks Across the U.S., Raymond Zhong, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). In some of the nation’s most populous areas, hazardous storms can dump significantly more water than previously believed, new calculations show.

As climate change intensifies severe rainstorms, the infrastructure protecting millions of Americans from flooding faces growing risk of failures, according to new calculations of expected precipitation in every county and locality across the contiguous United States.

The calculations suggest that one in nine residents of the lower 48 states, largely in populous regions including the Mid-Atlantic and the Texas Gulf Coast, is at significant risk of downpours that deliver at least 50 percent more rain per hour than local pipes, channels and culverts might be designed to drain.

“The data is startling, and it should be a wake-up call,” said Chad Berginnis, the executive director of the Association of State Floodplain Managers, a nonprofit organization focused on flood risk.

The new rain estimates, issued on Monday by the First Street Foundation, a nonprofit research group in New York, carry worrying implications for homeowners, too: They indicate that 12.6 million properties nationwide face significant flood risks despite not being required by the federal government to buy flood insurance.

washington post logoWashington Post, As wildfires threaten Yosemite’s giant sequoias, the national park fights to protect them, Lillian Cunningham, June. 28, 2023 (podcast). California’s Sierra Nevada is home to a very special kind of tree, found nowhere else on Earth: the giant sequoia. But in the era of catastrophic wildfires fueled by climate change, these ancient trees are now in jeopardy.

ny times logoNew York Times, New Wave of Smoke From Canada Wildfires Blankets Chicago and the Midwest, Julie Bosman, June 28, 2023. Residents in the region were urged to remain indoors, weeks after similarly dangerous air choked the Northeast.

Chicagoans awoke on Wednesday morning to a second day of smoky air enveloping the city, obscuring the skyline and shrouding Lake Michigan in a whitish haze. The air quality remained unhealthy, and public health officials warned residents to take precautions before venturing outdoors.

In cities throughout the Midwest, smoke from Canadian wildfires continued to disrupt daily life. The Air Quality Index in Detroit spiked to 337, a measure that placed the city’s air in the “hazardous” category; Cleveland reached 272 on the A.Q.I. Established by the Environmental Protection Agency, the index runs from 0 to 500; the higher the number, the greater the level of air pollution.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Battle Over Direction of Texas, Water Breaks Are an Unlikely Casualty, Mary Beth Gahan, J. David Goodman and David Montgomery, June 28, 2023. A new law pre-empting local labor rules is part of an effort by Republicans to exert control over the state’s Democratic-led major cities.

As the heat index hit 115 degrees on Monday, Karla Perez took a five-minute water break at a construction site in Dallas. Such rest breaks are required by the city, as they are in Austin.

But a change in Texas state law, which goes into effect in September, will wipe away those local requirements, leaving workers like Ms. Perez to count on their employers to provide time to rest and rehydrate. Right now, she gets three breaks a day. She dreads what the change might bring.

“Workers are going to die,” she said. “There’s no way around it.”

The legal change was part of a sweeping effort by the Republican-dominated State Legislature to exert control over its Democratic-led major cities, which have become increasingly assertive in pushing progressive policies at the local level.

The new law, labeled “the Death Star” by its Democratic opponents, would pre-empt a broad swath of ordinances, including those affecting labor, agriculture and natural resources. It is expected to nullify regulations such as those dealing with payday lending, puppy mills, certain sanitation requirements and other practices.

ny times logoNew York Times, A brutal heat wave in the southeast U.S. is expected to spread, bringing temperatures up to 20 degrees above normal, Livia Albeck-Ripka June 28, 2023. The dangerous heat crippling Texas and other parts of the Southeast is forecast to spread north and east.

The oppressive heat wave that has the southern United States sweltering this week is expected to continue, spreading north and east to parts of Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida, and is threatening to raise the heat index to dangerously high levels in places, according to the National Weather Service.

Temperatures are expected to be up to 20 degrees above normal, reaching the upper 90s or low 100s in some parts, with nighttime temperatures offering little respite, and high humidity continuing to produce “potentially life threatening” heat through the rest of the week, forecasters said. “It is essential to have ways to cool down and limit your heat exposure,” the Weather Service warned on Twitter on Tuesday evening.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Giant Wind Farm Is Taking Root Off Massachusetts, Stanley Reed and Ivan Penn, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). The offshore energy project will have turbines taller than any building in Boston, but they will be barely visible from Martha’s Vineyard.

The $4 billion project, known as Vineyard Wind, is expected to start generating electricity by year’s end.

In the coming months, 62 turbines, each up to up to 850 feet high (taller than any building in Boston) with blades about 350 feet long, will be planted on a sweep of seabed 15 miles off Martha’s Vineyard, the island where former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton have vacationed.

Cables carrying electricity created by spinning rotors will land on a beach in Barnstable on Cape Cod and then head to consumers in the state. Vineyard Wind says its machines will crank out enough power to light up 400,000 homes.

ny times logoNew York Times, Tesla May Have Already Won the Charging Wars, Jack Ewing, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). Deals with Ford and G.M. will make it easier for electric vehicle drivers to find chargers. It could also give Elon Musk control of critical infrastructure.

tesla logoMary Barra and Elon Musk may be intense business rivals, but they sounded like old pals as they chatted on Twitter this month about a deal that could help remove one of the biggest barriers to electric vehicle ownership: not enough chargers.

Ms. Barra, the chief executive of General Motors, had just agreed to follow Ford Motor in adopting the charging technology developed by Tesla, the carmaker led by Mr. Musk. The deals will allow G.M. and Ford customers to use some of Tesla’s fast chargers. Fear of not finding a charger is a main reason some people hesitate to buy electric cars, surveys show.

Ms. Barra gushed about the “fantastic” team at Tesla. Mr. Musk said it was an “honor” to work with her.

Beneath the surface of those pleasantries were probably some tough corporate calculations. G.M., Ford and numerous charging companies and equipment suppliers have agreed to work with Tesla because they desperately need the company’s help. In addition to selling more electric cars in the United States than all other automakers put together, Tesla operates the country’s largest fast-charging network.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Pedestrian Deaths Are at Highest Level in 41 Years, Report Says, Amanda Holpuch, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). More than 7,500 people were struck and killed by vehicles in 2022, according to state data. Safety can be improved through infrastructure changes and traffic enforcement, the analysis said.

The number of pedestrians who were struck and killed by vehicles in 2022 was the highest it’s been since 1981, according to a report based on state government data.

At least 7,508 people who were out walking were struck and killed in the United States last year, said the report, published on Friday by the Governors Highway Safety Association, a nonprofit that represents states’ safety offices. The report used preliminary data from government agencies in 49 states and Washington, D.C. (Oklahoma had incomplete data because of a technical issue and was the only state to not provide data, the association said.)

The findings for 2022, and an accompanying analysis of federal government data from 2021, showed that pedestrian deaths in the United States have continued to rise over the last decade.

From 2010 to 2021, pedestrian deaths increased from 4,302 to 7,624, a 77 percent rise, according to the federal data. In the same period, other types of traffic fatalities increased by 25 percent.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here’s a Look at the Water Crises That Might Be Coming to You Soon, Somini Sengupta, June 26, 2023 (print ed.). Bangladesh, a river delta nation, is on the front line of climate change. Its coping strategies could offer lessons for the wider world.

Bangladesh is a land of water. Its silty rivers rush down from the Himalayas, spill into a filigreed maze of ponds, wetlands and tributaries before emptying into the blustery, black Bay of Bengal.

Now, its most profound threat is water, in its many terrible incarnations: drought, deluge, cyclones, saltwater. All are aggravated to varying degrees by climate change, and all are forcing millions of people to do whatever they can to keep their heads above it.

This matters to the rest of the world, because what the 170 million people of this crowded, low-lying delta nation face today is what many of us will face tomorrow.

The people of Bangladesh are rushing to harvest rice as soon as they get word of heavy rains upstream. They’re building floating beds of water hyacinths to grow vegetables beyond the reach of floodwaters. Where shrimp farms have turned the soil too salty to cultivate crops, they’re growing okra and tomatoes not in soil, but in compost, stuffed into plastic boxes that had once carried shrimp. Where the land itself is washing away, people have to move to other villages and towns. And where they’re running out of even drinking water, they’re learning to drink every drop of rain.

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More On U.S. Abortion, Child Porn, #MeToo

ny times logoNew York Times, A Glimpse of What Life Is Like With Almost No Abortion Access, David W. Chen, Photographs by Noriko Hayashi, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). Guam, a U.S. territory, has no resident doctors who perform abortions. Court decisions could cut access to pills, the only legal option left.

For decades, the Pregnancy Control Clinic, tucked inside a squat, beige building around the corner from a bowling alley, handled most of the abortions on Guam, a tiny U.S. territory 1,600 miles south of Japan.

But the doctor who ran it retired seven years ago, and the clinic now appears abandoned. An old medical exam table stands near a vanity with a dislodged faucet, and a letter from Dr. Edmund A. Griley is taped to the front door: “My last day of seeing patients is November 18, 2016,” he wrote. “I recommend that you begin looking for a new physician as soon as possible.”

Dr. Griley has since died, and his deserted clinic is a dusty snapshot of Guam’s past — and some say, its future.

Though abortion is legal in Guam up to 13 weeks of pregnancy, and later in certain cases, the last doctor who performed abortions left Guam in 2018. The closest abortion clinic on American soil is in Hawaii, an eight-hour flight away. And a pending court case could soon cut off access to abortion pills, the last way for most women on Guam to get legal abortions.

ny times logoNew York Times, Religious Freedom Arguments Underpin Wave of Challenges to Abortion Bans, Pam Belluck, June 28, 2023. In lawsuits challenging state abortion bans, lawyers for abortion rights plaintiffs are employing religious liberty arguments long used by the Christian right.

For years, conservative Christians have used the principle of religious freedom to prevail in legal battles on issues like contraceptive insurance mandates and pandemic restrictions. Now, abortion rights supporters are employing that argument to challenge one of the right’s most prized accomplishments: state bans on abortion.

In the year since Roe v. Wade was overturned, clergy and members of various religions, including Christian and Jewish denominations, have filed about 15 lawsuits in eight states, saying abortion bans and restrictions infringe on their faiths.

Many of those suing say that according to their religious beliefs, abortion should be allowed in at least some circumstances that the bans prohibit, and that the bans violate religious liberty guarantees and the separation of church and state. The suits, some seeking exemptions and others seeking to overturn the bans, often invoke state religious freedom restoration acts enacted and used by conservatives in some battles over social issues.

The lawsuits show “religious liberty doesn’t operate in one direction,” said Elizabeth Sepper, a law professor at University of Texas at Austin.

ny times logoNew York Times, How a Year Without Roe Shifted American Views on Abortion, Kate Zernike, June 24, 2023 (print ed.). New polling shows public opinion increasingly supports legal abortion, with potential political consequences for 2024.

For decades, Americans had settled around an uneasy truce on abortion. Even if most people weren’t happy with the status quo, public opinion about the legality and morality of abortion remained relatively static. But the Supreme Court’s decision last summer overturning Roe v. Wade set off a seismic change, in one swoop striking down a federal right to abortion that had existed for 50 years, long enough that women of reproductive age had never lived in a world without it. As the decision triggered state bans and animated voters in the midterms, it shook complacency and forced many people to reconsider their positions.

In the year since, polling shows that what had been considered stable ground has begun to shift: For the first time, a majority of Americans say abortion is “morally acceptable.” A majority now believes abortion laws are too strict. They are significantly more likely to identify, in the language of polls, as “pro-choice” over “pro-life,” for the first time in two decades.

And more voters than ever say they will vote only for a candidate who shares their views on abortion, with a twist: While Republicans and those identifying as “pro-life” have historically been most likely to see abortion as a litmus test, now they are less motivated by it, while Democrats and those identifying as “pro-choice” are far more so.

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Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy

washington post logoWashington Post, Melted, pounded, extruded: Why many ultra-processed foods are unhealthy, Anahad O’Connor and Aaron Steckelberg, June 27, 2023.  Industrial processing changes the structure of food. Experts say it can affect how much you eat and absorb, your weight and your risk for chronic disease.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Vaccine Program Now Flush With Cash, but Short on Key Details, Benjamin Mueller, Noah Weiland and Carl Zimmer, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). Efforts to develop the next generation of Covid vaccines are running up against bureaucratic hassles and regulatory uncertainty, scientists say, obstacles that could make it harder to curb the spread of the coronavirus and arm the United States against future pandemics.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2The Biden administration, after months of delay, has now addressed at least a shortfall in funding, hurrying to issue the first major grants from a $5 billion program to expedite a new class of more potent and durable inoculations.

But the program is facing the blunt reality that vaccine development, after being shifted into high gear early in the pandemic, has returned to its slower and more customary pace.

Experiments on a promising nasal vaccine licensed from Yale University have slowed as researchers have tried for nearly a year to obtain older shots from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna to use in the studies. The federal government’s original purchase agreements for those shots prevent doses from being used for research purposes without the companies’ approval, despite tens of millions of unused shots being wasted in recent months

ny times logoNew York Times, How the Shortage of a $15 Cancer Drug Is Upending Treatment, Christina Jewett, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). Older generic chemotherapy drugs have been scarce for months, forcing doctors to prioritize the patients who have the best chance of survival.

Tony Shepard learned he had vocal cord cancer this spring, but he was encouraged when his doctor said he had an 88 percent chance at a cure with chemotherapy and radiation.

That outlook began to dim in recent weeks, though, after the oncology practice he goes to in Central California began to sporadically run out of the critical medication he needs.

Since Mr. Shepard’s doctor informed him of the shortage, each treatment session has felt like a game of “Russian roulette,” he said, knowing that failure would mean the removal of his vocal cords and the disappearing of his voice.

“I try not to even think about it,” said Mr. Shepard, 62, a manager of a gas station in Madera, a town in California’s Central Valley. “It’s something scary that you don’t really want to think about — but you know it’s a reality.”

The nation’s monthslong shortage of highly potent cancer drugs is grinding on, forcing patients and their doctors to face even grimmer realities than those cancer typically presents. Thousands of patients like Mr. Shepard have been confronting gut-wrenching options, delays in treatment and potentially bleaker futures.

Oncologists are concerned that the alternatives to two crucial chemotherapy drugs are far less effective in treating certain cancers, and are sometimes more toxic. The backup therapies or lack thereof, they say, pose particularly troubling prospects for patients with ovarian, testicular, breast, lung and head and neck cancers.

ny times logoNew York Times, Anthony Fauci Will Join Faculty at Georgetown University, Mike Ives, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). Dr. Fauci was the federal government’s top infectious disease expert for decades, and helped steer the U.S. response to Covid-19.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, who served as the federal government’s top infectious disease specialist for nearly 40 years and played a key role in steering the United States through the coronavirus pandemic, will join the faculty of Georgetown University in Washington next month.

Dr. Fauci, 82, retired from the National Institutes of Health last year, having served as the director of its National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984. He was also the top Covid adviser to President Biden, a role he had filled under President Donald J. Trump. Georgetown announced his new job on Monday.

Dr. Fauci will work at Georgetown’s School of Medicine and its McCourt School of Public Policy, the university said. A spokeswoman for Georgetown did not immediately respond to an inquiry seeking details about what courses he will teach. The university’s announcement said Dr. Fauci’s role at the School of Medicine will be in an infectious disease division focused on education, research and patient care.

At the N.I.H., Dr. Fauci spent decades overseeing research on established infectious diseases — including H.I.V./AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria — and emerging ones like Ebola, Zika and Covid-19. He was also a principal architect of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a program that has delivered lifesaving treatment to more than 20 million people in 54 countries since its inception 20 years ago under President George W. Bush.

washington post logoWashington Post, Insomnia linked to up to 51 percent higher risk of strokes, Linda Searing, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). People suffering from insomnia may have as much as a 51 percent greater chance of having a stroke than those who do not have trouble sleeping, according to a study published in the journal Neurology.

For nearly a decade, the study tracked 31,126 people, age 61 on average and with no history of stroke at the start of the study. In that time, 2,101 strokes were recorded.

Insomnia symptoms reported by the participants included having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep and waking too early. Comparing participants who did and did not have signs of the sleep disorder, the researchers found that the degree of risk for stroke rose as the number of symptoms increased.

People with one to four insomnia symptoms were found to be 16 percent more likely to have had a stroke than were those with no symptoms, whereas a stroke was 51 percent more likely for people experiencing five to eight symptoms. The connection was stronger for those participants under age 50.

washington post logoWashington Post, 5 people contract malaria within U.S. borders, the first such cases in two decades, Brittany Shammas, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). The last confirmed instance of local transmission happened in 2003, when eight people became infected in Palm Beach County, Fla., the CDC said.

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U.S. Media, Education, Sports, Arts, High Tech

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ny times logoNew York Times, Historians Criticize Moms for Liberty Event at Museum in Philadelphia, Jennifer Schuessler, June 28, 2023. Several leading scholarly groups have criticized the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia (shown above in a file of the city skyline) for renting space to the group, which has pushed for book bans.

A half-dozen scholarly groups, including the nation’s two largest associations of professional historians, have criticized the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia for renting space to Moms for Liberty, calling it a dangerous normalization of an organization that supports book bans and restrictions on teaching about race and gender.

In a letter to the museum on Monday, the American Historical Association called on the museum to find a legal way to cancel the rental.

“Moms for Liberty is an organization that has vigorously advocated censorship and harassment of history teachers, banning history books from libraries and classrooms, and legislation that renders it impossible for historians to teach with professional integrity without risking job loss and other penalties,” the letter said.

The letter recognized the group’s right to argue for its preferred approach to history education. “However, Moms for Liberty has crossed a boundary in its attempts to silence and harass teachers, rather than participate in legitimate controversy,” it said.

The controversy became public in early June, when it was reported that dozens of museum employees were calling on the museum to cancel the rental to Moms for Liberty, on the grounds that it undermined the museum’s reputation and mission.

The rental was for a reception during its four-day “Joyful Warriors National Summit,” which begins on Thursday. The summit will feature several dozen prominent speakers, including former President Donald J. Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, both of whom have championed the teaching of “patriotic history” and opposition to “wokeness.”

In a statement, the museum, a private nonprofit, acknowledged the legitimacy of the employees’ concerns, but said it could not discriminate on the basis of a group’s political beliefs, which it called “antithetical to our purpose.”

Moms for Liberty has objected to negative characterizations of the group, which the Southern Poverty Law Center recently labeled “extremist.”

In a statement to The New York Times, the organization’s co-founders, Tiffany Justice and Tina Descovich, said: “We expect our national summit in Philadelphia to be a time of training and empowerment for parents to be more active in their child’s school system. We stand for the rights of parents and against anyone trying to silent parents who want to speak up on behalf of their child’s needs.”

Moms for Liberty, founded in 2021, originally focused on opposition to pandemic-era restrictions in schools, but has since expanded to supporting parents’ rights to ban books they deem inappropriate from classrooms and school libraries. The group has also become a force in Republican politics — the scheduled speakers at the summit include several presidential candidates.

The controversy over the Moms for Liberty event also highlights the complexities of free speech, and the line between opposing censorship and engaging in it. In their statements, the historical groups did not speak entirely with one voice.

ny times logoNew York Times, Remains Found in California Wilderness Are Identified as Those of Julian Sands, Derrick Bryson Taylor, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). The British actor was reported missing in January after he went hiking alone on a trail on Mount Baldy. Last weekend, after months of intense searches, hikers found human remains in the area.

Human remains that were found on Saturday in the Southern California wilderness have been identified as those of the British actor Julian Sands, who had been missing since January after he went hiking in the area, the authorities said on Tuesday.

Mr. Sands, 65, of North Hollywood, was an avid hiker and was best known for his role in the critically acclaimed 1986 film “A Room With a View.” The film, an adaptation of the novel by E.M. Forster, regularly makes lists as one of the best British films of all time. He also appeared in dozens of other films and television shows, including “Arachnophobia,” “Naked Lunch,” “Warlock” and “Ocean’s Thirteen.”

washington post logoWashington Post, The Biden administration announces $42 billion in federal aid to expand high-speed internet access, Tony Romm, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). About 7 percent of the country still doesn’t have broadband access that meets minimum standards, according to federal estimates. The funding — a centerpiece of the recent bipartisan infrastructure law — marks the largest-ever federal push to help an estimated 8.5 million families and businesses.

joe biden resized oThe Biden administration on Monday announced more than $42 billion in new federal funding to expand high-speed internet access nationwide, commencing the largest-ever campaign to help an estimated 8.5 million families and small businesses finally take advantage of modern-day connectivity.

The money, which the government plans to parcel out to states over the next two years, is the centerpiece of a vast and ambitious effort to deliver reliable broadband to the entire country by 2030 — ensuring that even the most far-flung parts of the United States can reap the economic benefits of the digital age.

In a preview of Biden’s planned remarks, White House officials likened the new infrastructure project to the government’s work to electrify the nation’s darkened heartland in the late 1930s, when more than 90 percent of farms had no electric power in the face of high costs and prohibitive terrain.

  • Washington Post, The real reason people in the Northeast are most likely to still have landlines, Andrew Van Dam, June 26, 2023.

ny times logoNew York Times, PGA Tour’s Pact With Saudi Wealth Fund Shows Many Details Left to Settle, Alan Blinder, June 28, 2023 (print ed.). The five-page agreement provoked a furor but included only a handful of binding provisions.

The PGA Tour’s tentative deal with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund to form an alliance with the rival LIV Golf series includes only a handful of binding commitments — such as a nondisparagement agreement and a pledge to dismiss acrimonious litigation — and leaves many of the most consequential details about the future of men’s professional golf to be negotiated by the end of the year.

The five-page framework agreement was obtained by The New York Times on Monday, the day the tour shared a copy of it with a Senate subcommittee that plans to hold a July hearing about the deal.

The proposed deal, announced on June 6 by the tour and the wealth fund, the financial force behind the renegade LIV Golf circuit, has caused an uproar throughout the golf industry. But a review of the agreement points to the rushed nature of the secret, seven-week talks that led to the deal and the complex path that remains ahead for the new venture, a potential triumph for Saudi Arabia’s quest to gain power and influence in sports and, its critics say, to distract from its reputation as a human rights abuser.

Most crucially, the tour and the wealth fund must still come to terms on the values of the assets that each will contribute to their planned partnership. Bankers and lawyers have spent recent weeks beginning the valuation process, but the framework agreement includes no substantive details of projected figures or even the size of an anticipated cash investment from the wealth fund.

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Insurrectionists riot at the U.S. Capitol to keep Donald Trump in office on Jan. 6, 2021 despite is defeat in the U.S. presidential election in November (Photo via Shutterstock).

 

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Insurrectionists riot at the U.S. Capitol to keep Donald Trump in office on Jan. 6, 2021 despite is defeat in the U.S. presidential election in November (Photo via Shutterstock).

Insurrectionists riot at the U.S. Capitol to keep Donald Trump in office on Jan. 6, 2021 despite his defeat in the U.S. presidential election in November (Photo via Shutterstock).

ny times logoNew York Times, Senate Report Details Jan. 6 Intelligence and Law Enforcement Failures, Luke Broadwater, June 27, 2023. Democrats released a scathing report detailing how federal officials missed, downplayed or failed to act on multiple threats of violence.

Democrats on the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday released a scathing report that detailed how the F.B.I., the Department of Homeland senate democrats logoSecurity and other federal agencies repeatedly ignored, downplayed or failed to share warnings of violence before the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

FBI logoThe 106-page report, entitled “Planned in Plain Sight,” highlighted and added to evidence already uncovered by the now-defunct House Jan. 6 committee, news reporting and other congressional work to provide the most comprehensive picture to date of a cascading set of security and intelligence failures that culminated in the deadliest assault on the Capitol in centuries.

Aides said Senate staff obtained thousands of additional documents from federal law enforcement agencies, including the Justice Department, before drafting the report. It includes multiple calls for armed violence, calls to occupy federal buildings including the Capitol and some of the clearest threats the F.B.I. received but did little about — including a warning that the far-right group the Proud Boys was planning to kill people in Washington.

“Our intelligence agencies completely dropped the ball,” said Senator Gary Peters, Democrat of Michigan and the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. He added: “Despite a multitude of tips and other intelligence warnings of violence on Jan. 6, the report showed that these agencies repeatedly — repeatedly — downplayed the threat level and failed to share the intelligence they had with law enforcement partners.”

The report determined the F.B.I.’s monitoring of social media threats was “degraded mere days before the attack,” because the bureau changed contracts for third-party social media monitoring. The committee obtained internal emails showing that F.B.I. officials were “surprised” by the timing of the contract change and “lamented the negative effect it would have on their monitoring capabilities in the lead-up to Jan. 6.”

But the investigation made clear that monitoring was not the only issue. It faulted the F.B.I. for failing to act on an array of dire warnings.

On Jan. 3, 2021, the F.B.I. became aware of multiple posts calling for armed violence, such as a Parler user who said, ”Come armed.” On Jan. 4, Justice Department leaders noted multiple concerning posts, including calls to “occupy federal buildings,” discussions of “invading the capitol building” and individuals arming themselves “to engage in political violence.”

christopher-wray-o.jpgStill, the report highlighted interviews with two F.B.I. leaders who said they were unaware that Congress could come under siege.

“If everybody knew and all the public knew that they were going to storm Congress, I don’t know why one person didn’t tell us,” Jennifer Moore, the special agent in charge of the F.B.I. Washington Field Office’s intelligence division, told the Senate investigators. FBI Director Christopher Wray, a Republican and Federlist Society member, is shown at right.

 

 north carolina map

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Rejects Theory That Would Have Transformed American Elections, Adam Liptak, June 27, 2023. The 6-3 majority dismissed the “independent state legislature” theory, which would have given state lawmakers nearly unchecked power over federal elections.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a legal theory that would have radically reshaped how federal elections are conducted by giving state legislatures largely unchecked power to set all sorts of rules for federal elections and to draw congressional maps warped by partisan gerrymandering.

jack smith graphicThe vote was 6 to 3, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. writing the majority opinion. The Constitution, he said, “does not exempt state legislatures from the ordinary constraints imposed by state law.”

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch dissented.

The case concerned the “independent state legislature” theory. The doctrine is based on a reading of the Constitution’s Elections Clause, which says, “The times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof.”

Proponents of the strongest form of the theory say this means that no other organs of state government — not courts, not governors, not election administrators, not independent commissions — can alter a legislature’s actions on federal elections.

The case, Moore v. Harper, No. 21-1271, concerned a voting map drawn by the North Carolina Legislature that was initially rejected as a partisan gerrymander by the state’s Supreme Court. Experts said the map was likely to yield a congressional delegation made up of 10 Republicans and four Democrats.

The state court rejected the argument that it was not entitled to review the actions of the state’s Legislature, saying that adopting the independent state legislature theory would be “repugnant to the sovereignty of states, the authority of state constitutions and the independence of state courts, and would produce absurd and dangerous consequences.”

Republicans seeking to restore the legislative map last year asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene, arguing in an emergency application that the state court had been powerless to act.

The justices rejected the request for immediate intervention, and the election in November was conducted under a map drawn by experts appointed by a state court. That resulted in a 14-member congressional delegation that was evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, roughly mirroring the state’s partisan divisions.

The Republican lawmakers appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying the state court was not entitled to second-guess the Legislature. When the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case in December, the justices seemed divided, if not fractured, over the limits of the theory.

The composition of the North Carolina Supreme Court changed after elections in November, favoring Republicans by a 5-to-2 margin. In what a dissenting justice called a “shameful manipulation of fundamental principles of our democracy and the rule of law,” the new majority reversed course, saying the Legislature was free to draw gerrymandered voting districts as it saw fit.

Many observers had expected the U.S. Supreme Court to dismiss the case in light of that development. But Chief Justice Roberts concluded that the Supreme Court retained jurisdiction over the case.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Key Cases the Supreme Court Has Yet to Decide in 2023, Adam Liptak and Eli Murray, Updated June 27, 2023. The court, which is expected to issue some of its remaining decisions on Tuesday, lurched to the right a year ago. Here’s how it’s been ruling this term.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue the final decisions of its current term this week, including ones on the fate of affirmative action in higher education, President Biden’s plan to forgive more than $400 billion of student debt and the civil rights of same-sex couples.

The court — dominated by a 6-to-3 conservative majority, including three justices appointed by President Donald J. Trump — lurched to the right last June in blockbuster decisions on abortion, guns, religion and climate change. Its record in the current term, which started in October, has so far been more mixed, with the court’s three liberal members voting with the majority, for instance, in important cases on Native American adoptions and minority voting rights. The court will issue some of the remaining rulings on Tuesday.

According to a survey conducted in April by researchers at Harvard, Stanford and the University of Texas, the public is often — but hardly always — divided along partisan lines on how the court should rule in the term’s major cases.

Undecided cases

  • Affirmative Action
  • State Legislatures and Federal Elections
  • Student Loans
  • Religion, Free Speech and Gay Rights
  • Religious Employees

Decided cases

  • Race and Voting Maps
  • Tribal Rights
  • Environmental Protection
  • Animal Cruelty and Interstate Commerce
  • Fair Use of Copyrighted Works
  • Scope of Tech Platforms’ Liability Shield
  • Tech Platforms and Terrorism

ny times logoNew York Times, Audio Undercuts Trump’s Assertion He Did Not Have Classified Document, Maggie Haberman and Alan Feuer, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). A recording of a meeting in 2021 in which former President Trump described a sensitive document in front of him appears to contradict his defense.

An audio recording of former President Donald J. Trump in 2021 discussing what he called a “highly confidential” document about Iran that he acknowledged he could not declassify because he was out of office appears to contradict his recent assertion that the material he was referring to was simply news clippings.

President Donald Trump officialPortions of a transcript of the two-minute recording of Mr. Trump were cited by federal prosecutors in the indictment of Mr. Trump on charges that he had put national security secrets at risk by mishandling classified documents after leaving office and then obstructing the government’s efforts to retrieve them.

The recording captured his conversation in July 2021 with a publisher and writer working on a memoir by Mr. Trump’s final chief of staff, Mark Meadows. In it, Mr. Trump discussed what he described as a “secret” plan regarding Iran drawn up by Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Defense Department. Mr. Trump was citing the document in rebutting an account that General Milley feared having to keep him from manufacturing a crisis with Iran in the period after Mr. Trump lost his re-election bid in late 2020.

The audio, which is likely to feature as evidence in Mr. Trump’s trial in the documents case, was played for the first time in public on Monday by CNN and was also obtained by The New York Times.

ny times logoNew York Times, Court Throws Out New York’s Civil Case Against Ivanka TrumpNew York Times, Court Throws Out New York’s Civil Case Against Ivanka Trump, Jonah E. Bromwich, Ben Protess and William K. Rashbaum, June 27, 2023. The decision could mean that claims against Donald J. Trump and his company might also be limited.

A New York appeals court on Tuesday dismissed the New York attorney general’s civil case against Donald J. Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and potentially limited the case against the former president and his family business, which is set to go to trial in October.

Last year, the attorney general, Letitia James, filed a lawsuit against Mr. Trump, his company and three of his adult children, including Ms. Trump, accusing them of fraudulently overvaluing the former president’s assets by billions of dollars to receive favorable loans.

On Tuesday, the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan said in a unanimous ruling that Ms. James’s claims against Ms. Trump should be dismissed because the attorney general missed a deadline for filing the case against her. Ms. Trump was no longer a part of the Trump Organization after 2016, the ruling noted.

The appeals court effectively left it to the State Supreme Court judge presiding over the case to determine whether the claims against the other defendants — including Mr. Trump, his company and his two adult sons — should be limited.

Ms. James’s case rests on the company’s annual financial statements, which she says contained inflated numbers. The company continued to use those statements until at least 2021, she said. And Mr. Trump’s name was on the documents, even after he ascended to the White House.

In January, the State Supreme Court judge, Arthur F. Engoron, denied Mr. Trump’s motion to dismiss the case, saying that some arguments that the former president’s lawyers made were “borderline frivolous.” But Mr. Trump appealed, resulting in the decision on Tuesday.

Based on the appeals court’s ruling, it’s possible that Justice Engoron may have to limit claims related to two of the bigger transactions cited in the complaint: a hotel deal in Chicago and the purchase of a golf resort in Florida.

The ruling represented a rare legal victory that could strengthen Mr. Trump’s hand heading into the civil trial scheduled for Oct. 2 — and as he seeks the presidency again. Mr. Trump and his family business had endured a punishing series of losses in civil and criminal cases, and the appeals court’s decision might embolden him in any potential settlement talks.

A lawyer for Mr. Trump, Christopher M. Kise, said in a statement that the decision represented “the first step toward ending a case that should have never been filed.”

“The correct application of the law will now limit appropriately the previously unlimited reach of the attorney general,” he said. “We remain confident that once all the real facts are known, there will be no doubt President Trump has built an extraordinarily successful business empire.”

A spokeswoman for Ms. James, Delaney Kempner, said that the office had sued Mr. Trump and his company “after uncovering extensive financial fraud that continues to this day.”

“There is a mountain of evidence that shows Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization falsely and fraudulently valued multiple assets and misrepresented those values to financial institutions for significant economic gain,” she said. “Those facts haven’t changed.”

Ms. James’s lawsuit was filed last year on Sept. 21 against Mr. Trump, his business, Ms. Trump and his two adult sons.

It accuses the former president of lying to lenders and insurers about the value of his assets, and says that he violated state criminal laws and, “plausibly,” federal laws. The case lays out detailed accusations of how Mr. Trump’s annual financial statements overstated the worth of nearly all of his best-known properties — from Trump Tower and 40 Wall Street in Manhattan to Mar-a-Lago in Florida — to get better terms from the lenders and insurers.

The suit seeks $250 million that the attorney general contends the Trumps made through deception, and asks a judge to essentially bar the former president from doing business in New York if he is found liable at trial. Justice Engoron has already appointed a monitor to oversee the Trump Organization’s business transactions.

Although Mr. Trump invoked his constitutional right against self-incrimination in an interview last year, he answered Ms. James’s questions in a deposition in April.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers could argue at trial that the financial statements included disclaimers, and that the values were unaudited estimates. They could also argue that setting property values is subjective, more of an art than a science, and that the lenders and insurers were hardly victims.

“The transactions at the center of this case were wildly profitable for the banks and for the Trump entities,” Mr. Kise said in a statement issued after his deposition in April. Mr. Kise contended that once the facts were revealed, “everyone will scoff at the notion any fraud took place.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Lukashenko Says That During Revolt, Putin Suggested Killing Mercenary Chief, Anton Troianovski, Valerie Hopkins and Victoria Kim, June 27, 2023. President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus, below left, said that he had argued against the move, and confirmed that Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner alexander lukashenko resized 2019mercenary group, had arrived in the country, Belarusian state media reported.

Here are the latest developments.

  • The Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny V. Prigozhin arrived in Belarus on Tuesday, the Belarusian state news media reported, ending days of speculation over his whereabouts after he called off a weekend uprising that marked the most dramatic challenge to President Vladimir V. Putin’s rule in two decades.
  • New details emerged about the negotiations that ended the daylong rebellion, as President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus, Russia’s closest ally, described his phone conversations with Mr. Putin and Mr. Prigozhin as the Wagner mercenaries were marching to Moscow on Saturday.

     

dominion voting systemsRollingstone, Newsmax Staffers Hit With Subpoenas in 2020 Election Defamation Suit, Staff Report, June 25, 2023. Court filings rife with internal communications exposed Fox News’ post-election misinformation push. Newsmax could be next.

rolling stone logoDominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit against Fox News laid bare how the network communicated behind the scenes about broadcasting 2020 election misinformation, ultimately leading the network to fork over a massive settlement. Newsmax could be next, as voting-technology company Smartmatic has subpoenaed several of the right-wing cable network’s current and former employees for work and personal correspondence.

Several Newsmax insiders, who spoke with Rolling Stone under a condition of anonymity due to a fear of reprisal, said that roughly three weeks ago they were told to hand over “mirror images of their personal cellphone, personal email, and iCloud,” as Smartmatic’s lawsuit against the network moves forward.

Smartmaric’s attorney J. Erik Connolly, managing chair of the litigation practice group at Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan, & Aronoff, LLC, tells Rolling Stone: “Smartmatic intends to pursue discovery from the current and former Newsmax employees who participated in the egregious disinformation campaign against the company. Some of the discovery has come, and will come, from the company. Smartmatic is pursuing these individuals to get the rest. Our complaint does not numerically specify the amount of damages we have suffered.”

Smartmatic claims in its lawsuit that Newsmax knowingly pushed falsehoods about the company following the 2020 presidential election. “Newsmax published and/or republished false statements and implications during news broadcasts, in online reports, and on social media that ‘Smartmatic participated in a criminal conspiracy’ to fix, rig, and steal the Election,” the defamation suit alleges.

Newsmax, which did not return Rolling Stone’s request for comment, initially pushed back on the Smartmatic defamation suit with a countersuit claiming it was an intimidation tactic. However, in February 2023, Smartmatic’s case was permitted to proceed, and Newsmax staffers are now being asked to hand over pertinent material.

ny times logoNew York Times, His Glory Fading, a Russian Warlord Took One Last Stab at Power, Paul Sonne and Anatoly Kurmanaev, June 27, 2023. Whatever the Wagner uprising says about Vladimir Putin’s hold on the Kremlin, it is also the story of the growing desperation of Yevgeny Prigozhin.

yevgeny prigozhin headshot speakingWell before Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, shown at right, seized a major Russian military hub and ordered an armed march on Moscow, posing a startling and dramatic threat to President Vladimir V. Putin, the caterer-turned-mercenary boss was losing his own personal war.

Mr. Prigozhin’s private army had been sidelined. His lucrative government catering contracts had come under threat. The commander he most admired in the Russian military had been removed as the top general overseeing Ukraine. And he had lost his most vital recruiting source for fighters: Russia’s prisons.

Then, on June 13, his only hope for a last-minute intervention to spare him a bitter defeat in his long-running power struggle with Defense Minister Sergei K. Shoigu was dashed.

Mr. Putin sided publicly with Mr. Prigozhin’s adversaries, affirming that all irregular units fighting in Ukraine would have to sign contracts with the Ministry of Defense. That included Mr. Prigozhin’s private military company, Wagner.

Now, the mercenary chieftain would be subordinated to Mr. Shoigu, an unparalleled political survivor in modern Russia and Mr. Prigozhin’s sworn enemy.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Biden administration announces $42 billion in federal aid to expand high-speed internet access, Tony Romm, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). About 7 percent of the country still doesn’t have broadband access that meets minimum standards, according to federal estimates. The funding — a centerpiece of the recent bipartisan infrastructure law — marks the largest-ever federal push to help an estimated 8.5 million families and businesses.

joe biden resized oThe Biden administration on Monday announced more than $42 billion in new federal funding to expand high-speed internet access nationwide, commencing the largest-ever campaign to help an estimated 8.5 million families and small businesses finally take advantage of modern-day connectivity.

The money, which the government plans to parcel out to states over the next two years, is the centerpiece of a vast and ambitious effort to deliver reliable broadband to the entire country by 2030 — ensuring that even the most far-flung parts of the United States can reap the economic benefits of the digital age.

In a preview of Biden’s planned remarks, White House officials likened the new infrastructure project to the government’s work to electrify the nation’s darkened heartland in the late 1930s, when more than 90 percent of farms had no electric power in the face of high costs and prohibitive terrain.

  • Washington Post, The real reason people in the Northeast are most likely to still have landlines, Andrew Van Dam, June 26, 2023.

 

Environment, Transportation, Energy, Space, Disasters, Climate

climate change photo


ny times logoNew York Times, Intensifying Rains Pose Hidden Flood Risks Across the U.S., Raymond Zhong, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). In some of the nation’s most populous areas, hazardous storms can dump significantly more water than previously believed, new calculations show.

As climate change intensifies severe rainstorms, the infrastructure protecting millions of Americans from flooding faces growing risk of failures, according to new calculations of expected precipitation in every county and locality across the contiguous United States.

The calculations suggest that one in nine residents of the lower 48 states, largely in populous regions including the Mid-Atlantic and the Texas Gulf Coast, is at significant risk of downpours that deliver at least 50 percent more rain per hour than local pipes, channels and culverts might be designed to drain.

“The data is startling, and it should be a wake-up call,” said Chad Berginnis, the executive director of the Association of State Floodplain Managers, a nonprofit organization focused on flood risk.

The new rain estimates, issued on Monday by the First Street Foundation, a nonprofit research group in New York, carry worrying implications for homeowners, too: They indicate that 12.6 million properties nationwide face significant flood risks despite not being required by the federal government to buy flood insurance.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Giant Wind Farm Is Taking Root Off Massachusetts, Stanley Reed and Ivan Penn, June 27, 2023. The offshore energy project will have turbines taller than any building in Boston, but they will be barely visible from Martha’s Vineyard.

The $4 billion project, known as Vineyard Wind, is expected to start generating electricity by year’s end.

In the coming months, 62 turbines, each up to up to 850 feet high (taller than any building in Boston) with blades about 350 feet long, will be planted on a sweep of seabed 15 miles off Martha’s Vineyard, the island where former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton have vacationed.

Cables carrying electricity created by spinning rotors will land on a beach in Barnstable on Cape Cod and then head to consumers in the state. Vineyard Wind says its machines will crank out enough power to light up 400,000 homes.

ny times logoNew York Times, Tesla May Have Already Won the Charging Wars, Jack Ewing, June 27, 2023. Deals with Ford and G.M. will make it easier for electric vehicle drivers to find chargers. It could also give Elon Musk control of critical infrastructure.

tesla logoMary Barra and Elon Musk may be intense business rivals, but they sounded like old pals as they chatted on Twitter this month about a deal that could help remove one of the biggest barriers to electric vehicle ownership: not enough chargers.

Ms. Barra, the chief executive of General Motors, had just agreed to follow Ford Motor in adopting the charging technology developed by Tesla, the carmaker led by Mr. Musk. The deals will allow G.M. and Ford customers to use some of Tesla’s fast chargers. Fear of not finding a charger is a main reason some people hesitate to buy electric cars, surveys show.

Ms. Barra gushed about the “fantastic” team at Tesla. Mr. Musk said it was an “honor” to work with her.

Beneath the surface of those pleasantries were probably some tough corporate calculations. G.M., Ford and numerous charging companies and equipment suppliers have agreed to work with Tesla because they desperately need the company’s help. In addition to selling more electric cars in the United States than all other automakers put together, Tesla operates the country’s largest fast-charging network.

ny times logoNew York Times, Uber Rider Who Killed Driver Said She Thought She Was Being Kidnapped, Remy Tumin, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). The passenger, who is charged with murder, told the authorities that she shot Daniel Piedra Garcia in the head as she worried he was taking her across the border to Mexico instead of to an El Paso casino.

Daniel Piedra Garcia had been an Uber driver for three weeks when he picked up a rider on June 16 who was headed to the Speaking Rock Casino in El Paso. It was near the end of his work day, but Mr. Piedra had picked up the rider anyway, his family said.

As they passed a sign for Juarez, Mexico, a nearby city over the border, the passenger grew nervous about where they were headed, she told the authorities. According to court documents, she said that she feared she was being kidnapped and taken to Mexico.

That’s when the passenger, Phoebe Capos, 48, grabbed a brown-and-silver revolver from her purse and shot Mr. Piedra, 52, in the head, the authorities said. The car crashed into a roadway barrier before coming to a stop on U.S. Route 54.

Ms. Copas was originally charged with aggravated assault, but that was upgraded to murder after Mr. Piedra died at a hospital on June 21.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Pedestrian Deaths Are at Highest Level in 41 Years, Report Says, Amanda Holpuch, June 27, 2023. More than 7,500 people were struck and killed by vehicles in 2022, according to state data. Safety can be improved through infrastructure changes and traffic enforcement, the analysis said.

The number of pedestrians who were struck and killed by vehicles in 2022 was the highest it’s been since 1981, according to a report based on state government data.

At least 7,508 people who were out walking were struck and killed in the United States last year, said the report, published on Friday by the Governors Highway Safety Association, a nonprofit that represents states’ safety offices. The report used preliminary data from government agencies in 49 states and Washington, D.C. (Oklahoma had incomplete data because of a technical issue and was the only state to not provide data, the association said.)

The findings for 2022, and an accompanying analysis of federal government data from 2021, showed that pedestrian deaths in the United States have continued to rise over the last decade.

From 2010 to 2021, pedestrian deaths increased from 4,302 to 7,624, a 77 percent rise, according to the federal data. In the same period, other types of traffic fatalities increased by 25 percent.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here’s a Look at the Water Crises That Might Be Coming to You Soon, Somini Sengupta, June 26, 2023 (print ed.). Bangladesh, a river delta nation, is on the front line of climate change. Its coping strategies could offer lessons for the wider world.

Bangladesh is a land of water. Its silty rivers rush down from the Himalayas, spill into a filigreed maze of ponds, wetlands and tributaries before emptying into the blustery, black Bay of Bengal.

Now, its most profound threat is water, in its many terrible incarnations: drought, deluge, cyclones, saltwater. All are aggravated to varying degrees by climate change, and all are forcing millions of people to do whatever they can to keep their heads above it.

This matters to the rest of the world, because what the 170 million people of this crowded, low-lying delta nation face today is what many of us will face tomorrow.

The people of Bangladesh are rushing to harvest rice as soon as they get word of heavy rains upstream. They’re building floating beds of water hyacinths to grow vegetables beyond the reach of floodwaters. Where shrimp farms have turned the soil too salty to cultivate crops, they’re growing okra and tomatoes not in soil, but in compost, stuffed into plastic boxes that had once carried shrimp. Where the land itself is washing away, people have to move to other villages and towns. And where they’re running out of even drinking water, they’re learning to drink every drop of rain.

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More on Russia, Ukraine

vladimir putin hand up palmer

washington post logoWashington Post, Rebellion shakes Russian elite’s faith in Putin’s strength, Catherine Belton, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). The armed insurrection has shattered the carefully crafted myth that was the cornerstone of Putin’s presidency – that he represented stability and strength.

The impact of the fiercest-ever challenge to Vladimir Putin’s 23-year presidency was still reverberating among Moscow’s elites Monday as questions swirled over whether the Russian president had, for a moment at least, lost control of the country.

When Putin, shown above in a file  photo, addressed the nation on Monday for the first time since the chaos of this weekend’s armed rebellion, he thanked the population for displaying “unity and patriotism” which he said clearly demonstrated that “any attempt to cause internal turmoil was doomed to fail.”

But the armed insurrection by the leader of the Wagner mercenary group has shattered the carefully crafted myth that was the cornerstone of Putin’s presidency — that he represented stability and strength — and many in the upper reaches of Russian politics and business wonder whether he can recover from it. Some even suggested that a search for Putin’s successor could be underway.

“Putin showed the entire world and the elite he is no one and not capable of doing anything,” said one influential Moscow businessman. “It is a total collapse of his reputation.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Drops Criminal Case Against Mercenary Leader, but His Future Remains Uncertain, Valerie Hopkins and Victoria Kim, June 27, 2023.  Moscow dropped an investigation into the mutiny led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner group. It’s unclear where Mr. Prigozhin is days after the insurrection.

The Russian authorities dropped an investigation into Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner mercenary group, over charges that he led a brief armed rebellion over the weekend, and the group is preparing to hand over military equipment to the Russian Army, state media reported on Tuesday.

The two nearly simultaneous announcements were part of an effort by the Kremlin to move on from the stunning, if short-lived, mutiny by Mr. Prigozhin’s forces on Saturday. But they left many unanswered questions, including the fate of the tens of thousands of Wagner fighters and of Mr. Prigozhin himself.

The mercenary leader’s whereabouts remained unclear a day after he denied, in an audio message posted on Monday, that his mutiny had been an attempt to seize power in Russia. In the message, he said that the action had instead been a protest against the way Russia’s senior military leaders have handled the war in Ukraine.

Mr. Prigozhin was expected to go into exile in Belarus under an agreement brokered by that country’s pro-Russian leader, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko. The details of that agreement have not been made public, however.

Here are other developments:

  • In brief remarks at the Kremlin, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said that some Russian airmen had “died in the confrontation with the mutineers,” and he praised them for carrying out their duties. In a televised speech on Monday night, a visibly angry Mr. Putin denounced the mutiny as “blackmail” that had been “doomed to failure,” though he did not name Mr. Prigozhin, his erstwhile ally.
  • President Biden said that the United States and its allies had “nothing to do with” the unrest in Russia and that they wanted to give Mr. Putin “no excuse to blame this on the West or to blame this on NATO.”
  • The Russian defense minister, Sergei K. Shoigu, was shown in state news broadcasts on Monday in a meeting with Mr. Putin and other defense and security chiefs, a sign of trust in the minister, who had for months publicly clashed with Mr. Prigozhin.
  • President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, who visited frontline positions on Monday, said that his country’s forces had “advanced in all directions” over the past 24 hours. “This is a happy day,” he said.

 

 Route north through southern Russia by Wagner Group rebels June 23 to 24, 2023 (Graphic by Washington Post).

 Route north through southern Russia by Wagner Group rebels June 23 to 24, 2023 (Graphic by Washington Post).

washington post logoWashington Post, After mutiny, Putin says Wagner can go to Belarus, go home or fight for Russia, Robyn Dixon and Mary Ilyushina, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). Russian President Vladimir Putin’s speech, his first since the mutiny, came hours after the head of the Wagner Group declared that his motive was to save the private militia from being subsumed into the Russian military, not to topple Putin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed his nation Monday for the first time since the weekend mutiny by Wagner mercenaries, saying he would keep his promise and allow the group’s fighters to move to neighboring Belarus.

Their other options were to return to their families or sign contracts with the Russian Defense Ministry, he said.

Putin’s speech came hours after Wagner chief Yevgeniy Prigozhin resurfaced in a video posted online, declaring that his motive on Saturday was to save the group from being subsumed by the Russian military — not to topple the Russian president.

In a tone both stern and conciliatory, Putin said that Wagner’s mutiny would have been crushed by Russian security forces if it had not halted its advance on Moscow, but also that the “vast majority” of Wagner fighters were patriots.

 

yevgeny prigozhin headshot speaking

washington post logoWashington Post, Defiant Prigozhin says Wagner mercenaries to operate from Belarus, Robyn Dixon and Mary Ilyushina, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). Russian defense ministry video claims Shoigu in Ukraine.

Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeniy Prigozhin resurfaced Monday for the first time since his mutiny on Saturday, declaring that his motive was to save the private militia from being subsumed into the Russian military — not to topple President Vladimir Putin.

Prigozhin said he ordered the rebellion after Russia’s military killed about 30 Wagner fighters in a missile strike on one of their camps. He accepted a deal, he said, to avoid prosecution and move to Belarus because Wagner could continue its operations there. He did not disclose his whereabouts or the location of his fighters.

Russian news outlet Verstka reported that a Wagner base for 8,000 soldiers was being constructed in Belarus, in the Mogilev region southeast of Minsk. The report could not be independently confirmed.

Whatever his intentions, Prigozhin’s brazen revolt confronted Putin with the fiercest challenge he has faced in more than 23 years as Russia’s supreme leader — calling into question the stability of a system where the rule of law is readily dispensable and competing fiefs, including oligarchs and officials, jostle constantly for presidential favor, state benefits and influence. It also laid bare the bitter divisions over Putin’s handling of the war in Ukraine and could have serious repercussions on the battlefield.

The Ukrainian military on Monday claimed further progress in its counteroffensive to drive out occupying Russian forces. Ukraine said it took control of Rivnopil, the ninth village it has recaptured this month. Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Ukrainian forces have regained roughly 50 square miles in the country’s south since the start of the campaign.

Prigozhin, speaking in an 11-minute audio address posted Monday on Telegram, said Wagner fighters strongly opposed signing contracts with the Russian Defense Ministry — as they were ordered to do by July 1 — because that would have effectively dismantled the group.

Though Prigozhin has claimed to have 25,000 fighters under his command, the figure is widely believed to be an exaggeration; British intelligence has reportedly put the true number closer to 8,000.
Members of the Wagner Group sit atop a tank in a street in the city of Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on Saturday. (Roman Romokhov/AFP/Getty Images)

Prigozhin expressed regret about Russian aircrews killed by Wagner forces during Saturday’s rebellion, “but these assets were dropping bombs and delivering missile strikes,” he said.

Wagner shot down at least six helicopters and an Il-22 airborne command-post plane during the mutiny, according to open-source intelligence analysts, while Russian military bloggers reported that at least 13 air force personnel were killed. The Russian Defense Ministry has not confirmed the death toll.

In a brash new claim, Prigozhin said his forces “blocked and neutralized all military units and airfields that were on our way” without killing any Russian ground forces. Wagner fighters got within 125 miles of Moscow, he said, an achievement that “revealed the most serious security flaws across the country.”

While there was no way to immediately verify the claim, Western military analysts were surprised by Wagner’s swift advance toward the Russian capital after the group seized control of the Southern Military District headquarters in Rostov early Saturday.

Prigozhin boasted that Wagner was perhaps the “most experienced and combat-ready unit in Russia, and possibly in the world” and has performed a huge number of tasks in the interests of the Russian state, in Africa, the Middle East “and around the world.”

He added that Wagner received an outpouring of support from the Russian public during the revolt, which he called a “march for justice.”

Russia’s embattled leadership, meanwhile, tried to demonstrate control on Monday, airing an undated video of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visiting a command post and releasing a recorded video address by Putin to young engineers.

It was not clear when the Putin speech was recorded, leaving questions about his whereabouts still swirling, amid speculation that he might have left Moscow for one of his residences northwest of the capital on Saturday. Two of the official planes normally used by Putin returned to Moscow from the north Sunday, Russian independent media reported.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the president was “working in the Kremlin,” according to the Russian news outlet Agentstvo.
People walk at the Zaryadye Park overlooking the Kremlin in Moscow on Monday. (Maxim Shipenkov/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

By contrast, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited his troops near the front lines in eastern Ukraine on Monday, and his office quickly released video of him greeting soldiers.

Mercenary boss warned of revolution in Russia, but his own was short-lived

As a state of emergency in the Russian capital was lifted, Russians tried to make sense of why Putin would strike a deal with Prigozhin after accusing his former ally of “treason.” They were also left wondering what it would mean in the near term for the war in Ukraine, and for Putin’s long-term political future.

State-owned media reported Monday that the insurrection charges against Prigozhin had not yet been rescinded. On Saturday, the Kremlin announced that the charges would be dropped as part of the deal in which Prigozhin agreed to halt his military advance on Moscow and leave Russia for Belarus.

Key questions about the deal remain unanswered, and Russian officials have struggled to provide clarity about Wagner’s future.

Prigozhin’s comment that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko offered the militia a way to operate legally from Belarus suggested that Wagner will continue its operations in Africa and other parts of the world, leveraging security contracts and political influence operations in return for mining concessions and cash.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday that Wagner would continue operating in Mali and the Central African Republic. He called Wagner operatives there “instructors.”

It appears that the group’s role in Ukraine may be over, however, and it will no longer have access to Russian state support.

 

Wagner Group Russian mercenaries seized territory in Russia in Rostov-on-Don during an apparent coup attempt en route to Moscow, located 600 miles to the north (Reuters photo).

Wagner Group Russian mercenaries seized territory in Russia in Rostov-on-Don during an apparent coup attempt en route to Moscow, located 600 miles to the north (Reuters photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Wagner Group chief says his mercenaries rebelled to fight being absorbed into military, Bryan Pietsch, Jennifer Hassan, Mary Ilyushina and Eve Sampson, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). Yevgeniy Prigozhin, above, who sent fighters toward Moscow in an extraordinary challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s authority, posted an audio statement claiming he launched the rebellion after Russian forces killed 30 of his fighters.

Wagner Group leader Yevgeniy Prigozhin, who sent a convoy of mercenary fighters toward Moscow over the weekend in an extraordinary challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s authority, posted an 11-minute audio statement on Monday claiming he launched the rebellion after Russian forces killed 30 of his fighters. They were his first remarks since accepting a deal to avoid prosecution and withdrawing his fighters on Saturday.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Ukraine’s Counteroffensive Is Off to a Halting Start, Andrew E. Kramer and Eric Schmitt, Photographs by David Guttenfelder, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). The Ukrainian Army is encountering an array of challenges, including vast minefields, that have complicated the early stages of its pushback.

The column of Bradley armored vehicles rumbled forward, filled with Ukrainian soldiers, bringing a new and potent American weapon to the war’s southern front.

But then one hit a mine. The explosion blew off one of the vehicle’s bulldozer-like tracks, immobilizing it. The entire Ukrainian column reversed direction, pulling back.

Three weeks into a counteroffensive critical to Ukraine’s prospects against Russia, its army is encountering an array of vexing challenges that complicate its plans, even as it wields sophisticated new Western-provided weapons. Not least is a vast swath of minefields protecting Russia’s defensive line, forming a killing field for Ukrainian troops advancing on the open steppe of the south.

“Everything is mined, everywhere,” said Lt. Ashot Arutiunian, the commander of a drone unit, who watched through a drone’s video link as the mine exploded under the Bradley and halted the column’s advance.

 

In this handout photo taken from video released by Prigozhin Press Service on Friday, March 3, 2023, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner Group military company, addresses Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asking him to withdraw the remaining Ukrainian forces from Bakhmut to save their lives, at an unspecified location in Ukraine. Prigozhin's criticism of the top military brass is in stark contrast with more than two decades of rigidly controlled rule by President Vladimir Putin without any sign of infighting among his top lieutenants. (Prigozhin Press Service via AP, File)

In this handout photo taken from video released by Prigozhin Press Service on Friday, March 3, 2023, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner Group military company, addresses Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asking him to withdraw the remaining Ukrainian forces from Bakhmut to save their lives, at an unspecified location in Ukraine. Prigozhin's criticism of the top military brass is in stark contrast with more than two decades of rigidly controlled rule by President Vladimir Putin without any sign of infighting among his top lieutenants. (Prigozhin Press Service via AP, File)

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Prigozhin and the Long and Infamous History of Failed Russian Rebellions, Serge Schmemann (a member of The Times editorial board The Times’s Moscow bureau chief in the 1980s and ’90s, and the author of “Echoes of a Native Land: Two Centuries of a Russian Village”), June 27, 2023 (print ed.). Whatever Yevgeny Prigozhin intended his rebellion to achieve, it proved short and senseless.

Less than 24 hours after he sent his tanks and troops trundling on the main highway toward Moscow, the mercenary chief was persuaded to turn them around and take refuge himself in Belarus. The question now is what will happen in the next act, particularly whether the failed mutiny will leave President Vladimir Putin weakened, strengthened or vindictive.

Mr. Putin initially went on television and vowed to crush the rebellion, which he branded as “treason,” “betrayal” and “mutiny.” Witnesses filmed Russian attack helicopters blasting the rebel convoy and ditches being dug on the road ahead to prevent their advance.

But in his brief address to the nation, Mr. Putin never named Mr. Prigozhin or his mercenary army, the infamous Wagner Group. (It is named, reportedly, after a neo-Nazi crony of Mr. Prigozhin’s whose nom de guerre was Wagner, after Richard Wagner, the 19th century composer idolized by Hitler). Instead of immediately trying to crush the Wagner rebels, and thus setting off a nasty internecine clash, Mr. Putin held back. He used Aleksandr Lukashenko, the Belarusian dictator he effectively controls, to entice Mr. Prigozhin into abandoning his rash uprising with promises of amnesty.

What really happened, however, remains a mystery. American intelligence services saw signs of a brewing insurrection already last Wednesday, the Times reported.

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U.S. Supreme Court

washington post logoWashington Post, On cusp of affirmative action decision, how Supreme Court ruled before, Robert Barnes, June 27, 2023. Ahead of affirmative action decisions involving Harvard and the University of North Carolina expected this week, a review of how the Supreme Court ruled before.

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court won’t hear charter school’s bid to force girls to wear skirts, Rachel Weiner and Moriah Balingit, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). The Supreme Court on Monday declined to review the case of a North Carolina charter school that wanted to force female students to wear skirts in the name of “chivalry,” letting stand a lower-court ruling that deemed the policy unconstitutional.

The move is a victory for civil liberties advocates and a blow to social conservatives who hoped that — after allowing public vouchers to be used at religious schools last year — the top U.S. court would exempt charter schools from constitutional protections. The case could have had far-reaching implications for charter schools, which operate in a gray area, functioning as public schools that are run by private organizations.

“If accepted, Charter Day School’s argument that it should be free to violate students’ constitutional rights would have … threatened the freedoms of 3.6 million public charter school students nationwide,” Ria Tabacco Mar of the American Civil Liberties Union said in an email. The ACLU litigated the case on behalf of two parents and one student who challenged the school dress code.

 

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Sheldon Whitehouse was right all along: The Supreme Court is corrupt, Jennifer Rubin, right, June 25, 2023. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse jennifer rubin new headshothas been arguing for years that a flood of “dark money” flowing through right-wing front groups has corrupted the Supreme Court. Never has there been more evidence to bolster his claim.

sheldon whitehouseWhitehouse (D-R.I.), left, told me in an extensive phone interview last week that Justice Samuel A. Alito’s Jr.’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal intending to pre-but a ProPublica story revealing he failed to disclose gifts from billionaire and right-wing donor Paul Singer and paul singerrecuse from a case involving Singer, right, was “very, very weird.”

And it was not merely because he took to the op-ed pages of a sympathetic right-wing Rupert Murdoch newspaper as though he were a panicky politician trying to control the damage. (If that were his intent, it horribly backfired because the stunt only called attention to his angry response and the underlying charges. He managed to make it front-page news. “If you were filing a pleading, this would have pretty much failed,” Whitehouse observed.)

The senator ticked off the problems with Alito’s argument: factual omissions (e.g., the standard for exempt gifts does not include transportation); Alito’s lame effort to turn an airplane into a “facility” to jam it into an exempt-gift category (“It doesn’t pass the laugh test,” Whitehouse said); Alito’s plea that he couldn’t possibly have known Singer had a financial stake ($2 billion) in the outcome of a case before the court (although it was widely reported in the media); and the insistence that yet another billionaire was a “friend,” which somehow absolved him from his obligation to report gifts of “hospitality.” And, Whitehouse argued, it strains credulity that Alito (like Justice Clarence Thomas) could be confused about reporting requirements when there is a Financial Disclosure Committee expressly set up to help judges navigate these issues.

All in all, the poorly reasoned argument amounted to what Whitehouse called “a painful exhibit for an actual ethics code.” A bill he co-authored with Judiciary Chairman Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), set to be marked up after July 4, would confirm that the code of ethics applicable to all judges applies to the high court, set up a process for screening ethics complaints and allow chief judges of the circuit to advise on how their circuits handle similar matters. This is “not remotely unconstitutional,” he noted. (Whitehouse wryly remarked that the last thing the justices want is a comparison to circuit courts’ conduct. “The best way to show that a stick is crooked is to lay a straight stick alongside it,” he said.) Whitehouse is merely asking for the court to develop a process that the judicial branch would oversee for the sake of restoring confidence in the Supreme Court.

Yet another poll, this time from Quinnipiac, shows the court’s approval at an all-time low — 29 percent. Don’t they care?

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Documents reveal Supreme Court justices’ long-running tensions over ethics, Tobi Raji, Theodoric Meyer and Leigh Ann Caldwell, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). This could be a big week for the Supreme Court.

The justices are expected to hand down decisions beginning Tuesday on the remaining cases they heard this term, including whether colleges and universities can continue to use affirmative action in admissions decisions and whether President Biden’s student loan forgiveness program is lawful.

It comes as the justices face intense scrutiny over their rulings and the ethics controversies surrounding them, which have led to intensifying calls for binding ethics rules.

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U.S. Politics, Governance, Elections

ny times logoNew York Times, If President Biden Wanted to Ease U.S.-China Tensions, Would Americans Let Him? Ian Prasad Philbrick, June 27, 2023. In polls, Americans’ views of China are starting to resemble their views of the Soviet Union decades ago. That could make it harder to mend ties.

As tensions between their countries mount, President Biden and Xi Jinping, China’s leader, have repeatedly pushed back on comparisons to the Cold War.

But efforts to repair relations may run into a problem: public opinion. Polls show striking similarities between the hostility, pessimism and militarism in Americans’ views of the Soviet Union during the late 1940s run-up to the Cold War, and how they view China today. While the parallels remain limited and the contexts different, this could complicate attempts to avert a Cold War-like clash.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Fighting fascist attempts to expel or suspend pro-democracy legislator, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 22 books and commentator, June 27, 2023. wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallFascism abhors democratic representation. It is now a fact that the Republican Party has become a fully fascist movement due to embrace of expelling or suspending opposition elected Democratic Party legislators in two states.

wayne madesen report logoRepublican legislatures in Tennessee and Montana took the very fascist course of expelling two legislators, nearly expelling another Democratic representative and suspending a fourth.

The targets of this anti-democratic barrage were Tennessee state Representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, both African Americans who were subsequently restored to their seats by the municipal assemblies in Nashville and Memphis; Tennessee Representative Gloria Johnson of Knoxville, who survived expulsion by a single vote in the General Assembly; and Montana transgender state Representative Zooey Zephyr, who was suspended from the House floor.

Attacks on Democratic legislators have also reached the U.S. House of Representatives where Republicans censured California Representative Adam Schiff for his constitutional role in advancing the first impeachment of Donald Trump in 2019.

In Florida, Republican state Senator Blaise Ingoglia introduced the Ultimate Cancel Act, which would eliminate the Florida Democratic Party by canceling the election filings of anyone running for office as a Democrat. The bill also requires registered Democrats to be re-classified as having “no party affiliation.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Businessman Tim Sheehy launches GOP challenge to Sen. Tester in Montana, John Wagner, June 27, 2023. Tim Sheehy, a decorated military veteran and wealthy businessman heavily recruited by national Republican leaders, announced a bid Tuesday to unseat Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) in a race that will be key next year in determining which party controls the U.S. Senate.

“Whether it was in war or business, I see problems and solve them,” Sheehy said in a statement. “America needs conservative leaders who love our country. I’m running for the U.S. Senate because our campaign is about service, duty, and country — not politics as usual.”

It remains unclear whether Sheehy will have the GOP field to himself. Rep. Matthew M. Rosendale (R-Mont.), a conservative lawmaker allied with the anti-tax Club for Growth who lost to Tester in 2018, also is eyeing the race.

Sheehy’s bid, however, was greeted with a blessing Tuesday from Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont), who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which works to recruit and support GOP Senate candidates. In a statement, Daines said he “could not be happier that [Sheehy] has decided to enter the Montana Senate race.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Gaps in campaign rules are allowing politicians to use A.I., setting off a scramble for guardrails, Tiffany Hsu and Steven Lee Myers, June 26, 2023 (print ed.). In Toronto, a candidate in this week’s mayoral election who vows to clear homeless encampments released a set of campaign promises illustrated by artificial intelligence, including fake dystopian images of people camped out on a downtown street and a fabricated image of tents set up in a park.

In New Zealand, a political party posted a realistic-looking rendering on Instagram of fake robbers rampaging through a jewelry shop.

In Chicago, the runner-up in the mayoral vote in April complained that a Twitter account masquerading as a news outlet had used A.I. to clone his voice in a way that suggested he condoned police brutality.

What began a few months ago as a slow drip of fund-raising emails and promotional images composed by A.I. for political campaigns has turned into a steady stream of campaign materials created by the technology, rewriting the political playbook for democratic elections around the world.

Increasingly, political consultants, election researchers and lawmakers say setting up new guardrails, such as legislation reining in synthetically generated ads, should be an urgent priority. Existing defenses, such as social media rules and services that claim to detect A.I. content, have failed to do much to slow the tide.

As the 2024 U.S. presidential race starts to heat up, some of the campaigns are already testing the technology. The Republican National Committee released a video with artificially generated images of doomsday scenarios after President Biden announced his re-election bid, while Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida posted fake images of former President Donald J. Trump with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the former health official. The Democratic Party experimented with fund-raising messages drafted by artificial intelligence in the spring — and found that they were often more effective at encouraging engagement and donations than copy written entirely by humans.

Hopium, Commentary: New NBC News Poll Is a Good One for Biden and the Dems, Simon Rosenberg, right, June 25, 2023. Biden Leads Trump 49-45, Dems Are Up 2 In The simon rosenberg twitterCongressional Generic.

NBC News logoA new NBC News poll came out this morning that I felt I had to send to folks. Some quick highlights:

Biden leads Trump 49-45. He leads women (55-38), 18-34 year olds (65-30), Latinos (66-26), Indies (47-33). These are good, healthy numbers.

Dems lead in Congressional Generic 48-46, up from 46-47 in January. Congressional generic asks “which party are you supporting next year for Congress?” joe biden resized oThese are good, healthy numbers.

 Trump’s lead over DeSantis doubles from 46-31 (+15) to 51-22 (+29). A big yikes for the Florida governor.

Like other polls DeSantis is already remarkably unpopular with the overall electorate. He is -16 here, -19/20 in Civiqs and Biden is only -9 in this one. While voters do not have a lot of information about DeSantis what they do have so far is really bad for him. It suggests, like Trump, he may have a low general election ceiling. I remain really surprised by how intense his negatives are this early - it has to be the most worrisome data out there right now for the Republicans for it suggests their problems go far beyond Trump. Here’s how the positive/negative questions came out:

As we saw in 2022 the Biden approval rating is once again not a good gauge for understanding the election this cycle. While he may not be popular, he is more popular than his opponents. The constant focus on his low approval rating led a lot of commentators astray in 2022, and it is doing so again this year. The most powerful force in American politics over the last 3 election cycles has been fear and opposition to MAGA, and if you aren’t talking about that you are leaving out the most important part of the story.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sen. John Fetterman is ‘grateful’ to be alive and back in the fight, Colby Itkowitz, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). Sen. John Fetterman, weeks into his return to the Senate after an extended hospital stay to treat depression, carried out a small act of rebellion that showed a glimmer of the fiery populist who won over Pennsylvania voters last year.

The Democratic senator voted against the debt ceiling bill in early June, bucking Senate Democratic leadership and the White House. The move aligned him with Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who objected to the bill’s spending cuts. Fetterman was specifically appalled that the measure added work requirements for more people who receive food stamps.

While the vote itself was relatively low stakes — his support wasn’t needed to pass the bill — the protest vote represented a return to Fetterman’s reputation as a fighter for the little guy. He built his political brand as a nonconformist, first emerging on the national stage about a decade ago as a tattooed, tough-talking mayor who tried to revitalize a crumbling steel town near Pittsburgh.

ny times logoNew York Times, Delaware Lawmaker Aims to Be First Openly Transgender House Member, Anjali Huynh, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). Sarah McBride also was the first openly transgender person to work at the White House during the Obama administration.State Senator Sarah McBride announced on Monday that she would run for Delaware’s at-large U.S. House seat — a bid that, if successful, would make her the first openly transgender member of the U.S. Congress.

The seat is currently held by Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester, a Democrat who said on Wednesday that she would pursue the Senate seat being vacated by Senator Thomas R. Carper, who is retiring. Both elections will take place next year.

Ms. McBride, 32, is no stranger to firsts: In 2012, she became the first openly transgender person to work at the White House, as an intern in President Barack Obama’s administration. She won her Wilmington-based State Senate seat in 2020 with more than 70 percent of the general election vote, becoming the first openly transgender legislator in that position nationwide, and ran unopposed for a second term last year.

Her candidacy comes during an onslaught of Republican-led policies that target L.G.B.T.Q. people.

This year, 17 states have passed bills directed at gender-affirming care for transgender youth, a sharp uptick from the three states that had previously approved restrictions. And there are discussions to ban L.G.B.T.Q.-related information for K-12 students in states like Florida, where laws prevent public schools from teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity.

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U.S. Courts, Crime, Civil Rights, Immigration

ny times logoNew York Times, Accused Shooter in Deadly Colorado Springs Rampage Pleads Guilty in Court, Jack Healy and Kelley Manley, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). A plea deal means the 23-year-old shooter will spend a lifetime in prison for a rampage at an L.G.B.T.Q. bar last year that left five people dead. 

The 23-year-old charged with carrying out a deadly shooting rampage at Club Q in Colorado Springs pleaded guilty on Monday to dozens of charges of murder and attempted murder, avoiding a prolonged trial over a deadly attack on members of the L.G.B.T.Q. community.

Under the terms of a plea agreement reached with prosecutors, the defendant, Anderson Lee Aldrich, separately pleaded “no contest” to two hate-crime charges.

The defendant will receive multiple life sentences, adding up to hundreds of years in prison, and will also give up any right to appeal.

The defendant, who identifies as nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, stood on Monday in a courtroom packed with victims and relatives of the dead, and tersely answered a litany of questions from Judge Michael McHenry about whether the defendant understood the terms of the plea.

The agreement was reached after months of agonizing private discussions among prosecutors, survivors and victims’ families over how to reach justice in the Club Q shooting.

Some victims initially wanted a public trial, in the hope of learning precisely how and why the shooter had attacked the club, and what warning signs had been missed. Others said they did not want to suffer the pain of a drawn-out trial, and were relieved that the criminal case was ending.

Several survivors of the attack said it was important that the shooter acknowledge an anti-L. G.B.T.Q. bias behind the rampage. They wanted formal recognition that Club Q and its patrons were attacked because of their identities, in a massacre deliberately calculated to shatter a sanctuary for the L.G.B.T.Q. community in Colorado Springs.

But in pleading guilty on Monday, Mx. Aldrich offered no details about why they carried out the shooting, and little explanation beyond a bare-bones admission using legal language. They did not directly admit to committing hate crimes in targeting Club Q, but instead said they were pleading “no contest” because it was likely that they would be convicted at trial.

The five people killed that night were Daniel Aston and Derrick Rump, who were employees of Club Q, and Kelly Loving, Raymond Green Vance and Ashley Paugh, who were Club Q patrons.

For months, some survivors and relatives of victims have made a point of attending each hearing as the case moved forward. Some said it was difficult to keep their anger and grief in check as they sat in the courtroom, listening to graphic details of the rampage.

Legal experts said the shooter’s gender identity alone did not preclude hate-crimes charges in the case. Prosecutors said that the defendant had a “particular disdain” for the L.G.B.T.Q. community.

“Those are my friends’ lives,” said Ashtin Gamblin, who was hit with nine shots as she worked the door of Club Q on the night of the attack. “They were targeted. We were targeted because we are a part of the L.G.B.T.Q. community. There’s absolutely no doubt why he chose Club Q.”

 

robert bowers pittsburgh killer oct 28 2018 pos cover

ny times logoNew York Times, Jury in Pittsburgh Synagogue Trial to Begin Weighing Death Penalty, Campbell Robertson, June 26, 2023 (print ed.). Over the next several weeks, lawyers for Robert Bowers, shown above at the time of arrest, will try to persuade the jury that convicted him to spare his life.

This week the real trial begins for Robert Bowers, the man who killed 11 worshipers in a Pittsburgh synagogue on Oct. 27, 2018.

That Mr. Bowers carried out the massacre has never been in question. His lawyers acknowledged this bluntly during the first phase of his federal trial, and on June 16, a jury convicted Mr. Bowers on all of the 63 counts he faced.

Now, in the penalty phase, which begins on Monday, those same jurors will weigh the question that has always been at the core of this prosecution: whether Mr. Bowers should be sentenced to death.

It promises to be very different from the guilt phase, which focused almost exclusively on the carnage that day. The defense asked questions of only a few of the government’s 60 witnesses and called none of its own.

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Top Global Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Prigozhin’s rebellion raises questions about Wagner’s African footprint, Rachel Chason, John Hudson and Greg Miller, June 27, 2023 (print ed.).  The aborted rebellion in Russia has brought unease to large swaths of Africa where leaders who have turned to the Wagner mercenary group to bolster their hold on power now face the prospect that the private paramilitary organization could be weakened or even dismantled, according to experts on the region as well as Western officials and analysts.

The world’s attention has largely focused on the turbulence within Russia, where the aura of President Vladimir Putin is widely perceived to have been damaged by the short-lived insurrection of Wagner’s leader, Yevgeniy Prigozhin. But a Kremlin crackdown on Wagner would also have far-reaching consequences in Africa and the Middle East, where Wagner supplied lethal firepower to despots and strongmen while advancing Moscow’s international agenda.

In the Central African Republic and Mali, where Wagner has its biggest presence on the continent, residents said WhatsApp group chats and weekend conversations in the African nations were dominated by speculation about the fallout in their countries.

washington post logoWashington Post, Millions of Muslims head for Hajj pilgrimage as covid restrictions lift, Morgan Coates, Adela Suliman and Naomi Schanen, Featured June 27, 2023 (Multimedia). Some 2.5 million are expected to make the pilgrimage this year.

 

A photo provided by the Hellenic Coast Guard shows the overpacked decks of the fishing trawler before it capsized off the coast of Greece on June 14 (Hellenic Coast Guard photo via Reuters).

A photo provided by the Hellenic Coast Guard shows the overpacked decks of the fishing trawler before it capsized off the coast of Greece on June 14 (Hellenic Coast Guard photo via Reuters).

washington post logoWashington Post, They knew the boat could sink. Boarding it didn’t feel like a choice, Louisa Loveluck, Elinda Labropoulou, Heba Farouk Mahfouz, Siobhán O'Grady and Rick Noack, June 26, 2023 (print ed.). The story of how as many as 750 migrants came to board a rickety blue fishing trawler and end up in one of the Mediterranean’s deadliest shipwrecks is bigger than any one of the victims. But for everyone, it started somewhere, and for Thaer Khalid al-Rahal it started with cancer.

The leukemia diagnosis for his youngest son, 4-year-old Khalid, came early last year. The family had been living in a Jordanian refugee camp for a decade, waiting for official resettlement after fleeing Syria’s bitter war, and doctors said the United Nations’ refugee agency could help cover treatment costs. But agency funds dwindled and the child’s case worsened. When doctors said Khalid needed a bone-marrow transplant, the father confided in relatives that waiting to relocate through official channels was no longer an option. He needed to get to Europe to earn money and save his son.

The trawler left from the Libyan port city of Tobruk on June 8. Just 104 survivors have reached the Greek mainland. Eighty-two bodies have been recovered, and hundreds more have been swallowed by the sea.

As the Mediterranean became a stage for tragedy on June 14, a billionaire and several businessmen were preparing for their own voyage in the North Atlantic. The disappearance of their submersible as it dove toward the wreckage of the Titanic sparked a no-expenses-spared search-and-rescue mission and rolling headlines. The ship packed with refugees and migrants did not.

In missing submersible and migrant disaster, a tale of two Pakistans

About half the passengers are believed to have been from Pakistan. The country’s interior minister said Friday that an estimated 350 Pakistanis were on board, and that many may have died. Of the survivors from the boat, 47 are Syrian, 43 Egyptian, 12 Pakistani and two Palestinian.

Some of the people on the trawler were escaping war. Many were family breadwinners, putting their own lives on the line to help others back home. Some were children. A list of the missing from two towns in the Nile Delta carries 43 names. Almost half of them are under 18 years old.

This account of what pushed them to risk a notoriously dangerous crossing is based on interviews with survivors in Greece and relatives of the dead in Pakistan, Jordan and Egypt, as the news sent ripples of distress throughout communities from North Africa to South Asia. Some people spoke on the condition of anonymity, because they feared being drawn into government crackdowns on human smuggling networks.

 

 

abdel fattah abdelrahman burhan 2019

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Death and Displacement Return to Darfur, Lydia Polgreen, June 26, 2023 (print ed.). As I wrote last month, since April Sudan has been wracked abdel fattah abdelrahman burhan 2019by a wave of horrific violence between forces loyal to the two men, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, right, and his former deputy, Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan, who four years ago helped depose the nation’s longtime dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

The savage fighting first erupted in the country’s capital, Khartoum, but has since spread to unlucky Darfur, hundreds of miles away. About 2.5 million Sudanese have fled their homes, and at least 1,000 people have been killed. The violence has raised the specter of a civil war that could engulf a region spanning some of the most volatile parts of Africa and the Middle East.

The stakes in Sudan were already high, but they have grown still higher in recent days as diplomatic efforts by a range of actors have foundered, unable to break a deadlock between the generals. Much attention to date has centered on Khartoum, where street fighting has left civilians caught in crossfire between combatants. But a new and equally deadly front is opening in Darfur.

sudan flagpngThis month I traveled the borderlands between Sudan and Chad to try to understand how the crisis has ricocheted into this new bloodletting. It was not my first time in the region, nor the first time I had witnessed terrible violence there. As a young foreign correspondent in Africa in the 2000s I spent a great deal of time documenting the attacks of government-backed Arab militias on Black civilians in Darfur, interviewing victims of war crimes and the militia leaders accused of committing those crimes. That conflict sent hundreds of thousands of Black African refugees spilling into Chad, running from the militiamen they called the janjaweed.

 

 President Biden brought out the red carpet for the White House visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India (New York Times photo by Doug Mills)

President Biden brought out the red carpet for the White House visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India (New York Times photo by Doug Mills)

washington post logoWashington Post, Modi’s welcome in Washington wows and worries Indians back home, Karishma Mehrotra and Shams Irfan, June 26, 2023 (print ed.). For Indian Americans, Modi visit sparks pride — and frustration.

As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Washington this week, newspaper front pages here in India were awash with banner headlines about a new “dawn” in the country’s relations with the United States.

“Deals closed, doors open,” read the Friday headline of the Indian Express, an English-language daily. The ANI news agency showed members of Congress lining up for Modi’s autograph. Television channels counted the number of standing ovations he received during his address to Congress and repeatedly referred to Modi as “the boss” — a nickname conferred on him by Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese last month.

It was a “rock-star reception,” tweeted Amit Malviya, head of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s information technology office.

For Indian Americans, Modi visit sparks pride — and frustration

The celebrity welcome for Modi this week in Washington gave the prime minister yet another chance to use the world stage as a venue to bolster his image at home. Throughout Modi’s tenure, local media in India have featured his hugs and greetings with world leaders. This time, the fanfare over his reception abroad comes just a year before India’s national elections.

“No other leader is welcomed in the U.S. the way Modi was. It makes our chests swell with pride,” said Rohit Singla, a 31-year-old cloth merchant from Ludhiana in Punjab state, who rattled off the visit’s numerous highlights from Elon Musk’s praise for Modi to the newly signed bilateral arms deals.

“This is the magic of Modi … He is undoubtedly a global leader now,” Singla said, adding that he believes the visit will lead to more jobs in India. “He went there and got business done.”

In Modi’s home state of Gujarat, 37-year-old Pulkit Goenka, a textile businessman, said India could now become a “superpower” with American technological help and that Modi has helped turn the Indian rupee into a “global currency.”

“He is the most recognizable and popular face in the world,” Goenka said. “We all know how the U.S. saw India a decade back. Now, because of Modi, it’s different.”

As Modi visits, Biden praises India’s democracy despite critics

Political experts say the portraits of Modi in Washington and the surrounding events will undoubtedly play a large role in the upcoming election. Fifteen parties that will challenge the BJP in the upcoming elections held a meeting Friday in an effort to display a united front.

But it was no match for the airtime or front page space given to the Modi visit.

“Why is a country like America, which has always considered itself the boss, letting India be the boss?” one anchor asked, before presenting reports of inflation and homelessness in the United States.

“A large section of the cable news in India is like Fox News on Red Bull when it comes to drumming up the cult of Modi,” said Manisha Pande, managing editor of Newslaundry, a media watchdog.

“Remember, this messaging is a key component of the BJP’s election strategy — so, in effect, the visit is not just about a historic juncture for U.S.-India ties, which it very well is, but crucially it’s also about the Biden administration giving Modi a big leg-up for the upcoming 2024 elections,” Pande said.

It was Modi’s successful election campaign in 2019 that first showed his ability to use the world stage to win votes, said Rahul Verma, a political scientist at the Center for Policy Research.

“Trust in Modi wasn’t coming from concrete things like economic well-being, or things you can measure,” Verma said, citing a Firstpost-IPSOS survey in January 2019. “Trust has come from more abstract notions like Modi improving India’s image in the world or national security — things you can’t experience in your daily life.”

Modi has also sought to make use of the enormous Indian diaspora outside the country to shape his public image, Verma added. India’s main opposition leader, Rahul Gandhi, also tried to tap into the diaspora during a recent U.S. tour, warning about India’s democratic backsliding, but with much less fanfare.

“The diaspora is important in Indian politics, and Modi was perhaps ahead of the curve,” said Verma. The 32 million people of Indian origin outside of the country play a key role in shaping internal narratives through information channels such as WhatsApp, he said.

ny times logoNew York Times, How the Conservative New Democracy Party Surged to Victory in Greece, Niki Kitsantonis and Jason Horowitz, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). Voters seemed to embrace Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s tough stance on migration and approach to the economy, and were less concerned about scandals.

greek flag2Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the leader of the conservative New Democracy party who has presided over a period of economic stability and tough anti-migration policies in Greece, was sworn in on Monday for a second term as prime minister after a landslide victory that gave him a clear mandate for the next four years.

The result made clear that Greeks, who endured a decade-long financial crisis, were much less concerned with scandals, including accusations of the authorities’ spying on their own people, or disasters such as the fatal shipwreck of a boat carrying hundreds of migrants, than they were with Mr. Mitsotakis’s pledges to keep the country on the road of economic and political stability.

Mr. Mitsotakis, a supporter of Ukraine who has maintained good relations with the European Union, has also vowed to stand up to pressure from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who also recently won re-election.

Here are some of the lessons from the results in Greece.

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More On Trump Probes, Pro-Trump Rioters, Election Deniers

Palmer Report, Analysis: Jack Smith has flipped someone who was at the Willard Hotel for January 6th, Bill Palmer, June 26, 2023. One of the key aspects of Donald Trump’s 2020 election overthrow plot was his “command center” ahead of January 6th at the Willard Hotel.

Name any disreputable Trump political adviser, and bill palmer report logo headerthe odds are that they were in that Willard Hotel room. But the whole thing hasn’t gotten a ton of media coverage, mostly because no one who was inside that room has spilled the beans about what was really going on – until now.

The DOJ criminally indicted Owen Shroyer for January 6th-related crimes a year and a half ago, and has been attempting to flip him ever since. Just days ago Shroyer finally cut a cooperating plea deal. This immediately jumped out at us because Shroyer is Alex Jones’ top sidekick. But our friends at MeidasTouch are now pointing out that this runs deeper. Shroyer was at the Willard Hotel ahead of January 6th, meaning he’s given up everything that went on at the “command center” while he was there.

This is bad news for everyone who was in the room at this “command center.” It was a mix of Donald Trump’s top political advisers and actual members of the Oath Keepers, to give you an idea of just how much criminality might have been taking place in that room. Jack Smith and the DOJ now have their “in” when it comes to the Willard Hotel plot. It’s bad news for Donald Trump and any number of his political allies.

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Dept. asking about 2020 fraud claims as well as fake electors, Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). Special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation of efforts to overturn the 2020 election results is advancing on multiple tracks, people familiar with the matter said.

The Justice Department’s investigation of efforts by Donald Trump and his advisers to overturn the 2020 election results is barreling forward on multiple tracks, according to people familiar with the matter, with prosecutors focused on ads and fundraising pitches claiming election fraud as well as plans for “fake electors” that would swing the election to the incumbent president.

Each track poses potential legal peril for those under scrutiny, but also raises tricky questions about where the line should be drawn between political activity, legal advocacy and criminal conspiracy.

A key area of interest is the conduct of a handful of lawyers who sought to turn Trump’s defeat into victory by trying to convince state, local, federal and judicial authorities that Joe Biden’s 2020 election win was illegitimate or tainted by fraud.

Investigators have sought to determine to what degree these lawyers — particularly Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis, John Eastman, Kurt Olsen and Kenneth Chesebro, as well as then-Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark — were following specific instructions from Trump or others, and what those instructions were, according to the people familiar with the matter, who like others interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe an ongoing investigation.

Special counsel Jack Smith’s team has extensively questioned multiple witnesses about the lawyers’ actions related to fake electors — pro-Trump substitutes offered up as potential replacements for electors in swing states that Biden won.

Trump’s allies have argued that there was nothing criminal about preparing alternate electors in case state legislators blocked Biden slates.

Giuliani, Ellis, Clark, Eastman, Chesebro and Olsen or their representatives either did not respond to requests for comment or declined to comment Monday.

Smith, a longtime federal prosecutor who was appointed special counsel by Attorney General Merrick Garland in November, charged Trump this month with 37 counts alleging that he willfully retained classified documents at his Florida residence after leaving the White House and obstructed government efforts to retrieve them.

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Denies Request to Seal Witness List in Trump Documents Case, Alan Feuer, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). The order by Judge Aileen Cannon means the identities of some or all of the Justice Department’s 84 potential witnesses in the case against the former president could become public.

The federal judge overseeing former President Donald J. Trump’s prosecution on charges of illegally holding on to sensitive national security documents denied on Monday the government’s request to keep secret a list of witnesses with whom Mr. Trump has been barred from discussing his case.

The ruling by Judge Aileen M. Cannon, in the Southern District of Florida, means that some or all of the list of 84 witnesses could at some point become public, offering further details about the shape and scope of the case that the special counsel Jack Smith has brought against Mr. Trump.

The government’s request to keep the names of the witnesses secret “does not offer a particularized basis to justify sealing the list from public view,” Judge Cannon wrote in her brief order. “It does not explain why partial sealing, redaction or means other than sealing are unavailable or unsatisfactory, and it does not specify the duration of any proposed seal.”

One of the conditions that a federal magistrate judge placed on Mr. Trump when he walked free from his arraignment this month was a provision prohibiting him from discussing the facts in his indictment with any witnesses in the case. The indictment accused Mr. Trump of willfully retaining 31 individual national security documents and obstructing the government’s repeated efforts to reclaim them.

While the identities of the witnesses remain unknown, many of them are believed to be aides and advisers close to Mr. Trump — among them, several who work or worked with him at Mar-a-Lago, his private club and residence in Florida. As part of the conditions the magistrate judge imposed, Mr. Trump was also barred from discussing the case with his co-defendant, Walt Nauta, who remains his personal aide.

In a separate order issued on Monday, Judge Cannon asked Mr. Trump’s legal team to respond by July 6 to Mr. Smith’s request to delay the start of the trial until Dec. 11.

Judge Cannon also scheduled a hearing for July 14 for the parties to discuss how to handle the significant amount of highly sensitive material involved in the case under a law known as the Classified Information Procedures Act. That hearing will be conducted mostly, if not entirely, under seal.

 djt indicted proof

ny times logoNew York Times, Prosecutors Seek to Delay Donald Trump’s Documents Trial to December, Glenn Thrush, June 24, 2023 (print ed. ). The special counsel argued that the August date set by the judge did not allow enough time to deal with the complications of classified evidence, but still proposed a relatively speedy timetable.

Jack Smith, the special counsel, has asked a federal judge to move back the start of the trial of former President Donald J. Trump and his co-defendant, Walt Nauta, in the classified documents case from August to Dec. 11, according to a Justice Department filing made public late Friday.

The Justice Department proposal still calls for a relatively speedy timetable; Judge Aileen M. Cannon’s earlier ruling set the initial trial date at Aug. 14, but it was considered something of an administrative place holder, with both sides anticipating significant procedural delays.

In their filing, prosecutors said the additional time would be needed to obtain security clearances for defense lawyers and deal with the procedures around classified evidence. It would also give defense lawyers more time to review the volumes of materials prosecutors have turned over to them, the filing said.

Mr. Smith and his team argued in the filing that the trial should still be fast-tracked despite its enormous political implications, because it “involves straightforward theories of liability, and does not present novel questions of fact or law,” nor is it particularly “unusual or complex” from a legal perspective.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: How Trump convinced his base that his indictments were aimed at them, Philip Bump, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). Visitors to Donald Trump’s campaign website are immediately implicated in his current legal travails.

“They’re not after me,” text in the primary image on the site reads. “They’re after you … I’m just standing in their way!”

As though attribution were needed, the quote is sourced to Donald J. Trump, 45th president of the United States.

Sign up for How To Read This Chart, a weekly data newsletter from Philip Bump

This idea that Trump faces a legal threat as a proxy for his base of support was offered explicitly during Trump’s speech at the Faith and Freedom Coalition over the weekend.

“Every time the radical-left Democrats, Marxist, communists and fascists indict me, I consider it a great badge of courage,” Trump said. “I’m being indicted for you, and I believe the you is more than 200 million people that love our country.”

That phrasing is dripping with hyperbole. Trump’s federal indictment came at the hands of an experienced federal prosecutor who is in no realistic way a “radical-left Democrat,” much less any of the other (contradictory) categories offered. Trump’s implication that his base of support numbers 200 million is heavily inflated.

Those exaggerations have a purpose. Two hundred million Americans is more than three-quarters of the adult population, but it’s also obviously more than half of the country, bolstering Trump’s long-standing claim that he is leading a “silent majority” (despite earning less than a majority of the vote in the 2016 primaries, 2016 election and 2020 election). His framing of his opponents as politically opposed to that base — using vaguely defined pejoratives very familiar to supporters who remember the Cold War — is also familiar in a terrain littered with “Republicans in name only.”

Everyone agrees with him and anyone who doesn’t is a traitor. Simple enough.

 

2016 Republican Presidential nominee Donald J. Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during their third debate in 2016 at a time they were accusing each other of being a

2016 Republican Presidential nominee Donald J. Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during their third debate in 2016 at a time they were accusing each other of being a "puppet" following many weeks in which Trump and his allies led rallies chanting "lock her up" regarding Clinton.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Why wasn’t Hillary Clinton also indicted, Trump asks. Here’s why, Glenn Kessler, June 25, 2023 (print ed.). Since the final weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump has referred often to Hillary Clinton’s emails, but the references have increased in urgency and frequency as he continues to deploy them in response to special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into his own handling of classified documents. He has posted comments on Truth Social at least seven times in the last three weeks, both before and after he was indicted on federal criminal charges that he repeatedly broke the law by hiding classified documents in his home.

Why wouldn’t “Deranged Jack Smith” look at “Hillary’s 33,000 emails that she deleted and acid washed,” he wrote in a post on June 13 and again on June 16. “CROOKED HILLARY DELETED 33,000 EMAILS, MANY CLASSIFIED, AND WASN’T EVEN CLOSE TO BEING CHARGED! ONLY TRUMP - THE GREATEST WITCH HUNT OF ALL TIME!” he posted on June 5. Trump’s allies have echoed the comparisons in hundreds of social media postings as they suggest there is a two-tiered justice system.

In a speech at his Bedminster, N.J., golf club the evening of his arraignment, Trump was more expansive, making many false claims about materials found on the private email server Clinton maintained as secretary of state. As usual, Trump mixes partial facts and invented assertions into a stew of false equivalence. Let’s try to untangle it.

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  Jack Smith has been leading an inquiry into Mr. Trump since his appointment in November (Pool photo by Peter Dejong).

Jack Smith has been leading an inquiry into Mr. Trump since his appointment in November (Pool photo by Peter Dejong).

 

U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Can DeSantis Break Trump’s Hold on New Hampshire? Jonathan Swan, Maggie Haberman and Shane Goldmacher, June 27, 2023. Donald Trump is looking to the state as an early chance to clear a crowded field, while Ron DeSantis’s camp is banking on winnowing the Republican race to two.

Former President Donald J. Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida are set to hold dueling events on Tuesday in New Hampshire, but from vastly different political positions: one as the dominant front-runner in the state, the other still seeking his footing.

Strategists for both campaigns agree that the state will play a starring role in deciding who leads the Republican Party into the 2024 election against President Biden.

Mr. Trump sees the first primary contest in New Hampshire as an early chance to clear the crowded field of rivals. And members of Team DeSantis — some of whom watched from losing sidelines, as Mr. Trump romped through the Granite State in 2016 on his way to the nomination — hope New Hampshire will be the primary that winnows the Republican field to two.

“Iowa’s cornfields used to be where campaigns were killed off, and now New Hampshire is where campaigns go to die,” said Jeff Roe, who runs Mr. DeSantis’s super PAC, Never Back Down. Mr. Roe retains agonizing memories from 2016, when he ran the presidential campaign of the last man standing against Mr. Trump: Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

washington post logoWashington Post, DeSantis proposes ‘deadly force’ to combat drug smugglers breaching border, Dylan Wells and Hannah Knowles, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). The presidential candidate laid out a border plan that echoes Donald Trump’s policies

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ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Real Lesson From the Hunter Biden Saga, Nicholas Kristof, June 25, 2023 (print ed.). It isn’t about presidential corruption but a determined parent battling his son’s addiction with unconditional love.

One of our most urgent national problems is addiction to drugs and alcohol. It now kills about a quarter-million Americans a year, leaves many others homeless and causes unimaginable heartache in families across the country — including the family living in the White House.

Hunter Biden, who has written about his tangles with crack cocaine and alcohol, reached a plea agreement on tax charges a few days ago that left some Republicans sputtering, but to me, the main takeaway is a lesson the country and the president could absorb to save lives.

While the federal investigation appears to be ongoing, for now I see no clear evidence of wrongdoing by President Biden himself — but the president does offer the country a fine model of the love and support that people with addictions need.

When Biden was vice president and trailed by Secret Service agents, he once tracked down Hunter when he was on a bender and refused to leave until his son committed to entering treatment. Biden then gave his son a tight hug and promised to return to make sure he followed through.

“Dad saved me,” Hunter wrote in his memoir, “Beautiful Things,” adding: “Left on my own, I’m certain I would not have survived.”

On another occasion, the Biden family staged an intervention, and Hunter stormed out of the house. Biden ran down the driveway after his son. “He grabbed me, swung me around and hugged me,” Hunter wrote. “He held me tight in the dark and cried for the longest time.”

Last year Sean Hannity broadcast an audio recording of a voice mail message that President Biden left for Hunter. Hannity thought it reflected badly on the president; my reaction was that if more parents showed this kind of support for children in crisis, our national addiction nightmare might be easier to overcome.

“It’s Dad,” the president says in the message, and he sounds near tears. “I’m calling to tell you I love you. I love you more than the whole world, pal. You gotta get some help. I don’t know what to do. I know you don’t, either. But I’m here, no matter what you need. No matter what you need. I love you.”

I don’t have family members with addictions, but I’ve lost far too many friends to drugs and alcohol. At this moment, I have two friends who have disappeared, abandoning their children, and when last seen were homeless, abusing drugs and supporting themselves by selling fentanyl. I fear every day that they’ll die from an overdose, or that they’ll sell drugs to someone else who overdoses.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Legal Fees Mount, Trump Steers Donations Into PAC That Has Covered Them, Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman, June 26, 2023 (print ed.). A previously unnoticed change in Donald Trump’s online fund-raising appeals allows him to divert a sizable chunk to a group that has spent millions on his legal fees.

Facing multiple intensifying investigations, former President Donald J. Trump has quietly begun diverting more of the money he is raising away from his 2024 presidential campaign and into a political action committee that he has used to pay his personal legal fees.

The change, which went unannounced except in the fine print of his online disclosures, raises fresh questions about how Mr. Trump is paying for his mounting legal bills — which could run into millions of dollars — as he prepares for at least two criminal trials, and whether his PAC, Save America, is facing a financial crunch.

When Mr. Trump kicked off his 2024 campaign in November, for every dollar raised online, 99 cents went to his campaign, and a penny went to Save America.

But internet archival records show that sometime in February or March, he adjusted that split. Now his campaign’s share has been reduced to 90 percent of donations, and 10 percent goes to Save America.

ny times logoNew York Times, In a pitch to evangelicals, Donald Trump cast himself as Christian crusader who helped end Roe v. Wade, Neil Vigdor, June 26, 2023 (print ed.). Former President Donald J. Trump told an evangelical gathering that no president had done more for Christians than he did.

One year after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, former President Donald J. Trump reminded a gathering of evangelical activists in the nation’s capital how he had shaped the court’s conservative supermajority that ended nearly 50 years of constitutional protections for abortion.

Appearing at a Faith & Freedom Coalition gala in Washington on Saturday night, he cited his appointment of three of the six justices who voted to strike down the law as a capstone of his presidency. And he cast himself as an unflinching crusader for the Christian right in a meandering speech that lasted nearly 90 minutes.

“No president has ever fought for Christians as hard as I have,” he said, adding, “I got it done, and nobody thought it was even a possibility.”

It was the eighth appearance by Mr. Trump in front of the group, whose support he is seeking to consolidate in a crowded G.OP. competition for the 2024 nomination, though he is the front-runner in the field. He said that Republican voters were skeptical of claims by some of his rivals that they were stronger opponents of abortion, and suggested that the skepticism had arisen on the campaign trail.

washington post logoWashington Post, DeSantis voters: Angry at Fauci, anxious about ‘Cinderfella,’ tiring of Trump, Hannah Knowles, Colby Itkowitz and Dylan Wells, June 26, 2023 (print ed.). The Florida governor is appealing to the GOP’s right flank as he tries to peel support away from Donald Trump. But many are still drawn to the former president, who leads by a wide margin in the polls

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ny times logoNew York Times, A Glimpse of What Life Is Like With Almost No Abortion Access, David W. Chen, Photographs by Noriko Hayashi, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). Guam, a U.S. territory, has no resident doctors who perform abortions. Court decisions could cut access to pills, the only legal option left.

For decades, the Pregnancy Control Clinic, tucked inside a squat, beige building around the corner from a bowling alley, handled most of the abortions on Guam, a tiny U.S. territory 1,600 miles south of Japan.

But the doctor who ran it retired seven years ago, and the clinic now appears abandoned. An old medical exam table stands near a vanity with a dislodged faucet, and a letter from Dr. Edmund A. Griley is taped to the front door: “My last day of seeing patients is November 18, 2016,” he wrote. “I recommend that you begin looking for a new physician as soon as possible.”

Dr. Griley has since died, and his deserted clinic is a dusty snapshot of Guam’s past — and some say, its future.

Though abortion is legal in Guam up to 13 weeks of pregnancy, and later in certain cases, the last doctor who performed abortions left Guam in 2018. The closest abortion clinic on American soil is in Hawaii, an eight-hour flight away. And a pending court case could soon cut off access to abortion pills, the last way for most women on Guam to get legal abortions.

ny times logoNew York Times, How a Year Without Roe Shifted American Views on Abortion, Kate Zernike, June 24, 2023 (print ed.). New polling shows public opinion increasingly supports legal abortion, with potential political consequences for 2024.

For decades, Americans had settled around an uneasy truce on abortion. Even if most people weren’t happy with the status quo, public opinion about the legality and morality of abortion remained relatively static. But the Supreme Court’s decision last summer overturning Roe v. Wade set off a seismic change, in one swoop striking down a federal right to abortion that had existed for 50 years, long enough that women of reproductive age had never lived in a world without it. As the decision triggered state bans and animated voters in the midterms, it shook complacency and forced many people to reconsider their positions.

In the year since, polling shows that what had been considered stable ground has begun to shift: For the first time, a majority of Americans say abortion is “morally acceptable.” A majority now believes abortion laws are too strict. They are significantly more likely to identify, in the language of polls, as “pro-choice” over “pro-life,” for the first time in two decades.

And more voters than ever say they will vote only for a candidate who shares their views on abortion, with a twist: While Republicans and those identifying as “pro-life” have historically been most likely to see abortion as a litmus test, now they are less motivated by it, while Democrats and those identifying as “pro-choice” are far more so.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Warns That Republicans Are Not Finished on Abortion, Katie Rogers and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, June 25, 2023 (print ed.). A year after the end of Roe v. Wade, President Biden is working with a limited set of tools to galvanize supporters on abortion rights.

Minutes after the Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade last summer, a group of West Wing aides raced to the Oval Office to brief President Biden on the decision. As they drafted a speech, Mr. Biden was the first person in the room to say what has been his administration’s rallying cry ever since.

“He said at that time, ‘The only thing that will actually restore the rights that were just taken away are to pass federal legislation,’” Jen Klein, the director of the White House Gender Policy Council, recalled in an interview.

But if the prospect of codifying Roe’s protections in Congress seemed like a long shot a year ago, it is all but impossible to imagine now, with an ascendant far-right bloc in the House and a slim Democratic majority in the Senate.

Instead, with the battle over abortion rights turning squarely to individual states, officials in the Biden administration are working with a limited set of tools, including executive orders and the galvanizing power of the presidency, to argue that Republicans running in next year’s elections would impose even further restrictions on abortion.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘The Impossible Became Possible’: The Women Celebrating a Year Without Roe, Ruth Graham, June 25, 2023 (print ed.). For anti-abortion activists, the anniversary of the decision eliminating the national right to abortion is festive, but also a time to acknowledge challenges.

It has been exactly a year since Bethany Bomberger gathered in an impromptu huddle outside a hotel ballroom with fellow anti-abortion activists, overcome with gratitude and optimism as news broke that the Supreme Court had overturned Roe v. Wade just hours before the Pro-Life Women’s Conference officially opened.

“There will be life before Roe was overturned and life after,” Ms. Bomberger said this weekend, tearing up as she recalled what she described as a moment “the impossible became possible.” She and her husband lead an organization that opposes abortion, and that, lately, has branched into combating the rising acceptance of transgender identity — what she called “gender radicalism.”

As this year’s conference opened, Ms. Bomberger took to the stage at a modest suburban convention center outside St. Louis. “Who’s here with me to let loose?” she asked the crowd, leading several hundred women in the wave. “We pro-lifers, we have life on our side!” She was wearing a small gold necklace reading “mama,” a gift from her son.

The ruling last summer in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization eliminated the national right to abortion and sent the issue back to the states. It also radically scrambled the landscape of abortion in the United States, shuttering some clinics, prompting others to open, and setting up new battles over abortion pills, miscarriage care and contraception. Legal abortions declined more than six percent in the first six months after the ruling.

OceanGate used the submersible Titan for expeditions to visit the wreckage of the Titanic. The craft is presumed to have imploded.Credit...OceanGate Expeditions, via Associated Press

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Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Vaccine Program Now Flush With Cash, but Short on Key Details, Benjamin Mueller, Noah Weiland and Carl Zimmer, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). Efforts to develop the next generation of Covid vaccines are running up against bureaucratic hassles and regulatory uncertainty, scientists say, obstacles that could make it harder to curb the spread of the coronavirus and arm the United States against future pandemics.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2The Biden administration, after months of delay, has now addressed at least a shortfall in funding, hurrying to issue the first major grants from a $5 billion program to expedite a new class of more potent and durable inoculations.

But the program is facing the blunt reality that vaccine development, after being shifted into high gear early in the pandemic, has returned to its slower and more customary pace.

Experiments on a promising nasal vaccine licensed from Yale University have slowed as researchers have tried for nearly a year to obtain older shots from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna to use in the studies. The federal government’s original purchase agreements for those shots prevent doses from being used for research purposes without the companies’ approval, despite tens of millions of unused shots being wasted in recent months

ny times logoNew York Times, How the Shortage of a $15 Cancer Drug Is Upending Treatment, Christina Jewett, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). Older generic chemotherapy drugs have been scarce for months, forcing doctors to prioritize the patients who have the best chance of survival.

Tony Shepard learned he had vocal cord cancer this spring, but he was encouraged when his doctor said he had an 88 percent chance at a cure with chemotherapy and radiation.

That outlook began to dim in recent weeks, though, after the oncology practice he goes to in Central California began to sporadically run out of the critical medication he needs.

Since Mr. Shepard’s doctor informed him of the shortage, each treatment session has felt like a game of “Russian roulette,” he said, knowing that failure would mean the removal of his vocal cords and the disappearing of his voice.

“I try not to even think about it,” said Mr. Shepard, 62, a manager of a gas station in Madera, a town in California’s Central Valley. “It’s something scary that you don’t really want to think about — but you know it’s a reality.”

The nation’s monthslong shortage of highly potent cancer drugs is grinding on, forcing patients and their doctors to face even grimmer realities than those cancer typically presents. Thousands of patients like Mr. Shepard have been confronting gut-wrenching options, delays in treatment and potentially bleaker futures.

Oncologists are concerned that the alternatives to two crucial chemotherapy drugs are far less effective in treating certain cancers, and are sometimes more toxic. The backup therapies or lack thereof, they say, pose particularly troubling prospects for patients with ovarian, testicular, breast, lung and head and neck cancers.

ny times logoNew York Times, Anthony Fauci Will Join Faculty at Georgetown University, Mike Ives, June 27, 2023. Dr. Fauci was the federal government’s top infectious disease expert for decades, and helped steer the U.S. response to Covid-19.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, who served as the federal government’s top infectious disease specialist for nearly 40 years and played a key role in steering the United States through the coronavirus pandemic, will join the faculty of Georgetown University in Washington next month.

Dr. Fauci, 82, retired from the National Institutes of Health last year, having served as the director of its National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984. He was also the top Covid adviser to President Biden, a role he had filled under President Donald J. Trump. Georgetown announced his new job on Monday.

Dr. Fauci will work at Georgetown’s School of Medicine and its McCourt School of Public Policy, the university said. A spokeswoman for Georgetown did not immediately respond to an inquiry seeking details about what courses he will teach. The university’s announcement said Dr. Fauci’s role at the School of Medicine will be in an infectious disease division focused on education, research and patient care.

At the N.I.H., Dr. Fauci spent decades overseeing research on established infectious diseases — including H.I.V./AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria — and emerging ones like Ebola, Zika and Covid-19. He was also a principal architect of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a program that has delivered lifesaving treatment to more than 20 million people in 54 countries since its inception 20 years ago under President George W. Bush.

washington post logoWashington Post, Insomnia linked to up to 51 percent higher risk of strokes, Linda Searing, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). People suffering from insomnia may have as much as a 51 percent greater chance of having a stroke than those who do not have trouble sleeping, according to a study published in the journal Neurology.

For nearly a decade, the study tracked 31,126 people, age 61 on average and with no history of stroke at the start of the study. In that time, 2,101 strokes were recorded.

Insomnia symptoms reported by the participants included having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep and waking too early. Comparing participants who did and did not have signs of the sleep disorder, the researchers found that the degree of risk for stroke rose as the number of symptoms increased.

People with one to four insomnia symptoms were found to be 16 percent more likely to have had a stroke than were those with no symptoms, whereas a stroke was 51 percent more likely for people experiencing five to eight symptoms. The connection was stronger for those participants under age 50.

washington post logoWashington Post, 5 people contract malaria within U.S. borders, the first such cases in two decades, Brittany Shammas, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). The last confirmed instance of local transmission happened in 2003, when eight people became infected in Palm Beach County, Fla., the CDC said.

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U.S. Media, Education, Sports, Arts, High Tech

ny times logoNew York Times, PGA Tour’s Pact With Saudi Wealth Fund Shows Many Details Left to Settle, Alan Blinder, Updated 27, 2023. The five-page agreement provoked a furor but included only a handful of binding provisions.

The PGA Tour’s tentative deal with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund to form an alliance with the rival LIV Golf series includes only a handful of binding commitments — such as a nondisparagement agreement and a pledge to dismiss acrimonious litigation — and leaves many of the most consequential details about the future of men’s professional golf to be negotiated by the end of the year.

The five-page framework agreement was obtained by The New York Times on Monday, the day the tour shared a copy of it with a Senate subcommittee that plans to hold a July hearing about the deal.

The proposed deal, announced on June 6 by the tour and the wealth fund, the financial force behind the renegade LIV Golf circuit, has caused an uproar throughout the golf industry. But a review of the agreement points to the rushed nature of the secret, seven-week talks that led to the deal and the complex path that remains ahead for the new venture, a potential triumph for Saudi Arabia’s quest to gain power and influence in sports and, its critics say, to distract from its reputation as a human rights abuser.

Most crucially, the tour and the wealth fund must still come to terms on the values of the assets that each will contribute to their planned partnership. Bankers and lawyers have spent recent weeks beginning the valuation process, but the framework agreement includes no substantive details of projected figures or even the size of an anticipated cash investment from the wealth fund.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Review-Bombing Can Tank a Book Before It’s Published, Alexandra Alter and Elizabeth A. Harris, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). The website Goodreads has become an essential avenue for building readership, but the same features that help generate excitement can also backfire.

Cecilia Rabess figured her debut novel, “Everything’s Fine,” would spark criticism: The story centers on a young Black woman working at Goldman Sachs who falls in love with a conservative white co-worker with bigoted views.

But she didn’t expect a backlash to strike six months before the book was published.

In January, after a Goodreads user who had received an advanced copy posted a plot summary that went viral on Twitter, the review site was flooded with negative comments and one-star reviews, with many calling the book anti-Black and racist. Some of the comments were left by users who said they had never read the book, but objected to its premise.

“It may look like a bunch of one-star reviews on Goodreads, but these are broader campaigns of harassment,” Rabess said. “People were very keen not just to attack the work, but to attack me as well.”

In an era when reaching readers online has become a near-existential problem for publishers, Goodreads has become an essential avenue for building an audience. As a cross between a social media platform and a review site like Yelp, the site has been a boon for publishers hoping to generate excitement for books.

But the same features that get users talking about books and authors can also backfire. Reviews can be weaponized, in some cases derailing a book’s publication long before its release.

“It can be incredibly hurtful, and it’s frustrating that people are allowed to review books this way if they haven’t read them,” said Roxane Gay, an author and editor who also posts reviews on Goodreads. “Worse, they’re allowed to review books that haven’t even been written. I have books on there being reviewed that I’m not finished with yet.”

Rabess, who quit her job as a data scientist at Google to focus on writing after selling her novel to Simon & Schuster, worried that the online ambush might turn people against her book.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jesse Watters will take over Tucker Carlson’s former slot in Fox News prime-time shakeup, Jeremy Barr, June 27, 2023 (print ed.). Laura Ingraham’s show will move to 7 p.m. and Greg Gutfeld will shift to 10 p.m.

Fox News picked Jesse Watters to serve as permanent host of its 8 p.m. show as part of a broader shake-up of the network’s prime-time lineup.

Laura Ingraham will also move from 10 p.m. to 7 p.m., and comedian Greg Gutfeld will move from 11 p.m. to 10 p.m.

In moving from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., Watters will fill an hour that has been helmed by rotating hosts since Fox fired top-rated host Tucker Carlson in late April.

Sean Hannity will remain at 9 p.m., while news anchor Trace Gallagher will move up an hour from midnight to 11 p.m.

The changes come amid a significant decline in viewers since the network’s decision to oust Carlson. In the month after Carlson’s departure, Fox’s overall prime-time ratings declined by 38 percent — from an average of 2.6 million viewers to 1.6 million.

For the week of June 5, MSNBC’s prime-time lineup attracted more viewers than Fox’s prime-time block for the first time in several years. The following week, Fox regained its edge over MSNBC in total viewers but lost among the 25-to-54 age demographic prized by advertisers.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Legal Foundation of Women’s Sports Is Under Fire, David French, right, June 26, 2023 (print ed.). What is the legal foundation for women’s david french croppedsports? It’s a simple question with a surprisingly complex answer.

After all, the most potent federal statute supporting parallel men’s and women’s sports leagues would appear — on its face — to also prohibit separate leagues. Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

The act contains explicit exceptions — such as permitting fraternities and sororities and beauty pageants and protecting the liberty of religious educational institutions — but its language tracks that of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI prohibits race discrimination in federally funded educational programs using virtually identical language, declaring, “No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

In the realm of athletics, however, these two statutes have traditionally worked in remarkably different ways. Race segregation in athletic programs is a legal and cultural taboo. There are no legally segregated white and Black football leagues, for example, and if a school decided to create a Black league and a white league, it would face an immediate civil rights complaint. Excluding a football player from a team simply because of his race is unlawful discrimination.

But this is not the case when it comes to sex. The result of Title IX was not the large-scale creation of coed sports leagues, where men and women have an equal opportunity to compete in the same events, where the best man or woman makes the team, and the best man or woman wins the race. Instead, Title IX has resulted in the expansion of women’s sports into an enormous, separate and parallel apparatus, where women by the millions compete against one another, winning women’s titles in women’s leagues.

Why this difference? Why have two statutes with such similar language created such different realities? Because sex is substantially different from race, and treating sex the same as race would be a profound injustice for women in sports.

Let’s go back to the language of the statute itself, which speaks in terms of both “participation” and “benefits.” If you treat people of different races the same, people of all races can both participate and receive the benefits of participation in athletics. If you treat people of different sexes the same, the reality is very different.

This month, an en banc panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit heard arguments in a prominent case about whether Title IX prohibits transgender girls from participating in women’s sports. The case involves claims by four former Connecticut female high school track athletes who lost races to two transgender (natal male) athletes, including state championships.

The plaintiffs in the case sought a declaration that the state sports league’s policy permitting transgender girls to compete in women’s athletics violated Title IX by “failing to provide competitive opportunities that effectively accommodate the abilities of girls” and failing to provide “equal treatment, benefits and opportunities for girls in athletic competition.” The plaintiffs argued that Title IX was intended to grant women and girls the “chance to be champions,” not just a right to compete.

Last year, a three-judge panel of the appellate court rejected the plaintiffs’ claims. The panel didn’t reject the “chance to be champions” theory entirely, but Judge Denny Chin, writing for the court, said that the plaintiffs had not claimed “an injury in fact” (and thus lacked standing to bring their claims) because “all four plaintiffs regularly competed at state track championships as high school athletes, where plaintiffs had the opportunity to compete for state titles in different events.” Indeed, as the court notes, one of the plaintiffs even beat the transgender athletes in a 100-meter race in 2019. Under the court’s reasoning, the chance to compete was a “chance to be a champion.”

But then something unusual happened. The entire appeals court asked to hear the case. This month, the court heard oral arguments, and a decision is expected soon. The oral arguments were dominated by questions of standing — whether a loss of a championship should be considered a legally recognizable injury, an injury that courts should or could address.

To be clear, the question was not whether the transgender girls did anything wrong — casting any aspersions on their participation in the races would be profoundly unjust. They ran the race in accordance with the rules of the race. The question was whether the rules were wrong.

The transgender athletes intervened in the case, with the aid of the A.C.L.U., and argued that “Title IX does not require sex-separated teams or an equal number of trophies for male and female athletes.” They emphasized that the plaintiffs “repeatedly outperformed” the transgender athletes “in direct competition.”

But the argument is not that transgender athletes will always win, but rather that if schools replace sex with gender identity as the relevant criterion for participation, then the statutory sex-based promises of participation and benefits in educational programs will be undermined. (Gender identity, as the A.C.L.U. defined it, is a “medical term for a person’s ‘deeply felt, inherent sense’ of belonging to a particular sex.”)

After all, when we survey the performance gap between male and female athletes, is that gap best explained by the differences in gender identity between the competitors or the differences that are inherent in biological sex? And if those differences are best explained by biological sex rather than gender identity, then any rule that wipes out biological sex as the determining factor in eligibility will undermine both the practical and legal basis for women’s sports.

I’m not a catastrophist. I hate rhetoric that declares that women’s sports will be “destroyed” by the inclusion of a small number of trans women in athletic competition. I hate even more any demonization or disparagement of the trans athletes themselves. When they compete according to the rules of the sport, they are doing nothing wrong. But legal definitions do matter, especially when they are rooted in hard facts, such as the systematic, documented performance gap between the sexes.

All people are created equal, and possess equal moral worth, but we are not all created the same. To protect equal opportunity, there are times when the law should recognize differences. And in the realm of athletics, if we want to both secure and continue the remarkable advances women have made in the 51 years since Congress passed Title IX, it’s important to remember that sex still matters, and sex distinctions in the law should remain.

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 Route north through southern Russia by Wagner Group rebels June 23 to 24, 2023 (Graphic by Washington Post).

 

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 Route north through southern Russia by Wagner Group rebels June 23 to 24, 2023 (Graphic by Washington Post).

 Route north through southern Russia by Wagner Group rebels June 23 to 24, 2023 (Graphic by Washington Post).

Wagner Group Russian mercenaries seized territory in Russia in Rostov-on-Don during an apparent coup attempt en route to Moscow, located 600 miles to the north (Reuters photo).

Wagner Group Russian mercenaries seized territory in Russia in Rostov-on-Don during an apparent coup attempt en route to Moscow, located 600 miles to the north (Reuters photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, Crisis Abates in Russia but Questions Remain Over Putin’s Authority, David Pierson, Paul Sonne, Anton Troianovski and Anatoly Kurmanaev, June 26, 2023 (print ed.). Russians on Sunday confronted a changed country. The strongest challenge to President Vladimir V. Putin’s rule was defused, but there were new questions about his authority and the country’s war in Ukraine.

In many ways, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the head of the mercenary force known as Wagner who led an armed uprising against the military’s leadership for nearly 24 hours this weekend, punctured Mr. Putin’s strongman authority and aura of infallibility. Mr. Prigozhin’s blistering criticism and brazen actions called into question Russia’s justifications for its war in Ukraine and the competency of its military leadership.

Each hour on Saturday brought news of Mr. Prigozhin’s private military company forces inching closer to Moscow, posing a threat to Mr. Putin and raising the specter of a civil war in the nuclear-armed state.

Instead, a close ally of Mr. Putin, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, the leader of Belarus, stepped in and arranged to have Mr. Prigozhin go to Belarus and avoid criminal charges, while also absolving the Wagner fighters of repercussions.

The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said the agreement was struck to “avoid bloodshed, to avoid an internal confrontation, to avoid clashes with unpredictable consequences.”

By nightfall on Saturday, columns of Wagner fighters were seen streaming out of the southwestern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, a military hub, to the sound of residents chanting the group’s name.

The impact of such a direct challenge to the Kremlin, which went unpunished, might not be felt for days or weeks. It could have profound implications for the fate of Ukraine and for Russia’s global standing as partners like China reassess the strength of Mr. Putin’s authority.

Here is the latest:

  • Both Mr. Putin’s and Mr. Prigozhin’s current locations remain unknown. Mr. Putin made a brief national address on Saturday in which he refrained from mentioning Mr. Prigozhin by name but condemned his actions as “treason.” Russian state television reported that Mr. Putin had been working in a “special mode” in the Kremlin on Saturday, without elaborating on what that meant, and that he had been “in touch with all law enforcement structures” overnight. Mr. Prigozhin was last heard from late Saturday when he posted an audio statement on Telegram saying he was turning his forces around to avoid bloodshed.
  • Senior U.S. national security officials had indications as early as Wednesday that Mr. Prigozhin was preparing to take military action against senior Russian defense officials, according to officials briefed on the intelligence.
  • The future of the Wagner group and Mr. Prigozhin’s continued role in it remains unclear. After openly confronting Russia’s military leadership, it remains doubtful that Mr. Prigozhin can credibly lead his forces in Ukraine alongside regular Russian forces.
  • Mr. Peskov did not indicate that the uprising would lead to any changes in the Russian military leadership, as Mr. Prigozhin had demanded, and said that Russia’s military operations in Ukraine would continue unchanged.
  • In eastern Ukraine, residents saw the rebellion as a distraction for Russia that could help Kyiv’s forces. It was “relatively calm” overnight in Ukraine — a stark contrast from the previous day’s “influx of missiles,” Yuriy Ihnat, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Air Force, said Sunday morning on national television.
  • The Wagner group leader halted his armed uprising and agreed to go to Belarus in a deal that absolved his fighters of repercussions.
    The impact of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s direct challenge to the Kremlin, which went unpunished, could have profound implications for the fate of Ukraine.

Ukraine War Map Update, Commentary: Wagner's FAILED REVOLUTION, Georgi, June 26, 2023 (19:06 min. video).

washington post logoWashington Post, Wagner Group chief says his mercenaries rebelled to fight being absorbed into military, Bryan Pietsch, Jennifer Hassan, Mary Ilyushina and Eve Sampson, June 26, 2023. Yevgeniy Prigozhin, who sent fighters toward Moscow in an extraordinary challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s authority, posted an audio statement claiming he launched the rebellion after Russian forces killed 30 of his fighters.

Wagner Group leader Yevgeniy Prigozhin, who sent a convoy of mercenary fighters toward Moscow over the weekend in an extraordinary challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s authority, posted an 11-minute audio statement on Monday claiming he launched the rebellion after Russian forces killed 30 of his fighters. They were his first remarks since accepting a deal to avoid prosecution and withdrawing his fighters on Saturday.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Biden administration announces $42 billion in federal aid to expand high-speed internet access, Tony Romm, June 26, 2023. About 7 percent of the country still doesn’t have broadband access that meets minimum standards, according to federal estimates. The funding — a centerpiece of the recent bipartisan infrastructure law — marks the largest-ever federal push to help an estimated 8.5 million families and businesses.

The Biden administration on Monday announced more than $42 billion in new federal funding to expand high-speed internet access nationwide, commencing the largest-ever campaign to help an estimated 8.5 million families and small businesses finally take advantage of modern-day connectivity.

The money, which the government plans to parcel out to states over the next two years, is the centerpiece of a vast and ambitious effort to deliver reliable broadband to the entire country by 2030 — ensuring that even the most far-flung parts of the United States can reap the economic benefits of the digital age.

In a preview of Biden’s planned remarks, White House officials likened the new infrastructure project to the government’s work to electrify the nation’s darkened heartland in the late 1930s, when more than 90 percent of farms had no electric power in the face of high costs and prohibitive terrain.

  • Washington Post, The real reason people in the Northeast are most likely to still have landlines, Andrew Van Dam, June 26, 2023.

ny times logoNew York Times, With Wagner’s Future in Doubt, Ukraine Could Capitalize on Chaos, Julian E. Barnes and Thomas Gibbons-Neff, June 26, 2023 (print ed.). The group played an outsize role in the campaign to take Bakhmut, Moscow’s one major battlefield victory this year. The loss of the mercenary army could hurt Russia’s ambitions in the Ukraine war.

To some Ukrainian forces, soldiers from the Wagner Group were the best-equipped fighters they had seen since Russia invaded last year. To others, it was their training that distinguished them: Ukrainian soldiers recalled battlefield stories of aggressive tactics or a sniper downing a drone with a single shot.

But after the short-lived mutiny led by the head of the group, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, it is not clear whether Wagner will still be a fighting force on the battlefield with its fate now in question.

For now, the uncertain status of Wagner is bound to be a relief for Ukrainian soldiers. Though the front lines in Ukraine are likely to remain unchanged in the short term, depending on how events unfold in Russia, the Ukrainian military may be able to capitalize on the chaos and weakening morale to try to make some gains, according to independent analysts and American officials.

Still, it is too soon to determine the long-term implications of the feud between Mr. Prigozhin and the Russian military establishment, American officials said. In Bakhmut, Wagner played an outsize role in the campaign to take the eastern city, Moscow’s one major battlefield victory this year, and solidified an uneasy alliance with the Russian military — only to see the partnership break once the city was captured.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Ukraine’s Counteroffensive Is Off to a Halting Start, Andrew E. Kramer and Eric Schmitt, Photographs by David Guttenfelder, June 26, 2023. The Ukrainian Army is encountering an array of challenges, including vast minefields, that have complicated the early stages of its pushback.

The column of Bradley armored vehicles rumbled forward, filled with Ukrainian soldiers, bringing a new and potent American weapon to the war’s southern front.

But then one hit a mine. The explosion blew off one of the vehicle’s bulldozer-like tracks, immobilizing it. The entire Ukrainian column reversed direction, pulling back.

Three weeks into a counteroffensive critical to Ukraine’s prospects against Russia, its army is encountering an array of vexing challenges that complicate its plans, even as it wields sophisticated new Western-provided weapons. Not least is a vast swath of minefields protecting Russia’s defensive line, forming a killing field for Ukrainian troops advancing on the open steppe of the south.

“Everything is mined, everywhere,” said Lt. Ashot Arutiunian, the commander of a drone unit, who watched through a drone’s video link as the mine exploded under the Bradley and halted the column’s advance.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Glimpse of What Life Is Like With Almost No Abortion Access, David W. Chen, Photographs by Noriko Hayashi June 26, 2023. Guam, a U.S. territory, has no resident doctors who perform abortions. Court decisions could cut access to pills, the only legal option left.

For decades, the Pregnancy Control Clinic, tucked inside a squat, beige building around the corner from a bowling alley, handled most of the abortions on Guam, a tiny U.S. territory 1,600 miles south of Japan.

But the doctor who ran it retired seven years ago, and the clinic now appears abandoned. An old medical exam table stands near a vanity with a dislodged faucet, and a letter from Dr. Edmund A. Griley is taped to the front door: “My last day of seeing patients is November 18, 2016,” he wrote. “I recommend that you begin looking for a new physician as soon as possible.”

Dr. Griley has since died, and his deserted clinic is a dusty snapshot of Guam’s past — and some say, its future.

Though abortion is legal in Guam up to 13 weeks of pregnancy, and later in certain cases, the last doctor who performed abortions left Guam in 2018. The closest abortion clinic on American soil is in Hawaii, an eight-hour flight away. And a pending court case could soon cut off access to abortion pills, the last way for most women on Guam to get legal abortions.

ny times logoNew York Times, How the Shortage of a $15 Cancer Drug Is Upending Treatment, Christina Jewett, June 26, 2023. Older generic chemotherapy drugs have been scarce for months, forcing doctors to prioritize the patients who have the best chance of survival.

Tony Shepard learned he had vocal cord cancer this spring, but he was encouraged when his doctor said he had an 88 percent chance at a cure with chemotherapy and radiation.

That outlook began to dim in recent weeks, though, after the oncology practice he goes to in Central California began to sporadically run out of the critical medication he needs.

Since Mr. Shepard’s doctor informed him of the shortage, each treatment session has felt like a game of “Russian roulette,” he said, knowing that failure would mean the removal of his vocal cords and the disappearing of his voice.

“I try not to even think about it,” said Mr. Shepard, 62, a manager of a gas station in Madera, a town in California’s Central Valley. “It’s something scary that you don’t really want to think about — but you know it’s a reality.”

The nation’s monthslong shortage of highly potent cancer drugs is grinding on, forcing patients and their doctors to face even grimmer realities than those cancer typically presents. Thousands of patients like Mr. Shepard have been confronting gut-wrenching options, delays in treatment and potentially bleaker futures.

Oncologists are concerned that the alternatives to two crucial chemotherapy drugs are far less effective in treating certain cancers, and are sometimes more toxic. The backup therapies or lack thereof, they say, pose particularly troubling prospects for patients with ovarian, testicular, breast, lung and head and neck cancers.

ny times logoNew York Times, Intensifying Rains Pose Hidden Flood Risks Across the U.S., Raymond Zhong, June 26, 2023. In some of the nation’s most populous areas, hazardous storms can dump significantly more water than previously believed, new calculations show.

As climate change intensifies severe rainstorms, the infrastructure protecting millions of Americans from flooding faces growing risk of failures, according to new calculations of expected precipitation in every county and locality across the contiguous United States.

The calculations suggest that one in nine residents of the lower 48 states, largely in populous regions including the Mid-Atlantic and the Texas Gulf Coast, is at significant risk of downpours that deliver at least 50 percent more rain per hour than local pipes, channels and culverts might be designed to drain.

“The data is startling, and it should be a wake-up call,” said Chad Berginnis, the executive director of the Association of State Floodplain Managers, a nonprofit organization focused on flood risk.

The new rain estimates, issued on Monday by the First Street Foundation, a nonprofit research group in New York, carry worrying implications for homeowners, too: They indicate that 12.6 million properties nationwide face significant flood risks despite not being required by the federal government to buy flood insurance.


 

yevgeny prigozhin headshot speaking

washington post logoWashington Post, Charges against Wagner chief will be dropped, Kremlin says, Robyn Dixon, Dalton Bennett, Mary Ilyushina, Victoria Bisset, Justine McDaniel, Claire Parker and Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff, June 25, 2023 (print ed.). Mercenaries have halted their travel toward Moscow and turned back from the city, Wagner Group leader Yevgeniy Prigozhin (shown above in a still shot from one of his social media videos) said in an audio message Saturday. After a day of mounting tension in Russia as Prigozhin’s forces advanced in the direction of the capital, his statement appeared to signal an end to the immediate crisis.

dmitry peskovCriminal charges previously started against Prigozhin will be dropped, and the Wagner boss will go to Belarus, said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, right. The guarantee that Prigozhin will be able to go to Belarus is based on Putin’s word, according to Peskov. Pro-Kremlin media also reported that 15 Russian servicemen were killed in clashes with Wagner forces, though no official figures on casualties have been released. The Washington Post could not independently verify the casualties.

Prigozhin said his forces came within 200 kilometers, or about 124 miles, of Moscow, and now “we turn our columns around and leave in the opposite direction to the field camps according to the plan.” The Post could not immediately clarify his whereabouts.

Here’s what to know

  • The agreement for Prigozhin’s forces to turn around appeared to have been brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who spoke with Putin before negotiating with Prigozhin, according claims from his office reported by Belarusian state-owned news agency Belta. With security guarantees for Wagner Group on the table, Prigozhin reportedly agreed to stop his forces’ progress toward Moscow.
  • Late Friday, Prigozhin called for Russians to join Wagner’s campaign after claiming that a Wagner camp in Ukraine had been attacked “from the rear” by Russia’s military. He also said he would march on Moscow unless he could confront his enemies in Russia’s Ministry of Defense. The Defense Ministry denied the accusations in a Telegram post, and state media suggested video of the strike had been staged.
  • Wagner forces that did not join the apparent rebellion will not be prosecuted and will join the Russian Ministry of Defense, Peskov said.
  • Signs of anxiety were clear across Russia on Saturday. The mayor of Moscow told the public not to go to work Monday, declaring it a day off for all nonessential workers and asking them to stay home. Security was reinforced on main highways leading into Moscow, and residents in other areas were asked not to leave their homes. Meanwhile, flights out of Russia were selling out.
  • Russian forces launched one of their biggest overnight missile barrages in weeks against Ukrainian cities early Saturday morning, firing about 51 cruise missiles and two self-destructing drones, Ukraine’s air force said in a Telegram post.

ny times logoNew York Times, Gaps in campaign rules are allowing politicians to use A.I., setting off a scramble for guardrails, Tiffany Hsu and Steven Lee Myers, June 26, 2023 (print ed.). In Toronto, a candidate in this week’s mayoral election who vows to clear homeless encampments released a set of campaign promises illustrated by artificial intelligence, including fake dystopian images of people camped out on a downtown street and a fabricated image of tents set up in a park.

In New Zealand, a political party posted a realistic-looking rendering on Instagram of fake robbers rampaging through a jewelry shop.

In Chicago, the runner-up in the mayoral vote in April complained that a Twitter account masquerading as a news outlet had used A.I. to clone his voice in a way that suggested he condoned police brutality.

What began a few months ago as a slow drip of fund-raising emails and promotional images composed by A.I. for political campaigns has turned into a steady stream of campaign materials created by the technology, rewriting the political playbook for democratic elections around the world.

Increasingly, political consultants, election researchers and lawmakers say setting up new guardrails, such as legislation reining in synthetically generated ads, should be an urgent priority. Existing defenses, such as social media rules and services that claim to detect A.I. content, have failed to do much to slow the tide.

As the 2024 U.S. presidential race starts to heat up, some of the campaigns are already testing the technology. The Republican National Committee released a video with artificially generated images of doomsday scenarios after President Biden announced his re-election bid, while Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida posted fake images of former President Donald J. Trump with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the former health official. The Democratic Party experimented with fund-raising messages drafted by artificial intelligence in the spring — and found that they were often more effective at encouraging engagement and donations than copy written entirely by humans.

 A photo provided by the Hellenic Coast Guard shows the overpacked decks of the fishing trawler before it capsized off the coast of Greece on June 14 (Hellenic Coast Guard photo via Reuters).

A photo provided by the Hellenic Coast Guard shows the overpacked decks of the fishing trawler before it capsized off the coast of Greece on June 14 (Hellenic Coast Guard photo via Reuters).

washington post logoWashington Post, They knew the boat could sink. Boarding it didn’t feel like a choice, Louisa Loveluck, Elinda Labropoulou, Heba Farouk Mahfouz, Siobhán O'Grady and Rick Noack, June 26, 2023 (print ed.). The story of how as many as 750 migrants came to board a rickety blue fishing trawler and end up in one of the Mediterranean’s deadliest shipwrecks is bigger than any one of the victims. But for everyone, it started somewhere, and for Thaer Khalid al-Rahal it started with cancer.

The leukemia diagnosis for his youngest son, 4-year-old Khalid, came early last year. The family had been living in a Jordanian refugee camp for a decade, waiting for official resettlement after fleeing Syria’s bitter war, and doctors said the United Nations’ refugee agency could help cover treatment costs. But agency funds dwindled and the child’s case worsened. When doctors said Khalid needed a bone-marrow transplant, the father confided in relatives that waiting to relocate through official channels was no longer an option. He needed to get to Europe to earn money and save his son.

The trawler left from the Libyan port city of Tobruk on June 8. Just 104 survivors have reached the Greek mainland. Eighty-two bodies have been recovered, and hundreds more have been swallowed by the sea.

As the Mediterranean became a stage for tragedy on June 14, a billionaire and several businessmen were preparing for their own voyage in the North Atlantic. The disappearance of their submersible as it dove toward the wreckage of the Titanic sparked a no-expenses-spared search-and-rescue mission and rolling headlines. The ship packed with refugees and migrants did not.

In missing submersible and migrant disaster, a tale of two Pakistans

About half the passengers are believed to have been from Pakistan. The country’s interior minister said Friday that an estimated 350 Pakistanis were on board, and that many may have died. Of the survivors from the boat, 47 are Syrian, 43 Egyptian, 12 Pakistani and two Palestinian.

Some of the people on the trawler were escaping war. Many were family breadwinners, putting their own lives on the line to help others back home. Some were children. A list of the missing from two towns in the Nile Delta carries 43 names. Almost half of them are under 18 years old.

This account of what pushed them to risk a notoriously dangerous crossing is based on interviews with survivors in Greece and relatives of the dead in Pakistan, Jordan and Egypt, as the news sent ripples of distress throughout communities from North Africa to South Asia. Some people spoke on the condition of anonymity, because they feared being drawn into government crackdowns on human smuggling networks.

 

Environment, Transportation, Energy, Space, Disasters, Climate

climate change photo

ny times logoNew York Times, Here’s a Look at the Water Crises That Might Be Coming to You Soon, Somini Sengupta, June 26, 2023 (print ed.). Bangladesh, a river delta nation, is on the front line of climate change. Its coping strategies could offer lessons for the wider world.

Bangladesh is a land of water. Its silty rivers rush down from the Himalayas, spill into a filigreed maze of ponds, wetlands and tributaries before emptying into the blustery, black Bay of Bengal.

Now, its most profound threat is water, in its many terrible incarnations: drought, deluge, cyclones, saltwater. All are aggravated to varying degrees by climate change, and all are forcing millions of people to do whatever they can to keep their heads above it.

This matters to the rest of the world, because what the 170 million people of this crowded, low-lying delta nation face today is what many of us will face tomorrow.

The people of Bangladesh are rushing to harvest rice as soon as they get word of heavy rains upstream. They’re building floating beds of water hyacinths to grow vegetables beyond the reach of floodwaters. Where shrimp farms have turned the soil too salty to cultivate crops, they’re growing okra and tomatoes not in soil, but in compost, stuffed into plastic boxes that had once carried shrimp. Where the land itself is washing away, people have to move to other villages and towns. And where they’re running out of even drinking water, they’re learning to drink every drop of rain.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

More on Russia, Ukraine

 

In this handout photo taken from video released by Prigozhin Press Service on Friday, March 3, 2023, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner Group military company, addresses Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asking him to withdraw the remaining Ukrainian forces from Bakhmut to save their lives, at an unspecified location in Ukraine. Prigozhin's criticism of the top military brass is in stark contrast with more than two decades of rigidly controlled rule by President Vladimir Putin without any sign of infighting among his top lieutenants. (Prigozhin Press Service via AP, File)

In this handout photo taken from video released by Prigozhin Press Service on Friday, March 3, 2023, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner Group military company, addresses Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asking him to withdraw the remaining Ukrainian forces from Bakhmut to save their lives, at an unspecified location in Ukraine. Prigozhin's criticism of the top military brass is in stark contrast with more than two decades of rigidly controlled rule by President Vladimir Putin without any sign of infighting among his top lieutenants. (Prigozhin Press Service via AP, File)

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Prigozhin and the Long and Infamous History of Failed Russian Rebellions, Serge Schmemann (a member of The Times editorial board The Times’s Moscow bureau chief in the 1980s and ’90s, and the author of “Echoes of a Native Land: Two Centuries of a Russian Village”), June 26, 2023. Whatever Yevgeny Prigozhin intended his rebellion to achieve, it proved short and senseless.

Less than 24 hours after he sent his tanks and troops trundling on the main highway toward Moscow, the mercenary chief was persuaded to turn them around and take refuge himself in Belarus. The question now is what will happen in the next act, particularly whether the failed mutiny will leave President Vladimir Putin weakened, strengthened or vindictive.

Mr. Putin initially went on television and vowed to crush the rebellion, which he branded as “treason,” “betrayal” and “mutiny.” Witnesses filmed Russian attack helicopters blasting the rebel convoy and ditches being dug on the road ahead to prevent their advance.

But in his brief address to the nation, Mr. Putin never named Mr. Prigozhin or his mercenary army, the infamous Wagner Group. (It is named, reportedly, after a neo-Nazi crony of Mr. Prigozhin’s whose nom de guerre was Wagner, after Richard Wagner, the 19th century composer idolized by Hitler). Instead of immediately trying to crush the Wagner rebels, and thus setting off a nasty internecine clash, Mr. Putin held back. He used Aleksandr Lukashenko, the Belarusian dictator he effectively controls, to entice Mr. Prigozhin into abandoning his rash uprising with promises of amnesty.

What really happened, however, remains a mystery. American intelligence services saw signs of a brewing insurrection already last Wednesday, the Times reported.

washington post logoWashington Post, After mutiny, Putin says Wagner can go to Belarus, go home or fight for Russia, Robyn Dixon and Mary Ilyushina, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s speech, his first since the mutiny, came hours after the head of the Wagner Group declared that his motive was to save the private militia from being subsumed into the Russian military, not to topple Putin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed his nation Monday for the first time since the weekend mutiny by Wagner mercenaries, saying he would keep his promise and allow the group’s fighters to move to neighboring Belarus.

Their other options were to return to their families or sign contracts with the Russian Defense Ministry, he said.

Putin’s speech came hours after Wagner chief Yevgeniy Prigozhin resurfaced in a video posted online, declaring that his motive on Saturday was to save the group from being subsumed by the Russian military — not to topple the Russian president.

In a tone both stern and conciliatory, Putin said that Wagner’s mutiny would have been crushed by Russian security forces if it had not halted its advance on Moscow, but also that the “vast majority” of Wagner fighters were patriots.

washington post logoWashington Post, Defiant Prigozhin says Wagner mercenaries to operate from Belarus, Robyn Dixon and Mary Ilyushina, June 26, 2023. Russian defense ministry video claims Shoigu in Ukraine.

Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeniy Prigozhin resurfaced Monday for the first time since his mutiny on Saturday, declaring that his motive was to save the private militia from being subsumed into the Russian military — not to topple President Vladimir Putin.
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Prigozhin said he ordered the rebellion after Russia’s military killed about 30 Wagner fighters in a missile strike on one of their camps. He accepted a deal, he said, to avoid prosecution and move to Belarus because Wagner could continue its operations there. He did not disclose his whereabouts or the location of his fighters.

Russian news outlet Verstka reported that a Wagner base for 8,000 soldiers was being constructed in Belarus, in the Mogilev region southeast of Minsk. The report could not be independently confirmed.

Whatever his intentions, Prigozhin’s brazen revolt confronted Putin with the fiercest challenge he has faced in more than 23 years as Russia’s supreme leader — calling into question the stability of a system where the rule of law is readily dispensable and competing fiefs, including oligarchs and officials, jostle constantly for presidential favor, state benefits and influence. It also laid bare the bitter divisions over Putin’s handling of the war in Ukraine and could have serious repercussions on the battlefield.

The Ukrainian military on Monday claimed further progress in its counteroffensive to drive out occupying Russian forces. Ukraine said it took control of Rivnopil, the ninth village it has recaptured this month. Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Ukrainian forces have regained roughly 50 square miles in the country’s south since the start of the campaign.

Prigozhin, speaking in an 11-minute audio address posted Monday on Telegram, said Wagner fighters strongly opposed signing contracts with the Russian Defense Ministry — as they were ordered to do by July 1 — because that would have effectively dismantled the group.

Though Prigozhin has claimed to have 25,000 fighters under his command, the figure is widely believed to be an exaggeration; British intelligence has reportedly put the true number closer to 8,000.
Members of the Wagner Group sit atop a tank in a street in the city of Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on Saturday. (Roman Romokhov/AFP/Getty Images)

Prigozhin expressed regret about Russian aircrews killed by Wagner forces during Saturday’s rebellion, “but these assets were dropping bombs and delivering missile strikes,” he said.

Wagner shot down at least six helicopters and an Il-22 airborne command-post plane during the mutiny, according to open-source intelligence analysts, while Russian military bloggers reported that at least 13 air force personnel were killed. The Russian Defense Ministry has not confirmed the death toll.

In a brash new claim, Prigozhin said his forces “blocked and neutralized all military units and airfields that were on our way” without killing any Russian ground forces. Wagner fighters got within 125 miles of Moscow, he said, an achievement that “revealed the most serious security flaws across the country.”

While there was no way to immediately verify the claim, Western military analysts were surprised by Wagner’s swift advance toward the Russian capital after the group seized control of the Southern Military District headquarters in Rostov early Saturday.

Prigozhin boasted that Wagner was perhaps the “most experienced and combat-ready unit in Russia, and possibly in the world” and has performed a huge number of tasks in the interests of the Russian state, in Africa, the Middle East “and around the world.”

He added that Wagner received an outpouring of support from the Russian public during the revolt, which he called a “march for justice.”

Russia’s embattled leadership, meanwhile, tried to demonstrate control on Monday, airing an undated video of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visiting a command post and releasing a recorded video address by Putin to young engineers.

It was not clear when the Putin speech was recorded, leaving questions about his whereabouts still swirling, amid speculation that he might have left Moscow for one of his residences northwest of the capital on Saturday. Two of the official planes normally used by Putin returned to Moscow from the north Sunday, Russian independent media reported.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the president was “working in the Kremlin,” according to the Russian news outlet Agentstvo.
People walk at the Zaryadye Park overlooking the Kremlin in Moscow on Monday. (Maxim Shipenkov/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

By contrast, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited his troops near the front lines in eastern Ukraine on Monday, and his office quickly released video of him greeting soldiers.

Mercenary boss warned of revolution in Russia, but his own was short-lived

As a state of emergency in the Russian capital was lifted, Russians tried to make sense of why Putin would strike a deal with Prigozhin after accusing his former ally of “treason.” They were also left wondering what it would mean in the near term for the war in Ukraine, and for Putin’s long-term political future.

State-owned media reported Monday that the insurrection charges against Prigozhin had not yet been rescinded. On Saturday, the Kremlin announced that the charges would be dropped as part of the deal in which Prigozhin agreed to halt his military advance on Moscow and leave Russia for Belarus.

Key questions about the deal remain unanswered, and Russian officials have struggled to provide clarity about Wagner’s future.

Prigozhin’s comment that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko offered the militia a way to operate legally from Belarus suggested that Wagner will continue its operations in Africa and other parts of the world, leveraging security contracts and political influence operations in return for mining concessions and cash.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday that Wagner would continue operating in Mali and the Central African Republic. He called Wagner operatives there “instructors.”

It appears that the group’s role in Ukraine may be over, however, and it will no longer have access to Russian state support.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russian Paramilitary Chief Says His Forces Will Turn Around, Paul Sonne, Anton Troianovski and Anatoly Kurmanaev, June 25, 2023 (print ed.). They Were Believed to Be Headed to Moscow in Revolt Threatening Putin.

The Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny V. Prigozhin announced that his troops marching toward Moscow would turn around, shortly after the leader of Belarus said he was in talks with Mr. Prigozhin on a deal to “de-escalate tensions.”

alexander lukashenko resized 2019The negotiations between Mr. Prigozhin and President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, left, of Belarus opened the possibility that the rapidly evolving security crisis embroiling the Russian government could be resolved without armed fighting. But Mr. Prigozhin did not immediately say whether his forces were leaving the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, where his forces had he has seized critical military and civilian buildings.

Yevgeny Prigozhin said his forces were turning around after they were believed to be on their way to Moscow. His claim could not yet be verified.
The announcement offered the possibility that the rapidly evolving crisis embroiling President Vladimir Putin could be resolved without armed fighting. Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner mercenary group, made the announcement minutes after the leader of Belarus announced successful talks with the Wagner boss.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia since he took over the nation’s leadership 23 years ago. In a brief address on Saturday morning, Mr. Putin called the mutiny an act of treason by people who were delivering “a stab in the back of our country and our people.”

Mr. Prigozhin, after lashing out on Friday at the Russian military over its handling of the war in Ukraine, took control of Rostov in the early morning and began moving his armed military convoys toward the Russian capital. Mr. Putin, in turn, scrambled security forces in southwestern Russia and Moscow.

The situation shifted quickly late Saturday when Mr. Lukashenko’s office, in a statement, said that Mr. Prigozhin had agreed to the Belarusian leader’s proposal “to stop the movement of armed persons of the Wagner company.” In an audio statement posted to Telegram shortly afterward, Mr. Prigozhin said he was “turning around” to avoid Russian bloodshed and “leaving in the opposite direction to field camps in accordance with the plan.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Putin finally learns the lesson all tyrants learn, Max Boot, right, June 25, 2023 (print ed.). Russian President Vladimir Putin is learning max boot screen shotwhat so many tyrants have learned before him: When you unleash the dogs of war, they can come back to bite you. When the Russian strongman sent his troops marching to take Kyiv, he never imagined that 16 months later, mutinous Wagner mercenary group troops would march on Moscow.

But then Napoleon never imagined that invading Russia would lead to his exile and the restoration of monarchy in France. Hitler never imagined that invading Poland would lead to his suicide and the partition of Germany. Saddam Hussein never imagined that invading Kuwait would lead, eventually, to the overthrow of his regime and his death.

War is inherently an unpredictable and risky business, whose consequences can never be foreseen with clarity — and seldom managed with success. A dictator’s illusion of control can all too often collapse in the cauldron of combat — especially if the war turns into a prolonged, bloody conflict of attrition as has occurred in Ukraine.

Many analysts have assumed that time was on Putin’s side in this war, because Russia is so much larger than Ukraine and because Ukraine is so dependent on outside support from countries that might lack the patience to stay the course. But we are now seeing that time might be on Ukraine’s side after all, because its government was democratically elected and enjoys the near-unanimous support of its people to wage a war of territorial defense. Putin’s unelected, criminal regime, by contrast, intimidates the Russian people into acquiescence but does not command loyalty or love.

Opinion from May: I’ve never seen the Kremlin so rattled

Like many dictatorships, Putin’s regime turns out to be more brittle than it appears from the outside. He has always relied on his skill in managing competing power centers, pitting oligarchs (and various branches of the government) against each other, so that he would be the ultimate arbiter of decision-making. That model worked for two decades but is breaking down amid the pressure of a losing war that is grinding up and destroying the Russian military.

washington post logoWashington Post, A pro-Russian tide in Slovakia could threaten Europe’s unity on Ukraine, Loveday Morris, June 26, 2023 (print ed.). Fanning polarization across Slovakia is Robert Fico, a socially conservative left-wing populist and two-time former prime minister, who has risen to the top of the polls once again while promising to end military aid to Ukraine and veto “pointless” European Union sanctions on Russia.

slovakia map silhouette with flagFor the European Union, a Fico comeback in elections this fall could mean another veto-wielding crack in its political unity in the face of Russian aggression. It could also renew the potential for an authoritarian slide that further challenges the bloc’s democratic ideals.

Fico, who was forced out of office five years ago after the murder of a journalist who had been investigating his finances, is seeing a resurgence that mirrors a populist revival in several countries across Europe. The far-right Alternative for Germany is now polling on par with the ruling Social Democrats, and Austria’s Freedom Party is that country’s leading political force. In Spain, the ultraconservative Vox party may be a kingmaker in next month’s snap elections.

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U.S. Supreme Court

 

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Sheldon Whitehouse was right all along: The Supreme Court is corrupt, Jennifer Rubin, right, June 25, 2023. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse jennifer rubin new headshothas been arguing for years that a flood of “dark money” flowing through right-wing front groups has corrupted the Supreme Court. Never has there been more evidence to bolster his claim.

sheldon whitehouseWhitehouse (D-R.I.), left, told me in an extensive phone interview last week that Justice Samuel A. Alito’s Jr.’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal intending to pre-but a ProPublica story revealing he failed to disclose gifts from billionaire and right-wing donor Paul Singer and paul singerrecuse from a case involving Singer, right, was “very, very weird.”

And it was not merely because he took to the op-ed pages of a sympathetic right-wing Rupert Murdoch newspaper as though he were a panicky politician trying to control the damage. (If that were his intent, it horribly backfired because the stunt only called attention to his angry response and the underlying charges. He managed to make it front-page news. “If you were filing a pleading, this would have pretty much failed,” Whitehouse observed.)

The senator ticked off the problems with Alito’s argument: factual omissions (e.g., the standard for exempt gifts does not include transportation); Alito’s lame effort to turn an airplane into a “facility” to jam it into an exempt-gift category (“It doesn’t pass the laugh test,” Whitehouse said); Alito’s plea that he couldn’t possibly have known Singer had a financial stake ($2 billion) in the outcome of a case before the court (although it was widely reported in the media); and the insistence that yet another billionaire was a “friend,” which somehow absolved him from his obligation to report gifts of “hospitality.” And, Whitehouse argued, it strains credulity that Alito (like Justice Clarence Thomas) could be confused about reporting requirements when there is a Financial Disclosure Committee expressly set up to help judges navigate these issues.

All in all, the poorly reasoned argument amounted to what Whitehouse called “a painful exhibit for an actual ethics code.” A bill he co-authored with Judiciary Chairman Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), set to be marked up after July 4, would confirm that the code of ethics applicable to all judges applies to the high court, set up a process for screening ethics complaints and allow chief judges of the circuit to advise on how their circuits handle similar matters. This is “not remotely unconstitutional,” he noted. (Whitehouse wryly remarked that the last thing the justices want is a comparison to circuit courts’ conduct. “The best way to show that a stick is crooked is to lay a straight stick alongside it,” he said.) Whitehouse is merely asking for the court to develop a process that the judicial branch would oversee for the sake of restoring confidence in the Supreme Court.

Yet another poll, this time from Quinnipiac, shows the court’s approval at an all-time low — 29 percent. Don’t they care?

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Documents reveal Supreme Court justices’ long-running tensions over ethics, Tobi Raji, Theodoric Meyer and Leigh Ann Caldwell, June 26, 2023. This could be a big week for the Supreme Court.

The justices are expected to hand down decisions beginning Tuesday on the remaining cases they heard this term, including whether colleges and universities can continue to use affirmative action in admissions decisions and whether President Biden’s student loan forgiveness program is lawful.

It comes as the justices face intense scrutiny over their rulings and the ethics controversies surrounding them, which have led to intensifying calls for binding ethics rules.

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ICE logo

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Elections

Hopium, Commentary: New NBC News Poll Is a Good One for Biden and the Dems, Simon Rosenberg, right, June 25, 2023. Biden Leads Trump 49-45, Dems Are Up 2 In The simon rosenberg twitterCongressional Generic.

NBC News logoA new NBC News poll came out this morning that I felt I had to send to folks. Some quick highlights:

Biden leads Trump 49-45. He leads women (55-38), 18-34 year olds (65-30), Latinos (66-26), Indies (47-33). These are good, healthy numbers.

Dems lead in Congressional Generic 48-46, up from 46-47 in January. Congressional generic asks “which party are you supporting next year for Congress?” joe biden resized oThese are good, healthy numbers.

 Trump’s lead over DeSantis doubles from 46-31 (+15) to 51-22 (+29). A big yikes for the Florida governor.

Like other polls DeSantis is already remarkably unpopular with the overall electorate. He is -16 here, -19/20 in Civiqs and Biden is only -9 in this one. While voters do not have a lot of information about DeSantis what they do have so far is really bad for him. It suggests, like Trump, he may have a low general election ceiling. I remain really surprised by how intense his negatives are this early - it has to be the most worrisome data out there right now for the Republicans for it suggests their problems go far beyond Trump. Here’s how the positive/negative questions came out:

As we saw in 2022 the Biden approval rating is once again not a good gauge for understanding the election this cycle. While he may not be popular, he is more popular than his opponents. The constant focus on his low approval rating led a lot of commentators astray in 2022, and it is doing so again this year. The most powerful force in American politics over the last 3 election cycles has been fear and opposition to MAGA, and if you aren’t talking about that you are leaving out the most important part of the story.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sen. John Fetterman is ‘grateful’ to be alive and back in the fight, Colby Itkowitz, June 26, 2023. Sen. John Fetterman, weeks into his return to the Senate after an extended hospital stay to treat depression, carried out a small act of rebellion that showed a glimmer of the fiery populist who won over Pennsylvania voters last year.

The Democratic senator voted against the debt ceiling bill in early June, bucking Senate Democratic leadership and the White House. The move aligned him with Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who objected to the bill’s spending cuts. Fetterman was specifically appalled that the measure added work requirements for more people who receive food stamps.

While the vote itself was relatively low stakes — his support wasn’t needed to pass the bill — the protest vote represented a return to Fetterman’s reputation as a fighter for the little guy. He built his political brand as a nonconformist, first emerging on the national stage about a decade ago as a tattooed, tough-talking mayor who tried to revitalize a crumbling steel town near Pittsburgh.

ny times logoNew York Times, Delaware Lawmaker Aims to Be First Openly Transgender House Member, Anjali Huynh, June 26, 2023. Sarah McBride also was the first openly transgender person to work at the White House during the Obama administration.State Senator Sarah McBride announced on Monday that she would run for Delaware’s at-large U.S. House seat — a bid that, if successful, would make her the first openly transgender member of the U.S. Congress.

The seat is currently held by Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester, a Democrat who said on Wednesday that she would pursue the Senate seat being vacated by Senator Thomas R. Carper, who is retiring. Both elections will take place next year.

Ms. McBride, 32, is no stranger to firsts: In 2012, she became the first openly transgender person to work at the White House, as an intern in President Barack Obama’s administration. She won her Wilmington-based State Senate seat in 2020 with more than 70 percent of the general election vote, becoming the first openly transgender legislator in that position nationwide, and ran unopposed for a second term last year.

Her candidacy comes during an onslaught of Republican-led policies that target L.G.B.T.Q. people.

This year, 17 states have passed bills directed at gender-affirming care for transgender youth, a sharp uptick from the three states that had previously approved restrictions. And there are discussions to ban L.G.B.T.Q.-related information for K-12 students in states like Florida, where laws prevent public schools from teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity.

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U.S. Courts, Crime, Civil Rights, Immigration

ny times logoNew York Times, Accused Shooter in Deadly Colorado Springs Rampage Pleads Guilty in Court, Jack Healy and Kelley Manley, June 26, 2023. A plea deal means the 23-year-old shooter will spend a lifetime in prison for a rampage at an L.G.B.T.Q. bar last year that left five people dead. 

The 23-year-old charged with carrying out a deadly shooting rampage at Club Q in Colorado Springs pleaded guilty on Monday to dozens of charges of murder and attempted murder, avoiding a prolonged trial over a deadly attack on members of the L.G.B.T.Q. community.

Under the terms of a plea agreement reached with prosecutors, the defendant, Anderson Lee Aldrich, separately pleaded “no contest” to two hate-crime charges.

The defendant will receive multiple life sentences, adding up to hundreds of years in prison, and will also give up any right to appeal.

The defendant, who identifies as nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, stood on Monday in a courtroom packed with victims and relatives of the dead, and tersely answered a litany of questions from Judge Michael McHenry about whether the defendant understood the terms of the plea.

The agreement was reached after months of agonizing private discussions among prosecutors, survivors and victims’ families over how to reach justice in the Club Q shooting.

Some victims initially wanted a public trial, in the hope of learning precisely how and why the shooter had attacked the club, and what warning signs had been missed. Others said they did not want to suffer the pain of a drawn-out trial, and were relieved that the criminal case was ending.

Several survivors of the attack said it was important that the shooter acknowledge an anti-L. G.B.T.Q. bias behind the rampage. They wanted formal recognition that Club Q and its patrons were attacked because of their identities, in a massacre deliberately calculated to shatter a sanctuary for the L.G.B.T.Q. community in Colorado Springs.

But in pleading guilty on Monday, Mx. Aldrich offered no details about why they carried out the shooting, and little explanation beyond a bare-bones admission using legal language. They did not directly admit to committing hate crimes in targeting Club Q, but instead said they were pleading “no contest” because it was likely that they would be convicted at trial.

The five people killed that night were Daniel Aston and Derrick Rump, who were employees of Club Q, and Kelly Loving, Raymond Green Vance and Ashley Paugh, who were Club Q patrons.

For months, some survivors and relatives of victims have made a point of attending each hearing as the case moved forward. Some said it was difficult to keep their anger and grief in check as they sat in the courtroom, listening to graphic details of the rampage.

Legal experts said the shooter’s gender identity alone did not preclude hate-crimes charges in the case. Prosecutors said that the defendant had a “particular disdain” for the L.G.B.T.Q. community.

“Those are my friends’ lives,” said Ashtin Gamblin, who was hit with nine shots as she worked the door of Club Q on the night of the attack. “They were targeted. We were targeted because we are a part of the L.G.B.T.Q. community. There’s absolutely no doubt why he chose Club Q.”

 

robert bowers pittsburgh killer oct 28 2018 pos cover

ny times logoNew York Times, Jury in Pittsburgh Synagogue Trial to Begin Weighing Death Penalty, Campbell Robertson, June 26, 2023 (print ed.). Over the next several weeks, lawyers for Robert Bowers, shown above at the time of arrest, will try to persuade the jury that convicted him to spare his life.

This week the real trial begins for Robert Bowers, the man who killed 11 worshipers in a Pittsburgh synagogue on Oct. 27, 2018.

That Mr. Bowers carried out the massacre has never been in question. His lawyers acknowledged this bluntly during the first phase of his federal trial, and on June 16, a jury convicted Mr. Bowers on all of the 63 counts he faced.

Now, in the penalty phase, which begins on Monday, those same jurors will weigh the question that has always been at the core of this prosecution: whether Mr. Bowers should be sentenced to death.

It promises to be very different from the guilt phase, which focused almost exclusively on the carnage that day. The defense asked questions of only a few of the government’s 60 witnesses and called none of its own.

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Top Global Stories

 

 

abdel fattah abdelrahman burhan 2019

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Death and Displacement Return to Darfur, Lydia Polgreen, June 26, 2023 (print ed.). As I wrote last month, since April Sudan has been wracked abdel fattah abdelrahman burhan 2019by a wave of horrific violence between forces loyal to the two men, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, right, and his former deputy, Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan, who four years ago helped depose the nation’s longtime dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

The savage fighting first erupted in the country’s capital, Khartoum, but has since spread to unlucky Darfur, hundreds of miles away. About 2.5 million Sudanese have fled their homes, and at least 1,000 people have been killed. The violence has raised the specter of a civil war that could engulf a region spanning some of the most volatile parts of Africa and the Middle East.

The stakes in Sudan were already high, but they have grown still higher in recent days as diplomatic efforts by a range of actors have foundered, unable to break a deadlock between the generals. Much attention to date has centered on Khartoum, where street fighting has left civilians caught in crossfire between combatants. But a new and equally deadly front is opening in Darfur.

sudan flagpngThis month I traveled the borderlands between Sudan and Chad to try to understand how the crisis has ricocheted into this new bloodletting. It was not my first time in the region, nor the first time I had witnessed terrible violence there. As a young foreign correspondent in Africa in the 2000s I spent a great deal of time documenting the attacks of government-backed Arab militias on Black civilians in Darfur, interviewing victims of war crimes and the militia leaders accused of committing those crimes. That conflict sent hundreds of thousands of Black African refugees spilling into Chad, running from the militiamen they called the janjaweed.

 

 President Biden brought out the red carpet for the White House visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India (New York Times photo by Doug Mills)

President Biden brought out the red carpet for the White House visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India (New York Times photo by Doug Mills)

washington post logoWashington Post, Modi’s welcome in Washington wows and worries Indians back home, Karishma Mehrotra and Shams Irfan, June 26, 2023 (print ed.). For Indian Americans, Modi visit sparks pride — and frustration.

As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Washington this week, newspaper front pages here in India were awash with banner headlines about a new “dawn” in the country’s relations with the United States.

“Deals closed, doors open,” read the Friday headline of the Indian Express, an English-language daily. The ANI news agency showed members of Congress lining up for Modi’s autograph. Television channels counted the number of standing ovations he received during his address to Congress and repeatedly referred to Modi as “the boss” — a nickname conferred on him by Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese last month.

It was a “rock-star reception,” tweeted Amit Malviya, head of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s information technology office.

For Indian Americans, Modi visit sparks pride — and frustration

The celebrity welcome for Modi this week in Washington gave the prime minister yet another chance to use the world stage as a venue to bolster his image at home. Throughout Modi’s tenure, local media in India have featured his hugs and greetings with world leaders. This time, the fanfare over his reception abroad comes just a year before India’s national elections.

“No other leader is welcomed in the U.S. the way Modi was. It makes our chests swell with pride,” said Rohit Singla, a 31-year-old cloth merchant from Ludhiana in Punjab state, who rattled off the visit’s numerous highlights from Elon Musk’s praise for Modi to the newly signed bilateral arms deals.

“This is the magic of Modi … He is undoubtedly a global leader now,” Singla said, adding that he believes the visit will lead to more jobs in India. “He went there and got business done.”

In Modi’s home state of Gujarat, 37-year-old Pulkit Goenka, a textile businessman, said India could now become a “superpower” with American technological help and that Modi has helped turn the Indian rupee into a “global currency.”

“He is the most recognizable and popular face in the world,” Goenka said. “We all know how the U.S. saw India a decade back. Now, because of Modi, it’s different.”

As Modi visits, Biden praises India’s democracy despite critics

Political experts say the portraits of Modi in Washington and the surrounding events will undoubtedly play a large role in the upcoming election. Fifteen parties that will challenge the BJP in the upcoming elections held a meeting Friday in an effort to display a united front.

But it was no match for the airtime or front page space given to the Modi visit.

“Why is a country like America, which has always considered itself the boss, letting India be the boss?” one anchor asked, before presenting reports of inflation and homelessness in the United States.

“A large section of the cable news in India is like Fox News on Red Bull when it comes to drumming up the cult of Modi,” said Manisha Pande, managing editor of Newslaundry, a media watchdog.

“Remember, this messaging is a key component of the BJP’s election strategy — so, in effect, the visit is not just about a historic juncture for U.S.-India ties, which it very well is, but crucially it’s also about the Biden administration giving Modi a big leg-up for the upcoming 2024 elections,” Pande said.

It was Modi’s successful election campaign in 2019 that first showed his ability to use the world stage to win votes, said Rahul Verma, a political scientist at the Center for Policy Research.

“Trust in Modi wasn’t coming from concrete things like economic well-being, or things you can measure,” Verma said, citing a Firstpost-IPSOS survey in January 2019. “Trust has come from more abstract notions like Modi improving India’s image in the world or national security — things you can’t experience in your daily life.”

Modi has also sought to make use of the enormous Indian diaspora outside the country to shape his public image, Verma added. India’s main opposition leader, Rahul Gandhi, also tried to tap into the diaspora during a recent U.S. tour, warning about India’s democratic backsliding, but with much less fanfare.

“The diaspora is important in Indian politics, and Modi was perhaps ahead of the curve,” said Verma. The 32 million people of Indian origin outside of the country play a key role in shaping internal narratives through information channels such as WhatsApp, he said.

ny times logoNew York Times, How the Conservative New Democracy Party Surged to Victory in Greece, Niki Kitsantonis and Jason Horowitz, June 26, 2023. Voters seemed to embrace Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s tough stance on migration and approach to the economy, and were less concerned about scandals.

greek flag2Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the leader of the conservative New Democracy party who has presided over a period of economic stability and tough anti-migration policies in Greece, was sworn in on Monday for a second term as prime minister after a landslide victory that gave him a clear mandate for the next four years.

The result made clear that Greeks, who endured a decade-long financial crisis, were much less concerned with scandals, including accusations of the authorities’ spying on their own people, or disasters such as the fatal shipwreck of a boat carrying hundreds of migrants, than they were with Mr. Mitsotakis’s pledges to keep the country on the road of economic and political stability.

Mr. Mitsotakis, a supporter of Ukraine who has maintained good relations with the European Union, has also vowed to stand up to pressure from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who also recently won re-election.

Here are some of the lessons from the results in Greece.

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More On Trump Probes, Pro-Trump Rioters, Election Deniers

Palmer Report, Analysis: Jack Smith has flipped someone who was at the Willard Hotel for January 6th, Bill Palmer, June 26, 2023. One of the key aspects of Donald Trump’s 2020 election overthrow plot was his “command center” ahead of January 6th at the Willard Hotel. Name any disreputable Trump political adviser, and the odds are that they were in that Willard Hotel room. But the whole thing hasn’t gotten a ton of media coverage, mostly because no one who was inside that room has spilled the beans about what was really going on – until now.

The DOJ criminally indicted Owen Shroyer for January 6th-related crimes a year and a half ago, and has been attempting to flip him ever since. Just days ago Shroyer finally cut a cooperating plea deal. This immediately jumped out at us because Shroyer is Alex Jones’ top sidekick. But our friends at MeidasTouch are now pointing out that this runs deeper. Shroyer was at the Willard Hotel ahead of January 6th, meaning he’s given up everything that went on at the “command center” while he was there.

This is bad news for everyone who was in the room at this “command center.” It was a mix of Donald Trump’s top political advisers and actual members of the Oath Keepers, to give you an idea of just how much criminality might have been taking place in that room. Jack Smith and the DOJ now have their “in” when it comes to the Willard Hotel plot. It’s bad news for Donald Trump and any number of his political allies.

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Dept. asking about 2020 fraud claims as well as fake electors, Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett, June 26, 2023. Special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation of efforts to overturn the 2020 election results is advancing on multiple tracks, people familiar with the matter said.

The Justice Department’s investigation of efforts by Donald Trump and his advisers to overturn the 2020 election results is barreling forward on multiple tracks, according to people familiar with the matter, with prosecutors focused on ads and fundraising pitches claiming election fraud as well as plans for “fake electors” that would swing the election to the incumbent president.

Each track poses potential legal peril for those under scrutiny, but also raises tricky questions about where the line should be drawn between political activity, legal advocacy and criminal conspiracy.

A key area of interest is the conduct of a handful of lawyers who sought to turn Trump’s defeat into victory by trying to convince state, local, federal and judicial authorities that Joe Biden’s 2020 election win was illegitimate or tainted by fraud.

Investigators have sought to determine to what degree these lawyers — particularly Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis, John Eastman, Kurt Olsen and Kenneth Chesebro, as well as then-Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark — were following specific instructions from Trump or others, and what those instructions were, according to the people familiar with the matter, who like others interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe an ongoing investigation.

Special counsel Jack Smith’s team has extensively questioned multiple witnesses about the lawyers’ actions related to fake electors — pro-Trump substitutes offered up as potential replacements for electors in swing states that Biden won.

Trump’s allies have argued that there was nothing criminal about preparing alternate electors in case state legislators blocked Biden slates.

Giuliani, Ellis, Clark, Eastman, Chesebro and Olsen or their representatives either did not respond to requests for comment or declined to comment Monday.

Smith, a longtime federal prosecutor who was appointed special counsel by Attorney General Merrick Garland in November, charged Trump this month with 37 counts alleging that he willfully retained classified documents at his Florida residence after leaving the White House and obstructed government efforts to retrieve them.

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Denies Request to Seal Witness List in Trump Documents Case, Alan Feuer, June 26, 2023. The order by Judge Aileen Cannon means the identities of some or all of the Justice Department’s 84 potential witnesses in the case against the former president could become public.

The federal judge overseeing former President Donald J. Trump’s prosecution on charges of illegally holding on to sensitive national security documents denied on Monday the government’s request to keep secret a list of witnesses with whom Mr. Trump has been barred from discussing his case.

The ruling by Judge Aileen M. Cannon, in the Southern District of Florida, means that some or all of the list of 84 witnesses could at some point become public, offering further details about the shape and scope of the case that the special counsel Jack Smith has brought against Mr. Trump.

The government’s request to keep the names of the witnesses secret “does not offer a particularized basis to justify sealing the list from public view,” Judge Cannon wrote in her brief order. “It does not explain why partial sealing, redaction or means other than sealing are unavailable or unsatisfactory, and it does not specify the duration of any proposed seal.”

One of the conditions that a federal magistrate judge placed on Mr. Trump when he walked free from his arraignment this month was a provision prohibiting him from discussing the facts in his indictment with any witnesses in the case. The indictment accused Mr. Trump of willfully retaining 31 individual national security documents and obstructing the government’s repeated efforts to reclaim them.

While the identities of the witnesses remain unknown, many of them are believed to be aides and advisers close to Mr. Trump — among them, several who work or worked with him at Mar-a-Lago, his private club and residence in Florida. As part of the conditions the magistrate judge imposed, Mr. Trump was also barred from discussing the case with his co-defendant, Walt Nauta, who remains his personal aide.

In a separate order issued on Monday, Judge Cannon asked Mr. Trump’s legal team to respond by July 6 to Mr. Smith’s request to delay the start of the trial until Dec. 11.

Judge Cannon also scheduled a hearing for July 14 for the parties to discuss how to handle the significant amount of highly sensitive material involved in the case under a law known as the Classified Information Procedures Act. That hearing will be conducted mostly, if not entirely, under seal.

 djt indicted proof

ny times logoNew York Times, Prosecutors Seek to Delay Donald Trump’s Documents Trial to December, Glenn Thrush, June 24, 2023 (print ed. ). The special counsel argued that the August date set by the judge did not allow enough time to deal with the complications of classified evidence, but still proposed a relatively speedy timetable.

Jack Smith, the special counsel, has asked a federal judge to move back the start of the trial of former President Donald J. Trump and his co-defendant, Walt Nauta, in the classified documents case from August to Dec. 11, according to a Justice Department filing made public late Friday.

The Justice Department proposal still calls for a relatively speedy timetable; Judge Aileen M. Cannon’s earlier ruling set the initial trial date at Aug. 14, but it was considered something of an administrative place holder, with both sides anticipating significant procedural delays.

In their filing, prosecutors said the additional time would be needed to obtain security clearances for defense lawyers and deal with the procedures around classified evidence. It would also give defense lawyers more time to review the volumes of materials prosecutors have turned over to them, the filing said.

Mr. Smith and his team argued in the filing that the trial should still be fast-tracked despite its enormous political implications, because it “involves straightforward theories of liability, and does not present novel questions of fact or law,” nor is it particularly “unusual or complex” from a legal perspective.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: How Trump convinced his base that his indictments were aimed at them, Philip Bump, June 26, 2023. Visitors to Donald Trump’s campaign website are immediately implicated in his current legal travails.

“They’re not after me,” text in the primary image on the site reads. “They’re after you … I’m just standing in their way!”

As though attribution were needed, the quote is sourced to Donald J. Trump, 45th president of the United States.

Sign up for How To Read This Chart, a weekly data newsletter from Philip Bump

This idea that Trump faces a legal threat as a proxy for his base of support was offered explicitly during Trump’s speech at the Faith and Freedom Coalition over the weekend.

“Every time the radical-left Democrats, Marxist, communists and fascists indict me, I consider it a great badge of courage,” Trump said. “I’m being indicted for you, and I believe the you is more than 200 million people that love our country.”

That phrasing is dripping with hyperbole. Trump’s federal indictment came at the hands of an experienced federal prosecutor who is in no realistic way a “radical-left Democrat,” much less any of the other (contradictory) categories offered. Trump’s implication that his base of support numbers 200 million is heavily inflated.

Those exaggerations have a purpose. Two hundred million Americans is more than three-quarters of the adult population, but it’s also obviously more than half of the country, bolstering Trump’s long-standing claim that he is leading a “silent majority” (despite earning less than a majority of the vote in the 2016 primaries, 2016 election and 2020 election). His framing of his opponents as politically opposed to that base — using vaguely defined pejoratives very familiar to supporters who remember the Cold War — is also familiar in a terrain littered with “Republicans in name only.”

Everyone agrees with him and anyone who doesn’t is a traitor. Simple enough.

 

2016 Republican Presidential nominee Donald J. Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during their third debate in 2016 at a time they were accusing each other of being a

2016 Republican Presidential nominee Donald J. Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during their third debate in 2016 at a time they were accusing each other of being a "puppet" following many weeks in which Trump and his allies led rallies chanting "lock her up" regarding Clinton.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Why wasn’t Hillary Clinton also indicted, Trump asks. Here’s why, Glenn Kessler, June 25, 2023 (print ed.). Since the final weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump has referred often to Hillary Clinton’s emails, but the references have increased in urgency and frequency as he continues to deploy them in response to special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into his own handling of classified documents. He has posted comments on Truth Social at least seven times in the last three weeks, both before and after he was indicted on federal criminal charges that he repeatedly broke the law by hiding classified documents in his home.

Why wouldn’t “Deranged Jack Smith” look at “Hillary’s 33,000 emails that she deleted and acid washed,” he wrote in a post on June 13 and again on June 16. “CROOKED HILLARY DELETED 33,000 EMAILS, MANY CLASSIFIED, AND WASN’T EVEN CLOSE TO BEING CHARGED! ONLY TRUMP - THE GREATEST WITCH HUNT OF ALL TIME!” he posted on June 5. Trump’s allies have echoed the comparisons in hundreds of social media postings as they suggest there is a two-tiered justice system.

In a speech at his Bedminster, N.J., golf club the evening of his arraignment, Trump was more expansive, making many false claims about materials found on the private email server Clinton maintained as secretary of state. As usual, Trump mixes partial facts and invented assertions into a stew of false equivalence. Let’s try to untangle it.

  Recent Relevant Headlines

  Jack Smith has been leading an inquiry into Mr. Trump since his appointment in November (Pool photo by Peter Dejong).

Jack Smith has been leading an inquiry into Mr. Trump since his appointment in November (Pool photo by Peter Dejong).

 

U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

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ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Real Lesson From the Hunter Biden Saga, Nicholas Kristof, June 25, 2023 (print ed.). It isn’t about presidential corruption but a determined parent battling his son’s addiction with unconditional love.

One of our most urgent national problems is addiction to drugs and alcohol. It now kills about a quarter-million Americans a year, leaves many others homeless and causes unimaginable heartache in families across the country — including the family living in the White House.

Hunter Biden, who has written about his tangles with crack cocaine and alcohol, reached a plea agreement on tax charges a few days ago that left some Republicans sputtering, but to me, the main takeaway is a lesson the country and the president could absorb to save lives.

While the federal investigation appears to be ongoing, for now I see no clear evidence of wrongdoing by President Biden himself — but the president does offer the country a fine model of the love and support that people with addictions need.

When Biden was vice president and trailed by Secret Service agents, he once tracked down Hunter when he was on a bender and refused to leave until his son committed to entering treatment. Biden then gave his son a tight hug and promised to return to make sure he followed through.

“Dad saved me,” Hunter wrote in his memoir, “Beautiful Things,” adding: “Left on my own, I’m certain I would not have survived.”

On another occasion, the Biden family staged an intervention, and Hunter stormed out of the house. Biden ran down the driveway after his son. “He grabbed me, swung me around and hugged me,” Hunter wrote. “He held me tight in the dark and cried for the longest time.”

Last year Sean Hannity broadcast an audio recording of a voice mail message that President Biden left for Hunter. Hannity thought it reflected badly on the president; my reaction was that if more parents showed this kind of support for children in crisis, our national addiction nightmare might be easier to overcome.

“It’s Dad,” the president says in the message, and he sounds near tears. “I’m calling to tell you I love you. I love you more than the whole world, pal. You gotta get some help. I don’t know what to do. I know you don’t, either. But I’m here, no matter what you need. No matter what you need. I love you.”

I don’t have family members with addictions, but I’ve lost far too many friends to drugs and alcohol. At this moment, I have two friends who have disappeared, abandoning their children, and when last seen were homeless, abusing drugs and supporting themselves by selling fentanyl. I fear every day that they’ll die from an overdose, or that they’ll sell drugs to someone else who overdoses.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Legal Fees Mount, Trump Steers Donations Into PAC That Has Covered Them, Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman, June 26, 2023 (print ed.). A previously unnoticed change in Donald Trump’s online fund-raising appeals allows him to divert a sizable chunk to a group that has spent millions on his legal fees.

Facing multiple intensifying investigations, former President Donald J. Trump has quietly begun diverting more of the money he is raising away from his 2024 presidential campaign and into a political action committee that he has used to pay his personal legal fees.

The change, which went unannounced except in the fine print of his online disclosures, raises fresh questions about how Mr. Trump is paying for his mounting legal bills — which could run into millions of dollars — as he prepares for at least two criminal trials, and whether his PAC, Save America, is facing a financial crunch.

When Mr. Trump kicked off his 2024 campaign in November, for every dollar raised online, 99 cents went to his campaign, and a penny went to Save America.

But internet archival records show that sometime in February or March, he adjusted that split. Now his campaign’s share has been reduced to 90 percent of donations, and 10 percent goes to Save America.

ny times logoNew York Times, In a pitch to evangelicals, Donald Trump cast himself as Christian crusader who helped end Roe v. Wade, Neil Vigdor, June 26, 2023 (print ed.). Former President Donald J. Trump told an evangelical gathering that no president had done more for Christians than he did.

One year after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, former President Donald J. Trump reminded a gathering of evangelical activists in the nation’s capital how he had shaped the court’s conservative supermajority that ended nearly 50 years of constitutional protections for abortion.

Appearing at a Faith & Freedom Coalition gala in Washington on Saturday night, he cited his appointment of three of the six justices who voted to strike down the law as a capstone of his presidency. And he cast himself as an unflinching crusader for the Christian right in a meandering speech that lasted nearly 90 minutes.

“No president has ever fought for Christians as hard as I have,” he said, adding, “I got it done, and nobody thought it was even a possibility.”

It was the eighth appearance by Mr. Trump in front of the group, whose support he is seeking to consolidate in a crowded G.OP. competition for the 2024 nomination, though he is the front-runner in the field. He said that Republican voters were skeptical of claims by some of his rivals that they were stronger opponents of abortion, and suggested that the skepticism had arisen on the campaign trail.

washington post logoWashington Post, DeSantis voters: Angry at Fauci, anxious about ‘Cinderfella,’ tiring of Trump, Hannah Knowles, Colby Itkowitz and Dylan Wells, June 26, 2023 (print ed.). The Florida governor is appealing to the GOP’s right flank as he tries to peel support away from Donald Trump. But many are still drawn to the former president, who leads by a wide margin in the polls

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More On U.S. Abortion, Child Porn, #MeToo

ny times logoNew York Times, How a Year Without Roe Shifted American Views on Abortion, Kate Zernike, June 24, 2023 (print ed.). New polling shows public opinion increasingly supports legal abortion, with potential political consequences for 2024.

For decades, Americans had settled around an uneasy truce on abortion. Even if most people weren’t happy with the status quo, public opinion about the legality and morality of abortion remained relatively static. But the Supreme Court’s decision last summer overturning Roe v. Wade set off a seismic change, in one swoop striking down a federal right to abortion that had existed for 50 years, long enough that women of reproductive age had never lived in a world without it. As the decision triggered state bans and animated voters in the midterms, it shook complacency and forced many people to reconsider their positions.

In the year since, polling shows that what had been considered stable ground has begun to shift: For the first time, a majority of Americans say abortion is “morally acceptable.” A majority now believes abortion laws are too strict. They are significantly more likely to identify, in the language of polls, as “pro-choice” over “pro-life,” for the first time in two decades.

And more voters than ever say they will vote only for a candidate who shares their views on abortion, with a twist: While Republicans and those identifying as “pro-life” have historically been most likely to see abortion as a litmus test, now they are less motivated by it, while Democrats and those identifying as “pro-choice” are far more so.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Warns That Republicans Are Not Finished on Abortion, Katie Rogers and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, June 25, 2023 (print ed.). A year after the end of Roe v. Wade, President Biden is working with a limited set of tools to galvanize supporters on abortion rights.

Minutes after the Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade last summer, a group of West Wing aides raced to the Oval Office to brief President Biden on the decision. As they drafted a speech, Mr. Biden was the first person in the room to say what has been his administration’s rallying cry ever since.

“He said at that time, ‘The only thing that will actually restore the rights that were just taken away are to pass federal legislation,’” Jen Klein, the director of the White House Gender Policy Council, recalled in an interview.

But if the prospect of codifying Roe’s protections in Congress seemed like a long shot a year ago, it is all but impossible to imagine now, with an ascendant far-right bloc in the House and a slim Democratic majority in the Senate.

Instead, with the battle over abortion rights turning squarely to individual states, officials in the Biden administration are working with a limited set of tools, including executive orders and the galvanizing power of the presidency, to argue that Republicans running in next year’s elections would impose even further restrictions on abortion.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘The Impossible Became Possible’: The Women Celebrating a Year Without Roe, Ruth Graham, June 25, 2023 (print ed.). For anti-abortion activists, the anniversary of the decision eliminating the national right to abortion is festive, but also a time to acknowledge challenges.

It has been exactly a year since Bethany Bomberger gathered in an impromptu huddle outside a hotel ballroom with fellow anti-abortion activists, overcome with gratitude and optimism as news broke that the Supreme Court had overturned Roe v. Wade just hours before the Pro-Life Women’s Conference officially opened.

“There will be life before Roe was overturned and life after,” Ms. Bomberger said this weekend, tearing up as she recalled what she described as a moment “the impossible became possible.” She and her husband lead an organization that opposes abortion, and that, lately, has branched into combating the rising acceptance of transgender identity — what she called “gender radicalism.”

As this year’s conference opened, Ms. Bomberger took to the stage at a modest suburban convention center outside St. Louis. “Who’s here with me to let loose?” she asked the crowd, leading several hundred women in the wave. “We pro-lifers, we have life on our side!” She was wearing a small gold necklace reading “mama,” a gift from her son.

The ruling last summer in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization eliminated the national right to abortion and sent the issue back to the states. It also radically scrambled the landscape of abortion in the United States, shuttering some clinics, prompting others to open, and setting up new battles over abortion pills, miscarriage care and contraception. Legal abortions declined more than six percent in the first six months after the ruling.

OceanGate used the submersible Titan for expeditions to visit the wreckage of the Titanic. The craft is presumed to have imploded.Credit...OceanGate Expeditions, via Associated Press

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Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Vaccine Program Now Flush With Cash, but Short on Key Details, Benjamin Mueller, Noah Weiland and Carl Zimmer, June 26, 2023. Efforts to develop the next generation of Covid vaccines are running up against bureaucratic hassles and regulatory uncertainty, scientists say, obstacles that could make it harder to curb the spread of the coronavirus and arm the United States against future pandemics.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2The Biden administration, after months of delay, has now addressed at least a shortfall in funding, hurrying to issue the first major grants from a $5 billion program to expedite a new class of more potent and durable inoculations.

But the program is facing the blunt reality that vaccine development, after being shifted into high gear early in the pandemic, has returned to its slower and more customary pace.

Experiments on a promising nasal vaccine licensed from Yale University have slowed as researchers have tried for nearly a year to obtain older shots from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna to use in the studies. The federal government’s original purchase agreements for those shots prevent doses from being used for research purposes without the companies’ approval, despite tens of millions of unused shots being wasted in recent months

washington post logoWashington Post, Insomnia linked to up to 51 percent higher risk of strokes, Linda Searing, June 26, 2023. People suffering from insomnia may have as much as a 51 percent greater chance of having a stroke than those who do not have trouble sleeping, according to a study published in the journal Neurology.

For nearly a decade, the study tracked 31,126 people, age 61 on average and with no history of stroke at the start of the study. In that time, 2,101 strokes were recorded.

Insomnia symptoms reported by the participants included having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep and waking too early. Comparing participants who did and did not have signs of the sleep disorder, the researchers found that the degree of risk for stroke rose as the number of symptoms increased.

People with one to four insomnia symptoms were found to be 16 percent more likely to have had a stroke than were those with no symptoms, whereas a stroke was 51 percent more likely for people experiencing five to eight symptoms. The connection was stronger for those participants under age 50.

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U.S. Media, Education, Sports, Arts, High Tech

ny times logoNew York Times, How Review-Bombing Can Tank a Book Before It’s Published, Alexandra Alter and Elizabeth A. Harris, June 26, 2023. The website Goodreads has become an essential avenue for building readership, but the same features that help generate excitement can also backfire.

Cecilia Rabess figured her debut novel, “Everything’s Fine,” would spark criticism: The story centers on a young Black woman working at Goldman Sachs who falls in love with a conservative white co-worker with bigoted views.

But she didn’t expect a backlash to strike six months before the book was published.

In January, after a Goodreads user who had received an advanced copy posted a plot summary that went viral on Twitter, the review site was flooded with negative comments and one-star reviews, with many calling the book anti-Black and racist. Some of the comments were left by users who said they had never read the book, but objected to its premise.

“It may look like a bunch of one-star reviews on Goodreads, but these are broader campaigns of harassment,” Rabess said. “People were very keen not just to attack the work, but to attack me as well.”

In an era when reaching readers online has become a near-existential problem for publishers, Goodreads has become an essential avenue for building an audience. As a cross between a social media platform and a review site like Yelp, the site has been a boon for publishers hoping to generate excitement for books.

But the same features that get users talking about books and authors can also backfire. Reviews can be weaponized, in some cases derailing a book’s publication long before its release.

“It can be incredibly hurtful, and it’s frustrating that people are allowed to review books this way if they haven’t read them,” said Roxane Gay, an author and editor who also posts reviews on Goodreads. “Worse, they’re allowed to review books that haven’t even been written. I have books on there being reviewed that I’m not finished with yet.”

Rabess, who quit her job as a data scientist at Google to focus on writing after selling her novel to Simon & Schuster, worried that the online ambush might turn people against her book.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jesse Watters will take over Tucker Carlson’s former slot in Fox News prime-time shakeup, Jeremy Barr, June 26, 2023. Laura Ingraham’s show will move to 7 p.m. and Greg Gutfeld will shift to 10 p.m.

Fox News picked Jesse Watters to serve as permanent host of its 8 p.m. show as part of a broader shake-up of the network’s prime-time lineup.

Laura Ingraham will also move from 10 p.m. to 7 p.m., and comedian Greg Gutfeld will move from 11 p.m. to 10 p.m.

In moving from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., Watters will fill an hour that has been helmed by rotating hosts since Fox fired top-rated host Tucker Carlson in late April.

Sean Hannity will remain at 9 p.m., while news anchor Trace Gallagher will move up an hour from midnight to 11 p.m.

The changes come amid a significant decline in viewers since the network’s decision to oust Carlson. In the month after Carlson’s departure, Fox’s overall prime-time ratings declined by 38 percent — from an average of 2.6 million viewers to 1.6 million.

For the week of June 5, MSNBC’s prime-time lineup attracted more viewers than Fox’s prime-time block for the first time in several years. The following week, Fox regained its edge over MSNBC in total viewers but lost among the 25-to-54 age demographic prized by advertisers.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Legal Foundation of Women’s Sports Is Under Fire, David French, right, June 26, 2023 (print ed.). What is the legal foundation for women’s david french croppedsports? It’s a simple question with a surprisingly complex answer.

After all, the most potent federal statute supporting parallel men’s and women’s sports leagues would appear — on its face — to also prohibit separate leagues. Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

The act contains explicit exceptions — such as permitting fraternities and sororities and beauty pageants and protecting the liberty of religious educational institutions — but its language tracks that of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI prohibits race discrimination in federally funded educational programs using virtually identical language, declaring, “No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

In the realm of athletics, however, these two statutes have traditionally worked in remarkably different ways. Race segregation in athletic programs is a legal and cultural taboo. There are no legally segregated white and Black football leagues, for example, and if a school decided to create a Black league and a white league, it would face an immediate civil rights complaint. Excluding a football player from a team simply because of his race is unlawful discrimination.

But this is not the case when it comes to sex. The result of Title IX was not the large-scale creation of coed sports leagues, where men and women have an equal opportunity to compete in the same events, where the best man or woman makes the team, and the best man or woman wins the race. Instead, Title IX has resulted in the expansion of women’s sports into an enormous, separate and parallel apparatus, where women by the millions compete against one another, winning women’s titles in women’s leagues.

Why this difference? Why have two statutes with such similar language created such different realities? Because sex is substantially different from race, and treating sex the same as race would be a profound injustice for women in sports.

Let’s go back to the language of the statute itself, which speaks in terms of both “participation” and “benefits.” If you treat people of different races the same, people of all races can both participate and receive the benefits of participation in athletics. If you treat people of different sexes the same, the reality is very different.

This month, an en banc panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit heard arguments in a prominent case about whether Title IX prohibits transgender girls from participating in women’s sports. The case involves claims by four former Connecticut female high school track athletes who lost races to two transgender (natal male) athletes, including state championships.

The plaintiffs in the case sought a declaration that the state sports league’s policy permitting transgender girls to compete in women’s athletics violated Title IX by “failing to provide competitive opportunities that effectively accommodate the abilities of girls” and failing to provide “equal treatment, benefits and opportunities for girls in athletic competition.” The plaintiffs argued that Title IX was intended to grant women and girls the “chance to be champions,” not just a right to compete.

Last year, a three-judge panel of the appellate court rejected the plaintiffs’ claims. The panel didn’t reject the “chance to be champions” theory entirely, but Judge Denny Chin, writing for the court, said that the plaintiffs had not claimed “an injury in fact” (and thus lacked standing to bring their claims) because “all four plaintiffs regularly competed at state track championships as high school athletes, where plaintiffs had the opportunity to compete for state titles in different events.” Indeed, as the court notes, one of the plaintiffs even beat the transgender athletes in a 100-meter race in 2019. Under the court’s reasoning, the chance to compete was a “chance to be a champion.”

But then something unusual happened. The entire appeals court asked to hear the case. This month, the court heard oral arguments, and a decision is expected soon. The oral arguments were dominated by questions of standing — whether a loss of a championship should be considered a legally recognizable injury, an injury that courts should or could address.

To be clear, the question was not whether the transgender girls did anything wrong — casting any aspersions on their participation in the races would be profoundly unjust. They ran the race in accordance with the rules of the race. The question was whether the rules were wrong.

The transgender athletes intervened in the case, with the aid of the A.C.L.U., and argued that “Title IX does not require sex-separated teams or an equal number of trophies for male and female athletes.” They emphasized that the plaintiffs “repeatedly outperformed” the transgender athletes “in direct competition.”

But the argument is not that transgender athletes will always win, but rather that if schools replace sex with gender identity as the relevant criterion for participation, then the statutory sex-based promises of participation and benefits in educational programs will be undermined. (Gender identity, as the A.C.L.U. defined i